“Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.”
What will happen when God wakes up?
Even though God is Sovereign and he daily puts our lives in his hand, he sometimes acts like he is sleeping. He remains quiet. He lets people be. He lets fools be fools.
But what will happen when he wakes up?
I was asking this because in my reading of Psalm 78, there is a point when God gets fed up and as verse 65 puts it, “He will arise like a warrior who was sleeping heavy after a night of drinking.” Have you ever seen a big guy with a hangover? Let me put it this way, they are not nice...at all.
How do you think God feels about our President paying off a porn star, and we are discussing it like it is not big deal? I think God is ashamed of both sides of the political spectrum: On one side they will defend the President no matter what he does, and the other side they will throw their lot in with a porn star just because they hate the President so much.
How do you think God feels about America’s descent into ever deeper sexual deviancy? The mind of humanity is so twisted. I just read a story about a gay man with HIV who purposely had unprotected sex with 20 other men in order to spread the infection...sick! Or producers at the Cannes film festival who boast about movies showing extreme sexual situations in fine detail and yet they are the ones who parade around with #metoo protestors who hate the objectification of women. Which is it?
How do you think God feels about the public discourse on race, guns, war, adultery and every other act of rebellion under the sun?
What will happen when he wakes up?
If you want to consider the Bible's answer read Psalm 78:66. Does this not move you in the least bit?
It does me.
Are Americans sports obsessed? Yes.
Even though the vast majority of my readers are more than likely sick of sports talk and loathe driving their kids to practice, I want to talk about sports anyway. And my question for today’s post is this, “If Jesus played sports which sport would he choose?”
A quick hint at my final answer before we start… “Give Blood, Play…”
I want to suggest three possible sports that I think include good representative generalities of Christianity, as it is currently being played and how we should being playing it. While there are thousands to pick from not all sports are conducive for metaphorical purposes. For instance, I don’t think Jesus would choose the sport curling because not only would it be difficult for a middle eastern man to find a good ice rink to play on in Nazareth, but it does not offer enough characteristics to apply to general human behavior. Nor will I choose sports like ping-pong, luging, synchronized swimming, quidditch or croquet. While fun, they are too limited and particular.
I have chosen three to build my comparison.
GOLF: this is the sport that best represents American Christianity, but Jesus would have nothing to do with it. Golf is all about individual scores. Golf is about being alone in a place of beauty. Golf is about the clubhouse and drinking a few beers after 18 holes. If that doesn’t describe the church in America and how people view spirituality, I don't know what does? Somehow we have turned Christianity into a game about self and how good my walk with Jesus is? Christians are always on the lookout for a beautiful and pleasant experience with God. If I sin, give me a mulligan. But even if I have a bad game, it is ok, the clubhouse is waiting to talk over scores with my buddies. A good friend will let you fudge the numbers if you need to, but what matters most is if I had an enjoyable round of golf. If not, better luck next time. I think Jesus would get bored with golf, too individualistic, too self centered, too detached from the brokenness of this fallen world. He came to seek and save the lost not spend most of his time alone selfishly working on his relationship with his Father. He could have just stayed up in heaven if he wanted to do that. Golf is the ideal me, myself and I sport...perfect for squeaky clean Sunday for an hour Christianity.
TRACK: there is good biblical support to say that Jesus would choose track, especially the relays. Paul talks about running the race in Hebrews 12, or in 1 Corinthians 9 to run the race to get the prize. Track takes hard work, effort, and a strong desire to win. I even like the concept of being part of a team, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2, “And the things you have learned entrust or hand them off to reliable men…” It is like handing off a baton. But track is still a bit too clean, and detached from the messiness that is life. Track does involve sweat, but the blood and tears that Jesus lived and died with are not a main part of the sport. Americans are also good at short bursts of speed, we like the sprints, but long distance is too much. Jesus went all the way, carrying the load of pain and guilt for all of us. I like the analogy of track, but I think there is one better.
