My Atheist Friend’s Memorial Service

atheist funeralI attended a memorial service for an atheist friend last night. And I want to share my heart with you after experiencing that service.

He Was Made In The Image Of God

My friend was made in the image of God. That’s what I remember about him. I say that because of the way he loved his granddaughter with all his heart. And in his awkward way, he also loved other people too, even people who had a worldview opposite of his own. I know from talking with his family members that he was funny and anxious to cheer people up when they were down. I remember him bringing his granddaughter to family gatherings when her grandmother was too sick to come. The last time I saw him he was bringing his granddaughter to the local YMCA to swim, something he did often. He was a fixture in her world. He was consistently present for a little girl who didn’t have much stability in her life.

The Secret Things And The Revealed Things

There’s a Bible verse that says,

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us…” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

The way I described my friend is the way my friend was revealed to me. But the secret things belong to the Lord. And death is one of those secret things.

Death is a hard thing to accept. When we lose someone we love there’s a tearing that happens to our soul. Life has its rhythms but death can come to anyone, at anytime, in any place, in any way. We just don’t know what each day might bring.

I just saw my friend one Saturday, an everyday average Saturday where everything was as normal as could be, and then  Continue reading

How We Forget God’s Name While We Suffer (and Why That Makes It So Much Worse)

Christian Suffering Pain Depression

Continuing our series on suffering, in this post we’ll look at how forgetting God’s name contributes to suffering and a crushed spirit.

Forgetting God’s Name

I’m just going to be frank here. Many times you and I as believers suffer in a way that’s not necessary simply because we forget God’s name. Oh sure, we believe in the redemptive work Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago on the cross to pay for our sins. And we believe somewhere down the road we’re headed for heaven, ultimately. But there’s a huge truth missing that dramatically affects us as we suffer, and even when we don’t.

Often times you’re a lot like Continue reading

Thankful

Thankful

Father,

I am so thankful for You and for Your presence in my life. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. You are beautiful beyond measure. My wife Kathy is beautiful too, and so are my two sons Gabe and Nathaniel, and my two daughters, Charise and Anastasia, and my grandson Andrew, and my nephews and parents and all my family. I’m so thankful for You and for the family You blessed me with. (Psalm 16:6)

And I’m thankful for my church family: A peculiar church, in a peculiar, remote and beautiful place, full of thousands of peculiar people. I give thanks You have allowed me to be a part of that church. (1 Peter 2:9)

And I give thanks for the place on the space-time continuum where You allow me to live, it is also full of beauty. I give thanks for the place where I can share Jesus Christ and His words with people from all over the world.

And I give thanks for those who take the time to read this blog. I give thanks for those who believe in You, I give thanks for their desire to draw closer to You. I pray they will never stop pursuing You. I give thanks for the ones who are seeking answers. I’m so thankful for their desire for truth. I pray they don’t stop until they find You. I’m so thankful You provided a place where I can connect with them. I’m so thankful for the brothers and sisters in You, too many to name.

There is not room enough or time enough to account for all the blessings You pour out upon me. You pour them out in such great measure: they overwhelm me.

I am so thankful for You and for Your presence in my life. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. (Psalm 16:6)

Father,

Thank You.

Atheist Professor Becomes Christian

kurt bennett:

Dr. Holly Ordway, an atheist professor of literature, describes herself, in her own words: “At thirty-one years old, I was an atheist college professor–and I delighted in thinking of myself that way. I got a kick out of being an unbeliever; it was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians.” (p.15-16) Her story is fascinating to me.

Originally posted on Thomistic Bent:

Dr. Holly Ordway has published a book titled Not God’s Type, telling her personal story. She begins “I had never in my life said a prayer, never been to a church service. Christmas meant presents and Easter meant chocolate bunnies–nothing more.” But her views get hardened: “In college, I absorbed the idea that Christianity was historical curiosity, or a blemish on modern civilization, or perhaps both. My college science classes presented Christians as illiterate anti-intellectuals who, because they didn’t embrace Darwinism, threatened the advancement of knowledge. My history classes omitted or downplayed references to historical figures’ faith.” Still later, “At thirty-one years old, I was an atheist college professor–and I delighted in thinking of myself that way. I got a kick out of being an unbeliever; it was fun to consider myself superior to the unenlightened, superstitious masses, and to make snide comments about Christians.” (p.15-16)

Ordway was a…

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A Father’s Letter To His Sons About Porn

Christian porn addiction

Last post I wrote about an encounter I had at Starbucks with a man of sorrows. One of his sources of pain and suffering was his addiction to pornography. So I thought it appropriate to share the following blog post written by Robert Cunningham. It’s a letter to his sons about pornography. If you’re someone who struggles with this temptation, Cunningham’s letter is for you.

