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How can some churches be so gullible?

March 14, 2020 Leave a comment

A friend wrote about the anniversary of her father’s passing. “Monica” described him as a man who was a great baker, brilliant salesman, never met a stranger. Everyone at church loved and respected him. He’d often take a big Bible with him to services.

However, her father was a different man at home. He was abusive and had anger issues.

The day finally came when Monica’s mother separated from the father and was planning to file for divorce. He disappeared, and his body soon was discovered in a bay in northern Washington State. 

Her mother received no support from the church over the separation. They felt she should stay married to her husband, no matter what. After all, who in their right mind could possibly want to leave such a popular man?

In my experience, those with dark sides tend to be extraordinary actors.

Monica observed, “This spiritual abuse and horrible advice is so very common even today.”

Here’s why: Monica has another friend who’s married to an abusive husband. The friend’s pastor tells her divorce is wrong and she needs to stay married to her husband, regardless.

You know what’s so ironic? The pastor is the wife’s father.

Normally, parents can see right through our partners and can tell us who’s a good fit and who’s not. 

If you’re reading this, it’s this simple: whether you’re a man or woman, if you’re in an abusive marriage that seems like it’s the same cycle after another, I have two words: Get Out.

If you’ve had enough of an abusive partner and your church tells you that you’re sinning by getting a divorce, get out. It’s a cult.

If you’re in an abusive relationship and need help, go to the Choose Courage Foundation.

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

Pro-Life on paper only?

February 10, 2020 Leave a comment

Just a reminder to Christians who like to get politically involved.

Being pro-life is far more than just posting memes on Facebook or holding “Abortion Kills Children” signs at rallies or clinics.

However…

If you see a single mother, help her out. Get to know her enough to where you can watch her kids and give her a few hours to herself. If you have extra clothes, give them to her. Give her a grocery gift card. Be a listening ear. Donate diapers and other supplies to ministries that reach out to single mothers.

This is the type of “works” James talked about. Christianity in action.

Making single mothers feel like outcasts is what fuels the pro-abortion side.

Yes, there’s personal responsibility, but do your part and show compassion. Remember that Jesus spent much of his time with people whom polite society considered outcasts.

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

Procter & Gamble and urban legends

October 1, 2019 Leave a comment

procter-and-gamble-logo

Proctor and Gamble’s logos…

As I get older, I often think of urban legends and how often even Christians are fooled.

This first example isn’t one of those, but it makes me chuckle.

Recess time in sixth grade at Maddera-Flournoy Elementary School in Beeville, Texas, in 1985 was a great place where all kinds of crazy urban legends were cultivated. Except, in our days of innocence, we didn’t know they were fake, what the term “urban legend” meant, or even what the term “innocence” meant. If asked, I’d say “innocence” is what a person pleaded when they didn’t commit a crime.

In the group I hung out with, one kid came up to us with this crazy story. All the “family” members of Texas Chainsaw Massacre were captured, tried, convicted, and executed. Executioners lined them up and then fired M-60 machine guns at them, killing them all.

“And when the grandpa’s head spun away after it was shot off the body, he kept mouthing the words, “Revenge…REVENGE!!!” the kid said.

Of course, it was all fake. Dad had told me that TCM occurred somewhere near Poth, Texas, but I later learned he was joking. The movie actually was filmed outside of Austin and the story itself based not on a group of Texas cannibals who liked to barbecue the innocent, but loosely on Wisconsin murderer/body snatcher Ed Gein. He never was executed for his crimes: Gein died in 1984 after having been declared mentally insane and ordered placed in a mental hospital.

And then, sometime around high school, another the second example. This one riled many Christians.

“Don’t buy Procter and Gamble products!” someone said. “I heard the president of Proctor and Gamble was on The Phil Donahue Show. He confirmed that he’s a Satanist and that 10 percent of his profits go to the Satanist church.”

Some of us even saw the bearded, starred, sinister-looking P&G logo and it confirmed for us the rumor.

