Is God In The Church…?

Church. What does that word make you think of? What images pop into your mind? The word, “church” is derived from old English and German words which mean “the Lord’s house.” Essentially, the word refers to a structure, a building. In the New Testament, however, that is NOT the word that is used in the original language. The Greek word that we see translated as “church” in the Bible is the word, ekklesia (which looks like this in ancient Greek: “ἐκκλησία”). Ekklesia never referred to a structure but to a people. It refers to the family of faith, not the buildings we construct and call “churches.”

Why is this important?

Throughout religious history, mankind has been in the habit of building temples. There have been multiple temples dedicated to seemingly countless gods. The idea is that the temple is constructed in order that these gods would have a home… an abode. To go to the temple was to go into the presence of whatever god the temple was built for.

When God first engaged the Hebrews, He brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Ultimately they established their permanent residence in Palestine. During all of these travels, they had tents in which they lived. They also had a tent dedicated to Him that we refer to as the “Tabernacle.” It was mobile and went with them everywhere they went. When they set up camp, they did so around the Tabernacle. Never… not once… did God ever tell them to build a Temple for Him. That was David’s idea much later on. David, out of his love for God, wanted to build God a house. He believed that since he had a place to live, it was only fitting that the God Who provided for them all had one as well. God gently rebuked him and said that His plans were the opposite of David’s. He didn’t desire or need a house but would indeed build a house for David. The house He was referring to, however, was one of family lineage. It wasn’t made from wood or stone, but of people and would bring forth the Messiah.

David wanted to build a temple anyway, but God forbade him from doing so due to him being a man of war. He said that He would allow for David’s son, Solomon, to build it. And that’s what happened. And God did enter into that Temple in all of His glory and make His presence known and felt.

Skipping waaaaaaay ahead to the New Testament.

When the resurrection occurs and then Jesus went back to the Father (which we call “The Ascension”), He sent His spirit to indwell His people… His ekklesia. Never one time was there a command to construct a building. Instead the command was to be in motion… always going forward with the Gospel… never anchoring down to a locale in order to establish a place “where God is.”

If you’re still reading, you likely are wondering what on earth I’m going on about. Why does any of this matter?

Because our idea of how the church exists is totally inconsistent with what He established it to be. He never intended for us to think of it in terms of real estate, buildings, and budgets. He planned on it always being an understanding that no matter where we were, there He was as well. He was not and is not confined to a place. When anyone has certain rules or preferences for things that go on “in the Lord’s house,” then they have illustrated a major misunderstanding of what and where the Lord’s House is.

This is not an attack on the church at all. It’s more of a redirecting of our energy and thoughts relating to it. A Temple (which is very similar to the modern day church building) gave the idea of a fixed and unmovable location. It presents as a permanent home where we go to visit God.

God’s design was never for us to park Him somewhere, but to be on a journey with Him. These buildings that we have are not evil in intention or usage. They are just often misunderstood. To answer the question above: yes. God is in the church… when we are. But when we cease to be there, He has no need to be there either. It’s just a utilitarian structure that facilitates our activities related to the worship of and teaching about God.

This is vitally important because this helps us understand that God is not in a church but is very much in His ekklesia. Peter refers to us as “living stones.” This is a clear indicator of an understanding that although we often think that we need to build church buildings, He has established His people long ago and is simply adding on and renovating as time marches forward.

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Image taken from: http://www.countrychristianchurch.com/

The Time I Was Chased By A Mountain Lion…

You read that title correctly… let me explain:

We were on a family vacation last year. It had been a little over a year since I had sustained a serious head injury. I had spent that entire year and then some (and still some) working towards recovery from said injury. Head injuries affect all of you. It’s not like a broken arm or leg where the injury, although awful, is localized to a specific region of the body. It’s a journey of re-establishing how your brain works with the rest of you. Part of my recovery was getting back into running. I’ve always loved to run. I was restricted from doing so for several months, therefore every chance I got to run, I was going to run. The place where we vacationed is a beautiful and rural place. Lots of hills, trees, and a big lake. I went out for a mid-day run and was about 3 miles in… and then I saw it…

