Author Archives: Ryder

About Ryder

Ryder is a father of four, a Christian, and an aspiring author. Check out sample chapters of his work under the "Old House Woods" category at the right. Dream big or go home!

Accepting The Bad Things From God

“Are we to accept the good that comes from God but not accept the bad?”  Job posed this good-friday-2153822_640to his wife after she questioned his continuing commitment to God, the source of all the calamity that had befallen them.  “Curse God and die!” she exclaimed.  In the course of a day more than 10,000 of Job’s animals were stolen or destroyed, his servants were killed and a collapsed house crushed his seven sons and three daughters.  As Job sat on the outskirts of town scraping his recently acquired skin disease with a fragment of broken pottery, his wife in whom faith did not run so deep, held not for God the same loyalty or affection that Job possessed.

Many of us hypocrites may rush to judge Job’s wife.  How can she curse her own husband and God?  Let’s ignore our self-righteousness for a moment and consider this woman too, lost everyone she loved and everything she had.  Now also her husband has been stricken with illness and appears likely to die.  What more can God take from them?

The story of Job is a fascinating account of God’s willingness to allow pain and suffering.  How can a good and loving God inflict such calamity? Whether you are dealing with the extreme pain of losing a loved one or are furious with your flat tire on the way to work, no disaster, disease, heartbreak or hiccup is usually welcome.  I am as guilty of shaking my fist at God as Job’s wife and I have lost far less.

Consider the story’s beginning and what God asks of Satan.  “Have you met my servant, Job? He is a very good man! Unlike any other on earth.  He so believes in me that he seeks in all things to honor Me and deliberately avoids evil in all of his affairs.  His character is spotless, his integrity unquestioned.”

Satan was sure if catastrophe befell Job that he would turn from God, yield to what Job’s wife had suggested and curse Him.  God picked Job as his champion to prove the devil wrong.  Yes, this victory came at a high cost, but God blessed Job once again before he passed and on that day of judgement, Job will reunite with his sons and daughters once more.

When hardships strike you, consider that you are being accused and quite possibly God has selected you as his/her champion.  The next time you are alone and weeping in the dark insert your name in for Job’s and hear God’s voice as he speaks to your accuser.

“Have you met my servant, Kyle?  He is a very good man!”

“Have you met my servant, Shannon? She is a very good woman!”

“Have you met my servant, Paul? He seeks in all things to honor Me.”

“Have you met my servant, Danielle? Her character is spotless, her integrity unquestioned.”

The losses and pain we inevitably experience in this world are devastating but compared to the rewards God offers us throughout eternity, our suffering in this age shall feel no more painful than a mild splinter….if only we can remain faithful and endure.  Remember who willingly suffered in our place to ensure our victory.

Do You Minimize Certain Sins? I do!

As a child one of my favorite books was “The Poky Little Puppy.”  The plot isn’t important Poky little puppy
but in the story the puppies get scolded for squeezing through a fence and embarking on their Christmas adventure.  Their mother forbids them to go through the fence again.  Of course when the urge to explore resurfaces one puppy suggests with a sly smile, “Mom said we couldn’t go through the fence but she didn’t say we couldn’t go under the fence.”  Off they went again.  Once more their mother scolds them and forbids them to go through or under the fence.  Of course though when they wish to set off once more they discover a loophole in their mother’s instructions.  “Mom said we couldn’t go through or under the fence but she didn’t say we couldn’t go over the fence.”  You get the point.  The puppies knew they weren’t supposed to go past the fence in any way, shape or form but in their determination to get their own way, they chose to hear only what they wanted to hear.

God said we must love our neighbors as ourselves but neighbors aren’t obese people, smelly people, toothless people, poor people, Republicans, atheists, Muslims, homosexuals, African-Americans, Latinos, Communists, thieves, liars, cheating spouses, gossips, racists, the homeless or lazy, drug addled millennials right?  As the puppies might say, “God said we must love our neighbors as ourselves but He didn’t say what kind of “neighbor”.

Loving who we choose to love rather than who God instructs us to love is but one way we dig under the fence or leap over the fence rather than pass through the fence as God desires.  If we love only those whom loving is convenient, we will bear no fruit through God’s efforts to grow us.

