Monday, May 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
At the beginning of the book Bell poses a question. A question that so many before have asked; a question both Christian and non-Christian have asked about the God of the Bible. How can a God, who claims to be all loving, nay, the epitome of love, the end all be all of love, the King of love, send so many people to Hell for simply not believing in His son? It's a hard question. Not to answer, but a hard question to deal with. How can He do that? He claims to love everyone, yet will send someone to Hell for simply not believing in Jesus. Even if the person is a good person, even if it's Ghandi. If he didn't believe in Jesus, he's in Hell, forever.
How does one wrestle with that? How does one accept and come to turns with that. More importantly, how can God do that? I think to answer this we must first take a look at God, who He is, and how He relates to us.
Who is God? That is a loaded question. Who is He? From what we know from scripture, He is holy, pefect, unchanging, righteous. He is the creator of everything known and unknown. He is the Master of the Universe. Like He-Man, only better. Our God is big! Like really, really big. And really, really good. He is all these things. But what I really want to focus on is his holiness.
To be holy. What does that mean? What makes something holy? What is holy? If you take a look in the dictionary the modern English word holy shares some of the same origins as the word whole. They even sound the same. If you take a look at the New Oxford American Dictionary's definition of whole you will find these among the definitions: "In an unbroken, undamaged state, in one piece," and, "a thing that is complete in itself."
God is whole. He is unbroken, and he is complete in himself. He is perfect. There is no better. He has no faults, no sin, no inconstancies, no quirks, and no weaknesses. He can't be bested, he can't be tricked, and he can't be beaten. So what does this mean for us? How do we relate to such a God? What happens when we are in this perfect presence?
We have that answer in Isiah 6:1-8.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ``Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.'' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
``Woe to me!'' I cried. ``I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.''
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ``See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.''
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ``Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?'' And I said, ``Here am I. Send me!''
We see here that Isaiah was in the very presence of God. He was right there. And around him were these creatures shouting "holy! Holy! Holy!" They also covered their faces and feet while in God's presence. And Isaiah's first reaction, first thoughts, first actions aren't "Hey neat, God! Sup, G?" Isaiah is faced with how perfect God is, and how completely imperfect, broken, and unworthy he is to be in the presence of such a holy God.
Lets put this in a way that we can kind of relate to. Imagine you're a decent painter. The work you do is ok. You're at least happy with it. One day you paint the greatest painting of your life. You are extremely proud of your work. It's fantastic. You pat yourself on the back and go to the art museum to hang it up with the rest of the world's greatest artwork.
You get to the museum, and go to hang it right next to one of the greatest works by Rembrandt. But before you hang it up, you begin to compare the two. You look at your painting, and you look at Rembrandt's. And when you put the two up side by side, your artwork doesn't even compare. Rembrandt is far superior to yours. As a matter of fact, his painting, next to yours, actually exposes every single imperfection of your painting. No longer are you proud. You're actually ashamed. When placed in the presence of Rembrandt's perfect painting, it exposed how imperfect your painting really is. If you want to have a perfect painting like Rembrandt's, you gotta practice and get better. You will have to be like Rembrandt.
Isaiah realized this in the presense of God. How completely unworthy, and imperfect he was standing right next to the perfect God. He even exclaimed "Woe is me! I am ruined!" In order to be in the presence of God, he had to be like God. He was no where near that, just like the rest of us.
How does this effect our relationship with God? How does this effect his relationship with us? Notice God does not immediately speak to Isaiah. Rather first one of the seraphs touch his lips with a hot coal and says "your sin is atoned for." Then, He speaks.
God cannot stand to be in the presence of sin. And I am sure Rembrandt wouldn't be to happy with one of his paintings hanging right next to one of my extremely inferior doodles. We see this in Genesis when he kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden. But He does desire to be present with us. He does desire for us to be back in his presence. So He had to find a way for our sin to be atoned for. He had to, cause we didn't, and still don't, have the capacity to atone for our own sins. And I think most of us know the rest of the story, and how that went, and how God did it. But the question I have asked it still there. How does all of this effect our relationship with God? What does this all have to do with heaven and hell?
Once again, an illustration. Let's take a look at my relationship with my parents. When I was born, my parents swooned over me. For a short while, I'm sure, they didn't think that I could possibly do a bad thing, let alone a sinful thing. I mean, just look at how cute I was. How could this little cutie be a sinner?
