Sunday, December 30, 2012

The God of Frustration



"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways," declares YHWH.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8 & 9

Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."  The angel answered, "I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God...And now you will be unable to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."
Luke 1:18-20

"As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished."
Luke 1:44 & 45

Meditating on the Christmas story a few days ago, I stumbled across that word known as "Belief."  You have Zechariah and Mary both asking similar questions to Gabriel.  Off the top of my head, they both seem like legit questions to me.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer, is old and his wife is passed child barring age.  Mary is a virgin, teenage girl.  How could either of those folks be expected to have a baby?

Yet, poor Zech gets the mute treatment for 9 months.  Apparently, his question had an undertone of disbelief, while Mary's did not.  I don't know.  Maybe because Zech was older, and a priest at that, he should have known better.  I mean, it's not too often an angel pays you a visit.  I suppose Mary was to young to know any better and be cynical just yet.

____________________


My walk with Jesus is at best a fitful journey.  I would imagine that I am a pain more often then not.

I also get the impression that it looks a lot like this cartoon.

I've been trying to write a book now since July.  It's almost half-way finished.  I can never tell if it's any good. (Why trust my biased opinion?) Others who have looked at it have all enjoyed it.  But they could be just humoring me.  I figure that it is either going to work, or go over like the Hindenburg.

Actual footage of my work being self-published on Amazon.

I honestly thought that I would be finished with it by now.  I had no idea how challenging this would be.  I want to be finished, finalized, DONE!

____________________

So this morning I was up early.  A few days ago I started reading Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years."  I recommend it highly.  It has challenged a lot of how I think about life.  In a nut shell, it is about him having to edit his life as he was working on the screenplay for "Blue Like Jazz."  He found himself meditating on Story...the story of his life.  Everyone's life is a story.  What are we telling with them?  It made me think that at the moment my story is very boring and unfulfilling.

I want to tell a different story with my life.

Yet at the same time, God has me where I am for a reason.  I can see glimpses of it often.  However, that does not mean that I like it or trust him.

This morning as I was reading Don's book, I came across Chp.29, "The Reason God Hasn't Fixed You Yet."

"I'm convinced the most fantastical moment in story, the point when all tension is finally relieved doesn't actually happen in real life.  And I mean that seriously.  I've thought about it fifty different ways, but I can't figure out how a human life actually climaxes so that everything on the other side of a particular moment is made okay.  It happens all the time in movies and books, but it won't happen to me -- and I'm sorry to say, it won't happen to you either.

Maybe the reason we like stories so much is because they deliver wish fulfillment.  Maybe we sit in the dark and shovel sugar into our mouths because in so many stories everything is made right, and we secretly long for that ourselves."

____________________

"I have told you these things so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Well, at least Jesus told the truth.

But that bugs me.  Why can't God get with the program?  I want to get this book done.  I want to move on with my life.  There is so much more that I want to do with my life than the place where I am currently at.  Come on, God!  Get a move on, would ya?  I keep telling you what I want.  Gimmie, gimmie, I need, I need!

If I went to one of those name it and claim it churches, they could give me the secret code to force God to do my bidding.  I could rub my bible and he would have to grant me three wishes...the first of which would naturally be an unlimited supply of wishes.

Honestly, what's with that guy?

Perhaps what bugs me the most about Jesus is that he might know a thing or two that I don't.

____________________

My friend Mariah (Papaya) is pretty brilliant.  She is an actual writer.  She is also editing my chapters for me.  You can see her own stuff if you scroll down the right to Red. Write. Live.  She gives me a lot of homework.  It is like an afternoon of root canal.

Still, editing my writing is important.  What's more, as I do it I keep coming up with better and better ideas for these chapters.  I wish I was done, but my subconscious is glad I am not.

I have invited a variety of friends to help illustrate these chapters.  I am not looking for Rembrandt.  I am looking for clever.  If stick figures work to illustrate a point, I'm all for it.  This process has been very slow, too.  However, what has accidentally happened is that I have met more and more illustrators who may lend a hand. (It's all charity work at this point, because the best I can offer in return is some pizza.) Still, this has been interesting, too.  The more the merry as far as I am concerned.



If you are curious, the book is titled "Jesus in Minnesota."  It is essentially part Minnesota history and trivia, part theological discussion with the Messiah, and part road trip comedy.  Needless to say, it is a bit out of the ordinary.  Like I said, it's either going to work or...

All of this work is HARD work.  Along with that are the normal stressors and such of my dull existence, willfulness, stubbornness, and a fairly thankless job.  I always worry about the Sin of Presumption.  We presume that we know what God's will is all the time.  I worry about that in this instance.  However, it seems that every time I try to work on the book, Satan has a whole bunch of stuff that he throws my way to get me not to focus.  I get the feeling that this may indeed be God's will otherwise Satan would not be working overtime to distract me.

Again, maybe the Sin of Presumption.



I wish that God would get off his butt and fix all of my problems, solve my job situation and magically have me finish my book by the end of the day.  Currently, he has chosen not to do so.  Why must he frustrate me in this manner?  It's so simple.  He could snap his finger or wiggle his nose and it would all be resolved.  I would live happily ever after. (And live off of royalties.)

I do not understand this God.  He does not do my bidding.  I resent that.  I do not understand this God.  His concept of time is very different than mine.  That bugs me.  I do not understand this God.  He knows a couple of things that I do not.  I have a hard time trusting him as a result.

Gimmie, gimmie, I need, I need...I want, I want!

Then again, perhaps this is all for the best.



Peace

Joe


P.S.  More on Don Miller. (You should buy this book and read it today.)




Monday, December 17, 2012

A Guest Post on a Tragedy


I have a friend who lives in the Duluth area.  If you know Minnesota, the area north of Duluth is called the Iron Range, due to the iron ore industry.   The Canadians think there may be a huge cache of diamonds up there, too. (Probably left over from the Dwarves that used to live in the vicinity centuries ago.)

Anyway, the folks who live in this region are all a little nuts for the outdoors.  The economy is almost always difficult in that region, but most people stay there anyway because of the quality of life.

I mean, who needs a civilized grocery store when you can simply shoot and eat things from your kitchen window, or walk ten feet and drop a line in a river or lake?

