Burying Poop

Who says the Bible doesn’t have practical advice:

Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. (Deuteronomy 23:12-13.)

Sound advice. If you’re going to poop, don’t leave it in your tent. Don’t leave it in your neighbor’s tent. Don’t leave it in the space between your tent and your neighbor’s tent.

After all, why stink up the camp?

There’s a spiritual aspect to this burying poop, too. The passage goes on to say:

For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you. (Deuteronomy 23:14.)

The Indecency of Bowel Movements?

I read that passage a few nights ago and wondered what connection there could be between our bodily excrement and holiness before God. After all, God called all his creation very good (Genesis 1:26-31), so I figure even our bowel movements must have been a good thing for God to create.

Then again, the connection of pooping and holiness isn’t the only connection I wonder about. Food is another area. God told the Israelites what they could and could not eat, calling permitted foods clean and forbidden ones unclean.

Then there is life under the New Covenant, where these food rules no longer apply and the spiritual connection with eating formerly forbidden food no longer exists. (Acts 10.) The New Testament writings don’t speak of bowel movements specifically, but with all that the New Testament does say about our freedom from Old Testament legal regulations it’s safe to say that the spiritual aspect of disposing with poop is gone too.

Why, then, should we bother learning the cleanliness regulations in Deuteronomy 23 at all?

Because it still provides an analogy for our spiritual lives now.

Burying Sin in a Hole

God used physical excrement to represent spiritual uncleanness to the Israelites. Having to step outside the camp provided a tangible and daily opportunity for the nation of Israel to remember that God dwelled with them, right there with them in their very camp, and that they were to live in a way that acknowledged his holy presence.

God is with us under the New Covenant too, and he lives not in our camps but in our very selves. (Ephesians 2:22.) The Bible encourages us to remember that we are cleansed of our sins (2 peter 1:9), meaning that unlike the Israelite camp which the Jews needed to keep holy we are now kept holy by God himself.

Yet God’s people still sin. (Romans 7.) The question then becomes: what are we to do with that sin?

  • First, we should rejoice that all of our sins – past. present and future – have already been forgiven. (Colossians 2:13.)
  • Second, we are to remember that God never condemns us for our sins. (Romans 8:1-2.)
  • Third, we can follow the example of the Israelite camp. If you have sinned in whatever way, don’t keep that sin close to you where it will continue to tempt you. (James 1:14.) Don’t keep it somewhere you will come across it easily. Instead, put it aside and remove yourself as best you can from the temptations the led you to it, and move on by the power of the Holy Spirit.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13.)

What about when we don’t resist temptation, though. The passage in Deuteronomy 23 gives good advice on what to do with that sin: leave it behind like the refuse it is.

And remember, the Spirit of Christ lives in us and we are eternally holy to our heavenly Father who never lets us go. (John 10:27-30.)

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Bad Christian Music (as in heresy-bad)

[From the archives.]

***

I grew up in a liturgical church that sang songs out of a hymnal. A hymnal, kids, is a book containing songs written before you were born. A book is something people would read before the internet.

I digress.

One Sunday morning the choir director – that’s someone who led music before we had worship leaders – one Sunday morning the choir director said we were going to sing a song that wasn’t in the hymnal. A Christian song. I didn’t know there were any Christian songs that weren’t in hymnals.

It sounded different. It sounded like it wasn’t written a hundred years before I was born. It sounded almost – not quite, but almost – like a song you’d hear outside of church.

The song? We Are One In The Spirit. Its chorus is all about how much love Christians have for each other and how this shows the world we are, you know, Christians. I don’t want to give the wrong impression about that message. It’s awesome, because it’s based on something Jesus told his friends in their last night together:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35.)

You can’t go wrong with the words of our Lord, right? Right. But why did the song writer have to take such a hopeful and joyful message and write the music in a minor key? It ends up coming across as a dirge, for crying out loud.

Bad Doctrine – bad, bad doctrine!