RUGBY: Rugby did not exist during the time of the New Testament writings, but you can find it everywhere in scripture. Let me first describe the sport for you and then I will point out some verses. First and foremost rugby is a sport that requires closeness to your teammates, especially in the scrum. You are leaning on each other, grabbing each other in sometimes embarrassing places, sharing blood, smearing sweat and falling in the dirt and mud together. No one playing rugby is that pretty, you can't put on a good face when it is getting pulled and punched. And everyone is needed to succeed. The opponent you play wants to hurt you, so the stakes are high. You must help motivate each other. There also is no toleration for foul play on the rugby team. If you take a cheapshot at the other team or a teammate you will be held accountable for it. And boy do they know how to party after the game! You don't think these characteristics of rugby are biblical? Check this out:
And oh yes, Christians are going to party! Read Isaiah 25:6-9 if you doubt me!
As I was thinking through this, I know alot of you golfers out there may feel a little betrayed, “Aren’t all good pastors supposed to love golf?” You know, the only way I think golf would be truly reflective of life is if Satan designed a course to play on. Then I think it might be more interesting and accurate to this world we live in. Could you imagine his sulfur sandtraps, fire and brimstone water hazards or hot coaled putting oranges? Now if that were to happen, I may reconsider my sports assessment. But as it stands, all I can say is how I started this post,
“Give Blood, Play Rugby!!!!”
I have taken a few minutes out from working on my sermon to write this post. I had to do it.
I was looking over my books on my shelf to find a quote and I noticed something that I never saw before. Two books with two completely different worldviews were leaning against each other. They have been there for years and I never saw it before.
One book is not hard to miss because on the cover is smiling Joel Osteen. He is dressed up in a nice blue blazer, bright white teeth gleeming and his glamour shots hair cut is styled perfectly. The cover of the book reads, "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential." It is a book about positivity, harnessing success, and finding fulfillment in life. John C. Maxwell on the back cover writes, "Everybody will find something useful in this wonderful book." Nice, nice, nice.... all is nice.
The other book that was leaning against it is a book that is easy to miss. The fonts are not the best, the picture is blurry and the writer has a funny name, Wurmbrand. There is nothing truly compelling about the book's cover. And the title is the worst, "Tortured for Christ." The book is all about how Richard Wurmbrand was placed in Romanian prisons for over 14 years because of his dedication to Christ. The Communists hated his faith and he suffered for it. On the back of this book it reads, "Months of solitary confinement, years of periodic physical torture, constant suffering from hunger and cold, the anguish of brainwashing and mental cruelty." Horrible, horrible, horrible...all is horrible.
So which way is it? What is the real Christian worldview, nice or horrible? I see no real way of bringing these two accounts together?
The nice one has become a best seller, millions of copies sold! The horrible one has inspired thousands to cherish their faith. One makes us happy, one makes us hungry for Jesus to come back. I find it is so much easier to fall into the smiling trap of Joel Osteen's message: "You can have anything you want when you have God." We can have happiness, ease, comfort, romance and money. I find Joel's message, though easy, is very selfish and destructive. It is also not biblical: come to God so you can get what you want.
The other message is hard. God is worth the pain of waiting. God is worth the hatred of the world. God is worth it. This message, is biblical.
I once heard a story of a young man who went to propose to his fiance'. He had saved up for a large diamond ring. He had the night set up perfectly: he would pick her up, take her to dinner and then propose to her on one knee at her favorite fancy restaurant. It was going to be a surprise!
As he drove up to her house he had the ring box in his front coat pocket. He looked great. Dashed on some cologne, and pulled up to her house excited as ever. As he honked the horn she came running out to get into the passenger seat, not knowing that this was the night he was going to propose. She looked fantastic!
As she sat down he couldn't stop smiling. She said, "What is it? I know something is up?" And in his excitement he took out the ring and proposed right on the spot! He couldn't wait. When he opened the box and she saw the gleaming diamond, she said in tears, "This is what I have always wanted!" She put it on and it fit her delicate hand perfectly. She held it up higher and said, "Isn't it wonderful? I have to go show mom." And she rushed out the car flashing it to her mom, dad and everyone else who would come see.
She then ran upstairs to her bedroom slamming the door behind her. Her boyfriend was left downstairs sitting on the couch. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes went by as he waited. Finally he went up to her room and knocked. Opening the door he said, "You ready to go, I have dinner reservations?"
