I love quotes. I love authors who can take a seemingly difficult concept, and by crafting just the right combination of words, wipe the fog off the lens of your mind's eye. All quotes start as revelations, and I guess the good ones bear repeating and – boom – a quote is born. The really great ones last forever because that is what truth does. Truth always was and will always be. Take this quote by Saint Augustine (over 1600 years old):
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
I would imagine you have to be a saint to even try to describe how the Creator of the Universe might love us, His creations. I mean there are so many of us. But wouldn't you say he nailed it?
I love broccoli. For as long as I can remember I liked broccoli. I imagine it is because I grew up with broccoli as one of the many vegetable members of my family. Our family ate (and still does) pasta with anything. But, broccoli is special. It’s in the top five great pasta pairings IMO. I also know that not everyone out there loves broccoli – some people don’t eat it, won’t even taste it! I can’t even imagine! And then there are those that didn’t think they were going to like it, maybe even afraid to try it because it looked weird, but after that first taste and then discovering what a wonderful accompaniment it serves, they grew to like it and actually enjoy it regularly – even on purpose! I think most people fit into this category. We need to get over some kind of fear, ignorance or prejudice to make that first move, to give something a chance. But, once we do we often learn that our fears where misplaced, and that fear may have kept us from fulfilling our lives in some way. I can’t think of my life without broccoli.
So, what is keeping people from trying Christ? (You knew that’s where we were going, right?) I mean, if Christianity is being sold as a religion of love, peace of mind, equality and eternal bliss, what is there to be afraid of? Why aren’t there millions flocking to sign up every day? As followers of Christ (and unlike broccoli) we were given something that should sell itself – right? How have we managed to screw that up? Even worse, a lot of non-believers consciously avoid any mention of Christ; shun it like a stomach virus or a punch in the jaw. (While we Christians have learned that anyone that would meet Jesus personally would do just the opposite.) What is motivating them to respond in this way? Some of you might know what I’m talking about. There are some people that you may know all of your life, whom with you have gone through every possible high and low point, people that would trust you with their children, but one mention of Christ or Christianity immediately has them looking at you like a total stranger. And, not only a stranger, but a stranger that is looking to rob them of everything that they call ‘holy’.
What is it about sticking our toe into the waters of a relationship with God that has some of us very defensive? Could it be the unknown, the uncertainty? Some unwilling to even give the change a try, so sure that what we have is as good as we can get, or so afraid that we might lose the little we do have. In a chapter of Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly, I read something that begins to explain the phenomena in the context of why most Christians don’t study the Bible as we should:
“…But in a deeply subconscious way, the explanation for why we don’t read the Bible is deeply profound: We know the word of God has the power to transform our lives, and the uncomfortable, unspoken and often-avoided truth is that we don’t want our lives transformed. Be honest. Do you want God to completely overhaul your life and totally transform you?”
And even though I count myself as one of the millions of Christians who have claimed Christ as my savior, this fear still persists. But now the fear is not so much getting in the water as much as it is in putting my head under and opening my eyes. Transformation scares the crap out of me. I’m guilty of what most Christians are: selective commitment: ‘I’ll do this but I’m not willing to do that. I’ll give this but I’m not willing to let go of that.’ Mr. Kelly sums it up perfectly:
“…We pray for tweaking—and then we wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers. The reason is simple: God is not in the business of tweaking. He’s in the business of transformation.”
But thankfully God knows the fear we have. He’s given us wonderful examples to teach us the good that transformation brings: our birth being one – transformed from cell to embryo, to fetus to baby. Ahhhhh, to be born again; born again, and this time to our creator’s true purpose. This is what our fear is keeping us from.Sex? Sex! sex.
