Product Review: Phillips Norelco 5000 series cordless rotary razor

I know being a good blogger means you have to have a theme for your blog, but every now and then we need to keep things a little on the lighter side.  Besides, not very many people read my blog anyway so I doesn’t really matter if I delve into something not in line with my normal themes.

So today I will discuss my impressions of the Phillips Norelco 5000 series cordless rotary razor.  I got this razor as a Father’s day gift last year (2016) to replace my old corded Norelco rotary razor that I had for 3 years.  So here we go with the pros and cons that I’ve observed.

Pros:

  • The lithium ion battery lasts a long time.  I don’t shave particularly often – maybe once every 3 or 4 days – because my hair doesn’t grow very fast or very thick, and I usually loose track of how long it’s been since the last time I plugged up my razor and charged it.  My best guess is it lasts me 5 or 6 weeks.  So if you’re going on a trip for a week, just charge this razor up and don’t worry about taking the charger.
  • The razor flows smooth as silk over my face.  When I first got the razor, it flowed so smoothly over my face that I almost decided I didn’t need to put powder on my face like I’d always done with my electric razors.  Over the months, though, it seems like it’s not gliding as easily as it did when I first got it.  It’s almost like there was a coating on the razor heads that is slowly wearing away.  This ties in with point 1 of my cons.

Cons:

  • It takes longer to shave with this razor.  When I first got this razor, it took 2-3 times as long to shave my face as compared to my older razor.  It just seemed to miss hairs – they wouldn’t fall into the slits on the heads.  However, as time has gone by, this problem seems to be going away.  It’s taking less time to shave than when I first got the razor.  So again, it makes me wonder if there’s some sort of coating on the razor heads that is slowly wearing off.
  • It doesn’t shave quite as close as my previous razor.  Like I said at the beginning, I only shave every 3-4 days, but with this new razor it seems like I can only go 2 & 1/2 – 3 & 1/2 days between shaves.  Not a big deal for me.  However, for guys whose hair grows at a more normal rate, this could mean having to shave again in the evenings before going out.

So there you have it – my experience with the Phillips Norelco series 5000 rotary razor.  Of course, this is just my experience – your mileage my vary.  Who knows – my razor could have been an oddity.

And this certainly isn’t meant to be a disparagement of the Phillips Norelco brand of rotary razors.  I’ve used them for years and will probably keep using them even after this model wears out for me.  I still think they are a decent product, even if this most recent model is not quite up to the level of their previous ones.

Next post, Lord willing, I will return to my normal programming.

Things I would have done differently through the years.

Hindsight is 20/20.  It’s funny how it goes.  The things I’ve learned through the years can be compressed into one blog post, but yet it took me decades to learn these things.  Ecclesiastes says that “of writing many books there is no end,” and that is certainly true of information on the internet.  Yet I wouldn’t trade the wisdom that I have through experience for what I would have learned from reading a million blog posts.

Some of these may apply generally while others may be specific only to me.  These are in no particular order of importance, and some of them are spiritual while others are more practical.

So without further ado, here they are:

    • I would have attended seminary.  When I first became a believer, I didn’t know nuthin’ about Christianity.  All I really knew was that I was on my way to hell and that Jesus was the escape hatch.  Granted, I grew in my Bible understanding, but I still wish I had a firmer grasp of things.  There were a few reasons why I balked at the idea, but the main one was that I didn’t sense a calling to preach and assumed that only preachers needed a seminary degree.  I now see that having a good solid grounding in Christian history, doctrine, etc. would have been helpful in whatever I did, even if I never got into what we typically think of as Christian ministry.

 

    • I would have been less stern in raising my children.  Oh don’t get me wrong – I still would have held them to the same standard that I did, but it’s the way in which I held them that I would have changed.  I would have spent more time talking with them, helping them see why what they did was wrong, been softer with my words and with my voice tone, rather than simply coldly dispensing the punishment and going on.  I think they way I did it was oftentimes unloving and may indeed have been harmful to their spirits.

 

    • I would have dealt more aggressively with my own sin  – things that kept popping up like pride, anger, fear, etc…  I tried ‘just doing better’ and would pray about them somewhat, but often fell back to a kind of ‘well, this is just how I am – can’t change it’ sort of mentality (although I never would have admitted that).  Knowing what I know now, I would have prayed much more fervently and consistently to conquer these things – not accepting defeat as an option – and would have sought accountability and help.  (No doubt this issue ties in with some of the other items on this list.)

 

    • I wouldn’t have weightlifted as hard as I did.  Rather than aiming to be as strong as Lou Ferrigno, I would have just trained to be in shape.  Rather than doing sets of 5 with 225 lbs., I would have done sets of 15 with 150 lbs. (which, if you do the math, actually adds up to more total pounds lifted.)  And, I would have eaten more protein.  I still would have been plenty strong enough to handle anything that I needed to, and I might not have the damage to my joints that I now have.

 

    • I would have saved more for the future.  It always seemed like there was something more urgent to spend the money on, and I would justify not saving for retirement with logic like “well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about retirement.”  And true, it doesn’t, but I didn’t count on possibly reaching a point where I’m not able to work, or at least not able to work at the income level where I am now, and having more in savings would be nice.  And let’s face it:  I wouldn’t really have missed that extra 100 or 200 dollars a month, but it would be nice to have in a growing nest egg for the future.  And it would have also been nice to have some extra put aside for medium-term savings – for when the refrigerator/heat pump/car dies unexpectedly and needs to be replaced.

