Tag Archives: God

Does God Ever Change?

Some time ago I was asked, in a roundabout way, if God ever changes. I’ve been contemplating that question, off and on, for a few months now because I certainly don’t want to pass along any misinformation or offer my opinion as factual. I take the task of interpreting the Bible very seriously. The easy and predictable answer to the question at hand, of course, is no. We need look no further than to Hebrews 13:8 for the answer: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” However, I’m not one to simply skim the surface of a particular subject, but instead I typically dive down deeper to see if anything else may be there.

The question is “Does God ever change?” – not to be confused with “Does God ever change His mind?” – which I think is a much harder question to answer. I think the answer to the latter though would also be no. I believe God can do anything and everything regardless of the old trick question commonly proposed by atheists: “Can God make a mountain so big he can’t move it?” Think about it. I believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe God is all-knowing; therefore, when a person is miraculously healed then how can it be that God actually changed His mind when He already knew what the outcome of the situation was going to be?

I’ve consistently been in the Word, for several years now, but I do not pretend to know everything about God or His perfect plan. In fact, nobody does: not me, not TV evangelists, and not even the Pope. Those who think they’ve got the mystery of God all figured out are erroneously attempting to put our Creator and Savior in a box. God cannot be reduced to just a neatly wrapped package.

It is my understanding that God does not change. Many churches though have transformed over the years. My church upbringing included Sunday School, youth programs, and hanging out with one cool youth pastor. As an adolescent, church services normally meant spending most of my time fidgeting in the pew and the rest of it belting out beloved hymns from an actual hymnal. Oh how I miss those old-time hymns and the majestic sounds of the church organ resonating from the stage.

Nowadays, in a dramatically changing world, it appears the majority of churches have gone contemporary to attract a different breed of truth seekers, and that’s okay. People of today tend to need colorful lights, special effects, loud music, and an informal dress code in order to explore Christianity. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a church adjusting its ways for the sake of attracting the lost. What’s not okay is when a church changes its Biblical principles and policies to comply with what the world deems acceptable.

Although God does not change, America’s acceptance of sin has significantly shifted over time. I was taught both at church and at home, during my formative years, living together before marriage was a sin. And homosexuality was practically unheard of, at least to this guy, when I was an adolescent. I was introduced to the subject of homosexuality while watching the late 70s to early 80s sitcom, Three’s Company, although John Ritter’s extremely entertaining portrayal of Jack Tripper wasn’t all that authentic since the Jack character was only pretending to be gay so he could live in the same apartment with two women, Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow (ahhh…Chrissy Snow). The threesome’s living arrangement was strictly platonic, but their landlord would not believe such a scenario, and he was not about to allow unmarried people of the opposite sex live together under one roof because he knew it was morally wrong; hence, the reason for the trio’s charade.

Today, shacking up without a marriage license is no longer frowned upon in most circles. Unsurprisingly, due to the times we’re living in, numerous talk show hosts and countless so-called experts even encourage this sort of behavior. These Hollywood types suggest prematurely living together, a trial run if you will, as a way to see if marriage may be right for them…some time in the future. And homosexuality is now frequently celebrated in this country, and transgender people are regularly regarded as heroes and role models. Apparently, a majority of the United States no longer has a problem with abnormal sexuality, but I’m confident my God does not approve of any sin regardless of whether or not society decides to give its hearty endorsement. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1st Corinthians 3:19).

I wonder why it is that our minds usually go straight to sexual immorality when pondering sin? I suppose it’s because “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1st Corinthians 6:18). Sin is really just being apart from God. We are all guilty of this at times, but it becomes a serious problem when one chooses to remain apart from Him for a prolonged period of time. God certainly continues to love the sexually immoral just as He continues loving those who are envious, liars, murderers, and thieves. However, He surely is sorely disappointed since that’s not His best for any of His children.

Many things change – in one’s life – in one’s country – throughout the world – throughout history – but I believe God does not. I’m pretty sure our Maker is exactly the same in the year 2017 as He was when Adam and Eve strolled through the Garden of Eden. God will always be who He is. God will always do what He does. If He ever did change, His truths and therefore His promises would be worthless. Thankfully, the Bible contains several passages of Scripture that assures us He does not change.


