Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Monday, September 29, 2014

Coffee Christianity

Today is National Coffee Day. I don't drink coffee, but it isn't for a lack of trying. For me to drink it, the ratio of cream and sugar would have to be far greater than the ratio of coffee. How something can smell so good, yet taste so vile...... well, air freshener smells really good too, but I doubt it tastes too great. I'm not trying it either. I most likely won't try coffee again either. My grandpa was probably right when he said if you have to learn to like something, it isn't worth eating/drinking it. Although he was talking about pizza when he said that, so maybe I shouldn't go quoting him.

  Coffee people crack me up. They have to have it to get going in the mornings, will pay exorbitant prices at places like Starbucks, and build their day around coffee.

  If I am honest, and I try to be, I wish I could drink coffee. I am not a morning person, and I could use the pick-me-up that coffee evidently provides.

 Just for fun, I posted this on Facebook this morning:
Question for coffee drinkers on National Coffee Day: Do you really like coffee if you have to cover up the taste with cream and sugar? Just asking........

  The coffee drinkers that drink it with cream and/or sugar came out of the woodwork. The post took on a life of its own. People pointed out that I most likely eat condiments on my burger, taco, and put sugar in my tea. I was amused. And I did do it in fun, but the responses were funny.

  I think you can be a true coffee drinker and like cream and sugar, but if that is the only way you got yourself drinking it, I still question if you really like coffee...... and if you drink decaffeinated, do you really like coffee?

  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter if drinking cream and sugar in your coffee, or drinking decaff means you don't truly like coffee. However, the whole discussion got my mind to going as my mind does. And I got to thinking, what if we are the same way with our Christianity? With God's Word, with serving Jesus?

  Do we truly love Jesus if we don't just take Him and His Word as it is? If we try Jesus decaff, or Jesus lite?

  There are some grey areas in being a Christian, but I am afraid too many of us are taking what is black and white and shading it to make it grey. We are adding cream and sugar to make it easier to be a Christian, to make God's Word easier to swallow.

  We knock the people who claim they are serving God while living a gay lifestyle, but how many of us are cutting corners, twisting, or ignoring Scriptures or God's voice?

 I am not one who believes that once we become a Christian, that we are "in", and can never miss Heaven. I don't believe it is as easy to lose one's salvation as some preachers preached that I heard while I was growing up, but if we live our Christian life disobeying God as we add cream and sugar or try the decaff version of Jesus, I wouldn't want to assume I was heaven-bound.

  Loving Jesus is more than lip service and going to church every week. It is daily denying ourselves and obeying God.

  Adding cream and sugar to coffee does not necessarily mean you don't truly love coffee, but twisting Scriptures and going Jesus lite does mean we don't truly love Jesus.

 Loving Jesus means taking up our cross, denying ourselves daily, and taking God's Word seriously.

 God help me to truly love Jesus, not Jesus lite, or anything I might add to make serving Him easier.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2 bags to carry

I'm not sure where I first heard of the idea of doing so, but it has been suggested we Christians have an imaginary mystery bag where we put things we don't understand about other Christians. People who profess to be followers of Jesus don't always do things we understand, they don't always act in ways we understand, and sometimes they do things that leave us scratching our heads and wondering "how can they be a Christian and......".

  I'll admit a big one for me is Christians who vote for political candidates who are pro-abortion. No matter what you cloak it in or call it, the politician has as part of their political platform "we want to keep it legal to kill babies and further the cause of killing babies." That is a big one for me..... how can anyone vote for someone who defends the right to kill a baby?

  I learned long ago that not all Christians are perfect and do everything they should. I don't. I am sure there are people - especially in my very conservative church - who look at me and think "how can he be a Christian, and do THAT?" Welcome to life. Everyone doesn't believe like me and do everything like me. And thank God they don't.

  If we just cut off everyone who did questionable things, soon we would have no one to have confidence in as a Christian, and we'd have a church of me.

  Granted, there are some things that are just so far out, that we can assume the person doesn't truly know Christ, but I'm talking not talking about that stuff. Everyone knows Christians who do something that they wonder about.

  So we toss it in the mystery bag and try not to focus on it or let it bother us. And very likely, someone is tossing something in their mystery bag about us, if they have one. It isn't our place to judge Christians for everything. If it is out and out sin, that can be a different matter, but a lot of us do things that other Christians might question. So get out the mystery bag and when  you fill it up, get another. You'll need it.

  A conversation I had recently with someone got me to thinking about another bag we should carry. I was talking about a big compliment I had received at work, and questioned why it is so easy to remember the bad and negative things that happen or are said to us, but we so easily forget the positive. I said it is too bad we don't have a bag to put compliments and other positive things in, and then when we are down or something bad happens, we could get the bag out and start pulling out those things to remember. A good memory bag.

  Why is it so easy to remember the negative and bad things in life? We even do it with God. The times when it seemed He didn't answer prayers stick in our minds, yet we so easily forget the times when we saw a definite answer to prayer. We remember the valleys, but not the mountain tops.

  We remember the cruel words, but forget the kind ones. The kind deeds done by others slip our minds, but the bad deeds occupy our minds.

  As I was typing, I googled good memories and found "good memory jars", so maybe the idea isn't that far out. Every time something good happens, we have a prayer answered, someone gives us a compliment...... write it on a piece of paper and drop it in the jar. And then when the boss yells, the hubby complains about the supper, the wife gets after you for your lack of progress on the "honey do list", when you pray and it seems God is not even hearing the prayer, when the valley seems endless, and instead of being on the mountain....... the mountains are in  your way....... then you take out a paper, or two, or more....... and read the good memories. And be thankful.

  So maybe that would be a worthwhile project for all of us to undertake. We don't want to make a physical bag or jar for our mysteries - its best to forget that stuff and not hold onto them. But why not make a good memories jar, box, bag, or even a journal,  and start keeping track.

  The Gaithers wrote a song based on Philippians 4:8. The chorus says:
I'm gonna think on the good things,
Think on what the lord has done for me
I'm gonna think on the good, good things,
What I think is what i'm gonna be! 

 If we only remember the bad things, we are going to dwell on the bad things, and will be discouraged and depressed. However, if we think on the good things - the good memories, the compliments, answered prayers - we will be better off mentally, spiritually, and even physically.

 So go get that jar or journal, and start writing things down. Good things do happen. We just need to remember them.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Knowing too much

 I have not really been around people who have not been raised in the church, and came to Christ . I, and most of the Christians I know, have been raised in the church. We may not all have served God from a young child up, but we were in the church, and the church was in us.

   There are a couple of books that I have read recently, and a story my Sunday School teacher told that has made me aware of something: we who have been raised in the church may have some advantages over those who have not, but there is also at least one disadvantage. We know too much. No, that isn't an egotistical remark.

  The books and story I mentioned all have something in common. A person who knew next to nothing about Jesus and being a Christian, and they came to Jesus and became Christians. And these poor saps didn't know that in spite of all our talk of faith and answered prayers, it isn't really like that in the Christian life. These new believers take God at His Word and believe, and they see prayers answered and see some miraculous things happen. They don't know any better, so they believe. They believe, and see results.

