Friday, January 29, 2016

Confession time

Okay, okay, I have to admit something, confess something because confession heals the heart. Right? I have contracted a virus that is sapping my energy and melting my compassion.

Okay, okay, I'll admit it. It's hard, because, well, because, oh, let's just say it's hard.

I don't like someone. Oh, I love him because I'm supposed to, must, assuredly need to. But I don't like him. And that indeed is a virus.

He's brash. I detest brash.
He's loud. I detest loud.
He's rude. I detest rude.
He's arrogant. I detest arrogance.
He think's he's the first of his kind to ever go round this merry-go-round. He's not. But that's a brash, loud, rude, arrogant statement.

He think's he can say or do anything because, well, because, oh, let's just say he thinks he can. And as long as he keeps doing the things he's doing, well, I suspect he will. Till I get my antibiotics, and get the right one, the virus will get more insidious.

Now, this (virus) dislike didn't start recently. It's been brewing for about four years I reckon. But this year it's blossomed into outright deep-held dislike. Not hate. That would be silly. But deep-held dislike seems the appropriate flavor.

I could tell you who I dislike so much, but that would be counter-productive. Seems the virus picks and chooses with random ability and harsh feelings. 

The virus' symptoms include outright shouting at the TV, mumbling to myself, fever, light-headedness, dizziness, and at times a moderate changing of my face-color to a light shade of red.

The virus is easy to catch, by the way. A little dab of it will do you, if you know what I mean. 

I thought I would teach everyone about this virus by going to Scripture. But there are only three references to dislike in the Bible and none of them apply. There are many references to hate, but most of them are about God hating something.

Like: here are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

The person that I have such dislike for has haughty eyes and a smile a mile wide but as far as I know doesn't lie, hasn't shed innocent blood, doesn't devise wicked schemes, but does have quick feet. However, he certainly stirs up conflict in the community.

Whew. Now I've gotten that off my chest, perhaps, just perhaps I might get better. Might.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

True worship

From the famous dialogue with the woman at the well: Jesus replied, “The time is coming, ma’am, when we will no longer be concerned about whether to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. For it’s not where we worship that counts, but how we worship—is our worship spiritual and real? Do we have the Holy Spirit’s help? For God is Spirit, and we must have his help to worship as we should. The Father wants this kind of worship from us."

We're not standing at any well this morning. But the question about worship still is very much a challenge to us.

According to Jesus, and of course he was referring to the Jerusalem versus non-Jerusalem cage match, it doesn't matter where we worship. No, it's the how not the where that matters. He wants spiritual and real worship, and according to the Man, we might just need the Holy Spirit's help to worship God in the first place in a real and authentic way.

I'm going to do some confessing now, because I've learned (and read) that it is like a spiritual self-cleaning oven.

There are times when I'm absolutely flat in worship. When that happens, I've come to church, not to the Lord. I pray so hard that the Holy Spirit joins me, and all I feel is tired. I ask God to preach through me, and I know it ain't happening. Doesn't happen often, but in total truth, it seemed to happen to me last week. As I told many, suddenly I felt I had a good 10 minutes but I had written 30. It was like I was in the middle of an Aaron Sorkin screenplay where the dialogue I had written was simply un-sayable. 

At the point of collapse after the first church service, I simply skipped whole sections of the prepared material and went with my gut, and my emotions, and my God. Things changed a bit, the sermon went better, and I suddenly, very suddenly, felt his presence again.

It is not in our buildings, and I preach at one of if not THE most beautiful church I've ever been appointed to, that we find God. Instead, it is in the mystical attraction then connection that we sometimes but not always get on Sundays. No building can do that for you.

I return over and over to the phrase, "For God is Spirit, and we must have his help to worship as we should."

HE helps US worship HIM. What a formula. 

If we're in a church that hoots and hollers, like my daughter described one, you still need God to worship Him.
If we're in a church that stresses silence and respect when walking into the sanctuary, you still need God in the silence to worship Him.

Can you get all that apart from the church? It depends on what you see the church as. If the building is the be-all and end-all, you might need to check yourself. He's not moved by beauty of walls and even stained glass depictions of his Son, no matter how beautiful.

Nah. He is moved by love pouring out like water from a pitcher.
He is moved by true devotion, true intimacy, true relationship, and most importantly true worship.

So, this Sunday when you get duded up and head off to show your duds to the friends that you always sit by in church, remember that He's watching and listening. The service is not about the pastor, not about the choir, not about the praise band, not about the music or the decor. The service is about Him, and Him alone.

