Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shout Outs



This is an easy post. At Living Waters on Sunday, I wanted to encourage some friends to keep writing in their blogs. (They had been remiss in their duties.) So I told them I would do some advertising for them if they got busy.

Tom & Deb are some of my oldest friends. (They are both in their late 80s...not really) Anyway, Deb's writing tends to be highly personal. Tom's tends to be rather existential. I like them both. And because I said so, you should check them both out.




Clever fella that Tom is, he uses a Peter Gabriel tune to make as an analogy for what he is writing about. Tom and I are both big believers in that anything good at all that comes into being is from God...even when the people it comes out of do not recognize that gift from God or follow Jesus. (Ecc. 3:13 & James 1:17)

"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..."

I don't know Peter Gabriel's spiritual world view, but it does seem to me that he is at least open to the idea that "There might be more than THIS..." His music contains obvious spiritual overtones to it.

Many years ago, he wrote the soundtrack for the film "The Last Temptation of Christ." The film stirred up quite a hornets nest with "Religious" people, even though the film never claimed to be a proper re-telling of the Gospels. (It was based on a book written by some Greek Orthodox priest as a work of fiction.) The music that Gabriel provided was amazing. The opening song is called "The Feeling Begins." I recall being in the theater watching & listening to the beginning of the film and thinking "Yeah, I'll bet this is what it initially felt like to be around Jesus."

So here is the tune. (If you can still find the soundtrack, buy it. It's called "Passion," and it's RARE!) After having lived in the Middle East for a time, I found this style of music used for the film to be extremely accurate.



Peace

Joe

P.S. Now that I have advertised for Tom & Deb, Maybe they will reciprocate. :) :) :)

P.S.S. What the heck, here's another Gabriel tune with obvious spiritual overtones. It's pretty hard to miss the obvious with this one.




Sunday, June 27, 2010

Southern Baptists step up to the plate. (Or in this case, the "Goop.")





















I was up early as usual this morning, and was talking with my goofy friend Damon, via the electronic super highway. No sooner did he have to split then I heard a very interesting news story on National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128130198 It was an interview with Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention. It turns out that the S.B.C. is calling on the government to make sure that something like the B.P. oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico never happens again, and that corporations are held accountable for their actions. In fact, Dr. Moore said that this should serve as a wake up call for all Evangelicals to essentially start going "Green."

This really caught me off-guard, because American Evangelicals tend to be the last hold-outs in the environmental movement. Evangelicals in general, and the Religious Right in particular, seem to view a healthy ecosystem as a left wing plot being furthered by our Islamo-Socialist President. (O.K., that's being sarcastic. But seriously, you should see the e-mails my dad gets from Tea Party folks and other nut jobs around the country.)

At any rate, I was really happy to hear this story...and rather proud. I have never really understood why ecology and working to keep the planet relatively clean should be a political issue for the Right or the Left in the first place. I especially do not understand how or why someone who calls themselves a "Christian" would be opposed to this issue.

In the first of the three creation stories, when God creates humans, twice God points out one of the main purposes for humans in his creation. We are to Subdue & Rule it. The Hebrew words are "Radah" and "Kabash," and they have the ideas of stewardship and co-creating in them. In other words, God instructed humans to be respectful managers of the world that he made.

It's important to remember that Creation was never intended to be static. Creation was designed to re-create itself, i.e. plants producing seeds, fish having baby fishys, etc. And God places humans in his creation to take it somewhere as his representatives.

With all that as context, I have serious doubts that God ever intended humans to spill toxic waste all over his land and water, or pump poison into his air. I fully understand that it is impossible to be 100% clean and non-wasteful all the time. However, we can certainly do a better job than we currently are.

(I recall being in Beijing a couple of years back, and being not only able to SEE the air, but also to TASTE it due to the pollution. That was a fine "How do you do" to have on my breakfast cereal. Ick!)


