Friday, November 18, 2011

Dead People Stay Dead!!

Christians have become dangerously complacent with their knowledge of the truth. They have followed the pattern of the world and too often consider God common. They haphazardly toss out to an unbelieving world that a man named Jesus was brutally beaten, hung on a cross, stabbed through the chest, buried in an extraordinarily secure tomb, and somehow he walked out alive. Not only did he break every known physics, medical, historical, and logical law known to humankind, he also claimed to be God.

I hear some Christians make such irrational claims of truth with nothing more than the words, “And you should believe this to be saved.” When the person questions them, or does not believe, they are shocked, saddened, or shake their heads in disbelief.  

It is perfectly logical and sane for someone not to believe such radical and anti-intellectual claims.

Good news!

Christian faith is not blind faith. Christian faith is not a leap into the dark or falling blindly off a cliff.

Christian faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Did you hear that? Our faith is not like that of the cults or other false religions that ask you to believe them simply because they say so. Or to follow them and after a while they will enlighten you with “new” knowledge no other human has known before now. No! Christian faith is logical, rational, and based upon solid historical data and medical evidence.

This is what we know and is uncontested by serious scholars:
  1. Detractors of God have spent 2,000 years trying to tell the world where the body of Jesus went. Many of these mockers are brilliant scientists, anthropologists, historians, and various other experts, so this is not an ad hominem attack.
  2. They have devised many theories, but only five make the history books, because they at least hold (held) some merit:
    1. Swoon
    2. Hallucination
    3. Wrong Tomb
    4. Theft
    5. Passover Plot
  3. From the incredible and respectable diligence of the skeptics of God alone (no Bible involved in this deduction), we can decisively and unequivocally know the following facts:
    1. A man named Jesus lived in Jerusalem
    2. A man named Jesus was beaten by Roman soldiers and crucified on a cross
    3. A man named Jesus was buried
    4. A man named Jesus body is no longer in the tomb in which he was buried
    5. A man named Jesus led a life so profound that he altered the known world and haters have spent 2,000 years trying to disprove that which His followers wholeheartedly believed, many of whom died for this belief, and many more believe today. 
Each of the five theories—keep in mind this is the best-of-the-best over 2,000 years could come up with—have been thoroughly defeated.
  1. I will ignore the previous fact and gladly acquiesce to the ardent scoffer’s demand that at least one of them has not been defeated.
  2. I will follow the disdainer’s stipulation and submit that somehow he survived a beating that ripped flesh from all parts of his body causing hypovolemic shock. He was hung on a cross with three seven-inch nails by professional executioners. He was stabbed through the lung and heart. He was buried in a cold, damp, and likely mold infested tomb. He moved the 1,500-2,000 pound boulder uphill, breaking the Roman seal without a squadron of trained soldiers ever noticing what occurred, and he walked seven miles to the disciples’ house. Okay, given, somehow that happened.
  3. Picture the scene as Jesus knocked on the door and said to his followers, “I am your Savior.” No one in their right mind would accept the claims of a man who looked in the shape Jesus would have looked, let alone hundreds and then thousands of believers. A friend—the disciples were the best of friends—would take such a man by the arm and get him both medical and psychological assistance.
  4. We are forced—as many reluctant atheists have stated in the past after a strong review of the evidence—to admit that the preponderance of the evidence weighs heavily toward the events as recorded in and out of the Bible as more likely true than not.
Many atheists/agnostics claim Christians believe in Jesus because they want to. Let me assure you, I do not believe in Jesus because I want to. Think about that: who wants to believe that God will judge them for their thoughts and actions, their family will face a real hell, and that they need to turn from their human instinct ways? That is not something about which I dream. I believe in Jesus, because I can no more deny my very existence than deny the reality of the events as recorded in the Bible and at least twelve extra-biblical sources.

Jesus is real, His words are real, His judgment is real, His wrath is real, and He loves you so much He died for you so you can avoid a real Hell intended for the Devil and his cohorts. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Salvation is not a prayer nor is it simply words; it is action. Belief is a verb. Faith is something that inherently alters your actions or it is not faith at all (book of James).

I challenge you to disprove the resurrection as so many have tried to do in the past. Not just cursory searches as though you were looking for a recipe for cookies, but a true and diligent study of the known information. Take a few weeks to know for certain you are correct. What else are you doing? Many have set out to disprove His resurrection and have the intellectual integrity to admit their mistake. Sadly, many more have not.

Are You Sure?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Man's Best Friend

Eleven years ago my cousin carried a small, cute as a button, boxer into my aunt’s house. She asked if we wanted a puppy. I, assuming she was giving it away, reluctantly agreed. The next day she brought the dog for us to take home and asked for $200. Well it was too late; we had already fallen for this puppy and paid the fine of ignorance. The whole way home he sat on my sons’ laps as we tried to figure out a good name for him. As we pulled into the driveway many hours later, we settled on the name Dozier, as in Bulldozer because he liked to run people over as he ran and played.

