Monthly Archives: September 2006
I’ve told embarrassing stories about myself, but none comes close to what happened to this guy! The story below is from a weekly e-mail of sermon illustrations that I receive.
A Glass Shattering Indignity
After my solitary walking incident (See When Bare Teeth are after your Behind), I decided that as long as I was in the Minneapolis area, I would take my walks with a friend!
Upon returning from one of these walks, this time with a former Iowa farmer, I entered the living room of the house where we lodged to find my fellow classmates all gathered around the TV. The movie seemed to be wholesome, so I decided to join them. The only problem was that all of the seats were already taken. The dirty floor was out of the question, so I chose a wooden end table for my seat instead. It was one of those tables inlaid with glass panels, and after testing it to make sure it would hold me up, I settled down to enjoy the movie. There was a sudden cracking sound! Before I realized what was happening, my glass seat caved in and I found myself stuck in an end table!
Instantly all eyes in the room shifted from the movie to me, and mouths gaped open as if I had just dropped in from Mars. (Or is it Venus? I never get this straight. I always forget whether men come from Mars or Venus!) After silently staring at me for what seemed an eternity, the room finally came alive, and twenty pairs of hands reached out to help me up. Before I knew it, I was again on my own two legs. Only one problem: My bottom-side felt as if it had been attacked by a dozen killer wasps!
“Euh…” one of the guys stammered, “you have pieces of glass sticking out of your … your . . . your behind.”
Sure enough, my pain was caused by several glass shards that protruded from my poor bottom! My face turned red. Without even trying, I had become the class clown. My dignity had been shattered by an …. An end table! It was definitely time to retreat!
I quickly excused myself and withdrew to the only shelter I knew: my assigned room. Here I took off my pants and tried to locate the chards of glass. I had a bit of a problem, however. With my derriere being on the opposite side of my body from my eyes, my body was simply not built for such endeavors! What was I supposed to do? “Lord, help me!” I begged.
Just as I finished uttering my plea, my roommate opened the door: “Let me help you!”
Now I was in a bit of a quandary. Though I desperately needed help, it is quite embarrassing to be showing your bottom-side to someone who is little more than a perfect stranger, especially when there is glass protruding from it! Though I had cried out for help, I wasn’t exactly sure I really wanted any! But since I really had NO other options, I threw myself across my bed and closed my eyes. My God-sent rescuer would have to handle my indignities!
When all was over, I was more than grateful for his help. Without his intervention, I would not have been able to sit until I reached home. And maybe I wouldn’t even have made it back home! After all, how does one go about sitting in an airplane seat with glass chards in one’s behind? I can see myself being arrested by the airport’s security:
“Excuse me sir, you are not allowed to board this plane!”
“You are carrying potential weapons!”
Getting back to the glass shards in my bottom for a moment, I realize that I was faced with a choice: To accept or to reject my roommate’s help. Fortunately, I made the right one! How often, though, do we go through life rejecting the help of others? “I can handle this myself!” We say. “I don’t need any help!” It is true that we may be able to handle our circumstances our own way, but how much more pleasant when we have the help of others who care?
The Bible tells us to: “Encourage one another daily…” (Heb 3:13 NIV); “Encourage one another and build each other up…” (1 Thess 5:11 NIV); “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Eph 4:32 NIV); and “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Rom 15:7 NIV)
We were not created to act independently. We are not solitary beings. We long for love and acceptance. Let’s not dig our own graves by rejecting those who want to come to our help. It is only then that we really will know what true love is. It is only then that we understand what Jesus meant when He said: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
When we are facing impossible situations, let’s remember the following advice given by the apostle Paul: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31 NIV); “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17 NIV)
Are we giving glory to Jesus when we try to handle everything by ourselves?
“Euh…excuse me. You have something protruding from your behind. Can I help you?”
What will be your answer?
Recently, when I was in Brazil, I read the novel Showdown by my favorite Christian fiction author Ted Dekker. The novel is about a small town in Colorado called Paradise that turns to hell on earth when an evil monk (much like history’s Rasputin) shows up and dupes the town into releasing their inner inhibitions. The result is misery and destruction for everyone. One criticism I had for the novel while I was reading it was that I felt the novel was a bit unrealistic. Ted Dekker turned a peaceful town into hell on earth in one short week. Are human beings really that susceptible to the dark side?