  And yet we who have grown up in the church pray and pray, and it seems we rarely see results. This isn't a blanket statement for all believers, but it is true of way too many of us: we don't have enough faith. We know it doesn't always work that way, and we get used to prayers not getting answered, used to not seeing miracles, used to not seeing God move.

  Oh, we try, and we say that we do. But down deep, we wonder if God will truly answer. We haven't seen that many answers to prayer, and the ones we do, we often chalk up to coincidence. Well, that might have happened anyway......

 Or we think our problem is too small to bother God about it. He has countries to watch over, why would He care about our lost car keys?

  And meanwhile, the new believer dives in and prays about everything, believing God will actually answer his prayers........ and he gets results.

  I envy them. To have that kind of new faith and wonder in God and His grace. To not have years of faith lite, to not be jaded and cynical.

  Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. If that is true, then why aren't we getting more mountains moved? Is it possible that most of us can't truly muster up even that small speck of faith without doubt sticking up its ugly head.

  Maybe that is why Jesus said to become like a child to enter His kingdom. Little kids believe whatever you tell them. Most small kids are what we would almost call gullible. Kind of like a new believer who is completely new to the church and being a Christian.
  I am not unhappy that I grew up in the church, but I wish I could have the wonder and faith of these believers who did not. Imagine taking God at His word. To pray, and truly believe He would answer. To read the miracles in the Bible and believe God can - and will - do them today.

 Maybe they have the advantage over us.

 And maybe there is still hope for we jaded people who know too much.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Metro Public Adjustment.... good or bad idea

***This is to detail our experiences thus far with a third party my parents hired when they were unhappy with the amount of an insurance claim reimbursement.

Back on June 11 of this year, I was home alone at my parents' house where I am also currently living. They were away on vacation. Out of nowhere, a storm hit, hard and fast. Something they called a "micro-burst." I heard high winds, hail, and a loud crash. The lights were flickering, I smelled smoke, and things were snapping and crackling in the house. I looked outside to see a tree across our driveway, and knew the big tree beside the house had been knocked over. And it had.

  The tree was 80 feet tall, and 10 feet around at the base. It took out the front porch, also falling against the front of the house, cracking and bowing the walls on the front of the house, and short circuiting several appliances in the house from small things like alarm clocks to big things like the central air and refrigerator.

  I had barely started to survey the damage, when a vehicle pulled up out front, and a man came down and introduced himself. His name was Brian, and he worked for a place called Metro Public Adjustment. His company would go after insurance companies to get more money out of them on claims such as my parents were going to have. I laid his card in the house along with several others I got that evening as contractors and others stopped, wanting to offer their services on fixing the house.

 Metro slipped from our minds as my parents started dealing with the insurance company. We soon found out that you really aren't in good hands with Allstate. The adjuster argued damage, wanted to patch cracked walls with putty, and was a jerk in general. They cut my parents a check, but my parents were unhappy with the amount, and decided to call in the man who had left his card - Brian, from Metro Public Adjustment. They hired him, then changed their minds, then decided to go for it, and signed the papers.

  Brian, and the paperwork he had, promised their only fee would be 15% of any extra money they got from the insurance company. Example: if Allstate offered $30,000.00, and Metro talked them into $40,000.00, Metro's fee would be 15% of the extra $10,000.00 they got out of Allstate. So my parents hired them, started the construction on the house, and waited to see what Metro would do. And waited, And waited.

  Meanwhile, we were having other problems with Allstate. They had told my parents to get the big appliances fixed that could be fixed, so they did: central air, refrigerator, kitchen stove, etc. Then they said to start replacing the other stuff, so we did, and turned in our receipts. It was a lot of stuff: microwave, phones, game systems, alarm clocks, etc. And we waited. And waited. I emailed Allstate, my parents called. We were told that since my parents had hired the third party, everything had to go through them, so my parents started calling Metro - and about the claim in general. They rarely could get talking to the person that was in charge of their claim. The original guy only roped people into it, he didn't work on the claims.

  Finally, we were told we had to write down the serial numbers, how much we paid for the items, how long we had had them, and where they were in the house. So we turned that in, and waited. Made calls. Finally. Metro told my parents that Allstate wanted us to try to have everything fixed......after we had replaced it all, after we had turned in receipts and jumped through hoops...... after we had had the damaged items sitting out on the deck for over 2 months......we were upset with Allstate for being that way, and for Metro for not fighting for us.

 I aired our frustrations on Facebook - I had damaged stuff and it cost me $847 to replace them -  a friend suggested I post it on Allstate's Facebook page. So I did. Within a few hours, someone from Allstate asked me for our claim #, policy #, and contact information. The very next day, some big wig from Alstate's corporate offices called my parents. After a couple of calls, they said they would mail a check. End of story.


 The check came. It was made out to my parents and Metro, since they were involved in the claim. My parents had to send it to them, and they were to cash it and send it back......... but they took 15% of it for themselves. Yes. They took 15%..

  Let me go over what they said when my parents signed up: Their only fee would be 15% of any EXTRA money that THEY got Allstate to kick in over the original check. So we have 3 problems here:

1) This was not extra money. It was for damaged electronics/appliances.
2) It was not part of the claim. This was separate.
3) Metro had nothing to do with us getting reimbursed. They gave up on it and told us Allstate wanted us to try to fix everything. I was the one who got on Allstate's case about it.

  My parents wrote a letter, and I have emailed Metro 3 times about this. I am hoping it was a mistake. We can come up with no earthly good reason why they took 15% of the check that was reimbursement for damaged items, and would like an explanation. It doesn't seem to us that it is fair or honest, given what we were told about the fee they charge, but they still haven't gotten back to us.

  Meanwhile, we are waiting, as usual. And frustrated. This company has a lot of bad reviews, and maybe we should have read those reviews first. It is near impossible to talk to the person handing your claim, the guy who suckers you into it hands off the claim to someone else and is no longer involved and just defends his company when you contact him..... and then they do this: take money that is rightfully ours.

  And the thing is: so far, they have done nothing for us. They haven't gotten my parents any extra money, and we wonder if they will. All they have done, is to take 15% of the reimbursement for our damaged items. Something we cannot fathom how they can rightfully do.

  From our experiences of the last few months, I would definitely not recommend Metro Public Adjustment So far, they have only taken what is not theirs to take, and haven't done anything FOR us.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Not An Easy Road

There's an old song that I never hear anymore called "It's Not An Easy Road." It isn't one of those feel good songs that lift your spirits and make you want to dance and shout. In fact, the song is a bit of a downer, and I know of people who intensely dislike the song. The words are:

1) It’s not an easy road we are travelling to heaven,
For many are the thorns on the way.
It’s not an easy road, but the Savior is with us,
His presence gives us joy every day.
No, no, it’s not an easy road.
But Jesus walks beside me and brightens the journey,
And lightens every heavy load.
2) It’s not an easy road; there are trials and troubles,
And many are the dangers we meet.
But Jesus guards and keeps, so that nothing can harm us.
And smooths the rugged path for our feet.
3) Though I am often footsore and weary from travel;
Though I am often bowed down with care.
A better day is coming when home in the glory,
We’ll meet in perfect peace over there.

