Tagged: Church

One Saturday Desire

My mind floods, races, rages. It swarms, billows, fills. I imagine, invent, infer. Thoughts appear, linger, fade, and grow. Then the coolness of the last drops of my morning coffee passing over my tongue reminds me that it was all most likely the caffeine and I am merely one mortal making his way along his path.

But, but! For those glorious and intoxicating moments of fullness, I do dream. Here is my dream for today.

I want you to be confident in your belief that Jesus is Lord. And that Scripture, the Bible, is coherent, true, and worth daily study–daily.

Today’s tip is inspired by my own morning study of Isaiah’s words and oracles.

We join Isaiah as he has finished asserting “bad things man, bad things.”

“Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my words.

“Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground?

“Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin and plant wheat in rows, barely in its place and rye within its area?

“For his god instructs and teaches him properly.

“For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; but dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club.

“Grain for bread is crushed, but he does not continue to thresh it forever.

“Because the wheel of his cart and his horses eventually damage it, he does not thresh it longer.

“This also comes from Yahweh of hosts, who gives wonderful counsel and great wisdom.”

****

Isaiah uses obvious farming techniques to clarify the fact that Yahweh is doing nothing abnormal, nothing unpredictable, nothing incomprehensible when he relents in time for there to be a remnant after judging his people.

Jesus, likewise, (not to mention all other inspired biblical speakers) uses obvious aspects of life on planet earth to clarify his points. I’m thinking specifically of the “rain falling on the righteous and unrighteous” moment of the Sermon on the Mount.

Finally we have Paul clarifying that if there’s no resurrection of Jesus, there is nothing into which to put our faith. Do you see why he says this? Why he must say it?

This is how the truth works.

But not everyone agrees. Some folks want you to believe in them or their words before the event happens. That is fine, but it is no longer truth. It is speculation. It is unbiblical and unchristian. And it is usually depressing (I’m thinking irreversible climate change) and expensive (here I’m thinking of the many of you who financially support all the motivational speakers whose promise involves the future being better).

Here me clearly this day, Christian: You’re right to trust in the god who makes “righteousness the level”.

I don’t want to motivate you. I want to remind you. Jesus is Lord and Judge. “Cease to do evil. Learn to do good.”

(And read your Bible everyday.)

The 20 Aren’t Jeremiah, But We Are As Foolish As the Israelites—Happy 4th.

“Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who were standing in the house of Yahweh, and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May Yahweh do so; may Yahweh confirm your words which you have prophesied to bring back the vessels of Yahweh’s house and all the exiles from Babylon to this place.

‘Yet hear now this word which I am about to speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people!

‘The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence.

‘The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom Yahweh has truly sent.'” (My italics.)

A few posts ago, I shared that I was on my third reading of Jeremiah. One of the intriguing parts of Jeremiah is its candid accounts of prophet battles. The above is taken from the middle of one such scene. I used to think that Israel’s prophetic history was clean. But reading it for myself has revealed that it was anything but clean. This Hananiah claimed to be speaking the Word of Yahweh, no different than Jeremiah. Moreover, the account has Jeremiah acknowledging this fact.

So how does Jeremiah suggest, in front of all the people, that their dispute be resolved? He says to wait. But in his suggestion is the subtle claim that Hananiah should be able to see that when involved in prophesying, one sides with true prophets when one prophesies against earthly powers. Instead of this, Hananiah had just prophesied earthly peace, you see?

But here’s the tricky part. Jeremiah wasn’t suggesting that earthly powers needed to be exchanged by other earthly powers that would do better, no. He was declaring, like the true prophets of Yahweh who came before him, that the people of Israel had disobeyed Yahweh for so long that Yahweh would not stop the oncoming judgement. (War, calamity, pestilence.)

Implied in this entire scene, and Jeremiah’s claim, is the fact that Yahweh is running the show and that Yahweh expects obedience.

On this Independence Day I am thinking of this passage because it is so very different from what we hear and say today. Our prophets, the 20, all claim to be speaking against the man, capital T. But not one of them measures up to the prophet bar Jeremiah set. This, of course, is no surprise. The 20 would hardly announce themselves as prophets of Yahweh. And yet half, and perhaps more than half, of the voting public in our country is behaving like the Israelites who apparently ate up and drank up Hananiah (as indicated by their lack of repentance) and his declarations that peace was on the way.