I was coming down a semi-flat stretch of road… recovering from a serious hill I had just ascended. I was trying to regain my wind… and as I was concentrating on the workout, something caught my eye. It was in the pine thicket just up ahead and down the road embankment. It couldn’t have been more than 25-30 feet off the road’s edge, but it was hidden within the cover of the edge of the woods. It was crouched down with it’s length parallel to the road. The color was unmistakable. In a moment, I was terrified. I knew if I turned around I was as much a goner as I would be if I kept going. I tried to figure out a way to fight it off when it pounced, but I had nothing with me. Runners don’t want to carry much. I was cussing myself for not grabbing one of those pepper sprays that could strap on to my hand. The irony went through my mind of the fact that I had endured a bad head trauma and come so far only to meet my demise right here… being mauled and eaten by one of nature’s most fearsome predators.

I was frozen in pace. The only thing keeping me going was pure adrenaline. I couldn’t have changed pace, stopped, or sped up if I wanted to. I was at the mercy of nothing but absolute terror.

Then… I came upon it… and I only glanced a little towards it. I didn’t want to make if feel threatened and thought that if I just kept going and kept to myself, I may survive. I guess it was kind of like that thing you do when you don’t look at others in the attempt to slip past them without them taking notice of you. I knew this was folly but it was the only thing I could think to do.

I came right along side of this monster… in my periphery, all I could tell was that it was huge and it ready to pounce.

I passed it… which scared me more… because now it was in my blind spot and it was behind me… just like a predator would want.

BOOM!

There it goes!

It came bursting out of the edge of the treeline and made straight for me! I became like a cartoon character and jumped involuntarily, running on thin air for a good distance. When My feet finally hit the ground, I was keeping pace with the Indy 500. I’m pretty sure I was going fast enough that I saw the beginnings of a wormhole developing in front of me… and then I glanced over my shoulder… I saw the horrible creature that had given me chase. It had stopped after about 20 feet. It sat there in the grass… just minding its own business.

It.

Was.

A.

Squirrel.

I stopped running and looked back at where the Cougar had waited and only then did I discover that it was a large rock that had the same color and shape as a Mountain Lion.

I checked my underpants to ensure that I was clean enough to continue my run and then chuckled at myself and continued on, heart still pounding.

Why tell this story?

Because many times in life, we treat completely harmless situations just like this due to our own paranoia and insecurities. Things are not usually nearly as dangerous or ominous as we make them out to be in our imaginations. People who struggle with insecurity or paranoia have a tendency to make much more out of situations than they warrant. Ever since my injury, my issues along these lines have magnified. But I have to remember that.

Most of the issues we see as predatory beasts are nothing but misunderstandings or bad assumptions. We would do well to stop and think through everything and compare it to what makes the most sense.

I hope this made you laugh a little, but I also hope it gives you something to think about.

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Image taken from: https://americanexpedition.us/learn-about-wildlife/mountain-lion-facts-trivia-information-and-photos/

My Many Faces

One thing I cannot stand is a lack of authenticity. I don’t like when people act one way in some situations and put on an entirely different persona for others. We refer to these types of people as fake or two-faced (or maybe even politicians). I prefer to know exactly whom I’m dealing with at any given moment, but when someone is constantly changing based on their environment… well they become more like personality chameleons and we never know which is the real version of them. I was thinking about this yesterday. And it occurred to me why I despise this particular bent so much… it’s because I’m pretty well guilty of it also… and I hate that about myself. Continue reading

Don’t Get Saved…

I remember the difficult thing about preaching… It wasn’t the getting up in front of people that bothered me the most. It wasn’t that I was concerned whether or not they would like my message. It wasn’t a concern over whether I would have enough to say (never been a problem). All of these things and many more would go through my head repeatedly as the time approached for me to stand and deliver. No… the biggest concern was how to wrap it up in such a way as to make sure people felt a need for salvation. I don’t mean that it was ever manipulative (at least not in an intentional way). But one of the primary things we’ve seen modeled is that we must always make sure people understand the need to come to Christ for salvation. I would approach it with urgency and true concern over their hearts and souls… and on numerous occasions, they would come forward and make a decision right then and there to “get saved.” Continue reading

