Monday, November 27, 2006

You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the force.

A concept that often whips me is the use of the term balance to define a moderated or calculated position rather than extremes of a continium.

Although I understand what folks mean on some level, I think the term is inappropriate.

I'll give you an example. You often hear, "Well, he can't just pour himself into his work to the neglect of his family. He has to have balance between the two."

But ... is that really optimal?

Balance is defined as equal distribution of weight, amount, etc. or to be equal or proportionate to. In other words, stability due to symmetry.

Now, in our example, balance would mean equal amounts of energy or time or priority or whatever between family and job. But, I can think of no particular way in which one should have "balance" between the two.

Another way in which balance is misleading is that a person could be balanced and be ineffective at both. To keep with our example, a man could give a half-hearted effort at his job and with his family and be balanced, neither thing eclisping the other.

In the Christian life, we don't balance love for God and love for others. We are to be fully enthusiastic in both (Matt 22:36-40), though God gets the priority and really our love for others flows from our love for Him.

The problem with balance as a concept is that it really misses the mark of (1) diligence and (2) priority. A Christian's priority may be such that he or she will not work on Sunday morning, so when they come in conflict church wins out. But with regard to time spent, much more time in the typical week is spent in the vocation to which he or she has been called.

When I realized the concept of balance had been truly put into the realm of the absurb was upon hearing a comment from the allegedly wise Jedi Council. In speaking of Anakin Skywalker, he was speculated to be the prophesied one who would bring balance to the force. Now, they took this as positive prophecy.

I thought they were on drugs. Here you have tons of Jedi with a council and a training program and so forth. On the dark side of the force ... you got nothing, at least as far as they know. They think the Sith are extinct. So, you're side is winning by a huge margin, like the Aggies running up the score on Goat Roper U to the tune of 93-0, and you desire a shift toward balance?

It would be like some Republican a month ago saying that we needed someone to bring balance to the government system. When you have control of the House, the Senate, and the White House you want to stretch the lead. Right?

So, they train Anakin and ... guess what? He does bring balance to the force, by killing off all the Jedi so there are only a few good guys and a few bad Jedi. Sheesh. Who didn't see that coming?

Me? I'm thinking a guy bringing balance to the force is a bad thing, for it will create a ying-yang whammie whereby the ying gets its wings clipped.

Let me suggest another metaphor, that of spinning plates. On poles, representing different areas of life, are plates spinning. The individual must keep the plates spinning, but some plates are bigger than others and some are heavier than others and some need more attention to keep them spinning than others. Plus, some are fine China, while others are not so precious.

There will be times when a plate hits the floor and may be cracked or even break. The key is for each individual is to determine which plates must not hit the floor and devote attention appropriately.

In this way as well, each plate must get attention, unlike the balance concept where each area of life could get nominal effort or less, but equally so to ensure balance. In the plate spinning metaphor a certain amount of effort is required across the board just to keep each plate spinning.

So, to take a biblical example, when we examine our obligation to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15), let us realize balance is not the optimum goal. One could half-heartedly stand for truth and half-heartedly do so in love.

Granted, we want to avoid only speaking the truth or only speaking it in love. But, the one who speaks the truth with zeal does not suffer from too much truth, but not enough love. The one who wants to love with zeal, but compromises truth does not suffer from too much love, but lack of fidelity to truth.

Like Jesus might say, he should have continued with the former, but added the latter (or vice versa).

No, both plates need to be spinning and wholeheartedly we need to stand for truth and wholeheartedly we need to love, or stand in a loving way.

Balance? A scale can and is balanced when both sides are empty (see above picture). Slackers can balance.

For the Christian now, only for the Christian, everything we do must be done to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). That entails intensity, effort, and energy in all we do.

Think of the bass & treble controls on your stereo. At balance both can be at one. As Spinal Tap might say, ours both go to eleven.

Keep your plates spinning as you lean on His strength in the process, granting you wisdom in prioritization.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I would rather you just said "thank you" and went on your way.

Danke?

Gracias?

Thanks?

How do you express gratitude? To whom do you express gratitude?

How do you express gratitude to a sovereign God from whom all blessings flow?

