Doug Blankenship: as God made me Rotating Header Image

New Leeland Video: I Wonder

One of my favorite Christian artists is Leeland.  The group was started by brothers Leeland (guitar) and Jack Mooring (keyboards).  On their latest CD, sister Shelly (bass) joins the group to add some female influence.   Many of their songs have beautiful messages and melodies.   This is my favorite so far:

You can check out their new album here: The Great Awakening

Post to Twitter

How to See the USA in Five Minutes

You might need a very fast car to see America in five minutes.  Or…you could create a video of a 12,000 mile journey across our great country and then edit it in such a way that it lasts only five minutes.   The latter is what one creative citizen did.    I know I am extremely blessed to be a US citizen, and videos like this renew my awe of our great country.   Enjoy!

Post to Twitter

Steve Jobs and Eternity

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday at the age of 56.  He apparently succumbed to a long battle with cancer.  Shortly after this battle began, he gave the commencement address to the 2005 graduates of Stanford University.   Faced with the prospects of his earthly life ending, he had some remarkable comments about what it means to live.   Even though he did not profess to be a Christian, his perspective should be considered by those who call themselves followers of Christ.  If more Christian believers had his attitude about failure and success, death and eternity, I would guess that the Kingdom of Christ would be advancing at a far greater rate.   I invite your comments on his inspirational speech, which now becomes part of a timeless legacy.

Post to Twitter

What about people who have never heard about Jesus?

This is a question that many people have.  I appreciate the concern of those who ask it.   They frequently show great compassion and want to see as many people as possible come to know Christ.   To those who ask, the implication is that it would be unjust for God to condemn someone to hell for eternity if that person never had a fair chance at accepting or rejecting Jesus because they never had an opportunity to hear about Him.  Perhaps they lived in a country closed to the Gospel or where there is not a Bible translated into their language.  Whatever the circumstance, they have no direct knowledge of Jesus Christ.  So, what happens to such a person when her or she finally reaches the end of their earthly life?

First, we should affirm a few general truths about God.  The Bible affirms that:

  • Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12)
  • God is truly just (Gen. 18:25; Job 34:12)
  • God’s love is everlasting (Jer. 31:3; John 3:16)

Secondly, we should dispel one of the misconceptions behind the original question.  The misconception is that those who have never heard about Jesus are somehow innocent.  In John 3:17-21, Jesus explains that the problem is not that there isn’t enough light in the world pointing people to Him, rather it is that that men’s hearts love darkness rather than light.

So the real issue is how the light, which is the knowledge of God, is being shown to all people at all times and in all places.  This is exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us about in Romans 1, 2, and 3.

In Romans 1:18-23, Paul tells us that everyone has received the light of creation.  That is, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. ” (NIV)  If a person responds to this light – that of the incredible wonders of the creation of the universe – then God has promised through the Holy Spirit to give that person more light.

Next we learn from Romans 2 that everyone has received the light of conscience.  Paul explains in verses 14 and 15 that, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (NIV)  Therefore, if a person recognizes that the moral law that nearly all (sane) people have within them was given by a moral Law Giver, that person is acknowledging the light of conscience and will, as promised by God through the Holy Spirit, receive additional light guiding that person to further knowledge of God.

Lastly, Paul announces in Romans 3 the details of the Light of Christ (verses 21-26).   Almost triumphantly, Paul declares that ” God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” (vs. 25, NIV)   It is true that not everyone who has ever lived or ever will live will hear about Christ.  However, Jesus Himself claimed that because no one has been kept in the dark about God (through the lights of creation and conscience), we’re all accountable to Him (Luke 12:47-48).

You may still be tempted to say, “it just doesn’t seem fair that those who have never heard the Gospel or heard the name of Jesus will be judged anyway and potentially receive the ultimate death sentence – an eternity without God in hell.”   What you are really saying is that you think God has not provided enough light about Himself and therefore He should not hold these people accountable.   You are taking the burden off the person, and putting it onto God.   However, we have learned that every individual has not been kept in the dark by God, but by their own sinful nature.   They have plenty of light (creation, conscience, Christ), but have reject the light in favor of darkness.   Therefore, they are WITHOUT EXCUSE.

If this truth concerns you still, I have two simple questions:

1. If Christ supernaturally showed Himself today to a group of people who have never heard about Him before, would 100% of these people believe in Him?   I doubt even a majority would.  They didn’t when He came the first time, despite numerous miracles and proofs that He was truly God in human flesh.  Why?  Because their hearts loved darkness rather than light.

2. What are YOU doing to make Christ known to these people who have never heard of Him?  Your concern is a prompting from the Holy Spirit to actively spread the Good News of the Gospel.  How obediently are you following His promptings?  If you want to see this apparent injustice correctly, then as quickly as you can go share your burden with other committed Christians, ask them to support you financially and prayerfully, and become the missionary God has clearly called you to be.

