25 years ago my sister Gina became a dangerous person.
At the time I was attending Moody Bible Institute and she came to visit. She had a secret purpose: she wanted to pepper me with questions concerning the meaning of life, and more specifically, she wanted to know if Jesus really was who he said he was. Was he the Son of God? We spent 2 days together, I took her to all my Bible classes, we had meals together, and she heard a powerful sermon by Joseph Stowell the President of our College during chapel.
On the last day of her stay, we went to the library so I could catch up on some homework while she read. But as it turned out, it was there in the quiet of that room we had a three hour conversation concerning the issues of eternity: "How can you trust the Bible?" "Do you believe the end of the world is coming?" and "What does it really mean to be Born Again?" I was able to direct her to the exact scriptures that answered her questions ("Thanks Holy Spirit"), and I explained to her how I was a completely different person once I received the life of Jesus by faith.
It was a God ordained visit, but what really capped it off was our car ride back to her hotel. I put a song on the car radio by Steve Camp called "Living Dangerously." I said, "Gina, you have to listen to this song, it communicates perfectly what living for Christ means to me." As I played it, the tears rolled down her cheeks. Here are the lyrics...
How easily Jesus is forgotten amid the comfort of my life
How the flames become a flicker, and faith a brilliant disguise
Our Sundays become a holiday, they're an empty exercise
And the cost of real devotion seems so foreign to my life
Oh, to gladly risk it all, oh to be faithful to His call
Abandoned to grace yet anchored in His love
Living dangerously in the hands of God
Our Lord He is a hiding place, His hold is strong and sure
Though the storms may rage around me in His love I stand secure
So let me live like I believe it, and though my faith is prone to fail
Though I cower under trial, by His grace I shall prevail
Oh, to gladly risk it all, oh to be faithful to His call
Abandoned to grace yet anchored in His love
Living dangerously in the hands of God
There's safety in complacency, but God is calling us out of our comfort zone into a life of complete surrender to the cross. To live dangerously is not to live recklessly but righteously. And it is because of God's radical grace for us that we can risk living a life of radical obedience for Him.
You've got to walk on for the Lord He walks with us
You've got to walk on though it costs you everything
You've got to pray on
For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth, that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely His. (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB)
Oh, to gladly risk it all, oh to be faithful to His call
Abandoned to grace yet anchored in His love
Living dangerously in the hands of God
Are you living dangerously
Oh we ought to be living dangerously in the hands of God
The key part that hit her in this song is the phrase highlighted in red: "To live dangerously is not to live recklessly but righteously." Think about it: It is easy to drink alcohol (who can't swallow liquid), it is easy to smoke weed (who can't inhale, that is except for Bill Clinton), who can't have sex ( a famous writer whose name slips my mind once quipped, "why do we humans brag about something donkeys and horses can do much better than us?"), and who can't swear, lie, cheat and steal?
Do you know what is difficult and dangerous? To live your life for Christ - - and Jesus gave us the reason why in Luke 6:
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets."
My sister understood that living for Christ had purpose, meaning and satisfaction. She wanted Christ and the life he offered, so she gave her heart, mind and soul to him that day on the way to the hotel. And it was a dangerous thing to do. As G. K. Chesterton once famously said:
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.
Have you really ever tried it? If the answer is no, you really are not as dangerous as you may think!
Love you Gina, and I am proud to be your brother twice, physically and spiritually!
Controversy, oh how humans love controversy!
Even Christians do. Sometimes controversy happens because one side wants to prove that it is right and better than the other side. Sometimes controversy happens because the topic discussed is of great importance but it is shrouded in mystery. I believe that is the case when it comes to the subject of the Holy Spirit.
He is invisible, he is powerful, he is a full-fledged member of the Godhead, and he is mysterious.
So, what is he like? Why does it seem, as some of the charismatic Christians might argue, that he is often ignored or side-stepped in many evangelical churches? I have heard it said, "Churches will talk about the Father and the Son, but what about the Spirit? Is it because church people are scared of his miraculous works?" I find it odd, as a more conservative Christian pastor myself, how charismatics will subtly accuse someone like me of Holy Spirit phobia, as if I am terrified of seeing his active power in my life and church. They wrongly assume I probably am scared of encountering the supernatural. Nothing could be further from the truth...that would be like saying if I was offered some of Superman's abilities I would refuse them because I was scared of flying.
I am not scared of the Holy Spirit and his work in my life, I simply want to be accurate in my teaching! We so quickly forget James' and Peter's warnings:
- James 3:1 - "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach WILL BE JUDGED MORE STRICTLY."
