Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cleansing the Temple

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
1 Cor. 6: 19 & 20

I had a check up at the doctor's yesterday morning. I hadn't gone in about 5 years. (Yeah, I know..."Shame on me.") The visit pretty much confirmed stuff I had already known. However, there was one surprise for me.

I'll break it down for you: 1) I need to lose about 20lbs or more. 2) I am verging on having high blood pressure. 3) I have another hernia. 4) I need to get a colonoscopy...and that just sounds like so much fun.

(Here's the thing; I didn't do myself an favors before the exam. I ate fried chicken, or the like, every night before the exam. In fact, the day before I began my exam-fast, I ate two Burger King Whopper Jrs. & two small fries. So I think the blood pressure reflected that.)

The hernia caught me off-guard though. I mean, I have already had two! (Is this becoming a hobby?) Plus, my appendix exploded years ago, too. I told the doctor to just install a zipper across my waste for easier access.

If you would like to know what it was like for me in the office, just watch this.

That was for you, Mark. (Good memories from Trout Lake camp.)

OK, in all seriousness. I needed to hear all of that to get me off my butt. You don't hear much from the pulpit about health, but I believe more and more that pastors ought to speak about these kinds of things. There is a connection between the Spiritual and the Physical. When God created everything, He blessed it and said it was "Good." In fact, when He created people, He said it was "Very good." Since then, sin has corrupted creation. But that doesn't mean that we don't have responsibilities for it and for ourselves.

I used to be in pretty darn good shape. In fact, when I lived in Israel, I worked out 5 days a week and was as close to a Sexy Beast as someone with my looks could get. I weighed 208lbs, could bench over 300lbs, and little birds would build nests under my pecs to find shade. Now I weigh 208lbs again, (207lbs after the fiber did it's job this morning) but it ain't muscle.

SO, here is the plan: 1) No meat at all for 5 weeks. 2) I will be very conscious of my salt intake. (Which is really freaky, once you start noticing that.) 3) I will be the King of Fiber during this time. 4) I will get on that exercise bike and GO! My intention is to cleanse my temple inside & out.

I'm not sure how close you will want to stand next to me while I'm eating all this fiber, but I really do want to take this seriously. In fact, I think I'll post my weight at the end of every post for the next 5 weeks. You guys need to keep my accountable, OK. (Listen, if I am expected to wear my thong down at Lake Calhoun this summer, this is the only way it's gonna happen.)

Some Thoughts on the Body:
1) What is the perfect body type? Well, most marketing agencies aim for the A&F body type like the photo at the top of this post. However, there are maybe 1 in 10 people that are actually born with the ability to achieve that ideal. They make their money by convincing young folks that this is what they should aspire to. That can be a mighty cruel thing to put into a teenager's head.

Everyone is born with the DNA for a unique body type. For myself, I was born with the body structure of a Mountain Gorilla. I have short thighs and long arms. Even when I was in my absolute best shape, I still couldn't achieve a 6-pack. (But I could casually pull your head off and use it as a volley ball if I so desired after you mocked me about it. :P )

I had a friend in Israel that had such a high metabolism that he had to eat like a cow and work out 3 times as much as me to get any muscle at all. So, no one should kick themselves because they can't achieve some mythical ideal.

I like to point out to some of the teens that I have worked with a passage from 1 Samuel 16. Essentially, God is looking for a new king to replace Saul, who was continually messing up. He sends Sam the Prophet over to Bethlehem to find Jesse's family. Sam takes one look at the oldest boy in the family, who apparently was "Mr. Stud," and assumes that this is the one God is choosing. Then God says something very beautiful to Sam in verse 7; "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. YHWH does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but YHWH looks at the heart."

Who does God choose? The youngest boy in the family...who wasn't even invited to meet Sam initially. Most scholars figure that this runt was about 14 years of age. No lie, some scholars even think that he was a Red Head. YUK! (Don't punch me Zach.) This is David, the greatest king that Israel ever had. What mattered was that Davy was a man/kid after "God's own heart." That was what mattered to God...not the fluffy outside stuff. So keep that in mind the next time you don't feel so good about your lack of physical perfection.

2) Going Greek: The church in the west has allowed a huge degree of Greco-Roman thought to influence it's worldview and how we view Scripture. It's true. We have a view deep in our sub-conscience that all things physical are in some way bad, that creation is bad, etc. The point of becoming a Christian is to get a ticket out of here to a better place. Spirit is where it is at, in other words. (Maybe that is why Evangelicals are the largest segment in the U.S. to dismiss any type of global climate problems or the need for Creation Care.)

Go back and crack open your copy of Plato's Republic. In it, Socrates describes this life as essentially being stuck in cave, facing a wall. There is a fire behind you, and someone is standing behind it doing a shadow puppet show for you. Socrates said that our reality is simply viewing these shadows. What our ultimate goal is, is to escape the cave all together. In other words, we need to escape from the body and the physical world altogether. The spirit world was where we needed to get to, because the physical realm was bad.

If you think I am joking, check out Acts 17, where Paul speaks to the various philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens. In verse 32 it says, "When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered." The Greeks didn't want a bodily resurrection. "Icky! Physical is bad, bad, bad." And much of the church in the west has the same thoughts in many ways.

Problem is, the Bible wasn't written by Greeks. It was written by Jews, with a jewish mind set and world view. The Jews took very seriously that all of creation was good precisely because God had created it and said it was good. It's true that creation suffered from the Fall of Man, but that hardly means that trees & dirt are sinful. I find it fascinating that the last two chapters of the Bible parallel the first two chapters of the Bible. You find that the Bible ends just as it begins. God redeems creation, and then hangs out with people just like he did in the beginning.

So, your body is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a beautiful thing precisely because it was made in the image of God. Wether you are a Believer or not, God's image is still there rolling around inside somewhere waiting for you to acknowledge it and repent.

Cleaning House.
Paul speaks about a Believer's body being the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that because of it we ought to engage in certain practices and not in others. I would like to see more pastors preach some very practical Life Style sermons on this. Right now our country is debating the whole health care situation with it's ever rising costs. As I understand it, we are #1 when it comes to the cost of health care, but only around 34th-36th when it comes to quality. Ouch! Also, apparently 1 out of every 3 people born since 2000 will develop type 2 Diabetes by the time they are 30.

If you haven't seen the movie "Supersize Me," I highly recommend it. It's plenty gross, but has amazing information it it. Essentially, Morgan Spurlock, the director, eats nothing but McDonald's for 30 days straight...breakfast, lunch & dinner. He documents everything that happens to his body. If you haven't seen it, treat yourself to this clip.