Lunch With Jesus

The other day I had lunch with Jesus. That may or may not sound strange depending on who you are and what you believe. I have believed in God (the one and only God) for several years although I used to inaccurately envision Him as a detached supreme being, watching over His creation from afar, instead of as the encompassing, loving entity that He truly is. In actuality, He is much closer to us than we probably can even imagine. I wonder how I overlooked, for so many years, the fact that the name Immanuel (Jesus) actually means “God with us.” Duh! I no longer see God as being way out there in the universe somewhere because at times He’s in my own backyard. Literally!

I invited Jesus to have lunch with me this past week, and not surprisingly He accepted my invitation. I wish I could take credit for such a novel idea, but having lunch with Jesus was suggested by my pastor. He made the proposal to his congregation but only after experiencing the unconventional activity himself. Quietly praying to my Lord and Savior is an amazing thing, but speaking out loud to Him as a friend adds a whole other dimension to the relationship. At least that is what I have found to be true these past few years, so I was more than willing to partake in the soul training exercise as recommended.

I made myself a Reuben sandwich, but I did not make one for Jesus. I’m not crazy! However, I did pull out a chair for Him to sit on after bringing my Reuben, a handful of Cheetos, and a Snapple iced tea to the table outside underneath the covered patio. I began the luncheon by thanking Jesus for always being there with me even when I wasn’t truly aware of it in the past. I immediately thought about the beloved “Footprints in the Sand” poem as I visualized myself being carried by God. I was then compelled to thank Him for those trying times throughout my life when He absolutely “carried me.” I continued thanking Jesus, in between bites of my delicious sandwich and Cheetos, for my family and for all he has blessed me with.

I poured my heart out to my Savior with unconstrained emotion. I told Him what was on my mind, and I shared all of my recent concerns with Him. The time went by quickly, and I found I had much more to say to Jesus than I had anticipated. My sandwich had cooled off (as much as it could in the Arizona heat) before I was even halfway finished, but I continued conversing with my Lord until my plate was spotless. I admitted to Jesus I knew I had been hogging the conversation. I guess there was so much I needed to say and so much gratitude I wanted to express. I then informed Him I was going to shut up and just listen for a while because I longed to hear His voice in that special moment.

I also told Jesus how hearing a small voice would be fine, but a thunderous voice from Him would be a whole lot better because sometimes I’m not too bright, so subtleties are usually wasted on me. I closed my eyes and sat in silence. I listened intently but I didn’t hear a thing. I eventually opened my eyes and began surveying everything in the backyard before finally staring up at the sky in hopes of receiving some sort of a sign. Again, nothing. This new venture was foreign to me, so I wasn’t sure if I was executing the task in the proper manner or not. I decided to close my eyes and sit in silence some more. I heard myself softly repeating, “Please speak to me, I want to hear your voice.”

The popular biblical phrase, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” was the first thing that entered my mind for some reason. I promptly dismissed that notion because I figured maybe my ego was attempting to get in the way. Next, a pesky fly landed on my arm. It appeared to be the only one in my backyard, but obviously its mission was to bug me (pun intended) since it had been buzzing around the table the entire time I was having lunch with Jesus. Instantly, but only for a second or two, I thought, “Uh-huh, there’s a lesson to be learned here.” Maybe I had become easily annoyed lately, and Jesus was imploring me to “chill out.” Maybe.

Suddenly, I was no longer blanketed in peaceful silence. My neighbor to the east wandered out into his backyard, and soon I realized he was in no hurry to go back indoors. There was an incessant clanging, for the next several minutes, in which I perceived as having something to do with the transportation of ceramic flowerpots. Then a dog somewhere in the distance began barking and would not quit. A neighbor nearby, to the west of me, started-up some type of power saw that continued to run non-stop. Then I noticed an array of birds unified in one spirited song as though they were from the same choir. Another neighbor, on the other side of my southern cement wall, added to all of the other distractions by tossing his recyclables, one at a time of course, into an echoing receptacle.

Maybe I was being reminded of what my pastor has repeatedly proclaimed from the pulpit on Sunday mornings: We do not work where we work, play where we play, or live where we live by chance. I was placed in my neighborhood for a reason. As a follower of Christ I am called to be a good neighbor, and at times I am to be the light in someone’s darkness. Maybe I was suppose to be better aware of people’s needs especially of those who live around me. Probably. It was difficult for me to know for sure with the lack of silence now being so magnified. I told Jesus, “Apparently, our quiet lunch together is over, and maybe you didn’t have any earth-shattering thing to say to me at this time.”

