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The Diaper Dance

After rounding up and bathing my three offspring last night, we all four settled down for our nightly story time.  I read from a children’s bible that the kids like because it has full color pictures of what Israel looks like today as well as the typical colored illustrations showing a single frame action from the story in the text.

Last night took us to the life of David (my oldest son likes the story of David chopping off Goliaths head) and we reached the page which depicted David entering Jerusalem as King with the Ark of the Covenant, in parade fashion, while dancing in his underwear.  In the distance you can see David’s wife Michal with a scowl on her face as she takes in the view of her honorable husband acting like a nineteen year old frat boy running through the streets of campus half naked. 

“Why is he in his underwear?  What happened to his clothes?” my daughter asked. 

I explained to her that David had taken off his robes when he entered Jerusalem and danced in front of the Ark because he was so happy that God had been faithful to His word.  Despite the fact that David had been anointed King by Samuel just three pages earlier, it had been a long time coming.  David was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God and so he celebrated by taking off his robes and dancing around for joy so that everyone would know that it was God that made David King and given him the victory over his enemies. 

It was at this point that my two year old son who was just wearing a diaper picked up on the word dance and stood up on the bed and began to groove to music in his head.  The rest of us began cracking up as he showed off his moves with a giant smile on his face.  We began to sing this song so he would have a rhythm to follow as he got jiggy with it right there on the bed in front of us:

I will dance, I will sing,

to be mad for my King,

Nothing Lord, is hindering,

This passion in my soul!

And I’ll become even more undignified than this,

Some would say it’s foolishness,

But I’ll become even more undignified than this,

Leave my pride by my side!

La, La, La, La Hey!

This went on for about five minutes and by the end all three children were down to their underwear and dancing before God.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t sing with them anymore!

After I had gotten them to settle down and tucked them in, I couldn’t help thinking about what it must have been like for David to have waited on God’s promise all those years.  I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for him on the darkest nights when he was running for his life with nothing but the clothes on his back.  How many times had doubt crept into his mind.

All this made me think about the scripture I had been reading lately (I read from an adult bible without pictures) and how it connected to my sons little diaper dance.

Hebrews says it like this:

Heb 11:6
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
NIV

Faith, at it’s very essence is believing that God does exist.  We have to really believe that He is present, not just up in the clouds watching from a distance, but actually in our lives, in our holy places and unholy places.  He goes before us when we walk into a worship gathering and when we walk into a bar.  Secondly, we must believe that God will reward us when we seek Him.  We have to believe that he will watch over us and supply our need, even if we give a large portion of our income to the needy.  We have to believe that it is worth it to give up the things he has called us to give up in order to gain a better future with him.  This is true faith.  This is being a Christian, and anything less is not pleasing to God.

Learn to do the diaper dance, and you will find fulfillment in your faith!

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We head south today to Kentucky, in an effort to help the Cumberland Mountain Outreach finish their new community building.  There is 11 of us going on this little adventure into the Appalachian Mountains to hang siding on the new building.  We will most likely be working sun up to sun down in order to get the project done in the two days allotted for the work.  Among our cargo is a collection of 10 trikes collected from a local school in Upper Arlington.  The little bikes are heavy duty and will be great for use at the outreach or as gifts to children in the community.  We will be staying in cabins at the Mission and will be less than 100 feet from the building we will be working on so things should get going quickly in the morning.  The biggest challenge we face is the downhill side of the building (in Kentucky everything is built on a hill) which is roughly 30 feet off the ground.  There will be a cherry picker available to help us with this side but it will no doubt be challenge to get this done. 

The Outreach is run by my uncle and aunt.  They host work groups from April to October, mainly focusing home building and repair, as well as camp weeks for the local children.  They also provide food and clothing for the neediest families in the community.  Our last project with CMO was a bicycle drive for the local children at Christmas.  We were able to round up 150 bikes that were well received by joy filled children back in December. 

If you are interested in learning more about CMO and all they do to minister to their community, check them out at www.cmoky.org

Is God Imaginary?

I know this question is kind of hard to hear and ever harder to try and approach honestly, but I think it is a valid one.  I came across a pretty interesting web site this week while doing research for a marriage counseling session.  The site was designed to convince people of all faiths (though it does make an emphasis on the Christain faith) that the God they believed in was imaginary.  The premise is that all you have come to believe about God is purly a product of the human imagination.  The publisher, who remained nameless, presented several arguments, even in video format that “exposed” for me the reality that God is a figment of my imagination. 