The next president will not bring peace or liberty. You’re a fool if you believe he or she will. And Jeremiah knew this. That’s why his words are worth reading on this day.

The question that remains is do you know who has the power to bring peace and liberty?

Uniquely Christian

It was the fall of two years ago, putting me shortly after my thirty-sixth birthday. I was in the midst of some men who were mostly fifty plus years old.

The particular interrogator I faced carried his ninety-seven years venerably. He was respected by all, by which I mean all jumped at the opportunity to serve him–even the seventy year olds who were twenty years his junior. Most often, if the short time I spent with him indicated anything, the service rendered was simply bringing a blanket to keep away the cold.

His topic of inquiry: Origins. Beginnings. Genesis.

He asked me because he had heard me say that I studied such things.

I didn’t know what to say.

Reader, don’t misunderstand me. I had my answer at the ready. Yet I was quieted by the emotional aspect of the stated query. This elder is about to meet his maker. Possibly that weekend. And he’s not only respecting me enough to see what I’ll say (though I have always suspected he’d cast a fool’s line), he’s maintaining his tight grip on the joy of investigation.

The content of his question eludes my memory, but it was something to do with the peoples of earth that the Bible characters met and from where they spawned. I told him, “I don’t know.” But I went on to tell him, “No one knows. Moses didn’t tell us. And we should be very careful when listening to someone who makes a claim otherwise.”

Today I will add that this, as with Paul’s comments on another profound topic within Beginnings talk, “This mystery is great.”

I couldn’t tell if he approved–of either my answer or me.

My reason for sharing this experience here is to give a glimpse into what I think is one of life’s pleasures which is unique to Christianity.

My Best Conversation Tip When You Know You Are Smarter Than Everyone In The Room

I recently moved. It’s been difficult, but it is a good thing–a great thing. I am flying again.

However, I have been struggling on the social side of life. Many of you may recall that while I wasn’t flying, I was educating myself. More than educating myself, I was learning how we know anything about anything.

When one engages in this pursuit, the pursuit of knowledge, he or she is usually surrounded by other like-minded individuals. In other words, he or she feels normal. They feel comfortable.

But when school ends, reality hits home. No one cares. People not in school simply do not care. To you all, I say, “Cool beans. Good for you.”

But the problem remains. If I walk into a church, I probably have studied biblical history, language history, and the Bible itself more than any two people present combined. If I am among a group of pilots, my military flight training sets me apart from the civilian group for sure, and my having been trained by the Air Force sets me apart from the wannabe Air Force pilots that settled for serving in a flying capacity in one of the other branches.

In short, the problem is conversations become belabored. These days I want to get in-depth on whatever subject matter is of note. I mean, I have questions, man! Soon after, though, they realize that they don’t quite carry the same fire as I do. Consequently, one of us changes the subject to avoid silence.

After much consideration, then, I have discovered the solution. Or at least the following offering is my best conversation tip when you know you are smarter than everyone in the room. (This is both for me and for some of the other smartypants I know who are noisily lurking around out there.)

Ready?

Here it is: Be quiet.

Yup. Stay silent. Keep observing and keep learning. There is no rush.

Okay. That’s all, folks!

PS: Dark Phoenix was great. I think the reason it received bad press was its elevation and commendation of the virtue of “forgiveness”.

Review [Spoiler] of the New Avengers Movie and Biblical Critique of Your Newfound Love of Genealogy

Sobbing! You read that right. I’m telling you that the two women laid out in the theater seats beside mine were sobbing at various parts of the latest Avengers movie. Sobbing.

A few reasons this is odd include: they were middle-aged adults or older, they were the only ones I could hear performing this sonorous swan sonnet out of the entire theater (and I’m sure others could hear them too) and this was at an eleven thirty showing–eleven thirty in the morning–on a Monday! On. A. Monday.

Dear, faithful reader: you might be wondering, “What would you have them do, Pete? It was probably sad.”