Now, it is not that everyone is chowing down at McDonald's everyday. But Americans have notoriously bad eating habits & diets. These habits are going to do massive damage to the federal budget.

From a very practical point of view, wouldn't it be a tremendous witness to Outsiders if the church began to talk about this and offer biblical principles to live by to encourage better health? Some churches do, but not enough I would argue.

For myself, I need to stop being a hypocrite and set an example. Perhaps I should print up a T-shirt that says, "Eat fiber for Jesus." In my last post I joke about radical religious protestors holding signs outside McDonald's that said "God hates Fattys." I don't think that would be a very positive approach. But all of this is something worth thinking about.

If my body is to be a temple for the spirit of God, then perhaps I should clean it up & out, and treat it with a bit more respect.

Hold me accountable, kids.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

How the "Religious Right" REALLY got it wrong. Part 2. "God hates Fags?"

Now, ain't that just the type of shirt you want to get for your kids? "Happy Birthday, Billy. Mommy wants you to wear this to church today."

Hebrews 4:14-16: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

In other words, being tempted by something does NOT equal sin. Jumping in and playing with that temptation equals sin.

I woke up WAY too early this morning. So since I couldn't sleep I putzed around on the internet. I ended up reading the newest post from a new friend of mine. I'll link his post here in case you are inclined to get to know him. (He is starved for attention, you know.) In case you don't bother to read what he wrote, I will just come out and tell you that among many other items in Daemon's life, he has what many call "Same Sex Attraction." other words, he is a guy who likes other guys...he's GAY!

Like I said, he IS my friend. More importantly, he is my Brother in Christ. This SSA is an issue for him that he struggles with in his journey with Jesus. What are some of the issues that you struggle with? Perhaps you would like to state them plainly so that we have all our cards on the same table before we start throwing rocks at each other.

I've been meaning to write about this for a long, long time. Deamon gave me the permission to talk about him, and that gave me the excuse to finally do this.

I'm going to split this post up into different parts. This will be a LONG post...longer than my normal ones. (And that's saying something.) So here we go.

Part 1. The Creepy Stuff:

I would assume that most of you have heard of the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist church. His group goes around to military funerals holding signs that tell the families of the fallen that God killed their sons over in Iraq & Afghanistan because America has our gay people living in it. (I found an absolutely filthy, yet hysterical mock up of him on Youtube which I will not post. But if you want to see it, just go to Youtube and type in Fred Phelps Obama.)

They came to Minnesota last year to protest at some cemeteries. A biker club called The Patriot Guard did a counter protest across the street from them. About 200 of them just revved up their bikes to block out the shouting of the Phelps group. (God Bless Harley-Davidson!)

Take a look at this video. You can find plenty of them on Youtube. This one is Phelps daughter explaining how God hates fags, the U.S, and pretty much anyone who does not go to their church. (Pay special attention to her eyes and the way she stares. I swear, she's getting ready to drink the Kool Aid) I'm not always a big fan of Fox News & such. But I do like Sean Hannity's response.

What a sweat heart, huh?

I was trying to link to the churches' website, but it is either in the process of being hacked, or simply won't load. I can put this link here for more information, though. Also, here is a link to one of the groups that Westboro Baptist likes to associate itself with. Take a look over to the right on their home page. (Yes, that's right...they also hate Jews.)

Yeah, all of that is pretty heavy stuff. Pretty dark too, regardless of your feelings on homosexuality.

Part 2. The Funny Stuff: "Me thinks he doth protest too much." William Shakespeare

There is a big difference between saying that you don't see eye-to-eye with homosexual behavior, and being homophobic. Being homophobic means that either you really hate them or are scared of them. (And having a good sense of fashion really can be a very scary thing.)

Have you ever wondered about people who fixate on gays and talk about how much they hate them? Ever asked yourself why that person obsesses so much on anti-gay things? Have you ever just had a nagging question in your mind like, "Hhmmm, I wonder what's up with all that?"

Well, check this out. I had heard about this study, so I tracked it down a bit. There is also a Youtube clip that goes with it.

In short, this study divided up an experimental group of guys according to how they felt about gays. (Homophobic vs. "Who cares?") They attached medical stuff to their naughty bits and then began to show various dirty pictures to, straight, and little of both.

Guess which group got a little steamy over the gay pictures? Yeah, that's right, the Homophobic guys. They denied it of course. "No Sir! I am not aroused at all by these sexy...I mean SICK, photos!" All the while they were sitting there, trousers open, saluting the flag!!!! (So to speak)

So what does this all mean. Well, I'll tell you...Fred Phelps has got to be the biggest "WHOOPSY" on the planet!!!! I mean, this all he thinks & night it would seem. Can you imagine what his family will find on his hard drive after he kicks the bucket?

The moral of the story is that you ought to be a bit careful about what spouts out of your mouth. You wouldn't want your Freudian Slip, to end up in a full length ball gown...complete with a tiara.

Part 3. The Facts:

I will never, ever fully understand how a guy could not find women attractive. (Yeah, OK, there are some beasts out there) Seriously though, Jessica could you not think that she is drop dead gorgeous? But that is what it is like for some guys.

Americans seem to love easy answers. "I was born gay. I can't help it!" "NO! It's a choice. You can choose to like women!" I don't believe in easy answers to questions like this.

I have a friend who comes from an alcoholic family. We now know that there is a genetic component to some alcoholism. Does it mean that if he has a beer that he will become an alcoholic? No. But it does mean that he is more likely to become one than others might. So my friend is very careful.

So, could the whole GAY issue be fairly alcoholism? Could it be that there might be all sorts of things that lead people to be gay, straight or somewhere in between? I think the answer to that is a big, old "DUH!!!!!!!"

So, how should the church respond to this issue? Well, for starters, it might be nice to show a little mercy and compassion. In chapter 5 of the book Un-Christian by the guys from Barna research, they show that the non-christian folks think that Christians show nothing but contempt for gays & lesbians. (I won't go into detail. You really ought to pick up a copy of that book for yourself.) Sad to say, but seems to be largely the case. It certainly doesn't help when prominent Christian leaders blame them for 9/11 and such.

Now, it is true that a nut job like Fred Phelps is not in the same boat as guys like Dr. James Kennedy & Jerry Falwell on the Religious Right. But I rather doubt that Kennedy, Falwell or the others have helped the situation much.

