Category Archives: Conversion

The Fakes We Make

Anyone that has read my blog in the past knows I love me some Breaking Benjamin.  What can I say?  Ben can scream with the best of them, and they’re simply my favorite band, as such I listen to them a lot, and as I’ve blogged in the past, Ben wrestles with a lot of issues in his songs, as in his life, so you can get a lot of fodder for contemplation from their lyrics (no, they aren’t a Christian band, listen at thy own risk).  On their latest album, Ember, there is a song (my favorite of the album) called “Psycho” which contains:

In the cold eternal light
I am the ember fading
Every scar we try to hide
I am the fake you made me

When I heard this I was instantly reminded of conversations that I had with a good friend of mine about the Church, about Christians, and how we treat one another and the expectations we hold.  Have you noticed people in our society abandoning the gathering together of believers, even abandoning the faith?  Perhaps that’s you (I hope you stick around til the end of this article and leave me a comment, BTW.)  Recently there have been some pretty recognizable names in Christian circles that have either renounced the faith, or even committed suicide.  Kids aren’t staying in the congregations they were raised in… why?

I think Ben’s lyrics touch upon something for me, and others I know, that partially explains it… the Church has been making fakes for a long time. (Disclaimer: this is not Ben’s meaning or interpretation, it’s all mine as he doesn’t like explaining the meaning he had in his head when writing/singing any particular song so who knows what he would think of all this.)  Now, the thing is here, I’m not blaming the fake, I’m “blaming” the environment and other people responsible for creating the fakes.  What has made our churches into fake factories?

One explanation comes in the song in the line just prior; “Every scar we try to hide.”  Scars are there from battles we’ve fought; grief and loss, addiction, betrayal, idolatry, greed, gluttony, dishonesty, sin of all shapes and sizes that are either a current fight, or one in the past, sins we’ve committed or sins committed against us.  Scars can also be from hard times in life; when there’s not enough money, when we fall flat on our faces, when we get sick or hurt.  What has happened is that the feeling many people have is they are not allowed to have scars, and if they do have them, they are supposed to hide them, act as though nothing has or is happening, OR that they’ve been handled in a perfectly cherry pie way.  We certainly can’t have the truth coming out, the doubts, the fears, the struggles… Lord help the parishioner who has real questions.

There is now an almost palpable feeling of fakeness in many sermons and songs, a weird kind of whistling past the graveyard.  So, everyone must march in a quiet lockstep and put on the fake face or else others get uncomfortable really quick.  If you sing the right songs with the right kind of lyrics, if you smile and nod at all the right places, you’re assured of salvation, right?  If you say the right things and follow along and don’t ask questions, everything in your life will be peachy keen, right?  No, it just produces fakes, but they’ve had to fake it to make it, right?  Well, that works as long as everything is chugging away, but what happens when a wrench gets thrown in to the works?  What happens when the husband leaves, the baby dies, another war starts, you lose your job, the doctor says “you’ve got cancer?”  Yes, if the faith was real and true and strong in you in a real way, and you are surrounded by real, true, strong believers, God does indeed become a fortress and a safe place… but what happens to all those faking it in order to appease the crowd?  They rightfully break and when they break… they are abandoned.

Please understand, I’m not talking about every church congregation, I’ve been part of a church where I truly believe those people would’ve died for me, warts and all, and I’d like to think I’d have died for them.  However, I am talking about something going on in our churches at large, and in general.  I used to think stronger apologetics would stop the problem, and I still think it would help, but now I understand; it’s not just the words that are lacking, it’s the actions that are missing.  We can defend the faith in word all day long, but if we don’t defend it in deed, we are going to keep losing people.  We are going to keep producing fakes.

A church under physical persecution doesn’t produce fakes.  Why?  Because your conversion and sharing the faith is a matter of literal life and death.  We don’t have that here in the West.  If we don’t have that, do we show forth the faith in deed in other actions in our lives, or do we live and talk just like everyone else, and then for an hour or two on Sunday slap on the fakeness?  In some respects I think it’s harder to be genuine when you are a part of a congregation.  What do you guys think?  I’ve been a part of a fantastic congregation, I’ve been a part of some not so fantastic congregations, and I’ve been outside of a congregation, which is where I’m at now.  I think that is one reason we see people disavowing Christian affiliation more and more; at least when you label yourself a “none” you don’t have to fake it in a sea of people every Sunday.  It would be hilarious, if it weren’t true.  It’s kinda sad that I feel I can be more Christian in word and deed outside of a congregation than in one.  What’s happened to us?

