The Twilight Zone?

You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop…

“Humbly submitted for your approval,”

“Earth.  A mere blot on the vast canvas of space. Home to a peculiar race of beings otherwise known as humans. These humans lead simple lives; they work, they play, they rest. But buried deep inside them are complexities that no mortal can explain. Some love, some hate. Some are selfless, others covet. These desires are manifested in weakness and kept afloat by fear.  The virtues give us a glimpse of a world that was perhaps meant to be. However, for this tiny blue rock, destruction and expiration are its destiny. If only they knew. If only it could be saved. This is the Twilight Zone.”

“It was a world of humble beginnings, starting in the most unlikeliest of places- a garden.”

“Out of this garden sprang the whole of life but perhaps more significantly death was introduced. These humans could never gain an appreciation for life or their Life Giver so they were handed over to death, wiped from the face of existence. But this was not an immediate process. In fact, it was an arduous and tedious process. The mindful ones endured to the end and to them were given the meaning of life. The fools were the most vocal but it seemed the extent of their vocabulary was ‘Why us?’. They grew in number, drowning out any voice that spoke of truth. The Creator was weary of this and was filled with regret. The short-lived era of humans was about to come to an end, or so it seemed. There were a few that found favor and for that they were spared. There always seemed to be that faithful few.”

“So a great, destructive flood covered the earth for 150 days. Only the few were saved. They began to repopulate the earth but it was never quite the same as it was in the garden. After a few years some humans began to take other humans and enslave them even though all of them were equal. The flood may have wiped out the evil people but that evil seed somehow survived.”

“Centuries later some of these humans were led to a mountain to be given a set of rules. These precepts would be exhaustive so every one of them would be able to discern what is right and what is wrong. But even though these humans were cognizant of right and wrong they still continued to do what pleased them and what they felt right in their own minds. So they were granted what they desired-independence. They were allowed to rule themselves and be their own masters. This seemed reasonable if good people were to lead. But all throughout the earth not one good person was found. This vicious narrative continued on…well it continues on to this very day. And it will not stop until everything fades away and these deceitful humans choke the life out of everything in their sight including themselves. What a sad fate for such a beautiful creation.”

“But something wonderful happened.”

” The Creator of earth and the Creator of man came to destroy evil and death as well as preserve humanity and restore life to as it was before- in the garden. But he did not come in grandeur or splendor. He came as one of these humans. He was Immanuel. The good man that they so desperately longed for had arrived and he brought with him enough goodness for all. These disgusting humans rejected him like they do all that is worthy and sentenced him to death on a tree. But what they didn’t realize is that through this death all life was restored. The ones that recognized this were freed from their evil and allowed to become sons of the Creator. I pity the ones who did not for they remained in their evil and died in their evil. When the right time had come all of the faithful entered into the palace of the Creator and gathered to the middle where a garden had been planted. It only seemed right that human life begin and end in a garden and the eternal life only begin in a garden.”

“But we know a story this fantastic could never happen. Only in the realm of the Twilight Zone.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Serling?”

“Yes?”

” I see.”

” Ladies and gentlemen, what you have just witnessed is not the Twilight Zone. In fact, it is as real as you are. I hope you find this news exciting and cherish the opportunities while you still can. As for me, it seems I am the one who is in the Twilight Zone and would give anything to be with you. But for now, I will be on the lookout for my Messiah here in the Twilight Zone.”

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4 Verses That Show God Loves Animals Way More Than We Think

I was watching one of those Planet Earth documentaries on the National Geographic channel the other day and couldn’t help but wonder on the existence of giraffes. This thought quickly got out of hand (like most of mine do) and my mind began to wonder about not only giraffes but kangaroos, penguins, elephants, rhinos, blue whales and sasquatches. They really don’t have a lot of predators besides humans but that’s mainly for fur and skins, not for consumption. I mean you’ll have the occasional wack job who likes the taste of hammerhead shark but for the most part it seems like these animals exist primarily to keep zoos open and because they make good rugs.

So if these animals weren’t created for food, what’s their purpose? Jesus didn’t die for them and we don’t eat them but they must have a purpose, right? Yes, they do have a purpose but it may not be what you think. We see animals as walking meatsicles but how, exactly, does God see them?

God likes to look at them. He delights in their beauty and their power. Not because he’s impressed but because they’re his. They’re his creation. Now I’m not getting soft on you like a PETA apologist but I’m not a Cruela Deville either.

Although I would look good in Dalmatian fur.

Am I saying that God loves your dog as much as he loves you? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love your dog. He just might love it more than you do. Afterall, he did make it.

#4:       Luke 12.6

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.”

I don’t know if you could get that same deal today but who cares, they’re just sparrows. God cares. He absolutely cares.