Sure, I probably kept them up all night a few times, crying like the dickens. But I was a baby. I didn't know any better, and I was just hungry, lonely, and quite possibly poopy. During that first part of life, my parents thought the world of me, and didn't want me out of their sight, presence, or even their arms.
Then I turned two.
In just a couple of short years, I went from cutesy little baby Alex, to learning how to say no, throwing temper tantrums, getting extremely angry when I didn't get my way, and to defying the will of my parents. At two years old I thought I knew so much more, and knew better than them. I was now the face of evil to them at times, maliciously holding their sanity in the palms of my hands.
Alright, that is a gross exaggeration, but to some extent, very true. When I became a toddler my relationship with my parents drastically changed. There were times, when because of my actions, and attempted defying of my parents will, I would be disciplined. For me it was either a spanking, being put into a chair in the other room away from them, or both. It depended on the severity of my insurrection, but majority of the time, I was sent to the chair.
I still remember the chair. I can even remember the specific chair I would be sent to. When I would do something bad, or continue to do something my parents would tell me not to do, my dad would take me into the other room, away from him and my mother and tell me to sit there and think about what I did wrong. I never did think, I just cried. At that age, I didn't get what that meant. But the fact remains that, at that moment, my actions, my behavior, was not acceptable to my parents. So much so, that they didn't want me in their presence.
But they always came back. They never left me in the chair. My father would come back and ask me, "What do you have to say?" And I would say, "I'm sorry." Then I would be back in their loving embrace and all would be right with the world.
This is God's relationship with us. There was time when his holiness could dwell perfectly with our perfection. But we fell. We became imperfect. And God had to separate us from himself. He had to put us in the chair. But the good news is that he came back to get us. But that still doesn't resolve this question about Hell. How can he send the ones he loves there? How can a loving God do that?
Let's go back to the illustration about me and my parents. I'm an adult now, and my relationship with the has fundamentally changed, like it should. But, they are still my parents. Now let's say I, like when I was a child, have a disagreement with my father and do something against his will, something he doesn't like, and doesn't fundamentally agree with. Unlike two-year-old Alex, twenty four-year-old Alex cannot simply be put in a chair and told to think about what I've done. This time the argument ends with my father not wanting to be in the same presence as me and with me storming out the door, and not coming back.
In this scenario, I have willingly left my father's presence, just as much as he has departed from me. Let's say my father cools down, and is now ready to forgive me, and have me back. But I don't come back. I have left my father. If he dies and I hadn't have gone back to him to receive his forgiveness and enter back into his good grace, I will never be able to receive it. It's done. It's over. Likewise if I die before him and never had returned to his house, there will be no forgiveness. I will, in death, be forever separated from his presence. It's game over.
But if I return to the house. If I accept his forgiveness. Our relationship is rekindled. He will be willing to be in the same room as me. We are reconciled, and back on even terms.
Now, it's obvious that I am alluding that my father in this story is God. And I know fully well that God cannot die. He's God. But I believe the point is clear. If you do not turn to Jesus now, in this life, there is no turning to him in Hell. Imagine if the prodigal son never returned to the father, but rather he did starve to death in that pig pen. His father would not have seen him and run out to him in the middle of the field. He would not have put a nice cloak on him, or a ring on his finger. The fattened calf would have happily, and obliviously, lived to see another day, and there would not have been any party. The father would be forever estranged from his son.
This life is it, when it comes to salvation. When it comes to being able to enter into the presence of God some day. After death, there is, sadly, no hope. And to answer the question, "what kind of God would do this?" My answer is a holy God. A just God. A God who gave himself up for us so that we don't have to go to Hell. A God who has given us 2nd 3rd 4th 100th 1000th 1 millionth chances to come to know Him.
Hell is eternal. 2 Thessalonians says "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."
Is that an easy pill to swallow? No! It is not. That is all the more reason we need to be fervently; with out delay; and with out ceasing telling all that we know, love, and care about, about the good news of Jesus Christ. We are also to tell those we don't care about, those we may think are wicked, evil, and just down right mean, about Jesus. We are to tell everyone! Leave no one out. The stakes are high! Once this life is done, there are no more second chances.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Now that you have that picture. That idea of him in your mind. Imagine if he were to suddenly step down from office, and the next place you see him, is completely naked, covered in mud, having lunch with a cow. And quite possibly having a very in depth conversation with said cow. Except he isn't speaking English, or any other human language. He's mooing. He's mooing. The cow's mooing back. They're eating grass. The president moos some more. The cow moos back again, and then the president reels his head back in laughter as if the cow had just said some extremely funny joke.