- 2 Peter 3:16 - "...ignorant and unstable people distort as they do the other Scriptures, to their own DESTRUCTION."
When it comes to God's word and the teaching of sound doctrine we must be very careful. And there is no other topic more dangerous than discussing the Holy Spirit himself; he is God you know, and I don't want to get him wrong! (ie: Acts 5:3-10)
It doesn't take a seasoned theologian to find aberrant teachings of the Holy Spirit in every corner of Christendom. Sadly, wrong teaching always effects the church's catholic unity (universal) and it subtly encourages the slick circus performing pastors to keep hoodwinking the undiscerning crowd of Christian spectators of their money. I believe our culture promulgates 4 common misconceptions or "faces" of the Holy Spirit (In the Greek the word for Spirit is 'Pneuma' meaning, 'to breathe' or 'wind') that are both incorrect and destructive. We must respect the image of God, and stop worshiping idols of the Holy Spirit that we have created:
FACE NUMBER TWO: "The Holy Spirit as Sarayu the Asian Lady"
I know some of you reading this are thinking, "Huh?" Well in the past 7 years a very popular Christian fiction book has been written called 'The Shack.' In this book, the author attempts to paint a new perspective on how to understand the Trinity. In his writings he illustrates the Holy Spirit as a dancing, leaping Asian woman called Sarayu (meaning wind). Here is how he describes her, "I am… I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb… my very essence is a verb...You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in Creation, or in your joy and sorrow." In this portrayal, which I know is fiction, the idea is that the Holy Spirit is a non-descript, spontaneous acting force that touches feelings, emotions and moments. He or 'she' is that spark of life, that dash of color that inspires and beautifies. You can't predict or explain her movements, you must only experience them. Akin to the Tao or life force - - the Spirit is not personal, but a natural part of the fabric of reality.
FACE NUMBER THREE: "The Holy Spirit as Hippie"
Post-modernism is the philosophical perspective of the day. It resists absolutes both in truth and structural authority; and boy do post-moderns love the Holy Spirit because to them he is the person of God that breathes life to the post-modern ethic. He doesn't quite operate within constraints, whether it be doctrinal or ecclesiastical tradition; he thrives under unrestrained freedom and love. His love has no demands, no boundaries and no hatred. Why do we need tradition, hey man, we have the Holy Spirit? Why do we need authority figures and structures when we have the Holy Spirit? And most of all why do we need to rely on some old dusty parchments & papers, no need for stale creeds & theologies written ages ago, when we have the Holy Spirit?
FACE NUMBER FOUR: "The Holy Spirit as D. J."
"Let's get this party started!!!" I read about an interesting discussion between a pastor and person who wanted to check out their church. Here is how the conversation went, "'I need to know if it’s a Spirit-Filled church?' Without batting an eye I said, 'Of course it is. God is in the house. How can you accept Christ without the Spirit of God? How can you have conviction of sin without the Spirit of God? Of course we are a Spirit-filled church. I can’t think of any other kind.' They got a little uneasy at the way I answered it, so they pressed a wee-bit more and asked, 'Do you allow the ‘gifts’ to operate in your church?' I knew where she was going with it, but sometimes it’s just TOO easy and TOO much fun to mess with people. I love it. I said, 'Of Course! What would church be without the use of wisdom? And man, we can all use some knowledge and faith too!' She was now thoroughly perturbed. 'That’s NOT what I mean!'
What did she mean? The Holy Spirit is the warp, the woof and woo! He brings the excitement, he keeps the good times rollin'.
Are all of these views wrong? Each has a kernel of truth, but they are not primarily how God wants us to view the Holy Spirit. Jesus in the book of John gives us one more picture or 'face' of God the Spirit...
FACE NUMBER 5: "The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete."
Paraclete, what in the world is that? It is a Greek word meaning, "Helper, Aid, Advocate, and Counselor." He is a person's best friend. One time I was part of a guys group at college and we were told to encourage each other. One person made a comment about one of the guys named Chris, and he said something that I have never forgot, "If I had to go to Veit Nam and fight in the jungles, I would want Chris to be there with me. He would have my back, he would know what to do, and he would give me courage to keep fighting." That my friends is what it means to be a Paraclete - - someone that comes alongside and gives a person courage, wisdom, aid and strength.
Yes, the Holy Spirit gives gifts, he convicts, he can heal and amaze, but he has been sent by Jesus to be his personal life living in us. The Holy Spirit is more than a show, he is to be our best friend!
Does it ever feel like the world is falling apart?