 

#3:       Deuteronomy 25.4

“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.”

In other words, be kind to the animal that is doing back-breaking work that you don’t have to.

 

#2:       Exodus 23.12

“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest…”

You’re not resting because you need it, you’re resting because your donkey needs it.

 

#1:       Jonah 4.11

“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Jonah got upset because the people of Nineveh repented of their sins. He wondered why God would show mercy to those Gentiles. God told Jonah that he had every right to show pity to those people…and their cows. Yes, the great God of the universe is concerned with even cows. By comparison, that should make us feel really good.

 

 

 

Did God Just Speak Through My Spaghetti-o’s?

There I was sitting at my kitchen table, just like any other Sunday afternoon. Except this one was different. This would be the first Sunday meal after my fast. I had been going through big changes in my life and I was asking God what I needed to do. I decided to fast from food for an entire week to make sure my heart and mind were clear enough for God to speak to me.

I plopped down in my chair ready to scarf down a bowl of delicious alphabet soup when something strange started to happen. The letters in the soup began to scramble and the broth began to bubble like it was on the stove top. I ducked for cover in a closet because I was not about to be sucked into another dimension when one of those time travel holes pops up out of nowhere. Things finally settled down after a while and when I built up the courage to come out of the closet (not like that) and after a quick change of pants, I glanced at the soup and noticed a sentence.

YOUR AN IDIOT

“What does it mean?” I whispered to myself. If this was God’s way of telling me I’m not a genius, I had that figured out by second grade. More importantly, why would God misspell ‘you’re’? Of course, there are no apostrophes in alphabet soup and ‘youre’ is not a word. I just couldn’t quite grasp the complexity of it all. He does work mysteriously, you know. I was so distracted that I hardly realized that the message had changed while I wasn’t looking.

READ YOUR BIBLE

Okay, that’s definitely something God would tell me to do. Maybe he was telling me this all along and I just wasn’t listening. I felt satisfied with his answer but it left me with a dilemma: Should I eat these words from God? I was really starving! I decided to remind God during my pre-meal prayer that my stomach had been pretty lonely for a week. It needed community. There was no answer so I dined cautiously with the first bite. Nothing happened. That was the best alphabet soup I’d ever had.

In case you’re wondering, the above story is fictional in every sense of the word. First of all, I would shoot a bald eagle before I went a week without eating. Secondly, of course we don’t think God communicates through soup, right?

Or do we?

If you’re of the opinion that God strictly reveals himself propositionally, (in sentence form, i.e. the Bible) then you may be in the minority. We live in a world that is desperately searching for answers from God but doesn’t necessarily know where to look. They search for his voice in songs, look for his face in tortilla chips and ponder his wisdom in the colors of a double rainbow.  All the while he may be sitting on their bookshelf, covered in dust, or at the end of a coffee table, only used occasionally as a coaster.  So let’s make sure we know God’s voice because sometimes those ‘magic brownies’ can be so convincing.

My Top 7 Saints Of All Time

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I felt like this would be a good time to show some love to our Catholic friends. Afterall, they have such a rich history of…well, history. I’m really not one who likes to bring up the past and I’m usually pretty forgiving so I can overlook stuff like the Crusades, the Inquisition, the killing of Native Americans, the burning of witches and the purchase of indulgences. I mean, if you can’t forgive all that then what kind of person are you?

This kind.

But despite all the suffering and torment some Catholics caused, they actually churned out some pretty good guys. Saints, even.

#7:     Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard)

Patron Saint: Beekeeping

Best Known For: his sweet Tim Tebow haircut and having a dog named after him

#6:     St. Valentine

Patron Saint:  Stupid Holidays

Best Known For: weird 2nd grade Valentine’s parties

“Hey Jeremy, will you be mine?” 

#5:     St. Dominic

Patron Saint: Sweet Vacations

Best Known For: having his followers colonize and found the Dominican Republic so one day lots of Hall of Fame baseball players could be born there

#4:     Drew Brees 

Patron Saint: Touchdowns

Best Known For: being a Fantasy Football Stud

#3:     St. Thomas Aquinas

Patron Saint:  Academics

Best Known For: having a high school in Florida named after him

#2:     St. Nicholas

Patron Saint:  Pawnbrokers

Best Known For: being Santa Claus

#1:     Erasmus of Formiae (St. Elmo)

Patron Saint: Intestinal Disease

Best Known For: starting some fire and not having enough sense to extinguish it before some bad 80’s movie broke out

3 Things Everyone Believes In The Bible That Are Totally Wrong

No one likes to be wrong. But because opinions, ignorance and stupidity exist, it turns out someone has to be wrong sometimes. And that someone is usually me. Never is this more evident than during the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. The official start of the tournament is today and, like most of you, I’ve done my best at filling out a bracket.