It is more then obvious that the president had completely lost his mind. The guy is mooing to a cow. He's living out in the farm and the wild. Talking to animals and telling them jokes. On top of that, the guy doesn't get a hair cut or a shave for seven years. I can imagine he would look something like Joaquin Phoenix after he went off the deep end.
So after seven years the president regains his mind. Comes back to us, speaking English and not cow, and says, "Sorry bout that. I claimed to have made this nation great and of my own power, and for my own glory. God saw fit to correct me, and to remind me, he had me live with the animals, like the animals. I'm all better now. Learned my lesson. I'm ready to lead you all again."
We wouldn't care. We'd still think the guy is a complete nutter. He belongs in the looney bin, not the oval office. He told a joke to a cow! He mooed! He gobbeled with chickens, howled with wolves, and wrestled with a bear. My goodness, the guy is luckey to be alive. And look at his hair, his mangy beard!
But back in the time of Daniel, that is exactly what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar (to make writing this a bit easier, from now on I will refer to him as King Nebby). You see, King Nebby was a very very powerful king of a very, very powerful kingdom. He was also very, very arrogant. And one night he had a dream. And here is the dream.
In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.
“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.
17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’
18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had.
And like dreams previous he wanted it interpreted. But none of his wisemen or magicians could interpret it. Except for one, Daniel.
So he sends for Daniel. Daniel comes, and Nebby tells him the dream. And Daniel interprets. Daniel tells him that he, King Nebby, is the tree. And that the warning is to acknowledge that God, the almighty God of Israel. The one true God. Is the source of King Nebby's greatness. It is not by his own power, and not for his own glory that his kingdom is great and mighty. But all by the power, permission, and will of God. And if he claims it as his own power, for his own glory, God will take it away from him for seven years. Not only will the kingdom not be his, but so will his mind, and dignity, and he will live in the wild, with the animals, like the animals. And Daniel warns him to repent, and not claim his kingdom's greatness as his own.
The warning goes unheeded. King Nebby one day looks out from his palace and says "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” And before he can even finish the sentence a voice from heaven says to him "This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
And that's what happens. He goes through what I like to call his "wild years." And after the seven years he looks up to heaven and glorifies God. His mind is restored, and his dignity and throne restored back to him as well.
Why do I share this story? Why talk about it? I think we need to remember who our king is. Who is in charge. Since I've been home, I've been paying a but more attention to the news, and what is politically going on. Also since I've been home here in Ohio we as a country have seen a shift of power in the congress in November's elections. We've had the Wikileaks leak. Riots in London that seemed to have gone on for weeks off and on as they rose tuition cost. We had this shooting this past weekend, which some on both sides seem to have exploited to prove their agenda, or make accusations of the other's agenda.
Now I am in no way making this blog a political platform for my views. This is not the place. This is a blog for spiritual thought and discussion. But I bring the political climate in conjunction with the story of Nebby's wild years to say this.
God is in control.
We fail, so often, to remember that. Whether it's letting our fears take control of us. Or if it's thinking that by our own power, we have created something great to display the glory of our own majesty. Neither is right.
Do you know what Nebby said when he looked up to heaven and praised God? He said this:
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
God is God. Bob the Tomato from Veggietales once said "God is bigger then the universe." Think about that. God is bigger then the universe. As far as science knows right now, the universe is huge. And God is bigger then huge. Bigger then ginormous. To put a size on him is impossible. To try to calculate him to the 10th power would be impossible and futile.
I think is is time that we Christians, regardless of political viewpoints, or standpoints, take to heart this message first and foremost. And that we preach this first and foremost. We put this ahead of any political ideaology. Our citizenship is His Kingdom. We are simply just temporary residences of this earth.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
*Before you read this post I urge you first to watch the video above.
That video above is a video I found a while ago. It was also forwarded to me by my mother. Thanks mom! I found it humorous. It is incredibly true. I've been to a few mega churches like that, and the video hit the nail right on the head in it's representation of them. Then I found it a bit disturbing for multiple reasons.
