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

Monday, October 26, 2015

He Went Out of His Way, a re-post

   I was reading something the other day where the writer was wondering about the story in the Bible of the woman at the well,  if Jesus went to Samaria to meet the woman at the well, or if she just happened to come there when He was sitting at the well.

  I have been thinking about it and decided to write a blog post about it, but as I got ready to do so, it seemed like I may have already blogged about it, so I started searching through past blog posts..... and sure enough, I blogged about it back on August of 2014. So I decided to edit it a bit and post it again:

One of my favorite Bible stories is in John 4. It is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. And it is a favorite for a couple of reasons. It shows Jesus wasn't just here for good people, but for the down and out "not-so-nice" people. I also identify with the Samaritan Woman, so the story means a lot to me. And another reason: Jesus went out of His way to meet her. Samaria wasn't on their path. In fact, Jews avoided Samaria, but the Bible says He needed to go through Samaria. For one woman.

  I am sure they had a full day planned, and Jesus was a busy guy, but He didn't just take time out of His day for this woman. He went out of His way.

  I have a friend who is a fairly new friend, but is a great friend. He lived the gay lifestyle for several  years before turning to God, and now runs a ministry in Orlando, Florida for men struggling with same-sex attractions. Near the time I originally posted this blog post, he had a friend show up at his door around 3 am. This friend is gay and was trying to move out away from his boyfriend, so the boyfriend beat him up. Matthew stayed up all night ministering to this guy. Most Christians would slam the door on a gay guy who was just beat up by his boyfriend, but Matthew went out of his way to help this guy, who as far as I know has made no move towards Christianity.

  There's another story in the Bible involving a Samaritan, and it also involves someone going out of his way. The story of the Good Samaritan. Jew gets robbed and left for dead in the ditch. A couple of religious leaders come by and ignore him and pass on the other side of the road. Then a Samaritan, a natural enemy of Jews, comes along. He stops, bandages the wounds of the beaten man, takes him to an inn and pays for his room, and tells the innkeeper he will pay anything left on the tab when he comes back.

  Not many Christians want to do that anymore. Go out of their way, be inconvenienced, get their hands dirty. They'll sing a special, take up the offering, or anything else that will put them up front in church, just as long as it isn't an inconvenience. They'll put money in the offering plate for missions, do an ice bucket challenge to raise awareness for a disease, just as long as they don't have to go out of their way.

  We have become selfish Christians. We have our cliques, our plans, and have our days planned out just the way we want them to go. If someone is lying in the ditch, too many of us are like the religious leaders and pass by, afraid it will take up our time or it will get our hands dirty.

  I have talked before about wearing masks. What it is like to attend church and feel you have to wear a mask for fear of what would happen if people could see under the mask. Some might avoid you. Others might run. Still others might want to put a scarlet letter on you like in the classic book "The Scarlet Letter". And others might just ignore you. All of those reactions are sad. We are the Church, the family of God. We should be surrounding people with love when their masks fall to the ground or slip aside to give a glimpse of what is underneath.

  Our churches are full of hurting and struggling people. Often we have no idea what is going on, but other times we do know or have a good idea. And too often, we pass by and let them lie there in the ditch. We don't have time, we don't want to go out of our way, or get our hands dirty... or God forbid, we catch THAT from them.

  Sometimes all someone needs is a listening ear over a cup of coffee. They need someone asking how they are doing, and really meaning it. I've been there. I have wanted someone to ask me how I was doing, and not be freaked out if I didn't use the Christian "f-word." (Fine). I've wanted someone to put their arm around me and tell me I was going to make it, that I mattered, that God does care and love me.

   And all too many times, it didn't happen. But that was then, this is now, and it has helped me understand  how important it is to be there for our Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, I have prayed that if God wanted to use my struggles to help someone else some day, I would be willing to be used.

  I had a friend confide in me recently that they are afraid of how people at their church will react and treat them if something gets out that is most likely going to get out. I think it is sad that it is even a worry. Isn't this the family of God?  Where "when one has a heartache, we all share a tear"? Or is it "when one has a heartache, we gossip, judge, and are just glad it isn't us in those circumstances?" That sounds jaded and even a bit snarky, but I am afraid it is true of a lot of people.

 We need to cut back on our golf games, our movies, reading, shopping, football games, and whatever else we think is so important that we do, and spend time on people. That's what Jesus did, and what He would do if He were walking the earth today doing His earthly ministry.

  And we need to love. And go out of our way. We need to get our hands dirty once in a while, and set aside our plans to be there for a hurting brother or sister.

  It wasn't convenient for Jesus to go through Samaria to meet that one lone outcast of a woman. But He did.

  And it was far from convenient for Him to go through the beatings, mockery, and crucifixion for us, so that we could have eternal life........ but He did it. He left Heaven and came here to die for you and I. It was so much more than an inconvenience, and yet we can't go out of our way for Him? We can't go out of our way to be there for others who are hurting?

 Myself included in this statement: we are too focused on me. Making me comfortable and happy. Doing what me wants, spending time on me. We even make the Bible fit what me wants. And we are so busy making me happy and comfortable, that we don't have time for others. Time to encourage and be Jesus to others. Me has to be entertained, fed, and made happy.

  If we truly lived selfless lives with eternity in view, things would be so different. But whether we want to admit it, too many of us are basically selfish down deep. We excuse it and call it other things, but we are basically selfish.

  May God help us all to go out of our way, to get our hands dirty, and to inconvenience ourselves once in a while, and not be so bound on making me happy.

He Went Out of His Way

Verse 1
She could not believe He would come to her city,
Come to a Samarian well
But He offered and got her to drink living water, 
Now she's got a story to tell

To make a way, He went out of His way
Came to me, left Heaven one day
He took a journey alone
Left His Father at home
To make a way, He went out of His way

Verse 2
He left the splendor of Heaven for sinners, 
For sinners He laid up His crown
He traded His glory to bring us this story
To Calvary Heaven came down

To make a way, He went out of His way
Came to me, left Heaven one day
He took a journey alone
Left His Father at home
To make a way, He went out of His way

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Do we love animals too much?

I love to blog. I don't even care if people read it. It is just enjoyable to write. My biggest hindrance to writing blog posts is lack of ideas.  I actually Googled "ideas of things to blog about" the other day, and got nothing...... except for ideas of where to get blog post ideas -i.e. news stories, Facebook posts, etc. There was also a list of general things, and one was a rant.

This post is one I have had on my mind a long time... and could be classified as a rant -  and I have actually started writing on this a few times, but deleted it for fear people would get angry....... but then that hasn't stopped me before, and it is a sad world if I can't voice my opinion on my own blog.....  It is sad that even Christians want you to shut up if your opinion or views are contrary to theirs or the majority of the country, but that is where we are..... but I won't be silenced, so here I go. Animal lovers.  beware

  I am not an animal lover, well other than fried chicken, pork, ham, venison, steak, etc.... Seriously, I am not that crazy about animals. I still think kittens and puppies are cute, and don't mind cats as long as they are outside. But to be honest, animals are kind of gross.

Here are some thoughts I have on animals:

1) I don't like animals in the house, and can't imagine any house with an animal being truly clean (and for the record, we have had animals in our house before.... so I would know) :)

2) I think it is gross to sleep with an animal or let them on furniture... or worse on counters and tables. (my niece and my best friend sleep with animals...gross!)

3) It is doubly gross to eat after an animal or let them eat off of plates humans use.

4) I feel like throwing up every time I hear someone refer to themselves as an animal's "mommy or daddy". It is an animal, not a child. You did NOT give birth to it.