The last few weeks have been unusually tough for many people I am close to. Not only does it seem like the world is imploding on a global scale with terror, the Ebola virus, Scotland threatening to succeed; but locally events have made no sense. Christian leaders in our town have fallen and many of the regular folks who are simply trying to survive seem to have reached their limit. Life is a struggle -- how much longer can we endure?
As I was asking myself some of these questions a few truths came to my mind: (1) "When hasn't the world been falling apart?" Think about the historical record:
- From 1346-1353 (Just 7 years) an estimated 100,000,000 people died from the "The Black Plague". Experts figure in that time almost 50% of Europe's inhabitants died! Could you imagine having half of your family, your neighbors, your relatives die?
- From 1861-1865 (Just 4 years) an estimated 620,000 people died in the American Civil War. In the South, almost half of the soldiers who enlisted died. Just think, no modern medicine, powerful weapons with antiquated tactics, the cold, the disease, the heartache.
- From the recent past, 1963-74 you have the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., the 4 deaths on the Kent State Campus, the Hell's Angel's riots at the Altamont Festival, Charles Manson Killings, and Veitnam. Now those were some crazy mad times.
(2) "Has God forgotten us? Is he like the Deist God who spun the earth into motion like a top, and then left us to our own devices and downfall?" That got me thinking about Psalm 11 - - probably the most powerful passage of scripture when it feels like the world has gone mad. It begins with this question:
"When the foundations are being destroyed (when the world has gone mad) what can the righteous do?"
That really is the question, "When everything is falling apart what can we do?" I find three things we must do. They are very simple, but they will save you from falling into that emotional 'pit of despair.' Here they are:
(1) LOOK UP: "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne." The key word in this sentence is used twice: "IS"! Is is a statement of certainty, you can bank on it. God hasn't left us all alone, God hasn't given up the game to evil, Satan is not winning. God is ruling, right now! Well that begs the question, "If he is ruling, it sure seems like he is not doing a good job. Is he weak, unable to help us?" That leads us to the second thing we must do...
(2) LOOK IN: "He observes the sons of men; he eyes examine them. The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates." God is watching and he is looking for those who he wants to rule his eternal kingdom. This world is not a game of trivial pursuit, it is a testing ground. God is looking for a few good men and women to live in his Kingdom of Light & Glory. This is no small reward, this is no joke. I am afraid we think going to movies, concerts, riding our quads and laughing at funny jokes, listening to country music is real living. No, we are in the shadow lands, and we have a vibrant real country waiting for us. Those who cling to the earth as it is will get bitter and angry when things fall apart - - but they are meant to fall apart because they are broken and rotten from the poison of sin. So my final advice...
(3) LOOK OUT: "On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men WILL SEE HIS FACE." That last phrase is the greatest promise ever given. Our problem is we don't believe it. We think a cold beer, a roll in the hay, and an afternoon out fishing on the quiet lake is living. Sure, those things bring temporal pleasure - - but they can not compare to what is waiting. As C. S. Lewis says, "How easily amused we are to settle for such silly things."
God uses the brokenness of the world to wake us up to him. Things will not last forever, and as they vanish, we are forced to question and ask him why? Our asking is a sign our soul is waking up - - God is pricking us through the pain. One thing we must never do during these times is to blame him. Many people do, and in their anger they lash out and say, "I hate him, I will not believe in him, and I can handle the world alone."
Can you? Read this poem by Steve Turner if you think you can:
We believe in Marx, Freud,and Darwin We believe everything is OK as long as you don’t hurt anyone to the best of your definition of hurt, and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage. We believe in the therapy of sin. We believe that adultery is fun. We believe that sodomy’s OK. We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything’s getting better despite evidence to the contrary. The evidence must be investigated And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes UFO’s and bent spoons. Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Muhammed, and ourselves. He was a good moral teacher though we think His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-at least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing. If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its compulsory heaven for all excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
We believe in Masters and Johnson What’s selected is average. What’s average is normal. What’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament. We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed. Americans should beat their guns into tractors. And the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good. It’s only his behavior that lets him down. This is the fault of society. Society is the fault of conditions. Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him. Reality will adapt accordingly. The universe will readjust. History will alter. We believe that there is no absolute truth excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds, And the flowering of individual thought.
If chance be the Father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky and when you hear
State of Emergency! Sniper Kills Ten! Troops on Rampage! Whites go Looting! Bomb Blasts School! It is but the sound of man worshiping his maker.
For over ten years, from 1920-1933, the "Feds" were given the power to prohibit the production, distribution and sale of alcohol to the American people. It was decided that it was mostly the "demon liquor's" fault for the breakdown of civility, and one of the prime causes of immoral behavior across the country. Temperance leagues hotly argued that saloons were separating families, children by the age of 15 were becoming hooked on hard liquor, and most clergymen agreed, they must rid America of this vile sin.
