Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jesus is a Time Lord Part 2

I wanted to finish some thoughts from my previous blog entitled “Jesus is a Time Lord.” I wrote about how Christ-like the character of the Doctor emulates the Savior of the universe. I’ll briefly run through these attributes once more:
Jesus is a Time Lord. He left an alien world called “Heaven/Eternity” and he came to us looking like us (Phil. 2:7) (John 1:14). He takes us on this amazing journey called life that has bumps, bruises, and sometimes scars that are visible and invisible in our lives (John 16:33) (Romans 8:35-36). When he finds us, we are consumed with this dark energy called “sin,” and he knows that we are going to die because there is no way for us to get it out of our bodies (Romans 3:23). So what does Jesus do? He calls out to us just like the Doctor calls out to Rose, “I am coming to get you. I will save you” (I Tim. 1:15)…
And this is where I want to pick up again. In Season 3 of Dr. Who, there is an episode entitled “42.” In this episode, the Dr. and his new companion, Martha, arrive on a space ship that is careening into the alien sun in 42 minutes. The Doctor only has 42 dwindling minutes to save everyone’s lives.
During this race against the clock, Martha becomes trapped in an escape pod. She tries to get out, but the pod separates from the ship and begins falling even quicker into the alien sun. And just like the Doctor told Rose that he would save her, the Doctor (played by David Tennant) calls out to Martha with a declaration:
(I also love this video because it evokes every man’s dream to save the girl and be a hero)

This scene provides a powerful, thought provoking analogy: Just like Martha trapped herself in the escape pod, we trapped ourselves in sin through our First Parents (Romans 5:12). When the space pod broke free from the space ship, that was just like us as the sin we were trapped in caused us to break away from God (Romans 5:18). Just as the space pod began careening into the sun, we too went into a free fall of sin (Romans 5:6). We found that we could not save ourselves, just like Martha could not save herself.
But then something happened…
…or should I say that someone happened?
God called out, “I will save you!”
We fell farther away, enwrapped in space like darkness of sin.
“I will save you!”
We could not hear his voice due to sin marring our spiritual ears just like space will not allow sound to travel from one point to the other.
“I will save you!”
Can you see God mouthing those very powerful words to you just as the Doctor mouthed the words to Martha?
God did mouth them to you…
“I will save you!”
And he did.
Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him (Romans 5:6, The Message).
I went running one Sunday morning at the end of August, processing through my life. When I finished, I began to walk around. As I was walking, I began thinking of prevenient grace. You may be asking me as to what that means. Very simply, it is this: God called out your name, he sought you out first, and he desired to save you. When you heard him calling your name, you answered, and he saved you. Now, this must be understood, you did not seek God out first (John 6:44). This must also be understood, you were an enemy of God and you never desired God till he began calling out to you (Romans 5:8). It is in this prevenient grace/drawing that we see the love of God (Romans 5:6-10). God loves people that are his enemies, and yet he dies for them. True enemies do not desire to be like their adversary. Thus, we as enemies did not desire to be like our adversary, God.
But he loved us…
And he called out to us…
He continues to call out to us…
…for a deeper relationship with him.
The prevenient grace/drawing is not over. But there is now a requirement for us. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
I was praying with a group of young men that work for me at the university I work for here in Tulsa, OK. In my prayer I stated that if we do not desire to draw near to God, then God, help us want to desire to draw near to God. Help me want to want you God. If I have no desire for you, plant a seed of desire in me. And though this is an enigma of a prayer, the prayer itself is a catalyst, an agent of supernatural chemical change that alters my sinful, prideful desire to want to satisfy me and not God and thereby to “regenerate” and suddenly desire God.
You see, Jesus is a Time Lord, especially when you need a hero in your life. When we were in trouble, he desired us and called out to us and told us he was going to save us…and he did.
We were trapped in our space pods of sin, falling into the entropy of sin like Martha was falling into the alien sun. God called out and assured us he would save us. And he did.
Now it is your turn to call out to him.
He does not need saving, that is a fact.
And I am convinced that I need God more than he will ever need me.
But I am even more convinced that God loves me more than I will ever be able to love him.
He called out to me and gave me grace to choose him.
These days, I have come to a place in life where I call out to him…
…He answers…

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jesus is a Time Lord

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

In March of 2010 I had surgery. My brother had arrived back in the states from his life in South Korea a week prior the surgery, and he was gracious to take care of me during my recovery. He was a hero for me in my time of need. It was during my recovery that I could not see straight enough to read, but bless God, I could see straight enough to watch TV. I remember asking my brother to hand me a book and as I looked upon the pages the words moved from side to side with a little haze thrown in for good measure. I tried to read a few lines and eventually I got the picture that this was not going to work.

Now, I’m not a big television watcher, but my brother had Net Flix on his X Box 360, and we watched moves, television shows, and comedies (though it was super difficult for me to laugh. I ended up just tightly hugging my body together to keep from hurting as I wanted oh so badly to laugh hysterically). It was awesome!

It was during my recovery that I was reconnected with a child hood television show my brother and I would watch with my father. The show is entitled “Dr. Who,” it is a British television show the British Broadcasting Corporation produces, and the series holds the Guiness Book of World Records for longest running television series. It ran practically non-stop for approximately 30 years. The series stopped around 1990 and there was an attempt to revamp it in 1996.

The hero is part of an alien race known as Time Lords who looks like ordinary human beings. This particular alien has a special name that no one but he alone knows, but to everyone around him he is known as The Doctor. This alien race known as Time Lords have a special ability in that they have developed technology to travel through space and time in a space ship called a TARDIS. The Doctor’s TARDIS looks like an old school, blue, 1960s British telephone booth, and he uses his TARDIS to travel space and time to change peoples’ lives and save the day. One last aspect of Time Lords that I need to share with you for our purposes is that when Time Lords are mortally wounded and about to die, their bodies can undergo a radical, physical change called “regeneration” in which their facial features, body type, and personality morph into a new person. The only thing that remains intact are parts of their personality and more importantly, their memories. Through this process of regeneration, the Doctor has been alive for 900 years.

