Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Rocking Chair Unpublished

Sometimes the best thing to do with a note is not publish it. I had a note all prepared to edit today and I can't find it anywhere. It's funny how that can happen. I mean, it was gonna be a real killer note too, a political zinger. 
I know this is a bad example of the point I hope to brilliantly make over the next series of lines, but I throw away more than I publish because I think I get it wrong more than I get it right. I know throwing something away is different than losing it, but I'm exercising my right to think positively, and I would loath myself for losing something WORTH shooting into cyberspace!  
I learned to be picky about my writing from my grandfather. One day he came up from his woodworking shop with a new rocking chair he had just finished. I watched in silence as he looked it over and sat down for a test. I could tell by the look of his face that he was not satisfied. So off he went, muttering to himself with his nearly perfect chair in hand. Later that day I tiptoed down to find it in a box of scrap wood.  
I love to write. But it's my reading that keeps me from writing. There is so much to read today and it seems we're publishing more of our random thoughts than ever before. It used to be we had to be a good writer with connections to get a publisher to look at our "masterpieces," but now all we have to do is log on.  
Therein is the rub. I'm writing poorly on the web to complain about the glut of poor web words. It doesn't really matter to me if you drool while reading The Chicago Manual of Style like I do. In fact, it's somewhat embarrassing to admit because only weirdos do that. There are only two options for someone like me: a) stop writing to avoid hypocrisy, or b) learn to embrace the silliness in print 'cuz I wanna have mine there too (notice my uncouth use of slang).  
I choose option b) with the hope that I'm not wasting anyone's time. I want for you what I want for me. Let's clear away the clutter so reading can be enjoyable again. Let's write, but let's do it as well as possible. I love reading a few of you. Keep it up! I'm not stopping--unless that sound is my ten month old breaking something in the other room--Peter!?!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yellow Finches

I can see why people love bird watching. There is something about it that catches my attention. Each morning this past week I have been performing a ritual that may seem inconsequential. Right after turning on the Brewstation I slowly open the front door to see if I have any visitors. If I am lucky there will be a pair of yellow finches perching on the lance-leaf coreopsis in the flower garden.
These beautiful birds visit us each year to relieve us of the burden of too many seeds. I have noticed their startling ability to light upon the feeblest plants without tipping off balance.
My particular pair of finches seem exceedingly loyal to each other. The male is as brightly colored as he is bold. He is easy to spot and is most frequently out in the open. His less adventurous mate is not as brightly colored, and prefers the protection of the dogwood nearby to the exposure of the flowers.
I have noticed that many older people I know can recognize flora and fauna by name. Younger people have excellent powers of recognition as well, but tend to recognize soundbites from TV shows and sponsors for their favorite motocross riders. As a guide, I have spent whole weeks in the wilds of Canada and rarely field questions about the nature we are passing through. Thomas Huxley (an intelligent man though an agnostic and necessarily staunch Evolutionist) said ironically, "To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall."
I am fighting this trend with my own children and am learning I have help. I was encouraged on Monday when Andrew spotted a bird and said, "Look, a chickadee!" I inquired where the source for this knowledge could be found and he said, "Grandy (his grandfather) tells me the names of the birds on his bird feeders."
Perhaps tomorrow we will rise early and slowly open the door together. I doubt the finches will mind a second set of wondering eyes.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Back to Blogging

I have not posted in quite a while.
It's ironic that I am writing this blog to say that I will have to delay returning to it for at least one more day. Such is the life of those who have a growing family. There is much to write...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ultimate Questions (part 3)

Last time I wrote that of the six false notions about Christianity numbers five and six are the most significant. For the sake of brevity, let's jump in.

Fifthly, Christianity is primarily about relationship (1 John 3:1-3), not religion. This is quite a statement, especially since finding good examples in the USA are difficult. I say the USA because the understanding of the faith in other countries is far more organic and authentic (unfortunately). In our country, there are far too many who put on Christianity like the three piece suit they wear once a week on Sundays. No, look at the example of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and you will find that the faith he called us too is not squeaky clean, all dressed up, prim and proper. The ministry of Christ was characterized by dusty walks, spitting on dirt to make clay for healing a blind man, touching lepers (those with a flesh eating disease), writing in the sand, and fraternizing with outcasts, prostitutes, and the lowest dregs of society.

There is a radical transformation in a true follower of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). He leads us far beyond the reaches of our comfort zones. He calls us out of the boat to walk on the water (Matthew 14:22ff), and lifts us up when we start to sink. Again, many Christians have no idea what I'm referring too, b/c they are paralyzed by fear of the unknown. If you are bored with a life void of meaning, then step out in faith. Your life will change forever (John 10:10).

Sixthly, there are not multiple ways for a person to get to heaven (Acts 4:12). Many people today believe that God cannot be love if he does not save the majority of people. Now, because they want to believe in a God that lets most people into heaven they must say that people of other “faiths” are just as right in what they believe. All that matters in their minds is that people are sincere. This is the way many people think today. But, is it true? The logical answer is “no” and I will try to explain briefly. The Bible says that God sent his Son to earth to die to make a way—a bridge—to reconnect people with God (John 3:16). If this is so, why would God do such a thing if there was another way? That would be a very painful waste. Jesus tells us plainly, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” Those are perhaps the boldest words ever spoken by anyone. And, as far as love for people is concerned, God showed us the greatest act of love imaginable when he sent us Jesus.NEXT TIME: What Jesus said a Christian is.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ultimate Questions (part 2)

In my last post I urged readers to consider these matters carefully and objectively. In this post I intend to address erroneous beliefs that I have personally encountered.

