I read a mime (I think that is what they are calling them now) the other day that said; A man asked a Christian what he had gained by praying to God. The man replied ‘nothing, but let me tell you what I’ve lost; anger, ego, greed, depression and fear of death.’ I like the thought behind it to an extent. It didn’t really completely convey what I thought it should. I think it should have read more like; The man replied ‘that is yet to be seen, but I know what I’ve lost…’ I’ve heard people say that a Christian is crazy because he/she believes life starts after death. Every time I see that I try to correct it. We do not believe life starts after death, only that it gets better. Can I tell you what I’ve gained? Eternal life I know, but what shape will that life take? I can only imagine, but I do know all happiness comes from him. If you don’t have Him, then what you have is a pale imitation of happiness.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Heb 1:9 (KJV)
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. John 17:13 (KJV)
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalms 16:11 (KJV)
I remember a sermon I once heard while attending Welcome No. 1 Baptist Church. It was quite a while back, and I don’t recall who the preacher was (I was really young). The preacher said that he had prayed for a message to bring to the congregation and the Lord had granted him one on the unrepentant going to hell. This can’t be right, the preacher thought. Everyone that attends church has been saved. I know them all. The preacher brought the message that the Lord had given him, and no one moved. The Spirit that had given him the message was at peace, so he knew he had obeyed as he should have. The following week the preacher prayed again, and again got a message on the lost going to hell. Again he preached the word and the Spirit was at peace. A third week went by and again another message on hell. After that the weeks that followed were the normal messages one would expect to be preached in a Believing Church. It was many months later before the reason for his messages were revealed. A man came up to the preacher and introduced himself.
“Preacher, you don’t know me, but I live by that little church where you pastor, and I just wanted to say thank you for preaching God’s Word. You see, I was in the field next to that little church one Sunday, and God convicted my heart. He dealt with me for three weeks. Three weeks I was in that field every Sunday, dreading hearing the Word, but knowing I had to hear it. On the 3rd week I was saved out there by an old stump. I just wanted to say thanks.”
I will remember that message to my dying day. It has given me strength at times when I thought I had none. Remember, sometimes God may ask you to do things that do not seem normal to you, and keep in mind you may never know why in this life, but God knows. And your actions may be the only thing that helps that ‘lost soul’ find His Way.
The message yesterday was on Acts3. While I sat and listened to the preacher talk, the scene began to play out before my eyes. Those of you that have read and are familiar with the New Testament know the story I am talking about. The story of Peter and John as they came upon the lame man begging for money outside the temple gate, where Peter spoke those famous words; “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you also. In the name of Jesus Christ stand and walk.” Immediately the beggar’s legs were healed and he ran shouting the praises of God. As the story was played out on the screen in my head, I began to empathize with one of the players. This is one of the many ways God has spoken to me through the scriptures, so I waited with eager ears to hear what He was about to say. I wasn’t disappointed. I was surprised, and astounded by the vastness of my ignorance, tho. I expected to see something of me in Peter, or for something to resonate between me and John. I did NOT expect to empathize with the lame beggar. You see when Peter spoke to him, the beggar paid attention. He turned to Peter and John expecting money, something to live on for the next day, or if he was lucky, the next two or three days. These men of God had taken pity on him, and were going to give him something. This is the way I feel when God speaks to me. He has had pity on me and is going to give me something to help me through the trying times of this life. So when Peter said his famous words, it confused the beggar for a moment, and then he reached and took him by the hand. That is when God worked through Peter. Not just giving the beggar money, but giving him something worth sooo much more! The ability to walk! No more did he have to rely on the generousness of others to live. No more sitting and hoping that some man would take pity and help him. He turned to Peter expecting money, and received his Life instead. If we count on men, at best we can only get enough to get by for a few days. If we count on God, we need never worry about it again. After the service I was in awe of how I could miss such a message in all the times I had heard and read that story. Then I had to laugh. I realized that I was going to have to go home and tell my wife that God told me I was lame.
