Monthly Archives: August 2015

Fasting

I am constantly surprised by all the water bottles and coffee in church. It’s a couple hours people. Can’t you go a couple hours without putting something in your mouth? In America the answer is no. And so, not only do we never fast but we are all gluttons.

Traditionally churches in this country would culminate the service every Sunday with the Lord’s Table. They would not eat before Church, and it would make the communion all that more meaningful. I went to a couple churches that do this and it is such a blessing. I always eat breakfast, but I often don’t eat before church and it really does make it more meaningful. Afterwards, a big meal with family just seems right.

Mr. Creosote, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

Mr. Creosote, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Fasting really is a wonderful thing. It takes a lot of discipline. The first time I tried it, I found myself going to get some food from the cupboard without even thinking. But if you don’t have to concern yourself preparing and eating and cleaning up of food, you can accomplish a lot of other things. I think we get this to some degree, in a certain segment of our culture. When it comes to exercise or ‘natural’ food. Health nuts think that torturing themselves is proof that it’s working. They do it to preserve their earthly body or to stay in shape, but fasting was so much more. There really is a spiritual dimension, it’s discipline that is good for the soul.

We don’t really participate in lent, but I think it’s a good concept as well. Fasting doesn’t have to mean you don’t eat anything, it can mean giving up things you really like or like the most. It also reminds me of camping. Which I found was as big of a thing in Israel as it is in Montana. Camping is giving up the modern conveniences and doing without. It probably goes back to the Old Testament feast of booths, when the people built tents on their roofs. They camped out to remember when they had been a wandering people in the desert for forty years.

And so we see Christ, the new Israel, reliving that history as he fasted forty days in the desert(Matthew 4:2). Further Jesus tells his people how to fast. It should be humble and in secret, don’t put on a show for others but do it to please your Father in heaven(Matthew 6:16-18) which sounds a lot like  Isaiah 58. Fasting seems to have been a part of worship gatherings in Acts 13. We get together and have potlucks and music, but it seems strange to fast as part of public worship. I think we are doing something wrong. The other use of fasting in Acts is in also in chapter 13 and in 14:23 as well, it concerns prayer and fasting when decisions are made. I often joke, when someone gets a feeling that they should do something, that they might not be able to distinguish the real moving of the Holy Spirit from indigestion. I suppose if you are hungry you don’t have this problem. But there must be more to it than that. We know that suffering for Christ’s sake will not go without reward. It’s almost like we can suffer at our own hand for Christ’s sake. At any rate a clear mind and self-sacrifice never hurt anyone.
The other mention of fasting in the New Testament comes from the religious leaders questioning Jesus. They complained that his disciples didn’t participate in the regular fasts. Jesus told them that you don’t fast while you are at a wedding. And so we see that there is a time for fasting and a time for feasting. We don’t really participate in or put much stock in feasting either these days. We feast most days and then on Thanksgiving and Christmas we step it up to the obscene. I think the younger generations are even worse on this issue. They want every minute to be a party/concert/worship service, even at a funeral. But part of wisdom is knowing when certain things apply. When the Christ walked this earth, it was a time for celebration. Often in the Old Testament fasting was the result of sorrow, or a great burden. You prayed and fasted when times were tough, for you or your people. After Christ dies you can bet the apostles fasted. But then he rose, and they still fasted, when appropriate. The Christian life is not all one big party. There are difficult times. There are times to make tough decisions. These don’t call for perpetual feasting, they call for sacrifice and fasting. Which will make the times of feasting all that more meaningful.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.

-Joel 2:12,13

Hannah

I think it’s safe to say that David was one of the greatest men in the Bible. He was a man after God’s own heart. He redeemed the kingship after the failure of Saul. His kingship would extend to all time by the work of Jesus his son, his father. He instituted a revolution in music and gave us much of the Psalter. The great Solomon, possibly the greatest philosopher-king the world has ever known owes much to his father, and still sits in his shadow to some degree. Even as David sinned with Bathsheba and the dramatic follow-up sins, he repented just as dramatically. David was an incredible man.

But the story of David doesn’t begin with David. It doesn’t even begin with Samuel who anoints him and guides him on his way. It begins with a woman, a barren woman, as all good Bible stories start out, it begins with Hannah.

Hannah didn’t make a name for herself for all of time by breaking the glass ceiling. She didn’t demand he rights or try to do man things. She was faithful with her sex as her sex. She began by praying. She prayed for a child. Then she raised him up faithfully and gave him to the service of God. Her prayer is an amazing work. She was no fool.