Where’s The Baby…

Martin Luther is probably the most well known proponent of the protestant reformation. If you’re not sure what that is, then let me give you the bullet points: Several hundred years ago, the Roman Catholic Church had a monopoly on “truth.” This isn’t an attack on Catholicism. It’s just history. Like anything with that much power, corruption became a serious issue. One of the things they did was sell “indulgences” which were basically written documents that absolved it’s bearer of sin. It was like buying forgiveness or buying one’s way into Heaven. (I know there’s more complexity to all of this… I’m just trying to establish a basic premise.) They would sell these in order to gain monetary power and fund their own plans… say like building a church or the like. Luther became angry at these abuses of power and kick-started a massive uprising against the authority of the church. A lot of our beliefs to this day stem from his teachings. All in all, he was a hero within our history… or was he…? Continue reading

God Confuses Me…

Have you ever noticed how some people throw statements like, “have faith,” or “just trust in the Lord,” around like confetti? Truthfully, I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of that during my years of Christianity. I want to believe it. I want to trust in God. I want to believe that He’s truly and unquestionably always doing what’s right and best (or allowing it to happen). But… sometimes… I witness things or see things that just make me struggle with this… Continue reading

“I AM SUPERIOR!”

So… here goes something else about myself that drives myself crazy… I know that was a weird and possibly incorrect way to word that statement, but I just decided I didn’t care. If you’ve ever had many conversations with me, you likely picked up on an annoying little quirk. I will nearly always find some way to make myself seem smarter or stronger than you or whomever we’re talking about. If you say you took Spanish in high school and could speak a little, I will probably find a way to tell you how I learned it by ear and become fairly conversant. If you tell me you like to run, I will somehow work in that I ran a marathon. I guess we call this “one-upsmanship,” because I’m always trying to “one-up” you. I’m the WORST about this in relation to Scripture and its interpretation…  Continue reading

Is God With Us… Really?: Part 2

When we think of God, the word, “holy” gets used a lot. It means sacred and set aside. It refers to being different from the rest and set apart. God has always been referred to as holy and the Bible makes it clear that He cannot have fellowship with the unholy. His purity cannot intermingle with impurity. It’s not that He doesn’t want to get His hands dirty. It’s that He’s a purifying force and the holiness of His presence does not allow for anything to remain close to Him that is corrupt. This is the reason that even though God initiated a relationship with mankind, He still had to be apart from us. This is why He set His tent close to the nation’s but not in their personal camps. As much as they worshiped Him and followed His representation, they still could not get close enough to touch Him or feel His literal presence… so now even though they have come to know a God that cares about them for a change… they still are separated from Him… Continue reading

Is God With Us…Really?

Throughout time, mankind has worshiped someone or something. There has never been a generation throughout human history wherein an atheistic perspective was the prevalent belief system. We’ve always believed that there is a supernatural being or group of beings behind the scenes of this existence. In virtually all of these historical systems, the belief was that not only were they supernatural and omnipotent, but they were also separate from us… different… apart from us in any real relational way. We were the ants and they were the kid holding the magnifying glass. We were the animals and they were the masters. They didn’t engage with us the way we do with one another. They didn’t understand what it is like to be human… really didn’t even care. Now as Judaism entered the scene, and the identity of Yahweh was revealed to the extent that we could understand His existence… the question pops up… is He any different than those in which we’ve believed in the past…? Continue reading

Not A Better You…

I was listening to a podcast yesterday and it had an advertisement break. The product being advertised had a tagline that was something like, “becoming a better you.” As I thought about this I realized that nearly everything we buy or buy into is presented this way… with a promise that if we use the product, service, or ideology correctly, then we will be an improved version of ourselves. I continued to contemplate this idea and realized this is the way that many people (if not most) approach Christianity. The problem is that Christianity is not about making you a better version of you. It’s not about fixing your broken parts… Continue reading

Repenting of Religion: Part 2

I didn’t mention this in the previous article, and I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before in other posts, but the word “repent” has a very simple meaning. Basically, it means a change of heart. It refers to reformation of the mind and heart. When we hear the word, “repent,” I think we don’t often know its meaning but instead just associate it with some religious mindset in an almost superstitious way. It’s almost treated like a form of incantation although not used to that extreme. When I think of the word, the person that comes to my mind the most is John the Baptizer. He was a fiery preacher whose most memorable phrase was “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!” What did he mean by this… and have we considered it and applied it correctly? Continue reading

Repenting of Religion

“I need to be in church.” “I need to be reading my Bible.” “I should not be doing such and such…”

How often have you said these very things, or thought about them in an almost condemnatory sense? How often have you had something bad happen, either by happenstance or in a context that you brought on yourself, and thought, “God is getting even with me.”?