We act no differently with the other vices with sex perhaps being chief among our transgressions.  Christians are quick to declare homosexual sex an abomination but gloss over their own pre-marital or extra-marital sexual activity not fully comprehending that their sin is no less pleasurable in God’s eyes than another’s sin is in theirs.

In our bid to exult ourselves, we overemphasize the severity of other people’s sins, depreciate our own and thus minimize our own disobedience.  Rape, murder, assault are heinous acts to be sure, but we can’t overestimate their devastation while underestimating the havoc our alleged minor sins such as lying, wreak.  Bears, lions, sharks kill with spectacular savagery but the creature on earth that kills the most, the mosquito, is far more delicate and subtle.  Accounting for more deaths than the nine other most deadliest animals combined, the mosquito, like a lie or word of slander, moves from one human to the next multiplying and compounding its destruction.  We disregard the mosquito as a minor nuisance, as something that isn’t a “big deal”, much like we do our “minor sins” but God sees the true devastation.  In our ignorance we recognize only the most notorious, outwardly destructive sins, not realizing that the army of little ones, like the termite colony, are the forces truly nibbling away at the foundation of God’s kingdom.

Do you find loop holes in God’s rules to access whatever earthly pleasure your eyes desire or to avoid the uncomfortable requests God makes of you?  Are you quick to condemn the sins of others with which you don’t struggle while ignoring your own? Comparing our accomplishments is unhealthy but comparing our sins could prove deadly.

 

Christianity: People Buy the “Why”, Not the “What” and “How”.

One of the best TED talks I have watched is by Simon Sinek titled, “Start with why – how christianity-1868365_640great leaders inspire action.”  In his eighteen minute discussion he explains why some organizations and individuals are more successful than others despite having less resources to obtain their goals.  He provides Apple, the Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King as examples.  Why for instance was Apple, a computer company, able to succeed in selling an Mp3 player while Dell and Microsoft failed?  How did MLK inspire hundreds of thousands of people to hear his message and why were the underfunded Wright Brothers successful in achieving flight before their competitors?

He suggests that many organizations know “what” they do and “how” they do it but not all know “why” they do it.  What is the purpose, the cause, the main belief or vision of the organization?  These individuals and companies who understand the “why” are successful because as Sinek points out, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

  • Apple makes great computers.  That’s the what.
  • They are beautifully designed and easy to use.  That’s the how.
  • Want to buy one?

Sinek suggests our message should start with the why and work from the inside out.

  • We want to disrupt the status quo and change the world (why)
  • So we build products that our beautifully designed and easy to use. (how)
  • Want to buy one of our great computers? (what)

According to Pew research, Christianity is on the decline.  Fewer and fewer people are interested in partaking of what Christians are offering.  Perhaps we should use Sinek’s model and first start with the why.  Why are we Christians? Why do we serve Jesus?  What we do is expand and disciple the church.  How we do it is by comforting the sick, building hospitals, feeding the homeless, sending out missionaries and praising God.  Why we do it should be obvious but sometimes our message is focused more on the what and how.  “We want to shepherd and save the lost so we build hospitals, give to the poor and welcome you into our homes.  Come follow Christ.”  Is that a successfully compelling message?

Why do we care for the homeless, provide snack for our children at church, and sing songs to the Lord? Let’s start with the why.

  • We love you like a brother/sister.
  • So we care for you, feed you, welcome you into our arms.
  • Please join us as we praise and worship our Father.

Maybe your why message is slightly different than mine but in the end it always comes back to love.  Love is what we’re selling, not hospitals, food, hymns or fancy stage lighting.  Like Apple, we too want to disrupt the status quo and change the world by doing something radically different; loving our neighbor.  Any takers?

Please watch Simon Sinek’s full discussion here:

Is God’s Word Antiquated?