By now, you may think I’m pretty weird to watch a TV show which entails the description I’ve just provided. It’s okay. You’ll come around.

In 2005, the show was successfully started again with a new “Doctor,” actor Christopher Eccleston. The Doctor travels to his favorite planet, Earth, for which he has the utmost affinity. It is here he meets Rose. Rose is a young teenage girl who is looking for an adventure in life and feels lost in many ways. The Doctor takes an interest in her and asks her to travel the whole of time and space with him, seeing alien races and worlds unspeakable. Needless to say, Rose jumps on the offer.

Toward the end of the 2005 season, the Doctor and Rose end up in a tight spot. They are trapped in the 50th century on a space station orbiting earth. The reason they are trapped is because the Daleks have surrounded them and are going to destroy earth.

Daleks are the mortal enemies of the Time Lords. They are an alien race that has been genetically altered so that they do not feel pain, but in not feeling pain, they don’t feel anything else…except bitterness and rage. They encase themselves in these robotic bodies that seem practically impenetrable. And one last, important note: Dalek’s absolutely hate the Doctor. The Daleks are sworn enemies of the Time Lords and have made it their purpose in existence to eradicate the Time Lords and take over the universe.

So, as I was saying earlier, the Doctor and Rose are trapped on the space station, the Dalek’s are coming, and there seems to be no hope. The Dalek’s capture Rose and take her to their space ship. The Doctor is enraged. How could they take Rose? She is under his supervision and care. The Daleks open up a communication channel with the Doctor, and he replies something that forever burns in my mind: “I am coming to get you Rose. I am going to save you.”

The Doctor gets into his blue, British telephone box that travels space and time and flies from the space station to the Dalek ship. He is dodging space missiles and explosions while en route to the Dalek attack ships. He lands in the ship, grabs Rose, and goes back to the space station.

But when he get’s back, he does something unexpected. He locks Rose in the TARDIS and sends her back to her own time period of 2005. He leaves a video message for her explaining that he has sent her back because he is about to die and he does not want her to die. He tells her, “If you want to honor my memory…live a great life!” The Doctor has also left a program in the TARDIS’ computer that will not allow her to travel back to him…unless she opens the casing that houses the “time vortex” and looks directly at the time vortex.

And that is exactly what she does.

However, a human being should never, ever look directly at the time vortex. By looking at the vortex, it releases energy into a person’s body that makes that person super powerful beyond comprehension. It is too much and eventually a human will die from the energy trapped in the body.
Rose arrives back at the space station and saves the Doctor. The Doctor realizes she has looked at the time vortex, so he absorbs all the energy out of her body into his, and then releases it back into the TARDIS so that other people will not gaze upon it.

But by doing this, the Doctor has doomed himself. He cannot handle all the energy that was in his body, and he is about to die. The only way he can escape death is to “regenerate.” He tells Rose that he is going away and that he will miss her. She is very confused as eruptions of color, flash, and explosion ravage the Doctor’s body. And when the tumult is over…there is a new looking Doctor standing in front of her.

My brother and I were mesmerized by the episodes we watched during my recovery from surgery.

I was even more mesmerized when my brother said, “You know, the Doctor is just like Jesus.” When he said that, there was some awe and wonder that filled my mind. Maybe that is why I enjoyed the show so much.

I replied, “Yeah, he’s a messiah. He always saves the day.”

You see, Jesus is a Time Lord. He left an alien world called “Heaven/Eternity” and he came to us looking like us (Phil. 2:7) (John 1:14). He takes us on this amazing journey called life that has bumps, bruises, and sometimes scars that are visible and invisible in our lives (John 16:33) (Romans 8:35-36). When he finds us, we are consumed with this dark energy called “sin,” and he knows that we are going to die because there is no way for us to get it out of our bodies (Romans 3:23). So what does Jesus do? He calls out to us just like the Doctor calls out to Rose, “I am coming to get you. I will save you” (I Tim. 1:15). Jesus absorbs all the dark energy in us called “sin” (II Cor. 5:21) and once absorbed, he saves the day and dies (John 19:28).

Now, I personally believe that the world is looking for a messiah to save the day. We all want to be saved and rescued from this marred world. And in some ways, I think the Doctor is modeled after Jesus. Maybe that is why I dig the show so much, because the Doctor points me to and draws me closer to Christ.

Oh, I almost forgot! Jesus “regenerates” (John 20:9). He is alive and still with us, just to let you know, in case you were not aware.

Jesus is speaking to us in John 16:33, and he is communicating that life is not easy. In fact, it can get rather messy as the winds and waves and turbulence of life inundate us. But in the midst of the pain and disappointment we suffer, we can have peace. Jesus is that peace and he does us a favor by telling us that tough times will come. Why does he do this? I think he tells us that tough times will come to (1) give us a heads up, and (2) in a way remind us that he is our peace despite life’s storms. Echoing the Doctor’s appeal to Rose to “…have a great life,” Jesus is echoing something to us as well.

But Christ’s echo is different.

You see, it’s not how great your life is.

It’s how great Christ is in your life.

Your life and circumstances can be crashing in all around you, but if you are striving to bring Christ to the center of your life, I believe things can be different. Jesus does want us to have life abundantly, but the abundance can only come through a focus and determination in him. And I would assert that “life abundantly” is a life abundant of a relationship with Christ, not necessarily just things. Things have never brought peace. And if you search for peace, you will never find it, but if you search for Jesus, you’ll find peace.