I find myself in these thought processes every day… on an almost constant level. The truth is: I’m a selfish, egotistical, self-serving, hypocritical, dishonest jackass. I know these things about myself and I’m not proud of them nor am I intending to remain as such. But because I know these things, I find myself thinking constantly about how I should be doing different things and acting in different ways. For example, if I wake up in the morning and turn on SportsCenter and watch it while drinking my coffee, I begin to be plagued with guilt about not taking the time to read my Bible or write on this blog or simply spend time in silent meditation or prayer or… well you get the idea. If I use a word that Christianity has deemed foul or coarse, I immediately begin to think about how much I must be displeasing God. If I don’t attend a church service on a given Sunday morning (such as this one) I feel like I’m playing hooky. If I don’t give a certain amount of money to the church, I begin to wonder if my finances will be cursed.

I don’t know if you can relate to any of this or not. My bet is that you can.

One of the biggest objections to our faith from outsiders is that we have a bratty or draconian god that is looking for any opportunity to “smite” us. This really is not fair, though, because God isn’t the One that makes us think this way. He isn’t sitting on His throne with a checklist like some angry Santa Claus, eyeballing our every move with disapproval and scorn.

For some reason, perhaps it’s control, we tend to always come up with a mindset that encapsulates our relationship with God within a system of rules and guilt. This is what religion is good at. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because it’s the easier way out in regard to answering questions about what God wants from us. Once again, maybe it’s about control.

Christianity isn’t the only guilty party in this line of thinking, to be fair. All religious systems have similar tenets. Even atheism (which is also a religion, by the way…) has rules.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Rules aren’t bad. Rules keep us from driving on whatever side of the road we so please and therefore having a head-on collision or running someone else down and embankment. Rules tell us not to steal, kill, rape, plunder, etc. Rules keep our society in order. Some rules are ridiculous, like the one in North Carolina that says I can’t plow a cotton field with an elephant. Or in South Carolina, I can’t keep a horse in a bathtub. Come on, what if my horse is sick and in need of a warm bath, and all the while my elephant is perfectly capable of plowing my cotton field right across the state line? See what I mean? Let’s be reasonable.

Seriously, rules aren’t bad things. The rules God gave us in the Bible were for our own good, not petty commands that a capricious and bratty god came up with. Some are strange, but they have a context and I’m not trying to dissect all of that right now. What’s bad about rules is that we attach our adherence to said rules to our value before God. In other words, if we do or don’t do these things, then God is pleased with us and loves us more. This is the essence of the religious mindset.

Here’s the thing: our value in God’s economy is demonstrated by what He gave for us. He sacrificed His very own life. He lowered Himself to the form of a lowly human being, all with the intention of receiving a disgustingly bad beating and execution… all for us. He did this, knowing full well how we would continue to mistreat Him and rebel against Him. He did this knowing that even after I made a decision to become a follower of Jesus, I would continue to do the most selfish things and act in the most inhuman ways.

God’s love for me isn’t base in my actions or inaction. His love for me is based in His own eternal and infinite identity. He loves us because that’s Whom He is.

I encourage you to go to church. Read your Bible. Give of your resources to help others and support organizations. Do these things out of a love for Jesus and the love He has given you for others.

But don’t for one minute remain in the mindset that these things are what makes you valuable in His sight because He has made you invaluable. He has made you priceless. Our value is determined by the One that designed us… not by our activities.

 

A Faithless Generation

One of my favorite passages in the Scripture has always been the story of a man who had a demon-possessed son who brought him to Jesus’ disciples to have the demon cast out (Mark 9). However, the disciples were not able to get the job done, and Jesus’ response is that they are a “faithless generation.” I’ve always thought that this statement was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek chastisement of His followers… or perhaps a way of getting onto them the way a coach would get on to his players. Maybe that’s the truth of it… but maybe there’s something more to consider… something insidious in the hearts and minds of man… Continue reading

Let’s Be Honest About Jesus

Lately, I’ve heard some more “progressive” Christians talk about how they believe in Jesus but they reject so many other things in Scripture. One of the biggest things they reject is a teaching called substitutionary atonement. This is what we are talking about when we say that God gave up His own Son to death on our behalf…Jesus dying in our place. The argument is that God didn’t “need” the sacrifice of Jesus in order to forgive humanity. If He wants to forgive us, then He can and will without condition or clause.

