Of Easters Past

It is interesting what one can learn from old memories. Some memories bring smiles, while others bring tears.  Regardless of what emotion a memory stirs, there can be something to learn or understand from those memories.  The challenge is recognizing it.

Easter is one of the holidays younger children in the U. S. love. Winter is generally on the wane, if not gone, and summer is still several months away. Of course, it is also the day the Easter Bunny comes.  Kids love Santa but adore the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny brings candy and, there is no naughty or nice list!

Unfortunately, I suppose I have very few memories of Easter as a child. Did my brother and I hunt decorated eggs and candy? I am confident we did. I just do not remember it, and any pictures from those years were destroyed decades ago.

Still, there is one Easter memory from my youth I will never forget.  It was my first time playing Easter Bunny. I was, to say the least, excited.  I was playing a part in our Easter celebration, and I was doing so for an important reason.

My aunt, Mom’s youngest sister, and her children were living with us. She was recently widowed and was looking to start a new life. Starting anew meant finding a place of her own, and a job.  In the meantime, they lived with us.  Now, she and the kids faced their first Easter without a husband and father.

Mom decided we should make it as normal an Easter as possible. That meant an Easter Egg hunt was essential. Accordingly, she set the plans in motion, asking me to hide the eggs and candy. There you go! I was proud as a peacock and as excited as a fifteen-year-old boy could be about something other than girls, cars, and motorcycles!

Everything was going great. I was up early and started hiding the goodies all around the yard. Toward the last of my task, Mom was telling me to hurry as the kids were dressed and wanting to know if the Easter Bunny came.  I hid the last little treasure, heading in to tell mom the Easter egg hunt was ready.

Yes, I placed that last goody on the ground turned and jumped up on the back porch. At least, I tried to jump onto the porch.

I was so excited, I forgot the piece of steel cable strung between a column and the wall. I remembered it instantly when I felt it slam into my mouth. By that, I mean into my mouth, all the way back to my tonsils! As I was falling back from the shock and recoil, I saw something white flying through the air.

The cable extracted my left lower cuspid as cleanly as any dentist.  It became the Easter prize we never found.  Except for that little matter, Easter went well.

Well, I hope the last couple of paragraphs lightened the mood a bit, as this is sounding pretty grim.  With that said, you have every reason to wonder why I am writing an Easter story such as this.  What does that story have to do with the reason we celebrate Easter.

Today, I know He is always there. He will let us ignore Him and build walls trying to keep him out, but he is still there. Yet, at that point, He and Jesus were just legends I read about as a child.

Looking back, I regret not having the faith I’d had a few years earlier, or the faith I found again thirty years later. I had nothing to offer my cousins and aunt other than an Easter Egg hunt.  Yes, they had a bit of fun finding decorated boiled eggs and sweets. Still, that was hardly a replacement for a lost father and husband.

If I had not been in rebellion, perhaps I could have done more. I could have explained the real meaning of Easter. I could have prayed with them or for them, but I did not believe in prayer. All I could do was entertain them or try to distract them from their grief. That is just sad.

As I know now, God waits for us.  He waited for me, and I was a lost cause for so many years. He let me do my own thing for decades before putting me in the position I could not ignore Him, or those around me who tried to lead me back to Him.

I don’t know for sure what happened to my aunt and her kids after I left home. I did hear about them occasionally from Mom. From what I heard and what I remembered in the years I was around them, faith in God was not a part of their lives.

I don’t blame myself for the missed opportunity. In those days, God’s name was never spoken in our house except in vain. Nor do I blame my dad. Even though he is the one who banned God from our home.

Instead, I remember that Easter to remind me to hold on to and share my faith.  I do not intend to stand before God someday, with any more regrets of this nature.

Do you have notable instances where you failed to step up and share with someone for one reason or another?  Do you know someone with whom you feel the need to share your faith, but find yourself afraid?  If you do think about this story.

I understand I have been forgiven. I know I was not to blame. Yet, I wonder if I could have made a difference, and regret I didn’t try. Don’t let that happen to you.

© sinnerswalk.com

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More Signs, Maybe Not

Keeping with the theme of I don’t normally write about the End Times, let me share my latest bit of inspiration. First, I do not believe we are any nearer to the End than we were last Christmas.  God made it clear the End, or the beginning of the End, would come without warning. We had plenty of warning that something awful, horrific really, was just over the horizon for decades.  Even the current crisis was foreshadowed by past events.

