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The greatest commandment: love

April 12, 2018 Leave a comment

Sometimes people will ask me, “What is Christianity in a nutshell?”

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked about that. What is the great commandment of the law? What is the commandment that Christianity centers around?

Verses 37-40 explain: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

It all centers around love. It’s a verse you could spend years pondering.

I’ve been a Christian for almost 37 years, and while Jesus teaches us to love everybody, I must admit there have been some whom I’ve had to take remedial classes to learn how to love. A few select customers I dealt with when I worked at a gas station. A certain Christian employer in Michigan. Politicians in general.

I’m not alone. Alvin Dark, a former Major League Baseball shortstop who also enjoyed success as a manager, became an outspoken Christian. He once mused, “As a Christian, God has taught me to love everybody. But the last ones I learned to love were the sportswriters.”

Alvin_Dark_1953

Richard’s Two Shekels guesses that Alvin Dark made one request about his mansion in New Jerusalem: “Father, could you put any Christian sportswriters on the other side of town? And please don’t give them my address.”

Love, of course, is an action verb and not just an emotion we swell up with when around our children or our significant other. I tell people that True Christianity hinges on helping people without strings attached for no reason, rather than looking at the situation, rubbing one’s hands together as if concocting a sneaky scheme and quietly asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Post comments here or email them to: richardstwoshekels@gmail.com

 

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Marathon vs. Sprint

November 14, 2012 1 comment

Amazing how Christians can be. I can think of two Christians at college that seemed destined to go nowhere in life. One left after a semester because he didn’t like PCC’s rules and the other seemed to teeter on getting kicked out due to his attitude.

Both are serving the Lord now. One ministers through music and the other is a pastor who blogs.

Then there are the Christians I knew growing up and on-fire Christians I knew at college who are not only no longer serving God, they question their faith. One who studied for the ministry tells me he no longer thinks of the New Testament as God’s inspired word. In high school, I knew of a young man who was absolutely on fire for God. Today, his walk seems much less so.

If there is a way to describe it, I’d say it’s because Christianity should be lived as a marathon and not as a sprint.

As a sprint, it’s easy to burn white-hot bright for about five years…and then fade into cold darkness.

As a marathon, you pace yourself and purpose each day to do the basics: read the Word of God, spend time with God, talk to Him and let Him talk back to you. Sometimes it’s through the still, small voice, sometimes through something in the Bible that speaks to you in capital letters, and sometimes it’s through intuition.

I’ve been a Christian for 31 years; ever since the age of eight I’ve been on my way to heaven. Frankly, the finish line marking the entrance into heaven doesn’t seem any closer today than it did back in 1981. Ironic, since my death or the rapture could happen at any time. At times, it’s like I gasp for breath as I complete yet another lap and groan at how much further there is to go.

Please don’t give up. The worst thing is to look back upon your life and utter these two words: If only

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Interview with Christian blogger Nolan Bobbitt: Part 2 of 2

We continue with the rest of my interview with Nolan Bobbitt regarding blogs, the internet and Christianity:

Richard Zowie: How crucial, in 2011, is it for a church to have a website and blog?

Nolan Bobbitt: Having a website and blog is not crucial in 2011. Building relationships and creating compelling and interesting content is hugely crucial. If you are going to have a website or blog that makes a difference, it must be focused on helping people, growing people, and deepening relationships. Some ministries might actually be better suited to make use of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter for interaction. Blogs or websites should be places we go to grow grow and be inspired. That only happens when we have great material to read!

RZ: Do you see your blog as more of an evangelization or edification tool?

NB: My personal blog is more focused on growing believers at this point. I am in the beginning stages of potentially launching two partner blogs (one with me as the primary writer, and the other will actually have a writing network), and at least one of those new sites will be almost exclusively rooted in evangelistic efforts.

RZ: What blog postings tend to get the most traffic for you?

NB: This may be a funny response, but those blog postings that have either unique titles, or feature the name of a high-profile “celebrity Christian.” Again, for me personally, I almost have to distance myself from thinking about blog traffic, so that writing well is my primary focus!

RZ: What advice do you have for people who want to blog or be more successful at it?