Your boss invites you and your wife up to his cabin for the weekend to go fishing. As you start packing your suitcase, your kids come to your room and ask if it is O.K. for them to have a party while you are gone?
You want your kids to like you, so being the cool, understanding parents that you are, you reply, "Sure kids, have a great time. Just don't do anything I wouldn't do (wink, wink, nod, nod)." I mean, who doesn't want to be their children's best friends?
As you head out the drive, your teenage son and daughter have already posted on Facebook: "Party, Music, Open Pool, Allllnight, Allll welcome!" It goes viral. Before your kids know it, 500 of their best friends show up an hour later to party! Kegs are rolled in. Drugs are passed. Dancing begins on the dining room table. Dishes are smashed...
"Hey, hey, hey, stop breaking my parent's things. That China cost them a fortune!" Some ugly dude looks at your daughter and says, "Who are you, and why don't you chill out?" She replies, "Because this is my house!" He looks at her, laughs, and keeps smashing plates.
You come home two days later and your house is completely trashed, strange kids are sleeping in your bed, and your kids are not at home. So much for being a cool parent. In your desire to be inclusive, and kind, and tolerant; respect for you and your personal property has been thrown out the window...literally!
Your desire for inclusivity has caused you to be the one who is excluded.
This is exactly what happens to the gospel when we don't have the courage to proclaim it's clear exclusivity. For instance, this week in the book of John 14:6 we are going to discuss one of the most well known passages to Christians. And I believe it is because of how exclusive it is:
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
From a plain reading, it sure sounds like Jesus is saying that access to God is only through him. So logically, doesn't that means all other avenues are excluded? In turn, we could surmise from this that a Hindu living in India who has never heard of Jesus has no way of really coming to the Father. If Jesus is the only way, and no one comes to God except through him, than we can and must assume Krishna and Vishnu and Shiva CANNOT and WILL NOT bring you to the Father. (And that is not even discussing the absurdity of having over 330 million gods to choose from).
Well, nice people, especially nice Christian people don't like this kind of talk. They want to be kind and tolerant to other faiths, (Cool Parent Paradox), so they offer up a new and improved interpretation for John 14:6. Listen to Brian Mclaren's take on John 14:6, "What of 'No one comes to the Father except through me?' Clearly, taken in context, these words are not intended as an insult to followers of Mohammed, the Buddha, Lao Tsu, Enlightenment rationalism, or anybody or anything else. Rather, the 'no one' here refers to Jesus’ own disciples, who seem to want to trust some information – a plan, a diagram, a map, instructions, technique - so they can get to God or the kingdom of God without or apart from Jesus, since he has just told them he is leaving them for a while at least."
Without getting into his extremely sketchy understanding of the context of John 14, I want you to notice that his objective is singular in focus: He does not want to offend followers of Mohammed, the Buddha, and Lao Tsu. So in order to keep them from getting upset, he would rather do major violence to Jesus' clear statement.
In other words, in order to be liked as a Christian, in order to welcome all in without hurting anyone's feelings, he must kick Jesus out! I say this because the whole point of the book of John is to present Jesus as the one and only true God. All through John he makes statements about the peril that all of mankind is in if they do not believe. The most damning is John 3:18-19, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."
Does that includes followers of Mohammed, the Buddha, and Lso Tsu. You bet your bottom dollar it does! So out of love for the Muslim, Buddhist and Confusionist, Jesus came to earth to die in order to rescue them too! That is why they need to hear about him and believe in him.
Sadly, more and more Christians have ignored the Non-Christian's peril simply because of their desire to be nice and cool. One specific case happened a few years ago in California where the Rev. Karen McQueen of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Pomona said that in "both Hinduism and Christianity 'devotees believe that the Divine Presence illuminates the whole world'...and both faiths revere great figures who embody divine light." So as a result the people of her church and the Hindus who participated in a combined ceremony, agreed to "renounce all proselytizing" of either faith. In other words, "we will not try to get you to believe in Jesus because you are probably doing just fine....and, of course, I don't want to upset you."
Isn't Christianity supposed to be a religion of conversion in the first place? Isn't the goal to try to persuade "all people to be reconciled to God through Christ? (2 Corinthians 5:20)" Don't you see, by desiring to be kind we have destroyed the purpose for which Christ came. In our inclusivity (wanting to say all have access to God in their own way) we have allowed the world to exclude Christ (the one who says he is the only access)!