She was still staring at the ring in the mirror not noticing he was at the door. He said, "You ready to go?" She looked over and said, "Oh, its you. You can go ahead without me, I have everything I want right here!" There she sat, staring at the shining jewel. Smiling.
Is Christianity about me or falling in love with God? Is it getting or is it knowing? Is it finding ease' and comfort in the moment, or worshipping God even when it is hard?
Which worldview is it? They both can't be right?
“When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.”
I needed that service last night. Good Friday. Simply remembering, no big show, just recounting the passion story. Every time the story is read and you are made to ponder, Jesus’ greatness overwhelms you.
One thing that really caught my attention last night is how Jesus doesn’t suffer fools. He didn’t come to perform for or try to please the silly curiosities of game players like Herod.
Herod was a pompous man. He was wealthy, corrupt and he was a religious poser. He had John the Baptist’s head cut off for a promise he made after a drunken dance.
When Jesus was brought to him he wanted to see a show, some miraculous sign. Jesus was a curiosity for him.
I’ll bet if Jesus would have performed he would of been set free. Jesus could have had Herod eating out of his hand, he could have healed a cripple, made the sky rain specks of gold dust, knocked everyone down with Holy Spirit power - - a first century Pentecostal revival.
But no. Jesus came for a serious purpose. He came to die so we would have peace with God. He did not come to entertain and impress the mockers, give them a good time.
Never did Jesus throw his pearls before swine. And never did Jesus veer off course from his Father’s will just so people would like him.
He was about the business of important things. He procured forgiveness for us all. He came to conquer death.
Why didn’t Jesus wait 2,000 more years when technology could have transmitted his miracles and messages via YouTube? He could have been a rockstar, writing songs that packed large auditoriums? He could have won The Voice or American Idol and then the world would have really been impressed?
He didn’t do those things because he is not a game player. He doesn’t need fame, riches or popularity. He doesn’t even need smiling Joel Osteen to promote him.
You are the one who needs him. You need his substitutionary payment, you need to be saved from hell even if The Pope doesn’t believe in it anymore. There are far more important things than being happy, entertained and impressed. There is eternity at stake.
When he comes back the real show will begin. The one we have all been waiting for. The pomp and circumstances of his Kingdom will arrive. The brightness of his glory will overtake and dispel all the shadows of the earth. Sin will be abolished and obliterated.
But until that day comes we as the church need to quit playing games, trying to impress the world by their standards. When we are mocked by fools we need to remain quiet. When they want a bigger and better show we need to stop trying so hard.
We need to tell people the simple gospel message through relationships. Person to person. We need to help people find peace with a holy God.
I find the more sincere we are the more people will listen. We should quit trying to compete just to impress the important. Let’s love small people again!
The one person who did nothing wrong, paid for all of my wrongs. And there are too many to count. I should be better at so much: A husband, a father, a pastor, a brother, a son. I am all of these and I fail.
As a husband I haven’t loved my wife enough. Said the wrong things at the wrong times. Sat on the couch too much and too long. Demanded many things in simmering anger.
As a father I have been lazy and lax. I haven’t taught and trained like I should. I have gotten mad when I should have listened. I can't get the years back.
As a pastor I definitely don’t pray nearly enough. I preach at times to perform. I like to be liked.
As a brother I don’t keep in contact. I slip in, wave, hug and slip out.
As a son...the list is too long.
And then I read in Psalm 69:4 one line that stops my heart. I am overwhelmed everytime I read it. It makes no sense:
“What I (Jesus) did not steal must I (Jesus) now restore?”
This is the cross. A payment for my failure. At every point I have stumbled, fell, rebelled and willfully sinned, Jesus paid for it.
It makes no sense.
Why would he do this? Why did he let me go free? I failed. I keep failing, and I always will.
The only thing I can figure is John 14:3, “I (Jesus) will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Jesus wants to be with me.
And the cross was the only way.
It makes no sense, but I accept.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” (C. S. Lewis)
There are some thoughts that are so sublime, so lofty in scope and substance, we must keep reaching toward them in wonder. If we can grasp just a speck, a sliver of true understanding, we will be far better people for it. This particular quote by C.S. Lewis from “The Weight of Glory” is just the kind of vaunted ideal that set my heart aflame the first time I read and considered it.
