P.C.

If I were a public figure, it wouldn’t be for long; my fifteen minutes of fame would last for two…

It wouldn’t take long for me to stick my foot in my mouth.  When you write, you always have that chance to look over and reconsider your words.  When there is a microphone in your face, however, you can’t take them back.

If you are in the public eye, you must walk on eggshells with your words, or the media will sensationalize and demonize them.  This politician said this, or this actor said that.  Senator So-and-So said that people from Mexico are Mexicans!  OMG!  Miss Rock and Roll Diva called her drummer black instead of African American!  Cancel the tour!  And just now, Average Joe is in hot water cause he called Rock and Roll Diva “Miss” rather than “Ms”!  Get the tar and feathers!

Christians are square in the middle of the media’s crosshairs.  Political correctness will not allow us to say anything absolute or exclusive, like boys can’t be girls because they  actually ARE boys.  We aren’t allowed to say that men were created to be united with women–or no one at all.  Likewise women were created to be united with men–or no one at all.  Oh look, Average Joe just got himself in trouble again!

You know what?  Average Joe doesn’t give a shhh…  Phew!  Saved that one; good thing there wasn’t a microphone here!

In general, Christians aren’t very good at holding God’s line; we cave-in easily.  In fact, we have become cave-in kings.  To avoid offending anyone and calling attention to ourselves, we have become experts at choosing our words very carefully, thereby compromising God’s words.

God’s Word, though, is completely uncompromising.  He is not P.C.  There is nothing wishy-washy about the way the Bible identifies and condemns sin, nothing uncertain about God’s justice, and there is zero compromise in the way sin is to be punished.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is Grace.

It is not a compromise.  God’s Justice is completely served.  He did not let up on my sin one little bit when it went to the cross on Jesus’ shoulders.  The penalty for my sin was unspeakable–but I will speak of it…  They did not look for the Roman garrison’s ninety-jonathan-wheeler-n1PFjN_--Xk-unsplashpound weakling to administer the stripes on Jesus’ back.  Nor did they remove the bits of bone or metal from the strands of the scourge that ripped the flesh from Him.  He wasn’t given the ancient day equivalent of morphine beforehand.  The spikes that held Jesus’ feet and hands to the cross weren’t made of velvet.  He wasn’t getting a hydrating intravenous drip as the sun beat on His beaten, scourged, and bleeding body that terrible afternoon.  God’s wrath for my sin came down on Jesus–uncompromisingly.

The least I, or we, should be able to do is not compromise His Word to avoid offending people, people who actually need to hear the whole of God’s Word.

No compromise.

A.J.

Missing Mom

I’m a big boy now, all grown up…

Been through a lot.  Travelled some rocky roads.  Been injured, been sick, lost jobs, lost friends, seen trouble, been in fistfights.  Worked hard for a lotta years, raised kids, lived and died with their troubles too.  Still do.  But I am still standing.

Nevertheless… Sometimes I want my mommy.

It’s her birthday today.  She would’ve been… let’s see… um… old.

She’s been gone almost three years now.  A lot of people are missing her today.  She’s a very miss-joris-beugels-9Af1xSn7Jkw-unsplashable person.  I could go on and on about her but I will spare you, plus I don’t want to get all blubbery.

I have been at peace with her passing ever since, but especially those first few days and weeks.  Not that I ever had any doubts about my mom’s eternal future–she loved Jesus with her whole heart–but right after she died I was absolutely overwhelmed with assurance that, after a rough life, she was truly home.  I can’t explain it exactly, but I had a feeling of great joy at her homecoming, like some of the heavenly joy of that great celebration leaked over to me.

I tried to hold onto that feeling but it has mostly faded to head knowledge rather than heart.  I remember it though.  I remember that it was God who comforted me when I needed it the most, just like it was Him who helped me along my rocky roads.  He is the reason I am still standing, hope intact.  He is My Rock.  I will never be shaken.

Thanks for pointing me to Him, Mom.  Happy Birthday.  I love you.

A.J.

I have told you I am sure that a serial killer considered murdering me. (That post was from January 23rd of this year, if you missed it.)  What I didn’t tell you is–a conversation I had with that man might have been the strangest moment of my life–although I didn’t know it at the time…
 
