Sunday, January 27, 2008

An iPod named Cleopas

What exactly was life like before the iPod? Can anyone really remember? I mean did we really used to walk around with those bulky, skippy, "CD" players? I walked into WalMart today with my "earbuds" blaring some good old Kirk Franklin; feeling pretty good about getting some food. In between songs I could hear on the loud speaker some 15 year old singing about how hurt she was because her boyfriend broke up with her and here I am blaring good ole' Gospel funk! Thank God for the iPod!

I proceeded down the aisle and arrived at the soda section. $1.08 for Cherry Coke immediately attracted my attention. That's when he drove by. An old guy in one of those motorized cart things. By this time I had switched from Kirk to a podcast, ironically enough, on the atonement by R.C. Sproul. I moved my cart so he could do a u-turn and saw him begin to get up, first by putting his cane against the shelve then by twisting his legs around to meet the floor. I had a decision to make-

1) Watch this guy struggle for his soda (He had to be 90, why is he buying soda?)
2) Offer to help
3) Continue to listen to the iPod and leave him be.

Well, I chose number two. 3-12 packs later, the gentleman thanked me for my help and promptly ran over my toe with his cart.

Maybe I should have taken 1?

I was reminded tonight of Luke 24:13-35 and the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The first thing that caught me eye with this story is the fact that Luke mentions multiple times that they were "walking". Now these guys had to have been powerwalking because the Bible says: "Jesus himself drew near and went with them". (15) It's not ever really stated that they invited Jesus along or that they even acknowledged his presence until verse 17. Instead they just kept talking and walking, the whole time this random guy who caught up with them is standing awfully close for comfort.

In verse 16 the Bible states that these disciples were kept from recognizing Him. Why? I mean if I had just risen from the dead and was walking around with gaping holes in my wrist/hand, I think I would show off? Instead, Jesus engages them in conversation and tells them what the Bible says and not what there presuppositions and knowledge were. Notice this- "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still..." (vs. 17) These disciples would later say that they had a "burning inside" that should have led them to realize this was Jesus and I would imagine this may have been the spot where it started. Something caused them to drop their conversation about the atonement and literally stand still to listen!

These men, Cleopas (vs. 18) and another unidentified companion, were carrying on in their theological discussion. They had the headphones in the ear, describing the atonement, but not really fully understanding what that actually meant. Then a stranger comes up, out of no where, and buts in on the conversation. He enraptures them so that these disciples beg for Him to come with them to their destination and enjoy their hospitality. A very Jewish thing to do. It wasn't until their act of hospitality (ones left to wonder if they had not done this would they have ever known) that their eyes were opened and they saw the Lord. (31)

Now the connection I'm pulling from this story and my adventure in WalMart today is found in a separate portion of Scripture:"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'" (Matthew 25:45) Like Cleopas, I was so busy in the midst of my theological "discussion" that I almost completely missed Jesus with skin on. Am I saying then that the old guy with the cart, who ran over my toe, was Jesus? No...but yes? Jesus makes it very clear that when you do not help someone in need that you are not helping Him. That is a very scary thought! One if all Christians actually believed this the world would become a much more gracious place.

This blog was born out of witnessing a lady get hit with the door as we walked out of church today. Common courtesy-especially if you are a man-dictates that you hold the door for a lady until another man takes over. And the cycle repeats until everyone leaves happy. However, this man did not follow suite. He let the door bang into this poor lady with 3 kids. Thankfully, I was able to hold the door for her so she could recover but it still agitated me to no end. Yet, tonight was a reminder that we all have it in us. For me, it was the iPod named Cleopas that almost led me to not help this man out in the soda aisle, simply because I was to engaged in a discussion of the atonement that I almost didn't practice it. Who knows what it may have been for that guy at church. Either way, Cleopas story ends with an act of hospitality to the King of Kings, even though he didn't know He was the King. How much more then should we, who know the King of Kings, help out those in need. Are our insides burning to the point where we want to help someone? Or are we so engaged with the iPod, getting out of church quickly, or getting a $1.08 Cherry Coke that we do not help someone and blame the burning on the meal we just ate?