Of course, the rumor took on a life of its own. Before long, the P&G president was on the Donahue show wearing all black, along with goth lipstick, black fingernails and black hair, and placing a curse on any professing Christians as he said, “Yesssss…I AM a Satanisssst…25 percent of my earnings to my masssster, Sssssatan himself! Hail Satan!!!”

Churches soon started boycotting P&G with some even placing on the bulletin board a list of P&G products. Some wondered, after the boycott, what would they have in the way of cleaning and laundry products?

And then, reality hit.

P&G, which later changed its logo, denied any connections to Satanism. Phil Donahue released a statement saying nobody from P&G had ever been on his show and even listed what had been on his show on the day suggested.

Through my own research I later learned that while it has different branches with varying beliefs, overall Satanism is actually an atheistic faith. Some on this planet do worship Satan. However, Satanists (according to the FAQ on their official website) don’t believe in Satan, nor do they believe in God or in an afterlife. If there’s a deity they do believe in, it’s themselves.

As a Christian, I do believe in God and in the existence of Satan. I often think Satan laughs himself silly over how incredibly gullible humans can be, particularly Christians. The rumor, according to old news stories, apparently started out of products distributor Amway, ostensibly out of an effort to weaken P&G’s brand name so it could complete against the Cincinnati-based conglomerate. P&G even sued four Amway distributors and won a settlement. Apparently when Proctor and Gamble heard of churches showing lists of the company’s products to boycott as to avoid rendering unto Satan what belongs to Satan, they decided it was enough.

If only Christians would do as much research as they are commanded to diligently search out truth in the Scriptures.

The 2020 presidential election will soon be upon us. As an independent conservative, I know whom I’m voting for. However, I’ve seen new rumors on the internet. One states that—gasp!—Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s real surname is Herring and not Warren. It also says that fellow candidate Pete Buttgieg’s real surname is Montgomery.

Just a little research shows that Warren’s maiden name is Herring and the maiden name of Buttgieg’s mother is Montgomery. Nothing to see here, folks.

If you’re going to be passionate about a viewpoint, make sure it’s factually correct.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian for almost 38 years. He’s not as dumb or naïve as he used to be, but he feels he still has much to learn. Post comments here or email them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com

Free from the law

August 20, 2019 Leave a comment

Despite more than 30 years as a Christian, I could never quite process that and understand exactly what it meant. Finally, thinks clicked, thanks in part to a long-time mentor.

The Bible gives many types of laws: Noahic Law (you can now eat meat, capital punishment is in order), Mosaic Law (ceremonial for sacrifices, dietary for what Israelites could and couldn’t eat, moral for things they were prohibited to do, various laws, some of which are still applicable today). The different prophets also gave laws.

Jesus came and discussed the law in a new light. Paul talked about how Jesus’ sacrifice freed us from the law.

The purpose of the law, I finally realized, is to show that we can never measure up to God’s standards of holiness. And because of that, we’re sinners.

By becoming Christians, we are no longer bound to the law. However, there are laws we obey because we love God and want to serve Him and become closer to Him.

If there’s one law to obey, it’s Matthew 22:35–40. Jesus said we were to love God with all our heart, might, mind. We were then to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus then said all other laws and the prophets hinge on this commandment.

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

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

 

Christians and taxes

December 4, 2016 Leave a comment

Today, I had a phone conversation with one of my favorite people in the world. I won’t publicly identify him, but I will say this: Christianity needs far more believers like this man. I also won’t go into details about our chat, but I will say this: one of the topics of discussion was Christians and taxes. It brought to mind people I’ve heard of who’ve gone to prison because they’ve conscientiously decided not to give Uncle Sam his due.

As always, we’re left to wonder: WWJD?

As far as I can tell, Jesus mentioned taxes twice. In Matthew 17, the Jewish authorities asked if Jesus and His followers paid the “temple tax.” Jesus seemed to think this was actually unnecessary. However, to avoid offense, he had Peter pay it anyway using money from the mouth of a freshly-caught fish.