Glory, what is it really? I think the best definition I have heard is that Glory is God’s beautiful heaviness that will be shared with us; we are the hidden immortals.
Immortals, kept from decay and deterioration, we will one day be shining like a star in the sky. When Jesus gave Peter, James and John a quick peek of his Glory on the mount of transfiguration it is said by Luke in 9:29, “his appearance was like a bolt of lightning.” Think on that. Stop, ponder it...we will share in it. That is why Lewis says, “There are no ordinary people...we joke with, work with, marry, snub everlasting splendors.” This is what he means - - the average Joe is not nor ever will be just average. He will be a person arrayed in lightning.
If that same average Joe was to reject the Gospel his immortality is to become a “horror.” Isaiah 66:24 says of him, “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
The greatness of Glory is juxtaposed against the ravages of condemnation. They both are possible states of existence maintained eternally for every individual who presently walks the earth.
As it is now, we see through a glass darkly.
If you are destined for Glory, someday you will walk upon this earth as a god. Both invincible, heavy, and beautiful. Charles Spurgeon once taught that when you have the strength of an immortal, you will be able to rip a tree from the soil, trunk and roots in all. If I saw you now as eternally you will be then I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you. I would be held spellbound marveling at your splendor. However, if you are destined for wrath, and you could be seen today as you will be, my heart would be ripped apart in pity over your loathsome condition. Twisted and broken, an object of scorn.
If this is to be true, which the holy scriptures confirm, Lewis is right when he says we need to take each other much more seriously than we presently do. People in general, don’t seem to matter to each other. We casually cast each other off as either a nuisance or use them as a distraction to pass the boredom of the day. People have become to us irritants or play things. We fail to consider the enormity of what future possibilities we encounter daily with each person we meet.
But let heaven in and look with eyes opened to new possibilities. Daily we are given the unique opportunity to affect the future radiance of an immortal. Or maybe through kindness and care we can help a monster heading for the terrors of hell to awaken and be rescued from himself?
Do you believe Glory will really be this heavy? Or are you wasting precious time playing around with trivial matters that mean relatively nothing? Do you really believe you are walking among gods and monsters? Or just ordinary humans?
I heard the craziest thing from a pastor two weeks ago, he said the reason we stop and look at mirrors and play with selfies is because we want to catch a glimmer of the Glory that we will be. I think he’s right. My sister would accuse me of looking at my reflection in the car window, and she was right. Each time I look at me I see something more that can be, will be. An immortal. More than just a chiseled jaw, flawless skin, I see eternal possibilities. I love how 2 Corinthians 4:16 puts it, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
That inner self is the germ of immortality. Just a seed. That soon will die, sown perishable but raised imperishable, sown mortal but raised in immortality! I can’t wait. More than ordinary.
Will the real Zombies please stand up?
The bell-curve for zombie interest is trending on the downward slope. People have had their fill of watching these mindless monsters wander aimlessly through tv show after tv show and movie after movie with no purpose and no clear direction. It’s becoming boring. We all know the script, zombies are stupid and ravenously hungry for human flesh, biting down on a nice juicy tender muscle, licking spilled blood on a metal fence, because they need it and want nothing else in order to live - - no thinking at all, they exist to eat. Like cows in a green field, they offer no compelling reason to watch.
But for some reason, zombies still fascinate me. It isn’t the blood and gore that draws me in, it is the power of the zombie mob. Which human will keep their right mind and survive the mounting flood of the dead? The beauty of the apocalypse is that it brings out the best and worst in people, and it is always a tragedy when a kind thinking rational soul is bitten, joining forever the soulless zombie horde.
This same storyline is also playing out in the fabric of everyday life.
Look around, unthinking and persuasive mob-rule is everywhere. Like zombies, the popular consensus wants to stifle free thought. Daily the zombies encircle the regular guy, trying to convince them to join them, give up independence and personal convictions that are obtained through rational thinking, and follow the mindless crowd. Zombies never stop.