For instance, one of the charges leveled against President Trump is he did not take the steps needed to avoid or mitigate the crisis. He was criticized for not taking steps based on past events, even though others had ignored the similar signs in the past.

First, the president’s job requirements do not include the gift of prophecy. Even if they did, he, like some prophets in the past, would find himself in trouble. Even hinting we needed to spend billions, even trillions of dollars to prepare for a possible unknown or “novel virus,” would have caused an uproar. He might have been ridden out of town on a rail if he claimed the virus might sweep the world in the unknown future.

Yes! The same people calling for his scalp now would have gotten out the pitchforks and torches.  They would have decried the president if he called for manufacturers to begin producing thousands, if not tens of thousands of ventilators, for people who might be sickened in the future.  Still, this is not about the president or politics. It is about the reality of the Bible, the history it teaches, and the prophesies it makes. 

The people, you and me, have always turned against their leaders eventually. Whether one is speaking of Moses, Jesus, Churchill, or anyone else, the people they lead can turn on them if things do not go as the people would like.  How could one expect anything else from people who turn against God in the face of the smallest challenge at times?

Yes, challenges do sometimes bring people together, seeking God’s blessing.  Unfortunately, by the time that happens, they have usually endured much pain and suffering.  This has been true since the beginning, and it has not changed today.  Well, one thing has changed. God no longer sends the plagues or disasters as he did in the past.  Instead, He sent Jesus to give us a way to be righteous since we are unable to live righteously. He sent Jesus to provide us with a way out of this mess we’ve made of His creation, but He is not punishing us.

He is not using this virus or any disaster as a way to bring us together, as some believe.  He just allowed sin and evil to roam. They do everything they can to beat us down and push us away from Him. Sadly, that is ridiculously easy at times.  Which brings me back to signs.

No, the virus is not a sign the end times are nigh. Neither is the number of earthquakes experienced in the United States over the last few years.  Neither were the other virus scares or concerns in years past. Still, they are part of His plan in some way. Perhaps they are a way to show mankind, or should I say humankind, we’re not as powerful as we think.  Maybe they are a way to warn us we need to do a better job of spreading His word and being a light unto the world. Then again, maybe they are just the way things go as a planet slowly ages and settles. 

Whatever the truth, there are things to be learned from this mess in which we find ourselves. As a society, culture, and individual, we are being tested. We are not being tested by a god sitting at the celestial version of a gaming computer, putting us through hoops for its amusement. Instead, God set us in a place and on a course that will test us until the End Times do come. 

How well we do on this test has nothing to do with our government, our false idols such as sports stars, personalities, or expensive toys. What matters here is if we believe, we love, and we do the best we can to do what is right in His eyes. Otherwise, we are no better than those who worship at the altar of power, money, sex, and control. 

© sinnerswalk.com -2020

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Excuses Revisited

I admit it! Much to my chagrin, the current political situation and the COVID-19 crisis have me distracted.  My OneOldCop persona is completely overwhelming my AnOldSinner persona. While I have several pieces in the works, they are not coming together.  So, here is a link to the first piece I published at sinnerswalk.com. It is slightly edited, mostly for grammar’s sake.

For those who only started reading my stuff recently, it will give you some background on my Walk.

Seeking an Excuse

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Of End Times: Around the corner?

Not that long ago, I would have found it hard to imagine myself writing something with End Times in the title. In fact, there is a possibility I may delete this file before it sees the light of anyone else’s screen. On the other hand, the reason I am writing this is due to the way several pieces of Scripture demanded my attention recently.

Like many people I know, I started reading my way through the Bible many times, only to quit somewhere toward the end of the Old Testament. After all, I know the New Testament reasonably well. I’ve listened to sermons, attended Bible studies for decades, was told all the Bible stories as a child. Even in the years I tried my best to shed any trappings of faith, I remembered the basics of the gospel I was trying to ignore. Well, this time, I will make it. I will finish reading the entire Bible, God willing, in the next few days.

As I wrote in “Question of Forgiveness,” part of the Lord’s Prayer caught my eye a short time ago. Suddenly it had new meaning, making me rethink what it means to forgive others as we want to be forgiven. Now, I am well into Revelation, and it too is speaking to me in a way I did not expect. As John began to relate his visions of God’s wrath smiting the Earth, I noticed a worrisome similarity to the aftermath of each bowl being poured out on the Earth. It did not take much imagination to relate them to the world in which we live today.