This friend of mine is a clever fellow.  I was often jealous of him in college because he was and still is much brighter than I am. (Which probably isn't the most difficult task.) He's working on a Phd. in something when he isn't out eating Bambi and Thumper.  Suffice it to say, my friend likes his guns.  You need to be aware of that.

He posted the following on Facebook today in response to the tragedy in Newtown, CT. over the weekend.  I thought it was a good post and asked him if it was okay to use it as a guest post for my blog.  I doubt highly that everyone reading it will agree with all that he says, but that's fine.  This is written from the perspective of someone who loves to hunt, shoot and enjoy his guns.

My own thought is that it is high time for this country to have a mature, adult discussion about guns.  I have owned two since I was 14. (Don't have anywhere to use them now, but I still have them.) I believe in basic gun rights, but I look at them as more of a Responsibility than a Right, per say...once upon a time I think those were two sides of the same coin.

Like it or not, America is one of the most violent countries on the planet.  We can pretend otherwise, but that doesn't help.  I pray that America will repent of it's worship of lesser gods, but I'm not holding my breath.

At any rate, I now give you the views of my friend Doug, who looks simply splendid in a red tank top and red shorts while trout fishing.

____________________


At the risk of offending nearly everyone in some manner, here goes.
i hunt. lots. i own many guns-big guns, small guns, and in-between size guns. this fall i hunted often, although not nearly often enough. my kids are being trained to use guns, and this winter my 13 yr old will go through firearms safety training. i would seriously be bummed about losing this aspect of my commune with nature.
so, unlike many gun fanatics, i actually use guns for a purpose. to kill stuff to eat.

in the clinton era assault weapons ban (which expired in '03) i hunted also. still had my guns, still was able to purchase ammo, all that. however, i have not been a member of the NRA since...the early 80's. no more...and today more than ever, i would like to tell my fellow hunters who cherish their traditions: there is no "slippery slope", that is a bs argument. restricting access to high capacity assault weapons will have no impact on your access to hunting guns, period. allowing the NRA to mandate federal gun policy will only allow more of these rampage killings.

F&CK the NRA!

there is no way, that ANYONE needs a commercially available high capacity assault rifle like the one used in the ct shooting for hunting- they are purely recreational tools that are completely impracticable for doing anything other than maiming a lot of people in a very short time. automatic pistols have outsold standard revolvers for decades--why?

what makes these guns the weapon of choice in mass slaughters is the capacity for 30+ round magazines- the Ct shooter apparently had enough magazines to kill every kid in the school-that might have been his plan. it's a simple matter of logistics- even the best competition shooters take over 10sec to reload a standard revolver. a 9mm handgun, with a exchangeable magazine, takes several seconds to remove the magazine, and load a new one- especially for a person who is not a professional and under duress. it's not as easy as Die Hard makes it look. a lunatic armed with a revolver would be easily overcome as he (it always a "he") would have to stop to reload. the 30 round clip of the Bushmaster .223 takes seconds to reload. (btw, there are dozens of military-style copies of the AR-15 made- for $1000 you can get yourself one to)

the national discussion has to take place on several levels.
first, we need acknowledge that evil always has, and always will exist. banning guns will not usher in the kingdom of god and get us all sitting around holding hands singing Kumbaya. evil is real.

second, we need to think about how we, as a society, are both creating and failing the mentally ill. progressively gutting our health care system and federal safety net over the last decades has left stranded many mentally ill people and their families with little hope of getting help. Further, apparently, some things have changed in the moral landscape in our society. Fact: when my dad went to school, things were so tough, he had to bring a rifle with him. and when he got to school, he and the other boys set their rifles carefully in the corner of the classroom. when they left for the day, they carried these rifles home, and used them to harvest whatever game they could in season-because it was the depression, and they had to help feed their family. THEY HAD GUNS IN SCHOOL! yet nobody got shot. Why? doing such a thing was unthinkable, atrocious, beyond comprehension. fistfights on the playground to settle disputes? yes, quite often apparently. using a gun to exact revenge on another person? never.
something dramatically has changed in how we value human life.

third, because of #1 & #2, we need to acknowledge that in the foreseeable future, angry young white men are going to continue to attempt mass homicide. this is a simple fact of our contemporary life in america. we didn't need to care in the past, because these types "merely" committed suicide. that die has been broken. many of us could ignore the plight of the mentally ill in the past, because they took their own lives. no longer. this is not an aberration..it is the new normal.

forth, because of #3, what is the "cost" of enduring mass homicide? the NRA has told us that my having access to a bushmaster is worth the lives of 20 innocent kids...and counting. is it? limiting access to the type of mass destruction weapons will not stop the rampage killings...but it will reduce the scope of the destruction.

last word: if you are a gun owner and hunter, this is the time to speak up. drop your NRA membership, drop your Gun Owners of America membership and work with stable minds to come to a sustainable policy on gun ownership.


____________________

Any thoughts?

Peace

Joe

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Theology


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send  his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world though him.
John 3:16 & 17

Because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom. 5:5-8


I have a friend who has a theory about theology.  He believes that we base our theology on our fears.  People who tend to emphasize God's sovereignty secretly fear that God is not as powerful as they hope, and therefor life can be far to chaotic.  People who emphasize God's judgment and wrath secretly fear that God might not actually destroy the people that they hope he will. (Emphasis on Hope, there.) And so it goes.

I can't say for sure, but I think his theory holds some merit.

____________________

I have been feeling a profound absence of God for more than a few weeks now.  I just don't feel his presence.  Cognitively, I know he is there.  Subjectively, I do not.

Many years ago, when I was in a hurry to pop a bolt and was in the midst of my truly rebellious phase, I understood on an intellectual level the truth of Christianity.  I had weighed everything and knew that Jesus was who he said he was.  I no longer believed in Christians, but I still believed in the truth of Christ.  I couldn't escape it.  I certainly wasn't living like a Christian, nor did I care to.  I hated Christians.

I didn't hate Jesus.  I just wanted to avoid him.  There is a significant difference between knowing in your mind, and knowing in your gut.  While the intellectual comprehensive must have kept me safe in many ways, it certainly didn't satisfy me.

I find myself in similar circumstances these past few weeks.

