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Month: June 2014
Top Ten Near Death Experiences in My First 40 Years of Life
If everything goes right, and Lord willing, I will be dead in the next 40 years!
I have always had a desire to depart, never suicidally, but a good healthy “I can’t wait to go to heaven, which is far better” desire. I have posted here previously about how many guys in the Bible desired to die. It’s not always a bad thing.
Any time I hear about diets or medicines or special obnoxious things a guy can do to “lengthen his life,” I make sure to do the opposite.
“Honor your mother and father so your days may be long on the earth” didn’t quite have the desired effect on me.
I honored my father and mother because my father had a way of making not honoring him turn out very badly for me.
I am of the conviction that a guy must present God with the opportunity to end his life every once in a while just to give God a handy way to off ya in case it’s time.
If you’re not somewhat regularly nearly dying, you probably aren’t really living.
Here are my top ten near death experiences in my first 40 years in no particular order, cuz they were all, in their own way, awesome.
1) River Canoe Ride. I was about five-years old and canoeing down a river with my dad and another guy. We hit a submerged tree. The canoe flipped all the way over and back around to right side up. I never let go of the metal bar in front of me and went around with the canoe. But I was alone for terrifying moments.
2) Bike Rides. I have been hit by one car. I have been nearly hit many times. Once by a high school chic speeding around a 90-degree turn and sliding right across my lane about four feet in front of me and then she went into a ditch and into a tree. Idiot. There have been many mountain bike rides where I assumed I would die, including two where I slid down a hill on my head.
3) Icy Lake Superior. Junior high me was walking along an ice covered cliff on Lake Superior. Oh yeah, here ya go God! I slipped and began sliding to my death and was saved by my uncut fingernails. Who says bad personal hygiene is actually a bad thing?
4) Downtown Minneapolis. My wife and I used to regularly attend Minnesota Twins games at the Old Metrodome. We found a great place to park for free at a housing project where you had to walk across a pedestrian bridge over the highway to get to the stadium. One night around 11 as we were walking back to our car a guy came running up the embankment, over the fence and onto the bridge right in front of us. I thought we were dead. We were not. Minnesota nice!
5) Stupid Marathon. The training went so well. But when you’re hyperventilating, crying and being hugged by overweight women who are walking the same speed as you, death seems imminent.
6) Downtown Chicago. College age me with two friends got lost in downtown Chicago, a significant portion of which was spent underneath the main roads with a large population of homeless folk. I have no idea how we got there or how we got out. Then we got kicked off the tollway cuz none of us had any money for the toll! “Do you take checks?” was the awesome line of that night. A night that will live in infamy.
7)Wilhelmine. I was a janitor at college in Nazareth Hall, a huge old building from an old Catholic seminary. There were many reports that the building was haunted by a woman named Wilhelmine buried in a chapel on campus (you can watch a documentary on her here. Kevin Thompson and Dan Monson–interviewed in the documentary–were two guys I worked for.). I worked at night. I was often the only one in the building. One night in particular while I was cleaning the cafeteria, by myself, a door that went into a tunnel under the courtyard that was always, and I mean always, locked, suddenly opened and I saw things. There are more stories I have on that, but we’ll just move on. I gave myself the creeps again.
8) Dating. Pretty much every date I went on until I met my wife-to-be was a near death experience for me. My insecure self was too messed up to stay calm in such situations. I knew I’d marry Cindy cuz at no point in our dating did I ever feel like throwing up. Except that one time when I had that spicy chicken Chinese meal, but trust me, that was different.
9) Sickness. In one six month stretch I had four different strains of violent stomach flu. Whether I nearly died or not, I remember praying that God would please kill me now. Then there was the episode with the abscess. But I’ll move on.
10) Riding with Idiots. Since I couldn’t drive due to my eyes, I had to hitch rides with friends. Being an idiot myself, I had idiots for friends. There are way too many stories about near death in cars. There is a reason young men have high insurance rates. One particular moment will always stick in my memory–looking down on the driver from the passenger seat because we were on two wheels.
Top 10 Hopes for the Second Half of Life
OK, so the first half wasn’t perfect. I spent most of that time being a rude, ignorant fool.
Now that I know a little bit more, what implications does that knowledge have on the next half of life?
I have no concept really, but here are a few hopas.
1) I am going to get a study with walls around it. No sense getting irritated at people for using their own house. I’m the one in the way.
2) Being decisive. My wife will like this one. One of the results of being insecure is that you learn to fudge answers. “I don’t know” and “whatever” and “fine” make up about 80% of my answers to questions. Man up wussy boy! Make some concrete decisions!
3) Be rigorous. Rigor is defined as “strict precision, exactness.” My theory of education was “go for the B.” Getting a B was a great strategy for me in school, I had other things to do. Unfortunately, it has developed into a habit of doing good, but not great, stuff. I could work harder, more thorough, more dogged and determined to exhaust a subject rather than calling it quits with sufficient information. Be more precise, not so quittingly sloppy.