 

Now is God sovereign in the midst of all of this?  Yes, He certainly is.  Is He able to bring beauty from ashes?  Yes, He is.  Does he offer forgiveness, grace, and mercy?  Yes, He does.  My point is not to wallow in my regrets, but merely to pass on the wisdom I have learned.

My hope and prayer is that people will read this and not repeat the mistakes I have made, if any of this applies to them.  You do not have to make a wreck of your life to have a testimony of God’s grace, (although if you have made a wreck of your life, God can certainly pull you out).  My hope is that you will have a testimony of God’s grace keeping you out of trouble and leading you away from the mistakes that I have made.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all

‘Fake News’ Is Not the problem.

Given the fast rate of change in the world of cyberspace and the gaboodles of commentators out there, some of this may be old news to you.  Still, I hope to bring some new insights to this issue, even if some of it is a bit of a rehash.

Much has been made of the issue of ‘fake news‘ lately.  Simply put, fake news is that which is intentionally incorrect.  There are fake news sites who specialize in putting out fake news stories, and certainly some of the internet memes you see on your Facebook page are fake news.

Fake news, though, is normally pretty easily dismissed – facts shut it down, although not as easily as you would think.  But what is more insidious is something that has been talked about for years – biased news.  News organizations, Facebook pages, twitter accounts, etc. that don’t actually report what is untrue, but simply only report one set of the facts – typically a set of facts that are designed to appeal to a particular subgroup of people – be that subgroup political, religious, racial, geographical, etc., and oftentimes a combination of factors that sub-slice society into tiny segments.  I would go so far as to say there are probably millions of these out there.

And not all of them are bad.  You may have a site that focuses on newsworthy items that relate to your suburb, and it’s probably just fine that site doesn’t carry the latest story from Iraq.

Where the problem exists is in those sites that carry news and report on things from a given perspective where there are multiple viewpoints, but the site only focuses on those facts and opinions that appeal to a certain group – i.e. conservatives vs. liberals.  These sites will typically report the facts that support the viewpoints of their consumers – usually slathered pretty heavily with rhetoric and hyperbole.  A steady diet of these kinds of ‘news’ sources can cause someone to have a pretty skewed perspective on what’s really going on in the world, not to mention promoting an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

But even these sites are only a symptom of the real problem.  The real problem is plain and simply… us.

The only reason these ‘news’ sites exist is because there is a demand for them.  They are simply responding to the marketplace.  If we did not seek after these sources of skewed and fake ‘news,’ there probably wouldn’t be near as many of them, and those that did exist would be there only for parody purposes.

We like these sites that present the information that we want to hear and exclude that info that we don’t want to hear.  Many people in cyberspace have built alternate realities for themselves where all they see is that which they agree with – that which affirms what they already believe.

Which means that many people out there aren’t really seekers of the truth – they are merely seekers of affirmation.

OK, so we’ve gotten this far, but now why are people this way?  While I’m sure there are lots of reasons, I’m just going to hit on a few that I think are relevant.

The first reason is I think folks like to be entertained.  They like the tantalizing, exciting pieces.  They like the anger, angst, and outrage.  They like the scandal and the gossip.  A straightforward presentation of all the facts and a ‘you make up your own mind about it’ approach is plain and simply too boring for some folks – indeed, it may seem like work.

Another reason, and this one is pretty understandable, is that a number of these sites can be downright hostile, obnoxious, condescending, even hateful to those who don’t think like they do or agree with them.

But even if the site doesn’t have these negative traits, a lot of folks don’t like to be exposed to facts and opinions that disagree with their own.  It can cause what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, and people don’t often care for it.  After all, life is stressful enough, right?  Who needs to struggle with facts and opinions that contradict our worldviews.  So we exchange the truth for a lie.

The thought I find most intriguing, though, is this.  People are seeking something to belong to – a group to feel like they are a part of and can identify with and feel like they are accepted and appreciated.  This analogy may seem base, but it’s one of the primary driving forces behind gang membership.  Guys come from broken homes with no sense of family and want to have that sense of belonging, that someone is looking out for them, that they are a part of something beyond themselves.

I wonder if… people who come from broken families, or families that were so bad they just want to forget and get away from them, if they are attracted to political or social viewpoints and causes that they can feel a part of.  Perhaps the reason there are extremes in political and social viewpoints, the reason people build these virtual online realities, is because of the angst from the past.  They just want to be a part of something that they never experienced when they were young.  Of course, it doesn’t fill the void – and can’t be expected to – but we humans are great at falling for the lies of the world and the enemy.

As I alluded to in an earlier post, Jesus is the only one who has the right to define us.  His creative work, His incarnation, His life and teachings, His death and resurrection, His word and His ongoing ministry to us through the Holy Spirit.  These are the only things that have the right to define us.

We’ve been reading Revelation recently as a family.  While I don’t know if the end is soon or not, I can certainly see how there are political/philosophical/religious systems that are doing their best to pull us away from the Lord.

May we be aware of these things, be vigilant against the enemy who seeks to destroy our souls, and ever turn away from these deceptions and keep looking to Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith.