For me there is the very obvious Fahrenheit 451 scenario. Fahrenheit 451 is a book by Ray Bradbary which is a book about burning books. It takes place in the future and books are banned because they promote independent thought and then cause people to actually think, and heaven forbid, actually feel REAL emotions. So instead people sit around and watch their TVs which nothing ever really happens. And when something dramatic happens the TV puts out random images and sounds to synthesize your emotions. You feel something. You feel sad, excited, happy, or mad, but you don't know why because nothing actually happened. It was an illusion. Think of modern Reality TV. Especially anything on MTV, VH1, E!, ect. They have reality TV shows were nothing of consequence is really happening, but they add all these special camera movements, and edit it with quick cuts, and add a lot of over the top dramatic music. Now, you have your self interesting trashy TV, with the viewers' emotions being manipulated to feel a certain way at certain points during the show.
It's frightening enough that cable networks are doing this. But now I am also seeing the church do this with the media they play. Contemporary churches seem to be using music to artificialize and evoke emotion that really isn't there. It sometime seems they are trying to move the spirit rather then the spirit moving them. I don't think the congregations of these churches, or even the leaders of those churches are realizing the are doing it. Why? The answer to that is simple.
They're too busy trying to be contemporary and relevant. But I wonder if they even knows what it means to be relevant? What does it mean to be contemporary? Are we suppose to even be contemporary? Should we strive for that? Should we strive for both? For either?
To be fair, by definition, the church is always contemporary. But for the sake of argument we'll say contemporary is a style. Which is true. It is a style. A style many churches are adopting in favor of the old way of a piano and hymns. People seemed to be drawn to this style. They like it, which is perfectly fine. But we seem to make the mistake that contemporary also means the be relevant. Which is sad because in the quest to be contemporary some mega churches have failed to be relevant.
What does it mean to be relevant? How are they not relevant? Well in my opinion for a church to be relevant it needs to be relevant to peoples needs, physically and spiritually. I am sure some of them are relevant. I don't doubt it. But the issue is the contemporary taking away from the relevance. The church isn't targeting all the needs. They're too focused sometimes on being liked rather then being real. Also the worship becomes something to artificialize emotions. The videos evoke a feeling, and for a brief moment you are affected but not changed. And just like the older generation has started to worship to the worship of their hymns, some of us are now worshiping the worship of being contemporary.
The solution? How to we ensure that contemporary worship keeps the focus on God, and not the worship itself? I would say it would require us to modify and create a theology of art and technology. We need to create a theology on video and performance. How watching a video created in burch can be used as art to bring us into the presence of God rather then manipulate our emotions. A theology in which watching a performance, and performing lead the performer and audience into the presence of God. I have my toughest in which i will share later. What are yours?
Monday, May 3, 2010
Back in high school I discovered what would be come one of my favorite bands ever. It wasn't a new band. They were by no means current. I'm pretty sure by the time I got around listening to them, most of their fan base were middle aged baby boomers that remembered listening to their records back when they were in high school. I am indeed talking about a band that had rockin' guitar rhythms, with long and powerful solos that at the end, the guitar would spontaneously catch fire in combination to the heat of the friction from the guitar player and the pure awesomeness of the solo itself. Though the guitar would be on fire, it did not burn, nor did it burn the player. It was the burning bush of guitar solos. And this was in every song.
Naturally I am talking about the band Styx. They were awesome. They still are awesome. I commandeered their greatest hits CD from my mother when I got my own licenses, and that CD has, at all times, always been accessible in my car. It's a rule, nay, it's the law, it should be the law, it must be the law, that every car must have that CD in it, at all times, ready to be played for spontaneous moments of rock. Rock so great, so powerful, that it melts the faces off those who listen to it, just from it's sheer power of awesomeness.
I may be over exaggerating here, just a little bit. But I truly do love that album. And I love every song on it. Which is rare to love every song on an album, at least for me. What's great isn't just the fact that they had awesome musical compositions. But their lyrics have always found a way to hit home with me. Some of them may be ridiculous, such as Mr. Roboto, but others have such heart and depth to them.