12 HannahAnd Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

 

Bond vs. Hunt vs. Bond

Just happened on this critique, after having seen Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  As I left the theater I was thinking almost the opposite.  I do agree with her that the lack of sensuality and language was refreshing and seems to be an impossible mission these days in cinema.  The one plot twist I guessed and there wasn’t much for plot anyway.  I did like the uncertain nature of the female lead, just like a woman isn’t it?   But I prefer Bond.

Don't worry Hunt, she's got your back.

Don’t worry Hunt, she’s got your back.

Not just any Bond mind you.  I prefer Daniel Craig’s Bond.  I was pleasantly surprised by Casino Royale.  My views should be the opposite.  I was a teenager while Pierce Brosnan ruled as Bond, I was then more impressionable.  Generally people prefer their own company, I mean culture.   Of course every version of 007 has enough devices that appeal to the baser male instincts, but the bond from the Casino reboot was better.  Men were men and women were women.  Craig was rough and tumble, less calculating, and his heroines were actually afraid.  They might even be called damsels in distress.  After witnessing a violent battle the heroine is left crying and alone in the bathroom.  As every man knows this is not an uncommon occurrence. On the other hand Brosnan was a 90’s man, the metrosexual.  His boss was a woman, and half of his adversaries in combat were some sort of sexually perverse woman.  While M:I did have less sensuality, Bond is beginning to portray gender roles more accurately, which I think is good, and gives me great hope for civilization.   This in a day when female Army Rangers are the most happening thing around.    I don’t have much use for Mission Impossible’s heroine and her ridiculous ninja moves, and I don’t think the God of the universe, who created them male and female, has much use for it either.

In the last Bond film the one female character in the field actually shoots Bond. The metrosexual is the villain, but he’s not just partly on fire, he is a full on flamer.  And Bond confronts it comfortably, masculine.  We get a new M, who is a protective, responsible, male.  While we see the outgoing M lay down her life, taking responsibility for her faults, in a chapel of all places.   I also enjoy the new hot shot Q as a Millennial who doesn’t really see the need for boots on the ground.  And as to the dig about Bond’s wardrobe.  Any self respecting man should dress appropriately.  A suit and tie is respectful of others.

What the hell is going on here Pierce Brosnan.

What the hell is going on here Pierce Brosnan?

The relationship between culture and art is complicated.  But I think it’s fair to say that the art of cinema has a profound impact on the youth of it’s generation.  The 90’s guy phoenomenon had a big impact on the church.  As feminized males became the standard.  Many traditional males left the church, and many more were pushed out for being—males.  They were always ready to cry and share their feeling, but slow to get into a rigorous debate or stop evil when it reared it’s head.  There are plenty of dragons to fight, and plenty of boys willing to pick up a sword.  The 90’s turned them into women, it shoved ADD medication down their throat to pacify them, instead of teaching them how to sword fight.  Telling them to stand down, instead of teaching them what to fight for, whom to fight and whom to defend.  I say good riddance 90’s guy,  good riddance Pierce Brosnan.  Long live men as men and women as women.  As for Ethan Hunt. . .eh.

 

 

 

Old Habits

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Is that sin on the part of the dog?  Isn’t the opposite of a bad habit a good one?  I really don’t think we believe that today.  We think the opposite of a bad habit is no habits.  It all has to come from the heart, free flowing, spontaneous goodness.  We are obsessed with breaking tradition or not being part of tradition for the sake of repetition or it’s oldness or the fact that it is something done without feeling it like the first time. It’s almost like we think every second of our day should be taken up constantly reevaluating everything in our lives to make sure we are doing it genuinely.  Maybe you should contemplate constantly whether or not to be faithful to your spouse.  Do I love her this second?  How about this second?  Do I want to sleep with that woman on the street, more than my wife? How about that woman?  Do I love my kids this second?  How about this second?  Do I want to feed the crying baby this time?  I think it’s easy to see that this would only lead to adultery and child abuse.  Many habits are good.  Many times repetition is good.  Many times repetition without questioning is good.

So how did we get to the point where we are so obsessed with breaking tradition and bashing habits?  I think it is based on some cultural factors.  Science was born out of Christianity.  Because the God of Christianity was the faithful creator, Christians believed that they could systematically study his faithfulness as it presented itself in the natural world.  But of course observing was not enough, we wanted to use our knowledge to control the earth.  Which is why C. S. Lewis made connections between applied science and magic.  Both sought to manipulate the world for one’s own ends.  But some of it was good.  In came the industrial revolution.  We built machines that could save much labor they could feed the world, with much less labor.  Which gave us time to cure diseases and create all sorts of Art and Literature.  And so things began to change more and more rapidly.  Because new technology could do more things, we began to despise everything old, even old wisdom.  The effect seems to have snowballed.  Today we have no respect for old people, we put them in homes so we have more time to worship our technology.  They can’t work computers so they must be worthless.