Even I once was part of the zombie mob. I was reminded of this last Saturday because St. Patrick’s Day weekend was in full swing - - it is one of those times when zombies come out in full force. Green beer is flowing and drunken kisses are expected to be shared in every major city and on many college campuses. After drinking one or two plastic cups of the Irish brew, every color of the racial spectrum miraculously turns kelly green. I know when I was in college, I was convinced that the blood of shamrocks and leprechauns flowed through me too. Join in, drink up, and have fun.
Some readers may call me a killjoy, telling me to lighten up, let us have our beer and enjoy. I have no problem if you want to party, drink and the kiss complete strangers, don’t get me wrong...all I am saying is that St. Patrick Day celebration is one of the clearest examples of how mob rule is at work. The man with face painted green and pint of Guinness in hand wonders, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to join us? I wish the whole world was Irish? Cheers!” There is this incredulous wonder at the person who does not want to join in, the zombie actually believes it is not rational for failure to join in with the virus of Irish intoxication.
It works the same way with political correctness. Last week my kids felt enormous pressure to leave their high school class with the rest of the students on March 14th to march against the proliferation of guns and the supposed negative influence of the NRA. Just because some Florida students are being used by our click-bait media circus to demand legislative action concerning complicated discussions on assault rifles, my kids are now expected to join in the unfettered emotion of the unthinking mob too. I know of one student who joined the march just to be nice and show support without having any idea what was actually being debated.
It doesn’t end, zombies will demand you join in with every cool cultural trend, every public LGBTQX, Black Lives Matter, and intersectional issue that floats down the river of tolerance. Zombies love thinking they are unique and courageous for standing on the popular bandwagon so they have decided to give each other awards, medals and pats on the back when they all begin thinking alike. And if you dare swim against the current, you are to be silenced and shamed. And God forbid if you ever say one nice thing about Donald Trump, that is clear cause for you to have your head and arm and leg bitten off. Zombies will bite! And they bite hard.
The greatest hoax of mob rule is when they sneer at authentic Christianity and Christians claiming that most adherents to "backward traditional religion" are “brainwashed and dangerous xenophobes who can’t think for themselves.” Cool trendy leaders who have left the Christian fold are the quickest to be bit by zombie-think. They believe they are the only ones who are actually “thinking for themselves” when in truth, they are once again following the undead horde. Zombies are always calling the kettle black.
Who are the real zombies wandering the earth, without purpose and clear direction? Who cannot tolerate non-compliance? Who wants to force people to think and behave just like them?
It isn’t the person with faith. It isn’t the man or women working hard and just wants to be left alone. It isn’t the mom who is trying to raise young kids at home. It is those who want you to join them in mindless social change...and if you don’t look out - - CHOMP!
One year ago I was invited by my brother Don to come to his church in West Virginny and be the preacher for "Revival Week". I never preached at a revival before, especially at an old baptist church that was nestled on the brown river banks of Little Fudge Creek. I was a city slicker, so in fear and trepidation I did my best to study up on a culture I really knew nothing about. I had nightmares for weeks about handling snakes!
So to get ready I researched every topic I could find on "How to have Revival." Revival by definition means to be restored to full strength, to be awakened and brought back to life. In church lingo, revival can mean many different things to many differenct denominations and traditions:
* Pentecostal Churches see revival as a unique miraculous outpouring work of the Holy Spirit. Tongues, healings and new prophetic messages are signs of great works of God happening in the midst of the congregation. So enthusiasm, emotion and "Holy Rolling" are sought after and hunted for. And if you can get gold specks to fall from the sky, revival has arrived!
* Evangelical Churches see revival as the supernatural spread of the gospel to the lost. An evangelist, like Billy Graham or Luis Palau, comes to town and declares the gospel seeking for new converts to Christ. Revival is when large numbers of the lost are persuaded to come into the fold of God. Revival work is both a work of God and the orchastrated and advertised work of man.
* Holiness and more contemplative churches see revival as the deepening of inner spirituality, where prayer and mystical union with Christ takes a more prominent role in the life of a Christian. Estatic experiences, visions, complete denial of the flesh are sought after, "New Light" shines upon the soul of a believer, and the beauty of God fills the heart and mind. Revival happens when people think about nothing else but God. It is a very individualistic experience. This type of revival was prominant in the early history of American Christianity. After preachers, like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards would speak, people would swoon and be caught up in heavinly trances for days, weeks and sometimes months. This kind of personal mystical union was a normal way of seeing a revived faith. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes his wife, "She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure. . . . She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her." Sadly, New England territories who were the first to swoon after these experiences where also the first leave Christianity altogether.