5) And you did not "adopt" it. You own animals, you adopt humans.

6) You just think your dog isn't peeing all over your house. My dad has been laying carpet in people's homes for at least 30-some years, and he has told me more than once that many people that have had dogs in their house have said their dog never goes to the bathroom in the house..... but then he takes up the carpet and padding and the truth is there to be seen...... yes, their dog went to the bathroom in the house, and more than a few times.

7) It looks gross to see people wearing clothes covered with cat or dog hair

8) Animals do not go to Heaven. God put a soul in humans, so we go to Heaven or Hell. He did not put a soul in animals, and where would He draw the line? If dogs do, do snakes? Spiders? Flies? Chickens? Will I meet all of the chickens I have made a meal out of here on earth?

9) A dog is not man's best friend....... Jesus is man's best friend.

10) In India, they worship cows. Ancient Egyptians worshiped cats. Modern Americans worship cats, dogs, birds, and anything else that can be a pet.

11) Any time someone shares a post about animals from some kind of pro-animal group, I click the button to not show posts from that group anymore.

12) Why do people take animals shopping with them where they have to leave them in the car? Just leave them at home!

13) That same tongue your pet is licking your face and lips with, and that is licking your ice cream cone..... that same tongue was used when he was cleaning his whole body, including his rear......

   A former pastor of mine preached a message from Colossians 3:5 several years ago that I have never forgotten, and we are talking at least 20 years. That verse in the King James version, THE version of the church I attended and the one I currently attend, says this "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

  He focused on the two words in that verse: inordinate affection. Inordinate means excessive or unrestrained. His whole sermon didn't focus on animals, but he did talk about how people are with their animals as part of this inordinate affection....... and from what I have seen and heard, I believe he had a point.

  I am observant. The same people who are always posting things about animal cruelty, puppy mills, bear hunts, etc, never or rarely post anything about abortion or human trafficking. Do I believe people shouldn't post about animals? No, and I am against animal cruelty even though I am not an animal lover. I do think it is indicative of our country's loss of respect for human life and our screwed up priorities. Human lives matter - all races and colors - a million times more than a kitten of puppy or a bear. And it does say something about priorities and what is important to you by what you are constantly posting.

  One has to look only as far as PETA, a very extreme organization that cares much more about animals than babies or human trafficking. They have actually wished death on people for daring to eat meat and chain or cage animals, and have the most bizarre ads and campaigns to draw attention to their extreme views. And it does seem the more pro-animal people get, the less they care about issues like abortion and human trafficking.

  I stated this before, and believe with all of my heart that it is true:

If a politician ran for office and advocated cruelty to animals, or even aborting puppies or kittens, they would never win. They would receive tons of hate mail, and the country would be incensed. But that same politician can cheer on, support, and have as one of their main platforms the "right" of a woman to murder her baby in her womb, and they are called a champion, and are voted by even many who claim to be a Christian.

  Think about that for a minute. Have we lost our respect for human life so much that many people care more about the plight of animals than humans?

  Now imagine another scenario: Imagine a politican advocating that if an animal is born and is struggling to live, that you just let it lie there and die without trying to save it. Now imagine the outrage, and imagine the chances of that politician winning any office,

  Yet - and this is the honest to goodness truth: While senator, Obama voted AGAINST a bill that in cases when an aborted baby survives the abortion that medical treatment would be used to save the baby. He voted to let the baby lie there and die..... but no one would advocate that for an animal.

  There have been a few news stories lately that are worth mentioning:

Cecil the lion. The country was in an uproar because an American dentist killed a lion on a hunt in another country, and that lion had a name. People were calling for his arrest and death. Wow.

  Then the videos started coming out giving proof that Planned Parenthood sells baby body parts from aborted babies, and there was silence from the people who were upset about a lion being killed.

  And now, the newest uproar: Due to problems with bears in Florida, the governor.... horror of horrors - had a bear hunt to thin down the amount of bears, Cue the outrage from the same crowd who is silent about abortion and human trafficking.

  I know of a couple who loves cats. They REALLY love cats. They do everything but bow down and actively worship this cat.... well, maybe they do that too. The cat has its own bedroom. They buy cat DVDs for it to watch. They have an urn with the ashes of their previous cat inside of it. Their world revolves around a cat.

  People put hundreds and thousands of dollars into something that will live an average of 10-12 years, possibly a little longer... and for what? I get that animals can provide companionship and fun, but they should never take the place of people in our lives.

   Anything can become an idol to us. Sports, reading, hunting, eating, cell phones, computers, animals......  Anything we are more devoted to than God can be an idol.

  And don't get me wrong. I am not faulting people for having animals as pets or being fond of them.... I just think we as a country love animals too much and give them a place that no animal should ever have, and that the attitude is almost worship of some people toward animals. So go ahead and post pro-animal stuff, but show once in a while that human issues are important to you also.

  Now excuse me while I go eat a piece of leftover fried chicken from lunch. All this talk of animals has made me hungry.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


There are those who say God can be found anywhere, even in the secular. Books have been written about finding God in the Lord of the Rings books and movies, and even in Harry Potter......which is a stretch for me.

 But maybe they are right. I watched a movie for the second time recently that has had me thinking a lot about God, true beauty and love, and the change God can make in us.

Beastly is a modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. Kyle is a young man who has it all: looks, money, popularity, a beautiful girlfriend, and anything he wants. His mother left when he was little, and he has a news anchor father who rarely pays attention to him. Kyle is arrogant, conceited, treats those badly that he considers beneath him, and is an all around jerk.

  Then he treats the wrong person badly. Enter the witch. No, I don't believe in witches, but even a modern day retelling of a fairy tale needs a witch, I guess. The witch, a fellow classmate, puts a curse on Kyle, taking away his good looks and leaving him looking like a monster. He has one year to have a girl fall in love with him and say "I love you", or he will remain a freak for the rest of his life.

  His father immediately tries doctors, but nothing can be done, so he gets his son an apartment to hide out in and deserts him.

  Kyle ends up convincing a drug addict who has bad guys after him and his daughter, Lindy, to let Kyle protect his daughter, a former classmate of Kyle's. She at first feels like a prisoner hiding out in an apartment from bad guys wanting to kill her and her father, and protected by a young man in a hoodie who never shows his face.

  Until one day he does. She gets to know this young man as Hunter and as he changes and becomes selfless in his desire to protect her and make her happy, she falls in love with him and sees him for what he is inside, not outside.  In the one ending, she eventually tells him that she loves him as she is leaving for a trip. She changes her mind about the trip and runs outside to catch him, but he is gone..... but the arrogant Kyle who used to go to her school is standing there. Cue sweet ending as she realizes the ugly guy she fell in love with is the hot jerk she had had a slight crush on.

 It is a cool story, and remarkably clean and free of sex or hints of sex. And it is the story of me, and and many others.

  In the alternate ending, Kyle as the ugly Hunter is trying to find Lindy at the airport. It is the first time he has been in public in daylight, and there are gasps from all of the young people who stare at him in horror. One kid asks him who he is. Kyle turns, takes down his hood to reveal his face and head completely, and goes "Who am I? I am just me, turned inside out."

  No one knows what is inside of us, the ugliness, the scars, the things we hide or try to hide from the world..... but it is there. We may not have to wear a hoodie and only go out at night to keep people from seeing what we are truly like, but it is there..... for God to see.