____________________

I've been a big fan of Brennan Manning for a long time now.  He catches a lot of grief in certain circles.  I've never fully understood why.  I've talked to some Hyper-Reformed types, and for some reason he gives them fits of the spleen.  My only theory is that they find his emphasis on God's love to be threatening to their emphasis on the robotic god of wrath. (Which naturally, they assume they will be able to duck out of while those outside their theology will get the divine spanking.) I don't really now for sure.

A few days ago I came across this video of his.  I've heard him say things a long this line before, but this time it struck me differently.  I found myself IN the video.


Unfortunately, I find myself saying "No."  I do not believe that God really loves me.  I understand that he loves me in that intellectual sort of way.  There are more than enough Scripture verses that explain all of that.  However, I am not comprehending any of it on a gut level...at least not these past few weeks.  I can't say that I am pleased with this realization.  That having been said, I'm not really sure what I can do about it.

I am one of those guys who tends to emphasize God's love a lot.  This may indeed be the result of me not actually believing it.  It's obvious to everyone who knows me that I trash myself very easily.  It's a habit that I wear on my sleeve so that Satan can grab it and use it on me when ever he so desires.  Not only is there no reason for God to love me, there is more than enough really good reasons for him NOT to love me.  Trite answers along the lines of, "Well, just don't so that," are not particularly helpful.

I pray about this a lot.  I would appreciate it if you did to.

I really need to feel it in my bones.

Peace

Joe

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Incarnation of a Foot Washer




The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.  The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.  Everything was created through him; nothing-not one thing!-came into existence without him...The Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood.
John 1:1-3 & 14 (Message Bible)


Emmanuel = "God with us."  OR, the literal word-for-word translation is "With us, God."

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing; taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.
Phil. 2:5-7


Would you like to know how to get yourself punched if you ever visit the Middle East?  Call someone "Zift."  It means "Tar," like the stuff on the roadways.  It's quite the insult.  You can also show someone the bottom of your foot or shoe.  It's the equivalent of giving someone the Finger over there. (You may recall the Iraqis throwing shoes at the statue of Saddam Hussein or the fellow who whipped one at George Bush.)

Then you might ask why that word, or shoes for that matter, are such a big deal.  Well, consider that down through the centuries over there, what was on the roads that everyone walked on?  You were in your sandals most likely, your feet were getting sweaty and stinky, and you were probably stepping in camel and donkey poo to boot.  Not to mention everything else that can get between your toes and so on.  So, that part of the body and those associated with it were considered, and still are to this day, rather nasty and disgusting.

So flash backwards to John 13.

"Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God.  So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron.  The he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.  When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, "Master, you wash my feet?!?!"

That was the job of the lowest servant back in those days.

____________________

Jesus claimed to be God.  Scripture describes him as the visible image of God, since our fleshy eyeballs cannot see God the Spirit.  Jesus never asked use to fully comprehend or understand how God could be 100% divine and 100% human at the same time.  He just asked us to trust him on this one. (And a few others.) It certainly confuses me, but then again, I have trouble balancing my checkbook every month.

So here is God in the flesh in the First century equivalent of his boxers and an apron down on his knees washing the nasty, stinky feet of the world's classic "B Team," (And that's being generous.) including one about to stab him in the back.  That's a bit much to comprehend, the Lord of creation at our feet.

Yet, we often treat him exactly like that.  We expect God to do our bidding, for our glory, because he said that he loves us.  We so often feel entitled.

I was reading in the Indeed devotional this morning, and it compares the Philippians 2 passages with this scene from John's Gospel.  Jesus left his glory and the glory of heaven to wash our feet.  He felt no need to cling and grasp all that was rightfully his, but instead essentially humiliated himself on our behalf.  If you really pause to think about that it becomes harder and harder to take in and understand.

I like it that Jesus, being a tad more clever than the rest of us, knew that comprehending such a thing would be a bit difficult.  Peter, who had a bigger mouth than me, got all worked up over Jesus washing his feet and insisted on the full package.  I can picture Jesus simply sighing and smiling back as he said, "You don't understand now what I am doing, but it will be clear enough to you later."

____________________


Advent began yesterday, the Christmas season.  Actually, the unholy pagan version began the Friday after Thanksgiving. (In many cases, Thanksgiving night.) When we are not at the mall looking for bargains, or are hoping to catch so-and-so under the mistletoe, we might want to take a step back and consider what Im-anu-El, God becoming flesh, and the example he set and calls us to follow, entails.

It is difficult to comprehend and could use a good deal of meditation.  Perhaps for this Christmas I should just wash everyone's feet.



And now, one of my all time favorites.

Peace

Joe

Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness. Day 30, "Father."




I'll be you're Emmy Lou, and I'll be your June, too.

You'll be my Graham and my Johnny, too.



Please, Father, just be this...





Peace

Joe

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness. Day 28, "Fruit."


A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit will you recognize them.
Matt. 7:18-20

But the fruit f the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with it's passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Gal. 5:22-25


I've never had much of a sweet tooth.  When I was a kid my Halloween candy would still be around when it came time for the Easter candy, and visa-versa.  As such, I have to force myself to eat fruit because fruit is more often than not, sweet.  It's not that I don't like fruit, it's just have to kind of make myself stick it in my face.  If fruit tasted like salsa, I would eat it all day long.

Currently, every night at work I bring a bowl of cereal with either bananas or strawberries on it.  I don't really understand why I have to force myself, I just do.  At any rate, I like my bowl of cereal.  Even though I sometimes get teased for it, hopefully it will help counteract the snacking on french fries that I do.

____________________

I have often wondered about Jesus description of how to recognize a true Believer from a false one.  It seems to have very little to do with one's theological correctness.  It seems to have a great deal to do with the long-term demonstration of the Holy Spirit working in a person's life.  Rarely does one take a glance at a person and conclude in a matter of half a minute "Wow, that person is always demonstrating such kindness and gentleness."  Usually that is something that is seen over time in the context of a relationship.

In this country, the label of "Christian" is thrown around pretty easily.  It's like you are a christian by default simply because you were born here.  I see plenty of politicians, talking-heads and even many preachers on the TV wear that label, but they tend to make me scratch my head and ask "Really?"  I am not in the position to read other people's hearts and minds, so I don't know for sure.  I will say though that a good deal of the time when I hear these people I will get more red flags in my head than exist in Tiananmen Square.



