Friday, May 25, 2007

Summer of Love Adventist Youth

Late 60s. In love with the acid-tinged songs, but afraid of the drugs because of warnings from parents and Adventist teachers.

Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Along Comes Mary

"Are you experienced? Not necessarily stoned, but just beautiful ... ?" --Jimi Hendrix, 1967

Strange infatuation.

Hating the dangerous drugs, but loving the colorfast songs about them?

What are postmodern Adventist Youth hungering after today that they know is bad for them? They can't resist the strange obsession with the trappings of sin, without actually going into the sin itself. Some, sadly, will be so fixated that they will fall into the temptation, never to rise out of it again.

See the Whitney Museum retrospective.

Chocolate: a Metaphor for Sin

If I'm a Christian and I know I should never eat chocolate, but still want to, what does that say about my born again experience?

Does that mean I'm a carnal Christian as opposed to a spiritual one?

Or does it mean I'm an imperfect human being that still has to depend on God's grace and forgiveness not just after one chocolate-related downfall, but after many?

Joys of Devolution

Q: Are We Not Men?

A: We Are Devo!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Long Dream: Asleep in the Spirit

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, ... neither the present nor the future, ... nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38, 39 (NIV)

HAL 3000 (Artificial Intelligence Entity) asked in the film 2010, as he was about to be put to sleep or deactivated: "Will I dream?" The reply was, "of course, all intelligent beings dream."

Dreaming during this life could well be a type of preparation for the Long Sleep, or the the Long Dream. During our conscious life, we need to carefully shape our dreams and our lives, as it were, to become proficient in the art of dreaming, as well as the art of living, in the event that our Long Sleep is in fact, a Long Dream, as well. Though not totally unconscious while we are sleeping or dreaming, we are less conscious, needless to say, than when we are fully awake. So perhaps it's good to link the state of sleep and death together and plan to dream a lot during that Long Sleep. Just in case dreaming is not only a natural phenomenon during this side of our lives, but during the mysterious realm we commonly call death.

For those who dream vividly, their dreams are at times a sort of portal into awe and wonder. Might death, especially if it is also an unconscious dream state, be a portal into awe and wonder, as well, in spite of the fact that we'll be unconscious and "know nothing" as the Bible states in Ecclesiates.

Though some Christians believe that when we die we are not conscious--"the dead know nothing"--the same could be said for those are are asleep for 8 hours at a time. Think also of those who are unconscious due to being in a coma, or undergoing a near-death experience. They also know nothing while they're in that limbo state. Might they not also be dreaming while in that unconscious state? Therefore, it is remotely possible that during our unconsious state during death, we might as well be dreaming while we're waiting for the Next World. Otherwise, what a waste of all those years or centuries that could well have been put to good use by dreaming through them, instead of simply sleeping through them dreamlessly.

I've often thought that if it were possible for humans to remain watching over their deceased loves ones constantly, it would be the most loving thing to do. Since, of course, it is not practical or healthy to do so, we do not do so and only visit their sepulchres from time to time.
God, on the other hand, is able to watch over, or if he wanted to, through the same Holy Spirit that filled the soul temple during the believer's lifetime, be present right there in the sleeping saint's body, patiently waiting for the time when that loved one can rise again at the resurrection.

This would give new meaning to Paul's words "neither life not death can separate us from the love of Christ."Also, if the Holy Spirit where resting with and watching over the sleeping saint, what perfect positioning that would be when the moment for resurrection finally arrived.

Christ said he'd be with us "always even till the end of the age." It would be encouraging to think that through his indwelling Spirit, this promise could literally be true even as the unsconscious believer slept in the tomb until the dawning of eternal day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Belief in God against Hope

Even if remotely speaking, God did not exist--as so many writers are writing million sellers about these days--those of us who do believe in him would be like God, in his stead. We would be his ambassadors regardless of whether he really were out there or not. We need for him to be out there. We need for him to be here with us. Our lives have more meaning, greater beauty, and hope, if we believe and live as though there is a God.

There may well be a God, but we will never know for sure in this life. Most of us will die with that belief. But, oh, what beautiful lives we will have lived with that belief intact. That sounds like a strange kind of belief. When we read difficult texts in the bible or come across arguments against God's existence that you have to leave unanswered and "live by faith", in a way, we are doing just that, living as though God does exist. When you are kind to someone who is unkind to you, you are strengthening the reality of God. Why else behave in so selfless a manner, if it wasn't because you wanted to emulate God?

Humanity needs a perfect being with no beginning and no end. A creator, a friend, a co-traveler in life's sometimes difficult journey. Humanity needs to believe and emulate such a perfect and loving being, to offset the negative, imperfect and evil tendencies he sometimes sees inside his own heart and in those of others.