 In the final scene in the main ending, Lindy is rushing to find Hunter, while the boy who was Hunter and is now again Kyle is trying to tell her that it was him all along. As she is walking fast calling for Hunter, Kyle is talking to her:

Conversation as Lindly exits the airport door, almost running into Kyle:

Lindy: Hunter! Kyle! Sorry, I’m looking for someone. I don’t mean to be rude.
Kyle: I get it.
Lindy: Thanks. And sometime, you’ll tell me what happened to you.
Kyle: I met someone.
Lindy: That’s great.
Kyle: She reminds me of you. And she showed me that love can change you.
Lindy: Hunter!
Kyle: Do you think love can change you?
Lindy: Of course.
Kyle: Then you’ll believe the story I’m about to tell you.
Lindy: Where is he?
Kyle: It’s about a guy, good-looking on the outside, ugly on the inside. And there’s a curse. Love changes him.
Lindy: Everyone knows that story.
Kyle: What if it wasn’t a story? What if it were true?
Lindy: What?
*Lindy calling Hunter’s phone and it’s ringing in Kyle’s pocket*
Kyle: Can you imagine that love? Can you?
Lindy: ( as she realizes Kyle is the Hunter she fell in love with) Yeah. It’s you.

   Beastly, a story about a young man who was very ugly on the inside, and as a result turned ugly on the outside, but the love of a beautiful young girl changed him on the inside, which changed the outside back to beautiful. The movie is as much of a fairy tale as the fairy tale it is retelling.

  Yet anyone who has experienced the love of Jesus knows that it doesn't have to be a fairy tale. No matter what we are like inside, no matter the ugliness, the scars no one sees, the horrible sins we may have committed..... Jesus loves us. Nothing we can do can change that love or diminish it.

 In the movie, Lindy's love changed Kyle's outward appearance from ugly and freaky back to good looking. But his inside had to change first. Had he remained the selfish and self absorbed jerk that he had been, she would never have fallen in love with him. Jesus changes the inside and that also changes the outside, but He died for us to show His love, which is more than happens in a fairy tale.

  In the closing scene, Kyle tells Lindy about a good looking guy who is ugly on the inside, but love changes him. He then asks "Can you imagine that love?" As the movie ended, I thought to myself "Can you imagine that love?" A love that would send the Son of God to a cross to die for my sins and the sins of the world. A love that causes Him to pursue us relentlessly through life, lovingly trying to bring us to Him..... and when we come to Him, he changes us far more than any earthly love could ever do.

  Can you imagine that love? Yes I can. for that love is mine and redeemed this sinner. And oh what a love.

The Jesus who celebrates sin

 Every few months or so, someone posts an article about whether Christians should go a gay wedding, bake a cake for a gay wedding, etc. Inevitably, the point will be made that Christians should do these things because Jesus would. After all, He hung out with sinners, so of course He'd do anything for a gay wedding... including going to one.

  Or would He?

  I weary of people saying Jesus would do this or that, when He may not do what they say He would do. There are people who seem to think by trotting out the "Jesus would do it" argument, that they have won the debate hands down, and everyone should just shut up and do as they do...... for after all, they have the personal knowledge of what Jesus would or would not do, and if you disagree..... you are just wrong.

  When you go to a wedding, you are there to celebrate the couple's happy day and to congratulate them on the joining of their lives together. Now I am going to throw out a few facts here:

1)) Homosexuality is a sin. God calls it an abomination in the Old Testament, and the New Testament is very plain on it still being a sin. God didn't change His mind on any sexual sin in between the two Testaments.

2) Gay marriage is wrong. It is marrying two people of the same sex who are going against everything God said about sex and marriage. 

3) To go to or participate in any wedding is to indicate you are OK with the marriage, and that you are celebrating the occasion with the couple.

  Think about that last statement I made: you are celebrating the occasion with the couple. Now can you imagine Jesus - the same Jesus who says homosexuality is a sin, an abomination, and whose Word says that homosexuals will go to hell - can you really imagine Jesus going to a wedding of two people whose very marriage is based on what He calls sinful and an abomination? Is He going to go and celebrate their rebellion, their sin, their defiance of God? Would He smile and laugh and applaud their decision to ignore what the Bible says about their sin? Would He give them a gift and card to congratulate their sin and their further steps away from serving Him and doing His will?

  Jesus DID hang out with sinners, but He never celebrated or approved of their sin. He never left them  the way He found them.

He went to visit Zacchaeus, and left him a changed man.

He met the woman at the well, and changed her life and the lives of many people in her city.

He called Matthew the tax collector to follow Him, and he did.

He cast demons out of Mary Magdalene and she followed Him for the rest of her life.

He forgave the woman caught in adultery and told her to go and sin no more.

He called out sin and forgave it, but He never, ever approved of it nor celebrated sin.

  And He wouldn't do it today either.

  We somehow have this idea that God wants us to be happy and feel good about ourselves no matter what we do, and that no matter what we do, He will be there to cheer us on and make us feel happy about what we are doing. That even if we are living in sin and in  defiance of what He commands, that He still wants us to be happy and to feel good about ourselves.

  Even if it is homosexuality and gay marriage.

  The evangelical church in general has messed up on the gay issue. The majority of Bible-believing Christians have made it into the worst sin out there, and look on it as almost an unpardonable sin and anyone who is gay as a pariah and evil person. And yes, there are some gay people out there who want to force their lifestyle on Christians and would love it to be a crime to say they are wrong. They have an agenda and do not want tolerance, but total acceptance and indoctrination from Kindergarten to the pulpit. And I firmly believe that all of these cases of bakers, photographers, and others who have been sued and fined for not doing a service for a gay wedding have been instigated by gay couples to make an example and try to force Christians to do what the gay community wants.

  The church needs to do better. No man, woman, boy, or girl should have to sit in the church pew struggling with attractions to the same sex and be afraid to tell someone from their own church. We have failed as a church and as Christians if that is the case...... and in too many churches, that is exactly the case. It is no picnic to sit in the pew struggling with that issue, and hearing people request prayer for their problems and issues, and know if you requested prayer for yours that it would be similar to setting of a bomb in the church. It isn't easy going against what feels natural and living for God instead of your own sexual desires and attractions. And it is made more difficult by your Christian brothers and sisters not understanding it, not wanting to talk about it, and some ostracizing those who they know struggle with it.

  It is wrong to hate or fear gay people, though it is smart to fear and fight their agenda.... but it is also wrong to give approval of their sin and lifestyle and possibly help damn their souls to hell. It is wrong not to give hope to those caught up in that lifestyle and point out that they are in a list of sins God condemns, yet the same verse says "as such were some of you"...... that there is hope for change and it is possible to walk away from even that sin.

  If I had a gay son who was rejecting God and living the gay lifestyle, here is what I'd do.... even with my own experiences influencing me:

  I wouldn't harp on his sin constantly. We don't do that with other sins.

  I would let him know right up front that I didn't approve of his sin, but that I loved him and he was welcome in my home.

  His boyfriend(s) would be welcome in my home, but I'd ask that they'd refrain from public displays of affection, and if they ever spent the night, it would be separate rooms.... but then I'd expect the same out of a boy and girl relationship.

  I would let it be known long before any possibility of a wedding, that I would not be in attendance.

  There would be other issues and things to work out, but it all comes down to these basic points, and it applies to all relationships in life, not just our children:

  We must love those in our lives and make them feel we care, even if we don't approve of everything they do.

  While loving them, we must not do anything to encourage or put approval on their sin, whatever sin it may be.

  Some people may feel they should go to the wedding of a gay son or daughter, and that is their choice and between them and God.. however, I think it would be difficult to be a wedding and not look like you are celebrating it and congratulating the couple on taking another step away from God and further towards their sinful lifestyle.