As soon as the last word of that sentence left my mouth something happened. The once calm air transformed into a gusty wind upsetting the previously motionless wind chimes hanging above my head. The swaying chimes emitted a ding…ding…ding sound resembling what is commonly heard on television game shows when a correct answer is given by the contestant. It appeared as though Jesus was in agreement that our lunch date was indeed over. I began pondering what had transpired over the last hour, and I could not help but recall the “good and faithful” thought I initially had when I first sat there in silence. Maybe on this special occasion God simply was pleased I had taken the time to have lunch with Jesus.


An Open Letter To Nick Offerman

Dear Mr. Offerman,

I recently received your book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, as a gift from my son. He knows I immensely enjoy watching your brilliantly portrayed character, Ron Swanson, on the hit television series, Parks and Recreation. I think I had even mentioned to my son how I presumed your New York Times Bestseller would probably be a hilarious read. Immediately after delving into the modest paperback I discovered I was right, but I was surprised at finding how much our childhoods resembled one another’s upbringing. We appear to be alike in so many ways it’s almost uncanny.

I hold the exact hierarchy position in my family of six as you do in yours. Even the sex of each sibling in my family’s birth order is identical to yours: girl, boy (me), girl, boy. We also spent the majority of our waking hours outdoors, and all my brother and I needed to keep us occupied for hours on end was a ball and a bat. I am the oldest male grandchild in my family as well, and my parents also married young (they’re about to celebrate 52 years of wedded bliss). My father was the sole breadwinner, and usual disciplinarian of the household, while my mother stayed at home tending to the needs of their four children. She fashioned some of our clothes from patterns, purchased at the local fabric store, and she cooked hearty meals on a regular basis.

We rarely ate out which made the times that we did all the more special to us kids even though our typical order wasn’t all that exciting: six hamburgers, six small french-fries and six small cokes. Nothing else. My father always did the ordering and thought customizing our order would be too confusing for everyone involved. If one of us didn’t care for ketchup on our hamburger then we could just scrape it off the bun, and washing our meal down with anything other than a Coke was…”fa-get-about-it.” When my younger brother was in high school he went to McDonald’s with a few of his friends to grab a bite to eat. He was utterly amazed when he perused the menu board and noticed there were other options (besides Coke) listed underneath the soft drinks heading. He then understandably was overwhelmed and felt compelled to ask his peers, “What’s Sprite, what’s Dr. Pepper?” A whole new world opened up to my brother that day.

I was raised in a small-town in the Midwest, not unlike your upbringing, but since Iowa doesn’t have any professional sports teams I was forced to look outside the state for my favorite baseball team. However, I did not fall victim to rooting for the Chicago cubs like you did, Mr. Offerman. Thank God. My father also plants a garden in his backyard every year, and he taught me several valuable life lessons, too. He possesses a love and respect for his tools like no other, and he commonly can be heard saying, “take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you.” I was and still am a big fan of Prince, and like you I have no need for a firearm. I also love red meat, although I guess chicken and fish will do in a pinch, but I’d rather be shot than eat tofu for my daily intake of protein. I concur that all animals should be “humanely” killed before bringing their delicious carcasses to the table.

In addition, as much as it pains me to say, I am a proponent of the separation of church and state as well. I most-definitely would like to see a manger scene on the Courthouse lawn at Christmastime, but I realize that opens the door for others to adorn their religious symbols on government property, and I would not like that one bit. The only major differences I can ascertain between you and I, Mr. Offerman, is that you were raised a country boy whereas I’m pure city folk, and our stance on Christianity is as different as night and day. Sadly, I now find it ironic I received your book as a present for Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, since in it you refer to anyone who believes in creationism as an “ignorant fool” and a “silly motherf***er.” That was the precise moment when my enthusiasm for Paddle Your Own Canoe sank. It certainly did not take you long (by the end of the 2nd chapter) to make a broad judgment about all Christians and to in all likelihood alienate some of your readers.