Here is a fact that appears easily over looked: We are ALL sinners. And more to the point, we are all killers & adulterers at heart. This means that we are all deserving of death. Heck, when it comes to sexual sin, no teen boy would have made it out of Junior High with his eyes intact if we were to truly live by Matt. 5: 27-29. Yet, for some reason the church seems to single this issue out for special mention.

Here are some quotes from essays written by various Christian leaders for the end of chapter 5 in Un-Christian:

Shayne Wheeler, Pastor at All Souls Fellowship
"The Bible is clear: homosexual practice is inconsistent with Christian discipleship. But there is no special judgment for homosexuals, and there is no special righteousness for heterosexuals. For all of us, our only hope for the fracture in or soul is the cross of Christ"

Mike Foster, founder
"In my humble understanding of Jesus in the New Testament, I see a man who sought to restore relationships, not destroy them. A man of compassion who was crazy in love with what the religious of his day deemed the wrong crowd...We must stop identifying people as "sexual beings" and instead identify them as "human beings."

Chris Seay, Pastor at Ecclesia
"I find it ironic to point out the sin of homosexuality and it's connection to AIDS but will gladly overlook the sin of obesity, which is directly linked to the disease of diabetes. (I want to see a protest group in front of McDonald's & Old Country Buffet holding signs that say "God Hates FATTYS!") We can't deal with sin apart from Christ. If people don't know Christ, they are incapable of dealing with their own sin. We at Ecclesia deal with sin when people are at a place where they are ready to follow God."

Jesus never brought up the issue of homosexuality directly. (I highly doubt it was much of a open & public issue of the day) However, he did bring it up indirectly when speaking about marriage. Both in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Matt. chapter 19, Jesus refers to God's ideal for humans & marriage as being one man, one woman...and NO divorce! In fact, Jesus is pretty adamant about the whole divorce issue.

Yet, the divorce rate for Evangelicals runs nearly side-by-side with Outsiders. In fact, a few years back we even had a higher rate of divorce than the national average. Years ago, I heard a gay activist shouting at a congressman who was pushing some type of "Defense of Marriage" legislation. This legislator was on his third marriage at the time. So the activist asked him which of his marriages he was defending?

I know what the Bible has to say about marriage, sexuality & sin. I know what the Bible has to say about a lot of stuff. Most importantly, I know that Jesus told me to love God with all my soul, mind, strength, etc...and then to turn around and love my neighbor the same way. To me, this means that wether they are a Believer or not, and what ever their struggles might be, I ought to be there to help them through it.

True Stories:
#1. At the Cub Shack, there is a gal who shops who is handicapped. In fact, she is actually strapped into her motorized wheel chair so she won't fall out. She has one of those really cool "Helper Dogs," too. She is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, despite her physical condition. I'll tell ya, even when my day at the store is at it's crappiest, anytime she shows up, I get a big smile. She just makes my day better with her attitude.

Well, this gal has a lady friend who is always with her. At first I assumed that this other gal was some helper person from some group home. As it turns out, this other gal is actually her girlfriend. Turns out, I'm not as clever as I'm thought.

At any rate, it got me thinking about the difficulty of any type of physical intimacy between those two. The gal in the chair is virtually helpless. It says a great deal about the true and deep affection that they have towards each other. I might not see eye-to-eye with it Scripturally, but I would be a heartless fool not to recognize the true tenderness and caring that they share. I can affirm & acknowledge one aspect of that relationship, while also understanding that this is not where it should end.

#2. Years back, a gay colleague of mine went to a rather famous & large local church to see a friend of his be confirmed in some type of ministry program. I asked him how he liked the church? "Oh, they hate me there," he said. Turns out, the youth pastor made some "Gay" joke in front of him, with out knowing that this fellow was gay. That made me think about all the jokes I have told with out thinking...and all of the poisoned potential for dialogue & witness that I had caused.

Final Thoughts:
I heard a pastor say once, that if you don't know & associate with gay people, you have no right to comment on their situation. I think that is the way it ought to be for everyone and their struggles. What is the point of condemning a person? That is God's job. Discipleship happens through authentic relationships. If you won't take the time to get to know someone, and to develop a genuine relationship with them, then do Jesus a favor...keep your mouth shut...and burn your silly tracts, pamphlets & signs. (You are not doing the kingdom any favors.)

I'm a big believer in that Christians need to "Earn the right to witness to people." (Please don't yank those words out of context. You KNOW what I mean by that.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don't do, and more in the light of what they suffer."

Daemon, you are my friend & brother. I am proud of being able to say that, and I hope we can get to know each other better. I'm sure that your story can teach me quit a bit. I can condemn you for not liking spicy food...SISSY! (Inside joke) But that's about it. As much as I can be there for you on your journey with Christ, I will be. You have crap on your plate. I have crap on mine. Maybe we can help each other along the way. I think that Jesus would like to see us doing that together.

Hey, you like to fish, so you can't be all THAT bad.

One last thing. Here's a link to a story from the Onion newspaper. (America's finest news source.) If you are someone who can't handle satire, then don't look at it. But if you don't mind having the tables turned a bit to see things from a different angle, take a look.



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Apparently, God is an Arsonist

"God set our store on fire because we are adding a liquor store," said She-who-shall-not-be-named.

I am with holding the name out of respect and good manners. But anyone from the Cub Shack knows who I am referring to...most likely because they have received an earful from her at one point or another. (Plus, I wrote about her before. She is one of the reasons why I don't like to call myself a Christian, but instead use different terms.) The other day I got an email from a friend at work. She was wondering how to act, and what to think when having to interact with this person from work. Let's just say that it is less than easy to be around I swear her piercing laugh (Cackle) sounds exactly like a flock of ducks in a pond. (Am I right, Mick?)

This situation that I am writing about falls easily on the foot heels of what I wrote about in my last post...displaying the Fruit of the Spirit, and such.

Over a year ago, we had a small fire in the construction area of our store. In fact, it actually WAS in the new area where we were adding on a liquor store. She-who-shall-not-be-named has some physical issues that keep her from re-stocking the shelves and such. So she was given the arduous task of sitting out front and explaining to people that the store was closed until we could get cleaned up and re-stocked. She proceeded to explain to everyone that God had intervened to punish Cub Foods for adding on an area that would sell the demon of liquor. (Didn't go over that well with the management, I should add.)

She-who-shall-not-be-named also has a few other catch phrases that she sprinkles liberally in conversation with customers. Her favorite is, "I don't work for the store. I work for God." And based on her behavior, I am oh-so sure that God is very appreciative of her efforts on His behalf.

