Monday, April 20, 2009

Killing Time versus Killing Self

Most of us have never really considered what the term Killing Time means. I know I’ve not thought much about it until right now. I’ve had a broken up day and didn’t make much money. We got home early to go to Anna’s track meet and found out that the meet was cancelled due to weather. Funny, I remember walking to and from school in 9 feet of snow and tornados howling. Life has changed.

Anyway, I sat down to consider the implications of an open evening to catch up on some mindless office work. Youth Convention gobbled up my weekend and I woke this Monday morning feeling like I had a hang over (3 Monster’s and enough coffee to keep me from having a stroke in this life time).

Looking at my desk piled high with mail, papers, scribbled notes from my Sunday sermon (I started a series on Wisdom – don’t laugh), receipts, the latest 2 books I’m reading, my new music CD’s (Third Day Revelation, RemedyDrive Daylight is Coming, and The Best of Bebo Norman – I still can’t believe I listen to a guy named Bebo), DVD’s me and Andrew make for our worship service, an old dictionary I’ve had for many years, my Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Luke, my Day Timer that’s bulging with stuff I need to file, USB cables, post-it-notes with all my internet usernames and passwords, and some coupons from Menards, makes me just pucker a bit in my gut.

My desk can wait until after dinner at Subway with my straight A kids (they get those free combo meal certificates – you’d think they could give ‘em cash for all the taxes I pay). And for now I’m gonna kill some time blogging. Its way too cathartic for me and way too irritating for some of my FB friends and Network buddies to quit, plus I plan to be the writer my dad never got to be (cut short by a stroke).

As for killing time, I think many people choose to kill time instead of themselves. I think that’s a good alternative to the latter. But really what is killing time all about, but wasting precious moments that are irretrievable. You know what I mean? Not that there’s anything wrong with margins in our lives. Margins and boundaries and Sabbath are all essential to spiritual, emotional and physical health, but time is irreplaceable.

I heard it once said that Bill Gates once said (if that’s not gossip I don’t know what is), when asked what he wanted, since he could have anything, he supposedly said, “more time”. It’s probably true. Think of it for a moment. Time represents life. When time stops, life stops (at least as we know it). So when we choose to kill time versus doing productive and progressive things needing attention or responsibility, we might just be choosing life versus the alternative. Yet many would frown on the thought of killing time (they’re probably the ones right now scraping the roof of their mouth with the muzzle of a gun).

It seems that when we get overwhelmed with stuff that we need to do, many of us find ourselves reaching for the knurled handle of a snubbed nosed .38 and a bottle of Jack. Except it all takes the form of idleness. That’s right, for the wise and the cowardice; killing time is a much better alternative than killing self.

Don’t flood my comment box, but I think we need to develop some leadership courses on the art of guilt free time killing. Because all the hours of leadership conferences I’ve logged have never really removed the guilt so often associated with my need to abduct some quality and random Sabbath.

Several months ago, in a conversation I was having with the Lord, I asked Him about this subject. I’ve always felt guilty for taking a nap when I’m tired. If someone would call the house, I would not ask my family to lie, but I would tell them to tell the caller I was busy and would call them back (busy napping). I could never bring myself to letting on that I was napping.

When I asked the Lord where that feeling of guilt came from, He showed me. Years ago, when I was a child, my dad would incessantly make us get up early on the weekends. He was always an early riser and would impose that compulsion on the rest of us. The Lord showed me one time when my dad came into my room and said “get up you’re sleepin’ your life away.” Mind you, it was probably 8:00 am or something, but to him that was lazy, good for nothing, white trash, apathetic, wasting your life away kinda stuff, and he wasn’t gonna tolerate that in our home.

As a result of that one incident, I’ve been terrified for all my life that people would think I was lazy. And I’m really not. I actually know how to make money and work hard and even smart sometimes. But I’m not lazy. Yet all those years I was bound by that memory, by that lie.

When I asked the Lord about all these things, He told me I wasn’t lazy. Ever since then, if I’m napping and someone calls I tell the family to tell the caller I’m napping. Actually I’m kinda proud of that fact now. So if you call and can’t reach me, I might be napping (get over it).

Or maybe I’m just killing time like right now, because I’m too wise and cowardice to choose the alternative. Let me encourage you to learn the art of killing time. You’ll be glad you did.