My response? It was sad. Kinda. And I would have them stop sobbing. It was maybe a single and silent tear sad, not sobbing uncontrollably sad. And if they couldn’t stop from sheer self-control, I’d suggest to these sheez that they simply utter aloud the sobriquet of the superhero who died, as in, “Black Widow just died.”

Yep. The feeling accompanying that sentence should do it.

Secondly, for tonight, I want to call to your attention the wildly un-biblical hobby that is sweeping through Christendom–most aggressively through the Black Church’s iterations–in recent times: Genealogies. Stop. Just stop. Those of you engaging in this research are suckers. Worse, you are insulting all blood-redeemed sinners who read their Bibles, and worse-est, you’re actively undoing the work of Jesus the Christ–not for our lives, but for yours.

For your consideration, answer the following questions honestly:

  1. What is your intention in your quest to learn about your family-line?
  2. What possible, and/or relevant, good can come from knowing which blood-line you carry in your flesh?
  3. Moreover, what exactly did Paul mean by the following words: “all”, “sons”, “neither”, “one”, “descendants”, and “heirs”, when he wrote, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise”?
  4. And in this passage, what did Paul mean by the following words: “brethren”, “all”, “agree”, “no”, “divisions”, and “same”, when he wrote, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment”?

Perishing non-believers do not respect unfocused belief–in anything.

So, Christians: Focus. And focus on Christ.

On Pain, Fear, Bravery, and Time

Last post, I wrote that I believe I am an expert on defense and gave some advice on the subject due to my feeling that there is a sharp rise in falsehoods with President Trump’s election. This post is additional defense advice. Bluntly, I am going to teach you how to be brave.

Many of you know that at the end of my time at the seminary I was fortunate to purchase the full set of Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World. I have slowly but steadily been reading through the set since last summer. I am officially on book five, having skipped the two “Synopticon” volumes.

In short, I am still in the (Trojan War-centered) plays of Greek Antiquity, though through Homer and Aeschylus. One line from Sophocles’ Trachiniae furnished unto me the motivation for this post. 

(These plays are always filled with great tragedy and accordingly the line is thus:)

“Which woe shall I bewail first, which misery is the greater? Alas, ’tis hard for me to tell. One sorrow may be seen in the house; for one we wait with foreboding: and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”

“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.” That’s the part that leapt off the page.

When H-‘s mom and I were in lamaze class, the nurse leading the class informed the mothers (and fathers) of the relationship between pain, fear, and time. Apparently, we learned, part of labor pains–and fear of labor pains–in first-time mothers is simply created by some admixture of fear of the unknown, and the fact that the moments and duration of the pain are unpredictable and do not bend to the patterns of the clock. But if the new mother knows this, then supposedly her fears will be abated and the concordant pain lessened. At least that’s the theory.

H- is about to turn nine.

Although I have a bachelors degree and three years of graduate study under my belt, it fascinates me that only now do I read something which renders modernity’s lamaze class ineffectual.

“…and suspense hath a kinship with pain.”

But this got me thinking. I’m brave. I mean, I flew planes and helicopters. I even flew helicopters into combat. How does that work? Why didn’t I fear? Why didn’t the unknown cause me to tremble? Why didn’t the suspense, the waiting, cause me to fear like the new mother?

Then, as a Christian, I also got to thinking about the bible writers’ thoughts on fear, which range from “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” to “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?

Why was David able to live without fear? Why was I able to be brave? The answer is found in righteousness. The answer is found in walking according to the law of the LORD, that is, the law of Christ.

While I served in the Air Force, I had no fear because we knew we were on the side of truth. We studied long and we trained hard. We assessed our capabilities and limitations astutely and without embellishment. Then we imposed our will on evil men who slept under the false security blanket of darkness.

Now, as a Christian, I see how the LORD and his son Jesus the Christ have ordered our steps. Do you see it?

When I walk in love, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.

When I walk in joy, I do not fear. The result is predictable and immediate: blessing.

When I walk in peace, I do not fear. The result is, again, predictable and immediate: blessing.

When I walk in patience, I do not fear.

