Friday, November 30, 2012

From the Desk of a Guy Turning 44

Tomorrow's my birthday! Yep, I'll go from the ripe young age of 43 to the slightly overly ripe age of 44. It doesn't really bother me though. I figure that most 60+ folks out there wish they were still 44 and consider that age to be "tender" at best. So, I guess it's all about having a proper perspective.
Speaking of "perspective", I thought I would take a moment to share a few tidbits about life from a "well-seasoned" (older than 40) point of view.
By the way, if you're reading this and do happen to be older than me, PLEASE do not leave comments telling me things will get worse! I just don't think I could take it!

The following is a list of 11 truly great revelations I have come to embrace my 43rd year of life on planet earth. They are in no particular order.

  1. Briefs are far more comfortable than boxers. Women seem to like boxers better, but women do not need "support" in that area, so who cares what they think!

  2. Losing weight after 40 is almost impossible. You have to do twice the amount of work for half the results. If you are fat at 43, you will most likely die fat. So eat, and die happy.

  3. Younger women do not think guys over 40 are sexy (not that I care, I have a honey) unless they have money. If you do not have money, you are out of luck.

  4. Coloring your hair will not fool anyone about your age. Your sagging man boobs tell the tale, so save your money boys and go gray gracefully.

  5. Going without water all day will not keep you from having to get up to pee in the middle of the night. At 43, your body conserves a certain amount of water that it will only release after midnight regardless of your best efforts to avoid getting up.

  6. The health of your "love life" will eventually be in the hands of a pharmaceutical company. If you want to keep your wife "happy", just suck it up and buy the pills!

  7. Those pains you feel when you get up in morning are your body's way of encouraging you that you are not wasting money on that life insurance policy you took out when you were young.

  8. Book companies are not making books with smaller print. This is a lie. You are 43. Buy the glasses you pretend you don't need before you end up accidentally taking your wife's hormone pills, thus making your man boobs much worse.

  9. At 43, you should never pick anything up off the floor. The Chiropractor has enough patients…and money.

  10. Buying that cool sports car is now pointless. At 43, the ladies only want to know if you can afford those pills discussed in revelation # 6. If you can, you're good to go with the chicks!

And finally….
  1. At 43, I'm just now beginning to understand…that I do not understand anything.
And I'm guessing that's a good thing.

Happy Birthday to me!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Got Questions? Do Not Ask a “Lemming”!

I would like to preface this posting of mine by stating that most of what I'm sharing here is for me. I use "we" and "our" language because I feel it is applicable to all "our" lives. Still this post, as with most of my other ramblings, originated from musings about my own struggles.

I would also like to say that every pastor/preacher dude out there ought to be shouting amen after reading this. I have to believe that they are weary of people's unrealistic expectations of them and would love to see some folks trading in their bottles of milk for solid food.

Bottom line: If you don't feel "fed" by your pastor/preacher, maybe you should get up off your spiritual rear and begin to assume some responsibility for your own withered soul.


And so, it begins.


Have you ever heard the saying "It's like the blind leading the blind"? I have many times. It reminds me a lot of an old video game I used to enjoy playing called "Lemmings".

The basic premise of the game is to guide a horde of mindless little creatures through a variety of obstacles to reach a certain destination. Unfortunately, the "lemmings" are moving constantly and will not stop regardless of what lies before them. If one walks off a cliff, they all walk off the cliff. So in essence, your job is to constantly micromanage their every move lest they kill themselves…and you lose.

A lemming is actually a semi-cute little rodent found near the Artic, but the term is often used in the following derogatory way:

"A person who seemingly does not possess any form of individual thought, and instead, mindlessly follows the behaviors and actions of the masses."

Now I honestly do not want to sound mean, but it really reminds me quite a bit of the modern day American Christian.

I know, that probably makes you angry, but stay with me here. You might just find there's more to this line of thought than you'd care to believe.

If you ask most Christians, what it means to be "Christian", they can usually come up with an answer. It may be weird and completely unbiblical, but you'll likely get an answer. Probe deeper and you'll most likely hear some form of programmed answer they picked up in church.

My question is this: Is our faith really ours if it is only based on the words and opinions of others? In other words, what is our faith really built on? What is it made of and can we biblically defend it? By the way, that word "biblically" is important.

The truth is most of us (believers) are in trouble when it comes to answering the world's questions about life, death, and faith. Why? Because, most "Christians" have no clue why they believe what they believe. They just know the guy in front of them said it was true and that's all that matters.

Lemmings may be cute, but that approach doesn't work so well when it comes to issues of faith, nor does it stand up to the scrutiny of the world.

Question: If someone asks you a difficult question about your faith, do you feel confident you could handle it? You may respond, "That depends on the question." Indeed, it does.

