Donny's Ramblings


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Dinesh D'Souza's "What's So Great About Christianity"

On May 19th I posted my controversial To Carrie, Regarding Atheism blog. On the 30th of May I followed up with a promise that I’d post scientific evidence for God in a future blog entry. It was my intention to create another blog post listing detailed references. I first planned to read a bit more, organize my thoughts and the evidences I’d found, and list them all out in another long, detailed blog post. But then I read this book:

With this book, D’Souza did exactly what I intended to do with my blog post, but in much more detail than I possible could have done. It is my opinion that if an atheist can read this book and not be convinced by the evidence presented… well, nothing will change his or her mind.

In the first 80 pages Mr. D’Souza addresses topics relating specifically to Christianity. He writes about such things as the murders during the Crusades, putting a proper perspective on them. He points out how many deaths resulted and over how many years, and then as a comparison he discusses the killings attributed to atheistic regimes throughout history. He also addresses several other topics that have been used to “attack” Christianity. All were good, but I was much more interested in the book AFTER I’d read beyond those first “defense of Christianity” pages. After all, I wanted to get to the scientific evidence for God.

And boy, was I happy to get there!

For now, I won’t say much more. I highly recommend buying this book for any friend that has “atheistic” tendencies or a hatred of Christianity. But before you give it to them, read it yourself! I’ve handed my copy out to others (my dad has it at the moment), and sent a copy to Carrie as well. When my dad returns the book to me I may write another entry on this subject, quoting a bit of D’Souza’s writings. I think, however, that this book needs to go in my “books that changed me” section over in the right column.

Buy it today. Just do it!

(Oh, and special thanks to Bill Giovannetti, my Pastor, for recommending that I read it)


8 Comments

Dinesh D’Souza’s “What’s So Great About Christianity”

On May 19th I posted my controversial To Carrie, Regarding Atheism blog. On the 30th of May I followed up with a promise that I’d post scientific evidence for God in a future blog entry. It was my intention to create another blog post listing detailed references. I first planned to read a bit more, organize my thoughts and the evidences I’d found, and list them all out in another long, detailed blog post. But then I read this book:

With this book, D’Souza did exactly what I intended to do with my blog post, but in much more detail than I possible could have done. It is my opinion that if an atheist can read this book and not be convinced by the evidence presented… well, nothing will change his or her mind.

In the first 80 pages Mr. D’Souza addresses topics relating specifically to Christianity. He writes about such things as the murders during the Crusades, putting a proper perspective on them. He points out how many deaths resulted and over how many years, and then as a comparison he discusses the killings attributed to atheistic regimes throughout history. He also addresses several other topics that have been used to “attack” Christianity. All were good, but I was much more interested in the book AFTER I’d read beyond those first “defense of Christianity” pages. After all, I wanted to get to the scientific evidence for God.

And boy, was I happy to get there!

For now, I won’t say much more. I highly recommend buying this book for any friend that has “atheistic” tendencies or a hatred of Christianity. But before you give it to them, read it yourself! I’ve handed my copy out to others (my dad has it at the moment), and sent a copy to Carrie as well. When my dad returns the book to me I may write another entry on this subject, quoting a bit of D’Souza’s writings. I think, however, that this book needs to go in my “books that changed me” section over in the right column.

Buy it today. Just do it!

(Oh, and special thanks to Bill Giovannetti, my Pastor, for recommending that I read it)


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What You Look For, You Will Find

At least 5 days a week I walk the Sacramento River Trail. If you’ve been reading very long you know this. These walks are my time with God. I learn a lot on The Trail.

Where the trail crosses behind the Elk’s Lodge there’s a beautiful place to sit and look out at the river. I’m sitting there now, writing this blog post from my iPhone using the WordPress Application I recently mentioned in another post.

I also mentioned a Bible Application provided by LifeChurch.tv for iPhone users. Since it was released I’ve incorporated it into my morning walking routine. I sit right here on this bench, stare out at the river, read a few passages, think about them a bit while watching the boats pass by and repeat that process until I’ve read through at least one chapter, often more. The computer nerd in me really loves being able to read multiple versions of the Bible on my iPhone.

This morning I’ve read through 3 chapters of John and found an answer to one of my never ending questions. I’ve read this chapter many times before, but I guess the time is just right today because it finally sank in.