The flies were really bad on that warm autumn day, the worst I had ever seen.  Not only were they everywhere but they were in that weird, twitchy state that they always get into in the fall, when their favorite place to land seems to be your eyelid.  I am getting the willies just thinking about it.  The dock doors of our shop had to be open much of the day and the flies took it as an invitation.
We were at the big industrial sink, washing our hands (and maybe our eyelids), when R.P. started complaining about how awful the flies were that day.  Now I hate flies, and there is no one better with a swatter, so I kept the population in my work area livable, for me, not for them.  Anyway, I told R.P. where there was an extra fly swatter and that is when he said it:  With the most solemn and compassionate look, he said, “I don’t believe we have the right to kill any living creature.”
I know–you must think I am making this up–dramatizing the moment to make for a better post.  I assure you, though, I am not.  It couldn’t be the strangest moment of my life if it was fictional.
A serial killer who wouldn’t hurt a fly!?!
At the time, I just thought he was nuts and I am sure my facial expression made that clear.  We were talking about flies! Vermin!  They would go straight from a pile of dung to our upper lips!  I think I uttered something conveying my confusion and disagreement, but respectfully accepted his stance concerning the sanctity of the lives of flies.  Then I returned to my work area and my well-used swatter.  I didn’t forget his words, though, words that became the strangest I have ever heard a few years later.  That is when we found out that R.P. had murdered five women and one man over a span of a couple years, two of which were killed during the time span he worked with me.tanya-prodan-1627271-unsplash
I had looked into the eyes of a killer, someone who, on another day, considered murdering me (I am convinced).  In those eyes, I didn’t see hatred and anger; I saw what seemed like compassion, not for flies exactly, but for the living, for those whose lives he was ending.
I read about an interview he did shortly after he was arrested and saw a video interview he did from prison a few years later.  After seeing these interviews, I believe it was guilt I saw in his eyes that one weird day, a guilt as deep as deep gets.  In the interviews, he spoke of God and forgiveness–and said matter-of-factly that there was no way God could ever forgive what he did.  He was extremely open and honest and the shame and guilt and regret were clearly his constant companions.  It wouldn’t have mattered if he was in prison or on a beach somewhere, his sins were overwhelming him.  It seemed like he was already in hell.
Now, we might think hell is where murderers deserve to be and we would be right, they do.  They deserve the exact same fate as those who stew in anger.
“Wait!  What?”  You ask.   “You are equating those who have anger problems with murderers, serial killers?”
Well, no. Not me, exactly.  Jesus did that.  The one who came for the lost and broken, the one who came for the diseased rather than the healthy, He is the one who tells us that we too are lost and broken, we too are diseased.  One may be in heart failure and one may have the sniffles but both are sick–and quarantined from the presence of God.
Personally, I have a hard time forgiving the horrible things “others” have done.  There has to be a line, right?  Some things just shouldn’t be forgiven.  Someone give me a piece of chalk and I will put that line where I think it needs to be, below me somewhere.  The thing is–one of you might put that line a bit higher–above me, and another still higher–above you.
But God owns the chalk, the board, and the school.  The line has been drawn and it is above every one of us, both the jealous and the thieves, both the lusters and the adulterers, both the angry and the murderers.  God drew the line that none of us have reached… then gave Jesus the eraser.
A.J.

God Laughs

kalen-emsley-_LuLiJc1cdo-unsplash

I was joking in my last post.  I didn’t really marry my sister, humanly speaking…

Some get my humor, and some don’t.  I understand.  I often don’t get what others find funny, especially these days when disrespect, vulgarity, and downright meanness passes for humor.  That is a post for another day, though.  Today, I wonder… does God find us funny?

His is a serious job.  He sees every wrong being done to any and all, right?  People he loves are hurting, or heading down the wrong path. This is true, but he also sees every unselfish act of kindness and feels the joy when one of his prodigals turns toward him.

You know what else he sees?  Everything.  All the crazy, hilarious moments of our lives happened right in front of him.

When my youngest was getting into something she shouldn’t have, at nine months old, I gave her a sharp; “Hey!”.  She turned to my wife and I with a perfect little “It wasn’t me!” look, even though she was the only one there.  So that’s what I said, “It wasn’t me!” then spontaneously rolled into the next verse of the George Thorogood song of that name…

It wasn’t me!

No, no, Dad, It wasn’t me!

Noooo, it musta been some other baby, no, no, dad it wasn’t me!

You would have to know the song and seen my daughter’s look but my wife and I were rolling on the ground, much to our daughter’s delight.  Do you think God was laughing with us?  Cause I do.

When my brother, at my son and daughter in law’s wedding reception, took two of those little battery operated fake candles, screwed them into his eye sockets, put on a pair of shades to hold them in place and began to lament on “how mankind has become lethargic and you just don’t see the “light in peoples’ eyes” anymore…”  Do you think God found that funny?  Was he laughing with us that afternoon?

We are made in his image, right?  Does that mean God has laughed so hard he cried before?  Has God ever had milk come out his nose?  Has Jesus?

I know this may sound a bit irreverent to some but I don’t mean it to be.  We have God on a pedestal in our hearts and that is right; He belongs there.  He is King of Heaven and Earth, Creator of All.  The throne in every heart belongs to Him, and Him alone.  But God being so far above us doesn’t mean he wears a constant serious scowl.

Ecclesiastes tells us there is “…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…”

I think the inventor of laughter… laughs.  I believe the inventor of the smile… smiles.  I think it brings Him joy to see His children laughing joyfully–and I think He laughs with us.

A.J.

I am not from the back woods, exactly, but I married my sister…
 
I know what you are thinking… 
 
Blecccckhkh!!!!  Now you have the willies as you dash to the bathroom to hurl, right? 
 