Keeping Firearms in Perspective

firearms

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. – 1 Cor. 6:12

It seems as though you can’t be considered a good blogger, or at least not a popular one, unless you’re slapping people’s sacred cows.  While it certainly isn’t my intention to do that with this post, I can see how some folks might take it that way.

First let me say that I am solidly pro-second amendment.  I think the NRA might be a little too liberal on some of its positions.  I believe that all of the logic and all of the evidence side squarely with the pro-gun side of the debate.  The merits of firearm ownership are not what I’m hear to discuss.

But now let me paint a picture for you and let you think it over.

Let’s say you’re somewhere and you meet someone new and strike up a conversation.  Somewhere along the line the guy tells you that he’s into saws – all kinds of saws – circular, crosscut, chain, you name it, he’s into them.  He tells you that he has 15 of them at his house.  He’s going to sell one of them soon and get himself a new circular saw with a special Kevlar blade guard.  He has a chain saw on a shelf in his living room that has a laser etching of an old sawmill on the blade.  He tells you that he and his friends get together on weekends and practice cutting things up.  He’s especially excited about this weekend where a buddy has gotten his hands on a rough-cut 6 x 12 for them to cut on.  You assume this guy must be a carpenter, but no, his trade has nothing to do with construction and no need to use saws – he just really likes them – they are his passion.

Now I don’t know about you, but I would probably walk away thinking this guy is a little strange.  After all, saws are useful, but they’re really just tools – something carpenters and other construction guys use through the week and do-it-yourself guys on weekends.

Firearms are the same thing – they are just tools – tools that can be used for hunting, defense of self or others, or as a final line of defense against a tyrannical government.

Many people that I have met who are into firearms, though, sound like the guy described above.  Firearms are an all-consuming passion with them – almost like an extension of themselves or something that is used to define who they are.  And I would love to have all the money that these folks have spent on guns through the years – it would go a long way toward paying off my mortgage.

And I suppose this is all well and good for those who don’t know Jesus, but what about those of us who do?  I know there are some new testament scriptures that can be used to justify firearm ownership and self-defense, but really those are scant. There are many more that talk of turning the other cheek, being gentle as a dove, seeking peace, being patient, kind, and loving.  I could flood this post with scripture references to support my position, but there really isn’t much need.  Simply read the new testament – it’s plainly there.

So based upon Christ’s example and the teaching of the scripture, is it wise for Christians to so closely associate ourselves with firearms?  Given the fact that Jesus came to give us life and give it to us more abundantly, do we really want to be so closely associated with something that is essentially a tool of death?  When people meet us or remember us, do we really want their first thoughts to be of something that brings death to others?  When confronted with a difficult situation, should our first thought always be to reach for a tool that can plunge someone into eternity – someone who may not be ready to go?

Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t own firearms.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t hunt, or carry a gun for defense purposes, or even use a gun for defense purposes should a situation warrant it.

What I am saying is firearms are just tools – tools that are useful and have their place in specific circumstances, but they shouldn’t define us or consume us.  There’s only one person who has the right to define and consume us, and that is Jesus.

Let’s give Him his proper place in our lives and keep firearms in perspective.

A Slightly Fantastical Christmas Story

A few years ago I wrote this slightly fantastical story based upon a popular Christmas carol.  Of course, it’s not entirely out of the question.  It might have happened – can’t never tell.

It was a cold afternoon when the page first made his appearance before the king’s royal chambers.  It was a day he had been waiting for ever since his father first told him that he had arranged for him to become a page in the court of the king.  Now that the day had arrived he was nervous.  He was dressed appropriately, had been taught the etiquette of the court, but had never actually met the king.  The guards to the throne room pulled the doors open and he went inside.

When he stepped into the room he noticed that no one was there, or at least it seemed so at first.  The king was not on his throne and there were no advisors or servants standing around.
“Ah, I see you’ve arrived just in time, page.”  The page looked to his left and saw the king standing at a window.  “Come here.  I have a question for you.”
The page dutifully went and stood by the king.  Outside he could see that snow had begun to fall and that the wind was beginning to pick up.  It was a beautiful sight, but not the kind of weather one would like to be out in.  It was then that the page noticed a man walking through the snow.  He was gathering up sticks as he went.  His clothing was thin and his cloak threadbare – hardly of any use for the weather.
“Yonder peasant – who is he and where is his dwelling?” the king asked.
“I do not know his name, Sire, but I know he lives a few miles from here – over near the mountain where the forest grows thick.  He has a little house there.”
The king rubbed his beard thoughtfully as he gazed out the window, then turned to the page and slapped his hand on the sill. “What say we get in the Christmas spirit, eh?  Get some roasted meat, a skin of wine, and some split fire logs.  Load all those on your back and meet me in the rear courtyard in 15 minutes.  We shall take them to him – give him a good meal for the night.”
“Yes, Sire.”  The page quickly left to fulfill the king’s requests.  He made his way to the kitchen and told the head cook when he needed.  Then he found a woodcutter and got him to get a backpack for him and load it with wood.  He then went back to the kitchen, retrieved what he needed and returned to the woodcutter.  He then had the woodcutter secure the items to the pack and help the page load it onto his back.  It was heavy, but set fairly comfortably against him.