Last week, a funny thing happened in Northern California. The 9th U. S. Circuit Court made a unanimous February ruling upholding the actions of a principal in a Northern California high school who ordered students wearing American flag shirts inside out during a 2010 Cinco de Mayo celebration. In other words, Americans who let Mexican immigrants into the country could not have their kids wear shirts that showed they were Americans because it was the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo. Out of a desire to be inclusive, let all immigrants show their national loyalty on their holiday celebrations, Americans were excluded for declaring their national loyalty...even though it was in an American high school.
I hate to say it, but this world is in competition: Evil is trying to snuff out the good, every single day (2 Corinthians 4:4). And to act as if we are not in war, or we need not be worried about any adversaries is naive and foolish. It is like saying ISIS terrorists are really not that bad of guys behind the masks.
Jesus came to earth to win the world to himself; the cross wasn't just something he wanted to do on his free time. He painfully died for the sins of mankind!
Please don't sell him out simply because you want to be liked!
I grew up on television, and one of my favorite female characters was Samantha Stevens from "Bewitched." She was pretty like my sister Gina and she was a very kind person. The only problem with her is that she happened to be a witch. In her defense, she was a good witch...never did she try to cause problems or hurt people with spells. She only wanted to mind her own business and love her boring ole' husband Darren.
But then there was Mrs. Kravitz, the neighborhood snoop, snitch, and persistent busybody. She always had to stick her nose in poor Samantha Stevens business. It drove me crazy! She had to keep looking out her window waiting to pounce on another Stevens situation turning it into a crisis of her own making.
I also grew up watching sports, NFL being by far my favorite. I especially loved the NFL short movies of the great running backs with classical marching music being played in the background. I could watch them forever: Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Greg Pruitt, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders galloping stridently through a host of violent defenders.
I loved just plain football: grass, dirt, blood and a good hard tackle. I really didn't know anything about the private lives of these players, I just enjoyed the sport for what it was.
But ever since the famous O.J. trial, Mrs. Kravitz, (aka. The politically correct elite), started sticking her nose in the NFL's business, turning my sport into an ongoing political commentary. I could no longer watch football without wondering if I am supporting a misogynistic woman and gay hating culture. Indians use to cry over litter bugs, now they cry over a helmet with Grandpa Sitting Bull on it, and somehow I know I am to blame!
Mrs. Kravitz makes me feel that I am responsible for all the suicides being committed as a result of concussion trauma. I'm supposed to care and cheer on a punter who was gay and sued his coach because he was called bad names in the locker room. And now I must have an opinion concerning things that have nothing to do with the upcoming match-ups. Should the court system be left to handle domestic violence cases, (Ray Rice), or should people who carry a pigskin and smash heads for a living pave the way for a calmer, gentler society? Is it really the business of rich white talk show hosts to determine what is the proper construction of a switch that is used to exercise discipline in the home?
I don't know? I just want to tune in to hear the injury report so I can change the line-up on my fantasy football team.
I daily am now supposed to care about more than X's and O's - - I am expected to adopt the right view, I am supposed to lobby congress for action, I am supposed to wear pink through the month of October. I hate pink! (Even by saying that I feel I am going to get in trouble for being insensitive concerning breast cancer. Do I have to care about everything?)
Mrs. Kravitz and her minions are now spilling over to every sport: I think it is amazing that Brittney Griner can dunk a basketball, but I don't think loving another woman gave her that dunking ability. Who cares if Rory golfs better now because he isn't dating a tennis star. I don't want to judge a basketball expert because he made an off handed comment about the way Africans play basketball. And I am not going to debate with you about how Tim Tebow should play because he wears John 3:16 under his eye to stop the glare. (That is Mrs. Kravitz neighbor Mrs. Christian telling me that)
Can't we just watch a game? I know, I know Mrs. Kravitz would say, "It is this sort of apathetic attitude that lets bad players get away with bad behavior." No, I don't think that is true. I still believe in letting the justice system do their job, yes I think we need to properly prosecute and maintain laws...I am just saying that a catch is still a good catch whether or not the guy catching it was a vegan or a meat eater.
Oh well, now you know why I want to buy one of those little houses and move out in the woods where no Mrs. Kravitz can't find me. But if I do that it will probably be viewed by those who are snooping, snitching and meddling that I am a supporter of the evil NRA, I joined the Michigan militia, I kick cats and as a result I will be put on the governments "most wanted" list.
As a simple mindless sports fan who only wants to watch a good game, you just can't win anymore.
I could barely breath last night. It felt like Andre the Giant had me in a sleeper hold for most of the night.
I tossed, turned, paced, sat in steam, and...I...prayed.
