The Journey of a writer and artist who loves the Lord

Following Jesus, Literally

Salutations.

In today’s day and age, it seems so much grabs at our attention.  Television, news, commercials, etc.  I see the challenges in myself.  Jesus commanded us to not concern ourselves with the future.  Yet, I do so often.  Whether I worry about my finances, or read reviews to figure out what the next, exciting game I will purchase, I break Jesus’ commands, found in the Sermon on the Mount, in multiple ways. Read the rest of this entry »

What Do I Write About Next?

Salutations.

For a few years, I have written somewhat regularly to this blog.  Here you can find my thoughts on theology, creative writing exercises and so much more.  I have always told others that I do this for myself.  I rarely check the stats on the site.  If someone benefits from what I do here, I count that as an unexpected blessing.

Yet, as I push ahead here, in the middle of the whirlwind that is my full time career, I wonder if I could better focus my efforts.  Along those lines, I find myself curious as to what y’all, who frequent my blog, think?   Below is a poll.  Please share your thoughts, and feel free to leave comments, as well.  I really do appreciate any time you can spare to do so.  Thank you and God bless!

Think Outside Your Box

Salutations!

When we, as a country, voted Obama into his first term in office, a number of my conservative friends went through some negative emotions.  One withdrew into silence while another expressed anger and frustration to me for days.  With Trump going into office, my more liberal friends are running through those same emotions, but so much more so.  While I can come up with a number of reasons for this, my mind wonders into another territory as I think through the issues of our time, rather than about the candidates themselves.

boxWithin his first week in office, Trump made huge waves with a number of landmark decisions impacting immigrants, and support for international organization supporting women’s health (specifically, abortion).  While I find my friends reaction interesting, I find their reaction to my reactions even more so.  For example, I disagree with Trump’s desire to build a physical wall along the border.  While I agree that we, as a country, must take steps to curtail illegal immigration, we simply cannot afford to build a massively huge wall to address the concern.  Other options, such as stricter enforcement of proper higher processes may help (higher wages attracts those from other countries).

When  I bring this up, however, I find myself attacked from those who do not support Trump.  Why?  Because without hesitation, they label me a ‘conservative’ or ‘religious nut.’  Therefore, I have nothing intelligent to contribute to the conversation.  Ironically, I have found myself on the receiving end of conservatives accusing me of liberalism.  I have found, even within my own family, that once people have slapped a placed me in such a box, it can be extremely difficult to get them to listen…even if I agree with them on a particular issue.

And, I believe that this happens because people, themselves, fall into these two boxes, and do not think outside of them very often.  More importantly, they do not think through each issue that faces us today.  Perhaps they do so because they have limited time to think on such matters.  Or, for some, they may struggle with the complexity of some of the issues.  After all, throwing your hat into the ring with a group proves easier than thinking through a myriad of challenges.

constructiveconThat’s a shame, really.  Liberals often presume that, as a religious conservative, I go to (or went to) a church where I simply accepted everything taught… walking out a brain washed, conservative nut.  Ironically, I find that many non-church going people, both liberal and conservative, have basically handed over their free will and critical thinking skills to the media.  I cannot tell you how many times I have challenged my friends and peers on subjects to find that they have not given serious, personal thought to the matters.  They know what they believe, but they do not know WHY they really believe it…outside of an emotional reaction.  They have put very little serious contemplation into the matters.

And, that should really give us cause for concern.  Because, when we vote for our public officials, we speak to the issues of our day.  And many of them impact lives directly, such as the topic of abortion.  Our forefathers worked hard….some even giving up their lives, so we could have the right to free speech and vote.  Perhaps we should honor their sacrifice and get our head in the game.

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my friend about Christmas celebrations.  I discussed how so many of us actually leave Christ out of Christmas.  As a result, many have a festive, family filled, giving holiday, but, somehow, regulate God to a mere footnote on the whole thing.  This should not surprise us.  After all, most of us actually leave God out of our day to day living completely.  My friend felt I might be overthinking the whole thing.  After all, is it not possible for people just to come together and have an honest, good time without sinning (or worrying about sin?)  The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “No, no it isn’t.”  Here’s why.


candel

In the Old Testament, as most people know, God gave Israelites a list of rules and regulations, summarized in the 10 commandments.  Everyone understood that to break any of these commands would result in offending God and possible punishment.  However, many Israelites came to an assumption based off of these rules.  They incorrectly assumed that following these rules, in and of themselves, made God happy and/or lead to eternal life.

Jesus quickly corrected this during his ministry.  He lashed out at the Pharisees who kept the letter of the law, but completely missed the spirit of the Law.  These men missed the entire point of loving God, and loving their fellow man.  They simply looked after their own self interests by acting as the rule keepers of the people.