Now, I know that everything I have said thus far comes off as sarcastic...and it is. (Hey, I had an amazingly crappy day at the store...I need to vent!) This person makes it very clear that "She loves Jesus, Damn it!" And you better do what she advises, or you're going to Hell. What most folks respond least internally is, "But I don't want to be like you. You're no fun at all!!!"

OK, so it would be easy for me to go on with snotty comments about said individual. Honestly, she really does set herself up to be a very slowly walking target. But I do not think that helps the situation much. It's easy to gossip and make jokes behind someone's back...and I'm guilty.

So I decided to be proactive with this person. I almost always have a book with me for breaks at work. I decided to bring in a copy of Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel, and loan it to She-who-shall-not-be-named. I picked out 4 chapters for her to take a look at. All of them deal with how much God loves Believers even when they don't believe it for various reasons. I am just hoping to get her to think a little bit, and maybe to jar her a bit out of the way she acts.

Honestly, there are so many people out there who call themselves Christians, but have no joy, no peace, no love, no NOTHING in their lives. (No Fruit of the Spirit I would argue.) If they have anything at all on display, it tends to be man-made religious crap and plenty of "Works." That is absolutely true in the case of this person.

I figured that it was just easier to challenge her in this method. Manning's writing is excellent! Plus, it's hard to interrupt words on a page. Hopefully, this will lead to a discussion between she & I at some point. All I really want her to know is that Jesus deeply & unconditionally loves her. I think that if she truly understood that in her heart, she might behave just a bit differently.

I'll let you know what happens.

In the mean time, I'll leave you with this from Brennan Manning. Remember, he is talking about people who call themselves "Christians." Just give it a listen. See if you find something of comfort in his words. I think he might be on to something.

I hope he's right, because it is like a sword through my heart every time I listen. Could God's love REALLY be that big & overwhelming? I hope so.



Friday, January 22, 2010

The Greatest Theologian who has ever lived!

OK, Becky, this is for you.

THEOLOGY: The study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world.

That definition is from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. I bring it up because I have a question for everyone. Who do you think is the greatest theologian who has ever existed? I won't tell you the answer just yet. I just want you to think about it. Oh, maybe I should mention that in this instance, I am talking about Christianity, and not some other faith.

A theologian is someone who studies to understand God and they way that God takes care of business on a day to day basis. A theologian essentially knows how God functions, and then can explain it to others. A theologian can tell you all sorts of things about Scripture. A good one can explain the texts from the original languages too.

I heard a very famous pastor/theologian in my denomination say of another pastor, "I like M--- D------ because I agree with his theology." My immediate question when I heard that was, "Hmm, is that all that matters?"

I should explain some of my background for context. (Context is everything, you know.) Back when I was doing Youth Work, I was hired by a church that had all of the correct theology. In fact, the pastor that made that statement about agreeing with the other's theology would have loved this particular churches' theology. This church had all of the right thoughts, opinions and ideas...all of the proper head knowledge. In other words, they had proper Orthodoxy.

One thing this church did not have was any type of Orthopaxy. I.E. "Right Actions." It was the most dysfunctional, cold hearted, un-loving environment I have ever stepped into. To be fair, I should state it wasn't entirely their fault. The head pastor had recently been removed for adultery. The people there were in a great deal of pain. I, as the new Youth guy, got to be a tap dancer in a mine field for them. They took as much of their pain out on me as they could. I wasn't the only one. As I understand it they chewed up and spit out 6 other guys in the course of 5 years.

At any rate, I learned the hard way that head knowledge only gets you so far.

Here is my contention. The church in America loves to debate theological issues, and divide ourselves accordingly. I am specifically referring to Evangelicals. We love to bash each other over minute distinctives that have very little to do with day-to-day life. We turn mole hills into mountains. Example: My post a while back about John Piper and Greg Boyd. Those guys agree on at least 95% of all the issues, not to mention that they have the commonality of Christ in their lives. Yet, one of those two seems to want to burn the other at the stake.

OK, now for the answer to my original question.

This guy is by far and away the most brilliant theologian who has ever existed. He can read every word in the Bible in it's original language...with out an accent too. He can explain in detail every theological theory & argument that has ever been. In fact, he can even settle the debate over Predestination VS. Free-Will, AND wether or not the Creation stories are absolutely literal, or more figurative. He knows more about God then anyone walking the earth.

Want to know who that is? (Drum roll, please.)


Yeah, I said it. (Can't wait to read the comments & e-mails on this one)

It's true though. Think about it, Satan has a massive amount of Head Knowledge about God. Heck, the guy used to wander around God's throne room watching the action. He actually spoke with the triune God of the universe on a regular basis. (Probably shared a couple of lattes with Him too.) Let's face it, Lucifer has made a career studying the way God operates. (Primarily in an effort to make life for humans miserable, Believers in particular.) Based on the definition of what a theologian is and does, Lucy does qualify for being the greatest theologian ever.

SO, what is the difference between Satan and, lets say, Billy Graham? It's the relationship. Billy Graham has a healthy, loving relationship with Jesus. Lucy, I would argue, has a rather unhealthy relationship with Jesus.

For me, the scariest passage in the Bible comes towards the end of Jesus masterpiece, the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7: 15-23, Jesus makes some truly frightening statements. I won't quote the whole thing, but the scary part is the following:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!"

Think about how scary that is! Whoever these folks are, they performed miracles, got rid of demons, and did the prophecy thing, and yet they are bound for Hell. These folks thought that they were saved!!! They did the churchy stuff. They were probably very "Religious." I would bet that a few of them even had their own T.V. shows where they slew people in the spirit, told people how to vote...and asked for a lot of money.

What they obviously didn't have was a healthy relationship with Jesus. They didn't really KNOW Jesus, and he certainly didn't KNOW them. (Cause that's what Jesus says.)

What is the evidence of a healthy relationship with Jesus? Is it primarily what you think about God? Is it agreeing 100% with a given doctrine? Is it because you "Agree with his theology?" In other words, is it what's in your head?

Well, according to Jesus, it seems to have something to do with what is in your heart, and not the head so much...because what is really & truly in your heart will come out through your actions & behaviors towards others. In fact, in that very scary tale that Jesus told, he says that the kingdom of heaven is reserved for those you DO the will of his Father. Go back to that passage and jump up to verse 16. "By their fruit you will recognize them." (This is in reference to who is true Believer, and who is a fraud.) In fact, Jesus brings that up a lot...good trees vs. bad trees and such. Jesus seems to be saying that if you really want to FOLLOW him, then you better ACT like him.