It’s not that I don’t see the logic of this thinking. It totally makes sense. God makes the rules and therefore can do any and all He so chooses or pleases to do. I don’t pretend to understand why He set this existence up the way in which He did. However, there’s something very troubling about all of this… the Bible…the BIBLE teaches us all we believe about Jesus. The Bible is where we get the tenets of Christianity. The Bible is where we get the basis of all of Jesus’s teachings. The tendency within progressive thinking to reject certain parts of the Bible while accepting the hero character of Jesus is nothing short of foolish and what’s more…it’s dishonest.

God wrote this narrative…which is to say that this universe is a story of which He’s the Author. I don’t have to understand His reasoning or His comprehensive purpose in writing the storyline the way in which He has. Within this narrative, He’s introduced a Savior. This Savior has said some wild things and performed the supernatural. He’s been executed and defeated the power of death itself. The idea that we can accept things we like about this Savior or “Hero,” while rejecting what Scripture says about reality in other areas is ludicrous. If we accept the narrative of Jesus, then we’ve got to accept the entire story…not just make up new ones as a supposed point of objective moral truth.

You can’t have Jesus without the entire truth within which He’s encapsulated. If you do, you don’t have Him…but a weak hybrid of human thought and divine truth akin to the ancient mythological characters. What’s more is that Jesus, Himself, said He would give His life as a payment for many. This means that He fully understood the reasoning He came into this existence in the first place. He also said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This means that He saw Himself as a divine Savior and Messiah…so the argument that He was perhaps simply a good moral teacher is also ridiculous. C.S. Lewis said that if Jesus wasn’t the Lord, then He was either a liar or a lunatic…but not a “good man.”

Jesus of Nazareth is perhaps the most controversial Person in history (at least in my opinion). When He is considered, many see Him as a rebel or a revolutionary. I understand some of that thinking. Then He’s viewed by many as simply a man that cared about how we treat each other…a man that never “judged.” He’s often branded as the gentle pacifist that would rather die than fight for His cause.

But rarely…rarely…is He considered in light of ALL the Scripture says about Him. Yes, He cared about people and didn’t condemn the flawed. But He also made a whip and beat the greedy merchants, running them out of the temple complex. Yes, He cared about social justice. However, when one of His disciples perceived a frivolous use of an important substance that could have been sold in order to help the poor, He rebuked him. He said that the poor would always be around, but He wouldn’t.

He is a gentle hand and violent storm. He had anger and He had patience. He accepted the fact that we are flawed, but didn’t allow that to be an excuse for our continued journey down a road of rebellion. He cared about everyone, but didn’t attempt to heal them all.

And what’s more is that before humanity enters into the narrative, He had already written out a story of redemption…a story in which He sacrifices and hurts more than anyone else. If someone things this is “divine child abuse,” well…they just don’t accept the Bible…nor Christianity. If they claim to have Christ without this central reality, they have nothing short of a dangerous counterfeit, masquerading as God’s design. A Jesus out of His full context is no different than either a rebel or a charismatic cult leader. If we are going to claim Jesus as ours, then let’s claim Him in honesty…otherwise, we have a fake Jesus, and small God, and a total lack of reality.

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Image taken from: https://www.biography.com/people/jesus-christ-9354382

The Devil Reminds Me…

I’ve heard preachers, teachers, and evangelists speak about this being for years. Humanity has always had a fascination with him. Who is he? Where did he come from? What is his goal? What is his purpose? Did God create him and if so, why did He do so? What does he spend his time doing? Some of these questions I simply accept Biblical tradition to answer. For example, I do believe he is God’s creation. I believe, as Ezekiel 28 says, that he was the “anointed guardian cherub.” I’m not sure exactly what that even means, and I certainly don’t have the answers to all of our questions about him. But… I think I’ve learned something he does regularly… perhaps what he does most commonly. It may even be his largest ambition in the world today… I guess I mean it’s what I think he is primarily “up to.” Continue reading

