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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Something for lunchtime

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
[Matthew 4:1-4 ESV]

A very familiar passage, and I was NOT reading that passage today but this one:
“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
[Deuteronomy 8:1-3 ESV]

Very interesting:
Led by (Spirit of) God into wildernessLed by God into wilderness
40 days40 years
being "tempted by the devil"being "humbled" and "tested" by God
refused to supply for Himselfreceived supply from God

I suspect that Jesus had been thinking about this passage as he sat there, out in the wilderness, hungry. It was on the tip of his tongue when the devil came along. He may well have been hanging onto hope that just as God had supplied for His people back then, He would supply for Jesus now. (Of course, God did so, when the time was right.) Pretty cool!

The other two verses He quoted are from Deuteronomy chapter 6, specifically verses 16 and 13. Draw what conclusions you may from that... maybe He had spent a few days meditating on that passage as well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fah who foraze, dah who doraze

Right this minute I'm listening to the classic Boris Karloff reading of How The Grinch Stole Christmas... you know, the one they made for the cartoon. I have it on CD. I've always loved that story! I even bought a copy of the book itself and listened to the CD while I read through the book (did you know that he uses black thread in the cartoon, but he uses red thread in the book? FASCINATING!!! hehe) So anyway, hearing it again this year reminded me of something that occurred to me last year around this time. The story about the Grinch is a sweet story, but it is not particularly compatible with Christian values... in fact, I think I would probably classify it as squarely humanistic.

Why pooh-pooh a Christmas classic? you may ask. (Did you ask? If you didn't, go ahead so I can make my next point. ...OK, thanks.) I'm not throwing mud at Dr. Seuss, and I'm not denigrating the story of the Grinch, either. Heck, I have a t-shirt with the Grinch's head on it, for goodness sakes! But the message of the story does not include any indication that we need anything bigger than ourselves to bring peace and cheer into our world. The story of the Grinch tells us that all we need is to be nice to each other. As long as we hold hands and just "be ourselves" we don't mind if someone stole everything we own.

Maybe that's how Whos are, but it's not how Whumans are! And it's not how Christians should try to be, either. Without Jesus in our lives, unless we submit to him, someone in the circle is going to start squeezing someone's hand, and a fist fight will break out. Someone's going to dah-who when they should have fah-whod, and someone else will hear and get crabby that the music is messed up and feelings will get hurt. Besides, where are the police here? The whole village is ransacked and nobody even cares to bring the criminal to justice? Seems like a good way to get robbed over and over until you wise up.

I love the Grinch story. I think it's good to teach especially very small children that we need to do our best to get along, especially at Christmas. But I think the final message of the story is imperfect. There's a crack in the foundation. Enjoy it and get warm fuzzies and hug your family members, yes! But don't build your life on it philosophically.

Then again, if you're building your philosophy of life on Dr. Seuss stories alone, maybe you should put a little more effort into that. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Judy, Judy, there's just something about that name...

Many times I've heard people lamenting what is often called "Jesus is my girlfriend" songs. You know the ones... the song where the word "Jesus" is never mentioned, and although the song is on a "Christian" CD, it's never quote clear whether they're talking about their Savior, or a junior high crush. Or sometimes, as I read recently, the name "Jesus" is in the song, but if you replace it with a girl's name, the song still makes exactly as much sense as it did before.

I've always agreed with that, and I still agree that it is deceitful to write a boy/girl song and then rephrase things just enough so you can sing it in church. That's intellectual dishonesty at best... you're not being true to the song, and you're trying to trick perfectly intelligent people into thinking that's how you feel about Jesus when it's really how you feel about Jennifer or Christine or Amanda. But something I read in the Bible shocked me. Jesus calls us, the Church, His Bride! Jesus loves us like I love my wife (except infinitely more consistently and perfectly than any human is capable of)! So hmm. Maybe the problem is not that Jesus is the girlfriend. Maybe I am the girlfriend!

