Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pretty Sure God Didn't MEAN For This To Be Funny

There's an account in the Old Testament book of I Kings that always cracks me up. I'm sure it's meant as a testimony to the reality and greatness of Yahweh, but I can't help envisioning Jim Gaffigan in the role of Elijah.

It's in I Kings 18. The scene is a showdown between 450 prophets of Baal and Yahweh's sole spokesperson, Elijah. Two altars are built. Two bulls will be prepared and laid on top of the altars with some wood. The Baal-Boys and Elijah will both pray for their god to set the sacrifices on fire, and whichever deity answers will be proving which god is real.

Spoiler alert: Yahweh wins the contest, but that's not what makes me giggle. The humor I see is how Elijah taunts the prophets of Baal while they're wailing and dancing and cutting themselves...trying to get Baal to flick his Bic.

You may think I'm embellishing this to make it sound more like a stand-up comic, but this is a direct quote of I Kings 18:27 in the New Living Translation: "'You’ll have to shout louder,' he scoffed, 'for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!'"

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Truth is...One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think. (Brother Lawrence)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Because of You

I noticed something surprising about the first two songs featured in this space from Keith Green's "For Him Who Has Ears to Hear": There was no mention of Jesus. And the reason that surprised me is that my memory of Keith is his outspokenness. It seems he never held anything back, and yet, the first two songs on his first album could have been sung to his wife instead of his Lord.

No need to fret, though. Some very upfront in-your-face lyrics will show up later on. As for the third song on the album, "Because of You"? Well, Keith does use the title "Lord" at one point. 

People smile at me and ask me what it is
That makes them wanna be just like I am
So I just point to you and tell them, yes it's true
I'm no special one, I'm just one man

It's because of you
People smile at me and they say, "What a lucky guy"
Yeah, because of you
I can raise my hands in reply and say, "I'm happy because of you"

Now people can't believe, that my life used to be

Something no one had any use for
I'd stay at home each night, never shine the light
And I thank you, it'll never be like before

It's because of you

People point to me and they say "Hey, I like what that boy's got"
But because of you
I confess I don't have a lot
but what I've got is because of you

Oh oh no no no no no no no no no oh

I'm only happy because of you, Lord
Yeah because of you...
I'm only happy because of you

Well people smile at me and ask me what it is

That makes them want to be just like I am
So I just point to you and tell them, yes it's true
I'm no special one, I'm just one man

It's because of you

People smile at me and they say, "Yeah, what a lucky guy"
Yeah because of you
I can raise my hands to the sky and say, "I'm only happy because of you"
Oh yeah because of you, because of you, you, you, you
©1977 April Music

Truth is...There's never really any doubt who Keith Green is singing about, is there?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our Father, Which Art in - SQUIRREL!

Do you ever have trouble concentrating?

Apparently, one of Brother Lawrence's correspondents had written to him confessing that his mind would wander during times of prayer. The first sentence of BL's reply is, in itself, an empathetic encouragement: "You tell me nothing new: you are not the only one that is troubled with wandering thoughts. Our mind is extremely roving."

BL quickly goes from commiseration to wise words of advice:
I believe one remedy for this is to confess our faults, and to humble ourselves before God. I do not advise you to use multiplicity of words in prayer; many words and long discourses being often the occasions of wandering; hold yourself in prayer before God like a dumb or paralytic beggar at a rich man's gate; let it be your business to keep your mind in the presence of the Lord; if it sometimes wander and withdraw itself from Him, do not much disquiet yourself for that; trouble and disquiet serve rather to distract the mind than to recollect it; the will must bring it back in tranquility; if you persevere in this manner God will have pity on you.

Truth is...it does no good to wallow around in our shortcomings. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Animal Cruelty as Entertainment

The seemingly ancient theaters of London once were new and struggling business ventures. Consider this quote from Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson...

The new theaters did not prosper equally. Within three years of its opening, the Curtain was being used for fencing bouts, and all other London playhouses, with the single eventual exception of the Globe, relied on other entertainments, particularly animal baiting, to fortify their earnings. The pastime was not unique to England, but it was regarded as an English specialty. Queen Elizabeth often had visitors from abroad entertained with bear-baiting at Whitehall. In its classic form, a bear was put in a ring, sometimes tethered to a stake, and set upon by mastiffs, but bears were expensive investments, so other animals (such as bulls and horses) were commonly substituted. One variation was to put a chimpanzee on the back of a horse and let the dogs go for both together. The sight of a screeching ape clinging for dear life to a bucking horse, while dogs leaped at it from below, was considered about as rich an amusement as public life could offer. That an audience that could be moved to tears one day by a performance of Doctor Faustus could return the next day to the same space and be just as entertained by the frantic deaths of helpless animals may say as much about the age as any single statement could.

This reminds me of a couple things in Scripture.

  • First, the quick turnaround the crowds of Jerusalem made between shouting "Hosanna!" on Sunday and "Crucify him!" on Friday.
  • Second, the words of James in chapter 3, verses 7-10: "For every wild animal on earth including birds, creeping reptiles, and creatures of the sea and land have all been overpowered and tamed by humans, but the tongue is not able to be tamed. It’s a fickle, unrestrained evil that spews out words full of toxic poison! We use our tongue to praise God our Father and then turn around and curse a person who was made in his very image! Out of the same mouth we pour out words of praise one minute and curses the next. My brothers and sister, this should never be!" (The Passion Translation)

Truth is...none of us should be surprised at the behavior of the British bear-baiters or the Jerusalem crowds. We all carry the same tendency.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

I Can't Believe It!

Sometimes, even song lyrics that are meant to express spiritual truth cannot be taken for their literal meaning.

Case in point: Keith Green's second song on For Him Who Has Ears to Hear, "I Can't Believe It!" It's meant to be a confession of new-found faith, much like Randy Stonehill's "First Prayer," but it's titled "I CAN'T Believe It!" Whaaaaat?

There is nothing new
I could give to you
Just a life that's torn
Waiting to be born

Rivers overflow
Friends may come and go
But you've been by my side
With every tear I've cried

Oh, I can't believe that You'd give everything for me
I can't believe it no, I can't believe it no, no
I know You've never lied and so it's just my foolish pride
That won't receive it yeah
It's so hard to receive it in my heart and make the start with You

Help me, help me now
I just don't know how
You know, I've been so alone
Please melt this heart of stone

Lah, lah, lah, lah

Oh, I can't believe that You'd give everything for me
I can't believe it no, I can't believe it no, no
I know You've never lied and so I'm giving up my pride
So I can receive it yeah
I just want to receive it in my heart and make the start with You
©1977 April Music

Truth is...the overwhelming, neverending graciousness of God really is "unbelievable"...even in the midst of believing it.