Category: Paradise

“Happy Birthday To Me!”

2004 vacation 09536 years ago today I experienced my spiritual birth. Over the years I have learned new things and been challenged in many ways. I was a 21-year-old living at home with a dead-end job, substance addiction, little hope and no direction or purpose. I had declared that I would be dead before I reached 30 but what is really scary is that I didn’t care.

I have been encouraged and I have been declared crazy because of my encounter with Jesus of Nazareth that night. During that encounter with Jesus I felt as though a warm shower had washed over me removing all of the doubt, despair and hopelessness that had haunted me.

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Tornado Relief Team!
Me, Larrabee & Vido
Lifelong Friends!

Since then, I survived my thirtieth birthday, been blessed with the best family and friends any person could dream of. I have been trained and conditioned in all of the “correctness” of religion and have wrestled with the tension of thinking and believing what I understood I was supposed to think and believe.

Wedding Photo
August 11, 1984
Lisette & I
The Best Daughter EVER!
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The Best Son EVER!
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Happily Ever After!

My theology is still pretty orthodox but my relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are more important than the components of my doctrine and theology. I found tremendous freedom in understanding that God will continue to be a wonderful mystery to me and that He will never run out of ways to amaze, encourage and inspire me. “…His compassions never fail. They are new every morning…”

I knew that I had reached what could be considered spiritual “maturity” when I became complacent in my journey. I felt I had learned and experienced everything there is to experience and that there was nothing new under the sun.

Then one day, when I read King David’s words in the 51st Psalm, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation”, I realized that God doesn’t want me to be “mature” to the point of complacent haughtiness. He wants me to continue to experience the joy, peace, hope, wonder and amazement that I experienced 30 years earlier. He wants to amaze me – and He continues to do so.

Blitz & Me - McKinnon / Kruze Wedding
Me & “Blitz” At A Wedding

Jesus said, “…anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”. I want to always look at God and all of creation with the wonder and hope of a child. Maybe that makes me immature, childish or even naïve, but it also brings me peace, joy and hope.

People can argue my theology and my experience. Other believers can question my doctrine and theology, people of different faiths or no faith can question and doubt my experience but the simple beauty is this: No one can take it away from me! It’s mine – it’s in my heart, mind and spirit. And that can never be taken from me!

Steve-Preaching-010608
I Get PAID To Talk!

Thank you, Jesus! I love you!

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“The Zen Of Jesus”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgI had an interesting thought. How might the teachings of Jesus line up with the teachings of Zen Buddhism? I began to search the Gospels for teachings by Jesus on peace, love, contentment and the avoidance of worry among other topics.

Then I figured that there must be others who have had the same thought so I Googled “The Zen of Jesus”. On the first page alone I found six books available on the subjects of “The Zen Teachings Of Jesus” and “Christian Zen”.

I am not advocating doctrinal synchronization among world religions but I am so confident that Jesus truly is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” that I am compelled to present Him as more approachable to individuals hindered by preconceived notions resulting from the toxic rants delivered by a few of his vociferous followers.

There are countless individuals who are struggling so deeply with the trials and tribulations of this life that they aren’t concerned with theological discussions about the afterlife; like, if there even is one.

Jesus said that He was anointed to…

“Proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”                                           Luke 4:18-19 / Isaiah 61:1

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Anyone who is grieving, disenfranchised, marginalized, depressed, ill, confused, in pain and / or simply wondering why they exist would do well to consider examining and meditating on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Even if one is not searching for salvation or eternal life but simply for some meaning to life and relief from the pain that can be so prevalent in our world, Jesus will meet you where you are. I am confident that one will be surprised and even impressed by encountering Jesus apart from the “trappings” of religion and just might find something even deeper and more wonderful than the existential meaning and relief they are seeking.

“Happy Birthday”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 235 years ago today I surrendered to Jesus Christ. I didn’t even know that we were at odds. Its not about politics, it’s not about being conservative or liberal. It’s not about gay rights or gun control. It’s not about immigration or border definition. It’s about recognizing that a perfect God loves and desires relationship with imperfect man of which I am the most imperfect. It’s not about joining a church or a denomination; it’s not about aligning with a certain belief system, it’s about knowing that I am a selfish person who desires the best for myself and that I am passionately loved by a God who would rather suffer Himself than see me or anyone else suffer. Thank you Jesus for loving me when I didn’t love you. Thank you for giving me hope and destiny when I was certain that I had no hope.

You are not a religion or a religious figurehead; you are what God looks like when He puts on humanity for clothing. Holy Spirit of God, help me to love unconditionally as you do. Help me to love others as much or more than I love myself. Help me to love God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength. Help me to treat others as I want to be treated by them even if I don’t agree with them or they don’t agree with me.

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No one has to agree with me or disagree with me. Jesus delivered me from drug addiction. He freed me from fear of the future and self-doubt. He gave me hope and a destiny. No one can take that away from me. He didn’t call me to a congregation or a denomination; He didn’t even call me to a religion… He called me to love Him because He loved me first. He didn’t call me to behave; He called me to love Him and those whom He loves – who are everybody. He didn’t call me to change my culture or nation or society. He called me to love everybody.

Jesus. you can heal ALL wounds! You can fix ALL relationships if we will simply love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Treat others the way we want to be treated. If I want to be treated with respect and dignity by those who disagree with me then I must treat those with whom I disagree with respect and dignity.

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I choose to extend love and grace and leave judgment to God!

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“Hell; The Anti-Eden”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2Biblical descriptions of Hell include a lake of fire, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, Gehenna and Hades among others, none of which offer much appeal.

While Hell is largely considered to be a dungeon created to torment and punish unbelievers it is actually an accommodation for those who want nothing to do with God. It is not God who makes Hell the frightening dystopia we understand it to be. The cause of it’s hellishness is the absence of any essence of God. I would suggest that it is a place created in neutrality by God but, absent of God’s influence became a place where man’s imperfect and selfish nature reigns sovereignly.

There are Biblical prophecies that are not part of any grand design but are illustrations founded on a divine foreknowledge of what happens when man’s freewill runs amok. Imagine a society devoid of any semblance of God. (John Lennon’s song notwithstanding)

Hell, as described in the Bible, awaits any soul choosing not to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Since Heaven is a place where the physical presence of God is manifest in the omnipresence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, why would anyone who does not want to live with God on earth have any desire to live with Him in a heavenly city where His presence is constant?

Hell is devoid of any evidence of God’s existence and so, once inhabited by fallible, imperfect people the social trajectory is predictable; unbridled selfishness.

To summarize, Hell is a place with which God has little or nothing to do. He created Eden as a paradise to be shared by Him and His beloved human creation. He created Hell as a place for people who do not welcome fellowship with God. Consider it the Anti-Eden.