Last Friday at 4:30pm, I pulled out his collar and leash for the last time. We loaded the family into the truck, and I picked Dozier up and lightly placed him in the backseat with my kids. Off we went to the veterinarian for the final call. As we pulled into the parking lot, I took a deep breath and pulled into a parking spot. I allowed Dozier to walk around and sniff the ground as long as he wanted before slowly walking towards the front door. A friendly technician quickly escorted us to a room, and the doctor entered. He looked the old boy over and agreed with our decision to end his life as he was in pain, and there was nothing left to do to ease his suffering.

I put him on the table and the doc stuck the needle in his front right leg until he found a vein. As he began to inject the final sleeping medicine, we all looked Dozier in the eyes and told him how much we loved him and rubbed his head. The process only takes a few seconds, and he was at rest with no more pain.

Difficult moments like this remind us all that there is an end no matter how cute, cuddly, rich, or poor we are, there is an end. In that final conclusion, we will all face the Maker of all; it is only a matter of when. While Dozier will not have to take responsibility for his thoughts and actions on this green planet, I will. Ultimately, I will have to answer the most critical question in history, “Did you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Not, “Did you do good works?” but “Is Jesus Christ’s sacrifice covering your sin?” Anything short of a resounding “Yes”, no matter how much God loves me, He cannot accept my sin nature into Heaven. He is a perfect and righteous judge who can do nothing short of perfection including perfect love which mandates perfect discipline.

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
It is only Jesus Christ who freely gives rest to the weary. The world promises it, but you and I know it never satisfies.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
It is not morbid to speak of truth, uncomfortable, yes, but not inappropriate. "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need" Matthew 6:33. 

“Never the same Time, Never the same Place, Never the same People”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A True Work of Art

I recently visited an incredibly beautiful city on the Gulf Coast of Florida. While waiting on others to go to dinner in an affluent part of town near the beach, two other pastors and I decided to venture outside our comfort zone and enter an art gallery. I knew I could not afford the luxuries in this establishment, but I appreciate the gifts of others to turn paint into something extraordinary.
Out of this large gallery there was one painting that caught our attention, and we could not take our eyes off of it. The artist is Walfrido Garcia and the title is “The Truth Shall Set You Free”. While standing there, a saleslady (I will call her June) approached us and asked the usual, “Is there anything I can help you gentlemen with today?” She was a charming young lady who was personable and funny. I am certain June could tell it was highly unlikely we had the wherewithal to purchase such incredible works of art, but she seemed to truly be interested in talking. 
June asked us if we would like to see a room designed to showcase the art with special lighting, we immediately agreed. It was a room in the back of the store where we could sit on a couch while she altered the light, making the painting appear to come alive. As the room got quiet, I asked June if she was aware of where the name of the painting originated, and she said no. I explained it is from the Bible, but it is missing a key part that is often misquoted. The verse actually states that it is the knowledge of the Truth that sets us free (John 8:32). This started a forty-five minute conversation with June about the creator God of all that loves her and is pursuing her attention. Her primary questions were scientific in nature as she used to work at a science lab out West. As I answered each of her questions, she was intrigued and appreciated what she heard.
Near the end of our time together, she made the comment, “I know God sent you here today, because I have been asking for Him to do that for the last couple of days”. We thought we were just out for dinner, but God sent us to breathe life into an eternal soul desperately seeking a point of true contact with Reality. 
A mystery beyond my grasp is that God uses sinful people like me to spread His incredible news of salvation. He is pursuing the world with passion. Are you helping His perfect and eternal cause, or are you so consumed with personal attainment you are allowing His loving words to go unheard?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Medal of Honor is Present!

On 9-11-11 a good friend of mine, Jay, had the opportunity to attend a special military event commemorating the events of 9-11-01. Top generals, dignitaries, and select prominent people were in attendance.

Sitting at Jay’s table was a well-known sports franchise owner. Gold and diamond laced rings from national championships that his team has won over the years adorned the man’s hands. One could not help but notice the glittering trophies on nearly every finger.

As the evening continued, a general took the lectern and began to speak. The general abruptly stopped his speech and loudly proclaimed, “Medal of Honor is present!” The entire room of individuals jumped to their feet, came to attention, and saluted this man wearing the Medal of Honor. The room was silent as everyone watched him walk to his seat. The sound of each step resonated through the auditorium. Once he took his seat, the ceremony continued as normal. Jay looked over at the professional sports team owner who was looking at his hands and politely whispered, “They don’t mean much compared to that do they?” The man knowing the truth of that profound statement had to nod in agreement and state with a low voice, “No, they sure don’t”.

As I heard this story, my mind raced to the day when I will stand before my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of crowns we will receive for the works we do in this world. He will place them on our heads but we will not go to a mirror or proudly tell others about our accomplishments. No, in a sense, we will loudly proclaim, “Medal of Honor is present!”