There is a unique American factor as well.  Even all of our movies are about old people doing young things.   We are a people separated from our past by an ocean.  We were always making fresh starts, first on the Easter seaboard, and then again and again as we moved west.  We threw off our parents the British and set out on a new better course.  Or so the story goes.  Except that’s not really what happen at all.  The reality is that the English were the ones breaking the tradition.  They were the ones with the ‘fresh’ ‘new’ ideas about government.  It was the American founders who wanted to hold faithfully to the British Common Law tradition.  And so they issued their list of grievances agains King George.  They were appealing to something older, not something newer.  And so it goes that often new ideas lead to new problems.

We have even adapted our view of scripture to fit this new worship of youth.  We are constantly bashing the Pharisees for their old religion.  But we forget the words of Jesus, along with our common sense.

He also told them a parable:“No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good. ’”  -Luke 5:36-39

Leonardo da Vinci, Two Heads in Profile.  Da Vinci had a theory that you could not appreciate beauty without the ugly.  And so the two are in tension, in Paradox.

Leonardo da Vinci, Two Heads in Profile.
Da Vinci had a theory that you could not appreciate beauty without the ugly. And so the two are in tension, in Paradox.

The old is good?  How can this be?  I’m not sure how well we grasp Jesus’ metaphors these days.  Most people don’t patch their clothes anymore.  But back then their fabrics shrunk.  If you sewed a piece of new cloth on and then washed the garment it would shrink and rip the old even more. Similarly with the wineskins.  You make wine and put it into a soft skin.  As you dip out the wine the skin gets crusty, new wine would break it.  You don’t go buy moisturizers and waste your time keeping it soft, you realize it becomes better with age.  It’s not evil it’s just the way it is.

It’s easy to criticize old people when you are young.  New pastors come in and change everything and shake things up.  Every problem they see is old, they have all the answers and new solutions.  But a couple decades later when the new guys come in to fix the problems they created, it’s not so fun anymore.  This is silly, it’s taking only one half of the paradox that God created.  There are many paradoxes in this world, our God loves them.  Men and women are completely different, yet God’s order smashes one man and one woman together in the same household.  And it works.  G. K. Chesterton realized this he loved paradox, and so he wove it into everything he wrote:

““The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”

And so it is with old and young, they come from opposite perspectives.  But that’s what makes it work.  Old people need to not push the young to hard, but the young need to have respect for the old.  That’s the part we forget these days.  Generally the old surrender to the young, and so we keep making the same mistakes over and over.  It’s insanity.  Jesus didn’t try, to throw out the old, he trained up the young to help the old see the Old Testament again, through new eyes.  It was a slow process of generations, we read about the conflict all through Acts.  What I can now eat pork?(Acts 10) What, I can join the church without being circumcised?(Acts 11)  The struggle and tension in the paradox is what makes it work.  If either side had given up, they would have ended up in heresy.  Which is often what happens when there are splits in the church.

But the existence of habits was not the problem, the problem was that the habits were wrong.  The Bible is constantly telling the people of God to turn from their sinful habits and embrace new habits of obedience.  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” -Proverbs 22:6  Establish good habits early and as the skin hardens it will be set in good habits.  Then when you are old and you don’t have the ability to change on a dime, you won’t have to, because what you do is good.  Go to church every sunday, love your spouse every day, pray every day, read your Bible every day.  It’s not a matter of if you will be set in your ways, it’s a matter of which ways you will be set in.  There is nothing dirtier than an old man.  And there is nothing sweeter than a sweet old lady.  Should the old lady question her sweetness, because it is rote?

In a sense changing constantly is easy, which is why young people with no experience can do it, you never have to really deal with problems you can just sweep them under the rug and move on.  But a culture with no old problems is a culture with none of the benefits of oldness.  We don’t have any good wine.  We have disposable wine.  We don’t think generationally.  We don’t build on the shoulders of our forefathers.  We are always questioning and knocking down.  And so our buildings get shorter every generation.  Our habits become worse every generation.  We never solve hard problems because we are always solving the simple problems over and over.  And then the simple problems multiply, as we deconstruct everything. I think the solution is not to throw out the last few generations, but to go back and embrace generations before them, before the conformity of modernism led to the chaos of post-modernism.  Are even the young flexible enough to make this change?  And so C. S. Lewis is my guide:

“Would you think I was joking if I said that you can put a clock back, and that if the clock is wrong it is often a very sensible thing to do?  But I would rather get away from that whole idea of clocks.  We all want progress.  But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in this case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

I think a good start is to be aware of all the wrong turns we have made.  I can think of no better way of doing this than Lewis’ book The Pilgrim’s Regress.  Good luck on your way back.

