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Archive for the ‘True religion’ Category

“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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Rap sheet – the daily written record of events (as arrests) in a police station
charge sheet, day book, police blotter, blotter written account, written record – a written document preserving knowledge of facts or events.

Yesterday, Saturday May 21st 2011, was a good day. It began early; very early. As H came in from a goodbye for now moment, the family assembled in the living room shortly after midnight to share a moment, a few tears, and several laughs. As the day progressed we shared events, beautiful weather, and good time together. Only two things served to put a damper on the day, one inconsequential, and the other of much greater significance. You see, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost their game, and Jesus did not come back.

Allow me to explain. You see, some “preacher”, somewhere, called for Saturday to be “The Rapture”, the Apocalypse, and the end of the world, as we know it. The prediction was the source of much discussion, much debate, and quite a bit of ridicule, even by Christians; even by me. You see, Matthew 24:42-44 tells us:“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

No matter what our differing opinions are on the subject matter of “The Rapture”, we don’t know when Christ will return, but as Christians, we know He will, and that we are to be watchful and ready, everyday. By the end of the day yesterday, and following some playful Facebook friend banter regarding “what, you are still here” humor, I began to feel a bit guilty.

It did not get much better this morning, almost as if the Holy Spirit wanted to remind us of a few things. A friend and I were discussing the day, and the phrase “I halfway wanted Jesus to come back that day” was uttered, and then caught and recanted almost as quickly a it was uttered. “That’s not how I intended that…”. Point taken, from both viewpoints.

We went to class before the worship service today, and the pre assigned material was 2 Timothy 3. It reads like quite a rap sheet: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

I now think I see the words of Jesus from Matthew 24 in a whole new light: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”.

The teacher in our class this morning even replayed the issue: “I think we were pretty safe yesterday”. Safe? From what? Being taken from this life? Getting to go to Paradise, to be at home with our Creator?

I think our challenge, my challenge, is to not short change Jesus’ promised return as “not today” just because we don’t know the day. There is nothing in this life or on this earth to make waiting one more minute, hour, or day worth it. To believe anything different is to buy into Satan’s lies.

We are rich, indeed, both in this age and land, but more rich from His promises. Someday, they will be fulfilled, they will be wonderful, and we’ve got to be ready.

We closed this Sunday morning with the following song, and it was the perfect reminder:

Someday, Someday, Someday, Someday

Peace and joy and happiness,
no more sorrow, someday.

Gotta be ready when he calls my name
Gotta be ready when he calls my name
Gotta be ready when he calls my name
Someday.

The Trumpets will sound,
And all the dead shall rise,
We’ll walk the streets of gold,
Someday.

Amen. LORD, come quickly. Hallelujah.

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It’s an old family joke. When one of the “A” girls would see the romantic interest of a guy they liked, the response would be “she’s no prize”.

Sometimes, oftentimes maybe, do we say the same about ourselves?

An athlete, I am not, but I am getting repetitive. And I want to be a winner. Not to win, mind you, but to run with purpose, and therein win the prize.

I Corinthians 9:22-27: When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

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I had no idea
.   More on that later.

James 1:27 tells us: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I wrote a few days ago about the idea of “Accumulations; trim the fat“.   A good friend had been telling me how nothing new enters his closet without something else coming out, mostly to be given away.    In a broader context, I understand the point more after sitting through an information session about incarceration issues in the State of Oklahoma, and elsewhere.

http://www.newsok.com/article/3545091

You see, if have a bigger closet, the tendency might be to stockpile, and anyone who has taken the time to clean out their closet after months or years can tell you, you forget what you actually had back in that closet, how much of it there was, and how long it had been in there.

And it got me to thinking.   (Sorry, no fun to spoil this time)    If we have trouble as individuals keeping up with what is piled into our closets, out of sight and out of mind, could the same be true for our prison systems?    And it seems that many of those incarcerated without an option are women.   Women without husbands, from abusive backgrounds, and often with children who are in need of care once mom is no longer free to provide care.    Widows and orphans, indeed.

It seems that all states, Oklahoma especially, are having trouble with incarceration rates and effectively managing the prison systems.   The most immediate perceived need is for more prison space.    But, is that at the heart of the problem?   Is that the right answer?

Luke 12:17-19: He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

The discussion session on this topic today was sponsored by two large local charitable foundations and the university that I work for.    Legislators, think tank experts, and local people interested and passionate about the issues were in attendance.    One of the experts from Washington state told us their prison system recently adopted a new program  that allowed them to not build a new 2,000 bed prison that was believed to be necessary to relieve prison overcrowding.   The amount of money saved?   $250 million.     

Two hundred fifty million dollars.    Let that amount soak in for a moment.    What could be done with $250 million?   The university I work for has total assets of around $100 million.   Total assets: the whole campus, all the software, furniture, endowment investments, etc.     And one 2,000 bed prison would be $250 million.    What could you do with that amount of money, put to work in the right way, with intention?     Many people are beginning to look into just that issue. Part of the program was testimonies from Women in Recovery, and it was amazing to hear their stories.

So, do we have it all wrong?    Have we been building bigger barns?   Have we been stockpiling humans in our “incarceration closets”, incapable in our criminal justice systems to effectively review the cases and needs of the prisoners in the system, seeing them as numbers instead of names, as syndromes instead of souls?

I don’t have many good answers, but feel convicted to discuss it more fully, and am glad that some strong minds are putting their hearts, heads, and pocketbooks to work to make a difference.

Which takes me back to the scriptural reference:   True religion.    James 1:27.   For me to say “I had no idea” is no longer acceptable.

Matthew 25: 34-40:

   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

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