Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mountain-High Christianity and Reality

On my way to prayer meeting last night I claimed my travelling promises. The first was for God's protection. Then I prayed for the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Next I prayed Matthew 6:6 about "seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (by faith) and that God would provide all the other things I needed. Finally, I prayed the prayer of Jabez: "Oh that you would bless me and increase my borders. Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I may be free of pain." And God granted his request.

Usually I turn on the radio, National Public Radio or the classical music station and enjoy the fading light. Last night, however, I started singing hymns but not just cut-and-dry like you sing them in church. I imagined myself a distant descendant of Maria Callas who never sang an aria in concert the same way on any two performances. Each note was lovingly caressed or interpreted. When I felt like inserting a grace note I did. When I wanted to change the key slightly before returning to the familiar key, I went ahead and enjoyed the non-standard approach to singing hymns. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that first hymn. They were all hymns in Spanish as I was heading to Spanish prayer meeting at my local Adventist church.

It was the first time that I really enjoyed singing hymns as I traveled back to my neck-of-the-woods after having worked my eight hour day. One hymn effortlessly melded into the next and I knew something strange was happening. Singing hymns was what I most wanted to do. It actually produced a pleasant state of awareness. Boredom was the farthest thing from my mind. How easy it was to capture a spiritual high, simply by singing hymns, but singing them with such feeling and awareness.

When I arrived in church I shared my wonderful song fest experience after the officiating elder asked if anyone had a special testimony. Requests for special prayer came and went and I offered my request for difficult neighbors. I, unfortunately, had not thought of whether my neighbors needed God's blessings in spite of their unpleasant behavior. The elder made me realize my one-sided approach to prayer requests. When it came time to pray with my payer partners I remembered my neighbors and asked that God would help them and that he would help me as well as far as the slamming doors and occasional running marathons they seemed to enjoy in the passage just outside my front door. I asked God to take control of the situation and to provide a solution to the noise and bizarre behavior of my young neighbors.

After the evening meditation had come and gone, I was asked to offer the final prayer. Normally, the thought of praying in public, especially in Spanish, unsettles me, but this time I spoke as confidently and as sincerely as I've ever prayed in a long while.

Something was happening that was different from what I normally feel in a prayer meeting or during my ride home. A strange lightness of being, a closeness to God, and something else, a forgetfulness of self, were making themselves felt as never before.

Once home I read the Spirit of Prophecy and just couldn't put it down. When it was finally time to retire, I thanked God for hours of spiritual introspection like nothing I had experienced for many years.

The next day during a staff meeting, something didn't click and I was too facetious with others during the appropriate time in the meeting for informal remarks, but unfortunately my comments were inappropriate and I realized it, but said nothing further in order to save face. The afternoon sun was spilling its cheerfulness on me as I walked to my car and wondered how I could have been so thoughtless to have made such an off-color comment without any premeditation on my part.

Instead of singing more hymns I reached for my electronica CD deep in the glove compartment and let synthesizer rhythms and vague whisperings of "walking on thin ice" transport me to a secularized cinema-like drive home.

What a change from yesterday. How easily a mountain top experience becomes a living-in-the-real world drive home.

Oh well, it was wonderful while it lasted and I look forward to everything falling into place again very soon. Perhaps one day soon I'll sing and pray and read my bible non-stop from morning till evening time and leave everything else behind.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Gods of the Internet Age

I love reading the Bible, especially the New Testament. However, when I read it I sometimes realize that the only reason I believe in its spiritual realities is because they appear in its pages. Yes, I see a change in my life from when I didn't read the Bible. But it still strikes me as amazing that aside from the Bible there is no accounting for all this talk of God, Christ, and the spiritual life.

Others believe in the realities the Bible speaks of because they heard it from others and were convinced by the account of the people who spoke to them about it.

Of course, other religions, e.g., Hindus, believe their religious tradition because it's mentioned in their religious texts.

The printed word continues to exert influence. Entire movements have begun simply because someone put words on paper.

What kind of movements might yet come into being, not because someone writes about them, but because a computerized program creates that new reality? So many people's lives revolve around the Internet and its labyrinthine realities. What's to stop some of them from choosing a life based on Internet realities?

Welcome to the transcendent worlds and realities of the Internet and their effects on people's lives.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Best Temptation of All: Eternal Life

The person who is tempted on a daily basis and gives into temptation because it is his daily choice is really not being tempted at all. For the Christian, however, who is tempted from time to time by a specific alluring desire, the concept of temptation is very real.

What's especially difficult to endure is when temptation comes when least expected. Sometimes a Christian does not go looking for temptation; it comes to him or her. At the time the temptation comes the shock value of being tempted by a specific allurement may leave the Christian unprepared. Only through a merciful turn of events can the temptation be sidestepped until there is time to pray and fortify oneself with the word of God.

Perhaps one is tempted to think that one's faith experience is false since temptation almost got one where it would have hurt the most. However, the best solution is to chalk it up to the mysteries of the Christian life and not decide that one's desire to follow Christ is somehow not sincere. Temptations come and go. We need to live through them and not get discouraged.

It also is unrealistic to live in fear of temptation and to lock yourself in your home so as never to be tempted. Christians are not called to be hermits. Of course, depending on your particular set of temptations, you may have to change your daily routine. But, again, don't live in constant fear of running into an old friend, or of accidentally finding yourself in the chocolate aisle at the supermarket when you had purposely avoided that aisle so as not to be tempted with your old chocolate addiction.

Remember that no temptation is worth giving up the hope of eternal life.

The phrase "the best temptation of all" was coined by Richard Baskin in "Welcome to L.A."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Does the Bible lead many astray?

Herold Weiss: The Bible has led many astray.

Ouch! Some things are better thought but not actually written out. The examples you mention are tragedies. To fault the Bible for causing those tragedies seems to express a negative opinion of the Word of God. People lead themselves astray. The Bible is a book of life, and specifically the New Life in Jesus. Your words make it seem more like a book of death. And that sounds very ugly.

While I found your reflections on the Sabbath School lesson challenging, ultimately, I received very little spiritual blessing from your words.

With so many things wrong with the Bible, as you express them, one would wonder why bother reading it at all.

In spite of the problems with the Bible and with its track record of leading "many astray" I intend to continue reading my Bible. I pray it won't lead me astray. In fact, I have found that since I've been reading it during the past four years--in spite of some ugly passages about genocidal massacres and lakes of fire--the effect it has had on my life is far from leading me toward the dark side. Instead, it has lead me toward the light. And for that I am grateful. Peace.