 

 

 

 

The Organ Lady

Sorry the only pictures I could find were rare and blurry.  Probably because these churches don’t have media departments.

Sorry the only pictures I could find were rare and blurry. Probably because these churches don’t have media departments.

Is there any doubt that the old lady playing the organ for church every Sunday, is serving?  She faithfully shows up every week and all anyone sees of her is her gray hair peeking over the top of the organ.  She hardly gets any recognition, yet she plays.

I don’t really think the same can be said of the modern ‘worship’ band.  I have been to many pop concerts by avowed non Christians. I have been to many ‘worship’ concerts.  Frankly I can’t tell the difference.  I could even make the argument that some of the secular concerts were more honoring to God because the notes and lyrics were more beautiful, more complex and more true.  The audiences respond to both about he same, except during one concert I went to, the the band had the audience singing three part harmony, which I don’t think happens in churches anymore.  What makes it worship?  Because the words ‘god’ and ‘Jesus’ show up from time to time? How is really good ‘worship’ different from a really good concert experience?

If it’s really all about serving God, why don’t we put the praise band off in the corner with the organ lady?

How about putting them in the back?

Behind a curtain?

In dimmer lighting(And speaking of lighting, couldn’t we take all the money we spend on stage craft and help orphans or the poor? I’m just saying.)?

I am guessing that any of these suggestions might lead to sparsely populated ‘worship’ bands.

We are so worried about admitting we have a liturgy because it might lead to dead religion(Interesting that the solution to our service becoming meaningless is to just make it meaningless from the start.), but we aren’t afraid in the least that people in the worship band are showing off?  I think that’s a much bigger problem in our culture.  Everyone wants to be famous, and they will do anything to be in the spotlight.  How many dorky guys pick up a guitar to get girls, and call it worship?  How many crave the recognition above all?  I don’t know, but American evangelicalism is the perfect place for those desires to run rampant.  How many pop divas started out singing in church and craved ever more and more recognition.  It was never enough.  Can you say Katy Perry?  Jessica Simpson?  Why are people posting every detail of their lives on Facebook?  We have an epidemic of fame craving.  Why feed it in the church?

What about the church choir?  They are all wearing the same outfit, because it’s not about them.  But how will anyone know how hip I am?  How will I express myself?

What about the church choir? They are all wearing the same outfit, because it’s not about them. But how will anyone know how hip I am? How will I express myself?

I think we know it’s a performance, which is why we clap at the end.  This is how we in America like it.  We do our little specialized task nine to five  eight to four, monday through saturday friday thursday.  This is our work.  And the rest of the time we consume, and most of that time we consume media.  It’s on our phones in our cars, it’s what the professionals do and we want it for free, keep it coming.  And we even do it with religion.  Christianity is something for the professionals to do.  We pay our pastors and missionaries just like the people who make our food and mow our lawns. It frees us up so we can go on consuming, recreating,  Facebooking.  So the worship music makes us feel good for the week, and we come back for more.  Or it doesn’t and we take our business elsewhere.  It’s sad, it’s not worship.

Concert or worship? Yeah, I don’t know either.

Worship is when you lay aside all your wants.  Your music style (which is little more than the music you happen to be around.  Why don’t Americans ever spontaneously find themselves singing Hindu tribal music in Hindi?) your clothing style, your desire to be served.  And you serve other people.  You give everything you have, all your talents and skills to other people to bless them.  You lay down not only your sinful desires, but your other desires as well.  You focus on the word of God.  Not how they make you feel, or if the worship leader is fashionable enough, but on how your life does no look like his Word.  The music should be scripture sung, using the power of music, so that it stays in your head for the rest of the week.  So that his words are running through your head, not your own.  Share with one another the ways God has blessed you that week.  Come along side other brothers who may be falling into some sin, and give them advice or correction.   Share the words from scripture that have corrected you the past week. This is worship.  This is what the Organ Lady is doing.

 

Equality Under the Spandex

bikeI just returned from a short trip to the spandex universe, by which I mean Colorado.  Where everyone is desperately trying to prove that they are a 24 year old male–dipped in spandex.  I have a problem with all aspects of this.

