What Christians Fear Most

monsters

Sometimes I feel like a monster.

Not when I lose my temper. When that happens, I’m just being a typical fallen human – my old fleshly self.

But sometimes I feel like a monster from Monstropolis. You know, the ones from Monsters Inc. who are afraid of children.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

But we’re not much brighter. We fear man.

We clamor for man’s approval and stop at nothing to gain the respect of the masses.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, on our worst days, we’d rather be judged by God than by our bosses.

This is the wrong way of living. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We’re so anxious to please others and remain certain not to offend ignorant people with the Gospel, but we’d much rather offend the One who commanded us to do just that!

Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why we don’t witness the way we ought. Laziness and carelessness may be at the top of the list, but fear is most certainly right up there.

Why won’t you witness to your boss? Because you’re afraid of getting fired.

Why won’t you witness to your neighbor? Because you’re afraid of making future front yard conversations terse and awkward.

Remember. These people who do not know the Gospel are as harmless as a child in Monstropolis. You have the Holy Spirit fighting with you, and enabling you to carry on the task.

Easter’s coming up. Invite someone to church. Just a simple, harmless invitation.

After all, who doesn’t like an invitation somewhere, right?

And don’t loose sight of who the real enemy is: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t be like the monsters who are scared of little children. Know who your real enemy is and realize the potential – through Christ – they’re keeping you from.

My Secret Obsession

cereal3

I have a secret that I think, after two years of blogging, I’m ready to share.

It’s an unusual secret. A personal one, that really only my wife and a few family members know about. And yes, I get teased about it a lot.

My coworkers don’t know about it, and my friends have no clue.

But now I’m about to share it with 10,000+ readers.

It’s sort of an addiction I face every morning.

Let me set the stage for you so you can appreciate the magnitude of this.

My wife is an amazing cook. She makes the best pasta, the best salads, the best everything I’ve ever had. Including the best eggs.

And each morning I have the option to have her make me gooey, cheesy, scrambled eggs or… a box of cereal.

And each morning I choose a box of cereal.

Not the whole-grain crap or bland granola that you can get in the health-food aisles. I’m talking, if it doesn’t have a cartoon character on the front of the box, I won’t eat it.

If Michael Scott ever opens up Mike’s Cereal Shack, I’ll hop on the first flight to Colorado and go there.

Is it any wonder that my favorite movie studio has a full-fledged cereal bar in their kitchen?

Growing up, I always loved that song “Breakfast” by Newsboys.

If my daughter were to be shrunken by my incredible shrinking machine and she fell into my cereal bowl, I’m not sure I wouldn’t mistake her as a cute little marshmallow and gobble her up. (Props to Rick Moranis for eating a colorless cereal, by the way.)

If I were to be a criminal, I’d be a serial… No – that’s too obvious. I’ll spare you that one.

Earlier this year, being 30, I decided to quit cereal all together and eat toast and eggs like a normal grown-up.

That lasted for about two weeks.

But can you blame me? Wendell the Baker came out with Peanut Butter Toast Crunch! And being a cereal connoisseur, I absolutely had to try it.

Then the Captain came out with Cinnamon Roll Crunch.

Tried it. Loved it.

Then good ol’ Tony hit me with Chocolate Frosted Flakes and Bam-Bam hammered out Poppin’ Pebbles.

It seemed the grocery store was out to see me fail. And yes, I succumbed, and continue to succumb, to all the new flavors and even revert back to old ones, because I figure, hey, I’m off the wagon, might as well frolic in the grass while it’s still fresh.

Sigh.

It’s Ash Wednesday, and some of you will be giving up something for Lent.

I’m not Catholic, so I won’t be giving something up, and it certainly wouldn’t be cereal (I’m not strong enough) or ice cream (don’t even get me started on that).

But whatever you do give up, whether for Lent or at any point throughout your life that you want to abstain from, just know that the world, the devil, your flesh, will all act as your mega grocery store.

And when that happens, and your tempted to go back, pray for the strength to resist. Like, really, really pray. Hard. Pray like you know God will get you through the temptation (notice I didn’t say He’ll take you out of it, but rather get you through it).

And for goodness sakes, stay out of the cereal aisle.

Don’t Go to Church on Easter

emptypew33Easter is just one week away.

Have you invited anybody to church?

Easter is a time for believers to gather together and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the grave and our redemption through Him.

But it is NOT an exclusive holiday.

When Christ returns a second time, it’s not going to be done in secret, quietly, behind the doors of a church, nor in the privacy of a stable.

No. Not this time.

It’s going to be loud and explosive and every knee will bow and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of the earth.

