Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV)

Every Christmas season these words can be heard echoing through church halls and over the radio waves as festive songs relive the proclamation of that very first Christmas night.  We have probably all said them at least once on our lives, but have we really thought about the true meaning of this declaration?

Tonight I find myself pondering it as the children are now asleep and "Santa" is placing his final touches on the presentation of his midnight delivery.  Peace on Earth......Goodwill toward men.  The biggest reason Jesus came.  His highest priority wasn't to convert others, pronounce judgement, or to convince people to think  alike.  His highest priority was simply to love God and thy neighbor, an action that by itself would bring this declaration to fruition.

So.....I guess I know what this year's New Year's resolution will contain......a new commitment to be a better husband, father, and friend.  To be kinder to strangers and yes even enemies.  I need to do my part to bring peace to this world.  There are seven billion of us on this giant ball now and I certainly can't affect all of them, but, I can do my best to ensure we are one seven billionth closer toward Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

God Bless the Children

I've tried to sit down and write several times, but I've been so angry that it keeps turning into a raging rant against a monster who armed himself like a soldier to wage war on the most innocent among us.  Right now, I only feel hate for this man, so I will speak no more about him.

Unfortunately, these events are becoming all too common in our society, almost monthly now, someone, somewhere unleashes unprovoked hatred on innocent people.  The ultimate temper tantrum in which their only cause is to lash out and inflict as much suffering as possible in the name of themselves.  As despicable as the actions of terrorists are, at least they have a cause of some sort that is bigger than themselves.  They conduct their treachery in the name of a nation or a belief, but to the American lone shooter, there is nothing bigger than themselves.  It is the ultimate act of narcissism.

Every time this happens, the questions always begin asking how can we prevent this stuff.  The fact is we can't.  These people are out there and when they decide to begin their rampage, we can only react as swiftly as possible to try to stop them.  The question I would like to pose is not how to prevent this but how to react to it.  The source of this type of demented thinking is the highest level of selfishness.  So to combat that, I want to strive to live with the highest level of selflessness that I can.  I want to battle this hate with love.  I want to try to inflict as much love on this world as I can.  I want to love as much as these guys hate.

I'm not so naive to think that love will prevent this stuff, or that rainbows and flying unicorns will appear.  But I refuse to set another foot down the road of selfishness these guys have walked.  I want to become as opposite from them as I possibly can.  Out of love, I will strive to reach out to those that I can with kindness, family, friend, neighbor, and even enemy.  We can't respond with apathy and continue about our day, we must love harder to all with whom we come in contact.

But, I also believe that we need to be ready at all times to do what we can to stop such an event should it start in our presence.  "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."  We owe it to the innocent around us to always be ready to do our absolute best to stop a rampage should we be in the presence of one.  Those who would harm children must know that should they do so in our presence, they will have the fight of their lives on their hands as out of love for the innocent we must respond with absolute tenacity until the threat is gone.  Once that happens, we must return as quickly as possible back to love.

Most of us are good at either loving or fighting, unfortunately we still live in a world where we need to be able to do both.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mixed Messages about Bullying

This past week in Arizona, a local High School Principal got into trouble because he gave two students the option to hold hands in the middle of the campus or take a suspension after they got into a fight. The students chose to hold hands, and after some humiliation were done with their punishment.

The school district then came in and disciplined the principal for how he handled the situation.  The big question I would like to ask is "WHY?!"  What was the school district's motivation for punishing this principal?  If it was strictly because he blatantly violated policy then I can at least stomach it.  But my concern is that there is more to it.  My concern is that the School District acted out of fear.  

In my opinion one of the biggest reason's the education system in America has deteriorated is not because of the teaching, or the number of hours of classroom work, or less recess.  The reason we are struggling is because teachers are being asked more and more not to be teachers but to be parents.  And out of fear of law suit, school districts around the country have allowed it to happen.  It frequently seems that those on the front line of education are not supported by the higher ups because the higher ups are more concerned about being sued than they are about their teachers and administrators.  There is currently a huge nation wide push against bullying which should involve a two part message:

1.  Don't do it.
2.  Stand up to those who do.

For the past several years school districts have cowardly allowed themselves to be backed into corners and pushed around by the parents of the most disruptive kids and their attorneys.  One of the results is that our education system has become less and less effective is simply because we are terrified to kick out those that disrupt the class and hold the kids and parents accountable.  Then, when the attorneys come knocking, failing to stand their ground.  Instead, they cower and hang out to dry the people on the front lines trying to do their job.  Fifty years ago, if a principal would have made two kids hold hands for fighting, the next day both kids parents would have had them in his office with a letter apologizing for the fight and thanking him for giving them the option not to be suspended.  In this case, I don't even know if the parents really cared that much, but I'm afraid there is a decent chance that the district took a pre-emptive move to "CYA" by punishing the principal.  

In my heart of hearts, I hope I'm wrong, and if I am, I will apologize right this second to the district for jumping the gun.  But if I'm right then my question to our entire education system is: "When are we going to stop sending mixed messages and actually begin to demonstrate how to deal with bullies?"  At some point, we need to stand up to them and support the people on the front lines.  And in turn, we as a society need to provide support to the districts when and if they begin to take these stands.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To The Strongest Man in the World- A Tribute to Paul James

Over the past several years, I've had the honor of becoming friends with a guy named Paul James.  Paul played the bass guitar at our church and was one of the most talented musicians I've ever met.  Little did I know in the beginning was that he was also one of the strongest men I've ever met.

To look at him, most would just see an old, broke, chain smoking hippie, who worked at Circle K.  But as you got to know this guy, who didn't own a cell phone in a society where cell phones are more important than food, you began to realize that you were in the presence of a guy who just "got it."

He understood life in ways most of us will never get and it wasn't fully demonstrated until I got to watch him get to face death.  Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I spoke with him as he peacefully explained that he would not fight the disease.  He then calmly set forth on his final journey in life with grace and dignity.  About a month or so ago, the band played a final time together.  Paul arrived in an extremely weakened state.  He was helped to his stool and handed his bass where one last time, I got to watch him play the instrument he had mastered so well.  It was obvious he was in pain as he sat uncomfortably on his perch, grimacing with pain, yet his fingers skillfully and effortlessly danced up and down his guitar.  Every now and then he would lock eyes with the tear filled eyes of one of his friends who were present.  His drawn cheeks and thin lips would draw back his white goatee revealing an assuring smile.  It was strange in that we were supposed to be there to comfort him, yet it was he that was comforting us.  He played for an hour before he was too weak to continue.  He thanked everyone, exchanged some hugs.

He told me several times that he was actually looking forward to death and the opportunity to meet his Savior.  And he would say it with such assurance that I really believed him!  Well, last night Paul got his wish.  Sometime in the night he slipped from this world, leaving a body that was writhing in pain and peacefully settled into the embrace of his Father.

All I can say is "Thank you Paul."  Thank you for showing me how to live in how you faced death.  Thank you for being my friend.  Someday I look forward to the moment when I cross over and hear the thunderous sound of heaven rumbling from your bass guitar.  Off in the distance as the sun rises, I look forward to seeing your restored and healthy body.  Your closed eyes and bobbing head with lighting sparking off the frets of your heavenly instrument as you furiously play away.

Until that day my friend, God Speed!  I love you brother.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Christianity and Homosexuality

I was watching an interview the other day with a well known Christian televangelist and the question of homosexuality came up.  If you ever want to make a minister squirm, ask him about homosexuality on a national television program.

It was immediately clear that this pastor was very uncomfortable as he reluctantly expressed that according to the Bible homosexuality is a sin.  He was then asked if he tells gay members of his church that they are living in sin, to which he expressed that he doesn't really talk about that from his pulpit.  He was then asked if he chose to be straight and if he didn't, how can he say that people can't be born gay?  He awkwardly avoided the question and was saved by the comercial break.   

I think one of the big dividing lines between homosexuality and Christianity comes down to the issue of choice.  Christians tend to be resistant to the idea that people can be "born gay."  To concede this would be to eliminate the personal responsibility of intentionally choosing to sin and severely shrink the platform for which to condem this "sinful" activity.

I think much more common ground could be reached if the church and society really understood what the word "sin" really means when pertaining to the Bible.  In our English language, we interpret the word "sin" to mean evil or bad.  But in the New Testament, the word "sin" actually means to "miss the mark" or "to wander off path."  Those definitions are significantly different than "evil."  I find the definition of "missing the mark" to be rather significant.  If I'm shooting an arrow at a target and miss, does that make me an evil, horrendous person?  I would certainly hope not.  My intention was to hit the target but the reality was that something else happened.  Something unintended.

