Equal Opportunity Salvation

Equal Opportunity Salvation

March 27, 2016:

Today is Easter, and that means church services will be filled, dinners will be served, and millions upon millions won’t even get why any of that matters. It might even be safe to say that those who don’t get it won’t want to get it because anything “religious” just isn’t their cup of tea. Maybe you’re one of the millions. Maybe you’re perfectly happy with that. In our culture, happiness is what’s important, right?

Honestly, it makes sense. Religion has gotten a bad rep, regardless of the people who run it or the god(s) they serve. Some people just don’t want to get involved. Maybe they think it’s the same as eating kryptonite.

Why should they care about Easter?

I could tell you exactly what Easter is…so I will. It’s about Jesus rising from the dead after taking our sins on the cross and out of this life. Basically, it’s his victory over sin, which translates to our victory over sin. It’s about giving us a place in Heaven. It’s about paying a price we can’t pay ourselves. You know how Christmas is the prime gift-giving day of the season? Easter is about the greatest gift we’ll ever get. I still don’t know how bunnies got involved.

Maybe some of you haven’t heard about the importance of Easter. I acknowledge that there are still people in this world who haven’t heard the Gospel (otherwise we’d clearly be living in the times presented in Revelations, and though I think we’re certainly close to it, I don’t think we’re there just yet). But if you have heard it and you’re not already on board with this, there’s a strong chance that you don’t believe it or care about it or, for some reason, you’re resistant to it.

And again, I understand why you might fit into the latter category. Here are some possible scenarios that may apply:

  1. You think the Bible is fiction.
  2. You think Christians are bigots, and you want nothing to do with them.
  3. You think you can save yourself.
  4. You don’t want to give up the sinful life you’re living.
  5. You believe something else entirely and don’t want religious cross-pollination.
  6. You don’t think sin is real.
  7. You don’t think God is real.

And so on. You get the idea. You know where you fit into this story.

The thing about Christianity is that it’s full of people who have heard all of these excuses and more. In fact, it’s full of people who have made these same excuses at some point in their pre-Christian lives. Even those of us who learned about Jesus at a young age still had to experience the temptations that life brings, so we still get it. It’s the reason there are so many who have turned away as teenagers and young adults. They spent so much time learning the watered down, educational version of Christianity that they didn’t want it any more. They wanted to experience “life,” and their understanding of Christianity wasn’t about to give it to them. And, if you know the difference between “religious” Christianity and true Christianity, then you’ll understand why some Christians still turn away from it.

They knew Christianity as a religion, much like those who refuse Christianity think of it as a religion. And to be fair, many Christians treat it like a religion. These same Christians may be responsible in triggering one of the listed beliefs you have about Christianity above. But it’s not supposed to be that way.

First of all, and I’m going to speak from the heart here, not from some sense of all-knowing righteousness. This is just what I think:

Many non-Christians, and you may be one of them, choose to disregard the Bible as truth, calling it fiction. Some also think of it as a list of archaic laws that no longer apply. And most commonly misunderstood: many don’t believe it’s the inspired Word of God. They simply think that it’s a product of a group of misogynist men getting together and making up some rules that are designed to oppress people and justify evil. This, of course, assumes that the critics understand what evil actually is. Again, this is understandable. Many Christians wrestle with this very notion. It’s why we have faith. We really don’t know if it’s true. We just choose to believe it. Some say we do so foolishly.

BUT…

We choose to believe the Bible is true the same way we choose to believe the Law of Gravity is true. The only proof we have of gravity, besides the fact that everything falls (including us, which is why we have Jesus, but I digress), is what physicists, like Isaac Newton, tell us. We blindly believe them because we trust their authority. And, when we open our eyes, we can see that what they say is true. The same could be said of mathematicians who say that one plus one equals two. I’m no math guy—I studied English in college—but if a mathematician tells me that one and one equals two, I’m inclined to believe him. I don’t believe him because I’m an ignorant tool who thinks all scientists are liars. I believe him because he’s the authority on that subject. He understands math in a way that I never will, just like Isaac Newton and other physicists understand gravity in a way I never will, just like Albert Einstein understands relativity like I never will.

