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

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Not My Best

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I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone throughout my day feeling like either a failure, an idiot, a disappointment, or a just plain guilty. These feelings come from lots of different causes in life. How many times have you felt that way? Have you ever felt like such a screw-up or disappointment that you just wanted to walk away from the world, become a total recluse and hope to never have to face anyone again? I have. I have had days where I just wanted to hide. I wanted to hide from the world…from family, friends, co-workers…even God. Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #5: “Forgive And Forget”

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How many times have we heard this phrase? How many times have we heard that the best thing to do in a relational conflict is to forgive and forget? What I find VERY interesting is that often this is said within the context of the Gospel. Many people believe that the Bible tells us to forgive people for how they have hurt us and act like it never happened (forget) because it reflects how God forgives us and it also contains God’s statement, “…I will remember their sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25). What if I told you that this is a misunderstanding of what the Bible says… Continue reading

Lies Christians Tell #3: “Judge Not”

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Probably the most widely quoted Bible verse in our nation is Matthew 7:1. It’s the verse that says, “Judge not.” Interestingly, if one simply keeps reading they will find that there is a much broader context. However, our culture doesn’t keep reading. Instead, it takes the first two words as the whole command…interpreting from these that we are never supposed to tell anyone that they are wrong about anything. Ironically, to tell someone that they are wrong for telling someone that they are wrong is absolute hypocrisy…yet we tend to miss that point. So…while discussing the “Lies Christians Tell,” it is imperative that we talk about one the most widely spread lies: “We’re not supposed to judge…” Continue reading

What I think About Gender Identity

transgenderism

I have to say…I would have never guessed that this issue would be an issue. Perhaps I’ve been too narrow-minded or too sheltered. I don’t know. If you would have told me 5-10 years ago that we would be debating over this issue on a national level, I would have laughed out loud and told you that you’re going a bit too far. But here we are…and in my home state of NC…we are right in the thick of the discussion. So…I’ll tell you what I think…and maybe it will surprise you…and maybe not… Continue reading

Mad At God

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Consider a reality that we sometimes feel uncomfortable with…consider the reality that sometimes we have really awful things happen in our lives or the lives of those that we care about and we have a lot of questions. Then we pray…we ask God why this happened. He gives no answer or gives one that we do not understand at all. We may ask Him more questions…only to have Him go silent. At this point, we feel an array of different emotions. We may feel hopeless, abandoned, confused, panicked, anxious, doubtful…and that’s just to name a few…and then…perhaps the one feeling that is stronger than the others is angerwith Him. We find ourselves mad at Him. Can you relate? Have you ever been angry at God? I have…very recently. As a matter of fact, I’m still processing through my feelings… Continue reading

Abandoned

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I haven’t posted much of anything in some time due to an accident that happened recently. I was working at my part time job a few weeks ago and had an accident that resulted in a concussion. Apparently, recovery from such an injury has no real schedule. Each person is quite different in the way they respond to this. My response has been somewhat discouraging at times. It’s no fun at all to not be able to trust your memory or even your thinking at a given moment. And there are some other symptoms that linger for a while causing discomfort and inconvenience. However, I didn’t write this to complain and cry. I wrote this to express something else that’s been going on during this process…and maybe you can relate…to a feeling of abandonment…by God… Continue reading

The Hell Of Jesus

cross and hell

During WWII six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. After searching the seas for enemy submarines, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered a blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship’s operator turned the switch to break radio contact–and the pilots were forced to ditch in the ocean.