When we look at the human body it is pretty clear that we primarily come in two models: male and female.  It is also pretty clear that there are parts of those bodies that were made to fit together in certain ways for the purpose of reproduction.  So, naturally it would make sense that the "intention" would be for men and women to be attracted to each other.  But, what if something happened in the development of an individual that caused them to become attracted to the same gender?  Would that person be disgusting, evil, and perverse?  Or is it possible that something simply "missed the mark."

As people we can look at the majority of us and see we are designed to have two arms and two legs.  But what if someone was born without a leg?  Would we call that person horrible and terrible?  Certainly not!  But it could be said that something happened in their development that "missed the mark" causing them to be born without something they were originally designed to have.

The real issue here is that we have misdefined the word "sin" in our language and in doing so have done incredible damage to people.  To tell someone that they are an evil sinner because they chose to be gay could be like telling the guy without a leg that he is an evil sinner because he chose to be born without a leg.

So, in the end, according to the Bible, is homosexuality "sin?"  The answer would be yes, it is sin, meaning it is something other than what was intended.  Is homosexuality evil or terrible according to the Bible?  Not if we correctly interpret the word "sin."  As usual the Bible got it right but religion got it wrong.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Hard Times

The Book of James begins with a strange bit of encouragement to "rejoice" when you endure trials of various kinds.  I've always found that to be a rather martyr's way to look at life.  I've never really said, "Oh, I'm so glad I'm having this hard time."  And I suppose I'll never actually feel that way, but I think I'm starting to see a bit of what James was trying to tell us in his ancient letter.  

I just saw a video that has been floating around Facebook about a young lady in a talent contest who was bullied growing up and her story moved all of the judges to tears.  She ended up singing a song she wrote out of her painful experiences and was of course unanimously passed on to the next stage of the competition.     

I got to wondering how she would have done on the show had she never been through all she had dealt with?  After all, it was her story and her pain that really provided the power behind her music, which in turn has now propelled her to great success.  Would she have been successful had she an easier road?

When I look back at my own life, I can honestly say that the times I've grown the most have been during the difficult times.  In fact, I have a really hard time coming up with any examples where I became a better person as the result of good or easy times. 

I've seen the same things with friends.  I'm old enough now to have had the opportunity to have watched people through several stages of life.  During those times, its amazing how much deeper, well rounded, and grounded people seem to become as the result of difficulty.  It's almost as if it requires brokeness to be whole.  So, perhaps James was on to something.  Perhaps he got to the point where he no longer had to look back on pain to realize how it benefited him.  Perhaps he got to the point where he recognized the hard time he was going through was actually making him better, and even if he couldn't see how yet, he was able to take comfort that it was still happening.  We don't rejoice in the pain......we rejoice in what the pain is doing for us.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I Don't Want To Live in a "Christian" Nation

What does it mean to be a "Christian" nation?  I've heard it said a lot that we are a Christian nation or that we began as a Christian nation or that we are no longer a Christian nation, but what exactly does that mean?  When I look at the connotation of any nation being associated with a single religion, such as a Muslim nation for instance, it doesn't exactly conjure up a real positive image.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I am a Christian but I view Christianity not as a religion but as a personal faith, a relationship, between a human being and God.  How can a nation possibly be "Christian?"  One of the main concerns that I have with people wanting America to become a Christian nation is that we as voters begin to vote based on religion rather than competency.  We begin to ask ourselves questions like, "Could I ever vote for a Mormon?" for instance.  

In my heart, I truly believe that we cannot allow our religious beliefs to cloud our judgement when it comes to voting.  The modern church seems to have become more focused on getting a Christian into office than we are about being a Christian at the office.  I think voting should be based much more on values than religion, and yes, there really is a difference.  If I vote my values, I can vote for an someone of any belief system or even an atheist, if they value the things I value in a nation.  Someone having to believe the world is 6,000 years old is really not a very important concern to me when it comes to running my country.  

When it comes time to vote for a new pastor at my church I will vote based on theological beliefs, when it comes to voting for a president I will vote for who I think is the best person for the job.  As Christians, when we fight to have a Christian nation, then we are devaluing every other faith system out there, which ironically makes us just like the system we were fleeing to come here in the first place.  If Christianity is so wonderful, we should not need to legislate it, we should simply put it on display for the world to see for themselves.        

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Enemy of Humanity

One of the more popular verses in the Bible is Ephesians 6:12, which states:

 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual  forces  of wickedness in the heavenly  places. (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

I realized today that I have always mistaken this verse.  We currently live in a world where we wage battles not against spiritual forces but against flesh and blood.  We live in a world where we are constantly blowing each other up, killing, raping, pillaging, each other.  Many of us, myself included, can be very pro-war at times, but the mistake is that we are fighting the wrong enemy.  For you see, even though the battle is NOT against flesh and blood, that is precisely where it always takes place.  It is in each other that we go to war over power, greed, envy, jealousy, rage, hate, bitterness, etc.  Sometimes we destroy each other literally and sometimes we tear each other down in other ways though slander and deprecation.  

Our enemy is an elusive one, he is invisible which makes him hard to detect, yet he dwells within us all.  We mistake each other for the problem when really, it is something far different.  When I go to war with you and try to kill or tear you down, I am not really killing my enemy, I am simply destroying its dwelling place, leaving it free to live on the the hearts of others while a wake of pain and suffering is left behind.

I cannot fight the enemy in you because he lives in your heart, a place I cannot reach. So when I attempt to do so, all I do is destroy you, accomplishing nothing.  You see, it is when I truly recognize that my battle REALLY ISN'T against flesh and blood and that it is flesh and blood that makes you my brother rather than my enemy, then I will understand how to win this fight.  It is when I turn the focus of the battle from outward to inward and begin to strike down the enemy in me that progress will be made.

If as a world we were ever to recognize that our battle is not with each other but with ourselves, we will begin to eradicate all of the things that drive us apart and cause us to wound one another.  It is when we begin to defeat the hate and rage within using the weapon of love that we will begin to strike the enemy of humanity it's death blow.  If the day ever comes that we all recognize this, it will be the day we are able to see past our differences and our beliefs and finally............... the world will know peace.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The "Christian" Right

As we enter into the home stretch of our political season, I can't help but notice how much Christianity plays a role in politics.  I often hear it stated from the Christian sidelines that we want politicians who uphold traditional Christian values.  I actually find it a little sad that there is actually a political position associated with Christianity.  I'm afraid one of the reasons our nation becomes more and more divided politically is because we treat each other like opposite sides of a college rivalry.  We have become so absorbed with different political parties that we stopped listening to each other years ago and have since been rooting against each other.

Sometimes I fear that, as Christians, our biggest concerns have gone from loving our neighbors to winning elections.  Or at least winning an argument, be it evolution vs creation or predestination  vs freewill.  I'm also afraid that we have come to a place where we have begun to view those who don't share our beliefs as enemies rather than people with a different perspective.  Let's face it, as Christians, if we believe with confidence that we have discovered in Christ the greatest way to live on this Earth, then we must view others as missing out on something special.  Something special, that we should want to share with them.  We also should have the perspective that if people are not choosing Christianity, it is not because they are haters of Christ and haters of Christians, it means they have not yet experienced the love that we proclaim.  And perhaps the reason they haven't experienced that is that we haven't shown it to them.

Don't get me wrong, I think we all should vote and vote our conscience, but I think we need to be careful mixing our politics and our religion.  A vote against what one believes in is not a vote against "God."  Love thy neighbor and render unto Cesar that which is Caesar's.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Obviously the Chick-Fil-A story has generated a lot of controversy lately, but based on the amount of Facebook traffic I've seen on the issue, I'm afraid the most outrages aspect is being overshadowed. The president of Chick-Fil-A came out in support of traditional marriage, which is his right to believe. That generated a backlash from the pro gay marriage supporters who then have vowed to boycott Chick-Fil-A, which is also their right. Both sides of this issue have been very outspoken which in my mind brings out the beauty of the American system.

The part that upsets me when political figures in Boston and Chicago have publicly vowed to do everything possible to block Chick-Fil-A from doing business in their cities. How is it that when the people responsible for defending our freedoms make blatant, public, promises to engage in unconstitutional behavior that both sides of any issue don't speak up?

I would hope there would be a strong outcry from the entire country if it were discovered a politician blocked a business that was run by a gay rights supporter. The role of government is to remain neutral on issues like this and allow the people to decide things for themselves. The problem that has developed in America is that we are losing the ability to recognize how important it is for us to defend the rights of those with whom we disagree. We fail to see that when they lose their rights, we lose ours too.

Instead, government has become a tool to try to take freedoms from people we disagree with rather than defend them. When we begin to ask for Constitutional Amendments to define certain behaviors we are setting a dangerous precedent that could someday backfire. We somehow have taken the stance that getting the government to legislate morality, what ever that morality might be, will make us a more moral country. I'm not sure I want the government in the business of legislating anyone's morality because someday, I might be the one who's morality is being legislated against.