After we take up the offering each week at Providence Church we sing together The Doxology (from the Greek word (δόξα) for "glory") to vocally recognize the source of all our provisions.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him, all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Everything good in our lives is a gift from God above (James 1:17), from Him who is gracious even to those in rebellion as His unmerited favor showers blessings on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:43-48).

However, the difference should be in the response of His children, who learn the secret of contentment regardless of their circumstances. They give thanks in all situations (1 Thes 5:18), with their words, affections, and how they subsequently live their lives.

Today is Thanksgiving, a day of feasting and football for many, but originally a day of giving thanks ... to a God who provided and preserved. We know how they expressed gratitude?

How do you express gratitude? Today and every day?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and may our hearts express the reason for the season, giving thanks to God for all He does AND all He is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns.

(*The following is an article I wrote for the Murphy Monitor & Wylie News.)

Just Like a Kid

We spent Friday at the Texas State Fair with our four kids. At one point my son, Eric, Jr., was joyfully petting Elsie the Cow. Suddenly, I heard, “Daddy!

As I turned to look my fears were somewhat abated when I realized my preschool-aged son had got his head stuck in the wodden fence and was quite upset. He had put his head through at the top where the gap was wider than at the bottom, so he could get a better look at his bovine friend, but could not retract his noggin.

Afterward, I thought, “Isn’t that typical of a kid?” Doing something silly and then crying out for dad to help! But, as his father, I calmly had him stand and then take his head out.

In the car on the way home I thought about the ironic parallel between my interaction with my son and our interaction with our Heavenly Father. After all, we routinely get ourselves in jams and need our Father to bail us out, for He deals with us as a loving Father.

Jesus explains that God is, in fact, an even better parent to His children than we are to ours. Matthew 7:9-11: "Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (ESV)

God’s paternal love may entail discipline, for He disciplines those He loves for our own good (Heb 12:7-8). There may be consequences, like the scolding my boy got from me, but this is part of the maturation process.

God loves His children and patiently nurtures them. But, the question must be raised, are you one of His children? Have you become one of His by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? John 1:12 tells us “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (ESV)

Believe on the Him who died, was buried, and rose again as a substitute for sin that you may begin a life lovingly guided by our Heavenly Father for His glory and your joy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Shun him, for he is the harbinger of death.

On the same day, I got a double dose of Holocaust remembrance.

First, I watched a Twilight Zone episode I had on the TiVo where a Nazi SS captain returns to a concentration camp 17 years later to visit his old "stomping grounds" and is haunted by the ghosts of his victims.

Second, I received a link to one of today's AP stories: Nazi-Era Files About Holocaust to Be Released to Public (danke, Tank) (printer-friendly version)
When the archive is finally available, researchers will have their first chance to see a unique collection of documents on concentration camps, slave labor camps and displaced persons. From toneless lists and heartrending testimony, a skilled historian may be able to stitch together a new perspective on the 20th century's darkest years from the viewpoint of its millions of victims.

"The overall story is pretty well established, but many details will be filled in," said Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"There is a great deal of very interesting material on a very large number of concentration camps that we really don't know much about," he said. "It may contain surprises. We don't know. It has material that nobody's ever seen."

A visitor to the archive comes into direct contact with the bureaucracy of mass murder.
An interesting expression, "the bureaucracy of mass murder." But this bureaucracy was not the typical "red tape" of which we have grown accustomed. The efficiency and meticulous detail in human beings treating other human beings as objects is phenomenal.
Between 1933 to 1945, the Nazi persecution grew to assembly-line proportions, slaughtering 6 million Jews and an equal number of Gypsies, homosexuals, mental patients, political prisoners and other "undesirables." Tens of millions were conscripted as forced laborers.

To operate history's greatest slaughter, the Nazis created a bureaucracy that meticulously recorded the arrest, movement and death of each victim. Sometimes even the lice plucked from heads in concentration camps were counted.

But as the pace of genocide stepped up, unknown numbers were marched directly from trains to gas chambers without being registered. In the war's final months, the bookkeeping collapsed, though the extermination continued.
It has been my contention for years that Modern thought in general, and many of the tenants of The Enlightenment in particular contributed to the objectification of humanity seen so blatantly in the "Final Solution" (Endlösung der Judenfrage). I've been haphazardly working on a paper in that regard for years, but don't expect the fruit of it any time soon, but the mindset that a certain portion of the population are a question/problem requiring an answer/solution was how they approached the good society.