Jesus Has Been Hijacked

I think one of the greatest misunderstandings our culture deals with is that of the personality and likeness of Jesus of Nazareth. Aside from His divinity (which I firmly believe in), His influence on the world is likely the most widespread in all of history. He wasn’t an aristocrat, a prince, or a wealthy businessman. He was a laborer and a Rabbi (and, of course, is THE Messiah). Whether we believe in His God-ship or not, we all seem to have an opinion on what He was like…what He stood for…the ways in which He lived His life. The unfortunate reality, however, is that He has been represented in ways that further our causes more than He has been represented truthfully…and this really needs to stop. Continue reading

Forgive So You Can Be Free

I didn’t write any of the following. I’m not that gifted. But this sister is. Her name is Teresa McMillan. Look her up and follow her on Facebook. The rest of this post is hers:

They say ‘don’t get bitter…get better’…I’m working on switchin’ them letters ~Lecrae

It’s so easy to get bitter.

To not forgive.

To be a victim. Continue reading

Jackie

Somewhere around 30 years ago, a lady entered into our lives. She was short and very sweet. She brought three daughters with her and that meant that I grew up with four females surrounding me as siblings. I was not simply the only boy, but I was also a heck of a challenge for her to learn. It wasn’t so much that I was rebellious or rejecting of her. It was that my personality was probably a bit over the top for her. Her name is Jackie and she’s been my stepmother for a long time. Jackie was always much quieter than I was. She didn’t always know how to handle me. I was very loud, very spastic, and very obnoxious. Most of the time, she could be found in a quieter spot in our house reading a book. If she sat down to watch TV with us after dinner, it was a sure thing that she would fall asleep because she got up very early in the morning. I didn’t always know how to relate to her, either. We were two people that just truly spoke different languages. She was a hard worker and seemingly never slowed down. I always wondered how much of a challenge it was for her to adapt to helping raise a young man such as me.  Continue reading

Get Over It

I was recently talking to someone that has gone through a series of terribly traumatic events over the last couple of years. All of us can relate to going through difficult times. We all can understand what it’s like to hurt or feel empty and depressed. The thing that amazes me, however, is that this person has had to endure something that should never happen…especially at that hands of people on the “inside” of our faith. This person was told by fellow believers and “friends” that it was time to “move on.” They were told that the time had come to “get over it” and get back to normal. I wish I could say that I was never guilty of saying these kinds of things to people, but the fact is, I’ve definitely been guilty of such B.S. The thing I found most alarming about this occurred to me while pondering why we so often feel the need to tell people such insensitive things… Continue reading

Faith Isn’t Always Happy

How many times have we heard platitudes purporting ideas about giving your life to Jesus and everything will be better? Looking back over my years of preaching and teaching, I know I said that and taught that very thing frequently. So…someone does that…they give their life to Jesus. They pray the prayer, walk the aisle, bow at the “altar,” and begin to identify themselves as “born again.” That’s all well and good… except for one possible unmet expectation. We often present faith in a sales-type fashion. It’s a product that you need. It’s a deal too good to pass up. Once you have this product, your life will be totally complete, secure, and content. If only that were true… Can we talk about the reality of all of this transparently for just a few moments, please? Continue reading

The Problem With Prayer

Prayer is one of the most enigmatic subjects to consider. Everyone talks about it. When something bad happens or anxieties arise, we often say, “keep me in your prayers.” When a public official speaks after or during a tragedy, there is always an encouragement to keep those that have been affected in our prayers. They don’t necessarily mention whom we should pray to…but just to pray however we pray to whomever we pray on behalf of these individuals.  Continue reading

My Dark Heart

My mind wanders to dark places…thoughts enter my head that make me shudder. I then begin to try and determine their origin. I wonder if it’s a book I’ve read, a movie/show I’ve seen, a conversation I’ve entertained, a song I’ve heard, maybe even a food I’ve eaten. As I try to determine how these things enter into my consciousness, I become conflicted within myself. I begin to ask myself, “Am I truly a Christian? Am I just fooling myself? Am I a total and utter hypocrite? Am I a fake?” Continue reading

