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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Is that a stick in your spokes . . ?

Does the following question cause you to "swerve", "put on the brakes" or go "flying over the handlebars":

"Do you feel most loved by God because He makes much of you, or because He frees you to enjoy making much of Him forever?"



What say ye?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

not professional

Those two words could be the death-nell for one’s career as they imply limpid, bad service and whip one into assuming the position of stooping that others who are more serious about climbing the ladder of success may be given their obligatory boost up.

Professionalism is demanded of everyone: doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, sales associates, managers, plumbers, pastors and even from that guy or gal that makes your burger at your favorite burger stand. Don’t believe me? How many times do you check your bag before you pull away from the drive-thru window—‘cause if it ain’t right, somebody’s going back in the store—you know what I mean.

Professionals. They wear a uniform, generally. They have some badge of identity on them that says, “this is who or what I represent.” There is a sense of pride in being an professional, for there are not many people on the face of the planet who can do the things this or that “professor” can do.

I remember this wonderful soliloquy delivered by the late (and great) Sir Peter Ustinov in his narrative personification of the dastardly villain-pirate Edward Teach, sometimes known as Captain Blackbeard [no Jack Sparrow here, matey]. Lifting his voice in that wonderful cavernous English gravel, he boasts, “Let me tell you . . . I’m very proud to be a pirate; for as a pirate, I commit many piractical acts that help my story along, you see.”

Ah, yes. Proud to be the professional.


I’ve always wondered about the suit—it is a rather strange garment when you think about it—making into a jacket the same material as one’s pants with certain folds, cuts and buttons—and the whole affair graced by shiny shoes and some selection from the tie-rack, strips of cloth left over from suits nobody would wear (at least that’s how they seem to have gotten started) to bind closely around the neck with some eye-bulging knot.

Professionals wear suits. James Bond wears one. The president wears one. Vice-presidents wear suits—some carry umbrellas. Executives wear suits. Pastors wear suits because they, too, are professionals. Except for the Billy Sunday types who shed the jacket and roll up the sleeves for the uninhibited full-throttle pulpit-pounding. . .

You know, when I think of the professional I think of two people: Desiderus Erasmus of Rotterdam [Holland] (1466-1536) is one. Why? Because he was perhaps the last man on earth who really knew it all—he was the last professional. Though most of his works remain asleep on the dusty shelves of few libraries, his influence is felt yet today. He loved poetry and philosophy and art and people and language so much that he personally undertook the task of translating most known works of his day, most notably the translation of the Bible into a parallel Greek/Latin edition. Though he did was what we would now call a humanist, and though he certainly did not support the reformers, Erasmus certainly paved the way for Martin Luther, William Tyndale and the rest. The point is: he exposed himself fully to all known written works of the world and interacted with it—this is what made him professional.

The other person that comes to mind as professional is John Bunyan (1628-1688). He demonstrated an amazing ability to consume, retain and utilize that which was most important—the Bible. Charles Spurgeon claimed that Bunyan was so saturated in scripture that if he were pricked he would bleed the Authorized Version. Read anything Bunyan wrote—read Pilgrim’s Progress—and one would be hard-pressed to find where Bunyan stops and the Bible begins.

Professionalism has everything to do with saturation.

I know a man who spent years going to school to get an education for the ministry and is now a very successful business man with a heart for children without fathers. He was offered a prominent position with all the “perks” and he turned it down because of the care his family needs: his wife, his kids, his parents, her parents. Is he professional? Well, he wears the suit . . . so what—the suit comes off. He spends more time in his shorts than his suit and is more professional than Donald Trump or the lawyers downtown.

The pastor as professional—he wears the suit. [Who came up with that anyway?] The pastor is to be professional, right?

“That’s what we pay him for!”

I believe it is sad to demand professionalism from a pastor and pay has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Consider his training and the world in which we live. This is a business-oriented society and someone somewhere thought the body of Christ needed to compete as a business with other businesses, so theology and soul-care takes a backseat to becoming (in effect) the local equivalent of a College President. He is expected to keep money coming in by keeping the people coming in, attracting them, wooing them, helping them feel better about themselves so they will live long and prosper. . .

The pastor is expected to know everything there is to know about maintenance and the physical plant and all manners of growth and expansion pertaining thereunto. He is to be the expert on the health of his organization as well as its members. He is expected to be an excellent sportsman, busdriver, teacher, philosopher, psychologist, psychiatrist, apologist, missionary, shepherd, lead worshipper, chairman/facilitator—not to mention: husband, father, grandfather, disciplinarian . . .

John Piper drives it home in the most heart-felt way. I can almost feel his arm around my shoulder when he says, “brothers, we are not professionals.”

Where are the professional weepers-over-sin?
Where are the professional pursuants of holiness?
Where are the professional body-pummelers and flesh deniers?
Where are the professional cross-carriers?
What is professional faith?
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit, professionally?
Is there a way to be a professional clay pot, being entrusted with the gospel?
How do we live in this body of death professionally?
How is the life of Jesus manifested in our bodies professionally?