My last post was on The Good, The True, and The Beautiful, and I do think some of the answer is there, but those things have to include not hiding scars, not trying to fake it til you make it, not just living like the world while preaching something totally different.  We have to actually love everyone… somehow we’ve failed in that.  We don’t have to love like the world tells us to love, we have to love dangerously… we have to love in truth and in deed, but we can’t do that if we only accept someone when they are faking it.  And, we have to take responsibility for making fakes in the first place.  I don’t have all the answers, I don’t think any one person does.  What are your thoughts?  I’d especially love to hear stories from those who have indeed left either the faith, or the church.  Have you been “the ember fading?”  Did something happen to quench that ember? What hurt?  How about stories from people who have felt like an ember fading, but you were renewed? What helped?

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Theology

First the Cross

It’s Good Friday.  There are a lot of thoughts out there on what Good Friday means to us, so I thought I would add mine.  Here are some of my takeaways as to how to apply the lessons of Good Friday to our lives.

Even though you know what’s coming, keep pushing forward.  Avoidance only works in our lives in the short term.  If there is a rough road ahead we sometimes try to skirt around it, and then wind up in a ditch.  We need to logically look at the facts around us, pray to God that His will be done, and then move forward.  Sometimes life flat out stinks… if you see someone preaching that life is roses and kittens 24/7, run the other way.  We, as Christians, are to be made over into “little Christs,” well, that means sometimes first the cross.

Even though you are anxious, keep pushing forward.  Read the scriptures about Jesus in the garden.  Courage isn’t about a lack of anxiety, it is about having anxiety and acting anyway.  Humans get anxious when confronted with hard things.  That’s ok.  Seek out people that can help you with the burden of anxiety, seek out the Father that is always there, always listening to our fears and desires.  And, if you are anxious about everything, it’s time to get some help with that, and I’m saying that sincerely.  Anxiety can turn into a beast that we start to feel we can’t control, and there’s lots of reasons that anxiety can take over, but it can be fought and put back into perspective.  For rational anxiety; things work out, but first the cross.

Even though you are going through excruciating times, you can be right in the middle of God’s will.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate messages?  Don’t let other Christians shame you into thinking that we only suffer if we sin… did not Jesus suffer?  Was not Jesus sinless?  It rains on the just and the unjust alike, and the sun shines on both.  I would love to say that if you convert to Christianity that you won’t suffer… I can’t say that, it would be a lie, but what I can say is that as Christians, suffering has meaning.  Suffering also has an end.  We aren’t to seek suffering out in some masochistic manner, but when it comes to us, we hit our knees, seek His will, and remember His cross.  The resurrection is coming, but first the cross.

Hang in there my fellow humans, it doesn’t end at the cross.

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Filed under Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Prayer, Psychology

Seeking the Divine in Architecture

I’ve hunted down and read people’s comments on a lot of different sites about the Notre Dame fire and its restoration.  Most of it is supportive, but there are a few fellow Christians (and others of course) out there hung up on the money it will take to restore Notre Dame, and the fact that “it’s just a building.”  I do my best to empathize with my fellow human beings, especially when there is a dearth of that on the interweb, so I do get the point they are making, but they are missing The Point of structures like Notre Dame.

Yes, it will take loads of cash to rebuild the Lady, yes, that cash could go elsewhere (I suggest putting your cash wherever you like if it bothers you so much, and make sure you are eating beans and rice, and not anything more expensive so you can give even more money to your causes), but do you seriously think that a structure is all that the money is going toward?  What good are buildings anyway?  Does God disapprove of buildings? Of beauty? Of Architecture?

We already know from Art Appreciation 101 that the human eye, hence the human mind finds certain ratios, and shapes pleasing.  It evokes something in us at a level that we are hardly aware of.  There are many articles out now about the impact of architecture on the human brain, even neurobiologically speaking.  Interesting isn’t it?  I don’t think God does anything frivolously, especially in the laying down of laws or guidance, so all of those structures he ordered humans to build in very specific ways can’t have been capricious.  We are not Gnostics; the physical world (including our bodies) started out good, we are physical beings, and after the resurrection we will have perfected physical bodies.  The physical is important, it always has been since the beginning.