  I have been to weddings, though I don't like to go to them and haven't been to one since my little sister got married 15 years ago... but I do know this: it is a time of joy and celebration, and it is next to impossible to go to one and not join in celebrating. So I don't care if the pope himself says Jesus would go to a gay wedding, I cannot by any stretch of the imagination believe that He would.

  But if He went, He would not celebrate. He would say "follow me, leave your sin behind and sin no more." But join in a celebration of a sinful lifestyle.. no, the Jesus I serve and know doesn't celebrate sin, He forgives it and changes lives.

  The same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem because they rejected Him, would not celebrate two men or two women's rejection of Him. He would weep.

  So go ahead and go to a gay wedding, or bake the cake, or do the photographs - and use whatever reasoning you want to use, but don't use Jesus. Don't say He would go to one, so we also should.... and if you dare try that reasoning, then you, like Him, should leave the sinners different than you find them. You should invite them to follow Jesus and leave their sin behind them. For if you use Jesus as the reason for going, then you should truly be Jesus to the gay couple and their friends.

 The gay lifestyle isn't gay. Gay means happy, but if you really look at homosexuality and those caught in it, there isn't true happiness. Gay men pass up the average heterosexual man in promiscuity. There are more risks of disease and death in the gay lifestyle than the heterosexual one. The relationships are more shallow, for gay men go after the outward, how guys look. And the end of that lifestyle is an eternity in hell, which is for anyone who rejects Jesus and goes their own way.

 Homosexuality is and is not just another sin, but it is one that the Jesus I serve would not celebrate or join in any way to show He approved of a union based on sin.

  A friend of mine who lived the gay lifestyle for several years made an interesting point in a discussion about Jesus going to gay weddings, or doing anything similar. He said He could not see Jesus celebrating gay weddings or going to a gay pride parade to show love for gay people, but He could see Him at a gay pride parade weeping. Weeping for those caught up in a sinful lifestyle that will destroy them and their souls. That is the Jesus who may show up at a gay wedding.... a weeping Jesus, not one who celebrates sin.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My single journey

 I was in a Christian bookstore recently and overheard two young ladies near me talking about books for singles. The one was evidently married, and the other was not. At one point, the single girl was decrying books for singles and said she had a big problem with something that all singles books had in common. I couldn't help myself, and spoke up and said I knew what it was. They looked at me expectantly, and I said "They all make the assumption that all single people want to marry and are trying to find someone to marry." And that is exactly what the single young lady was thinking.

  We are all born single. Yeah, imagine that. And then before we are even old enough to go to school, we start getting teased about the opposite sex (or the same sex if you live in a dysfunctional and godless home). From early childhood, it is almost like we are given a subtle message - or not so subtle - that the aim in life is to have a significant other that you will marry (unless you decide to go against what God says and do the sex before marriage thing.....).

  It is a couples' world. There are tons of movies that emphasize love between a couple. Bookstore shelves overflow with romance novels. Romance and sex is used to sell everything from cars to potato chips. Even with our country's increasing immorality and push away from marriage - at least traditional marriage - the idea is very pronounced that everyone needs a special someone, a significant other.

  If you're single, you are an oddity. And by single, I mean unattached romantically to anyone.

  I can remember in my pre-teen and teenage years announcing I was never going to marry. Who knew I was a prophet?! I didn't date until I was 19 and in Bible college, and did it pretty much because everyone else was doing it..... a poor reason to do anything. A couple of dating relationships later, I realized what I was struggling with and quit the dating scene for good. Oh. I held onto the dream and idea that I might kick this thing, that it was a phase and I might be "normal some day"//// whatever normal is.

  I would buy every Christian book on dating that came out on the Christian market, read it, and hope to some day practice the advice and tips give in the books. I even bought the popular and controversial "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". And then one day, I did just that. I sat on my living room floor, and through tear-filled eyes I packed up all of my dating books and mailed them off to the person who had bought them on eBay.

  One nice thing about being in my 40's, is everyone else has seemingly also given up on the idea of this guy marrying. It wasn't always the case. Family, friends, co-workers, the mailman .... they would all bug me about dating, marrying and settling down. OK, not the mailman.

  I had to get used to going out to eat alone, and being asked "just one"? I still want to ask, "is there a problem with that?"..... but I won't. That would be rude. I got used to doing a lot of things alone, and of being lonely. Even church seemed to shout at me that I was not normal, that I didn't have a place in the church since I had no wife and kids to trot in with me.

 I'm not sure when things changed, but I stopped wishing I was married. Oh, I wish I had had the chance to be a father, but I am not sure I am that bad off not having a significant other. I believe I am just as significant without a significant other. And I have learned a few things as I have grown more comfortable with my marital status, or lack of:

1) Marriage is no cure for loneliness. There are a lot of married people who are just as lonely or more so than most single people.

2) It is better to be single and wish you weren't, than to be married and wish you weren't. Cliche', but true.

3) I'm a pretty good dinner companion. Sure, eating out with friends or family is nice, but I have come to enjoy eating out by myself also and no longer dread it. Though the "just one?" question still makes me cringe.

4) It is better to have never loved, than to have loved and lost. Yes, a reversal on the popular cliche'.

As I watch marriage after marriage break apart, see the broken hearts, the men and women not honoring their wedding vows, people walking out on their marriage who I would never have dreamed of doing so..... a big part of me is thankful I never have to worry about that happening to me.

5) I have learned that my value has nothing to do with my marital status. Family, friends, the church, and others may view marriage as a status symbol that increases value in a person, but it doesn't. My value lies in God's love for me, and He doesn't love me more or less for my being single, and my singleness doesn't increase or decrease my value in His sight.

6) Being single is cheaper. Yes, it is true. :)

7) I don't have to consult anyone other than God on pretty much anything I do with my life. I shaved my head without having to consult a wife who may have nixed the idea.

8) It isn't that bad sleeping alone. There is no one to keep me awake if they toss and turn.

9) Shopping alone has its advantages. I can spend as long as I want in stores I like..... such as bookstores.

  My dear Grandma Buzard used to tell me that God made someone for everyone. I'd counter back with "that may be true, Gram, but mine died at birth!" She never accepted that answer, and as wise and good as my grandmother was, she was wrong on that. God does not make someone for everyone. And that is OK. Some have made marriage itself into an idol, something more important than God. And in fact, some have chosen a boy or girl over God, only to lose both in the end.

 Paul said the above quote. He was single, though there is some speculation that his thorn in the flesh was a wife...... My opinion may be biased since I am single, but I believe he is right. The Mark of 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago would have disagreed. Oh, I may have said I agreed, but under all of the joking and anti-married comments I made was a desperate wish that I could marry and have a family.

  But the ultimate goal for all of us should be to seek God and His will for our lives. It may or may not include marriage, but whatever His plan is for each and every one of us, if we truly surrender our lives to Him, we can be complete and whole with or without a spouse. He can be and will always be enough, if we let Him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Foiled plans

 I am off Sundays and Mondays, and Tuesday is my "Monday". I fully planned on working yesterday, but by the time Monday evening came, the cold/cough I was getting had hit full force. I felt terrible and was having coughing fits that left me feeling I was going to pass out. Anyone with a brain enjoys an extra day off, but a sick day isn't as fun and I get no sick days.... just a pay without the day I miss. I felt sick enough to call off though, so I did. I popped two pills to help me sleep instead of the usual one, and spent a somewhat fitful night, waking up coughing a few times.

  I slept in until 9:30, which did feel good. I checked my email, read my daily comics, had my morning devotions, and finally wandered upstairs to get cleaned up.... only to get back in my pjs. I spent the remainder of the morning blogging, reading, and napping. I planned to do that all day: enjoy a quiet house,  rest and nap, read, and maybe do another blog post.