* Market-Driven, Mega-Church, Prosperity Christianity sees revival as having "Your Best Life Now", as Joel Osteen would say. If you can "Name It and Claim It" and then have it come true for you, revival has occurred. Want a new house, a new car, a new job, a new spouse? Walk forward in confident faith believing and you will receive, and then be excited to rejoice in God's material blessing being showered upon you. Now that is my kind of revival! Too bad I live in Kent City, must mean I don't have enough faith?
So, after studying and thinking and praying on all these possiblities, I still was a little fuzzy about what revival actually was. I value authenticity and not contrived religion (That is why Joel Osteen and his plastic smile often find the bottom of my circular file in my office). I hate it when people try to conjure, like a magician, an experience just to feel something that is nothing more than shifting shadows and tingling skin. I have seen too many actors in my day who cry at church and then swear at home. Or fraternity brothers who took communion during mass on Sunday and got drunk and partied Monday through Saturday. What would real revival look like for them?
What does the Bible say about it?
Well, there is no direct mention of a large church revival or a list of definate evidences we must check for in the life of a community to definately say "God is at work!" The truth is, God works in a myriad of ways. Psalm 85:6 uses the word "revive" to describe a new condition of the soul, but it has more to do with God no longer being angry than it does the person experiencing some fresh exciting outworking of God's miraculous power.
But there is something I found in my study of 1 Peter that may offer one more insight on those who are seeking answers on how God revives a soul. I am not sure you will like it, in fact I find that very that few ever talk about. Listen to 1 Peter 4:12-13:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."
Did you listen closely to that language? You can receive God's blessing, where his glory comes to rest upon you and will be revealed in you! Now that sounds like revival to me. But what needs to happen for that to occur? Herein lies the problem, you won't like it:
- fiery trial
- sharing in Christ's sufferings
- being insulted for Christ's name
I hate that list! You mean if I am going to be blessed I need to suffer? Wait, hold on, stop the religious presses...this will not sell. No one will sign up for this. Fiery trial? You have got to be kidding me?
No, I don't think God is.
I was talking with a friend that will remain nameless, and he put it like this "Why are some people so on fire in their walk with Jesus? Because they have walked through the fire and found Jesus walking with them." If you look at all the other lists trying to describe what a revival is, much of it is based on contrived emotional experiences. And we all know how long emotions last? As long as the sun is shining - - but once the cloud comes - -the smile turns to a frown and we believe God has somehow left us.
But Peter says it is precisely in the cloud where we meet God.
When I look back on my life I have found over and over again it was suffering that revealed that which was genuine. Murry Potes, an elder at our church, died last year as he battled some of the worst cancer I ever saw a person battle. He said in the middle of his struggle, "I have never loved Jesus so much." My dad really came to Christ when he lost his job for acting Christian. The strongest married couples in our church are often the couples who almost got divorced and asked God to save them.
When I turned 40 I bought a journal to track my relationship with God. Hey, I figured that when a person turns 40 it means life is now heading downhill so I better figure this thing called life out. So in my quest for God I wrote this in the first few pages of my journal, "I want to know what it really, really means to have a relationship with you. It is a very nice thing to talk about; but to experience - - that is what I want." In other words I wanted revival.
Two pages later I have this written, "My dearest Father died."
A year later on my 41st birthday my entry reads, "You have carried me through the tough obstacles, the impossible obstacles - - and God, you have made me better for it. I know I am a desperately needy man. I know I don't pray like I should, nor do I serve others the way I should. My bible time is lacking. I watch far too much television, my joy isn't reflexisively turned toward you. And yet, there you are!"
What is revival? I am not sure I want to tell you. You wont like me for it. So have a good day.
"Man has lost faith in his own value when no infinitely valuable whole works through him."
Nietzche "Will to Power"
"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"
Sometimes it is difficult to go back home.