Then in Matthew 22, the Jewish authorities (who hated paying taxes to Rome), hoped to catch Jesus in a contradiction by asking him if tribute should be paid to Rome. The idea was if Jesus said not to pay taxes, word would get out and the Romans would possibly arrest him for advocating anarchy or not paying one’s fair shekel.* If Jesus said taxes should be paid, it would undoubtedly anger many of the Jews and possibly even those who liked Jesus.

Jesus, knowing that, asked to be shown a coin. After being told it was Caesar’s image on the coin, He said: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

I take these examples to mean simply this: while there might be some exceptions, pay your taxes. Unless you want the IRS to be able to travel to your house of place of business from memory, don’t protest by not paying.

* Yes, pun intended.

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

Jesus Christ, savior, practical joker

March 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I am very convinced that, on a few occasions, the disciples yelled, “Jesus!”

No, not to take His name in vain, and not to call out to him when in a storm, in quicksand or because they were trying to get his attention. Instead, here are two examples:

Peter, at a wedding, takes a drink of wine–only to discover that it’s turned back into water.

Matthew, when looking for a lamb to slaughter for a meal for Jesus and the 12, stares in shock as the lamb says in perfect Aramaic: “PLEASE don’t eat me. I taste BAAAAAAAD!”

In both cases, the reaction was likely: “Jesus! Would you PLEASE stop doing that?!”

In both cases, I imagine our Lord doubled over, laughing.

Jesus probably also told His fair share of jokes. (“So the Rabbi tells the rest of the Sanhedrin, ‘That was no Samaritan woman! That was my WIFE!'”)

I see it this way: Jesus had a very busy schedule. There were no planes or cars, so He walked most places–save for riding on donkeys or other animals. He probably got very little sleep and had days where he had to: teach, teach and re-teach the disciples; deal with the Pharisees and other religious leaders who refused to see the obvious about Him; heal the sick, provide food for those needed; screen potential disciples; comfort the heartbroken, and on, and on, and on.

What better way to boost morale among His disciples and relieve stress by having a sense of humor?

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

How should you read the Bible?

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I can describe “how” in two words:

In context.

Those on the right who quote passages in Leviticus to condemn homosexuality should also be aware of passages that describe what we’d consider odd, inexplicable Mosaic laws dealing with slavery, sex and what animals were fit and unfit for food (if you love bacon, guess what–it would’ve been considered unclean).

Those on the left who quote passages in Acts to justify socialism or communism should also be aware of what the Bible says about not eating if you haven’t worked or those who take for themselves what others have earned.

I do believe the Bible is God’s Perfect Word, but I also believe that some rules God gave at various times were exclusively meant for those times and those particular circumstances.

For now, as I read, I consider the audience, the customs of the times and whether the command qualifies as an absolute from God or something He chose for that time.

Richard Zowie lives in the Texas Hill Country and is a reporter for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. The views expressed in this blog posting do not necessarily represent those of the Standard newspaper staff, editor or publisher. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Honey vs. Vinegar

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

“You can get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Anyone know who said this? Drop me a line at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. I’m curious.

I don’t know if this is a scientifically-accurate statement, but here’s what it’s trying to say: you can get a lot more friends and influence a lot more people by being polite than by being rude.

I am reminded of this verse from Proverbs 18:19: “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

A Christian friend who is suffering a lot right now told me of teaching once at a Christian school and how one person at the church tore into her on a problem instead of sitting with her, asking and listening. It wounded her greatly.

I also think of one Christian employer I had who could quote lots of scripture and was well-loved by people at the church. He also is the most rude, condescending person I’ve ever met in my entire life. And considering all the atheists, agnostics, wiccans, hedonists, and other alternate lifestyle types I’ve know, that is indeed beyond sad. Beyond pathetic. It is inexcusable. He was a man who apparently saw no need to be nice because he knew everything. I prefer humility, myself.

Many other Christians out there are hurting because too many “wise” older Christians have chosen vinegar instead of honey. It’s one thing to practice righteous indignation when needed, but it’s another thing to be unnecessarily rude or angry.

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

Ever try to imagine eternity?