Let these words from the Aaron Brown Translation of John 16:33 echo: Be at peace by focusing on me. When rough times come don’t worry, and remember that I told you they would come. Relax, I’ve overcome all your problems before they have even happened to you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Measuring Up with a Blank Ruler

In October of 2009, I traveled to the great state of Colorado, specifically the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs. I had decided to do a big road trip to Colorado and Texas, do some mountain biking in the Springs, make some new friends, and then travel to the Dallas/Fort Worth area to visit some old friends. I arrived in Denver and stayed with my friend Jeremiah and met his then fiancée (now wife) Sarah, as well as friends Andrew and his wife. We had a great time of hanging out, teasing my friend Jeremiah, and playing the game apples to apples. The next evening I traveled to Colorado Springs and stayed with my friend Wes.

There was a terrible and equally unusual fog that fell right before my trip down, so the whole hour drive down was quite arduous. I followed the taillights of the car in front of me and thought to myself several times, ‘Gee, if this car goes off into the ditch, I’ll more than likely unwittingly follow the car into the ditch.’ The heavy fog caused me to flash back to when I was a kid and we took a road trip through the Talamina Drive that runs from Oklahoma into Arkansas. There was a fog that time, too, and there were these white birds known as egrets whose feathers had become too damp to fly with. This caused the birds to tragically encounter the tires of our Jeep Cherokee. My father hit several of these birds. The car in front of us hit a few more than we did. My father was quite jealous the driver ahead of us had a few more tallies. But I digress.

I made it to my friend Wes’ house and stayed with him. The next day I set out for adventure on my mountain bike. I had a blast riding different trails. Eventually, I decided to visit the U.S. Air Force Academy and traverse their scenic trails. At one point, I stopped by the visitor center to take a quick tour and grab some souvenirs for my parents. I was walking around the information center and reading different posters. One of the posters read something to the tune of making your parents and family proud by coming to the academy and making something of yourself that would be quite noteworthy. It was in that moment that I wondered to myself if my parents were proud of me.

And there in lied the problem I was not aware that I had: Comparative worth.

For a few years I had struggled with the idea that I am behind in life as well as that I am not as accomplished as I perceive I should be. If someone had a job that made more money than I do I wondered why I was not making more money, if someone had a home I wondered as to why I had not achieved a home, and if someone seemed more influential or clever than me I wondered why I was not just as much the same. I compared myself to everyone – specifically, people I did not even know – the people I compared myself to were not in my sphere of relationships.

And the problem is that my measuring stick was a blank ruler. There were no tallies to tell me where I should measure up to or how much I had achieved. I did not even know how long my ruler was. The trap I had snared myself in caused me to measure myself up against everyone, so it would make sense that the ruler would need to change to accommodate the person I was comparing myself to. I was comparing myself by impossible standards to immeasurable lengths. And to make everything a little more complicated, I wasn’t even sure whom I was measuring myself to. I did not compare myself to my friends, yet I did compare myself to people I heard about. These people I heard about were strangers that I had never personally met, yet I wondered why I was not as successful as their stories seemed to purport.

To go back to the thought I had at the Air Force Academy of whether or not my parents were proud of me: My parents have always been very supportive of me. They have always loved me and told me they were proud of me. If I told them I was going to barrel myself over Niagara Falls they would vehemently object, then I would wear them down, promise to wear elbow pads and a cup, and that simple assurance would serve to ease their troubled minds.

As far as accomplishment, I am the first person in my family history to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, and this extends to my aunts, uncles and cousins. I am the first person in my family to pursue a master’s degree that I will finish up in the next year to year and a half. I have a great job at the major university I work at in Tulsa, OK. I have been entrusted with mentoring students, discipling young men, helping young men grow into mature manhood, and the list could go on.

And for some reason, I did not think I had accomplished anything. And the demon in the midst of this delusion is that I could not see the accomplishments God had wrought in my life because I was comparing myself to everyone else. It is demonic to engage in comparative worth. I felt like I was a failure because I did not own my own business. I felt like a failure because there were not a few more zeros in my net pay every year. I felt like a failure because I did not own a home. Really, the failure that I was really engaging in was not seeing what I had and the lives God was working through me to change and better.

So, this thought of wondering if my parents were proud of me coupled with comparing myself to others lingered with me. I traveled from Colorado Springs to Dallas a couple of days later and stayed with my friend John. John and I went out to run some errands and eventually we met up with his now fiancée’s pastor from India. This was a delightful gentleman with a tremendous heart. You can sense his pastoral calling in the way he engages with people and shares his own testimony of how God has blessed his walk of faith. We sat at Panera Bread and this pastor asked to pray for John.

He prayed for John and to my surprise he began to pray for me. And while he is praying he made a few statements. One was that God had called me to teach His word, and I was not to stop doing so. The second mentioned that God was proud of me for who I was and how I have turned out. Obviously, God was trying to bring something to the surface.

I eventually left Dallas and came back to Tulsa. That following weekend I attended a men’s retreat. The night of the retreat a pastor was sharing about the problem of comparative worth. He spoke of how he had finally got the pastoral job he wanted, but then he began pushing himself harder and harder to achieve the nebulous concept of “more.” The problem was, he did not know what more was. This seemed oddly familiar as I did not know what the “more” I needed to accomplish in my own life was. He mentioned that he had become extremely stressed out, lying awake at night in a semi-panic with his mind racing on how he was to accomplish the impossible task of measuring up. He stated that he had become somewhat aloof to his family as he worked more and more. He went on to say that our only responsibility was to love God and make disciples. This was a ground-breaking thought for me. All I had to do was love God.

And that night, I lay awake in my cot in the cabin I was bunking. I lay there apologizing to God for trying to measure up. I apologized for comparing myself and wrapping my worth up in that instead of simply loving God. And then I asked God as to how I could love Him better. I then realized that I was still trying “to do” and “measure up” and in this “measuring up” I was trying to earn God’s love and/or respect instead of just loving God, so I rolled over and went to sleep to escape my circular thinking.