Naturally, there is always great joy when you are able to meet again with siblings, cousins, neices and nephews after months and years of being apart. There is nothing like seeing a familiar smiling face that has long been forgotten in the craziness of adult life; or being pleasantly suprised by a smell, sight, sound or taste that you took for commonplace as a kid. But always hiding behind these nostalgic memories lurks the cold clammy chill of melloncholly that can leave you feeling empty, longing for what "once was" and even dissappointed by "what is". It hurts to lose a loved one who can no longer share in your joy as he or she once did. Or feeeling the acute pain when you miss that hug from a parent or being able to talk to an old friend that is no more.
Death sure knows how to spoil a good reunion.
But maybe the most distressing thing of all is when the friends you once knew or familiy members you love have changed over time for the worst. MIsery often clings to the adult who made disasterous choices as a teenager. Sin is real, and your own family and friends are not immune from the long term fall-out from it.
This past trip home I was looking at some old yearbooks wondering about people I once knew. I asked my sister about a few of the names and faces - more often than not she would say, "Haven't you heard what happened? It is really sad." And then she would relay to me some trajedy or destructive life-style choice that has befallen them. After pointing to one very familiar face, she told me how a disasterous divorce left the person's children confused and conflicted. The result was that both kids decided to change their genders: The boy now wants to be a girl and the girl wants to be a boy. He has become she, and she a he. It is sad...
As we were talking, my niece, who works as an art teacher in a large suburban high school outside of Cleveland, turned to us and said, "Transgenderism is more common than ever. Just in my school alone, I have to deal with two or three cases of students wanting to change their names in each and every new class I get." She explained one extremely difficult case of how a girl in her drawing class wants to be called by her male name but not in front of her brother who shares a class with her. So my niece, who is the girl's teacher, must navigate the slippery pronouns, oh so carefully, so she doesn't upset the girl who wants to be a boy or the brother who is not yet aware that his sister is soon to become his brother.
The world is mad.
I asked my niece her opinion on why transgenderism is growing, and here is her take, "I think it is now trending. The person who once was ignored or went unnoticed in their natural gender is now cool in their new gender. In fact, the most popular kids in school are the ones who have changed genders." I asked do the kids really believe they are a different gender, or are they just trying to get attention? She waited a second and said, "Personally, I think they are confused. High School is competitive and to win you need to be unique, you have to have something no one else has, you need to get yourself noticed, and when a boy becomes a girl, believe me, it does the trick."
I had to stop on that a second. You have to be unique to be noticed. It reminded me of a book I read 15 years ago called "Shows About Nothing." The point of the book stressed that in America, "we have no other culture than popular culture." Hollywood, television and movies set the trends, and the trends now determine truth. The book goes on to say, "Hollywood promotes a debased, Nietzchean culture - the side of Nietzsche that values unrestrained creativity."
That is it! Unrestrained creativity - - we have reached the point where the wierdest and most non-traditional ideas and choices have become the most celebrated and desired. Not only does it get attention on-line, but it sets a person apart. The ultimate goal of pop-culture! The writer, Thomas Hibbs, says behind this cultural reality lies a very troubling world-view that he describes as "demonic anti-providence." We have thrown God out, and chaos has filled the very large hole he left behind. Niezsche wrote a book about this called "Beyond Good and Evil." Everyone decides what is right for them. And if everyone is right, no one is wrong.
Boys will be girls and girls will be boys. Even if science has evidence to prove the contrary, your personal feelings matter more! Reason falls dead at the feet of pop-culture's sword.
We have been debating gun violence for the last two weeks in America after the school shooting in Florida. Passions are running high, the students blame the NRA, the NRA blames the local cops and FBI, the FBI blames the lobbyists and the lobbyists blame the politicians, and the politicians blame the media, and the media blames Trump, and Trump blames Hillary. If everyone is right, we all are wrong. And the shooter, the one who actually pulled the trigger, is the only one truly innocent. "Hey, he was just 'trying to be noticed', he can't be faulted for using his 'unrestrained creativity.'"
I wonder, if we do not bring God back, and recognize the importance of his guiding hand of providence, what lies beyond the horizon? Will we stop at gender experimentation, or will we take our unrestrained creativity farther? How about changing our pigmentation? Will we want to marry animals? Will the poor demand the money and keys to the houses of the rich?
I wonder. . .will we want to kill our own children?
