Archive for the ‘OT Observations’ Category

Hope: Going to Seed

June 24, 2017

dandelion-flowers1My youngest daughter loves dandelions, particularly in two different stages. There is the blooming stage, when it can be applied like makeup to her face, and to the poor unsuspecting dog. And then the most fascinating stage when it goes to seed and just begs for children everywhere to blow the seed to all the neighboring lawns. When I hear the phrase, “going to seed,” I think that is the end of something. But what if we reversed that? What if the end is really the beginning?

In Christianity there are lots of reversals. In creation, a “day” begins at sundown, “And there was evening, then morning – the first day” (Gen 1:5). Jesus says, “The last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16). So, when I think of hope as defined in Christianity I think the same metaphor applies.

Hope is sometimes defined as a wish like, “I hope I win the lottery,” or “I hope it doesn’t rain today.” There isn’t a lot invested in it, and the outcome, though disappointing, is not of great despair. However, this type of hope will not sustain you in crisis and adversity. And when I come to the end of my life, or just the end of a life-stage, this definition of hope leads only to depression, gloom and well, hopelessness.

4005f6afce37a7bdf7ade0c3677497ffWhen we hope, we are looking toward the future. But what happens as we age and “who I am” is more “what I was?” I think back to that dandelion in my daughter’s hand. I see her reach for the yellow ones, brushing them lightly upon her cheek. She chases the dog to rub the yellowy powder into her furry face. In a couple weeks, she will be just as happy to go out when those blooms she didn’t pick have turned to white seeds.

I think some of us believe life is at its best when in bloom. We can’t wait to grow: from shoot to bud then bloom. But we aren’t so attracted to the seed stage. We pick flowers right before they blossom for our loved ones and dry them to cherish their memory before they wilt too far. But what if in the end is the beginning? What if evening is the beginning of the new day? What is the last is the first?

o-grandparent-and-grandchildren-facebookSee, a flower, “blooms where its planted.” But the dandelion seed has the greatest adventure dancing upon the traces of the wind looking down from the sky to find a new green place to color with patches of gold. Do not despair. Have hope. The best is yet to come. When you come to the end of something see the beginning that will sprout from it. The potential in your seed outweigh the beauty of your once perfect bloom. When you feel that you are more defined but what you were think of the dandelion and have hope. A flower’s job is to make the next season brighter.

In God’s Image – Creator or Consumer?

August 20, 2016

lego_r7_c2Much has changed over the years and yet, “nothing is new under the sun.” The desires of Adam and Eve still drive the humanity today, only with cooler gadgets. This summer my girls participated in a Lego Robotics Workshop hosted by the Franklin Public Library. I was overjoyed to see them bent over Legos and laptops while creating in an air-conditioned room rather than bent over handheld screens, consuming a foreign-made app, and walking aimlessly around town. pokemon_goWe have shifted from creators to consumers. America used to create and consume, now we outsource the creation but continue to consume the products. There are some pockets of resistance like this robotics club and maker’s markets for that I am thankful. But overall we are falling back to the original lie in Genesis: to be godlike one consumes rather than creates.

When we think of the Greek pantheon and other ancient mythologies the gods are crafted in our image. What would we want if we were gods? We would want a lazy life, loyal subjects, and ample food and pleasures. The God of the Bible on the other hand was not created in our image, rather we were created in His likeness a creator who calls us to cultivate his garden.

amt-34-ford-5-window-coupe-model-kit-scale-1-25-unsealed-plastic-car-5f5b15322809a83c799e88733b8b84e2When I was young I played with toys of creation. We had Tonka Trucks, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, models, and (of course) Legos. Even the parents experienced the maker’s universe before Christmas as they conquered the chaos of multiple parts, tab A and slot B, building bikes and Barbie playhouses. As I grew I worked for my neighbors, mowing in the summers and shoveling in the winters. Money and extras were earned. My allowance came with dirty jobs like taking out the garbage and clearing the dinner table.