4) More people time. I spent a large portion of the first 40 years avoiding people at all costs. I have come to see that I lose on that deal, not to mention the loss that people have not being around me. Indeed. You can’t love people if you aren’t around them.
5) More willing to look the fool. I spent too much time not doing stuff for fear of looking dumb. I have embraced my inner dumb, might as well make it the outer dumb. I will still feel dumb, but hope to enjoy the freedom of accepting this, rather than shrinking from it. On a serious note of this: more evangelistic conversations should happen in my life
6) Less media time. This probably means I’ll have to cut down on watching sports. This will be tough for me, but I’m realizing I should. Less mindless internet surfing. Freecell might have to be deleted. Oh dear. I don’t own a cell phone or any “devices.” My goal is to finish life that way.
7) Some spiritual stuff that would sound arrogant if I publicly announced it. Bringing my body under subjection, not out of legalistic pride or self-righteousness, but out of the idea I am running out of time and Judgment Day nears. The love of God constrains me, etc.
8) Do the uncomfortable. The older I get the more I see the value of forcing myself to do uncomfortable stuff. It’s easy to make excuses, to give the old “I’m sooo busy” line instead of going the extra mile. Force myself into situations where discomfort comes. I see way too many older folks sitting in their houses all day doing nothing of any discernible value. I don’t want my latter years to be a pursuit of the comfortable.
9) Invest in commodities. Rather than wasting money on frivolity, or speculating in markets I don’t understand, I desire to buy quality things that retain value regardless of Wall Street or Washington. The more money is tied up in public markets, the more influence and tracking the markets and government do to you. Yeah, I’m a bit conspiratorial and Luddite on this one. Sue me. Courts won’t be able to find any of my money to seize anyway!
10) Ensure my family. A life insurance salesman was grilling me on my life insurance a month ago. I said I didn’t have any. “Well, consider our products, we just care about your family.” Oh, well that’s nice. Basically I was told I didn’t care about my family because I have no life insurance. Surely he cares more about my family than his commission.
I want to ensure I have a family, not insure my family. I want my kids to grow up to be friends. I want my relationship with them to be healthy, so we can continue to enjoy being together. I want to do whatever is in my power to make sure we are a family that loves each other and are willing to serve each other.
If nothing else, I want my family to be a testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Word of God are of utmost importance to me. And when they bury me in the ground, this awesome rendition of Amazing Grace will be played.
40 Years In, Here are 10 Lies I no Longer Believe
Through forty years of life, I have learned a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff I have learned was wrong and it took years to figure that out and in some cases, years to overcome.
Life is all about learning. “Live and learn” aint just a pithy phrase, it’s the way it is.
Here are the top ten lies I used to believe were true.
1) People are saved because they said The Prayer. Nope, sorry, don’t buy it. There is no verse in the Bible that even remotely comes close to saying that salvation comes by “saying the prayer.” Faith is a fight, it’s a race, it is no one-time event that you did and then move on. Continue in the faith. Those who continue in the faith are the only ones who are saved by faith. The just shall LIVE by faith.
2) The Cubs should be rooted for. I grew up with diseased people who coughed their Cub fandom germs on me. It took me many years to get better. The Cubs are an awful organization mired in stupid. Continuing to cheer for them does not show loyalty, it shows mental disorder.
3) You can’t mow the lawn on Sundays. Yes I can.
4) I don’t need anyone, I’m just fine by myself. People were always creepy to me. I isolated myself, stayed away from people and did my own thing. When I talked to people it was to rip them apart. Who needs em? I’ll be fine. Except I wasn’t. Plus I hate cooking.
5) I’m the only person in the world who truly understands the Bible. I actually remember the moment when this began to crack. My buddy Joe beat me at a game of Bible Trivia! Joe? Joe the Catholic? Beat me? I’m a pastor’s kid! HE beat ME? Yes, yes he did. Plus the D I got in Old Testament Survey. Plus the one time the WWII vet asked me if it was too late for him to get saved and my mouth said, “Yeah, probably.” That was a pretty low moment too. Oy.
6) Getting good grades is the key to your future. Oh wait, I never believed that.
6) People in church have everything together. The only way you would think someone has a perfect life is if you don’t know them. Most churches are filled with unknown people who either purposely want to be unknown to keep their outward perfection, or don’t want to be known because they know they aren’t perfect. Everyone needs to relax and help each other come to Christ.
7) You know you did well because someone told you you did well. I learned part of this when I played my trumpet. Whenever I totally blew my song I would get the most compliments! When my daughter began playing piano in public I told her the same thing, “Hey, don’t worry about messing up, you’ll get more compliments that way.” Try it some time. It’s true. And the compliments are all lies too incidentally.
The flip side of this one I am still learning–the desire to get a compliment. That I didn’t do a good job unless someone told me I did. Growing up as an insecure flop, I like a good compliment. When no one says anything about the sermon, was it any good?
The need for approval is in everyone, but growing up being rejected by many, turned on by a lot of people I thought were friends, made me especially susceptible to this one. I admit I’m still learning this one. Doing what I do before the Lord and letting it rest there. I’m trying, I’m trying.