First, an angel pours a bowl of sickness and pain on non-believers. Next, blood flows from an angel’s bowl into the sea, and sea creatures died. Another turned the rivers and springs to blood instead of water. Yet another caused the sun to burn and parch all it touched. Darkness then fell on the world, and those afflicted by the sores and other punishment gnashed their teeth and cried out in pain. Next came dried riverbeds and marching armies, only to be followed by terrible natural disasters.

We studied all of these verses just months ago in a men’s bible study. At that time, they were just the recounting of one man’s visions. Their reality was no more significant or no more imminent than when the Apostles said His time was near, and all should be prepared. Indeed, there was no feeling of imminent or impending doom. This time it was different.

To this minute, I am not the least bit concerned that fire will be rained down on the Earth tomorrow. Oh! I am a bit worried the shirtless horseback riding president of Russia or the always smirking president of Red China may hit their big red button in frustration at some point. They might create a man-made apocalypse. Still, I do not think it will be the final devastating judgment coming down to us from Heaven. Please note, however, that does not mean the end is a thousand or even a hundred years away if one is paying attention to the world today.

Time in the Bible is one of those issues everyone loves to debate. Were the six days in Genesis 144 hours, or were they six long periods in which an immortal being labored? What does it really mean when the Bible says he will come soon, or the time is near? Is that a few months, or a few decades, or a few centuries. Obviously, it would seem, “near” in this context was not less the 2,000 and something years unless He came, shook His head, and gave up on us.

The visions related above are allegories to some extent. When they occur and what they will look like is up for debate and interpretation. Yet, if one pays attention to history and the modern world, it is clear actual events have mirrored or foretold the visions. From the plagues of earlier centuries to the coronavirus today, His wrath has been poured down on many. The sea is not filled with blood, but it is becoming cluttered with the life’s blood of modern civilization, from oil and chemical pollution to discarded plastics that harm everything they enfold.

Many, some scientists included, see damage to our atmosphere that will result in parching heat and other extreme weather patterns. Events such as millions of acres being devastated by wildfire. I could go on, but anyone with a brain can see the similarities in the visions and the world today.

Does that mean the end is nigh? Does that mean those still here are the unraptured, merely waiting for our judgment, yet to come? Like any honest believer, I cannot answer those questions. I can, however, say it seems clear the Bible was describing the times in which we live in many ways. The problem is, what do those similarities mean? I cannot venture even a guess as to what they mean in any way except one!

The authors of the Bible were either the best prognosticators to ever exist, or the One who knows all things shared His knowledge with them. I tend to believe the latter, and it makes my efforts to move closer to my Lord and Savior even more significant than it has been in times past.  I do not want Him to say He does not know me when those times do come.


© sinnerswalk.com – 2020

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A Question of Forgiveness

The human mind may be the most fascinating and befuddling part of human anatomy. For example, our mind stores data for decades. In many cases, we can retrieve that data with minimal effort. At the same time, we may not be able to recall why we walked from one room to another.

I believe our memory is affected by how vital the data or activity is or was to us. I mean, if you walked into your boss’s office to ask for a raise, you would probably have an easier time staying focused than if you walked in to tell him or her the latest joke shared at the watercooler. However, some research shows there may be a scientific reason for the issue.1

Whatever the reality of this phenomenon, it illustrates the nature of the organic computer we call a brain. Which brings up the incident inspiring this piece. How can one read a Bible verse, study it multiple times, and completely miss the implications of the message, when it is as plain as day?

Of course, one answer is God can conceal meaning from us until we’re ready to hear it. Another is our self-worship leads us to believe we understand something when we don’t. That happened to me just the other day.

I have recited the verses we consider the “Lord’s Prayer” hundreds of times. I’ve heard Bible study leaders and pastors talk about them dozens of times. I’ve read articles about the sixteen-year study undertaken by the Catholic Church concerning the true meaning of the phrase “Lead us not into temptation.”2 I know that the true meaning of most passages in the Bible can be and have been debated endlessly.

Still, I was a bit surprised when a thought came to me out of thin air it seemed. You know, you’re trying to remember someone’s name, and work as hard as you can, nada. Then, you are doing nothing, or possibly just drifting off to sleep, and “BINGO,” you remember it! That’s how it was here. Suddenly, I realized I did not understand “… and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us,” completely.

There is a caveat in this phrase I had ignored.  Perhaps, that is old news to you, but to me, it was like the cartoon lightbulb just turned on over my head. God may do exactly what the verse says, forgive us, as we forgive others, which may not be what we want.