March 10, 2013 1 comment

Ever try to imagine eternity?

As a young boy, I tried and it was pretty scary.

For some odd reason, I would imagine New Jerusalem as a spinning carousel that would float higher and further away, never ending. It kept doing so long after it seemed like time had run out.

Even as an adult, I will try to imagine eternity. The results are not quite as staggering, but it’s still a lot like trying to imagine Calculus when your mathematical understanding ends at simple addition and subtraction.

I think the simplest way to understand it is that our minds are not fully equipped to understand the wonders of heaven or the everlasting endlessness of eternity.

And, believe it or not, neither can Chuck Norris.

Richard Zowie has never counted to infinity, and he’s pretty sure Chuck Norris hasn’t either (although Richard is a HUGE fan of both Norris and Chuck Norris Facts). Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 1 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Some may read this blog title and wonder, “Is Richard still a Christian?”.

Yes, of course I am.

Others might wonder, “Is Richard backslidden?”

Frankly, I feel more alive as a Christian now than I ever have been.

While I don’t believe God programs certain people to accept Him and others to reject Him, I also do not believe salvation can be lost once attained. And, I also don’t believe that only specific denominations are true believers.

I still consider myself a Baptist, meaning that I believe baptism should take place after a person has reached the age of accountability and has received Christ, and I believe a person should study the Word of God and live a responsible, temperate life. However, I no longer consider myself an Independent, Fundamental Baptist (From here on out, we will abbreviate it as IFB).

Let me start with my background.

I became a Christian when I was eight. After my oldest sister left Mormonism (my parents did not regularly attend church), we attended an IFB church in Alvin, Texas, a town about 20 miles southeast of Houston. Then, we moved to Beeville in South Texas and after about two years attending what I’d consider a Southern Baptist Church, we again attended an IFB church.

In those days, the rules were: short hair for boys, no earrings or necklaces. Clean cut. One Baptist minister, whom I will not name, preached a revival service and announced: “Any man who wears an earring probably wears lace on his underwear!”

For women, they were to guard their modesty and wear dresses, skirts or culottes. No pants, not even Capri pants. Many wore no makeup; some men referred to cosmetics as “fake-up” and “mass-scary”. Hair had to be long or, if cut short, lady-like and easily distinguishable from men.

In the home, the husband was the ruler, although he was gently encouraged to cherish his wife. Many men took this to mean they were the boss, the absolute ruler of their home. This, not surprising, led to many having children living secret lives of rebellion as they grew restless having to share their parents’ IFB convictions that they themselves did not share.

In general: no movies (you might be going to the movies to watch the G-rated movie, but how do others know you’re not there to watch the R-rated one instead? Hmmm?). A strong discouragement of television, no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs, no rock music, no country music, no music with a beat. No contemporary Christian music: no Steve Green, no Steven Curtis Chapman, no Amy Grant, no Carman and no Michael W. Smith (One famous IFB preacher referred to Smith as “Michael W. Smut”). I imagine some even disliked Rich Mullins because he grew his hair long. A David Benoit-style sermon on rock music was sure to include a story about how the beat of rock music was similar to the drum beat used by primitive African tribes to conjure demons.

Dancing? Forget it. Not even ballroom dancing.

Some would add: No fun, no kidding!

And when it came to the Bible, King James Bible only. Not King James Version, since the term version implies there are other acceptable Bibles to read in the English language. There was no room for the New King James Version or the New International Perversion. One friend at college grew up in Germany and often carried with him a German Bible on campus; there very possibly may have been some who murmured, “How come he doesn’t use a King James?!”

And, speaking of college, I attended Pensacola Christian College. To say there were strict rules at PCC is like saying Baptists love potluck meals. After college, I served four years in the Army. Initially, that was a culture shock for me since I went from sheltered church and sheltered college to the military. Lots of my fellow soldiers, drank, smoke, had tattoos and body piercings. Some didn’t believe in God, some had ideas of God that must’ve originated from a marijuana-induced haze while others couldn’t have cared less.