The search that got me to this particular site was one I was doing on divorce rates.  This search lead me to the many findings on the divorce rate among Christians.  This very intelligent person (Rom 1:21-23) used the high divorce rate among Christians as one of his arguments against the existence of God.  He claims the apparent weakness in Christian marriages proves that God is not making our marriages stronger and therefore God is imaginary.  His strongest argument (1 Cor 1:27), in his opinion, is the fact that God never heals amputees.  Why would God heal internal diseases and illnesses, but not heal amputees?  It’s interesting to me that he thinks God’s ultimate goal for creation is to regrow my shop teachers missing finger.

This site did make me ask some serious questions though.  It made me wonder if some of us aren’t following an imaginary God.  A God that is not the authentic, true God.  It wouldn’t be that rediculuos of a notion.  If there is anything that the Old Testament points to it is the reallity that God’s people tend to follow false god’s even in the presence of the One True God.  I think idolatry creeps in when our faith becomes more ritual and tradition than active and real.  When we just go through the motions of our religion we lose the heart of what it really means to follow Christ.  James touches on this when he says:

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

This makes me wonder if the problem isn’t that God is imaginary, but that our faith is.  It seems to me that we present a faith that only relies on belief and ritual.  At what point have we been challenged or challenged one another to live out our faith? Faith has become a subject for one morning a week and for many faith has become a subject only fit for children.

What if God’s people were to awaken.  What if God brought life back to these bones of ours and the spirit would return to the body? 

I have asked myself over the last couple days whether I am a person of faith or of ritual.  Of life or of death?  Is everything I do in life an extension of my faith or of something else?  When I wake up do I start my day in faith or something else?  Am I fueled and acting out in faith or am I fueled and acting out in selfish ambition, jealousy, idolatry, addiction, pride, etc.?

Willy Wonka asked the question (Gene Wilder, not the freaky Johnny Depp version) that I think gets to the reality of change that needs to take place in our lives.  He said, “Where is fancy bread? In the heart or in the head?”  What changes first?  The will to do something, or the decision to go and do it.  Faith is responding to the word of God.  I think many of us our sitting back and waiting until God gets us to the point that we feel like helping our neighbors and loving our families.  We are waiting for God to get us to the point where we feel like praying, learning, meditating, growing, serving. 

I think God is waiting for us to get to the point where we will act out on our faith, despite the fact that we don’t feel like doing these things.

I was able to catch the latest installment to the Pirate’s of the Caribbean saga. Here is my initial response.

“Dang this theatre is packed!”

“East India Company reminds me a lot of Exxon Mobile.”

“What’s with the giant nose and why does hell just seem to be freaky like willy wonka?”

“That voodoo chick made a whole lot of noise for nothing.”

“Will, think it through man!  She ain’t gonna be that hot in 10 years. Better stow your heart in the bilge locker.”

I can’t stop thinking about this concept of having your heart in a box.  The notion that you could lock it up and give it only to those you trusted is fascinating.  The biggest downside would be that anyone could steel your heart and destroy you.  It reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matt 6:19-21,
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The imagery of the heart being in a treasure chest is certainly appropriate.  The heart governs the will of a person and the will is what keeps us all from turning into Michael Jackson.

Could it be that the heart in a box concept is a valid metaphor for the way the human heart works? I have yet to meet the person who was totally heartless. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met cruel people, but their cruelty was  more a result of their heart being buried under the sand after years of pain or abuse. Even the person who seems to operate totally independent of others has their heart set on something. No one is without dreams and aspirations.

I was watching the season finaly of House last night. (I should read more, I know)  If you didn’t catch it, Doctor House had a female patient whose heart failed and she and her husband were praying that the problem would be solved and that she would survive.  House detested the notion of putting faith in God and ridiculed the couple for praying.  It was through this realization that House discovered that she wasn’t sick but “God screwed up” and she was born with a defect in her heart.  He had to go in and fix God’s mistake so that the woman would survive. 

The show was provocative and I suppose upset some of the conservatives in this country.  It made me think about the heart and how good God’s creation is and how much we have corrupted it. 

The character of House facinates me because he is a perfect illustration of the person of faith that thinks he doesn’t believe in anything.  His is perhaps the clearest religion, because he is so dangerously committed to it.  Science, reason, discovery and the powerof human ingenuity.  It’s cool the way he becomes like Davy Jones in the Pirate’s movie at the end of almost every episode.  They both are alone and miserable in their faith. 