Forgiveness is hard. In many cases, some of us may not be able to let go of the hurt, anger, whatever that keeps us from forgiving someone. Oh, we may say the words.  We may even pray for God to help us forgive or not judge the offender too harshly. Yet, at some level, we secretly desire the yahoo steps off the curb in front of a moving bus or at least gets a taste of his own medicine some day.

What if God does exactly what we ask in that prayer? If we have not fully forgiven the person who wronged us, would it be possible God would not forgive us?

Okay! I can hear the muttering now! Jesus is our sin substitute. He will go to bat for us. In a situation such as this, Jesus will plead our case since we accepted Him as our Savior. He’ll understand why we cannot forgive that person, and He’ll plead the case with the Father. Will he?

Jesus forgave the people who crucified Him. He asked his Heavenly Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. We, on the other hand, have supposedly accepted Jesus as our Savior. That means we are supposed to walk as close to his footsteps as possible. If we cannot forgive those who sinned against us, are we following in His footsteps? If we are not, might we not be left out in the cold when it comes to forgiveness?

I can still hear the mumbling disagreement mounting out there. No! Jesus wouldn’t do that. He paid for our sins with His blood. He wouldn’t abandon us just because we could not forgive those who wronged us so severely. If you believe that you need to read the part of the passage that no one ever recites, verses 14 and 15.

14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (ESV)

I know, that sounds so harsh you want to question if those are the words of Jesus or someone adding to His words at some point. While that is a possibility, there are other verses in the Bible indicating Jesus will “not know” some who claim to follow Him. In fact, He will drive them away. (Luke 13:27)

Of course, I could be wrong on this point. The fact I connected the dots in these verses could be my lack of humility and need to be smarter than others coming into play. I could be attempting to distort these verses to prove myself right. Sadly, that is not the case.

For example, consider this passage from The New American Commentary on Matthew. It states:

“Our plea for continued forgiveness as believers, requesting the restoration of fellowship with God following the alienation that sin produces, is predicated on our having forgiven those who have sinned against us. As v. 15 stresses, without this interpersonal reconciliation on the human level, neither can we be reconciled to God.3

Perhaps, this is old news to you. It was not to me, as I simply never thought of what might happen if I cannot, or will not, forgive someone who hurt me. I assumed, as do many, I suspect, my acceptance of Jesus as my Savior was all I needed. Now, I understand that if forgiveness is not in me, I will not be forgiven. God would not forgive me, because my inability to forgive others shows I lack faith. If I fully accepted Jesus as my Savior, I should follow his example and forgive others as He did.

1Notre Dame study on memory.
2Pope Francis approves new translation of Lords Prayer.
3Blomberg, C. (1992). The New American Bible Commentary: Vol. 22, Matthew (p. 120). Nashville: Broadman & Holman.

© sinnerswalk.com -2020

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Apologetically Speaking

I have been an apologist since shortly after finding my way back to the walk I abandoned as a teenager. Of course, I did not think of myself as an apologist. I was just a guy who spent much his life challenging anyone who admitted going to church, especially those who called themselves preachers. Now, I was suddenly telling people why they should believe, defending my understanding of the Bible, and giving my testimony through the changes in my life.

When it came to my attention, I was practicing informal apologetics. I decided I needed to know more about the subject. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that my version of apologetics was old school, ineffective, and amusing to many in the Christian community.

At one time, being told I was a minor leaguer or worse, totally without talent, might have hurt.  It might even have caused me to revert to behaviors, God helped me overcome. Thankfully, that did not happen.

Instead, I decided to become a first-string apologist.  Of course, that meant reading, study, and formal education in theology and apologetics.  For someone with eight grandkids, that sounded like a bit of challenge. Luckily, the only obstacle was surviving the truth my studies revealed.

The Almighty opened several doors allowing me to attend seminary.  Not only did I attend, but I also earned an advanced degree in theological studies. I was even considering more education, at least a certificate in apologetics, but something got in my way.

According to academic theologians, modern apologists must be prepared to go toe to toe with atheists and skeptics, including members of academe. I had no problem with that idea. Over the decades of my involvement in higher education, I butted heads over one thing or another with professors and others more times than I can remember. 

I did have a problem with the changes this attitude wrought in the area of Christian Apologetics.  Now, an apologist had to be a cross between a teacher, mediator, debater, and philosopher.  Okay, I understood the teacher, mediator, debater aspects of the matter, but philosopher? Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Marx, etc. were philosophers, and none were believers in anything beyond themselves. While other philosophers might be classified as Christian or believers, most worshiped at the feet of humanity, the mind, or their own ego, not Yahweh or Jesus.