The next morning we arose and fellowshipped and shared some of our thoughts from the night before. I shared how I had realized I had a problem with comparative worth. I had been comparing myself to others. The problem was that I did not know whom I was comparing myself to. Furthermore, I had no idea what the measurement of “success” was. I did not even know what success looked like as I was comparing myself to other people I did not even know, and I had no idea where on the measuring stick I was trying to be.

A gentleman in the room heard what I said about “measuring up” and shared a vision that God had deposited into his heart of a courtroom. In this courtroom he stood on trial. He looked at the jury that was deciding his fate and found the curious and somewhat eery scene of jurors with no faces. He did not know who he was allowing to judge him. But then Jesus came into the courtroom as his lawyer and was able to clear him of the jury’s decision. Jesus put his arm around the man’s shoulders and led him out of the courtroom. The man turned back to look at the jury as he exited. In the vision, he turned back not because he wanted one last look, but because he was more familiar and comfortable with being judged by a faceless jury than he was being forgiven and pardoned of his sin.

And if you are like I was and need to break out of trying to “measure up,” you might find it easier to judge yourself as opposed to letting Jesus set the standard measurement for your life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Am Not Back to My Old Self

I was having dinner with a very dear friend of mine the other evening and we were talking about what has transpired in my life. I began to explain to him that I felt like I was back to my old self. He said, “’re not back to your old self because your old self sucks. You want to be better than that.” I pondered that for the rest of the night as we continued talking. I realized he was right. I am not back to my old self. My old self would be a set back to all that I have experienced and explored during this last leg of my journey.

I realized earlier this year that I struggled with anxiety and with the nudging of a friend, sought counseling to overcome my tangled thought life of vicious, circular thinking. This brought tremendous freedom. I was able to free my mind and emotions from circular thinking. Circular thinking is when you allow your mind to become overfly focused on one thought and spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to figure out a solution. I think too much and that may be an understatement. I have teased myself a few times that my mind is like a hamster on its running wheel. The downside is that I do not have just one hamster running on a wheel, but a herd of hamsters running, each on his wheel. And these hamsters are not fed conventional hamster food. They are actually sustained by Red Bull energy drinks in their water bottles and crack cocaine in their food dishes. Red Bull had given my hamsters wings and the cocaine had made them fly for days and nights without food and sleep.

Now the truth that we all must realize is that not everything in life has a solution – at least not one our finite minds can generate. Life should often be spent going with the flow, for if we fight the tide we will wear ourselves out and drown in the watery depths below. And there is freedom in going with the flow, of rolling with the punches. There were things in life I desired to have the power to exercise control over, that I wanted to have mastery over. Yet in the end, the real master was the circular thinking, and I was a puppet to it. Being a puppet caused me to lose my edge, my confidence. It felt as if my eyes generated a blank stare that led down the downward spiral staircase of my soul. And the truth is, none of us are in control. Yes, we choose what we will wear in the morning, the kind of car we will buy and drive, and what kind of cereal we will eat in the morning. But ultimately, there are the bigger issues in life that absolutely dig delineating from our 5 and 10 year plans, our social constructs, our desires…you get the picture.

But in this freedom, I learned a valuable lesson. You can travel too far in life and experience too much to go back to whence you came. I have lost some things and people I held very dear, and at one time thought if such things were lost my world could possibly come to a crashing halt. I was surprised when I found my world still spinning and orbiting. It is amazing to know that life does not stop, especially when you think your whole life could hinge on a handful of desires, people, or occurrences. And that is the blessing in life. Your world does not need hinge on anything. I have often told students I work with that our goal must be to have our lives revolve and orbit around God; that all the things we think are important in life must revolve around God and not God revolving around everything in our lives. The things we think are important in life are like planets that orbit the sun, and the sun is God. Planets orbit suns but suns do not orbit planets. I have a friend in Colorado Springs, CO who puts it another way: he says we should strive to bend our lives around God. I almost like the way he says it better. The reason being is that when he says, “bend our lives around God” I develop a mental picture of me hugging God so deeply and sincerely that somehow I stick and melt all over Him. I’m like a candy coating of sorts.

And in this process of trying to have futile mastery over instances in my life, trying to orbit God instead of God orbiting me, and striving to bend around God instead of God bending around me I have been encouraged to change many things about myself, some good and some bad. I made a lot of changes, some changes I really liked and some changes I resisted because I wanted to continue being me. Sometimes you can change unhealthily, enough so that you don’t recognize yourself. And when you change too much you die on the inside.

Dying on the inside is the most painful of deaths. You may have heard of the “heat death” the universe will experience trillions of years into the future. This is when all the stars in the universe will burn out, light will slow its pace across the universe, and eventually everything that is contained within the universe will die from freezing to death. The universe will literally be a frozen, inescapable graveyard to creation. In my opinion, a man’s ego is a universe unto itself. What is said to him will either make him soar or ground him to inaction. And when a man dies on the inside, it is like a “heat death.” It happens slowly, over a succession of time. It is not all at once, but slowly he retreats to inner caverns of cold with thoughts of self-doubt and abasement as the stars in his eyes burn out and his universe grows cold. I was dying on the inside at one point, and yet I did not utilize a way back.

I have a quiet nature about me and it is not always easy for me to express my goals and desires to others. Often in my mind I comprehend what I am doing but it is difficult for me to articulate that understanding. I tend to work in secret and not openly. I prefer to craft what I am doing before I make it public. It reminds me of the process of losing 140 pounds that I went through. There was a time when I would rise early three or so times a week at around 6am to run a few miles. There are not many people up at that time of day, so to me it seemed as if my process was a secret to the rest of the world. Sure, the rest of the world could not see my sweat or feel my aching muscles – they could see me shedding the weight, but they could not share my process. It is the same way for some of my hopes and dreams. I do not share those things with everyone nor can I always articulate it. And the best way for me to accomplish some of these goals is to be like a crocodile.