When we view our feeble attempts to do good works compared to The Good Work accomplished by the Mighty King, we will have no desire to wear our crowns. We will gladly take them off and throw them at the feet of the One and Only, the Truth and the Life, the Light of this world, and the Lamb that took our real sin and really paid for it in full.

Good works are just that, good. They are nothing more and nothing less. They are good. We do not call them saving works because no good work can save anyone from the necessary righteous judgment of a holy and blameless God.

Medal of Honor is present!

Have you accepted His free reward that only He has earned?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unshakable Truth: The Bible

It is circulated and translated into more languages than any other book in history.
It has faced persecution at the hands of tyrants, emperors, kings, and kingdoms and sits today unscathed.
Its many stories cannot be destroyed or diminished by skeptics, scholars, or scoffers.
Its social, political, legal, and governmental influence through the millennia is peerless.
It tells us where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.
It gives the answers to tough questions and does not shrink back, slither away, or sidestep severe reality.
It tells the truth of its adherents, atheists, and the aloof.
It claims to be breathed by the Creator God and its guts substantiate its brazen proclamation and no man has shown otherwise.
Those who have stood against it have perished while it remains stronger than ever.
Many who have set out to diminish its validity have become unbending, unalterable, and unswerving apologists.
It can solidify or segregate families.
It transcends, transforms, and transverses cultures.
Its science shames the sages.
Its prophecy unblemished.
Its historicity dependable.
Its archeology exact.
Its laws unswerving.
Its truth unshakable.
Its poetry unequaled.
Its wisdom unmatched.
Its depth unparalleled.
Its simplicity unfathomable.
Its love unprecedented.
Its Spirit unwavering.
Its Savior unsurpassed.
Its God unrivaled.
Its kingdom unending.
The Bible is indeed uncommon, unreal, and unique!
You are either faithful or you are faithless.
You either stand with it or you fall because of it.
You make it your friend or it becomes your worst enemy.
You can run to it or you can run from it, but you cannot hide from it.
You can climb the highest peak, fall into the deepest pit, or walk a deserted path, but you cannot escape the passionate, persistent, and penetrating heartbeat of God’s holy Word.
Despise it, detest God, and depart to darkness demolished and dying you shall die.
Love it, love God, live forever.
A Choice Not Made Is A Choice Made

Friday, July 29, 2011

Logical, Rational, and Intellectually Honest?

Nearly every day I hear or read someone deriding, belittling, or in some way angrily mocking Christianity and its audacity to merely exist. It is treated as a pariah on the face of the earth. The Bible is heralded as a joke, a work of fiction, and something to be dismissed as crazy folklore.  One would think with such animosity and guttural hatred, their rationality must have grounds in reality. So let’s spend a minute reading a few of the many qualities the Bible calls its adherents to do on this earth.
1.      Pay your taxes regardless of whether you agree or not (Governments should love this one)
2.      Obey your boss no matter how rude, cruel, or self-serving (all business should love this one)
3.      Treat women as Jesus treated the church, you know, the one He died for and in place of (women’s rights groups, all wives, girlfriends, and women in general should love this one)
4.      Obey the laws of the land no matter what your personal feelings unless they go contrary to God’s laws (police officers, military, and again the governments should love this one)
5.      When a neighbor is in need, put yourself second and give liberally, do not ask for anything in return (equal rights groups, community activists, and neighbors everywhere should love this one)
6.      Love everyone, in particular, love those who hate you (anyone who has ever hated or been hated should love this one)
Man has always wondered if there was a God and who that God is. God, therefore, knowing that man cannot fully comprehend God had God come to earth in the form of that which we could relate to, a man.
Man has always marveled how we got here, so he told us by helping men write historical books and then protecting said books from the masses who have tried to destroy it more than any other book in history.  I mean, it would be pretty weird for someone to hand me a book and say that God sat down with a pen and paper and wrote this for me. So, in a preemptive strike (almost as if He knows that we are skeptical beings…which is needed to keep us from following anything that comes along), God used men, that is, someone we can relate with, to write down the events of history using human words so that we would not be lost by the unknown language He speaks.
Man then wondered if this God loved him, so God said, “I do, but to show you how much I love you I will step into history, lie on a cross, be nailed to that cross, and pay the penalty for all the wrongs you and every human has every committed.” The cross just so happened to be the element of justice the government was using at the time (keep in mind rule #4 above). Man has always thought that things were too difficult or cost too much, so God said, “Oh, and by the way, this is My gift to you. That whoever wants to accept it, I will freely, even though no one deserves it, give the gift of My real payment at Calvary for your real sin…Did you hear that?” God asks. “Free gift. Nope, you don’t owe Me anything, just accept it, believe it, and live like I told you. Not because I hate you, but because I love you and I know what is best for you, because I am God.”
God did all of this and so much more because we asked for it, and now, we don’t like the answers. It’s almost as if we would prefer a long, convoluted lie that is difficult to believe over the simple yet profound truth of our incredible history. Creation of everything from nothing is apparently too simple for some…I mean, who can’t create things from nothing? It happens every day, go ahead, just Google the words, “How many things has man created ex-nihilo” and watch the thousands of pages pop-up…I’m still waiting for page #1.
Continuing, He gave us instructions on how to live a long and inner-peace filled life and we shrug it off as something that is easily obtainable. Anti-depressants are the number one prescribed medication in this country and that strikes me as a signal that we are seeking peace in the wrong place. If one takes a minute to consider the wealthy and famous people; are they the role models for us on happiness, peace, and wellbeing? Do we do well finding comfort with things that rust, rot, and ruin?
Man has always begged for deliverance from the bondage of this world and a better life. God, therefore, steps into our time, offers Himself for us, pays the price in full, and all we have to do is accept it, yet we think that’s crazy. We want to go to Heaven, but we argue over the method. “Do I have to believe what God did for me to be saved? Can’t I just—oh, I don’t know, be a good person? Belief is…well, it’s just hard to do, and it offends me that God would pick the way for me to get there! I want my way or no way, and He is just an arrogant, egotistical, giant who for some reason thinks He knows better than me.”
Now that I have written this out I can so easily see why governments, military, police, and people around the globe would have so much trouble with such an evil and preposterous book. “I got this, I don’t need God. Have you seen my grades, my job, my good deeds, my bank account, my pool, my boats, my family…I am awesome and certainly don’t need to be told by God how it works.”
Is your stance logical, rational, and intellectually honest? Or is it possible you simply missed reality and thus the Truth?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