There will always be times where we disagree with people of other perspectives, but please America, let us PLEASE unite when it comes to defending each other's rights to have those perspectives! We cannot ignore our leaders using their powers to restrict others because of their beliefs, even if it is in our favor.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Really Happened in Aurora

This past week, something remarkable happened in Aurora Colorado. Unfortunately, in our sensationally driven society I'm afraid its being missed. If you watch the news, you will hear that some deranged lunatic cowardly opened fire on hundreds of innocent movie goers. Sadly, this lunatic is getting all the attention that he so sadistically desired.

But barely being recognized is what really happened. On that chaotic night in Aurora, Colorado we got to see placed on display the absolute highest level of human bravery and love. There were hero's of the most honorable kind that entered that theater disguised as regular people. Sadly, in our society that worships rock stars, movie stars, and the like, we have failed to fully appreciate true greatness. You see, in a moment these paragons of humanity went from casual movie goers to human shields as they threw their bodies between their loved ones and the evil that threatened them. In a split second, in the midst of immense confusion and uncertainty, they quickly and clearly cemented in their hearts the resolve to sacrifice themselves to save others.

A local politician, whom I will not grant the honor of naming, naively asked where the men where that night. He suggested that a real man might have stopped this lunatic, who weakly armored himself from head to toe so as not to experience any pain at all. Sadly, this politician is so detached from what true greatness looks like that he failed to see it. The only good thing about evil is that when it takes it's stage to inflict pain and suffering, it also sets the stage for it's counter part to shine. For evil attacked, but once again it was love that conquered. Sadly, if it were not for the actions of wickedness, the hero's within these individuals would have never been drawn out for the world to see. They would have lived their lives and eventually passed away and the world would have never known the type of giant whom had shared their midst.

It was once said that, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." In few other cases has that been more true than it was that night in Aurora. Now it is up to us to ensure that it doesn't go unnoticed. We must ensure that the names that live on forever belong to the greatest among us not the worst.

God bless: Alex Sullivan, John Larimer, Jessica Ghawi, Micayla Medek, Jon Blunk, Alex Teves, Alexander "AJ" Boik, Gordon Cowden, Rebecca Wingo, Matt McQuinn, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Ashley Moser, and Jesse Childress. May you all rest in peace, and God bless those who acted with the utmost heroics and survived. Perhaps if we made famous the names hero's rather than villains, some of the narcissists who will do anything to gain attention would turn to pursuing what is noble rather than what is evil. And for those who don't, may your names forever fade away into obscurity.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Wise Man and The Fool

A few years ago my wife and I decided we wanted to try to get our kids to all 50 states before they graduate high school. We realized this was a lofty goal but we felt it was worth trying for. In order to lengthen our vacations we purchased a large tent and have been embarking on summer road trips to various national parks and sites across the country. We found that by staying in campgrounds we are able to extend our vacations since it is so much cheaper than staying in hotels.  We also like the idea of the memories that will be forged by vacationing in this manner. 

This week we were experiencing the wonders of Arches National Park in Moab Utah. We arrived later in the day and set up our tent in the dark.  Luckily our campsite was mostly soft powdery sand so the stakes went in easily and the tent was up quickly. The sand under the tent was so wonderfully soft we hardly needed any sort of air mattress. 

My wife's niece and her husband camped one site over and unfortunately their site was much rockier and their stakes were very difficult to drive in.  

The next day as we were admiring the various arches of the park a strong monsoon rolled in.  Upon returning to our campsite we found our tent flat on the ground with two broken poles and everything inside soaked.  The stakes had given way in the wind which put too much pressure on the tent poles.  Our friends one site over were fine as their stakes held in the solid ground.  (not to mention they had a sturdier tent) 

Thankfully we have some friends who live a few hours away and we were able to go to their house to dry our things and repair the tent. After all of this my oldest son made the observation that our situation was like the story Jesus told in the Bible of the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the fool who built his house on the sand. When the storm came the wise man's house was left standing.  

As a father it has always been a dream of mine that my children would one day see in me the strong characteristics of a Biblical man.  I just never envisioned it being the fool.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Something Beautiful

One of the greatest things about having kids is getting the opportunity to watch someone experience things for the very first time. The first mud puddle, the first lady bug, the first bulldozer, or bird in the sky. Life is always an adventure through the eyes of little ones as every day contains wonders and new experiences. Their eyes light up like fire crackers as their tiny fingers point out with excitement the subject of their momentary glee. Their little voices squeaking with delight as they call out to you, "Mommy, Daddy, Look!!"

As we grow older and become acquainted with our world the wonder begins to fade as we get used to the glories this realm offers us. But every now and then we get to see it again. Today I was at the beach when a cluster of about 20 people from a group home came and set up camp beside us. Most of these people were between 30 and 50 years old and had varying mental capacities. We learned that some had suffered from strokes, others were born with diminished capabilities. We also learned that for most of them this was their very first trip to the ocean. When I heard this, I leaned forward in my beach chair to watch with anticipation while the group home workers would stand on either side of these fragile bodies as they approached one of the most powerful forces this world has to offer, the mighty sea.

As the waves would roar their presence, these wonderful people would shuffle through the sand, approaching the mammoth body of water with reverence and humility. The smiles on their faces communicated wonder, excitement, and anticipation. As the chilly water would reach their feet, slosh against their legs, and steal the sand between their toes, they would let out child like squeals and laughter. One man was actually knocked down by a wave and as the foamy water washed over his entire body, I expected to see a look of stark terror when he emerged, but instead there was only laughter and splashing.

In a place where beauty is measured by sun tans and swimsuits, today the standard was subtly eclipsed by a humble group of grown up kids experiencing something for the very first time. It was something beautiful.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Is Love Real?

Let's go back in time a bit shall we?  Scientists tell us that billions and billions of years ago, this universe exploded into existence.  Trillions upon trillions of particles came together to make up atoms which in turn made up molecules which in turn has made up every object in this universe.  I once learned in school years ago that matter cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be re-arranged.  I stand today completely at a loss to understand how it is possible that a large pile of hydrogen atoms joined up with a pile of oxygen atoms with a few other things thrown in somehow compose the creature that is composing this message.   Essentially, I have come to the conclusion that I am simply a pile of non-living atoms.  A strange phenomenon of the proper proportions of non-living molecules that has somehow found a way to not only begin to move on their own, but to think, dream, and love.  

Can life really exist when the building blocks of the universe is non-living, dead, inanimate material?  Are we really alive or are we simply a natural phenomenon that comes about as the result of a proper recipe of atoms?  After all, the atoms that compose each of us have existed since time began, they've been around for billions of years only to come together for a few years to compose us, then fall back apart again, never to compose me again.  And yet I am conscience of this..... how?  How is it that non-living inanimate atoms can be compelled to sacrifice and act in ways to help another pile of non-living atoms?  How does one pile become dependent on another pile?  

For billions and billions of years the most powerful force in the universe did not exist because the universe lacked the vehicle to bring it into existence.  With no living material in the universe, life should be impossible, and without life, love is impossible.  Yet somehow both life and love exist in a universe where each should be impossible, a universe composed of inanimate matter.  And outside of consciousness , neither can be appreciated.  Perhaps that is why our time here in this world is temporary.  After all, everything says we don't belong here, as piles of non-living atoms we shouldn't even exist in an alert state, let alone in a loving state.  

Yes, perhaps we only exist here for a short time to defy every law of this realm as living beings in a dead universe before we talk our place with the giver of life.  I have an opportunity here and now to pursue one of the rarest things and most beautiful things in existence, that being to love.  Will I take advantage of it, or am I simply sleepwalking along waiting for my pile of atoms to fall back apart again?  I've heard it said that life is short, but considering the circumstances in which it's probably a lot longer than it should be.  The question is not how much time do I have left, rather it's what am I doing with the time I have now?           

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Dark Times

I had the opportunity to spend a few days at the bottom of the Grand Canyon recently and had a bit of an epiphany.  It was the first night of a five day trip and we had just descended from the giant canyon wall and found a flat rock to sleep on in a desolate, dry, wash. 

As I laid open air on my sleeping bag and gazed into the moonless, starry, heavens, I waited for the last remnants of the sunset to subside and reveal the fullness of the infinite heavens. That's when it occurred to me that  sometimes it is darkness rather than light that helps us see better.  We are always in the presence of the glorious night sky, but are unable to see in the day due to the intensity of the sun.  

Light doesn't always reveal, sometimes it cloaks just as effectively as darkness.  Sometimes in life we need the dark times to see true beauty.  It is in the dark times that the true wonders of the character of people are revealed. Sometimes it is during the night hours of life that we discover the true love of family, friends, or even strangers as they, like the stars, relentlessly pierce through the darkness and explode into our lives as brilliant beacons of hope. 

