Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heaven


I work in a public college, and anybody who works for the government knows how much we are told to be inclusive, multicultural, diverse, appreciative of diversity, etc.  I think that is an admirable goal but an impossible dream on this earth.  I also think it is a sign of our yearning for heaven and a place where birth and skin color don’t matter.  I think we can get better at it, that we can grow as a society, that we can protect civil rights of all, that we should teach respect for all, but we can’t legislate people into accepting everyone just like they would accept people of their own ethnicity, tribe, language, etc.  Only in heaven will God achieve this beautiful model, not we ourselves.  We are always going to be a little afraid of difference; of course, that doesn’t mean we hurt or demean people.  In fact, if the Christian faith should do anything for believers, it should empower them to look beyond anything external to see the soul.  God achieves it because He is perfect and His heaven is perfect; God achieves it because there is no fear in heaven (perfect love casts out fear).  God achieves it because what will unify us is not nationality or race or language but belief and glorification of God.

Here are the words of the beautiful song "Glory" sung by Selah.
One day eyes that are blind will see you clearly
And one day all who deny will finally believe
One day hearts made of stone will break in pieces
And one day chains once unbroken will fall down at your feet
So we wait for that one day come quickly

Chorus
We want to see your Glory
Every knee falls down before thee
Every tongue offers you praise
With every hand raised
Singing Glory
To you and unto you only
We'll sing Glory to Your name

One day voices that lie will all be silent
One day all that's divided will be whole again
One day death will retreat and wave it's white flag
One day love will defeat the strongest enemy
So we wait for that one day come quickly

Chorus

We know not the day or the hour
Or the moments in between
But we know the end of the story
When we'll see

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Failure of the Church, part 2

To balance out the recent post protesting the constant browbeating we get from preachers about how we have failed as individuals and the church, I would direct attention to the Good Samaritan.  This passage in Luke 10 is in the middle of a wider argument.

Jesus starts with "The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.  Pray that laborers will be sent forth."  He doesn't want us to get our eyes off the need, which will always be there, "the poor you have with you always."  Jesus wasn't being cold when he said that; he was being a realist and reminding us of our responsibility.  In no way do I want my post from yesterday to be construed as justifying ignorance or apathy about social concerns.  What I want is for us to stop acting like the sacrifices and work that is being done do not exist.

After that section of Luke 10, a lawyer comes to Jesus, testing him, and asks about the greatest commandment, which is the Shema, and "love your neighbor as yourself."  Notice the word is love, not serve.  Notice that it is the totality of your being, not just the emotions or mind or hands.  This will be enough to obtain salvation--if possible.  The standard set up reveals our sin and need by contrast, not how we can self-justify.  The lawyer isn't satisfied, so he wants to know who is his neighbor, and Jesus tells an indirect story that answers the question backward.  It's not your countryman or the person on your street, it's everyone on the planet. 

Jesus never places thoughtless obedience to ritual purity of the law over human need and compassion.  While the Levite and priest ignore the beaten man's need because of fear of defilement, they don't get way with that.  Jesus touches the lepers, healed on the Sabbath, and told his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath.  Compassion trumps all.

In the last section of this chapter, we see the Mary-Martha sister act.  Mary here is contemplative, listening, patient; Martha is busy, scolding, serving, frustrated.  I am Martha, all over.  I would yell at Mary, too.  Mary's intentions are probably good--get food on the table.  We have moved from "the whole world is your field" to "be a neighbor wherever you see need" to "choose the good part, start with me." 

Piddle

Piddle would be a good name of a search engine for people who just want to waste time looking up random information.  This from a Georgia Communication Association Executive Board Meeting.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Failure of the Church

This will be my last post of the weekend. 

I listen to a lot of Christian radio, although I am not always sure why.  Sometimes it is because they are playing some unlistenable music on NPR station; up until recently it was because I didn't know there is an oldies station again in Chattanooga.  Other times I listen to Christian radio because it's a speaker (like Alistair Begg) I want to hear; other times the music is palatable.  But you end up hearing a lot of things you just have to shake your head at.  It sometimes feels as if they have to fill up 24 hours a day, and the quality just plain suffers sometimes.

The other day a speaker was waxing ineloquent about how much we fail as Christians, as the church.  I had to wonder (and only because I get in devil's advocate moods, not because I have any knowledge about the subject) if Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Baptists, and Catholics get told they have failed all the time.  That's just about all we get told as evangelical Christians--you failed; you don't measure up; you are a disaster as a follower of Christ; you aren't feeding the poor; you aren't evangelizing; the world is a mess and it's your fault. 

I don't think I am exaggerating.  Who wants to listen to that?  Seriously?  I don't.  I am tired.  If I compare myself to an omnipotent, omniscient, all-compassionate, all-sacrificial, all-loving Christ, I will always be a big fat zero.  And you know, that may be all right.  If I am so all-fired set on not failing, who is it about? 

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes about setting up a tent for confession at Reed College.  In the tent, the Christians apologized to the nonbelievers for all the bad stuff the church did in history.  Sorry, I have enough sins of my own to deal with.  I am not apologizing for the Crusades.  I am not apologizing for slavery--I have it good authority none of my ancestors owned slaves.  Not to say I haven't benefited from white privilege, but that's a different matter.

The heart of evangelicalism is obedience and change, transformation.  And the church has let the secular media make us feel like we are the cause for poverty and just about every other evil in this world just because it is our responsibility to end it (not sure where that came from) and we haven't, so we have a really wrong perception of ourselves because of it.  It's time to celebrate our successes instead of beating ourselves up over what hasn't been done yet.  It's time to honor the faithful who are on the front lines instead of the celebrity Christians (the world's biggest oxymoron).  The Larry Peppers, for one; Dr. Pepper and his wife work with AIDS patients in Tanzania.  I could name others.  If I did some research, I could name thousands of others. 