One of the problems with modern America is that there is less emphasis on the making and more on the taking, less on creating and more on consuming. The toys have changed from creating to consuming. Even video games went from level advancement based on skill to advancing based on in-app purchases. Kids aren’t eager to mow or do dirty jobs for an allowance. Afternoon commercials reveal the transformation. When I was home sick from school I saw Sally Struthers encouraging the unemployed on how they could receive new training. Now our afternoon commercials beg us to file lawsuits while staying unemployed.

adam26eveAdam and Eve, even without an iPhone, followed the same mentality. Why work when you can get it by consuming something? They were called to create and cultivate and instead they chose to partake in order to gain the benefits without the work. We forget that the Sabbath Commandment begins, “Six days you shall work…”

As school starts I urge the church and parents to re-cultivate the maker mentality for the next generation. Let us urge them to create more than they consume and therein find the pride of being made in God’s image.

Star Trek, Tikkun Olam, & Tending a Christian Positive Vision

July 16, 2016

leonard-mccoy-leonard-bones-mccoy-6347756-500-379This summer I began watching Star Trek. It started as a Netflix nightcap. I’m not nor have I been a Trekkie. Therefore, I humbly request grace from the Trek Nation. To parody Bones, “I’m a theologian not a astrosciencefictionist!”

Over the past couple years I am disheartened as I read the news feeds or watch the summer blockbusters. The movies are dystopian operas of adolescent angst out to purge some empire. The fiction feed reality as the populace arise in violent protest against whatever imperial aggression a various group is targeting. At night then, Star Trek offers sanctuary to explore new worlds of aliens that remind us being humane is supposed to be a human trait.

Star Trek, as I understand it, takes place in the future where society has improved. Basic needs are met for everyone. Earth is united, and the Enterprise’s mission is to seek new lands and cultures for curiosity rather than domination. This is a Edenic society for men and women of any color, creed, nationality, race, religion, and proclivity.

uhura_chekovOf course, when the original series aired it was the antithesis of 1966. The world was embroiled in a cold war (but Chekov was a navigator on the bridge of the Enterprise). It was the time of the National Organization for Women and the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Yet, before there were female astronauts or military officers in the USA, Star Trek’s Chief Communications Officer Uhura was a black woman. President Kennedy had been assassinated a couple years earlier, we were at war in Vietnam and protesters of various kinds marched the US streets.

It was written by Gene Roddenberry, a bomber pilot and police officer, who gave us a world where arguments were solved with words rather than wars. Star Trek gave us something better, a utopia to look towards. It was a reminder we are better than this and should strive to be better than this.

Our current trajectory mirrors the late 60’s/early 70’s with Russian conflicts, American rights under scrutiny, and a bogged down war in Asia. The world needs a new Star Trek conscience. We the church should write the script. The church has this future utopian society to share. I am worried sometimes we read the prophecies and focus less on the desert blooming and more on the destruction looming. Roddenberry said, “Star Trek speaks to some basic human needs: that there is a tomorrow.”

tikkun-olamThere is a Jewish saying called, “Tikkun Olam” translated as “Repairing the World.” From Genesis our first commands are protection and cultivation of the whole planet. Israel was a culture-busting nation. What other nation provides cities of refuge for the accused to have a fair trial for instance? Let us tone down the rhetoric and work to repair the world, to provide a vision of the utopia to be had, where the Joel 2 prophecy of male and female, slave and free, is as obvious in reality as it is on the fictional Enterprise bridge.

Innovation needs Righteousness

November 7, 2015

I find it interesting that the Bible records two men named Lamech who have inspiring, imaginative, and innovative children. One son, Jabal, began the first communities and commerce by creating settlements and domesticating herds. His brother Jubal gave us culture by inventing musical instruments. Their other brother Tubal-cain gave us technology with the process for creating bronze. At the same time there was another Lamech whose son was a farmer. His only other description was that he was a righteous man. And only that son, Noah, was saved through the flood. I see the pattern reemerging with the new innovators and inspirational people disassociated with and ridiculing the righteous.

When Israel first became a nation their neighbors had far more advanced metallurgy. The Philistines had moved from bronze to iron unlike the Israelites. Only two people had these new and improved swords – King Saul and his son Jonathan. After David and his band of righteous men lived among the Philistines they were able to acquire the new smithing technology. David may have started with sling and stone but reigned with iron in his fist.