Yes, they are always there for us, but in the light of day, during the good times, we seldom notice as they are concealed by comfort, quietly, secretly, waiting to reach out to us in our times of need. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What If God Is Like This? is now on Ebook!

Greetings all,

For those of you who have been waiting patiently.....What If God Is Like This? is now on Kindle!

Thank you all for your patience! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Jesus saw that most of His followers don't

I was watching America's Got Talent the other night and was captivated by the story of a stuttering ex-marine who had obtained his speech impediment as the result of a brain injury he received in combat.  His story was inspiring as he was able to belt out a crisp clear singing voice with no stutter what so ever.  But the part of his story that really caught me was how he described being in war and upon being injured, he immediately began to think of his future dreams and worry about ever seeing his family again.  For some reason his story touched me differently than past stories and I was immediately saddened by the fact that all over the world there are people who have family and dreams that are shattered simply because two groups of people decide to go to war against each other.  Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that sometimes war is necessary, especially to defend against tyrants.  But what saddened me was that when we boil it down to the basics, we can have two groups of people with dreams and aspirations for their already short existences on this Earth cut short simply because we fight each other.  Two humans with similar hopes and dreams having to miss out on those hopes and dreams just because of a fight.  

It was sad that all we as a race would have to do is leave each other alone and so many more people could try to live out the aspirations of their lives.  I guess the question really comes down to, "Why do we fight?"  

I know there are a number of factors but it occurred to me that ultimately even though the causes of every war may vary, the reason is always the same.  That reason being that we as people place more value in our beliefs than we do in other people.  This habit is the same habit that will cause a spat between friends or drive two nations to war.  Sadly, growing up in a church setting, I've witnessed and even participated, in treating people vastly different based simply on whether or not we thought the same way.  If someone acts, thinks, believes, or lives differently than us we seem to have this pre-programing to shun them away.  

That's one of the things that made Jesus so different than almost all other people.  Jesus had this ability to treat people with love no matter who they were or what they believed.  If we study His teachings, it's pretty clear that Jesus had some pretty strong opinions about things, but if people didn't like or agree with what He taught, He still treated them the same.  It's as if Jesus recognized that opinions and beliefs are one thing, but people are something entirely different.  People are in the image of God and their value as such surpasses opinions.  When human beings fly airplanes into buildings its because they value the lives of the people in those buildings and on those planes less than their personal beliefs.  When we treat people differently or avoid people because of our religious beliefs we are essentially stating that they as humans are less important to us than our beliefs.  Perhaps someday we will learn not to feel so threatened by others who think and believe differently.  Perhaps someday we will suppress our pride and learn that our value as God's children surpasses belief.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Shadow

I had the great fortune of having to wake up an hour earlier than normal to go to work today. Normally I would find this an inconvenience and today that's exactly how I felt until I happened to catch the full moon out of the corner of my eye while I was driving down the road. I immediately noticed something out of place as there was a large curved shadow darkening half of our small, orbiting, neighbor. I had completely forgotten that there was to be a lunar eclipse today and was suddenly quite happy I had to get up early or I would have missed it. 

As I admired the beautiful sight, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe realizing that I was standing on the very object casting that mammoth shadow. Then it hit me that projected upon that celestial canvas was the shadow of my home. But not just my home, the home of every person who has ever lived. Every plant, and animal, every creature of the sea, every mystery of the Earth was contained in that shadow.  It was the image of the boat that carries us all.  Every war and every conflict seemed tragically silly with such a tangible reminder that we really are all in this together.  Sadly that shadow represented every major event in world history. The dinosaurs, the pyramids, the holocaust, 9-11, slavery, Shakespeare, Mozart, major league baseball, you name it, we all share that shadow.  

It made me wonder why we are still so divided when in all the universe, our entire existence can be contained in a single view.  It was a unifying feeling for me as I felt a connection with every person ever to walk this terrestrial land.  It made me wonder why we fight at all?  Why can't we help and love one another?  Why do we fight over that shadow?  Why can't we see that in the entire universe we might only have each other?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Land of the Free???

I found myself irritated today. My wife burst through the door proudly sharing about the new car seats she had just purchased for our youngest two children. Normally I don't have a problem with a product to increase my children's safety but this time I was irked. I am irked because both of my two youngest had out grown their car seats....that is until our state passed a new child restraint law that increased the age and size requirements for children to a size that some junior high student would need a car seat.

This irritation was compounded by the fact that this morning I saw on the news that Mayor Bloomberg in New York City is seeking to ban soda cups of more than 16oz due to "obesity" issues. I then learned that San Diego is issuing fines for people who throw frisbees or footballs on the beach.

With all of this I have to ask WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US!!?? When did these ticky tac little issues suddenly become the focus of the people we elect and place into office? I've come to the conclusion that when politicians get elected, they feel a deep need to validate their presence in office. Therefore, they feel compelled to enact some sort of legislation....any sort of legislation. That way, when they run for re-election, they can proudly point to how they made the beaches of San Diego safe from flying footballs or how they cut down on the number of fat people in New York by banning larger cups.

My fellow Americans, we need to be careful! We need to be careful that we don't allow our government to become our parents, telling us that we are too stupid to think for ourselves. The fact is that if I am too irresponsible to be polite, there are already plenty of other laws on the books that can be used to keep me in line. But my foolishness should not be the reason that the majority of people who are smart enough not to throw a football at a sun bather should lose the right to toss a ball around.

Think about a free country people have lost the right to throw a football at the beach. People have lost the right to order a large soda. Our freedoms in this nation are not something that another nation will ever take from us because the citizens of this country would never stand for that. Instead, we will slowly give them away, one silly law at a time, and our free nation will lose the very thing that makes it great from the inside. Slowly being squeezed away by an over zealous government, like a boa constrictor squeezing the life from its prey.

We need to WAKE UP people, cuz this is really happening, every year more and more of these silly laws get passed and every year we grumble a bit but then get used to it and forget and we lose a little more. Perhaps we should start electing officials based on what they promise to un-do rather than all they plan to do.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Would Heaven be Heaven if I was There?

One of the great hopes of all people of various religious beliefs is that one day, after this life is done, we will enter into a utopian state of existence called "Heaven." When I think about heaven, I think about a place where everything is perfect, the weather, my health, my interactions with God, as well as my interactions with others. That's when it occurred to me that part of what will make Heaven, "Heaven" is how I interact with others, or more importantly, how others interact with me. In Heaven people won't annoy me, they won't pester me, they won't be selfish, they will always make me feel welcome.

The problem with this mindset is that all my life, I've looked at Heaven as what will be wonderful for me. I've never looked at the fact that for Heaven to be "Heaven" for others, it will largely depend on how I treat them. For Heaven to exist for others, I'm going to have to be able to treat everyone with true and complete love....unconditional love, the kind that Jesus extends to us. When I think about Heaven, I feel like it will be easy for me to extend this love there. After all, it will be easy to maintain a positive attitude in a world were everyone is kind and nothing bad ever happens. The problem with this thinking is that for Heaven to exist, everything outside of who I am has to change to make life easier for me. In essence, when the external circumstances of my existence change to the point that I'm happy, I can experience "Heaven." So for Heaven to exist for me, the entire universe must contort around me. But what if Heaven doesn't work that way? What if Heaven is not how the world reacts to me but rather how I react to the world?

If that's the case, then Heaven is something for which I'm simply not yet ready. But if part of what makes Heaven a utopian world is how I treat others, why do I have to wait until I die to start practicing? Why can't I begin now? Most of us hold back from treating others with complete love because we are afraid of it not being reciprocated. We are leery around that homeless guy because we are afraid he might hurt us. I don't stop on the side of the road to help that person because I'm afraid I'll be late to where I'm going. I'm afraid if I'm nice to so and so they will just walk all over me. If we carry this fear into the next life, Heaven can never be wonderful because nobody will ever take the chance to love. I suppose if enough people would take the risk in this life, perhaps we wouldn't have to wait until the next life to experience this wonderful realm. The question I find myself asking is even if this world isn't yet Heaven for me, can I begin to make is so for everyone else?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Life Sucks......

That's a phrase I've heard a number of times in my life and unfortunately, have actually uttered a few times over the years. It hasn't been until recently that I've really started to analyze the meaning of that statement. Why do we sometimes feel that our lives "suck?" Typically its because we are going though a difficult time or perceive that our life has been harder than it should have been. When I think back about the times that I've been negative about the circumstances of my life, I have to ask myself, what really made it so bad?

When reflecting back, I've never gone hungry, at least, not because there was no other option. I've had access to family, clothing, shelter, etc. Yes, I've lost loved ones, yes, I've had inconveniences, yes there have been struggles at times. But, if I had actually stepped back and analyzed my situations, normally the reason they "sucked" was more about the expectations of what I wanted my life to look like rather than how bad things really were.

