Saturday, January 26, 2013

Only In America ...

I can never wrap my mind around how effectively the producers of reality TV can take the absolutely mundane and make it glamorous.  Who knew issuing parking tickets, tearing out kitchens, picking through junk, and repo-ing cars could be so compelling? It is almost enough to make one search the internet for an online car repo school just so you can get to join in the fun. Not only is the mundane elevated, but most afternoons on the various TV Court shows one can see levels of complete ignorance and crass hubris displayed that once would have shamed your entire family into immigration back to the old country. 

Not to be outdone, the game show people have a piece of this attractive programing.  One show, Baggage, has people revealing their own emotional and behavioral baggage publicly in order to be selected for a possible romantic relationship.  The premise of the show is, of course, that all of us have baggage. We don't actually need a game show to inform of this.  The Holy Bible does an excellent job with examples like King David, Achan, Rahab, Ananias and Sapphira, just to name a few. 

Reality TV is an interesting mirror to hold up to our society.  What is reflected back is not flattering in the least.  What it rarely, if ever, does is demonstrate how the crass, mundane, and embarrassing can be redeemed and re-directed.  That is the difference between the titillating voyeurism of "reality" of TV and the redeeming reality of the Holy Bible.  

The demonized man in Mark 5:1-20 would have been good sport, no doubt, for reality TV.  However, as Jesus appears on the scene the dominion of Darkness which once used "Son of God" as a taunt (Matthew 4:6) now tremble in the presence of the Son.  The demonized man runs towards Jesus shouting, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." See?  There is the difference between Jerry Springer and Jesus Christ!  One is concerned with torment for the sake of profit, the other puts an end to torment for the sake of the tormented.  What good is it to simply display the torment and despair of someone and leave them no better off when finished?  

Ephesians 1:19-22 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ has come for the specific purpose of extending His authority over the tormentor while raising the tormented to heavenly places.  That is the kind of redeeming reality I am interested in.  


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Storage Wars: Reality TV meets the Old Testament

Afterwards Margaret confessed that she was concerned. It was the thought of me on the loose and unsupervised with access to the family wealth that was her biggest concern.  All of this as a result of mentioning that I had been to a storage unit auction this week.  Anyone who has watched the reality TV show, Storage Wars, knows what I am talking about.  

It was all pretty much like the TV show, too.  A whole group of interesting and eccentric characters hoping to strike it rich by finding hidden treasure in abandoned storage unit.  My take on it was a bit different.  It was a depressing array of dumpster material that poor people had paid good money to store, and an interesting crowd of eccentric vultures willing to pay even more good money to buy and then haul to the dumpster.  

King David and the storage locker

My reading this morning included these verses from Psalm 139:23-24.  

      23       Search me, O God, and know my heart! 
      Try me and know my thoughts! 
            24       And see if there be any grievous way in me, 
      and lead me in the way everlasting! 

David is inviting the Lord to investigate an even darker storage than his abandoned storage unit.  He is inviting God to investigate his heart.  

While we know that a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit will be aware of new spiritual experiences and new desires and joy, we also know that it is possible for that renewed heart to grow cold.  That is why David is asking God to examine his heart.  This is a habit that David's son, Solomon, did not follow.  At the beginning Solomon had received a wonderful promise from God (1 Kings 9:4-5).  But, at the end of his life a sad summary is given in 1 Kings 11:9.  It is the danger of an unexamined heart.  

It may be that you have lingered long without inviting God to examine your most secret storage unit: Your heart.  There is a wonderful blessing promised to those will do this found in Joel 2:12-13.  Can I urge you to take time today to allow for this important exam?  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blame Game? Or, Repentance?

So, as the dust settles in the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the political rhetoric and blame gaming starts in earnest. In all the noise, the one voice you will rarely hear is the voice calling for national repentance.  This morning I am meditating on Revelation 2:18-29, and I notice how the Lord of the Church makes such a strong call for repentance.  Today that voice would be silenced in the din of blame-casting.  

Why would repentance from sin be marginalized as a message of the Church in this day?  Most especially in the light of the interesting two sided coin presented to us in 2 Timothy 2:19?  Personal repentance was a significant turing point in the lives of many of the faithful in the Old and New Testaments.  Josiah is a good example of personal repentance that turned the course of a nation (2 Kings 22:19).  Josiah's repentance led to him being a leader in calling his nation to repentance (2 Kings 23: 1-7).  Notice that the repentance started with Josiah, as political and spiritual leader of the people--and, after that included the nation.  The result? Judah was spared, for a time, the destruction that came from the Babylonians.  

