Talk from the frontlines…

Sharing your faith in the public square is bound to be met with adversity. Though it can’t yet be said atheism is the popular opinion, it is safe to say that it is certainly elevating at a concerning pace.

Now… I had an interesting argument given to me. One that works perfectly from both points of view:

(Atheism) is facing reality without wishful thinking. To escape being deceived and mislead.

How true is it when looking at that same argument through the lens of faith.

With faith in Jesus Christ, we – as Christians – need not wishfully think of a perfect world, nor must we fear being deceived or mislead (with obvious exceptions). Why? Because we win. He has ensured our victory.

But this is hard, or possibly impossible, for atheists to see. It is easier to live a life seemingly without consequences. However… the questions are always the same. If life came from nothing and ends in nothing… what is the point? If God doesn’t exist… why is He such a threat?

Atheism is not a threat to a Christian. But it is, and should be, heartbreaking. But not without hope. Even if it seems to fall on deaf ears, sharing your faith is still important. And as I share this, I am only just beginning to realize how important it is. To quote a really good song:

If the world gets cold then why don’t we build a fire?

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Thick Skin

As we go through life’s ups and downs, it is essential that we develop a thick skin for certain things. And by “certain things” I mostly mean people. Try as we might, we seem to have a certain knack for tearing each other down, don’t we?

Though having a thick skin for people is important, I wonder why so many of us find it necessary to try to pierce that protection. There are people that evidently haven’t started their day until they have made someone feel like dirt. My wife and I have both worked customer service so we’ve seen pretty much all different shades.

However, some of the stories my wife has shared with me since beginning work at a bank call center really hurt my view of society as a whole. All of the angry people that choose to spit vitriol at somebody trying to help them simply because they either lack a certain understanding, misinterpreted information, or just desire to cheat the system and fly off the handle when it doesn’t work. These people make my heart ache. And make my blood pressure rise.

I understand completely that I am but a single voice, but I am a single voice that is tired of crap. Tired of people being unaccountable for their own stupidity and raging at people because of it. It may suck to be wrong, but it is an inevitability. There are going to be countless situations where you will have to swallow your pride and admit you were wrong.

Conversely, there very well could be a situation where you are wronged – and those situations tend to play out similarly.

STOP

Breathe. Think. Consider the situation. In the hustle and bustle of a day, an item might accidentally get scanned twice. A code might be entered incorrectly that charges for a more expensive item. Interestingly enough, however, these situations have a strange ability to get resolved. And that resolution can be achieved without anyone being made to feel like pond scum.

But again… we like to not consider. We don’t want to think about whether or not the person we’re tearing down is suffering. Or maybe they’re not suffering – but this one angry person triggers something. Believe it or not, but that is all it can take. Not one person is physiologically identical to another. Your decision to take your anger out on somebody could have far-reaching effects. Not a guarantee… but it could.

You don’t have to believe in the Word of God to demonstrate grace (though I will point out that the Good Book is replete with wonderful examples). Think about all of the times you were given grace. Maybe you, as a child, broke something that should have gotten you grounded but didn’t. Maybe your teacher gave you at least half credit for an assignment that was otherwise moot. Perhaps your lender decided to waive that late fee that otherwise would have overdrawn your account.

We’re given grace every day, whether we’re aware of it or not. So share it. Challenge yourself to be graceful, because being angry is easy. If this became a trend, perhaps our skin wouldn’t need to be so thick.

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Advent: Day Twenty-Two

Not entirely sure what to write today, as the lesson was focused on caroling – which is not something I have ever participated in. However, I am experiencing “joy” in another way what with spending the week with family (including a nephew that lives quite some distance away).

Caroling is a great example of spreading Christmas joy to our peers, but it doesn’t need to be the only way. Being friendly with people you see while out shopping, slipping a neighbor a Christmas card – there are a great many other examples of spreading joy.

If you are a caroler, I pray that your singing truly blesses someone this season. If not, I pray that you spread joy in some other fashion.

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Advent: Days 17 through 21

Time to get caught up a bit. I have not been feeling all that great and just started a new medication, so these last few days have been a little interesting.

There were many lessons over the last couple days – adoption, prayer, fasting, the Word and the Greatest Story Ever Told. Rather than get into all of these, I want to focus on prayer.

