Five Smooth Stones

I stumbled onto this TV show called Socrates in the City.  It’s a show where people just talk about stuff.  It seems to be Christian oriented but I haven’t explored further so I can’t be sure about that.  This particular show was an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, an author of interesting nonfiction books.  His Outliers, published in 2008, continues to hang around on the paperback nonfiction best seller list.

His latest book is David and Goliath.  It’s about underdogs winning in the face of insurmountable odds.  I got a sample and read the first chapter about, well, David and Goliath.  Here’s what I got:  Goliath had a medical condition that made David’s victory a foregone conclusion.  Goliath was slow and had vision problems.  He would win a fight with armor and swords but he was vulnerable to a small, quick opponent with a sling and stones.  I thought ‘well, this is just another explain away a miracle thing’ and dismissed the book.

The interview changed my mind.  I haven’t read the book but I will.  Mr. Gladwell told how he was raised in an atmosphere of faith but as he matured he drifted away.  He said the process of writing this book led him to restoration.  He said the miracle was not that the stone killed Goliath.  The miracle was that God had spent years preparing David for this moment.  The miracle was that David showed up at that time and place and that David had the courage to step into that valley.  The rest was a foregone conclusion.

I think what we miss about miracles is how they are always preceded by an act of obedience.  It may be simply having the courage to walk to the altar to be prayed for or maybe just making time to pray.

Every other morning I pray free style.  I tell God who He is.  I ask Him to make me more like Him.  Just simple communion. I love those times.

The other mornings I pray my list.  I confess that many times I see this as just a duty to perform.  I don’t know how much my faith is engaged.

Maybe I should look at praying my list differently.  Maybe I should see it as me venturing into the valley, as me picking up five smooth stones.

The rest is a foregone conclusion.

Walls do crumble.  Giants are slain.  Armies are put to flight.  It all begins with prayer and communion with God.  Miracles are born in prayer.

 

 

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‘Long As I Can See the Light

Credence Clearwater Revival was a great rock band.  Listen to them and you want to go to a pawn shop and buy an electric guitar and amplifier and start singing bayou country rock.  Of course it takes more than a guitar. You need an accomplished drummer and a gravelly voice too.

There are two CCR songs I stick in playlists: Down on the Corner and Green River.   Many of the CCR songs have a dark aura about them and these two are happy, upbeat.  Given the present circumstances maybe we should be looking for a dark CCR song for our theme song.  Like Stuck in Lodi Again.  Or Who’ll Stop the Rain.  No, wait.  I’ve got it.  Bad Moon Rising.

 

CCR, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel.  They have become background noise, the soundtrack of our lives.  We hear them without listening.

There is one other CCR song that has popped into my head.  I can’t get rid of it.  Maybe I heard it in Kroger or WalMart or the mall.  If I had to name the top ten CCR songs it wouldn’t have made the list.  I can’t say that I even knew it was their song.  I don’t know where it came from but I think it’s a better theme song that Bad Moon Rising.

It doesn’t matter who gets elected president or what laws are passed or who sits on the supreme court…

‘Long as I can see the light.

There are a lot of people who need to see the light, more today than they have ever been.  They don’t need political arguments.  They need to see the light. For that to happen I need to see the light.  I need to show the light.  I need to be the light.

 

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We’ve Got It Wrong

What we want is laws passed.  What we want is people elected who see things our way, who do things our way, who make everybody else do things our way.  What we want is behaviors to change.  We don’t necessarily want hearts changed.  If hearts are changed then that would be okay with us but it’s not the main thing.  We want behaviors changed.  We want to make them change their behavior.

We’ve got it wrong.

It seems to me that our priority should be the spiritual condition of those who oppose us.  It’s not behavior that’s the issue.  It’s heart condition that matters.

I’ve been in Church services where the presence  and power us God was so real it forced me to my knees.  This morning I sat on my porch praying and I knew His presence so real that I was compelled to change, to stop doing one thing and start doing another.  When somebody, anybody becomes aware of the awesome and glorious and all encompassing reality of God, things change.

So here’s my prayer.

Father God, I ask that You make yourself known in the White House, in the halls of Congress, in the Supreme Court, in every state legislature and governor’s mansion, in every Church service, in every corner and every heart in this land.  I ask that You reveal Your greatness and Your power and Your majesty to us all.  Give us an understanding of how small we are and how big You are.  God, You are more than, greater than all of creation.  I am confident that an understanding of Your greatness will change hearts.

And I know that Your greatest desire is to change hearts.

Let it be so.

I pray these things in the awesome and Holy name of Your Son, Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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Jesus Unchained

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13.

I’m reading this book, It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke.  Good book.  He makes this statement:

‘The way we usually present Jesus is something to the effect of, “Accept Jesus into your heart and you can go to heaven when you die.”‘  I wonder how that’s working for us.

Back in the seventies at the beginning of the charismatic movement when young people were being saved off the streets and out of the drug culture there was this young man in our Church.  He was short and kind of stocky, had shoulder length curly black hair.  The Holy Spirit would get on him and he would start worshipping and it would get people’s attention.  He was a catalyst.  People would start coming to the altar.  People would get saved, would get healed, would get baptised in the Holy Spirit.  This young man was not trying to get attention or disrupt the service.  Something would just get stirred up in him and it had to come out.