 A lot of you filling out brackets like to use the ‘chalk’ strategy. That’s probably the best move if you’re trying to win. My strategy, however, is a little more nuanced. I like to call it ‘reverse chalk’. Unlike ‘chalk’, where you pick all the better seeds to win, ‘reverse chalk’ is all about the underdog. Will I have a perfect bracket? Probably not. Could I be the only person on the planet on Friday to be able to claim that I picked every single upset in the first round? You betcha’. And that’s what makes this strategy all worth it. Go Catamounts!

Just like how I think my bracket could win, even though it’s about to be quickly proven it won’t, there is stuff in the Bible it seems everyone believes that, as it turns out, is just not true.

#3:     God changed Saul’s name to Paul after his conversion.

This is one of those things you learn as a kid in Sunday School. Saul was the bad guy who killed Christians. Paul was the good guy who became a Christian. You just accepted it and thought nothing of it. That is until you actually read it for yourself.

Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus happened early in Acts 9 so you would think from that point on he would be referred to as Paul. But he was still called Saul for the rest of chapter 9. And chapter 11. And 12. It’s not until Acts 13.9 that we discover his name change.

“But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him…”

Turns out, he was always called Paul. It was his Roman name. Saul was his Jewish name. He probably referred to himself more as Paul so he could relate better with the Gentiles, seeing as that was who God called him to share the Gospel with. Plus, Saul sounds like a hippie name. He did wear sandals, however.

Not sure if he wore tie dye

#2:     The Mark of the Beast

You really don’t have to know the Bible all that well to know this number. It’s in plenty of horror movies and secular books and who knows what else. The number I’m referring to is, of course, 666. And it’s the number that will be on all the heathens’ foreheads when the Mayans come back in their spaceships to kill all the zombie dinosaurs to save Princess Peach…or something like that. Revelation is hard to understand. But the Bible makes it pretty clear what this number is…if you have the wisdom.

This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.  -Rev. 13. 18

We can gather 3 things about this verse. 1) This number is not the number of a beast but the number of a specific man, or specific group of men. 2) Only a certain few people could understand this verse. 3) Those certain few could calculate this symbolic number to identify the specific man or group of men.

This number has nothing to do with the future Anti-Christ(s). Some members of the original audience were able to decipher the code so this man was obviously their contemporary, not ours. So if you were looking forward to seeing people with this tattooed on their bodies, don’t worry. I know a guy.

He may charge for an arm and a leg, though…get it?

#1:     Lukewarm Christians at Laodicea

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  -Rev. 3.14-16

Oh, those crazy Laodiceans. They weren’t good but they weren’t all that bad either. They were just apathetic. And there’s nothing God hates worse than an apathetic Christian. But there’s one sentence that doesn’t make sense to me. Why would God say, “I wish you were either hot or cold”? Why would God want a Christian to be cold? I guess this is where context comes in.

Laodicea was an okay little town ( it didn’t have an Outback or anything) that lay between two other towns: Colosse and Hierapolis. There was a water system that flowed between these three towns. Colosse was known for its fresh, cool drinking water. Hierapolis was famous for its warm, medicinal water. Guess what Laodicea was known for?

Cheese?

Nope, not cheese. Good for nothing lukewarm water. Water that you had to spit out if consumed.

Well this brings a whole new meaning to the table then. God didn’t want them to be either good or bad, he wanted them to be either good like the cool waters of Colosse or good like the warm waters of Hierapolis. Not useless like their lukewarm water or my NCAA Tournament bracket.

6 Of The Manliest Verses In The Bible (Actually 1 Chronicles)

Quick, write down a list of things men do.  Name at least five.  Got em’?  Okay, now compare them with my list. If you didn’t name every single one of these things then you have no idea what it’s like to be a man…Francis.

– Shoot guns: preferably anything over 50 caliber

– Drive Hot Rods: preferably a model in the 60’s and built by yourself

– Chew tobacco: and not the girly stuff you buy in a pouch, the real stuff you grow and dry out on a clothes line

– Work a real job: these include anything that requires a hard hat and overalls

– Eat red meat: medium-rare, no steak sauce

If you got all these correct, congratulations. You’re a real man. But you and your big brain probably already knew that. You’re probably aware of these verses, too. How could you not? God put them there for people like you.

(Ladies, I don’t mean to discriminate. You can do all those things, too.  Just make sure to do the dishes afterwards. I’m kidding! Please, no nasty emails.)

#6:     1 Chronicles 11.11

This is an account of David’s mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time.

Okay, anytime your people are known as the “Hack-Man-ites”, it means you’re doing something right. Or terribly, terribly wrong. In Jashobeam’s case, he did 300 guys wrong at the same time. Except instead of the normal way to annihilate 300 people, like with a bomb, he just used a spear.