Another issue that Dr. Moore pointed out was something that hadn't really occurred to me before...at least not in this way. Dr. Moore points out that trusting a corporation to do the right thing all the time, with no, or minimal, rules is like expecting a person to be ethical at all times when there is no one holding them accountable. It's a rather naive world view, and certainly isn't biblical. After all, if humans are fallen and have a sinful nature, then a large corporation made up of fallen humans is going to have it's share of issues.

It's not as if we all have to go back to using only horses and buggies. But as I said before, we can certainly do a better job than we currently are. I'm proud of the S.B.C. for taking up this issue. I wish more people who call themselves "Christians" would do so too.



On a side note, God reveals himself in that "General Revelation" kind of way through his creation. I am in no way a "Creationist" in the classic sense, in that it all happened in a literal six days, (That's really taking the passages way out of context.) but I do believe firmly that God created everything. (I rarely worry all that much about how he went about it.) I also believe that this creation screams out the evidence of it's creator.

Honestly, how can you possibly look at the complexity of something as beautiful as a tree and walk away saying, "Well, ain't we lucky that pure chance over the course of millions of years caused that to randomly come together"?

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard. (Unless you are willfully deaf.)
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."
Psalm 19: 1-4

Now, if that is all true, then maybe we ought to be more respectful to it.



OK, OK...I know that I am not supposed to do a post without leaving a video or song behind. So I re-edited this post and added the following. It's funny, yet sad, that comedy is often more truthful than real life.



Peace

Joe

P.S. Here is a link to Dr. Moore's own blog, and the article he wrote for touchstone magazine. http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/06/22/christ-and-katrina-five-years-later/

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fishing with Buffalo


So this past Monday night I picked up a friend from the airport who had come into town for a wedding. He crashed at my place that night, and with a whopping 4 hours of sleep under our belts we were up at 5am to head out to the cabin for a day of fishing.

(If you are curious about the title, it has to do with a nick-name given to my friend ages ago.)

Tyson is one of a group of young guys who all used to work at the same store that I now suffer under. From time to time, the whole lot of us would go fishing out at my families cabin. (Fishing is LIFE, you know.) In fact, a couple of years ago, Tyson & I decided to learn how to trout fish. So we just did some online research, bought some poles, and headed down to Lanesborro, MN and taught ourselves. I hadn't seen him in about 2 years I think, so it was really good to reconnect after all that time.

Tyson comes from a very cool family. His folks were missionaries in both Pakistan and Afghanistan for many years. His older brother has been off in Europe doing some mission work. His younger brother is going into the military as an officer. Tyson is active with Scum of the Earth, a church based in Denver that is very socially active. http://www.scumoftheearth.net/ His mom really knows how to cook some good Pakistani food, too.

I bring up Tyson because of the original group of about 6 or 7 guys that used to all go fishing off and on, he is the only one who has stayed with Jesus. The majority of these guys all grew up around Evangelical Christianity, or at least some form of "Religion"...not that that counts for much. (Normally it just serves as some form of inoculation against any true spirituality) However, except for Tyson, the rest have rejected Christ. In fact, one has become an Evangelical Atheist, (Yes, that is an actual term.) and another simply mocks me any time I bring up any hint of God. I am always curious about the how of things, so I am curious as to how it came to be that Tyson stayed faithful, but all the others rejected Jesus.

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it."
Proverbs 22:6

I suppose it helps that Tyson has parents that are down to earth, and not legalistic, stuffy Christians who do a great job giving Jesus a black eye. I think that they made Faith a tangible, hands-on thing that was relevant to day to day living. I don't know them well enough to say much more than that.

I've seen some parents turn faith into a series of hoops to jump through. Others use the bible to justify all types of domineering parenting. One friend of mine has wandered away from the faith because he is politically Liberal, and his mother equates Christianity with following the dictates of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. (Neither of whom are Believers.)

Still, you can't blame the parents ultimately. Each of us has to answer for ourselves when we stand before God. It's not like Jesus will say, "Well, Bob really blew it that time he witnessed to you. So, I guess I'll overlook all those sins you so joyously committed." No. I have to answer for all of my own crap, and you have to answer for yours.