I am sure of this.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Duck and cover

      Man, did you notice? Did you go to sleep and wake up to, well, doomsday?
      The truth is out there. Whoops, still coming down from there being new X-Files on television.
      Anyway, the terrifying truth that is out there is that The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to the world’s end, stands still at three minutes until midnight, scientists announced Tuesday.
      It remains at the position it moved to one year ago. That the clock moves no closer to midnight, the indicated end of humanity, remains "grave" news, its makers stressed.
      "Unless we change the way we think, humanity remains in serious danger," said Lawrence Krauss of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the nonprofit that sets the clock.

"Action now can reduce these threats," he said at an announcement in Washington, "but only if we recognize them honestly and face them head-on."
      Manhattan Project scientists, concerned about the first atomic weapons, founded the nonprofit Bulletin in 1945. They created the clock two years later, and update its minute hand each year.
      Just how the minute hand moves is determined by the Bulletin’s boards of directors and sponsors, which include environmental scientists, physicists and 18 Nobel Laureates. In other words, a bunch of smart folks get together and vote, apparently.
      Krauss, a physicist who chairs the group's Board of Sponsors, said Tuesday that progress over the past year including America's nuclear deal with Iran and the Parris accord to slow climate change. But that was balanced by negative developments including tension between the U.S. and Russia and North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weaponry.

      The clock remains at the closest its pointed to mankind’s doom since 1984 amid the Cold War. The reasoning for its move there last year: rampant climate change and an ongoing threat of nuclear weapons.
      Anyone remember what the heck happened in 1984? Yeah, thought not.
          “The probability of global catastrophe is very high,” Kennette Benedict, the Bulletin’s publisher at the time, said. “This is about the end of civilization as we know it."
      Well, I would hope so. But my questions are these:
      1) The Iranian deal can be cancelled if Iran is shown to have done more with nuclear weapons, thus making it kind of silly. How does that help.
      2) The climate change accord is not binding and there are no penalties built into it. Again, how does that help?
      3) Crazies with nuclear weapons (North Korea, possibly Iran) make all the progress mute. In other words, two nutty North Koreans trump (lord I hate writing that word) one environmentalist.
      No questions in the third. I just wanted to write that phrase: Crazies with nuclear weapons.
      Look, we have plenty to worry about without getting up in arms about such as these things.
      Looking into scripture, which sure seems to speak to end times, I read this: But no one knows the date and hour when the end will be—not even the angels. No, nor even God’s Son. Only the Father knows.
      That means, uh, NO ONE. NADA. Zip. Zilch. 
      Not even the most brilliant of the nuclear scientists, and by the way, I've never met a nuclear scientist. Are we certain these folks still exist?
      The Bible also is fairly clear about what we need to do as we ponder and lose sleep over the probability of global catastrophe.
      It says: So my (Jesus') counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear.      
      We can't prevent nuclear problems; We can't do squat about global warming in the long run; We might never met an Iranian or a North Korean leader, either.
      But what we can do is simply not worry. Collect ourselves. Pray. Receive peace. Be calm (and duck and cover).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Letting go

"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet." James 4: 1-10 (Msg) 
What's the No. 1 fall producing feeling?
I suggest it's that we desire what everyone else has. We're not satisfied with what we have. And we, whether we admit it or not, we have so very much. Compared to most of the rest of the world, we are RICH. If you've got a roof over your head, of any kind, you eat at least once a day, and you have some change in your pocket, you are doing better than a lot of people in the world who have nothing to call their own.
But we see other folks stuff, and we want it. That's what coveting is, wanting what somebody else has. 
And people will sometimes do anything to get those things. We kill, and we covet, and we quarrel and fight, as James says, but still can't have what we want. The circles goes on and on, over and over, round and round. We want, we covet, we quarrel, we fight, we're not happy with what we get, so we want more and more and more and more.
The real problem is that our desires are completely without question or doubt messed up. 
We want what we want and nothing else. Certainly not what God wants.
The strange thing is we get better by admitting how little we can fix this thing on our own. Fix ourselves on our own.
The answer is to let God work his will in us. Let him purify us. Hit bottom and cry our eyes out.
Scriptures tell us to give all our worries to him.
Jesus said Come to him all who labor and are heavy laden and we would get rest.
Paul told us to not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. ... Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we could understand.
I learned a long time ago that the best I can hope for, the best I can do is let go and let God be God.
But I suspect that might be outside some of our perception.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Saturday Night Live

It's Monday. No denying it. It creeps up on me and makes me, well, cranky. But there it is. So, forgive me ahead of time.

