An Ageless Conversation

Recently, a 23-year old young lady presented me with a text conversation she had with her 24- year old young male cousin. As I read the exchange, I thought how this is really an ageless conversation that every generation goes through. I wonder how many defendants of Christianity this generation has like this young lady. I asked her if I could share it. He also gave his consent. Here is the exchange as she shared it with me.

Young Lady:  Why do you not believe in God?

Young Man: Ok, so I mean there are a lot of reasons honestly. The easier question would be for me to ask you why you do… For instance, why do you? And follow up, would you have said that if not for your parents? If you look at history, the entire history of man, usually the things that were unexplainable were treated as “gods” or something similar. Fire for primitive man. A whole number of Greek gods (fire, water, thunder, etc.) all the way through the scientific revolution really. Humans have historically created these religions or gods to explain the unexplainable. It’s just no longer necessary. It was something that was fabricated to appease them at the time. And the whole concept is just super silly… Like someone came up with this idea, and managed to convince others of it and it snowballs. Or people are forced to practice by their societies or governments, etc. Take Catholicism for example. Why do you think that it was so popular? Well it catered to women who had no significant societal worth for the longest time and then all of the sudden there is this philosophy that is saying that they are equals. Of course they will want to side with it. The catholic indulgences… a concept created solely to make money and capitalize on human nature. Back to other religions. Hinduism pre-dates all other modern religions. Ask any serious Hindu and I guarantee you that they will be steadfast in that they are right in their belief. Yet Christianity morphed multiple times from Judaism into what it is today. Yet Christianity is somehow correct and Hinduism, which existed before that is wrong? Why? If you tell me yes, it is purely because some person decided that to be the case arbitrarily a long time ago. Buddhism was formed out of one man’s frustration with Jainism, which itself was a branch off of Vedic religion in India. Gautama (now referred to as the Buddha) went on this gargantuan journey to find the meaning of life, yada, yada, and ultimately what he decided caught on to become modern day Buddhism. What I’m getting at is that all these religions have existed over the millennia. Some have come and gone, some are new, some are old, and every single one of them formed in a different way and every one of them (most) believes itself and none of the others to be true and correct. The entire concept of religion was fabricated by man. Each one was tailored to the time and place it began. There was a great amount of turmoil in the world during the scientific revolution because these scholars were discovering things and proposing things that were not mentioned in any religious text. Up until that time, mostly anything not expressly mentioned in a religious text was considered either blasphemy or nonsense but finally they were able to prove these things. So why did they exclude all these things? Because humans hadn’t figured it out yet. The religions were created to explain it and when a factual scientific explanation was discovered there was an issue because it conflicted with the religion. So the religions morphed and adapted to keep on going. Don’t get offended by this, but the entire concept is just hilarious to me. These books that were written by men, were arbitrarily assembled and now constitute the Bible. Why aren’t other books in it? There are many other books by a lot of the same authors in the Bible yet they aren’t in the Bible. I could go on and on. But I guess it’s just that science explains everything. Anything that we can’t explain, still have a scientific explanation, we just haven’t figured it out yet, but we will. Religion and god is just not necessary to me. I don’t need it. Why do you?

Young Lady:  Because he is real and is alive?? My question is do you know everything? Religion or not do you? Not judging or anything like that but do you?

Young Man: No, I definitely don’t know everything. Also, just FYI, you can’t possibly offend me about anything pertaining to religion so don’t worry. But “why don’t I” isn’t a valid answer. Why do you believe what you believe? And you can’t say anything about just having faith because there is a root reason why you would even “have faith” in the first place. The question at hand is one that there can never truly be a binary answer to, simply because the definition of god doesn’t allow it to ever be definitively disproved. However, the fact that it cannot be proven that there is no god, is irrelevant as to whether or not there really is or isn’t. In other words, you can’t say that just because you can’t prove the in-existence of god implies that there is a god. But whereas I have fundamental reasons why I don’t believe there is a god, you have yet to give any reason why you think there is. So for every reason you give me I’ll ask you why you believe that, and so on and so on until you get to a reason that I cannot ask why you believe that. So what is/are the core reasons? If you have seen him give and take away, why do you think there is a god that has anything to do with that? Life and death are concepts that have evolved over billions of years. At one time there was no life, and thus no death, until there was inorganic matter that combined to become organic and it progressed from there. So, why is it that you believe that is justification for a god. (Btw, I’m not trying to be mean or try and change your mind, just trying to understand why you believe what you believe)(Also btw, I’ve found that many many people don’t know why they believe what they believe).