Somehow, I had developed a magical expectation that I deserved better than what I had. Where that came from, I'm not sure. The fact is, life itself is a gift. We've done nothing to be here. When it comes down to the most basic perspective, each of us is a pile of atoms, none of which are alive, that has somehow come together to form a living creature. These atoms have existed since the beginning of the universe and after all that time, a few of them have come together for a few years to form you and me before they fall back apart again and we are gone. The fact that we even have the opportunity to experience life is remarkable, good or bad, it is a gift. I've discovered that to be happy, I must learn to appreciate my life for what it IS, rather than what I wish it was.

If not careful, we can spend these brief moments on Earth miserable simply because we create an illusion of what is required for happiness rather than finding ways to be happy with the gift we already have.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chapter 12 "A Return To Freedom"

This is the final chapter of the book, leading to our final group of questions.

1.  Is God's greatest desire for us freedom?

2.  Has God created a realm that promotes or detracts from freedom?

3.  Does substituting "Jesus" for the words "truth" and "light" in the book of John change the way you read it?

4.  Does sin really in prison people or is that an exaggeration?

5.  Why do you think God chooses to be invisible?

6.  Why would Jesus not come to "condem" the world?

7.  How does the purpose of Jesus not coming to condem the world affect the way we as His followers are to interact with it?

As always, these questions are suggestions and can be added to or detracted from for your particular studies.  Have fun!

Friday, May 4, 2012

To Mate For Life

Over the past few weeks I've noticed a pair of ducks that have started hanging out near the entrance to my community. There is a little lake there and often as I'm leaving for work in the morning I will find these two bumbling around in the grass.  Whenever I see them I chuckle as I'm reminded that ducks mate for life.  

I've gotten to where look forward to them seeing me off to work in the mornings and greeting me upon my return in the evenings.  I can't imagine that ducks have very complex love affairs, but somehow these simple creatures with brains the size of peas, managed to easily master what man struggles with, the ability to commit a lifetime to one another.  They grant each other the comfort of knowing no matter what comes, they won't be alone. 

They are so good at it that this morning as I was leaving for work I saw them again. Only this time something was sadly different. The female lay in the middle of the street, a lifeless pile of feathers, while her mate diligently stood by, waddling in nervous circles around her.  Even when I pulled my car right up to them to survey this sad sight, he refused to leave her fallen side. 

I have to admit I spent most of my commute cursing the jackwad the ran her over as, based on where she lay, this was most likely intentional. In the end though, I was left with only admiration for my noble little friend as he taught me a little lesson in true love.  That love is a commitment and a promise to always be there as much as it is a feeling.  A promise that he kept. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

One Reason Women can't find a Good Man.

I have reached a point in life where I'm still fairly young but have been around long enough that I'm able to begin to see a few patterns. One of the interesting things that I have noticed as I've gotten a little older is how differently my single, female, peers look at men. I hear it often asked by single women, friends and strangers alike, where all the good men have gone? This seems especially true for those in the post 30 age groups. That is a good question really. Where have all the good men gone? Why is it getting so hard for women to find a worthy partner? As a father of a little girl, this is becoming a more and more important issue for even me. Well, I have a bit of an observation to make. I don't think the "good" men have gone anywhere. Men have become exactly what we've asked them to.

For several generations now, jr. high and high school aged boys watched as the bad boy's got all the girls. During their rebellious years, girls would deify their parents, especially their fathers, and pursue the most opposite personality from Pop that they could find. Most of these girls would tell you that they had no interest in marrying a guy like this, they just wanted to have fun for awhile. Well, as time has moved on, more and more boys have learned that if you want to get the hot chicks, you got to be a bad ass. During the most formative years of their lives in regards to their perspectives on relationships, boy's learn that girls do not value them based on their hard work and personal values. What most boys were, and are, too dumb to figure out is that this is the kind of guy girls only wanted to have fun with, not stick with. Boys are being taught that the flunk out, defiant, punk is what girls like. Yet as they get older, they are almost over night asked to transform magically into hard working, stable, family men with good jobs. The problem is that by this time, the've already dropped out of school or at least failed to develop any sort of appreciation for hard work, good character, or loyalty.

Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if society didn't perpetuate this problem by constantly worshiping men of low esteem. If boys could see that adults value character, perhaps they would also understand that this type of rebel attitude needs to be a temporary stage. But instead, we turn on the T.V. to see adults like The Situation surrounded by beautiful women. Every where these boys look, the rappers, the actors, the athletes, well into their 30's, 40's, and 50's, are not worshiped by their character, but they ability to be "players."

Boys will become exactly what we ask them to, and unfortunately, as a society, they have done exactly that, we taught them that getting high is more important that getting the grade. As fatherless households continue to increase, this problem will only get worse for our sons.

Ladies, I ask you honestly, who was the guy you dated when you were younger? What was it that you looked for? I'd be willing to bet, you can still find a million guys that fit those characteristics today, the problem is your priorities have changed and the guys did not. They remained exactly what we asked them to be. Suddenly the nice guys that nobody wanted in high school are the kind girls want when they get older. Only the nice guys learned that being nice only got them ignored, so many of them changed and lost the characteristics that would be coveted in them later on.

Like turning an aircraft carrier, this will take awhile, but it is so important that we do. We need to do it for our sons and our daughters alike. We need to do our best to instill in our kids that character and values really do matter. We need to stop letting reality TV shows that worship dysfunction dominate the ratings. The good men are still there, they just learned the wrong lessons, and they learned them too well.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Thought on Trayvon

I am placing this post out there in search of feedback from the rest of you. I found myself very upset today over a news story about two young black teens who randomly beat up a white teen as an act of revenge for Travon Martin. What upset me about this story wasn't really what these kids did, what upset me was that the media chose to run the story on a national news network. I understand that when injustice is taking place, it is important that as many people as possible be made aware of such atrocities so they are not swept under the rug. For much of our national history there has been great injustice done as the result of racial tension. But at what point does media coverage move from informing to preserving? It seems to me that for anything to die, there has to come a point where we have to stop giving it the attention it doesn't deserve. I am wondering if our nation is reaching a point with racial issues that instead of quelling the the final breaths of this beast, we are instead providing CPR by media networks jumping on any racial incident that takes place. When I read the story covered today, the first question I asked was, "What good can possibly come from having aired this?" I can't help but feel that, while this may have indeed been a prejudice decision, it was still a decision made by a couple of KIDS. Does this really warrant national news coverage? Will we let the poor choices of KIDS continue to fuel a centuries old problem?

If you read the blog you already know my feelings about the media, and this is just another example of a story that I feel was meant to incite more than to heal. I'm afraid that racial tension is just too good of a ratings boost for the media to let it die.

So this is my question to all: Can sensitive issues reach a point that continuing to point them out does more harm than good? Thoughts?

Monday, April 23, 2012

To Be Insecure

My life changed drastically the day I figured out that almost everyone on Earth is insecure, and that to be insecure is to be human. What was so fascinating is that most of us are so acutely aware of it in ourselves, but for some reason seem to struggle with the fact that others are as well. We all play the game, the game that I'm fine, the game that I don't doubt myself, but in reality, we know deep inside our greatest hope is that nobody will realize who we really are.

Now most of us have at least one attribute about ourselves that we are secure in. Some people might have two or three. We tend to call these things "strengths." Typically these are first places we will take refuge when we need to. For some it is that they are smart, for others its to be funny, some people are pretty, others are athletic, whatever it is, it is here that we turn to find self worth, all they while fully aware of all the other parts of our persona that don't measure up.

Strangely, it is these common insecurities that would unite us the most as they are the most vulnerable things about us. We end up hiding the very things that make us all alike. Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he discovered it was really his weaknesses that made him strong. Perhaps he discovered that he was able to connect with people in new and deeper ways once he learned just to be transparent and honest about his inadequacies. Former addicts will often talk of the relief that came with revealing their dark secret and admitting their weakness to the world. For many, that was the first time they found the strength to win their war with addiction. Perhaps it is when we discover the courage to be transparent to all about our weakness that we can truly connect with others. A weak man with the admiration of many is very powerful.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Marital Experiment

Gentlemen, have you ever found yourself sweetly taking on a task around the house for your lovely bride, such as making the bed or doing the dishes, only to have her call out from the next room and ask you to do exactly what you are already doing?  I HATE that!!  It's like I have this nice little surprise I'm leaving for her and now it just became a task........a task in which I will get absolutely no credit for as being a thoughtful and wonderful husband.   You can't really surprise her with a kind gesture if she asked for it, and since she asked for it, you look like an idiot if you try to explain that you had already decided to do this for her.

I've decided I'm going to try a new strategy from now on.  Next time I'm doing something nice for her and she asks me to do that exact thing, I'm going to scream out, "You got two legs and arms, why don't you get your lazy self in here and do it yourself!"  That way, she will still think she has to do the task.  Then, when she later walks in and finds it done for her, it will have the same impact as if she had never asked.  I know, it's brilliant isn't it!

