This past week I worked out of Port Arthur, a Lowe’s that’s about an hour and a half from us. We drove up Monday morning, worked long hours, and came back Friday after normal hours. I enjoyed working the long hours and the pay they afford, but also the times with people with whom I don’t usually work. But as a family man, I am not a fan of the time spent so far away from my family for so long. In fact, I was thrilled that the hotel allowed me to have my family stay with me as they wished! Unfortunately, they can’t give away their whole week to be there with me, especially when I’m an odd bird among them that can sleep anywhere! But both weeks I spent in Port Arthur, my wife and kids came to spend a night with me, which was great! When they came up this past week, however, we went to eat at Twin Peaks, which involved an experience I need to share for the good of any who, like us, are delightfully, obliviously naïve.
"Who knew there was this encouragement for ME, smack dab in the middle of Jeremiah's encouragement of the Babylonian exiles?!"
Going through my Bible reading about a week ago, I moved from 1 Kings to Jeremiah 29 (strange jump, I know, but the reading plan is called "The System" by Professor Horner—you should look it up) and I knew it was coming. You may know what I'm talking about. You may have already said part of what I'm about to address, which either makes you border-line prophetic or perhaps a product of the same lax Bible study practices that I grew up with.
What came to mind was a Babylon Bee-style article which I include below.
When I saw that Amazon Prime was allowing us to have a voice and a say in upcoming programming, I knew I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and whining about how I didn't like the state of current entertainment, I wanted to do something about it. This letter is the result of the survey...
I enjoyed the comical approach of this pilot to JCVD's career and the genre of 80's/90's action films. His willingness to be self-deprecating paid off, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by the performances. The pilot was well-done.
The closer we get to November, the more we see things that shock and surprise us out of the Democratic and Republican nominees. I owe my own attention toward these matters to my pastoral activities at the Iowa State Capital in Des Moines over the past two and a half years. Those activities have mainly centered around prayer support, meals and conversations with senators and representatives, and occasionally lobbying for matters that intersect faith and culture. Though I don't recall ever believing personal faith (i.e. worldview) could or should be removed from culture, I have only recently begun to see the significance of pastorally speaking into political spheres and governmental systems. Whether that means running for office or speaking with those who do-and-have-run for office, the Christ-follower's role in civic matters is crucial.
As a result, this article isn't so much going to be about Trump, or his bid for the White House: "What do we do with biblical truth in the face of a possible Trump presidency (or Clinton presidency)?" Not to devalue those who have already written about that, but it's already been done. This article, to my knowledge, hasn't been done yet. And it's going to be about us.
... to be precise. At one point the term was not a compliment, but an insult. Christians were called cannibals, atheists, and heretics* because of the misunderstandings others had of their beliefs. Jesus, the one these Christians followed, was also called the Christ (i.e. Messiah, the anointed one). So His followers were anointed by the Holy Spirit, who reminded them of everything Jesus taught, everything He did and was. But there was a catch: without the Holy Spirit Himself, a person was helpless to understand the things of God. And so, many spoke ill of the Christians. They did so because they did not understand the truth about themselves, the truth of the gospel, or the truth of Jesus the Christ.
It seems Christians in particular are once again looked at with disdain: some of which is earned, while some is actually aimed at those who name Christ under false pretenses and thereby shame His name; pretenders.
It seems that history repeats itself, as this video makes all too clear:
I just heard someone talking about their time at a fellow Christian friend's place, where their friends were trying to sell their home and it wasn't going well. As he left, he noticed that there was an idol in their front foyer; one of those "this is a cool statue from another country that would look cool in our house" kind of things. A neat decoration among many. He got in his car with his wife and was about to leave but the Spirit wouldn't let him. He went back in and asked if he could see a Bible.
I don't recall the exact passage he read (something similar to Exodus 20:1-6, Zechariah 13:2, Ezekiel 20:1-20 or some such I'm sure), but he then encouraged them to get rid of the statue and not consider the flippant possession of an idol a small thing. They said okay and went to bed, but all that night the woman was troubled by the passage he'd shared and the unsolicited advice. The next morning the woman grabbed the idol and threw it away in the garage trash. As she walked into the house, the phone rang with someone wanting to purchase the home. Coincidence, or God's sovereignty meeting man's obedience?
Maybe without knowing it, this man faithfully carried out the desire of the Lord to confront people's sins (Isaiah 58), not in a self-righteous way but in faithful obedience that calls others to follow God in obedience as well. Life can throw us curve balls, and often God allows these difficult times to test us, to see if we will be faithful to Him. Sometimes it's life. But many of us experience a hindrance in our lives because we are treating sin lightly also, even coming to God as we would a non-judgmental best friend (who agrees with us even when our sinful thoughts, words, or deeds would better be served by a needed rebuke). God is clear about His call for faithfulness and the rejection of false gods. There is much to consider here, and we would do well to think about the consequences of our actions toward God, especially as followers of Jesus.
This theme of blessing continues to come back to me in conversations, articles, and especially social media. There are many different perspectives of what God's blessings look like. But when I read my Bible, I get a distinctly different idea of blessing from what we call "blessing" here in America. Oftentimes we associate blessing with what, or who, we HAVE in our lives. Does this mean, then, that those without those things or people are NOT blessed?
Or even worse—cursed?
Blessed=sitting on couch with my loving kids :: Not Blessed=no couch and/or no kids/barren
Blessed=for this food :: Not Blessed=no food and/or starving
Blessed=prayer for healing was answered by healing :: Not Blessed=prayer for healing wasn't answered by healing
Blessed=my team won :: Not Blessed=their team lost
Today's topic is the recent move of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to see all Gideon Bibles removed from Iowa State University's college hotel (see article here). What is interesting to me are the words of the FFRF's attorney from the article, as seen here:
"The group's attorney, Patrick Elliott, said that for a state-run university to provide a Bible to guests, 'that policy facilitates illegal endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over non religion.'"
My question is: How does the individual work of Gideon's, on behalf of this non-profit Christian organization of the same name, get described as the work of the university itself? Since when are the actions of a few lumped in with an official, state-sponsored endorsement of any one faith over another?
Answer? When it suits your purposes.
My desire was to make this clear, so I engaged in an exercise of futility, contacting the FFRF and leaving the following letter to report an abuse of this "constitutional separation of church and state."
Do you recall the old, late 1980's Bud Ice commercials with the penguins? In each installment, people drinking Bud Ice were in ridiculous situations and had a penguin that was coming after their beers. In most cases, the suspense built until the penguin intoned Sinatra's "dooby dooby doo" from the song "Strangers in the Night." The following encouragement was to drink Bud Ice but "Beware The Penguins."
What did that mean? I have no idea, and I don't really care, but the "dooby dooby doo" has stuck with me all these years. I'll come back to this...
Amidst the buzz about nude photos being leaked on the internet, I'm providing this absolutely free, fool-proof method of protecting your private moments from wandering eyes.
You're welcome. Please feel free to share this wonderfully simple, and free, public service announcement.
I write to remember the lessons I learn as a Man, Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Pastor, and Friend. As I come to grips with the blackness within me, I am more appreciative of God's grace-filled grip. We all change in the seasons of life. This is my deep well...