You know what’s worse than singing a dirge with joy-filled lyrics. Singing a happy little tune with doctrinally abysmal lyrics, yet that’s what we got when the choir director introduced a second song not found in the hymnal. Back then I didn’t know enough to question the Scriptural basis for church songs, but when I heard Lord of the Dance on the radio yesterday my doctrinal Spidey-sense started tingling*.

v. 4 – I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
But I am the dance and I still go on.

Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

v. 5 – They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.

There are real problems with those lyrics.

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back

Even allowing for poetic license it’s hard to see anywhere in the four gospels where Jesus can be said to have the devil on his back, let alone that this impeded his ministry in any way. In fact, just the opposite is shown.

  • When Satan tried to take Jesus on directly, Jesus merely spoke and Satan left in a hurry. (Matthew 4:1-11.)
  • Again, all it took was a word from Jesus and demon after demon fled. Not much of a struggle there. (Matthew 8:16.)
  • Even at his crucifixion, Jesus was the one in control. (John 19:10-11.)

I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me

Also, there’s nothing in the Bible to support the proposition that Christ’s living in us is predicated on our first living in him. Quite the opposite is true.

  • Jesus is not the True Vine because we are attached to him. Rather, we are fruitful branches because we are first attached to the True Vine. (John 15:1-4.)
  • His ability to give himself for us is not somehow made possible because we first live in him. Rather, our life in Christ is possible because he gave himself for us. (Galatians 2:20.)
  • We did not do something worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice. Rather, we were actually powerless to do anything for ourselves when Christ died for us to bring us to himself. (Romans 5:6-8.)

“Dubiously Christian”

Some may say I’m making too much out of this, that I’m misconstruing the song writer’s words and taking them out of context.

I beg to differ. So does Sydney Carter, the song writer himself, who said that while Jesus was part of the inspiration for the song so was Shiva (a Hindu god):

I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian. But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord … Anyway, it’s the sort of Christianity I believe in.

I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords of the Dance.

“Dubiously Christian” – finally, something I can agree with.

***

Questions to ponder:

Do you scrutinize the lyrics of songs presented to you as being appropriate for worship?

What do you do when you hear unsound doctrine in a song at church?

***

*Copyright 1963 Stainer & Bell Ltd. London, England. The questionable lines show up in verses 4 and 5.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Mysterious Duodenum

“But Holmes, how on earth did you know the murder weapon was lodged in the victim’s intestine?”

“It’s alimentary, my dear Watson.”

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[Old joke, worth retelling. Because puns are funny.]

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Knowing When To Switch Sides

Did you hear about the Brandon High School quarterback who switched sides at halftime last week?

He’d led his team to 3 touchdowns in the first half, while the other team’s quarterback left the game injured. The opponents had no backup quarterback and struggled through offensive plays (really struggled, as you can see in the video linked above) as they finished the half scoreless.

Brandon’s coach asked his starting quarterback to play for the other team. In a show of great sportsmanship, both teams played hard in the second half and the game ended 46-14.

Quarterback Mason Mathieu said of the other team, “They’re a great group of guys, I mean I loved it. It was great.”

Barrier Breakdown

Being in God’s family is great too, and from what I’ve read in the Bible you’re either in or you’re out. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who falls into which category, though.

Jesus’ friends thought they had it pegged: if you’re not one of those who are close to Jesus, travelling with him, sitting under his teaching daily, then you’re not one of his disciples – you don’t belong to him. Jesus said otherwise.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40.)

Later, people tried to draw the line in different places, telling non-Jews that they could not follow Jesus unless they first became Jewish. Paul had strong words for those who insisted that Christians must also follow Jewish laws and customs (Galatians 5:12), and he set people straight: the old way of dividing people into categories does not apply in God’s kingdom.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.(Colossians 3:11.)

and,

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28.)

So to analogize from the football story above, the players on the field may have worn different uniforms and come from different schools, but the Brandon High School coach saw them differently. He looked on the field and saw football players – not one team from one school and the other team from another school – just players who wanted to play football. What they wore and where they were from and how well they played didn’t matter.