Strange, I prayed about a lot of people I normally don't. I was able to consider the preciousness of life, meditating on the truth that all of us hang on a single golden string, that is held by the sheer Sovereign pleasure of God. I thought about how out of control I am. I thought about my dad.
It was not a fun night, but it was a night that seemed to be enchanted by a different Spirit. God seemed closer.
I'm tired this morning, I went to the pharmacist and got the drugs I need. I am breathing full and strong.
But I must admit, it really was a great night. Asthma came to me as an enemy that brought me closer to my best friend.
Suffering has a use. Sure I do not invite it; but when it comes I must not complain, whine, and blame God for it. It has a use. It brings us closer to our best friend.
Have a great day!
I was the little 'punk-kid' of our family growing up: the youngest of six, skinny arms, knobby knees, known as "little Chrissy" to my three older sisters.
I had to always sit at the kid's table when relatives came over. I wore my brother's, (and sister's), hand me down clothes. I went to bed early while the rest of my siblings got to play outside in the yard with my cousins from Louisiana.
I usually was picked last for capture the flag.
When grandparents, aunts and uncles came over, they liked to pat me on the head, smile, and then send me off to play while they sat around the big kitchen table staring seriously at their "Pinochle" cards.
Back in the 70's, it seemed like only the grown-ups played cards, while the "punk kids" played kickball out in the backyard; never the twain shall meet!
But then there was Mr. Hurlihy. He often came over to our house during holiday get-togethers. At first I thought he was another one of my many uncles. However, over time I learned he was one my dad's best college buddies who loved to come over because he really enjoyed our family. Mr. Hurlihy liked to play cards too, but I suspect the grumpy faces of the adults at the card table were too much for him to take -- so he would often come outside to play kick ball, basketball and "Lawn Jarts" with us kids! (Remember "Lawn Jarts?" I cannot understand why they were taken off the department store shelves? Maybe the sharp steel point at the end of fast flying missile had something to do with it? Oh, those where the days!)
I couldn't believe it...he dared to cross the unspoken, forbidden boundary line that separated grown-ups from the kids. He also smiled a lot. And the biggest shocker of all, he actually knew me by my first name and not just as the youngest cousin of the crazy Weeks, Roeten and Weber clans. "Hey Chris," he would say, "how is it going buddy? Your dad tells me you are playing flag football this year? Are you excited?"
Was this allowed? A grown-up entering the world of a little "punk kid?"
All I can say is that it didn't matter if he came from the untouchable adult world - - when he came down to my world I knew he liked me and really cared about me. I often wondered, "Why didn't the other aunts and uncles venture down to our world? Why didn't they ask me about flag-football?" I remember when I would sometimes sneak up to the card table and ask how to play "Pinochle," the usual response was, "It's too complicated for you, go back to playing Lawn Jarts - - just don't throw them at your cousin Becky." (How did the grown-ups know we sailed a few of them past her head now and again?)
But if my dad or Mr. Hurlihy was there at the table, they would sit me up on their lap and say, "Here, let me show you my hand...Spades is trump, those are the black shovel looking cards, and you need to try get a run with them....etc., etc., etc."
I often wondered if Jesus was like Mr. Hurlihy? Or was he like my grumpy old aunts and uncles who sat confidently & solidly in place where only the adults belonged as they quietly stared at their cards? You know asking them to play kick-ball would be out of the question. Heck, they wouldn't even budge for an exciting game of "Lawn Jarts!"
So, after wondering about it for awhile, I think Jesus was just like Mr. Hurlihy. Unlike the unspoken superiority my aunts and uncles had; Jesus came down humbly to our world, he left the adult realm of heaven and allowed himself to get involved in our silly little games here on earth. He went so far in his humility that he even wrapped a towel around his waist and washed the feet of his "punk disciples." He knew them all, just as they were. John himself got to sit next to him and lean up against him at the most important dinner table ever, the last supper; and listened while Jesus tried explaining the complicated truth about the the cross and the cruel death he was about to undergo to for the sake of inferior mankind.
Jesus was just like Mr. Hurlihy, and I can't wait to one day play him over a game of heavenly "Lawn Jarts!" And you know what, I'll bet you can throw them as high and fast as you want, and they won't even kill you?
The older I get, (48 already???), the more amazed I am at the prophetic insight of the book "1984" by George Orwell. Am I growing paranoid? Maybe....
This dark, weird, fictional dystopian story offers surprisingly insightful clues on how to get normal people to gladly surrender their personal autonomy & independence for basic security and peace. Orwell believes that the "many" that make up the majority of any given nation, will overtime be seduced, manipulated and placed into bondage by the ruling "few." The few is composed mainly of government leaders, the intelligentsia and the "old money" rich - - they have the power and will do anything to keep that power.
