The Journey

A few months ago marked my 44 years of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

However, in many ways, I still feel like a young Christian that is stumbling over nothing, falling The Journey Logodown and having to pick myself to try again.  I never thought that the journey to become like Christ was as long as it has been for me.  I thought I would be there by now, but it seems I’ve only just begun.

As I write those words, I wonder if I’ve been too open about my walk and struggle in my Christian walk. I have had people comment to me in the past about how shocked they were to hear how I had struggled in my life. They could not believe that I failed in my first marriage and in my ministry. The only words I could come up with in response was that I was sorry I let God and them down. 

It is something that I live with everyday. I am torn between what could have been in my ministry and where I am at today.  The lessons learned from my failure has made me so much more compassionate towards those that have failed or struggle in this life.  Something that I did not even consider in the years that I was in the ministry. 

My failure broke me.  The price of failure has been one that I am still paying for even after 20 years.  

Truth is, I am not a person that finds joy in sharing my failures.  But one thing iindexs true… I have had more than my fair share of them.  I have to be honest and try to not deceive anyone into thinking that I have everything in my Christian walk all together. I surely cannot deceive myself, I have to live with it everyday.

So how do I be an open book and not be honest about my past failures?  It would be easy to just write generic, short little gleeb articles that give advice with no experience. I see them all the time.  I cannot do that.  I try not to give advice.  I write to remind myself of the lessons learned by my failures and successes.  I try to influence by being an example of what can happen in your life when you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ. I try to give the reader something to ponder.  The truth is my life has been one to be used as an example of caution. If it can happen to me… it can happen to you.

My relationship with God cannot be summed up in a FACEBOOK post. I read catchy little Christian phrases on FACEBOOK that annoy me to no end. Often they are posted by people I know personally and I want to pull my hair out.  I get so frustrated because when people favorpost them, it seems to me that it dumbs down the real relationship a person should have with Jesus Christ.  That somehow by posting if you love God… re-post this message and He will do you a favor.

I do not want to speak for God but I do not think God is not in the business of doing favors for me or you just because we re-post this.

Here’s my up-front disclaimer: I’m not fond of Christian jokes and one-liners. I might be a terrible stick-in-the-mud, but when I pass a church marquee sign posting a “Christian” message, I wince. Although I fight the urge, I read it. And sometimes I need to seek God’s forgiveness for the thoughts that enter my mind after my car has passed by.

I drive about 30 miles to work everyday. On my drive I pass a church where they post phrases on their church marquee. They change it often.  Before Election Day, it read: “To find God, turn right and go straight.” I am sure every left-leaning friend I had would be outraged by what it said. 

Another time the sign read, “If God gave you the same priority you give Him, would you be saved?” My instinctive response was a low growl. I wasn’t being convicted by the Holy Spirit; I simply have an adverse reaction to being smacked in the head with weak theology. God gave me all the priority He intended by giving His Son to die on the cross for me. Salvation comes from the acceptance of His Son and His death that paid the price for my sin. My salvation is not dependent on my priority on any random day.

Why do we insist on using catch phrases to attract our community to Christ?

I understand people are well-meaning.  I am trying extremely hard to not judge but this week I have read FACEBOOK posts such as:

“God answers knee-mail,”

“God loves everyone, but probably prefers fruits of the spirit over religious nuts.”

“Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”

“Why do some people change churches? What difference does it make which one you stay home from?”

“Don’t make me come down there–signed God.”

Or consider the church sign I passed while driving to work this week. 

It read, “WARNING! Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.”

My response is always the same: “Huh?”

Do we really want to guilt people into worshipping with us? When people read these messages and the out-loud response is, “See? THAT’S why I don’t go to church!” we’ve failed our community–and our faith.

Sure, I get it. But why does it make me crazy? Statements like these are patronizing, condescending, and place the reader on the defensive side of living.  It cheapens the journey that most of us are on.

StonesI am not innocent of doing it either, here’s one that I am guilty of posting –  “Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.”  

As if!  You’re still on the ground with a bloody nose and scrapped knees and I’m trying to tell you how to take those stumbling places and grow? Come on!  Catchy little slogans do nothing to help you or me grow in Christ. I need Christ and I need Him constantly!

And, to be honest, it doesn’t take a stone to make me stumble.  I’m pretty good at stumbling over sand, over a crack in the sidewalk.  It’s never something big thing or I would avoid it.  It’s always the little things that cause my fall, my failing…..and then I grieve, beat myself up and tell God I’m sorry, I won’t do it again (but I will)….and that I should be past all of this by now, but I’m not.

And, then, like a child, embarrassed by my failings, but suffering in my pains, I run back to God and am welcomed by His grace, his love and forgiveness.  I’m always embarrassed to face Him, to come to Him and tell Him “I did it again!  I’m so sorry!!”  And He forgives, He bandages my wounds and He offers to walk with me even as I stumble along.

Are we really trying to reach out to those who are far from God? If the answer is “Yes,” we need to speak and write the words that others understand and will respond to positively.