First of all, has every notion of self respect gone out the window?  Is it really all about function?  As I have said, people used to consider others when they picked out what they would wear in public.  There was shame in looking like a slob or a bum.  Now there seems to be little shame in looking like you were dipped in black paint and someone stamped Nike on your butt in neon green.  Now people just dress to express themselves.  I’m not sure if you realize this but there are these things called automobiles, which you can buy quite cheaply.  In addition, this is a car based society, we even design our cities around them.  You can get food, go to the bank and pick up prescription drugs, all without even leaving your car.  It’s wonderful.

Oh but I’m working out, trying to stay in shape, and spandex is just more practical.  Really.  So trying to reduce air resistance, by buying expensive biking or running clothes and the lightest shoes or bicycle you can, helps you work out better?  It seem to me that if you wanted to get the most bang for your buck, you should wear cargo pants with a couple pounds of lose change in the pockets, while riding a one speed beach cruiser.  Now that’s a work out. It also works well if you are training for the big give-money-to-some-hippies-running-in-the-mud race.

Oh, but I have to run around in a neon sports bra and spandex underwear, otherwise I chafe.  Again put some baggy clothes over the underwear and you can increase your wind resistance and cultural respect in one fell swoop.  And don’t tell me it’s too hot.  I think we all know you like putting your little butt out there in rush hour traffic.  If you were really concerned about just running, cool temps and modesty you would be running at 6AM.  So, the only time spandex should be seen is if you are in the olympics.

But, worse than the issue of modesty is the problem of gender confusion.  We have been so caught up in the notion of equality under the law, which was a bedrock of our national identity, that we have come to believe that everything should be equal at every time for every one.  Just because you have a right to be treated fairly when you come before a judge to work something out, doesn’t mean that there are no differences.  Differences are great, how boring would it be if we were all Obama’s vision of ‘equal’?  We all live in concrete squares doing exactly what he tells us to do.  We all make the same amount of money and have the same job and we wear jumpsuits from Star Trek.  Not the new one, the one from the 80’s, because Obama says so.  The sad reality is that this has been tried countless times, it’s called Communism and the only thing that is equal is the poverty.

You may want a world without gender or differences, but the reality is that men and women are made the way they are.  You can accept it or be insane.  Sanity is not based on the status quo, it’s based on our adherence to reality.  The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, created reality, if you deviate from his reality you are insane.  That’s just how it works.  And seriously, we are supposedly all scientific, and you want to argue with chromosomes?  Why not take pleasure in your differences?  You are a man, do guy things with only guys, stop trying to express your feelings constantly, dress like it, cut your hair.  If you are a woman, throw a skirt over your spandex, stop trying to hang out with the guys, and grow out your hair(again more wind resistance).

And if you are old, don’t try to pretend you are 24.  It’s ok to be old and do things slower.  You have skills and wisdom and money, use them to teach other people.  Don’t let anyone convince you to worship youth.  Watch Napoleon Dynamite and thank God you are not still in High School.  And if you are 24 don’t look down on people who are much older, just because they have better things to do than find out what the latest app is and how it will waste countless hours of their life.  You are probably much dumber than you think, you probably can’t spell or read good, and the one tiny specialized skill you do have probably doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things.

But what I’m really trying to say is that you probably don’t have any super powers, so stop it with the spandex.

 

 

To the Single Girl in Search of Submission

girl bedHow to learn submission by a father who is less than Godly?  But isn’t that always the case? What man, even a strong Christian, deserves or is capable of earning your respect?  Oh sure there might be times when the glow of his logic is irresistible, but the command is hardly for those times.  Submission is called for precisely when you don’t want to, when it’s difficult, when you have all the reasons why he doesn’t deserve it.   God commands women to submit to their brute because he is a brute, just as he commands husbands to love their shrew when she is at her most shrewish.

I say submit to that father.  Peter says “wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”  If you learn to submit to an ungodly father, a believing faithful husband should be a piece of cake.  And you might win him to the faith, just as the godly wife does her unbelieving husband.  Without a word.  Peter’s choice of words is so wonderful.  Words can wear down a man, but humble submission is hard to argue with, in fact you don’t even want to argue with it.  You embrace it and buy it flowers.

There is a sense in which submission is for every relationship.  Ephesians 5:21 says “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”.  Putting other people first is the basic building block of Christianity.  There are always ways to serve others, to give money or time we had planned for ourselves, to someone else, to meet a need.