If sometimes the universe seems like an unfriendly and lonely place, with all kinds of imperfections and horrors, how much more in such an unacceptable place like our universe, is a belief in God necessary and useful. Perhaps we're here--those of us who believe in God--to carry on a hope of a belief in God whether he exists or not. Some say that God is silent and has been silent for a very long time. Be that as it may, we can carry on a belief in the ideal of God and become a much as possible like the being we call God.

Some will ask you why go through so much trouble. If you have no proof that God exits, why live as though he does? God, or the ideal of God, is the very best that humanity has ever been able to imagine about their origins and about themselves. How much better to live towards the ideal of a being like God, who loves in spite of sometimes not being loved back, instead of living without the awareness of God. Some have said that we should try to reflect God's attributes and thereby others can see God in us. In a way, we become God's ambassadors.

When you read conservative accounts of difficult verses in the Bible or when you experience or see others experiencing difficult situations, if you are a person of faith you gloss over the inconsistencies or lack of information regarding particulars, because you know you must in order to continue believing in God. You want to continue to believe in God because life without a belief in him wouldn't be the same quality of life as you've come to expect for yourself and for those you love.

When people of faith meet together in church or in groups of two, or even when a solitary believer gets down on his knees to pray and meditate on God and learn more about him, in a way they do so because there is no other way to keep alive the reality of God. When you read the Bible or other religious literature you do so to continue the habit and practice of making God more and more real by focusing your attention on him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spirit Inside at All Times

He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. John 16:14,15 (NIV)

All that belongs to the Father belongs to Christ. All that belongs to Christ belongs to the Spirit. All that belongs to the Spirit is ours (his followers).

I looked up every text I could think of, unaided, about the Holy Spirit. I consulted no concordance to help me. Among the texts I read was this one: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." Ephesians 5:18. This text has become a favorite of mine because it is is a command. All God's commands are enablings. God would hardly command something of us unless He were willing to confer the gift in question, as well.

LeRoy Froom mentions that their are four requirements for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit in its fullness. 1) We are to be emptied of selfish reasons for wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit, 2) We are to be emptied of all else so we can be filled more and more with the Holy Spirit, 3) We must have faith, and 4) We must have obedience. When I read these requirements I was momentarily disheartened, but then took heart when I realized that no one in their own power can produce any of these four requirements. They are all gifts of Spirit. So I ask God from time to time to grant me these four gifts that I may then be able to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Many think they have experienced that fullness. I think one would know it as much as one would know that the sun was shining and not the moon.

What would a Spirit-filled person be like? Would they be perfect? Far from it. Only glorified people are perfect. So what would be the the proof--if we can speak of proofs--of the Spirit dwelling inside? Perhaps the major proof is the desire and the obsession with wanting to be Spirit-filled. Why would anyone want such an experience unless the Spirit granted that person the desire for such an experience? Experiencing the life of the Spirit is not a one time event. It has to happen daily--hourly, if one is a new Christian. The old modes of thinking and living must fade and new Spirit-filled ways of looking at life, at others, at God and at oneself, must take their place.

After reading so much about the Holy Spirit and meditating on the Spirit dimension, I realized that in a few minutes I'd be asleep. So much of what one dreams about is not edifying. Of course, some people dream more colorfully than others. Half an hour before retiring I expressed a wish to dream about the Holy Spirit in some way. Or perhaps my request was that I would have a Spirit-filled dream. What a thrill it would be if one could "dream in the Spirit" on a regular basis. One can't very well do so at will, but perhaps by asking God for this transcendent night experience, He will at times grant us our request.

The next morning I was delighted that I remembered the Spirit-filled dream and at least some of its details. In the dream I was preparing to preach a sermon in an Adventist Forum church in a big city. It was a simple sermon, but sometimes simplicity is appreciated more than complex or unmanageable sermons. Even the usually Freudian aspects of the dream were somewhat sanitized by the Spirit's presence. It was an almost unrecognizable dream when I compared it with the typical replay of past, present and wished-for futures that are the raw materials that are reprocessed in one's dreams every night.

It is my prayer that we all live in the Holy Spirit, that we dream in the Holy Spirit and that one day we be glorified in the Holy Spirit at the Second Coming of Christ.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Reflections of God

If you really knew me, you would know my Father [and the Holy Spirit] as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:7 (NIV)

Today as I prayed before I studied a chapter from Hebrews, I heard myself talking to God in my mind. It dawned on me, as it sometimes does, that in addition to God being out there where ever "out there" is, he also must exist to some degree inside my mind. Otherwise the metaphysics gets too exotic. I'm not saying we are God as some here and there have suggested, but that He must have a localized presence closer to us than some distant sphere millions of light years from our reality. Additionally, when you read the Bible, God is in His word. I feel closer to a perception of God like the one I've described than to a loving, though cosmically removed, being that lives in a physical heaven, again, millions or billions of miles from this, our present reality.