Technology and innovation are not bad but they are best used in tandem with righteousness. Did you know that hospitals in the West began because of Christians taking care of the discarded sick along the roads of the Roman Empire? The arts and culture appeared on the walls and ceilings, and in the music-filled halls of the churches before museums and theaters were created. New technology and the first major use of print media empowered the Reformation under people like Martin Luther and the printing press. Public education began in the 1780’s as an ecumenical movement to create what they dubbed Sunday Schools where children for the first time could learn reading, writing, arithmetic, and biblical comprehension no matter their economic status. Before foster care and nursing homes there were church-funded orphanages and convalescence homes. All of these were publically funded by generous donations and not underwritten by the government.

Some people say that the culture of America started to decline the moment prayer was taken out of school. I think it was earlier than that. It was when the church allowed all of these institutions to be run apart from the church. Our local schools are suffering because of an impasse on the state budget. Healthcare is extraordinarily expensive now that the government is managing it. Hospitals are ending chaplaincies. The red tape for honorable foster parents is both headache and heartache. The media even attacks Christians suggesting that just by being religious disqualifies one for even the office of the president.

Genesis reminds us that a nation filled with community, commerce, culture, and technology apart from God is no match for the Flood. I believe we are called to be innovators and simultaneously proclaim our righteousness through our work. Join me in reclaiming our part in the public to create a just society based firstly on Christian compassion.

God’s Use of Limitations

September 30, 2014

I’m in the middle on a horticultural experiment at my home. It might be more rightly called a lackadaisical attitude concerning gardening. I like plants; I don’t like tending them. I’m not sure I’d even dust silk ones. If an inventor created affordable, authentic looking, dust repelling, fade resisting plant replicas then I would probably buy them. But I digress. Outside my back porch railing is a wild rose bush. I allow it to grow, wildly that is. The growth of this rosy beast is impressive as it weaves onto the lattice of my porch railing. One of the great stalks has split into a beautiful three headed green dragon-esque shoot worthy of being cast in the next DreamWorks animation. The weather has been great for growing these mighty tendrils. However, these leafy verdantly vibrant vines are missing a critical element: rose buds. In its effort to reach the second story of our porch it exhausted its resources on infrastructure having nothing left for the beautification. And therein lies my proverb, “limitation allows one to flourish.” The not-so-secret art of rose tending is to prune. I think the not-so-secret art of life is quite similar. we speak of God and his attributes we undoubtedly begin with his immeasurable qualities: omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal. But in the Bible God often reveals himself through his work of limitation and boundaries. The creation fiat is basically God’s imposition of limits. Eternity now includes time. Time is measured by day and night. The earth is the epitome of boundaries with firmament, land and sea. Before the creation of the things populating the earth God begins with the rules and the boundaries. In order for all things to flourish in symbiosis boundaries and limits must be imposed.

And God continues to use limit as a way of expression for himself and of his followers. God often appears veiled in clouds. The ultimate appearing of the all-powerful deity is within the limitations of our human frailty as Jesus. And for us his followers the imposition of limitation is the very gateway to our destination in a closer walk with God. Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge. Don’t work every day. Live within moral, ethical, and spiritual boundaries. The very word “holy” simply means “to set apart” or more directly, “be different” and God declares, “be holy as I am holy.”

Have you ever thought of the power of limits in one’s ability to flourish? Procrastination reminds us we have a deadline. The patient given terminal news makes the most of the days left. God asks us to prune in order that we flourish. The farmer limits a field to one crop for a better harvest. My neighbors do not admire my thorny bud-less vines. So maybe it’s time to recognize the God who beautifies within boundaries. Monogamy, work/Sabbath, extracurricular activities, media, clutter, etc. Live vibrantly in moderation. So then, where is God asking you to prune and in so doing find yourself full?

Manna, Meanies, Moses, & The Master of the Meal

February 1, 2014

In Exodus 16 the recently freed Israelites are beginning to complain. After a month and a half since their salvation from Egypt the wilderness rescue is becoming stale. Oh the glory of the day of darkness and the great rescue and baptism through the Red Sea were old news.