  And whether we want to admit it or not, if we are truly living for Christ and not for ourselves. it isn't an easy road. No, it isn't a drudgery, and there are days we will be on the mountain, but one can't be on the mountain unless one puts the effort into climbing that mountain. Most of us sit around and wait for God to remove mountains instead of trying to climb it. We want an easy religion that costs us little, if anything, and avoid the idea of carrying a cross or denying ourselves of anything. People like the Olsteens focus on being happy and having it all.

  Yet Jesus wants our all.

  Living the Christian life can be frustrating sometimes. I look at some people and they seem to have it so easy. They don't seem to have a struggle or battle, don't seem like they had to give up anything to follow Jesus. And then there's me.

  A young man posted this in a Facebook group this morning that I am a member of:
Would appreciate prayers as I sort out feelings of loneliness right now. Woke up yesterday morning with an intense longing to have someone next to me, then the pain of realizing that, in my current state, there was no way that would be okay. That just left me angry and frustrated. Been feeling down the last two days because of it. Thanks.
  There are people all across the world wanting someone to love, but for various reasons that cannot happen. Some have physical issues and deformities that scare off possible suitors. Some are divorced and believe Jesus really meant what He said about remarrying after being divorced. Some are serving Jesus and just have no one around that fits in with what God wants for their lives. Some are living a life of being attracted to the wrong gender, and serving God is more important than embracing their gay identity and picking love and a relationship with a person over a relationship with Jesus.

  For these, and many others, this Christian life isn't an easy road. There are days we are like the young man I referred to above. He is a young man dealing with same-sex attraction. There's time and hope that he can change enough to marry a woman and make it work. Others have. But that isn't a guarantee. Others have twisted Scripture and profess to be a Christian while living a life contrary to what God says.  That's the easy road.

  Carrying a cross and denying ourselves has been turned into "I want", "I believe", "We are not under the law, but under grace", and other similar ideas and phrases.

  But being a Christian is going to cost us. It may not mean living a single lonely life among a world of married people and people in dating relationships, but it may be that. That's what it means for me. Would I like to be married/have someone of my own to love and love me? Of course I would. I get tired of asking for a table for one. I ache when I see couples holding hands and fathers holding hands or carrying their children. There have been nights I've cried myself to sleep. 

 But I made a choice. A choice to follow Jesus and not what comes naturally. For me, that means a life of singleness. For me it was a choice between my faith and my desires. I cannot have both. So for me, singleness is a price I must pay for being a Christian. Is that a lot? Yes. Is it hard? It is harder than most people can imagine.

 Singleness is a high price to pay for being a Christian, but many others have paid a higher price. For many, being a Christian and giving Jesus their all has cost them their families, their health....... their lives.

  That is why, although I try not to judge or be critical, I have a problem with people who claim to be Christians, yet live by the school of thought that they have the right to do anything they want. They do nothing different from the world, they do nothing that makes them stick out or inconvenience themselves in any way.

  Christianity isn't about rules. It is about a relationship. But if we are truly in a relationship with Jesus, it is going to change our lives. It will inconvenience us at times. It will make us stick out and be different. It isn't easy. But carrying a cross and denying ourselves isn't easy. It isn't about our happiness and comfort. It is about pleasing God and living for Him, not for our desires or what we want to thing is OK and good for us.

  The song I quoted has its gloomy parts, but it also has hopeful parts:
But Jesus walks beside me and brightens the journey,
And lightens every heavy load.

but the Savior is with us,
His presence gives us joy every day

A better day is coming when home in the glory,
We’ll meet in perfect peace over there.

  Happiness isn't guaranteed. An easy road isn't guaranteed. But peace and joy through it all are promised, and that Jesus will bring us through it.

 That is the hope of being a Christian. Serving Jesus isn't a guarantee that we are going to have an easy life, that everyone will like us, that we will have someone to love and plenty of money. But it does guarantee that we have a Savior who became a man and went through the same stuff and temptations we go through, and that He will always be there for us and never forsake us.

  Being a Christian isn't a hard road 24/7 for most of us, but neither is it an easy road 24/7 for any of us. And it it is, maybe it is time for a spiritual checkup.

  It is indeed not an easy road, but it is oh so worth it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Serving God in a box: Bible reading

 My blog post got too long, so I am continuing it in this post.

2) Bible reading. Another "box" we have, is Bible reading. A lot of us grow up having certain ideas about Bible reading taught to us.

You must read the Bible daily (there's even a song about that...)

You must read a certain amount of chapters a day

You must only use the ____ version 

You must read it in the morning. Or evening.

You must read through your Bible, the whole way through, at least once every few years.

  At the risk of sounding like a rebel or heretic, I got rid of the Bible reading box. Long ago.

I read multiple versions, and rarely the King James Version I was raised on. (Horrors!)

Most days, I read a few verses, not chapters. Some days, I will read a whole chapter.

I usually read it in the evening, unless the one verse that is in my morning devotional counts.

  There are those who consider it heresy to read anything but the King James version of the Bible. I go to church with at least a few people like that, but I find that unreasonable. This post is not a treatise against the King James, but I will give a few reasons why I rarely use it for my personal Bible reading:

1) I get bogged down with the language and words we don't use anymore. Lovest? Thou? We don't talk that way anymore.

2) When I read familiar passages of Scripture in the KJV, I tend to zip over it, as it is pretty much memorized. When I read those passages in other versions, I have to concentrate more on what I am reading.

3) Variety. Plain and simple. It is nice to mix it up a bit.

  I have tried to read a certain amount of verses or chapters in a day, but it was pretty much a check list type of thing. I did it, didn't get much out of it, but it was done.

  The older I get, the more I get to truly know God, the more convinced I am that it is better to read a few verses and truly get something out of it, than to read several chapters and just get the good feeling of having done it. If you can do both -  read a lot and get a lot of it, more power to you, but I can't.

  As for reading through the Bible.... I did once, and it was to get a trophy. Don't judge. I never got trophies in school, so it was nice to get one for something. But if we are honest, not all part of the Bible are interesting to read, or helpful. OK, OK, I'll get out my heretic t-shirt.

  But seriously... who enjoys reading Leviticus, or the genealogies. I get it that there is something we can get out of all passages of the Bible, but I tend to read the more interesting and encouraging parts of the Bible. Does that make me a bad Christian? I don't think so,,,, and certainly not a heretic.

  That isn't to say we should never read Leviticus. It is to say that we shouldn't feel bound to read the Bible through or read it like others do. Its God's Word. He can speak to us from any of it.

  I don't mean to criticize those who read through the Bible several times in their life or read several chapters a day. Just don't tell me I have to read my Bible in a box. Some of them came in a box, but I tossed the boxes out and won't read them in a box anymore.

Serving God in a box: Prayer

 I was walking this evening, listening to my iPod, and thinking. Some of the thinking was related to songs that played through my Panasonic ear buds. One such song was "How Many Ways Can We Praise?" The chorus asks "how many ways can we praise Him? Count all the stars in the sky.....". I listened to it, and thought.

