Archive for June, 2010

Wit-nessing

Posted: June 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been reading through Luke in my devotions for the past few weeks, and this morning I’ve enjoyed marveling at Jesus’ responses to the various not-so-innocent questions hurled his way. I can’t help but put myself in the crowd watching these revered scribes and pharisees conspire together to trip Jesus up. My imagination is a little ridiculous sometimes, but while reading through these accounts, I picture these esteemed leaders in their elegant robes all huddled together, hands-over-shoulders like a football team planning the next flea-flicker or double-reverse (trick plays, for you non-sports-fans). “Hands in…On three, HYPOCRITES!” They send out their fearless leader, who generally feigns some respect for Jesus up front in an attempt to make his implication-loaded question sound more innocuous than it is.

Case 1: Luke 20. “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?””

Just to give a little background, the Jewish people during that time were under Roman occupation and many hated being ruled by the Gentile Romans. The taxes referred to are thought to be a poll tax taken during a census around 5 or 6 A.D. which took stock of all resources and taxed them on those resources. This would have been viewed by the Jews as a form of enslavement to the Roman rule and there was a strong backlash against it (just read the story of Judas of Galilee, who led a revolt of Zealots against this Roman census which ended in him being killed and his followers exiled). Regardless of whether or not this was the particular tax in question, it’s clear the Jews felt strongly against taxation. Just imagine asking someone before a crowd of Patriots in 1773 whether or not it’s right to pay the British Tea taxes. If Jesus answered “yes,” Jewish followers would probably turn on him. If he answered “no,” they could turn him over to the Roman authorities for leading a revolt against taxation. How clever a response to such a loaded question, then, to ask for a coin. Whose face is on this coin? Render to Caesar’s that which is Caesar’s, and render to God that which is God’s. Brilliant!

Case 2: Still in Luke 20. “Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Fair enough question, right? Not really. Notice the text says, “Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.” By asking this question, they were attempting to discount the credibility of the Resurrection of the dead. Effectively, they’re disguising as a question the implication that if there’s a Resurrection, there sure are going to be an awful lot of polygamists running around. Is that what Jesus is promoting, a polygamist kingdom? The question obviously isn’t so innocent, and Jesus is not nearly so naive.

“Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

Don’t Jesus’ responses make you wish you could be there so you could stand up and cheer? Incredible! Let’s be encouraged by the fact that one day Jesus will return, and all the accusing questions we can’t seem to answer will be for naught, as we stand before the Judge in all his glory and splendor, leaving even the most bold accusers speechless.

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Rules for Facebook

Posted: June 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Just for fun, I thought I’d share this compiled list of Facebook rules I’ve come up with. Enjoy!

In no particular order:

Facebook Rule #1: If you are a girl, you are required to put a ♥ before and/or after any meaningful status update (e.g., “Life is amazing ♥ “, or “♥ ♥ ♥ I’m off with my bff to take a hundred mirror shots where we’ll make the same face for at least 90 of them! ♥ ♥ ♥ “)

Facebook Rule #2: If you are a girl, you are required to openly express your undying affection for your female friends. Acceptable terms and phrases include but are not limited to “Love you girlie!,” “I MISS YOUR FACE!,” or the timeless brief letter:

“Dear Cutie,

I miss you so much!

Love, Your Admirer

P.S. You’re beautiful!”

Corollary: If you are a male, rules #1 and #2 must not be followed. Ever.

Facebook Rule #3: When using song lyrics or quotes as your Facebook status, choose the most ambiguous songs or movies possible, causing your friends to try to piece together the random mess of words. This rule is most effective when using depressing lyrics without quotations marks, leading your loved ones to believe you are morbidly depressed when, in fact, you are hopelessly confused.

Facebook Rule #4: Every once in a while it is a good idea to ask melancholy or even abysmally depressing rhetorical questions. The more you leave the reader wondering whether it is appropriate to respond, the better. Examples include, “What is life without color?” or “How is everything I know becoming a black hole of emptiness and despair?”

Facebook Rule #5: When Facebooking into the wee hours of the night, be sure to post updates about how tired and/or bored you are. These updates prove to be incredibly informative for those who are unaware that 3 a.m. provides as much fun as a coal mine and and that sleep deprivation causes weariness. Generally, one or two drawn out word(s) will suffice (e.g., “tiiiiiirrrrreddddd….” or “sooooooo booooooorrrrreddd”).

Facebook Rule #6: While following rule #5, become a fan of any and every page that seems even remotely amusing at 2 o’clock in the morning. By treating your friends’ news feeds as if it’s Hiroshima in 1945, you guarantee yourself an immediate shunning. Next time you wonder why nobody is commenting on anything you post, realize it is because they’ve long ago hidden your updates after seeing you became a fan of “Can this pickle get more fans than Justin Bieber?” and 273 other profiles.

Facebook Rule #7: If fanning ridiculous pages or anonymously comparing your friends no longer satiates your Facebook cravings, try filling out surveys of 777 completely random questions ranging from “What color are the walls in the room you’re in?” to “Do you like eating with chopsticks on nights with a full moon?” This will cause your friends to get 1/4 of the way through and think “I love ya and all, but seriously? Seriously.”

Facebook Rule #8: When uploading pictures from a social event or gathering, do not bother trying to discern which pictures are actually ready for the internet. Got 7 pictures in a row of cousin Margaret talking to Aunt Mildred? Upload (Don’t forget to tag cousin Margaret in each one!). Got some pics that are blurry and dark? Upload. Just go crazy!