  That isn't quite how the rest of my day went. As I lay back in my recliner buried under a blanket, I found out my peace and quiet was gong to be invaded. At 2 pm, my 3 nephews were dropped off for  the rest of the day and to spend the night. Three boys ages 14, 11, and 8 were going to change my quiet afternoon and evening.

  They went outside for short period of time, and then came in and asked the inevitable question: "Uncle Mark, can we play Mario Karts?" The Wii and Wii U are in the basement; the same basement where I was resting. And they don't play it quietly. I, being the wonderful uncle that I am, said they could. And then the next question: "Are you going to play it with us?" And again, being the wonderful uncle that I am, I said yes.

 And that is how most of the afternoon and evening went. Did I feel like playing a noisy game with three noisy boys? No, I did not. I felt like burrowing under the covers with my bag of cough drops, and resting.

  The oldest boy went hunting for a couple of hours with my dad, and it was two boys and myself for a while. Then my mom went to work, and I kicked those two off of the game system for a while, then we were back at it until I declared at 8:30 that it was time to shut it down.

  I didn't feel very rested, and I still felt sick as a dog. My afternoon and evening hadn't gone the way I had planned, but it was fun. I wouldn't trade the high fives my nephews gave me the few times I actually came in first in a race, or the evil laughs they let out as they knocked me back a few places in a race, or the satisfaction of knocking THEM back a few places in a race, and especially the "thanks for playing Mario Karts with us, Uncle Mark" as we shut the system down, and especially the hugs good night.

  I'd planned on working yesterday, but due to sickness enjoyed sleeping in, resting, and getting some reading done. I planned on a full day and evening of that, but instead spent most of that time playing video games with three boys I love very much and who are growing up way too fast.

  I have been thinking. How often have I resisted my plans not going the way I had intended, instead of just enjoying the change? How often has God had something better for me than my plans, but I fought it and pouted that things didn't go the way I wanted and had planned.

 Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you." Maybe a better question is how often do I foil God's plans for me, and mess those plans up by doing what I think is best, by not seeking His will, or taking the wrong path? He always knows best, and sometimes what we see as interruptions to our plans are actually heavenly hindrances meant for our best.

 And sometimes He uses something as simple as an unexpected day off and changing the plans for that day to teach a thick-headed guy like me a lesson.

 His plan is always the best, and God help to me always follow whatever plan He has for my life. And to be the best uncle I can be.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jesus, use me....... part 2

Maybe it is a sign that I am getting older, but there have been a few times when I came up with what I thought would make a good subject to blog about......and discovered I had already done that. This is one such case. I thought this idea seemed familiar, and found that I had done a blog post titled " Jesus Use Me" back in January of this year. I had some new thoughts on it, so I decided to just make a part 2.

  This post was brought on largely in part by a friend of mine who is frustrated that he can't do what he wants ministry-wise and in his eyes is getting no help or encouragement from his church and pastor. I can somewhat relate. I find myself wanting to be used of God, yet in my case I don't feel like I am ready to be used by God. I feel like I need to get closer to God, have it more together than I do at this point, and a few other reasons I feel unprepared to be used by God.

  And then I read an article yesterday by a favorite author of mine titled "God Doesn't Need You to Be Qualified", and that kind of blew my thinking out of the water.

 I personally think there are some mistakes we make with our ideas of being used by God. I am sure someone more intelligent could come up with more, but this is just me:

1) We think we are ready before God knows we are ready.

Moses was 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. God stuck him in the wilderness tending sheep for 40 years before he used him. And history is full of people that God used in great ways in the later years of their lives.

2) We don't think we are ready when God knows we are ready. 

See what I did there? This is just the opposite of the first point.

In John 1:42 there is a simple verse that says "Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter)

Andrew had just left John the Baptist to follow Jesus, and went and brought his brother to Jesus. And anyone who knows their Bible knows how God used Peter...... but God used Andrew to bring Peter to Jesus, and the Bible indicates that it was the same day.

There are other examples of people who God used the same very day they prayed and became a Christian. One does not have to be a mature Christian of many years to be used of God.

3) We think people must see me being used for it to count. 

Yes, there are Christians who think that, but only eternity will review how God has used people behind the scenes.

I am reminded of the story about a woman who was bemoaning to her pastor that she didn't feel she had done much for God in her life. To make a long story short, the pastor named all of her children and asked what they were doing, and all of them were pastors, missionaries, or pastor's wives. Although she herself had no ministry, she had raised her children in such a way that they were used of God. She did nothing in the limelight, but through her much was accomplished for God.

4) We assume it must be big to make a difference.

I have a couple of friends who have ministries for those struggling with same-sex attractions but want to live for God instead of the gay lifestyle. They have helped a lot of people. What they do is a big thing, but God doesn't call all of us to have a ministry. Some of us He uses in small ways with no official ministry.

In my first "Jesus Use Me" post, I related a story about a woman who simply helped a man pick out a Bible and then paid for the Bible. That really isn't much, but yet it was. The list of ways God can use us in small ways is endless, and no one could make a complete list. It can be an encouraging word, an email, a Facebook post, a prayer, a card, taking someone to lunch and just listening.

5) We mix up who it is about.

It is all about Jesus and how He wants to use us, not how we think we ought to be used and about what we want to do for Him.

  I used to speak a lot in church. We had our youth service in the main sanctuary and at that time, it was geared for teens and anyone up through age 40. They would have activities outside of the church separately for those age groups, but the services were for all. Since it was in the main sanctuary, anyone could come who wanted to, so there was a variety of ages present. They have since put the teens and early 20's people in the basement and just have prayer time in the main sanctuary for anyone older than that...... yeah, no fun and games if you aren't a teen or early 20's, but that is life. :)

Anyway, I used to speak a lot when it was all in the main sanctuary. On some level, I enjoyed it a little. Oh, I didn't enjoy it enough to ask to speak, but I didn't mind it. I became somewhat of the go-to guy when they were desperate. I actually got called one Sunday an hour before the service was to start and asked if I could come up with something, as there was a cancellation by the speaker. I think I did Bible trivia that time. It wasn't uncommon to get a call when someone cancelled.

  Then I got banned from speaking. True story. Whether right or wrong, I said some things from the front that though our church believes and practices, didn't go over well with the powers that be. And so for several months, I didn't speak.

  Then they had a cancellation and were really desperate, and I got a call, so I spoke one last time. Then I moved away for two years.... nothing to do with that.

  That was nine years ago. I haven't spoken anywhere since then, and I am okay with that. I'm actually not sure that I have it in me to speak in public anymore. Several years of dealing with depression can do that to you.

  But I am at a point that I feel God wants to use me. How, I have no idea. Doing what, I have no idea. I can't see me speaking again, but what if He wants me to? I can't see me doing the kind of ministry my friend wants to do, but what if that is God's plan for my life?

 I look at my life, my abilities, and my skills...... and see nothing God can use. I am pretty mediocre. I don't consider myself to be good at much. I enjoy blogging, but don't like most of what I write, and half of what I write never even gets published.

 I have more flaws and weaknesses than any one person should have. I have failed God more often than not, and feel like I am spinning my wheels in a rut that is my life.

  And that brings me to the last mistake that I see, which may intertwine with the others:

6) We must be qualified for God to use us.

  This one is a biggie for me, though  most of my points are issues for me. But the old saying is true:

  I believe there are a couple of things that matter when it comes to being used by God, and qualifications is not one of them:

1) Be willing and obedient. 