After the military, I attended an IFB church in Texas that wasn’t as strict (the pastor’s wife wore slacks at times), but the pastor still took time to warn us to not listen to music of the style of Madonna, AC/DC or Hootie and the Blowfish.

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

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 2 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

That being said about my background, I offer this observation: the purpose of IFB, what many might call an ultra-bland, neo-puritanical lifestyle, is to eliminate all sinful elements that would deprive you of being a godly Christian, having an intimate understanding of the Scriptures and having an intimate relationship with God. Sadly, it has turned out to be more about control. If control runs amok without accountability, it results in a cult.

Also, while we were encouraged to study the Bible and ask questions, ultimately it was up to your pastor and church leaders to decide for you what is acceptable and what is sinful. One couple who taught Sunday school resigned from a church I attended rather than sign an agreement stipulating what they could and could not do in their private lives. Others choose to follow without question, even if their church leaders or pastor have no formal Bible training and show it by mispronouncing words in the Bible or showing a consistent inability to understand Bible contexts.

Often I’d see things that, now, leave me speechless. Once during a revival, there was a minister who, as he warmed up early his sermon, took off his suit jacket, removed his tie and preached in his white, short-sleeved dress shirt. The sermon was about continuing in the faith, and somehow, the subject shifted to how women dress.

LADIES,” he thundered in a gravelly voice that reminded me of a used car salesman yelling out all his special deals during a 30-second television commercial, “Deuteronomy 22:5 still means the same thing today that it meant thousands of years ago!”

Any IFB woman knows what this verse says: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (King James Version)

The verse is interpreted to mean women should not wear pants; ostensibly, men should also not be cross-dressers or transvestites. The fact that Deuteronomy 22 has lots of other verses the same Baptists probably don’t heed, and that fact that many Christians and non-believers alike probably don’t realize that Mosaic Law consists of an intricate network of dietary, moral and ceremonial laws are blog postings for another time.

That being said, I recall a few years ago taking pictures of a church carnival. A woman wearing modest culottes rode down an inflatable slide. And, for about three seconds, her culottes rode up, showing off her thighs and underwear. I did not get a picture of that and if I had, I would have deleted it. I was too busy marveling that a woman riding down the slide in jeans or capris could have been more modest than the woman wearing “women’s attire”.

One very wonderful female Christian friend I know tells me she hates culottes.

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

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 3 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Over the years, as I’ve grown, matured, made mistakes and have stumbled here and there, and have come to one conclusion: while there are wonderful, godly people in IFB circles, I find many of the rules to be personal preferences that have magically evolved into Biblical convictions rather than being true, Bible-established convictions. I also see a culture where it’s far too easy to let others think for you instead of growing in your faith, developing a close relationship with God and allowing God to work in your life.

Christianity should not be primarily about following a set of rules. It should be about learning to develop a closer relationship with God and then, as that relationship matures, you see right and wrong from God’s perspective and better understand how to read, interpret and explain Scripture. In this imperfect world of imperfect churches and imperfect Christians, the rules often tend to be manmade. Granted, there are absolutes and clear Biblical teachings on various subjects, but there are also areas God chooses to be silent about. I suspect those are the minor issues left up to us to decide for ourselves.

When I first moved to Michigan, my family and I temporarily attended a non-denominational Bible church while intending to find a strict Baptist church. We found we liked the Bible church and stayed there. Lots of wonderful people there. Some guys in the youth group wore earrings while many of the women wore jeans on Wednesday nights and slacks on Sunday morning (especially if it was winter).

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

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 4 of 4

February 14, 2013 1 comment

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 4 of 4

I don’t see God as a Supreme Being who wants robots to follow Him. We are created in His image, but we are all unique. Each of us has our own DNA (except, of course, for identical twins). We have our own personalities and eccentric ways. Myself, I love ducks, love to cook and eat gourmet food, love to get myself in an energetic mood by listening very loudly to Van Halen, and I love to wear a necklace that represents something about me and my background. I also have an off-beat sense of humor that I make no apologies for. Some might think of me as far too exuberant. I approach life the way I cook: I like food with different ingredients and with spices (this morning, I made scrambled eggs with onions and arugula and loved it). I like to explore and be different. While I don’t drink, I don’t make an issue of others doing so as long as they are responsible.

