unalloyed

May 29, 2010

God spoke to me through three different scriptures today.

I’m a couple chapters into Mark and Patti Virkler’s book Dialog with God. Chapter two points out the passage in Ezekiel 14 where the elders came to the prophet to ask God a question. God responds to them: “Since you’ve come to me with idols in your hearts, I’m going to answer you regarding your idols”.

I might further paraphrase: “You’ve already decided what you’re going to hear and what you’re going to do.  Why should I answer you?  Get the garbage out, then we’ll talk.”

This may become a pivotal verse for me.  What God is saying is that he is actively involved in the ongoing purification of my heart.  Even though I know him and pray to him, he’s not going to answer when I’ve placed a man-made idea or concept as his equal in my life and mind.

As I was reading the verses in Ezekiel I was reminded of the one at the beginning of James’ letter where he says: “But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a double-minded individual, unstable in all his ways.”

Satan’s first words to Eve were calculated to introduce doubt.  And doubting God is an indication of an idol.  It means I’ve believed God is less than he is, or something else is greater than he is.

The third verse was one Adam Edelstein posted on Facebook.  It’s in Paul’s second Corinthian letter where he wrote: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Together the three verses said to me: “God wants my whole heart.  He is at work on me, through my relationship with him, revealing the impurities.  He expects me to use the power tools he has provided to continually purify my heart of the things he is revealing.”

Not a bad word for a day, eh?

telling stories

May 10, 2010

The good guys wear white hats and draw faster and shoot straighter.  They win all their fights and ride off in the sunset with the pretty girls.

And they’re not real; they’re just a badly told story, missing most of the details.

Ever notice the heroes in the Bible?  Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul – all great men of God – all just as human as you or me.

A bad story is idealized and moralistic.  A good story shows pride and desire and fear and the battle to overcome them or to deal with the consequences when they’ve prevailed.  The goal of a good story is relationship and the protagonist’s temptation is to rat out a friend to save himself.

And God is a great story teller!

open and honest

May 4, 2010

One of the things I do for a living is design and develop business software.  My favorite project of all time began eighteen years ago at IBM’s Toronto lab on a product called ImagePlus.  We completed the project on time, within budget, and with an unusually low defect rate.  Two doctoral students from the University of Guelph somehow heard about our project and came out to study the team and discover the secret to our success.

Each team member filled out a survey and the researchers interviewed a number of us.  Their finding was eye-opening.  We weren’t successful because of superstar team members or a new breakthrough in management theory.  They felt the keystone of our success was one key phrase that came up on the questionnaire and in interviews: “open and honest communication”.

I heard that phrase several times recently listening to Ed Catmull speak at an event put on by the Economist magazine.  Ed is president of Pixar Studios and was speaking about running a creative company.  He too listed open and honest communication as a key factor in their success.  Working with strong, creative, even eccentric personalities was all part of the job, but the real challenge is calling things what they really are.  Being un-intimidated about saying so when something isn’t working.  Willing to recognize when people are gaming the system. Thick-skinned enough to handle criticism.  Willing to trust the other people in the process to do their jobs while you do yours.  That’s what makes an excellent project team.

And couldn’t we use some of that in the Kingdom of God?

friends

April 21, 2010

I was in a familiar situation yesterday – looking for something that I knew was in the room but I couldn’t quite find.  And I repeated that familiar prayer, “Lord, you know where it is and I don’t.  Please show me where to look.”

I know a few things about God.

For one, he is not on my time schedule.  In fact, I’m pretty sure he thinks it’s funny how much I worry about time.

Another thing; he knows what I really need, and that’s frequently different than what I think we need.

One final thing I’ve noticed about him.  He wants to spend time with me, just like any good friend.  If I don’t make the time, sometimes he’ll do it for me.

So that’s where the game started.  I say game, because that’s exactly what it was – God was playing with me.  He knew I was in a big hurry to get the thing I was looking for.  People were depending on me.  I’d committed to be at a certain place at a certain time with some equipment.  So I asked him, “Should I look over here?”

“No”, he said.

“Ok, back here then?”

“Ok”

This went on for a couple hours.  By then end I’d found several items not on my “things I need”  list – but which turned out to be critical for what I was doing.  Also he opened my eyes to his plans for my near future that I’d been wondering about – but plans not-at-all related to my pressing dilemma.  And of course, he did finally point me to the thing I originally asked about.  It was in plain view in a place I’d looked before I’d even prayed.