If God repeatedly couches His desired relationship with us in romantic terms, maybe it's not so bad to write and sing about it that way sometimes, not specifically as a way to make it easier to connect with someone who might be hostile to Christ, but as a true expression of the ardent passion that we have for Him. It's not bad to "love" Jesus, and it never has been. It's what Jesus wants.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Don't Be Alarmed

My pastor was talking about a passage in Matthew last Sunday, and something in it struck me as very odd. I'm going to quote the passage and highlight a few spots to show what I'm thinking about, but I'm not going to draw any hard and fast conclusions... I think this is something that it's good for each person to think through for himself. Here we go (remember, all emphasis is mine):
3As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" 4And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

9"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
So here's what struck me as particularly odd: what kind of person says, "Don't be alarmed; they're going to put you to death, but if you endure to the end, you will be saved!" Seems almost like doublespeak, doesn't it? Clearly there is more to the picture than what Jesus is making explicit (for example, did you notice that Jesus seems to be speaking in plural "you" for most of the passage, but in the last verse I've quoted he switches to saying "the one"?) I have my ideas about what the passage means, but of late I've become a fan of the ambiguities Jesus left unresolved when He was speaking, so I think instead of adding my own interpretation, I'll leave it up to you to ponder the missing pieces for yourself.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


A friend of ours has an 8-year-old son who is in the hospital right now with awful sores on the outside and inside of his body. I don't think the doctors have yet determined exactly what they think the illness is, but the boy is in tremendous pain. Yesterday I emailed the friend to tell him he is in our prayers and I can only imagine what he would feel like... I have a 7-year-old son and I'm afraid I would be on the edge of being a basket case if it were me. I also told him something I learned from experience: if you put your trust in Jesus in these kinds of circumstances, He will give you peace. I reminded him of just this promise in Isaiah 26:3. And I mentioned that I knew this from experience...

This past year my wife's mother left this world and went on to be with Jesus before her time. She was 62 years old and healthy; it was a needless, senseless thing that happened to her, and the family was devastated. It was probably the most emotionally difficult week or two that I have ever experienced in my entire life. Five or six months before that, my wife lost a much-loved aunt to cancer. My wife's first name is her mother's, and her second name is this aunt's name. Needless to say, it was an incredibly tough year. But in those times when we thought we were going to be physically ripped apart by emotion, the peace of God was with us. It was unbelievable that there could be a sense of peace in those places in those circumstances, but there was.

When Jesus was on the Earth, he wept with the family when a friend died (John 11:32-35). He had compassion on the sick and hurting (Matthew 14:14). He fed the hungry (Matthew 15:32-37). Jesus felt. He was fully man, and He understood sadness and loss (many commentators speculate that Jesus may have lost His Earthly father Joseph as a child, since Joseph does not appear in accounts of Jesus as an adult although his mother Mary does.) I was thinking this morning about how much I wish I could eradicate suffering just from my one friend's life, not to mention from the entire world. Jesus feels that. I believe that Jesus is waiting with great anticipation for the day when He is told by God, Now is the time, Son. Go bring your bride to me!

The word translated "shout" in the KJV of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 actually means a shout of command more than a shout of, say, joy or excitement. More of a "giddyap!" kind of shout than a "hooray!" type of shout. But I think there is an element of excitement in that shout as well. I think Jesus is so ready to eliminate evil once and for all that He won't be able to keep His voice down. I think God loves us that much!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Sun

I was wondering today if The Sun exists. I've heard about it all my life, and I do believe in it I guess, and from time to time I've even felt its presence warming me. But I've started to wonder about this whole flaming-ball-of-gas thing. I mean, the ancient Greeks believed that the sun was really a chariot flying across the sky driven by a Titan in a crown. Ancient Egyptians believed that The Sun was the Eye of Ra. Who am I to go against what they believed? Maybe they were right and I was wrong. It's kind of tough to figure out, though, because even people who believe in The Sun don't agree... the Greeks and Egyptians believed The Sun was male, but I hear the Vikings believed The Sun was a woman.

Besides, what about people who live in caves all their lives? For them The Sun doesn't even exist. I mean, I've always been "taught" that life on planet Earth wouldn't be able to exist at all without The Sun, but those cave people live without The Sun their whole lives and they seem to be doing OK. It seems like people who believe in The Sun without reservation are kind of dogmatic and closed-minded.

What I'm really wondering, though, is whether it really matters whether I believe in The Sun or not. If it exists, it exists whether I believe in it or not. If I believe The Sun is a shiny huge grapefruit, and it's actually a shiny huge pool cue ball, I don't automatically change it into a grapefruit. I guess it would be pretty arrogant of me to think I could make The Sun be whatever I wanted, assuming that it does exist up there somewhere. And I'm not even sure that it's possible to prove that The Sun exists. I mean, if The Sun is a king in a chariot, maybe he would hit me with his scepter if I tried to find him. If it's a flaming ball of gas, I would probably catch on fire if I tried to get too close. I guess all I can do is keep trying to find out things about The Sun and maybe I can figure out what the real truth is. What I "think" doesn't really matter if what I think is not fact. The Sun can't possibly be a grapefruit and an eyeball. I'm going to keep searching for clues until I figure out which one it is.