But I must vent. It has come to my attention that we are in serious trouble. All of us. We are doing nothing positive to make it better.

Remember when we, as a country, used to have serious discussions about serious matters? Remember when we, even if we disagreed with the other side, thought we could be better, do better? Remember when we dreamed, and we thought as a country we could meet those dreams?

I do. I really do.

Today we're in a Saturday Night Live skit. We're living it. Our candidates for the highest office, hence those who help provide the dreams, are at best, well to put it as nicely as I can, less than superb.

Seriously. Does anyone out there, any reader out there, feel inspired by the candidates? Are we still dreaming of a better land? 

A socialist?
A re-run?
An incredibly narcissistic billionaire with no experience whatsoever in government.
Candidates from both sides that in many, many other years would be unelectable because of what they've done or what they've said.

This is how it has been for a while.

Remember when we were going to attack poverty at its core and drive it back? Yeah. Failed.
Remember when we were going to defeat drugs? Yeah. Failed.

We tried.

What policies, grand or otherwise, have we proposed in the run-up to the general election?

Building a wall to keep folks out? Really? We're really going to build a wall around the country to keep illegals out? Really? This is a policy?
Somehow taking all the funds from the millionaires and distributing it to the less fortunate? Really? We're going to regulate who gets what?

These are the policies we're going to build a future on? We are really living in a Saturday Night Live skit. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ignoring God is pure ignorance

"Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! If he sows to please his own wrong desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death; but if he plants the good things of the Spirit, he will reap the everlasting life that the Holy Spirit gives him." Galatians 6:7-8 TLB
The sky this morning is so dark it could easily be night. The cold rain splays on concrete like blood from a particularly deep arterial spray. 
It is cold, and it will be getting colder all day into the depth of winter night.
It is the kind of day that it would behoove us to simply pull the cover back over our heads, hunker down, and sleep the rest of the morning
And yet. And yet. God is good. We, understanding that we can't ignore our good God, have the ability to plant good things of the Holy Spirit, and we will reap the everlasting life that the Holy Spirit gives him. Isn't that a wonderful shaping of the text?
Let me give you a wonderful telling of a story from portions of Psalm 78.
"But their greed knew no bounds; they stuffed their mouths with more and more. Finally God was fed up, his anger erupted -- he cut down down their brightest and best, he laid low Israel's finest young me.
"And -- can you believe it? -- they kept right on sinning; all those wonders and they still wouldn't believe!
"So their lives dribbled off to nothing -- nothing to show for their lives but a ghost town. When he cut them down, they came running for help; they turned and pled for mercy. They gave witness that God was their rock, that High God was their redeemer, but they didn't mean a word of it; they lied through their teeth the whole time.
"They could not have cared less about him, wanted nothing to do with his Covenant. And God? Compassionate! Forgave their win! Didn't destroy! Over and over he reined in his anger, restrained his considerable wrath."
It is cold. It will be getting colder. It will be wet (100 percent forecast). It will be a miserable day.
But through it all, God will offer mercy and love, grace and forgiveness. So, no matter what falls, God will be there holding the umbrella. No matter what goes wrong, God will be there pointing toward the right.
The only thing that can possibly go wrong for us is if we ignore the umbrella, ignore the offer of the overcoat, ignore the bright light of mercy.
That's ignore-ance in its purest form. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How big is your God?

           The idea for these ponderings is to look at a piece of scripture and remark. It’s that simple, but that complex.    
           We are currently in a five-part series looking at how much God can’t do so that we can delve all the things God CAN do.
       How many of you have heard the children’s song – My God is so Big?
"My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
He made the trees
He made the seas
He made the elephants too.

My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
The mountains are His
The rivers are His
The stars are His handy work too.
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,

There’s nothing my God cannot do."
When you're hurting, physically or emotionally or mentally, it's hard to think that way. That God is so big, so strong and so mighty when a snap of a finger of God would change everything.
So, we wonder why if the mountains are His and the river are His and the stars are his handy work, then why doesn't he are the tall mountains are His then why doesn't He fix whatever is wrong with me?
Big, strong, mighty... but not here, right now, right then.
Or is He?
See, the thing about our thoughts and about His ways being different than our ways. First of all, his thoughts are organized. He doesn't fall apart when the skies skip a beat or the hips organize a sit-in. 
He is God. He is strong enough, big enough, wise enough, mighty enough, loving enough, to make all the brokenness go away.
The key, and the point of all this, is to let God be God and let us be us. And the twain shall meet.