Currently, I have been wondering about myself.  I have come to the painful conclusion that when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, I have a complete deficit in the area of self-control.  It's funny because that aspect hadn't really occurred to me until a few days ago when a friend pointed it out to me.  Until then, I tended to concentrate on the aspects of love, peace, kindness and that stuff.

The fact of the matter is that I have allowed Satan to get his hooks in me in a couple of areas because of my lack of self-control.  Man, there are times where he can shake me like a rag doll because of it.  I am very thankful that this has been pointed out to me.  It is truly something that I need to turn over to Jesus.  I realize now that I had been searching for a long time for this knowledge.  I couldn't put my finger on it or give it a name.  Now I know.


I have been greatly dissatisfied for a long, long time with myself and this world.  I hunger and thirst for righteousness because I know I have none of my own.  My heart is far from pure, but I hunger for God.  I want to be with him.

While there are sins and issues that are common to all, each of us carries unique challenges to bear.  Self-control is one for me. (I am an awesome procrastinator and can be incredibly lazy.)  I want to be a good tree.  I want to bear ALL the "Fruit of the Spirit."  I am very thankful that I now have a name for what I lack.  It will not be easy for me to turn this over to Jesus.  But then again, anything worth having is worth struggling for.

Jesus, please bring a revival to my heart, mind and soul.

Amen!


Peace

Joe

Monday, November 26, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness. Day 26, "The Challenge."


"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
John 20:21


I was up early this morning, since I could not sleep.  I figured that it might be a good idea to sit down and trying reading through today's devotional.  At Living Waters we give out free copies of Indeed; Exploring the heart of God.  I'm still not exactly sure why, but todays meditation struck me.  It will most likely take the rest of the day for me to process all of it.  Here it is.

____________________

In Word: A cursory reading of this verse might give us the impression that Jesus is saying, "The Father first sent Me; now it's your turn."  But there is more to this verse than that.  He is also saying, "In the very same way that the Father sent Me, that's how I'm sending you."  The crucial question then becomes; How did God send Jesus?

Philippians 2 gives us a good understanding of the nature of Jesus' mission.  He humbled himself, He took the form of a servant, and He became obedient to the point of death. (Phil 2:6-11) Jesus went from heavenly riches to earthly rags; from exaltation to humiliation; from authority to obedience; from ultimate significance to ultimate rejection; from comfort to hardship; from safety to danger; from glory to sacrifice; and from life to death.  And He calls us to go into the world in exactly the same way.

Read that list again.  Every one of those humbling transitions goes against our grain.  We're trying to work our way up, not empty ourselves.  We want more significance, more safety, more authority, more attention, more comfort.  But Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, to take up our cross and follow him.  He sends us out as He was sent.

In Deed: Does your attitude match that of Jesus?  Do you take your mission seriously enough to go into the depths of this world - whether those depths are in another country, your own city, or even your own family - and live the gospel of humility for others to see?  Jesus' mission is to redeem this world, and He intends to shine the light in every vile, dark corner of it - through us.  He calls his followers into prisons and concentration camps, into opium dens and brothels, and into leper colonies and psychiatric wards.  He also calls them into night clubs, corporate conference rooms, university classrooms, and sports arenas.  These is no place too uncomfortable, dangerous, or unlikely.  Are you willing?  As the Father sent Him, so He sends you.


Perhaps I need to work on my attitude.



Peace

Joe

Monday, November 19, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness. Day 19, "The Kingdom."


Then Peter chimed in, "We left everything and followed you.  What do we get out of it?"

Jesus replied, "Yes, you have followed me.  In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel.  And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields -- whatever -- because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life.  This is the Great Reversal; many of the first ending up last, and the last first."
Matt. 19:27-30 (Message Bible)

Jesus got them together to settle things down.  He said, "You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goers to their heads.  It's not going to be that way with you.  Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served -- and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are being held hostage."
Matt. 20:24-28 (Message Bible)

We live in an unjust world with unjust systems.  For the approximate 5000 years of recorded human history, we have been trying to fix that situation.  Nothing has worked so far.  Our world is still unjust.  Our economic & political systems are corrupt.  Human beings still have a nasty streak that runs deep and wide.

Someday, it will be different.  
And it will not be because of something we did to improve it.

____________________


I tend to absorb stress like a sponge absorbs water.  I've had plenty on my mind recently.  It effects my sleep and my body.  A week ago, I got one of those neck scan things done at a Chiropractic booth.  My top two vertebrae were well into the black. (No wonder my neck has been so sore.) I have a bit too much on my mind.

Recently I have felt a profound absence of God.  A philosopher that I respect a great deal says that when you find yourself in that feeling, you are actually standing in the heart of God.  God rejected God on the cross.  This is a taste of how he felt. (And it doesn't taste like chicken.) I do not like this feeling of absence.  I have too much on my mind.


From time to time, sometimes on a daily basis, I can see the kingdom break in to this dying world.  I wish that I could see it all of the time, but I admit that my faith is weak.  Perhaps my eyes cannot see more because of this weakness.  It is beautiful when you see the kingdom break in.  I wish I had better eyes and a stronger faith.  I have too much on my mind.

____________________


Someday, the world will be turned upside down.  All of the things that we held up as important and worthwhile will be turned on it's head.  Our economics, politics, finances, will all be up-ended.  The last will be first and the least will be the greatest.

The Great Reversal.

I long for that day.  I am dissatisfied by this world.  So much of what it offers is tempting.  It has a sweet taste that leaves you hungry for more because it can never satisfy.  I hunger and thirst for righteousness, because I know that I have none of my own.  At those times when I see the kingdom break in, I get a taste of the righteousness of Jesus.  It tastes very good.  I will not be satisfied until I can taste it fully.  Unfortunately, this often contributes to having too much on my mind.



Someday, the Great Reversal will happen.  There will be the Renewal of All Things, the Re-Creation.  The kingdom will be here in full...this kingdom that is Present, yet not fully present.  I am thankful for this kingdom.  Then I will only have one thing on my mind.



Peace

Joe

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 14, "The Struggle."


It happens so regularly that it's predictable.  The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.  I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight.  Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.  

I've tried everything and nothing helps.  I'm at the end of my rope.  Is there no one who can do anything for me?  Isn't that the real question?  

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.  He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.  