8) You should sell your gold, it’s not going to go up. D’oh!
9) Girls are gross. Some of em are, but not nearly as many as gross boys. The female mind is a land of wonder. I continue to be amazed at the insights and perspectives I would never in a bazillion years come up with. There is one female in particular who continues to impress me with her ingenuity, supreme baking skills, great recipes, charm, wit, and business sense–I love you Martha Stewart.
10) Everyone I know is going to go to heaven. This has been a painful one to learn. Heaven isn’t populated based on who you know. You are not the fortunate one to be born smack dab in the middle of people who have it all right spiritually. Some people leave the faith. Some people play games with you. Some people bluster and intimidate so as not to be challenged. Heaven is reached by a narrow road, not the broad, crowded road. If everyone you know is going where you are going, you might want to change roads.
Top 10 Regrets of my 40 Years of Life
There are people who say “I have no regrets” as they look back on life.
These people are morons.
Seriously? No regrets? You nailed everything perfectly?
“Well, but the mistakes helped me become who I am.” Perhaps you overestimate who you are.
Imagine who you’d be if you hadn’t made those mistakes! Who knows.
There are many things I regret in my first 40 years of life.
1) Inappropriate jokes. I can’t help it, jokes come to me. Many of them are hilarious but also wrong. I have learned, or am learning, that getting a laugh isn’t always worth it.
2) I should have treated my mother better. My father had to continually tell me to be nice to my mother. I was a disrespectful snot. I can’t do it over, but I regret having been that way.
3) Speaking too soon. I have judged people too harshly. I have shared opinions with insufficient information. I have assumed I knew the problem and the solution and went ahead and assumed that people desperately needed to hear my thoughts to save them from themselves.
4) Speaking not at all. Oh the times when I should have said something and didn’t. Why is it that my mouth works when I want it to stop and doesn’t work when I want it to go?
5) Afraid of people. I have let people dictate my behavior too much. My fear of criticism, or even fear of being noticed, has kept me out of a lot of things in life. Now that I have more confidence I find myself finally doing things I should have done 30 years ago.
6) Wasting time. Oh the hours I’ll never get back. Television and internet are the killers of living.
7) Worry. This is one I’ve gotten pretty good control of, but worry used to ruin me as a kid. When you can’t see what’s going on, you worry about what’s going on you can’t see. Will I find my classes at school? Will the teacher call on me to answer the math problem on the board I can’t see? Oh the tension. I’m glad I’ve grown here, but man did I put myself through the ringer.
8) Unfair expectations for my wife. Being perfect as I am, I needed a perfect wife. I thought I had one. Then it all came crashing down. Then I realized, “Oh wait, I’m not perfect either.” Sorry I put her through my years of frustration, impatience and attempts to change her into what I thought she should be instead of just loving the poor woman.
9) No discernible skills. I really, really wish I had learned a practical skill at some point. Fixing motors, home repair, electrical wiring, plumbing, something. But here I let my fear of looking like a moron cuz I can’t see what I’m doing stop me. I had opportunities. I didn’t take them. This was dumb.
10) Too frustrated with my children. I have high expectations for them too. I fear I over correct on things I should just let go. I’m impatient. I work at home. I have kids. My “office” is in the basement, which is unfinished. The stairs get walked up and down about 5,000 times a day. My thinking, writing, reading, whatever it is I’m doing, gets interrupted each time. I continue to blow this one, but my kingdom for some peace and quiet. Perhaps I regret not having built walls around my study.
9 Experiences That Shaped My Faith
I am a Christian and this is a big deal for me. I grew up in a “Christian home” with two loving parents, for which I am mighty grateful, and I always “believed” Christian truth.
My testimony is rather pedestrian: No drugs. No alcohol. No abuse. No prison time.
I have no Damascus Road Experience.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.
No one is saved because they grew up in a “Christian home.” Faith has to be an individual thing. You enter through the strait gate all alone or not at all.
Here are the top life experiences that formed my faith, that made me personally invested in my Christian faith, what made it mine, and served to grow it. They are in roughly chronological order.
1) Being legally blind. Walking by faith and not by sight is something I do every day! I cannot see half of what’s going on. I have learned many ways to cover this fact, to the extent that most people who know me have no idea how little I see. I, in fact, actually have no idea how little I see! What I do know, is that I’ve had to learn to take other people’s word for it when I ask what’s going on, or where something is, or what is on that menu up there.
2) Being bullied. I gotta tell ya, the modern anti-bullying movement really irritates me. Suck it up, people! I was made fun of my entire life. Even now, as a 40-year old man, kids stare at my crossed eyes and make comments. Being bullied made me an observer of people. It made me a thinker. It gave me the blessing of sarcastic wit. It has taught me the crumminess of human nature and the security that is in Christ. Bullying may have been the most formative element of my life. To all you bullies out there: Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without ya!