Prayer is one of the most important parts in our relationship with God. As being communicative is essential to relationships with our fellow man, being communicative with our relational God is equally as important. Though I don’t know the exact number, I do know prayer is spoken of a good many times throughout the Bible.

As I am sure many do, I often (too often) fall into the habit of praying before dinner… and that’s it. I often direct my thoughts to God, but I don’t spend enough time in conversation with Him. This season is a great time to change that.

Even if you can’t immediately think of a need for yourself, there is always something to pray for. Giving thanks, praying for a friend or loved one, praying for people in other countries – the list goes on.

I hope you will join me in, at the very least, giving thanks every day for the birth of Jesus Christ.

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Advent: Day Sixteen

There are things that happen in life that are worth traveling good or even great distances for. A lot of the time we are willing to travel across the world for little more than a vacation. Perhaps we’ll drive over a hundred miles to see a good concert. Whatever the case may be, things happen that motivate us to pack our bags and hit the road.

How do you suppose your best vacation compares to what it must have been like to travel to see the baby born to a virgin mother – the child prophesied to be the King of Kings? I was more than thrilled to have seen polar bears when a destination on our vacation was the zoo, but that seems so trivial by comparison.

When the wise men saw baby Jesus they instantly fell to their knees and worshiped Him. This is an act we are familiar with today – falling to our knees. Though it is a demonstration of submission, there is something more significant in taking to our knees in prayer and worship – something about the connection we have to God. For me, it is hard to explain with words. It is simply a feeling.

Using the same example with the polar bears, I naturally looked for the best spot to see them. I walked all over their area looking for the best angle from which I could either see them the most clearly or be the closest to them. Thinking about this, it makes me wonder what it was like to have simply been in the presence of Jesus. Even as a baby, He was still God in the flesh. This lesson asks – using a nativity scene as an example – what it would have been like to have been right in the middle. It then asks what position I would take. To be honest, I have no idea.

In the profound encounters I have had with God, they have been shaking. If that was the case with only the Spirit of God, I can’t begin to imagine being in the actual physical presence of Him! I can’t even truthfully say I have an idea.

Regardless of whether or not you are into metal or hardcore music, I want to encourage you to listen to a song called “Tithemi” by the band Sleeping Giant. For me, that song is an incredible, modern-day example of worship.

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Advent: Days 14 & 15

Christmas cards and the impossible. After a little consideration the two seem a little more related than not, eh? Not necessarily just Christmas cards though, but communication in general. Whether friends from school days or estranged family members, there are several people in our lives that are difficult to maintain communication with for whatever reason.

When Mary conceived, God did the impossible. When Elizabeth conceived, God did the improbable. When Jesus resurrected Lazarus, He did the impossible. When Noah parted the sea, God did the impossible. The Bible is full of examples of God doing the impossible. Why does God do the impossible? Well, because He can. But there is always a reason – and most often is to reward faith.

This holiday season could have opportunities for us to allow the impossible to happen. Communication (through letters and/or cards) was the focus of day fourteen, but it fits with today’s lesson of the impossible. I know for me, there are a good many people that I find it relatively “impossible” to stay in touch with. If that isn’t the case for you then great – but maybe you can pray that you will meet someone that could benefit from a hear-felt card or short letter.

If you think about, pretty much the entire New Testament is made up of letters, and those letters came straight from the writers heart and soul. Use that method this season to communicate with someone – anyone.

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Advent: Day Thirteen

One of the questions in today’s lesson is a little difficult for me to answer. It asks me to describe a time when I felt most in tune with God’s plan for my life. Honestly, I don’t yet have an answer for that. If I had to choose something to use as an example, I would think that my connecting with the Bible study and small group that I was a part of would have to be the best. They were directly linked to one of the best seasons of spiritual growth that I have yet to experience.

That being said, the other question in the lesson is easy to answer – what can I do to improve my relationship with God?

I can confess that, in recent months, I have fallen off the course. I don’t pray as often as I should, I hardly read the Bible beyond a daily verse or the verses attached to my lessons, and I just generally feel disconnected – and I detest it. But though I detest it, I am having a hard time motivating myself to make a change.

So, I need to redirect. To use language from the lesson, I need to stop with the solo and start following the conductor. On top of that, I need to remember how important rehearsal is.

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