Thursday, September 29, 2011

Four "tudes" part 1

Going to do something a little different.  I've been listening to to a sermon by Ravi Zacharias (this one specifically part 1 part 2, I highly recommend this guy) and have been thinking about the four "tudes" that he discusses we need to bring to our prayer life.  So if this works, I get a month's worth of blogs by talking about each of these and expounding my own impressions on them.  However, I'm going to start with the last one, because it connects to a recent news event.
At that big hadron collider, scientists believe they recently managed to push particles faster than the speed of light.  One of the mainstream news articles said that the event won't make any big deal in the real world, but it would be significant to scientists.  If it proves correct and reproducible, it yanks a major foundation block out of science's vision and understanding of how the universe works.  Part of Einstein's work said that if matter approaches the speed of light, it also approaches infinite mass, meaning in a nutshell that matter gets infinitely heavier the faster it goes. That means if something solid reaches light speed, it's weight will make that solid too heavy to move.  Assuming the experiment was accurate (the jury is still out on that, as with any major discovery) it means something is missing from that foundational equation.  Science may have to do a whole lot of rethinking about how the universe works.
The "tude" related to this story is certitude.  In the world, Einstein's work has long been considered a nearly indisputable fact of life.  Yet suddenly, the world is faced with the possibility that their long held belief may just be wrong.  This has happened many times over the centuries.  The world has gone from flat to round, from the center of the universe to the center of the solar system to somewhere on the edge of one galaxy.  We can find very few worldly things that have not changed, especially in our modern world.  But in the spiritual world, especially in our prayer, we have to come with a sense of certitude.  Not certitude that we are coming to a magic genie who will grant all our wishes if we are good enough people, but a sense of certitude that we are coming to the one, true, almighty, omniscient God of all creation, who loves us and has a plan for us.  Looking throughout the Old and New Testament, we find the powerful men and women of God were always certain of God and His power and plans, and the times they weren't certain was when things went badly.  Moses wasn't able to enter the Promised Land because he didn't follow God's orders, letting his anger and impatience take over.  Peter was walking on the water with Jesus until his sense of certainty slipped, and with it, he slipped down into the water as well.
We are never going to get physical, irrefutable certainty in this world until the sky splits and Jesus comes back.  That's why it's called faith.  But while we are here, that faith is bolstered as long as we walk with that certitude.  Certitude saved Shadrach Meshach and Abednego from the furnace, even if that certitude included the possibility that God's plan wasn't to save them.  How does your situation stack up to that?  Is it so much worse that you can't walk with that same certainty?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A little different vibration....

Last night I caught a few moments of Coast To Coast AM, one of those radio shows that delves into various conspiracy theories, alternate universes, aliens, ect.  The guest was talking about her belief in parallel universes, and lost spiritual abilities that civilization has cost mankind.  As she and the host are going on about these, I'm sitting there wondering how on earth these ideas are more acceptable to so many people than the far out concept of one omniscient, eternal God speaking the universe into being, molding man out of the dust, and setting forth a plan for that man and all his descendants.  Entire universes existing at slightly different vibrations than this one are fine for comic books and sci-fi movies, but what drives so many people to grasp this and other new-age or in many cases old-age theories instead of turning to the Bible.
Further thought points to one direction in particular.  Accepting the Biblical account of the world means accepting responsibility for oneself.  It's been a while since I read up on the various other religions of the world, but I don't recall any of them laying down the type of black and white, clean cut, eternal consequences for mankind's actions.  Some say you just keep trying until you get it right, some say we just cease being, some saw there is a lot of weighing of all our actions and thoughts that decide our eternity.  Only the Bible lays out the idea that only those who accept God as the Almighty and accept the sacrifice of Jesus for their own sins will go to Heaven, everyone else will spend eternity in the lake of fire with the rebellious angels.  No "you were pretty good in life, didn't kill anyone or torture kitties, you can get in".  That's a very hard concept, especially in our everything is equal mindset.  Yet I don't see how it's really a harder concept to believe in than the idea that everything in creation is just random chance.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Use Your Disillusion