Those undesireables whose existence was detrimental to society were first removed from public participation then ultimately exterminated. Is this not the same mindset with regard to abortion, whereby our America would be better off without those people?

The Twilight Zone episode ("Death's Head Revisited") caught my eye because the concentration camp the captain visits is Dachau, which I had visited. Nestled in picturesque Bavaria is the reminder "man's inhumanity to man," and visiting it was perhaps the most sobering experience of my life.

Seeing the piles of shoes, suitcases, teeth, hair, and other personal effects of the prisoners was most disturbing. But even more so was seeing the gas chambers and the incinerators (which were concealed on the camp) used to dispose of the bodies.

One can only imagine the horror that must have awaited the Allies when the arrived to find mounds of bodies and mass graves, for in the accelerated operation prior to liberation the Nazis were not able to keep up with disposal.

In the Twilight Zone episode, the SS captain leaves the safety of South America to revisit his homeland, but particularly the concentration camp where he had "followed orders" as others had whereby 10,000,000 human beings were tortured in such camps for sadistic pleasure, experimentation, and overall efforts to advance the master race.

He is confronted by the ghosts of those he tortured and killed, being found guilty by their jury for crimes against humanity. They administer "justice" for him, which is insanity, but he is told, "Your final judgment will come from God."

Even before I was a Christian, I was a firm believer in the theological doctrine of total depravity. Knowing myself and others, this was no stretch, but seeing Dachau as a teenager really drove that point home. I had no confidence in man, for he is the harbinger of death.

The Nazi regime is a portion of German history that the vast majority would rather soon forget and issues of preservation of such reminders are hotly contested. Should they expend taxpayer money to preserve such images of horror and all the feelings they conjure?

The doctor at the end of the episode surveys the camp: "Dachau ... Why does it still stand?"

He is anwered with, "The moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance."

I concur with Rod Serling who concludes with, "Something to dwell on and remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God's earth."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Screws fall out all the time; the world's an imperfect place.

By accident, or rather by providence, I found myself watching a show I had never seen before Monday night, Law & Order. I caught a few minutes of it and decided to record it via the greatness of TiVo.

Later that night when I watched it, enthralled in the storyline I found myself near the end of the story within minutes it seemed of the revelation of whodunit and how it was dun.

Guess what happened? Yeah, the TiVo ran out. Apparently the station's slooge got off track so that the shows were not fitting in their allotted time slot.

I'm left with, "C'mon! What happened?!" So, if anyone watched the show Monday night, I'd love to know how it ended (i.e., who did the murder and why).

That experience brought to mind two things:
  1. We often go through our lives wondering "how it will end," with it being an event, an experience, a traumatic time, our lives in general or even the world in general.
  2. The world's an imperfect place.

1. I'm reminded of the lyrics of the song, "Because He Lives"
Because He lives I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ gives a confident hope to those who have embraced the Savior by faith in Him and His substitutionary death.

Know what that means? It means that we don't necessarily need to know how "it" will end, for we know who is in charge. Since God reigns in heavens and does whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3), we know that He accomplishes His intentions. That doesn't mean the absence of difficulties, but it does mean that He uses them to our benefit (Rom 8:28).

Not knowing how "it" will end just means we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) and that we may often not understand why things have happened to us, even in hindsight. But we trust Him nonetheless.

2. The world's an imperfect place ... for even TiVo can let you down. Actually, it's not TiVo's fault. I may sound like a TiVo apologist, which is not being argued, but it was the station that got cagged. But in a perfect world, shows get recorded. Cars don't break down. People don't let you down. In a pefect world it doesn't take two hours to drive 20 miles in the DFW metroplex, because in that perfect world people have mastery over their vehicles.

In Sunday school I am teaching the Yutes the Sermon on the Mount and Sunday morning we looked at Matthew 6:19-24. The gist is not to store up treasures on earth, which is foolish since rust & moths & thieves and assorted bad things happen to them. Disappointment is inevitable and those things do not last. Lasting joy and fulfillment is in investing in the lives of people, storing up treasures in heaven.