Young Lady: I have read your message a hundred times it seems. Every point you made. Everything you have said. As well as the couple of questions you have asked. I have typed and retype what I am trying to put into words. I may not be as good as you putting it into words, but you know what you believe. Here is Someone who puts into words what I believe better than I can verbally. Since you are firm in what you believe and me in mine, then it may just be a comedy show for you. To me it is not nor will it ever be. These clips aren’t the entire debate. It is actually a two hour debate. It’s excellent. It points out both sides of Christianity versus atheism as well as evolution. I don’t expect you to want to watch the two hours. I feel as if you will say it would be a waste of time since you are so busy. With that being said, I figure I would send you three separate videos. If you want me to send you the entire video and you listen to it on and off I will gladly.

Young Lady to Me: Well, no response even 24 hours later. God is real and society needs to pray for the generation that is the future.

The references the young lady sent him were from Kent Hovind. A link to a small taste of the debates is listed below.

Kent Hovind at his best in 7 minutes

Margins and Guardrails

Once I heard a speaker talk about living in the margins. He caught my interest, so I listened up.

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“Take a piece of notebook paper,” he said. “Yes, they still make them. Notice the lines that run perpendicular to the horizontal lines. From that line to the edge is the margin.”

I was tracking with him. He went on to explain that too many of us live outside the main body of the page and into the margins. Subsequently, when something goes wrong, we go off the page.

Living in the margins is also known as living in the fast lane. It leads to burnout, relational problems, health problems due to stress, etc. We need to strive to live in the main body of the paper, so when things go sideways, we may wind up in the margins, but our lives don’t go off the page or out of control.

How do we stay out of the margins and stay in the main area? A friend and I were discussing this, and he pointed out that the vertical lines that denote the margins can be viewed as guardrails. Guardrails are in place along roadsides and bridges to keep us on the path, bridge, or track and out of the shoulder area and subsequently into the ditch.

My friend used his weight as an example. He has an ideal weight he strives for, but he also has a “warning weight.” When he gets too close to his warning weight, he knows that he has to make a change to remain where he wants to be. If he stays over the warning weight (the guardrail or warning grooves), then he will live in the margins or on the shoulder which can be detrimental.

black car instrument cluster panel

Recently, I rented a car that had a “lane assist” feature that when activated, not only alerts the driver to potentially going over the road lane markings, but it will also adjust the steering for you. If you take your hands off the wheel, it will keep the vehicle within the lane markings. However, after a few seconds, it beeps and flashes a warning on the instrument panel that driver attention is needed.  I am not sure how it knows the driver is not touching the steering wheel, but it knows. You too can set up parameters to make sure you are staying in the lane and not crossing guardrails or going into margins.

In review, there are four key components to consider: the lane or body area, guardrails or warning grooves, the margins or shoulders, and off the page or in the ditch. There are subcomponents to consider as well.

The lane

This is where we live, where the rubber meets the road. We don’t just sit in the lane. We are moving. You have to have a destination in mind. Where are you going? What will it take to get you there?

The guardrails or shoulder grooves

These are the warning systems we put in place to alert us to the potential that we are going off course. These, of course, slow us down, but they are not quiet about it. There are also warning and informational signs and mile markers along the wayside. Do you have a mentor or someone you can be accountable to concerning your goals? Do you regularly evaluate your goals or destination?

The margins or shoulder

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Here we have lost our focus. This happens. It is not the end of the journey nor is it time to be alarmed. Sometimes we have to pull over to fix a flat, but when we are done, we don’t stay there.  We don’t live there. We certainly don’t travel there. Some call this a rut. A rut, someone has said is a grave with the ends knocked out. There are other times where we have wound up on the side of the road or in the margin and didn’t realize it. This often happens before we know it and because we were distracted. It also happens because there were no guardrails or warning grooves in place. Why are you on the side of the road? Did someone or something force you to the side? Did you wind up here accidentally? How long have you been there? What will it take to get you moving again?