Still, it was possible to accept that one should be versed in philosophy to debate with atheists who preached the gospels of the philosophers mentioned above.  That changed for me when my young, bright and enthusiastic Apologetics professor essentially threw down a variation of Schrodinger’s Cat as one example of how arguing philosophy was essential to apologetics.  

It became clear modern-day apologists are, in many cases, merely debaters. Theologians who want to debate the other side, scoring academic wins on nebulous aspects of philosophy. Admittedly, the professor in question was only scratching the surface of the topic. Yet, his examples and explanations made it clear modern apologetics was more about mind games than belief systems.

Christian apologetics should not be an academic exercise.  It should be a serious approach to defending or explaining one’s beliefs. Indeed, an individual’s eyes can be opened by a logical argument. Still, the reality is the person’s heart must be ready to hear, or the evidence will fall on deaf ears. For example, the idea of loving God was always hard for me, until a rocket scientist turned pastor explained it from the pulpit.

Love, to me, was an emotional commitment, desire, feeling, or need toward another person or animal such as a pet. Loving some nebulous, all-powerful being, I would not meet until I died was a bit hard to grasp.  I firmly believed He loved me because the evidence of his love was always around me, once I opened up to it. Still, the idea of me loving Him was hard to fathom.

Then the logical, scientific-minded former engineer said, “Loving God is a choice. It is a choice you make, not an emotion you feel.” He went on to say emotion might come into it later, to which I can attest, but first, I had to make a choice. I could either love God or not, as I saw fit.

So, my purpose here is what? It is to make it clear we can all be apologists in our own way.  It is not based on how well we have memorized verses in the Bible.  It is not based on debating someone on the evidence supporting the accuracy of the Bible.  It is not based on one’s eloquence as a speaker. As the Bible teaches, it is based on God, making the other person receptive to the message.  If it is their time, they will hear what you are unable to say in a pastoral or academic sense. 

Our job is to share our faith whenever possible.  If we are truly living that faith, and it is their time, they will see it.  If they don’t, you may have planted a seed that will sprout when the next person responds to their skepticism, need, or fear.  Do not let your head or heart by bothered by Shrodinger’s cat or other paradoxes. Whether the cat is alive or dead, it has nothing to do with one’s Christian walk.

© sinnerswalk.com -2019

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Eating an Elephant: Even God?

Wondering what God has to do with eating an elephant?1 Wondering if this piece is going to discuss the All Mighty’s eating habits? Rest assured, that is not the case. On the other hand, I am going to write of things related to God.

If you are an atheist, you might want to click on something else. This piece may make absolutely no sense to you, but you might be amused by some of the things said here. They might even give you ammo to use the next time you argue with one of us Bible Thumpers.  Also, some of this has nothing to do with a god, real or imagined. Rather it has to do with changing society, one small bite at a time.2

Creighton Abrams intended his comment about dining on an elephant to make a couple of points. One is obvious. It is impossible to eat anything the size of an elephant in one gulp. Beyond that, it has a second, less obvious meaning. Butchering, preparing and eating an elephant would take time, which indicates one should not dilly-dally around in processing the beast. One should get started, as early as possible.

About this time, if you are still tuned in, you are wondering, “Where is this going?”  I know I would be.  So, here is where this is going. Something has been eating the elephant of civilization and society for a long time, and modern technology is speeding up the process.  For instance, take the title of this piece. Eating an elephant is clear, but “Even God,” what does that mean?

Encyclopedia Britannica states the tragic poet Agathon was born in ancient Greece around  445 B.C. At some point in his life, Agathon is credited with saying, “Even God cannot change the past.” Certainly, in those days of poetry, philosophy, and great thinkers, the idea that Agathon might make such a comment is not unbelievable. What is a bit difficult to believe, if one thinks about it, is that people today still give the line credibility.

Now, if you are an atheist, skeptic, or just someone looking for an argument, that last sentence may have gotten your attention. You may be saying to yourself, “Yep, he is one of those Kool-Aid drinking religious nuts.” Possibly, but hear me out.

First, why would I say people today give Agathon’s comment credibility? I say that because it is a thought being shared in social media, which is where it came to my attention. It is being shared, apparently, as a motivational quote, and one can see why. If someone is hurting over past mistakes, or obsessing over them, the idea that even an all-powerful God could not change things might help them move on. 

For the record, I could find nothing that would help understand what a Greek tragic poet meant by the phrase being discussed. His work has largely been lost, and little is known about him. Still, it would make sense to believe he meant it as it was written, and as it might now be used. Don’t cry over spilled milk, as even God cannot change the past.

