Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Buffalo, an Elephant, and a Tiger

I used to live in Denver. Sometimes, when I felt I needed to pray or meditate, I would drive up to this area in south Denver called Daniel’s park. From here you could see this whole panorama of the foothills and the Colorado front range. There was a ranch up there too that was right next to the gravel road I would use. On this ranch was one American Buffalo. Here was a representative of the largest land mammal species in North America. A species whose numbers once numbered in the millions. The rancher kept this buffalo in a small pen surrounded by nothing more than chicken wire. The same thing that keeps dogs out of tomato plants is holding an animal that weighs 2200 pounds.

I have never trained an elephant. In fact, I’ve only seen an elephant a few times in my life. Apparently, the way you train one is you chain it to a tree, or a post, or something really big. Then, over time, you can take the tree away and replace it with a tiny stake, something this giant animal would easily be able to pull out. It won’t matter by that point.

One of my favorite bands is called mewithoutyou. On their most recent album, they tell a story about the wreck of a circus train. This train was full of animals and went off the tracks on a cold and snowy night. Train car doors burst open and an elephant escaped. In fact, all the animals escaped that night, except one. The tiger had been in his cage for so long that when the train crashed and his cage was broken away, he just kept pacing back and forth. The tiger was convinced he was still unable to escape, even though there was nothing keeping him caged, but himself.

A chicken wire fence stops a buffalo.

A tiny stake can keep an elephant at bay.

A tiger is trapped in a cage that doesn’t exist.

Scientists call this “Learned Helplessness.” Animals, and people, can be conditioned to believe they simply can’t succeed.

This is one of the Devil’s best games: convince people that not only are they inadequate, but the all-loving God of the universe’s unconditional affection doesn’t apply to them. Let’s deal with these lies. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and told them:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

A new creature! In other verses Paul refers to the old self, the old man, the child of wrath, but says that man is dead--crucified with Christ. Now you are new. You aren’t tied down by those sins or decisions of the past, you just think you are. Which leads us to another story. A long time ago, God had prophets that He would use to warn people they were moving too far away from God. He used these prophets to point His children back to Himself. One prophet was named Elisha. Once, the people from a nation named Aram were moving to attack Israel. Elisha knew this, and He knew God had told him he would be protected. His servant was a little less sure.

Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?"16 So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."17 Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

We need our eyes opened. We need to see the fences around us for what they are--meaningless, easily trampled by our new creation legs. You’ve heard a lot about your identity, and that is good. What you need to remember is that you are Free, You have been Fulfilled, and you are now a Force for good. God has already torn down the chicken wire fence, He has already broken your chains, and he has ripped open your cage. There is nothing left for you to do to become better. You are fulfilled. You are now called to do good, to spread this freedom and fulfillment everywhere you go.
Whenever you break through those boundaries, you’ve let God take that darkness from your past and change it into light. 

The psalmist says “He has turned my weeping into whirling dancing, he has taken my sackcloth and clothed me with new clothes.” Those things become new, they become trinkets on your shelf--trophies representing the Victory in your life. Let us cast aside all the shackles in our mind and see ourselves as the free, fulfilled, force for good that God calls us to be.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Everyone The Same

"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe." Duet. 10:17

In Dallas, where I live, the difference between rich and poor is extremely obvious. Just Saturday I parked my car next to a Bentley and went into REI. When I left, a Ferrari had taken its place. Almost a million dollars worth of automobile had been next to my car in less than an hour. 

Watching the Presidential debates, it is obvious that both sides are willing to show partiality to rich donors, or at least to those in the middle class. The moderator never steps in and asks, "What about the poor?" 

This isn't another blog about reaching out to the poor, although I am in support of that, this is me asking whether we are still guilty as Christians of treating the rich as superior. On the other hand, are there times we condemn the rich and focus solely on the poor, making us guilty of favoritism on the other end?

In the days of the Hebrew temple, there was a festival each year called Sukkos. During that festival, a sacrifice of water was poured on the altar. There was dancing and celebration and giant lights lit throughout Jerusalem after this sacrifice. The Talmud says that "whoever did not see this party did not see a party in all his days."

We need more crazy parties like this in our churches. Could you imagine your local pastor leading a party out into the streets of your town? 

Pouring out water symbolized something deep in the heart of the Jewish people. Sukkos happens after Yom Kippur, and takes place during the harvest season. Farmers who harvest a lot of crops each year might have a tendency to look down on others, creating divisions in their mind and falling in to the temptation of thinking monetary blessings are indicative of God's favoritism. What's worse, sometimes when we have all we need, we forget it came from God in the first place. Paul wrote of Jesus that, "in Him all things hold together." All things. Your car, your house, the tree in front of your house, the molecules in your eye, and the rings of Saturn are all held together by the Star-breather Jesus.  When we forget this, problems begin and our minds become clouded with delusions of superiority or inferiority. 

Usually fine wine was poured out on the alter. Wine that was expensive and precious. When the priests poured out water on the altar, they were symbolizing that whether fine or plain, whether rich or poor, God accepts us if our hearts are pure. David, the Prophet-Poet-King of Israel, wrote in Psalm 51 that "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." 