That’s how it is for us too:

  • Where we’re from doesn’t disqualify us in our relationship with Jesus or one another in God’s family.
  • What we look like doesn’t disqualify us in our relationship with Jesus or one another in God’s family.
  • How well we perform doesn’t disqualify us in our relationship with Jesus or one another in God’s family.

Jesus just sees us as people who belong to God. That’s what he told our heavenly Father, and that’s what the Bible tells us.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23.)

Who are we then, in Jesus? We are people that can be with everyone else who belongs to Jesus, no matter where we’re from, no matter what our differences might be.

We are all on the same team after all, because we are one in Jesus just as Jesus and the Father are one.

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Racial Reconciliation, One Ordination Day At A Time

[Today's guest post is from Adriana Kassner Cunningham, who blogs at Classical Quest, where she touches on fine literature and the fineness of a family campfire, the simplicity of a woodland walk and the wonder of the written word. This is her second guest post here on racial reconciliation.]

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I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19.) 

Dad and I were the only two white people in the congregation for “Ordination Sunday” twenty-three years ago at a church in downtown Cincinnati. We had been invited by James, a friend Dad had met at the can factory where they were both employed. James was now entering the ministry as a pastor. Dad and I drove nearly an hour from our home in the county to witness his ordination.

This was my first visit to a church made up entirely of African-American members and I was eager to attend. I had watched local news broadcasts from home, so I knew there was an ongoing problem with racial tension in the city, but I felt certain that an inner-city church would feel different. Whatever was happening elsewhere in the city, surely church would feel like home.

Yet upon entrance, I sensed the members were standoffish, perhaps even apprehensive. I suddenly felt very conscious of my whiteness. I slipped a cardigan over my bare arms to cover my pale skin. We spotted James on the front row. He turned, waved, then came back to greet us. After this, those in our immediate vicinity seemed to soften a little.

The choir sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,”  as if they were actually leaning on God. In our white church we sang this hymn like a marching band tune — peppy and happy with a trumpet interlude. But here they sang slowly and mournfully; they swayed from side to side with eyes closed and hands lifted.

Near the end of the service Dad’s friend James was called to the front. As he knelt on the platform, every black minister in the entire city came forward and encircled him. I had never seen so many preachers together in one place. It felt historic. They moved in to place their hands on James. There was a round of prayers. After the final “amen,” all the preachers lined up facing the congregation. Then everyone was invited to come forward and greet each one.

Dad and I walked up together and began making our way through the receiving line. I shook each hand and briefly studied each face. I was surprised to find a variety of expressions among these men. A few smiled cordially, a few looked faintly suspicious of me, one preacher in particular seemed angry. He avoided my eyes and shook my hand with disgust, as if it were a dirty rag he’d rather be rid of. James was all smiles. He hugged Dad warmly, they patted each other on the back and praised God together.

Out of all the preachers I greeted that day, there was one face which stood out above the rest. I remember him as taller than everyone else, but maybe he only appeared to be. He was gray and distinguished, certainly the oldest man in attendance. I placed my young white hand in his ancient brown one, a small dove in a large nest. His brown eyes were tender like the eyes of Christ. I felt as if he saw into me. Under the weight of his gaze my eyes moistened.

He said, “Always keep your sweetness, Child.”

At that moment I received all that I had come expecting. I felt accepted, welcomed, and loved like a dear little sister.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:27-29.)

In retrospect I see that pastor gave me something I carry with me still: hope for racial reconciliation. When we embrace the Gospel of Christ every burden becomes light. The great rifts in our nation and our world are repaired. Through the Gospel we receive healing and a peace that surpasses comprehension. When I submit my mind in love to Jesus he helps me to want what he wants.

What does Jesus want? 

He wants all believers to be one, just as he and the Father are one.

How can we accomplish this?

By his glory, which he has given us.

Why does he want us all to be “perfectly one”?

So that the world will know that God the Father sent Christ the Son and that God loves each of us as much as he loves his own Son.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23.)

I have a burden for racial reconciliation and I believe it is possible. I desire to experience the riches of my inheritance as a believer — an inheritance which is in his holy people. I want to know the hope I’m called to and to experience God’s incomparably great power.