2) Be right with God. One can't be used much by God if they are not where they need to be with Him..... and no one has arrived at the place where they have all of God they need, but we should all be walking toward God and walking in the light He gives us, not fighting Him.

  Others may come up with different and more things, but I believe that is what it comes down to: serving God with all of our hearts, and being willing and obedient. That is all He needs. I believe He can and will use all of use, but it will not always be when and how we think it should be, but that is why He is God and we are not...... He knows best.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Should we be one Bible version Christians? Part 2

 I don't think there are many people on earth clinging stubbornly to one version outside of the King James Version. There may be some, but the only dogmatic one-version Christians I have run across have been those who cling to the KJV.

  Back when I was working at the Christian bookstore, we had a new line of greeting cards come out. As a promotion, there was a coupon in the flyer to get one card free. The wife of a local pastor (not mine!) came in and spent a long time looking at the cards. Finally, she came up and laid one on the counter with a sigh and said "I was trying to find one that had a Bible verse in it from the King James, but they are all NIV. I guess I'll have to glue a King James Version Bible verse over it." I stared at her in amazement, and wanted to say "You do know you don't have to get the card, don't  you?" But I just rang her out and said nothing. The same lady went to another Christian bookstore and bought a bumper sticker to cover up the words "devil" on her church's Dirt Devil Vacuum Cleaner. Odd woman.

  I truly have no problem with people preferring the KJV, though I really do think those people are shortchanging themselves for not reading a couple of other translations. And I don't have any problems with the KJV, except the language is outdated. However, the dogmatic ones who act like the Apostle Paul used the KJV and you're a heretic if you don't.......those ones bother me. So here are a few questions I have:

1) If no version since the KJV is good and is considered heretical and bad, then what about the ones BEFORE the KJV? Were they, and are they, bad and heretical?

2) You do realize the same way KJV people act about other versions, is the same way people in that day acted when the KJV came out? Up til then, the Geneva Bible was the Bible of choice.... aren't the odds greater that the Apostle Paul used it instead of the KJV? (slight sarcasm)

3) What is so special about the KJV that makes it better than any version before or since it?

4) If one is to be so dogmatic about it, then shouldn't a KJV only person use the orginal 1611 version..... complete with the Apocrypha? Are they not being heretics by daring to use an updated version of the 1611 version....... while criticizing people who use an updated version of the KJV Bible they carry........ the NKJV...... is not the NKJV to the KJV the same thing the KJV we have now is to the original 1611 KJV?

5) King James was a wicked king. It would be like Obama getting together a group of people to make a new translation today..... and yet the translation he had done is the only perfect one and is THE Word of God....... does that make sense?

I was discussing this with my best friend, and he said most KJV only people will come back with something like "well the church just made him look bad and said stuff about him that wasn't true... he wasn't that bad of a guy". And true story, my friend did come back with that "the Catholic church was against him doing the translation, so they made up stuff about him" (No offense D. if you're reading this!)

  I did some research on this king. He doesn't sound like he was a very good person, and many historians believe he had male lovers. The evidence is pretty good to make the case that he did. And this king had the only perfect translation done.......

6) Did it ever occur to KJV only people that there were Bibles before the KJV....... good Bibles? And that people in that time most likely acted the same way about the KJV as they do about more modern translations. There was a day when people who dared to read  the KJV were thought heretical..... interesting thought....... And what about the pre-KJV Bibles..... did they suddenly become hertetical with the creation of the KJV?

7) What if you're wrong? Have you actually, with an open mind, considered it, or are you so "By God I am KJV only come hell or high water"?

  8) I ran across something interesting while reading up on the KJV: "James gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy    So, the translators had some instructions.....did anything get changed or left out to abide by those instructions?

9) Since the translation of the KJV, many more manuscripts have been found. Those who have translated more modern translations have many, many more manuscripts to work from than the ones who translated the KJV.......it would seem that newer translations might be more inerrant and closer to the original manuscripts than the KJV.

9) Even though it is one I don't own... yet...... there are many Biblical scholars who feel the New American Standard Bible (NASB) is closer to the original manuscripts than the KJV is..... what if they are right? What if the Bible KJV only people should be clinging to is the NASB?

10) I do believe there are differences in the KJV and other versions, but none in the main ones that are accepted by most Christians have major doctrine or theological issues, The differences are small. Like replacing charity with love - which is what the Geneva Bible, a predecessor of the KJV has,

11) If one studied with an open mind, could it be possible that the KJV isn't the best version out there?

12) Some of  the same Bibles that were consulted in translating the KJV - The Geneva Bible and William Tyndale's version - were also consulted for the other major translations we have today.

   I don't know how to say this nicely or politely, but it doesn't make sense to single out one Bible translation as the Holy Grail of Bible translations, and put all others down as bad or heretical. They are all God's Word.... I am not condemning the KJV, or those who prefer it, but common sense would dictate that the thinking isn't intelligent or sane to declare a translation done in 1611 by a wicked king is THE Bible we must all use, and is the perfect Bible.

  Are all translations good? No. Some go too far and dumb it down, and there are some that have changed things too much - i.e. the masculine pronouns for God -  but there are several great translations out there, and I am glad there are.

  I honestly feel using a variety of Bible translations has changed my devotional life. I try to vary what version I am reading from at least every few days, and it is refreshing to read it in different wording.

  And my Bible version journey is not over. There is a version I don't have that I am planning on buying at some point.

 ***A disclaimer: I am not knocking people for preferring the KJV, or for only reading it. However, I am knocking people for blindly claiming it is the version we must use and for insisting it is better than any other.... and also for criticizing people who use other versions.

Should we be one Bible version Christians? Part 1

 I had a conversation/debate a while back with a friend of mine via Facebook chat who is extremely King James only. I had been thinking about the issue for a while, and our conversation led me to think some more.

  Our conversation/debate arose from something he posted. It was a dual picture showing the 3 Hebrew children in the furnace with the 4th man. On the left, was the KJV translation which renders King Neb saying "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." In the second picture it had a more modern translation, which renders the last part "and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” My friend commented about that being proof we should read just the KJV.

 What started our conversation, was I messaged him and said I didn't think that was a good argument for KJV only..... Neb was a heathen king, who up until that time was most likely not familiar with the God of the Hebrews. We know who the 4th Man was, but his mind would not have gone to our God, but to a god. Either way you read it, nothing is gained or lost.. it was a heathen king noticing something miraculous.

 I was raised on the KJV, and we still use it at our church. My pastor will occasionally read from the New King James Version and has quoted from The New Living a few times, but we primarily use the KJV.

 I can still remember the first time I was in a Christian bookstore and saw a new King James Version of the Bible. I was horrified and thought it heresy. I wanted to tell the lady who was being helped by a sales clerk with the Bible not to buy it, but to get a KJV...... but I didn't. Thankfully.

  Then I went to Bible college and had a professor who was extremely pro-NIV and strongly encouraged his students to buy one, so I did...... and didn't really care for it.

  For several years I was still KJV, then I started working at a Christian bookstore in 1999 and had to learn about Bibles and Bible versions so I could sell them to people and help them find the right Bible for them or whoever they were buying one for. I bravely bought a New King James Bible and started reading it.... and discovered that I really liked it.

 The NKJV basically takes out words we don't use - thou, thy, lovest, makest...... and many more, and replaces them with words we DO use: You, your, love, make, etc. The "charity chapter" becomes the "love chapter", as it was intended to be. This wasn't a heretical translation after all, and I found it much more easy to read than the KJV...... and lightning didn't strike me for realizing that.