Entertain Us

Impressive lights. Fog machine. Seamless sequence of events. Musical precision. Perfect audio quality. Large screens with images and videos. These are all elements one might expect to find in a typical entertainment production, whether a concert or simply some kind of live show…or your local Sunday morning worship service. By way of disclaimer, I will say first that I don’t have any problem with these things in general. But I do think we need to explore the purpose of them in our worship gatherings. I think perhaps they are somewhat symptomatic of a problem with the current Christian generation. Continue reading

The Walking Dead

I don’t understand the fascination that so many in our current society have with books, shows, movies, and/or other media related to zombies. I’ve joked around about this for years. For some reason, I have a strange and definitely irrational fear of zombies. I actually scoured the web one day (just for fun) looking for a word that encapsulated this definition. I found one: ambulothanatophobia (click here for definition of ridiculous word). If you’re still reading this, you’re likely wondering why I would be writing about this subject on a forum such as this… Continue reading

Does Everyone Go To Heaven?

Of all of the questions that come from discussions related to faith and/or religion, one of the most central and critical has got to be the one about everyone’s eternal destination. As I mentioned in a previous post, Francis Chan wrote in Erasing Hell that it seems as though everyone goes to heaven if we look at the subject through the lens of what is said at funerals. I couldn’t agree more. It would appear as though one of our ways of comforting the grieving is to make sure they believe that the one they lost is now in heaven with other loved ones. (As an aside, let me say that it’s hard to know how to address this subject and this especially true when dealing with someone’s death.) So what does the Bible say about this? Is there legitimate evidence in Scripture to support the idea that everyone will go to heaven one day…whether they believe in Jesus or not…or whether they are part of an entirely different belief system, such as Islam, New Age, Hinduism, satanism, or any other? Continue reading

I Cannot Be A Christian

I grew up in the south. My grandfather was a minister for most of his life. Until my parents split up (when I was 7 years old), my dad taught Sunday School and my family was active in the church. Christianity was in our DNA. Church was inherited. It had been established in our minds and hearts as something we were to be a part of. In my teenage years and my very early 20’s, I had abandoned any belief in the Bible and in Jesus. I had certainly abandoned my belief in the church. However, there was always this nagging tug in my mind that I should be going to church. Even though I didn’t believe in it, I had learned this as an activity from early on in my childhood…and non-participation felt like a betrayal of my identity. We attended church nominally throughout those years and I would sometimes participate with my friends in a few activities…but it felt so foreign…so wrong…so fake…yet so important.  Continue reading

If I Was The Devil…

We see the cross everywhere. It is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in the world. It’s so pervasive that we may well have forgotten what it means. Worse yet, we may have become totally numb to what it represents. It’s possible that by putting this symbol in front of our eyes constantly, we’ve desensitized ourselves to the effect it should have on us. It’s a symbol of death. It’s a symbol of pain and suffering (I have written about his before more in depth, so if you would like to read that ===> CLICK HERE ). Being desensitized to something as important as the cross is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us…and if I was the devil…It’s exactly the kind of thing I would want to see happen. Continue reading

Life After Trauma

A lot of people ask me how I’ve been doing. I know that it’s a question asked out of concern and compassion. I appreciate it. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for asking it. I usually answer by saying, “I’m getting better. Day by day. I’m steadily improving. Good days and bad days.” It may not be the exact response I give, but it’s something like that.
 
Overall, that is true. What is also true is how exhausting and lonely this process really is. It’s exhausting because I’m constantly trying to figure out a vocabulary to precisely communicate what is going on with me. The problem with this is that our vocabularies are very experiential. If you’ve never been truly lonely, then the word only has a dictionary-based definition to you. Only once you’ve felt it can you properly understand what someone means by saying it. It’s been said that head injuries are unique to each individual. Due to this, it’s truly impossible to properly express my experiences and feelings. For this same reason, it’s a lonely process. I have a wonderful family. My wife and daughters have been truly amazing. Everyone else in my family has also been supportive. This is not a moment for anyone to feel pity or sorrow for me. That’s not the point of what I’m writing.
 
Why am I writing this…
 
I think maybe just to process how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking and perhaps someone out there needs it as well…because many of us likely feel totally alone in our situations…but the truth is that we are not.
 