#5:     1 Chronicles 11.20

Now Abishai, the brother of Joab, was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against 300 men and killed them and won a name beside the three.

If I didn’t know any better it sounds like killing 300 dudes is just a normal part of the day, like going to the grocery store. The bad thing is I don’t know which one of these I would like doing the least.

#4:     1 Chronicles 11.22

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two heroes of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.

One thing I don’t like is snow. It’s just too cold. But for someone who lives in the desert, much like Benaiah, I don’t think snow is too cold at all. As a matter of fact, he was so excited about the snow that he killed a lion. I applaud him for his enthusiasm.

#3:     1 Chronicles 11.23

And he struck down an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall. The Egyptian had in his hand a spear like a weaver’s beam, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.

This verse also refers to Benaiah, the snowy lion killer. I don’t know if he was having a bad day or what but remind me not to run into this guy in a dark alley at night. Especially if I owe him some money.

(1 Chronicles 11.25: “And David set him over his bodyguard.” Smart move, David.)

#2:     1 Chronicles 12.8

From the Gadites there went over to David at the stronghold in the wilderness mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were swift as gazelles upon the mountains.

I don’t know if this is hyperbole or what but if they actually looked like lions there must have been some terrible inbreeding going on. Or maybe that’s what a man is supposed to look like,  strong jaw-lines with a long, flowing mane.

“How’s your mountain climbing skills?” 

#1:     1 Chronicles 12.14

 These Gadites were officers of the army; the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand.

Okay, that’s definitely hyperbole. The weakest man can take on 100 men and the strongest can take on 1,000? What kind of training did these guys do? You know what, I give up. There are no men on the planet today. If this is what’s expected of me to be a man then you might as well hand me an apron.

(Again, no nasty emails.)

 

2 Reasons Why I Don’t Do Lent

Let me be honest with you. Up until around three years ago, I had no idea what Lent was.  I don’t mean that I was unaware of rules or criteria or whatever. I just didn’t know it existed. I didn’t grow up in the Catholic tradition so my knowledge of all things Catholicism consisted of Mardi Gras parades, preachers who didn’t own ties, and Sister Act.

Unfortunately, Sister Act 2 as well.

In an attempt to find a definition of Lent that accurately described my experience with it, I stumbled upon this at Urban Dictionary:

“That 40 day long period where Christians attempt to emulate Christ-like suffering and minimalism through only the lamest and most half-hearted undertakings.” 

If you’re somewhat familiar with Urban Dictionary, you realize that sentence had to be edited. I do not recommend their content unless you’re one of those people who enjoys being highly offended and moderately appalled. For example, they have seven different definitions for ‘apple juice’. I only know of one. And if you’re wondering, out of the seven, none of them mean what you think they mean. It’s a sad place.

What’s sadder is that they nailed the meaning of Lent for a lot of Christians. The reason I know this is because I witnessed it and I lived it. Around this time about three years ago, our church was in the middle of a period of fasting. It wasn’t for Lent but rather a ‘searching for God’s will’ type of thing. We were asked to think diligently about what we would fast from so I did, or at least I thought I did. I knew that Jesus fasted from food so I thought I would be a big baller shot caller and fast from food as well. Not all food, of course, but just for one meal a day. I don’t remember the specifics but I can tell you I couldn’t make it past a week. I had failed miserably. And the worst part? I felt really guilty about it. Maybe I should have tried giving up something easier like candy or smokeless tobacco. Maybe then I could have made it the whole 40 days.

 I could have fasted from bear wrestling. That would have been easy, too.

But then it hit me. This was exactly how it feels to be not Christian. Here, let me explain…

#2:       It’s not required of us

I’ll be the first one to admit that I didn’t exactly try my hardest during our fast. So part of my problem was I probably didn’t take it seriously enough. But what would I have gained if I did complete all 40 days? A presumed pat on the back from God? Satisfaction knowing that I’m self-disciplined? Both those things sound great, but are they the end result I want? No, the resolution I was looking for is a closer communication with God. Can sacrificing cupcakes get me there? Unfortunately, no. If it was that simple everyone would do it. Can the sacrifice of Jesus get me there? Fortunately, yes. He is how we hear from God, not our doing. But if you’re just adamant that you have to do something for God, well, here ya go:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and  what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to  walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6.8

#1:       Colossians 2.20-23

20 “If with Christ  you died to the  elemental spirits of the world,  why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to  human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in  promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are  of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

I don’t do Lent because it doesn’t work for me. It’s not in the Bible and it feels too contrived. If I’m going to prepare for Easter, I’ll do it by praying and reading the Bible, not sacrifice.