As to practical ways of learning such submission.  Get some roommates, or move back in with your parents.  Share the intimate details of everyday life with someone else.  At some point they will probably get on your nerves, I believe that is the submission lesson you were looking for.  But better yet, get serious about making yourself available for marriage minded men, rather than safely dating.  Find an elder and his wife in the church who can help you vet willing suitors, so your daughter doesn’t end up with the same problem you have.

I have also found Debbie Maken’s book Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness, to be very helpful on the subject.  It’s even good for kicking some guys in the butt.

Dumb Guys

One thing that has always annoyed me is dumb guys.  I believe that we are harder on those of our own sex because we know how we can go wrong from the inside.  You have daddy’s little girls and momma’s boys, because dads are harder on their sons and mothers on their daughters.  One of the greatest problems with my sex is the spewing of empty words, speech without meaning.

In times before our own, oaths were a big deal.  Committing to something and then backing out could be a matter of life and death.  If you can’t trust someone’s word where are you as a people?  It’s hard to accomplish much.  I think some people still value honesty these days, though the number is dwindling, but the concept of an oath is totally foreign.  And so stories like that found in Judges 11, if we actually do ever read them, make no sense to us.  Though the story was once well known and the subject of much art.   Jephthah swore a rash vow, that if God granted him victory he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his door when he returned home, as a burnt offering.  He was granted victory, and his daughter was the first to greet him when he returned home.  Now he has two bad options, break his vow and lose credibility, or sacrifice his daughter.    He chooses the latter, and his daughter is forever mourned.  It is interesting that the Bible says he was in the Spirit when he swore his oath.  Before you get too upset about people sacrificing their children, remember God sacrificed his Son.  It is the basis of our faith.

Jephthah's Return. Esaias van de Velde. Dutch. C.1602-1630

Jephthah’s Return. Esaias van de Velde. Dutch. C.1602-1630

And so today you have many guys, talking too much.  They talk about all the things they supposedly did in the past.  I rode back from Wenatchee with a trucker one time.  By the end of the trip I all but expected the President himself to greet us when we arrived back in Bozeman.  I think CB radios amplify the problem, but the same is probably true of the internet.   It’s like Uncle Rico living back in ’82.

They also talk about all the things they are going to do, with no intention of ever doing them.  And when none of them happen it is generally the fault of the government or the man, or their wives, were they lucky enough to have them.  Now there is nothing wrong with dreaming and taking the faithfulness God has given you and parlaying it into more.  The problem I am talking about is all the talking, that is not even remotely possible.   It’s the lottery ticket buyer who thinks he is one scratch away from being the CEO of his own company.  It’s the lazy guy who is telling you his business plan, which ammounts to little more than a pyramid scheme, which he is even too lazy to implement.  It’s the guy talking about all the things he is going to buy, when he is too lazy to get a job.  He wants to set the President straight but won’t take out the garbage when he tells his wife he will.

But there is a more benign form of the same thing, the idol chatter, which is just as bad.  It’s a group of guys sitting around and talking about how they would like to set their boss or someone else straight.  “We should climb the water tower.”  “We should set this injustice right.” “We should walk up to him and say. . .” “I’m going to. . .”  At least George Costanza, gets back on the plane for the perfect comeback, these guys just sit around and talk about the perfect comeback.  It’s like the old guys sitting around drinking coffee in the diner, arguing and pontificating about the problems of the world and then going home and taking a nap.

This reminds me of a newish Weird Al song, Lame Claim to Fame.  Where stupid guys are always trying to make themselves look better than they actually are, by association.  I don’t mean to demean the everyman and his humble profession.  The coal miner who sees his work as fueling the American economy is not all wrong.  This is the Protestant work ethic, which gave respect and honor to every profession, not just the priesthood.  This is what built America.  The problem comes when this guy talks about it constantly.

I once made a rash vow.  I got upset about the ensconced nature of the greek drinking culture at my small Christian college.  So, I said I was going to drive on the quad.  A piece of grass that was more sacred to the college than the character of it's students, or so it seemed at the time.  I happened to say this in front of a number of the guys on my hall, so of course I had to do it.

I once made a rash vow. I got upset about the ensconced nature of the greek drinking culture at my small Christian college. So, I said I was going to drive on the quad. A piece of grass that was more sacred to the college than the character of it’s students, or so it seemed at the time. I happened to say this in front of a number of the guys on my hall, so of course I had to do it.  But who took the picture?

The Old Testament establishes the importance of keeping one’s vows, Numbers 30 says: ““This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  It goes on to extend further grace to the fairer sex, or perhaps the more loquacious sex, of course today this is seen as being sexist.  In a culture where women are protected, they have less civic responsibility because they have greater domestic responsibility, which I think is a blessing.  And so I believe I am justified in holding my sex to a higher standard, because God does, because they have greater responsibility.