I choose to believe the Bible because it was written by people who have authoritative knowledge that I never will. But more on that in a moment.

Let’s start by addressing the “fiction” that so many non-Christians want to lambast it for. The Bible has parables in it, which are stories about fictional characters. Jesus told us about the servants who were given ten, five, and one talent respectively, and told to do something with them before the master got back. The two servants with ten and five talents respectively invested what they were given and yielded double the return. When the master came back, they were rewarded with even more. The servant who was given just one talent chose to bury his because he knew the master was cold and exacting and wouldn’t want him to lose it. The master thought the servant’s understanding of him was poor, and he saw him as wasting an opportunity, and he ultimately stripped him of the one talent he had, so he was left with nothing. All because he didn’t use what he was given.

I don’t believe the three servants and the master were real people, but I do believe Jesus told this parable to make a point about using what we’re given. It’s still history, as the storyteller is very real, and there are plenty of witnesses who saw him give this parable, and if this message was later written in the Bible incorrectly, there were many, many people who’d know it and rebuke the misinformation.

I think of it in terms of a historian writing a book in 2030 about the events of 9/11 and explaining how the aliens burned down the World Trade Center with their heat vision on September 11, 2001. Um…no. But there was a fire! It must be true. No! Stop being stupid! There were no aliens and no heat rays. You watch too many movies, Mr. Historian.

We can treat the Bible as a history book because there were plenty of people still alive at the time of its writing that would call out its inaccuracies, if it had any, based on the consistency of their eyewitness accounts. And even if they weren’t there personally, the correct information would’ve survived just as our correct information about the assassination of JFK has endured 53 years. If you tell someone JFK was murdered in Houston, Texas, they would quickly reeducate you that it happened in Dallas. If the story of Jesus was written ANY other way, the authors of those four books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) would’ve been laughed out of a reporting job (and possibly sent into exile—those days were a lot tougher on mistakes than they are today—but at the very least they would’ve had their books rejected). There was no way they could’ve gotten it wrong and gotten it into the history book. The people of that time cared more about the historical account than even we do.

Outside of the parables and the history accounts, the Bible is also made up of prophecies, and I’m pretty sure this is where most people have problems with it (well, no, most people have problems with what it claims as sin, but I’ll get to that in a moment). In short, I don’t understand prophecies, or how a prophet can know what God is telling him. But there’s a good reason for that. I’m not a prophet. I don’t specialize in prophecies. But, just as I trust a physicist to tell me the truth about gravity and a mathematician to tell me the truth about one plus one, I trust a prophet to tell me the truth about the heart of God, or in more relevant terms, the divine inspiration of God’s Word, aka, the Bible. I believe the Bible is true because I believe God is wiser than I am and that He knows how to get His exact message across to the world, even if I don’t understand the details. That’s fine, really. God knows not to trust me with His divine prophetic words. I’d screw it up. It’s not my gift. It’s why He gave it to the prophets. They’d know how to handle it.

The people who accuse the Bible of being false, or fictitious, do so in complete ignorance. The same people who accuse Christians of having a closed mind are not that good at opening their own minds, because if they were, they’d investigate biblical truth until they found emphatic proof that it’s a lie (which no one in human history has ever done, FYI—even those theorists—Note: those who specialize in theory, not fact—who think they’ve disproved the Bible because they compared it to something they believe (not proved) and found fault based on their limited understanding just haven’t dared to keep looking beyond their limited understanding or skewed worldview; anyone who has, has given up their quest and become Christians, and yes, that is documented). No, they, too, have a closed mind because they don’t want to find out they’re dead wrong (which they will if they dig deep enough), and why would they want to ruin their precious reputations on silly things like facts or truth?