Folks, Easter is a dress rehearsal for Christ’s second coming, and all the world will see Him. So what are we doing keeping Easter a private family affair? When we signed up to become Christ’s followers, we agreed to take His message to the ends of the earth. The least we can do is take His message to the other end of our workplace, or down the street.

So here’s my challenge, unorthodox as it may be.

Don’t make plans to go to church on Easter Sunday if you don’t invite a lost person to come with you.

Here’s why I make this challenge. First, it is a reminder that Easter is not about you. Second, how intimidating would it be to have to explain to someone that you didn’t go to church on Easter because you didn’t invite someone else join you?

Now, I may be wrong, but how much less intimidating would it be to just throw out a simple invitation?:

“Got any plans for Easter?”

“No.”

“Want to come to church with me and my family?”

“Naw, that’s fine. Thanks, though.”

Easy peasy.

Now you just need to keep praying for them and witnessing to them since they now know you’re a Christian. Cat’s out of the bag.

Now you can celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with a clear conscious, knowing that you did what you could (and by all means, if the Lord is prodding you to do more, do it). And who knows? The most unexpected thing could happen and they might accept your invitation! And maybe… just maybe they’ll accept the bigger invitation to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and there will be an even bigger celebration in the celestial halls of Heaven than we could ever dream of here on earth.

Don’t make Easter about you. Make it about Jesus. And the thing Jesus is about, is bringing people from death to life.

Note: I understand that some readers may have faced (or may face) persecution or insults or hardships, especially my international readers. I do not mean to make light of inviting people to church and passing it off as something that is easy to do. But that does not negate the challenge (not mine – Christ’s). All of us believers must pray for the lost as well as fellow believers that God may grant them courage and strength.

 

The Best Book I’ve Ever Read is…

Bottom-of-the-33rd

I have been waiting all year to read this book again. Ever since I read it last April, I’ve often daydreamed about it.

During the hot summer days of 2012, trapped behind a cash register at my day job, I often escaped to the frigid midnight setting of this masterpiece by poet-like author Dan Barry.

During the windy days of fall, my imagination still would not let me forget the Easter Morning images of a crippled ballpark in Pawtucket, New Jersey that was destined for record-setting greatness.

Even as Carols played in the car driving with my wife to Christmas Eve Service, I anticipated the day I would once again crack open the modest book about little-known McCoy Stadium, pregnant with soon-to-be greats such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Wade Boggs, and nurturing has-beens and never-quite-was’s, just dreaming of the day they could grace the filed of a major league stadium, if not for just a moment in time.

Sarabeth and I make it a point to read books with each other. She doesn’t like baseball much – hates it, really. But after reading just a few pages of The Bottom of the 33rd to her, she agreed that Dan Barry is a very good author. And if there’s anything to know about Sarabeth, it’s that she does not say something unless she means it.

So Baseball haters, I’m telling you that this book is so good, that even you should give it a chance.

With the number of books I’ve read in my lifetime, I believe I can qualify as a book critic if I wanted to (just got to figure out how, I guess). And this often-tough critic gives this book a certified 100% approval rating. Why don’t you take a moment to read a couple of select paragraphs from the Prologue to see if it convinces you to get this book:

“Three thirty in the morning.

“Holy Saturday, the awkward Christian pause between the Sorrow and the Joy, has surrendered to the first hushed hours of Easter. The cold and dark cling to the rooftops in a Rhode Island place called Pawtucket. Triple-decker houses, packed with three, four, six sleeping families, loom over its empty, half-lit streets, while the river that cascades through its deserted downtown releases a steady, dreamy sigh. Yet somewhere in the almost sacred stillness, a white orb disturbs the peace, skipping along the night-damp grass, flitting through the night-crisp air, causing general unrest at three thirty in the morning on Sunday, Easter Sunday.”

“Someone not here tonight could pose quite legitimate questions to the players and fans, questions that would naturally start with why. Why did you keep playing? Why did you stay? At two o’clock in the morning, and then at three o’clock, why didn’t you just – leave? The official answer, that some umpire refused to call it a night, would be so lacking in the weight of common sense that it might twirl off like a deflating balloon before the sentence could be finished. But the truer answer might be as unsatisfying to the outsider as it is surprising to these inhabitants of this in-between place, where time’s boundaries have blurred.

“Why did you keep playing? Why did you stay?

“Because we are bound by duty. Because we aspire to greater things. Because we are loyal. Because, in our own secular way, we are celebrating communion, and resurrection, and possibility.”

Do not delay this Easter Season. Get The Bottom of the 33rd on Amazon here.

Disclaimer: This book contains frequent use of the F-word.

I also recommend: Calico Joe by John Grisham and The Rookie by Jim Morris.

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Cult #2: Mormonism

Mormonism is the fastest growing and most successful cult. Their church is called The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, or LDS for short. They claim to be Christians, that they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But they employ semantics to nearly every Christian term.