Someone once told me that there are three ways to tell if what you are doing is what you are supposed to be doing with your life. The first one was that it was something that made you happy. In other words it was something you couldn’t dream of ever NOT doing it. The second one was by an unmistakable stroke of providence the opportunity just fell into your lap, greatly improving your quality of life. And the third way was the one that I have focused on to help me grind through the years of doing things that I did not want to do in order to provide for my family. The third way was simply a lack of options. You see sometimes we have to travel the rough path in order to learn something that God wants us to know. Sometimes it is those thorns we have to wade through to continue on that whittles away the rough edges and prepares us for greater events a few more turns down the path. It is never a pleasant thing to realize, and if we had been given the choice (knowing what it was going to be like) I doubt that any of us would choose to go down that path. So if you are experiencing the thorns, or stumbling along the road think about the reason you are there. If it is because of one of your own choices, perhaps you need to rethink that decision. If it is because of a lack of options, this too shall pass. Endure and learn. It will prove useful a little farther down the road.
There is a secret that most anthropologists use in their study of different customs and cultures. That secret is the fact that regardless of how much you try to lessen the impact of your presence on your environment, you still change things just by being there. People will react differently around you. Animals will behave different than they normally would because you are there. Even if you try to hide your presence you are still affecting things around you. Wind has to change course because you are there displacing air. Even light reflects differently because you are there. You can’t change that. What you CAN change is HOW you affect things. You have two options. You can either make a positive or a negative impact. Just by keeping a positive attitude or making an improvement in the surroundings generate waves of the same type of energy all around you. Being negative will do the same, just with the opposite effect. Now some people do not care how their actions change their surroundings, because they make their changes and move on, never having to deal with the results. Some people do not realize they are changing things, and some wear blinders to how much change they cause (and a lot of times it does no good to try to explain it). I figure if I am going to make an impact on my surroundings, I want it to be a positive one. As long as we do that, life can get better for everyone. This is what Jesus was teaching with the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. When you do this, you improve not only your life, but everyone and everything around you. So why not make a positive impact?
I attended a Writer’s Conference in Pell City, Alabama this past weekend. I really enjoyed myself, meeting new people, and realizing that I shared connections with some that I had no idea existed. During that time, a man came by my table and glanced at my books. He picked one up, turning it over and looking and then placing it back on the table. He started to turn around and leave, but then turned to me and asked; “What is the difference between Christian Science Fiction and regular Science Fiction?” I answered him by saying that I wrote the story from a Christian worldview, with Christian morals and beliefs. “The morals are there in regular science fiction, too.” Looking back on the conversation now, I realize that my answer was not very self-explanatory. I was always a Star Trek fan (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy), but as I have grown older and looked back on those original episodes, I see where the writers would take ‘pot shots’ at organized religion such as Christianity. They portrayed people that believed in an all-powerful deity as ignorant savages. The misconception that is generated here is that God and Science oppose one another. I disagree. One does not have to exist excluding the other. Never have I heard a Christian exclaim “There is no science!”, but I do know there are scientists who believe in God. Science can only explain things going back so far, and the explanation always falls short of explaining the “Origin” of all things. Some people say the answer to life on earth is “alien seeding” of the universe. Even if you accept this theory as true, the question remains; “What was the origins of those aliens?” Kind of puts you right back where you started, huh? The Big Bang Theory? Nobody said God ‘quietly’ created the Heavens and Earth. Evolution? I have never seen a fish turn into a man, and if man came from apes, why did it stop happening? It seems to me if that were the case we would have some half-man/half-apes walking around somewhere. Where are they? So where does that leave us? It leaves us with questions that only religion can answer, and those answers do not deny science. They do not exclude science. I have pondered all of these questions before and I came up with this statement that covers all of the above; “Science is man’s way of describing God’s paintbrush.” So why do people insist on separating the two?
We had a visiting preacher where I attended church at this last Sunday. His name was David Marshall. He preached on heaven and it was a huge dose of encouragement for me. One that I badly needed. Too much has transpired recently that seemed to be conspiring to steal my joy. Anyway, as I listened to him preach, something he said shot my mind off on a tangent (a writers mind has a tendency to do that(a lot of times without warning or provocation)). He was talking about an oyster making a pearl. It was that reference in context with heaven that answered a question for me that my mother had asked me years ago. She asked me why God made this world and all of us people if He knew how bad we were going to mess it up. I don’t pretend to know God’s mind. He gives us examples of what He is like in the Bible. I know the things He does for me and my family, but I know that (as a mortal) I can’t possibly understand the workings of His mind. That being said I have come up with a theory of ‘why’. People say that science and religion are mutually exclusive, but I don’t believe that is true. I think one walks hand in hand with the other. They compliment each other and one is proof of the other. That is a whole different blog post though. I mention the science to give the example of the oyster, which I believe is a perfect example of why. The why is to create a pearl. In order to create something as beautiful as a pearl a process has to be started. The inside of an oyster is extremely sensitive. So when a grain of sand or some other particle gets in there and irritates that lining, a process is started to ‘fix’ that irritation. The oyster starts building around the irritant a crystalline coating called nacre. Over time the oyster completely encases this irritant in this beautiful coating. The result is this beautiful gem that is coveted by most of the human race. I thought about that and I realized that that is exactly what we are to God, a beautiful gem, precious to Him. So I asked myself, what makes us so? What qualities is it that He loves? He names them all in the Bible at one point or another. To make a pearl, you need to start with an irritant. God did the same thing. To make us into gems, He had to place us in a unique environment, an environment where all the things that He loved would be an irritant. We either become the gems that He wanted us to be, or we turn away from Him add to the environment, which in turns makes others turn into the gems. All this was a flash of insight that God granted me during Brother Marshall’s message Sunday. I’m sure that there are problems with my comparison. If there are, it is the fault of this simple wordsmith’s inept attempt to explain something that is beyond Him. I kind of like thinking that He is turning us into something so beautiful.