Off the paper or in the ditch

This is a dangerous area. Many people do not recover from this part. Often if someone is pulled or pulls themselves out of the ditch, the damage is not repairable. They have to start with a new sheet of paper or go down a different road, usually bearing the scars that come from ditch living.

You can apply this analogy of the roadway or paper to almost any area of your life. It can apply to your job, your marriage, other relationships, your finances, your health, etc. Notice I said to apply. It is a choice. It is intentional. You have to apply the strategy on purpose to stay on track, to install the guardrails, to stay off the side of the road, and to stay out of the ditch. You decide. You must take responsibility. People will run you off the road, into the margins, but you don’t have to stay there.

You may ask, “How do I get started or if I am moving how do I direct the rest of the journey?” I am glad you asked. There are good helps out there, but I will recommend several here that are generic. You can find some that are more specific to the goal or destination you are striving to obtain.

The Lane or Main Body of the PageA Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren. Everyone needs a reason to succeed. We all need to discover our purpose. This book is a great place to start.

The Guardrails or Warning GroovesBoundaries – Henry Cloud. This book helps you outline and live a balanced life.

The Margins or ShoulderGet Out of That Pit – Beth Moore. As someone who has been on the shoulders of life, Beth can relate to being stuck on the side of the road. In this book, she gives practical helps to get you started again.

Off the Page or In the DitchHow I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling– Frank Bettger. Don’t let the title fool you. This book is far more reaching than just selling. Yes, this is a great book if you are in sales. However, if you are in the ditch, you have to sell yourself the idea of getting out of that ditch. This book is an excellent tool.

Veterans

On this day, we as a nation take a designated day to recognize and appreciate those who proudly wore a uniform to serve and protect their country.

The term “their country” is a vague description of all that we call American. Even with all that is wrong with this nation and the human experience, thousands still proudly stand ready to defend it. Truth be told, most of those who no longer wear the uniform, would tell you they would do it again if needed.

Two songs, The Star Spangled Banner and Taps, still bring a tear to my eye because they remind me of the sacrifice of my fathers and some friends. They also fill me with a sense of pride.

Today, I salute my fellow veterans and say thank you to you and your families for your service and support.

The Worst of Man, the Best of Man

With Hurricane Michael slamming into and ripping apart parts of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, there were plenty of opportunities. Opportunities for mankind to sink low and take advantage of his fellow man and for mankind to rise up and help. Stories abound of both.

A drunk driver swerved off the road and killed three linemen in Chipley, Florida. The National Guard was stationed in just about every town and hamlet to ward off vandalism and thievery. I saw a mobile vendor set up shop in Greenwood, Florida and sell food at prices one wouldn’t be asked to pay at fairs or amusement parks. I saw roofing contractors inflating the estimates on work so the owner could get more money. These are just a few examples of what I know. We could fill pages with how people were being scammed. However…

I saw more good than bad. Most of the people I encountered put their own needs on a back burner to help those around them. Many of them with damage to their own property felt “it can wait” and “others have it worse than we do.” These people formed a small army within their communities, working tirelessly helping others.

Friendship Baptist Church in Malone, Florida happened to be on the same electrical leg as the local prison, so when power was restored to the correctional facility the church also got power. Even before they received power, they opened their doors to be a major supplies distribution center to Malone and the surrounding areas. Men would load up supplies in their trucks and deliver goods to people out in rural areas who had no power and subsequently, no water. It complicated matters when vehicles were under trees or blocked in by trees covering driveways. The men, in their trucks, went around the debris to reach the people in need.

For several days, Friendship would feed anyone who came to their fellowship hall, including National Guard, linemen, first responders, and folks who hadn’t had a hot meal in days. When the area around Malone received power, the supplies were shipped to Marianna to help the people there.