Just for fun, let's look at a few questions I've been confronted with over the years. Look them over and think about how you would answer a struggling unbeliever.

By the way, telling them you'll introduce them to your "pastor", or inviting them to "church" are not acceptable responses.

For the sake of time and sanity, I'll only list five:

  1. If God is good and loves the world, why does He allow people to go to Hell?
  2. What is sin and how do I avoid it?
  3. Why do we tell others they should pray to "receive Jesus in their hearts" when it's not in the bible?
  4. How do you know Jesus the only way to Heaven?
  5. How can I know God's will for my life?

Scary questions, huh?

So what about it? Would you feel comfortable trying to answer these questions…right now? The truth is, most of us would likely shoot from the hip and pray we're not screwing up too bad. I know I've struggled with each of these at one time or another. Many times I've replied, "Let me get back to you", but is that acceptable? Shouldn't we know our way around our own faith better than that? If we don't, is it really our faith we're living, or are we just another "lemming" following the guy directly in front of us (that "guy" could be anyone…not necessarily your preacher dude…don't blame him)?

I generally don't like to quote a bunch of scripture. Too many people sling scripture with reckless abandon trying to convince the world they're right. God knows I know, because I've done it for years. Still, I would like to present the following for consideration:

2 Timothy 2:15 – "Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth."

In other words, don't just blindly follow other people and embrace their opinions. Get in the game and start seeking God for yourself. So much of American Christianity is based on the whole "he said/she said" game? Sometimes that is fine, but what happens when he/she is wrong? I'll tell you what happens. We pass that bad information on to our fellow lemmings (and the world) and before you know it, we're all walking off a cliff. Not good.

Let's go back to the scripture I cited above. Notice it says, "work hard so you". Who is he challenging to work hard? The turkey looking at you in the mirror, that's who. Why? So you and I can present "ourselves" to God unashamed. It's personal. There are many other scriptures to back this up, and each challenges us to be responsible for our own faith.

That's not to say that we can't receive insight from others. We certainly can and probably should, but in the end we must follow God, and check out what "man" is babbling about…very carefully!

As I stated at the beginning, I still struggle with this process today. Just because I haven't been under the teaching of a preacher dude for 3 years doesn't mean I am outside of other's influence on my life. I still listen to "others" and read "others" books. There's more than enough opportunity to join the lemming parade passing by. In fact, it's mighty hard not to.

For me the greatest tragedy of being a lemming is not the fact that we're following clueless people, but rather we are leading clueless people…"cluelessly" (not a word…I know).

The world is hungry for answers. It longs for something real, something true. Today's pseudo-intellectual brand of "heathen" tend to be overwhelmingly cynical. Few trust Christians and fewer still care what we have to say. They've heard all our big talk and watched our small walk. They're tired of our trite, programmed responses to their questions and view us as rigid, judgmental hypocrites. I get that.

I was having a conversation with a homeless man not long ago. This man has been homeless for over 30 years. I asked him how many times "Christians" had tried to sell on religion in the last 30 years. He just laughed and replied, "He couldn't begin to count that high". As we continued to talk, he shared that the problem was not that they had tried to share Jesus with him, but that he knew they didn't really care about him, nor was he convinced they really bought into what they were pushing. "Just a bunch of fakers".

Well, I'm sure these folks all meant well, but there's something to be said about his perception of these folks.

If we are indeed perceived as nothing more than just a bunch of confused "fakers", what in the world should we do to rectify the problem? How can we truly become the "salt" and "light" Jesus said we are supposed to be? How can we effectively be salt and light when we do not understand what that means or how it is supposed to work? Well, I'm not sure I'm qualified to "fix" anyone (even myself), but I'm quite sure it won't happen by playing follow the leader in the lemming line.

As I stated before, we must begin to take responsibility for our own faith. If you don't know the answer, pray, study, and pray some more until the Holy Spirit leads you "into all truth". It is possible, or He would not have said so. Feel free to listen to "others", just make sure you check those suckers out! Your faith is and should always be "your faith".

I pray you have not taken this to be a slam against Christians, but rather a challenge to rise up and begin to shine. None of us have "arrived" in the faith, especially this guy. Still, we must be intentional about learning our way around our own faith if we really want to move forward with Christ…and take a few folks with us.

So with that, I'll hush. By the way, if you are planning on playing "Lemmings", just make sure the guy in front of you…is Jesus.




Saturday, November 17, 2012

33+1 Good Excuses To Skip Church This Sunday

Tomorrow morning, thousands of good-hearted Christians will rise up for another trip to the ole church house. Some will go with joy, some…not so much.

For those of you who would love to stay home, but struggle with knowing what to say to that nosy church member you will inevitably run in to at Wal-Mart on Monday. I have just the thing for you!

Yes, it’s my very special “33 + 1 excuses to skip church this Sunday” list. Try one, try them all! Guaranteed to throw those pesky Pharisees off your scent!