Oldy...but it's still relevant

It kinda describes how I feel sometimes~


"My Girlfriend"

Walk through the streets of PA and you may see her.
Go up to her and say you're a believer.
Disgusting trash on MTV it makes her smile.
That guy from Satan's embassy put him on trial.

Because... Marilyn Manson ate my girlfriend.
Satan consumed her mind, and he may do it again.
Marylin Manson ate my girlfriend.
She once believed in the truth, now she belives in sin.

She denies God when she has the chance to live for him.
The thought of it makes me cringe.
Her future looks dim.
She'd rather gaze in Satan's eyes than on a steeple.
I'm really starting to despise beautiful people.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tell it Like it is

Fascinated does not seem to capture exactly how I felt when I put down the article with an interview with a very popular Pastor. For this blogs sake I will name this man "Post".

Post was asked why "conservatives" reacted negatively to the environmental movement. Why do they get so "defensive". Before he states his point, Post makes it clear why this is:

"We are fighting a war right now for oil. American soldiers and Iraqi civilians are getting killed today because they have a resource that Americans are addicted to."

I read this and dropped the magazine. What did Post just say? Where have I heard this before?

"Jan. 4, 2004: Says war in Iraq is the beginning of the "occupation" of Persian Gulf states for their oil. Audio message urges Muslims to keep fighting a holy war in the Middle East." Osama Bin Laden

Now before I put the cart in front of the horse it must be stated point blank that there is a hint of truth in both Posts and OBL statements. Afghanistan is a major gateway for much oil just like Iraq sits on top of the third largest oil reserves in the entire world. No one would be a dummy for saying that Oil probably played a part in the decision making of the war. Yet, that is not what Post is saying.

You can think whatever you will of the past 6 years of America being in War. You may think all you want about the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even now the rumblings towards Iran. What you cannot do is make blatant, absolute statements like Post did in this article for oil being the sole purpose of going into Iraq. You cannot make statements that absolutely deride the Soldiers who are fighting to FREE millions of people from slavery, tyranny, and despotism no matter whatever else those in leaderships true motivations may be. This I'm afraid is what Post is doing.

You have over 24 million Iraqi's who are "free" in a Government they voted in. You have both Afghanistan and Iraqi's operating their own pipelines and deciding who gets the cuts. Which by the way is one of the main dividing issues of Iraqi parliament. If America did go to these wars for oil security then why has oil securities been one of the most skiddish markets? If America did go to these wars solely for economic gain, why are we talking about recession? Where exactly is Posts condemnation of the people who strap bombs to their bodies and walk into daycare centers. Where is Posts condemnation for OBL who continues to egg 11 year olds to kill. Where is Posts outrage over a resurgent Taliban holding hostages of families, blowing them up, and then shooting their children. Where is Posts condemnation of the people pulling the trigger? It seems then that he would argue that America is the one supplying the bombs and it's our fault they are pulling the trigger. Yet, somehow they started bombing way before America began the "War on Terror" so what is the reason for that?

Post is a great man who has many aspirations that I completely agree with. However, I am a little tired of Post doing to me what he claims "conservatives" are doing to him. He was wrong in his article and completely skipped over the real heart of the issue just to push his agenda. Yet, he is the one that keeps preaching that we shouldn't do that. To say I was confused doesn't capture the heart of it. If the goal was to "tell it like is" then we should unfold the particulars and not just highlight one. Their are many facets to the War on Terror and not all of them are so "unclean". It would be fool hearted to highlight just the good and focus on those just as it would be foolhearted to highlight only the bad. If you are going to tell it like it. Don't push some agenda under the guise of truth. Especially when you go to the gas tank every weeks to fill up on that evil oil!

Walk on [ice] Water

I slowly turned into my apartment complex, feeling pretty good about myself. "Ha, they were all worried about the ice. Puh. I'm from New England...we got this." It was at that moment that I began to feel the tug on my car. I instantly went into "New England" mode. Don't hit the brakes, go with the slide, don't jerk, just relax. Graciously I pulled it out. The pride continued to swell. Then, round 2.