The objective: To keep the many serving the few...and Orwell in his book, suggests some ways it is done:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” (Hmmm....anyone hear of historical & literary deconstruction?)
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” (Have you ever noticed how Twitter and Facebook is filled full of people expressing their innermost thoughts not realizing anyone can read them?And when they do read them it could be cause for banishment. Anyone hear the name of Donald Sterling?)
"Big Brother is watching you!" (Anyone hear of the NSA or IRS?)
“It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” (Marriage no longer really means marriage, adultery has become an affair, gay has been changed from an adjective to a noun.)
“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” (Has America promised the "pursuit of happiness"or "right to happiness?" The answer really does matter.)
"...petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.” (Thursday Night Football anyone?)
"Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable." (Remember..."You can keep your doctor !")
And my personal favorite insight of Orwellian thought is the idea of "groupthink!" This is when a group of people in society want to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision for the goal of harmony in fulfilling Big Brother's goals. What is not allowed in "groupthink" is critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, you must actively suppress dissenting voices, and stay vigilant against credible outside influences.
As one expert on "groupthink" explains: "Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "ingroup" produces an "illusion of invulnerability" (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the "ingroup" significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the "outgroup"). Furthermore groupthink can produce dehumanizing actions against the "outgroup".
Hmm, I wonder if any of that exists in our society? Nah, we are perfectly free to express our own thoughts, right?
* Global warming, right? Than why is it so cold out? Because the heat is blocking the warmth, dummy!
* I wonder, am I allowed to disagree with two men kissing; am I not allowed to criticize ESPN's overexposure of a report when Michael Sam is drafted on live TV?
* Am I allowed to call the antics of Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and the strange sexualized marriage of Beyoncé and Jay-Z as foolish and dehumanizing to women - - or must I fawn all over them like the rest of "enlightened" society? (Honestly, why do grown men still use teenage nicknames? Don't ask questions, we are all supposed to smile and say "how nice for Jay-Z, Snoop Dog, 50 cent, Tum Tum and Ya Boy!")
* And I guess I am to open-wide and swallow Obamacare in one big gulp and say, "Mmm, mmm, good!"
The problem with "groupthink" was made vividly clear to me this past week with the Ray Rice domestic violence case. This past February, Ray Rice and his then-fiance were involved in an early morning fight in an Atlantic City casino. The news was released without video that "he hit her and dragged her out of an elevator." The report was terrible in itself, and as a result they decided together to start attending couples therapy. On March 27 Rice was indicted in a court of law, on a third-degree aggravated assault charge. They eventually married, she regretted her part in the fight, and the NFL announced a two game suspension of Ray. All seemed right in the world.
And then, the video was released! That is when "all (you know what) broke loose." People were outraged, the President said "he's not a real man," people called for Roger Godell's head, and Rice was then put on indefinite suspension by the Ravens. Questions, criticisms and judgments started swirling everywhere about how unjust the NFL is, our society is, men are, and your upbringing must have been. Her beating was all our fault collectively because we didn't do something earlier. If you happened to listen to sports radio, TV talk shows, it seemed like everyone was outraged, and everyone was on their moral high-ground pointing down at Ray Rice screaming, "Banish him, throw the bum out, good riddance!" "Groupthink" won the day!
Yes, I completely agree that domestic violence is no laughing matter. The man committed a horrendous crime; but the way judgment was decided in his case scares the heck out of me! If all that needs to happen is for people on TV and radio to raise their voice to get a harsher punishment, we are all in trouble. Once opinions override the law, it is time to start making sure your home is not bugged and your phone's aren't tapped.
In order to stay free, we must let due process work!
But what if I don't trust the process? What if the process does not distribute justice to the same degree as my outrage? What if I think somehow the way our legal system has been set up, only favors European white men? "Groupthink" believes there is only one thing to do, "yell, scream, convince 'the court of public opinion' to demand more!" If we can override the process to placate our outrage, we as a nation of laws is done for. Game over!
You see, that is the point of "groupthink." If the "few", our leaders, can convince the "many" that one viewpoint is morally superior to another, law no longer matters, they will win the day through domineering public opinion. He who controls the minds, controls the power.
Andrew Fletcher, a Scottish diplomat in 1653, once wrote, "Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws." Here is how I would change it in American society, "Let me write the scripts of the television sit-coms, news reports and journalistic talking points; I care not about laws or songs!"
It is estimated that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 30,000 words; the average American has about 7,000 in his repertoire ("repertoire" is probably not included in most people's list; it means the storehouse of words that people normally draw from to use. And if you think we use more, just listen for awhile and you will realize people often express one word to mean many different things, "that's unbelievable," "Dude!", "awesome," "get me that thing." Not too creative if you ask me).