I was enjoying your book, up to that point, although your overuse of expletives were growing a tad tiresome. I could even hear your unique monotone voice, good for a chuckle in and of itself, exuding from the pages as I read each word. With everything we have in common I imagine we could be best buds if you would just ease up on the name-calling. I may or may not finish Paddle Your Own Canoe (I probably will – it was in fact a very thoughtful gift), but I could not go any further until I penned this letter. I have been known to tell my lovely wife that if you hear something you do not agree with and remain silent then the person voicing their opinion will probably assume you concur with what they are saying. So, Mr. offerman, I disagree with your assessment that those who believe in creationism are “ignorant fools” and “silly motherf***ers.” I suppose there are some Christians out there who have earned those demeaning titles throughout the course of their lives; however, it does not make it so simply because they oppose your stance.

There actually are scientists amongst us who believe in God. It is possible to believe in science and creationism working in harmony with one another as part of God’s divine plan. You make mention in your book, “The thing that makes me mad is when a person suggests that I CANNOT be a nice person or live a life of goodness WITHOUT reading the Bible and attending church.” I don’t know who you’ve been listening to, but that has never been my sentiment towards non-believers. I have never heard any of my Christian friends say anything of that sort either. Agnostics and atheists are quite capable of being loving, caring, and all-around decent people. I would only argue that they could be so much more if they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, by book’s end I will have learned that you came to your senses and accepted Jesus Christ into your life. Of course, I cannot in good conscience recommend Paddle Your Own Canoe to anyone, but this “ignorant fool” will sincerely be praying for you regardless.

James McCleary


Rain

The other night it rained and I felt this sudden urge to go outside, into the backyard, and lay naked on a lounge chair. I’m sort of strange like that. I mention my nudity only because it would have been quite silly if I had laid outdoors during a rainstorm fully clothed. I’m not totally insane. My wife and I have only experienced about a dozen steady rains in Peoria, since moving here over seven years ago. We live in the desert for goodness’ sake, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised by the lack of rainfall. Raindrops are so scarce in Arizona, that many residents flock to their covered patios to witness the oddity when it happens. I’m not one of those people. At least not yet.

I had my fill of rain while living in Iowa, for the majority of my life. Many times tornados, hail, or flooding accompanied the rain, so there wasn’t much to like about that kind of weather. I think what irritated me the most though were the incessant discussions, about the rain, which lasted all spring and summer long. The tiresome conversations about whether there was too much rain, or not enough rain, for the local farmers’ crops were almost too much to bare. I can’t remember a time, as a Newton citizen, when the amount of rain was “just right.” Now, many years later I unexpectedly had found myself not only wanting to be a spectator but actually longing to be amongst the rainfall. My lovely wife wasn’t interested in joining me (she’s mostly sane), so I experienced the rarity of the condition on my own.

In the beginning the large raindrops were cold and a bit maddening. There was definitely an initial shock to my body, but then I remembered a relevant line from the movie First Blood. The classic film also happens to be what was playing at the drive-in when my wife and I went on our first date on June 3rd, 1983. In the classic film, Col. Samuel Trautman is describing his protégé, John J. Rambo, to an egotistical, small-town sheriff who is trying to capture the former Green Beret. The Colonel warns the sheriff that Rambo is, “a man whose been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a Billy goat puke.” I subscribe to that notion, of mind over matter, so I fully expected the elements to change, for the better, as I continued laying motionless on the lounge chair.

Although my eyes were closed, during this rare occurrence, I could see continuous flashes of light through my eyelids, and I could hear the intermittent thunder as if it were in surround-sound. At first I couldn’t tell if God was crying or simply nourishing His creation. I know there’s a lot going on in this world worth crying over, but this rainstorm seemingly carried with it a message of peace and happiness with each and every raindrop. The rain increasingly became secondary to my profound thoughts which were typically reserved for the still of the night when nestled in my bed. I found myself praying, as if it was bedtime, and thanking the Lord for who He is and what He does. The rain was no longer cold and annoying, but warm and comforting, and I was filled with an unheralded contentment.

After soaking up the unique experience for awhile I was ready to go back inside, but I then suddenly felt challenged to ride out the gentle storm. It seemed as though I was being offered a chance to play a friendly game of “who’ll blink first” with God. I was just stubborn enough to remain there on my back, another several minutes, for the duration of the rainfall. I won the game but only because He was gracious enough to let me win. That’s what Father’s sometimes do for their children. After claiming victory, and entering the confines of my warm, dry house, it immediately began to rain again as if God was enticing me back outdoors for a rematch. I knew I’d probably lose this time, and I no longer had the yearning to be outside, so I decided to remain inside with my newfound memories of the unique experience. Laying naked outdoors during a rainstorm may be a bit unconventional, but at least I’m not one of those “patio people.” Not yet, anyway.