I'll be sure to tell you all how it goes!

Chapter 11 "True Love"

Chapter 11 Small Group Study Questions

"True Love"

1.  What is your definition of "love?"

2.  How do we develop heathy perspectives on love when society and the media demonstrate so much dysfunction?

3.  What are your thoughts about the idea that love is a decision more than an emotion?

4.  What are your thoughts about the Prophet Hosea and how he handled his situation?

5.  In your opinion, how is love different between romantic, family, children, and friendship relationships?

6.  How do we, or can we even, maintain a love for someone who has hurt or betrayed us?

7.  In your opinion, is there any real benefit to loving our enemies or is it just being a martyr?

8.  How do we learn to discover if we really love someone or if we are just in love with the way they make us feel?

9.  With divorce/ break up rates what they are, what do you think is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to love?

10.  In your opinion, what are the biggest insecurities people have when it comes to love?

As always, feel free to add your own.  Only one more chapter to go!  Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Real Enemy of Peace in America

Imagine a large family composed of a number of children, all of different genders, ages, and ethnicities. Imagine this family had the capacity to love each other deeply, that they embraced their similarities and appreciated their differences.  And let's suppose, because they are a family, occasionally different family members might not always get along all the time, but in time they would work out their differences and forgive each other.  They are family after all.  But let's suppose during one of the fights between family members that one of the other family members recorded it and placed it on the internet as a joke.  And lets suppose that fight got a lot of attention, not just on the internet but even television, so much so that people offered the sibbling money for any other videos they might be able to share online of family members fighting due to the sheer entertainment value.  The worse the fight, the more people watch, the more money this family member would make.

 In that situation, this particular member of the family would have a financial incentive overriding the overall health of the family because of the great personal benefit from discord in the family. That personal benefit might cause this person to actually initiate strife within the family however they could so as to make more money. That person might say or do things to divide the family and even inject things that were not necessarily true, in order to be more inflammatory. But this person would also have a great incentive to be subtle in their actions so as not to be dismissed from the family and not be obvious as to their intentions.  This person would want to appear as being a caring and concerned member of the family so as to obtain the greatest impact.

As a result of this, the entire family would suffer greatly until they learned not to buy into the things that this particular member of the family was espousing. The family can not control the fact that there is a public demand for their disfunction, but they could come to learn that their dysfunction was harmful to them and that ultimately, the family bond is much more important than public entertainment. It would be only when the family learned to stop listening to this divisive member that they will begin to grow in harmony. At the same time, the family must remember that even though this member is to be heard with a skeptical ear, as a member of the family, this person must still be loved.

By the way, that family member's name is "Media."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When To Be Quiet

There have been a few occasions in my life where I had the very unfortunate task of sharing terrible news. A death, a bad accident, a horrible injury, it's a strange realization that somebody is having the worst day of their life and they won't even know it until I tell them. 

Its followed by that awkward moment when the realization sets in and all the air is sucked out of the room.  When I watch their world fall apart, and all the walls of life come crashing down leaving behind a crushed and broken person.  

It can be uncomfortable to be around true genuineness. Normally when we ask people how they are we really don't want to know. When I am confronted with such raw and genuine emotion it is hard not to feel fake, as I guard myself from trying to sweep the situation under the rug with a foolish, "It will be okay" or "God has a plan for this." I've learned that the temptation to say such things comes from my discomfort not theirs. It has taken me years to learn to just be quiet and let them be real for a bit. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chapter 10 "What If God Has a Treasure?"

Small Group Questions for Chapter 10:

1. Since we are created in God's image, do the teachings God gives us in the Bible apply to Him as well?

2. Do you agree that how we spend our time is a testament to what we value most?

3. If that is the case, then was how Jesus spent His time an indicator of what was most important to Him?

4. What are your thoughts on the idea that you are God's greatest treasure? Do you agree/disagree?

5. Do you think that God tries to preserve the freedom of man or do you think He limits our freedoms for our own good?

As aways, these are simply meant to be some starter questions. Again, feel free to add your own questions or strike the questions you don't like for your particular groups!

Monday, April 9, 2012

When Should I Disobey God?

During the course of this past Easter Weekend, I got to pondering the idea of "world peace." This is an idea people have pondered since time began but for some reason we have yet to figure out that all that is needed to attain this lofty goal is just for everyone to agree to leave each other alone. That's when an interesting thought hit me. There are people in this world who believe it is the will of their God to eradicate any and all who believe differently than them. Since that is the case, for world peace ever to exist, these people would have to actually defy their God.

To put this in better perspective, for people who come from a Judeo-Christian belief system, the book of Joshua chronicles the story of a Biblical hero who led the Israelites on a march of conquest over evil nations to reclaim the land of God's chosen people. But, if you do not come from a Judeo-Christian background, the story of Joshua looks nothing short of a reign of terror over the region as the Israelites eradicated city and nation killing men, women, children, infants, and even the animals. I wonder how Joshua would have been viewed had he looked his God in the face and said, "No, for the sake of peace, I will not destroy these people." Imagine the implications of that! Yet, it is the exact same thing we are asking others to do right now. In the name of world peace would you please tell your God "no" and just leave me alone.

Now, Christians and Jews might quickly make the case that Joshua went out and destroyed "evil" nations who had all kinds of horrid practices, some even sacrificed their children on altars. But I think it would be pretty narrow minded of us not to see how radical followers of other belief systems might view us here in America as equally "evil." Pro-choice or pro-life, we would have to admit that when you lead the world in abortions, its not a stretch for someone to believe, based on their system of values, that we are just as bad.

Imagine the stir that Jesus created when He corrected the Old Testament teaching of and eye for an eye saying instead we should "love our enemies." When Jesus says stuff like this, it kinda makes you wonder if Joshua heard God right. That's a pretty big contrast. And when I see the contrast between what Jesus taught and some of the things that took place in the Old Testament, I honestly struggle. If world peace was ever going to be reached in the day and age of Joshua then he would have had to defy God just like if world peace is going to be reached in this day and age radical Muslims would have to defy Allah, and any other radical groups out there would have to defy their gods or teachings.

The only two ways to attain world peace are either to follow your God all the way and eradicate any and all who oppose you, or to defy your God if he is calling for the destruction of others and love your enemies. There are really no other options. So, for world peace to be attained, someone, somewhere, at some time is going to have to defy their God and if I'm going to ask them to, the question then becomes, could I?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why Most Relationships Fail

First off, let me clarify that I'm not saying that most marriages fail, even though we all know half of them do, but most relationships do actually fail.  For the vast majority of us, if we are with someone now, they are probably not the first and only person with which we have ever had relationship.  Thus, in order for us to reach the person we are with now, other relationships had to fail.  Why?  What is it that causes this?

I've had a bit of an epiphany lately in regards to this and it occurred to me as I was walking around a high school and watched a number of young couples walk the halls.  It was interesting to me that a number of these young men walked with their arms on the shoulder of their girlfriend in a near headlock as they headed from class to class.  For some reason that resonated with me as it was a huge testament to the lack of confidence these boys had in the fact that their girl would stay with them.  It's almost like they didn't trust her to walk next to them or hold their hand, so they hovered over her to the point of actually hooking their arms about her neck to keep her close.  

It got me wondering just how insecure are most of us with our relationships?  You see, for most of us, the relationship is really more about us and how that person makes us feel than it is about the person.  If this person makes me feel good, then I don't want to lose them because I don't want to lose the feelings that accompany them and I become jealous of anything that might take their attention from me.  But what if there is someone out there that is actually a better fit for them than me?  Am I willing to allow that possibility?  If I manipulate someone into remaining in a relationship with me, I will forever be insecure in that relationship because I will know in my heart that I am manipulating them, either by force or by situation.  But what if I gained the personal fortitude to let go of that person and make it clear to them that they could always leave if they wanted to?  What then?  Well, as strange as that sounds, I think that would add to the security of the situation because everyday I woke up and they were still with me, I could rest assured it is because they actually want to be with me.  The fact is, if I really, truly love someone, then shouldn't I want what is best for them?  And if I want what's best for them and that best is somewhere else, then shouldn't I want that for them? If I don't, then perhaps I have to ask myself if the person I'm most in love with is really myself.  

As I'm discovering with so many other things in life, freedom, really is the key to happiness.  If I believe that I really am the best fit for somebody then (and I'm primarily talking in the dating stage here) should it threaten me if they want to date others?  Shouldn't I be secure in the fact that if I really can love them better than any other, they will find the rest of the world lacking?  Wouldn't leaving them free to pursue others actually make me more appealing as they will now have the chance to realize how much better for them I am than anyone else is?  Isn't that what God has done with us?  Jesus never forced anyone to follow Him.  They were free to explore any other believe they wanted to, but when it came down to it He knew that love would trump all.  That's still the case today.  I'm now confident that the love Christ taught is so superior to anything else I actually encourage people who are questioning to explore any other faith.  Go for it, look and see, nothing out there can hold a candle to the love that Jesus taught and displayed.  Unfortunately, that goes for most of His followers as well.  