3) Going to college. Getting out on my own, out of the “Christian home” and into the world on my own to work, go to school, have a checkbook, pay rent, etc. was huge for my little insecure self. I rethought everything there. I quit going to church for about two years, having grown up going to church three times a week. I read the Bible. I marked up the Bible. I read theological books. I prayed. I began to figure out what I believed. Without discomfort, there can be no growth. If mommy and daddy are always there, you will remain a moron.
4) Getting married. Good Lord, I had no idea what a selfish jerk I was. OK, I had an idea, I just had no idea how huge a problem it was. Living with another person totally showed me my disease, the greatness of grace and how much I need love.
5) Becoming a pastor. I quit being a pastor less than two years in, before coming back and now being in my 14th year of pastorship. There were any number of reasons for my brief quitting, one was that I felt I was in over my head. I also had a fair amount of people telling me I was in over my head more than I actually was, which didn’t help. Taking the responsibility of teaching the Bible completely revolutionized my faith. Being freaked out about this responsibility has driven me to the Word, to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and my dependence on Jesus Christ.
6) Becoming a father. In all honesty, nothing has taught me more about the character of God than being a dad. The Old Testament completely makes sense to me looking at it from a father’s perspective. God loves His kids, but wow, can they be irritating.
7) Death of my father. My dad was “My Guy.” When I had theological questions, he typically answered them, or at least gave me a sarcastic answer that made me have to think it through for myself. When he died, I was, in a sense, on my own. My Bible reading went up a notch. Also seeing how young he died totally changed my attitude toward physical things. The entire year after my dad died, I only bought two things for myself: A 2-liter of soda and a pack of socks. I wrote a book about detaching from money that six people liked. My attitudes toward life, people and possessions completely changed after my dad’s death. I can’t even explain exactly why, I just know it’s true.
8) Biking and running. When I was 16, all my friends were getting driver’s licenses except me, the blind kid. I bought a $300 bike with my paper route money and took off. I’ve been biking ever since. Running has also played a part in my life from being the only thing in gym I could win, to “running” a marathon. The time running and biking is mostly where I think and pray and go over sermon material and pontificate and occasionally preach at trees. These activities have never been merely “exercise” for me. It is also a form of transportation and freedom for a blind guy, which is nice.
9) Writing. I won a writing contest when I was in kindergarten for the award-winning novel, How Mallards Got Their Color. I had my first article published when I was in college. I have written all sorts of things, a surprising number have actually been published by other people who paid me even! Not blogging is apparently impossible for me. Writing is how I process thoughts. Usually, to understand something, I have to write about it. It’s why I’m writing about turning 40 see. Without writing, I’d be even dumber than I currently am.
Thoughts on Becoming An Old Man
I am turning 40 in a few days.
For the most part it’s just another day, but at the same time I understand the significance of being about half done (statistically speaking).
When a guy hits halftime of life, he realizes what a moronic waste most of the first half was.
At the same time, the first half of life solidifies a whole bunch of stuff that will impact the last half.
Most of the first half of life is learning. I imagine the second half will be filled with more learning, but also, I’m hoping, more learning to apply.
For the most part, my first 40-years were spent being chicken. Even when I knew stuff, I was often too chicken to act on it.
I regret that. At the same time, being chicken has kept me out of a lot of trouble!
The older I get the less I care about the chickenizing stuff that marked my first half.
I am getting over fearing what others think of me. I am already over arguing about what people think of me! Whatever.
I am becoming more principled in doing what is right, or if there are no moral obligations at stake, doing what is more entertaining, regardless of who is around.
Growing up legally blind and cross-eyed made me very insecure and afraid of being noticed. My preferred place was in a corner with no one noticing.
I still like my corners, but I get out of them more now, cuz I don’t care anymore.
So, anyway, this week I’m going to be reflecting on life here, stuff I’ve learned and how I hope the second half goes.
I’d appreciate knowing if any of it helps.
What is your advice for getting old?
Many people think we come to God’s Word to find out how to be better people.
God isn’t concerned with you becoming a better you.
God’s desire is that your YOU gets out of the way and is replaced by Christ.
God does not want a really good you; He wants to see His Son in you.
Much of the modern church is focused on this sort of self-help theology.
“The entire focus of the church service seems to flow toward that one goal: to make a new me. The songs are focused on my dating relationship with God (with no thought if the song is biblical or not). The prayers are for those who had a tough week and need grace just to make it through. The sermons are focused on my felt needs and what I need to hear from God to make me a better person.”
You can read the rest of the article this quote is from to get more on the subject. It’s well said.
Sermon Ephesians 4 part one
What is More Important: Doctrinal Rightness or Practical Fruit?
“And here we must resist and even resent the strong but quite unjustified tendency to treat on different principle our moral and our intellectual response to Christ, and to make a certain stage in especially the latter, to which a man who can be called a Christian must have advanced.
“There are those who will call a man Christian even though his practical response to the meanings of Christ for life be very meager, but will deny him the name if his intellectual response to the meanings of Christ for doctrinal belief be not very adequate. This is untenable.”
–Carnegie Simpson, The Fact of Christ
In other words:
We are more willing to overlook divorce than we are divergent ideas about sovereignty, for instance. There are divorced Arminians who think all Calvinists will go to hell and vice versa.