The bible is full of stories about sex and violence…really. It’s more than likely one of the reasons that we hear the same readings over and over again in church. My bible is over 1500 pages long and with that many pages you really shouldn’t be repeating readings as often as we do if the intent is to study the entire word of God. But most of it has to do with the subject matter. There are just whole sections of the bible that deal with things that are not ever mentioned in polite company. Things regarding genocide, infanticide, human sacrifice, murder, suicide, torture and rape fill the bible’s pages. And when it comes to sex there is no subject that is too controversial to be addressed: adultery, homosexuality, incest of every type imaginable, and even bestiality are discussed. If the intent of the word of God is to provide God’s children a framework for living our lives and ensuring our salvation, our Father (like any good parent) is going to tell it like it is. If you are trying to save someone’s life, you don’t hold back, especially when it comes to a subject like sex that has a potential to end in disaster.
Now, to be clear, God did not create sex to be disastrous. In reality like everything God creates, God’s intent is just the opposite. Sex was created as a good thing. One of God’s commands to his children is to ‘Go forth and multiple!’ So, it is certainly no surprise that the act of multiplication is associated with a high level of pleasure – right? Why bother if it’s going to just be a mundane, or worse yet, a painful, experience? (I’ll read a book or work in the garden at that point.) So here we have something that gives us all incredible pleasure and satisfaction, and God is commanding us to do it! In fact, there are all sorts of chemicals and hormones that he put racing through our bodies simply for that purpose. Remember those hormones?! (C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity covers the subject masterfully in Book 3, Chapter 5 – Click here
…The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.
So since we are all still living within the confines of this earth with its paradox of good versus evil, sex like all of God’s creations, can have either good or bad consequences. It all depends on how you use it. Eat enough = good for you. Eat too much = not good for you. Exercise enough = good for you. Exercise excessively = not good for you. Think about anything in that way and you can see that it all has potentially a good or bad consequence. That is the true meaning of the very first commandment. ‘Thou shalt not have any gods before me.’ Much more than gods like Zeus, Buddha or Satan, more like becoming consumed with a thing or action, if fact making it our god, and therefore giving it our primary focus.
Back to the sex act itself. You might ask, how do we keep it from becoming our primary focus? I have to tell you that there were times in my life when the sex act was fairly high on my list of ‘things to do’. Even now if the circumstances are right, the moon is full and I’ve had the proper sensual stimulation it certainly can grab my attention! And of course, with society’s apparent fixation on sex there is no shortage of opportunities to indulge the mind and body accordingly. I would be a liar if I said that I have never committed adultery of the mind with all sorts of potential partners from Halle Barry to the check out girl at the local convenience store. Eeewwwwwww! (Hey, just keepin’ it real.)
So what is a Christian to do? How do we keep this potential downfall at bay? How do we keep legit in our marriages and permanent relationships? Some preachers talk about averting our eyes, or avoiding images or situations where we might be tempted to drift towards the nasty. Well, frankly that is a lot easier said than done. I mean testosterone (and estrogen) is a helluva drug, and as I said there is no shortage of opportunity if you are inclined. Then I read the Gospel story of the woman who was said to have married seven brothers, each man dying on their wedding night, obligating the brother next in line to marry this woman. (Imagine that!) The religious leaders at the time try to trick Jesus by asking him to whom of the brothers would the woman be married to when they all arrived in heaven. Jesus, brilliantly of course, reminds the questioner,
“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven…” Matt 22:25-32
And since we are all God’s beloved children and He is our parent, we in turn are all brothers and sisters. Boom! That is the great revelation that I have now used in controlling that primal desire to populate a small village. If our true essence is not achieved until we are indeed in God’s presence in Heaven, then it means that we are truly created as siblings. We are all related as brothers and sisters, and that outside of our monogamous relationship (marriage hopefully) sex is not intended between siblings. So when I heard and understood that, Halle Barry immediately became my sister. And so did the rest of you women out there. You are all my sisters. And when I may feel the urge to adulter-ize or covet I quickly imagine that this is my sister in Christ and the urge ultimately passes. Try it the next time you may get the urge to wander: ‘Whoa! Wait a minute! That’s my sister/brother I’m thinking about in that way.’ You’ll see what I mean. It’s a changing of the mind and accepting our fraternal relationship that will work best, seeing each other as we truly are meant to be. And so sex begins to take on a very different and very simple place in our lives, a place reserved for our partner to whom we have become one flesh.
‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh…’Gen 2:24
Every other potential partner is your brother or sister…I hope that helps! (And mix in a cold shower occasionally where necessary.)Broken hearts and such…
Romantically, I was a late bloomer. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I had a serious relationship with a girl, let’s call her Mindy. Mindy was about a year younger than me and we dated for about four years as I went through college. It was my first experience with romantic love and I thought at the time that we were going to have a future together. But, I guess Mindy didn’t. She dumped me for an older man at about the time I graduated and just before I went off on a cross country summer adventure with my dear friend, Pete. I was devastated in that I did not see it coming. It was the first time my heart would break. I took it very hard and thought it was never going to stop hurting. Thank God that He had other plans for me, because as some of you already know, I met my wife during that cross country trip in late July of 1980 at an Allman Brother’s concert in the old Aladdin hotel in Vegas. God had meant for Ellie and I to be together and that has made all the difference in my life.
Now, during that year after I returned from my post graduation trip, I dated a couple of women, one of which (let’s call her Marisol) turned into a fairly regular relationship in that we spent a lot of time together and had fun being together. But, as will happen sometimes, partners develop different visions of their relationship. I really enjoyed our time together, but frankly did not see it developing into a long term connection. Unknown to me, Marisol had developed a different view. So when my long distance relationship with Ellie took bloom, and I felt compelled to make a commitment to it, I had to let Marisol know. She took it pretty hard. It was difficult to see how I could be the cause of someone else’s grief. So within that same year, I had been on both ends of a broken heart, both painful.
I am pretty sure that most of us have had similar experiences with similar devastation and grief. It is a difficult thing to see a relationship die. But apparently this is the (more…)What exactly are you waiting for?
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
There are several TV evangelists that preach from a position of ‘The end is near! Come to Jesus before it’s too late!’ Fear is a great motivator. It can motivate us to act quickly, like running out of a burning building. Or, it can motivate us to do nothing, like standing on the edge of a pool as we are about to jump into it for the first time. Fear keeps us out of trouble sometimes, but it also keeps us from some of our greatest opportunities. Pretty powerful stuff, fear is. We calculate our options, consider the consequences and determine if fear will rule the day, or moment, or lifetime.
Death – for most of us – is life’s greatest fear. So it is no wonder that when anyone, be it TV preacher, dooms-day preppers, or Sci-Fi writers talk about the end of the world, it gets our attention. Funny thing about the end of this world – it’s inevitable. Strictly from a purely scientific viewpoint – it’s gonna happen. Sooner or later the sun is going to explode and the earth is going to perish. And when you think about it, as Jim Morrison once penned, ‘the future’s uncertain and the end is always near.’ Every day is one day less we have on this earth one way or another. According to the CIA, every day is ‘the end of the world’ for 154,889 people. So, if we know for a fact that our world here is going to end, either catastrophically or individually, why aren’t most of us doing anything about it? Sure you can decide to ignore it, a lot of people do. But ignoring it or denying doesn’t make it go away. Remember death and taxes…both are inevitable.
But here’s the good news. Death is actually an inevitable event that we can actually affect to the positive for ourselves and for others. I don’t mean that we can put off the death of our physical selves, but we can impact what happens after-the-fact. So why then do most people spend more time planning their next vacation or their retirement than they do considering their after-life? What are people really afraid of? Here is a brief list of possible excuses:
- I don’t want to think about it…It’s depressing (It’s actually just the opposite, once you understand what God has in store for us you will never be depressed again.)
- I don’t really believe in an after-life – I would like to but I don’t. (Belief comes with some effort, like anything worthwhile. If you put in the time you will come to believe. I can show you how.)
- I’m young and have plenty of time to think about. (The truth is age is no true indicator of longevity. Sadly, a lot of people die ‘before their time’.)
- I don’t think I am worthy enough to get to Heaven. (None of us, including Mother Theresa, are worthy enough to get to Heaven. God’s grace and our belief get us to Heaven.)
- I said I don’t believe and don’t want to consider/admit that I may be wrong. (If your intention in life is to never having to admit you were wrong, good luck.)