And on and on. When I walk in kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, I do not fear.

I do not fear. I am brave.

Or as David put it so long ago, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”

From the ancient Greek poets down to registered nurses of our day, those with eyes to see have observed that there is a time element to fear and pain. But fearlessness isn’t bestowed in the hospitals or in the theaters. It is found in the Word of God. It is given by the LORD; it comes from walking with the Holy Spirit.

Parents: Take Action And Join This Friday’s Youth Climate Strikes

To be clear, this is not my attempt to re-frame the “narrative” of climate change. Neither am I going to give you a new “lens” through which to view climate change.

In the below you will not find scientific facts or debates as to whether teenagers have power. You also will not find prophecies about the future. Lastly, you will not find any black-and-white distinctions between the meanings of “hope” and “action.”

No, this is simply one man’s declaration that the parents of youth-who-skip-school-March-15th-in-order-to-attend-the-Youth-Climate-Strike-rally must join their offspring at the rallies. Parents, you must join your children. Do it. (H- is only 8, so this plan isn’t for me. But you can be sure I’d execute it flawlessly if she was going.)

It strikes me as more than likely that many parents might not know their kids’ intentions regarding such things, so your first step is to ask them if they’re going. If you are lucky enough to have a child who asks if they can go, say, “Sure.”

Next, tonight or tomorrow night, here’s what you do. You make a sign. On this sign, write, “My daughter, my son, I love you. Come home.” Of course, when it comes to rally signs, the BIGGER and BOLDER the lettering, the better. So try, “MY DAUGHTER, MY SON, I LOVE YOU. COME HOME.” Yep, that’s better.

Then, whether you drive with them, drop them off, whether you walk, bus, bike, or have separate travel arrangements entirely, take off from your job and go to the rally. Here is the map.

Here’s where it gets tricky, but I trust you’ll sense the proper course of action. Position yourself so as to be seen by as many people as possible, and root yourself there. Now hold up your sign.

Clarification: It is imperative that you do not write your child’s name on the sign. You have a small window of opportunity here. Don’t waste it. There’s a physicality to “parenting” that most of you miss. Make your son(s) or daughter(s) incline their neck to find you.

When they do find you, hug them tightly–as tight as you can.

At home, it’s time for baby steps. I do not believe in trying something new like “conversation” at this point. Instead, read to them. Pick one of your favorite books. Tell them why you like it. Then begin to read the book aloud to them. Maybe just the first chapter, maybe more. No earbuds, no phone, no tablet, no youtubers, no nothin’. Beseech them to just sit in the same room for a while and listen.

Hopefully your reading voice isn’t too out of practice and hopefully you like good books.

But, then, I know you do. Good luck.

LGBTQ Showdown: Rockstar James Hetfield vs. Reverend Adam Hamilton

Metallica broke attendance records in both Wichita and Kansas City last week. As most of you know, H- and I were at the Kansas City show.

During the concert, as usual, James took a moment to thank the audience. He then said something like, “I want you know that I don’t care who you are, what god you worship, or what is between your legs. I do not give a shit.” For the uninitiated, this is about as political or current-eventee as Metallica ever gets. (Thank you, Jesus.) It’s about the music, people.

Last week also was a big week for the United Methodist Church as their conference had voted to essentially fire Ministers if any of them subsequently ordained LGBTQ folks or performed marriages between anyone but one man and one woman.

Reverend Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC congregation–located in KC–in America, voted against this change and spent many hours last week explaining his reasons to his congregation. For our purposes, it is enough to say that he has declared that the LGBTQ community is still welcome at his church while the UMC figures itself out.

Why the comparison between Mr. Hetfield and Rev. Hamilton?

Here’s why.

I recently told one friend that I am uncomfortable at almost every group setting I attend. I am uncomfortable at my church (it’s a black church–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at most of the other churches I have visited (I prefer African churches, even if they’re in another language, but I usually visit churches from different cultures if I skip my service as I nearly reject my culture outright–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at work (I work with what other white-breaders call ‘low-skilled immigrants’ and if my co-workers aren’t immigrants they are usually addicts, ex-cons, uneducated, or family members of one of the above).