And for the record, Christians have closed minds because once we figure out the truth, we have no reason to lie to ourselves any further. Having an open mind means we’re still searching for the truth. We’re not. We’ve found it and we know it. There are many reasons why we know we’ve found the truth; often it has to do with what Christianity is—a relationship with Christ that goes deeper than knowledge or theory. It’s the same reason why we understand our spouses better than our grocers understand our spouses. Our grocers may think they know our spouses, but they don’t, not really. They only know what they see. They don’t know the fullness of what we’ve experienced, so they don’t know our spouses like we do. Christianity is the same way. We understand Christ better than non-Christians do. That’s why we choose to serve him. Just like a husband might serve his wife, and a wife her husband. They understand what they have (ideally, of course—human nature does get in the way sometimes, but that’s another topic for another time). We’re not idiots. We just have an understanding that you don’t. And that’s unfortunate for you. Sorry to call it out like it is. But, no, actually I’m not sorry.

I am sorry about the second point on the list, the bigotry. But let me explain why this is still a problem:

Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ, who died for all of our sins. Now, to be clear, sin is sin, and I do not suggest that anything that is sin shouldn’t be called sin. If it’s sin, it’s sin. Period. And if it’s sin, it is the thing that can keep you out of Heaven. Period.

BUT…

That’s why Jesus came to mankind. Because we all do it. Sin. We’re all equal opportunity sinners, and Jesus, thankfully, is an equal opportunity savior.

The problems with Christianity, and the bad rep it gets with things like bigotry, comes down to Christians trying to make it into a religion. It’s about some Christians trying to be better than everyone else. I’m probably guilty of this myself sometimes.

Look, let me set the record straight. We’re not better than anyone else. Period. Part of believing in an equal opportunity savior is to acknowledge that we, too, are equal opportunity sinners.

I’m not going to write about how certain sins that progressive politics have made okay are okay. They’re not. Sorry, but no politician has ever died for my sins, and no politician has ever created the physical laws of earth and heaven, so I don’t believe any politician has the right to tell me what is and isn’t sinful. Even Moses, who drafted the Ten Commandments, had to get his instructions directly from God. And keep in mind that these instructions were passed down from a God who understands human nature very, very well.

The issue here is the people who sin, and that’s all of us. We all need Jesus. None of us need bigotry (in any of its forms, and for the sake of further argument, I’ll refer to it also as prejudice against anyone who isn’t perfect, which is basically everyone, and being prejudice against everyone makes life pretty lonely). I’d spent part of my life misunderstanding the point. I used my human brain to justify my understanding of God’s laws, when I wasn’t really trained well enough to understand. And though I don’t struggle with misunderstanding people anymore (at least, I don’t think I do, but I apologize if I do), I’m sure I still have areas of weakness, including the courage to speak up when others are clearly screwing up their lives (maybe because I don’t want to acknowledge that they are screwing up their lives). As a Christian, I’m supposed to love everyone, and part of loving others is to point out the path they’re on. I supposed that’s the main reason why I’m writing this. Many of us take this concept too far. We’re supposed to do everything in love. That’s what Jesus asks of us.

What it comes down to is that the religion of Christianity is run by fallible men, but actual Christianity is about believing in the infallible Christ as our savior. There’s nothing more to it.

That said, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean automatic goodness. Nobody becomes “good” overnight. Jesus himself tells us that no one is good but God the Father. But, choosing to love Jesus means our attitudes begin to change. It means that our actions begin to change. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are plenty of Christians who still openly sin, and many more who still sin in private. We’re still trying to shed the old life in favor of the new. For those who don’t want to give up the old life, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to become Christians. Maybe they’re afraid of what life would be like without that addiction. Maybe they enjoy the feeling of hate. Maybe they like to invent their own truths, even if the result of it wrecks their lives. Some people just want to live the mediocre life. Some just want to burn. It’s their choice.

God gave us free will. That’s why evil exists in this world. That’s why we have so many viewpoints about what equals truth, and more difficult, what is and isn’t sin. It’s why we have so many cults and religions, and why those religions require so many tasks. It’s why the state religion, politics, has so many counterintuitive, counterproductive, conflicting laws and practices. We think we can better ourselves with new ideas and new practices. By nature, we progress in ideas because the thing we thought was good before wasn’t actually good enough. Tomorrow we’ll look for something to replace the thing we thought was good today. Eventually we’ll complete the progressive circle and find ourselves back at the beginning.