The first time I heard a rapper by the name of 2pac was watching Yo MTV Raps many many moons ago, and a song came on called "Brenda's Got A Baby", a track about not just another teen mom in the ghetto, but how her situations and choices affected those around her, including and especially the baby.  I ended up digging up the album (way back when, we had to go to the record store and actually sift through racks of tapes, then cd's, not just type a name into Amazon.  That's a topic for another day, though)  The album had some typical party it up, shoot em up gangsta rap tracks, but along side the aforementioned "Brenda" were a couple of others, like "Part Time Mother" which lifted the Stevie Wonder song to tell the tale of several people, even an unsuspecting father who find themselves taking care of little ones, and "If My Homies Call" a reminder to people from 2pac's past that he may be breaking out, but not forgetting them.  All of these put together a vision, a mindset that the way things are in the community isn't the way they have to be, that there is more to life than gangbanging, that there are consequences to actions that have to be handled.  As time went on 2pac got bigger, and for a while there were still some glimmers of that hope and optimism with tracks like "Keep Ya Head Up" and "I Ain't Mad At 'Cha".  But there also seemed to be a growing disillusionment with the world, a giving up of that hope for a better world, choosing instead to get immersed in the world, with sex, drugs, drink, money, and violence.  That immersion led to 2pac's time in jail and eventually to his shooting death.
I admit to not following the hip hop scene like I did back then, but it really seems like since then, the general attitude has skipped over any hopefulness for a better day and jumped straight to that disillusioned state.  Criminal charges, jail time, inane material excesses all seem to be even bigger badges of honor then they were in the past.
This is far from a black problem, or a gang problem, or a rap problem, the rap scene and it's evolution just provide a very blunt illustration of a far reaching issue.  We seem to be leaping to apathy in too many areas of the world, from our entertainers to our schools (students and teachers) to our work places to our elected officials.  It's not a new problem either, rearing it's ugly head in the days of "tune in, turn on, drop out" or Marlon Brando's response in The Wild Ones to "What are you rebelling against?" which was simply "What have you got?"
Taking a step back from the issue, such disillusion is no surprise, simply because it's all based on the world.  Whenever we look to the world for fulfillment, we will be disappointed, because the things of the world will either fail to satisfy, or fade away, or both.  The new car becomes the old car.  The latest model (fill in the blank) becomes outdated.  That's the hole in the mindset.  We want things to be better, but when we limit our solutions to worldly ones, providing material things to those in need, depending on book education to get them out of generational squalor and violence, we just build a house without a foundation.
I've been working on this one for a while, and was going to put it on the back burner for something more 9/11 oriented, but then I realized that the ten years since that atrocity is a fine example of my point.  In the days and weeks immediately following the attacks, there was a unity in the US.  We put aside most of our differences and stood as Americans.  Then, slowly, but predictably, stuff started getting in the way.  Distractions and disagreements chipped away at that unity, that hope for a better day, until now, as dozens of headlines ask "What Has Changed Since The Attacks?", the answer is very little.  We're right back where we were, and in some ways, we've slipped down a few pegs.  If you've ever read Watchmen, you'll remember the plot to unify the world forever via a tragedy.  Evidently, such a vision only works in the comic books, because eventually, that disillusionment still sinks in.
My own worldly mindset tells me that the church should be doing more to instill that missing hope on grander scales, making more big stories of sweeping encouragement.  We know that the world's promises are empty, and there is a better goal.  But when I do my own stepping back, looking back to the real instruction book, it's not mass hope and change that are the focus.  It's the real hope and change granted the believer, the strength to move past the tragedy, past the mundane, and keep heading for the Kingdom.  We all like the big splashes, the huge revivals, but history tells us that those fade away or fall apart or sometimes even get corrupted .  The individual who learns real joy, real contentment, and lives it out may not make the big splash, but the ripples will travel further than any of us will know on this side.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When is a spade not a spade?

Somewhere in my boxes of stuff, I have a pretty realistic plastic skull.  One of those plastic Halloween decorations.  He's been beat up quite a bit over the years, the lower jaw is gone, and so are the teeth from the upper jaw, and the cap doesn't stay on either, so he's pretty much just a pair of empty eye sockets staring out at the world.  Being an old metalhead, skulls are nothing new to me.  Album covers, tshirts, and jewelery frequently place the bones that protect our brains in great prominence.  Most of the time, the reason for this is that the skull is commonly viewed as a symbol of death.  Our traditional poison markers are skulls, the age old jolly roger flag often meant death for those on the boats it chased down, even the hill Jesus was crucified on was named Golgotha, place of the skull, for its use as an execution site.  However, anymore when I come across my little plastic skull, I find myself fascinated by the intricacies of it's design.  Just what can be seen in this facsimile is really amazing when one thinks about it.  The eyes both placed forward, to allow for depth perception.  The large area to contain a significant amount of brain matter.  Although the teeth on mine are all gone, the layout of biting, tearing and grinding teeth so that we are not limited to a single type of food for nourishment. 
Many people try and tell me that all these are the result of random chance, a happenstance of time and proteins converging in just the right way.  It really seems to me that the poor, demonized skull could easily be changed from a symbol of death to a symbol of intentional design.  Symbols change constantly, correct?  Their meaning is based on perception, not necessarily intent, right?
We can certainly see that in people's perception of the church and it's symbols.  As time has gone on, for reasons deserved and undeserved, the church and the cross and all the other signs of God's people have come to mean very different things then they were intended to.  For some a church steeple is a symbol of a place they were rejected from for their choices in life.  To others a cross is a sign of bigotry and hate.  I'd like to say those impressions are all lies spread by various evil camps, but the sad fact is some people who lay claim to be Christian have had a heavy hand in enforcing those definitions of our symbols. 
Would I go so far as to say we need to replace the time honored signs of faith with new ones, like the lowly skull?  No, my suggestion would be that we all do our own part to reclaim those symbols.  Let the necklaces and tshirts be motivators, not just to others around us, but to ourselves.