Christians tend to throw out people from the Christian label due to poor doctrine more than they are willing to do so for poor morals.
In fact, people should be thrown out from under the Christian label for both bad morals and bad doctrine!
Not sure Mr. Carnegie Simpson would go there with me, but I’m guessing he might.
People aren’t Christians because they say they are. You will know them by their fruit.
It is my contention that good fruit comes from good doctrine, but our definition of “good doctrine” is, no doubt, skewed in our favor.
Just because someone doesn’t agree with your doctrine doesn’t mean they aren’t Christian, nor does it mean they don’t have “good doctrine!” If both have good fruit, then lighten up.
There is also a tendency to assume “good doctrine” means textbook doctrine. We can quote the right guys with the right words.
But I’ve met a lot of folk who know very little about theologians who have Christian doctrine nailed down quite well. I also know many who can quote all the guys but make little sense doctrinally.
In the end, take care of your own growth in knowledge and your own spiritual fruit growth. Speak the truth in Love. Live the life of Christ and grow to understand the life of Christ. You really can’t do one without the other.
Monster Energy Drinks, 666 and Growing Up
I remember as a kid joking around with my buddy at church about the Antichrist and the number 666. As we were sitting in the church kitchen waiting for our youth group, we would look at bar codes on boxes and add or subtract numbers to come up with 666.
“Ooooh, Oreo cookies are a tool of the antichrist!”
We were being goofy, and, in our own way, even then picking on stupid Christian culture.
Lo and behold, bored youth group kids have come up with another one:
To decipher, because you need someone who is trained at doing ridiculousness to fully grasp what ridiculousness is being pointed out here:
the Monster logo, allegedly, is three Hebrews symbols for 6, in other words, the Monster logo says “666.”
Then, elsewhere on the can, it says “unleash the beast.” The “beast” is another word for the Antichrist.
Therefore, Monster energy drinks are facilitating the antichrist. It is also pointed out that there is a crucifix in the “O” of “MONSTER.” Proof positive there.
Of course, Christians will now boycott Monster and be freaked out, “Don’t think this is coincidence, this is an organized effort to turn on Christianity and facilitate the Antichrist.” More than likely facilitated by the Trilateral Commission and so forth.
Yeah. Don’t. Just don’t. Life has too many in your face evidences of antichrist to worry about inventing others.
Actually, if you examine the Monster logo, the top of each mark has a bump to the right, which makes it look more like the Hebrew symbol for 7, it could just as easily be 777, the number of God and perfection.
God is the one who will remove the restrainer who will then usher in the Antichrist, so one could just as easily say Monster energy drinks are rooting for God.
Don’t. Just don’t.
When you become a man, you put away childish things.
Dealing With Broken Reeds and Other Reed Types
Many years ago there was a person flitting around the edges of our church doing all manner of bizarre things.
Repeatedly asking for money, mooching off people, taking things, breaking and entering at one point, this person even did jail time.
During this whole thing, I was approached numerous times to help this poor, distressed individual. For several years I gave the benefit of the doubt and did what I could, but over the course of years, I realized this was a waste of time.
I began confronting this person with Scripture. I stopped being taken in by the sob stories and changed the subject to this person dealing with their sin. This didn’t go over well. Shocker, I know.
After taking a more confrontive approach to this person, they threw a verse at me a number of times, “A bruised reed He will not break.” If that’s who Jesus was, why was I being so mean?
A little known fact, there are other verses in the Bible about poor little reeds having a tough time. Here’s one:
“For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger.“
Listen up! I don’t care what kind of reed you are, repeatedly be a moron and things will begin to get tough for ya.
God will uproot Israel who is flopping around in the water, being tossed by every wind of idolatry, and God has had enough.
There is a time to uproot reeds, my friends! God aint afraid to do it.
There is a difference between a broken reed who has been crushed by life, and a rebellious reed that can’t stand firm on the solid ground of God’s Word.
Know what reeds are around you and act accordingly.
Homosexuality, the Church and Persecution
People celebrate being cool, being an individual, throwing off shackles and “being you.”
In order to “be you,” you can’t be other people, which means you have to throw away societal expectations and rebel against norms.
The current homosexual movement is a classic case and point.
For many years, homosexuality was taboo. Now it’s cool. A thing cannot be cool if it wasn’t previously taboo.
The more the church and others get freaked out about homosexuality the cooler homosexual behavior seems.
This is one reason why the wrath of man never works the righteousness of God.
Chill. What did you think sinners would do? Not sin?
This same trend is also a reason why when the Church is persecuted it grows. When the world aggressively comes after Christianity, Christianity is suddenly where you have to go to “be an individual” and “rebel.”
A Jeff Weddle Life Truth
If you stick with a behavior over a course of 60 years, for approximately 2 separate decades you will be cool. Not cool today? Wait a while, cool will catch up.
While being an individual rebelling against societal norms, you will get persecution.
Pretty much every persecuted group will say, “Do you really think I would subject myself to this persecution if I weren’t so bound to what is true?”
