Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grace & Karma

I found some interesting exerpts on the subject of grace from a recent interview with Bono of U2.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  At the bottom, I've included a link to the larger interview.

"You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff"  --Bono

"Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched".  --Bono

"If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it".  --Bono

Read more at The Poached Egg: here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Funeral Songs...

Someday, I intend to die.  And when I do, I would like to have a big say in what my funeral looks and sounds like.  In fact, I'm seriously considering officiating at my own funeral.  I'm thinking that I could prerecord and then via video lead whoever shows up through a journey of remembering my life--at least the stuff that I think is important.  What I don't want is someone who doesn't know me very well giving one of those generic funerals where some nice sentiments are shared and everyone keeps checking their watches (cell phones?).  Who knows me better than me?  And besides, I'm really good at funerals.  If there were a way to specialize in pastoral ministry, mine would be funerals.  Well I'm getting ahead of myself a bit because I don't intend to share my funeral with you--not yet anyway.  I do want to share with you today the songs that I want played at my funeral.  Songs at a funeral can say a lot about a person.  By the way, I have no plans to die anytime soon--I just thought I would share my songs with you...

"Cheer Up Church" - Charlie Peacock  click
"Great is Your Faithfulness" - Hymn click
"It's a Beautiful Day" - U2 click
"Elijah" - Rich Mullins click
"Tie Me at the Crossroads" - Bruce Cockburn click
"Pacing the Cage" - Bruce Cockburn click

Monday, February 07, 2011

Beneficial vs Detrimental

I was honored to have my counselor, Tom Pals, speak to the Grace River family yesterday.  We are not yet recording our messages and so I can't give you his actual presentation, but I can share the notes that I took.  This is not verbatim but rather is the impressions that I wrote down as I listened.

"The Lord knows the thoughts of man.  He knows that they are futile" (Psalm 94:11).

Futile means "empty, vain, unproductive".  We all think that our thoughts are very wise but in reality they are futile.  God says so! 

In the middle of the Garden of Eden, God placed "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" (Genesis 3:8-9).  "Knowledge" is knowing enough to be able to think or act.  For example, a person who has knowledge of a computer can effectively use it.  Genesis 3:9 describes a tree of the "knowledge of good and evil" or perhaps better translated as the tree of the "knowledge of what's beneficial and what's detrimental".  This particular tree is the only tree that Adam and Eve were forbidden from touching.  God did not want them burdened with the responsibility of having to decide "beneficial" vs "detrimental".  Only God who is all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful can rightly determine beneficial from detrimental.  Our futile minds will confuse beneficial with detrimental and detrimental with beneficial and thus we screw it all up.

Joseph, having been severely abused by his brothers, was able to eventually declare, "What you meant for evil, God meant for good" (Genesis 50:20).  In other words, "what you meant to be detrimental, God caused to be beneficial".  Joseph, like us, likely would not see the benefit of being sold into slavery.  However, once he saw how it played out and how God used it to save his family--he could declare it beneficial.  Our futile perceptions lead us to draw the wrong conclusions about what is beneficial and what is detrimental.  Only God knows!  Futile perceptions usually declare pain to be detrimental and pleasure to be beneficial.  That's certainly not how God sees it. 

I ran out of gas on Sunday and I worked very hard to solve the problem myself so that I would not be embarrassed or, in my mind be seen to be irresponsible.  After all, I know that cars need gas to run and I was aware that my car was running low on fuel.  However, by hiding my need, I did not allow the Body of Christ to care for me and to meet my need.  My shame prevented the growth of intimacy between my friends and myself.  I declared the situation "detrimental" and thus prevented something "beneficial" from occurring.  My perceived knowledge of beneficial vs detrimental devalued life, devalued my friends, and thus I devalued the gifts that God has placed within the body.

We are not God and therefore we are not able to discern what's beneficial from what's detrimental.  We would do well to simply put down the fruit and to slowly back away from the tree...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Stuff God Hates...

Throughout the book of Proverbs, there are some interesting lists.  One of them is found in Proverbs 6:16-19, "There are six things the Lord hates--no, seven things he detests".  Since God apparently is seriously annoyed by some things--we might want to be aware of what they are.  I mean, none of us wants to be on the business end of God's wrath.  Angering God is exponentially worse than taking a bone away from my dog, Gavin--and I don't do that--ever!

Here is the proverbial list of things that God detests:

1. Haughty Eyes: self-righteous arrogance.  I don't know if you can see pride in someones eyes or not but you can certainly see it in the way that they look at other people.  To ever think that you are better than someone else is to say that God's creation is imperfect and flawed.

2. A Lying Tongue: deceitful and exaggerated speech.  We are to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  There is no place for exaggerating or for minimizing among God's people.  Just tell the truth--in love!

3. Hands that Kill the Innocent:  literally kill and I think verbally kill.  Most often we kill the innocent by putting them down or by damaging their reputation.  This happens all the time in politics.  It also happens in the church.  Identify a minister who is being mightily used of God and you will find more critics than you can count.

4. A Heart that Plots Evil.  The ends do not justify the means.  To attempt to accomplish a worthy and noble goal by evil means is to be evil.  For example to get together with your friends in order to talk down (pray for?  or gossip?) an enemy is to commit evil.  Jesus says to TALK TO THEM not TALK ABOUT THEM.

5. Feet that Race to do Wrong.  Sometimes it just seems fun to do wrong--or to destroy someone.  It can be exciting.  We race to do it because it's exciting.  I've been on the receiving end of, "a race to do wrong"--at least from my perspective.  I know what it feels like to see people excited and energized as they prepare for a lynching.

6. A False Witness who Pours out Lies.  Exaggeration is lying.  Minimizing is lying.  Twisting the truth is lying.  A "white lie" is a lie.  Sharing the truth without the context is lying.

7. A Person who Sows Discord Among Brothers.  God hates division.  Woe to the person who turns brother against brother.  There is no need to persuade a person against another.  It would be much better to be a peace-maker.

Now the truth is that you have and I have done all of these things at one time or another.  And though God HATES the stuff we do--somehow through the sacrificial death of Jesus--He LOVES us.  Listen to this:  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from THE WRATH OF GOD through Him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:8-10).