When I ask God for these things, he enlightens the eyes of my heart. He allows me to see through a lens of grace. All this is possible because I am in Christ. I partake of his glory. Through him I am empowered to live out a life of sacrificial love.

With my enlightened eyes I can see past every exterior, past every bland stereotype. I gaze in awe at the beauty of the human soul and marvel that each one was formed in the image of God.

***

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Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

[From the archives, in honor of Canada's Day of Thanksgiving.]

***

Maybe I have a romantic idealism about our neighbors to the north, but I really like Canada. It could be our family camping trips there when I was a kid – yeah I’ve been to Penticton, pretty cool right? – the awesome Maple Leaf flag, all those Dudley Do-Right cartoons I watched, or Shane Koyczan’s impressive spoken-word performance at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games opening ceremonies. Whatever it is, I’m hooked.

And then I saw this great winter headwear and knew I needed no further proof that Canada is all kinds of awesome:

The Beard Hat – You Know You Want One!

But here’s something even more impressive. A team of 18-20 year olds wanted to play in a hockey tournament but the timing was bad, coinciding with exams at school. So the players told the coach they couldn’t go unless the trip included study time. The coach agreed and notified the league that the players would miss the opening and closing ceremonies because they had to study. After the tournament finished, the league told the coach he made the wrong choice (all players had to be present at all functions according to the tournament manual) and banned him from coaching for a full year. Then it fined him $2000. He’s a volunteer coach. $2000 and a year in exile for making a choice that he informed them about ahead of time. Thanks for all your hard work, Coach; no we couldn’t have told you beforehand that the players weren’t allowed to skip the ceremonies.

From what little we can see of the coach in that article, I would bet he’d make the same choice if given the opportunity again. This is a coach who puts his players first, who answers to a higher sense of sportsmanship than that shown by the league.

This is a coach who reminds me of Peter and John.

In Acts 3 John and Peter performed a miracle, healing a man who had not walked in years. The amazed crowd asked how this happened and Peter answered with a phenomenal sermon on the Good News of Jesus Christ. The authorities were not pleased.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. (Acts 4:1-3.)

The next morning there was a trial of sorts, but it didn’t go as planned:

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. (Acts 4:18-22.)

Doing what’s right because it’s right. Not following orders, because those orders violate a higher principle. Taking your lumps for doing so (like going to jail), because you know that ultimately you answer to God and not people. (Psalm 56:4; Joshua 22:22; Luke 16:15.)

Where have you seen this lately?

Would you do the same?

***

[10,000 interwebz, useful for absolutely nothing, to everyone who can identify the source of the following verse without the use of the internet. 20,000 interwebz to everyone who uses the internet to do so.

Tall whisperin' pines and hot maple syrup
Red-coated Mounties perched high in their stirrups
Hard rubber hockey pucks shot from the wing
These are a few of our favorite things!

Unlimited bonus points to anyone willing to send me an audio clip of themselves singing that so I can post it here on the blog.]

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Respect for the victim, respect for the victimizer

Tim:

Laura Droege’s post touches on one of the key skills a trial judge like me needs. See if you can discern what it is as you read this very short piece.

Originally posted on Laura Droege's blog:

In Louise Penny’s excellent mystery Bury Your Dead, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is taking an extended leave from his job after a terrible disaster. He is visiting a friend in Quebec and happens upon a crime scene. He realizes at once that it is a murder investigation, and listens as two young officers discuss the victim.

“He hasn’t begun smelling yet,” said the young officer. “Those make me want to puke.”

Gamache took a breath and exhaled, his breath freezing as soon as it hit the air. But he said nothing. This officer wasn’t his to train in the etiquette of the recently dead, in the respect necessary when in their presence. In the empathy necessary to see the victim as a person, and the murderer as a person. It wasn’t with cynicism and sarcasm, with dark humor and crass comments a killer was caught. He was caught by…

View original 114 more words

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John Piper Takes Unfair Advantage of the Ebola Crisis

Twitter is complicated.