Let’s be clear, the Bible is old!  Some estimates have the first book of the old testament being written as long ago as 3,000 bible-1068176_640B.C. but even conservative estimates have its first book constructed no later than 1,500 B.C.  Nearly all of the New Testament was written in the first century A.D. nearly 2,000 years ago.  So, not surprisingly, opponents of the Bible declare it an old relic with antiquated values no longer relevant in today’s society.  The age of the Bible is actually not at all relevant.  If you believe the Bible is the true inspired Word of God, then acknowledgement of its timelessness must be recognized. If you do not believe in God, then once again its age is irrelevant because you are unlikely to believe it whether or not it was written with today’s social mores in mind.

And yet opponents of the Bible, often those who do not even believe in it, declare it to be an outdated relic which should not be obeyed.  In a debate with his brother, the late atheist writer, Christopher Hitchens, described God as a celestial North Korea who removed our freedoms with his laws.  How odd to compare God to an atheistic state! Regardless, the notion that God is a great oppressor and his Word is better left to gather dust on the shelf, is permeating the ranks of both non-believer and believer.  What specifically has become so antiquated?  Let us review a few of God’s overbearing rules:

Don’t kill each other – While I think this one is still valid for the existence of our race, I suppose serial killers, mass murderers, and terrorists to name a few, find these rules a bit rusty.  I believe the majority opinion is that murder is still BAD so thank goodness for that, but hey, those genocidal dictators and suicide bombers appear to be gaining ground.

Don’t commit adultery – Even though a good portion of the population, both men and women, engage in extra-marital affairs, most believe it is wrong especially when they are the victim.  Adultery doesn’t just harm marriages, it wrecks families and your children.

Don’t lie – Lies are like mosquitoes.  They seem small and harmless but the havoc they wreak is devastating and widespread.  A lie may be the easiest sin to commit but no one likes to be accused of telling one.  Will a time ever exist when lying is universally accepted?

Love your neighbor as yourself – As forward thinking as this sounds, few of us practice this, and here may be where our resentment forms.  When God asks us to do what displeases us, such as loving those we hate, we tend to re-write God’s rules to excuse our shortcomings.  We erase the moral line in the sand declaring such extreme morality is needed no further.  Living life without hardship is after all much easier.

Don’t have any extra-marital sex – Now we are warming up to the real problem  and that is sex .  Adultery may be the sexual escapade we still frown upon due to its real and recognizable damage but we still indulge upon other fleshly pleasures whose immediate harm is less apparent.  The late evolutionist, Julian Huxley was allegedly asked years ago on the Merv Griffin show why the scientific community jumped on Darwin’s bandwagon and he responded, “I suppose the reason why we leapt at the Origin of Species was that the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.” Pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, homosexual sex, pretty much any intimacy outside of marriage is prohibited and boy how does this frustrate us humans!  The notion of abstaining from sex until marriage was laid to rest by society decades ago.  We re-wrote the rules to serve our own desires and the costs of our lusts have abounded in the form of broken marriages, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, disease, relationship problems, financial problems and so on.  If our sin makes us feel good and we don’t see it harming anyone, we stuff God in the trunk, turn up the radio and ignore the thumps.  Finally when we are destroyed by a failed relationship, the financial burden of an unwanted child, or even a contracted disease, we shake our fists at God.  Proverbs 19:3 says, “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” Amen.

G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and find wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Are God’s rules truly antiquated or are they too difficult to follow? Life is tough and so we seek temporary pleasures such as food, drugs, sex or gossip  to numb the pain and we don’t want God prohibiting the very things that help us survive this world’s struggles.   And yet every instance we indulge ourselves in pleasure we  not only remain unfulfilled we feel convicted by our conscience (Holy Spirit) and the cycle repeats.

Chesterton also wrote, “Meaningless does not come form being weary of pain.  Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”

If you are weary today, if you feel life has little meaning, pick up the Bible.  Read God’s Word.  He is not trying to take anything from you.  He is trying to get something to you.

 

 

3 Ways To Bridge the Gap Between Believer and Non-Believer

How shall we bridge the gap between believers and non-believers in the New Year? How bridge-53769_640shall we bridge this gap in any year. Year? Perhaps the word “year” gives the believer too much time.  As believers we should question rather how we will bridge the gap this month, week or day?  Yes, why wait?  How shall we bridge the gap between the believer and non-believer today?