I heard a story once about a monkey jar trap. The basic gist of the story was that a jar was secured to the ground with a banana or some other bait inside. The mouth of the jar was just big enough for a monkey to put his hand in. When the monkey puts his hand in the jar, grasping the bait he finds that he cannot get his hand back out of the jar. All he has to do is let go of the bait and his hand would be free, but the monkey usually lacks the sense to do that and remains trapped. Sometimes I think I’m that monkey, holding onto something so hard that it keeps me trapped, unable to move forward, and unable to enjoy the ‘treasure’ that I am holding onto. Things come an go in this life. This physical realm has a lot of desirable ‘bait’ for you, but if you can’t let it go, you won’t be able to enjoy having it either. It remains stuck in the jar, held in your hand, but out of your reach. Sometimes it’s better just to let go. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but sometimes it’s the best thing you can do.
There are a few words in every language that have double meanings. Sometimes even saying them with a slightly different tone or emphasizing different syllables can completely change the meaning of a word. The Devil has known this for a long time. Known it and utilized it for his own ends. Suddenly ‘love’ and ‘romance’ has been confused with ‘sex’. ‘Darwinism’ has come to mean ‘scientific’, regardless of the fact that is not. ‘Christian’ has become synonymous with ‘intolerant’. Evil has blurred the meanings of words and in so doing, a whole generation of people have been raised without an understanding of the true meaning of such words. What would the Devil have to gain by confusing these words? I can answer you in one word. Confusion. If you can keep someone confused and off balance, they are a lot easier to manipulate. Someone who is not thinking clearly are unsure of their actions. They make bad choices and cause bad things to happen. What people do not understand is that the Devil hates human. God created us and elevated us above the angels. This made him jealous. That jealousy is what prods him to torture anyone he can. And he has done this by simply blurring the meanings of certain words. Without those words, ‘morality’ has a totally different meaning. ‘Normal’ has a totally different meaning. ‘Marriage’ has a totally different meaning. And ‘honor’ has almost lost all meaning in today’s day and age. When you are raising your family in these troubled times, be sure they know what you mean.
I turned on my radio today and heard Lady Antebellum singing ‘Hey Bartender’. As I listened to the lyrics of the song I felt saddened that this is how we are showing people how to deal with their problems. No, I am not preaching about alcohol. I talking about telling people to ‘drown’ their heartaches. That isn’t an answer. It’s a patch, maybe. Maybe it will cause you forget the pain. For a little while. We all have pain and suffering in this life. It is an integral part of it. There isn’t any way to avoid it, but getting drunk to forget about it isn’t going to help matters. If you’re drunk enough not to remember then you’re drunk enough to do something stupid. Something you could regret when you somber up enough to realize what you did. Yet here we are telling people that this will fix it for ya! This line of thinking led into how the media bombards us with messages of ‘Alcohol makes it better!’, ‘Drugs make it better!’, ’Sex makes it better!’. All these things are false leads. They are just patches that only work for a short duration, if that. There is no true resolutions there. These are pale imitations of things that the Devil throws at you to keep you from realizing the truth. Not only that, they usually come with a multitude of ‘fish hooks’ embedded in them, and the more you use them the better chance you have of getting snared by something that is only going to make the situation worse. When you base your happiness in this world, the pain of loss or tragedy can become too great to bear. So you cover it up with patches. There is a better way. Talk to the Tailor. You think that if He created all things that He can’t fix a torn heart?