Now I’m off to Subway for an Italian BMT foot-long. Jealous?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wisdom, Value and Feeling like Crap

As I sit here typing these words I wonder how much actual wisdom I possess. Some of you readers might argue very little, and for that I wouldn’t even know what to say. Because the assessment of our own wisdom is so stinking subjective and prideful that it’s really hard to get an accurate bearing on quantity let alone quality.

Yet Jesus said something so brief and poignant that I really have to use it as precedent for making a point. In Luke 7:35 we find the Lord’s words; “But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (NIV)

Have you ever wondered what God’s purpose was in giving us the ability to accept wisdom or to reject it? The unfortunate fact is that most of us are so insecure (ever since we realized we were naked – about 8,000 years ago) that when our need for wisdom is suggested, we bristle and go hide in a bush somewhere. Or we stand up with our fists raised and determine that anyone else’s assessment of our need for more wisdom is grounds for a fight. Either way our reactions are usually pretty immature. And indeed reveal our bad feelings about being naked.

It seems that we’ve progressively gotten worse when it comes to the acknowledgment of our need for wisdom, because children are the payout. Look around, walk around, shop around, and talk around. Just rub up against anyone these days and you’ll find such a deficit of wisdom it’s scary.

Stupid seems to be really cool and hip these days. As a result, wisdom and knowledge are more and more the bastard children of some Department of Homeland Security’s latest extremist hit list.

And why might that be? Because in our own eyes each of us has lost value. Somewhere along the line we’ve believed the lie that we’ve got to compete with the folks next door. Before you know it we’re up to our eyeballs in nitrogenous waste, usually without a paddle. All because we rejected wisdom, then we rejected our own value, which led to the mad scramble of satiating our bad feelings, which always leads to throwing someone under the bus. All in the name of trying to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.

If the wisdom of man is good and suitable for life, then his children should be in good shape. But they’re not. And if we believe in the Wisdom of God, then so too like Jesus said, our children would be in good shape also, but they’re not.

When the Barna Research Group comes out with statistics that show well over 1/3 of self professing Christians do NOT believe that the Holy Spirit nor the Devil are real, but simply metaphors for good and evil, we better check the parents of these children, because we’ve got some bastards on our hands that are rapidly headed in the wrong direction.

And the crazy part is this: if we ask God for Wisdom, He says He’ll give it, but first He’ll check our motives. If the end result is an increase of man centered wisdom, then it’s likely our collective cry for God’s Wisdom either a) went unheard by God or b) our motives were wrong.

So the next time you think you’ve got some slick wisdom going for you, check the children. If they’re doing great, then maybe its God… if not you might have gotten sucked in by the oldest trick in the Book.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Empty Tomb

What’s so great about an empty tomb? I'll try to explain what it means to me.

I don’t claim to be a specialist on the Resurrection, but no matter how you slice it, Jesus’ empty tomb is unique in the fact that indeed historic documentation tells us, three days after His crucifixion, the tomb He was buried in came up empty.

Most world leaders of any consequence that have died are buried somewhere. Most religious leaders who have died are also buried someplace.

But with Jesus, that’s another story.

Most of us have experienced the loss of someone to the sting of death, a relative or a friend. And we can take you to their grave site and show you the headstone and often the sunken earth covering the vault. But I for one have never met anyone that has died, been buried, and three days later rose again, except Jesus.

Some of you might argue that my exception to the resurrection rule, namely Jesus, cannot be proven as fact that He is alive or has ever been alive since His crucifixion. And I would say; “Indeed you’re right”. I cannot prove it based upon empirical data, or beyond the historic musings of brain washed (or renewed) followers that the resurrection occurred, but I can rest upon something more than empirical data.

I rest upon an experience that for me is beyond dispute. I rest upon an encounter with Jesus Christ on a personal basis that is no less than esoteric and more often far greater.

Like most things in life that are challenging to the rational senses, i.e. high levels of pain, high levels of adrenaline, high levels of ecstasy, high levels of wonder and awe and even high levels of common joy and satisfaction, my experience with Jesus Christ is almost beyond description. It’s like something that surpasses all understanding, especially for the uninitiated.

And yet concrete proof seems to be what resurrection opponents are looking for. It’s like asking someone to prove or explain the experiential effects of lysergic acid diethylamide on individual human beings. One can observe outward behaviors and testimonials regarding the experience, but until someone has actually dropped acid, it’s nearly impossible to describe the experience.