Post to Twitter

Does personal experience trump Biblical revelation?

I recently had a coworker ask me a question.   While this is fairly commonplace, I was struck by the reply of my coworker.   This man, a professing Christian, has experienced the death of several family members, two of whom have passed away recently.   He asked me, knowing that I take my study of the Bible seriously, if I had ever heard that the ghost of a person may remain in the house in which the person died for seven days after death.   I gave my typical response – which is to share what God’s Word has to say about the issue in question.

What the Bible has to say about ghosts, spirits, or paranormal activity will be the subject of a future blog post.   The focus of this post is the response of my coworker when I explained to him what God’s Word has revealed, if anything, about his question.   His startling reply was, “I know what the Bible says, but….”    The Christian man then spent considerable time telling me about several personal experiences that he and others in his family have had with “spirits.”   No matter how much I tried to redirect him to “what the Bible says,” my coworker wanted to tell me about the validity of the experiences.

One small, three-letter word can say a lot about one’s worldview.   In this case, “but” is such a word.   The word “but” clearly infers that in this case my coworker’s personal experiences trump Biblical revelation.   This is a tenuous position in which to put oneself.   I have come to understand that a Christian who is grounded in God’s Word should be expected to interpret personal experiences through the lens of God’s Word, not the other way around. Personal experiences are subjective, while God’s Word is objective.   The main revelation of God’s truth – the Bible – is the objective lens through which each person (subject) should interpret the world around us.   Many misunderstandings, superstitions, and even harmful teachings have a foundation in emphasizing personal experience over Biblical revelation.

I’m interested to hear what you think about this.  Does personal experience, as real as it is or seems to be, trump Biblical revelation?

Post to Twitter

Reflections after three weeks of P90X

Picture courtesy of pasakura76's Flickr photostream

In case you have been in a fitness cave for the last few years, P90X is a home fitness program to help you get in great shape in 90 days.   The “X” stands for “extreme,” meaning that all the exercises are really tough.   It’s a DVD-based program in which the trainer tortures you for an hour and a half or so for six days a week.   You love the trainer (Tony Horton), because he’s encouraging and challenging; you hate him…because he’s encouraging and challenging.

My son decided to go through the program in order to get prepared for basic training later this summer (he’s enlisting in the Air Force).   He asked me if I wanted to do the program with him.   We live 100 miles from each other, so we would not do it “together,” but at our respective homes and hold each other accountable.    I agreed, even though my fitness experience for the last several years has been running 10k’s and half marathons.

After the first three weeks, these are my thoughts and observations:

1.   At 6’4″ and 210 pounds, I’ve never been the “90 pound weakling”-type.  However, I know my upper body (arms, chest, shoulders) is weak, but until P90X I didn’t know how weak.   47 years of NO weight training is a serious liability. It’s a little humbling to learn that you can’t do many push up’s or pull up’s.   I realize now that I’ll eventually be able to do a decent amount of push up’s and pull up’s- but it’s going to take a while to get there.   I’m beginning to gain strength and confidence after three weeks of straining to do just the minimum.   One day, I might even have “guns!”   Well, maybe 22′s…

2. I thought I would lose some weight by now, but I haven’t.  Still right at 210 pounds after three weeks.   And the workouts are SERIOUS cardio workouts!  I’m a sweat-monster by the time it’s over.   I guess fat is being converted to muscle mass, at least that’s what I’m being told.   But my target weight is 194 and I’ve only got nine weeks left to get there.   We’ll see….

3.  I hate the ab workout.   HATE IT!   Three days of week you are subjected to extra torture on your abs right after the regular workout.   If prisoners at Guantanamo were forced to do this, the facility would have closed by now for sure.    On the other hand, I know that my body needs it.   Every good fitness program strengthens your “core,” that area around your hips and mid-section which forms your center-of-gravity.  I can tell that mine is getting stronger.   So in the end it’s like writing – sometimes I hate doing it, but I love having done it.

4.  I thought I had fairly strong legs from running.   HA!   Think again!   After three weeks of hundreds of lunges, jumps, kicks, pretzel-like stretches and dizzying plyometric moves, I have a much greater appreciation for the variety of muscles that connect one’s hips to one’s toes.   Running is a great cardio workout and I plan, Lord willing, to run well into my 70′s or even my 80′s.   But running doesn’t equally build up all the muscles in your lower body.   I’m glad that P90X is helping to correct this imbalance that clearly plagues me.

