Redemption Song

 
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Two Channel TV

I was having lunch with a friend today, and he was telling me about how his television started only receiving two channels. That’s all he gets. Two channels. So we started talking about what channels you would choose if you could only get two channels. I don’t know about you, but for me, I think I would choose ESPN (I can’t survive without SportsCenter) and The Food Network. Why The Food Network? I love food. I’m fairly confident that I think about food more than the average person does. But anyways, those are the two off the top of my head that I would keep. Unfortunately for my friend, he didn’t have the luxury of choosing, because apparently his TV made the executive decision of keeping the Public Access Channel and the Military Channel. That’s it. So, needless to say, he’s been watching a lot of WWI and WWII shows. We started laughing about how in a couple of weeks he’s going to be a military genius. He’ll know every war strategy and weaponry forward and back. At the very least, he’ll be really good at the game, RISK. After we had laughed about it, he sighed and admitted that because of the TV situation he already knew way more about militaries and wars than he probably needed to know.

Naturally, we have the tendency to learn about and take in the things that are put right in front of our face. People truly have the ability to soak up stuff like a sponge and it can shape our thinking, feeling, and worldview. This can be positive or negative. I’m sure you’ve felt the elation walking out to your car after an inspirational movie. Honestly, for about 15 minutes, you feel like you can change the world. On the flip, you often hear people talking about the dangers of de-sensitization. I first heard that term used in regards to violent video games that were popular when I was a kid. And while I’m not a proponent of cultural naiveté and legalism, I acknowledge that the things we put in our heads can be damaging, and Scripture challenges us:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. [Philippians 4.8;TNIV]

However, there is a deeper and more pressing point. There is a difference between indulging in debaucherous and decadent entertainment for kicks and honestly facing the truth of brokenness in the world for the sake of redemption. Following Jesus goes beyond fears of desensitization and safety and into the realm of redemption. In Christ, the call is to go to places of hurt, suffering, lostness, and struggle. We are not called to cloister away, hoarding faith and hope. And the truth is that as one goes to those places and builds those relationships, in faith, one grows stronger. Living faith out in the face of brokenness has the opposite effect of merely indulging in it through media. As I’ve had difficult conversations with people, listened as people have shared horribly sad stories and shared the raw truth of brokenness in their lives, as I’ve lived in and seen places that are riddled with evil, I have not become de-sensitized, hardened, and calloused. It has challenged me to be more loving, more compassionate, less judgmental, and more passionate about the Gospel. There are women and men who have been more places and ministered to more sadness than I have who would say the same thing. So, while often times you can be shaped by what is in front of your face, the power of the Gospel is that you grow ever more challenged to actually do the shaping of what is in front of you. Faith, and prayer, and community give one the ability to go into the world and be light.

The tendency is to immediately think that this can only begin by being dropped in by helicopter to an undisclosed, remote location in a country where Christianity is not allowed. It might but probably won’t look like this for you. It might begin by joining in on a missions opportunity, dedicating a Saturday at a food kitchen, or taking someone to lunch and asking them how you can pray for them and be a support for them. Then, who knows how God will continue to work through you.
The MESSAGE translation of Scripture says this:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand- shine! Keep open house, be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. [Matt. 5.14-16]

Skinny Jeans

 
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Across the Universe

I was briefly perusing Yahoo.com for some quick news, and I came across this article about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100425/sc_afp/scienceastronomyextraterrestrialhawking

In the article, I found this excerpt worthy of sharing.  “In 2008, American space agency NASA beamed the Beatles song “Across the Universe” into deep space to send a message of peace to any alien that happens to be in the region of Polaris — also known as the North Star — in 2439.”

I find this little excerpt to be really funny.  If you think about it, that’s a pretty random and crazy thing for the people of earth to do. Here are a few thoughts I had about it:  1) What if the aliens don’t like the Beatles?  In fact, what if the aliens hate the Beatles and don’t appreciate us forcing it down their throats? Who is to say that Simon and Garfunkel wouldn’t have been the right choice? Or, maybe, the aliens are the partying type and would have appreciated some Justin Timberlake?  2) I love that we assume the aliens will understand English and will get the theme of the song.  And truth be told, I’ve heard that song twenty or thirty times, and I don’t understand half it.  They don’t stand a chance.  3) At this point, how do you even have a conversation with Sir Paul McCartney?  What do you talk about with someone whose music has been potentially played for extra-terrestrials?  “Hey Paul, last week I [fill in the blank with any reasonable accomplishment] .”  Paul’s response: “Oh, really?  Aliens on the other side of the universe listen to my music.”

Now, let me try to tie it together with a more serious thought (if possible at this point).  While it’s funny and kind of random that we would send music across the universe, the point is that there is a message trying to be sent, and hopefully it would be received as a peaceful one. Basically, we’re all trying to send a message of some sort. It makes me consider the message that I send out.  Maybe you could consider today what kind of message you send out. What kind of words do you use with people?  What kind of concern do you actually have for people?  Do you feign interest in others, thinking they won’t pick up on it?  Even with the people closest to you, are you encouraging them in little ways, or is there a subversive message of discontent that saturates most of your conversations and interactions.  As a Christ follower, I believe that the message of peace and forgiveness is imperative.  1 John 1.5 tells us this about God: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”  So, you and I might consider the way in which we go about sharing the message that God is light and love, that He is perfect and good.  It’s certainly one that needs to be shared, not just with words but with lives lived in such a way.  The Scripture continues, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1.6).” So, what is your message today?

My opinion is if NASA was going to choose the Beatles, they should have picked “Come Together.”  Maybe the aliens could explain to us what the lyric “he got walrus gum-boot” means.

*Comment on NorthPointe’s facebook page and share what song you think NASA should have played*

Separation Anxiety

I closed my sermon yesterday with one of the most beautiful, comforting, and inspiring portions in all of Scripture.  I’m speaking of Romans 8.31-39:

What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
                ‘’For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’’
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Of the many things that stir my heart in this Scripture, I think the one thing I find most captivating is the promise of comfort and presence.  I started thinking about “Separation Anxiety” the other day and how it applies to us.  It kind of came to my mind in a funny way.  Laura and I have been discussing the possibility of getting a dog.  I was hesitant at first, but now I’m completely pumped about it, and I spent about two straight hours last night looking at dog breeds and reading about them.  I also looked at the mutts available on websites at local animal shelters and homes.  I’m leaning towards mutts- nothing against your dog if it’s a pure bred, but mutts just seem a bit mellower and laid back to me.   It’s like the pure breeds know they have papers, and they act all bratty about it.  But anyways, in reading about dogs, a couple of the different breeds were said to have serious “Separation Anxiety.”  When the owner leaves for any amount of time, the dog really freaks out in fear of the unknown distance between it and the owner.  The dog couldn’t handle being removed from the presence of its companion.

Now, I’m not comparing myself or you to a canine, but if we are honest, I have elements of separation anxiety in my life and most likely so do you.  I think at some level, all people deal with it.  It often manifests itself in relationship with God.  You might start to feel like God is too distant.  God is angry.  God is not listening.  Or, because of where you are in your life or because of certain struggles and issues, God’s love is no longer extended to you.  The Scripture totally obliterates the idea that because you are tired, sad, lonely, mistaken, tempted, stuck in sin, arrogant, careless, timid, overwhelmed, or anxious, that you are separated from God’s love.  In Christ Jesus, God’s desire was to redeem all of creation (Colossians 1.20).  This of course, includes you, even when you are broken and disoriented, frazzled and feeling separated, God’s love has not been removed and it has not left the building. 

For more about God’s love, see the Parable of the Prodigal Son- Luke 15.11-32

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