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved.  Those who enter into Christ's being-free-here-for-us no longer have to live under continuous, low-lying black cloud.  A new power is in operation.  The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
Romans 7:21-8:2 (Message Bible)


I really hate being a sinner, but it is something that I am really good at.  Some mornings I wake up with just the worst attitude and thoughts.  There are things I despise doing, yet I do them anyway.  I have prayed over and over for God to take certain temptations away from me, but he does not.  It doesn't help that I so easily and willfully give Satan a foothold.

Most temptations are fairly common.  I've heard it said that for men, there are essentially three: Money, sex and power.  I would guess that women have something similar, but should also add shoes and handbags.  All of that being equal, there are also temptations that are unique to the individual.

Talking with some of the guys at Living Waters, sometimes a guy will confess something and I simply can't understand it.  It might be a real area of struggle for him, but would never cross my mind.  I understand that he/they might feel very well the same about some of my own areas.

____________________

One thing I have learned over the years is that Satan loves to reinforce in my mind that these are MY struggles and that I should define myself by them.  He wants me to see myself as those struggles.  That way I can spend my life kicking myself for all of my stupidity.

I really don't like making the same mistakes over and over, 
but I am really good at them.

____________________


This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life.  It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?"  God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.  We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.  And we know we are going to get what's coming to us -- an unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through.  If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him.
Romans 8:15-17 (Message Bible)

If this is so, then it is worth it all.  If it ultimately draws me closer to Jesus, then the pain is completely worth the gain.  I am thankful for the struggle.


Peace

Joe

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 13, "Mom."


A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
Proverbs 10:1

Wise son, glad father;
stupid son, sad mother.
Message Bible version

<--- b="b">Yep, that would be me in the arms of my Dad, with Mom and Molly the dog out in front of our old house in Sacramento.  And hopefully I've been able to give them a bit more gladness than sadness.


So anyway, almost every Tuesday I have a date with my mommy.  And so it was today.  We go out for lunch and then shop at the organic supermarket.  Then she ends up buying me gasoline. (I'm thankful for that, too.)

I am extremely thankful for my Mom. (My Dad, too.  But this post is about my Mom.) I am adopted.  I prefer the term "Hand Picked," but either way.  Not to sound totally Calvinist, but God must have been very active in all of this, because he found some perfect folks for me.

My mother is a phenomenal cook, and tonight I shall be dining on the tacos that she makes which out do anything to be found in a restaurant.  She also has the spiritual gift of Hospitality and is a most gracious host.  She is a woman of simple & genuine faith.  I love my Mom.

One of my favorite memories of her is from way back.  I was in my room with my stereo on, loud as usual.  I was playing Dire Straights.  I opened my door to go use the toilet and there was Mom vacuuming out side while dancing to the music.  My Mom cracks me up.



I have worked with many, many "At-Risk" kids.  I have seen some really bad families.  Almost daily at my store I see some parents with their kids and think to myself, "That kid doesn't stand a chance."  In America, the worship of Molech is rampant.  He was the god in the Old Testament who you would sacrifice your children to so to gain success in your business.  It would appear that there is nothing new under the sun.  It breaks my heart.

I am extremely blessed to have the family I do.

I am very thankful for my mother.



Yes, yes she did.  :)

You Rock, Mom.

Love Joe


P.S. I'll add this additional video not merely because of the title, but also because this is how my family still likes to dress up for formal functions and holidays with relatives.



Monday, November 12, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 12, "The Church in America"



"My kingdom," said Jesus, "doesn't consist of what you see around you.  If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews.  But I'm not that kind of king, not the world's kind of king."
John 18:36 (Message Bible)

He pressed them, "And how about you?  Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter said, "You're the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus came back, "God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah!  You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers.  My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.  And now I am going to tell you who you are, really are.  You are Peter, a rock.  This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep in out."
Matt. 16:15-18 (Message Bible)

So this past Saturday I went back down to the hospital to see my friends.  Everything seems to be going okay, in case you were interested.  On my way out, my friend who is a psychiatric nurse came with me so we could pick each other's brains.  He asked me a question that caught me off guard and caused me to have to think for a bit. (There is no smoking in hospitals, so I was worried that my attempt at thinking might set off an alarm.)

My friend asked me, "So what is it that you DO like about the American church?"  It forced me to stand there for a few minutes to come up with an answer.

You may have noticed that this is something I complain about a lot.

It's true, I do complain about it a lot.  But as I have been given more time to think about it, I think I have begun to distinguish something very important.  There is the "Church" in America, and then there is the "American Church," and the difference between the two is striking.  Unfortunately, they often overlap, but there is still a difference.

It's the American Church that I have the beef with.  I say this because it is uniquely American, or "Americanized."  This is the part where the church gets co-opted by the culture at large until it is mere folk religion, and barely distinguishable from the culture at large.

Examples: The Americanized Church.
- If you see Jesus flying an F-16 across an American flag.
- If you view our nation's geo-political wars around the globe as "Christians VS. Muslims, Communism, etc."
- If you hear simplistic politics as black & white "Christian VS. Evil, secular, blah, blah, blah."
- If you see a Jesus fish with an American flag as it's background.
- If you here someone say, "Of course I'm a christian.  I was born in America."
- If you see pictures of Jesus holding the Constitution.
- If you hear people says things like, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." (Ann Coulter.  9/13/01)
- If you hear people call themselves "Pro-Life" but then say it is not the government's job, only private charities, to help the poor because Jesus said "The poor you will always have with you."
- If you hear people say that "Jesus loved everyone no matter what, so sleep with who ever you want and don't judge."

These are all signs of a church that has been co-opted by the culture.  I don't understand how you could read through the Gospels and walk away saying any of the above.

_____

I had breakfast with some of the guys from Living Waters Friday morning.  One of them said to me that America had been set up on biblical principles.  I didn't over-react like I normally would.  In fact, I really didn't say anything.  It was just too early in the morning to get worked up.

The truth is that you could only say & believe that if you thought that the Enlightenment was biblically based and that the Unitarianism/Deism of the majority of the Founders was orthodox christianity.  But this is another example of Folk Religion and mythology creeping in.