  I thought about praising God, worshiping God, praying to God, and some other "God" stuff, and came to the realization I have been serving God in a box.

  I have heard many people say you can't put God in a box. He operates outside of our expectations and what we are used to. And that is true. Yet I have attempted to serve Him inside of a box. And I seriously doubt I am the only one. Among other areas, these come to mind:

1) Prayer. I used to hear preachers and others say you needed to pray "until you prayed through". I never could figure out exactly what that meant, but I was pretty sure I wasn't doing it right.

  I'd go to church and hear people pray eloquently and like a house on fire. If you don't know what it means to pray like a house on fire, then you have never heard anyone pray like that. I'd listen, and pray myself.... pray that they wouldn't call on me, for I could never pray like that.

  One should never compare oneself with others, and the area of prayer is no different. It doesn't matter if we can pray like Paul or John. That isn't what it is about. But we have our prayer box that we try to stay in:

Prayers must be a certain length
Eyes must be closed, head bowed
You must kneel, stand, bow on one knee......depending on your church
You must be able to say God in several syllables.

  I can never measure up to the praying I hear from some of the people at my church. I think public prayer is just like anything else in life. Some people are better at it and have a gift for it. Others..... not so much.

  But prayer isn't about doing it in public. Prayer is talking to God. When Jesus talked about prayer, He talked about going into your closet and doing it in private. Does that mean public prayer is wrong? Absolutely not, unless we are doing it to be seen and heard. But we should be more concerned about our private prayer life, than our public prayer life.

  Prayer is talking to God, and it really isn't normal to just go high speed. non-stop when you're talking to someone, so why do we have to do it with God? I don't do that when I am praying in bed. Yeah, that's where I pray. I break all of the "rules" of prayer. I blew that box up long ago.

I pray lying down in bed. (99% of the time I have no problem staying awake)

I pray with my eyes open most of the time (hey, the room is dark anyway). I actually feel closer to God if I pray with my eyes open.

I ramble. No concise, well thought out prayers that are worth printing in a book of prayers. I jump from topic to topic, often with long pauses in between.

They aren't long. Sometimes they are. I think its just as wrong to go on and on just so we can feel we prayed long enough, as it is to toss out a quick prayer with no effort or thought. This is talking to the God of the universe. Our Father in Heaven. And if you look at the model for prayer that Jesus gave, it is pretty short. Actually, it is VERY short, compared to most prayers.

  And I get that it is a model for praying and that it doesn't mean we have to keep them that short, but it does bring up a good point: with that as the model for prayer, where did we get the idea that prayers have to be long?

  In no way am I knocking people who do pray long - except for food and in church. Kind of kidding on that last. Don't catch up on your devotions when called on to pray in church. I have heard people I wondered silently if they were doing just that. We need people who are prayer warriors. And as we mature as Christians, we are going to pray longer most of the time. We just shouldn't feel bound to a time frame, nor should we do it so we can mark it off of our mental checklist.

  It shouldn't be work. It shouldn't be something we feel we have to do, but something we want to do.

  I am no expert on prayer. Books have been preached on it, sermons have been preached on it, but do we really have to read books on how to pray? Ironically, I am reading a book right now on prayer. But it is one that makes is simple.

  And that is how it should be: simple. We don't have to pray a certain way, in a certain position, or in a certain place. God wants us to talk to Him, and He wants us to want to talk to Him. Nothing fancy, just conversation between a child and his Father.

  Don't put God in a box, but don't put praying to Him in a box either.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Legalized child abuse

 Another football player is in the news and in trouble. This time, it is for child abuse. Supposedly, he spanked the kid with a switch hard enough that it left marks. I don't know everything about the case, so I am not going to make a lot of suppositions about it, but I will say just because a spanking leaves marks, does not make it child abuse, and there is a big move on in this country to not spank kids and to label it child abuse when it happens. Maybe he went too far, and maybe he didn't.

  I am sure there were times I got spanked as a kid, that there were marks, or at least my seat was red for a while.. and I lived. It was not child abuse. I firmly believe most kids need spanked occasionally. It shouldn't always be the method of discipline, but time out and endless threats don't always work - especially if the threats are never carried out.

  Yet, child abuse does exist, and I don't think there is enough done to stop true child abuse. It is sad to imagine innocent kids being smacked around because mom or dad is drunk, high, or just in a bad mood. There is no excuse for it, and kids who are truly being abused need to be removed from the abuse.

 My mind runs in weird directions. I admit it. Since this case has broken, I have been thinking about it a lot, and I have been thinking about this issue of child abuse. I don't believe all child abuse is things done physically, sexually, or even verbally to children. If  people who want to throw the abuse word around for spanking kids when they are being holy - or unholy terrors - then I want to toss out some other ways kids are abused - legally. Many will disagree with me. That's OK. I'd be worried if everyone always agreed with me.

***And no, I am not making light of or trying to lessen the reality of real child abuse, so don't even go there.

1) No discipline. Never disciplining a kid, and letting him have his own way is going to cause him or her problems some day with authority figures and God. Letting your kid grow up to be a selfish brat isn't doing them any favors.

2) Abortion. Yes, I am aware it results in the death of a baby, but they rip apart that baby to kill it. Tell me again how evil it is to spank a five year old for sassing?

3) Training them to get on and stay on welfare. Welfare, food stamps - that is supposed to be temporary to get people over a tough spot, but people are staying on for life, and then their kids get on it......... they grow up feeling they are owed.

4) Smoking. I hate to see anyone smoke, but especially young people. And to think of parents smoking around babies and kids, constantly blowing second hand smoke around them..... that isn't good parenting.

And then to pass on such a terrible habit onto their kids......it should be labeled abuse.

5) Video games. Not every video game is bad, but letting kids play the bad ones isn't good, nor is letting kids live, eat, and sleep video games. It isn't healthy.

6) Letting them be bullied: Kids need to be taught to defend themselves against bullies. Not all kids are cut out to do that and need help. Don't let kids be bullied.

7) Letting them be bullies. If parents know their kid is a bully, they are just as bad as their kid for not training him better.

8) Letting kids drink. I am really anti-alcohol, but really hate the fact that there are parents letting their kids drink before the age of 21. No it isn't legal and might not belong on this list, but I don't think the penalties are harsh enough for it, or it might not happen so much.

9) Letting kids be obese. I am not a big health nut, and am 100% against the government or Michelle Obama controlling what we can or cannot eat, but parents need to regulate their kids' eating habits better. If the kid is 5 and weights 150, something is wrong. It isn't healthy and it isn't being good to the kid to let him look like a sumo wrestler while he is in elementary school.

10) Unsupervised TV. There really isn't much on TV that is good anymore, and to let kids watch whatever they want - and how much they want - should be classified as child abuse.

11) Pierced ears. I think pierced ears are dumb. I am allowed that opinion. It may partly be how I was raised, but the more I think about it, having holes punched in your ears so you can put fancy things in your ears just seems....... dumb. But this is a free country.