Love at its purest form is not possessive or oppressive.  It only provides freedom.  And in that freedom comes security, the security of knowing that the reason someone loves us and stays with us is because they really want to, because we have left them free to leave at any time.    

God is free to leave us as well you know.  Just like we are free to leave any relationship we get into.  It might cause some damage, it might create pain, but we are free to leave.  I've come to a place where I value the love of both my God and my wife like never before as I finally understand that both could leave at anytime which means the reason they stay is because they want to.  That my friends makes you feel loved!  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dear Civil Rights leaders named "Reverend"

Dear Reverend (Insert name here),

I can appreciate the fact that there is still prejudice and bigotry in this world and because of that, gross injustices still can and do occur.  Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the actions of many of our civil rights "leaders" are actually making things worse and I'm afraid it is intentional.  I'm afraid that most of these leaders are self appointed and have discovered that if they can preserve the negative effects of racism, they can continue to maintain a platform of power and attention.  It is not in their personal best interest for racism to die as they have made millions off the industry.  If this is the case these people are worst than racists, they are traitors!  Traitors to their own people as they exploit their own for personal benefit and gain.  Can I say I know this for sure?  No, but if it looks like a duck....... 

Now, the obvious question for me is how I could possibly know another person's heart, and the answer is that I can't and don't.  But I do know this, I know what it means to be a "reverend" and  I know the teachings of the Man that these men claim to model their movements after, which makes it a lot easier to pick out a fraud.  Yes, prejudice and bigotry still do exist in this country and I can't believe that these men actually want it to go away when I can see that they have been given a proven 2,000 year old method to end these issues and refuse to follow it.

As a friend of mine so accurately put it, prejudice is a learned behavior.  It is handed down from one generation to the next.  Children are not racist or bigoted, they have to be taught to hate based on skin color and the like.  A person is taught to hate a race, creed, or religion and then they begin to look for reasons to reinforce what they believe.  So "reverends" when you stand up on your platform and begin to cry out for chaos in the wake of "injustices" then are you not simply reinforcing the negative emotions you are trying to over come?

After all, if color, race, and religion are what we are trying to unite, then why don't we speak out towards any injustice to any man?  When we only represent a certain group then are we not actually perpetuating the separation?  The problem I have is that I know these men are intelligent and because they are "reverends" they know, or at least should know, these truths.  So, the only two options left are that they either are prejudice themselves and therefore want the hatred to continue or are grossly out of touch with what they claim to believe.

Because we are all human we all are connected and as a human it should be possible to find something to be appreciated in any other human on this Earth.  It really is difficult to hate someone who loves you but it's easy to hate someone who you think is only being nice to you so as to manipulate.  It's even easier to hate someone who lashes out at you with venom.

So please, to anyone who truly wants to improve our world, lets learn to stick up for each other no matter race, creed, or religion.  Rather than just taking care of our own, let's learn to see everybody as "our own."         

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What If We Stopped Trying to "Convert" People?

I heard someone the other day make a reference to trying to "win" someone to Christ.  I've heard that phrase a 1,000 times but for some reason it resonated differently with me this time.  What exactly does it mean to "win" someone?  I've also heard phrases like "defending" the faith.  Now in all fairness, the Bible does make a number of battle type references in regards to Christianity, but I got to thinking about how that mindset, if left unchecked, might have an effect on how people are treated?  Sometimes I feel like many Christians treat their faith like a ball game, a competition to out smart and out debate people into believing the same things we do.  Normally I believe the intentions are good, but unfortunately, I think the tactics can be overbearing.  Is Christ so small that we need to be able to out debate someone into believing in Him?  Is God so small that I must convince people of His existence?

How do we ever make progress if every religion believes their system is the best?  If we are unwilling to consider the beliefs of others because their system is clearly inferior to mine, whatever mine may be, then we will always have tension.

What if people no longer proselytized for their belief system?  What if instead of debating, every religion was put on display not by the logic of their beliefs, but by the actions of their followers?  Even atheists could participate in this one.  What if then people were to decide what they believed and how they wanted to live simply by what they saw lived out in others?  That might be interesting but isn't this pretty much what we have right now?  You see, Christ was not a master of debate, he was a master of love and nobody could argue love.  We can set up and compare all kinds of beliefs with each other, but I have decided that the only one I can personally and wholeheartedly sell out to is love.  I have a hard time saying that I'm a Christian anymore because of the actions that so many have taken under that name.  But when it comes to Jesus himself.  That guy I can follow, that guy I can buy into.  The true message of Jesus, the message of love, is one that is so powerful it doesn't need to be debated, or proclaimed, it simply needs to be displayed.  When that happens, it speaks for itself.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chapter 9 "The Big Decision"

Greetings All,

I have been asked by several people about the possibility of using What If God Is Like This? as material for a small group study. To assist with that, I have decided to come up with a series of discussion questions for each chapter. That way, if you decide to use the book in a small group setting you can either come up with your own questions or use some of these that I provide. Remember one of the purposes of this book is not just to provide possible answers for questions but to generate new ones as well. This is the journey not the destination :)

Chapter 9 Questions:

1. Should the decision to follow any religious system be a quick or easy decision?

2. How can people share their faith without pressuring people to accept the same beliefs they have.

3. When should impulsivity and religion go together? When should they not?

4. Would you ever encourage someone to delay a decision to embrace Christianity?

5. Have you ever felt emotions or fear were used to manipulate someone into becoming a Christian? If so what are your thoughts on this?

As always, these questions are here to spark small group discussion. Feel free to add your own or email me with more, especially as this is a shorter chapter.

Have fun!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lesson's from the Wilderness

The Superstition Mountains just east of Phoenix are famous for both their mystery and their rugged beauty. If you live in the Valley of the Sun, you know that every year the news reports of those who go missing in the desolate landscape, some of which set out on their journey's with dreams of finding the legendary Lost Dutchman's Mine, some don't survive, and some are never found. Once you get out there, you realize that the land once inhabited by outlaws, hermits, and Indians, is just as cruel as it is beautiful. Spring and Fall are the best times to hike this area as the summer time can be especially harsh. This week, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in the remote wilderness with a friend as we hiked around some of the canyons. It's interesting how quickly the true priorities of life begin to take focus every time I throw on the backpack and head out to some seldom traveled region. It doesn't take long for the pressures of mortgage payments and report deadlines to fade away in light of embracing mother nature and her power to awe you or destroy you. It's amazing how much stress melts away as you become aware of how so many of the things in life that occupy your mind are really trivial matters. It's funny, how a mistake out here can prove fatal, yet with so many fewer decisions to worry about, you feel so relaxed. I quickly am reminded of my true priorities in life as the first things I begin to miss are my family, followed closely by Mexican food. It is from the wilderness that I can feel my soul connect with my maker, without internet, texting, and IPODs to occupy my time. As I spend time with my maker and myself, I begin to discover the true nature of each.

I say all of this to encourage everyone to take sometime and enjoy the wilderness if they have an opportunity....... and if you do, just don't die........that tends to detract from the experience.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chapter 8: "What If Salvation is Not Standardized"

Greetings All,

I have been asked by several people about the possibility of using What If God Is Like This? as material for a small group study. To assist with that, I have decided to come up with a series of discussion questions for each chapter. That way, if you decide to use the book in a small group setting you can either come up with your own questions or use some of these that I provide. Remember one of the purposes of this book is not just to provide possible answers for questions but to generate new ones as well. This is the journey not the destination :)

Chapter 8 Questions:

1. What do you think about the idea that most churches say to be "saved" you must accept Jesus into your heart, yet that is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible?

2. What do you think about the idea that Jesus gave different answers to different people in regards to salvation?

3. Is it manipulative to try to get people to believe the way you believe about Jesus?

4. Is it terribly wrong not to try to get people to believe the way you believe about Jesus?

5. What are your thoughts on "altar calls" where churches encourage people to come down to the front of the service and "accept Christ?"

6. Are your relationships different with non-christian friends than they are with Christian friends?

7. Do you feel pressure to "convert" your friends? If so, how does that pressure affect your friendships?

8. As a Christian, is it hard to have non-Christian friends due to the pressure to "convert" them?

9. Is it okay not to try to convert your friends?

10. Are there different ways to come to Christ?

As always, these questions are here to spark small group discussion. Feel free to add your own or email me with more.