40 Minutes with a Buddhist

As I walked through a large wholesale-club today, a vendor offered me a sample of free food. As I accepted the morsel, the man, Jack, asked me what my shirt meant. At that time, I had just left Vacation Bible School and was wearing a t-shirt with the letters VBS on the front. I explained to Jack what VBS meant and asked him if he went to church. He said he was Buddhist and did not attend a church. I politely asked how he came to believe in Buddhism, and he proceeded to talk for the next twenty or so minutes about his three tours of service as a Marine in Vietnam. He believed what we did to them was horrendous. Personally involved in the killing of men, women, children, and pets in several villages, he was horrified by what he had done. But every time he returned to the same village, the people seemed to be fine and happy, despite the atrocities (his words) committed against them. Believing their joy must come from a religion, he began to study their faith and came to believe and follow Buddhism.
After multiple questions I found that he believed the following items: 1. The ultimate goal of all of man is compassion. 2. There is an ultimate and singular truth. 3. All of mankind is gone astray and is evil (he chuckled, women are okay though). 4. Buddha was not a god and never claimed to be. 5. If a god existed it would make sense that he would create a being to live forever and that is why we are reincarnated. 6. Jesus was a Zen master. 7. Jesus was not God and never claimed to be God. 8. The Bible is simply a compilation of what Buddha had already said six hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus.  
It was intriguing and truly a pleasure to listen to Jack for forty minutes. I cannot begin to imagine the depths of evil he witnessed firsthand during a difficult war. I applaud him for seeking truth in a violent time. Jack was well-informed about why he believed what he believed and it was clear he had spent many hours reading relevant material.
Sadly, Jack was able to answer questions about Buddhism far better than many Christians are able to defend the hope that is within them. Worse, the God of the Bible commands for all adherents to study and be ready to defend their faith (I Peter 3:15), Buddhism does not. Are you prepared to ask someone like Jack pertinent questions? Are you capable of intelligently responding to the claims of a Buddhist, Mormon, etc.? If you are not, what will you do different tomorrow to get ready for a close encounter with a Buddhist vendor at your local grocery store?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Doomsday Clock