One of the guys who is so adamantly opposed to Christ, has parents who work for a missionary academy. I often wonder what his parents think about this situation. Both he and his brother think that Jesus is a joke.

My friends Tom & Deb lost their only child over a year ago to a brain tumor. He was only 7. As painful as it was to experience that, the one comfort was that we all knew with out a doubt that their son had a passionate love for Jesus. When he passed away, we all knew that he was received into the loving arms of his savior and is now healed and whole.

What is it like for a parent to know that their child, who mocks Jesus, will not spend eternity in the new heaven & earth? What is it like for a parent to know that if their child died today, that that would be the last that they would ever see of them? I have no kids of my own, so I can't experience it first hand, but I don't think I could imagine a worse feeling.

I'm a big believer in the amazing mercy of Christ. He will extend his grace in ways that I can't comprehend. I don't know how God accomplishes his business ultimately...and I'm quite comfortable with that lack of knowledge. I often think that God will be much more forgiving to the "Clueless" than others would be. However, to willfully & joyfully reject Jesus? That's not something I enjoy seeing.

(I've never really understood militant Atheism. What's so great about rejoicing in the idea that there is no real purpose in life, no higher meaning or significance, and that ultimately we are all just worm food? Maybe it's the idea that if there is no God, no supreme being to be held accountable to, then we get to play God...which is what the original sin was all about. Sorry, but that's just my opinion.)

I also know that today is not the end of the story. Who knows what paths these guys will finally take? At the moment, though, it doesn't look very good. Ultimately, it's between them and Jesus. All I can do is pray about the situation.



So Tyson, myself and Rika the Wonder dog, spent about 5 hours fishing. We caught plenty of fish, but only one Keeper. The weather was ideal. The water was perfect for swimming.

It was a lot of fun to just talk about Jesus and the Kingdom. Tyson is one of the most well-read people I know. He has insights into Christianity that most people simply don't have...especially for someone who is still in his early 20s. He "Gets It." It was a good day, and it was good for me. I need to see the faithfulness of God in the lives of his people.


In Ezekiel 47, the prophet has a vision of the new heaven and earth. In it, he is shown a great river flowing from the temple.

"Swarms of living creatures will live where ever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds - like the fish of the great sea."

I'm never sure how much of a prophetic vision is meant to be taken word for word literal, but I do know that the new heaven and earth will have a massive physical component to it. I love the idea that there will be fishing involved. I can only imagine the Keepers that I may haul in out of that river.

I like the thought that I will be able to fish with my family and my friends. (Tyson won't even have to buy an out of State license.) I just wish that all of my friends would want to be a part of this.

Peace

Joe

P.S. I'm trying to picture what Jesus would look like in a pair of waders.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Role Modeling in the Desert.


After a really crappy Saturday at work I was going to title this post "Soul Crusher." However, two things intervened in between then and now. The first was that I remembered some advice from a friend at work about being careful to be too specific about things from the job. (They can come back to haunt you employment-wise.) The second thing that got in the way was a podcast from Imago Dei that I must have listened to 5-7 times on the way to & from the cabin on Father's Day.

(Seriously, if you haven't subscribed to the podcasts from Imago, get off your lazy butt and link it up in your Itunes. http://www.imagodeicommunity.com/sunday/teaching-and-sermon-archive/ It's free, so what are you waiting for?)

At any rate, Rick McKinley is teaching through the Gospel of Matthew, and I got stuck on the beginning of chapter 4, the whole story of Jesus being tempted in the Judean desert by Satan.
But to properly understand this passage, you need to know the context, i.e. that it comes on the heels of Jesus baptism in the Jordan river where the Father's voice breaks through and proclaims that Jesus is his son, and that he loves him.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "IF you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "IF you are the son of God," he said, "throw yourself down, for it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

Jesus answered him, "It is also written, "do not put the Lord your God to the test." Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan. For it is written: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." Then the devil left him, and angels came and ministered to him.
Matt. 4:1-11

Rick has a ton of stuff in this sermon, and you could go for days studying through it. But I suppose what struck me was the idea that God uses temptation as a way to refine us as his children...a way to purify us. And that was something I needed to hear.