In my blog post to “Carrie the Atheist” awhile back, you might recall that I voiced several of my concerns and questions with the Bible. One of those questions has to do with the ability of the writers of scripture to recall what Jesus said to them. Few of us can remember word for word the conversations we had just hours ago, yet the writers of the Bible are trusted to recall conversations with Jesus from decades before they were written down?

Here’s what I found this morning:

In John chapter 14 verse 26 Jesus is quoted as telling his disciples that when he is gone, the Comforter that he will send will, amongst other things, “bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

The Donny in me would bring up objections on how using this verse to prove its accuracy is pure circular reasoning. But the Comforter and I converse quite a bit on this trail, and on this day I believe this answer was meant for me to find. I choose to accept it.

What you look for you will find.

Next on my list? Those men who met in the fourth century to decide which books to include in our Bibles and which to toss aside… I’d like to believe they made the right decision. Dear God, please shed some light on this for me.

photo

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God’s Back… (plus JR Mahon and NEOChurch)

Just moments ago I wrote an email and sent it to a few friends. I wasn’t going to share it here, but have changed my mind. The subject line was God’s Back. In the body I wrote:

Believe me, I realize God didn’t go anywhere… that I’m the one who neglected my relationship with Him. The subject/title of this email simply reflects how I feel.

Months before I moved to Corning I felt God wanted me to stay in Redding. I moved anyway, because I was convinced that if I did so my relationship with Wendy would be restored and I’d have a family again. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth. At this point in our lives, Wendy and I can only stand being around each other for a few minutes. Thinking, or hoping, something is going to happen does not always make it happen.

In Corning, my spirit began to die. It didn’t fade completely, of course, but it sure dimmed quite a bit.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve moved back to the city I never should have left, and the difference within me boggles my mind. I feel God again. I feel like we’re communicating again. I walk with Him each morning along the Sacramento River trail, and the conversations we have sometimes make me cry. Inside I’m at peace again. Things I’ve worried about aren’t such a big concern.

In Corning, I knew He was there, but just couldn’t seem to reach Him as often or as deeply as I’d like.

Now I’m home, and He’s thrown a welcome back party inside my spirit.

I just wanted to share that with you.

– Donny –

JR Mahon, formerly a Pastor with XXXChurch.com and now the Executive Director for NEOChurch, was one of the friends to whom I sent the email. When he replied I clicked on the link in his signature to visit the NEOChurch Website. I then read the latest blog entry he’d written. I hope you are as touched by it as I was. It’s titled Great First Sunday and reads:

I was reminded Sunday why we do what we do… After a GREAT first NEOsunday service for which we are all very proud of and grateful, we had lunch. In Christian circles thats what you do after church, eat like there’s no tomorrow.

There was a guy sitting at the end of my table at lunch. I had watched this man show up early, help set up NEO and sweat if ya know what I mean while helping. I watched him lift things, move things and generally be helpful to anyone who needed a hand. He looked liked us, acted like us and worked like us. He was a blessing.

There he was again at lunch, at the end of a full table of people minding his own business until I started up. “Hey man where do you live?” I yell across the table. He smiled slowly and quietly made his way over to my chair. Bending down to talk with me he says, “I’m homeless, kinda in between things right now.” Imagine that, a homeless dude helps us move into our new church and I’m yelling across the table were do you live! Idiot!

We talked for about 15 minutes… his life, my life, our ups and downs, the next steps, the faith it requires to conquer sin in our lives. This guy had no air about him, no entitlements, no preconceived notions about us or his situation, he was a part of us and yet knew things most of us would never know or want to know. Like how to get a bed in a mission or simply survive day to day while rebuilding his life and faith and yet he showed up to NEO. He served so the Gospel could hit peoples ears and eyes. I’ve done a lot of church over time but this one moment had me speechless. He brought his faith to NEO. Not his cash. great car, stellar career, influence or great theological knowledge just his appetite to help and serve. He was real and in big need of a God who can and will take care of him every second of his life. I shuttered and looked at myself. Do I have the same appetite?

My new friend showed me faith… faith, that says showing up affords opportunity to serve. Nothing more, nothing less. It was pure in it’s lesson, and smacked of the bitter truth in my life. God is like that John Mellancamp song, “Hurt so Good” or in my life “Sucks so Right”

So… we started NEO on Sundays… all the build up, all the work, all the conversations about lighting, plasmas, children’s ministry, 23 year olds in Jesus costumes, steel things, coffee, greeting, rent for the school and sound systems couldn’t hold a candle to me and a homeless guy sitting at the same table enjoying each-other because God gave us saving grace. Thank God!