NB: Short posts are better than long posts, always! I shoot for 300 words an entry and make it a rule to not go over 500 words. Set aside a regular time to write your blog. I used to try to write 30 minutes a day, six days a week, but I am discovering that I am much better off to set aside a larger chunk of time (90 minutes) less often (twice a week). Do what works for you, but the only way to get better at writing is to write more often! Read blogs that you want to be like. Build relationships with those bloggers by referencing them, linking to their posts, and leaving comments. Don’t ask for anything from them, especially at the beginning. I have at least 2 high profile CEOs who read my blog at least sporadically and it’s because I became “friends” with them through consistent comments on their sites and through Twitter conversations. At the same time, be “you” on your blog. If you can’t be who God made you to be, you are wasting your time and everyone else’s. If growing a large following is your primary goal, don’t blog–twitter instead. Blogging should be reserved for those who love creating and sharing content!

Post comments here or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

The Sacred Romance: Relationships versus Rules

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

If I’ve blogged about this before, it’s because it’s a message that desperately needs to resonate in the Christian church.

When I served as best man for my friend Bob’s wedding, he gave me as a gift the book The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. I started reading it, but life got in the way.

Pathetic excuse, indeed.

I regret not having read it sooner. Do I ever!

I know I will offend some I’ve known in Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, but as I’ve started reading this book again, even before I delve deeply into the book, it is clear to me that in much of Christianity we really are thinking backwards regarding our relationship with God.

Normally, when a person gets saved in the Baptist circles I’m from, they are instructed in the King James Bible and are given a list of do’s and don’t’s.

How does that saying go? “I don’t smoke, drink or chew or go with girls who do.” Furthermore, new Christians are also instructed not to go to movies and not to get tattoos. Guys are told not to wear their hair long (which, for some churches means it should be neatly tapered off the collar and off the ears) and not to wear earrings. Women are told to wear dresses, skirts or culottes, never pants and especially never shorts or skirts that show off the thighs, and to avoid wearing too much makeup (or in some cases, any). They should not work outside the home. Some churches don’t even believe women should wear fingernail polish or hair dye.

Other general convictions also apply. If music has a beat or an electric guitar, it should be avoided. And, for God’s sake, do not listen to Contemporary Christian Music. (I remember how some ministers would refer to Michael W. Smith as “Michael W. Smut” and Amy Grant as “Amy Grunt”). If you must have a television, it should be used only to watch Christian programs and news programs. Some are against watching professional sports due to the cheerleaders dressing immodestly.

And, for some, sex should never, ever openly be talked about. For those who do, they might even say sex is solely for procreating. Missionary position only. Lights off. No role playing. And absolutely, positively, no birth control or masturbation.

One wonderful Christian, who is no longer with us, once said: “If you don’t have convictions, come talk to me and I’ll give you some.” As well-intentioned as this might be, it is a horrible approach. It is one thing to explain to new or struggling Christians why you have certain convictions, but too often I feel they are given convictions they don’t understand and are expected to apply them to their lives. And we wonder why so many get disillusioned and leave the church; some not only leave the church, but abandon their faith altogether and embrace atheism.

This approach to Christianity, which I am convinced stems from personal preferences that magically evolve into convictions instead of developing legitimate Bible-based convictions, probably makes many think of heaven as a place where people dress in iridescent, flowing white robes as they float among the clouds and play harps. Nothing exciting ever happens.

<Yawn>

It seems to me a far better approach to Christianity is to discerningly read the Bible in context, pray for God’s guidance, get involved in your church and surround yourself with wise Christians. For me, among those wise Christians are my sisters, my friends Bob J., Howard H., Joel K. and Jeremy H. and my pastor. There are also Charlie M. and Dave R., college friends whom I will ask questions about the Bible.

Consider this verse from Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

Of course, the verse is referring to “he” and “men” as mankind in general. The same applies to both men and women and whom they choose counsel from, and it’s possible to get wise counsel from a person of either gender.

And as you read the Bible, get involved in godly activities and get wise counsel, you will start to have a more intimate relationship with God and will start seeing things from God’s perspective. From here you will develop your own godly convictions.

As I type this, here are some things about me some Christians may find objectionable: I wear a leather necklace with a cross made from horseshoe ties (which I see nothing wrong with). When I read the Bible, I often read from the New King James Version (even though I still prefer the King James Version). I also sometimes watch R-rated movies and also listen to some forms of rock music. I even like some Van Halen songs, even though there are other songs of theirs that have very unhealthy messages. I also have from time to time used profanity (I have never taken the Lord’s name in vain). Some of these things about me are very unapologetic parts of my life that I feel God is blessing me in or that God has no problem with. They are part of my Christian identity. Some, such as the movies, music and profanity, God is still working on me. I am working to eliminate the profanity from my life since I believe further usage would make me become a person I absolutely loathe.