As he entered the rear courtyard he found it empty – and no wonder considering the cold.  The king appeared right on time and they exited out a small door in the wall – so as not to draw too much attention the king told him.  Once outside the wall the king led him in roughly the same direction as the peasant had traveled, although the king said he knew a shortcut that would save them time.  The oddity of the whole situation began to dawn on the page.  Here he was, with the king, trudging through the snow on a cold wintery day in the late afternoon, with no escort, going to visit a peasant.  It was not what he imagined the life of a page to be, but then again he liked this task.  He had been raised in a Christian home and had always been taught to help the poor, but he wondered how he would be able to do that as a page in the king’s court.  Well, the Lord seemed to have provided a way.  It appeared the king had a benevolent side as well.

As time and distance progressed, however, the page began to have second thoughts.  The afternoon sun was fading fast and the temperature was dropping.  Although he was clothed in better garments than the peasant, the ever increasing wind and snow was penetrating to his bones.  On top of this the load on his back was getting heavier and heavier, and the snow was weighing down his feet.  His strength began to fail him, and he staggered once because of the fatigue.

When he got his balance back and repositioned his pack, he noticed that the king was nowhere in sight.  “Sire!  Sire!” he called.
From ahead of him through the blowing snow he heard the king’s voice.  “I’m just ahead of you, page.”
The page advanced closer until he had caught up with the king.  “Sire, the sun is fading and the wind is blowing stronger.  I fear we will not make it.”
“We are nearly halfway there, page.”
“Do not be angry with me, Sire, but I do not think I can go on further.”
The king studied him for a moment.  “You are afraid.”
The page hung his head.  “Yes, Sire.”
“I understand, son.  It is a difficult night, to be sure, but think of the joy the peasant will experience when we get there.”
The page looked up into the bright eyes and caring face of the king. His eyes were warm and loving, and yet there was something about them that seemed to pierce into the core of his soul.
“Do you trust me, son?”
The page smiled.  “Yes, Sire.”
“Good.  Now make it easy on yourself and keep your head down.  Just watch for my footsteps and follow them.  I’ll lead the way.”

So on they went, the monarch leading the way through the snow with the page following behind.  He kept his thoughts on what the king had said and watched each footstep in the blowing snow.  Fatigue was wearing on him more and more, and he found his pace getting slower, but he kept his thoughts on the task at hand and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  By and by the snow began to let up and the wind slowed some.   The page looked up and saw that the peasant’s cottage was just ahead.  The king had apparently gotten far ahead of him, for his tracks led all the way to the door.  The sun was now almost completely gone.  The page made his way to the front door and knocked.  The peasant opened the door and looked at the page with surprise.
“I am the king’s page,” he announced.
“Come in, come in.” The peasant opened the door wider and closed it behind him.
The cottage was indeed small and slightly drafty.  There was a small fire in the fireplace, but it wasn’t putting off much warmth.  The page dropped his pack from his back and quickly unloaded some dry pine logs and put them on the fire.  Then he removed the roasted meat and wine and put them on the table.  It was only then that the page really looked around and noticed that the king wasn’t there.
“Where did the king go?” he asked.
“Pardon?”
“The king – where is he?”
“I suppose he’s in the castle,” the peasant replied somewhat whimsically.
“No, I followed him here – that’s how I found your place.  He led the way here.”
“What?”
The page related the story to the old peasant.
The peasant smiled thoughtfully.  “I always knew the king was a good man.  I have heard the stories of his goodness, but now I have seen his generosity for myself.”
“But where has he gone?”
“He must have gotten you here and then went back.”
“I suppose…” the page opened the door and looked out – quite puzzled.  The clouds were beginning to break overhead.  He just shook his head in astonishment.
“Here now, come and share some of this meat and wine with me before returning to the castle.  It will refresh you after your long journey.”
Although he anxiously wanted to return to the castle, the peasant’s words seemed prudent.  The fire was now blazing up brightly, so he sat on a stool by the small table.  The two of them shared some of the meat and a chunk of bread, along with a small cup of wine.  The page listened attentively as the old peasant related a few stories from his younger years, and found himself laughing – or almost moved to tears – depending upon what the story was telling.  Although the page had been raised in a relatively wealthy family, he found himself able to get along with this man quite well.  There seemed to be an odd camaraderie between them.