A history:

Joseph Smith Jr.: How it all began:

At the age of 14, Joseph had a vision that Father and Son appeared before him. He asked what Christian denomination he should join. They said, “None,” because they were all wrong and corrupt.

In 1823, Smith, 17, saw the angel Moroni and told him of a book written on golden plates by former inhabitant of the continent that would contain “the fullness of the everlasting gospel.” He dug them up 4 years later. Mormons deny this but Smith used occult practices to find information (scrying).

By 1830 Smith published the Book of Mormon and founded the Mormon Church. It grew rapidly from 1831-1844 establishing strongholds in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. Mormons drew hostility and persecution. Missouri militia slaughtered, raped and pillaged Mormon believers, obeying an “extermination” order issued by the governor.

Smith continued to receive revelations that guided him where to go and what to do next and established different doctrines.

Polygamy was issued in 1843, Smith said he would destroy his first wife if she resisted.

Smith was killed while in jail and Mormons claim their founder died as a “Christian martyr.” But in truth he went down fighting, using a six-shooter, that was smuggled to him, killing at least 2 of his assailants.

Bringham Young led LDS to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. Polygamy became a formal practice.

Polygamy was often practiced until 1890 and was a chief reason Utah had been denied statehood at least 6 times.

LDS Church claims the biblical canon never closed and revelation continued with Joseph Smith as well as other presidents/prophets of the church right up to present day.

Mormons believe that God is “progressive,” having attained His exalted state by advancing along a path that His children (Mormons) are permitted to follow. According to Mormonism, He is an exalted man. One of a species called gods: These gods existed before God. When God was created then fully matured and was sent to another planet. He learned all He could, grew up, died, then was resurrected. Having attained godhood, He returned to a heavenly abode with a body of flesh and bones, where He joined with His goddess wife (Mother God) to have millions of spirit children to populate planet Earth. This is called “the preexistence.” Was not created ex nihilo. God was created by a god out of who resided and one point in eternal matter. God is not eternal, but matter is.

According to Mormons, Jesus is God’s firstborn “creation.” Lucifer was God’s next-born. Everyone else was created to populate the earth. God chose Jesus over Lucifer to be man’s savior. This caused Satan to rebel and fought a war against Heaven (led by Michael archangel). He was cast down to earth to live as a spirit without a human body. Meanwhile God instructed Jesus to create earth and everything in it and Adam and Eve with the help of the spirit children using external matter. Among the descendants were spirit children who fought halfheartedly against Satan in the Great War. They were sentence to be born mortals with black stain as part of their lineage of Cain. God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus married and had children by those women. After His death Jesus “gained fullness,” which He attained through a resurrected body. He reigns in Heaven with the Father-God. Smith says Jesus will eventually take the Father-God’s place as Father-God moves on to even higher realms of glory exalting a progression.

Trinity– Mormons believe that the trinity is not consisted of one God whose essence is found in three persons, but three Gods – three distinct bodies (Holy Ghost is only a spirit body and cannot become a man.)

We, as Christians part ways on just about every point of Mormonism. Do not let them convince you that they are Christians, because our belief systems are as different as night and day. We believe there is just one God, existing in three persons, and Jesus is His only begotten Son who paid the atonement for our sins (including fornication, multiple lovers/wives, idolatry, following false belief-systems). We are to have one one spouse and be faithful to that spouse until death does us part, and when we die, we either go to Heaven where we worship God for eternity or go to Hell and be punished for not believing in the One who offered salvation.

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The Weight of Glory

C.S. Lewis has long been revered as one of the leading Christian thinkers of the 20th century. His simple ideas have caused us to ponder deeper truths, his bluntness over matters of the human heart have caused us to blush and sheepishly admit wrongs we wouldn’t have otherwise, and his analogies have given us just a clearer glimpse into the thoughts of God.

The power of the written word. One needs only to pick up a Lewis book to witness its strength. And The Weight of Glory is no exception. Allow me to run through the catalogue of chapters, in case you haven’t read this classic, and hopefully it will convince you to pick it up for your next read. Disclaimer: It is not a pleasure read – it’s a thinker and it will cause you to dig deep to discover some of its meaning.

Chapter 1 – The Weight of Glory

This sermon was preached when England was at war with Germany, on June 8, 1941. People were probably at that time struggling with issues like truth, and justice and relevance in a world that was falling apart. Lewis puts forward the idea that a desire for reward is a basically biblical idea. He goes on to state that the appeals in scripture are actually given with desire in mind, and that desire is built into the design of man. He also states that the reward fits the behavior and is not an inappropriate or mercenary reward but the culmination of the activity. “The proper rewards are not tacked onto the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.”