It is good for posting links to interesting articles, brief announcements of what’s happening in someone’s life, or sharing a thought on some topic or other. It’s tough to do these things in just 140 characters, but it can be done and some people do it well.

Others do it not so well, and when the person who mistweets has influence over a huge number of people who subscribe to the person’s tweets, it can be more than troublesome; it can be dangerous.

The Ebola of Unbelief?

Mr. Piper has over 667,000 people following his Twitter account. They want to hear what he has to say and glean wisdom from his thoughts. The problem with this tweet is that any wisdom it may have had gets lost in the ham-fisted way he capitalizes on the physical suffering of others in order to make his spiritual point.

I’m willing to assume Mr. Piper had in mind statements like these from Jesus:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28.)

and,

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:36-37.)

So yes, the soul is important. But if Mr. Piper is relying on passages like this for his tweet, he is mistaken. Those passages have nothing to do with human suffering. Rather, they are about self-preservation (Matthew 10) and greed (Mark 8), and to apply them or similar passages to the Ebola crisis is a sloppy way to read and teach on Scripture.

His tweet also minimizes the crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where the international response is failing to keep up with the spread of the disease, according to a recent BBC report. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization is quoted as saying:

“The disease is entrenched in the capitals, 70% of the people affected are definitely dying from this disease, and it is accelerating in almost all of the settings.”

The gravity of the crisis is captured in the statement from Joanna Liu, president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, who told the BBC reporter, “We’re not winning the battle.” The BBC report puts the total dead at close to 3900 people, including over 200 health care workers who were there to treat the sick.

People are dying and Mr. Piper decides it’s time to give a Sunday School lesson on the back of their misery.

Jesus and Suffering

Jesus never made light of human misery. He relieved the suffering that comes from sickness (Matthew 4:23-24) and ached in the face of death (John 11:32-36), and in no instance do we ever read of him telling someone, “I realize your body is sick, but you should focus on your soul instead.” Never once did Jesus belittle anyone’s suffering, never told them their suffering was of lesser importance than some spiritual point he wanted to make.

In fact, it appears from all Biblical accounts that Jesus gave equal dignity to a person’s present suffering and their life in eternity.

In other words, Jesus never promoted the gospel at the expense of someone’s misery. That’s because the good news of the gospel doesn’t profit from human suffering. It instead announces blessed relief.

Jesus said so.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21.)

That’s what Jesus said the gospel is about.

So let’s hear no more statements like “the Ebola of unbelief.” People are dying in Africa by the thousands and governments are unable to care for the sick and protect their populations from infection. When Mr. Piper co-opted their suffering for his own purposes he did nothing to advance the gospel. In fact, it brings ridicule on the cause of Christ.

And that’s because when Jesus cared for the sick he cared for both their body and soul. He did not elevate one over the other.

Those who are called by his name should do the same.

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Turn A Single Penny Into Fabulous Riches … In Just One Month!

[Adapted from the archives.]

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Who knew that pennies could mean so much? According to this article, starting with one penny and then doubling it every day for a month (two pennies, four pennies, and so on) will really add up. All the way to more than $5 million, it’ll add up. That’s 500 million pennies!

Here’s how it works:

One penny doubled is 2 cents. Two cents turns to $0.04, $0.04 to $0.08, $0.08 to $0.16, $0.16 to $0.32, $0.32 to $0.64, and $0.64 to $1.28. Nothing very exciting there.

But when you stick with it, it’s that last few times when the figure doubles that it gets very, very exciting. You’re looking at $1,342,177.28 becoming $2,684,354.56, and $2,684,354.56 doubling to $5,368,709.12.

Now all I need is to find a penny so I can get started. Only 30 days to riches and my life is set!

That’s not how it works in the kingdom of God, though. Our lives are not to be a matter of chasing after money in order to obtain security and comfort and leisure. That type of life is a fool’s game.

Here’s how it works in God’s kingdom. Workers hired last are paid the same as those who started early.  God’s kingdom welcomes those who arrive at the last minute, too late to put in any work at all. God’s kingdom even comes to those who are flat-out dead:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14.)

