July 31, 2008

Where do I go from here?

"He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen."
Revelation 22:20-21

If there is one theme running through the tapestry of my life it is the theme of choice. Every day of our lives we make choices. We choose what time to get up, whether or not to start the day with a shower, what to have for breakfast, and things spiral outward from there. Some people believe that each of those choices marks a fork between this world and some other world where we made a different choice. They see countless worlds running parallel to this one with tiny, almost insignificant choices the only difference.

I'm not certain I agree. It is a very attractive idea, but if true, then it becomes one more excuse justifying a bad choice or negating the value of a good one. Parallel worlds would eliminate entirely the consequences that people around us so often suffer when our choices are bad. "In another life," becomes nothing less than the affirmation that somewhere, somewhen, there is a utopian world where every person makes the best choice for each and every decision life brings upon us. If such a world exists, then the question arises of how we found ourselves here instead of there. After all, wouldn't all of us rather be there?

In a few hours I'm going to get on a plane and fly to California. If all goes well, then about 48 hours from now I'll be sitting down to a carefully prepared meal with dozens of people that I have neither seen nor heard from in three decades. We'll pass around pictures of our children, or point one another to websites where the pictures are hosted, reminisce about "the good old days", and most of us will drink far too many glasses of world class Napa Valley wines. The same wines we grew up drinking. There will probably be at least one fight, one marriage will wind up in divorce as an old flame is rekindled, and several of us will come away from the experience wondering why we even bothered. After all, in the end, most people don't change very much even with the passage of time.

A couple weeks from now I'll be sitting here typing, just like I am now. I'll write about the trip, maybe post a couple pictures, and no doubt have some vital life-lesson that I've either learned anew, or relearned from old. Life is like that, after all. Bold, brassy, filled with risk, and never quite what we expect it to be.

At least 3000 years ago, and possibly 4000, the first words were penned in what eventually became our Christian Bible. Those frail words, whether divinely inspired, written as a modified legend from another culture, or dreamed up on the spot, have inspired wars and brought about the creation of nightmare devices designed to kill, maim, and torture millions. For over two hundred generations, countless billions of people have looked at those words and drawn inspiration to pray, help others, start families, build farms, and found cities. They have inspired great works both good and evil. Their sheer power is unmatched by anything anyone anywhere else in our world has created. Three great religions, over half the world's population, point to those words and call them true.

The Jewish Torah ends with God promising to send a prophet who will either reunite families or, failing that, bring about God's last judgement on the Earth. The Christian Bible ends with the promise of Jesus that he is returning soon. The Qur'an ends with a poem calling on believers to seek refuge in Allah. Given the choice between judgement, the return of Christ, and the need to hide from the Devil, I definitely prefer the promise.

So where do I go from here? With John I stand alone surrounded by atheists, heretics, half-truths, global deceptions, and a failing environment. Like John I also cry out,

"Come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen."

July 09, 2008

Looking beyond the conspiracies

I have been pouring over the links at Vedette, slowly grinding my way down the list at the instigation of my sister. My sister not only assembled the links, she has dozens more and has been happily passing them on to me. It's good from time to time, to review such material and be reminded that people in positions of power habitually misrepresent their personal agendas. Politics is a perfect career for a pathological liar.

But going through this material has also reminded me why I became a Christian in first place way back in the mid-70s. Our God, YHWH, El Shaddai, Creator of the Universe and all that is in it, is the God of broken people. He always has been, always will be. He finds us. We don't have to go looking for him. He opens the eyes of his chosen, but leaves the others blind. Why? I don't know why. I'm not God.

Consider John chapter 5. There are dozens of people lying around a pool waiting for an angel to stir the waters. In reality it was most likely a hot spring similar to the Old Faithful Geyser only prone to bubbling rather than shooting skyward. That does not change the reasons the people had gathered there, nor does it change the occasional miracle (or even miracles that were not miracles but just delusions) that had made the pool famous. It was a pool of water. It was famous for healing. To be healed you had to be the first one into the water after the water became turbulent.

Were the people sitting around the pool being deceived by the pool's reputation? After all, only one of them could be healed, and yet many of them came. There were probably food and drink vendors near the pool, and a few inns as well. I would expect to find some folks selling bottles of water from the pool and making a good business at it despite the fact that anyone who wanted could dip a cup into the pool on their own (maybe there were even a few sly folks selling specially blessed cups and bottles for just that purpose!). Nor would it surprise me if someday evidence came to light showing that priests of all the most popular religions at the time were making a bit of silver blessing bottles of water from the pool, people around the pool, and so on. For all any of us in the modern world know, the reputation of the pool might have been an elaborate scam being perpetuated by a local merchant's guild with the help of a few corrupt politicians and specifically designed to bring people into the area and improve everyone's profit margins.

And it is these situations that allow a conspiracy theorist to turn a nice profit as well: he goes out into the crowd, presents his evidence of delusion and deception, then collects an offering. None of that changes the nature of the deception, nor does it change the willingness of the people to believe. There they all were, and here we all are today, gathered up by the corrupt, the incompetent, and the immoral.

Jesus came along and healed ONE person from the crowd gathered around the pool. He neither confirmed nor denied the story of the angel and the power of the pool! He just told one of the people there to pick up his mat and walk away.

In the same way modern believers are chosen from among the broken people of the modern world. Remember Ephesians chapter 2 and Romans chapter 9? We do not choose God, he chooses us.

Yes, we are called to tell people, but the message we are called to tell them is not that Satan runs the world. Our message is not that Satan's most devoted followers are behind the establishment of the most powerful institutions in today's world. No, our message is much simpler: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)