However, when did it become acceptable to pierce babies' ears? It surely has to hurt. And what did the baby do to deserve it? The mother's vanity? And yet to spank the same kid a few years later is abuse?

I think there should be an age limit for pierced ears, and it should be when the child is able to make the decision on their own. They are doing it so early, it will soon be part of the post birth things done before giving the baby to the mother. How is this not child abuse? And I am serious. What kind of woman has holes put in a baby's ears? Earrings should be an adult thing, Kids grow up too fast anyway.

12) Gay. To encourage a kid or young person to embrace homosexuality - or any sin - is helping to push them towards hell. And a life full of pain and possible disease. It IS sin, and it is going against God's Word to embrace it.

On the other hand, to kick a kid out for being gay and not loving them is also wrong and can damn t he kid to an eternity without God.

13) Raising them without God. This is the ultimate child abuse, To raise a child without church, God, Jesus..... to raise them to live a godless life that will end with an eternity in hell unless God sends someone their way who will be honest to their soul.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What I have is the best

 A friend of mine on Facebook posted this a short while ago:
There has to be, there MUST be a correlation, a connection between the vitriol and anger directed at iPhones and Apple products by the Droid users and how much better the Apple products are than what they own...
Why would they care so much when Apple introduces a new product if this wasn't true?!

 I replied that I don't really care about that stuff, but there is this overbearing attitude from a lot of iPhone owners that what they have is THE BEST, and it is better than what you have. I have run onto this attitude before from iPhone users and MAC owners. Some friends of mine bought MAC computers, also an Apple product, and went on and on about how they were the best, and so much better than a Microsoft PC. To be honest, it irritated me a bit, and even made me feel bad. I am sure they didn't intend to put down what I own, but by their words and attitudes, they were still doing it.

  And so it is with some iPhone users. What they have is the best, better than the lowly Android that people like me have....... and I really don't know or care which is better. I think the iPhone is way overpriced, and am happy with the Android, so even if I got rich, I'd most likely stick with an Android phone. For what I use smartphones for, it works fine.

  Can one be proud of their electronic devices? Why not? One can be proud of anything. And it is one thing to say you like this brand better than any you have ever had, but to say it is THE BEST - that is a pretty big claim to make about anything.

  And we do like to brag. We have the best pick-up that is made. The best phone, the best tablet, the best boots, the best watch, the best, the best, the best...... and we do like to tell people. I'm not sure all of the reasons, and maybe for some it is just part of their personality. I just had a lady tell me today that she makes the best cinnamon rolls of anyone..... I should have asked for proof :)

  Whatever we have that is the best, won't stay the best. Something better will always come along. Even if Apple products are the best - and I am not saying they are, and I even have an iPod - just wait a few years, and someone will come along and make something else that people will think is better than Apple. Maybe the new uPhone from Grape.

  This attitude of "what I have is the best" is bad enough from the world. but it is really bad from Christians..... and a lot of us have that attitude. And brag on our "stuff", until something better comes along. And why must we always have the best?

  There is only one area where we can say we have the best, and yet it is one too many of us rarely go around bragging about. Jesus. We have the best God and Savior. He trumps everything. He's better than the new iPhone people want to brag about owning. He's better than the 2015 Chevy pickup you just bought. He's better than anything and anyone...... and yet we brag so little on Him.

  Forget the new iPhone. I've got Jesus, and next to Him, your best is nothing.

***Disclaimer: I don't think everyone that has "the best" mentality is necessarily proud in the wrong way, but they can be.

 And I don't hate Apple products, I do tire of people who own them crowing that they are THE BEST. Just say you like it better than Android and leave it at that. :)

The Straight Talk Experience..... good deal, or mistake?

 I've been with AT&T for a few years now, but got tired of being in a contract, and I wanted something cheaper, so I started looking at Straight Talk. It sounded like a good deal, and you can bring your own phone now, so I found a good deal on a cell phone on Amazon that was unlocked, called Straight Talk to make sure it would work, and ordered it.

 Then I went to Walmart and bought their "bring your own phone" kit. It had a month of service, plus several different SIM cards. It cost $70.

I came home and called ST to set up the phone, and had nothing but problems. The woman I talked to claimed my phone wouldn't work with ST. I was frustrated since I had been told it would, and asked for a supervisor. He supposedly fixed the issue, but I still had problems. After a few calls, I realized I had the wrong SIM card in - I actually got a woman who had me read the SIM card numbers and told me which one was right...... but there was a problem: That SIM card was too small for the cell phone.

  I went to Walmart, and no luck. They didn't sell adapters. Neither did Radio Shack. The only place I could find was Amazon, so I ordered a pack.... and went two days with no cell phone while I waited for the adapter to come.

 It came, and I put it in the phone, but the internet wouldn't work. I found Straight Talk's recommended APN settings for my phone and reset them.... still no internet. I found people's recommended APN settings on line, still no luck.

  In the middle of my increasing frustration, the new unlocked phone died and would not turn on. So I returned it and had a bright idea: Buy a Straight Talk phone from Walmart and I'd have no problems, right?


  Everything seemed OK, signal a bit weaker than I liked, but still, not bad, until I tried to send a picture via text message. No go. Fail every time, and most of the time when someone tried to send me one. So I called the experts at ST. They told me how to fix it, so problem solved.

  So I call again. Pretty much same instructions. And why do I always get someone who sounds like English is their second language? She put me on hold several times while she talked to a supervisor or someone further up than her - why don't they talk to me instead of going through her? Still no luck, so I email ST. They tell me to dial this number and it will be fixed. Nope.

 By this time. it is too late to return the phone - past the 15 days. I keep calling, with no luck. I Google it, and a lot of people with the same phone - Samsung Galaxy S3 have the same issue and fix it - but their phones are unlocked. Mine isn't. I find myself wishing the people at ST were as good as these random people on the internet.

  I complain on ST's Facebook page and a woman tells me to open a ticket. I do. I get a reply by email asking more details but there is no email to reply to.

 One doesn't realize how often they send and receive pictures by text message until they can't.

  So here I sit, stuck with a phone, and basically stuck with ST - I could leave, but then I am out the cost of the phone.

  And the question remains: Since this is a ST phone, why on earth can't they get this issue fixed? I have called at least 5-6 times and emailed twice, and still it persists.

 Straight Talk may be cheaper, but I am not sure it was the right choice. In fact, I think it was.......

  At this point, I have no idea what to do. I hate the thoughts of just going without the text by picture feature, but I also hate the thought of being out the cost of the cell phone. I wish ST would do something that would really help me out, instead of put me on hold several times and have me try the same thing I tried on all of the other calls.

  I am thinking ST was a mistake, and am missing AT&T. At least with them, I could take my phone into a store and have someone work on it in person. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hoarders of the heart

**I thought this sounded like a good idea for a post, but now that it is finished, I am not so sure. It may be.......just dumb. However, I spent a lot of time on it, so I hate to delete it, so whether it is bad or good, here it is:

I personally don't know anyone who is a true hoarder. I have a lot of books, but I wouldn't say I am a hoarder. From what I understand of a hoarder, they hoard stuff that isn't even useful, or at least not in the large amounts that they hoard it. And the really bad hoarders have the rooms of their house so full, they have paths through the junk.