On July 16, 1945 humankind entered a new era of terror when the Manhattan Project detonated the first atomic weapon. Two years later and directly connected to this new found power, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists publicly announced the creation of the Doomsday Clock. Scientists wanted the world to have a clear picture of how close the entire globe is to complete annihilation of all human life due to a nuclear holocaust. The first clock setting was seven minutes till midnight with midnight being the end of the world as we know it. Through the decades, the time has been altered from as far away as seventeen minutes till midnight in 1991 to as close as two minutes till midnight in 1953 when we decided to make a more powerful H-Bomb. Based on all threat levels, including global warming, we are currently sitting at six minutes till twelve.
The Doomsday Clock is certainly an ominous picture of what could be, but more importantly it makes me ponder at what time my personal Doomsday Clock is sitting. The Bible teaches that we all have a self-defeating Doomsday Clock ticking inside each of us. I am not referring to the day-to-day sin of speeding, hateful thoughts and the like, but instead, the Doomsday Clock sin that if left unchecked will drastically alter your known world. If someone walks along a precipice long enough eventually they will misstep and enter the abyss.
Even with our new nature there is a sin nature we will struggle against the rest of our days on earth. The Apostle Paul gives a brilliant picture of our sinful nature when he wrote in the book of Romans “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (vv.18-20).
Sadly, I have found there are times we openly invite this sin or sins into our lives, moving the hands closer to midnight. The writer of Hebrews penned, “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us”.
The author encourages the individual to run away from their personal desires and then includes himself in having his own struggles. That is, what tempts and hinders one runner may do nothing to another but each person has their own weight that must be removed in order to win the race God has set before them.
The truth is, we often toy with sin as if it is as harmless as a stuffed animal. We neglect the overt fact that sin is a loaded weapon awaiting a hair-trigger pull. One only need enter the right circumstance on the right day and the clock will strike midnight. How many men and women that you know personally allowed their Doomsday Clock to resound a deafening clang? No one is immune from such deviance. We have all witnessed the demise of great leaders from atheists to pastors, from poor to rich and from sinners to saints. Unlike the majestic sound of an elegant grandfather clock, theirs was like nails on a chalkboard alerting the sinner to their life-altering consequence arising out of their poor choice. For once the bell has been rung it cannot be unheard and the consequences will inevitably follow. Certainly, Jesus can and will forgive those who believe in Him, but there are always consequences for our sin.
“Don't be misled--you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7).
My prayer is that we would be ever diligent to keep our Doomsday Clock as far away from midnight as possible. This is only possible via the power of the Holy Spirit, for we are deviant souls often seeking momentary pleasure over glorifying Jesus and His eternal blessings. For whom the bell tolls brings on a whole new meaning when held to the light of our propensity for sin leading to death.
“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  Romans 8:13-14

Monday, May 2, 2011

Many Mountains Many Fates

In the spring of 1996 several groups of hardcore mountain climbers began the treacherous yet incredibly enticing climb up the face of Mount Everest in Nepal. They had trained for years, paid tens of thousands of dollars in fees and left their loved ones for months in hopes of reaching the highest point in the world. They paid heavy wages to hardworking Sherpas, who helped them carry their burdensome loads.
On May 11, 1996 those same men who gave everything to get to the top, would have given everything to get to the bottom. On that one fateful night, eight climbers met their doom as a powerful storm rolled in and killed them one by one. Their bodies still litter the trails, along with seven other climbers who died that same climbing season.
I wonder how many of those men, given a choice, if a choice were possible, would never have begun to train for that disastrous hike up Mt. Everest. I wonder if they would have worked overtime to obtain the extra cash needed to gain access to their rocky grave. I wonder how many men would give anything to have never started down the road that led to their demise. I wonder…I wonder how many men rue the day they decided to go contrary to the tug of the Holy Spirit telling them to go no further, to take a left turn instead of a right, to look the other way as their glance turned into a stare which blossomed into an affair which resulted in misery. I wonder how many men would give it all back for a second chance at that first one chance.
My father once quipped after nearly losing his life on a remote mountain in Nevada, “One never truly conquers a mountain, it is just that sometimes it lets you see its beauty and sometimes…sometimes it lets you live”. How many men have climbed a mountain of lust and sin, believing they escaped its punishment due to their shrewdness and intelligence, only to revisit the mountain, but this time the mountain did not let them return. We are curious creatures scurrying about seeking the next crag despite the penalty that whistles in the wind from high atop its jagged peaks. Be cautious of the pull of the magnificent, for in her bosom awaits freezing death and horrors untold that cannot be grasped this side of anguish. "The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mth. 7:13-14).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Someone Dial 911!