Have fun!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chapter 7 Questions

Greetings All,

I have been asked by several people about the possibility of using What If God Is Like This? as material for a small group study. To assist with that, I have decided to come up with a series of discussion questions for each chapter. That way, if you decide to use the book in a small group setting you can either come up with your own questions or use some of these that I provide. Remember one of the purposes of this book is not just to provide possible answers for questions but to generate new ones as well. This is the journey not the destination :)

Chapter 6 Questions:

1. Has there ever been a time where you felt abandoned by God?

2. If so, what got you through those times?

3. Have circumstances in this world caused you to stop believing in God all together?

4. Have circumstances in this world caused you to have a stronger faith in God?

5. Why do you think God requires "faith" of us rather than fully revealing Himself and removing all doubt?

6. What provides you the greatest amount of comfort in life?

7. If God really loves us more than anything else, then is the fact that He can be hard to see, be what's best for us? If so how? If not how?

As always, these questions are here to spark small group discussion. Feel free to add your own or email me with more.

Have fun!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What If Jesus Wasn't Really God?

One of the biggest hang ups that people have about Jesus is the idea that He was God. This can be difficult for many to believe considering some of the history of his followers.  Unfortunately, somewhere in history it became more important to believe Jesus was God that it came to try to live like Him. Ask yourself what would change the world faster, for everyone to believe Jesus was God or for everybody to love the way He did?  

How different are we all really?  Take the rival gang members, they both joined their gang for community, they both probably come from broken and dysfunctional homes, and if you remove the label of which gang they are in they are almost the exact same person.  Yet they hate each other and are even willing to kill each other. Why?  Because they are supposed to. Now, lets expand on this, instead of crips and bloods now it's republican and democrat, Catholic and Protestant, white and black, Ohio State and Michigan, Arab and Jew, Christian and Muslim.  Most people groups are enemies with each other because they are supposed to be. Yet at the core we are all the same. We all crave love and acceptance, we all desire to fit in somewhere. For example, all men and women in every culture relate to the basic differences between the sexes in marriage. There are certain things we all can relate to that are the same no matter who we are or where we come from. At some point we need to ask ourselves what would I be like if I were raised in the same situation my enemy was raised with?  If I was raised in a Taliban house hold, would I think differently than any of these "enemies?" 

What if we all found a way to peer into every person we come across and find how we are alike and learn to love that person?  How might that change the world?  Instead of focusing so much on the deity of this mysterious, homeless man of so long ago, what if we tried to look at Him as just a man long enough to appreciate the love He taught?  I promise that if we did that, if we would see how remarkable it was that this guy who was raised in a culture of bigotry and hate somehow was not affected by it and found a way to love like no one else did.  Even Jesus himself didn't go around telling people he was God. In fact, most of the time He even discouraged others from doing so.  No, it was His love more than anything else that proclaimed to people who He was. Perhaps we should do the same. I'm convinced that if we study Him as a regular man it will be impossible to remain at that conclusion. The fact that He was God is a personal discovery rather than a proclamation.  Perhaps if I can just try to love like Him I won't have to convince myself or anyone else of His deity.  We can just let Him do that.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Speaking Engagements

Greetings all!

First off, I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who has responded with feedback to "What If God Is Like This?" I've had a number of people express how the book has really helped to reconcile how God interacts with this broken world.

I have put together a freedom seminar built around the concepts of the book, so as we head into spring and summer if you have a camp, retreat, or just an in house class at church you would like to have this shared at, there is no cost just shoot me an email!

Monday, February 6, 2012

To Be a VIP

After spending a week at the Phoenix Open, I've developed some interesting theories about the desire of a certain percentage of society to feel important.  I discovered that people will pay a large amount of money simply to be called a VIP and get to go to a different section of an event that is "off limits" to the regular attenders.  I also watched that VIP still isn't enough, that the throwers of this party have their own special area that is coveted by those who attend.  People scramble to enter into the "exclusive" area available to only those who know someone.

What is it about our need to feel more important than other people?  It seems that many feel unimportant and want greatly to be treated as if they were.  Others feel as if they are important and they crave for others to recognize it.  Either way, it is a sad sight to see people walk all over people just to receive the admiration of other people.  We live in an America today that claims it champions rights and equality for all, but do we really believe that?  Sure we all like the idea of it, we like the theory, but for us to really buy into it, we have to come to the conclusion that none of us are more important than anyone else.  We also need to resist the temptation to desire to be more important than others.  In order for "Very Important People" to exist, we have to acknowledge that there must be other less important people.  The very concept of VIP is contrary to the idea that we are all equal.  Once again, it is a wandering, homeless, sage of 2,000 years ago who got it right when he said, "But the greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."  The true VIP is the one who treats everyone around them as such, not exclusively, but inclusively.   

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chapter 6 Question

Greetings All,

I have been asked by several people about the possibility of using What If God Is Like This? as material for a small group study. To assist with that, I have decided to come up with a series of discussion questions for each chapter. That way, if you decide to use the book in a small group setting you can either come up with your own questions or use some of these that I provide. Remember one of the purposes of this book is not just to provide possible answers for questions but to generate new ones as well. This is the journey not the destination :)

Chapter 6 Questions:

1. Can anything be hard for an all powerful God?

2. If God is all powerful, why was the crucifixion needed?

3. Have you ever wondered why it was a big deal for Christ to die if he was back 3 days later? How do you feel about the possible reasoning the chapter presented?

4. Would you be willing to die for someone if you knew you would be back alive in 3 days?

5. Does the fact that Christ was crying and pleading for a different way in the Garden of Gethsemane imply that God is weak?

6. How/did this chapter cause you to look differently on the Crucifixion?

7. How does the crucifixion make Christianity different than any other religion?

8. Does the idea that the Crucifixion was hard for God change your view of Him at all?

As always feel free to ask your own questions as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Power of Children and How To Change the World.

A couple of years ago, I had my first encounter with the Westboro Baptist Church. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that particular church they are the group from Topeka, Kansas who go around and protest military funerals and just about everything else you can think of. They have a very strong message of hate that they spew anywhere and everywhere that they can. The content of the things they say are so bad that I won't post them here, but basically everybody is going to Hell and they want you to know it. They also have stated on their church website that they DO NOT want other people to be saved.

Anyway, a couple of years ago they came to Arizona to protest several events including a military funeral and a local high school. Due to the vulgarity of their message several hundred people showed up to counter protest the 4-5 people from Kansas, going so far as to follow them around town to their protest sites. What bothered me was that the Westboro group brought their small children to protest with them. Unfortunately the counter protesters were almost as hateful.

I began to consider what this sight must have been like from the perspective of a small child within this church. Your whole life you are taught that the world is evil and filled with evil people, then when your parents take you protesting you are confronted with a mob of people who spew hatred right back at you. At that point, I would probably start to think my parents were right. I saw a documentary on the church and at one of their protests, a group drove by in a car and threw a can out the window striking one of their small boys in the head. The people then drove away laughing and forever confirmed to that young child that the world really is filled with evil people who are going to Hell. How sad, that one act will now be remembered for a life time in the mind of that child and another generation of hatred has now been established.

Children are powerful creatures. If we want to change the world we need their help and have to understand it will take a while. What if whenever the Westboro people went out to protest there were no mobs waiting for them? What if people actually responded to their hatred with kindness? Imagine the conflicting message that would send to those children. Mommy and Daddy say everyone is evil but when we protest, everybody is so nice to us. The same can be said for our interactions with our enemies at war. I understand we have to fight at times but when we have prisoners, that is why we MUST treat them with decency. Let's face it, most of hate is bred by ignorance. And when we respond with hate we only validate and confirm the brainwashing they have experienced their entire lives. Loving our enemies will seem vain if we only have the short term in mind. In order for it to work, we need to love them for a couple generations. If we remember to have patience we really can change the world. I'm starting to think this sage that walked the Earth 2,000 years ago might have known what He was talking about.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chapter 5 Questions

Greetings All,

I have been asked by several people about the possibility of using What If God Is Like This? as material for a small group study. To assist with that, I have decided to come up with a series of discussion questions for each chapter. That way, if you decide to use the book in a small group setting you can either come up with your own questions or use some of these that I provide. Remember one of the purposes of this book is not just to provide possible answers for questions but to generate new ones as well. This is the journey not the destination :)

Chapter 5 Questions:

1. Do you struggle with the concept of Hell as it is presented in the Bible?

2. Do you feel that the idea of a Hell has been appropriately addresses by churches over the centuries? Why or why not?

3. Do people tap dance around the topic today? Why or why not?

4. Is it possible to believe in both a loving God and a hell? Why or why not?

5. Does the belief in hell undermine genuine friendships for Christians with non-Christians?

6. Do people of any belief system treat other people differently when they believe someone is "going to hell?"

7. Is hell a misunderstood concept in the Bible? Why or why not?

8. Why do you think Hell would have to be such a tormenting place?

9. Is it arrogant for Christians to believe that everybody is going to Hell but them?

10. Can Christians be certain that they are "right" when it comes to Hell?

As always feel free to ask your own questions as well.