- Believing in God or Heaven, or the after-life is not cool. (You need to find yourselves some new friends, because there is nothing ‘cool’ about the alternatives.)
- I’m too busy. (Really? Time is never an excuse for anything. We choose what we do with our time.)
- I don’t want to be disappointed. (Think how disappointed you are going to be the second after you die and realize the mistake you just made. God never disappoints His children if we believe He knows what is best for us.)
There are probably a few more I’ve left out, but for most of us it is just a matter of where your level of belief is, and what we discussed previously. The greater your level of belief or faith, the less likely you are digging a bomb shelter or stock-piling food and water in storage lockers. Once you get your trust aligned with God’s will (see last week’s post ‘The true measure of your belief’) you begin to understand the futility of fear, and the obligation you have to help others conquer it. A life without fear is a beautiful gift. Next Sunday is Easter. God’s gift of His Son as a suffering servant for the sake of our ability to once and for all live without fear is the greatest gift we can ever receive and all we need to do is accept it…and then share it. And sharing it is how we express our gratitude to God for giving us this gift. So now, what exactly are you waiting for?Looks like you missed a spot…
I think most of us have seen a movie with a scene where a prisoner has been kept in a dungeon or locked up in solitary confinement for some time – no windows, no lights. (I took a tour of the Alcatraz solitary lock up once and you get to spend about 30 seconds inside the lightless cell – it’s pretty freaky.) At the end of their confinement the prisoner is usually dirty and disheveled. Not being able to see much in the dark, it is not surprising. Now sometimes you don’t need to see dirt to know it is on you, you can just feel it. But it’s likely you would not see all of it or the extent of your ‘unclean’ condition until you actually step out into the light again. And even at that it is not easy to see all of yourself – all those hidden nooks and crannies where dirt can hide.
The Jews in Christ’s time were very concerned about being ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ physically and spiritually. Every Passover each family was to offer a sacrifice of an unblemished lamb at the Temple – one that is pure white without any spots. (Jesus is often referred to as the unblemished Lamb of God whose sacrifice was made to pay for all of our sins.) Well, I thought of all this recently when I read the following statement:
“… Some of the greatest saints considered themselves great sinners because the closer we draw to the light of Christ, the more visible our sinfulness becomes…”
Man, is that true! Knowing Christ and the Christ-life does give us the entire context that God intended us to have, and the model to which we are called. C.S. Lewis states it this way in his great chapter on Pride, the Great Sin, “The real test of being in the presence of God if that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether…”
Thankfully, the good news is that God knows this, and although this is His expectation, He has already made provisions, through Jesus, for our falling short of this spotless model. All we need to do is to accept the fact that when we stand in the glorious light of God, we are all observed to be small dirty objects. But like every good parent, God sees through the surface grim to what He created each of us as: His very own children whom He loves regardless…thank-you God.The Cause for Earthly Suffering
A little over three years ago, our brother, Guy, died after a two year struggle with cancer. It was a heart-breaking experience. During that time, it was extremely difficult to reconcile a loving God with such a tragic experience. It still is today. Each day literally millions of people will receive heart-breaking news. It has been that way for as long as man has been on this earth. So have the questions, ‘Why do these things happen?’ ‘Why does there need to be suffering and pain, death and disease?’ ‘How does God, our loving Father, permit His children to suffer?’ There has been and will continue to be a lot of discussion, theories and rationale put forward over time in an effort to answer these questions. I have read a lot of it – both in the Bible (Job and elsewhere) and just by searching on the internet. Most certainly much more astute and theologically correct than what I might ever say here. But there is one path of thought that I have used since the death of my brother that has given me tremendous comfort. I will do my best to lay it out now, knowing that we can never be certain as to (more…)knock, knock…it’s Mr. Durant
We have all had the door bell ring, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and two or three nicely dressed smiling people greet you and ask if you have heard the good news about Jesus Christ. I used to respond as short and politely as possible, take their handouts and wish them well. Now that I have become a little more informed, I occasionally engage these people in a little conversation and bless them for the work they are doing. I now get that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing good work, something that is not easy. The last time they stopped by I actually read through the handout. (more…)