If you ever watch a crocodile that is floating through the water you will notice that it is mostly their head that is barely above water with most of the body concealed below the ripples. It moves slowly and its eyes look around at potential prey. Then, when you are least expecting it the crocodile strikes. You thought it was slow and lazy before, but in actuality it was deadly the whole time.

I am reminded of one of my mis-adventures in Ghana, Africa. I had walked out on a concrete platform to take my picture with a stone crocodile. I was riding the statue like a rodeo cowboy as the photos snapped, arm extended as if I was riding a bucking bronco. I was laughing as I stood up and walking back down the platform when I looked down and saw two crocodiles swimming towards me. They were moving quite quickly as they had chosen a target to hone in on, and that target was me! I am that crocodile. You know I’m in the pond, but you may not take my presence seriously. I am simply floating in the water as I wait and watch and ponder. But as soon as I hone in and find something on which to wrap my steely teeth...I would say look out...but it would be too late by then. I will stick to my strengths of quiet ponder and subtle movement. It will seem as if an overnight success flashed before your eyes when in actuality it took many years to happen.

I am reminded of the story of a quarterback who was interviewed by a reporter. She asked the athlete what it was like to be an overnight success. He responded, “If being an overnight success means ten years of slugging it out in the trenches while going unnoticed, then yeah, it feels great.” This QB’s words are true, at least to me, especially since we do not think of an “overnight” success with the athlete’s definition. This is true to me because I do not mind working quietly and honing my abilities. There will be a day when my abilities will come to a greater light (and maybe not, and that is fine as well, as it is not really about me), but until the day I am touted as an overnight success (even though it took many years), I will work quietly and obscurely.

There will be an overnight success to the Kingdom of God, even though it has taken millennia thus far to advance as far as we have. Isaiah 11:6 offers a futuristic look at the impending utopia we will experience in a fully realized Kingdom of God. The animals that once preyed on other animals will now be docile and satiated by other means as opposed to the previous desire for bloodlust. I, like many people, look forward to the day the wolf will lie down with the lamb, but until that one day comes, I prefer to be the wolf.

I am not back, and definitely I am not my old self. I am not back to where I started, as I have chosen to move forward beyond that point and mindset. If we believe it is God’s will for us to go “from glory to glory” (II Cor 3:18) and continue to move away from our original nature, that means that my old self sucks. Maybe I had a good run despite sucking, but I sucked nonetheless. This will remain true till the day of my departure to the next life. There is a fire in my eyes and a sensing in my gut that I am not who I used to be or once was. I am not solely the crocodile in the pond that moves slowly through the water, nor am I fully the dominating wolf of the overnight success that is yet to come. But I am the oncoming storm. Watch the clouds billow from a far off distance in the sky. See the lightning scream to the ground and ignite the earth with fire. Hear the roaring and crashing waves of thunder sojourn in emanation. I have no intention of being back to my old self, especially with an oncoming storm brewing.

(C) Aaron Brown, 2010

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Could There Have Been Anything More Distracting?

As many of you may know, I had the privilege to take a team of ten people (8 ladies, one other dude, and myself) to Ghana, Africa. Needless to say, we had a blast as we lived, laughed, soaked in the culture, and built relationships with many loving people. I have just now begun to write about my trip as I have spent the past few weeks since my return reflecting, maybe sometimes too deeply, about my trip. (This trip was probably pretty easy to think about but I ended up taking a hermeneutics class upon my return which rocked me a little as well.) I found myself simply wanting to be alone, and I sensed I was hiding out a little, from the outside world. I apologize to my friends upon whom I imposed my aloofness – I was not ready to articulate my thoughts.

Hence, I want to share a story that touched my heart. It was the last day of street evangelism. And although that is a story in and of itself, I want to speed ahead to the evening of the street ministry. We broke up into two teams of five. We left the North Kaneshie Assemblies of God Church in which we were headquartered out of in the City of Accra to go out into the community and share the Gospel with anyone who would listen. And we were surprised that most of everyone wanted to listen.

Previously, we had gone to homes and people would grab chairs for us to sit in and listen to us share and ask questions about their faith. This act of hospitality shocked me. In contrast, most people in the U.S. would have thought we were Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons and slammed the door in our faces. If not one of these two, if we had asked to talk to them about Jesus they would have given us replies of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to be somewhere’ or ‘come back some other time’. Yet, these people opened up their homes to us.

We went to this one particular home. Our contact, Pastor Ockloo, asked a lady if we could share the Gospel and evangelize as we were from the United States and on a missionary trip. The lady agreed and the chairs came out and we sat down. We had learned the best way to talk to people was to ask questions, as Ghana is 60 to 70% Christian, but many are nominal Christians.
There were four ladies we were speaking with. Quickly, the familiar questions began to fly: “Do you go to church anywhere? You do; okay, where? Describe your relationship with Christ? When you pray, what is your prayer time like?” And the questions continued to roll.

One lady tried to tell us that her cousin was a big wig in the Assemblies of God Church, which was code for, I’m not really serving God right now, I just don’t want to be confronted by you about my lack of relationship. Another lady had a genuine relationship with Christ and we were able to pray with her. And it was at this time the distractions began.

I had to ask myself, ‘Could there have been anymore distractions?’
While speaking with the group of four ladies, a woman who is sitting directly in front of me with her baby in her lap, pulls out her breast and begins to feed her child. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate her providing her child nutrients and much needed care, but this was a major distraction! I immediately began to encourage myself with, ‘Eyes up, Aaron! Eyes up!’