Dissect a crowd’s reaction at any emergency situation and you will observe at least six types of people: Victims; Helpers; Runners; Strollers; Gawkers; and the Defiant. Type one victims have no clue they are in serious trouble. Police call them ‘walking victims’, they are about to be a victim, they are simply unaware at the moment out of ignorance or willful disregard for the obvious; “I need help?” Type two victims do not require anyone to tell them that things are bad and getting worse. They have a deep comprehension of the desperation of their situation because they are physically and emotionally involved; “I need help!” Helpers, are typically emergency personnel, they see the need and rise to the occasion to render first aid to the victim but also to protect others from similar harm; “I will help”. Runners are those who hear the helpers telling them, “Get back!” They recognize the problem, observe its continued threat, and adhere to the helper’s plea to flee and run from the area; “I can help by not being here”. Strollers see the same emergency situation and reluctantly, slowly and half-heartedly walk away with a continual stare over their shoulder to keep an eye on the unfolding situation; “I don’t care to help”. Gawkers due the minimal that the helpers have demanded. They get as close to the danger as possible without crossing the thin blue warning line; “I will not help the helpers”. Finally, the defiant group ignores all signs of trouble, breaks through or covertly recons the scene seeking its weak point so they can get a closer look; “I will impede the helpers and the victim’s help”.
The entire world apart from Jesus Christ is in the victim status. Many are type one victims in that they do not know, either willingly or unbeknownst to them that their sin separates them from a loving God. The Bible says that the world is ignorant of their status (Eph. 4:17-19). Still, others are type two victims. When they finally grasp the peril of their situation and begin to cry out for help, Jesus answers their cry. Jesus describes a tax collector who beat his chest and cried out for help (Luke 18:13). Helpers are those who actually do what Jesus has commanded, “Go and make disciples”. They are in the trenches seeking the lost, careful of their own possible fate as they tangle with sin and sinners but unflinching in their attack. Paul and many others know the price of being a helper but press on regardless (2 Corth. 11:24-27). Runners are those who understand that sin is deadly and they must flee from its presence or fall prey to its enticement. Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife because her temptation was too powerful for him to withstand if he had stayed (Gen. 39). Strollers are the proud ones who see the danger and very hesitantly walk away with constant looks over the shoulder at the sin that so easily entangles them. During the destruction of the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife strolled while Lot ran. Her end was self-destruction (Gen. 19:26). Gawkers are the arrogant ones who only go as far away from sin as they are forced. If there were no lines or people telling them to get back they would walk right up to the sin thinking themselves beyond its icy grasp. King David must have considered himself beyond sin’s death spear as he stared at a women, called her to his home and went down the infamous and often followed road of sensual temptation leading to self-destruction and agony (2 Sam. 11). Defiant individuals perceive fully what is occurring and can’t wait to get past the barriers, walk up to the sin and eagerly devour the grotesqueness. They are engrossed with what they see, can’t get enough and think destruction cannot possibly happen to them because they’re not like the guy on the ground. They must get close enough to smell the scene, taste the putrid poison and drink it down. Adam and Eve had everything yet they could not stop looking at and eventually walking up to and partaking of the sin that has killed every man women and child since that fateful moment.
So which one are you…Victim…Helper…Runner…Stroller…Gawker…Defiant?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Truth: The Nastiest Tasting Yet Most Critical Pill

Years ago my oldest son, Chandler was a young boy and he would not share a toy with his younger brother, Austin. Their grandfather, lovingly known as Pap-pap, happened to be in the room with my boys when the arguing erupted. After a few minutes of disputing about whom should get the toy, Pap-pap looked at Chandler and calmly (and somewhat sarcastically) asked, “What would Jesus do?” Chandler immediately bellowed as if in agony, “Ohhh, Pap-pap, why did you have to say that?!” and reluctantly handed Austin the toy. We still laugh about that moment to this day. You see, Chandler knew what truth was but he was choosing to ignore it for selfish reasons.
Truth surrounds us daily and yet we choose to ignore its weight and significance. For example, everyone knows these simple truths; smoking kills, alcohol poisons the brain, obesity shortens and reduces the quality of one’s life, helmets save lives, speeding is acceptable if you’re late for work…no wait, sorry, speeding is illegal because speed kills. This list could go on and on. Truth is ever present but we do not give it the time of day when it interferes with our own selfish desires and personal progress verses God’s intended path. It’s not that we don’t know, it’s that we don’t care in the moment and we choose the truth we desire to follow! But is that truth or just something that ‘feels right’?
The book of Ezekiel tells us what we are when we hear truth but ignore her anyway; we are a rebellious people (12:2). Jesus often referred back to this verse when He said “He who has ears let him hear”. The implication is obvious, we (believers) have the ability to understand but we most often choose to rebel unless it favors us. The natural state of man is to be an insurgent who fights against truth.
Charles Malik quipped correctly “The problem is not only to win souls but to save minds. If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover you have not won the world”. The Bible is clear that Christianity is about a renewing of the mind with truth as truth is not a ‘felt’ thing. People often hear, believe, and act on what they desire based on their hearts and their feelings despite scripture’s warning that our own hearts deceive us. Truth is only found in the written Word of God. God’s truth is terrifying and obliterates a person’s self-esteem and self-reliance. The Bible, like the military, tears one down to the minimum so God can re-build from the ground up stronger and better than before. Henry Rollins (not someone I endorse) stated, “Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue, realize the strength, move on”.
The good news of the Bible is that Jesus has accomplished that which I cannot. He has conquered sin and death. I can do nothing but He has done everything. Truth is ever present if we would choose to assimilate its damming yet comforting principles. The question today is do we want the truth pill or do we desire our daily dose of hallucinogenic medication?
Infants are ignorant of truth; Kids are shielded from truth; Teenagers challenge truth; Adults ignore truth; Break the Mold!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sharks, lions, and bears oh my!!

