Paul, An Amazing Faith!!

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This weekend, while flying home from Maryland, I watched the movie: Paul, Apostle of Christ. I had just come from visiting my mother in the hospital and was also thinking about a childhood friend who was just diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The drive to the airport was filled with both anxiety from running late and reflection on the fragile nature of life. In that drive I realized that while I pray daily for the wisdom to view life from a heavenly perspective, the truth is, I fear death. I also worry about the uncertainties of life. Would I be able to handle illness or injury that resulted in paralysis, memory loss, or any kind of physical or mental impairment? From the movie I was in awe of how strong of a faith the early Christians had and the suffering they endured to live and protect their faith (the early church was called “The Way”). It’s amazing the faith survived! But they lived for the next life, not this one. For their faith, they endured much suffering.

The movie provides a vivid account of the persecution against Christians in the decades that followed Christ’s death. Equally, it demonstrates how loosely we must hold onto this life and set our sights on heaven

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

Christ’s teachings were difficult to grasp in Roman times as they we so different from conventional human thinking. As human beings, our survival instincts and self-centered nature run counter to the notion of Love above all. But maybe that’s the point. Our nature is tied to survival in an imperfect world. However, our intellect and conscious tell us that there must be something more, something that goes beyond this world. Christ confirmed this. And anyone who embarks on a serious study of Christ’s life, death, and post death activities can’t deny the deity of Christ. That is a topic for another blog, but if you doubt this, I would suggest a couple books that provide compelling research on this topic and good reading; The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel), More Than a Carpenter (Josh McDowell), Finding Jesus in the Old Testament (David Limbaugh), The Journey (Billy Graham).

If Christ is God, then his teachings are true and trust worthy. It is therefore true that God loves us, each of us, personally. Wow, that’s incredible by itself, but there is more! God wants to have a personal relationship with every one of us, in heaven. But how can he possibly allow sin into heaven? He can’t. But wait, the world is full of sin and we are each a sinner. We all need to be saved from our sins, we need a savior! We need a savior to take on the burden of our sins, and to teach us the ways of love and truth in a sinful world. This was the reason Christ came. By paying the price of our sin, Christ takes our sins away and makes us new, thus enabling us to gain entry into Heaven. But we must accept this gift of sacrifice and turn away from sin.

paul 2This is Paul’s message and is why he was willing to endure whatever this world threw at him. He understood this world is temporary and heaven is eternal. He went from being an instrument of evil to being an instrument of love. In this, he found peace and a glimpse of what waits for us beyond. I recommend watching Paul, Apostle of Christ. Think of yourself as Paul or as a Christian in Roman times. Come back to this post and let us know if the movie helped strengthen your faith and lessen any fear of death, as it has for me. Maybe you are already more confident in the afterlife than I am. I pray you are. And if you are, pray for me!

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Serving in Nicaragua

“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus used these words to teach the twelve about the importance of sNicaragua homeervice and humility. Christ later washed the feet of his apostles, truly demonstrating his lesson of service. This teaching was put into practice in November as a team of 22 volunteers , myself included, traveled to the Nicaraguan coastal town of Las Penitas. Their mission was to build homes for young families who were in need of a home but could not afford the cost. On Saturday, November 11, 2017 the team assembled at the airport in Managua, Nicaragua. As the team emerged from the airport, they got their first taste of the local weather. But the oppressive heat and humidity of a Nicaraguan summer did not diminish the enthusiasm of the team. Saturday evening provided time for fellowship as the team got to know each other and learn about the families they would serve. The team organizer shared the dream of one of the young fathers. His dream was to take the land that was passed to him from his father and build a house on it that he would someday pass down to his sons. Thanks to this group of volunteers that dream was about to become a reality. Continue reading “Serving in Nicaragua”

Lion

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“Let’s go see a movie tonight,” my wife suggested on Friday evening. “Sure,” I said, “what’s playing?” My wife loves going to the movies and I like to eat popcorn, so it’s the date that has something for each of us. She checked the listings on Fandango. She happily reported there were 3 good options, none of which I had heard of before. She rattled off the show times and review ratings. Ratings mean about as much to me as who is wearing what dress at the Oscars. It’s the opinion of some critic that lives in a faraway land and gains his worldview through Electronic media and magazines like Vanity Fair. So, I asked my wife, “which movie has the worst critic’s rating, I’d like to see that one.” Her preferred movie was starting soon, so she was ready to throw on her jacket and move quickly towards the theater.  As an alternative, I suggested “let’s have a relaxing dinner, then drive to the theater and go see whatever is up next.” Being the fantastic wife she is, she agreed.

An hour later, we were standing at the ticket window weighing our options. She stepped up to the ticket window and purchased two seats to see “Lion”. I figured it was either a cartoon with happy jungle songs about the circle of life or some action movie about Wall Street. Turns out it was neither. It was actually a very moving true story about a 5-year-old impoverished boy, Saroo, from India. Saroo gets lost from his family and, through a series of unfortunate events, ends up a thousand miles away wandering the streets of Calcutta. Through his eyes, we get a glimpse into the dangerous and hard life of a street child in Calcutta. Eventually, Saroo, ends up in an orphanage and then is adopted by a family in Australia. The movie chronicles his new life and eventual journey back to India to find the loving family he lost as a small child. It was a welcome surprise of a movie and well worth the $14 on tickets and $100 on popcorn.