See ya all Sunday and thanks for making NEO home.

What an inspiring story.

—–

Here are a few photos, taken with my iPhone, from the Sacramento River Trail, along which I walk at least 6 miles each morning:

On My Morning Walk

Sacramento River Trail, Redding, CA


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God's Back… (plus JR Mahon and NEOChurch)

Just moments ago I wrote an email and sent it to a few friends. I wasn’t going to share it here, but have changed my mind. The subject line was God’s Back. In the body I wrote:

Believe me, I realize God didn’t go anywhere… that I’m the one who neglected my relationship with Him. The subject/title of this email simply reflects how I feel.

Months before I moved to Corning I felt God wanted me to stay in Redding. I moved anyway, because I was convinced that if I did so my relationship with Wendy would be restored and I’d have a family again. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth. At this point in our lives, Wendy and I can only stand being around each other for a few minutes. Thinking, or hoping, something is going to happen does not always make it happen.

In Corning, my spirit began to die. It didn’t fade completely, of course, but it sure dimmed quite a bit.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve moved back to the city I never should have left, and the difference within me boggles my mind. I feel God again. I feel like we’re communicating again. I walk with Him each morning along the Sacramento River trail, and the conversations we have sometimes make me cry. Inside I’m at peace again. Things I’ve worried about aren’t such a big concern.

In Corning, I knew He was there, but just couldn’t seem to reach Him as often or as deeply as I’d like.

Now I’m home, and He’s thrown a welcome back party inside my spirit.

I just wanted to share that with you.

– Donny –

JR Mahon, formerly a Pastor with XXXChurch.com and now the Executive Director for NEOChurch, was one of the friends to whom I sent the email. When he replied I clicked on the link in his signature to visit the NEOChurch Website. I then read the latest blog entry he’d written. I hope you are as touched by it as I was. It’s titled Great First Sunday and reads:

I was reminded Sunday why we do what we do… After a GREAT first NEOsunday service for which we are all very proud of and grateful, we had lunch. In Christian circles thats what you do after church, eat like there’s no tomorrow.

There was a guy sitting at the end of my table at lunch. I had watched this man show up early, help set up NEO and sweat if ya know what I mean while helping. I watched him lift things, move things and generally be helpful to anyone who needed a hand. He looked liked us, acted like us and worked like us. He was a blessing.

There he was again at lunch, at the end of a full table of people minding his own business until I started up. “Hey man where do you live?” I yell across the table. He smiled slowly and quietly made his way over to my chair. Bending down to talk with me he says, “I’m homeless, kinda in between things right now.” Imagine that, a homeless dude helps us move into our new church and I’m yelling across the table were do you live! Idiot!

We talked for about 15 minutes… his life, my life, our ups and downs, the next steps, the faith it requires to conquer sin in our lives. This guy had no air about him, no entitlements, no preconceived notions about us or his situation, he was a part of us and yet knew things most of us would never know or want to know. Like how to get a bed in a mission or simply survive day to day while rebuilding his life and faith and yet he showed up to NEO. He served so the Gospel could hit peoples ears and eyes. I’ve done a lot of church over time but this one moment had me speechless. He brought his faith to NEO. Not his cash. great car, stellar career, influence or great theological knowledge just his appetite to help and serve. He was real and in big need of a God who can and will take care of him every second of his life. I shuttered and looked at myself. Do I have the same appetite?

My new friend showed me faith… faith, that says showing up affords opportunity to serve. Nothing more, nothing less. It was pure in it’s lesson, and smacked of the bitter truth in my life. God is like that John Mellancamp song, “Hurt so Good” or in my life “Sucks so Right”

So… we started NEO on Sundays… all the build up, all the work, all the conversations about lighting, plasmas, children’s ministry, 23 year olds in Jesus costumes, steel things, coffee, greeting, rent for the school and sound systems couldn’t hold a candle to me and a homeless guy sitting at the same table enjoying each-other because God gave us saving grace. Thank God!

See ya all Sunday and thanks for making NEO home.

What an inspiring story.