Jesus expands the wisdom regarding oathes in his sermon on the mount in Matthew 33-37.  Don’t swear by things you have no control over, such as the earth or the hair of your head, or you might find yourself like Jephthah.  If you are asked to do something simply say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and then hold to what you say.  He is not decreasing the importance of keeping your word, but showing you that very little is up to you in the first place.  In so much as it is up to you, keep your word.  The medievals used to end letters or other plans with ‘DV’ which was the latin for Deo Volente, God willing.  An idea that they got from James 4:13-17.  I suggest we bring it back, or shut up.

 

 

 

 

 

False Accusations

Do you ever find yourself a bit fearful or even feel a tinge of guilt when you go through airport security?  It’s as if you are as surprised as the TSA to find that there are no explosives in your baggage.  What is that?   I think it has to do with all the flashy uniforms and the whole production, it’s security theater and it even has you fooled about yourself.  In reality you should be upset at the false accusations.  Every minute someone spends searching you, an innocent person, is time and money they could be spending, or not spending on actual threats.  We should be upset, not surprised at our own innocence.

The TSA boasts over a 95% failure rate. Good Job boys!

The same applies and even worse in social situations.  We don’t really have as much respect for false accusations as we should.  False accusations can destroy lives, families and fortunes.  But today we throw them out like they are politically correct bird seed, at a wedding, because there are no consequences.  In Old Testament Law and even our traditional British Common Law system, false accusations carried the same penalty the accused would have received had they been found guilty.  This puts a damper on the countless false rape charges, or the few which have reached national fame like the Duke Lacrosse case or the Rolling Stone fake rape story.  Many lives have been destroyed by these accusations, while the accuser just walks away, or even writes a book.  This is injustice, we should be upset.

Accusations are aplenty.  Especially for anyone who dares to call themselves a Christian and attempts to live like it.  People are always trying to diminish Christianity, so they don’t have to confess and bow down themselves, by throwing out accusations.  It happens to the Church at large and Christians individually.  And meek and mild Christians that we are these days, we put up with it.  We continually examine ourselves as if we really were guilty of every last thing anyone could throw at us, and probably more.  Now there is nothing wrong with holding the light of the Word up to your life and making adjustments where you don’t match up.  But that should be done at the behest of diligent study, or Christian friends, or Church leadership, not the world.  What do they know, they are wandering in darkness?  We shouldn’t let them set the standard, even though they look flashy and respectable in their worldling outfits, even though there are a lot of them.  We should be upset at the false accusations.  We have the light of the Spirit living within us, we are remade.

There are some annoying clichés about the accusation revealing the accuser more than the one he points at.  It really is true.  The person any of us know best is ourselves, that is our frame of reference.  As the Oracle said to Neo, “you can’t look past the choices you don’t understand”.  If someone does something that is morally superior to what you can understand, often your only response is to accuse them of doing what you would do, which is evil.  Your limitations keep you from appreciating that they are better than you could imagine.  This is the problem Jesus often had.  Even Peter tried to correct Jesus when he said he would soon die(Matthew 16:21-23).  Peter couldn’t conceive of a world where dying would mean the salvation of the world.  So he concluded that Jesus was in error.  This is why training the imagination is so important, it is the key to empathy, it is the tool of humility.

I have noticed another type of accusation, not based on the self but on members of the opposite sex.  Close relationships can leave a deep impression on us when they fall apart.  This can leave us accusing future significant others of the things our exes did.  These are difficult to overcome and makes you realize the value of virginity and a cultural system that protects it.  Our system of casual, frequent break ups only makes this worse.

The unimaginative world is left to accuse.  We can put our lives on display, and we should never have actual baseis for accusation, though we sin, we should always repent, but we should not be always on the defensive.  We have every right to confront the world with it’s sin, and to show them the Light of God’s Word.  Some will see it and be changed, others will respect it as something they don’t understand, but others will reject it, and turn the accusations on you.  They see working diligently and joyfully to fulfill the commands of God as hard silly and legalistic.  Often the charge is hypocrisy.  Which is really what they are doing.  It is not hypocrisy to hold a standard higher than you can meet, it is hypocrisy to hold everyone else to a standard that you don’t’ hold yourself to.  Which is exactly what the world does to Christianity.  The world we now live in is one with unparalleled prosperity.  We enjoy freedom from disease and much hardship, an end of slavery and countless hours of leisure.  Effects which don’t just end at the border of the West but extend to much of the world.  This was the world built by the hard work and sacrifice of Christians, obeying the Word of God.  And now they want to nit pick and throw things back in our face, based on the standard given to them by Christians.  While they go on living in their sin.  We can’t let them get away with it.  We should not be ashamed of spreading the gospel and living it in every area of life, including the public square.  We are engaged in a task they can’t possibly understand.  Of course we should try to help them understand whenever possible, “give an account for the hope that is in us I Peter 3:15“.  But in a post-Christian world, like the one we find ourselves in the bitter immunity to Christianity is great, and we shouldn’t be so surprised to find that we are not terrorists.  We are the Salvation of the World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Servant Leadership

