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Pigeon Poo, Potty Mouth, and the Will of God

I sometimes (often) marvel at God’s timing. If you, like me, are a theist (and indeed a Christian), then you likely believe that God is sovereign (in charge). Yet somehow, within the context of that sovereignty, he created us–creatures with free will. So today, of my own volition, I ventured out to CVS pharmacy to pick up some heating pads for a stiff neck. Well and good. On the way back, I was treated to sudden wet slap falling upon my right shoulder. This moist blat managed to splash on my right earlobe. For the briefest of moments, I thought it rain. It was not. It was the digestive leavings of an avian exiting its cloaca.

To be precise, it was pigeon poo (yuck!).

How did my little jaunt to CVS, and back, place me (so to speak) at the scene of the “crime” at that precise instant?

This avian accident necessitated a detour into Starbucks, where I cleaned off the alimentary outburst to the best of my ability. Leaving there, I proceeded back to work.

Which put me at the intersection near my office just in time for:

An older lady, decked out in a red jumpsuit, cane in hand, yelling at the top of her lungs, “You don’t get no p*ssy for letting me cross the street. You hear me? You don’t get no p*ssy for letting me cross. Maybe if I’s a younger skank, but you ain’t getting any.” This tirade seemed to be directed at no one other than the ether.

Here, again, it’s all about timing: if I hadn’t been so rudely detained by a roosting winged rat, I would have missed out on this colorful outburst.

What does it mean? What, if anything, is God trying to tell me?

As I said above, I believe He is sovereign–the superordinating power which runs the universe. That said, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “free will almost requires a kind of divine self-abdication.” In other words, if lesson there is to be had here, it’s that:

1) God is good; and

2) Sh*t happens

Sometimes it flows from a cloaca; others, from the human mouth.

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up

If we learn anything from history, the Bible, culture, we are, by and large, an idolatrous people. Wars have been fought for lands, possessions, people. Helen of Troy is said to have had a face that launched a thousand ships. The litany goes on and on.

Point is, we’ll make an idol of anyhting: beauty, our cars, our T.V.s, our summer homes, what have you. Sure, we’re much too enlightened for that these days–we don’t call them idols anymore.

But idols they are. Come on: we idolize celebrities, needing to know every minute detail of their lives, while decrying the presence of those rags at all the supermarket checkstands. Fact is, if we didn’t buy them, if there weren’t demand, those magazines wouldn’t be there. The publishers just give us what we want. So, too, Hollywood with its movies and T.V. shows: whatever sells tickets, and generates ad revenue, is what it will keep churning out. Ad nauseum.

It’s all fine and dandy to lay the blame at another’s feet–when the problem lies about eight inches beneath the head, and in the center of the human chest.

It’s a heart condition.

And the worst of all the idols we put before God is the one we fashion in our likeness. (Look no further than our iconography: every people group wants to claim Jesus as their own. There’s white Jesus, brown Jesus, black Jesus, yellow Jesus, etc. When all we know for sure was that He was a Semitic man, “without form or comeliness”). Instead of letting Him claim as His own…

Just as the God who hates everything/everyone we hate is likely one who we have created in our likeness, so, too, is the God who approves of everything we do. Who likes everything we like.

If God (if Jesus) we serve doesn’t offend our sensibilities, He’s a poseur, an impostor.  A fake. Because the real one is an iconoclast: someone who defies labels, will not be pigeonholed.

Just like nobody puts baby in a corner, so, too, no one puts God in a box. Oh, we try. How we try:

There’s conservative God, who wants to close the borders, and doesn’t care about the aliens and strangers among us. There’s the gay God, who wants to just tastefully redecorate our souls (and His son is coming back clad in rainbowed-colored robes, bestride a unicorn). There’s also the social justice God, who only cares about hot button issues, about righting this world’s ills, about making a heaven on earth. But from Him one never hears the Gospel, of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Cause he’s too busy trying to make a heaven on earth now. When the real God says nothing about doing that; rather, He says He’s going to make a new heaven and a new earth. (This is not to say that there are not worthy causes–there are. But the Gospel is the cause).

Lest we forget, in addition to the Gods, the Jesuses, detailed above, there’s also Focus on the Family God–whose focus is indeed upon the family. Families are good, for sure.

But can you imagine that God saying:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” ( Matthew 10:34-36 ESV).

That’s not very family friendly, folks.

The point of all of this, in case you hadn’t guessed, is to simply state this:

It’s a slippery slope, folks, when the God we serve shares all of our values. And not the reverse.”

Jesus didn’t die just to tastefully redecorate, but rather to knock the whole building down, pour a new foundation (Himself), and start afresh.

He came not to make us nice people, but rather new people. People fashioned after His image and likeness. Anything less, or else, is idolatry. It’s Jesus-and–which, as we know from Galatians, is not the Gospel. He tells us come as we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.

Because an encounter with the real Jesus will always leave us fundamentally changed.

Always.

So, which God–which Jesus–do you serve?

The Chill Winds of Mortality

When someone so well-loved, widely regarded, respected, and talented as Robin Williams was passes on it’s like losing a friend. Or a family member. This is someone who came into our homes week after week, who we visited at the cineplex, who was in the news.

So it hits hard.

Doubly so, and especially for those of is who grew up watching Mr. Williams’s work, because it reminds us of stark naked reality: if someone so rich, successful, and nearly universally loved as Williams was can die, so can we all.