A Father’s Letter To His Sons About Porn

I have three young sons (6, 3, and 1). Occasionally I will write letters to give to them down the road. This is one about pornography. I’m sharing it because I know there are a lot of guys who desperately need to hear it, but don’t have a father who will say it.

My Precious Sons,

You are men.

You are noble and valiant creatures. Made to rule and subdue the earth with tender and calloused hands. Made to protect the weak and oppose injustice. Made to laugh, to wrestle, to firmly hug another. Made for glory. Made for honor.

But your manhood is twisted. You know it. You can feel it. Nobility now insecurity, courage now fear, the faint echoes of glory now loud cries of shame.

And experience is reaffirming what you fear is true. Women reject you. Friends forsake you. Father and mother fail you. You are not admired, you are not esteemed, you are not affirmed. No, this ruthless fallen world only mocks your manhood and magnifies your failures.

You are men. But alas, you are broken, battered, belittled men.

I know where you want to run. I know where you want hide. I hid there too in my youth.

Porn.

Oh how alluring it is to ruined men. A world where there are no demands, and there are no consequences. A world where you are adored and wanted, needed and respected. A world where perversion is standard and carnality is desired. A world that gives men what they were meant to have without asking men to be what they were meant to be. It restores what was lost in Eden but only by cheapening Eden, by creating a realm where perverted manhood is normalized and worshiped. Where for a moment, a brief, brief, moment, you can again be naked and unashamed.

Then you wake up. (Continue Reading)

Resources:

I’m A Christian Addicted To Porn by Shaun Groves

Robert Cunningham on Twitter: @tcpcrobert

Image via Miguel Tejada-Flores – Creative Commons

 

 

 

The One Thing We Can Know About Why God Allows Suffering (A blog post for the man of sorrows I met at Starbucks)

Why Did God

Return of the Prodigal by E. Murillo

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)

I Met A Man Of Sorrows At Starbucks This Morning

I had an amazing conversation with a thirty-something named Tom at Starbucks this morning. Tom is intelligent, friendly, and he has experienced serious suffering in his life. His soul mate, the woman he is certain he was meant to marry and spend his life with, she betrayed him, she left him, so they never married. Since that time her life has taken a downturn. After a series of relationships with different guys she’s divorced now. Also, a Christian leader Tom looked up to cut him out of his life without explanation. Later I learned Tom was also abused by his father and other family members. And then there’s his addiction: like millions of other men, Tom is addicted to porn. Yes, Tom has suffered, and he continues to suffer. About that, there can be no doubt.

And with many of his tribulations, when he prayed for intervention, no discernable intervention came.

Tom, this blog post is written with you in mind.

Why Did They Betray Me?

First I want to talk about the people who betrayed you. Before I was married I was betrayed by someone I loved too. I’ve never swallowed a burning balled up gas soaked rag, but if I ever did, I’m sure my gut would feel a lot like it did when I was betrayed–except the fire in the rag would extinguish much quicker. Tom you were betrayed by the one you were meant to be with forever, and that has to be painful, and confusing. And then there are the other betrayals in your life. Why would a loving God allow these things to happen? Continue reading

The Consequences Of Ignoring God: God’s Way, Your Way, And Your Crushed Spirit

depression Christian

Guilt, Fear, And A Crushed Spirit

Continuing our series on suffering, today we’ll look at how ignoring God can crush your spirit.

Proverbs 28:1 says,

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

Why is that do you think? Why do the wicked flee when no one is pursuing?

The proverb is a reference to Leviticus chapter 26 where the Lord tells the Israelites what will happen when (when, not if) they don’t obey His commandments. He says: “…I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing…” (Leviticus 26:36-37)

What we see here is what happens when you live in a way God doesn’t want you to live. When you’re living in a way your Father in heaven doesn’t want you to, something happens inside you, something happens in your spirit. And your spirit can be crushed, because not only do you feel guilty about what you know you’re doing wrong, but you react to criticisms that point to wrong, even when it doesn’t apply to you. You generalize your guilt. That’s one of the things sin does to people.

When we do something we know is outside of God’s will, it chases us. Like Dickens’s Scrooge, or Shakespeare’s Macbeth the knowledge of our own sin can produce ghosts or shadows that haunt us, and we flee, even when no one is pursuing.