I saw him a few year later and I asked how it was going with him.  He said he was just trying to learn to be quiet.  I didn’t think about it at the time but now I wonder why I didn’t ask him what put it in his head that he needed to be quiet.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to go back to the days of wildfire and disorder and people just wanting attention.  But I do wonder.

I don’t know how often that ‘Accept Jesus and go to heaven’ line works anymore.  We get ‘there are many ways to heaven’ or ‘I don’t believe in heaven or hell’ or ‘I don’t think there is a God’.  What does work, what does get people’s attention is Jesus.  Just being loud won’t work.  But if I spend enough time with Jesus people will notice.  If I have enough Jesus in me He will come out.  And people will pay attention.

 

 

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A Righteous Nation?

Righteous laws do not make people righteous.

There is no such thing as a righteous nation, a righteous goverment, a righteous society or culture.

Jesus did not come to redeem nations, governments, societies or cultures.  He came to redeem people, one at a time.  If Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus (and it is) then that’s the main thing, the only thing that matters.  A one on one, a one at a time redemption.

Societies and cultures, governments and laws are righteous because lots of people came to that one on one relationship.  And if that’s what it’s all about, if that is the most important thing then we should be about that business.  Not goverments and laws and elections.  We should be about the busimess of introducing people to Jesus, one on one one.

One at a time.

 

 

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The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23a

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The King James says it this way:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance

I have my own interpretation of some of these words (without consultation of the Greek or any commentaries).  Longsuffering is patience.  I like faithfulness instead of faith.  Faithfulness denotes reliability and dependability.  And meekness?  That’s humility.

Wouldn’t you like to hang out with somebody like that?  I would.  Wouldn’t you like to be somebody like that?  I would.

We have developed a kind of shorthand for this list.  Love, joy, and peace.  Sounds good,  Sounds right.  Just kind of rolls off the tongue.  But love, joy, and peace can’t stand on their own.  As hard as we try they will just kind of evaporate unless we also have encouraged patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.

I’ve been thinking about this list a lot lately.  The more I think about it the more a run into it in other places.

Ephesians 4:1-2

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I Timothy 6:10-11

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

In this continuing nightmare of a political season (Is it ever not a political season anymore?) I have a hard time finding the fruit of the spirit.  In Christians.  In myself.  At odd times I find myself caught up in anger and fear and doubt.  Just listening to the rhetoric, the tossing about of accusations will get me off track.

I’ve been going through the epistles in my daily Bible reading lately and I am impressed with how often I find that theme, that theme of love and joy and peace, of patience and gentleness and kindness.  The early Christians did not try to change the world through political influence.  Their only concern was to stay as close to Jesus as they could, to follow His teachings, to try to live like He lived.  They only wanted to see the change in their own lives and to allow the world to see that change.  And in doing that they changed the world, didn’t they?

 

 

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Reality vs. Fantasy

I saw a recent short conversation on Facebook that was about The West Wing, one of my favorite TV shows from years gone by.  Somewhere in the conversation LOST came up.  Which is the better show?  At first thought you would say apples and oranges.  You can’t compare the two.  But on second thought…

The West Wing was fiction to be sure but it had the sense of reality.  Fiction but everything was believable.  On the other hand you have LOST.  Fantasy?  Myth?  Legend?  If you close one eye and squint with the other you might get the sense of allegory.

Now here is where I take the death defying leap.  The West Wing is Star Trek.  LOST is Star Wars.  Sure.  Makes perfect sense to me.

Star Trek is science fiction but those Trekies believe that someday it will all be true.  There are books about the science of Star Trek.  Trekies believe that once theory becomes fact and technology catches up with fact we will have star ships and warp drives and transporter rooms.

I don’t think there are books about the science of Star Wars.  Light speed, death stars, blasters, light sabers.  We don’t care how they work.  At one point the Millennium Falcon won’t go to light speed so Rey grabs some device and rips it out.  Apparently she had to take out the framis to bypass the whatsit to keep the hoodoo from overheating.  The what and the what and the what?  We don’t care what they are.  It’s not about the technology.  It’s about the characters and the scene informs the character (as they say).  Star Wars is about the characters, not physics or technology.

There is one point where Star Trek is fantasy and Star Wars is truth.  Star Trek wants us to believe that in their world they have learned to live in perfect harmony on this planet.  No more war.  No more division.  And more than that there is this United Federation of Planets that functions in complete unity and harmony.  On the other hand Star Wars recognizes that there is a dark side and there always will be a dark side and it will always rise if we give it a chance.

There is an old saying (sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson) that goes something like this:  ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom’.  That quote is often used to justify a world class military and the taxation that supports it.  Some may think it supports a personal stockpile of weapons and ammo.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I won’t address either of those here because I think there’s another aspect to this that is far more important.

I think there is far more danger in ideas that can lead us astray, lead us down the wrong path.  Ideas become beliefs and belief becomes action. I struggle with how to say this because it’s not so much ideas I’m talking about at it is attitudes.   There are plenty of people who will, for their own selfish purposes, lead us into thinking fear and anger and wrath and hate.  Mark them.  Be aware of their strategies.  Be vigilant.  Don’t allow yourself to be led down that path.

PS.  This post has laid in drafts for a week or more because I don’t think I got to what I wanted to say in that last paragraph.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fruit of the spirit.  There are ideas and thoughts and attitudes (and people) that will subtly draw us away from living out the fruit of the spirit and lead us into displaying the works of the flesh.  I think I may have more to say about that.

 

 

 

 

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