Of course, Jesus also makes it clear that what we value betrays what we love: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21).

Hey, the world's an imperfect place. Stuff will disappoint you. People will disappoint you. Only God will not, though you may not always understand, He has your best interests at heart, if you are a Christian.

In fact, He's more concerned with your wellbeing than you are, as a parent is with a child. If you're a Christian, He wants you to be conformed to the image of Christ and He labors to that end.

The world's an imperect place, but the Perfect One is perfecting us in the midst of it. AND we do know how it will end, in our glorification and in His triumphant return (Rev 19).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A weapon unused is a useless weapon.

Tonight was Providence Prayer Night at Providence Church, a 8PM to midnight congregational time of prayer.

While the emphasis of the meeting was on things pertaining to the church, I found it personally beneficial as well.

At one point I couldn't get the following words from a Keith Green song out of my head:
My eyes are dry. My faith is old. My heart is hard. My prayers are cold. But I know how I ought to be alive to you and dead to me. Oh what can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine. The oil is you, your Spirit of love. Please wash me anew with the wine of your blood.
It was a good night of prayer and I felt refreshed and that my heart had been stirred with greater affection for the Lord. For me, few things give me a spiritual boost like an extended time of prayer.

I was reminded of the power of prayer, even with regard to one's personal sanctification. Prayer is not merely a weapon to be used to fight the power of darkness or to, in humility, cast our cares on Him. But it is also a powerful weapon to be used in fighting one's own flesh in the battle of sanctification.

Use that weapon of prayer in your own sanctification, for a weapon unused is a useless weapon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

these are people of the land, the common clay of the new west. You know . . . morons.

Today is voting day, so I did my civic duty and voted.

As I was approaching the polling place, eyeing the signs, I wondered:
"Which is better to vote ignorantly or to not vote?"

Honestly, I knew very little about the races, though I was set on Governor: Rick Perry is a good Aggie. But today was the first time I can remember in a long while that I did not vote straight ticket along the party line.

We seem to hear proponets of "rocking the vote" encouraging folks to vote, regardless of who they vote for ... "Just vote!"

But which would be better?
  • 20% of the population voting, those who are motivated and informed
  • 80% of the population voting, 60% of which are ignorant and/or shallow in their voting
Is this the peril of democracy, the American public get to decide? The people of the land who are easily swayed get a say in things? I don't want to sound un-American, but I thought as I voted today that it's a scary thing that folks even less informed than myself can determine the course of this state, country, and the world.

Perhaps my understanding of depravity jades my optimism with regard to humanity, but I think I have personal experience and biblical instruction on my side in this regard.

Surely, it's the ignorant masses that determine these elections and they don't know anything about the issues, but base their decisions on things like the following:
  • He looks like a nice guy.
  • I like the way he smokes a cigar and makes fun of people.
  • She's cool and had some good ads mocking the evil doers.
  • He seems less of a jerk than the rest.
That's the reason campain ads rarely deal with the issues, and never beyond a surface (i.e., sound bite) level if they do. Folks don't know and don't care. But which is worse, voter apathy or voter ignorance?

Some lament we're having to choose "the lesser evil" when it comes to political parties, as though it's a problem with the two-party system. Perhaps part of the problem is the ignorance of the people of the land.

Surely the goal is the informed, educated voter, but can that be insured? Mandatory classes and/or prerequisite testing could be constructed to influence and/or discourage certain types of voters and would be opposed.

Sheesh, there are even some out there who think it unfair that someone should be a citizen to vote, so I know reform of any type would be unlikely.

What can be done? Do you vote? Did you vote? Where's the line, assuming you have one, whereby you won't vote on an issue if not informed enough?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I am a man of constant sorrow.

After a disappointing Saturday night as the Aggies dropped a close one to the Sooners and the Cowboys gave the game away to the Redskins this afternoon, I'm down.

My cup of sorrow runneth over. In fact, I am a man of constant sorrow.

I need a little help from my friends, the Soggy Bottom Boys to lift my spirits. Enjoy!

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