Facebook Rule #9: While spending numerous hours on Facebook updating your status every 10 seconds, be sure you list (and complain about) everything you are NOT getting done in order to reach level 46 of FarmVille. For example: “I should probably be cleaning the house or developing some piece of my humanity to make my existence profitable for mankind, but I’ve got a crop of Artichokes coming in at 2:47”.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading through Saint Augustine’s Confessions over the past couple of weeks (only about half-way through it yet) and have been happily surprised to find it not at all esoteric or academia-centric. Instead, I’ve found it to be deeply insightful and thought provoking. I would compare the experience of reading Confessions to sitting down with your wise grandfather and listening to him narrate his testimony in vivid detail. Sure, at times you say to yourself, “Alright, Grandpa, you’re losing me here. I haven’t been able to track with you through that last argument for the past 5 minutes,” but eventually he concludes that line of thought and you sigh in relief as you eagerly await the continuing of his story. Oh, and he tells stories about things like stealing pears from a nearby orchard…sound like Grandpa?

Augustine’s Confessions is helping me appreciate the wrestling that goes on within a person’s mind in getting to the point of placing their faith in God, the saving work of Jesus Christ, and the infallibility of the Bible. We seem to have this strange idea in Christian circles that if we live out our faith properly, people will approach us and say, “You seem so happy all the time. What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” In reading Augustine, however, I’m discovering to an even greater degree that conversion is rarely so easily accepted. Walls are built up over time as people cling ever more steadfastly to their sinful inclinations of what the world and life are about. Augustine details how he came to work through his notions of strict materialism (can anything exist without physical substance/matter?). He couldn’t comprehend a God apart from material substance. He wrestled with the age-old question of “If God is sovereign and good, why does evil exist?” Even astrology tripped him up. Yep, the revered church father, Augustine, was into horoscopes and star-searching. Yet, through all of these obstacles to faith, God was faithful to bring along friends, speakers, and thinkers into his life to break down each of those barriers with love, probing questions, and compelling reasoning. Most of all, Augustine speaks often of his mother’s deep faith and desperate prayers for him. He says that she cried for him as if he was dead while he was unsaved, and prayed day and night for his salvation.

Let’s not discount the significance of our prayers and petitions to see others come to faith in Jesus Christ! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “Well, if God is sovereign and has planned all things from before time, my prayers don’t matter and can’t affect anything.” That’s bogus! (Matthew 7:7-11, Matthew 21:21-22, 1 John 5:14-15, 1 Peter 3:12, Psalm 40:1-3, Psalm 5:3). For those you have for years been reasoning with and praying for with seemingly little fruit, don’t underestimate the eternal significance that has on that person’s life. Your loving debates and prayers for them may one day be a pivotal part of their testimony!

More thoughts may come after finishing the rest of the book, but for now I’m encouraged to be a chisel in God’s hand, chipping away at the stymies in paths of unbelieving friends. Perhaps I will never see if all the rocks were chiseled away, or God may use other chisels to achieve his purposes, but what a joy to be a small part of his plan for the salvation of sinners like me.

“I’ve paced myself pretty well. I’m 30, I’ve seen some cool stuff. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself. That’s a really cool sentence when you’re in your 20s, right? “I made it happen for myself.” But all that means is that I’ve just somehow or another found a way to synthesize love”

These words are from John Mayer, renowned contemporary guitarist and singer/songwriter. It’s an excerpt from a little introduction he gives to a song called Bold as Love, telling about how he’s tried everything: buying lots of cool things, shutting himself off from people, and “making happen for himself” more than most 20/30-year-olds could imagine. Yet he found all these pursuits empty, and tells the audience confidently that he is going to experiment with Love…real “I got your back” kind of love. Now, I assume, because he’s making relationship with fallen human beings the bedrock of his life, that this pursuit will end up being added to the list of things he’s tried and found lacking in his ultimate quest for real fulfillment. However, I want to zoom in on the third thing he mentioned trying, and that is following the independent route.

“I made a lot of things happen for myself.” Mayer sees the ultimate insignificance of this statement. It’s as if he saying “Yeah, I did a lot of cool stuff and earned a lot of fame and money on my own, so what? Who cares? I’m not any better off for it.” Independence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Mayer epitomized it, and turned his back on it. It’s overrated.

Are you trying to build your life on being independent? Do you have some subtle inclination to make things happen for yourself to find some definition of character or satisfaction with life? Do you ever think, like I have, “Man, if I could just be really good or well-known for one thing, just one thing, that would be amazing.” I think of how incredible it would be to be an admired drummer or a prominent author or anything else that would somehow distinguish me from the mass of humanity that occupies this planet. But if anyone is distinguished from the crowd, it’s John Mayer. Already, at such a young age, he’s admired for his skill and technique on the guitar. But he seems to echo Solomon in calling it all “vanity of vanities, a chasing after the wind.”

We’re not meant to be happy living independently.

Think about where you would be without the aid of the friends and family God has given you as gifts (even those you wish came with a gift receipt). The very idea of independence that we esteem so highly in America is frankly ridiculous. We’re dependent on a father and mother to be born, to be fed, to be nourished through infancy. We depend on them for food and shelter until we’re, say, 20 years old, give or take a few years (hopefully!). Even when we’re able to move out, we’re dependent on an employer to pay our salary so that we can buy food from wholesalers who made the food we wouldn’t know how to make on our own. We buy houses that were built by people because most of us don’t know how to build houses. We buy cars and hire mechanics because we don’t possess the knowledge or supplies to build and maintain a suitable vehicle. We call 911 and visit doctors and dentists and hire babysitters and google information people have posted and read books to acquire knowledge. And even if we decided to become hermits and hunt our own food and rig our own shelter to live on the vegetation, we would still depend on God for our every breath and footstep.

We couldn’t be independent if we wanted to!

So, let’s stop trying.