Such as Babe, which was written by Dennis De Young for his wife for when he would go on tour. It's about how much he loves her, misses her, and will be thinking about her while he's away. It's beautiful. Or Grand Illusion, which is about the absurdity of the American Dream, and once we get where we're going. Once we have that life we so desperately want with that new car, the big house, and all the material possessions to fill it, we're still left to our own thoughts of "who am I?" But my favorite song. A song that I readily connected to, is Show Me the Way. I just love it.
Every night I say a prayer
In the hopes that there's a Heaven
And everyday I'm more confused
As the saints turn into sinners
All the heroes and legends
I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside
So afraid that I've lost my faith
Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Please show me the way
And as I slowly drift to sleep
For a moment dreams are sacred
I close my eyes and know that there's peace
In a world so filled with hatred
That I wake up each morning and turn on the news
To find we've so far to go
And I keep on hoping for a sign
So afraid I just won't know
Show me the way, show me the way
Bring me tonight to the mountain
And take my confusion away
And show me the way
And if I see a light, should I believe
Tell me how will I know
Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I'll get there someday
And please show me the way
Every night I say a prayer
In the hopes that there's a Heaven
In short, this song pretty much says. This world sucks. It's full of vial, awful people, events, tragedies. The people you look up to. Your childhood heroes, or even your adult heroes, you find out that they too have their own skeletons in the closet. And when they're brought out into the light, our view of them is shattered and broken. Not only is our faith in them gone, but our faith in their cause is badly shaken. And we're left wondering, am I on the right path?
Back in college I watched as my home church back in Ohio went through a traumatic event as we watched our two youth pastors fall from grace just with in six months of each other. These two guys had been with the church a while. One of them for over 10 years. Pouring into the youth ministry, building it, sustaining it, and moving it forward. Needless to say their actions rocked that foundation, like a massive earth quake. I watched at was once a solid youth group crumble as youth leaders and church leaders scrambled trying to preserve whatever they could of. I even heard one story of a former member that I went to youth group with question her faith because of the ordeal.
The next two years were brutal, hard years for the youth group as I watched on the outside via stories from my mother and other leaders, as they began to rebuild what had been torn down. When I would hear accounts of what was going on, I could just see that the ministry was lost, confused, and begging for God to "Show them the way."
We all go through moments like that. We all go through hardships, were our very foundation of our world view is rocked drastically, and we have no choice but to put all we know aside, look to God and simply ask him to "show me the way." But it's hard. So hard in fact we sometimes would rather shut our eyes, go to our dreams and escape. Pretend it's not there. But then we open them, look out, and see we have so far to go.
Life is rough, and an over quoted, and highly misused in my opinion, verse that we Christians like to immediately spit out to each other is Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
It's a great verse. I do like it. And boy is it the truth. But lets also take this into context. The heading of the chapter is "Letter to the Exiles." Why? Because Judah, at this point in time, was in exile. They were not living in the promise land. They were living in Babylon under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. And he was kind of an arrogant jerk.
So the letter was to give hope to the Jews as they lived in exile, right? Well correct, but read on aside from just God saying he knows the plans he has for them.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. [b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
Did you read the part where God says "I will bring you back to the place form which I carried you into exile?" God put them there in the first place. God rocked their foundation. It was God who did the banishing. Why? Well they weren't really seeking Him.
"So Alex, what your saying is if I don't seek God, he will banish me?" No. Well...maybe. He's done it before. Truthfully, I don't know exactly what God will do, because I am not Him. But what I do know is that he is good, and that even though he did say to Judah "I put you there." He also said "I will bring you out." He had a plan. He knew what had to be done to reshape the people of Judah into men of God. It wasn't to hurt them. It wasn't to punish them. It was to discipline them.
And discipline is different from punishment. How so? Easy. Punishment is repayment of wrong. You're not meant to grow from your punishment, your meant to suffer. Discipline, on the other hand is a growing experience. A disciplined athlete eats right, exercises daily. Does work out routines that will improve strength and stamina to become a better athlete. A musician disciplines herself to practice her instrument everyday. It's not always pleasant. Sometimes it's torturous. But she gets better, and better. Like a good father, God disciplines us, so that we may grow, and become better men and women of God.
Sometimes that discipline can completely rock our world. We don't know up or down anymore. We're left speechless, and almost faithless. Reaching out one last time, pleading, asking, begging God to "Show us the way." And in that little passage in Jeremiah, God says "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you."