Look, I’m just sayin’!

And then, as I’m speaking to the lady who is to the left of the lady nursing her child, a teenage girl comes out in nothing but a towel. Nothing but a towel! And then I exhorted myself again with, ‘Bounce the eyes away, Aaron! Bounce the eyes away!’

Now, the whole time we are speaking to the four ladies, the lady who was trying to sidestep our enquiries about her relationship with God by telling us she has a cousin who is big in the Assemblies of God, is about to fall out of her shirt.
I’m just bein’ real!

It seemed that the old school Lost in Space classic television show with the Robot came to life in my mind as it turned from side to side with arms flailing and yelling out, “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!” Except it was a little more personal with, “Danger! Danger Aaron Brown!”

Now, I said that this outreach was memorable. The instances just described is not what made the trip memorable, just to let everyone know.
Then we start to talk to the lady nursing her child. We began asking her if she attended church, and she tells us that she attends prayer meetings. That seemed a little odd that she would go to prayer meetings but not church. As we started to delve deeper, another distraction occurred. A cat starts fighting a dog! Hissing and barking!

Then, some friends of the ladies are greeting them but its loud yelling from about 50 yards! So I’m sitting silently waiting for them to stop yelling. And I’m wondering if we’ll be able to help this lady as it seems we are about to get to something important in her life. And while I’m sitting there, waiting for the conversation of yelling to end, one of the ladies looks at me and said, “We’re waiting for you to speak.”

I was thinking to myself, ‘Whose kidding who here lady?’

If that was not enough, some kids in the street started acting out so the Pastor stands up and tells them what time it is! But we made it back to the lady. And it is she that provides one of the highlights of the trip.

We asked her as to why she went to prayer meetings but not church. Finally, she says through the Pastor who was translating for us, “I had an abortion.”
Pastor Ockloo and I had a side bar about the situation, basically clarifying that she was going to prayer meetings to find forgiveness and things such as that.
I asked her, “Do you believe God can or wants to forgive you for having the abortion?”

“No, I don’t.” She replied.

I then asked her, via Pastor Ockloo, if she knew who the Apostle Paul was?

“Yes,” she said.

I asked her, “Did you know that the Apostle Paul murdered many many Christians before Christ appeared to him and he became a Christian?”

“No,” she replied with a look of surprise in her sullen face.

“If God forgave Paul, who killed lots of Christians, and Paul became one of the greatest Apostles, do you believe God can forgive you?”

The look on her face changed. She went from sullen with a light of life and hope in her eyes. And to my query she replied, “Yes.”

We prayed with her and connected her with the church.

She got up and had a newness of life was on her coutenance.

We connected the rest of the ladies with the Church and with the sun setting, we thanked them for their hospitality and giving us their attention, we left for the North Kaneshie Assemblies of God.

We began to talk amongst ourselves about all the distractions that occurred.
From the nursing mother, the girl in the towel, the woman about to fall out, the cat and dog fighting, the people yelling to one another, and the kids acting up, I told the team the only thing that could have been more distracting is if a car would have come crashing over the wall that was next to us.

Could there have been anything more distracting?

I think the real question is, could there have been anything more amazing than someone finding forgiveness?

(c) 2008, Aaron Brown

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tis' the Season...for Miracles

Matthew 14:18-20
And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus walked on the water (a miracle) to get to the disciples. Miracles have purpose. These instances are not to simply dazzle us, such as fireworks or the Macy’s Day Parade, but to accomplish a purpose. A miracle without purpose is simply an exhibition.
The miracle of walking on the water was not simply to display the magnitude and wonders of Christ’s faith, but to demonstrate the depths and lengths as to which Jesus was willing to go in order to reach and comfort his disciples.

Mark 16:6-8
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”
So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

I heard a sermon not once, but twice actually, that emphasized the occurrence of Peter being singled out in this passage. The speaker stated that there are some scholars who believe that there is an importance in the act of “mentioning” in biblical texts. And in this particular passage, Peter was specifically “mentioned.” Now, some people will say that Peter was mentioned simply because Christ had designated him the Rock, Cephas in the Greek, and that Christ would found His Church upon Peter. That is true, but if you explore the previous passages, you will find that Peter had denied Christ.

Christ had poured all this time, effort, passion, compassion, and designation of appointing Peter one of the twelve disciples. Peter spent three and a half years with Christ and saw numerous miracles first hand, such as Jairus’ daughter being raised from the dead and the Transfiguration. Peter was the one who answered Christ when Christ asked, “Who am I? Really? Who do you think I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Anointed One. The Son of the Living God. Meshiach. Messiah. That’s who you are.”

It was Jesus who said, “Peter, you have received direct revelation from God Himself. You didn’t learn this in a book. You didn’t learn this burning the midnight oil pouring over ancient texts (not that it hurts any to do so). You didn’t seek counsel from the Pharisees or the Sadducees. You got this straight from God.”

It was Peter who told Christ, “I will never leave you. I’ll be here till the death.”

Yet Peter turned his back in embarrassment and shame to Christ.

And how does Jesus respond after the resurrection?

Does Jesus say, “Go tell the disciples to start the Church. As for that Peter cat, I’m through with him. I’ve had my fill. He denied me. Turned his back. Enough is enough with that redneck rabble rouser. I’ll make John the Rock. At least he loves me.”

No. The angel hangin’ out in the tomb tells the women who came to honor Christ’s body to go tell the disciples, AND Peter, that Jesus is going to meet up with them.

And Peter.

Jesus restores Peter.

It’s a miracle.

Just like Christ defied the laws of physics and crossed treacherous waters to meet with His disciples, and ultimately inviting Peter to join Him on the waves; so Christ crosses the treacherous waves of our lives and reaches out to us, and invites us out of our boats that we cling so desperately to, to join Him in the chaos and confusion that is seemingly licking and chomping to consume us.