This is not to excuse our materialism.  I am not sure whether our succumbing to sexualization of our culture or materialism are the worse of our American sins.  We've got a ways to go, but there is no value in beating ourselves up. 


Refuge

Last Sunday we were privileged to hear Dr. Steve Nichols, formerly of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and now president of Tennessee Temple University, speak at our church.  I will skip any observations about my former master TTU.  I hope the place is better now, and I hope Dr. Nichols can save it.  He preached at Brainerd Baptist because he was the mentor and professor of our pastor. He spoke on Psalm 46, God as refuge, river, and ruler.  Nice and appropriate outline.

The issue of God as refuge and tower, therefore protection, hit home.  My husband regularly tells me I am defensive.  I have reasons to be, but reasons do not mean the behavior has to continue.  If God is my refuge, I do not need to protect and defend my "self" so much.  Or at all.  It has been freeing.  That's one more step toward happiness.

The Hunger Games, The Book

I have been trying to get to the movies to see The Hunger Games, but life is complicated right now.  So, while doing the grocery shopping at (gasp) Wal-mart, I saw that they had the book very cheap so I picked it up, thinking I would pass it on to a friend who teaches reading.  I read most of it last weekend but had little time for it during the week, so I finished it last night.

It is, of course, a great read, not a dull minute, imaginative, and extremely thought-provoking.  The problem with the discussion on Christian talk radio about the movie (and the book) is one of interpretation and audience.  The book is clearly for sixteen-year-olds--not six-year-olds.  Any parent who doesn't have the good sense to read reviews before taking an elementary school child to see the movie deserves to pay all the psychiatric bills they will have to for their scarred and traumatized child. 

Beyond the violence, a child under fifteen or sixteen simply would not understand the moral, spiritual, and political viewpoints in the book. I found it a deeply spiritual book, probably because I had read a review of the movie on Christianity Today.  Peeta is a Christ-figure, so much that one appreciates the real Christ after reading the book.  Katniss only kills one person, in revenge (or belated protection) for her surrogate sister, Rue.  I don't count the tracker jacker nest.  Peeta kills no one, but is willing to die himself.  The political insights, and those about our media obsessed culture, are a whole different subject.  The cruelty the Capitol is putting the subject districts through for their rebellion eight decades before is, well, hard to describe.  Shocking, realistic, devastating, horrific, and yet banal.  It's not just that the descendants of the rebels are being punished, indefinitely, it is that the whole populace of the Capitol exists for the watching of the games, the preparation for the games, and the gambling on the games.

I told a friend it was Lord of the Flies meets Gladiator meets Survivor.

The two criticisms I would have is first that it is so clearly written for high school students that it feels like it was written, at times, for educational purposes.  All those Roman names--ok, lady, I get it.  It's like ancient Rome.  We knew that before the Caesars and the Claudiuses and the Flavias.  And Katniss and Peeta are like Romeo and Juliet.  The other thing that bugged me, although probably shouldn't, is the muttations at the end.  We are told the Capitol likes to create cross breeds.  But how could they have created hybrid humans/wolves from the dead tributes?  That crossed the line for me and took out some of the buy-in.

Will I go see the movie?  It's a time thing for me.  I am starting grad school again and this time will not blow it and will not allow all kinds of secondary concerns to get in my way, and that includes movies.  However, it took me a lot longer to read the book than see the movie, but I prefer reading, and I read for craft as well as plot and entertainment.  I can see Jennifer Lawrence in the part, and all the other actors, so I probably can let it live in my head and forgo the gruesome killings of children.  Jennifer Lawrence was so good in Winter's Bone, this is almost Winter's Bone one hundred years from now.


Suggestions for Good Books

                          
 

Chuck Colson, in Memoriam

I have two heroes in the faith.  Joni Eareckson Tada and Chuck Colson.  Chuck Colson, whose radio program I listened to every morning (or read as an email) has passed away, and in his case that is not a euphemism.  He has passed away from this life and into the total and unique presence of God.

He has passed away from his life's work, or at least the second half of his life's work, discipling prisoners and serving as a prophet to the modern American church that we must think Biblically about everything. 

He has passed away from those naysayers who couldn't accept that even though he committed crimes, he was transformed and did more for the country and humanity than they could ever dream of.  One time on Nightline we was being interviewed at the same time Bob Woodruff was.  Woodruff had the nerve to act superior; Colson was clearly annoyed by Woodruff's "I got you put in jail" attitude but kept his cool.  And what has Bob Woodruff done for humanity?

He has passed away from his family and his beloved grandson Max, about whom he spoke so compassionately.  Max has autism spectrum disorders, and Mr. Colson sought to humanize them and everyone when the world would push them aside and Hollywood would present them as entertaining freaks.

He has passed away from a number of Christian social movements that he championed, notably pro-life.

He has passed away from all of us who follow his writings and were challenged by his ideas.

I saw and heard him speak one time at a banquet.  He was speaking for the pro-life organizations in Chattanooga.  I signed up to help so that I could get a chance to hear him.  This was in the '90s.  The speech was not memorably, really, but I was glad to see him in person. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Won an Award Today

I won the Faculty Excellence in Service Award at Dalton State College today.  It means $1,000 from the Foundation, which will help immensely with doctoral work.

Everyone has been very sweet and supportive.

Don't Know Why, But This Photo Cracks Me Up
























For those wondering, this the photograph circulating around the Internet of Jeff Neely, some official in the Government Services Administration.  It is designed to mock his high spending habits.  It looks like the cover of a Jacqueline Suzanne novel.

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 18 in total

I have decided to post all of my thoughts on Matthew 18 at once.  After this I will take a short break from posting about Matthew, not becau...