I was talking with a friend at church not long ago and he shared with me his recent sleep study experience. Apparently, he has stopped breathing at night sometimes, and was tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual does not receive all the oxygen they need because of a blocked airway. It is fairly common for men over 40, especially those who are overweight, and the medical community believes that a large percent of men actually have this condition without knowing it.
I know a bit about this myself, having been diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago after my own sleep study. I was surprised to have had it, but the signs were there. Always tired, sweating at night, and my wife telling me that at times I would stop breathing. It surprised me, because I was not overweight, at least not in the sense we might picture someone being overweight. I was 6’2” tall and about 225lbs. I worked out on a regular basis, and granted, could have lost some weight, but I did not have ‘the gut’ some men tend to carry. My extra pounds tended to spread out, so looks were deceiving.
I was prescribed the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine and after about a year, my doc told me if I would lose about 20 pounds I might not have to use the machine at all. I did as he suggested, and now keep my weight around 205 pounds, and have no need for the machine.
My initial experience of using the CPAP machine was something I will not forget. The first few nights opened up a whole new world to me, better put, it placed me back in a world I had forgotten all about. I had not dreamed for years, and after the first few nights, I would wake up with memories of these vivid and colorful dreams. I cannot emphasize enough to you what a shock that was for me. As I aged into my forties, the weight I had gained over the years brought on the sleep apnea, but did so so slowly, that I never noticed when I stopped dreaming at night.
Over the months and years, I dreamed less and less, till the Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, stage of sleep where we all dream, was nothing but a memory forgotten. The dreams I began to have again when using the CPAP machine were graphic, clear, and filled my mind when I first woke up in the morning. I would share them with my wife and think about them for hours. It had been so long since I dreamed, I had forgotten how enjoyable they were. Dreaming again, coupled with the fact that I was getting the sleep I needed, just heightened the euphoric feeling I had after I started using the machine.
As our children grow and experience the world, they are surrounded and inundated with secular media that undermines how they were raised. This daily secular dose that comes in every imaginable color, flavor, and texture. It is consumed by our children, friends, family, culture, and acts like the weight someone gains over the years, nudging them toward a sleep apnea condition.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, our children who are raised in Christian homes gain the weight of the secular world, till they no longer dwell on God, trust in the Bible, or even believe in God. This is also true of adults who once believed and followed Jesus, but over time the message of the world and its daily, soft, cottony, relaxing, peaceful dose of anti-God, anti-religion, anti-faith, much like a Charmin toilet paper commercial, erode even the most fervent Christian.
One example of the thousands we see and experience every day is the CoExist symbol on bumpers everywhere. If you look carefully, you will see several different versions of these. The message is quite simple, and very naive. No matter what you believe we should all get along. Each letter represents a belief system, or a system of thought that many use to guide their lives. Commonly seen in the Co-Exist symbol are the crescent and star for Islam, the pentagram for Wicca, the relativity formula for science, Star of David for Judaism, Karma Wheel for Buddhism, Ying and Yang symbol for Taoism, and finally the cross for Christianity.
Typically, those that have such a bumper sticker have not fully embraced any one of those systems, but more than likely, adopt a little bit here or a little bit there, so that they end up with their own belief system. You might hear someone say that all religions are basically the same, promoting love, kindness, and brotherly love for one another. The problem with this train of thought is the focus on similarities.
For example, if a man and woman are attracted to each other, they often find similarities in their interests, such as reading, hiking, or cooking. These similarities serve them well as they grow to know each other, but what will break a relationship is their differences. When two people are divorced, the courts often give the reason of irreconcilable differences. Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, gives another revealing example of the importance of difference by drawing two small circles on a board and telling the class they represent two pills. They talk for a moment how similar they are, but he points out it is the differences that matter. This becomes very apparent when he explains one is an aspirin and the other is arsenic.
Religions often have similarities, but it is the differences that make them incompatible, and to suggest naively that all religions can all just get along and be accepting of those differences is foolish. Some of these faiths have followers who believe the lives of everyone outside their faith hangs in the balance. You could liken it to someone who is going to drink poison, and we are told to be tolerant and accepting of their right to do so. Which of us would sit silently as those around us consumed poison?
Not long ago, a former student of mine posted on Facebook, “It doesn’t matter people, Christian Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, atheist, it really doesn’t matter as long as you love.” Her sentiment we can all understand. Matthew spells it out rather plainly. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is important, but would an atheist who loves make it to heaven, a place he does not even believe in?
Some might say that ‘Coexist’ is just a bumper sticker with a positive message about tolerance; what harm could that possibly have to our culture? For starters, the message is not pointed at cultures, but religions, and how they should be accepting of one another, all the while ignoring core, incompatible differences.
The death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, are just a few hot topics that religions have very clear opinions on, but they are told to be tolerant and not force their views on others. Tell someone who is active in the pro-life abortion issue to accept Roe v. Wade and see how silent they will be. Tell gay activists to be tolerant of laws that discriminate against them, and listen to how accepting they sound, or better yet, have gay activists try protesting for gay rights in Iran to see what intolerance is.
Deep are the differences in religions, and for those active in their faith, it is often an eternal life or eternal death that hangs in the balance. To expect them to be accepting of other faiths, and be tolerant when lives hang in the balance, is absurd.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in one God. Hindu’s believe in thousands of gods. Buddhists believe we are God. Atheists believe there is no God. They can’t all be right, and if they all can’t be right, then those who feel they have the truth understandably want to share it with others. The world would rather have us remain silent about our faith. The world wants us to consider our religion a private and personal affair, and to keep our noses in our own business.
Ever wonder/consider how time and culture has eroded our reasons for celebrating certain holidays? A Roman priest executed in Rome for his Christian faith. After that things get pretty fuzzy, and no one knows for sure how Valentines Day morphed into the current money making holiday we now have. Santa Claus in Christmas? He is harmless. Easter Bunny for Easter? Makes Easter fun for the kids, but when they out grow the Easter Bunny, make sure to call it Spring Break, so as not to offend those that want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The world can make anything look good, no matter what it is used for. The world can make toilet paper look good, and the world can steal your faith so slowly, you will never know it happened. These changes don’t happen over night. A paper cut is irritating, but a thousand cuts aimed at destroying religion will cause death as sure as a shot through the head.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2