When I saw the meme my comment to the post was, “Really! How would we know?” The person posting the meme’s reply was, essentially, don’t shoot the messenger! He pointed out he didn’t write these things. He just shared them.  

To be fair, the person sharing the advice shares many such bits of so-called wisdom. In each case, it is reasonable to assume he is sharing them with good intentions. However, his intentions do not matter in this case.

This alleged quotation from an ancient writer, intentionally or unintentionally, attempts to put God in a box. The author may have been well-intentioned, but essentially, he was saying God is not all-powerful, at least temporally. That is a problem, for believers.

The God of the Bible is an all-powerful, all-knowing God. The Bible teaches He knew us before we were born, and one source lists 100 passages making that point. This and other factors lead many to believe God exists outside of time. Thus, He exists or can exist, at all points in time.

Of course, the debate on that issue is far from settled, as a quick internet search will reveal. Yet, if, as many believe, God does exist outside of time, He might be able to change the past. This would be especially true, if, as some believe, the universe is some form of simulation. In that case, there is likely a reset button or command available. Whatever the reality, what does all this have to do with the title of this essay? 

The nature of God is one of the all-time elephants humans attempt to devour and digest. Is God real, mythical, or a delusion is a question many have asked for thousands of years.  Christians, Jews, and others have pushed the idea that one swallows the idea more or less whole. Some Skeptics, atheists, and those who believe in other higher powers often take a similar approach to debunking what they see as a fairy tale. 

Others attempting to debunk, as they see it, the myth of an all-powerful God recognize the need to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Agathon’s quotation may be one of those bites, and it has been around since before the birth of Jesus. Regardless of the motivation behind the original utterance or publishing of the comment, the comment does imply God has limitations.

Preaching or philosophizing that God is unable to control time, is one small swipe at the concept of God as many see Him. My comments and this piece to some degree are my attempt to help others realize the seeds of doubt can be sown in a seemingly harmless aphorism. Which takes this back to my original response to this quotation.

There was a time when most theologians likely believed in the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the Bible. Oh, there were skeptics, detractors, and people attempting to teach other traditions, belief systems, or ways of life, but Christianity believed in the God of the Bible.

Over the centuries, naysayers and others have attempted to chip away at these beliefs.  Today, there are theologians and biblical scholars who do not believe in the God of the Bible. They may say they do, but their beliefs put limitations on God. One such limitation, is the idea that God, like man, is stuck in a time continuum. If that is the case, even He could not change the past. They are eating the elephant of disbelief one bite at a time and sharing it with those around them.

Which takes me back to my original comment about this bit of wisdom. How would we know?


1See The Media Circus for the inspiration for the title.

2For those who worry about the smallest possible grammar issue, the term society is used in a global sense to indicate the larger human society of which all humanity is a part, without regard to geographical, social, racial, or other differences.

© – sinnerswalk.com – 2019

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In Excelsis Deo

For a few years as a child, my mom thought I might have a singing career. She had my little brother and me singing in everything from school programs to church functions, for the short time we went to church. My most explicit memory of my performances was a Christmas program at Bluff Springs Elementary School, near Azle, Texas. David and I were singing Silent Night, and I forgot the words at one point.

Okay! I did not forget the words! My first ever “girlfriend” was in the audience, batting her eyes at me, and I got a bit distracted. I am not sure which was more embarrassing, flubbing the lyrics or everyone knowing I was paying more attention to her than the baby Jesus. Whatever the truth of the matter, I still remember that sinking feeling when I started singing the wrong words.

That was not the end of my singing career, such as it was. No, that happened when I tried out for a real singing position in junior high. My mom insisted I give it a shot and even came to the audition with me. It was not a great audition. My voice was changing, I had no idea what the notes on the music meant, and the teacher stared at me as if I had crawled out from under a rock. I gave up any formal music training that afternoon. The music teacher was kind enough to blame the problem on my voice changing, but I knew the truth. I sucked!

Of course, when you gotta sing, you gotta sing. I sang along with the radio, the record player, the television, and the movies. True, I sang mostly under my breath. I did not want anyone to hear me, but it still counted in my book. I just liked to sing. I had a great shower voice, in my opinion, and in my years as a street cop, I could rock out with the good-time radio on the night shift. I probably scared off a few bad guys driving around my district singing along with the Eagles or Willy. The bad guys probably thought I was crazy. Who wants to deal with a crazy cop?