_____


Examples: The Church in America.
- If you hear someone say something like, "Hey, our Baptist church is going to partner with the Presbyterian church down the road to build wells in Africa!  Dude, I'm going."
- If you see a Believer who votes Libertarian praying next to a Believer who is a Democrat and another who is a Republican.
- If you see a Believer coming along side his friend who just began to define himself as "Gay," and saying something like, "I'd really like to hear more of your story.  I mean, I guess I'm supposed to judge you right now.  But maybe I should get to know you better first."
- If you see someone striving to understand Believers in other nations and cultures and praying for them.
- If you see someone who desperately struggles with their own sin, the process of picking up his cross daily, and praying that God will have mercy on him/her.
- If you see someone who understands that the church does not need a passport.
- If you see Believers who struggle for racial, social, economic justice and reconciliation across and and all lines and borders.
- If you see someone who understands that a passionate love for Jesus supersedes nuances in theology.
- If you see someone say, "Father, that person drives me insane.  Please teach me how to love them anyway."

These are all signs of a church body that lives in this country, but knows that it is bigger than this county.

____________________

Gates on cities were designed to keep people out.  Jesus said that the gates of hell would crumble before the church.  The church is not a wimp.  The church will smash those gates and the kingdom will reign supreme.  That is the power of Jesus.  And it looks nothing like the powers of this world.

I love the church in America because I love the church.



Peace

Joe

Friday, November 9, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 8 & 9, "Perspective & Mercy"



<--- font="font"> That's my Saturn in the fog of a morning in Duluth.  I love that car.  It has been the best automobile I've ever had.  It's driven me to Virginia and back, Tennessee and back, and to my job and back.  I love that car.

Unfortunately, due to age, that car cost me roughly $2100 on a credit card yesterday.  New struts, breaks, Y-bar, etc.  It made me want to go home and eat a heaping helping of Draino.

Instead of a scrumptious meal of drain cleaner, I borrowed my Dad's car and went to visit a friend in the hospital.

His wife is having surgery for a brain tumor.  I told him that he and his wife always find the most interesting hospitals to have surgery because I alway manage to get lost going to them.  In this case, the hospital was on the University of Minnesota campus.  There is a delightful bout of construction all around the campus, so aside from getting lost, I also managed to trap myself on various closed roads, all while desperately needing to find a toilet.  Once I did find a place to park, I walked to the hospital amongst people much younger, better looking, and with more hair than I.  Once in said hospital, it took me 15 minutes to find a toilet that wasn't being used for a napping area for the elderly or handicapped.  Naturally, I got lost trying to find the recovery room.  It was just a banner day for me all around.

____________________


It's easy for me to whine and complain.  It all comes quite naturally to me.  I have no idea how long it will take me to pay off this debt.  I barely squeak by as it is.

But then there is the brain surgery.

My friend is an interesting guy.  He has been a psychiatric nurse in the military.  As such, he can often read me like a book.  I like to believe that I have good powers of observation.  For the most part, I think that is true.  At the same time I have realized that I also have massive blinders in certain areas.  My friend pointed out to me that I really enjoy shocking people. (And not the kind where you rub your feet on the carpet and then zap people.) While I think there is a time and place for this, it's a behavior that I need to learn to manage better.

I am a deeply flawed person.  I have a laundry list of issues that I need to deal with.  I am stubborn and selfish and do not want to hand them all over to Jesus.  I am a bad, bad monkey!

But then there is the brain surgery.

12 hours of surgery for a tumor behind the eye.  This is not the first surgery.  I do not know if it will be the last.

I love my car.  But I do not love being in a debt that will take me an eternity to pay off.  But it is not brain surgery. (Finally got to use that phrase in a different context.)

My friend has an incredible sense of peace.  I asked him how he is experiencing God in all of this.  He pulled me aside and said he had such a sense of blessing.  Blessing?

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." Phil. 1:29

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Phil. 3:10 & 11 

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross..." Heb. 12:2

Blessing.


For some reason, the ability to suffer is a key ingredient to walking with Christ.  The greatest men and women in Scripture all suffered for God.  It was in the suffering that they were most able to identify with God.  I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's biography by Eric Metaxas.  He noted how Bonhoeffer considered it a great privilege to suffer and be executed by the Nazis for Jesus.  My old Seminary president died of a form of melanoma.  He considered it a great privilege because the pain he felt was a taste of the suffering of Christ.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matt. 5:4

If I work out in the gym long enough I shall be in peak physical condition and will therefore be invincible.  If I could get a better job, or my book makes me rich, I will be unstoppable.  If I attain all of the above, I will become God.  This is what I lust for most of all.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matt. 5:4

When we mourn, when we suffer, when we go through the despair and are most vulnerable, that is when we are most human.  It is in those times where we can be honest and know our finitude and frailty.  And it is in that place where we can experience the presence of God at it's most intimate.

This God suffers.  He suffers with us.  From a baptism in a river among those hungry to repent, to a cross between two thieves, this God identifies with a deeply flawed humanity.  He suffers for us.

It is a strange thing to say that in our suffering we can feel his mercy, but I believe it to be true.  I do not comprehend this, but I feel it deep in my bones.  His ways are not our ways, nor our thoughts like his.  Perhaps that is why he is meant to be experience more than understood.

Perspective.  
Over $2000 for my beloved VUE.  
But it is not brain surgery.

"Who for the joy set before him endured the cross."

Mercy.


Peace

Joe

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 7, "Friends"


A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:24


I got together this morning with a buddy I haven't seen for a while.  I didn't even recognize him at first.  He has lost 50lbs and says he wants to lose another 50.  I told him that if he does, I'll buy him a congratulatory Speedo with sequins. (How's that for incentive?)

Anyway, it was really good to see him again.  He's an interesting guy who is wise in the ways of computers and things of that nature.  When he talks about the things he does I realize what a vacuum of information I am in that area.  It's almost as if he is speaking Mandarine to me.  Also, when it comes to success in his field, he seems to be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat when ever he wishes.

I am very thankful for the friends that I have.  I am also thankful for the variety.  When I was younger I would be drawn to a person because they made me curious.  They had some quality or ability that I wanted to learn about.  As I have gotten older I have discovered that the closest friends that I have are those who have shared some adversity.


The funniest thing about getting older with friends is that you do not get to see them as often as you might wish.  However, when you do, you often pick up right where you left off last time.

Also, true friends know most of your dirty little secrets, but still put up with you.  I am a handful.  I value anyone willing to put up with me.

I suppose it doesn't hurt that I know most of their dirty little secrets, too.  Oddly enough, maybe that is the point.