God even gave specific instruction dealing with physical things all the time, including buildings.  The way He instructed the Jewish tribes to arrange their camp, the instructions for the tent, and then the temple.  Noah’s ark, the ark of the covenant, and Nehushtan the bronze serpent.  God knows us and our minds because He made us and He recognizes the need we have for physical-ness.  No, He is not limited to physical place and clearly when Jesus walked the earth, was crucified, and resurrected things did change, but there was never a proscribed ban on buildings built to hold worshipers.

Notre Dame was built with worship directed toward God.  The artisans and workers poured themselves into it and made their praise physically manifest.  The windows were the Gospel writ large in living color.  Symbols are important, they are not impotent signs, but rather something that has taken on the true essence of the thing it represents.  Symbols have power.

There are people that owe their belief in God to capitulating to His call put forth in beauty.  People have felt His call in churches, before great works of art, or listening to music.  I know the stories of people who were agnostic, but upon traveling to all the great old cathedrals in Europe said they came away knowing He existed, and have followed Him since.  When humans allow God to work through us, or to inspire us, the result can be a glimpse of heaven.  We can definitely see that in nature as well, but when we see something that comes from the effort of a group of humans working together to build instead of destroy… well, we recognize a truth in that.  Civilization.  Civilization directed toward God and in His service.  That’s important.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Conversion, Musings, Of Interest, Psychology, Sacred Tourism

Parents; it is your job to teach your kids about God.

I heard something on the radio today that disturbed me greatly.  What was it?  A preacher trying to tell parents the way to tell their kids about God, Jesus, and salvation.  Ugh.  No.  He was tossing words out there like “justification.”  Yeah, say that word to your three year old, and see if they understand.  The preacher was making a point in saying that you just keep telling the child the same thing over and over, and eventually, mysteriously, they’ll get it.

Any developmentalist will tell you that you don’t talk to a three year old the way you talk to a nine year old, it’s useless.  The preacher seemed to think that a child has to jump through a series of hoops in order to be well and truly saved, and that the kid needs to know everything an adult would know, and that the child needs to make sure to be old enough, etc… Well, yeah, children need to have an understanding of who Jesus is, and what He did.  But, Jesus didn’t ask how old the children were who wanted to come to Him.

Anyone, regardless of age is allowed to go to Jesus, in fact, it is encouraged.  The child isn’t going to be able to set down and write out a dissertation on sin and redemption, but that’s fine.  A child’s faith is held up as what we adults are to aim for.  A parent needs to evaluate each child and not compare them to one another.  Some will “get it” sooner than others, and that’s fine.  It is indeed your responsibility to always check along the way, for example, when your child wants to take communion, you need to make sure they do understand what it means.

Further, parents, it is your job to teach you children, not a preacher.  You need to know your own faith, and why you have it, good enough to explain that to your children.  Know faith and grace, know scripture, know Jesus.  Remember your kids are watching you and you need to make sure you realize you are their number one model.  Also, realize your child does not know what you know, you are not your child.  You may know that baptism isn’t required for salvation, and why, but your kids don’t, unless you TEACH them.

Some parents think that they can just give their children books, or have them watch cartoons, or listen to a certain preacher and that will be fine.  No, it won’t.  You are to raise your children up with the instruction that they need from you personally.  Ask questions, and then really listen to their answers.  Listen to sermons together, watch those cartoons together. Read the Bible together, and don’t water it down.

As a final thought; as you walk this road with your child, I would bet they’ll teach you a lot about God too, so be willing to learn.

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Filed under Christianity, Communion, Conversion, Theology, Uncategorized

Ministry Review; World Vision

Sponsoring a child in need.  Many times that conjures up old commercials from the 80’s begging for funds… that turned out to be lining the pockets of a few of the people in charge, with no money going to the children.  Also, the old model was based upon the idea that Western outsiders knew best how to help a community rather than the community itself knowing what they need.

Gratefully those days are gone for the most part.  If you wish to sponsor a child there are now an array of charitable organizations that have tossed out the old model, in favor of a new sustainable grassroots model.  Also, with watchdog groups constantly checking on these charities it is far less likely that someone is simply pocketing the money.

One such organization is World Vision International.  Each country that is  a part of WV, has their own website; so for example World Vision US is:  www.worldvision.org  This website is a hub that you can use to get news, learn about the organization, sponsor a child, browse their catalog and send gifts such as goats, chickens, microfinance a loan, etc…  World Vision used to catch a bit of flak for advertising as though your money went directly to the sponsored child, but now they have made it much clearer that your money goes to the child’s community, and not just to the child itself.