Jesus took things one step further.  He constantly challenged people to think about their motives.  He showed that the thought behind something could be just as sinful as the action.  He pointed out that if we express anger at a brother, that betrays the fact that, in our soul, we have committed murder.  If we lust after a woman, we have committed adultery in our hearts.  He basically took commandments, and showed the the heart of the matter, in each case, was a matter of the heart.

One of the largest commandments tells us that we must shun idol worship.

Ex 20.3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5″You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God

When I think of the typical American family Christmas gathering, I often see a celebration of family, giving, traditions…but very little focus on God.  We have replaced Him with things that have loose connections to Him and His Spirit, but miss the mark entirely.  In some cases, these elements completely replace Him.  In some other cases, as I mention above, we may mention God, but He is not central to the gathering.  And, yes, I feel that we sin in doing so… as an extension of Exodus 20.3.

holyWhile the commandment warns us not to worship or serve those things that we create, I wonder if the natural, logical extension of this idea is that we sin whenever we fail to give God the praise and glory He deserves in all that we do.  And, should we not take the time to discuss and think through that…especially during the Christmas season?  I believe we should.  And, by failing to do so, in our hearts and with our lips, we have missed a mark.  It is something that I, myself, need to repent of.

Sometimes, I find myself accused of possibly overthinking things.  I get it.  Look, I know it can be challenging to ponder through this stuff.  And, in doing so, one has to wonder if people like me must have too much time on their hands.  I get it.  The pot calling things black needs to be careful.  No one lives a perfect life.  I certainly do not.  But, I believe that we must pursue the truth so that we can better serve the One who gave His life for us.  Only when we truly know and understand truth can we take the first steps towards pursuing Him.  If we stick our heads in the sand, not willing to pursue truth in fear that it may add to the guilt we already carry, we have missed the point.

For the point of doing exercises like this is not to find the magic step that leads us to immediate holy living and qualifies us for heaven. No… we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.  Our fates, sealed, led to hell.  However, Jesus died for us on the cross so that we might experience true forgiveness, through no righteous act of our own, and experience eternity with Him.  For that I am, and will always be, eternally grateful.  And, it is with this heart of love for the one who love me first…that I give everything I possibly can…including dedication of my mind and spirit, to follow and pursue His glory.  I do not discuss this stuff and look for areas of my life that need repentance in order to earn my way into heaven… I do this because I want to as thanks for what He has given to me.

Deep Thinking

Salutations.

After listening to a couple of books from C.S. Lewis, I moved onto another Christian author.  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich provides yet another look into a sharp mind from our rich, Christian heritage.  To my friends who believe that Christians, as a whole, simple accept the tenants of Christian faith, and most other aspects of life on simple faith, well, I encourage you to read about these two men.  Just like atheists, Mormons, Muslims, and others faiths, you can find plenty of people who simple accept what they hear, and a few who have thought over their viewpoints (as well as the opposing points) very thoroughly.

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Brothers Removed by Time

Salutations.

As I continue to plug away at college studies, increased job workload and the constant stream of house chores and errands, I find that my time for creative work eroded away to nothingness.  However, I do continue to find ways to consume entertainment.  Whether I sneak in an hours of game before bed, or I listen to an audio book on the way to work, I find new ways to take my mind off the monotony of the day to day grind.

Image result for mere christianityI mention in my October summary post that I had listened to C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters.  Since then, I have listened to another of his books, Mere Christianity.  I also listened to The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Armond Nicholi, which did a great job summarizing many of the contrasting viewpoints of these two great minds.

I cannot recommend these books enough.  The more I listen to C.S. Lewis, the more I’m convinced that we are two brothers, separated by time.  I find his approach to theology, using clear thought, logic and reason, absolutely refreshing in a world so based on emotional reasoning.  Make no mistake, C.S. Lewis’ passion dictates his direction, at times, but he always seeks to get to his conclusions through logic.  I honestly wished I started reading his work earlier.  If he were alive today, I would love to spend time just talking things out with him.

I believe many of my friends would enjoy the last book mentioned above, The Question of God.  The author does a great job of providing two contrasting viewpoints of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud.  For those who do not know, C.S. Lewis started life raised in a religious home, but declared that he believed in no God rather young in life.  Years later, after much thought and reflection, Lewis decided to follow Jesus and became a Christian.  S. Freud, on the other hand, refused to believe in a benign creator his entire life.  The resulting ways that these men thought on important topics provides some very fascinating perspectives on topics that most of try to avoid or ignore.  Yet, we would do well to take the necessary time to find the truth on such matters as they can have such a profound impact on ourselves, and those around us, as seen in this book.

How about you?  Have you read any books lately that make you feel so connected to the author, that you feel you are siblings removed by time?  Have you read any of these books?  Share your thoughts below!  I would love to hear from you.

 

We Are Not Home Yet

“Where is the hope? I meet millions who feel despair by all of the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have, is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. And that’s where our hope is in this country. And that’s where our hope is in this life.” – Chuck Colson

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