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Posts Tagged ‘Richard’s Two Shekels’

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.

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Do you serve God or a god?

January 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Years ago, a college friend told me that he no longer believed the New Testament was God’s Word. Too many changes over the centuries, most of them for political reasons.

Oh, brother, I thought. Using that logic, how can we really know Plato really wrote what’s attributed to him, or that Hammurabi really created those sets of laws, or Percy Bysshe Shelley didn’t plagiarize someone else’s work?

Is your faith in men, or is it in God?

This was a friend who led a prayer group at college, was studying for the ministry, and seemed to truly love the Lord. He served God then, and now, I’m afraid, he serves god.

Sometimes life beats us up and we react accordingly. Some are resilient and bounce back, some aren’t. Others simply were never really strong in their faith and easily get choked by the thorns.

This friend reminds me of what God asked Moses in Genesis 18:14 in one of the world’s great rhetorical questions: “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”

In Matthew 23:35, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Either God lied or He didn’t. Either He preserved His Word or He didn’t.

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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?”

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No Biblical basis for CCM?

January 2, 2018 Leave a comment

A Baptist minister told me a month or so ago he found “no Biblical basis” for Contemporary Christian Music. I’m not completely sure what he meant. Did he mean nothing in the Bible justifies it, or that CCM is incapable of communicating Biblical truths?

point of grace

Point of Grace, a group I love listening to.

Thirty years ago, I would’ve agreed with him. But as you grow and learn and mature, things tend to change. Many traditional Gospel songs are set to the tune of Irish and English drinking songs. Fanny Crosby, who wrote many Gospel songs adored by the Independent Fundamental Baptists (the Baptist equivalent of the Amish, I like to muse as an ex-IFBer), was considered wordly in her day. One pastor said a few years ago, “Today’s contemporary music is tomorrow’s traditional.”

I also thought about the many CCM artists who’ve blessed me with their music over the years: Point of Grace, Amy Grant, Watermark, Crystal Lewis, Newsboys, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James and, believe it or not, Petra. My middle son loves Creed.

Years ago at a sheltered Christian college, I worked a summer with a guy named Ray. We teased each other because of our different accents (I grew up in South Texas, and he was from Maine and seldom pronounced his final “r’s”). To me, without glasses, he was a dead ringer for actor Judge Reinhold. We debated music a lot. I told him then I thought Petra was too worldly.

“Man, don’t be knockin’ Petra,” Ray said. “I got saved at a Petra concert.”

I thought about that for a long time, the way you do a first-hand observation that comes in and challenges an opinion you’ve formed in concrete.

Ray left that particular college due to the strict rules. I located him through Facebook a few years ago. Today, Ray is a musician serving the Lord and still going strong as a Christian. I can think of more than a few Christians from then who strictly adhered to tradition–and today, are no longer serving God.

I’ve even grown to like Petra, particularly their versions of “Grave Robber” (a song about 1 Corinthians 15) and “Not of This World.”

Richard Zowie likes all kind of music–except gangsta rap. His current guilty pleasure is KISS. Post comments here or email them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

God prefers perfection over deep pockets

I remember in the first few years of the new millennium, working at a Christian radio station, listening to the commercials and talk shows. One of the popular topics of discussion was a book called “The Prayer of Jabez.”

I’ve never read the book, partly because I have a Jovian backlog of books that I want to read. This includes books I own, along with books that I sometimes check out at the library but can’t get around to reading. However, the synopsis seems like this: In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez asks God to bless him, and God chooses to do so. Just like that, God will bless us if we only ask. Today, it’s a message similar to what Joel Osteen preaches.

One of the most wonderful Christians I know is a man who prays regularly, attends church regularly, reads the Bible and knows a great deal of Hebrew and Greek. This friend a few years ago also filed for bankruptcy and lost his house to foreclosure.

My friend says: “God’s not as interested in giving us stuff as He is in perfecting us.”

The idea, I suspect, is that we’ll enter into heaven with less spiritual growing to do. And as for being wealthy, how easy is it for even a wealthy Christian to place their faith in their bank account?

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‘Trust me,’ God told Job

March 22, 2017 Leave a comment

An acquaintance recently asked me, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Others will ask, “If God does exist, why is there so much suffering?”

If you’d asked me 20 years ago, my response would’ve been a series of “Uhs” and “Ums.” Thinking quickly on the spot was never my strong suit. Come to think of it now, it’s still not.

Ok, let’s try:

“Richard, why is there so much suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?”

The collective questions won’t have a definitive answer in this lifetime. Finite minds can never understand an infinite mind.

But there is a definitive answer that should last us until we are cap.able to understanding God better in eternity.

Job 38-42.

Reading these five chapters, you’ll find God’s response to Job, who suffered financial loss and personal illness. This happened when God pointed Job out to Satan and explained he was a righteous guy, and that his loyalty to God had nothing to do with personal prosperity.

Satan gave Job everything he had, and Job spent much time in misery wondering “Why?” while his friends gave him mostly-bad advice.

And in those chapters, God speaks to Job and says, “You’re not God. I am. You can’t do any of the things I can do, and you can’t handle any of it. I can because I’m God. And because I am God, I know exactly what I’m doing. I have this. Trust me now, and later, when the time is right, you’ll understand.”

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Death, Be Not Proud…

March 15, 2017 Leave a comment

I took a recent vacation home to spend time with my elderly parents and my sisters. On personal time, I visited a few cemeteries where friends and high school classmates are buried. Most of these friends died far too soon. One didn’t expect to live a long life. Another friend, a girl I had a high school crush on, was murdered at work. She was a victim of circumstance.

For privacy concerns, I won’t post pictures I took. I will say that when I visit the grave of someone I knew for the first time, I like to leave a memento as a sign of respect. For one former bus driver, a toy bus. For a classmate who loved baseball, a baseball. For my freshman year crush, since she was born in Georgia, a plastic white flower in close resemblance to Georgia’s state flower, the Cherokee Rose.

As I stared in sad silence, I was reminded of John Donne’s sonnet, Death, Be Not Proud.

As I think of the poem, it’s hard to read it without getting emotional. It’s a reminder that for us Christians, death is but temporary. Its power is borrowed and will soon have to be given back. Some day, the bodies of believers will be resurrected eternally.

At Pensacola Christian College, I had a speech class. My first-semester teacher was Heidi Nadolny, and one of the female students recited the poem. The young lady chose a terse, almost condescending tone, which I think works. As we remember deceased loved ones, particularly those who died too soon, we are to remind death that its advantage is temporary and that the respect we have for it should be limited. We should also remind it that God alone is omnipotent.

Yes, death, someday you will indeed die. Even worse, you will be forgotten.

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