I know many Christians are against consuming alcohol, but I do have one solid brother in Christ who does drink. However, he is a stickler about moderation. While I don’t drink (the last time I consumed alcohol was beer and vodka when I was 15, and I thought both were absolutely disgusting), I can respect someone who does so responsibly. While the Bible may not specifically condemn drinking, it is very strict regarding moderation.

As for me, unless I visit Germany where they frown upon people who don’t accept a drink, I have no plans to drink: I have an addictive personality, and people like me easily fall into alcoholism. And, frankly, I have more than enough problems in my life.

If there’s a point to this blog posting, it would be that instead of just following a set of rules, Christians need to be reading God’s Word and talking to godly Christians and asking tough questions about their faith and investigating why they believe what they believe instead of just following a crowd. To have convictions without understanding them is a recipe for an unsuccessful Christian life that will never be as profitable for yourself or for God as it should be.

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. He hopes by early 2011 to complete his first visit in years with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

Richard’s Two Shekels on… for July 27, 2010

…No, I’ve never read The Prayer of Jabez (or, for that matter, any of Joel Osteen’s books). When I worked in Christian radio in San Antonio, it was a book everyone seemed to talk about. Then, when I finally got around to checking it out, it seemed to reek of Prosperity Gospel. You know: follow God, obey His commands and pray really hard and He’ll reward you with a fat bank account. That sounds very unbiblical. God promises to meet our needs, but I know of no Scripture where obeying God’s Word and being involved in church means you’ll hit the jackpot…

…One of the most tragic things I’ve experienced in life is that some of the most egotistical, condescending people I’ve ever met have been Christians. That should not be so…

…Speaking of the above, please don’t use that as an excuse to go inactive and drop out of church. God needs Christians to get to work and needs more to be the right type of Christian instead of complaining there are no right types. If you think Christianity has cornered the market on hypocrisy, you are mistaken…

…I have often wondered how horrible it must be like for a lost person who dies in their sleep. How long does it take for them to realize that their unspeakably-horrid nightmare is one from which they’ll never wake up?…

…I used to live in a town where there was a church at practically every corner. Despite this, the town’s Christian bookstore closed. I never understood how a store like that could go out of business in a town where so many attended church…

…Besides the Zondervan King James Study Bible, another Bible I like is the New Open Study Bible. One was given to me as a high school graduation gift by my church; alas, the Bible was packed into a box during a move and inadvertently placed in the basement. After a heavy rain and due to a sump pump problem, the basement flooded. The Bible was ruined. I haven’t seen it in any Christian bookstores but have found out it’s available for online purchase. I’ll have to do that sometime as I liked that Bible a lot…

…That Bible also had a lot of sentimental value, including a few autographs in it. Among those I can remember: my pastor, Tim Stowe of Beeville Baptist Church; Jim Schettler, then the pastor of Pensacola Christian College’s Campus Church; Dr. Arlin Horton, president and founder of PCC; Jonathan King, a pastor who worked at the Roloff Homes; Richard Martin, a pastor and a friend; Dr. Tim Lee; Dr. Johnny Pope; Dr. Jack Hyles; Dr. Gary Coleman (the pastor of Garland, Texas’ Lavon Drive Baptist Church and not the late diminutive actor).

I remember when Dr. Pope autographed and saw Dr. Hyles’ signature (Dr. Hyles performed Dr. Pope’s wedding ceremony and at one time was a good friend), Dr. Pope did a double take.

…John Shore, a Christian writer, said something about Christianity that I feel qualifies as an incontrovertible statement: “Fundamentalist Christians are too limited in their thinking, but liberal Christians too readily dismiss the fundamentalists.”…

Agree with me? Think I’m out of my mind? Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 7: Stephen is martyred

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I actually read this passage on Monday and am, sadly, just now blogging about it. Getting off my duff, I plan to return to daily blogging about Bible reading. Later today or, most likely, tomorrow, I’ll blog about the next chapter of Daniel.

Acts 7 is a fascinating chapter, in that it’s the first Biblical recording–post crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus–of a martyr.