Each child that is sponsored is assured to be a part of the programs for education, schooling, etc… and you can send extra gifts to the child’s family or community.  This system tends to work better, since the whole community is involved and less jealousy is likely to occur.  Also, the grassroots touch is that each community gives feedback as to what is needed, and what would most help.  Sustainability is one of the main goals of World Vision and they work to make a perpetual change.

Why do I call this a ministry?  Because they are indeed a Christian organization.  This does not mean that they push or proselytize.  Their belief is that they live out part of Jesus’ message by helping those that need a bit of encouragement or a leg up.  There are some areas in the world where Christianity can be taught, they can hand out Bibles, etc… but there are also some areas where Christianity, it active proselytizing, is not allowed.  They still serve those communities, hoping to make an impact for Jesus based on love and action.

The pros of this ministry; it connects you with an individual child, it is a large organization, so can make a big impact.  They have disaster response that is second to none.  They are so well known, so they are also watch to make sure there is no fraud.

Some cons; each country has its own people in charge (which is good too), but this makes it hard to police and constantly insure no one is conning the system, and that funds are being well used.  (However, the organization does indeed run checks, and takes any reports of problems seriously.)  For us more conservative minded Christians, there is a bit of unease when the “social gospel” is focused on, instead of the more salvational message of Jesus, but that is the purpose of this organization.

I don’t usually like to talk about charitable acts, but yes, we’ve just started sponsoring 2 World Vision children, and I’d love to share my experiences on here, and can wait to start writing letters and sending small trinkets along to them via mail.  If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them, or point you to a phone number or webpage.  If you have any WV stories to share, I’d love to see them in the “comments” section here.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Conversion, Health, Ministries, Of Interest, Reviews

Contract law (or, the efficacy of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection)

The Truth of the gospel is so simple a child can understand it.  However, there is also the meat of the gospel.  The details and teachings that are more complex and also extremely fascinating.  This article is going to discuss the idea of contracts (also known as covenants) and why they are so important.  I felt this was an appropriate topic, since this Sunday is known as Resurrection Sunday.

Contracts are pretty straightforward.  They are agreements between parties that lines out what is expected of each person participating in the contract.  God is a God that uses contracts/covenants to interact with and to guide mankind.  God drafts the contract and then man participates.

The Mosaic Law was a covenant between God and man, or actually a group of men, the Jewish people.  God said if man would flawlessly keep his side of the contract, then the person would inherit eternal life, would have his sins covered.  Mankind, in our fallen state, could not keep that contract perfectly. So, why did God make that covenant if He already knew we’d not be able to keep it?  The answer is simple; to show us that we couldn’t keep it.

What that shows is that we cannot gain eternal life and forgiveness on our own, we cannot fulfill our side of the contract and we are not righteous creatures, but the problem is, God is a completely righteous and just God and can’t just shred the contract, it must be fulfilled in order for there to be room for a new contract.   An example may help: You need to rent a house, so you sign a contract with the landlord to pay $500 per month for a year.  You are legally bound by the statues laid out in that agreement.  The ways you can fulfill your side of the agreement are clearly spelled out.

God set up the contract with man so that it could indeed be fulfilled under certain conditions.  A specific type of sacrifice must be made, and it must be a blood sacrifice.  What is sacrificed must be kin to whatever that sacrifice is going to cover.  The sacrifice must be perfect according to God’s law, therefore the sacrifice had to come from the chosen people with whom God made the covenant.  None of this was designed by accident.  Mankind caused it’s own fall, but God had a plan to redeem us.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was that perfect sacrifice.  He was perfect according to the law, and He was human, so He was kin to us, and He was Jewish, from the tribe of Judah.  He shed His blood by spilling it on the Cross.  This is why Jesus proclaimed it finished upon His death.  All debt was paid, all was covered, the contract was fulfilled.  The old covenant was nailed to the cross making way for a new agreement; anyone that trusts on Jesus’ person, life, death, and resurrection to cover all sin will inherit eternal life.

The new covenant, or contract, now hinges on faith.  By responding to God in faith, we sign on the dotted line and become covered by Jesus’ blood, our sin washed away, and we are no longer under the law of the old agreement.  God Himself seals us, and we become indwelt by the Spirit.  This is the only way to Heaven, and a correct relationship with God.  Faith in the Son.

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Filed under Apologetics, Conversion, Theology

Feedback; What evidence is out there?