But look, we had perfection once. We thought we could improve on it. We ruined the world and ourselves as a result. God had to step in and fix it for us, because, you know, He’s the one that built it in the first place. He understands how it works. He understands how we work. He knows us better than we know ourselves. The only one who really knows how to fix our mess is God himself.

Maybe you don’t want to trust in God’s leadership and Christ’s salvation, but I hope you will. We can’t save ourselves, no matter how much we convince ourselves we can. We’re not the ones who set the standards on righteousness. Don’t let the faults of any man or woman, or your misunderstanding of a subject you have no expertise in, deter you from experiencing the only gift you’ll ever really need. We all need Jesus. Easter would not be among the world’s oldest holidays if it didn’t mean something.

I think there were other points I wanted to address in this article, but I wanted to keep this as short as possible, and I’ve already gone on too long. Maybe I’ll add a second part if I think of something I’ve forgotten about. That said, if you wish to discuss this, please comment below.

Note: If you came here looking for information on my books, or writing, or something else more to the current theme of Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm, I will be talking more about them soon. Sometimes I have other topics of interest that I want to write about, so do expect the occasional non-writing topic here.

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Proverbial Things

March 19, 2016:

If you’re reading this, and you’re about to do something stupid, here are some thoughts for the day:

  • There’s only one truth.
  • If you make your own truth, and somebody else makes his own truth, and you disagree with each other, then who’s right? Either one of you is wrong, or you’re both wrong. I’m sure you think you’re the one who’s right.
  • The only people who know they’re absolutely right about the wrong thing are the ignorant and the foolish.
  • Hating someone because you hate their viewpoint is ignorant and foolish.
  • Love people, not viewpoints.
  • Sin begins with selfishness.
  • Just because it feels right today doesn’t mean it won’t hurt like hell tomorrow.
  • Having wisdom also means thinking about tomorrow.
  • Do your research. Remember history.
  • You may only live once, but how will history remember you when you’re gone?
  • Once upon a time, Hitler was a sweet little kid.
  • Only God knows the whole picture. You know only some of it.
  • Even the wisest man who ever lived was ruined when he put romance ahead of God. Just ask King Solomon.
  • If you have to sin to get what you want, you’re putting that thing above God.
  • If something is meant to be, the right path will present itself at the right time and in the right way. Getting it any other way will diminish its goodness or its maximum effect, and the big meal you were promised may now just be a snack.
  • There’s a reason why we have the Ten Commandments. And there’s a reason why they’re presented in the order they were written. And there’s a reason why “Thou shall not put any other gods before Me” (“Me” referring to God) is the first.
  • There’s also a reason why Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God.
  • Just because you don’t think you’re doing stupid doesn’t mean you’re doing smart.

Put that gun down. Put away that hate speech. Get out of bed with that wrong person. You’re no better than the person you’re bullying. Stop being ignorant and foolish. Looking right and sounding right doesn’t make you right. It just stops you from achieving your maximum potential in life. If you want the best for your life, then get back on God’s path, and listen to what He has to say. And if you’ve never done that, then now’s the time. You can always make your money back tomorrow. You can never make back your precious time. Start making yourself better. Start fixing your heart. Stop turning a blind eye to wisdom. Stop damaging your soul.

If any part of this list bothers you, then you probably needed to read it.

If you don’t think you need God, then reread this list. If you think you’re too smart for God, then reread this list.

Consider these verses, written long before any of us had the sense to even tie our shoes, spoken by those who had understanding about things in ways that you and I still don’t:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV)

“…32 The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” – Mark 12:32-34 (NIV)

“…32 ‘For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 ‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:32-34 (NIV)

Not trying to anger anyone or incite a riot with this list, but I do want to see people live better lives than they’re living. Hopefully you’ll give these ideas some thought if you’re living below your best potential.

Have a good day.

Note: Bible excerpts taken from BibleHub.com.

