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

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

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

Lies Christians Tell #2: “A Better Place”

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I was performing a funeral some years ago (one of the many I’ve done over the years)…and something interesting happened beforehand. I don’t know if this is true for most pastors, but I had often been asked to perform funerals for people whom I’d never met. Often, it was because the individual was not a church-goer of any sort and had no affiliation with a minister. Usually, a family member or a friend of a friend that knew me would suggest my services. Well, such was the case this time, and the family member, whom I’d also never met, pulled me aside to inform me of the person’s spiritual condition. They let me know in no uncertain terms that this person “loved the Lord,” and then they gave me a very stern gaze…and said, “You understand what I’m telling you?” As he leaned in…I knew he was trying to intimidate me…I realized that this man either wanted me to make sure the man was in Heaven (which no preacher or priest can do), or to lie about the man… Continue reading

I Don’t Get It

godlove

I was watching a movie some years ago and it had a quote that I’ve never been able to shake. Richard Gere played Martin Vale, in the movie “Primal Fear.” He was a hotshot defense attorney that seemed to be bent on making a name for himself and getting rich. At one point, he was talking to a reporter and he said that the reason he did what he did had nothing to do with money or fame. He said that he did it because he believed in the basic goodness of mankind and that there are some very good people who do some very bad things. I’ve thought about that over and over. Continue reading

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done: Part 2

Samson

 

There is a story in the Bible about a man whose strength was legendary. His name was Samson and his story is recorded in Judges 13-16. The kinds of things the Bible records about him would be things we would attribute to mythology outside of the Bible…like Hercules, or Beowulf, etc. The story says that God had blessed him with strength and essentially there was nothing he couldn’t physically do. He tore a lion into pieces, killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, picked up the gates of the city and carried them to the top of a hill, and many other things that we read and are amazed by.

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Two Gardens

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Most of us are very familiar with the Bible story about the Garden of Eden. God had created everything, and lastly He had created His image-bearers, humans. It tells us then that He placed mankind in a garden and gave him authority over everything He had made. The story goes on to explain the creation of woman, who was called such because, “she came out of man,” referring to her being made from the rib God took from Adam’s side. God brought her to Adam and the two “became one flesh,” referring to the union of their relationship. We don’t know how long they lived in the Garden as an innocent, sinless couple…whether it was what we would consider a year or a month, or whatever…we have no real way of knowing. What we do know is what happened next…a major transition in existence…a failure…a fall…

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Rescued

drowning

Why do the stories of helpless animal rescue tug so much at our heart strings? Why do they appeal so much to us…and moreover…why do we have such an aversion to animal cruelty/negligence? I think the answers for these questions are pretty well obvious, but something more occurred to me today. This morning, I watched an online video of a man rescuing a dog from the bottom of a canyon. He seemed pretty sure that the dog (whom he named Riley)  was put there intentionally by someone, and there was no way for Riley to get out on his own. He was nearly starved to death and extremely dehydrated. After discovering Riley on his hike/rappel, he went back out, got food, water, and a towel and went back down to give Riley the immediate assistance he desperately needed. After this he went down another time to bring him out and begin the process of his recovery. This is a wonderful story of someone helping a creature that was truly helpless and pitiful… Continue reading

“Tetelestai”

It-is-finishedToday is Good Friday…and there’s some debate over why it is called by this name. This is the day in which we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, Who is called the “Christ,” or we might say, “Messiah.” There is some debate over the name of the day in terms of whether it was originally called “Good Friday,” or “God Friday,” or possibly something else. Years ago, when I first learned of this day and its name, I felt like it was cruelly or insensitively named…I thought that perhaps it may even have been disrespectful or flippant…but I was wrong…very wrong…or rather I guess I just didn’t understand the big picture and why we can truly call it a good day…as well as a God day… Continue reading

At the Funeral of a Hamster…

In the month of December, we celebrate Christmas, which seems to have become quite confusing within the world of evangelicalism/consumerism. I’m sure that to many, especially outsiders, it is unclear what exactly this celebration is about. We must admit, with all of the “stuff” and commercialization of this holiday, it has become somewhat difficult to focus on the object of celebration. Continue reading