First of all, a Christian is not someone who claims to be something only because of a family tradition. Though I see this primarily in those who are 18 years of age and younger, adults are not immune. The Bible is very clear that nobody will enter heaven because of anyone else. Becoming a Christian is a very personal thing. 1 Corinthians 6:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him…” You are responsible for your own personal faith. In other words, Christianity cannot be passed down like your grandfather’s pocket watch.

Secondly, nobody can be a true Christian if they believe they can or must earn their way to Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly state: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Let me ask you a question. Can you earn a gift? Of course not. If you work hard for someone, how would you feel if they called the money they handed you a gift? That would be insulting! It is the same with salvation. There is nothing you can do to deserve God’s free gift of salvation.

Thirdly, nobody can become a true Christian simply by saying something that their heart does not mean. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he.” Talk is cheap! The heart is very important and in the proverbial sense just mentioned it is referring to the will. (* see note at bottom) A true Christian knows this and acts on it. Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” It is very important to know that there are no magic chants or secret passwords that will get you into heaven.

Fourthly, nobody can truly be called a Christian if faith is just one of the masks they wear. Some people can look very convincing on the outside. They may have a Christian t-shirt from snow camp, they may have a Bible, they may even go to church, but none of those things are what a Christian is. 1 Samuel 16: 7b says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” The heart is that part of us deep down inside where all of the things we really believe are kept. Those core beliefs are like roots, they feed all our actions and words. There are many people who hide what they really believe. They fake that they believe something to impress others and it fools some people sometimes, but mostly we just fool ourselves. And, honestly, trying to “fake” God out with words we don’t mean or actions that hide what we really think is ridiculous. God looks right past all that stuff to see what’s really written on our hearts.

Next time I'll share the last two misconceptions I intend to cover, and I believe they are the most important.

*Note: The writer of Proverbs was not scientifically ignorant of the function of the brain in thinking processes. He combines the mind and the heart to illustrate that thought and action must be interlaced. Generally speaking, our actions betray what we really believe. See misconception #4.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ultimate Questions (part 1)

I am often asked about the means of salvation. I love this subject because it seems to me to address one of the most important questions anyone can ask. In answering the question I always refer to the Bible as the authority because I am no different than anyone else. If we seek to answer the profound questions of life and have naught but ourselves to appeal to, then we are left with the corruptible opinions of people. In such cases, people's choices are generally a matter of taste. It is as if there were a supermarket of ideas and each shopper selects a unique assortment of propositions to purchase. Few make their choices rationally; most look to justify their passions and maintain autonomy (I answer to me).

If you have been down the road of, "I did it my way," and have found it lacking I invite you to consider the message of the Bible. Join me, and you may find that the light gets stronger the closer you get to the truth. In so doing, you may need to clear your vision by unlearning all that you have learned about the Bible's message heretofore. If you have a Bible I encourage you to keep it close by to look up verses that I did not print.

Now, let us ask the question, “How can a person gain salvation?" Please note that I am framing the question in the classical Christian sense because it is the Christian faith that claims to follow the Bible. Notice also that I say this with the full awareness that many atrocities have been committed in the name of Christianity throughout the ages. There are no justifying words to excuse them. But those who commit such acts must twist and manipulate the Scriptures to justify their actions. Let me be clear, the Bible does not condone inquisitions, or crusades, or forced conversions, etc. Those who have done such things in the name of Christ will receive their just reward.

Skeptics love to point out the skeletons in the Christian closet. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris (to name a few) are happy to use history to set up religion as the greatest evil in the world. But, let us not forget that the godless alternatives have their own closets full of bones. They are located in places such as Auschwitz and Stalingrad. The difference between the killing done in the name of Christianity and the killing done in the names of atheism or humanism (man as god) is that the actions of the Nazis and the Soviets were NATURAL OUTWORKINGS of their philosophy. It was Nietzsche's concepts of the will to power and the superman that gave rise to Hitler's master race. Hitler personally translated Nietzsche's writings into Italian and presented them as a gift to Bonito Mussolini. Furthermore, it was Frederick Engels, the good friend of Karl Marx that suggested he dedicate his Das Capital (his major work on economics) to Charles Darwin. Engels told Marx that Darwin gave him the foundation on which he could justify his philosophy and therefore deserved the honor.

I mention these things in an effort to encourage you to avoid the error of dismissing the message I seek to share because of its damaged packaging. Other faiths (including atheism and agnosticism) have damaged goods too. So please try to evaluate what I say objectively.

In my next entry I will begin to answer the question. And, the best way to answer it is to not answer it too quickly. I believe the answer is found within the teachings of the Christian faith, so long as it maintains fidelity to the Bible. So, I will begin by telling you what being a Christian is not.

(to be continued)