After dinner, the page opened the door and looked outside.  The clouds had cleared and the moon shown bright overhead.  “I’d better get back to the castle,” he said.
“Send my sincerest thanks to the king.”
“I will, sir.”
“Godspeed, young page.”
“Thank you.  The Lord be with you, sir.”
With that the page pulled his cloak tightly around him and headed off into the night.  The wind was still blowing hard and cold, but with the load off his back and refreshed from the food, he was able to make good time.   When he returned to the castle the king’s chief advisor was looking for him.
“So there you are, page.  Where have you been?”
“I have been with the king on an errand.”
“With the king on an errand?”
“Yes, we took food and firewood to a peasant near the forest’s edge.”
The advisor looked at him askance with a puzzled look.  “I have been with the king all afternoon and evening and he has never left the castle.”
“Yes he did.  He led the way for me through the blowing snowstorm.  I would have surely gotten lost without him.”
Now the advisor was looking at him suspiciously.  “Perhaps you’d better come with me.”   As they began walking down the hall the advisor glanced aside at a nearby guard who fell in behind them.  On his second visit to the throne room the king was on his throne attended by a scribe.  Once the advisor and the page were inside the king addressed him.  “Ah, there you are, page.  Where have you been?”
“Forgive me, Sire.  I stayed a while with the peasant while the clouds cleared enough to see my way back to the castle.  I got here as soon as possible.”
The king looked puzzled.  “What peasant?”
“The one we took the food and firewood to.”
“We?”
“Yes, you and I …” He stopped short, thinking the king perhaps wanted this to be a secret.
“I do not know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m sorry, Sire… it was nothing.”
“No, but it was surely something.  Tell me all about it.”
The page was somewhat flustered but tried to maintain his composure before the king.  “When I came in earlier you were standing at the window.  You called me over to ask me if I knew anything about a passing peasant.  I told you where he lived and you instructed me to get meat, wine, and firewood for him.  Then you led the way through the snowstorm to his house.”
The poor page was starting to feel nervous because the king was studying him intently.  This wasn’t just a ruse to throw his advisors off the trail – the king clearly didn’t know what the page was taking about.  One of his advisors turned his back slightly to the page and leaned toward the king, while trying to hide a smirk that was forming on his face.
“I fear he is a bit off in his head, Sire. Perhaps being in the cold has gotten the better of him.”
The king was stroking his beard thoughtfully.  “Now where exactly was this?”
The page related the details of the location of the peasant’s cabin.
“Very well, then.  You are dismissed for the day, page.  You will resume your duties in the afternoon tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Sire.”
After the page left the king gave his advisor a concerned look.  “First thing in the morning go to this peasant’s house and interview him.  See what his side of the story is.”  The advisor looked somewhat doubtful but nevertheless agreed to do so.

The page’s thoughts were a swirl as he left the throne room.  For a moment he wondered if it really happened, but he knew in his heart he did not dream the whole thing.  But what was going on with the king?  Was this some kind of strange test?  If so, then what was its purpose, and did he pass or fail?  He went to the page quarters and lay down on his bed to think and pray.

Unfortunately for him, though, news of the escapade had made its way to the other pages.  He noticed some of them smiling at him funny.  Others whispered together in little groups and laughed when they looked his way.  He tried to ignore them, but he could guess what they were thinking and felt the sting of their derision.  He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, and had nearly succeeded when a large bucket of snow was dumped onto him.  He sat bolt upright and saw a shadowy figure with a sheet over him.
“Whoooaaa!!”  the figure cried in a haunting voice.  “I’m the king!  Come follow me into the woods!”
Hot with anger and fear, the page grabbed his blanket and ran from the quarters as the other pages roared in laughter.   Humiliated beyond anything he had experienced before, he found a quiet spot on the floor in an unused part of the castle, curled up in a ball, and cried his pain out to the Lord before falling asleep.

In the morning, when the advisor returned from visiting the peasant, the king questioned him on what he had found.  “The peasant and his cabin were indeed there, and he confirms the page’s story.  He said the page brought him meat, wine, and firewood.  He also confirms that the page said you led the way there, and that the page was confused that you were not there when he arrived.”
The king’s expression moved from surprise to thoughtfulness.  He arose from his throne and strolled across the floor to the window.  He gazed out it a few moments without saying a word.  Then a smile crossed his face and he said, “Call for the page.”
In a few minutes the page arrived.  The king did not turn from looking out the window.  “I have come to the conclusion, page, that you are not cut out to serve in this castle.”
The poor page’s heart sank like a rock, and he could hardly hide his disappointment.  What will my father say? He thought.
The king turned toward him and continued.  “No, you are meant for something much greater than this lowly place.  You are meant to serve the Most High.”
Now the page’s expression had changed to one of surprise and wonder.  “What do you mean, Sire?”
“You have a heart to see and hear the voice of the Lord – to minister for Him.  I can arrange for you to have the theological training that you need.  What say you to it?”
The page was speechless.  He turned aside for a moment to think.  It seemed as though everyone faded out of the room and he was alone, and in that quiet moment he heard the words again.  “Do you trust Me, son?”
“I do,” said the page, then turning to the king he said, “I accept your offer, Sire.”

Early the next week the page left the castle.  He was traveling to study with a man named John who had a reputation for having an excellent spirit and understanding of scripture.  It was a bright morning, and a fresh snow lay round about – deep, crisp, and even.  He gazed out across the field leading toward the mountains and forest in the distance, and thought of the night he spent with the peasant.  It was a pleasant night – one that was healing to his weary spirit and body.  He had gone to be a blessing to the poor man, and in the process found a blessing for himself.

A Christian Response to Race Relations

I’ve been mulling this one over in my mind for over a year now and I think it’s time to go ahead and put it out there.  It all started for me when a white guy went into a black church in South Carolina and shot the place up.  In response, people asked for – and received – the Confederate flag being taken down at the South Carolina capitol building.  I thought to myself, “That’s all?  Surely we can do better than that.”  After all, we in the church should be taking the lead in tackling these societal issues.

But let’s face it:  Tackling this one will mean getting outside our comfort zones, potentially getting ourselves hurt, being misunderstood (perhaps by our own race) – and we as Christians in the U.S. don’t really like having to actually work to get something done or to get our hands dirty.  We’re just like most everybody else in America – we just want to float along and do our own thing.  We’ve been doing this for decades, though, and look what the state of the nation is.  (I’m preaching to myself here, folks, as much as anybody else.  As I’ve said before, I like my comfortable Christian rut as much as the next guy.)