• God told me I needed to stay home this Sunday for some reason (this is great, who can dispute God???).

• I worked 80 hours this week (well it felt like 80).

• The music is too loud/slow/fast/old/new/contemporary.

• The music director wouldn’t let me sing in the choir.

• The pews/chairs are too hard/soft.

• I’m just not getting fed.

• It’s full of hypocrites

• They try and get “rough” youth to come. I don’t want to be a part of a church that invites kids with problems.

• I don’t have anything to wear.

• I can stay home. There are plenty of preachers on TV.

• They just want my hard earned cash.

• The preacher preaches against Harry Potter

• I can’t come without my spouse.

• The preacher preaches too long.

• They have drums there.

• Our electricity went off.

• It’s too cold/hot.

• No one checked on me the last time I was sick

• Someone I don’t like goes there.

• The preacher yells too much.

• There are too many old people.

• There are too many young people

• They cater to the young too much.

• They cater to the old too much.

• I really needed to mow the yard.

• The preacher gave a sermon directed specifically at me.

• I can’t come because I might fall asleep and embarrass myself.

• The toilets at church smell funny.

• The preacher hacks and spits on people.

• I thought I might be getting sick.

• Someone corrected my child last time I went.

• Someone always sits in my seat.

• I just needed a day off.

And my favorite:

• Ken Richmond doesn’t go, why should I?

Feel free to throw me under the bus. I’ll be your Huckleberry.

Friday, November 16, 2012

God Does Not Need A Few Good Men

There's a song that came out a few years back that said, "He just needs a few good men". Not too bad of a song, but unfortunately it touted an unbiblical, warm and fuzzy message. In other words, it was bologna.

A lot of folks out there continue to think I am a backslidden heathen due to my avoidance of "churches" and general disdain for most aspects of Americanized Christianity. They are probably right. I am rarely good and often times quite unpleasant. In fact, I would have to say that in many instances, one would find it most difficult to find any credible evidence of "goodness" in my life.

The "good" news is that I realize it and it doesn't really bother me. Why? Well it could be that I just don't care (I don't…much). Still, it's most likely due to the fact that I'm fairly sure He's not really trying to shape me into anything remotely "good", nor is He looking for "a few good men".

If you ask most folks what it means to be a successful "Christian", they will likely begin to list the "good" stuff we should be doing and the bad to be avoided. If you're wondering what such a list might look like, I have taken some time to compose a fine example for you.

  1. Go to church every time the doors are open
  2. Smile and act like your life is perfect (especially around other Christians and at church)
  3. Give lots of money (even if you can't pay your bills)
  4. Volunteer for everything (overcommit when at all possible)
  5. Don't ever lose your temper (especially with clergy…God will get you for that!)
  6. Be nice to everyone all the time (especially when you're at Wal-Mart)
  7. Do not cuss (even if you stub your toe)
  8. Do not drink (everyone knows Jesus turned the water into grape juice…not wine!)
  9. Submit to your spiritual authorities (even when you know they're wrong or just ignorant)
  10. Read your bible and pray every day (do it in the morning for true legend status)
I could go on, but if ten is good enough for Letterman, it's good enough for me.
So how'd you score? 8 out of 10? Maybe 9? "Impressive! Most Impressive" (a little Darth Vader quote for all the Star Wars fans)

Now let me give you some "good" and bad news. Let's start with the bad news. The bad news is even if you are able to check off each and every item on my little list, you are not "good".

And just what is the good news you ask?

God does not care! In fact, He is most likely waiting on you to "not care" also.

"HERESY! You speak heresy Ken Richmond!"

I can hear it now…

"But Ken, don't you know that reading the bible and praying are important activities?"


"Don't you believe that we should give?"


"Don't you realize that God doesn't want His kids drinking wine?"

……...don't ask me that one. You might not like my answer.

"Then you Ken Richmond are not good! Not good at all!"

Yep! You're right, but I've already admitted that so it's no great revelation.

The truth is God is not concerned with our "goodness" or lack thereof. Only He is "good". That means your wholehearted attempts at being "good" end up as nothing more than a load of wood, hay, and stubble (what is stubble?) What He is concerned with is holiness and relationship. The problem is many people really believe refraining from the bad and doing the "good" makes one holy. It does not (I could quote scripture, but you can look it up …I'm lazy).

What does make us holy? God plus NOTHING!

When you and I became believers, did we do anything to make that happen? I can tell you I did not. I changed nothing about myself. I came to God "as is" with nothing to offer Him. I was not "good" and was quite aware of it. You know what happened? He saved me, loved on me, and He began shaping me into what He desired me to be. I DID NOTHING! And guess what sports fans, I'm still doing nothing!