Two good examples of personal repentance from the New Testament that come to mind are found in the Gospels.  Luke 15:21 records the tearful repentance of the prodigal son upon his meeting his father.  In the case of the prodigal son, there were two separate initiatives taken.  One course of action by the father:  He actively looked for his son.  The other course of action is taken by the son:  He turned his direction, with repentant heart, back to his father and family home.  Without both actions the reuniting of father and son would not have taken place.  

The other example of personal repentance in the New Testament that comes to my mind is found in Luke 18:13.  Here Jesus relates the parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector--both of whom are going to the temple to worship.  In the case of the Pharisee, his worship was centered--not on God--but, on his own hubris.  The Tax Collector was humbled and repented.  The results of both actions were drastically different.  Hubris led to a continuation of sin, while repentance led to justification before God. 

Today may I challenge you to listen carefully through the din of rhetoric to hear the voice of God calling us to repentance? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Its All The Rage These Days!

Rage is a biblical word that is "all the rage" today. In modern American English it is meant to indicate a sudden and intense anger that short circuits the ability to reason.  In popular application it is often attached to incidents that happen on the road.  A recent news article from Novi, Michigan underlines the intensity of road rage.  In this case the incident ends with the shooting of one man.  My Bible reading this morning was from Psalm 2:1-12.  Here the famous question is asked, "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?"  This is no simple case of road rage.  It is rage--sudden and intense anger--against the Lord's Anointed.  

Who Is God's Anointed?

Does this Psalm reference David? The anticipated Messiah?  Or, someone else?  In the near term application the Anointed One is most likely David, or, a descendent of David's.  The Psalm points to the power and authority David was gaining over his enemies.  However, in the long term Peter makes application of the "Anointed One" to the Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 4:25-26.  An anointed one was someone special that had been set aside for God's purposes.  This setting aside was usually done by anointing them with oil, hence the designation "anointed one".  One of the earliest examples of this practice is found in Leviticus 8:12 where Moses anoints Aaron's head to consecrate (or separate him) to the service of God.  

Notice that it is not God's Anointed one that is in a rage.  It is the "nations", the "people", the "kings", and the "rulers".  The source of this rage is rebellion against what they see as "bondage" to the rule of God's Anointed.  Truth is replaced with preferences.  Righteousness is replaced by relationship.  The Lordship of Jesus Christ is replaced with the lordship of my own self.  


Today I am re-examining my own heart.  I want to discover the seeds of rebellion against the Lordship of Jesus Christ before they blossom into full rebellion against Him. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Let God Arise!

Since the Sandy Hook tragedy the media has been mulling over an ancient, yet important, concept that seems to have been missed in our post-modern society:  Evil.  Martin Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association, writing in the Washington Post defines evil as, "...'mean,' 'violent,' 'full of hate,' 'selfish,' 'grandiose,' 'without a conscience' and 'bullying' all signal evil." That list sounds so reminiscent of St. Paul's warning in 2 Timothy 3:1-5!  For the Christian this concept should not be too foreign.  The Good News we have as Christians is this:  Jesus Christ has won a great victory over evil.

My dad's favorite gospel song was called Victory In Jesus.  I can remember the words of that song  often being the benediction to the worship service.  My scripture reading today in Psalm 68: 1-3 (NKJV) takes my mind back to the simple truth of those words. Psalm 68 makes some foundational statements about the great victory that has been won over evil by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the victory that we participate in with Him.  While Psalm 68 speaks of God's enemies being scattered--His enemies fleeing before Him--the New Testament gives us significant insight into exactly who and what are those enemies.

Victory over Satan

The Bible clearly locates the source of evil in the person of Lucifer--that fallen angel we now call Satan.  Both 1 John 3:8 (NKJV) and Hebrews 2:14-15 (KNJV) shed light on the significance of Christ's victory over Satan.  Each of these verses tell us that Jesus Christ accomplished a significant defeat of Satan.  These verses look backwards to that victory while John 12:31 is a quotation from Christ when looking forward to that immediate victory.  All of this happened, we are told, when God resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead. (Colossians 2:13-15). 

Victory over Sin

Not only do we participate in Christ's victory over Satan, we are also assured of victory over sin.  1 John 3:5 makes this clear to us, but in case you need additional assurance let me direct your attention to Romans 5:20-21.  Sin reigns in death, and grace reigns in righteousness that leads to eternal life.  When we turn our lives and hearts back to God in sincere repentance and faith, we move from death into life.  We move from sin to righteousness...and, from eternal death to eternal life.  This is a liberty greater, even, than the social, political, and economic liberties granted to us by our national constitution.