Shakespeare died in 1616, five years after the King James Version of the bible was written. So just like the large vocabulary that Shakespeare would poetically and precisely put to use; the KJV interpreters used a bit more expansive terminology and phrasing than our modern versions seem to use. As a result, you will often find very unusual phrases and words that won't normally be found in most American's daily speech. For instance, how often do you say these following phrases?
- 1 Kings 16:11- "And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.
- Deuteronomy 25:11 - When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets.
- Genesis 40:17- And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.
Why not try to go to Panera and ask for some bakemeat on the side of your "Pick 2" order instead of an apple; they wont know what to think?
For me personally, there is one phrase in the old King James that has always been fascinating because I think it perfectly describes what happens to people as they grow older and not wiser. It is found in Deuteronomy 32:15:
But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
Funny words, aren't they? But think about it...this is exactly what happens to people as they consume things, buy things, accumulate things and never once give thanks to the Giver of those things. They wax fat! Wax in this sentence means to "Grow, increase in size and change from one stage to another." A waxing moon means it is getting bigger and brighter in sky, you have Q-tips because your ear accumulates wax, and a belly that drinks a lot of beer, eats a lot of french fries and snacks on Hershey's kisses clearly "waxes" fat.
All of those realities are physical in nature, but here in Deuteronomy the writer is mostly talking about the soul of a person. We all have a tendency to grow lazy, apathetic and callous if we are not responsive to God and his word. It is just normal, and we must be vigilant to keep it from happening to us. Let me show you how that happens by comparing some things we are all familiar with:
HUMAN LIFE: as a child grows up and becomes a teen, (if they have been raised by good parents), they naturally are active, adventurous, curious and wanting to try new things. As they become young adults they will have a passion to become independent thinkers and take risk. Newly married couples carry that youthful zest for life and together they dream big dreams, filled with ambition to have a nice house, a happy family, and a dog (no cats allowed!), they often are willing to eat hot dogs and baked beans just to get there. But something happens to a person around the ages of 45-50: the body starts to slow down, get sore, and it wants to sit. Dreams morph in to doubts, and ambition becomes a desire to retire and get away from it all. Risk turns into comfort, leisure and security. The man Caleb in the bible is a rare find - - you will be hard-pressed to find an 80 year old willing to fight for the promised land anymore. The battle cry of most older people is, "Give me a comfy davenport, Fox News, and a fresh supply of Vitamins and don't ask me to do anything else...I'm tired out!"
POLITICAL LIFE: A new country usually begins with a group of people wanting to explore new land: Hacking through the wilderness or risking the possibility of death & suffering through the adventure of traveling the perilous oceans. All in order to form a brand new society, "I want to be FREE!" If someone is sick, hungry or without resources; for the most part they have to rely on themselves or the small group of pilgrims they are traveling with. As they begin to grow, start farms, build houses, they slowly join in community and form alliances. The more people, the need for more services: Mayors, Judges, Police, Teachers and Doctors. A town becomes a city, cities form states, states build a nation. And as the nation grows, so do the demands of the people from that nation. Risk somehow is no longer expected from people, and security which once was the fruit of hard work becomes a demand and a right. Nations who wax fat often crumble from within...like an old rotten forest that is dying from decay or overgrown with dry tinder waiting as fuel for a forest fire. I wonder, do you think America is coming close to catching fire?
CHRISTIANITY: When God calls a person out of darkness into light, there is nothing like the fire of a new believer! "I cannot believe that God loves me and I am saved from his wrath." Usually those who are forgiven much, love much and you will see them serve, sacrifice and spread the word out of sheer joy. But, as they grow many of these same people forget that hell is still burning. Instead of worship, they begin to demand from God; grace starts to morph from "things given to me that I do not deserve" into "the freedom to do whatever I want because I am his child saved by faith alone." As Christians wax fat, they even begin to get tired of serving, "I've paid my dues - let others step up so I can go home and watch QVC." Once they would do anything without their left hand knowing what their right was doing. Now they want recognition - they want a job or title in the church that gives them significance - they want people to notice - they want the pastor to visit. And if they don't, they will find a new church that will.
Waxing fat is allowing yourself to shamelessly grow callous toward God and his amazing grace. Ask yourself today:
(1) What do you "really" deserve?
(2) Why is it so hard to serve others?
(3) What is a little bit of pain and suffering as compared to an eternity of "eternal pleasure at His right hand? (Psalm 16:11)"
I hate getting fat.