Of course, all good things come to an end. Promotions, children, education, and other responsibilities made me hang up my air guitar. For years, singing took a back seat to everything else. I really did not know how much I missed it for years. Then, in the mid-90s, I became involved in a para-ministry of sorts. It incorporated music into a life skills or life change program.

One of the challenges of the program was to “stretch” yourself. Essentially, that meant performing a song picked for you by the training team, in costume, in front of a bunch of people. Talk about a blast! It was fantastic and one of the reasons I was involved in the program for the next decade. Nobody cared how well you sang, and you could screech to your heart’s content, it was about having fun and letting your hair down.

That program helped me find my way back to God and to church. Yes, it was that kind of seminar. It was open to anyone, and if all one could handle was a higher power, they were okay with that. Still, the focus behind the scenes was Jesus. My next musical step came in 2009. It was then I realized singing along with a record, or even singing as part of the congregation was not enough. Thankfully, the choir at my church welcomed everyone who wanted to give it a shot. Training, reading music and having a real voice were desirable traits, but folks like me were welcome. It was here, I found the true meaning of the quotation at the top of the page.

Singing of any kind can make one feel good. It can make you feel upbeat or at least less stressed. That is why many sing in the shower or sing along with the radio. Of course, singing along at a concert is a given. Singing makes you feel better, if you let it, but the quotation above is limited to a degree. Singing “Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys” at karaoke night or driving down the road can be fun. If you are musically inclined, breaking into song in response to something heartwarming can leave you with a warm glow for hours. But, what does, I am happy because I sing, really mean?

I could not find an explanation from the author of the quote. I did see some comments that might make sense, and most were similar to my own thoughts on the matter. Yet, in most of these, there seemed to be a gaping hole. What does it really mean, I am happy because I sing? You may feel differently, but for me, true happiness is more than the adrenaline rush and release, one may feel singing a favorite song or two. Yes, those are great and important, but the happiness that comes from singing alone can be short-lived.

My experience indicates true happiness comes from why one sings. I know some professional singers. They love entertaining others. They love making people feel better, helping them forget the challenges they will face when they leave the venue, and deal with the world again. Letting a gifted singer distract one for a while is terrific, and both parties can feel better as the night draws to a close. Still, there may be something missing.

Forty-plus Sundays a year, my wife and I sing in the choir at church. Fifty-one Sundays a year, we feel blessed to have that privilege. One Sunday a year, we not only feel blessed, we are truly blessed by having that privilege. We just finished that Sunday, really that weekend as the choir sang six times from Friday evening to Sunday evening.

Five of those were our Christmas Cantata performances. Our Cantata service is performed to bring glory to His name. That made us happy in a way hard to explain. Singing can make one feel happy, but singing praises to our Lord goes beyond happiness. It brings joy and peace one must experience to understand.

Remember that the next time you sing a hymn in church.  Singing hymns is not simply a group activity and tradition. It is a time to let our Lord and Savior hear us praise Him.  It is also a time for us to feel His love in return. That’s where true happiness comes from.

© sinnerswalk.com -2019

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A Thanksgiving Thought

Social media this week is filled with memes and personal posts urging us to remember those whose Thanksgiving Day may not be spent with family and friends. Those posts are a call to be thankful for police officers, firefighters, the military, and others whose Thanksgiving Day will be spent standing between the rest of us and chaos.

Prayers, good thoughts, and thanks of some sort directed toward first responders and others is appropriate and deserved. Yet, this past weekend, I was reminded there are others we should keep in our thoughts and prayers this week.

As this is being written, two old friends are facing their first Thanksgiving alone. No, they will not be without friends and family, but they will be without their partner, their soul-mate, and spouse. One has been dealing with the loss for months, while the other’s tragedy occurred as Thanksgiving plans were being finalized. In both cases, the absence was sudden and unexpected. One minute two are one, and the next minute that team is ripped asunder.

No, this is not something one expects to read at this time of the year.  This is the time of the year for reading uplifting stories about blessings and celebrations around the country, if not the world. Stories, blogs, and memes should be focused on how wonderful we feel sharing holidays with families and friends while praying our favorite football team makes the playoffs.

This year, God decided to remind me giving thanks is not easy for everyone during the holidays. Whether it occurred a few days or a few decades ago, some will be feeling a sense of loss while others are counting their blessings. While some are overeating and imbibing, others will be wishing they had one more chance to hear a voice, feel a hug, or see a smile that is now a memory.