Maybe my melloncholly isn't just because I miss my family? I long for the world that made sense to me as a child. I miss the days when we called "demonic anti-providence" evil. But, oh well, now I must just grin and bear it.
My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Switzerland back in 1996. It was a chance for us to take some much needed R & R because we just finished a 7 month teaching stint in the cold gray land of Russia. On one of our vacation days, we decided to take the 2:00 p.m. train from Bern to Geneva to see some of the beauty of the Swiss countryside. As we sat on the train we tried our best to blend in with the Swiss people who were busy living their lives, coming and going to work, shopping, and picking kids up from local schools. After living in Russia for awhile we learned how to put on a very stoic European demeanor so we wouldn’t stick out.
At one stop a group of 4 American High School girls jumped on our train. They must have been on vacation with their parents and they happened to sit right across the aisle from us. For the next 15 minutes they giggled, laughed, talked loudly and mocked almost everything and everyone they saw. You could see the general disgust on the faces of the Swiss people as they watched these arrogant young girls carry on.
The foursome didn’t know my wife and I were also Americans and I think they assumed we couldn’t understand their prattling on in their whiny valley-girl English. They complained about the food, they criticized the fashions, and they acted like they owned the world. For the first time I clearly saw what was meant by “ugly Americans.” These girls were spoiled and juvenile, and they probably had some very rich parents. It was the first time I wanted to apologize on behalf of all America.
When I read our headlines these days, it seems like our whole country, like these 4 girls, is turning spoiled and juvenile as well. Where have the adults gone? Now don't get me wrong, I love our country, I really do. It just seems like the people who write the news and push their cultural agenda, are no better than those four teenage girls, if not worse. At least the girls had an excuse, they were only 13 and 14.
Let me show you what I mean. I have listed five popular news stories that expose our culture of adolescent mediocrity. We are confident and arrogant about nothing. We celebrate things that shouldn’t be celebrated. We are incredibly impressed with ourselves..
(1) Californian lady who joined Hungary’s Olympic team can’t even ski, but still gets to compete. This is embarrassing.
(2) Overweight lady gets spotlighted role on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and we are to be impressed. What happened to models who actually were once pretty? Oh yeah, I shouldn’t talk about them because they don’t want to be objectified even though they wear string bikinis and are now modeling nude. This is childish.
(3) Male Olympic skier didn’t win a medal, but he did get to kiss his boyfriend. Why is this courageous? Why is this newsworthy? What ever happened to the Olympics being about athletes and not people trying to push their sexual agenda? This is sad.
(4) High School student becomes a leading voice for mocking the President and Congress on how they handle complicated policy. If I called out the President and called him stupid on national television as a High School student my dad would not congratulate me - - he would lock me up in my room until I learned respect. What High School student really understands the pressure of running a country? Such arrogance!
(5) A President who name calls other people via Twitter. Wow, it sounds like I am contradicting myself, by why does the President believe he needs to stoop so low and get involved in silly Twitter wars? I can’t imagine Lincoln, Washington, Churchill or Kennedy wallowing in the mud of our adolescent media fads. I know President Trump is trying to defend himself because the media slants everything, but I wish he wouldn’t give them so much fuel for their fire.
(6) Late night comics who believe they can mock the world and then make cogent comments about very serious issues. I hate the arrogance displayed by late night comics who always think they are the smartest people in the country. No humility...
Our country now exalts the average as special, and the silly as serious. We have no respect for the adult who actually thinks before they speak. Where are the true experts in anything that doesn’t include entertainment and sports? We have become a nation of adolescents.
In the 1982 movie The Scarlet Pimpernel, the French antagonist Chauvelin is bragging about how France has gotten rid of the Royal Family and the ruling aristocracy - - he is proud that the common peasant is going to take over the land. He says, “We shall execute our king instead, sir, and exalt our tailors.” And the Scarlet Pimpernel responds by saying, “More's the pity. Then your tailors will rule the land, and no one will make the clothes. So much for French fashion, and French politics.”
It seems instead of having the peasant rule our country, teenagers and fools now run everything. We have kicked out the adults and let the spoiled juveniles rule. Welcome to modern day America, 2018. “More’s the pity!”