Apparently. Right now over a quarter million Iraqis are fleeing for their lives due to sectarian violence. For a heartbreaking analysis, read Time magazine’s article Life in Hell to find out what is really going on in Baghdad.
As medieval author John Milton so aptly described, the human race is a tragic story of Paradise Lost. There is something wrong with human nature that, if left unchecked, will destroy us, just like what is happening in Iraq. Torture. Death squads. Suicide bombings. What is this world coming to?
Thank God, there is victory in Jesus Christ. When Jesus was on the cross, He showed the world that love is more powerful than hate and mercy is more powerful than revenge. The message of the cross is just as relevant now as in any time of history. May God raise up men and women to show the world the power of unconditional love. It’s love the world needs now more than anything. Who better to look for a role model than the King of Love, Jesus Christ? Rather than ridiculing and blaspheming the Prophet Muhammed, which is unethical and gets us nowhere (I am not a fan of the Danish cartoons). We, as Christians, should elevate Jesus in the eyes of the Muslim world as the supreme example of love and kindness. We do not have to demote the one while promoting the other, but we do need to promote the other. And that other is none other than the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, who calls us all to faith and repentance while loving us unconditionally. Who in their right mind would want to refuse this kind of love? Without the love of Christ in our hearts, we as human beings are perfectly capable of creating our own hell. Chief object lesson number one- Baghdad.
This post was written on May 15th 2006.
A couple of years ago, I was preaching in a small African village in the country of Guinea Bissau when I had a thought that struck me as rather humorous. Well, I guess humorous is a relative term, morbid might be a better word. For the first time in my life I actually got to see the whole process from the slaughter of the chicken to the arrival of the chicken meat on my plate. And let me tell you, it is not a pretty picture. First, they cut off the head and drain the blood and then they pluck the feathers out of the chicken. And the rest, well, you can probably imagine it for yourself. Here is the funny thing. I noticed that, at least from the chickens’ perspective, watching their fellow comrades getting their heads chopped off didn’t seem to bother them all that much. I never noticed any attempt from the chickens’ part to escape their impending doom. In fact, they just kept hanging around and hanging around as if they were household pets. It never seemed to occur to the poor little chickens that we humans are their mortal enemies. If that were you and me, we’d be out of there faster than you can say KFC.
Here’s another example. Did you know that a female black widow eats the male who mates with her? Now, I don’t know about you. But if I were a male black widow and I saw numerous of my brothers and cousins getting eaten by their female lovers, I just might reconsider the whole mating thing. And yet, this thought never seems to occur to the poor little male black widow.
Believe it or not, I do have a point in all this. Look at what God says to Job in Job 39:13-17, “And the wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s? For she leaves her eggs on the ground and warms them in the dust. She forgets that a foot may crush them or that a wild beast may break them. She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers. Her labor is in vain, without concern, because God has deprived her of wisdom and did not endow her with understanding.”
It doesn’t matter if you are a chicken, a black widow, a stork, or a human being. Whatever mental capacities you possess have been given to you by God and are directly proportional to your class of being. This is helpful in understanding and clarifying the doctrine of “free will.” It appears that God has given a degree of “free will” to all of his creatures, but the freedom of the will is directly relational to their creaturely capacities. A chicken is free to behave like a chicken and will make decisions based on his capacities as a chicken. The same is true with every other creature in God’s creation.
What is awesome to think about is the fact that not only are we homo sapiens capable of the act of reflection (an attribute obviously missing in lower life forms), but our decisions have eternal implications. We can choose to love and obey Christ and follow Him to heaven, or we can send ourselves to hell and be separated from God forever. The fact that our choices have eternal consequences points to our infinite value as human beings. With all this in mind, I suggest that choosing Christ is the only sane option available. Especially in light of the fact that the Bible says “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from African chickens and black widows. As long as we can reflect on our mortality, we might want to put that art of reflection to good use. Those who refuse to do so might take a hint or two from our African chicken friends.
Recently, I received an e-mail from the American Family Association harshly criticizing Rosie O Donnell for her comments on ABC’s The View in which she said that extreme Christians on the religious right are just as much to be feared as the Islamic jihadists. My first reaction was strong offense. How could Rosie equate peace loving Christians with bomb throwing jihadists? At the outset, the idea seems completely ridiculous, and it is-to a degree. No, I do not know of any Christian in America, even fundamentalist Christian (with the exception of the cross-burning white supremacists who claim to be Christian, but who takes them seriously?)who believes that killing innocent civilians is an appropriate means of social change. So, in that sense, O Donnel’s fears are largely unfounded.