Can you fathom the feeling of that type of abandonment? That had to have been the scariest and most helpless feeling one could ever have… Imagine the panic…imagine the anxiety.   Continue reading

The Devil Inside

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As long as I’ve been a follower of Jesus, there seems to have been a list of things we aren’t supposed to do. As I’ve written before, one of the main questions that people ask when coming to a church or becoming a new believer is about “the rules.” Christians have a reputation for keeping kind of a tally of the things of this nature. I’m not referring to civil law so much…as in the law of the land…but to a moral code of conduct. Then…when we fall short within that framework…when we break one of the rules…when we cross over into “worldliness,” we feel dirty… impure… guilty… ashamed…hypocritical. Eventually, we arrive at a mindset wherein we believe that if we could simply NOT do those things anymore, then we would be better off…and we could not be more wrong. Continue reading

Humble Pie Tastes Terrible

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The past week and a half of my life has been an incredible journey…and not necessarily a comfortable one. It began with a post on this blog: Why I don’t Like Your Church. Upon publishing an article, it usually takes a few days for it to have a few hundred views (if it gets that many). That article hit a few hundred within a couple hours. I was actually pretty surprised that it did because I didn’t think it would interest that many people. I thought that it was something they would see and perhaps gloss over. Within the next day or so, I had some individuals contact me about what I had said. None of it was negative or critical. All of it was quite supportive. People wanted to get together, and I quickly agreed. It was during those conversations and a couple others since then that I’ve come to a stark realization: humble pie tastes terrible. Continue reading

My Chameleon Faith

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On many occasions, I have heard preachers ask a particular question (I’m pretty sure I dropped this chestnut before as well). They ask, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” We obviously understand the meaning of this to be about whether or not our verbal professions of faith are lining up with our behavior. When we are asked about how our journey in faith is going…we always have the same answer…something like, “I’ve got a lot of growing to do,” or, “The Lord’s working on this area of my life or that.” While it is true that God is always working in our lives (when we let Him), I have found that I love to play those “get-out-of-jail-free” cards way too often. I love to have such an excuse. I love to be able to say, “I’m only human,” or, “I’m not perfect.” But…I find myself using those more as excuses than I do as statements of reality anymore…I find myself being the thing I HATE. I find myself being a hypocrite. Continue reading

Lethal Savior

not a tame lion

I was teaching through a story in the New Testament recently…and something Jesus said really alarmed me. I have read this passage numerous times…and it has always seemed odd to me in light of whom I’ve understood Jesus to be. I had always been lead to believe that Jesus was simply a loving person…never harsh. Every time I had heard a sermon or lesson about Him in which He seemed severe towards someone…well…it was explained away through some type of verbal gymnastics, “In the original language, this word mean such and such and that phrase meant something totally different…,” and so on. Following along this same path of thought, when I would teach something difficult about Jesus, I would do the same thing…until the other day…and then I decided to let Him be Him…and I found a much more shocking Jesus than many of us have known… Continue reading

The Battle In My Head

careful what you think

I have a terribly judgmental and harsh way about me. Those that know me well also know that if you start a critical conversation with me, then I will escalate the discussion. This is not something I’m proud of in the least. This is one of those things that haunts me in the mirror. I spend so much of my time thinking back over things I’ve said and the ways in which I’ve said them, wishing that I had had the will to keep my mouth shut… Continue reading

Hidden

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Years ago, there were allegations that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, had taken indecent liberties with a young boy. I remember when this story came out and I remember how appalled the public was. Michael Jackson, even with all of his eccentricity, had become a household name due to the proliferation of his music. Eventually, the case was settle privately…but he would forever live with that accusation. Most of us didn’t seem to want to believe it was true…it was too shocking…too dark. Some years before that happened, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart had been caught with a prostitute…and I remember the shock that the public showed over the affair. It’s amazing to see how the public reacts to things of this nature…and very telling of something that we must all consider… Continue reading

Standing Our Ground

 

 

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Recently in the news, there have been many stories about Kim Davis of Kentucky and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There has a been a firestorm of judgments about this, and on social media it seems that there is a stark division between the two sides of this discussion. I’m not going to try to tackle this issue so much. Her options are to either issue the licenses or stand by her convictions and that choice is hers. If she stands by her convictions, she will likely face more legal punishment, but once again, she has to be the one to make that decision…and that’s what I want to discuss right now…standing by our convictions, or the way have heard it referred to many times, “standing our ground.”
Continue reading