Back to my story from earlier, I used the term "fallen from grace" to describe the situation of my old youth pastors. Truly I should have said "fallen into grace," because that is exactly what has happened. Their worlds were rocked by their actions, but they have fallen into the grace of God, and it has been amazing to hear how God has been working, shaping, healing, and revealing himself to them in their lives. It has been awesome to hear how God has been working.
And now finally with the youth group back at my home church. It has been two long hard years. They have been crying out to God, "Show us the way!" And God has answered, and he is healing, reshaping, and rebuilding that ministry. He had heard their prayers and has answered. He was sought by them, and found by them.
We all ask God at one time or another to show us the way. To restore our faith. As I have seen not only in the bible, and with my youth group, but also in my life, when I seek Him, I find him.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
My freshman year of college one of my favorite movies came out in theaters. V for Vendetta. It was one of those films that had a really awesome trailer that had me really excited to see it, and it was one of the very few movies that completely lived up to my expectations that I had from seeing the trailer. I was just enthralled with the entire movie. Up until it got to a certain point. Towards the end of the movie, the main character Evey is in a jail cell and finds a rolled up piece of toliet paper that a previous prisoner who was executed had written her memoir on. Why was this other prisoner executed? Simple, she was a homosexual.
The fictional government in the movie was a totalitarian government run by extreme religious zealots, though it doesn't outright say that's what they are, the new symbol for their party is in fact a form of the cross. And so one of the groups they target, arrest, beat, and kill are the homosexuals.
At first seeing this sequence in the theater I started to get upset. Here it is, Hollywood pushing the gay agenda on us again. I was not happy. I felt that this was an abominations, and how dare Hollywood say other wise and try to use this film to tell the American public that it's OK to be gay, when I knew the truth, that it firmly was not OK to be gay.
That's when God convicted me. Right there in the theater. He asked me, "would you rather kill them like the government is in this movie?" "Well, no." I replied. "Then why are you mad? Homosexuality is no different then sex outside of marriage. It's a sexual sin, and I do not like it. It's not how I designed it to be. But that doesn't change the fact that I love them, and I died for them as well."
Ouch. I've been put in my place.
That cartoon strip above is from a web-comic I periodically read called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. It's not done by a Christian in any way since most of the comics take jabs at the Christian faith. But despite that, this comic I feel accurately depicts what Jesus may feel when he sees his "followers" taking his message of love, and turning it into a message of hate.
I recently read an article online about the Westboro Baptist Church protesting a marine's funeral back in 2006, because they believe dead soldiers is God punishing America for allowing homosexuality, and they are just tickled pink about it. And I just have to wonder, which Bible are these people reading?
I know that the Bible is very clear on it's stance on homosexuality. It's clearly written in Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, Romans, and is even referenced in Ezekiel 16 as part of the reason why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But that's not the only reason. Reading on in Ezekiel 16 we see another part of the reason of their destruction was because of their treatment of the poor, and inhospitality to people. Jesus even makes a reference to their inhospitality in Matthew 10:14. So Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction is more then just from homosexuality. They were just terrible sinful places in all aspects. So to argue that God destroyed them for either Homosexuality, or inhospitality, is a weak argument, since it's more then likely that the answer is all of the above.
But what does this mean for us? What should our stance be on homosexuals, and how should we treat them? I think the obvious wrong answer is to hold signs that says "God Hates Fags," or to beat them up, throw them in jail, and have them executed. Because the fact is, God doesn't hate homosexuals. He hates homosexuality, but he does not hate homosexuals. As a matter of fact quite the opposite. He loves them just as much as he loves us. Cause that is who God is. He is Love. 1 John 4 stresses that God is love by mentioning it twice with in the chapter as he talks about it. And he commands us to do the same.
Also in 1 John 4 not only says God is love, but commands us to love as he does. Tells us that we are to love our brother, and if we don't love our brother then we don't love God, and God's love does not dwell in us. Jesus, when asked by the Pharisees (as part of a trick) "what is the greatest commandment?" he doesn't bat an eye. He immidiately says "Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
And in Luke 10 when an Expert on the Law asked Jesus about who his neighbor is, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. The story about the Samaritan, who was despised by the Jewish people, helps a Jewish man who was beat up, robbed, and left for dead, after two other Jewish men passed him by. At the end he asks the expert "Who do you think his neighbor was?" And the expert replies "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus simply says "Go and do likewise."