The FACEBOOK audience is composed of moms and dads, children and grandparents, friends and facebook3neighbors that do not know Christ. They are overworked, tired and stretched to the limits emotionally, mentally and financially to consider the importance of having a relationship with Him. They are searching for something more meaningful than Christian one-liners. All too often they are searching in the wrong places.

We have an incredible opportunity to reach people for Christ.  But it will not happen with a catch-phrase posted on FACEBOOK and truth be told it will not come from any of my writings and postings to this blog site. It will only happen when we meet and love people where they are at in life.  It will happen when we develop relationships that are deeper than FACEBOOK postings.

My desire is to have my writings be an encouragement to those that want to reach others for Christ. I want to show people that my journey has been one to note because of the lessons that can be learned from it.  I have no belief that my words will reach the masses but maybe they will reach one WELCOME-your-churchthat will be encouraged to live for Christ in a deeper way and reach others for Him.

As far as reaching people on FACEBOOK.  Let me just say that if you insist on posting those Christian one-liners, please make sure your other postings and life live up to those postings. 

As for church marquee signs, perhaps we simply need to say, Sunday Services: 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. All Are Welcome!

With God’s spirit, those words might be more than enough.

Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and Hoping To Find A Better Way

As I scan my timelines, I see battles. I see people taking sides over current events.

Good people.  Well-meaning people. All with different opinions.  All saying they are not arguing The-problem-with-arguing-with-idiotsbut just trying to prove they are right and that the person who disagrees with them is not just wrong but that they are an idiot.

Who is right and who is wrong?

To be honest most of the people I see making comments and posting on FACEBOOK do not have clue as to what they are talking about. Most of them have grown up in protected environments and have NEVER faced anything remotely close to what is going on in the news. That includes me as well.

I find it so ridiculous that so many of the posts on my FACEBOOK wall are re-posted from satire political sources. If you are re-posting stuff without doing some research to see that it is legit then why bother? All you are showing is your ignorance. If you’re getting your news from “The Onion” or any other satire site and thinking it is real then you have a serious problem.

Here is NEWS for you… ALL NEWS SOURCES and the Republicans, Democrats and the much hated, Tea-Party ALL have sites that are filled with propaganda. All of these “sources” have agendas and they play all of us. I constantly get posts that when truly researched there is just enough truth to stay on topic but the trouble starts in the details of the articles. Most of it is WRONG. Again… those of you posting  those things, please at least try to do some research.

People try to come off on FACEBOOK as if they have the answer… they are right and if you disagree wrong_thumbyou are naïve ,uneducated and/or just plain stupid. They present themselves as having the answer to all problems because so many of them post and comment on things such as the issues in Ferguson, the Eric Garner Death in New York, Immigration, Amnesty, the Keystone Pipeline, Voter ID laws, Fracking, Global Warming, Net Neutrality and a boatload of other topics.  Now most of these people I know. I know where they come from and I know where they grew up. In most cases I know their education level. Most of those I see post barely got out of high school and if they did go on to college they surely did not take the subject matter to be the experts and know-it-alls they come off to be on FACEBOOK.

Now before you think I am coming off as being the only “smart one”… I am not. I learned long ago that FACEBOOK is not the arena to discuss or have legitimate debate about issues of politics, science, music or Christianity.  Truth is… I don’t have all the answers and I don’t waste my time trying to convince people to change their mind on FACEBOOK.  I know what I believe and I know what I think.  People are entitled to have their opinion and have a right to believe what they believe. But just because you think differently from me does not make you right.

I have discovered that those issues I tried to convince people was right when I was 30 years old was really wrong now that life experience has shown me how wrong I was.

I don’t care if you post what you believe or even what you think… but if you are trying to use FACEBOOK as a platform to change people’s minds you are crazy. People do not want to discuss or debate…they want to ARGUE. I have yet to meet anyone that said…”Wow, I am glad you posted that article from (Blue Nation Review / Fox News) cause it changed my mind and now I am going to become a (liberal / conservative)”.

So who is right and who is wrong?  That’s not for me to decide.

Again, truth is… none of these well-meaning people have the “right” to tell the other that they are wrong or right.  It only causes a deeper divide in this country.

We are more polarized than ever. No matter what side of the coin you are on… each think that the person on the other side is wrong and an idiot. There once was a time that we could find common ground… now I think we have lost that in America… sadly I think our country will never be the same. HERE IS MORE NEWS… WE ARE ALL TO BLAME FOR THIS!!!

At least for a few moments can we experience  “peace on earth and good will to men” even if that simply means with those friends that disagree with you.

For this moment, for this season, can we put down our verbal weapons? Can we call a truce?

Can hate not be so strong?

There has to be a better way.

Can we try to finish 2014 and enter 2015 with peace and hope of goodwill where there once was division, hate, unrest and hateful words.

In this Christmas Season… let’s have our conversation stay out of the mine fields of division and let’s love our families while we can regardless of which side of the argument they fall on. My prayer that we honestly experience peace on earth in our relationships and in our families.

Merry Christmas and let us all hope for a better way.