This goes rather nicely with what Paul told the church in Galatia. When Paul begins writing about living by the Spirit, he goes off on a tangent and gives examples of what this would look like. If a person really & truly IS a Believer, the Holy Spirit will produce a variety of fruits & vegetables in that Believer's life that pretty much even a blind person could see.

"But the fruit of the Spirit IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...Since we live BY the Spirit, let us keep in step WITH the Spirit."

Sad to say, but a huge chunk of people I know who say that they are Christians hardly show ANY of those types of crops. In fact, if you bother to read the book Un-Christian by the guys from the Barna Research group, most folks outside the church are of the opinion that so-called Christians produce the exact opposite. How in the world did that happen? It does cause me to have more than a few nagging questions and doubts about people who call themselves a Christian, and yet no fruit is evident. (And that includes more than a few famous ones) I keep tellin' ya to go out and get that book. It ought to be mandatory reading for every body of Believers.

You know, those fruits such as love & patience are not always things that folks can see in a minute or so. These are things that are manifested over time, and are observed by others through an authentic & caring relationship. The same can be said for a person's walk with Christ. After all, you are trying to get to know Jesus just like you would be trying to get to know another person. (I rather like the idea that Jesus is a dude that you can just hang out with and chill. That's pretty cool that the God of the universe is really that approachable.)

Jesus didn't seem to spend a great deal of time worrying or explaining the details of how his Father went about getting the job done, or what our specific theological mind sets ought to be. He would merely call people to repent, to love God with all our hearts...and our neighbors as ourselves. Then he would always go off and tell us how to act, how to behave, how to LIVE in this broken world and our neighbors. Jesus always led by example. (If you can't or won't lead by example, you shouldn't be leading at all.) He was always giving examples of how we are to treat others.

I think that if you really KNOW God, then you will be working on having the same mindset as Jesus. Paul was always going on about wanting to be like Jesus. He wanted to KNOW Jesus and identify with him. This always resulted in Paul living, acting and behaving towards folks in loving ways.

The church in America needs to get it's priorities straight. I've been fortunate enough to live in a couple of other countries, and to visit a few more. One thing I noticed is that the Believers over there rarely seem to argue and beat each other up over theology. Instead, they loved & helped each other because that was the only way to survive. Why aren't we doing that?

I guess that when it comes to theology and what is truly important, for myself, I can sum it up in one easy phrase.

If it doesn't match up with the character & behavior that Jesus displayed while on earth, and if it doesn't emphasize & prioritize the same things that Jesus did, then it is simply wrong!!!!! And I don't care how many PhDs you have, or how many books you have published.

Head Knowledge (Orthodoxy) has it's place. But if it doesn't have the hands-on, down in the mud & muck Heart Knowledge (Orthopraxy) to go with it hand in hand, then you aren't doing the kingdom any favors. And I think that Jesus' little bro, Jimmy, would agree with me on that point.

In fact, if you are the type of person who is saying all types of "Religious" stuff, but not being a open, vulnerable person who is honest about living out your faith, then I would ask you if you really KNOW Jesus at all...or even worse, does he KNOW you?

Hey folks, it's just like it is for the rest of life. It's all about who you KNOW. :)



Friday, January 15, 2010

Mad in Minnesota!

Take a good look at that sign! Let what it says roll around in your brain for a while. I'll come back to it later.

I saw it just south of Lakeville on Hwy. 35W this morning only a few hours ago. It caught me so off guard that I had to turn around and go back to get this shot.

I'm still trying to clear my head of this bit of depression that I am going through. (No, it's not nearly as bad as the last episode.)

So, as I generally do when the depression hits, I was out driving & listening to some of my churchy podcasts. I was listening to Dan Allender talk about Anger & Lust. When he spoke about how all of us are adulterers & killers at heart, and how we need to embrace our own brokeness if we wish to be faithful to Christ, it just nailed me. I tend to be a bit of a gusher anyway, so I wept big time. But it also made me think about that road sign.

(You would think by now that I would know better than to put myself in these situations. I mean, tear-filled eyes on a freeway at 75mph is not the best combination.)

For more on Dan Allender, try this.

Well, I'm sure that almost everyone has heard of the comments that the Rev. Pat Robertson made about Haiti yesterday. If you haven't, here is a snippet. Don't worry about watching the whole thing. His offense comes in the first minute.

So, Pat says that the Haitian people made a pact with Satan to win their independence, and this is why they continue to suffer. This from a pastor who has called on the U.S. government to assassinate other world leaders. How thoughtful.

Perhaps Rev. Robertson should have a chat with the Haitian man in this next video.

You know, it's actually rather hard for me to put any of my feelings into words right now, because I am just so livid at the moment. But I think you get the idea of where I am going with this post.

Back to the sign on the Freeway.

I haven't the slightest idea who put it up. But it doesn't take a genius to know where they are trying to go with it's message. God is punishing us because of His righteous anger. It's true, God IS the God of Twin Towers, hurricanes & earthquakes. He is also the God of incomprehensible love, grace & mercy

I will bet anyone who reads this $100 right now, that if you go to the church or organization that put that sign up, you will find a bunch of self-satisfied, self-righteous, graceless & humorless folks who smugly enjoy the thought that God might be punishing people. They will have all of their favorite hoops for people to jump through if they want to be in their Righteous Club. They will be joyfully legalistic, and quite certain in their judgments against those outside their group. (They will probably have at least one broom stick shoved tightly up their exit, so as to assist them in standing tall & proud in their righteous State of Grace.)

What they will NOT have is any sense of compassion or empathy for the average sinner out their who struggles through this swamp of life everyday. They will NOT have taken the time to actually get to know these people they judge. They will NOT actually get down in the blood and grime to help these people with their struggles. In fact, other than voting a certain way, they most likely will NOT have done ANYTHING to tell people the Good News of Jesus or to advance the Kingdom...unless putting up a billboard counts.

The other thing that they seem to conveniently forget is that THEY are also going to be judged someday. I am too. And the fact of the matter is that I have enough crap on my own plate to go about throwing stones at others. What I need is other broken people coming along side me on my journey to help me...and so I can be of help to them too.

I can guarantee you that whoever put up that sign has not been broken by Jesus yet. For that matter, I'm not convinced that Pat Robertson has been broken yet, either. When he makes comments about the suffering of Haiti like he did, I just cringe. When Jerry Fall-well said that God killed the people in the twin towers because we allow gay people to walk our streets, I just fume. And when I saw that sign I wanted to drive back with some gasoline and burn it down.

