Which came first, The Chicken or the ‘O’?

i find life interesting and full of the unexpected. Life certainly does not unravel itself in the manner we often imagine. i try to make lifeVertical relevant and fun. It’s just been five weeks since i put my fingerprint on this blog. In that time i’ve had nearly 1,200 visitors. i’m told that’s a lot for a newcomer.

What has most intrigued me in the past few weeks are the posts which have drawn the most attention, drawing almost twice as many readers as an average day. my comments on the impending ‘O’pocalypse, about the last days of the iconic Oprah Winfrey’s final days of her talk show and the absurd regulations imposed on chicken copulation in a small town in New Jersey drew the more attention than anything else.

my analytical mind has curiously pondered the attraction to these topics, especially in light of the conservative nature of my readers. What do you think? Why have these two items been of particular focus? What does this say about our culture? C’mon, don’t be shy. We’re all friends here. Let us know. Write your comments below.

~End analysis~

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i Give Up!

Oh, the city’s alight
With lovers and lies
Bright blue eyes
Oh, the city is bright
It’s brighter than day tonight

Surrender, Surrender
Surrender, Surrender

Sadie said she couldn’t work out
What it was all about
And so she let go
Now Sadie’s on the street
And the people she meets you know
She tried to be a good girl and a good wife
Raise a good family
Lead a good life
It’s not good enough
She got herself up on the 48th floor
Gotta find out
Find out what she’s living for

Surrender, Surrender
Surrender, Surrender

Tonight…

Oh, the city’s afire
A passionate flame
It knows me by name
Oh, the city’s desire
To take me for more and more
It’s in the street, getting under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere
I look for you
It’s in the things I do and say
If I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday

Papa sing my sing my sing my song

“Surrender” by U2 (Adam Clayton, David Evans, Paul Hewson and Larry Mullen Jr.)

Not one of U2’s anthemic masterpieces, but an affecting song about forgoing personal desires, surrendering to what is right. Just when i think i’ve surrendered and sacrificed all there is some new area of my life creeps into the light, revealing it stubborn, loathsome face in shameful defiance. Ahh… something new i have to deal with. More pursuance, more introspection, dislodging and vivisecting.

For those who live to love and serve, the hard work of becoming better people is never complete. New lies, lusts, cheats, deceptions tend to muddle their way to the surface just when we think self-purging is near completion. As much as we might try to rationalize our shortcomings, they will get the better of us if ignored.

Jesus certainly made the point of this laborious undertaking, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9.23-24)

Surrender becomes increasingly difficult as we are aware a need for it. Even as the song points this out in the last stanza. But the singer’s quest is to win in victory by surrendering his selfish desire and have ‘Papa’ “sing” his praises, “Well done!” Dying to self-will seems  a Herculean task. Theologian and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer summarized Jesus’ words above most poignantly, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”

~End resistance~

Have Trident, Will Travel.

Why is the devil red? Where did the notion come from that Satan is a hulking red brute with menacing chiseled features: protruding brow supporting ominous speared horns and hides sunken yellow eyes; a hardened jaw line framing a ravenous mouth of abnormally long, piercing incisors that look to shred the most tensile metal; a sniping tail that wields to unexpectedly pierce lustfully at the nearest flesh? (Perhaps some of you good Cybermaritans could research these origins for me?)

i did a little research and found the first recorded public encounter with Satan occurs in the Bible, the book of Genesis, Chapter 3. He is in the form of a serpent. Encountering the serpent, Eve is not repulsed, frightened or even intimidated. She simply enters into conversation. Subtle… isn’t it?

This is how evil comes into my life. Not to disregard the heinous evil that many fall victim to in violent crime or betrayal. But the vast majority of us experience evil in seemingly benign means. Perhaps it’s the simply our own justification of a want or desire. Small, sometimes well-meant occurrences that fester into vices and lifestyles beyond our control: A white lie to deflect an argument, judgment, or make ourselves look better in the mind of others escalates into perjury; a quick lustful glimpse at a beauty on the street wrings into a dark pornographic sex addiction; a toke on a joint hurricanes to a heroin overdose; a compromise of values in a moment of desperation explodes to habitual crime. (i hope hyperbole is not lost  here.)

Whatever the situation, evil usually starts with a selfish desire. We all like to think we are important. And you are!! God thinks you are. But it’s when we think we are more important than someone else, our needs and desires come before others, this is where the lie begins.

In our Western culture our desires are catered and manipulated every day. Any salesperson on the planet worth his salt will tell you that the art of selling is to appeal to your emotions and desires, convince you that you need this product/service more than life itself. The common television viewer observes well over 70 of these appeals daily. Add to this print, radio, internet, and other advertising media, the average American is exposed to roughly 3000 appeals daily. WOW! In a recent study, education scientist Dr. Norman Herr noted that the average American child observes   20,000 30-second TV commercials. UNBELIEVABLE!!

Like the serpent who baited Eve with half-truths, telling her what she wanted to hear, appealing to her desire… so go our own hearts. We don’t need the devil in snakeskin… we’re bombarded countless times a day with fancy indulgence since we could turn the channel from Sesame Street. It’s not just advertisers. Every one of us puts on our salesman persona now and again to placate our friend, neighbor, co-worker, spiritual leader, counselor, supervisor, parent, significant other, child, and …yes, even God.