My friend then queried, “Where are you comfortable?”

After a long pause I answered, “Ha. Truth be told? Metallica concerts. That’s when I feel like I can simply let go and be me.”

Rockstar James Hetfield would probably enjoy hearing this fact. And Reverend Adam Hamilton would probably be thrilled for the chance to compare notes with James and see what he could learn from him about creating a welcoming environment.

The trouble, of course, is there is one big difference between the Christian church and Metallica concerts. Can you name it? I’ll help. The one are entertainment. The other believes this world is going to burn. The one are fun. The other believes the shedding of Jesus’ blood altered the course of history. The one are going to end in less than fifty years. The other, with or without you, is never going to end. (Hallelujah.)

Can we tell the truth? It goes like this, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Are LGBTQ folks welcome in the Christian church? Before I could ever answer, I’d need to hear what their intentions are.

But if you’re looking for comfort, I’d try to catch the next Metallica concert.

“Enter Metallica With H-” Begins In Six Hours

Well, technically we’ll be on the road to the Sprint Center in three hours-ish. (We drove here from Denver yesterday–8 hours.)

Here’s a conversation that will set the scene.

I asked a lady I work with, “So everyone keeps responding, ‘You are taking your daughter to Metallica?!’ I cannot tell if they are questioning my taking a near-nine year old to Metallica, or if they are in disbelief that I, Pete, would enjoy Metallica. Which do you think they mean?”

She laughed hard and said, “I think they’re surprised that you like Metallica.”

I’m kinda embarrassed by that fact. I don’t just like them, I love them. And tonight I get to share them with my progeny. From the moment H- was born, if not the moment she was conceived, I plotted the course that would have to happen for this night to occur. I knew they’d be in their fifties. I was hoping she’d be ten. But we’re close enough.

This past Saturday my own little future-Joan-of-Arc said, “So tomorrow we have church and then packing for Metallica?”

Yes indeed. \m/

I Won’t Believe in “Narratives”

The N-word of the past had a characteristic that rendered it far more powerful than the one I call to your attention in this post. Unlike the bygone racial slur, the word-of-our-day, ‘narrative’ only finds usage among the over-educated and self-indulgent. Once the word is spoken aloud, however, the conversation usually cannot draw to a close without hearing its utterance many more times. This is the natural course of such buzzwords and catchphrases.

Not the repetitive feature, but rather the earnestness of the speaker or writer is what has drawn me out from my place of silent repose. These redundant commentators seem to believe that if they can simply make everyone see that the liberals, whether lead by AOC or Jussie Smollet, all have one narrative, and that they stick to it closer than stink to a pig, then, “POOF!” the world changes for the better.

Conversely, professed fanboy Michael Cohen’s opening statement caused me to wonder if I had fallen off the mobster-movie-watching wagon. Would his testimony have even been coherent without the resounding success of The Godfather? Put another way, does the snowflake generation even understand what a fixer is?

Will I admit that there does seem to be several different and conflicting scripts or “narratives” running through our voices currently? Sure. Will I admit that people like Ben Shapiro know more than I do from first-hand experience within meeting rooms that the media bosses have intentional “narratives” that they use to sell more advertisements than others? Yes. But I still won’t believe in “narratives” or what’s worse, try to advance my own.

Instead, I will believe in words. Check these words out. I had finished up the Bible’s book Jeremiah the other day, had felt totally unsure of how he got started, and so I decided to begin it again.  Here are some of the words I found powerful, in no particular order. Serve. Whore. Green. High. Every. You.

Yeah. Those are some powerful words.

Ordered as the Living God so willed, and spoken through Jeremiah, they go, “But you said, ‘I will not serve!’ For on every high hill and under every green tree you have bowed down like a whore.”

No “Poof!” here. More like, “uh, is this still safe for work?” Probably not. But I believe that the same thing Jeremiah called attention to way-back-when happens today. And we cannot soften it or call the guilty to account by merely suggesting that they are mouthpieces for some distant, conspiratorially-crafted narrative.

There are many words from which to choose and in which to believe.

I won’t believe in “narratives.”