I’ve heard Christians say it. And I’ve heard homosexuals say it. Yeah, I do believe you would subject yourself to persecution for being weird; that’s one of the main points of being weird–you get to feel special about yourself and your cool pain.
I do not know why people do what they do, but I do know people have different motives for doing the same thing and many motives are far from pure. That’s why God judges the heart–bad motives cancel goodness in your deeds.
The best response to defeating what others do that you don’t like, is to ignore it. Remember your mom telling you to ignore your brother and he’ll stop?
Yeah, it’s fairly effective.
That’s why atheist communists will never win–they are too negatively opinionated about too many things that merely serves to drive people to those things. Communism is prone to revolution.
The Church will lose if we play this game.
We are called to love our enemies.
Does it Matter what You Think a Passage Means? Is Jesus in Every Scripture Passage?
There are a couple Bible Study questions that annoy me.
I understand the gist of both questions, I will even grant that they are appropriate questions to ask from time to time, but I believe they can both damage your understanding of the Bible if pressed too far.
So, let me rephrasingly repeat what I said there–each question has a place, it’s just not every place.
Here are the five questions, er two questions:
1) What does this passage mean to you?
The cynical response to this question is “It doesn’t matter what it means to you.” But, again, sometimes it does.
Everyone, at one point, has to take a meaning out of what they read. It’s impossible for us not to find meaning in what we read. Otherwise words on a piece of paper would be chicken scratch.
However, in the end, your theory about what a verse means may not be the end-all of biblical meaning.
That is the key problem with the question–what it means to you better be what it meant to the writer.
However, here we go again. How do we know what it meant to the writer? What do I think the writer meant? Isn’t far away from the initial question!
This is where context fits in. You have to follow the flow of the particular book you are reading (Romans, Psalms, Esther, etc) and also in the larger context of the Book (the Bible).
This takes work. More than likely way more work than it took to read the passage and them dreamily pontificate about what it means to you.
2) Where is Jesus in this passage?
There is a theory of Bible reading that posits that Christ shows up in every passage of Scripture.
Again, I get the point and would mostly agree. I’m all for people seeing the unity of Scripture in Christ.
What I fear happens, however, is that people who have no conception of who Christ is, just make stuff up about Christ, some of which borders on blasphemy. But they happily go away thinking that their theory about the butt-end of spear piercing through guys chasing you means that Jesus was never in a hurry, or whatever.
Yes, Jesus is seen throughout Scripture, but quite possibly not where you see Him! There are whole chapters of the OT that have nothing to do with Christ, no matter how much you want to believe Christ is in every chapter.
Guaranteed Half-Hour Church Service
A suburban church near Chicago has decided to have a church service guaranteed not to run over 30-minutes in length.
The idea is to “cut to the chase.” Skip the ritual, the formality, just get to the Bible story and call it a day.
The pastor says,
“The whole idea is to get people who are outside of the institutional church, who want something more relational, the opportunity to have that. That it’s half an hour makes it less of a burden in terms of time commitment. The half-hour is fulfilling. It’s something meaningful that brings some joy.”
So yeah, anyway. No one really wants to hear another pastor bash another pastor. Plus I know there will be many people who will applaud the efforts and be attracted to the church because of it. Which, of course, makes it right.
Let me just say, we’ve come a long way from a day set aside for worship to a half-hour set aside.
But that makes sense, cuz we’re not under law, we’re under grace, doing things because we’re motivated by love not guilt.
Right, cuz that makes this all read much better.
More power to em. Whatever.
Sermon: Ephesians 3
Any That Pisseth Against The Wall
I imagine I may be offending some sensibilities with this one, but hey, just quoting the Bible.
In six verses of the Old Testament the KJV includes the phrase any “that pisseth against the wall.” This is an anti-euphemism for “men.”
I remember seeing this is a kid. Hilarious.
But mostly hilarious.
Now, you may just think the translators of the KJV were just creepy old men getting a little graphic.
However, for all those who bash on the KJV because their new pet translation is “more literal,” the KJV accurately translates the Hebrew. That’s what God breathed there.
Deal with it.
The ever so literal New American Standard even puts a footnote that “pisses against the wall” is the literal translation.
This raises the issue of profanity. Profanity is from the word “profane,” which merely means, “Common.”
Profanity is mostly just a bunch of rich, educated snobs mocking common people, so they label the common man’s language as “profanity.”
Profanity shifts as society shifts. “Piss” is not a word I want my kids going around saying. At the same time, I do want them reading their Bibles. Do I censor God’s Word? The ESV, NASV and NIV all censor God here.
“Piss” was a fine word for Hebrew-speaking folk to say, and it was fine for the KJV day, not so much today.
In fact, the NIV has a problem with all the uses of the word “man” in the Bible! Now translating “he who pisses against the wall” as “men” is profane in some minds!
Ah yes. Bottom line is this: we should be sensitive to the cultural notion of profanity. But also lighten up knowing that this idea shifts over time. Let your speech be always with grace.