In 1975 my family vacationed in Ocean City, NJ. That was the year the infamous movie Jaws was released. I recall my dad responding to his children’s pleas to watch that movie with “If we go see this movie, you WILL go swimming in the ocean tomorrow!” As a wise father he knew the fear that would likely grip each of our young minds as we entered the Atlantic the next morning with new knowledge of what may lurk just beneath the surface. We went and saw the movie that night and did, in fact, swim in the ocean despite our newfound fears. Since then, I have never entered the beautiful depths without the ever-present awareness of row-after-row of razor sharp teeth that could seal my doom at any moment.
As humans, we have a well-deserved fear and respect for sharks, lions and bears because a ghastly death is possible if not likely if we attempt to occupy their territory. We seem to instinctively know, if not learned from paranoid parents and the Discovery Channel that these carnivores will, if given the opportunity, devour us causing an agonizing death. It is directly due to this rightly placed fear that we avoid certain times of the day in the ocean, hang our food high in a tree when camping and don’t meander through the Serengeti without a rifle.
Unfortunately, we often do not hold that which can destroy our soul with the same reverence and awe. We habitually play like a child with reckless abandon in places of this world that we should, and in fact very likely know are fraught with dangerous sin traps, lifeblood sucking pitfalls, and God distancing temptations. We haphazardly enter Satan’s lair convincing ourselves that it will be okay this time, God wants us to, we can resist the temptation and help others, grace abounds so why not, and various other falsehoods. But the truth is, shark’s teeth are created to shred meat, lion’s claws are designed to slice and hold its prey, a bear’s power is prepared to overcome the weak, and sin exists and will consume the unwitting and foolhardy soul that dares come hither.
When will we understand? When will we grasp the darkness of our soul to scamper from the light? When will we desist playing with fire and discontinue blaming others when we get burned?
God and God alone has the power to overcome our sinful desires. We are truly a moth mesmerized by a flame flickering in the darkness. The difference is that we, unlike the moth, were given a conscious, a soul, and the ability to cry out to the living Savior so that we may avoid our deserved demise.
God asks “When will we realize sin is and always will be a machine of sorrow, emptiness, misery, and death?” Choose life, peace, joy, comfort and glorifying the Creator rather than the creation.
Run to the Savior who does love you but cannot ignore the sin that so easily entangles you. Do not give strength to your sin by counting on personal willpower but instead on the power of the Holy Spirit to free you from the bondage of death. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God of Wonders

Just south of the U.S. Mexican border in the expansive Chihuahuan desert, abruptly springs the Naica Mountains. This mountain range derived its name because it sits on top of the deep and ancient Naica fault that birthed these crags. In the late 1800s, prospectors began to dig into the Naica dust in hopes of finding buried treasure that only Mother Nature could create. It did not take long till miners discovered precious metals like lead, zinc, and silver. Occasionally a mineworker would find small yet striking crystals in the rocks.
In April of 2000 brothers Juan and Pedro Sanchez did not believe the mine had given up the last of its booty and entered the dark and deep mine shafts. They were not novices at mining and so they began to excavate new tunnels in search of elusive hidden treasure. Suddenly and unexpectedly, their shovels pierced a rock and mud wall. The heat and stifling humidity from this never before seen room pummeled their bodies and filled their lungs as the mud tube in which they stood breathed in this alien air. As their dim miner’s lights stabbed the darkness they quickly realized that something was different about this chamber. No, it wasn’t precious metals, sparkling diamonds, or a lost city; it was a room bursting with never before seen massive crystals the size of steel girders that support modern day skyscrapers. 
National Geographic explorers and scientists have since voyaged the half-mile conduit and entered the dwelling that is justly named The Cathedral of Crystals. Others who have gazed upon its grandeur have nicknamed it The Sistine Chapel of Crystals. Nat Geo describes the view as “It looks like Superman's fortress. Hidden deep beneath the surface of the Earth is one of the greatest natural marvels on the planet: a giant crystal cave with crystals up to 36 feet long and weighing 55 tons. But this scorching cavern could kill humans after just 15 minutes of exposure.”  
Humankind seems to have an unquenchable compulsion to explore, find answers, and discover the mysterious. It is this motivation that propelled Ponce De Leon to seek the Fountains of Youth, Christopher Columbus to seek a route to the riches of India, and Bill Gates to expand the realms of possibility in microchips. It is this drive that most often attributes to great and magnificent encounters such as the Naica Caverns.
I would imagine when Juan and Pedro first crawled out of the bowels of the earth and excitedly witnessed to others what they found, their friends likely thought they had inhaled too much toxic cavern gas. Eventually they were able to coax someone else to breach the earth’s surface and slowly travel to the immense depths to view never before seen and indescribable beauty beyond measure. The Sistine Chapel of Crystals has been in that location for many millennia and has simply sat there waiting for adventurers to discover its creative and breathtaking splendor.
You see, it’s not that the crystals were not there, they were; it was that no one sought them out and no one opened up the craggy door to absorb their intensity. But once they opened this portal they could not contain their excitement, they had to go and tell others of this unseen miracle.
In all of history something like these glowing skeletons were relegated to fictional books like Journey to the Center of the Earth but now the unreal has become real.
While the Cathedral of Crystals is assuredly remarkable, defies logic, and to some level believability, it does not rise to the level of paranormal. That is, science understands how these improbable formations came into existence. There does exist, however, something behind these translucent treasures that is in a real sense paranormal. That something is what we call God. The all-powerful Being transcends all known laws of science and is the force that allows such wonders to exist. God is far more intense, awe inspiring, bewildering, and awesome than anything we behold with the naked or aided eye. God is the greatest treasure of all and unlike the caverns in the Chihuahuan desert that require discovery; God has and is seeking you.
Isn’t that incredible to consider that God wants and loves you so much that He created you and left His thumbprint to quench your natural drive to know something is true; in particular, the existence of an unseen Being? He offers such exhibits as the massive crystals, quantum particles, and colossal universe so you could know He truly is! Are you burrowing around seeking the ultimate pearl and are your eyes wide open to the opulence that awaits you? It would be a travesty to traverse this plain and miss the reality that surrounds you!
“Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens
   and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD,
   for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever—
   he issued a decree that will never pass away.  Praise the LORD from the earth,
   you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
   stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills,
   fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds”
Psalm 148:3-10