Every morning, I wake up and go straight into the bathroom to start my morning routine of getting ready for my day. When I turn on the light, there is the initial shock that sends my brain into immediate panic. I don’t adjust to light as well as I use to. When the light comes on, there is a reflex inside of me that wants to curl up in a ball and hide. Weird. I know. After the “fear of light” passes, I look in the mirror…and there it is…the demonic smile-shaped scar atop my head…laughing at me…grinning at what it’s done to me. For that brief walk to the bathroom…perhaps 5-10 seconds…I have not thought about it. Then when light hits the room…the mirror reminds me of everything that has happened in the last several months. I shrug it off…shake it off…and keep going.
 
Anytime I look in a mirror, I’m reminded of what happened. Anytime my head hurts, I’m reminded of what caused it. Anytime my scalp smarts…and I rub it…and I feel the scar…the tight skin…I’m reminded of a terrible moment…and sometimes it’s jarring. Sometimes, when I look in a mirror or feel my head, I have a flash of vague memory about this incredible, sledge hammer-like impact on my skull. At times, it will produce a bit of anxiety…and I tell myself, “this will all get better with time…”
 
The pain isn’t really the issue. I can deal with it. The issue is and always has been this thing that I wish I could really communicate. At the same time, I’m glad I cannot. If I could, then that would mean that someone had had the same experience. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Anyway…the thing I’m referring to is that I “lose myself.” No…that’s not it…let’s see…HOW ON EARTH DO I EXPLAIN THIS?!?! If I woke up right now and my life for the last several months had been a dreamlike state while in a coma, then things would make more sense to me. I often feel like I’m dreaming…and there are times when I can’t distinguish between a memory and a past dream. I feel so insecure about sharing this because it makes me sound insane…well…perhaps more insane that I may have already been (wink, wink). I want my thoughts to slow down. I want to be able to be in a noisy environment and be able to block out non-essential information. Instead, I hear everything at once. I hear every conversation around me and process every sound. It’s maddening. It’s exhausting. It’s inexplicable.
 
Brain injuries are weird because the brain is still so mysterious. For example, I get headaches at times deep inside…like in the middle of my brain…but there are no pain receptors there…so how am I feeling pain there? “They” don’t know. My docs and therapists explain what they can and don’t make up answers about what they don’t understand. For that, I’m really grateful.
 
This has been a true test of faith. I wish I could say what I’ve heard so many people say during or after traumatic events. I’ve heard people say that in those dark times, God was more “real” to them than ever before. They “felt His presence,” or, “Heard His voice.” (Honestly, if I hear voices at this point, I’m going to the doctor.)
Perhaps others have experienced incredible moments with God during such times in their lives. I won’t say I haven’t had any. I will say that those whom have said that their greatest time of suffering turned out to be their biggest time of blessing…well…I just can’t totally connect with that.
And then…I’m reminded of the essence of faith. It’s going forward with something you are unsure of. It’s deciding to follow when doubt is all that remains. It’s following when you aren’t sure what to believe. 
Sometimes, life hits hard. How we respond determines what we truly believe…
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Image taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonkoh/3433315527

God Doesn’t Love Me “Very Much…”

In my life, I’ve made many mistakes. Actually, if I’m honest, I’ve not made as many mistakes as I’ve made terrible decisions. These were not decisions that were made without knowledge of consequence, but in spite of it. Decisions were made with self serving interests…sometimes to the detriment of someone else. I wish I could say that I made those decisions before becoming a Christian so as to be able to avoid the label of hypocrite. However, I think I’ve made more of them since being a Christian than I did before. Having said all of this, I’ve spent much time in stir over whether or not God could really love me. If He could…then how much could He possibly love me? I mean…let’s be honest…If he’s really a holy and perfect Being…He couldn’t love me a lot…especially since He would know my every thought…my every action…the deepest, darkest recesses of my heart and soul… Continue reading

The Hell Of The Ark

For years I’ve thought about something relating to the story of The Great Flood and Noah’s Ark. Whether you accept this as history or myth, just consider what I’m going to present. I will go ahead and express that I hold to an historical interpretation of this story, although I’m not interested in debating it. I’m no expert on it. I simply believe it to be true, as did Jesus. So, please just grant the premise and consider something very grave… Continue reading