There is, however, a theological movement in America known as Theonomic Reconstructionism that seeks to establish the Law of Moses as the supreme law of the land. I can see why Rosie might fear this, since in the Law of Moses, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death (by means of stoning if we apply the strict interpretation)! Thankfully, this view is a very small minority within American evangelicalism. And for good reason. If Jesus were a reconstructionist, instead of saying “He who is without sin among you, let Him cast the first stone”, He would have personally presided over the stoning of the adulterous woman in John chapter 8. The fact is, neither Jesus nor His disciples advocated starting a political kingdom to impose theocratic rule over the nations, and neither should we. Rather, we should let the Scriptures guide our consciences (especially New Testament Scripture), and then as the gospel spreads throughout society, the collective conscience of the Christian community informs the collective conscience of the nation. Notice I said “inform” not “impose”. This is a far cry from theocracy. A Christian conscience informed by the New Testament is just plain good old fashioned common sense.
I have found a new way to finance my ministry. All I have to do is to “come out”. Sure, those who support this ministry might be shocked and my wife’s life might be ruined (the woman whom I pledged my love to till death do us part almost 5 years ago), but I am sure that after a couple of years, I could get a fairly decent book deal and find numerous sympathizers. I could then take the money and finance whatever I want to do. Some in the media would even call me “courageous and inspiring.”
I’ve debated within myself whether I should write this post. For those of you who watch the news, you probably know by now that I am referring to the ex-New Jersey governor James McGreevey who came out of the closet two years ago in order to save himself from charges of political corruption. At the risk of sounding too judgmental, something I try to avoid in my writing, let me first say that I think it is admirable that McGreevey, a self-proclaimed Catholic, voluntarily recused Himself from receiving communion in light of his pro-choice views, saving his archdiocese from political embarrasment. I think that shows a bit of integrity.
Having said that, I am concerned about the near-heroic welcome he has received in the media for his decision to come out of the closet. Never mind the fact that he was unfaithful in his marriage, his “coming out” is a courageous act in the minds of many. Why is this? Because, as I’ve said in other posts, the new American religion is “to thine own self be true.” Self-autonomy has trumped other time-honored virtues such as fidelity and self-sacrifice in the new American religion. Think of the film The Hours that came out a few years ago,where the art of leaving one’s spouse and children is virtually portrayed as a saintly act. My question is “since when has selfishness become a virtue?”
I don’t think that Christians should have a haughty and judgmental attitude towards homosexuals. I am a firm believer in “love the sinner, hate the sin.” If Jesus were around today, I think he probably would be found in gay bars extending his hand of friendship while lovingly and gently calling them to repentance, much to the chagrin of millions of Christians in the “moral majority”. This is why I was so embarrassed by the reaction of certain fundamentalist pastors in this country who told their congregation not to see the film End of the Spear simply because the filmakers chose to cast an openly gay actor in the leading role. I see nothing of the spirit of Jesus in these misguided shephards. Jesus befriended sinners and so should we.
Having said that, I think that all of society, not just Christians, should question the new American religion of self autonomy. If taken to its logical conclusion, virtually all decisions become moral decisions, no matter who they hurt, as long as one is true to one’s self. I think this is a dangerous philosophy that will bring much harm to innocent people if left unchecked. One of the chief characteristics of our humanity is the ability of moral reflection. Morality should be grounded not only in what is good for ourselves, but also in what is good for others.
It’s official. I’m a celebrity! Well, not actually. My name was mentioned in an article in the Farmington Daily Times, a Newspaper in Farmington, New Mexico. Never mind the fact that the article is mostly about my father-in- law Eliot O Brien and his pastor Steve Marquez and their ongoing efforts in Pakistan. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get. Here is the article. To my millions of readers (I think I hear the Twilight Zone music about now) Have a great day!
I thought you all might enjoy taking a quiz to test your knowledge on Islam. I’m giving this quiz tonight to a church in New Mexico. I think many people will be surprised by some of the answers, as I think my readers will be. Enjoy!