In the days that followed, I could not shake the heartache I felt thinking about those street kids in Calcutta. The movie revealed kids who are ghosts to those around them, as people rush through the bustle of another day. They sleep in the subways and beg on the streets. These kids are brushed aside by a society without the means to support them. As a result, they often fall prey to the child predators who scoop them up and drag them into a world where no child of God belongs. The week following the movie, I began to notice the many radio commercials asking for financial assistance to feed hungry children around the globe, I heard sermons about serving others, and I read bible verses about taking care of the orphan.  As I processed all these inputs, I remembered that Jesus called us to a life of repentance and service, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve” (Mathew 20:28). In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirt, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mathew 5:3). I always wondered what it meant to be poor in boys-in-indiaspirit. After seeing the movie Lion and thinking about the poor, parentless, street children of the world, I began to feel poor in spirit. I felt the pain of precious souls in need while I freely sit in a theater and enjoy a bucket of buttered popcorn. I am aware of many charitable organizations that are doing their best to answer the need. Many of us donate to these organizations and I believe we are making a difference. But I also wonder if we, as the body of Christ, made a concerted effort, could we solve this problem? Could we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and take care of the orphan? Could we completely erase these problems from our world? I have started to ask myself, what am I prepared to do?

There was a rich man that approached Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to secure kids-in-indiaa place in heaven. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. When the rich man responded that he already kept the commandments, Jesus replied, “sell all that you own and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come follow Me” (Mark 10:21). The rich man walked away sad for “he had many possessions.” This seems crazy, who wouldn’t sell everything to spend time getting to know the creator of the world? I wonder how I would respond if I was that rich man. If Christ asked me to merely sell everything I owned that has wheels, and give the proceeds to the poor, would I? I could easily part with my son’s skateboard, but the bikes, motorcycles, cars, and camper, that would be tough. Even my craftsman toolbox has wheels!

I’m still not sure where all this thinking will take me, but the movie Lion has stirred some deep thinking and will definitely have an impact on my future. How much easier it would have been if we had skipped dinner and gone to see the Lego Batman movie!

Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed – Psalm 82:3

Christmas: Just another day?

I was driving to work this December and barely paying attention to the radio station whenfamily-circus1 the DJ asked a simple question, “What are your strongest memories of Christmas?” Before I could consider my answer, two things popped into my head; 1) The year my father declared on Christmas Eve that he was cancelling Christmas and 2) Going to see the movie Misery, on Christmas day. The Misery movie was nothing more than a bad decision. I remember leaving the theater drained of any Christmas spirit. I made a mental note that going to the movies was probably not the best use of precious Christmas hours, maybe a game of scrabble or twister next year. As for my Dad cancelling Continue reading “Christmas: Just another day?”

Are there dogs in heaven?

scout-colorado-trail-2016This questions keeps coming up, ever since I was a kid, running through my Maryland suburban home with my dog Socks. I never got a good answer as a child, or as an adult. I even researched the bible on this topic and could not find a definitive position on the subject. So I’ve had to think this one through and have concluded that dogs are in heaven (for cat lovers, this conclusion applies to cats as well). Why did I reach this conclusion, it just makes sense. I can’t imagine a heaven that does not include our canine companions. My current dog, Scout, and the 5 previous dogs I’ve had, all display the core attributes you would expect to encounter in a heavenly creature. Well, maybe not all 5, my mother’s poodle, would be an exception (sorry Mom!). But the others all had the sweet innocence of a two year old, the patience of a loving mother, and the loyalty of a fellow soldier under fire, and they are this way every day! Continue reading “Are there dogs in heaven?”

Losing Gee

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This week a close family friend, “Gee,” unexpectedly passed away. It appears he was getting ready for a morning workout and was enjoying a cup of coffee when his time came. He had recently retired and was thought to be in good health. His passing was a shock to us all. Gee was a man full of life, with a quick-whit humor that could bring you to tears from uncontrollable laughter. His personality took over a room as soon as he entered it. Gee could discuss serious topics with a light hearted humor that put everyone at ease and allowed others to open up. I imagine him in heaven cracking jokes about his experience encountering St. Peter at the pearly gates or searching his new home for a bathroom only to discover there aren’t any in heaven as they are not necessary, what will he do with the extra 15 minutes a day! I’m sure he is having lots of fun talking about his profession, see Gee was a mortician. Continue reading “Losing Gee”

Turning 50

Oldsville“What do you want to do for your 50th birthday?” my wife asked me. “What, I’m turning 50?” was my reply. Even my mother and father were surprised when they realized I would be 50 this month! Oh no, I thought, that dreaded birthday when they decorate with black balloons, grey streamers, and RIP signs hanging on the walls. I have been to countless other “turning 50” birthday parties, but now my own! I am sure my friends will have fun surprising me with gifts like a walker, Continue reading “Turning 50”