And Peter steps out.

He does fine for awhile.

But he becomes focused on the circumstances and begins to sink.

As he sinks, he cries out.

Jesus lifts him up. He restores him to the boat.

Just like Peter…

…Jesus calls us to meet Him in the middle of our trials and circumstances.

Sometimes we do fine for awhile - sometimes we make it to Christ.

Sometimes we sink.

But there is Christ.

Pulling us up. Restoring us to the boat.

And the angel says, “Go tell the disciples, AND Peter.” And as the sermon went, the speaker said, “Maybe in that instant, God loved Peter…just a little more.”

Just a little more? you might ask with a raised eyebrow of skepticism.

Maybe it seems and we feel that when we are hurting the most, God puts an extra blessing, an extra grace upon our heads that cause us to “feel” as if God is so focused on us in our trials and circumstances, that He loves us just a little more. As if we’re just a little more special than anyone else at that instant in time.

And I think that is a miracle.

God did another miracle because He loved each and every one of us so much.

God made a way for Christ to reach across the expanse and trappings and confinements of the space/time continuum. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Imagine that.

God is with us.

Ordinary people just like you and I…

…and God chooses to be right smack dab in our midst.

For the first time ever since the garden, God is miraculously walking, talking, sharing, teaching, loving, giving, healing, raising up, creating, and divesting every single day with ordinary people like you and me.

Christ humbles Himself and divests Himself of His Deity when He took on the fashion of a man (Phil 2:7-9). A man born of a virgin birth, and He’s not on the ground more than a few moments, and God is speaking to His surrogate father in a dream to get out quick, fast, and in a hurry to Egypt so that Herod wouldn’t kill Christ. (Now, for each and every one of us, we might have strongly considered to stay in Heaven and not have to deal with all this giving up Deity and eternal comforts instead of coming to earth to save a rebellious humanity).

Christ lives in Egypt and eventually He is able to return to the heritage of God. Christ lives a sinless life. Performs so many miracles that the miracles are not all recorded because the author of John says there is not enough room to contain them all (John 21:25).

And He sacrifices Himself.

On a cross.

Cursed is every man that hangs on a tree.

He’s buried for three days.


Its one thing to die, it’s a whole different thing to resurrect!

It’s a miracle!

A miracle that is for each and every one of us.

A miracle in which Christ crosses the sloshing sea and tempestuous waves of death and separation from this plane of existence, to restore eternal life to humanity.

And do we deny Him?

We all do from time to time.

But He takes us back.

It’s a miracle!

(c) Aaron Brown, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rebuttal to Not by a Cause

Wow! That is all I can safely say to the response to my latest blog posting. I have never received so many responses, assertions, and questions to any of my blogs. I hope to craft my responses to your concerns and questions as carefully as possible. One thing I will say is that I never pretend or assume that I have all the answers. That would be pious and ludicrous on my part.

As I stated when I started my blog through the Facebook group, “I’m on a journey, come with me.” And I do appreciate everyone who reads my blog and comments. The blog is about growing through the ebbs and flows of life, not necessarily asserting my own opinion (but I rest assured that my opinion will always be present, you can never fully separate objectivity from partiality – at least that’s my opinion). Therefore, I hope to share some more of my thoughts regarding the “Not by a Cause” blog, my rational for writing it, and respond to the concerns of my audience.

I wrote “Not by a Cause” because I wanted to be able to remember such a historical night. I meant what I wrote when I looked into the sea of people and saw Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” coming to life before my very eyes, with black people and white people and Indian people and Asian people joined together in unison. Though I do not agree with President Obama’s politics, I will not apologize for seeing such a beautiful occurrence in America and remembering it in my own words. To quote Sam Cooke, “Its been a long time coming,” and I am quietly ecstatic that “a change has come.”

One of the comments to my post stated that I need to be more careful parsing the scriptures together that I used. I understand the concern for using scriptures out of context, and I am especially confident given the historical background of the texts used (and as I explicated towards the end of my post) that when Paul and Peter wrote those scriptures, they were speaking of a repressive Roman occupation to their country that was calling for every citizen to acknowledge Caesar as God. When you read such phrases in Phillipians as, “Jesus is Lord” and “Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords”, Paul took those phrases from the modern day vernacular of Rome and Phillipi. Let me explain: The original phrases were “Caesar is Lord” and “Caesar, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Paul did not instruct the citizens of Phillipi to revolt. He did not instruct them to raise up an army or militia to take on Rome. Paul basically tells the Body of Christ in Phillipi, “Hang in there, baby. I know it’s gonna get rough.”

Caesar at this time is Nero. Nero is burning Christians at the stake. He eventually beheads the Apostle Peter. And with Peter’s death very immanent, Peter does not tell Christians to revolt. He tells them to honor the king. Peter literally says, “Honor Nero.” And that is tough for us to reconcile in our Western mindset. We don’t like to be told what to do, and we are not accustomed to being oppressed.

Governments, in general, set up laws that usually (except for extremely oppressive countries that we find in continents like Africa and Asia) benefit and protect their people to some greater degree. For example, China oppresses Christians, but China still has laws that protect its citizens. It is still illegal to murder without a cause. No, China is not the most moral nation, but the government has been instituted to protect its citizens.

In conclusion to this response, I was warned to not take the passage so literal.

I take the passage literal. I would encourage the concerned commenter to study the historical setting of those passages. I think it will bring richer meaning. When it says, “For the Lord’s sake” I take it as saying, “because God has asked you to honor the government, then you should honor the government for the Lord’s sake.” I do not take it to mean that when a government is operating on “Behalf of the Lord’s sake,” that is when you should honor them. I don’t see that in that passage and I don’t believe it will be found to be historically relevant to the author’s intent. Call me on it if I’m wrong.