I would like to respond to this.

Rarely does one see so many cliche’s strung together into such meaningless drivel, that is then taken seriously.  If anyone actually takes the New York Times seriously these days.

First of all, servant leadership is good, it’s the only form of true leadership, because that’s how God made the world.  All the other forms, are just tyranny masquerading as leadership.  There is the soft chaotic tyranny of lazy selfish leader or the rigid forceful dictator.  The first wants all the benefits and accolades without the responsibility, that is what our leaders are like.  The latter just loves controlling others.  But the true model of leadership is Jesus the Christ, he was made king over all creation, by dying.  He laid down his life, his titles and his position, for the sake of his people.  We, Christians are called to follow him as we interact with the world daily and certainly as we lead.

Mr. Starbucks, despises true servant leadership though he talks a good game.  He has been quite vocal in his support for both homosexual ‘marriage’ and abortion.  Two of the most selfish, least sacrificial practices that humanity has ever devised.  The person desiring homosexual marriage has decided, not that they want to be a servant, but that they want to be served.  And who better to serve you than, someone just like you, than yourself.  So you go about finding someone just like you.  As it turns out the pattern God laid out was that men and women are completely incompatible, yet somehow their coming together makes the world work.  But the homosexual has no time for this, he is just seeking his own interests. They want all the benefits of real marriage without all the hard work.  So they choose someone of the same sex, trying to get the benefits without the hard work of relating, of sacrificing for someone different.  This is not servant leadership.

Abortion is the height of selfishness.  It is born out of a people who wants to have the pleasures of sex without the responsibility, the fruit even, of their actions.  Rather than laying down their life for their children, as a servant leader would, they destroy the life of their own, innocent child for their own convenience.  In ancient times it was dressed up as child sacrifice, which was little more than death worship.  Today it is painted as ‘choice’ with the same outcome. This is not servant leadership.

Howard Schultz, fool who happens to be in charge of Starbucks.

Howard Schultz, fool who happens to be in charge of Starbucks.

In addition these two sins, have a great impact on the culture at large, despite the lie that it’s about personal lives, or what goes on in the bedroom.  And for these cultural sins we are being judged.  This is why we don’t deserve a servant leader.  The Old Testament makes it clear, groups of men get the leaders they deserve.  We like to think that this is a new phenomenon due to the creation of democracy.  But the reality is that even kings, are appointed by God to each people as he sees fit.  The leader is a representative of the people.  When the Israel was in sin the king was engaged in all sorts of idol worship.  When the people repented, God gave them a wise leader.  And sometimes even when they didn’t repent.  Because he is a kind and compassionate God, yes even in the Old Testament. (Psalm 86:15)  We deserve lazy leadership seeking fame, because that’s what we all want, as a people.  We we don’t take responsibility for our actions, why should they?

Not only are these two practices the opposite of leadership, they are great evils, deserving of judgement.  But it doesn’t have to be fire and brimstone, in fact most people don’t even know it’s happening.  God give us his law because he loves us.  Because living by his precepts and following the examples of wisdom he lays out, is the best way to relate to him and his created world.  Often the judgements are built in, we become like that which we worship.  You want to worship fruitless sex and destroy your own children, you will soon wipe yourself out.  You just keep lowering the standard, little by little, until you find yourself a cave man.

So, sorry Mr. Starbucks, servant leadership does not mean, getting what we want out of Washington, or leading from the heart, or compromising with people who have different views(which is astounding considering that you told his shareholders, who dislike homosexuality, to go to hell), it is not someone who doesn’t belittle their enemies, and it certainly isn’t someone who supports infanticide, or homosexuality.  It’s laying down your life, your wants and desires, your dream of going to college and making a ton of money, for the sake of others.  It’s being quick to take responsibility and slow to take praise.  It’s obeying the God of the universe, instead of bragging that you are too humble to run for President in a New York rag.