I had some feedback awhile ago, and the email contained a question about evidence.  What evidence is out there that someone can read or know that would support that idea that Christianity is “it?”  Meaning, evidence that supports the idea that Christianity is true.  Obviously, for this site, find the “apologetics” link off to the side, and you can review what I’ve posted so far in that section.  I always welcome questions, so if there is something you’d like me to covers, feel free to comment.

First, I have to make a couple of things clear.  Christianity’s job, as a religion, is to point to Christ.  Christianity is only true because it is based on Truth, and Christ is Truth.  Religion doesn’t save you; Jesus does.  So, anything and everything that is presented as evidence ultimately points to Christ.  Anyone who wants to understand Christians should learn of Christ, and further, He invites everyone to do just that.  The sign we are promised is the sign of Jonah, in Christian terms, it is Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

If non-believers (and even believers) would keep that fact in mind, a lot less confusion would occur in my opinion.  One of the things that can contribute keeping non-believers in a state of non-belief is their cries of “hypocrisy!” when it comes to Christians.  Well, sorry, Christians solid in their faith will admit we are nothing but a bunch of sinners who slip and stumble and fall…but we have a Shepherd that forgives us, and picks us again.  It’s the Shepherd you need to be examining, not the flock.  Look to Christ; He’d the only human who lived a perfect life, and who is not a hypocrite, including everyone reading this (that includes me in case anyone was wondering).

This same idea hold true for anyone who has either been hurt by a certain church, or another person claiming to be a believer.  Unfortunately not everyone who claims to be Christian is, and again, even those that are can and do slip and fall and sin.  Mere humans will disappoint, there is no doubt about it, but Christ never will.

So, that’s issue number one; Christ.  Who do you say that He is?  If you are one of those people who tries to convince themselves that Christ never even existed, well, you have to be honest enough to really, truly look at the evidence of His existence (just as in introduction, Tektonics has an article discussing this idea of the Christ-myth).  If you are one of those people who tries to paint Christ as a good and wise teacher, you have to be honest enough to admit that He didn’t leave that option without you also believing His other teachings; that He’s “it,” and there’s something wrong with the world and all of us that only He can fix.  One good source for this idea, including the evidence for the resurrection can be found here:  The Resurrection by Dr. Gene Scott.

Second, we have the Bible.  Before anyone jumps on me about “circular logic” and using the Bible to prove the Bible, please read my post on Biblical Reliability.  In that post you will find other links, and also different books you can research.  There are many reasons why you can trust the Bible, take some time to study them; historical reliability, archaeological reliability, prophetic reliability, its internally consistent, etc…  This is were evidence for Christ, and evidence for the Bible intersect, for example; all the Messianic prophecies that are contained within the Bible, and Jesus fulfillment of a substantial number, and His future fulfillment of the rest.  Fulfilled prophecy in other areas is also very interesting and enlightening to study.

There are also personal evidences.  I don’t go into them very much on my site, or on other forums because most non-believers want “external” evidences, or claim they do at least.  Evidence that can be researched by them that is more “objective.”  However, the transforming power of Christ, and the Holy Spirit in our lives is some of the dearest evidences we Christians have, and are usually happy to share when asked.  I know that for me, my life would look and be totally different without Christ and the Holy Spirit interceding for me, guiding me, etc…

Which brings me to my last point in this particular post; no amount of evidence in the world, from fulfilled prophecy, to archaeological and historical evidences will sway you if you are not willing to have your heart softened.  All of creation screams out that there is a Creator behind it all…and yet, some people don’t like to retain God in their knowledge.  Looking into all of this is not time to cop an attitude, this kind of thing requires great thought, and a willingness to admit when one has been wrong.  Discussions happen between people, and it’s so much easier to cling onto a set of beliefs when you are dialoguing…but this type of research into the very truth of our world is something to be done soberly, and with true searching.  You don’t constantly have to talk to another human about it, but it’d be nice if you’d talk to Him about it, and ask Him to help believe in Him if He’s really there, ask Him for His grace; don’t do it on a website, don’t do it to try to prove a point, don’t do it to mock…go somewhere by yourself, be honest, and simply ask for help to believe in Him.

Recently I had the honor to “witness” an agnostic finally connect with God.  She said it wasn’t any one thing anyone had said to her, but rather, she woke up one night, and just knew.  After that realization that there was a God, and Jesus was Who He claimed to be, everything everyone had told her all fell into place and it all made sense, it all clicked; the Gospel message, all the apologetics, etc…  Seek Him diligently and honestly, you won’t be disappointed.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Conversion