I’m in no way advocating drug use, but for the uninitiated, they will never fully understand the experience nor understand why someone might use of that type of substance. The same is true when someone encounters the Living God. Until you experience Him in a personal way, you really cannot fully comprehend nor appreciate the powerful life changing effects.

So when it comes to an empty tomb, it does matter. The God that I know, based upon my personal relational experience with His Son, has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the empty tomb is valid, because that Son has touched my life.

And no matter how hard anyone would argue otherwise, my personal relational experience and the same with millions of others is indisputable. I only wish that the billions of individuals that have yet to fully experience the empty tomb and the Living Risen Savior Jesus Christ would take the plunge and begin to communicate with Him. He is alive. He will speak to your heart. He is able to forgive your sin. He is able to heal your pain and give you the capacity to live in peace. He has made a way for you to have a personal relational experience with His Father, the one and only true and Living God.

It’s all simply a matter of realizing the power and potential of this empty tomb. I know I can never fully convince the skeptics, but I know what I’ve experienced. And nothing will ever change that… absolutely nothing.

He is Alive.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Struggle with Math

We’ve heard it said that American kids today are sliding further and further behind in their math and science aptitudes and if education doesn’t turn things around real soon, we’ll find ourselves at the bottom of the global totem pole of developing nations.

That’s pretty heavy to take in at 6 o’clock in the morning, but something struck me recently that goes way beyond any global education race or debate.

Early on in my life I gravitated toward the Life Sciences. I don’t know why, but I do remember my dad fed me a consistent diet of Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, and a myriad of other science related shows on PBS as far back as I can remember.

My dad was a pioneer in the use of video media in the Des Moines School District. Way back in the late 60’s I would hop in my dad’s VW Beetle and we’d drive over to Amos Hiatt Junior High in the dark of some week night. We’d meet and cajole with a black janitor as we headed up to his class room. My dad would set up this huge black and white monitor with a big set of rabbit ears antenna to grab the latest PBS series right out of the air. Then he’d plug in the big VTR machine. It had a weird smell like melted plastic and the recording media, 2 inch reel to reel video tape, would whir and jerk as he cued up the tape for the next show. It was a great introduction to the sciences, long before the Discovery Channel. And fun to be with my dad too.

Sometime in my elementary school years, I got an entire chemistry lab. Not just the chemistry set, but an entire little room designated as my lab, fully equipped with all the glassware and equipment one might need to create some basement pathogen or on the minimum, burn the house down with my Bunsen burner. I never said my folks were always wise.

Needless to say, the systematic acquisition of knowledge (one definition of science) has always been in my DNA, even though I struggled with the more traditional studious academic disciplines (ergo my less than perfect GPA). So the drive to seek knowledge and understanding, especially in areas that are germane to my life, is not hard for me.

Jesus said… know the truth and you’ll be set free. So seeking to know Him and experience all He has for me has never been difficult or something I’m at odds with. Maybe the science thing is what makes me love being a disciple of His.

But here’s the real kicker. In most, if not all of the sciences, to include Life Science, math plays a pretty significant role. And my dad never (that I can remember) sat me down with a Times Table and helped me learn the finer art and discipline of multiplication. Unlike his pioneering spirit with video media, he seemed to lack the same drive when it came to math and making sure I knew that kind of stuff.

By the time I reached college, I was really hurting. Not so much emotionally (that’s for other blog), but boy I struggled with the math courses required for being a Biology major and a Chemistry and Computer Science minor.

Here’s the link: Without the ability to do math fluently, one’s ability to “do” science properly comes to a screeching halt. Somewhere just past the golgi bodies and the pistils and the stamens. Basic science, like basic Christianity and discipleship, is about as far as a person can go… without math.

Jesus tested Peter’s mathematic prowess and willingness. He asked Peter if he knew what 7 x 70 equaled. Unfortunately Peter was just a simple fisherman, and multiplication as we know it had yet to come into its own. So we can cut Peter some slack, but to God, that equation is paramount and eternally significant.

Jesus told Peter that he was to forgive at least 490 times. But He really meant indefinitely. For you see, God calls us to forgive from our heart or else He cannot forgive us. So when it comes to math, our ability and willingness to multiply forgiveness toward another person is absolutely critical.

How’s your math these days?