Make no mistake, we will all be judged someday. All the people, all the countries, all the nations will stand before God on His righteous throne...all of us. But in the mean time, for those who call themselves Believers, Jesus has called us to interact in the world in the same manner that he did. And that means going into the mud, the grime, the pain & the joy...and getting dirty for his glory.

That's how you spread the Gospel! Not by some idiotic billboard.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

A "Shout Out" for Icarus

I just wanted to give a quick mention to a guy that started following, I think. I don't know what his real name is. Probably something like Ruppert or Quincy or Harry Connick Jr. Anyway, I linked his blog to my blog roll. But to make it even easier, here...

So anyway, I no sooner finished publishing my post about Piper & Boyd, then I noticed I had a new follower. (Which always makes my belly button pucker & un-pucker in shear joy) So I checked his blog out.

He seems like a pretty cool guy. I'm fairly sure he's a Believer. (Haven't read too much of his stuff yet.) Apparently a rather gifted photographer, too.

Best of all, he apparently really likes some of my writing. (To be honest, if ANYTHING what so ever that I write actually does someone some good, then I am a very happy camper.) I guess he really, really, REALLY liked my post from a ways back titled "God only hates you a little bit." BA-Hahahahahahahaha!!!

(I'll let him explain what I find so funny...because it really IS funny to me...and I'm not even being sarcastic or nothin'.)

Anyway, check his stuff out. Actually, you should check out all of the blogs I list. (Except for Tom's! He is still tripping old ladies at the grocery store.)


P.S. Actually, some of you could do me a favor and tell me how you ever found out about my blog in the first place. I know in the case of Monica & Papaya, it is because they stalk me on FB.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Ballad of John Piper & Greg Boyd

In my last post I talked about my friend Moyer's theory that people's biblical perspectives & theology are mostly shaped by their fears. I figured that I should expand on that a little. And I'll use two very influential pastors & thinkers as examples. Both of these guys are in my denomination, the Baptist General Conference. (Back when it started in 1870, it was called the Swedish Baptist Conference. But then we thought that maybe Norwegians could get into heaven too. So we changed the name.)

(A quick word about denominations; they are NOT "Religions!" Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, E.V. Free, Greek Othodox, whatever, they are denominations of one "Religion"...if you don't mind that term...CHRISTIANITY!!! I know that people often refer to them as separate religions. A good deal of the time they even treat them as actual religions. But that only demonstrates their ignorance.)

I'll start with John Piper first. John Piper is a brilliant thinker & writer. He preaches at Bethlehem Baptist church in downtown Minneapolis. The book, Desiring God, is considered his finest work. You can find out much more about him on Wikipedia if you are interested.

Piper is a Calvinist, i.e. he emphasizes God's Sovereignty in the area of Predestination. This may come off as unfair, but it is a common criticism of him that he is actually what most would consider to be a "Hyper-Calvinist." In other words, Piper believes that God has pretty much predestined everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen before the beginning of time. As such, humans have little in the way of free will. That's about as much explanation as I will give. You should do the rest of the research yourself...ya lazy bum!

In all fairness, I should state that I attended his church off & on for about 3 years when I went to Bethel College. I saw first hand how much John Piper loves Jesus. I even have a fairly gross story that demonstrates his love for Christ, but that is for another time. That having been said, my strongest impression & memory that I have from listening to him for those years can be broken down into two phrases. A) I am a horribly sinful, very bad & awful person. (Which is pretty much true, so I don't need to be reminded of it all the time) B) Everything has been predestined a head of time, so there is not much I can do about anything anyway.

(OK, so I know that those comments will come off as unfair, but that honestly is my strongest memory from that time.)

Now some people find a real and strong connection to Jesus through that type of preaching. If it works for them, then praise God for it. It was not my cup of tea, and I don't see it being very effective with skeptical Outsiders. But I still know that John Piper loves Jesus very much, and that is good enough for me.

The second fellow is Greg Boyd. Boyd is also a brilliant thinker and writer. He preaches at Woodland Hills over in St. Paul. My favorite book of his The Myth of a Christian Nation. However, I would say that if you want to understand him, you should read his book, Letters to a Skeptic. He wrote it to his father, and I believe it forms the core of everything that he emphasizes in his theology.

Greg Boyd is essentially the polar opposite of John Piper when it comes to theology. He strongly emphasizes Free Will, and the responsibility of humans to seek God and do His will. In fact, Boyd believes in a very unusual theology called "Open Theism." Again, this will be brief, and therefore probably unfair. (Listen, you gotta do your own leg work if you want more detail. I do have a little bit of a life, you know) Boyd essentially says that God does NOT know the future, but instead has numerous possibilities for it.

Needless to say, such ideas by Boyd make John Piper go into fits & seizures. Both of these guys teach at Bethel College and the Seminary from time to time. Piper was so incensed at Boyd's Open Theism that he tried to get him fired from Bethel. (I don't find that to be very Christlike, but Piper never asked my opinion.)

Now, a bit more about Greg Boyd. Moyer actually attends his church, so he gives me plenty of details. Boyd has massive ADHD! So much so that he will often lose track when he is preaching, which must be something to see. HA! He is a brilliant Apologist for Christianity, too. He also loves Jesus very much.

I only met him once, ages ago. Moyer & I had finished working out at Bethel's gym and were in the locker room. Boyd came in and saw Moyer. (They knew each other through a class, I believe.) So anyway, Boyd comes up to him and proceeds to inform him of the vasectomy surgery that he had recently. I don't know Boyd from Adam, but he is perfectly comfortable letting loose with with something that personal while standing next to a perfect stranger. Greg Boyd is the original Extrovert.

Now I doubt that I could ever buy into Open Theism. I think the Bible is fairly clear that God is all-knowing. I doubt I could trust a God that was might mistakes because of it. Yuk! Still, what matters to me is that Greg Boyd loves Jesus and is doing his best to follow him.

I'll get into the debate over Predestination vs. Free Will some other time. What I want to theorize on is WHY these two guys have such different opinions on this subject. Is it possible that deep down inside, both of them have developed their views because of some deep fear in their psyches?

I'll use use myself as an example first: I just got back from taking one of my mini-road trips this morning. (Yeah, it takes me a few days to do most of these posts. I started this one 2-3 days ago, and I'm just finishing it now.) I can kind of feel a bit of my depression kicking in. When that happens I go for a drive to clear my head.