 

March Update

March 11, 2016:

It’s Friday, the last day of my vacation, and my attempt to break in my new debit card after discovering some fraudulent charges on my previous one (that I had for less than a month), which resulted in me having to shut myself out of my own checking account for a week (conveniently at the start of my vacation), has been interrupted by what sounds like another expensive car repair bill. So, needless to say, my plans have changed yet again, so I figure while I’m essentially immobilized, I may as well drop some news for March.

For starters, my short story collection, Zippywings 2015, was released as an ebook to Smashwords and its affiliates last month for $3.99. Even though each story can be downloaded individually for free on those sites, I set the price tag to reflect its true value, and to give those who’d rather pay for my efforts a chance to do so.

As of this week, you can also find it on Amazon. Same price, but the difference here is that the individual stories cost $.99 each (the minimum that Amazon allows), so you’re getting all the stories for half the cost there.

The advantage of going through Amazon is that if you buy the paperback version, you can get the ebook version for free. Something to consider if you enjoy reading things in multiple platforms. But you should get it. It comes with seven stories of fun, adventure, crises, quirkiness, and so forth (short, novelette, and novellas), one mini-collection of three Christmas fables, multiple excerpts from my upcoming titles, and the short story version of “The Computer Nerd.” Note: The bonus short story applies to the ebook only. Not featured in the print version.

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Cover Image for “Zippywings 2015”

I’ve also released Gutter Child and The Fallen Footwear on Amazon this week. Both retail for $.99 (The Fallen Footwear is a free title at Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.), and both are worth your time. Gutter Child is a 13-chapter novella that runs at just over 32,000 words, or the equivalent of 128 pages. The Fallen Footwear is an 8-chapter novelette about 19,000 words, or the equivalent of 76 pages. Both have quirky elements grounded in serious themes about families and relationships. I’m proud about how they both turned out, especially when you consider what they were 17 years ago in their first drafts.

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Cover Image for “Gutter Child”
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Cover Image for “The Fallen Footwear”

Finally, this week I jumped the gun a bit early, but I released the last of my smaller free works, Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge, prior to the incoming tide of larger priced titles that I have for the rest of 2016. I had planned to release it on March 25th, for Good Friday and the Easter weekend, but realized I’d rather have it available at all the retailers by then, which wouldn’t happen until the following week, so I figured that because it was ready, and it would be just as available on Good Friday if I released now as it would be if I released then, I went ahead and dropped it this week. It’s two short stories about faith and redemption, set in a fantastical world, and filled with adventure. Neither story takes long to read, and both will inspire you. Hopefully. It can be found at all of the retailers, including Amazon.

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Cover Image for “Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge”

Finally, with all of these other titles done and out the door, I’m back to work on Teenage American Dream, with a first act finished and a second act partially finished yet fully charted. It’ll be a race to finish it on time, I admit, and I’m beginning to worry about the deadlines I’ve set for myself. Unfortunately, Cards in the Cloak and Gutter Child required a much heftier rewrite than I had anticipated when I began readying them for ebooks, so they both ate into the two months I thought I’d be spending catching up on my 2016 novels. But I still see the April 30th release date as feasible, as I wrote The Computer Nerd in an even shorter time span, and this story isn’t any harder.

However, I have a feeling I’ll be pushing Sweat of the Nomad back to the end of July and Zipwood Studios to the end of October to account for the extra time I needed on Cards in the Cloak and Gutter Child. Stay tuned for those updates. I won’t actively make a decision to move the dates until I have a better idea what kind of timeline I’m working with. But I’m expecting the possibility.

Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two won’t be affected. That story has been finished for years. I just need to spot edit a few things and make sure all the pieces fit where they belong to account for the changes made in the first book. So, unless something ridiculous happens, that’s still scheduled for release on May 27th. And if you’re debating on whether to get your copy, let me just say that it’s made of the same quality as Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One, and as of this writing, that one is a five-star book at Barnes & Noble. Just saying.

So, there’s your March update. Please consider buying, reading, and reviewing any of these books. I have a big car repair bill coming this weekend and no great way to pay for it. Supporting my books helps me! Thanks. 😉