In closing, let me suggest that each of us remember Thanksgiving and Christmas are two rough holidays for many.  So, as we give thanks for our blessings, and celebrate the birth of our Savior, I pray everyone reading this will remember those who sacrifice much of their holidays to keep us safe in prayer.

As you are doing so, remember there is someone, possibly even someone close to you, who may be having trouble being thankful or feeling blessed at this time of year. They need your prayers as well.

In Him

© sinnerswalk.com – 2019

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
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When the Light Fades

In some ways, every day is like the day before.  The sun rises, and the sun sets. The wind blows, or leaves hang motionless from the branches. Rain falls, or dust fills the air.  Yes, in some ways every day is the same, and then, there are the days that are different. Yes, the sun rises, and the sun sets on those days. Yes, the wind blows, or the stillness seems foreboding.  Then, something happens, and that day is different. 

One of those different days for me was a Sunday when I was eleven. I cannot forget the day, or rather I choose not to forget the day. It was the day worldly life began pushing me away from my church, my faith, and my God.   

We stayed home that day, unlike most Sundays. Most Sundays we arose and went to church.  We drove the dusty lane from home to a two-lane twisting farm road leading past the little white church by the lake.  Along with a handful of others, we crammed into the place for Sunday School and then Brother Max’s message for the week.  Be it the message of salvation, the call to sacrifice, or the encouragement to love your neighbor, we grew closer to each other and our Lord. 

We left the little church filled with the Spirit.  We left looking forward to Wednesday evening when we returned for prayer meeting and youth groups. We left knowing Jesus loved us, and God looked out for us.  We left feeling the world was a great place to love and be loved. Even on dark days, on days when the rain came down in sheets, we left feeling the light that led us. For me, that light began to fade, the Sunday we stayed home.

Don’t misunderstand. We had missed church before, for one reason or another.  Sickness, travel, dad having to work on a Sunday for some reason, or other reasons kept us away a few times.  This Sunday was different. There was no reason not to go. We just didn’t. Instead, we slept in, ate a late breakfast, and acted as if it were a Saturday.  That lasted until Brother Max drove up a little after lunch.  

The pastor was no stranger to our place. He joined us for lunch after church regularly, but he was not there for lunch on that day.  Not only that, it appeared he was not welcome, as dad was out the door and in his face almost before his car stopped. Mom kept my brother and me inside. We could not hear what they were saying, but it was clear they were no longer friends.  After a few red-faced minutes, the pastor jumped in his car and drove off. 

I would not see or speak to the pastor again for more than a decade. When I did, the discussion would be more civil. The tension, though, would be roughly the same. Max’s presence was not welcome. His unannounced visit was understandable. In some ways, it showed he was a good man at heart, as he seemed to mean well. Still, he was the wrong preacher at the wrong time in my mind.

Max’s unannounced visit was in March 1969.  To be fair, he came hat in hand to express his sympathy and condolences over the death of my brother in Vietnam.  The problem was not with him, it was with me. 

Two years before the Sunday in the front yard of our little farmhouse near Azle, Texas, Brother Max baptized me.  I accepted Jesus as my savior, and I was filled with His light. When the two men who led me to Jesus the Christ, ended up in a verbal brawl in the front yard of my home on the Sabbath, that light dimmed. 

By the time the pastor showed up on our doorstep in 1969, my anger, life in general, and my father deserting us a few years before destroyed any tolerance I had for anyone claiming to be a Christian, especially a pastor. In my opinion, I wanted nothing to do with a God who would allow people like Brother Max, my father, and a few others I had known to represent Him on this earth.

As it turned out, the incident in 1969 marked the end of the first leg of a journey through the wilderness that was triggered by the brawl in the yard. For the next two-plus decades, I did everything I could to distance myself from the foolish child who climbed down into the cold baptistry of that little white church. Not to mention, the men who led him to that frigid water, and all the people who tried to “save” him over the years.

Since you are reading this, you know somewhere along the way I grew up.  I realized men were imperfect, even fathers and pastors, and they were not the reason I should believe.  Men, even the best of them will disappoint somewhere along the way, and a believer cannot let their weaknesses define his or her faith.

Thankfully, God did not abandon that twenty-two-year-old who told Brother Max to take a hike on that day in March. Instead, He continued to work on me. Twenty-four years later, I ended up on my knees asking Him for another chance.  

The story of the walk from angry young man to grateful believer is not pretty. At the same time, it is magnificent, as it teaches how patient and forgiving God is.  I shared part of that story in Tortured Path, maybe I’ll share more of that story as time goes on.  

Blessings to you and yours.

© sinnerswalk.com – 2019

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