So I spent some time thinking about what the church can do to really address these issues – not just give lip service to them.

Try moving into a mixed race neighborhood.  This one frightened me when I first thought of it, which was a first-class indicator of my own reluctance to get outside my comfort zone.  I think, though, that God was in this because when I bought my home over here in Huntsville I discovered (after I moved in) that the neighborhood was probably 15-20% black.  Not very mixed, to be sure, but a far cry from the nearly all-white neighborhoods I’d lived in before.

When I go to the Wal-Mart, Lowes, or Kroger, there’s 30-50% black people there – sometimes more.  And you know what?  I find that, generally speaking, the black folks are friendlier than the white folks.

Which leads me on to my next point…

Make a deliberate attempt to be friendly and cultivate friendships with people of a different race.  When you’re in the store, or at work, or wherever, make a deliberate attempt to smile, be polite, and strike up casual conversations with folks of another race.  Again, this can be a hard one, especially if you’re a little introverted like I am.  So far I haven’t tried walking across the street to my neighbor’s place and striking up a conversation with them, so I can understand how this can be a challenge.  But again, if we’re to be salt and light and peacemakers in this world, it won’t just happen with us be-bopping along through life doing our own thing.  It’s gonna require a concerted effort.

Attend a church where most of the folks are of a different race.  Someone once said that the most segregated hour in America is 11 am on Sunday morning, and they were dead-on right.  The government has done its part to desegregate schools and businesses, but where it has kept its hands off things, we have continued to self-segregate ourselves.  There are lots of reasons for this, but I don’t want to get sidetracked discussing those.  The bottom line is we have to take deliberate steps to counteract this.

So in that vein I decided to visit a predominantly black church in our area when I was trying to find a church.  I found the people to be genuinely friendly and welcoming.  The only reason I didn’t go back is that I detected some doctrinal differences in the teaching the night I went.

But…

I think I might have used this as an excuse, because admittedly I was a little uncomfortable being the odd man out in a sea of folks that were different from me.  So I think I might have written them off too quickly without going back a few more times to see what they were really all about.

See how easily our own issues can come up and get in the way of racial reconciliation?  The enemy has lots of ways to sidetrack us.

Another idea would be for a black and a white church in an area to get together and swap part of their congregations for a year.  This would require two pastors and two congregations with vision.  Sure, they would probably lose some of their members who just couldn’t adapt or get over their issues, but I suspect God would bless such an endeavor so much that it would make up the difference and then some.

Marry someone of another race.  Obviously for some of us this is outside the realm of consideration, but for you single folks out there… don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying marry the first person of another race that comes down the pike.  Do your due diligence.  Apply the same criteria you would apply to anyone else.

What I am saying though is… open yourself up to the idea, and by that I don’t mean merely giving the idea intellectual lip service.  I mean truly open yourself up to it – to the point where maybe it makes you a little uneasy to think you might actually do this.  To the point where you take active steps to meet individuals of another race.  An interracial marriage not only affects the two people who marry, but all the close family members and friends of those people as well.

The obvious point of all these activities is to stimulate interaction and communication, and thereby decrease misunderstanding, confusion, stereotyping, and ill feelings.

Now there are some caveats to this.  Not everything I’ve mentioned can be done by everyone.  Maybe you don’t live in a racially mixed area – maybe there’s nobody around of another race for you to interact with.  Moving is a big decision – not something you should enter into lightly.  Maybe you’re already married.  But for a number of us, we can find at least one thing on this list we can work toward.

The bigger caveat is this, though:  These ideas all sound good, but without God being a part of it, nothing will be accomplished.  Ultimately, He is the one who works in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure.  Sure we need to do our part, but we also need to pray that God will do what only He can do.  He is the only one who can truly bring about racial reconciliation, because He is the one who can change our hearts – and that’s where the change needs to take place for this problem to go away.

 

An Interview with a Wizened Saint.

When we first moved over to Huntsville, it seemed like I visited over a dozen churches before realizing where I needed to be.  In that process, I got to meet a couple of older pastors – the kind that really seem to be in touch with the Lord.  It occurred to me that it would be a little foolish to let these individuals pass on without trying to extract some of the wisdom the Lord has given them over the years.  So I decided to go speak with one of them and ask him a simple question:  What has the Lord shown you over the years – what sort of wisdom has He taught you?

The first individual I interviewed has pastored several churches in north Alabama and southern Tennessee for several decades.  Most of what he gave me in terms of life lessons pertained specifically to ministry, but I think those of us who are not in full-time ministry can find a way to apply these nuggets to our lives as well.

These aren’t in any particular order other than how he gave them to me.  For some of them I may have some commentary or some remarks to flesh them out, but others I will just let them stand as they are and let you ponder them.

“God’s will for your life is personalized between you and God – no man can tell you what it is.”  He related a story from his early years of ministry.  He sensed the Lord leading him in one direction, but all his preacher buddies told him to go another way.  He yielded to the advice of men, and the Lord allowed it for a season, but it didn’t turn out so well.  When that time ended, the Lord reminded him that he wasn’t where he was supposed to be.  When he got in line with what the Lord wanted for him, the effectiveness of his ministry increased.

“Better to move on in a situation where there is a conflict that won’t resolve than to force the issue and cause problems.”  Sometimes this means to physically remove one’s self from a situation, and other times to just drop the issue and move on.