With a society that caters to our every whim of self-importance and entitlement, it’s no wonder we feel deserving and indulgent and that, “I am the most important person on the planet.” So if you’re wait is more than five minutes in the fast food drive through you pitch a fit. “Where’s my damn burger?!” How ridiculous is that?? It wasn’t long ago that you would have had to milk the cow, age the cheese, slaughter and butcher another cow, grind the wheat, make the dough, build the fire, bake the buns, flame broil the beef… you haven’t even had time to think about condiments because you’ve starved to death making a cheeseburger (with all due respect to my vegetarian/vegan friends–you gotta love the cheeseburger). But today you can’t wait five minutes, so you scream at the poor teenage girl making $1.07 an hour, who did little more than take your cash in trade for a meal. Is that evil?! Not to some… but selfishness manifested as anger that seeks only self-satisfaction is as ugly as the proverbial satanic visage.  Just remember that then next time a well dressed person tells you what you want to hear.

~End antler~

Separation of Church and State

i spent the age of twenty to forty in vocational ministry. Most of this time as a Pastor in mega churches. i encountered many types of Christians every day. Most of these would consider themselves to be people who believe the Bible, taking it at face value. They would also say that they live out what they believe on a daily basis. A large part of my role as Pastor was to encourage people to live out their faith in a real manner wherever they may be, whatever they may be doing.

At forty years old i found myself beginning a business career. Looking back over this time, there have been amazing situations that have occurred. Outside of the “church” bubble I’ve made some great relationships and God has used me in these people’s lives in fascinating ways. I have had the opportunity to counsel, encourage, and even pray with business associates to enter a relationship with God through His Son’s sacrifice. These work place “ministry” encounters occur quite often.

So… why, in decades of being a pastor and dealing with literally thousands of “Christians” who are living on the outside of a “Christian” aquarium, have i rarely heard about the types of accounts in the work place and daily life as i have personally experienced in a few short years? Is it because these situations find me; or i’m seeking them out; or i’m more sensitive to seeing them? i don’t think so.

There appear to be two major issues at work: complacency and compartmentalization. Perhaps there are many Christians who are sensitive to opportunity to minister the love of God to others on the job or in the grocery store. Yet, they feel inadequate to take action, or just don’t care enough to act or speak boldly in love. Others, it would seem, segregate their Christian world view at home and church from who they are in the work place, or out and about.

i was recently watching an old Billy Graham crusade. He addressed this same issue several decades ago. Mr. Graham inferred that many of us call ourselves “Christian,” go to church, talk the talk, but when it comes down to it we really don’t live like we believe the Scripture, that God is real. He used the illustration that we should imagine the risen Christ, Jesus the Son of God, as being literally at our side in all that we do.

What Billy Graham was really getting at was the essence of coram Deo, a Latin term meaning “being before the face of God,” living as if God’s very presence were literally before us: He is sitting beside us at work; enjoying our meals with us; cheering on our favorite team next to us in the stadium.

i think this is a similar concept that Paul refers to in 1 Thessalonians 5.17 when he refers to “pray without ceasing.” Paul’s point is that we continually direct our thoughts to God. Similarly, coram Deo looks to direct our speech and action as if God were literally beside us. If this were the case, how would our actions and reactions change in our day to day existence? How would our life perspective be transformed? How would our preconception of others be altered?

How would your relationships change if you lived coram Deo? What would be different at work, with your neighbors, family, friends?

~End insulation~

Fly Away… just another bad hair day.

According to 89 year old retired engineer, self proclaimed evangelist and Family Radio Worldwide host, Harold Camping, tomorrow, Saturday, May 21, 2011 an earth-wide earthquake will signal the end of the world and all those who call Jesus “Savior” will be snatched up into heaven.

As i write this, i’ve just been in communication with a friend living in Japan. It’s already May 21st there and he’s a bit bewildered why, as a committed Christian, he’s not currently hangin’ in heaven. Another friend is sarcastically working through a 24 Hour Bucket List.

Camping’s so called “Judgment Day” is his second attempt at picking the plucking date. Back in the early 1990’s Camping calculated the date of the Rapture as September 6, 1994. i’m not sure what happened there. However, the spiritual leader is sure he’s got the date right “this time,” having worked out the calculations.

If you are a Bible believing Christian, this should bother you on several levels. Let’s look at a couple. First, Jesus was clear that though there would be signs of this taking away and the Parousia (Jesus’ Second Coming), “no one would know the time or day.” (Mt 24.36; Mk 13.33) No need to elaborate. Read the New Testament Scriptures again Mr. Camping. Another bothersome issue is the media in general taking this and parading extremist Christian leaders as though all Christians hold this dogmatic position and are not critical Biblical thinkers.

The issue that stands out the most is that Harold Camping has quite a large number of followers. And in that, many have dedicated “the rest of their earthly lives” (assuming that’s until tomorrow) to spreading the word about Judgment Day. On a base level, this is highly admirable that these people would literally spend their own time and money to spread the news that “The End” is nigh.

What if they’re right? I’m not indicating that Camping is correct. However, what if you had some kind of inside track that the world as we know it was going to end on a certain day? What would you do? If it were really true that God was going to remove Christians from their earthly existence into His eternal presence, wouldn’t you tell everyone you knew about it. i suspect a few of us would selfishly guard this information. i would definitely be telling anyone I came across about this, and about God’s abundant love and desire to spend eternity with Him.

This is a point that Jesus made: Christians are to be salt and light to the world (Mt 5.12-14), continuously sharing God’s love and purposeful desire to everyone. Christians should always be in “rapture mode.” However, the vast majority of those who call themselves “Christian” (self included) fail miserably at this. Typically we’re more consumed by doing our hair and makeup than we are that people we know and love, more importantly, people God knows and loves are going to inverse heaven (insert Rob Bell joke here).

We’ll see what happens tomorrow, if we hail Camping as a prophet or hurl stones at him, or wait to see how the Mayan’s take pans out next year. Meanwhile, take May 21st as it comes: Rain or shine; earth shake or tremor free; departed or present. Go forth and live with purpose each day what you believe. One thing for sure, it will be a good hair day for me (Every day’s a good hair day when you’re bald).

~End flight~