So anyway, I listened again to one of my all-time favorite sermons again while taking the trip. It is by Rob Bell and is from the Beatitude series they are going through over at Mars Hill. It is titled "Blessed are the Poor in Spirit" and it makes me cry every time I listen to it. (Probably not the best thing to listen to while driving then, I suppose.)

In the talk, Bell speaks of how being Poor in Spirit is NOT a good condition to be in. Essentially, you are a loser...but that because of it, God is on your side. God blesses the Poor in Spirit because that is just what He does. God is on the side of every loser out there because they are the ones who need Him. The Rich is Spirit don't need God's blessing. They already have themselves.

This Being On the Side Of by God has nothing to do with some type of nice quality that you or I have that would make us deserve His blessing. It has EVERYTHING to do with the character of God. To quote a film clip that Bell uses in the sermon, "There IS no Why?" God just blesses the Poor in Spirit because God is somehow like that.

You see, my FEAR is that God can't really love me all that much. I can be such a screw-up, and even now there are areas of my life that I stubbornly refuse to hand over to God. So, in my mind, I must always be annoying God in one way or the other. I get the concept that He loves me. But I just feel that it must be mixed with a lot of exasperation.

So, is it any wonder that I would be attracted to teachings like Bell's that tells me this is not the case? God isn't always a giant crab when it comes to my stupidity? It makes sense that I would gravitate to a writer like Brennan Manning who emphasizes God's incomprehensible love. I seek out an aspect of biblical theology that fights my deepest fears.

So, is it possible that John Piper has a deep fear that God is not really fully in control? So he seeks biblical ideas that emphasize God's power & sovereignty...a little too much, I would argue. But maybe he does so because of a fear deep inside him.

In the case of Greg Boyd, I am absolutely convinced that almost everything he writes goes back to the letters he wrote to his dad in the book I mentioned. His dad was not a Believer at the time, and would question a God that allowed so much evil in the world. I.E., "How could a good God who is in control allow something like the Holocaust to take place?" Maybe, in his quest to defend God from the accusation of evil, Boyd began to emphasize human responsibility & God's sometimes Hands-Off approach.

I don't know. This is all just a theory.

What matters to me is that both John Piper & Greg Boyd love Jesus. You can see the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives. These are the things that truly do matter the most. Certainly not some theological concepts that are not central to loving God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength...and your neighbor as yourself.

I wish that more people who call themselves Believers would think about what really matters, and not be so quick take a swing at their brothers & sisters in Christ over issues like these. I don't think it helps to advance the Kingdom at all. Or maybe what I should tell them is the same thing I should tell myself. "There is no need to be afraid."



Monday, January 11, 2010

"Fear & Loathing in Theology."

I had the strangest conversation with a guy at the grocery store yesterday. It made me think about something my friend Moyer said to me a few months ago. I have a theory that when someone studies the Bible, their personality is a huge part of determining their interpretation and theology. (Lets face it, we all have our biases)

Moyer said that he thought it was our FEARS that determine our biblical interpretation and theological points of view. I had never thought about that before. He may be right. I'll expand on that idea some other time, but let me tell you about the conversation because it plays into Moyer's theory.

Friday night I ran into a guy who used to work at the store when he was a teen. (He was quite the wild child back in those days too.) I had heard that he had become a Christian a few years ago. So when I saw him I asked him how his faith journey was going. He said that it was great! I was very happy to hear that, and we kept talking.

(I should say that I am always interested in hearing where other people are at spiritually, and what their thoughts are on the subject. I'm just very curious I guess. Plus, I like to learn from what they have to say. It is not whether I agree 100% with them or not. It is about the journey...for me at least.)

Well, as he and I kept talking he started using words and phrases that I didn't quite understand. I thought I would try and get a read on him by asking for his reaction to various writers, preachers & theologians that are prominent these days. So I dropped a long list of names for him. (The list included many of whom I really liked all the way to folks I would hold a cross up to and throw Holy Water on) He hadn't heard of ANY of them! That really caught me off guard. The only name he dropped for me was some guy named Jim Gabels. He said that Gabels was the guy who most influenced him. (I had not heard of him. But I will try to do some research.)

I got an idea at that point, and it comes from deep with in my amazingly awesome generosity. I told Bob (Not his real name) to swing by the store on Sunday. I told him that I would burn a bunch of CDs & DVDs for him of podcasts & such, that I thought were interesting and up-lifting in the area of Christian Spirituality. I told him to take a listen and tell me what he thought.

So last night, Bob shows up at the store. He reaches out and shakes my hand and said the following. (Be sure to use a mildly robotic voice, and read this out loud, if you want the full effect.) "Thank-you-Joe-for-doing-this. I-am-very-happy-with-my-faith. I-do-not-need-to-listen-to-your-CDs. Thank-you-again. I-am-very-happy-with-my-faith"

Yeah, I was a little weirded out, too.

We talked for a bit. I told him it wasn't going to cost him money, if that was his concern. I said that I thought that they were interesting CDs, and that I hoped to get his thoughts on them. Long story short, he grabbed my hand again to shake it, and repeated that same robotic phrase.


I am vary wary of a good deal of the Preachers out there. As I mentioned numerous times before, I don't actually LIKE most people who call themselves "Christians." That having been said, I know that Jesus loves me a great deal. So it is very hard for me not to be in love with him too. (Although my love for Jesus is about as imperfect and flawed as a person can get.) So if someone tells me that they love Jesus, and I can see the Fruit of the Spirit moving in their life, then we have plenty of common ground...even if we don't see eye-to-eye on every theological issue.

Well, there are plenty of Preachers, Teachers, Theologians, churches and such, that are not quite as willing to enter into an honest dialogue with others as I may be. I have heard on many occasions, church leaders tell the faithful what books they can & cannot read, what movies...or lack there of, that they are allowed to see. In fact, a pastor that I really respect has a YouTube video out in which he tells people not to read a specific book, and which pastors he would "Never allow to preach at MY church."

It is statements like that which make me see all types of red flags. Especially when any pastor describes the body of Believers that he works for as "HIS" church. (Sorry dude. It's Jesus' church. You are just one member of that body) Any time I hear something like this the term "CULT" pops right into my head.