  Then the New Living Translation gained popularity. I stepped closer the ledge and bought a copy..... and the earth didn't open up and swallow me. God didn't leave me to speak to me ever again..... and I found it even easier to read, and found myself noticing things that I hadn't before. And I discovered something else: when I was reading familiar passages in the KJV, I tended to skim, but when reading another translation, I had to focus more on what I was reading, because it was not the version I had memorized those verses in or read a hundred times.

Several years went by, with my carrying my KJV Bible to church, but reading the NJKV and the NLT at home.

 Then I started reviewing books and had the opportunity to review Bibles, and started adding other versions: The NIV, The Common English Bible, The Message, God's Word, and more. If you look at the first picture in this blog post, those are all of my Bibles....... I think, except for one that I don't know the location of. There are 10 translations represented in that picture. Some are stronger translations than others, and one is a paraphrase.

  Am I a heathen or heretic for reading other translations than the KJV? No, I don't believe I am. I believe my devotional life and Bible reading has been enriched and opened up more by reading other translations. And with the exception of The Message, which is a paraphrase, I haven't run across any doctrinal or theological issues that are out there or wrong. (I use The Message occasionally to make a passage clearer, but would never have a paraphrase by one man be my main Bible).

  I think it is helpful to have a few versions to compare when doing Bible study and reading.

 I even have a Parallel Bible that has 4 different versions so you can easily compare while reading...... and one of them is the KJV, imagine that!

 This post is getting a little long, so I am going to continue in a second one and discuss more why I don't think people should be one version only.... especially the KJV, since that is usually the one version those people stubbornly cling to.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

If you love me

  For most of my life, I struggled to believe God loves me. I'd have times when I thought I believed it, only to doubt it the minute He didn't answer a prayer the way I wanted, or didn't act in ways I expected Him to act. I finally got a point just 2 years ago this December that I came to a point that I have a firm belief that He loves me. It took a lot of prayer, reading books about God's love, listening to songs about God's love, and really working at it, but I finally got there. I still have slight doubts once in a while, which is human, but I have managed to keep the belief that God loves me since December of 2013.

  So I got that question of God's love for me resolved, but the reverse has been bothering me: Do I love God, and how does one love God? I have heard people tell of loving God, but I am not sure I am there yet. I am thankful for what He has done for me and in my life, but does that equal loving Him?

  I read a verse a while back that partially answers the question. John 14:15 and a couple of other verses in the Bible says that if we love God, we will keep His commandments. But I thought we were under law and didn't have to keep His commandments.....or so some Christians say.

  But is that all there is to it? If I love God, I'll keep His commandments? I keep rules and laws of the state and government, and where I work, but I don't love those people.

  Maybe it is how or why we keep His commandments that is the gauge of our love for Him.

  After they were married, a man handed his new wife a list of what he expected of her. They had an extremely unhappy marriage, and his list of demands were a sore spot and a dread for her their whole married life. He eventually died and she remarried. Several years later, she ran across the list her first husband had made, and realized with surprise that she was doing everything on the list with her second husband. Since she loved this husband and he loved her, she did them out of love and didn't find them a dread.

  We live in times where Christians don't want to follow God's commands unless it is convenient. Everyone wants a chapter and verse, and even when they have one, they interpret it so they can do what they want.

 We dress how we want, show as much skin as we want, do whatever we want to our bodies, listen to the music we want, indulge in whatever entertainment we want..... and never try to live our lives around God and His Word.  Instead, we try to make the Bible fit into our lives and our desires. If you dare suggest something might not be good for a Christian to do, you're called judgmental, weird, or worse....... and that is by other Christians. There are enough verses in the Bible too many of us ignore, twist, or re-interpret to fit how we want to live......we aren't interested in what God wants if it might cramp our lifestyle or inconvenience us in some way.

  I am speaking to myself also, but if we love God, His commands should not be a bother to us. We shouldn't be looking for loopholes or trying to get by with as little as we can, or seeing how close we can get to the edge without falling over. Can we really love God if we are continually trying to get around what the Bible says, trying to excuse why we aren't doing what the Bible says, or going by what man says instead of the what the Bible says? Is it possible we love ourselves more than God if we are more concerned with how much we can get away with and still be a Christian than with trying to live as close to God's Word as we can?

I'm not married, but I know enough about love and marriage to know this: If a couple is truly in love, they will for the most part try to do things that pleases their spouse and try not to do things their spouse does not like. And we do it for others in our lives. We don't have to have a written command from a spouse, other relative, or friend for us to do things that they like. But when it comes to God, the one who sent His Son to die for us....... we have to have it in black and white for us to do or not do...... and even then, that isn't enough for some people.

  The guy struggling with same-sex attractions wearies of the battle, and decides God must be OK with it, and lives a sinful lifestyle while ignoring God's commands.....because it is too inconvenient to obey God in that area.

  Many guys serving God want long hair, but there is that pesky verse in 1 Corinthians that says "does not nature itself teach you that it is a shame for a man to have long hair...... so they decide that verse was just intended for that day, or it was Paul's idea, or that Jesus had long hair so it is OK - after all, He has long hair in the pictures.... so they ignore or explain away that verse (Ironically, the same arguments for men to have long hair are some of the same ones the pro-gay crowd uses to make homosexuality OK with God).

  We all do it. There are a multitude of verses that we could use to find how God wants us to live, but we want what we want.

  I'm guilty of it, and I am not alone.

  So maybe this loving God and keeping His commandments is truly a gauge of our love, and not proof of our love. If we truly love God, we are going to delight in His commandments. If we truly love Him, we will read a verse like the one above, and it will influence our entire life. We will go to watch a movie, and think "God may be displeased by my watching that", and we will not watch it. We will read verses in the Bible and instead of trying to excuse it away, take it to heart so we can please God. We will read something in the Bible and not find it grievous or a burden.

  To love God, I need to find out what pleases Him, and do it..... but not out of duty or dread, but with an intense desire to live up to what He wants for me, and make my life more pleasing to Him.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What we have left

 Noah Galloway is a hero. No, he didn't take a clock to school that looked like a bomb, nor is he a celebrity who came out as gay. He is a hero in the true sense of the word. While serving our country in the military, he lost his left arm up to the elbow and his left leg below the knee due to a roadside bomb.  He went through some rough times of depression, drinking, and felt his life was over. Then one day, things changed. In his own words:

"I really looked in the mirror and quit looking at what I was missing, and paid attention to what I had left," he said. "It's like I had to be injured. I had to go through that dark time to get to where I am today."

He started working out again, and got himself back in shape. He went on to appear on the cover of Men's Health magazine, the first double amputee to do so, and also appeared on the show Dancing With the Stars, putting on an amazing performance.

  On January 21, 1981 while my whole family was away, our house caught on fire and burned to the ground. I was just a kid, and was devastated. My parents were in their late 30's and the devastation was even more real to them. They had no insurance, and had lost everything except our vehicles and the clothes we had on our backs. That evening, after viewing the remains of the house we had been living in, my parents decided to focus on what they had left: Us. Dad was at work, two of us kids were at school, and my mom and little sister were visiting someone. No one was at home, so no one was injured or killed. Yes, we had lost everything we owned, but we were left, and that was what was important.

  Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs, just having one foot. There came a time in his life that he had to focus on what he had left instead of what he is missing. He has accomplished and done things that are amazing, and even married and just had his second child. He travels all over the world speaking and telling what God has done for him. He inspires and encourages thousands of people. Had he focused on what he was missing, God could never have used him in the way he has.

  Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed in 1967 at the age of 16, and has spent her life since then paralyzed from the neck down. She learned to paint by holding brushes in her mouth, has written several books, recorded music CDs, has a ministry, and helps get wheel chairs for people who cannot afford them. She also had to get past what she was missing and focus on what she had left, and God has used her.

  The bad and negative always seem to stick out more in our lives. We can have one bad day in a week, and focus on it instead of the good six. One person can be mean to us, and we forget the other people who were nice to us. One bad hour in a day causes us to overlook the 23 that are good. God doesn't seem to answer a prayer we pray, and we forget the many that He did answer.

  If we are human, we have things we need and/or want in our lives. No one has everything they want, even the most wealthy of men. We have friends, but want more. We have money, but need more. We have a car, but would like a nicer and newer one. We have a phone, but would like a better and newer model. We have a church to worship in, but want one that meets our wants and needs more.

  We are so focused on what we don't have in life, that we miss out on what we do have.... and often what we have outweighs and is better than what we are missing or think we are missing. In the case of Noah Galloway, he is missing part of his leg and arm, but he still has the rest of his body. Nick has no limbs, but God is using him, and Joni is paralyzed, yet God has given her a ministry that she has helped many through. When our house burnt down, we lost our earthly possessions, but our lives were spared. I had a bad start to my day, yet the other 23 hours of the day will most likely be good.

  There are things in my life I am unhappy with, things I wish I have that I don't, things I would like to change but either can't or don't know how. I am single, and realized long ago that marriage is not a possibility. I don't know yet what God has in store for me, but I am just now learning to not look at what I am missing in life.....or think that I am missing, and start to look at what I have left. When I start counting my blessings and seeing what I do have and listing the things I have to be thankful for.... I discover there is so much more I have in my life that I need and want than what I do not.

  I am convinced that God cannot use us until we get to the place where we stop focusing and obsessing on what we don't have, and instead focus on and give to God what we have left.

  There is a story in the Bible about a woman who was living when there was a famine in the land. The prophet Elijah came across her and asked her for some water and bread. She told him all she had left was a little bit of flour and oil. She was going to make a last meal for her son and herself, and then they would die. Elijah asked her to make him some bread first, and then some for her son. She must have had amazing faith, for she did that....... and the oil and flour never came to an end until the famine was over.

  What if she had selfishly said no? She and her son would have starved to death. But she gave to God's servant what she had left, and God blessed her.

  May God help me, and all who profess to follow Him, to be more thankful for what we have left, and let Him use it and us for His glory.

Thoughts on guns, gun control, and God

Another school shooting has happened, this one at a community college that left 9 dead and several injured. My heart breaks for the families who will never again see their loved ones again on this earth, and I wish we could find a way to stop this violence. Here are some thoughts I have about it, in no particular order:

  I am weary of Obama politicizing these shootings and immediately standing on the bodies of those killed to trumpet his desire for more gun laws. A real leader, a compassionate leader would call the nation to prayer, not use a tragedy to work on his dream - disarming Americans. One only has to look up what he wants done via gun control to see why he can't help but use these tragedies to his advantage. His gun views are so extreme, those views alone should have cost him the presidency.

  Guns are not the problem. Yeah, it is a broken record, but so is blaming guns, the NRA, Republicans, and Christians every time there is a shooting. Sinful people are the problem.

The Second Amendment was made to protect American citizens from the government... something to remember now that we have a president bound and determined to take away that right.

Down through history, one of the first things a dictator did was to disarm the citizens of the country. No, I am not saying Obama is a dictator, but he has the makings of one.... he has expressed that the Constitutions gets in the way of what he wants to do, and he has bypassed Congress to do what he wants and abused the separation of powers.

  Obama wants to disarm Americans while he is letting Iran have nukes.

All of these shootings happen in gun free zones. That is like an advertisement to killers where they can do the most damage and not have someone shooting back.

An oldie but true: If they outlaw guns, only the outlaws will have guns.

  I find it hypocritical of anyone who has armed security - whether it be the President of the US, congressmen, actors, sports figures, etc - to say that we average Americans need more gun control and do not need guns. If they are so pro-gun control, how about they stop being in movies with guns? How about they get rid of their armed security and live like we little people? If Obama hates guns so much, how about HE try living without guns surrounding him and see how that works out......

  Why when a minority is killed by guns, whether they be black, Muslim, or gay, Obama focuses on the victim, but when Christians have been killed by gun, his focus is entirely on guns and he ignores the victims being killed because of who they were?

  Why do the gun control fanatics not go after alcohol? I would bet the numbers of people hurt, abused, and killed because of alcohol are greater than the number of Americans hurt and killed by guns, yet no one is pushing for more laws to regulate alcohol.

Why does Obama ignore the constant black on black killing in his home town of Chicago.... a town that has strict gun laws and a high rate of murder?

Obama should be held accountable for the violence towards policemen and Christians. He has done a lot to stir up fear, distrust, and hatred of both.

If you take guns away, criminals will still find them, or just use other methods to kill people.

  Anyone capable of intelligent reasoning and thought should question what has changed? Even when I was a kid, there was not this much violence and shootings.... and gun laws were even less constrictive then. There was a time in America that if a young man was walking down the street with a gun on his shoulder, people assumed he was going hunting or was at the dump shooting rats. There was a day boys took guns to school with them. Guns haven't changed, so what has?

I'll answer that question:

1) TV. Television and movies have grown increasingly more violent. Violence is glorified and entertains. And ironically, the very same people acting out the violence with guns and other weapons are at the forefront of demanding more gun control.

2) Video games. Video games have become more and more violent as the years have gone by.

3) Drugs. A lot of these killers have been on some form of medication.

4) The breakdown of the family. Too many kids are growing up without a dad in the picture. In black communities where they claim there is the most violence and arrests, it is most predominant that men have gotten women pregnant, then walked away to never father the children they had a part in bringing into this world.... but it isn't just a black problem. All races here in the US are leaving fatherless children to grow up and find gangs or other undesirable people and things to hang out with and do.

5) We have lost respect for life. Abortion and getting used to it has cost us, and part of that cost is we don't value life like we used to.

6) A move away from God. I believe this is the biggest and most important change that has resulted in the violence and killing we see today.

Our country was founded on Christianity and biblical principles. Liberals have tried to rewrite history, but it is true. The Bible used to be taught in all schools in our country, not just Christian schools. Prayer was encouraged and done in all schools.

Then America kicked God out of the schools. They kicked Him out of the government, citing separation of church and state, ignoring the fact that that separation was to protect the church from the government, not the government from the church.

TV has become more and more anti-God and anti-Christian. The media and most politicians despise true Christianity and anyone who truly lives by the Bible.

We as a country have drifted far from God, and far from what this country was founded on. And we are reaping. Immorality is celebrated. What used to be done in private is paraded in the streets and defended by politicians and the media. God is mocked, Christians hated, and the country gets more and more violent. Godless politicians, actors, sports figures, and other anti-gun extremists will never get it..... more gun control is not the answer. Getting this country back to God is the answer.

When I graduated from Bible college, I had to pick a favorite verse from the Bible to have in the yearbook. I picked 11 Chronicles 7:14:
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (NLT)

  THAT is the answer, not more gun control. Politics are not the answer, but imagine if the president of our country would do what this verse says and call the whole country to prayer and repentance. Sadly, we have the most anti-Christian president we have ever had, and he is more concerned with his agenda than in God or what is right and good.

  But those who serve God and are true Christians can do it. Even if the leader of our country is not calling for prayer, for repentance, for a turning back to God.....we can. If enough people who bear His name would follow this verse, who knows what might happen in our country?