5.  If I wanted to stop right now, I could not.   The momentum is beginning to build and I am starting to see some progress.   The first few weeks of anything new are the hardest, and that’s ESPECIALLY true with P90X.  But now that I’ve made it this far, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror, much less look my son in the face, if I did not do my very best to BRING IT for the rest of the program.

Post to Twitter

I am now published in the Library of Congress

Photo courtesy of cliff1066's Flickr photostream

Deep down I’ve always wondered if I could write something worthy of being published.   My father, William D. Blankenship, has written several books, one of which was made into a movie.   I don’t feel obligated to carry on the family name in publishing, but Dad always said I was a good writer and that I should give it a shot.

Now I’ve found out that I have been published – in the U.S. Library of Congress, of all places!   How did that happen?   Biz Stone, founder of Twitter, has donated all of the tweets every tweeted on Twitter to the Library of Congress.   Some of the billions of tweets that have been tweeted since 2007 have historical value, having been tweeted in response to a major event in the USA or the world.  Therefore, he wanted the tweets to be preserved in the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress.

1,200 of those tweets are mine.   And they are spectacular.   Ok, that might be an exaggeration.   Twitter now posts over 50 million tweets per day, or over 600 per second.   I average 2.7 tweets per day, which means they are rather insignificant in a sea of 50 millions other tweets.   And since the majority of my tweets involve what coffee I drank that day or which song I am listening to during my run, I doubt they have much historical significance.   That being said, my 1,200 tweets are still in the Library of Congress to be preserved for the time I actually become famous.   Then people wide and far will clamor for the trivial musings of a middle-aged sales guy in Lexington, SC.   Until then, I’ll keep steadily adding to the literary masterpiece now housed in the Library of Congress.  What’s this world coming to?

Post to Twitter

Motorcycle weather brings out the SQUIDs

Yup, it’s springtime.  Easter, flowers, pollen, etc.  And squids.  What are squids?  Well, here’s an example from the Time.com website:

The rider hops on his racing motorcycle and gets on Interstate 95 from Hollywood Boulevard, south of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 2 a.m. A mere six seconds later, he’s already doing 95 m.p.h., headed for Miami. About 10 seconds after that he’s at video-game velocity — 175 m.p.h., almost triple the speed limit — and the highway’s dashed lane markers are blurred solid. He slows down occasionally to pop wheelies before resuming his screaming pace.

A few miles away, down the road, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper sees him from an overpass and gives chase. Once the rider glimpses the trooper, he maxes out at a stupefying 186 m.p.h., before exiting I-95, taking a spill and getting caught. “Do you need fire-rescue before you go to jail?” Trooper Y. Segui asks him. “No, no I’m fine,” the rider says.

According to most motorcyclists, the term “squid” is an acronym for “Stupidly Quick, Underdressed, Imminently Dead.”   Since the immature and irresponsible rider frequently crashes (see above), the unprotected condition of the person results in a squishy mess oozing out of an occasional helmet (sorry to be so graphic).

In the last two years in Florida, motorcycle crashes are up 6.5%.   In the ten years since Florida repealed its mandatory helmet law, motorcycle deaths went from 22 in 1999 to 500 in 2008.   The Time.com reporter spoke with Carrington Lloyd III, who owns Greater Yamaha in West Palm Beach, FL: “Lloyd still acknowledges the lure of the racing bike. And he says that if he sells 60 of the bikes in a month, he knows that 10 to 15 of those will be involved in a crash, with the owners coming in to his business for repairs — or worse, with new widows or other bereaved family members wanting to sell the ill-fated bikes for parts. ‘You’re buying that bike for that reason — somebody’s not coming in and buying a sports bike to go putt around town,’ he says.”

When I ride my motorcycle (the Kawasaki Ninja EX250 pictured above), I follow the acronym ATGATT.  That stands for All The Gear, All The Time.    Yes, on a hot and humid South Carolina day, I still where all my gear (jacket, full-face helmet, gloves, riding pants, boots).   One website that has helped me with safety and motorcycling tips, as well as repair information, is www.ninja250.org.   I highly recommend that everyone who rides a motorcycle to embrace becoming a “motorcyclist,” that is, a highly skilled craftsman (or woman) on the art and science of motorcycling.   It’s a science because there are tried and true rules and laws that wise people follow.   It’s an art because the more you practice the better you get and the higher your appreciation level is for the activity.

Everyone has a choice: squid or ATTGAT.  One is a sign of irresponsibility and a short riding career, the other is a sign of a long term and rewarding sport/leisure activity or transportation option.   Quoting the Fox News tag line, “We report, you decide.”