—–

Here are a few photos, taken with my iPhone, from the Sacramento River Trail, along which I walk at least 6 miles each morning:

On My Morning Walk

Sacramento River Trail, Redding, CA


14 Comments

A Little of This and a Little of That

EVIDENCE FOR GOD:
I haven’t forgotten this blog. I’ve been adding notes to a file in my Google Docs called Evidence for God. Carrie is a tough cookie, and she wants hard evidence. I’m doing my best to accommodate this request. I’m reading more. Organizing more. Making notes of references. I love a challenge, and this challenges me.

On top of what I’ve already learned, I want to read this book before completing my thoughts: The Cell’s Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator’s Artistry – I haven’t yet read it because it’s not due for release until tomorrow. Advanced readers (those who get a chance to read before the official publication date) have highly recommended it, the most notable comes from a Scientist I respect.

Note: As of August 1, 2008, I’ve decided not to write the “Evidence for God” post, and am instead recommending that readers pick up a copy of Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity?, as the book accomplishes exactly what I’d hoped to accomplish by an “evidence” post.

EVOLUTION:
I’ve received a lot of feedback in the form of comments, private emails, and myspace messages from some of you who take issue with my belief in Theistic Evolution. If you’d like to read more on this subject I’d highly recommend this website, as it gives a great overview of this concept: http://www.theistic-evolution.com/. People, there is strong evidence for evolution, and it’s not “anti-God” to believe it. Educate yourselves. ๐Ÿ™‚

REPERCUSSIONS AND STUFF:
Because I’ve decided to write my thoughts without worrying about possible repercussions from the organized Christian community (read my last blog entry and all the comments on it), you are experiencing my learning process. My Pastor says the kinds of questions I’ve been asking are pretty normal, but usually not made public by those asking them.

I like sharing and allowing you, my constant readers, to participate in the process. Please don’t get your panties in a bundle when you read something you may not agree with. Capiche?

APPLE CUSTOMER SERVICE ROCKS:
On another note, I’d like to give major props to Apple. My iPhone has been messing up because I dropped it a few times and thereby created a dead spot on one corner. It was functional, I just had to turn the screen for some features to work.

Two days ago I was in Sacramento to pick up my mother from the airport. I arrived a few hours early so I decided to head to the Apple Store at Arden Fair Mall. When I showed them my iPhone and explained the problems I’ve been having…. THEY REPLACED IT! Free of charge. The fault is mine, yet I received a brand new iPhone because Apple customer service kicks butt! But that was only part of it…

Apple gives free tech support at what they call a “Genius Bar” at each Apple store. Because it’s free, an appointment is necessary, usually at least one day in advance. Since only a tech can authorize a replacement phone, the rep I spoke with informed me I’d have to make an appointment. I told her I lived nearly 2 hours north, so they got me in within 5 minutes.

Also… an iPhone is pretty much a miniature computer. You can arrange it in numerous ways, settings, etc. I figured I’d have to start over setting up my iPhone the way I like it, but that wasn’t the case. When I plugged it into my laptop to sync, everything was reset to the exact same settings from my previous phone, right down to the order in which my icons are arranged on the desktop and the photos in the phone’s library.

Apple has it down, I tell ya!


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Immaturity and Being Mean

On March 24th I wrote The Lost Gospels – And a Disclaimer. I’ve been wanting to write the disclaimer you read at the bottom of that column for weeks, but my original plan was that it would be it’s own stand-alone column. That way I can link to it anytime I write about something controversial in the future.

Why do that? Because I’m the type who questions everything. And sometimes my questions make people a little uncomfortable or upset. And for some reason I kinda like making people a little upset. Why? I dunno. I just do.

But I also want it to be known that I’m in the process of learning, and will likely be in that process for a very long time. For life, most likely. And as a learner I’ve got to be ready to admit that I often misunderstand concepts and/or ideas, or that I am entirely wrong. What I spew as hard opinions today I’ll likely dismiss as the ramblings of an Immature Learner tomorrow. Kinda like a teenager, ya know?

Such may be the case with some of the contents of this blog entry as well.

Like this, for example:

It seems to me that there is much more to God than some people want to open themselves up to believe. It’s my hope to never be the type of person who thinks I have God all wrapped up in a box. I don’t think it’s possible for the creation to ever fathom even a fraction of the bigness of the Creator (thank you, Rob Bell) and I get a bit peeved when I hear someone discussing God like they have Him all figured out. Personally, I believe there are so many dimensions to God that humans don’t have a chance of getting remotely close to understanding Him. Ever.