As a corollary to the above: “Timing on an issue can be very important.”  He related a story about a church that needed to build a new sanctuary, but there was division in the congregation about it.  They ended up building some new Sunday School rooms as a compromise.  Then a year later, the issue was brought up again.  This time there was 100% approval.

Also related to the above:  “Sometimes the congregation may want to go one way and the pastor may not, but the congregation may be going in the right direction.”  The idea that the pastor isn’t always right seems like a tad of a no-brainer – unless the pastor has pride issues.

“Encouragers are just as important as leaders – nothing is sweeter to someone in ministry as encouragement.”

“You cannot always know what the Lord has for you, but when you don’t know what to do, continue to do what you do know.”

“If your child is trapped in a burning house, you don’t care which fire station answers the call, only that your child is rescued.  God doesn’t care which ‘fire station’ answers the call, only that souls get saved.”  Amen, brother!

“In doctrinal conflict, you can talk back and forth until you’re blue, red, and purple in the face, but the Holy Spirit is the real teacher.  Everything else is just arguing.”  I’ve been putting this one into practice already.

“Unless somebody has been converted at some point about Scripture, chances are they are wrong now.”  In other words, unless someone has allowed the Holy Spirit to change their mind about something they believe about the Scriptures, odds are what they are trying to teach you is not right.  This seems like a deep one to me – not sure I’m in 100% agreement, but it certainly merits some thought.

And last but not least: “A pastor’s ministry is not just in the pulpit, but in the hospital, funeral homes, etc…”  He said he can’t count the number of times the Lord used him to change someone’s eternal destiny just because he was there when the person needed him.

If I were to write down all the life lessons the Lord had taught me, it would probably be less than a page, but those lessons were hard-learned and I cherish the wisdom I got from them.  How wonderful to have spent a morning with an old, wizened saint and glean the wisdom the Lord has taught him.

Now if I can just remember this when the time comes to apply it… there’s the real test.

 

Why Are You Fearful?

Here’s an excellent piece regarding fear – one of those that’s easy to agree with intellectually but hard as can be to put into to practice.

Peculiar Miss Darcy

I’ve read that terrific storms can strike without warning on the Sea of Galilee. It happened to Jesus and His disciples once, but Jesus slept through most of it. Finally, afraid for their lives, the disciples awoke Jesus, begging Him to save them. And Jesus did. He stood up and quieted the storm with His words.

Then He had a question for His disciples:

“Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (from Matthew 8:26 NKJV)

If it had not been Jesus speaking, I can almost imagine the disciples’ mouths falling open at those words. “Why are we fearful?” they might have repeated, incredulous. “Did you not see that storm?”

Here’s some of the description from the Bible:

“…the boat was covered with the waves.” (Matthew 8:24 NKJV)

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.” (Mark 4:37 NKJV)

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Three things I learned from a week of volunteer ministry

I recently spent a week volunteering at the home offices of a major international missions organization.  When I spoke to my wife about the things that I learned on the trip, her reaction was something along the lines of “Well, duh – you didn’t know that?”  I suppose that if I had thought about it beforehand I would have realized these things were true, but I guess I still had some idealized notions in my head.

So this post is really more for your amusement than education – especially those of you who have been involved in full time ministry.

  1. Full time ministry is not glamorous, romantic, or exciting.  Well, I suppose it might have its moments along those lines, but all that I saw was just normal, everyday, get-the-job-done, do-what-you’re-supposed-to-do sort of work.
  2. The people involved in full time ministry are not super saints.  I met one person at the organization I volunteered with who I thought was really exceptional.  Other than that, everybody I met just seemed like normal people – with the typical assortment of interests, skills, and problems in their lives that everyone else has.
  3. Working in full time ministry is not being in a spiritual fortress.  I found the enemy, as well as my flesh, to be just as active – if not more so – for that week as any other week.  I had not entered a demilitarized zone when I went to their office.

I think all of this points to a sort of artificial distinction we have in Christianity.  We seem to have this idea that ministry is to be done by others – those who are paid to do it – and that this puts those people into a special class:  they’re somehow different from the rest of us.  In reality, full time ministry really only means that a person earns their bread by doing things that (hopefully) promote the gospel, as opposed to guys like me who earn their bread by writing software for the military.

The truth of the matter is that all of us are called to minister to those around us in one way or another – we are all called to make the gospel known.  This can be an intimidating reality to us.  On the other hand, though, it’s comforting to know that ministry is really not all that special – it’s just doing what the Lord tells us to do – and any ol’ ordinary Christian can do that.

 

 

The solution lies with us.

There has been a flurry of talk lately in Christian circles about the state of society.  Many are shocked, disgusted, and frightened by the increasing immorality in society and how it is being forced upon those who disagree.  More and more we are seeing signs of persecution – people loosing their livelihoods and jobs because they will not go along with the demands of the whole 5-letter movement (LGBTQ).  We wonder where this will all end.

I can certainly understand the concern.  If you look at church history – and indeed the current state of the church in a lot of the world – persecution is a big part of the story.  Then you look at things in recent history like Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Maoist China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and you see that man is not only capable of, but in many instances perfectly content with, treating those they disagree with or devalue with terrible cruelty.