Our little country church reached deep and out to those around us in southeast Alabama and even into Florida. A local gas station donated a pallet of water. We sent two small groups to Florida with supplies. Each time we discovered needs, we sent out the word, and the needs were met. We opened our pastorium to a displaced minister and his family from Florida until they could make other arrangements.

When in Florida, we made friends with an associate pastor and his family from Marianna who had been working so much to help their community that they had hardly touched their own yard. It was littered with huge oaks the wind had toppled. They had to drive on their lawn because their driveway was blocked. In short, with their help, we cleared out the driveway of the trees and limbs. We took a blower to it for good measure.

I personally reached out to the company where I work, both corporately and locally. The response was tremendous. Locally, my fellow workers gave supplies to our church to distribute in Florida. Supplies were shipped to us from Kansas, other parts of Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and even from colleagues in North Carolina who had just gone through Hurricane Florence.

I am not recounting any of this to sound our horn. I am offering these few stories as a reminder of the goodness of God that still resides in our land and in our neighbors. The stories are endless of the sacrifice whole communities and individuals have made. I am only privy to these. They are a testimony to the good that still exists and the good that still can be done in the world. God is good and he continues to work through human hands to heal human hurts even in the darkest of times.

A Guarded Inheritance

I Peter 1:3-5

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

As the Bible so often does, here is a nugget of truth on which volumes could be written. As I read this, I wondered why I have never heard this verse used at funerals. Funerals are those things that make us reflect on our own lives even when we don’t want to, especially when the departed is around our age or younger. I had the displeasure of experiencing this not too long ago.

Living and Dying

dandelion nature sunlight

This one statement tells us how we should live and die. As Jesus told Nicodemus in John, chapter three, you must be born again. Who causes this to happen? God, according to His great mercy and through the atoning life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Our rebirth is into a hope that is living. This hope is not the kind that one would use in wishing something is true, but rather is a trust in something real, yet to come. It is a surety not realized, just like in Hebrews 11:1. That trust is in an inheritance that we will one day receive. That inheritance will not perish, will never be defiled, and will not fade – ever.

Beyond Imagination

This inheritance if far beyond our imagination here on earth. It is waiting for us in the holiest home of heaven. It is such a treasure for us that it is even being guarded until such time as we arrive to receive it. We believe it not because we wish it to be, but because it truly is. Our faith can be steadfast in the power of God to reveal our inheritance to us at the right time and will be given only then.

Be Encouraged

blur close up focus gavel

As the bible says, it is appointed for man to die and that there will be a judgment.  No one wants to think about this reality of living. You must die one day. You must stand before a righteous God in judgment on how you lived this life. Every work, word, and deed will be revealed at that time. For Christians, the vault will be opened, and that guarded inheritance will be revealed and bestowed. This is what we should be looking forward to when times are tough when we feel lonely, and when we feel fear. Don’t feel beaten down, but encouraged that God takes note of all you are going through here and will reward you there with a guarded inheritance, specifically for you, with your name on it. That is great and wonderful news.

No One Escapes

Audio Podcast Version

Christians Are Not Exempt

No one escapes this earthly death. No one escapes the pain. Somehow people seem to think that Christians get a bye on the whole earth experience thing. Even some Christians are shocked when they suffer. Christians don’t escape the natural and moral evil of this world. We are not supposed to. Just because we become believers in Christ doesn’t mean all life from here after (down here anyway) will be without pain or heartache. Christians die too, sometimes very horribly.

“But doesn’t God love us? Why would he let such things happen to us if we are his children and we trust in him?” This presumes that we should get preferential treatment from God. He lets us live life with all the heartache, wonder, pleasure, and tragedy. It wouldn’t be life if we didn’t. We all go through this life together in a broken world. Though our spirits have been born again, our bodies still age and die because they are still under the curse of sin, as is all creation.

We Are No Accident

Christians know they are going to die, and when they die, they do spend eternity with God in heaven. So, why does he leave us here? He created us to fulfill a purpose that he had in mind. He had a purpose first and then created us. He didn’t say, “Hmmm. There is going to be this little baby boy named T.J. born, and I wonder what I should have him do?” No. He said, “I have a purpose, and I am going to create this person named T.J. (or fill in your name) to fulfill it.” When my purpose is done, then so am I.