I want to draw my readers’ attention to an article I read in Newsweek by Anna Quindlen called Frightening-and Fantastic. It is similar to the post that I wrote entitleld What a wonderful frightening world.
Quindlen points out how our society is constantly obscessed with warning people of bad things that can happen to them. It seems that we in America want to be prepared for everything. I’ve noticed in other cultures that I have lived and worked in, people don’t spend all their time worrying about the bad things that can happen to them. They are much too busy either surviving or enjoying time with their friends and family. This is definitely true in Africa. Sometimes we in America can be so cautious that we forget to live.
Although I do not share many of Quindlen’s values (especially regarding her cavalier attitude about the sacredness of human life), I think it is good to keep an open mind to hear from others even if they don’t share your core values. The truth is, we can all learn from each other.
I was watching the 700 Club last night and they were talking about micro-chips being implanted into human skin. Growing up in a Pentecostal/Charismatic church, I have heard about this for years and have been warned against the dangers of taking the Mark of the Beast, even though I’ve always been taught that I probably won’t be on earth when the Anti-Christ comes to power. Even a pre-tribulatpion rapture view never seems to console those who live in constant fear of their eternal destiny. I have heard of Christians fearing secret micro chips being implanted into their toilet seats! One of my aunts took a trip to the Appalacian mountains to conduct a Vacation Bible School for children. One 12 year old girl would not allow her to stamp her hand because she was afraid of accepting the Mark of the Beast.
As far as taking the Mark of the Beast, we can all relax for now. Åccording to Revelation 14:6-11, when the real Mark of the Beast arrives, there will be angels flying to and fro throughout the earth warning the inhabitants of planet earth not to take the mark. Unless I see angels flying in the sky, I am not going to worry about a stamp on my hand or a microchip in my toilet seat. If I am going to be ridiculed for the sake of the gospel, I would rather be ridiculed for something intelligent, not ridiculous.
You may think that Left-Behind fans are the only ones concerned about the new technology. If you think that, you’re dead wrong. Fundamentalist Christians see this as a sign of the soon and coming anti-Christ, but many left-wingers see it as a sign of Orwell’s Big Brother stripping away our civil liberties. For many civil libertarians, religious people (especially those with political power) are public enemy number one to an open and tolerant society.
Ironically, I think they are both right in some ways. No, I don’t think the Republican party is going to produce a Hitler-like despot such as is portrayed in the film V for Vendetta any time soon, but I do think all of us need to take a cold, hard look at what the implications are if human beings lose their ability to move about freely without being tracked by who knows who. The fact that both Christians and liberals seem to agree on this issue should further confirm that maybe the Apostle John’s vision of a future society where people can not buy or sell without a mark on their hand or their forehead isn’t such a fanciful imagination after all. Given the track record of the Bible in predicting future events, I for one am not the least bit surprised.
After reading my post on Fast Food woes, you may be wondering why I would dedicate a post to Kirstie Alley the self proclaimed fat actress. Despite the fact that I think her weight loss of 75 pounds is inspiring and despite her affiliation with the Church of Scientology (you won’t believe what these people actually believe) there is something I like about her, and that is her ability to make the best of her situation.
My mom used to tell me all the time when I was a kid that I need to learn to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously. If you read my post releasing my inner sissy you might be able to tell that I have made a conscious effort to follow this advice. And you would be right. I think it is a tremendous moral value to be able to laugh at yourself and I think Kirstie Alley does this well. I’ve seen her making fun of herself on the show King of Queens and I can tell you that she was hilarious.
In an age when Hollywood actresses are obscessed with making themselves so skinny they could slip through the cracks of a sidewalk, it is refreshing to see a Hollywood actress capitalize on her not-so-skinny image. I’m sure Kirstie Alley is laughing all the way to the bank. And that’s exactly my point. To be able to make the best of your situation is precisely the value that Jesus affirmed when He told the story of the unjust steward found in Luke 16:1-13. Here is a man who gets fired from his job, but rather than sitting around and feeling sorry for himself, he decides to make a few friends to ensure his financial security. Jesus does not commend him for his deception, he commends him for his shrewdness.
To sum up what I am saying, I think we should all learn to laugh at ourselves a little more and to make the best of our situations, even our own mistakes. And that, Kirstie Alley has done and that is why she deserves a place in the soon-to-be-world-famous blog of Aaron D. Taylor. Oops. Did I say that out loud? Let the laughing begin.