Not Just Roadkill…

When I was a kid, my dad and I were going somewhere together in his pickup. We drove up to the top of a hill to a stop sign, just like we had done hundreds of times before…then it happened…before my dad could do anything to stop it…a rabbit ran out under his truck and he ran over it. I remember that Dad reacted more strongly to this than I expected of him. I told him it was no big deal and that it happens all the time…animals get killed by cars…that’s the world we live in. He said the thing that bothered him most was the possibility that it would lie there and suffer until it finally died…he was just this side of shedding tears…that moment affected me deeply… Continue reading

the liberty of captivity

i went and saw “lincoln” with my wife some months ago (EXCELLENT by the way). the focus of the movie is the passing of the 13th amendment of the constitution, which was the abolition of slavery. in our history, slaves were treated as subhuman and regarded as the property of their owners…even though they were people…made in the image of God. it occurred to me that no one likes to be in any form of captivity…we like to be free. we like to be under our own command and control. of course, control is pretty illusory…but we all like to at least have the impression of total freedom in our own lives. during the movie, i had a thought…a thought about freedom…what is it? in all of our discussions about liberty and/or freedom do we ever really stop to consider what it is? some people are not free but are still treated fairly within the confines of their captivity…yet they still long to be free… because even if treated fairly, or even treated really well, they would still not be what their hearts longed to be…free. of course, i would never try to compare the burdens and difficulties of our day to those that bore the marks of slaves in our nation’s history, so let me be very clear about the fact that i am not trying to draw that parallel. the subject just made me think very much about freedom.

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the doomsday distraction

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today is the the 20th of december of 2012…tomorrow being the 21st…and there are many people in the world that are certain that on the 21st there are going to be major cataclysmic events that may bring an end to the world as we know it. let me start by saying that i don’t have any idea what the future holds nor will i spend much energy debating that subject. the only thing i will say is that Jesus told us that He would return someday and that would mark the beginning of the next age. i believe in that, and therefore i don’t put much stock in the predictions of mankind. something may happen tomorrow…who knows…but i refuse to be distracted and carried away by that debate. Continue reading

alone

recently i was watching the pilot episode of a series called “once upon a time.” one of the main female characters goes home on her birthday and has a single cupcake with a single candle and celebrates her birthday all alone. she makes a wish that she would not have to continue to spend her birthdays all alone…the interesting thing is that she lives in a big city…amidst a virtual sea of people…yet she is totally alone… Continue reading

the missing ingredient

after more than a decade of ministry work and church attendance, i have noticed something very peculiar…there is something missing…something very important…central…essential…and it’s totally missing. a.w. tozer spoke of this same principle when he wrote his book the divine conquest…he said that there is no greater reality than the utter unreality with which the Christian church approaches worship. what mr. tozer was saying was that the most real thing in the life of the church is that when we worship, we don’t act as though we actually believe in the Object of our worship…resulting in just another ritual which we are going through to check off the “religion” box for our week. i have been in very traditional settings as well as charismatic ones and the same truth is very observable in both…it’s just expressed differently. in the traditional setting, there is an insistence on dignified behavior and speech, and in the charismatic there is a desire to have an “experience.” but in both circumstances, i notice that people leave and then eventually begin down the same paths of habit and life as they had before…because transformation wasn’t/isn’t occurring…just temporary highs or reminders…but life-altering, mind-invading, heartfelt change was not/is not happening. Continue reading

they don’t see

i was speaking to a gentleman one time about someone who had committed a pretty despicable crime. he told me that he hoped they put the man under the jail and filled it with concrete. i remember the anger that came to the surface when he spoke of this incident and how much it affected me. it was such a visceral response that i was almost uncomfortable…but i understood how he felt. truth be told, we all feel like that about certain things. we want to see people punished for their actions and held accountable for their deeds. some of us may even like it when we see someone pulled over by a police officer…thinking to ourselves, “they’re getting what they deserve!” but when it comes to us being pulled over or us being the ones in the wrong, we never want justice. i’ve never heard of someone flying through an intersection at 30 miles over the speed limit seeking out a police officer to dole out their punishment…because we only want justice when it is directed at someone else…we always want mercy for ourselves…

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The Right Idea Of Heaven

HEAVENLYTHRONE

I’ve not always been a Christian. for years, I entertained different theories and beliefs regarding existence and the afterlife. I have been agnostic, atheistic, new age, etc… During that journey, one thing I came to believe was that Christians were all about conformity. I came to believe that all they cared about was making others like themselves. What I mean by this is that they seemed to only care about how people appeared or acted. My perception was that the Christian ethic was one in which all that mattered was that Christians didn’t drink, swear, watch R-rated movies, go to restaurants that served alcohol, dance…. the list could go on… But all in all I got the idea that Christians essentially didn’t have fun and definitely didn’t associate with anyone who did. One big thing they also didn’t do… they didn’t marry inter-racially or endorse it… I think it’s very fitting at this point to acknowledge that these are stereotypes into which not all Christians fit. For sure, I did not have the whole story in relation to the beliefs of Christians. Continue reading