Post to Twitter

“My niece is a Wiccan”

Courtesy of garethfw's Flickr photostream

This is what a friend of mine told me recently.   Being a Christian herself, my friend was concerned about what “being a Wiccan” could mean for her niece.  Her other concern is that she doesn’t know that much about Wicca.   Is witchcraft involved?  Could this person put a spell on me?  Does she and her coven gather in the woods during a full moon and chant?    This led me to write an article to help my friend, and others, understand more about Wicca and how to talk with Wiccans about their beliefs.

What is Wicca?  According to religioustolerance.org, Wiccan involves:

  • Common to almost all Wiccans is the recognition of the existence of the Goddess, and her consort the horned God. These may be viewed as real living personal entities, or as symbols.
  • Wiccans follow the Wiccan Rede “A’in it harm none, do what thou wilt.“  This means that as long as it harms no one, including yourself, one is free to do what they wish. A Wiccan carefully reviews the implications of each action or non-action in her/his life. Domination, manipulation and control are particularly prohibited by the Rede.
  • Wiccans typically go through a dedication ritual at the start of their training, where they declare their intent to study Wicca. If they choose, they experience an initiation ritual when they complete their initial study of the religion — often a period of a year and a day.
  • Wiccans engage in rituals, either alone or within a coven of other Wiccans. They are committed to personal spiritual growth

Wicca can be categorized as neopaganism or pantheism.   The recent movie Avatar is one example from popular culture on how this worldview is expressed. Ross Douthat, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote:

” ‘Avatar’ is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world. … The Na’Vi [race] are saved by the movie’s hero, a turncoat Marine, but they’re also saved by their faith in Eywa, the ‘All Mother,’ described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing. …”

“If this narrative arc sounds familiar, that’s because pantheism has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now. It’s the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. It’s the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Pocahontas.’ And it’s the dogma of George Lucas’s Jedi, whose mystical Force ‘surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together’.”

“Hollywood keeps returning to these themes because millions of Americans respond favorably to them. From Deepak Chopra to Eckhart Tolle, the ‘religion and inspiration’ section in your local bookstore is crowded with titles pushing a pantheistic message. …”

“At the same time, pantheism opens a path to numinous experience for people uncomfortable with the literal-mindedness of the monotheistic religions — with their miracle-working deities and holy books, their virgin births and resurrected bodies. As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski noted, attributing divinity to the natural world helps ‘bring God closer to human experience [while] depriving him of recognizable personal traits’.”

So how should a Christian talk with a Wiccan or any other person who has a pantheistic worldview?   Dare 2 Share Ministries has a great tool for engaging people of different worldviews in significant conversations.   Their guide on talking with Wiccans explains the following:

  • Willow (the Wiccan) is extremely sensitive toward anything that sounds intolerant and/or judgmental, so approach with extreme caution! As well, she sees Christianity as an oppressive religion, so be sure and show her love and respect.
  • Ask Willow what she believes about Christianity, because she might have a distorted image of what Christianity is. Try and use this as an opportunity to help her develop a correct understanding of true Christianity.
  • Don’t confuse Wiccans with witches, because anyone can practice witchcraft, but Wiccans follow a strict code. Also, don’t confuse Wiccans with Satanists, because most Wiccans don’t believe in Satan or the devil.
  • Outline the strengths and reliability of the Bible (accuracy, consistency, fulfilled prophecy, etc.) because Willow rejects it as unreliable.
  • Stress your personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ and what impact that has on your daily life.
  • Whether Willow knows it or not, she is in the grips of Satan, so be sure and cover your relationship and conversations with her in a ton of prayer.

While this article just scratches the surface of Wiccan belief and how to talk with a person who practices Wicca, all Christians should become familiar with the beliefs of those people God puts in our lives.   You may not know a Wiccan, but you may know an atheist, a Muslim, or a Hindu.    Or you may know a person who is just areligious or agnostic.   Either way, do your research and stay engaged with your friends about spiritual things.  Learn how to turn a conversation toward the eternal Truths of the Bible and Jesus Christ.   And do so with “gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Post to Twitter

Time change 2010

Photo courtesy of laffy4k's Flikr photostream

It’s March 2010 and the time is going to change.   Actually, our clocks will change; “time” will keep on going just like it has been.   But the great thing about the “time changing” is how people’s attitudes begin to change.   They become more positive (i.e. Spring is on the way, yipee!).   They become more hopeful (i.e. I know I can get this difficult task done).   They become more confident (i.e. I’m going to rock this job interview today).

This year it’s affecting me in a big way too.   Winter 2009-2010 has not been great for the Blankenship household.   We’ve experienced setbacks.  But tonight the time will change.   Literally and figuratively.   I already had one call today which brought good news.   Starting tomorrow, the days will be longer and the weather will begin to warm up.   I have other high expectations for next week.   I’m already feeling more positive, hopeful, and confident.

I love it when the time changes.

Post to Twitter

Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wpburn.com wordpress themes