So not only did God bring me into his kingdom when I was dead, it was when I was dead and indebted. He forgave all my sins – past, present and future – so that I never need seek forgiveness again. He made me alive and cancelled that debt of sin on the cross where Jesus died.

I am now wealthy through God’s riches in Christ’s glory. And that’s better than 500 million pennies any day.

In fact, it’s better than 500 million pennies for eternity.

***

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Quitting Twitter – a lesson from Suzanne Vega at Tom’s Diner

Quitting Twitter

On the drive home I convinced myself it was time to close my Twitter account. Then Tom’s Diner came on the radio.

I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee

And he fills it
Only halfway
And before
I even argue

He is looking
Out the window
At somebody
Coming in

Sometimes when I’m on Twitter I feel like the person waiting for the cup of coffee. I feel like a person who is watching other people who are waiting for each other and there I am, standing by. And I know – from experience – that if I take part in some of those conversations between those people I can get in trouble.

I don’t mean to butt in unwanted. After all (I figure) if they are conversing on Twitter it’s an open conversation, isn’t it? Especially if one of the people re-tweeted something the other person said as if to say, “Hey, look what my friend just said. Isn’t it interesting?”

But it turns out I’m wrong about some of those conversations. They don’t want new voices. Or at least they don’t want new voices that aren’t in agreement with the current speakers. Perhaps you’ve seen it too. You try to add a different take on things and get shut down.

It’s happened to me, and more often than not I can’t see what I said that was so wrong. But there must be something because there are times when I’ve not only been told I am out of line but I am also quite clearly given to understand that my subsequent attempts to straighten things out are merely mucking it all up even worse.

Yesterday I had one of those exchanges that got worse. It got bad enough that I convinced myself Twitter is not worth my time.

But then Suzanne Vega came on the radio and sang about dealing with the people at the diner and getting only a half-full cup of coffee.

“It is always
Nice to see you”
Says the man
Behind the counter

To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
Her umbrella

And I look
The other way
As they are kissing
Their hellos

I’m pretending
Not to see them
Instead
I pour the milk

So she looks the other way,

and pretends not to see,

and occupies herself with the milk.

There’s wisdom in those words.

There is wisdom in knowing I don’t have to take part in those conversations that appear to be inviting me along. (My friend said something clever in our Twitter exchange, see?) I can look the other way, pretend not to see, occupy myself with something else.

Twitter Does Have A Purpose

You might wonder what purpose Twitter really has. Vega covers that as well, even though she wrote this song long before the advent of Twitter.

Twitter’s not bad for news:

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Sometimes it’s merely a light diversion:

And I’m turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies

(I don’t read the horoscope, but I do read the funnies daily. Don’t judge me. And don’t judge Suzanne Vega.)

But what I really want out of Twitter is people.

Oh, this rain
It will continue
Through the morning
As I’m listening

To the bells
Of the cathedral
I am thinking
Of your voice…

And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began…

There’s the key to Twitter’s purpose as far as I’m concerned. I want it to remind me of people, to make me remember that the people on Twitter are real people, and that I should do what God says is important: care about the people he’s put in my life.

Even if those people are on Twitter,

or are bloggers,

or are commenting on blogs.

Because the purpose of this blog, more than any other, is to come alongside people the way that God has come alongside me.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

The word “comfort” in that passage has the sense of “coming alongside”, and whenever I read that passage I can’t help but read it:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all coming-alongside-ness, who comes alongside us in all our troubles, so that we can come alongside those in any trouble with the coming-alongside-ness we ourselves receive from God.

So I hope to follow Suzanne Vega’s lead on Twitter. That means avoiding  conversations where I’d only be in the way. And it means remembering people. I’ll try to follow Paul’s advice, too: come alongside people with the same coming alongside that I’ve received from God.

Say hello if you see me on Twitter.

Let me know how I’m doing with this.

And come alongside me.

***

If you pay attention to the two male dancers in Suzanne Vega’s music video for Tom’s Diner you’ll see the slickest moves ever to come out of an 80s aerobics class. I ought to know. I took aerobics classes back in the 80s.

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