Who Would Jesus Bet On? Brazil, All the Way
The World Cup is starting today. A casino has erected a giant Jesus balloon to advertise their betting services. This has, of course, created much outrage.
And, of course, the outrage is exactly what they were going for because now even more people know about the betting services available.
“This is extraordinary, if they knew anything about Jesus they’d know he’d be overturning tables in the gaming halls, because they’re highly addictive and destroy lives.”
Well, I do know things about Jesus, and I bet He’d be overturning tables in many of those Brazilian churches before He’d be worried about casinos.
Jesus at NBA Finals Game
Harrison Mayes and Unique Forms of Evangelism
I was watching an old episode of American Pickers where they visited an Appalachian Folk Art Museum.
One of the pieces they came across were corked bottles with salvation tracts in them from a guy named Harrison Mayes.
Apparently Mayes dedicated his life to the Lord’s service when he got trapped in a coal mine. If the Lord would get him out, he would serve the Lord the rest of his life.
The Lord did. So, Harrison did.
One of his preferred means of serving the Lord was to do various pieces of folk art with messages like, “Jesus is coming soon” and “Prepare to Meet God.”
Many of these pieces of art still stand today.
His goal was to put some of these pieces of art on the moon and various other planets. One of the most unique pieces is this bike:
Unfortunately, Harrison never got to ride his bike on the moon or any other planet besides earth.
Here is a link to a guy who has done much research on Harrison.
Here is a link to his flicker page with various Harrison sites around the country.
Although I can’t say I’d take up that form of evangelism, it is quirky and somehow cool! A man with a plan, even if the plan was a tad kooky.
What are your thoughts on such means of evangelism?
Pastoral Zip Lines and the Decline of the Church
Sermon: Ephesians 2 Part 2
You Can do Anything You Put Your Mind to, Unless you are Genetically Predisposed not To
One of the cool things about learning God’s wisdom is that you don’t have to take seriously the world’s wisdom. This is great because you can then become a passive observer of the world’s inanity.
The world’s wisdom is indeed foolish.
Here’s one bit that I have noticed this past week.
Our world is filled with the philosophical wisdom that we can “do anything we put our minds to.” Just believe in yourself and you can do anything. You have the power to make your dreams come true.
So, we have this rah-rah, humans are great, go take on the world stuff going on.
At the same time we have genetic fatalism. More and more, who we are as people is blamed on genetics. Murderers are genetically predisposed, drug addicts are genetically predisposed, homosexuals are genetically predisposed.
They can’t help it, they have to do it because microscopic genes told them they had to.
Anyone see any contradiction here?
So, can we do anything we put our minds to, or do we just have to do what genetics tell us to do? Are we really that amazing with our abilities to overcome obstacles if microscopic gene mutations keep us down?
Christian ministries to homosexuals get criticized because “it’s not sin, they can’t help it, it’s in their genes.”
Perhaps we should change our tactic, “I believe in you. If you put your mind to it, you can overcome anything, even genes.” Perhaps that would fly better. use their own logic to defeat their own logic.
Somehow I doubt it. Sin has a way of entrenching itself and making people dumb.
Once Saved Always Saved and Assurance
Once Saved Always Saved is a doctrine that means different things to different people.
Some take it to refer to God’s election–if you are elect before the foundation of the world, you will remain elect forever.
Others tie it in with conversion–if you say the prayer, or get baptized, you are always saved.
Some have, in a supposed effort to elevate God’s grace, gone so far as to say that a believer can fall away, completely turn away from God, even become an atheist, and yet, if that person said the prayer when they were four, they are still saved.
Most, however, upon seeing someone reject their faith, completely turn from God, will conclude, “well, they were never saved to begin with, even if they thought they were.”
Once Saved Always Saved is there to grant assurance. But if someone thinks they are saved, then turns away proving they never had faith, how is there assurance for anyone else?
How do I know if ten years from now I turn from my faith, am I just playing a game today? If I die today while not having denied my faith, but would have if I were here another ten years, am I saved or not?
There are a handful of verses that seem to fully support Once Saved Always Saved. Then there are a handful of other verses that seem to completely eliminate the idea. There are even a handful of verses that seem to back up the “well, they weren’t saved to begin with” idea.
I think our doctrine of security should deal with all the verses, not just the ones that lean to the side we like. This is no easy task.
Jesus Shows up on Rusty Air Conditioner
A man recently bought an old rusty air conditioning unit from a friend and noticed that this was no ordinary air conditioning unit!
Unlike your typical air conditioning unit, this one had the face of Jesus on it!
It’s totally there. But apparently not everyone can see it.
When I saw that, I knew who that was immediately. The gentleman I purchased it from didn’t see any of it. Think about it. They don’t recognize what it is. Some people see it, some people don’t. Think about that.
Dude. I will think about that. Consider it thought on.
Image of Jesus shows up on Blanket
Former actor Lance Raymundo credits his faith for his “miraculous” recovery, following an accident at a gym which shattered parts of his face and even exposed his brain at one point.
While waiting painfully for surgery, he heard a voice tell him he was going to get better so he could fulfill the mission God had for him. He doubted the voice initially, but the voice told him to sit up on his bed. So he did.