I currently attend a Regular Baptist Church (equivalent to a Southern Baptist Church or a Bible church) with my sons. The church’s youth pastor looks to be working on a beard, and he had that facial hair while recently preaching. Lots of women wear pants, and lots of men dress casually, even on Sundays. And the Word of God is preached, and there is a friendliness I have seldom seen in other churches!

In my DVD collection are PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies. My favorite movie is the R-rated Heat, where Robert De Niro plays a career criminal who, in a different lifetime, would’ve easily been best friends with the police officer (played by Al Pacino) who’s trying to arrest him. I like contemporary Christian music but also like secular. I very rarely drink but someday out of curiosity might try a tequila sunrise. I also own an empty, skull-shaped vodka bottle, not because I like vodka (I don’t), but because I love to collect unusually-shaped bottles. Someday I’ll add to the collection an 1800 Tequila bottle since I like its very-geometric shape. I’ll also collect a maple syrup bottle that’s shaped like a maple leaf.

My Bible reading? I own four Bibles: a King James, a New King James, an English Standard Version and a New American Standard. I use the ESV and NAS primarily as reference materials and, frankly, do not like the way the NAS reads. Primarily, I read from the New King James. My two youngest sons read from the New King James and from the Holman Study Bible. They were late bloomers in reading, so I prefer to encourage their reading by giving them a Bible in a contemporary language.

I am hoping to move back to Texas this summer. Sorry, but I will not be attending an IFB church. Any church I attend will either be Southern Baptist or a Bible church. Those are the speeds of Christianity I prefer these days and I feel those are the ones where I will grow the best in my walk with the Lord.

What should you do? Seek the Lord, abide in His Word and go where He leads. Maybe you will attend an IFB church, maybe not. All I know is this: one size does not fit all in Christianity.

Richard Zowie currently attends First Baptist Church in Vassar, Michigan. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Quality versus quantity

December 6, 2012 Leave a comment

In my life, I’ve known several Christians who died long before they reached a ripe old age. Terry was in his early to mid 30s, and left behind a wife and young daughter. April was in her mid to late 40s and left behind a husband and teenage sons. Then there was the close friend whose brother-in-law–a missionary–was killed after being struck by a drunk driver.

We also remember that William Borden, who forsook his claim to the Borden Dairy empire to become a missionary to Muslim Chinese, died at 25. And in the Bible, Enoch was called to heaven at a relatively young age. Jesus was crucified and resurrected at around 33. I remember at one time in Scripture He told His disciples he still had much more to teach them, but they weren’t able to receive it yet.

The natural thing to wonder is: why would God allow all of these to have such short lives? Couldn’t they have done even more for Christianity if they’d lived longer?

I don’t even pretend to know the answer, but I do feel it boils down to this: quality versus quantity.

Some people live into their nineties but do absolutely nothing for the Lord while some who die young left behind a legacy of ministering, encouraging, praying, teaching, giving.

For me, it’s a reminder that the time to serve the Lord is NOW.

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

Understanding God’s Will as Mrs. Robinson says goodbye

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I began my freshman year at Pensacola Christian College in the Fall 1991 semester. For Speech Lecture class on Friday mornings, Mrs. Robinson would often speak. She was clear and concise and very likeable. I enjoyed hearing her speak. Once, she spoke affectionately about her husband’s adorable habit of hanging a shaving razor from the toothbrush holder in the bathroom. The way she paused, I could tell she adored him. I had also worked with her husband that summer and knew he adored his wife as well.

That year, she was in a play called Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. I forget the character she played, but I do remember at one point she spoke in a flawless French accent.

My second semester for Speech 102, I tried to get one of her classes but, unfortunately, the only time she was available was either when I had other classes or when I had to work. I did get to meet her, for the first and only time, to review a monologue I had to do for class. She was extremely helpful.

