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Urban legends

January 16, 2013
One of the best parts of growing up in the '70s and '80s was the abundance of urban legends. We didn't need the Internet to spread outrageous rumors, only wild imaginations and a few minutes on the playground. We loved to freak each other out with implausible tales that everyone swore happened to a friend of someone they knew. My all-time most memorable urban legend? The kid who ate fizzy Pop Rocks candy, washed it down with a Coke and, consequently, exploded from all the carbonation.

OK, just so we're clear, this never, ever, ever happened. You can check out the full debunking of this myth at www.snopes.com. But dumb kids like me seriously believed it. Why? Because as I said earlier, it was always supposedly verified by someone the storyteller knew. The kid who told me said the exploding boy went to school with his cousin in Fort Wayne. That made it sound real enough but made it impossible to corroborate.

Sadly, it's not just kids who are eager to believe things they haven't experienced for themselves. For years, I bought into all the urban legends about God. God is a prude. God is a jerk. God is all fire and brimstone and ready to strike me with lightning at the slightest misstep. Or, on the other side of the rumor mill, legends abound about how God just wants to make me happy and rich.

Both extremes are inaccurate and dangerous. And I've been a sucker, believing both extremes based on what other people told me about God, not firsthand experience. That's about as naive as buying the Pop Rocks story.

I know some of us have had bad experiences with people who claim to know God but don't accurately represent His character. We've all seen pictures on the news of hateful organizations that call themselves churches and spew venom instead of sharing the truth about God's grace. We've also probably heard a few health and wealth preachers who tell us that if we send them a little money, God will make us rich.

But, seriously, don't hold this against God. Or at least reserve judgment about Him until you've hung out with Him yourself. Don't let the rumor mongers cheat you out of the relationship that is rightfully yours.

God's word is clear that God created us to know Him, not just to hear about Him. A friend of God named Paul once wrote that God created all of us so that we would seek Him, reach out for Him and find Him.

In other words, don't listen to the kid with the cousin from Fort Wayne. Take time to check God out for yourself. You can even eat Pop Rocks while you do it. But take it easy on the Coke, because I heard a story once about, well, never mind.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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