Usually, the church leader making the statement of what or what not to listen to, read, watch, etc., warn that if I do, my faith will be ruined, poisoned, what ever. Now I am not as dumb as I appear physically. I am fully aware that there is plenty of garbage theology and false teaching out there. The reason that I can attest to that fact is precisely BECAUSE I bothered read, watch and listen to that stuff so that I could weigh it according to Scripture. I mean, Paul did recommend to Timothy to "Study, to show yourself approved. A workman that never needs to be ashamed." God himself even told people, "Come, let us reason together."

Paul never reacted in fear when he ran into spiritual ideas that were not in line with what Jesus taught. When it came to those outside the church Paul always looked for the common ground to connect to their culture, so that he could then tell them about the Gospel.

When it came to those inside the church, again, Paul never reacted in fear. Because Paul had actually bothered to study and familiarize himself with the cultures & issues of the day, he could explain what the scriptures had to say about the matter at hand. Often times, Paul would use a very biting humor to get his point across, too.

(If you don't think that the Bible is a very real & earthy book, try reading what Paul has to say about those who were duping early gentile Believers in Galatia (5:12) into getting circumcised. Modern english translations are far too polite for my tastes. Suffice it to say that Paul hoped that they wouldn't just stop with the foreskins. His hopes was that they would have to use the ladies toilets when they were through.)

ANYWAY, be very wary around anyone who calls themselves a Believer, but then goes on to tell you what you can and can't read. Opinions are a totally different matter. But you can only HAVE an informed opinion if you actually take the time to study and research the issues. Naturally, this truth seeking has to be intellectually honest. After all, I may be wrong about a lot of stuff. So it would be a good idea on my part to be able to accept that truth when it happens. But I see no reason what so ever to avoid a book on christianity, or a particular theologian or thinker, just because I might disagree with them on some issues.

Dave Johnson is one of the pastors at Church of the Open Door up in Maple Grove, MN. Many, many years ago I was listening to a sermon of his when he got off on a tangent. Someone had asked him about Christians and alcohol. (Often a very hot button issue for many Believers) So Johnson goes on a roll for a bit, and I just loved his response to the question.

Essentially, it went something like this: "Do I have an opinion about whether or not a Christian can drink? Yes I do. And I'm not going to tell you what it is!!! Sometimes, some issues are so personal for an individual that there is no one set answer. This is an issue that YOU need to wrestle with. YOU are the one that has to search the Bible. YOU are the one that has to seek God in prayer over this issue. If I told you what to do and think on every issue, you wouldn't need to seek God at ALL...and this would just be a cult."


See, that is a pastor you can trust.

So, back to "Bob" (Not his real name.) and his odd reaction to the free CDs. I can't help but think that someone had spooked him. I asked him if someone had warned him about some of the authors and preachers I had recommended to him. He told me "No," but I'm still not convinced. Fearful or not, it certainly didn't seem like he wanted to be challenged in anyway. Oh well, now I have a bunch of freed CDs & DVDs if anybody wants them. Just let me know.

I guess what I really wanted to convey in this post is that you do not have to fear what you do not understand. Especially if Jesus is at the center of you life. If he is where you are anchored, then there is nothing to fear about ANYTHING. "Perfect love casts out fear," you know.

Take YHWH's advice and get off your butt and start talking to, and studying about, him. He's a big boy, and can handle the doubts & questions that you may have. (We all have them. If you say that you don't, well, we can see your nose growing here Pinocchio.) Don't be afraid that someone else's way of thinking about Jesus is going to destroy your faith. If it does, then it wasn't much of a faith to begin with.



Friday, January 8, 2010

"Dog" = "God"

I have a joke for you, OK?

Q: What does a Dyslexic, Agnostic Insomniac do at night?

A: He/she rolls around in bed wondering if DOG really exists! HA!

So anyway, this photo is of the beautiful & spoiled family dog named Rika. She's a Vizula. She is incredibly curious & smart. She also likes to fish. (I mean it...she really likes to fish) She also has enough excess energy to serve as an alternative fuel source.

So why do I bring up my families' dog...other than the fact that she is certainly & obviously better than YOUR dog? (Cats do not count. They were spawned by Satan)

Well, the other day was my sister's birthday and we had a party for her. Naturally, Rika has to be included. So I was watching the dog getting all excited. (She likes to help open presents too.) She will pick up as much wrapping paper as she can hold in her mouth and prance around the room demonstrating her glory.

She got me thinking about something.

Both dogs and humans have limitations. We are both finite creatures. The difference between dogs and humans when this comes in to play is that dogs actually WANT to know their limits. Humans often say that they do, but more often then not we HATE to be told what we cannot do. This makes canines inherently more honest then people.

Examples: Dogs love to know where their territory is and is not. Dogs love to know which toys are theirs that they can then tear into with great vigor. In Rika's case, she knows that when I put the palm of my hand out straight and facing downward, she is to lie down and roll over onto her back.

See, dogs think in pictures. Not words like we do. (Although they can learn hundreds of words for sure.) They also have the concept of hierarchy hard-wired into their DNA. People tend to anthropomorphize animals as if they are 4-legged humans that eat from bowls and can clean themselves with their tongues in places that we would be paid good money for if we could pull that off on a stage.

This is why you get so many stupid pet owners that can never seem control their animals...especially dogs. They think of the dog in human terms. But the fact of the matter is that a dog thinks of US as a 2-legged dogs...with much less fur unless you are Greek or Middle-Eastern.

Dogs understand the concept of hierarchy. That is how they make sense of their world. Dogs know that their needs to be an Alpha Male, or Alpha Female. So in their minds, if YOU, the owner, are not going to be the Alpha, then it is their job to fill that role. Hence, stupid owners that can't control their dogs.

Back in the third Creation story, (That would be Genesis 3) what was the Original Sin? It was NOT taking a bite of the apple. And not just because it was not an apple that Dirt Man and Beautiful Creature munched on. (Yeah, that is how their names are actually translated.) The Original Sin was wanting to be just like God.

Think about it. All of the flaws of humanity stem from not wanting to know our limitations, but instead to be infinite like God. Go back and read the story again if you are puzzled by this. Ever since that occurrence, we have constantly tried to set our own rules, and decide what is right and what is wrong. We still have that attitude deep in our sub-conscience that we ought to be God. If you think I am joking, think about the very first thing that you want to do when someone tells you "No."

Maybe God should have chosen dogs to be the recipient of souls and God Consciousness. We would have probably been rather satisfied with divine belly rubs & chewing on eternally self-healing stuffed duckies. If you pay attention to your pets, they can teach you an awful lot about life & contentedness.

Someday I hope that someone uses this as a sermon illustration. :) It's just a thought.