That martyr’s name, of course, was Stephen.

In his sermon, Stephen preached a sermon summarizing the Old Testament from Abraham, to Moses, down the line and eventually ending in the New Testament with Jesus. He concentrated heavily on Moses, particularly his early life and when he was receiving the laws from God on Mt. Sinai.

Bluntness was a normal practice in the early church’s preaching, and Stephen was no different. He referred to the authorities in the temple in verse 51 as “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” Notice he did not say they were physically uncircumcised. All obedient male Jews then were. He was telling them they were crude and stubborn in their ability to listen and hear what was being preached, and if they were truly open and receptive, they would’ve seen that Jesus’ life was a fulfillment of Scripture. Instead, the authorities and their ancestors chose to persecute, torture and even kill the messengers who called for obedience unto God.

And then Stephen looked up to the sky and described seeing Jesus at the right hand of God. A death sentence. They took him outside the city and stoned him.

Like Jesus at His crucifixion, Stephen showed compassion to those who stoned him. In his final words in verse 60, he asked God not to lay this sin at their charge.

We also see in verse 58 that Saul held the outergarments of those who went to kill Stephen. Saul had yet to become a Christian and transform into Paul, but I have to wonder what went through his mind at this time. Perhaps seeds were being planted and watered as he saw this Christian die for their faith.

Richard Zowie, a Christian for 28 years, operates several blogs. Post a comment or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Is there life on other planets? An answer from a Christian perspective

July 21, 2009 2 comments

alien020904

This is a question that seems to be mostly ignored within Christianity. When I was younger, I remember the evangelist David Benoit talking about whether or not there was extraterrestrial life out there. Benoit, whose messages specialized on rock music and the occult noted that books at the library that deal with E.T.’s¹ could be found in the occult section.

Open and shut. Cut and dry. Case dismissed.

Or is it?

I’ve always had a fascination with astronomy and used to spend hours drawing pictures of planets and how the sun would look like if viewed from Jupiter or from my favorite solar planet, Pluto. We now know that life as we know it does not exist in the solar system apart from Earth. Other planets are too hot or too cold or have atmospheres that won’t support life. Jupiter, for instance, isn’t even a terrestrial world but rather a gaseous one consisting of two oceans of liquid hydrogen. Venus is far too hot and has an unbreathable atmosphere. And, of course, past Mars it gets far too cold. Pluto, that perpetual winter wonderland, has estimated temperatures of 390 degrees below zero.

Others would ask two questions: what about other forms of life that might not be human or even organic? In science fiction novels, we read of intelligent crystals and shades of blue along with gaseous bags that float in Jupiter and Saturn’s atmosphere.

europa

Many astronomers and potential exobiologists believe life could exist in the ocean that lies underneath the icy surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

For some Christians, the idea of intelligent life beyond our planet is blasphemous. It is unthinkable for God to have created other forms of life living on other planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy (about three billion light years away)² or in the other billions of galaxies that we now know, courtesy of the Hubble Telescope, are out there. After all, Jesus died once for all, as teaches the Bible.

If there are other planets out there, does this mean they had opportunities to choose or reject God and that Jesus went to their world, lived, died and resurrected?

Does life exist on other planets?

If you’d asked me 15 years ago, I would’ve answered absolutely not.³ Now, my response is I don’t know, but I think it’s possible.

Consider this: the Bible could very well stand for Basic Information Before Leaving Earth. If that’s the case, then the Word of God tells us all we need to know to live this life as Christians, to serve God and evangelize and edify as much of the world as possible before our time is up. Once we reach eternity, we’ll have lots of learning to do.

Who knows what God has to teach us?

All I know is I think there’s a whole universe of knowledge to be attained, and even after several millennia of recorded history, I think our knowledge of God, the world and the universe is still primitive at best.

 

¹ I use the term E.T. only to save on typing. Honestly, I didn’t really care for the movie. Too sappy, among other things.

² A light year is a unit of distance designed to simplify astronomical distances. Light travels about six trillion miles in a year. This means the Andromeda Galaxy’s about 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away from earth. Our closest celestial neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is about 4.3 light years from earth, or 25.8 trillion miles away.

³ It’s funny how bent out of shape people get when asked if they believe in UFO’s. The acronym stands for Unidentified Flying Object.

UFO(1)