The Bible speaks of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Christ speaks of the Father being in him and he being in the the Father. A Christian who daily asks for the Holy Spirit to live in him and to dwell in him may sometimes come up with the following line of thought. At any rate it occurred to me many months ago. If the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of you and since the Holy Spirit is God himself, the thought occurred to me that to a certain extent when you daily commune with God you are communing with the Holy Spirit that has come to you each day as you invite him in. I'm not saying you're praying to yourself or that you yourself are God, but rather that somewhere in your mind the Spirit resides. You are are in effect praying to an intelligent presence, person, and being who exists in some compartment of your mind. The thought is both pleasant and perplexing at the same time.

Why was the truth about the trinity withheld for thousands of years? Of course, there are hints in the Old Testament of the possibility of a triune God, e.g., the Angel of the Lord, the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters, etc., but how could something as vital as the triune nature of the One God be withheld for millennia? Perhaps one reason is that until Christ was manifested in the flesh, there was no need to confuse us with talk of three-in-One, where just the One Person could suffice. This delayed revelation of God's triune nature makes me wonder if there are other important aspects of God that for good reasons are kept from us.

I remember reading Richard Rice's book the Open View of God during the 80s and being shocked by its main premise. The vague recollection of it is that God knows everything that can possibly be known. What can't possibly be known, God, of course, cannot know. Is there no end to the surprises in store theologically as the centuries become millennia since Christ left us? Of course, in his place he left us his abiding Spirit. What better companion than the Spirit could he have left us?

Suddenly, a really big matter that we're told by traditionalists we're not supposed to think about suggests itself. To say we're not supposed to think about certain spiritual mysteries seems like an intellectually lazy way of saying, "if it were important we'd know about it already." What if because it really is mind-boggling and perhaps too much for us to bear, we're being kept in the dark (sorry about the use of that word in this context) about God's beginnings or, more correctly, lack of beginnings.

It's only natural to think that all intelligent beings must have a beginning, some kind of beginning, anyway. Perhaps the simplest explanation is to think of God creating himself. In that way, even God has a creator, himself. It's somewhat comforting to think of this explanation which then suggests the possibility of God growing and becoming more complex as eternity stretched into eons and eons of time. Of course, it's a difficult thought to think of a perfect being creating himself in an already perfect state. But at least there is the possibility for growth and wonder like every intelligent living being. I've often wondered how long God existed before starting to create any part of the known universe. Science tells us the approximate age of the universe based on the delayed light of stars that reach us. But how much time before that cosmic beginning did our non-existent universe have to wait before it came into being? How long was the universe in its non-existent state? Did God create other universes before he created ours? Did he begin creating us as soon as his perfection required us?

No doubt there are things about God's nature that we cannot know or aren't supposed to know in the here and now. What we need to know most, that he loves us immensely, has already been told to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

But there's always that hidden dimension about God that keeps me awake at night. It sometimes seems to me that we're missing certain pieces of the puzzle and that there are vital bits of information about God, eternity, and creation that are unknown to us, but that are, nevertheless, important, if we could only figure out what they are or analyze what light we have presently and see what we don't see now. In other words, we need to be enlightened. Perhaps that accounts for the mysterious disappearance of holy men throughout history. They knew too much or became too enlightened and "God took them." (The story of Enoch being the best example, or Elijah.) Was God rewarding them for realizing something so astounding about him, that he had to have them join him as soon as possible?

Years ago a Christian friend mentioned that nobody has the exact same conception of God. That was news to me at the time. I had always thought that the we both shared the same God since we both read the same Bible. I never asked if it was something he read or if he himself had come up with that idea. Now, of course, it goes without saying.

I must confess that for years I chose to think of God only in the person of Jesus Christ. I found God the Father too authoritative, but found Jesus very approachable. I once read about a young Catholic man who had difficulty relating to any male figure, especially in religion. He was unable to pray to God, but thankfully, he was able to pray to the virgin Mary and to St. Joan of Arc. It has taken me years as well, to equate God the Father, in my mind, to Jesus (God the Son). Only in the last 2 1/2 years have I been able to equate God the Spirit with Jesus. Previously, I never thought or spoke much of the Spirit out of fear that I'd offend him by thinking something erroneous. Now I warm up any time I read or hear anything pertaining to the Holy Spirit. I love to hear old hymns that I sang as a young man that mention the Holy Spirit but never even really understood who the Holy Spirit was at the time, and what he was like. He was and is like Jesus Christ, my lord and savior.