Mrs. Robinson and her husband were people I never got to know closely, but I found them very fascinating. I friended her husband on Facebook and then read his posts about what they were doing. Most recently, they were trying to get a coffee shop going and had plans to use it in some sort of ministerial capacity.

And then, tragedy struck as Mrs. Robinson got cancer.

I read the updates, prayed and hoped things would improve. Finally, earlier today, her husband posted that she lost her battle.

My initial thought was, Dear God, why is Mrs. Robinson deceased but a certain retired hedonistic NBA basketball star still alive?

One friend, Stephanie, made an excellent observation: “Look at the life she lived.”

You know, quality versus quantity.

Mrs. Robinson was well-liked, well-loved, well-respected, by all accounts a very kind person who went out of her way to help others.

In other words, the type of Christian I fail at being on a daily basis.

I wish I knew what to say to her husband and their two sons, but I don’t. There are personal tragedies and pains God allows to happen that we simply won’t understand this side of eternity.

One thing I firmly believe is that God’s Will for mankind is a vast montage, a myriad of information. If placed in written form, it could easy fill our galaxy, maybe even the universe. It consists of countless trillions of pieces. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get to see two or three pieces in our lifetime.

After 31 years as a Christian, the only thing I know about God’s movements through man is that it is twofold: 1) Allow mankind maximum opportunities to receive Christ and enter heaven and 2) Allow mankind maximum opportunites to not only grow as Christians, but to encourage and edify others.

No, I don’t know why God allowed Mrs. Robinson to die at such a relatively young age. I also don’t know why He allowed a college friend, Terry, to die from cancer in his late twenties and leave behind a wife and young daughter. All I know is He is in control and that there is a reason.

And until I get to heaven, that is all I will know.

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

Listening to your instincts

November 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep in today? I thought as I lay in bed, thinking of how nice it would be to get more sleep. I’d slept about eight hours and enjoyed catching up on sleep. Recently, I’d been working two jobs, taking care of my sons and rehearsing for a play. I averaged about five hours of sleep a day. I seldom took naps just because there was too much to do.

But then an instinct gently reminded me that I needed to take advantage of a Sunday morning off (I work today from 2:30-11 p.m. at the gas station) and that I’d regret not getting my boys into church. So, I got up and asked them how they were doing. Fine, they said.

We live only about a mile from church, so getting there isn’t the problem. If my car isn’t working, big deal: we can always walk.

So, we went and I heard great, encouraging messages in both Sunday School and in church. I wrote down Bible verses on encouragement, spiritual intimacy with God and comfort from God. I also signed my sons and I up for the church’s Thanksgiving dinner (we’re taking mashed potatoes and gravy). My sons had a good time.

None of that would’ve happened if I’d allowed the devil to have his way.

You know exactly what I’m talking about.

When the devil tickles our ears, it’s that warm instinct that encourages you to sleep more, or tells you that you’re too poor to tithe. For the lost, it’s that instinct that tells them the salvation message is a simple solution for a complex problem, that there are countless religions, how could Christianity be the true one, or that there’s always next Sunday to make a decision.

Next Sunday, of course, never comes as lifelong procrastination sets in.

Today I also reminded myself the importance of daily Bible reading and will work on reading the Minor Prophets until the end of the year and then take another try in 2013 at reading The Word chronologically.

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

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

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When God tries to get your attention

A few Sundays ago, I was woken up at 8 a.m. by a text message. That morning, due to not having done laundry and being too tired from working a lot, I was planning to not take my sons to church. Again.

The text was from a Christian friend, a lady who’s in her mid-twenties but conducts herself like she’s in her mid-forties. Very precocious spiritually and socially. She told me she felt the Lord leading her to contact me to see how I was doing.

We texted back and forth and I told her about my frustration of being out of church due to being very tired all the time. She politely suggested to me that my responsibility was to raise my sons up to be in church.

Wow.

We did not make it to church that morning since the boys had no clean church clothes, but I sat there and thought about this friend. It really was if God was using her to talk to me. And to get my attention.