Scripture calls us to bear one another's burdens, and to lift each other up.  Friends who are Believers are precious if they do that.  I have the odd habit of assuming that my Believer friends have it all together, so I look up to them.  Then they will reveal to me their own messes and I realize that we are both on the same journey, tripping & stumbling along together.

God is not nearly as dimwitted as we often treat him.  He understands just how messy we are.  That is why he gives us friends with their own unique talents, abilities, messes, issues and guilts.  We struggle together, mourn together and rejoice together.  Everything about Jesus can be viewed through the lens of relationship, and friends are an obvious part of that.  My Believer friends help me on my walk with Jesus, and I hope that I do the same for them.  I believe that Jesus smiles at this.

I am very thankful for my friends.



Peace

Joe

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 6, "Democracy"


"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."
Winston Churchill



I love America.  I really do.  I love the diversity of the people, the geography, climates, States, etc.  I think I would be bored to tears in a country that only had a minimal assortment of people and things to look at.  I totally dig the various foods, too.

Don't get me wrong.  There is plenty about this country that drives me nuts.  I hate the arrogance I often see.  It drives me nuts when a politician spouts that "We are the Greatest, blah, blah, blah."  It's rude, and I know they are just brown-nosing me for a vote.  And when it comes to "God Bless America," I think it's time we said "Please."

I also do not like our Neo-Pagan culture, where the God of the bible is reduced to the god of America.  We are extremely idolatrous.  We also have a streak of greed, selfishness and mercilessness that I don't much care for either.

All of that having been said, I still love this country.  I would like it to repent of it's sins, but I doubt it will.  So be it, I still love this place.

Today is Election Day.  It is when many people choose a new god to worship in office.  For me it's a chance to show my responsibility as a citizen, and I am honored to do so.  I hear doom & gloom from all sides during an election season. (It's been that way from the beginning, and yet we have survived.) I just look at it all as one of the few times I can make my tiny voice possibly heard for a brief moment.

I had heard that there were long lines at the polling stations.  I was in and out in 10 minutes.  Tonight I'll listen to the results.

The handy thing about living in Minnesota generally is that you already know who will win most elections.  I use this as an opportunity some of the time to vote for a minor party so that they might get some recognition...and because I often feel sorry for them and their goofy platform.

It amazes me that so many countries still struggle to insure the right to vote for it's citizens.  I don't understand how or why it should be so complicated.  America has it's issues & problems like any other country.  Still, every once in a while I get to cast a vote without being bribed, shot at or intimidated.

I'm thankful for that.


Peace

Joe

Monday, November 5, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Days 4-5. "Wind."


"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again...The wind blows where ever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
John 3:3 & 8


I really wish that I could get by on 4 hours of sleep.  It would make life much easier and more constructive.  Unfortunately, that is not the case for me.  Still, I got up relatively early today and sat down for some prayer and meditation.

I realized that today was Monday.  This means that I still had one extra day to be thankful for.  Thankfully, what I was meditating on has two parts to it.

____________________

Today I am thankful for being Born of the Spirit AND the adventure that comes with it.  The term "Born Again" seems to bug a few people.  A couple of people I have talked to said it bothered them because they didn't need it.  They go to church, a priest sprinkled some water on them, they did their confirmation, so they're "In."

Who needs to be born again when you signed your name to a pamphlet in Sunday School when you were 5?  God totally digs pamphlets.  If he had figured out that this was all that was needed, then he never would have had to die on a cross.  Very handy indeed.

I really like how Eugene Peterson's Message Bible translates this conversation with Nicodemus; Jesus said, "You're absolutely right.  Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to - to God's kingdom."

"How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up?  You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again.  What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?"

Jesus said, "You're not listening.  Let me say it again.  Unless a person submits to this original creation --the wind 'wind-hovering-over-the-water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life--it's not possible to enter God's kingdom.  When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch.  But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch--the Spirit--and becomes a living spirit."
John 3:3-6

In both Greek and Hebrew, the word for Spirit is the same as Wind.  I find it interesting that Jesus uses them interchangeably.  There is the visible world which we cling to, and the invisible world which is ultimately much more important and powerful.

The world stresses human wisdom, common sense, "risk management," and setting oneself up for success.  The world cannot comprehend God's kingdom or it's motivations...generally because God's world view is upside down compared to ours.  His values are usually quite the opposite of ours.

I often look at American culture and think to myself, to do it right I need to do the opposite of everything I see...and that is purely looking at having a decent life in the here & now.  To "do it right" in light of eternity is to really go down the rabbit hole of this world's reality and values.

"Beware of a way of life that is acceptable to conventional, human reasoning.  The mind of sinful humanity neglects the eternal for the temporal and the holy for the profane.  It's followers, therefore, give tainted advice.  Do not follow it.  Live supernatural lives under supernatural guidance.  Be blown by God's Spirit.  He blows where ever He pleases and takes us where the world cannot go."
Chris Tiegreen


That's the adventure I want.  As frustrating as my life currently is, I want to try and be patient as God teaches me something.  I want to wait for him to reveal this new direction that the wind is blowing.


Four Strong Winds- Neil Young By: Rockcitymetal from Edwin Bong Canlas on Vimeo.

Peace

Joe

Sunday, November 4, 2012

30 days of Thankfulness. Day 1-3.


Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Heb. 12:28


So my buddy, Tom, started a "30 Day of Thankfulness" for this month.  He talked to me at Living Waters this morning, and I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.  Disciplining myself spiritually has never been the easiest job, but I thought that something like this might be a step in the right direction.

Thanksgiving tends to be my favorite holiday because it forces the spoiled brat known as America to sit still for a moment and hopefully recall all of the good things we have going our way.  Obviously, I am starting this on the third day in for the month, so I'll just make up for a little lost time.

I don't write in my blog as much as I used to because my free time is taken up with another writing project.  I figured that this would be a good way to keep up on the blog each day with a little blurb, AND it would help me focus on my blessings instead of grumping about where I am NOT at yet.

____________________

Before I get going, some info fo ya: The book I am working on is titled "Jesus in Minnesota."  It all took place this past Spring and Summer...and maybe into the Autumn.  I'm not sure yet because I'm obviously not finished.  I have 5 chapters out of a assumed 10 written.  The first two have had their initial edit, and I hope to finish them this Tuesday. (I would like to add some illustration, but we'll have to see about that.)