My current job leaves me Less-than Satisfied, shall we say. In fact, there are a few individuals with whom I have to work with that make me feel as if I should be wearing a large sign around my neck that has the following written on it. "YES, I am an idiot. Please reinforce that in me. In fact, please give me a list that I must follow...which will contradict itself every other week. I am an idiot, and I need you to remind me of that." And I think I'll leave it there.

Soooooooo, it can be a bit easy to feel discouraged from time to time. I find myself asking things like, "O.K. God, what am I doing here? Am I being punished? You know this is not where I am supposed to be. Um, hello? God? Uh, where did you go?"



The Spirit leads Jesus out in to the wilderness to be tempted. What's that all about? The Spirit itself is leading Jesus out there for the specific purpose to be tempted? Apparently so.

A lot of people have a hard time time even believing that there is something like a Devil out there...which is apparently also his greatest trick. (I mean, how could anyone actually believe there is an evil force at work in the world? Just look around. Everything on Earth is just super-dooper & hunky-dory.) Apparently, the root word for "Diabolos" means "To Split." In other words, the devil's main goal is to split/separate me, you, everyone...and in this case, Jesus, from the Father.

Rick points out that Satan never really tries to stop Jesus from accomplishing his main goal, i.e. bringing redemption. Instead, Satan's goal is to simply tweak the way Jesus goes about it. And the first two ways that Satan goes about this is to simple ask Jesus a question. "IF you are the son of God..." Again, all this comes on the heels of Jesus' baptism, where the Father affirms Jesus as his son. "You have the power, dude. So just use it and prove it. Take care of you own needs by yourself. You're out here in the desert all alone."
But instead of using the power that he truly did have, Jesus responds by clinging to a reliance on his relationship with the Father. Jesus is hungry, weak, vulnerable...and at first glance, all by himself. But he really isn't alone, and he understands that.

Which is just another way in which Jesus is rather different than myself...aside from the glaringly obvious. I will feel VERY alone a good deal of the time. Particularly when frustrating things happen. The situation feels very barren, as if God has pulled an Elvis and left the building.

Perhaps what I ought to understand is that I am not alone. Perhaps what I ought to understand is that God is there, attentive & deeply concerned. He is allowing me to go through this time of frustration to strengthen me. God wants to purify me.

Instead what I do is test God. "If you are really here, God, you will do..." Which is ultimately just a selfish form of doubt. It is giving Satan just enough room to drive a little wedge between myself and my relationship with God.

"IF you really are the son of God..."

I am a child of God. He saved me. He loves me. I am his child. Nothing can change that.

I need to remind myself of that more than a few times everyday.

I can be an amazingly selfish person, and my lack of trust in the Goodness of God is a major manifestation of that. I suppose it doesn't help that I have grown up in the culture of Fast-Food America, where we want everything NOW. "I want the right job NOW. I want this problem fixed NOW. I want this situation rectified NOW. I want my wants met NOW." Talk about taking my eyes off the prize.

The funny thing that Rick points out towards the end of his teaching (Funny is a relative term) is that if it was this way for Jesus, why would it be any different for us? He is modeling the kind of relationship of dependence upon God that we are suppose to have. Actually, you see God coming along side humanity and modeling for us a great deal through out the bible...if you bother to read it in context.

One of the many reasons that I have embraced Christianity is because it is so completely opposite to the way of this world, and it's economy & worldview. You gain everything by giving it all away. You win by losing yourself. You lead by serving. You are raised up because you lower yourself. You have access to the unlimited power and resources of Ancient of Days because you embrace your own weakness.

I can't do it myself. I can't fix myself or this situation. I need to embrace my frustration and weakness. I need to drink from my dependence on God. I can try and take matters into my own hands, but I've learned the hard way that this will only get me so far. I really do need to "lean not on my own understanding," and to pick up my cross daily. If humanity could fix this world, I think we would have done it by now. 5000 years of recorded human history would argue otherwise.