Image“we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full…you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” (Exodus 16:3)The Passover bread is gone and they come to Moses saying,

Predictably, the congregation blames the human leader. “Moses, get us bread, feed us, we are starving! Our pagan Egyptian masters were better than you!” We servants of God are easy targets and sometimes we forget to whom we are servants. Are we the congregation’s servant or God’s servant? We don’t live to serve the people what they order up, we serve The Lord and He says how, what, and, when we serve His people. It is easy to get rattled by the vocal riffraff. But hear the word of The Lord.

The very next verse Moses hears The Lord. That makes all the difference.Moses is then able to speak to the congregation reminding them of who is the true food dispenser.

“Your complaints are not against us but against The Lord.”  (Exodus 16:8)

Pastors, do not become hasty with the people, they have been fed from crock pots brimming with meat in the pagan world. Its a smorgasbord in the land of sin. Gluttony ran rampant in their previous walk. Now they are called to moderation and simplicity. Manna flakes doesn’t come in cool packaging and Super Bowl ads. The miraculous meal is basic, bland, and well, uncool, with a seriously short shelf life. Don’t think when they complain of the fare that they are complaining to the chef, for it is the supplier and their palette with which they are at odds. You are to be trustworthy in your job, but remember you job is not to rain manna, you just help them see where and how to gather. I know it is hard not to take it personally, but the one truly offended is the master and financier of the feast. Keep pointing the way, the desert air will eventually have them hunting either for the true sustenance from above or they will give up and return to their glutton-based life of sin. Friends, remember it is not the Pastor who you are to blame when you go away hungry on Sunday. We preachers declare where and when the manna will be, the manna given by God. Preachers direct you to the Living Bread. Our Father in Heaven provides it. Listen to the preacher for instructions, yes, lest you end up with a bunch of maggoty bread. But remember, you are fed by God and in the feeding I mean you are provided the opportunity to obtain it; it is your responsibility to gather and prepare at the appointed time.

The world offers up sin on a silver platter. Pastors, we offer an eternal life sustaining meal. Church, do not neglect the real food for a fancy dish of death. Pastors, offer the living bread broken for them. Help them see it and follow the instructions for life. Help them come to the table. Do not take umbrage if they walk away. Do not think you are the Master of the feast. Do not take credit. Remind them it is the Lord’s gift they are presented with. Don’t sugar coat it. And do willingly give it away to hungry sin saturated souls who are in need of real food for their sullen souls. God even gives to the complainers, which might even be you, oh pastor. Freely received, freely give.

Bleeding for Baal

January 31, 2014

1 Kings 18:20ff describes the sacrificial face-off between the 450 prophets of Baal against the singular prophet Elijah. Elijah gives the prophets some time to allow Baal to answer their prayers for supernatural ignition to their sacrifice. After Baal’s continued silence to the prayers of the prophets they resort to another tactic. I Kings 18:28 says,

“So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.”

When all else fails shouldn’t our gods respond when we are willing to bleed for them? How many servants of the true God have also resorted to that lame prayer out of our frustrated silence, “But God, I bled for you. Look what I’ve given, what I’ve sacrificed. Haven’t I done enough for an answer?” And that is when we find that we have got this whole worship thing all wrong – we’ve paganized our worship.

You see we servants of The Lord must be careful concerning our tasks as, well, servants. We serve Christ. And in the silent hours when the mystery of our Lord’s will and way enfold us we must be careful not to revert to our hedonistic roots.

We serve God, not the other way around. When we expect God to show up because we have the ritual down, when we expect him to move based upon our contribution, when we are desperate to call down fire from heaven to impress the crowds, we become the puppeteer holding the strings making God dance and thusly fail at true worship.

We should always question our motives. Are we bleeding for God because we think that it will enhance our worship or bring answers, glory, or success? We must not bleed for God nor sacrifice for The Lord for the purpose of received blessings. Our blood, our sacrifice, our very selves are a gift to God, not the passcode to blessings.