We are not immune to death’s call. So far as I know there’s but one way to enter this world (birth), and though it take a myriad forms, one way to leave it:

Death.

As the story of Williams’s death broke we all felt you chill winds of mortality blow over our souls. Wealth, success, fame, power, regard are no antidote. While wealth may buy us extra time, it’s no guarantee. The late Steve Jobs was a billionaire, was able to extemd his life by a few years, yet still he had to pay the boatman.

Death, as Shakespeare said, is the “undiscovered country, from whose borne no traveler returns.” Even those of us who are Christians don’t know what awaits us on the other side. We have the Bible, and we have hope. But none of, despite claims to the contrary, has actually crossed over, seen what lies in that far country, and come back to report our findings.

It doesn’t work that way. God generally does not, as much as we wish it, gives us foreknowledge of our own ends. He teaches is instead to number our days, to live as if He were coming back, indeed to live as if each day was our last.

Because we never know. It could be a car accident, a plane crash, a heart attack, a tumor, or any number of things which could lay each one of us low. The only think I know that is sure, upon which I have staked my life, is this:

“He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. He that lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

That’s what it comes down to, friends:

Faith, and

Trust

Where are you placing yours? Knowing that this one life you’ve been given here upon this earth will end, where–in whom–are you placing your faith, your trust?

Your (eternal) life depends upon it.

Changes

I’m not one to do things by half measures. I’m, like most men, sort of binary like that. I either don’t workout at all, or (like now) I’ve joined a gym, and am working out days per week.

It’s all about changes, really. I see my body changing, my energy flagging, and my waistline expanding. Time was, I didn’t have to do anything about it. I could eat what I wanted.

But the carefree days of youth are gone–replaced by sobering reality:

Things cannot continue as they have been. It’s time that childish ways were put behind me (while simultaneously keeping my childlike sense of wonder intact). I think about the future, about being there for my family…

It’s about far more than just exercise–as important as that is. It’s about setting an example, about leaving a legacy. To that end, while I’m exercising the self-discipline to condition my body, I’m also involved in counseling. Because I want to discipline my soul. I want to free myself from the wrong ways I’ve handled things.

I want to set an example for my family that continues long after I’m gone.

I want to finish strong.

So I work, and strive, now to build not just a better body, but a better soul. For it was for freedom that Christ set us free. I don’t want to continue to be entangled in the negative influences, and patterns, that have shaped me until now. It’s time to let that go.

I’ve learned something along the way I’d like to pass onto you:

It’s not enough to just let something (bad, negative, hurtful, sinful) go; no, else we risk leaving a void.

We have to replace those former things with something good, uplifting, holy.

You see, I’m making a lot of changes lately. I’m tearing down one house in order to build it upon a better foundation.

Changes.

Are there any you need to make?

Noah Has Sailed Into Stores

noah giveaway_1

As you may, or may not, know, the Noah movie has been released on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital. This movie generated quite a bit of dialogue both before, and during, it’s theatrical release. While we as Christians may not agree with the artistic license Darren Aronofsky employed in making the film, I think we can all agree that he had that right. Before we get into a debate about the movie’s artistic merits, or lack thereof, we would do well do remember that written works (such as the Bible is) and films are very different artistic mediums. What works well on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen. And the account of Noah as recorded in Scripture is very short. It is also completely without conflict. What I’m saying is that Mr. Aronofsky had scripted, and filmed, his movie with slavish adherence to the text it wouldn’t be a movie worth seeing: it would be woefully short, and without conflict.

Conflict is what drives stories. At their most basic, stories are about a character who wants something, and undergoes conflict to get it. In an industry dominated by the almighty dollar, name me a studio that would finance a wide theatrical release films which clocks in about twenty minutes. Who would pay to see that? (I wouldn’t. Movies are frightfully expensive these days. I’m not plunking down my hard-earned scratch on something unless it tells a compelling story. It has to be worth my time). There isn’t one. Added to that is that fact that Hollywood, by and large, isn’t in the business of catering to Christians. Why should we expect them to do so? Is that reasonable? In Celebrate Recovery, they have a maxim that goes: “Accepting this sinful world, as Jesus did, as it is, and not as I would have it to be.” Which is to say that, as people of faith, we would do well to moderate our expectations of the entertainment product coming of the movie industry. They, being very being very much interested in the bottom line, have to make a product which appeals to the broadest audience possible. That said, I have no compunction about avoiding most of the films, T.V. shows, what have which originate there. I know very well what the Scripture says about the love of money being a root of all kinds of evil.

That’s a given.

In this particular case, that of Noah, yes, Aronofsky used both the Bible, and extra-biblical sources (midrash, etc). We may not agree with that. We may not like all of his choices, or the way Noah is depicted on screen. However, let’s not forget the one, singular truth here: a director has been given the greenlight to make a big budget film about Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption. Again, we may not agree with everything that takes place on screen. Nevertheless, the fact that this film was made gives us a giant opportunity to talk about: Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, and redemption. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. The good news is that the Bible has been brought back into the multiplex in a big way (this December, director Ridley Scott’s Exodus Gods and Kings will bow).

My opinion? When God hands us an opportunity this large we best use it. People that aren’t normally open to discussing the Bible will be open, will have questions.

And we need to be there… with the Good News.

And there’s more good news for anyone reading this post: in conjunction with Grace Hill Media, I’m giving away a special edition box set of Noah. Just follow the instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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