God is faithful, even/especially when I am not. Jesus didn't shirk from the difficulty of his circumstances. He certainly didn't go about his ministry the easy way. (It's true that God isn't into being efficient...because relationships, which is what he desires to have with us, are anything BUT efficient.) So if that is what he is modeling for me...that full blown dependence on the Lord at all times, including the crappiest, then I should lean into him even when I don't "Get It." (And that would be me the vast majority of the time.) Easier said than done. Still, I like the idea of being strengthened and purified.

Peace

Joe.

P.S. So if I am dependent on God, does that mean that he can use me as a "Write Off" on his income tax forms?

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Sverige"



First off, I can do purely Secular posts if I feel like it. So here goes.


If you look to the right on this blog, you will notice that I installed a world map. I put it up a few days ago because my buddy, Damon, told me about them. He said it was a fun way to see where my blog was being seen. (Don't worry. It doesn't tell me WHO you are, or anything else. All it does is show me the general idea of WHERE in the world it's being read...and your credit card & Social Security numbers.)

So anyway, after 3 days of having it up I have noticed that I have had someone all the way over in Sweden glance at me twice. I'll assume that it is the same person, even though it may be two.

At any rate, I would really like to hear this person's story...how you found this blog, what you think of it, etc. So drop me a comment.

I should admit up front my bias about Scandinavian people. You see, my Dad's folks got off the boat from Norway at Ellis Island right after WW1. My Mom's grandparents came over from Sweden about 30 years before that. So, what can I say, I like Norskys & Swedes. (You better like them if you live in Minnesota.)


Right after I graduated High School, my entire family went to Sweden, Denmark & Norway for two weeks. It was a TERRIBLE idea. What an eighteen year old thinks is fun, has little to do with what a seventy year old thinks is fun. For the most part, I was bored out of my mind. The countries were great, but hanging out with Old Farts was NOT!

Still, it wasn't all bad. I still have some strong memories...such as: 1) The countryside of Sweden looked almost exactly like most of Minnesota. 2) I've never seen so many blond people in my life, as I did in Sweden. (The girls were beautiful, too.) 3) Copehagen was very beautiful & cool. (Unfortunately, thanks to the Old Farts, we only stayed half a day.) 4) Norway was fascinating because of the terrain. All the mountains & fjords were very interesting. 5) The type of jellyfish they had in the fjords were interesting. I think they called them "Glass Magnets." (No, they don't sting.) 6) Oslo reminded me of St. Cloud. (A nice town, but not exactly glamorous.) 7) The guards at the king's palace kept cracking up and laughing as they marched. 8) Finally, there is a lot more nudity at a Scandinavian beach than there is in the U.S.


So anyway, years later I am living in the Czech Republic. One lovely, Spring day I am walking in Prague (Or Praha, as it is properly pronounced.) and what should I hear as I am walking near the Charles' Bridge coming from a party barge down in the river? Only the greatest Pop song ever written, by the greatest Swedish Pop band of all time. I guess some things never get old.

So here's to you, mysterious visitor from Sweden. "Prost!" (This video also proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that "White People" actually CAN dance. BAH-hahahahahahaha.)



Oh yeah, so when I was living in Cz, there was this new pop band that came out of Sweden. It would appear that the Swedes are quite good at recycling...even with music. Fish, Ikea, really good looking blonds, and catchy pop tunes...not bad. (But if that viewer from Sweden doesn't get a hold of me, I'll just have to keep torturing everyone with this song.) :)



Peace

Joe

P.S. O.K., one more. This a trio out of Sweden that I heard interviewed at the SxSW Music Festival down in Texas. I like em'. Enjoy.




Monday, June 14, 2010

Puddling through



So I wake up this morning to the joyous news that the wet, rainy, soggy, overcast, and just generally depressing weather that we have had for a week now will continue for many days to come...with maybe a tease of sunshine on Wednesday. Swell.

As for some icing on this muddy cake, I drove over to my folk's place to pick up their newspaper while they are out of town, and I managed to hit every single red light possible. (You notice these things when you are grumpy.)