 There's even a TV show about hoarders. I've never seen it, nor do I want to. What could be so fun about watching people who are practically buried in junk they are hoarding? I have many better ways to use my time.

  Hoarding is not only abnormal, it can be dangerous. There's more risk of fire, risk of stacks toppling and injuring or burying the hoarder, risks of blocking exits needed if there is a fire, risk of being kicked out of the house when it becomes unlivable. It is a really bad thing all around. Plus, everyone thinks you're weird.

  But what if we were all secret hoarders and no one knew? What if we really weren't aware of it?

  A few years ago, I read a Christian fiction book everyone should read, even if they normally don't read Christian fiction: Rooms by James Rubart, A young man inherits a large house on the beach, and it turns out to be his heart, full of different rooms. It is a different type of fiction book that does more than entertain. But what if our hearts were really like a house, with different rooms? What would be in them? Could you even find your way through the rooms, or would they be full of things we hoard? And it might be a weird way to think of it, but we do hoard. Let's step into fictional John's heart:

Room #1: You can't see much except stacks of really, really ugly things. Ugly things that stink. And the path through the mess is so narrow, you can hardly fit through, Risking bodily harm, you pull an item from a shorter stack and examine it. Resentment. And under it, it another resentment. You look around and realize the endless stacks in this room are all resentment. Years and years of it. You wind your way through the room to get to the next room.

Room #2: This room is stacked to the ceiling, and it is even harder to get through. You bump one stack, and it crashes to the floor, the items shattering into a million pieces. Whatever it is, it is very fragile. Picking up one of the shards, it reads "hurts". Trying to avoid the countless broken pieces, you step into the third room.

Room #3: You cover your ears as you enter this room. Whatever is stacked all over the room is loud. So loud, it covers any other sound and it is hard to even think. Wanting to get out as fast as you can, yet curious, you search for a stack short enough to reach, but they all seem to be to the ceiling, and almost wall to wall. Finally,  you spy one lying on the floor that had fallen off a stack. You pick it up to see one word emblazoned across it: worry. Clapping your hands over your ears, you rush onto another unexplored room.

Room #4: This room has a terrible feeling to it. A strong sense of foreboding, and you shiver, though not from cold. You feel like someone is peering over your shoulder, but no one is there. You reach out to pull something off of the stack, and realize your hand is shaking. Something falls off of another stack with a loud bang, and you jump a foot, dropping what you're holding. You stare down at it to see a short word on it: fear. You run out of this room to get away from the creepy feeling you can't shake.

Room #5: The next room is locked. And there is no key hanging around. Your curiosity gets the best of you, so you decide to try the old credit card trick, and to your delight, it works. The door squeaks open to reveal total darkness. You fumble for a light switch, but there doesn't seem to be one. Creeping slowly into the room, you immediately stumble into a slimy stack of something. Fortunately it doesn't fall. And the smell. It is worse than a skunk and sewer combined. You want to leave and close the door on the foul room, but you just have to know what was locked away in this room. Your foot hits something on the floor. Although totally grossed out, you pick it up between two fingertips and pull it out to the light to see "shame" scribbled across it. Tossing it back into the room, you slam the door shut, wiping your fingers on your pant legs.

Room #6: This door is closed, but not locked. You slowly open it and peer inside. To your surprise, there's a man sitting inside the room. There are no stacks of anything, just a man. He smiles, so you step into the room, thinking to yourself how familiar he looks. Then you see his hands. They are nail-scarred, and you realize this has to be Jesus. He nods to verify your thoughts are correct. You start to ask the question, but don't, not wanting to be rude "Why don't you get rid of all this trash in the other rooms of his heart?" But He, being Jesus, reads your thoughts. With a sad look, he answers "He won't let me. For me to get rid of the resentments, fears, worries, shame..... he would have to surrender it to me and let it go, and he can't, so it keeps piling up."

  There are still more rooms to explore, but you have had enough. You head for the exit, and see other rooms that are labeled: Joy, peace, love.....". In spite of your desire to get out of this place, you peek in the first, and it is empty. So are the next two. The reality hits you. John is so busy hoarding the bad stuff, he has no time to fill his heart with the good things. Shaking your head in sadness, you exit the heart, realizing soon there will be no room left in this heart for Jesus, for He will be crowded out by the negative and bad things John is hoarding, If there is anything left of John by that point.

   That was just a weird illustration I dreamed up, partly inspired by the book I read a few years ago, and partly from thinking about hoarders. But it does happen. We come to Jesus, and He wipes the slate completely clean, but if you're like me, it is hard to let go of some things. For me:

Unforgiveness - a lot of it aimed at myself

  And although our hearts don't have literal rooms, or stacks of "stuff" all over the place, we do basically hoard negative things in our hearts. But it is even more dangerous than physical hoarding. It can be bad for us physically, but more importantly, it can be dangerous for us spiritually. It can drown Jesus out to the point we aren't even sure He is there anymore.

  But we keep on hoarding.

  Why is it so hard to give Jesus everything? It is often easier to give Him the outward - our money, our families. But it is harder to let go of the inner "stuff." We want to hold onto those things, And some things come so naturally, like worry and fear, it is hard to truly trust Him and let go of what is bad for us and is holding us back.

  But just like there is hope for the hoarders who hoard in their physical house, there is hope for we hoarders of the heart. It takes a lot of prayer, and leaning on God and truly trusting Him. But if we take those steps, He will take it all. All of the worry, resentment, shame, guilt, and everything else that we hold on to.

  I'm not there yet, but it is my aim to be. I don't want to be a hoarder of those things, There are better things to hoard, but yet they aren't really things we CAN hoard. They will overflow to others, which is the way it should be:
Good will

And more.
The answer is Jesus. It always has been, and always will be.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thoughts On Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

   I have a   blog for book reviews, but this is not really a book review, so I am posing it here. I just finished reading the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. It is a very moving and detailed story of how a young man who was raised a Muslim, came to know Jesus. I read a similar book a couple of months ago, but this one was more moving and gave more details than the other. I do have some thoughts after finishing the book, and since it is 5:00 am, they may be jumbled and not make a lot of sense.

1) Muslims scare me, and have scared me since 911. And since 911, they have been behind every terrorist attack and attempted terrorist attack on our country, but according to the author of this book, there are different sects of Muslims, and some decry violence. Why they seem silent when these attacks happen, I don't know, but the sect Nabeel was from is against these attacks.

2) Mohammed may be their esteemed prophet, but he was a wicked and cruel man, something Muslims find all kinds of excuses for.

3) It is OK for Muslims to question Allah, who is God, but not OK to question Mohammed, his prophet. Seems bizarre.

4) God can truly reach anyone and bring them to Him, no matter how impossible it seems, no matter how steeped in a false religion they are.

5) Christianity totally trumps Islam, and can be backed up historically. Islam crumbles under true examination.

6) God still uses a variety of ways to reach people, in this case dreams.