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ghosts in the Dark

The faces, screams, pain and gripping fear I have witnessed when I wore the badge and emotionlessly slid into a bag are so vivid at times as to haunt my thoughts when the light slides under my feet and darkness blankets my body and fills my eyes. Thumps in the night are not ghosts or demons but mangled bodies from the past delivered by darkness untold for me to embrace and view them again. My futile attempts to flex muscle against unseen forces have reached their end. I now fear reality as the thoughts of yesterday cripple my today. I have entered the wormhole and no pill or soothsayer can cloak that which has been revealed. I am thankful my once soulless eyes have been forced to see the depth of man’s weakness but there are times I wish I could taste imitation again. To be able to close my eyes to the barbarians at my gate and live again in wonderment in lieu of unshakable death is tempting as if it is even feasible. Alas, there is no Disneyland but only foggy voids of despair, emptiness, dread and hollowness by which I breathe. My hands and feet desperately clamber for a familiar point of contact only to find they are all shifting pixels of odd beauty pulling my energy but returning no favors. I have spent my life hiking an open path of choices with a magnificent singularity in view. I have reached this earthly Nirvana, tasted its deception, felt her nakedness and consumed her lust; I violently shake as I awake to the backside of the fa├žade. The other side of the moon is nothing but dark, cold, and lifeless and man’s childhood dreams have been revealed as sterile and unfruitful.
We reside among devils. I now see them as they fly into our lungs, run through our veins and camp in our brains. God’s creation willingly ignores our condition because we do not wish to be healed; did I want to be healed? I wonder, had I known the day was coming when I was told there was no Santa might I have stayed in bed or scampered down the rabbit hole? Alas, mortality forges on because she believes that bag of diamonds and vault of gold is more than shiny stones; “It must be purpose!” But the black velvet bag is empty and the vault is hollow. We have no hope, we wallow in misery, why do we embrace meaninglessness and prefer not to look behind the curtain of Oz. Oh that Toto would have been crushed in the storm, burned to death by the broom or consumed by the flying carnivores. Instead, he, in his smug, cute, furry coat survived the war to expose a fake, no different than I, who resided on the dark side of the moon. I have no ruby slippers and the sorceress’ wand has been shattered and I daily float over the great abyss and tremble. Hovering past the wall and looking back the solid ground on which I played is but a shaved apple skin rotting from below. The world frolics ignoring friends who drop beneath and despises those who have pierced the atom never to return. All of humanity is content in their snow globe and I, and I, well I am here and I cannot be there. Christ is the Author of it all, and He and His Kingdom are all that ultimately exists, and one day that dimension will be my rest but not today. Today I forage for scraps of justice, love and peace to find deception, sorrow, and anguish in the dead that walk about in this stagnate pool of disease as they embrace every slimy sip. I beat my head against the wall in a futile attempt at the impossible as I have no power, no authority and no strength against the impenetrable darkness that is man. Christ and Christ alone has conquered the impossible, nay, the improbable with His drips of sacrificial blood on Calvary. Oh that the upright rotting corpses could witness the grandeur of Truth. I plea before the righteous Judge for their eternity but only a finger is offered and it is Christ pointing to the freewill of mankind to remain empty or accept His filling. We are loved but rarely consume its sweetness choosing to immerse ourselves in the cesspool of rot. Why?        

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rant on Science

Forgive my rant but it is such an inane assertion by non-believers to say that Christians ‘simply’ want to invoke the boogey man when in fact we have the capability to understand theoretical physics at a much deeper level. It is my view that they, not us, are staying simplistic when they ‘simply’ state “Big Bang” or “Millions and millions of years ago…” (sorry, but isn’t that what children’s books start with? E.g., “In a distant land a long long time ago…”) We, believers, go deeper and further to attempt to grasp the Infinite that stands behind it and truly getting to the “why” and “how”. To me the real questions are why are they limiting the research? Why not expound the realm of possibilities? Is that not what science and in particular quantum sciences are created to dissect? I mean, why, would an individual of any stature out of hand exclude something that is at minimal possible and at peak likely?