If I could box my heart up I would take it and put it in a storage locker where it would never have to hear the hurtful words of a friend who betrays me.  I would have it hidden during the commercials of children starving in other parts of the world, begging for my help.  I would toss it in my trunk before my church gatherings so I wouldn’t be consumed by the things I need to change in my world.  In fact I would probably only take it out when I was spending time with my children, or on a date with my wife. 

And perhaps the best part of all…

I would never have to worry about my cholesterol.

Jack Bauer needs all the help he can get this season, but his gravest issue has nothing to do with the Chinese or the Russians.  Would someone please release this writing staff and bring in some fresh ideas!  Let these poor overtapped wordsmiths take a vacation and come back in a couple seasons while there is still a show to save!  The plot is slow, the character development is gone and the echos of seasons passed are wringing reverberating into the plot of an already wounded storyline.  The terrorists took over CTU (haven’t they done that before?), They hacked into the CTU communication systems (didn’t they increase security measures from the last time that happened?) and how many of us were just waiting for jack to tell Doyle to enter the building in a Flank 2 position when the terrorist had his nephew by gunpoint in the middle of the room while jack was waiting on his knees for an opportunity to catch the closest bad guy by suprise?

And heres another question.  How many cars and drivers does this guy have?  They shot up his three car entourage along with his drivers and henchmen and some how he always ends up having another driver who pulls around back with a hummer or some other SUV.  I’m sure even Bill Gates couldn’t afford this guys transportation budget. 

Somebody find a writer fast!  The clock is ticking!

I can’t believe I have been dragged along for the last few months investing my time, attention and interest in this show.  I found some encouragement when I saw the pathetic curly headed kid go down, despite all the effort of those who wished to sabotage the show by electing the most unlikely candidate.  From the first round I knew that Melinda Doolittle would be writing her own ticket for a record contract before the season was over.  Now I know this to be the case.  How many of us were ready to buy her album two months ago after dazzling us with such amazing vocals and talent?  I believe Melinda Doolittle was done-in by her own talent.  The woman already has proved the talent and following to begin a career as a soloist and will no doubt top the record sales of whoever the show touts as the new “American Idol”.  Could it be that this is why she was eliminated so early?  Don’t get me wrong, I would never question the integrity of Idols voting systems, after all whats more reliable than a text message?

My opinion?  Too much money at the top if Doolittle wins.  She had to be thrown off now so that Simon could squeak a few more dollars from these other two wanna be’s.

I can’t tell you off the top of my head the number of books I have read in the past three years on starting and growing churches. With each book it seems that every author has his own definition on what church is. Some argue there are certain things that need to be in place, such as elders, doctrinal statements, sacraments, etc. Others hold the view that “wherever two or more are gathered” then church is happening.

 

As I read the New Testament it strikes me that the church is never spoken of or addressed in these terms. It seems that decades of change in culture and religion has altered the view most of us have on the church. In our context the church is different than that of the first century. For starters, we face the challenge of a thousand different denominational differences and traditions. There weren’t seven different churches in a single town in the first century. Imagine if Paul were to write a letter today to the church in
Columbus, Ohio. It would take three weeks just to get the letter around to all the different church gatherings in and around our city!  We’ve come a long way since
Jerusalem. 

 

The Greek word “ecclesia” is the term that we translate into church in the English language. This term is a compound that literally means to “call out”.  The church is the “called out” ones. This Greek term was also used interchangeably with the term “synagogue”, which means assembly. Synagogue infers a certain level of hospitality.  Neither one of these terms seems to denote today’s concept of church.

 

In the first century every believer had a sense of calling on their life. To confess Christ was to sacrifice something. The earliest believers were imprisoned, killed and isolated from the local community. Everyone understood, from the Apostles to the guys serving food to widows, that they were called out of the world and into an eternal Kingdom.

 

They also demonstrated the proper response of blessing others just as God had blessed them. None of the church members had need because they all shared in God’s blessings. They sold property and gave financially in order to meet the needs of the widows and orphans. While it is encouraging to see in the American church culture a sense of love for the lowly, a majority of our support for others goes directly to those outside the church. We tend to project a belief that those who have received God’s grace should never find themselves in a situation of need. This couldn’t be farther from the New Testament model. These believers took care of each others needs first. You can imagine why people would want to join a group like this!

 

Is it possible to regain this concept of church? Can we reclaim the forgotten ways of our spiritual fathers? Could we return as the church united, to the heart of Jesus? Can we experience love at an unconditional level?