So now I sit here with my "Full Spectrum" bulb glowing in my office hoping it will pour some Vitamin D into me.

Let's face it. Some days are like this.

I have never believed for a second some of these crazy preachers out there who tell you that if you follow Jesus...and give them a large chunk of your money, that God will make you healthy, wealthy & wise. Or that everyday will be filled with sunshine, rainbows, and sausages. Unless you willfully take Scripture passages out of context, you will never find such nonsense.

What you WILL find in the bible is that Christ promised to walk WITH you through anything you encounter...both the good times and the bad. Somedays, that is all that you need to know and understand. More talking about it won't help.

Anyway, I'm going to take John Eldredge's advice and leave now, so that I can have a long, peaceful talk with my not so "Imaginary Friend."


Oh, interestingly enough, while I was in the car I had the radio on. The DJ on KTIS came on and quoted some author who's name I forget. This fellow said "If you call yourself a Christian, and you are not hungry for God, it's because you are already full." (And he didn't mean Full in a good way.)

I thought about that. I grinned. A song popped into my head that I like. I think it has some good advice, so here it is.



Peace

Joe

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Gospel according to Brian Wilson (A true story)



I'm going to tell you about something that happened to me at roughly 10:15am this morning on my way to Living Waters. (It's another one of those stories where I could easily be considered crazy for telling it. But according to Mick, the worst that could happen would be for me to merely be considered "Crazy-ER"...and that's not so bad I suppose.)

But first, CONTEXT! You can't properly understand anything if you don't know the context in which it's written. So here goes...

Part 1.
About three days of gloomy & overcast weather will always start to put the "Zap" on my head. Any more days than that and it can slowly start to trigger my depression. Well, up here in the Northland, we have had SEVEN straight days of crappy weather. To make matters worse, my uncle & aunt are in town and everyone is at the cabin. I'm all excited because I finally have two days in a row off, and I will finally get to see them, go fishing with Dad & the uncle, and just generally relax for a while.

Needless to say, the weather did not cooperate. In fact, Thursday night, a storm came in that sounded like artillery shells going off outside my boathouse window. (This same boathouse was the subject of a lightening strike that blew out the windows, sending glass shards into everything in the room a few years ago.) So, I'm obviously feeling very safe & secure as I pull those covers tightly around me. The next morning I was a Zombie. And naturally, there was no fishing.

I won't bore you with all the details, but my mood was not the best. In fact, it is times like these where my darker nature seems to take hold, and I can be very stupid. The kicker came yesterday when I had hoped to attend an outdoor concert to see Third Day & Matthew West. The weather ruined that too. So last night I was not my best.

Part 2.
On the bright side, I took a book by John Eldredge out to the cabin called Walking with God. In it, he writes about how to hear God's voice in everyday matters. http://www.walkingwithgod.net/ I've really been trying to meditate on the advice he offers, and in fact, the first chapter really hit me. Eldredge wrote about being stuck at his own cabin in the rain, unable to do any of the work he hoped to accomplish. It dawned on him after a bit that the storm was God's way of pinning him down to get his attention. (Yeah, I'm guessing you see the parallels to my own situation.)

Eldredge wrote about how often, when we talk to God (Or, my "Imaginary Friend" as Richard Dawkins refers to him.) we ask for grandiose answers to life's most complex questions. He says that this is not the best approach to hearing God's voice. My old therapist said that God speaks & reveals things to those he knows he can trust. So Eldredge advises training yourself to listen for the "Gentle Whisper" or "Still, small voice," like Elijah heard on Mount Horeb.

So, Thursday evening, in between showers, I took a long walk out at the cabin and just tried to be really honest with YHWH. It felt really good. (I need to talk out loud when I pray. So it's handy that this was a Thursday, and there really weren't any other people at their cabins. Rubber rooms don't strike me as being much fun.) I told him what I was thankful for, all of the blessings that he has given me. I told him that I was sorry for being such a whiner most of the time. I prayed for numerous friends, some Believers, some not...yet. Then I told him that I wasn't going to ask him to answer any questions. Instead, I asked God to choose the subject, and to make it loud enough for it to actually seep in between the cottage cheese between my ears. The only stipulation I gave was that I would like it with in the next 24 hours.