What causes believers to wobble on the edge of this chasm? Why do we not build bridges with our fellow brothers and sisters?  Are bridges even necessary?  Is the chasm really so wide we can’t simply cross the divide with a step or a hop?  We tremble with the thought of reaching out to a stranger or friend, fearful our word, even when kind, will be met with scorn or in the least, displeasure.  And yet is this fear unwarranted?  If as believers we truly believe anyone’s life is truly at stake, why do we waiver? Do we not truly believe? Do we feel there is always more time?  Do we leave salvation in the hands of another we feel is more competent to deliver the message?

Penn Jillette, one half of the illusionist team, Penn and Teller, is an outspoken atheist.  However after he was presented with a Bible by an audience member after a performance, he had this to say, “I’ve always said I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

The gap perhaps is not as wide or deep as we convince ourselves.  Many non-believers may not want to raise their hand waiting instead to be called upon.  And that is fine if we are up to the challenge.  As teachers of the word here are a few ways to bridge the gap.

Show them Jesus – Do you remember the King in Braveheart commenting that the problem with Scotland is that it is full of Scots? The same can sometimes be said for Christianity and Christians.  The problem with Christianity is that it is full of Christians not practicing what they preach.  Win non-believers by showing them Jesus not just by telling them but when you do tell them, do so with gentleness and respect.

Always have an answer – 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to always have an answer for the hope that you have. If a non-believer approaches you with a tough question about the Bible especially if they are sincere with their curiosity, you need to provide evidence, not a feeling.  Validating God’s existence based on a dream, your family’s prior relationship with God, or wishful hope, exposes you to skepticism or worse, ridicule.  Atheist Christopher Hitches once wrote, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”  As believers can we afford to be dismissed? Study Christian Apologetics.  It will equip you with evidence to prove that your faith is not blind.

Share your testimony – How has prayer, attending Church, your fellowship with other Christians and your belief in God helped you? Has an ailment vanished? Have you escaped the clutches of an addiction?  Has hope sprung anew in your bad marriage? Do you finally see a light in the darkness of abuse that has smothered you your whole life? Your testimony can open ears. Your story instills hope.  Your victory wins hearts!  Sit down with a friend or loved one and tell them about the effect Christ has had in your life.

Nothing above guarantees salvation and certainly you will not always receive a warm welcome, but if you can give hope to one person, they might take that first step towards Jesus!

 

 

 

Would You Accept Proof of God’s Existence?

Searching for evidence of God? As I watch talks given by pastors and apologists such as Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, William Lsuperman-1275374_640ane Craig and many others who provide “evidence”, I find interesting that a great deal of the skeptics ignore the supporting facts and will accept nothing but proof.  I wonder though what proof could be provided and if they would even believe it!

First I will quickly review a bit of the evidence put forth pointing to a creator. Now for those die-hard skeptics the purpose of this post is not to incite an epic argument which eventually leaves me in a quivering heap as I wither under the onslaught of angry comments.  Please remember, I love you. I’m not attacking your beliefs!  I’m merely re-presenting the evidence that has been put forth thus far and postulating whether any evidence or proof would be sufficient to sway skeptic’s mind.

Evidence:

  • The universe had a beginning and was created from absolutely nothing.
  • The universe appears highly designed.
  • The Earth is extremely fine tuned  to support intelligent life. So much so that the odds of another planet with intelligent life existing in the known universe is 1 in 10 to the power of 138.
  • Science cannot explain how the existence of life came into being by random chance.
  • Science cannot explain the mind/consciousness.
  • Macro-evolution is unsupported largely by the fossil record, the fact that mutations are genetic dead ends, and irreducible complexity.  And as mentioned, evolution cannot explain origin.
  • Jesus existed was crucified and we have “evidence” the tomb was empty.
  • Jesus fulfilled 60 major prophecies concerning his life and death and was seen post-resurrection by 500 witnesses.

There is a great deal more evidence but those are a few of the big ones.  Now sure, we can argue how I have it all wrong or that I’m naive.  I recall a commenter on one of Professor John Lennox’s lectures calling him a “God-Tard” which frankly I found humorous in its immaturity.