Result: Ice/Pole 1 Matt 1

Ever wonder how the disciples, many of them fishermen by trade, actually became scared multiple times while out to sea in the Scripture? I mean if these guys were in the Navy they would be ridiculed all the time! I can almost see Tom Hanks, in that gruff, drunk voice: "There's no crying in fishing!" Yet, when we get to the later part of Chapter 14 we see them scared...again. This is how the Message Bible describes it: "Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves....they were scared out of their wits." Matthew 14:22-23

Result: Disciples 0 Storms 2

I pulled my car away from the pole just waiting to see the scratches and dents in my stalwart beauty. Maybe this time she wouldn't hold up. After all we've been through, the time to throw in the towel drew nigh. Yet, as I slid away from the pole and back onto the icy road, nothing felt out of place. I parked the car, looked down at my tires and there wasn't a scratch or a dent from the impact! I mean we could get all logical and say I wasn't going to fast or that the curb slowed the impact and yada yada yada but the question really came to my mind: What if the opposite were true? What if someone picked me up....

The story continues in the book of Matthew: "At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits." Matthew 14:25-26 I read this passage and wonder if this was a normal experience for Christ? I mean you read it and it's almost like Jesus makes it a habit to walk on water! The disciples get up early in the morning and go jogging and there goes Jesus again, doing a power walk across the Galilee. Show off! Jesus walks on the water that was impossible for fishermen to manage. Think of that! This is like Jesus coming up to you on your job...with no training...and doing 10x better then you! He is walking on water that fishermen couldn't sail on~!
It was interesting that as my car began to slide that I had such dual emotions. The prideful, pompous "I'm a New Englander" gave way to the Peter, help me Jesus I'm drowning side. I do have to admit though that while I would like to make my "sinking" moment a little more spiritual, I actually uttered (I'm so not kidding on this) Jesus take the wheel. Makes you wonder if Peter would have said the same thing?

So usually when talking about this passage in Matthew, this is where there is some type of diss on Peter for sinking. That isn't going to happen in this one. Like Peter, I sank, I cried out desperately for Jesus to save me. Only after I got over myself. Only after I let go of my own supposed "background". Only after I realize that no matter what skill I had, or where I hail from, it's only Jesus who can walk on water and save me when I can't. And like the disciples, it is easy to cry out: "This is it! You are God's Son for sure!" If He can walk on water folks, I'm sure He can handle ice, even when obviously I can't.

Final Result: "Courage, it's me. Don't be afraid."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Holy Spirit: In HD

The SuperBowl is set and it's the NE Patriots vs. the NY Giants. It is almost poetic that any record for my beloved Pats would have to be achieved by beating a team from the dreaded Evil Empire. I digress from football to enter into a thought experiment brought on by viewing a commercial on TV tonight during the Giants/Packers game. A HDTV commercial.

Sony had their commercial for a spiffy looking HDTV and they showed on the screen the size difference, the image quality, and a peculiar white guy doing a jig. Now, I understand that they have to try and sell you on it but have you ever wondered why show images on the HDTV when I'm viewing the commercial not on an HDTV but a regular, 20-inch screen? They show these sparkling rivers, close-ups of the play, crystal clear fields but there I am-with my 20 inch screen-trying to imagine what that picture would look like on that TV. Quickly realizing that I am watching the HDTV image on my 20 inch screen and it doesn't really "blow" me away. Instead it just makes me wonder what I'm missing.

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."" Luke 24:49 New International Version

Jesus was just about to ascend to heaven when He spoke these words and I can only imagine what the disciples could've been thinking. Here was a dead guy, walking around, letting people stick their hands in His piercings, talking about some promise from the Father. Was He not the promise? The Messiah? The Deliver? What possibly could He mean? Even more peculiar was that this promise had already been bestowed upon them (John 20:22) and yet Jesus wasn't finished. They already had a view but still lacked the definition.

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized withwater, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:4-5

Pentecostal practice and dogma is labeled as being highly exclusive and alienating. Sometimes I think the accusation is fair. It is common to see a very haughty presentation of what is supposed to be a Pentecostal message put forth with grace. For all the talk of receiving power from on high there seems to be more receiving ego from self.