However, I will say, God has always made a way of escape. Jesus instructs his disciples to “flee” (Matthew 10:22-24). If you feel in your heart that the government has become so oppressive of your Christian faith to the point that you need to flee, I commend you to flee. Godspeed. Get outta’ here. The best example would be that of the Pilgrims who were partially fleeing for religious reasons. Currently, I don’t see persecution as a problem with President Obama’s presidency.

I believe that you are right though when you say that Christian’s are reserved a right of resistance. I think the first right of resistance is prayer, though. We don’t struggle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. Fortunately, for us, in the US our government affords us the right to freely express our disagreements through peaceful, constructive objection. This is our second right of resistance. However, the first right of resistance, in my opinion, is prayer. We forget that it is prayer that changes things.

To the second post: I disagree that Obama does not have vision or character. I think that he is a good person trying to do good things. He spent his post under-grad years organizing communities to vote and helping destitute communities in the south side of Chicago. In my opinion, that takes character.

The issue with vision is that you and he do not share the same vision. Obama has vision, its just that his vision is different from yours. And that’s okay. I don’t share in some of Obama’s vision myself, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t support him or stand by him. Biblically, I believe we have a mandate to do so.

I don’t necessarily have a response to the rest of your post. Although, I will say, let’s pray for him. God changes hearts, not rhetoric or people. It is the Holy Spirit who brings peace, not dissension. Let us all come together in prayer and let God do the rest. It is not by might nor power, but by my Spirit says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).

I understand your concern for the Constitution and it being slowly dismantled. That’s why I wish we had strict constructionists in the Supreme Court. However, I find the assertion that all Godly men constructed the constitution a tad incredulous. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist who edited his own Bible to take out all the healing references. So, I made that statement to say, we have had a lot of people influence our government. Some good, some bad, but that is life. I choose to look through a brighter lens regarding the future of the U.S.

As far as Ayers and Khalidi and Obama’s association with such individuals, all I can say is that most allegations are unsubstantiated at this time and still at the hear say level. If you want to connect Obama with Khalidi (who do not share the same views regarding Middle Eastern affairs) then I think you also need to take into account the fact the Bush administration undeniably did allow members of the Bin Laden family to leave the U.S. during 9/11 while every other airplane was grounded. That has the makings of a conspiracy theory in and of itself. My goal is not to get into conspiracy theory, but I do believe that we need to call a spade a spade when it comes to matters such as these.

I received the following quote, “Aaron, can you look me in the eye honestly and say Obama is a God-Fearing man who should lead this great country?” I don’t know where Obama is at in his faith. I know where I am at and I am the only one who can answer for myself. I find it curious that no one question’s John McCain’s faith. Perhaps it is because he is a Republican, and the consensus among church goers is that Republican equals God’s Righteousness. McCain is pro-life. But simply because you agree that murdering unborn children is wrong, does not make you a Christian.

Should Obama lead this great country? Let me answer that question with a question: should Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, have led this country? Should Abraham Lincoln, whose wife sought mediums to speak to their dead son, have been allowed to lead this country, if indeed Lincoln is guilty by his association with his wife (Obama and Khalidi)? I say pray for Barack Obama. It is prayer that changes things.

The last posting is super tough and I can only address it honestly through this means: I don’t know. I laughed when I wrote, “I don’t know.” I’m one of those people that will disagree sometimes and not be able to explain why I disagree. It’s just a conviction that I have at the time.

I do know the Apostle’s wrote and said to respect the authorities. I do know Christians were being martyred. I do know that Christians today have a hard time reckoning their spiritual lives with their political view points (I’m not saying they should be separated, I’m simply implying they should be reconsidered). I do believe there are times when God will allow people to break way from their governments due to severe oppression, but I cannot in good conscience state what the criteria for such an uprising should comprise. I seriously consider everything I say and realize the severity of what I write and the implications that could arise due to my assertions.

I knew that when I wrote “Not by a Cause” that there would be objections. In my own mind, I had trouble reconciling those scriptures with the Colonies breaking away from King George III. Honestly, I don’t know if it was right or wrong. Looking back from a historical vantage point, I’m not sure the Colonies broke away for strictly religious reasons or for tax and governance issues, and if a seeming difference should be considered anyway. There might be a difference. There might not be a difference.

To my last poster, no, I don’t think you missed anything. I’m troubled sometimes, too. I can’t explain everything. I would not call the instances you listed as possible sin a sin in my own book, either. You have made great points and it is something that I am still wrestling with myself. I would actually recommend some of Thomas Aquinas’ writings. He addresses the issue of just war and obviously did a much better job with it than I could ever do.

In closing, my intent is really for everyone to heed the scriptures I listed in “Not by a Cause” to the fullest possible. My concern is a spiritual concern, it is a concern to do what is mandated to us by the scriptures. I am afraid that sometimes we pick and choose which scriptures we are going to follow and then explain away the ones we don’t like. I think Christians do a great job of this especially when people are elected into office we don’t agree with completely. I am becoming a broken record and an annoying echo: let’s pray for Obama. If you could pray for Bush, you can pray for Obama.

I think it is interesting that I received more comments and questions regarding this post than any other. In no way am I defensive or licking any wounds. (I will state that despite what comments or concerns I receive from here-on-out, I don’t plan to address them publicly in my blog. I will probably address them via Facebook or through another means. I might change my mind if it is something that maybe I feel that I’ve been inaccurate or led someone astray due to my personal theology. I want to be considerate of my readers.) I wish I got as many responses and concerns over my other postings. If you haven’t got a chance to read my other writings, I encourage you to do so. I would love to receive more feedback on those. But maybe they are not as controversial or as fun as “Not by a Cause” 

(C) Aaron Brown, 2008.