...and that's where I went wrong.

You don't put conditions on the Creator of All. You come to God on his terms, never your own. It's not out of arrogance or anything like that. It's merely the fact that YHWH is a lot bigger than we are, and quite a few notches smarter than we are. So, he probably knows best, don't ya think?

So anyway, I heard nothing.

The fact of the matter was...and far too often IS, that I don't really want to hear his voice. There are a variety of reasons behind that at any given time. But the fact was that at that time I was being selfish, and feeling very much sorry for myself due to the circumstances of the past days. Again, I heard nothing.

The Main Event.
So last night I was not at my best. I woke up this morning feeling just plain grimy & dirty. I just hate my old, sinful nature. I hate the fact that I will have to deal with it until I die. It feels like my soul has been dumped on by British Petroleum, and I'm flopping like a Pelican on a goopy beach.

So all this morning, especially in the shower and on the drive down to Living Waters, I am repenting and asking the Holy Spirit to just wash over me and make me feel clean again. I mean, it is fine to understand the Objective reality of having been made righteous by Jesus. But seriously, we often don't feel it Subjectively. I certainly didn't feel it this morning, and I really needed to.

Well, about the time I was making the turn where Hwy. 35E connects with Hwy. 35W, I reach for my car stereo. I was going to listen to a bit of a podcast I had asked my friend Damon to listen to that very morning via FaceBook. I knew that I had it loaded up, or so I thought.

I'm poking through the CDs that I had loaded up, and all of a sudden my "Summer Mix" CD loads up. What starts pouring into my ears but the following words...(Paraphrazed)

"Well, it's been building up inside of me for oh I don't know how long.
I don't know why but I keep thinking something's bound to go wrong.
But she looks in my eyes,
and makes me realize when she says, "
Don't worry, Baby.
Everything will turn out all right.
Don't worry, baby.
Just take along my love with you.
And if you knew how much I love you,
nothing could go wrong with you.""

Yep! The Beach Boys singing "Don't worry, baby."

I kid you not, it was at that moment that the sun poked through the clouds for only two minutes...right there across from the Buck Hill ski area & that Honda dealership. When the song was over, the sun went away too.

I started laughing & crying at the same time. (Always a wise idea while driving the freeway.) I also felt really, really clean again.

If you really need me to explain the significance of the above lyrics, I would advise two things. #1. Read the context & lyrics over and over until you Get It. #2. If that doesn't help, find a sturdy & solid wall and begin trying to burrow a hole into it with you forehead. Hard, pounding thrusts are the most effective.

You can call me crazy-ER, but that was God speaking to me...and exactly what I needed to hear. Furthermore, YHWH used the perfect means & methodology to tell me that his love for me is a lot bigger than I usually give him credit for. The best, and frankly, the most effective part to the whole affair was that he used humor to get my attention.

I know that there are people out there who think that God is either in a perpetual bad mood, or that God is simply very stoic and severe. But such thoughts will not measure up to Scripture. They simply won't. The Trinity, the God-Head, the Father, Son & Holy Spirit have the perfect sense of humor...and they are not above using it to get the attention of a doofus such as myself.


I know that Brian Wilson wrote "Don't worry, Baby" in the hopes that crazy Phil Spector would have the Ronettes record it back in the early 60s. He wasn't thinking of me, that's for sure. Still, the Bible itself has story after story of the God of the Universe using common, everyday things to get people's attention. In fact, in Acts 17:28, Paul quotes pagan poets to make a point about the one, true God...and now that pagan poetry is a part of Scripture. So I personally don't have an issue with God using the Beach Boys. (If you do, argue with him, not me.)

And that is my true story from this morning. Ta da!