No matter how you look at it however, something happened in Acts. Something that dramatically shifted some of the most pathetic men on the planet. That day made preachers out of murders, evangelists out of tax collectors, Spirit filled worshipers out of egotistical self-absorbed bureaucrats. Oddly it wasn't the resurrection that did this. It wasn't walking with the risen Savior. It was the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

"He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."" Acts 1:8 The Message

The thing with watching the game on a regular TV is that you still get to watch the game. There isn't a different game on if you watch it on HDTV; just a clearer picture. It hit me tonight that I couldn't really understand HDTV by watching it on my regular TV but that I would have to experience it. Naturally, after just finishing a chapter on Pentecostal exclusivity, the two connected in my mind.

The Pentecostal experience is shown in Scripture to be a HD experience for the believers. They dramatically changed the way they viewed everything around them. They still believed in Jesus, they undoubtedly still led others to Christ but it wasn't till Pentecost that they saw and went out; "Clothed with Power". The Holy Spirit: In HD, opened up the believers to reach the lost and to spread out into what is known today as the Church. They had seen the Holy Spirit before but now it was up close and personal in crystal clear quality. The question then for all of us is-what about us?

Aborting the Holy Spirit

I think one of the most awkward situations in life is when you are talking with a woman and you cannot help but notice that she looks like she's carrying. There's that forbidden question, much like the forbidden fruit, that you just want to ask her if she is having a baby but you can't because what if she is not. I've seen it happen before and it wasn't a pretty sight.

When that roadblock is past and the lady finally reveals that she is "eating for two" these questions always seem to follow.

"Oh, do you know if it is a boy?" or "Is it a girl?"

"How far along are you?"

"When are you due?"

"How are you feeling"

"Do you feel it moving?"

Interesting in the conversation, even among some of the most ardent pro-lifers as myself, is the use of the word "it" when describing the little guy/gal inside the mom. Notice how "personhood" is never given to the baby till after the delivery. I don't know if you can blame it on 40 years of pro-abortion propaganda or wither its just the inadequacy of the English language but either way I made an interesting connection to this. Awkward, but still interesting. What other "person" do we deny, in our speech anyway, personhood to?

Do you think of the Holy Spirit as a person? I mean, let's be honest, when you first think of the Holy Spirit you think of a Dove or some crazy, Pentecostal person getting all up in arms about Tongues. I recently wrote a book review on this subject and the author coined the phrase "the accident of the English language" when describing how the old Bibles describe the Holy Ghost.

KJV: The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us. Romans 8:26

The problem with defining the Holy Spirit is that the word Spirit is by definition void of personhood. It is neuter. Therefore when dealing with a neuter noun, the appropriate pronoun is "it". This is a problem for the English, Hebrew, and the Greek because spirit is neuter in all three.

This can be overlooked by many as pure semantics but the problem does go beyond. As I showed earlier when we usually think of the Holy Spirit images of a dove, oil, FIRE, or some other impersonal, inanimate object flood are cognition. However, that is clearly not the case in Scripture because the Holy Spirit is a person who thinks, talks, dwells, feels emotions (weird one to think about), and finally abides in believers. Scripture points clearly,even if language does not, that the person of the Holy Spirit is a person.

It is interesting then that many who poke fun at Christians for believing in a God who is "three persons" but still "wholly God" are also the ones to tell us that a "fetus" is not a person. They gawk at our defining of personhood but then do the same thing they are gawking at by defining personhood so loosely that they can justify killing an unborn child. Because if the "it" became a "he/she" then it becomes a whole other situation. When we shift our thinking from "it" to "he/she" it demands a change. When we consciously stop "aborting" the Holy Spirit and realize He is a person that is meant to be a part of our lives, things begin to change. Life changes. Instead of the impersonal, you have a person. Instead of the inanimate, you have the animate. Instead of victimless crimes, you have a person to hurt. Instead of loneliness, you have a friend. When *it* changes, everything changes.

Let's hope *it* changes.

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14