Sorry.  Please allow me to explain.
 
I love my wife.  She has been a wholly undeserved gift to me.  I was thanking God the other night for the beautiful (inside and out) companion he put by my side.  Then I started thinking about what our relationship will be like in heaven.
 
When I was fairly newly married and pretty unfamiliar with anything but the main points of the Bible, I somehow believed that my wife and I would be married in heaven.  I actually thought I remembered that in the Bible.  It’s not in there, though.  I checked.
 
My understanding of God has grown since then, and therefore, so has my understanding of the love He has for each one of us.  There is only one who loves my wife perfectly–and it isn’t me.  As much as I would have liked to believe that I was #1 in her life, I realize that someone passed me long ago for that honor, if I was ever #1 at all.  And, as much as I love her, she is not the greatest thing in my life.  I love the gift enormously, but The Giver takes my breath away.  I am His.  She is His.
So, what will be to each other in heaven?  Friends?  Sure, I guess.  Though will we be any closer with each other than with every other person there?  Maybe, but I imagine our perfected souls might love all and feel connected to all equally.  I don’t know.
We are both children of God and co-heirs with Jesus (astoundingly).  So, I think siblings comes closest to the truth.  Therefore, I was extremely attracted to my sister–and I married her.
A.J.

Coffee

Who ordered the sun to come up so early today?   Take it back!  I am not ready, darn it!

Oh yeah…  it was God.

Ummm… sorry Lord, you caught me before my coffee.  I guess I should thank you for the beautiful morning but you already know it would not be heartfelt.

I used to be a guy who could hear the alarm in the morning and jump out of bed ready for the day.  Now I often wake up dead-dog tired.  Not always physically tired but psychologically tired, emotionally tired, stressed.  My bed is becoming my best friend and my alarm–my worst enemy.

On the surface, most would see little for me to stress about.  I am blessed in many ways; incredible wife, great kids, decent health, good job, nice home… The list goes on.  The blessings are many and pretty obvious.  I shouldn’t complain, but I do.

What weighs on me is that I am having a hard time finishing what I believe God has called me to do.  Hebrews 12 calls it “the race marked out before me” and I am supposed to “run that race with perseverance”.

The racing part is not too hard for me.  I am really fast and I feel like I was born to run.  It is those darn hurdles spaced ten yards apart that I find so difficult.  So I have taken to running past the hurdles instead of taking them as they come.  The thing is: the finish line never comes for those who skip the hurdles.

I am not much of a hurdler and I am starting to feel like I can’t finish my race.  I forget that there was a time when I couldn’t do the running part either; I wasn’t fast… at all.

But, God…  That is the greatest beginning to any sentence.

…”With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 20:26

Why do I forget so easily… that I couldn’t run at all if it weren’t for God?  After everything he has shown me, how can I not understand that He can make me fly over every hurdle at once?  If a camel can go through the eye of a needle…  Why do I insist on counting on me to run my race rather than The One who has proven again and again and again that He can be counted upon?

A.J.

 

 

The Problem With Logic

johannes-plenio-RwHv7LgeC7s-unsplash

People have a problem with logic…

When I grew up, the ability to think logically was considered an asset.  The better you were at it, the better off you would be.  Today, however, many consider logical thinkers to be simpletons.

You see, the problem with logic is this: It always points to God.

If we don’t want to contemplate the existence of a creator God we will begin to think illogically.  We will believe any long, involved, complicated theories as long as they don’t leave us at the feet of a creator God whom we have to answer to.

When Christians believe the obvious and simple answer, we are chided or even ostracized for our inability to think deeply enough to follow the illogical and everchanging mental path that explains our existence apart from God.

Believing the simple and obvious answer does not make one simple, though, if the simple answer is correct.  And it is pointless to try to follow the illogical mental gymnastics of someone trying to disprove what you already know to be true.  You wouldn’t argue long with someone who insists that the earth is flat, would you?  Or with someone who insists that two plus two equals five?  It is pointless, and a futile waste of time.

According to Romans 1, it is not disbelief in God.  It is refusal to acknowledge the existence of God, The One who allowed us to exist in the first place. That chapter states pretty clearly that all men know there is a God. It also explains almost everything about the secular world we live in today; it is shocking how well.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”

There is much more and it sounds like Paul is describing twentieth century America.

Some of these people clinging to illogical hopes of a Godless universe are my friends, and your friends.  They are my family, and your family, people I love, and people you love.  They are people God loves.  Regardless of whether they acknowledge Him or not, He is waiting on the porch, scanning the horizon, hoping they turn towards home.

I don’t think it does any good to have creation versus evolution debates with them.  Our job is to live out our beliefs… and love them.  We are to be living examples of the God we believe in, and make no mistake about it; those people we care about with the futile thinking and foolish hearts–they are watching.  They notice when we judge them and they see when we give them grace.

A.J.