Friday, January 23, 2009

No, Well take the other Guy

It was about 10 PM last night that the idea for this came back to mind. I had thought of writing this before but it never got past the beginnings of an idea. This isn’t an easy piece to write, it shines a spotlight at a human flaw. A flaw I must admit I share. Last night, as the TV show House was going off, the idea came racing back. It banged around in my head most of the night and bothered me today until I sat down to begin.

We watch reruns of House. (I also watch reruns of Law and Order, but who doesn’t? I mean isn’t there a clause in my cable contract that requires this?) Honestly I can’t tell you what station or time the new episodes air on. For that matter I can’t tell you the exact time the reruns show, or what station. It just seems to be airing on some station during the hour before we get ready for bed, regardless of what time we are going to bed.

If you haven’t seen House I should give you a thumbnail of the show's plot. House is the name of a brilliant, unkempt and normally unshaved, Doctor who practices/teaches diagnostic medicine at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital here in NJ. He has three assistants who are younger but supposedly also brilliant doctors.

(I am now resisting my overwhelming desire to point out the vast gulf that exists between the brilliance, skills and devotion of these TV doctors, along with their rendition of a hospital, vs. virtually every real life doctor and health care facility I have ever encountered. OOPS, it seems I may have already voiced and opinion here.)

Back to House. Dr House, is also addicted to Vicodin otherwise known as narcotic pain killers. House pops Vicodin like tic taks. In any given show he must pop a half dozen of the little wonder pills, a great roll model. Along with his drug habit House is also incredibly insulting to patients and co-workers, arrogant and totally uncaring. His most tiring and troubling trait is his relentless refusal to accept even the possibility of the existence of God. Completely narcissistic, the world revolves around him and his needs. He has actually gone so far on occasion to vocally proclaim himself as God. If you get the feeling I don’t like Dr. House, your entirely correct. It is likely because I in some, hopefully small ways , I am like him.

Why then, you might ask, do I watch it? Well, for reasons I don’t exactly understand I like it. I like Law and Order as well. I also like a good shoot um-up so long as the “good guys” come out on top. Picking just who the good guys are is another matter.

After House went off last night I began thinking about all the ….. junk we spend so much time watching. I took up my scepter of digital cable, the remote, and began to surf. For the next hour I slowly clicked my way through the lower 400 cable stations I receive. I did this not once but two times. Why? No, It wasn’t that I couldn’t find “something to watch. I was making a mental list of the kinds of programming there was to choose from. Of those 400 channels, not counting the stations or shows that repeated there were less then 10% that were actually uplifting. Roughly 90% of them were based on violence of some sort, (war, martial arts, shoot um-ups, ect.) Sex or alternate lifestyles (most of these would have been or are rated R) Witchcraft- sorcery- vampires-or the undead, Failed relationships, Cops and robbers or a mix of a bit of each of the above. There is even a new show about Vampires that covers all of the bases.

If this is what we call entertainment what does it say about what brings us pleasure, our appetites? We can’t blame it on the people who make the shows, they only produce what the public wants to watch, or keeps watching. Why, Why, WHY are we so drawn to “The Dark Side” Now please do understand, I’m not suggesting we all burn our flat screen plasma HD TVs, (although that may not be such a bad idea) and I am not pointing my finger in judgment at anyone about watching some TV. You and you alone will need to determine “if you can eat meat”. I’m just using TV programming to make my point.

If God created mankind to know him, and he implanted in mankind the longing that I know I and you have felt to find him, and he made a way for us to know him. ( Through Jesus , the Messiah). Why then do we run as fast as we can to know everything BUT Him?

One of the few times that all four Gospels mentions the same conversation is in regard to this most human of afflictions.

Mat 27:21 "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered.
Mark 15:11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
Luke 23:18 With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!"
John 18:40 They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. (NIV)

Why would or could people, having seen the blind and lame healed , eaten the loaves and fishes and known of Jesus restoring life to some dead, do this? How could those educated in the Law, know of His works, and then ignore the prophecies they had devoted their lives to studying? Simple, they listened to their natural nature, their flesh, rather then to the Spirit of God.

It’s been 2000 years since mankind has been set free by Christ and yet the crowd still calls out , …, NO, not him! Give us Barabbas!"

Although Fox and Friends touts on morning TV that 80% of Americans claim to be Christians the actions and appetites of our population say something different. I sense a stirring, call it revival, that is building momentum. Along with it I recognize a polarization in moral…. beliefs? No more then beliefs, many in the crowd saw His miracles and “believed” I see a polarization of convictions.

Paul never having seen TV gives us the answer to why?

Romans 7: 21-25 21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (New Living Translation)


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sometimes He answers, and sometimes He ANSWERS.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it before or not, but my wife and I have been “church shopping” for about a year now. The need to find a new church home is due to our moving from our home for over to 20 years to where we belong, on the water. That, is another story unto itself.