So who are our brothers, and our neighbors? Those who show mercy on us, and those we show mercy on. Mind you, not show mercy on in return, but show mercy on regardless. We as Christians are to be men and woman of love, peace, and mercy. And when it comes to homosexuals, regardless if it's choice, genetics, psycology, or any other reason that they live that life style, we are called to embrace them and love them. Not their life style mind you. We are not to say it's OK. But we're also not to judge. We are to love as God loves.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
There are a few thing in life that I find are severely underrated. A clean colon and a relieved bladder are among those feelings. I apologize for any of you that find that to be a rather inappropriate and crude thing to share, but it sure is the truth for me. There are times I feel pounds lighter and truly refreshed. I walk out of the bathroom with a spring in my step and a smile on my face, thinking to myself, “Hey, I feel really good right now.”
Another feeling that I find quite underrated, that I feel more of you can readily identify and agree with me on this, is the feeling of eating a really good sandwich. Or for those of you who aren’t sandwich lovers, just a good meal in general. I don’t mean a meal that when you finish you look at your plate and say, “That was good.” I’m talking about a meal that surpasses just being a good meal. A meal that not only taste’s good, but feels good. As my dad would say after eating one of these meals, “That really hit the spot.”
There are times, they are few and far between, but there are times that you eat something that not only tasted good, but it was exactly what you wanted and needed. It truly fulfilled your hunger, and also satisfied your spirit. It was good on all fronts. The taste, the texture, the temperature. Everything about it was good. Your tummy is full, and you are satisfied in mind and body. Today I had one of those sandwiches.
Here at work there’s a deli down the street I frequent often to get lunch. They have some really good sandwiches, as well as specials that they come up with daily. And today's special really caught my eye. It was a cajun grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and pinto mayo on a crispy toasted panini. Yum! Naturally I ordered it.
I brought it back to the edit studio where I work, to sit down in peace and eat. Most days I am in here all by myself. I work on my own, while my boss works from his home office. Today was no exception. I was by myself. And normally I would eat while watching something on Hulu or by reading up on the news.
Today though, I decided I should do something different. I decided I really should spend some much needed time in prayer while eating my sandwich. My personal time with God has been quite lacking in recent months. I haven’t really been attending church; I’ve barely cracked open my good ol’ B-I-B-L-E; and I’ve stopped praying during my car ride in to work. It’s not something I consciously decided to do. Just with personal circumstances and the busyness of life, it fell by the wayside. Not bringing my Bible with me I decided that sitting in prayer and welcoming the presence of God for just a few minutes while on my lunch was much needed. But not just praying to God, but praising him, thanking Him for the good things in life, and just sitting in silence in his presence.
So I chowed down on my sandwich and resisted the urge to crack open the laptop and watch an episode of the Simpsons on Hulu. And it was fabulous, for two reason.
The first being that the grilled cajun chicken panini, was absolutely fantastic. Not only did it taste good, and fill my hunger, but it “hit the spot.” The spice of the chicken, the crunch of the panini, the crispness of the tomato, the mayo, the avocado, All of it combined into a joyous, delectable experience with each bite being better then the last. It not only tasted good, but it felt good.
The second reason, was that I got to share this, spending a brief moment with God. Praying, listening, and praising him. Not only did the sandwich fill my hunger, and “hit the spot” but my spirit was edified by time with my Maker. It was a wonderful lunch with God.
Which is what gave me this idea, Sandwich Time With Jesus. Kind of humorous and maybe a little ridiculous I know, but I also believe that God is very personable, and wants to have a relationship with us. One in which he teaches us, guides us, as well as interacts with us, loves us, and spends time with us as we dwell in his presence. That is the purpose of this. To share devotions while encouraging others to spend time with God. I also believe that God must have a sense of humor, so not all thoughts will be super serious. I would hope that all posts will be edifying to you. Whether it be a conviction you feel that God laying on your heart, or may it be a laugh that bellows out from the deepest parts of your belly as you begin to feel joy on a gloomy day.
So turn off that TV. Put away your cellphone. Make your self a delicious sandwich and lets spend some time with Jesus. And I pray both the sandwich and Jesus “hit the spot.”