Yes, it is true.  I have a personal relationship with God and therefore I may examine the evidence in a biased manner that inclines me more to see our Lord than to see blind naturalism or materialism.  Here therefore are two unbiased quotes from atheist scientists.

“A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” Fred Hoyle, Astronomer.

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural.  We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…because we have a prior commitment to materialism.  Moreover that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.”  Richard Lewontin, Darwinist

Now just as some scientists have a prior commitment to materialism I too have a commitment to God.  But the real question is this: What proof for God’s existence will the skeptic accept?  In the documentary, “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed” I heard Richard Dawkins, a very outspoken evolutionist, suggest that alien intervention could explain the origin of first life on earth. Does this seem more plausible then a creator? While it may offer an alternative to how life came to be, it in no way solves the problem of how our life supporting earth came into existence or the fact that the existence of our universe is pretty much a miracle in the first place.  Believing in aliens when we know the likelihood of their existence is 1 in a zillion, seems like a greater leap of faith than to believe in a creator.

If Jesus appeared in the clouds in the future as discussed in the Bible, would we really believe he was Jesus? If he came to earth and walked across the face of the water, calmed a storm or healed a man’s blindness with but a touch, would that be enough to convince even the greatest skeptic? I suggest that for some they would rather be comforted with the belief that a super being from another planet was stopping in for a visit than to believe there was an all-powerful God to which they might be held morally accountable.

“We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning, the Christian meaning, they insisted of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.” Aldous Huxley, End and Means

The Bible sums up the passage above clearly.

For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.” Romans 1:19-21

I feel to call anyone a “fool” in today’s information age is unfair.  We are constantly bombarded by fake news and facts to such a degree we find ourselves at social gatherings retelling very embarrassing untruths.  I hope with this post I have not added to the confusion. But one book, the best selling book, has stood the test of time and scrutiny.  The Bible.  If you want truth, and your mind is open, you will find it in there.

God bless!

Atheists and Christians: Do Similarities Exist?

The very obvious answer to this question is “yes”!  Not only are we similar we are veryroads-320371_640 much permitted to love one another.  As a Christian myself, I cannot see why I would treat an atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or any one with a differing belief any less kindly than I would a fellow Christian.  In fact I am instructed not to by what Jesus calls the second most important commandment, “Love thy neighbor as yourself.”  And yet are we not all, especially atheists and Christians, as divided as Conservatives and Liberals, and often times separated by as much rancor as exhibited between the two parties during this recent election?  Just the addition of the word “Atheist” in my title is guaranteed to attract more views because readers from both sides might anxiously be looking for me to fire an inflammatory salvo over the wall at the other.

I’m not here to do that, rather my goal is to point out the obvious. We are more alike than different and the increasing hostility need not continue. Here are just a few and very obvious similarities over which we can bond.

  • We are all human beings.
  • We all have bad days and need comfort.
  • Most of us like sports.
  • All of us have hurt people!
  • We love our children!
  • We like to dance!
  • We like to laugh!
  • We like to sing even if we sing badly!
  • Many Christians and Atheists concur that Star Trek is better than Star Wars.
  • Many Christians and Atheists agree that Roger Moore is better than Sean Connery or that George Lazenby wasn’t the worst Bond.
  • Together many are Cowboys fans. Together many are Redskins fans.
  • Together many celebrated the Cubs’ World Series win!
  • We have both lied.
  • We have both helped others in need.
  • We have both felt abandoned.
  • We have both fed the homeless.
  • We have both bullied others and been bullied by others
  • We have cursed
  • We have stolen
  • But both can be moral.  As Christian apologist professor John Lennox stated, in terms of morals, many of his atheist friends put him to shame.

 So my advice to my Christian friends, especially relevant during this Christmas season, don’t beat judgement, scorn or the fear of eternal damnation into the minds and hearts of your non-believer friends. If you feel they are in the path of a moving vehicle don’t knock them to safety with a sledgehammer.  They won’t be receptive to your words.  Instead I encourage you to just love them and if you find yourself behaving a bit hypocritically, simply ask for forgiveness!  If you know Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher or even Bill Nye the science guy, give them a hug, say, “I love you brother!” and wish them a “Merry Christmas!”

God bless you all!