Over the past year we have both prayed for God’s guidance on where we should become involved. I won’t trouble you with our “perception” of the dozen or more churches we visited and considered in our search. Suffice to say that none of them, or we, were a good fit. The search was very frustrating but we knew that God would guide us. Last Sunday we had decided it was time to re-visit them all, if necessary. Surely there must be a church within a half hour drive of us that we “belonged” in.

If this was a movie script we would now do a flash back. It’s now 1977, my wife, raised a Catholic, has spent most of her life wanting to know God. I on the other hand, knew Him and was doing my best to avoid Him. (This too is another story) Because she married a doomed to hell protestant the Catholic Church, through two priests, had showed her the door proclaiming her damnation. (No critism of the Catholic Church is intended or implied, today we thank God for his use of those Priests and the Catholic Church in this process) Regardless, she was still determined to know God. Today she tells the story:
“I knew God was there and I wanted to know Him, I was walking to a 3rd Catholic Church as I did I prayed, ““God two Catholic Churches have thrown me out, if you are really there you need to show me””. Very shortly after that, while selling Avon; I met a women named Carol. Carol never bought any Avon that I can remember but I kept going back to her house because she talked about knowing God. I had never met anyone before that actually seemed to know Him. In my life, up to then, no one had ever told me that there was and is a living Christ. Through Carol’s testimony I began attending First Baptist Church in Mt Holly, NJ. There I met Jesus, surrendered my life to him and became a Christian.”

One thing led to another and shortly after my wife got saved I also surrendered my life to Jesus and was born again. For a good portion of 1977 and 1978 Carol and her husband John were involved in our lives on an almost daily basis. In the summer of 1978 we moved to Dallas Texas to attend Christ For the Nations Institute. After we returned to NJ in 1981 we saw John and Carol from time to time but nothing like those first two years. Our new home in NJ was a good distance from where John and Carol lived and we attended different churches. Eventually we lost touch with them. Not for any real reason, just because life/ time/work/families took us in different directions. As best as I can recall, I haven’t seen or talked to John since around 1990.

OK, so we jump back into the time machine and we are back in 2009. I own a home construction, remodeling and plumbing business. I dislike answering machines so I pay for a phone service to receive my incoming calls. Whenever someone calls my office number the answering service answers and then they email me about the call.

On Saturday 1/17/09 at about 3:30 I received an email that a pipe had burst in a home in Little Egg Harbor, the town we live in, and the homeowner needed a plumber. I called Tim who is the real plumber in the company, gave him the contact information and asked if he could respond. Which he did. (For the record, Tim, everyone involved really appreciates your willingness to drop what you were doing and respond to this need.) At about 7:30 PM Tim called to let me know he was finished and told me that the brother-in- law of the homeowner was at the home where he had been working. He went on to say that the brother-in-law knew me and had worked for me sometime in the past. While on the phone he didn’t remember the brother-in-law’s name but he had his card and would be at my house/office in a couple minutes. Although I didn’t say so at the time I already knew in my heart who the brother-in-law was.

As soon as Tim walked through the door the first words out of is mouth were “God works in mysterious ways”. Then he gave me the business card bearing the name of John. The same John I knew from years before. As soon as I could I called the house where the pipe had burst to see if John was still there, he was. We chatted for a couple minute then the subject of Church came up. I told John about our frustrating search for a new Church home to which he responded “have you tried Calvary Chapel on Rt. 9?” I then recounted that we had stopped by there one Sunday morning about 6 months ago. That was on a day we had attended two Sunday morning services at two different churches and had driven to a half dozen other churches as well to see what their service times were. When we had stopped by Calvary Chapel we couldn’t find any sign or indication of when their services were and the place seemed vacant. John told me that Calvary Chapel was an off shoot (for lack of a better term) of the Calvary Chapel led by Chuck Smith and that he and Carol had attended there some years ago. He suggested we should check it out. (Chuck Smith is another familiar name from my past, he taught for a week while I was attending Christ for The Nations Institute.)

We did attend Calvary Chapel this morning and I have no doubt that this and the way we found ourselves there is an answer to prayer. I am not the least bit surprised that God answered our prayer. I am surprised-pleased-amazed at the extent He went, to make sure I knew, beyond all doubt, that the advice to attend Calvary Chapel was from Him. Over the past year God could have used any sort of device or messenger to cause us to attend a service at Calvary Chapel. He could have used an internet search engine, the yellow pages, a radio broad cast or sent someone to knock on our door, but he didn’t. Instead he used the bitter cold of this winter, a broken pipe, Tim the plumber and a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years. He wasn’t satisfied to just point us in the right direction, he chose to send us through the testimony of a person he used 30 years ago to introduce us to the Living Christ and to change our lives.