7) In the book, Nabeel becomes best friends with a Christian young man, David. Over the course of a few years, David helps bring to Christ:
Marie, an atheist, who he eventually marries
Zach, a Buddist
Nabeel, a Muslim

  This may be the biggest thing I walked away from this book with. The book is by and about Nabeel, a Muslim who finds Jesus and turns his back on Islam, but I was amazed that this Christian young man, David, was so instrumental in bringing three people to Jesus who most of is wouldn't think about talking to about Jesus.

How many people have we won to Jesus who normally wouldn't darken a church door?
Can our faith stand up to questioning and examination by people from other religions?
Do we know our Bible and faith well enough?
Do we live our Christian life in a way that would win anyone, much less people like David won?

8) For most of us here in the United States, our faith costs us nothing. We might experience a little push back, but most of us have no true persecution or cost from serving Jesus. Not so for a Muslim who converts to Christianity.

If they are from certain sects of Islam, they could be hunted down and killed. Nabeel was not from those sects of Islam, but he had to deal with breaking his parents' hearts, and a lot of being ostracized. Only a few cousins came to his wedding, most of his family, his parents and sister included, did not come.

We don't deal with that. In fact, for most of us, following Jesus is easy. Maybe too easy. Sometimes we take it for granted, and take God for granted, but if we truly had to give up everything we knew, everyone we loved, to follow Jesus...... could we do it?

I do highly recommend the book. It is interesting and compelling.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The boy on the back row

  Tonight at church I saw a young man slip into the back pew before church started. I had never seen him at our church, and felt I should go and welcome him, but I just sat there. I kept hoping someone would stop and welcome him as they walked by the pew where he sat, leaning forward, but no one did. I kept feeling like I should, but just sat there. Finally, just as the service was about to start, our preacher's son walked over and asked the boy to sit with him and his girlfriend. I thought to myself "Good job, Denver", then settled in for the service.

  It turns out it was his second time at church, and he is a new student at the nearby Bible college.

  This may come as a surprise to those who know me well, but I have a really hard time approaching visitors or new people at church. It is kind of dumb, since it is a big part of my job  to greet people walking into the Emergency Department at the hospital I work at, and offer my help, and engage people in conversation.

  But church? That is different for some reason. Maybe part of it is because I am not getting paid for it. And I am the only person to do it at work while on my shift. At church, there are a lot of other people to welcome visitors.

  But what if everyone was like me in that regard? There was a song out in the late 80's or early 90's that asked the question "What kind of church would my church be, if every member was just like me? How many souls would be saved today, if it all depended on what I say?" That is truly a scary thought in general, but if everyone at my church was just like me, how many would seek out visitors and make them feel welcome. (If they were all like me, at least everyone would always be on time!) At times, when a visitor or new person walked right by me, I have managed to tell them it was nice to have them, and to come back. I just did that with a new college kid two Sundays ago, He was walking past me, and I managed to, then felt dumb afterwards. Which is dumb.

  I have been at churches before where they singled out the visitor and sang something like "There's  welcome here, there's a welcome here, there's a Christian welcome here.....". That makes one cringe and want to hide under the pew or go running out of the church. And it is easy to welcome someone like that, but on an individual level..... not so much,

  A lot of my problem stems from a life long poor self esteem. Granted, it isn't as bad as it used to be, but it is still bad and influences me from speaking to visitors more often. "What if I say something dumb? They are young, maybe a younger person should make them feel welcome (that did pop into my head last night) someone else will do it, I wouldn't know what to say - should I introduce myself - then I'd feel really stupid...."

  And yet, if everyone had those thoughts, and if everyone sat back waiting for someone else to make the visitors welcome.......no one would ever make anyone feel welcome. Well, the pastor and his wife would, but that is part of their job........ not part of mine.

 Or is it? It is so easy to sit in the pew and let everyone else do things that they are more qualified in doing than I am. And really, there are more qualified people to do everything in my church, even greet visitors. We even have a welcoming committee who stands at the door before church and Sunday School on Sunday mornings to greet everyone. (No, they don't get paid.... I checked into that already)

  That may be the poorest excuse for not greeting visitors, or doing other things in the church. It's not my job. Words that should never be uttered in church.

 I have blogged about this before, and resolved to do better, and yet I haven't. But then I never have been good at keeping resolutions.

 I have been a visitor in churches before, and it feels good to have someone stop by where I am sitting and welcome me to the church. Knowing that, why is it so hard for me to do it at my church.

 A Facebook friend posted a link to a great blog post about being comfortable. And it applies here. It is definitely out of my comfort zone to welcome people to my church, but God doesn't want us to always stay in our comfort zone. If we did, nothing would ever get done for Him or for the church. People constantly do things out of their comfort zone for God, so why should I be any different? Why should I be the one who can sit by and warm my pew? (I AM really good at pew warming, but you can't get paid for that either)

  I have told the story before, but it bears repeating. Some years back, a young man was at the end of his rope, and walked into a Christian bookstore, hoping someone would talk to him. He wondered around for a while, and no one approached him to see if he needed anything - and he did. He needed someone to listen, and didn't get it. He went back home, wrote a suicide note, and took his own life.

  In no way am I excusing his suicide, but how sad. And what if that was my church, or your church? What if someone slipped in who was at the end of their rope, and left without anyone speaking to them? It could happen.

  Let's all be more friendly and welcoming to visitors and new people in our churches. And don't wait for someone else to speak to the people on the back row, or wherever they sit.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

We are all Victoria Olsteen

 No, this is not another blog post slamming Victoria Olsteen, though I still stand by my previous blog post and still have the same opinion of she and her toothpaste commercial husband.

  Victoria drew a lot of criticism for her comments at a church service recently:

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it — we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy.

“So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

  I do think she is wrong for a couple of reasons, , but do her words really differ from most Christian's feelings and ideas? Why do people go to church, and what do they expect from the service? If all of us were 100% honest about it, we want the service to make us feel good. We want to leave feeling......happy.

  And on one level, that may not be wrong. If you're feeling discouraged and depressed, often being in church around other Christians, singing the songs, worshiping, and hearing an encouraging sermon can lift our spirits, and I don't think God is against that. He doesn't want is miserable and discouraged. Does He want us happy? Not necessarily. He wants us holy.

  But too many of us go to church and make it all about us. We want to be used - and by used, we mean doing something that people will see us doing, not background stuff. So we move onto another church where they might use us. We want the right kind of music to make us feel good. We want programs, fun. We want, we want, we want....... I like the sermon to be no longer than 30 minutes, I like us to sing out of a certain hymnal. I don't like more than a certain amount of testimonies...... if you get right down to it, we are a bit self-centered, or maybe a lot self-centered in our worship.

  There's nothing wrong with wishing for certain things from church. I wish my church did Bible studies and fellowship things outside of the church, but those aren't necessary for worshiping God, and they are not good reasons to move on to another church.

  Why do we even go to church? To worship God should be the ultimate reason, and Scripture seems to indicate for fellowship with other believers. But are we doing what we criticized Victoria O for? Wanting the service to make us happy? Or are we going to worship God because of what He has done for us, and just because of who and what He is?