God

They say you should never talk about politics or religion if you aim to keep your friends, or in my case readers, but I have never been one to really care what others think of me, so why start now. I’ve already scratched the political surface with my previous writings and have even touched on religion a bit, but as I was worshipping at Copper Hills Church this past weekend I was suddenly and overwhelmingly compelled by the Holy Spirit to share with you my thoughts on God. As I began seriously considering what needed to be said I couldn’t help but rethink the situation, and I started searching for reasons not to discuss this subject. That is what sometimes happens when the human flesh battles with the Spirit. Sitting in my usual spot (the comfy chair by the windows) at Starbucks, where I do most of my writing, I continued thinking about other possible topics to pursue, but the voice of the Holy Spirit is not easy to dismiss nor should it be. That being said, I am still struggling some with the subject matter since there is so much I could say, yet I feel a heavy sense of responsibility for conveying it in a complete and accurate way.

Therefore, the following is not me speaking on behalf of all Christians, but it is simply the truth as I know it. I also know that being prompted to write this at this time, with Easter upon us, is not just a coincidence. I have never been a big fan of the Easter Bunny, but I have enjoyed coloring eggs and participating in Easter egg hunts in the past. The reason I celebrate Easter though is because it is a special time for me to acknowledge that God’s only Son, Jesus, rose from the grave. He did so after suffering a painful and brutal death on an old wooden cross; therefore, conquering death for everyone who truly believes in Him. Jesus Christ was a spotless (sin-free) man, yet he willingly and humbly paid the ultimate price for each and every one of our sins. The sacrifice he had to endure seems very unfair, and it was, but fairness died in the Garden of Eden when man chose to disobey God, so now all believers and non-believers alike lead imperfect lives and experience unfairness while on this earth.

Although the sun shines and the rain falls, on both those who believe and those who don’t, believers are no longer enslaved to sin whereas non-believers still are. The only way out of enslavement is to acknowledge the one and only God, believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then accept Him into your life. That is precisely when the Holy Spirit begins to dwell inside of you and the gift of eternal life in Heaven with Him is given. Please be advised though that you’re not immune to sin after becoming a believer. Bad stuff still happens, and life remains unfair, but now you have your Savior walking by your side at all times. That’s the Good News! I cannot imagine dealing with the perils of everyday life such as losing a job, family issues, health issues, or even death and tragedies like 911 without having God in my corner.

Every Christian has their own story as to what brought them to the realization they needed God and to that certain point in their lives when they finally made the decision to follow Him. On the testimonial scale of 1-10, ten being the most earth-shattering, mine is maybe a two. I am almost envious of the numerous powerful testimonies I have heard over the years of people overcoming addictions, abusive backgrounds, and rotten childhoods with the much needed help of Christ. On second thought, maybe I’m actually more thankful I did not have to endure anything like that to lead me to Him. I was raised in a Christian home, so I knew the truth at an early age, and at some point I made the most important decision I will ever make of accepting Jesus into my life. As a Christ follower I am not perfect and still have many faults, please don’t tell my wife, and I would be a bit leery of any Christian who would pretend otherwise.

On that note, I would now like to apologize to any non-believer who is reading this and who has ever encountered a judgmental, arrogant, or hypocritical person that call themselves a Christian. I know it’s not that far fetched because even I encountered some of them at the church I grew up in. I am reminded of an episode of the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon finds out his very religious single mother is having, in his character’s all too familiar expanded word choice, “coitus.” He is extremely disappointed in his mother’s actions and tells her, “I’ll condemn you internally, while maintaining an outward appearance of acceptance.” Sheldon’s mother responds with the humorous line, “That is very Christian of you.” There are so many things wrong with the aforementioned scenario that I wouldn’t even know how to address it, but I do believe my responsibility as a Christian is to accept others as who they are and allow God to do the judging if and when He sees fit. There is a huge difference between being a Christ follower or just being religious. I once had a keychain that read, “I’m not religious, I just love the Lord,” which I think says it all. Well, I have now blogged about both politics and “religion” at great lengths, and I truly hope the Holy Spirit is pleased. Happy Easter!