Will parents have their children taken away from them because they teach them that anything other than marriage between a man and a woman is sin?  Will churches be shut down because they won’t stop preaching that the 5-letter business is sin?  Will concentration camps be opened for those of us who won’t bow to the demands of the ungodly?  These things may sound outlandish to our American ears, but none of them are without precedence in recent history.

But before I get too far off track about what may possibly happen in the future, I want to take a look at this issue from the standpoint of the church’s responsibility – both in terms of the cause and the solution.

I understand that God is sovereign and that none of what is transpiring – or will transpire – is taking Him by surprise.  He will use all things for His purposes and to glorify His name.  I agree with all that.  But there’s more to this situation than meets the eye, and simply writing the situation off as “it’s God’s will” unnecessarily, and perhaps harmfully, whitewashes it.

In the 26 years that I’ve been a Christian, people have bemoaned how bad things are getting in society.  How crime, immorality, anger, hatred, etc. – are growing.  And we’ve fretted about lukewarmness, divorce, and myriads of other sins being committed in the church.  And I have agreed and often mourned these things myself.

But I’ve also noticed something else in my 26 years.  If you want to see a bad attendance at church, don’t go to Wednesday night Bible study, or even the men’s fellowship group.

Go to prayer meeting.

I’m not talking about what most churches call prayer meeting – where they sing a few songs, somebody brings a message, they take prayer requests and then pray for 2 minutes (or less) over them.  I’m talking about a sure-enough prayer meeting – where you get together for 1, 2, … 5 hours or more and cry out to God about the needs in the church, in the community, and in the world.

I was attending a church one time that had an average weekly attendance of around 600.  They decided one day that they would start a prayer ministry.  At the first meeting there were less than 10 people in attendance.  We were assigned an abandoned closet under the stairs as our prayer room – you couldn’t even stand up in it.  At the second meeting there were 3 people – myself and 2 ladies, and I never saw more than 5 people at the prayer meeting.

Brothers and sisters, I believe this is the primary weakness in the church – we simply don’t pray.  We’re either too self-sufficient and don’t think we really need God, or we don’t believe Him and take Him at His word that He answers prayer.  Maybe it’s both.  In any case, this weakness has been going on for decades, and I believe it’s why we are in the state we are in – both inside and outside the church.

This is why there is so much sin in our society and nearly as much sin inside the church.  This is why churches are dying instead of growing.  This is why we don’t often see the miracles of changed lives, salvation, deliverance, and healing.  This is why crime, drugs, abuse, broken families, etc. are so prevalent in society.

Contrast this with the church in Asia, for example, that is growing in most places.  The midweek prayer meeting is just as important to most Christians as the Sunday morning worship service.  Whole communities begin to change as the church prays.

I remember being in a large Baptist church in Atlanta one time.  There were several doors leading from the foyer to the sanctuary, which was rated for over 1400 people.  Off to one side of the foyer was a door leading to a small room that could have maybe held 50 people if it was packed.  Over that door was a sign that read ‘prayer room’.  I remember thinking that if this church had been in Asia, the ‘prayer room’ sign would have been over the doors leading to the sanctuary.

Can you see what’s going on here, folks?  We’ve been irresponsible.  By being so negligent in prayer, we have not done our duty to our children, our family, our friends, or even to the lost world out there.  And believe me, I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Now I know there are some who will disagree with me and say that the biggest problem with the church is its rejection of biblical truth.  People base their morality more on subjective experiences and feelings rather than the absolute truth of God’s word, and thus justify whatever ungodliness they wish to.  And I would agree that this is a major problem in the church.

Others would say that the biggest problem is that the church is not sharing the gospel with the lost – that we just keep floating along hoping that one day folks will take an interest and start going to church and get saved.  We don’t do anything to reach out and show people the love of Jesus.  And I would agree – this is a major failing of the church as well.

Still others would say that the biggest problem in the church is the fact that the church doesn’t do what the Bible says.  We say we are Christians, but we don’t live like Christians should.  It’s often summed up with the modern refrain “The church is full of hypocrites!”  I used to be in this particular camp myself, and still believe it’s a terrible problem in the church.

But I contend that prayer is interrelated with all these things.

Exercise is good for the heart in and of itself.  But exercise also brings down cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight.  All of these things are good for the heart as well.

In the same manner, prayer affects other aspects of our walk.  Prayer forces us to acknowledge our dependence upon God.  The Holy Spirit becomes more active, bringing God’s word to life in our lives.  He brings conviction when we hear God’s word.  He puts that fire in our bones to make the message of Christ’s salvation available to the lost.  He gets our hearts tuned in with God so we can hear His voice better and align our will with His.  He helps us get out there and be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus to a lost world.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

So there’s the solution to the problem – we need to pray more as a body.  I know there are a few folks out there who are regularly gathering together for prayer for their families, churches, communities, and the world – and that’s good.  But that needs to be amplified many-fold.  Every church needs to be actively gathering and interceding before God.

Now I’m not saying that this will produce an instant solution to the problems we have in church and in society.  Most probably, things will get worse before they get better.  We didn’t get into this problem overnight – it is the result of decades of negligence – so we probably won’t get out of it overnight (although anything is possible with God).

But there is a pathway out, and indeed we have a responsibility to take that pathway – a responsibility to our children, our neighbors, our community, our nation, and our world.  Ultimately, it is our responsibility before God.

The solution lies with us, folks – let’s take up the challenge.