Let's celebrate that God loves us so much, that it does not matter if we drive a Ferrari. Let's celebrate our status as equals before the Creator of everything from gravity to groundhogs. More importantly, let's celebrate. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Are Christians Turning on their Own?

The other day I was talking with someone about the debates. As ludicrous as this blog post already is, stay with me. This person began disparaging President Obama and calling him names while describing his political ideology as "stupid."

I mentioned to this person, "at least he's a Christian," in order to appeal to common faith we share with Obama.

"Yeah, but not really," they said, "he's a fake Christian."

Excuse me?

Nothing infuriates me more than people questioning the faith of someone else, simply based on political affiliation. So, you don't agree with his tax code ideas or his health care plan...does that qualify you to pronounce his faith a lie? I know we are supposed to call our brothers and sisters out when they are in sin, or being hypocritical, but no one I know has that sort of relationship with the President. Instead, they just talk about him behind his back and are somehow OK with voting a mormon into the White House.

I know what you're thinking. It doesn't matter what faith Romney subscribes to, you should be voting for his policies. That's your prerogative. However, if you were one of the people who voted for Bush and talked about his faith as a reason to support him, you have some thinking to do. What changed in the past four years that made faith not an important criteria? For years the religious right has looked for Christians to get into office, but now faced with a choice between a Christian and a Mormon, they are changing their tune.

What policies of Obama's make him a "fake?" Is it his stance on abortion and gay marriage? When Bush was president, the congress and supreme court were both majority conservative, and the abortion law still wasn't changed. What makes you think bringing another republican into office will finally change that? I hate to say this, because I am extremely pro-life, but the abortion law will never be overturned. Ever. The only way to make abortions go away is to provide cheaper pre-natal care to impoverished young mothers who have no other option. Make adoption a widely-accepted option, take the stigma away from it, and you will see the numbers plummet. Organizations like BraveLove will do more to change the abortion number in this country than a simple administration change ever will. Think about what you can do to make abortions go down without legislation, because that's what being pro-life should really mean.

I'm not telling you to vote for Obama. I'm not telling you to vote solely based on your faith. What I am saying is that hypocrisy and judgement has no place in Christianity. When you believe that God loves you, has a plan for the world, and sent his son to die for them, you have an obligation to show that love to others. ESPECIALLY to other people who believe the same thing.

So before you vote, and before you blast me for supporting the President, watch this video.

Let's stop calling people "fakes."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Real Human Being.

The gospel was never intended to turn the world upside down. I've heard so many pastors and speakers say the message of Jesus was so controversial and opposed to the teachings of this fallen world, that His kingdom was literally turning the world on its head.

As if the One who created the world was opposed to its intended operation. 

For one second suppose that you made a table, or a canoe, or a birthday cake. Now take the thing you've supposedly made and turn it upside down. How well does it work? If you created something to work a certain way, turning it upside down usually means it won't.  If you discovered someone turned your table upside down, however, there is an easy way to remedy your problem.

You turn it right-side up.

The way the world operated before Jesus' birth wasn't the way it was supposed to be. At creation, when man had perfect communion and shared God's glory while walking with the Almighty in the garden, all was right with the world. It was operating the way it was designed to operate. Then, pride and selfishness entered the world and turned everything around. People's efforts to find God became like trying to grab water. They made up laws and rules that, if kept, would assure them of right standing with gods they carved out of stone. They tried their best to regain what they, in their hearts, knew had been lost. 

Ayn Rand, a philosopher and author that has gotten a lot of publicity recently from how much VP candidate Paul Ryan seems to like her, once said that Christianity is a contradiction. She said the "Christian" idea one's personal salvation is of upmost importance, but to achieve salvation one must live a life in service to others was a contradiction which can't be made to work. The problem with her statement is Christianity is not about achieving salvation. It's about making things right. 

This idea of earning your salvation with doing good works for others is another example of humans trying to grab water. When you try and fill your life with something in order to find "meaning," you are guilty of the same thing. I know the feeling. When I try to find my identity or my meaning in girls, or friends, or money, I'm grabbing water hoping it won't slide through my fingers.

It's not supposed to be that way.

N.T. Wright writes in his book Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, "That is because the whole point of the Gospel is to put the world--not upside down, because that is where it already is, but the right way up."

Jesus shows up, and the world is shifted back on its feet. Reality is that the world has already been made new, the old way has passed away, and heaven has already come to earth. It may not seem that way to you right now, but that's the thing about reality, it doesn't require your acceptance. When I am searching for meaning or acceptance through what the world tells me is important, I am buying into a synthesized reality, a false reality, a reality that ceased being true 2000 years ago.

Jesus came so that you could be truly and gloriously human, because a real human being is the thing God created you to be. A real human being in perfect communion with the burning white heart of God. When you see people on the street, you are looking at luminescent spirits housed in bodies designed by God for good works that speak to the new reality He has created. 

About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.