Last weekend, while work kept me from church, I arranged my sons to get a ride to church. Both said they had a good time.

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Do cliques exist among Christians? Yep

April 26, 2012 3 comments

For those reading this who don’t know me, here’s a quick description of who I am: a quirky writer who sees the world differently. I’m clumsy. Convention often bores me, and for some my sense of humor is far too esoteric. I am lousy with my hands, don’t smoke, don’t drink or don’t do typical “guy” things.

I became a Christian in 1981 at eight, but over the years still struggled to find acceptance. I wore clothes that weren’t stylish. I didn’t wear my hair in stylish ways. I was still discovering myself and often told non-sequitur jokes or made non-sequitur comments. I had strange obsessions (ducks, pens, certain movies, baseball). I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m actually a mixture of both ADHD and Aspergers. Attending Baptist churches in my teen years, I always felt there were some people who didn’t accept me because I didn’t behave in patterns they were accustomed to.

After attending a public high school and often feeling out of place outside my close circle of friends (Bob, Lorin, Joe, Valkena and Sean, to name a few), I shifted gears and attended a Christian college. Even at Pensacola Christian College, while I made many wonderful friends, I also felt a strong sense that some there did not accept me or even try to, simply because I’m different. 

Years after PCC, as I began to understand more of who I am and why I say and do the things I say and do, I decided to re-connect with lots of former PCC classmates at a website that was a chat board. Everything was open for discussion. And some of the biggest things open for discussion were how bad the administration had been, how many backstabbers there were and how wrong the college had been in its rules, doctrines and theology.

And after a few years of being on the board, it became apparent to me that I would always be an outsider due to my different sense of humor, my perspectives. Some were kind, many were very antagonistic. I left, concluding that in their overall rudeness and condescension, they were no different than the elite, “evil” administration they condemned.

And so was the case in other Christian circles. My soon-to-be ex-wife a few years ago told me my sense of humor caused some at our church bewilderment and wondered how she put up with it all the time. Well, if they’d bothered to get to know me or ask, they would’ve learned humor is my stress reliever. And at the time, I had a lot of stress in my life. They didn’t ask, because, well, men aren’t supposed to be high-strung or exhuberant. They are supposed to be assertive, be able to fix things, go hunting, and so on.

During my separation, I did something I’ve always wanted to do and got involved in a local theater. Currently, I am a member of the Clio Cast & Crew and for the past month or so have been rehearsing for a part in the play A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

And for this amount of time, I have had the time of my life as I’ve been surrounded by wonderful people who seem to accept me for who I am. Some are Christians, some probably are not, but what I enjoy is that I feel far more at ease among my fellow castmates and director and assitant director than I do among many conservative Christians.

And, yes, many of the above lean more towards the left politically while I remain an independent conservative.

It’s amazing to me just how easy it has seemed for me so far to gain acceptance in this group despite my issues, and how frustrating it is that I could go into the average church and probably be labeled different almost immediately. It’s almost like among thespians, diversity is not only accepted, it’s celebrated.

I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising: one song says that if Jesus showed up in the average church today, some parishioners would gripe that His bloody foot prints were staining the carpets. As my friend Lisa pointed out, others would gripe that Jesus’ disciples reeked of fish.

I take comfort knowing from the Bible that God often worked with the outcasts. Abraham had trust issues. Moses hated public speaking and probably stuttered. Jacob was a con man. David was the youngest son who probably wasn’t taken seriously by his older brothers, and later he would become an adulterer and murderer. Jesus’ ancestral bloodline contained incest, prostitution, murder, ungodliness. Paul had anger issues while Peter was very impulsive. And yet, God loved them and worked with them all. What is important to God is that we desire to follow and serve Him and make Him first in our lives.

The Bible gives us a set of clear rules to live by, and while these rules are important, sometimes the lines blur and subjective views of conformity magically turn into Biblical convictions, God wants a relationship with us, and as we get to know Him, we start to see things from His perspective.

And one thing I believe is God loves us despite all our quirks and flaws.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian for 30 years and is still learning. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.