Jesus paid it all. He doesn’t need any more blood. We overcome because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Instead when the heavens are silent is it because we’ve been overcome by the blood, sweat and tears of sacrificial backscratching? “Gee God, come on, light my fire, you can see I’m giving it 110%”

Make our worship true. Do not love God with a hook; don’t love him with an agenda and when it is not fulfilled bail. We need to bail out on our Baals. We must guard oursleves and our flock that we don’t treat the Lord as a Baal who needs coaxing to be my prosperity god.

Jesus says in John 4:23, “But the hour is coming, and now is when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”

Truly worship him because of who he is and not for what you do for him or even what He does for you, let one day he doesn’t do what you want or when you want it. For if your worship is tied to either your sacrifice or his response to it when it fails you will have no reason to worship. When The Lord gives, when He takes, when He speaks or is silent, blessed be the name of The Lord.

Past the Hope of Healing (Jeremiah 14:19)

November 1, 2010

Jeremiah 14:19, “Why have you wounded us past all hope of healing?… We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror.”

Dear Lord, may I have the fortitude of faith to endure when I pray for healing and find none. May I have faith to see in my hurt the profound power of mercy and grace – when the answers to prayers are “no.” My faith will not shatter even in my brittle body for I am not my ailment; I am not defined by the limitations of my body. I am defined as “in your image” and just as your image was marred upon the whipping post and crucifix and from brokenness flowed divine grace and mercy I too can identify with You and from that pull strength of soul and offer that same wholeness to others. My wholeness is not found in my flesh, but in my soul. I am wounded and past the hope of healing, but my soul will then one day be freed from these bonds of sinew and skin and released. So I shall praise you, Lord, even if tattered.

Love, Accusation & Prayer

June 29, 2010

Psalm 109 is a prayer to God from a wounded believer. 109:4,5 read, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good and hatred for my love.” Maybe you have tried to do the Christian and loving thing but were rewarded with pain, hurt feelings and a lump in your throat. You did the right and yet feel so wronged. But the love of God is not based upon how it is received. God did not call us to love only if love is reciprocated. God has called us to be ever faithful and never vengeful in love. We love because we emulate Christ, not because we know it will return to us. Jesus said, “treat others as you would want to be treated.”

There was another saying by a different rabbi named Hillel who said, “Do not do to others as you would not want done to you.” The difference between the two statements is subtle but very profound. If I do not do unto others, then I am not actively loving. God has called us to be active in love. It is like the saying, “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.” That’s just perpetuating the silent hate. We as Christians are to emulate The Creator-God who called into the darkness light and created life with His words. So should we not stay silent, but speak words of light and life – even if all we receive in return is evil for good and accusations for praise. The Psalmists says, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.” The secret: prayer. Pray to God for strength to continue to love when it isn’t returned and think of Christ who hung on a cross by the power of love, yet was rejected… he prayed, “forgive them.” Let us do unto others, love in the midst of accusations and pray. Amen.

Epitaph of Hezekiah

June 21, 2010

This is the epitaph of Hezekiah, King of Judah from 2 Chronicles 31:21. “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”

What an epitaph. Here is a King who went against the culture and re-instituted a just society and Temple worship. What a challenge he had to turn the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens. But he did. And he did it based upon obedience to the law and commands as he sought his God and worked whole-heartedly.

I think this is our challenge in this generation as well. It will take first us getting back to the primacy of the Word, learning the law of God’s love and applying it in all we do. How are we on reading the Bible? How are we on understanding the laws and commands of God and obeying them? The law is simple, it teaches us how to love God by living a love toward all others (aliens, orphans, family and neighbors). I didn’t say it was easy, but it is rather simple. How do you love God according to the law? By loving others. How do you love others, by not doing stupid stuff and by being gracious as God is gracious to you.

To see true reform in our time we need to be about two very important jobs: prayer and work. Hezekiah prospered it says because, “in obedience to the law he sought his God and worked whole-heartedly.” In effect, he read His Bible, went to pray-meeting, and worked in a local church ministry. In everything he undertook, it says, he sought God and worked with his whole-heart. Let us strive to emulate the Bible-studying, prayerful, and hardworking Hezekiah.

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