Chapter 2 – Learning in War Time

I really appreciate Lewis’ argument here. He states that we are never really secure in life. Human life is lived on a precipice of constant danger. He also states that if we waited until we were safe to pursue beauty we would never begin that pursuit. Lewis preached this sermon in 1939 while tensions over the war in Europe were raging. Lewis, as an former soldier and Christian was called in to set things in perspective. I am certain he was addressing the question, “Why should we continue with our studies when the world is hanging on the edge of disaster?” He divides the question into two categories, one is the need for the saving of souls, and secondly the need for exclusive nationalism.

Chapter 3 – Why I am Not a Pacifist

I appreciate how Lewis starts out this talk by defining his terms carefully. He is using logic to appeal to the audience and this is very effective as it considers all options. He is going to systematically take apart these options one by one and be left with his own position as the best option.

Chapter 4 – Transposition

Lewis tackles a tough issue here, the issue of tongues. He starts by explaining the difference between sensations and emotions. Emotions are a higher order than sensations and sometimes the same sensation can be used for different and even opposing emotions.

Chapter 5 – Is Theology Poetry? 

“Does Christian theology owe its attraction to its power of arousing and satisfying our imaginations?” That is the question Lewis attempts to answer in this essay. He made this speech at Oxford University at the Socratic Club on Nov. 6, 1944. He talks about his own experience to show the inadequacy of the Christian faith to be merely poetic in its appeal. He states that he prefers other mythologies to Christianity if it were merely mythical.

Chapter 6 – The Inner Ring

This talk was given at Kings College, University of London during a commemoration Oration on Dec. 14, 1944. He talks about the idea of inner rings, or in other words, being a part of a specific group. This group can be for any purpose, the main point is the desire to belong.

Chapter 7 – Membership

Faith has been relegated to a position of solitude, this is both paradoxical, dangerous, and natural. He states it is paradoxical considering that every other activity in recent history has robbed us of solitude. Secondly he states that this is dangerous because solitude has been pushed out of our lives, this effectively can keep religion out of our lives if we accept that concept. He also states this idea is natural, by that I mean we fall into the mentality of collectivism and fail to understand the meaning of being a part of the “Body of Christ”. Collectivism reduces the value of the individual and only speaks of the value of the group to which the individual belongs, while the concept we should embrace states both the value of the group as a whole entity and yet keeps the importance of each individual member within that specific group. That is the essence of what Lewis is arguing for.

Chapter 8 – On Forgiveness

The question he is answering here is why do we recite in the creeds the phrase, “We believe in the forgiveness of sins”? He assumes this is just something we all understand, but after giving it some thought he sees the wisdom of the writers of the creeds. We by nature need to be reminded of our own sinfulness and our need for forgiveness.

Chapter 9 – A Slip of the Tongue

This was the last sermon Lewis ever preached. He gave this talk at Oxford in a small chapel in Evensong on Jan. 29, 1956. The question he seems to be addressing is the reluctance of the believer to fully commit himself to God. He became aware of this in his prayer life. The difficulty seems to be the real fear that God will require something more than we wish to give at that time. The illustration he uses of paying taxes, we all agree in the necessity of paying taxes, but at the same time we all want to know how little we can get away with paying. So is our thinking with our relationship with God, we desire a relationship with Him but we don’t want Him to demand too much of us. We desire to “keep things temporal” as Lewis puts it.

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God Honoured

The following is taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett.

O God,

Praise waiteth for thee,

and to render it is my noblest exercise;

This is thy due from all thy creatures,

for all thy works display thy attributes and fulfil thy designs;

morning light, evening shade are full of thee,

and thou givest me them richly to enjoy.

Thou art king of kings and lord of lords;

At thy pleasure empires rise and fall;

All thy works praise thee and thy saints bless thee;

Let me be numbered with thy holy ones,

resemble them in character and condition,

sit with them at Jesus’ feet.

May my religion be always firmly rooted in they Word,

my understanding divinely informed,

my affections holy and heavenly,

my motives simple and pure,

and my heart never wrong with thee.

Deliver me from the natural darkness of my own mind,

from the corruptions of my heart,

from the temptations to which I am exposed,

from the daily snares that attend me.

I am in constant danger while I am in this life;

Let thy watchful eye ever be upon me for my defense,

Save me from the power of my worldly and spiritual enemies

and from all painful evils to which I have exposed myself.

Until the day of life dawns above

let there be unrestrained fellowship with Jesus;

Until fruition comes, may I enjoy the earnest of my inheritance,

and the firstfruits of the Spirit;

Until I finish my course with joy may I pursue it with diligence,

in every part display the resources of the Christian,

and adorn the doctrine of thee my God in all things.

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