And then he spotted Jesus’ face in the blanket!
So, what has all this done for him? Well, for one thing, he’s better now.
“Asked what he has learned from his near-fatal experience, Raymundo said he has come to value forgiveness, positivity, and faith more.”
Well, aint that special.
My Problem With Christian Camp Spirituality
Summertime is almost here. With summer comes the inevitability of summer camp.
True confession: I hated summer camp.
Never liked em. One of the reasons why is because I went to about 300 of them. This isn’t really an exaggeration either.
I was never a social person. I’d rather go home and do stuff on my own than go be with a bunch of creepy kids who will pick on me for being blind.
Christian camps, although promising the possibility of being free from being picked on, never really delivered on that.
Even if they did, I was still so ridiculously insecure I felt picked on anyway. I can’t see the target in archery. I can’t see the pole in horseshoes. I can’t see the demonstration of the stupid craft thing.
Christian camps also threw Jesus at you. I sat through so many chapel services at camps it aint even funny. Seriously, it wasn’t funny.
I saw the same church kids get saved over and over. I saw kids get saved who then went right back to picking on my crossed-eyes. I figured out how the preachers manipulated emotions. I knew the last day of camp with the heavy-handed, “You might die on the bus ride home” Gospel message.
Seriously, who did these preachers think drove camp buses? Perhaps this is a human resources issue rather than a Gospel issue.
Ir drove me nuts.
Although I couldn’t necessarily explain the theological problems with camp messages then, I can now.
The main problem with Christian Camp is its emphasis on experience.
“When did you get saved?” Was always the issue. “Oh, you don’t know? Well, have I got a deal for you! You can have our little experience (carefully tailored to the camp’s denominationally accepted experience) and then you can now say you are saved!”
You don’t know you’re saved because you remember an experience of getting saved. Show me one verse in the Bible that even hints at saying “You know you’re saved if you can remember getting saved.”
The real question is: How do you currently know you are saved? What is going on in your life that shows you are living by faith, that you are a new creation in Christ? Where is the fruit that proves you’re a branch in the Vine?
But camp doesn’t mess with that question. Too messy, not as easily manipulated into a definite yes or no answer. Camp salvation is a one-time experience; spiritual growth is a lifetime. Guess which one fits most nicely into a 20-minute time slot?
It’s much easier to manipulate young minds into jumping through your hoop so you can feel special about reporting to the church that 47 kids got saved. Or the “47 kids rededicated their lives” line the not-quite-so-gifted preachers have to use.
Now, I know, all kinds of people point to camp as the time when they got saved. That’s fine and I hope it’s true. And, yes, I’m a tad cynical.
But Hell is filled with kids who “got saved” at camp. Your experience you supposedly had at some point as a kid isn’t what matters. What matters is whether Christ is alive and well in you today.
Selfie on top of Jesus Statue
A man got permission to climb up the statue of Jesus in Rio while they were repairing it due to a lightning strike.
While atop Jesus, he did the logical thing: he took a selfie.
“As I popped my head out of the hole in Jesus’s crown, I was in total and utter awe as my eyes met with a vast panorama that quite literally took my breath away,” Thompson wrote in a blog post. “Talk about a religious experience!”
So, he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Why Bad Stuff Happens: Possible Reason–God is Testing Your Faith
Life has bad stuff in it.
Usually, when bad stuff happens, Christians flop out pithy statements, “all things work together for good!” “When God closes one door, it’s only because He is opening another one!” “God is in control, He’s still on the throne, buck up, ol’ chap!”
With each of these statements, and those like them, there is some truth. Whether that truth is being shared in love, or in an effort to vacate the premises as quickly as possible, is up for debate.
In all the stuff I hear Christians say about bad stuff happening, I rarely hear this one, “Well, maybe God is testing your faith to see if it’s real.” Yet there’s more Bible on that point than on, “when God closes one door, He’s opening another one,” yet I hear “door” talk all the time.
When Israel wandered in the wilderness (remember the reason Israel wandered in the wilderness was because of rebellion, not because of God’s plan, or because He found another door to open) they frequently ran out of food and water.
Why was this? Deuteronomy tells us:
“the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.He humbled you and let you be hungry.“
The bad stuff that happened to Israel was God “disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.”
I know we love to talk about grace and how we’re not under law, but remember, all the stuff that happened to Israel were written for an example for us!
Listen up: the bad stuff that happens to you might not just be happy God having happy notions about your desired happy life. It might be His doubts about your faith, your need of discipline, and His desire to see you grow up.
In the most American of crimes, a South Carolina woman was arrested Saturday afternoon for stealing a Bible from Walmart.
According to cops, Frances Thomas, 33, was spotted by a store employee placing the Good Book in her purse while she was inside the Spartanburg store. Thomas also allegedly pinched some cheese and socks.
Cheese, socks and a Bible, and that’s all I need.
Who is more to blame, the woman who stole a Bible or Bible publishers who charge $50 for a Bible?
Actually, they both are.