Well, I suppose it wouldn't be fair to end here and not include the song itself. It is a fun video, so enjoy. (It also makes me wonder about what Jesus would be like to hang out with at the beach. I'm guessing that he could do the Monkey or the Mashed Potato as well, if not better, than most. I would also suppose that when it came to surfing, he was most likely a "Goofy Foot.")



Peace...and catch a wave!

Joe

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Doing don'ts & don'ting do's.




First, let's start with a song.














"Lord, I don't know where all this is going, or how it all works.
Lead me to peace that is past understanding.
A peace beyond all doubt."

I've been in a funk the last couple of days for a variety of reasons. Work has been less then fun, and the weather has been less than cooperative. That and the usual grind allow less than pleasant thoughts to run around in my head. It does make me wonder where all this is going. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one who gets this way.

Paul seemed to deal with this quite a bit. In fact, in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul talks openly & honestly about his struggle with his sinful nature, and how much he hated it.

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I want do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is the sin living in me that does it...

...What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord..."

I think it's probably a good idea to also include where Paul goes after he is done beating himself up over his problem with his sinful nature.

...Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin & death."


So there you have it. The sinful nature of human beings running all over the place in a person's life. One minute, you are feeling & doing great. The next minute, something rotten pops in your head and you act on it. Anyone who is halfway honest with themselves will admit that they/WE are a mess. People who call themselves "Christians" especially have no business pretending otherwise, and wearing some type of hypocritical mask.

(In fact, it's interesting to note that the very word "Hypocrite" comes from the Greek word for "Actor"...someone who wears a mask on a stage.)


It's a strange state of affairs that even a person that now has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them still has to deal with the old nature, the old man inside. Frankly, I HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!! But that's reality.

Paul was honest about his own struggles. I appreciate it very much that the Bible is as open and honest as it is about humanity. Even the greatest so-called "Heros" of the faith were a mess...and they knew it.

I think that is maybe the reason that Paul wrote the way he did. Ultimately, he always points back to Jesus. Jesus is the only real "Hero" of Scripture. It would almost sound selfish for God to say "It's all about me," but it really is. It isn't arrogance for him to say that. It is simply a fact.

The reality of life is that we could, can & will never be able to save ourselves. (Sometimes I'm amazed that humans ever learned how to tie their own shoes, or walk and chew gum at the same time.) Some days, it's just hard to get out of bed. Thankfully, God is honest about that too.

I love what Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth about what Jesus actually did for us. "God made him who had no sin to BE SIN for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Not "SinS" plural. Nope. Jesus became the very problem itself. And Rick McKinley (Whose podcasts I adore) is dead on when he points out that it's all past tense. And through his death on the cross he made reconciliation with God available to anyone who would & will acknowledge the simple fact that they are a helpless mess and desperately need him.

What I also love is that God not only did this when all of us were still his enemies, but that he continues to love us as we continue to stumble around. Maybe it's like a parent watching their toddler learn to walk. All the face-plants in the world don't change the parent's love for the kid.

So, God isn't surprised when we mess up. We certainly seem to be, but he isn't. In fact, one of the few things least likely to come out of God's mouth is, "Well, I never saw that one coming." So I can take comfort in the objective fact that God has already reconciled himself to me, even when I subjectively don't feel it.

God is incredibly faithful...beyond my understanding, that's for sure. I can't seem to stay faithful for even an hour.

I hope that this doesn't come off as offensive or blasphemous. (If it does, then you are most likely a Pharisee with a broom stick stuck where it doesn't belong) But I often think a lot about God when I watch my dog, Rika. The sheer joy that that goofy dog gets out of just being around me is nuts. She just wants to hang out and be near me. Simple pleasure out of simple, basic things...mostly relational. I could learn a lot from her. If God could talk through a donkey, I'm pretty sure he could make use of a vizsla to teach me a thing or two.

With that in mind...



OK, well I'm off to the cabin to clear my head. That should give me about an hour and a half in the Vue to talk to God in private. And there is plenty to be said.

Peace

Joe

P.S. I wonder what God's policy is on catching sticks in the lake?