Now if He was willing to accept me when I was at my worst, how much more accepted am I today now that I have been adopted and made His child? Am I now "good" or concerned about my "goodness"? Nope, not even close! Why? Because I am holy, and holiness is all that matters to God.

Now some might consider my proclamation of holiness to be somewhat prideful. On the contrary, it is the most humbling thing one could ever experience. A holy God takes a worthless, dirty soul, applies the blood of His own son to that soul, and creates a new creature that is capable of being called the temple of His Spirit. I'd call that mighty humbling. Does personal "goodness" even remotely matter in the presence of such awesome grace and love? I don't think so. If my "goodness" could be seen as having any significance or merit, Christ died for nothing. Your "goodness" meant nothing when God first rescued you and it means even less today. Back then, that lie was all we had; now we have Christ. Only His "goodness" means anything, and that "goodness" resides in you in the form of holiness.

So, what must we do? What's "our part" in this? I'm thinking not much. The best thing you can do for God is embrace what He has done and is currently doing in your life. Will that make you "good", probably not, but you might just begin to experience a level of freedom and joy that makes "goodness" seem not so "good".

I decided to entitle this post, "God Does Not Need A Few Good Men". By now, I hope you realize such an animal does not exist.

With that, I would like to offer what I consider to be sound advice:

Quit obsessing about your "goodness". You are not "good", nor will you ever be!

Instead, why not just enjoy God, take life a day at a time, and if you take a notion, have a swig or two of your favorite "grape juice". Might I recommend the "Southern Blush"?

It is delicious!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jesus Plus…NOTHING!

Well, Halloween has come and gone, but the candy wrappers still linger. This year, my family celebrated the devil's birthday (I know…I'm bad) with a rousing round of trick-or-treating in our friend's well stocked neighborhood. It was lots of fun and the kiddies plastic jack-o-lanterns were overflowing with goodies.

The next day I noticed that some good hearted soul had given out gospel tracts along with the sugary stuff. Honestly, I was quite thrilled to see this that is until I began to flip through said document. Yes, it presented the gospel alright, but long with it were several pages devoted completely to advertising a particular area church. And that…made me want to puke!

I would have chosen a less graphic word than puke, but I felt it appropriate considering how repulsive I find such tactics. Why oh why can't we just present the gospel these days without always turning it into a marketing opportunity to advance our "thing"? I call it "thing" because that's what it becomes when we resort to such shenanigans! It is sickeningly offensive and does nothing, but further blur an already skewed view of the gospel in the eyes of a very skeptical world.

Why do these businesses (I will not call them churches…they are businesses) do this? "Oh Ken, they just want to reach people for Jesus!" Surely you must feel the sting of that rolling off your lips if you're truly able to say that with a straight face. Say what you will, but it is a terrible misuse of a grand opportunity to reach the lost and I believe it grieves the heart of God.

Let me make this very clear! PEOPLE NEED JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

Your church with all the trimmings can do nothing for someone who gets the tract, reads it, and dies the next day thinking they'll visit on Sunday.

If you want to help people, quit muddying the pure undefiled water of life with your self-advancing religious "hey look at me" crap. Why can't we just believe that the gospel alone is more than enough?
I can hear people now, "Yeah, but what if they have questions or need counseling?" Why not just put a simple phone number with the message, "Need help? Have questions? Call….." Do we really have to devote several pages of a gospel tract advertising how we want them to attend and join our "thing"?

This "approach" does nothing but distort what it means to become a child of God. If they need to become a part of one of our "churches", can we not trust that God can handle leading them in that? Is that not what most Christians do when looking for a new gig? They pray and trust God to lead them in the right direction. These "tracts" present the whole "you need a church and we're it" mess as being just as important as the gospel itself. Again, what happens when they get caught up in the "come to our church message" at the expense of the "you need Jesus" portions of the marketing flyer (cause it's not a tract)? If you only get one shot at sharing Jesus with someone, is that really the best approach?

The truth is American "Christianity" and doing "church" has become more about us and our own sad agendas than anything else. It's as if we say to God, "Lord, here's the plan, now see if you can fit in somewhere." Most of the places participating in this junk just want to grow bigger, take in more cash, and do more stuff. Why? Because, it makes everyone feel really successful and we all know that's what it's all about. Not only that, it works as a wonderful substitute for the true relationship most modern "Christians" don't have time for and avoid.

Newsflash: God does not give a rip about any of that! It's a sick game we play and it makes the devil chuckle.

I will end with this; if your church does not participate in such foolishness, I AM NOT talking to you, nor am I speaking of your church. I AM talking about the "religious organizations" that do. Still, you might want to check out the literature that's leaving through the front doors of your own joint. You might be surprised.

Jesus plus nothing still gets the job done folks. If you want people to come to your church, just say so, but quit using the gospel message as an excuse to advance your own kingdom.