What Happened When Israel Ignored God

In Isaiah chapter 30 God tells the Israelites, “One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one…” (Isaiah 30:17) And He gives the reason for it in verse 1 of the same chapter. In verse 1 He says, “Woe to the rebellious children who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit…”

You see, the nation of Israel was in a jam. The Assyrians were about to invade and these Assyrians, they had a terrifying reputation. So the leaders of Israel schemed, and plotted, and planned. And they came up with their own solution, they formed an alliance with Egypt. But they did it all apart from God. They didn’t include Him in the process. The whole problem with the hearts, minds, and souls of the Israelites, the reason they were wracked by guilt and fear, the reason one thousand fled at the rebuke of one, was because they didn’t seek God’s counsel. They ignored the One waiting to connect with them: their God.

What Happens When You Ignore God Continue reading

How A Lack Of Love Can Crush Your Spirit (And what that has to do with the San Francisco Giants’ run to the World Series)

love and depression

Jake Peavy with Bruce Bochy (Bochy is in the dugout) in San Diego

A Giant Difference

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,

But a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25

Continuing our series on suffering we see in this proverb another cause of a crushed spirit. What we see here is what relationships can do to us. A lack of relationship, a lack of a good word, a lack of love can crush us. But a good relationship, one with a good word, can send us soaring.

I read an article today about Jake Peavy, a pitcher for the World Series bound San Francisco Giants. You may have heard that he played for the Boston Red Sox this season up until July 26, when he was traded to the Giants. And here’s the weird thing: Peavy was Continue reading

One of the Strangest Questions Jesus Ever Asked

Why am I afraid

Why Are You Afraid?

“Why are you afraid?” he asked. This has to be one of the strangest questions Jesus ever asked his disciples. And this blog post explains why.

What Happened Leading Up To The Question

After a long day of teaching Jesus tells his disciples to jump into the boat and go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But as they make their way across, a storm comes up. Some of the disciples are experienced commercial fishermen, so they’re familiar with the Sea of Galilee and its associated weather. With that in mind it follows, this storm that comes up, it’s well beyond the norm for storms in that area. The winds are extreme to the point where waves are covering the boat. (Matthew 8:23-27) The storm is so intense that these experienced commercial fisherman are convinced they’re going to die. Meanwhile Jesus, likely exhausted from teaching and healing the pressing multitude, is in the back, asleep.

So they wake him up and they say, “…do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he asks them, “Why are you afraid?”

Strange question.

Why I Become Afraid

Why are you afraid? Under the circumstances it seems like a strange question to me. Under the current circumstances of the disciples, I have to confess, fear feels like a reasonable reaction to me. And maybe you’ve experienced that same feeling. I know I have. I’ve experienced that feeling like I was drowning in my problems. Overwhelmed by difficulties. The storm in my life was way beyond my own energy and ability to overcome. And it felt like God didn’t care. It felt like He was napping in the back of the boat.

Have you ever felt that way?

I have a friend who felt that way about his diseased body. I have another friend who felt that way about his unemployment. And another friend who felt that way about his lonely single lifestyle.

I think we have all felt that way. But I think Jesus would ask each of us the same question, “Why are you afraid?”

What He Said Next

Jesus didn’t stop after he asked, “Why are you afraid?” He asked a second question that provides insight into why he asked the first. His second question was this: Continue reading

Steve Mays’ Life Of Suffering (And how God healed him)

Steve Mays Life of Suffering

We’ve been exploring what the Bible has to say about suffering and right in the middle of this series of blog posts, God did something for Steve Mays, the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay, that I just have to share.

An Improbable Life Of Suffering

Steve’s life was often heavy with suffering. He battled drug addiction as a teenager which led to a series of strange and destructive events while he was still living at home with his father and mother. One time when Steve’s parents came home, as they opened their front door, water gushed out. Steve turned their house into a swimming pool by stuffing towels under the exterior doors and filling the place up with water. They found him in the living room smoking a pencil. He was completely oblivious. Instead of acknowledging the damage he’d done, he talked to them about the show he was watching on TV–but the TV was turned off.

Another time Steve’s parents arrived home to find him fixing a meal for a friend who lived inside the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.

Another time he terrorized his parents by angrily pacing around the house while swinging a machete.

The bewildering thing about Steve’s behavior was that he was a normal kid until junior high school. His parents didn’t know it but during that time in junior high he was Continue reading