The premise of the book is in three parts.  It is part Minnesota history & trivia, part biblical/theological discussion with Jesus, and finally a road trip comedy with Jesus and I driving around Minnesota.  The actual dates when these interactions occurred are in there, along with endnotes that explain stuff.  Thus far, everyone who has had a peek has liked it and found it pretty funny. (Fingers crossed that this continues.) Once the first four chapters are complete, we will release it on Amazon in sections of two.  99 cents ain't a bad deal for some entertainment and biblical brain picking.

If I'm really lucky, I'll irritate some hyper-Fundies on the Right, and some squishy theological Liberals on the other side.  A good, old fashioned denouncement as a Heretic makes for excellent free advertising.

____________________

On to the thankfulness stuff.


By in large, I HATE my job.  I wont bother to tell you exactly what I do, but suffice it to say that it is largely thankless.  I work in a grocery store that must be affiliated with Vampires, because it seems to suck the life out of you.  I have been saying recently that this job does not make me want to drink, it makes me want to abuse heroin.

That having been said, I am very thankful for my job.

About two weeks ago, Hellen, who is my little, elderly ray of sunshine, came up to me in the gym to tell me that she had been praying for me.  As such, she told me that God told her to tell me that he was going to test my patience. (Yeah, funny, I know.) That rather confirmed something I had been feeling for a long time.

So God wants me to learn something in all of this.  Fair enough.  I don't have to love where I am at to see God doing his thing.  He has me there form a reason, or reasons.  Some I understand now, some maybe later, some maybe never.  But I do not need to understand all of his purposes to trust him.
I am thankful because I even have a job.  It gives me very good health care.  I am thankful for that.  I could have it so much worse.  I need to remember that and be grateful for what I have.


I am thankful for the people I see every Sunday at Living Waters.  It is the first church body that I have ever felt comfortable being open about my mess.  I like these people because they have embraced their messes, too.

Today I got to thank a friend named Torrion for being a good father.  I think I know more single mothers than married ones, and that's not a healthy state of being for anyone involved.  Sometimes, it just hurts me to see some of the messed up families out there.  You see parents who never should have been for all sorts of reasons.  I am thankful for seeing a parent like Torrion being a good dad to his kids.


Finally, and this one is rather shallow, yet still very much appreciated, I made every single green light on the way to work today. (WOO HOO!) Yeah, I know that sounds shallow.  So what?  Almost every time I drive to work, there is some door nob texting while driving, or just generally being distracted.  Plus, the stretch I have to drive has three lights in a row that are virtually impossible to make at the same time.  Today I made them. (Listen, I'll take any little victory I can get.)


So there you have it.  I am thankful for my job, the folks at my church, and for making every green light today.  That pretty much covers the gammit.


Oh, there might be a couple of others.  :)



Peace

Joe

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Quality of Mercy


For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "Sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and Sinners?""

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who needs a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means; I desire meercy, not sacrifice.  For I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners."
Matt. 9:10-13

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Matt. 21:31


I have a friend at my job who is not a Believer, but she has an excellent quality of mercy.  I complimented her for it the other night.  As is usually the case with a character trait like this, she didn't even realize it...it's just something she does.

I notice it, because it is in very short supply.

For practical purposes, Mercy is when you cut someone plenty of slack for their faults.  Often, this is a result of having a good memory for all of the stupid things you did once upon a time. (Not that I would have the foggiest idea about any of that.)

____________________



So this morning I got new tires for my VUE.  I love that car, and if it were not a violation of God's law I would consider proposing to it.  Now my car is a much happier car.  It is also much safer to drive now that a Minnesota winter is staring at me from behind the bushes next door.

My Dad came with me so that we could have breakfast.  There is nothing to do at the tire place, and not even an area to sit down.  So in lieu of picking my nose for an hour in public, we went and got pancakes.  This was a good option.

So dad and I were eating away and he asked me some questions.  He asked me what I thought about salvation for those who do not know Jesus.

This is always an interesting question.  More often than not, if asked by an unbeliever it is usually a tactic to change the subject. "Yeah, so what about people who have never had the chance to even hear of Jesus?" Something along that line.

Generally speaking, in this country, even with the horrible preachers on the TV and radio, there is no excuse.  But even so, it isn't my place to make decisions for Jesus.

I do believe that when Jesus said that he was the way, truth & life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him, he meant it. (It's also really hard to misinterpret that line unless you really put some effort into it.) But I also know the verse; "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Joel 2:32) and that was pre-Jesus.



Many years ago, Billy Graham was being interviewed by Robert Schuller.  Billy said that he thought that there were many people around the world who were "Christians", but didn't even know it.  He caught more than a bit of flack for that.  But I think he is correct. (If you are a High Calvinist, this would make complete sense.)

It's easy to wear a label.  However, God is the only one who really knows the heart.  I theorized to my Dad that maybe there are folks out there who are so stuck in their sin, so down trodden, so broken and shamed, that they can't get out from under it.  Maybe, just maybe, in that state of being they simply cry in their heart for mercy to that thing that they know is greater than they.  They know deep in their bones that they have and are nothing, so they just cry out.

I do not believe that my God is deaf.



I can't get past the chastising that Jesus gave the Pharisees about Hookers getting into heaven while they were left behind.  It just strikes me that Jesus might know something we don't.

I am not a Universalist by any means.  I know plenty of people who are fully aware of Jesus, and they hate him.  Some even actively oppose him.  It breaks my heart because I know that someday they will have to answer to him.  Not to be flippant, but their way has a terrible retirement plan.



I am a big believer in the quality of Mercy.  I am convinced of God's mercy because I am still here.  As much as I try his patience, I have yet to receive the big squish.  I need to remind myself of that when I interact with other people.

We live in a world without much in the way of mercy.  America is a dog eat dog nation, and our politics and economics has little value for mercy.  This country will answer for that some day.  You and I work with people that rarely show any mercy to others.  But when you see it in action, it is such a beautiful thing.

My friend is beautiful because of this quality.

Mercy and patience go hand in hand.  It difficult to have one without the other.  God has been patient with me, and as a result has shown me great mercy.  The attributes of God are many, but I tend to like that one the best.

Peace

Joe


Peace

Joe

P.S. As a bonus, here's a couple of Secular versions of this attribute.