QuoteChristians should take the view that they are the leading character in their own action movie. Just like any good story, the protagonist will face obstacles and challenges as he or she navigates their way through the story. I see my life as an adventure and have many times told people “the hard times are just part of this adventure I call my life.” There are many dangers, toils, and snares, not to mention that villain. You are the leading character, but not the hero, Jesus is, but like any good main character, you will triumph in the end.

The good thing is, you get reviews as you go, by the Holy Spirit who is the protagonist’s mentor. Jesus is the author and finisher of the movie, who also should have a starring role. God is working in the backdrop to weave your story into the series that he has created.

greyscale photo of woman between two man

You, my friend have to decide how good of an actor you want to be. Do you follow the script, realizing that everything is working for your good because you love God and are called according to his purpose? Or do you try to change the script to fulfill how you think it should be directed? That will get you bad reviews for sure.

Remember, no one escapes death, not at least the first death. If you are a Christian, you like everyone else will suffer the first death (unless Jesus comes to get us first). You die once, live twice. But, if you have never accepted Christ as your Savior, then you will die twice and live once.

It’s A Choice

What is your choice? Do you accept the role that God has written for you to receive great acclaim in his name or do you play your own part and suffer the severe consequences? Will your life be a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” or will you be famous in your Father’s eyes? Me? I want a standing ovation from Jesus with a “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” He leaves the choice up to all of us. Life is not a dress rehearsal. You don’t get a second chance once the credits roll.

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone has a story. I am no different. There is a significant part of my story that I rarely tell. I guess because it is so far in my past, but it really has defined my present and future. In Christian circles, it’s called “your testimony” or your “witness.” The thing is, our lives (current tense) should be our testimony and witness, so I don’t usually tell this part.

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I was in the fifth grade, the second son of a single mother and the middle child of three. I loved history, and I loved knowledge. On this particular day in spring, I was playing “army” which means I was staging a battle somewhere in the dirt between several armies. In this particular scenario, I was creating my own invasion of the Greeks by the Persians. Forget the fact that the Greeks were green plastic army men with a splattering of anything I could find to represent fighting men. I.e., shotgun shells, plastic firemen, etc. The invading army was usually blue army men and their contingents. The only thing separating these two was the body of water that flowed between. In reality, it was the dirty washing machine water that drained out to soak the ground. Flood stage came along with the spin cycle.

On this Saturday morning, a kind old gentleman named Mr. Juneau stopped in our yard to talk with this dirty kid playing in the muddy water. He first asked if my mother was home. I told him she was gone and would be back soon. He asked if we went to church anywhere. I told him no. He asked me what I was doing and patiently listened as I explained the invasion. He then asked if I would like to go roller skating next week. I told I would be glad to. He said he would stop by during the week and talk to my mom about it and he left.

In the course of things, Mr. Juneau started picking up us kids to go to Sunday school and church along with other children on the church bus. Through that experience, a man listening to the voice of God to go and seek the lost, several of us were found for eternity. It didn’t stop there. God moved in my life and has blessed me immeasurably. I think of how far Jesus has brought me, from that dirty kid playing in dirty soapy, washing machine water to where I am today. He could have left me there in my dirt and in my sad estate or could he? I think not. His love for me wouldn’t allow it. If I were to die today, it would be well with my soul, because the keeper of my soul has let me live a life that I have not earned nor deserved. Truly, far blessed than I deserved. Cory Asbury (and everyone else who has picked up this song) has it right when he sings of the “reckless love of God.” I couldn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. Still, Jesus gave himself away.

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I tell this part of my life to say this: Jesus is faithful, and he loves you. If you do not know him, you can. If you do not know him, you should. It will cost you nothing, and you will gain everything. I am not talking material possessions. For some to be blessed materially is actually a curse that will keep them from God. So, don’t come to Jesus to see what you can get materially. Come to Jesus to see what you can get spiritually and eternally. Trust him above all things. He truly loves you and is faithful in all things. This is my testimony: let my life and words bear witness to the gracious love of God.