I also feel that, while the Bible is undoubtedly a very important book, it should come secondary to spending time with God Himself. If I was in love with a beautiful women (which I am, but that’s another story) I could spend all day reading about her but I’ll never get to know her until I actually spend time with her. Knowwhatimean Vern? My single favorite part of Lee Strobel’s latest book, The Case For the Real Jesus, is when he points out that we should never make an Idol out of the Bible… it was never meant to be one. It’s a great guide, but it can’t take the place of a relationship with our Creator.

But I digress…

__________

In his sermon today, my Pastor put into words exactly what I’m experiencing at this point in my life: spiritual immaturity. I’m an infant. I know, I know… it’s hard to believe.ย  But it’s true.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bill’s sermon discussed the love found in the 13th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth and explained how such love is only possible when one has reached a deep level of spiritual maturity. Did you know that 79% of non-Christians don’t think Churches demonstrate true love for God and love for others? I wonder if that means I’m not alone as an immature Christian…

Bill pointed out that this passage clearly demonstrates that such love as this doesn’t fail. Does. Not. Fail. Which makes me wonder if I’ve ever witnessed a truly mature Christian, but that’s another topic of discussion that I’m not capable of having.

When I surrendered my life to God in September of 2006 I began envisioning a world where God’s transformation power completely changed my life, healed my relationship with my ex-wife and reunited our family. With that goal in mind I was able to treat my son’s mother with a lot of patience. The things that used to irritate me when we were married (and even after we divorced… especially after we divorced) all of a sudden were “cute” and endearing. She noticed the difference.

But when it became apparent that reconciliation is out of the question… well, those things started bugging me again. I snap at her again. I’m very short with her again. I get angry with her again.

Immaturity. Not the love of 1 Corinthians 13.

And when Bill started talking about some Christians being downright mean to others I once again found myself getting hit upside the heads with his words. As recently as the past few weeks I’ve been pretty mean to others, including former acquaintances from the porn world. My thoughts on the matter were that those people will never again be a part of my life, I no longer have to do business with them, and their thoughts don’t matter to me anymore, so why be nice?

Does anybody else see the error of my thinking? Good thing X3 didn’t take that attitude while dealing with me all those years.

So here I go, continuing the process of “growing up”. By the way things look today, that’s gonna be a very long process indeed.


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Thoughts From the River Trail: Love Instead of Judgement

After speaking to Willy in downtown Redding yesterday, I decided to continue my walk along the Sacramento River Trail, which is a walking trail I really love. I had my pocket camera with me, which has the ability to record audio files. So as I walked the trail I began speaking into the camera’s built in microphone, recording some of the thoughts going through my head. I eventually sat down so that my breathing would quiet a little, but resumed walking after finishing up this recording.Personally, I’m not entirely sure this audio clip will interest many people. It’s just me, rambling my thoughts on the concept of loving people to God instead of judgmentally trying to bash them to Him. The “love type” of Christianity is what really got my attention when demonstrated by XXXChurch throughout the years I conversed with them.The best part of the audio, in my opinion, is the intro and outro music. ๐Ÿ™‚

I let my friend John listen to this clip before posting it. Here’s what he had to say: “Bad audio (too much breathing), and a little on the boring side. Too obvious that you are trying to think of things to say as you go…you can quote me on that!”

__________

You can right click here to download this file, or simply listen to it by clicking the arrow:

_________

PHOTOS FROM THE TRAIL:(click to enlarge)

Sacramento River Trail - Trailhead
On the River Trail
Sacramento River Trail - Looking Back Toward Redding
Sacramento River Trail - Looking West

 


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Greg Boyd’s Blog: I Appreciated This Entry

The author of Letters from a Skeptic (a book I HIGHLY recommend), Greg Boyd is a former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. He graduated with honors from Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. Greg was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University and is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

I just finished reading his latest blog entry, where he contemplates the issue of a violent God in the Old Testament vs the loving God shown in Jesus in the New Testament. Great reading!

Click Here To Read It For Yourself


9 Comments

Greg Boyd's Blog: I Appreciated This Entry

The author of Letters from a Skeptic (a book I HIGHLY recommend), Greg Boyd is a former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. He graduated with honors from Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. Greg was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University and is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

I just finished reading his latest blog entry, where he contemplates the issue of a violent God in the Old Testament vs the loving God shown in Jesus in the New Testament. Great reading!

Click Here To Read It For Yourself