  The following story came to mind on how the song "The Heart of Worship" was written:

The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.
“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”
Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”
Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.
“Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
When the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come / Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart… / I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, Jesus
Redman remembers writing the song quickly in his bedroom soon after the church’s journey together, with no grand intentions, by any means, for it to become an international anthem. He viewed the words simply as his personal, subjective response to what he was learning about worship.
But when Matt shared “The Heart of Worship” with Pilavachi, the pastor suggested making a few small adjustments to the lyrics so any member of the church could relate to it as well.
Amazed by how God has since taken the song around the world for His purposes, the songwriter smiles in regard to his own lack of foresight. “It nearly didn’t go any further than my bedroom. But I love that…”
The trademark tune soon became the title track for Matt Redman’s 1999 album, The Heart of Worship. The recording process was consistent with the artist’s sensitive approach to being in the studio.
“We decided to not get all complicated, and just let the song ‘breathe.’ We’re always trying to create more of a church atmosphere in the studio rather than just a technical musical gathering. Something happens when the people of God gather together and play out the praises of God in the presence of God. Hopefully something of that passion and purpose transcends beyond that studio room onto the recordings themselves.”
  If I am honest, and I try to be, too many Sundays I go to church because that's what I do on Sunday. Sunday School is barely over before I am thinking about what is for Sunday dinner, or worrying about something. If I like the songs we sing, I sing along. If not, I get lost in thought.
  But how often do I go to church with just the thought and intent to worship God? Not on what I am going to get out of the service, but what can I put into the service to worship God. I, and many others in my church and in churches across the world, don't vocalize what Victoria O said, we have made the worship service all about us and how we feel. 
  The early church didn't have programs, praise and worship choruses on a big screen, Veggie Tales for kids, and worship teams with all of the newest instruments, but they worshiped God and had fellowship...... and they added new Christians to the church daily.
  Vicki - can I call her Vicki? - Vicki isn't the only one to get it wrong. I think most of us get it wrong. Worship isn't at all about how we feel, or what it makes us feel. We are to worship no matter what, in whatever circumstances we are in. There are people worshiping God in prisons, worshiping God as they are tortured for their faith. I doubt they are HAPPY, but they still worship.
  And likewise, I, and you, need to worship God no matter how we feel. And if it makes us happy and makes us feel good, I guess that is just an added bonus, but that should never, ever be the focus or reason to worship God. We worship Him because He is holy, and for what He has done for us. Which is a lot. 

Thoughts and questions on the sinning Christian

This is not a post to bash anyone, but to just put some honest thoughts and questions out there. I was raised in and attend a church with Arminian theology. Among other differences from Calvinism, I grew up being taught, and believing that Christians do not sin daily, and that one can live a sinless life.

 If that seems ludicrous, imagine my shock when I ran across the idea that Christians DO sin daily, and cannot go a day without sinning.

 I was working at a Christian bookstore in 1999-2004, and the idea of Ash Wednesday was fairly new to me. I had never been around people who put ashes on their foreheads, and was discussing it with my coworkers. I asked why people do it, and one replied it is for the sins they have committed. I asked "what if you haven't committed any lately?" They all looked at me like I had turned into a pink unicorn, and one of them said "everyone sins!" I was taken aback, especially when they all agreed. I was the odd man out.

  I brought up the woman caught in adultery, and pointed out that Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven, and to "go and sin no more." One of my coworkers came back with "Well, that is the only person He said that to." Wow. Out of all the people who ever lived, God only expected her to sin no more. Interesting argument.

  It wasn't too long after that, I was reading a book by Max Lucado. I believe it was In The Grip of Grace. He asked a question if you could go a certain amount of time without sinning, and got down to a day, and eventually an hour, and said you can't. And he can't. This preacher/author made the claim that Christians cannot go even an hour without sinning. I was beyond shocked. I remember thinking "Even a sinner can go an hour without sinning!" Granted, by refusing Jesus, they are in a constant state of sin, but I am referring to committing an actual sin.

 And then I read verses in the Bible that say things like this:

Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in H=him, and he cannot sin, for he has been born of God. (I John 3:9) (NKJV)

Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin, live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2) (NKJV)

My little children, I write these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)

  So, who is right? Max Lucado, and countless others who say and believe the same thing, or God's Word. And there are other such verses in the Bible.

  I'll admit, when I was in Bible college and realized what I was struggling with, I thought I was bound for hell and living a life of sin just for having the struggles, and it has taken me many years, and a lot of thought, reading, and praying to realize that isn't true. Having temptations or desires for something that the Bible says is wrong, does not make one a sinner. It is acting out on those desires and temptations that is sinful. And I still don't have all of the answers, but in light of God's Word, a sinning Christian still doesn't sit with me well.

  Could it be the defintion of sin is different for Calvinists and Arminians? I had catechism as a kid, though we didn't have the emphasis on it that some churches do. I'll never forget the one question, and the answer:
What is sin? Sin is a willful transgression of a known law of God.

  That puts a different spin on things. Have you willingly broken a known law of God today? Within the last hour? I haven't.

  I get the idea that for some people, any mistake is a sin. That we can sin without knowing it.

  We live in a world where nothing is sin anymore. Christians can do anything in the book and still be Christians. But there is a difference in sin, and in making mistakes. The Bible sure seems to indicate that Christians don't sin  - at least not regularly and habitually. Disagree with that? Then how can one deny the verses I quoted. And there are more just like them.

  This question has come to me over and over, and I have asked it, and never got a satisfying answer to it: We believe Jesus blood can not just cover, but deliver from many sins:

  There are many sins, that if a person keeps committing them after being saved, we would rightly say there is no way they are a Christian. So what about other sins?

Are there some sins Jesus can't totally deliver us from?

Why do we expect Christians to stop some sins, but not other sins?

What sins can Christians commit daily and still be a Christian, and what sins CAN'T they commit daily, and still be a Christian?

Can someone really sin, and not know it? (Oops! I stole $1000 from someone, but I didn't know I stole it.....)

   And no, I am not making fun. These are just honest questions I have about this idea that Christians sin daily, and can never get to a point that they don't sin daily.

  I looked up the definition of sinner. The very first definition that is given, is "a person who sins, a transgressor". Touche'.

 I don't have all of the answers. When one deals with a "besetting sin", there are more questions than answers, but the question does remain: If the Bible says that Christians do not sin, should not sin, then why do so many believe and teach that Christians sin daily?

  Definition of sin is probably one major thing that comes into play, but the verses still stand, even with differing definitions of what sin is.

 We are commanded to be like Jesus, and He never sinned. Is that the one part of Him that we aren't to strive to be like Him in?

  And are we any better than a sinner, if we sin daily like them?

These are questions that may have no answers. I myself, believe as a Christian I am to strive to live above sin and not give in. Maybe that means doing some things those of Calvinist beliefs would call sin. But if I am clear with God and am not breaking a known law of God, am I sinning?

  And one might say it is pride to believe you could live a sinless life. If that is the case, then God Himself has told us to do so, and He condemns pride, so that cannot be.

  Maybe no one of the sinning persuasion has good answers to my questions. That is OK. We can still live in peace and harmony, and though we disagree, not condemn each other.