I drove away literally laughing about the good time we had, just hanging out with my best friend, God.  My sense was that he enjoyed it too.

I was extraordinarily late for my appointment.  And it was somehow no problem at all.

same old lies

April 17, 2010

As I drove home this evening I was listening to an interview with Ray Kurzweil.  It was on NPR (might have been BBC – I didn’t notice the hour).  It could have been a re-broadcast as well, since a lot of Kurzweil’s talking points haven’t changed much over the years (e.g.; here and here).

His main points were that we will soon (2030) create our own next phase of evolution by manipulating our genetics and combining human biology with computer intelligence.  Technology would then make eternal life possible.

I was struck by the similarity between his comments and the first words the Bible records of Satan, (in the form of a serpent):

“Did God really say…?” [you can’t trust God]

“You will not surely die!” [there is no penalty for rebellion]

“…you will be like God, knowing good and evil” [God is holding out on you]

I know Ray is supposed to be a futurist and all, but his message sounds old to me.

cross eyed

April 13, 2010

I’ve been reading and meditating on the cross verses:

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” — Mathew 10:38

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.  Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”  But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. — Matthew 16:21-27

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” — Mark 8:34

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ — Philippians 3:18

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” — Luke 14:27

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. — 1 Corinthians 1:18

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. — Galations 6:14

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.     For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  (24)Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. — Galatians 5:16,17,24

Pardon me for bringing this up, but if I turned on the Christian TV or radio today, is that what I’d hear?

the accusative case

April 7, 2010

I was listening to a youtube by Zo Rachel of Macho Sauce Productions and realized something new.   Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of the brethren”, and he certainly is that.  But the first accusation we know of wasn’t against man but against God.

In Genesis 3:1-5 the serpent first implies that Eve can’t trust God, and then that God is holding out on her.  His insinuation is that God somehow has a selfish purpose for keeping her from something that is her right and destiny.

As my friend Mike Johnson says, “God doesn’t owe you nuthin!”, but how many times have we sided with Satan and treated God as if he is keeping us from something good and desirable?  These days  he rarely rains down fire from heaven or has the earth open up to swallow people alive, but it’s a wonder to me how he restrains himself.  How would you feel if you’d rescued someone from certain destruction, then set them up with a nice living, only to have them hurl accusations at you?

I’ve observed mothers bound by a spirit of rejection as they attempt to pass that spirit on to the next generation.  They do it by storing up accusations against the children’s father and rehearsing those accusations regularly in the children’s ears.  Satan set the pattern for that in his first interaction with humanity, and his accusations since then haven’t weakened – or changed.

Models

March 31, 2010

A synagogue/rabbi (church/pastor) model seeks equilibrium and consistency.

An apostolic/prophetic model is inherently disruptive and divisive.

An elder is to a pastor what a judge of Israel was to a king.

Since we do church the way the Rabbis did it, we shouldn’t be surprised that we get their results instead of Jesus’.

A Few Things About Jesus

March 31, 2010

Ever notice that Jesus’ ministry only occasionally involved religious institutions?  When they stopped inviting him he didn’t even complain.  His message was kingdom, not church/synagogue.

He spent a lot more time showing people how to live than telling them.

His first, most important job was to maintain his relationship with his Father. He regularly skipped opportunities to minister so he could spend time with Dad.

He was humble, but fearless, before men.

We don’t know if he laughed, but we know that he cried.

He never worked a crowd.  He never gave an altar call.  He never took an offering.  He had no salary and no building to maintain.  He forbade his disciples to be called by religious titles.

He didn”t worry about who he might offend.  Sometimes he intentionally offended people.

The people he hung out with were distinctly un-religious.

His very existence bothered religious people because he wasn’t part of their system and they couldn’t control him.  Eventually that cost him his life, which he freely gave.

worthy

March 13, 2010

What a wonderful thing the Worthy chorus from Zach Neese‘ song Alabaster Jar has become to me.  For two or three years it’s been my mind’s background music.  When I’m walking or sitting or driving or waiting.  When I’m excited or assured or afraid or apprehensive.  Whenever I’m not doing something else, Worthy starts “playing”.