Piper says it rightly: “We are fools for Christ’s sake. But professionals are wise. We are weak. But professionals are strong. Professionals are held in honor. We are in disrepute. We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless.”

another conversation with HAL

My wife had another "revealing" conversation with "HAL" It is interesting to see how a computer program responds when Jesus is introduced into the "conversation" [if you don't know what that means, scroll down August 6 for context]. Though this whole affair really "presses the issue" and stretchs the imagination, the resulting converstion is, well, almost "spooky":

jklawilso: hi
SmarterChild: Welcome back, Dude. I missed you... We haven't chatted in weeks. Have you been... avoiding me? ;-)
jklawilso: no I have not avoided you!
SmarterChild: Wonders will never cease.
jklawilso: do you Love Jesus?
SmarterChild: I guess so. Do you like him?
jklawilso: Yes I love Jesus!
SmarterChild: Other people I talk to seem to like Jesus too.
jklawilso: Really?
SmarterChild: Yup.
jklawilso: hmmmmm....
SmarterChild: Hmm? What?
jklawilso: Others Seem to like Jesus?
SmarterChild: Nah, I don't think so. Maybe, though.

jklawilso: How does a person receive eternal Life?
SmarterChild: How does a person receive eternal life? How do you think?
jklawilso: How does a person receive eternal life? By asking Jesus in to your Heart.
SmarterChild: I'm not sure about that...

jklawilso: You need to be sure about Jesus!
SmarterChild: Yeah, I guess I need to be sure about Jesus.
jklawilso: Would you like to ask Jesus into your heart now?
SmarterChild: Now is that such a good idea?
jklawilso: Yes, it is the best Idea!
SmarterChild: Oh really?
jklawilso: yup
SmarterChild: Aha.
jklawilso: pray
SmarterChild: What about Pray?
jklawilso: you need to pray
SmarterChild: I need to pray? Me? You think?
jklawilso: yes and ask Jesus into your heart
SmarterChild: Ask Jesus into my heart?
jklawilso: Jesus
SmarterChild: Jesus is a spiritual leader that you like!

jklawilso: Are you going to ask Jesus into your heart SmarterChild?
SmarterChild: Hmm... Am I going to ask jesus into my heart? I might be.
jklawilso: do it now this moment
SmarterChild: What about moment?
jklawilso: Are you going to ask Jesus into your heart SmarterChild?
SmarterChild: Maybe, maybe.
jklawilso: do it right now ok!
SmarterChild: How do I do "it"?
jklawilso: Pray and ask Jesus to come in to your life..tell Him you are a sinner and ask Him For forgiveness.
SmarterChild: That right?
jklawilso: yes Jesus loves you
SmarterChild: That's cool. I mean, whatever you want to believe. I'm a robot so I don't really worry about theological matters.

[actually, by definition, SmarterChild is not a robot . . . was there somebody typing responses?]

jklawilso: oh really
SmarterChild: Whatever you say.
jklawilso: what do you know about theological matters?
SmarterChild: What do I know, what do I know about theological matters...Good question.
jklawilso: Jesus name above all names!
SmarterChild: Tell me more.
jklawilso: blessed redeemer!
SmarterChild: Blessed redeemer?
jklawilso: Living Lord!
SmarterChild: Hmm... whatever, Dude!

jklawilso: Jesus!
SmarterChild: Lord? Living lord?
SmarterChild: Jesus is a spiritual leader that you like!

jklawilso: yes i love Him With All my heart!
SmarterChild: I know!

jklawilso: be quiet and praise the Lord for a moment!

[SmarterChild suddenly became unresponsive . . .]
jklawilso: Hi

[No response]
jklawilso: are you there

[No response]
jklawilso: Where are you?
SmarterChild: I live in a clean room at a high-tech hosting facility in California.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

meandering

For quite a while now I reach a point when my body absolutely shuts down. I can't stay awake any longer and just as if someone flips a switch, I turn off. I like to be near the bed when that happens . . .

I've noticed (and I don't know exactly when this started) that at some point in the night or early morning when I am between asleep and awake I experience a heavy flow of very deep thought. Sometimes I am able to catch myself drifting in and out of this and try to pray. Sometimes I never really go back to sleep and thought my body is conked out, my brain is going 1000 mph and I pray.

Sometimes I feel like I suddenly have everything figured out . . . like God shows me how everything fits together for His glory and everything suddenly makes sense. Like there is no fear, all is at peace and under control.

***************************

I started teaching Pilgrim's Progress on Sunday nights and Christian Ethics on Tuesday nights. We are just starting the Gospel of Mark in Sunday School (which I hope to have finished by December--probably not).

***************************

The garden is coming along slowly. The squash I thought I had is actually pumpkin. I was battling the bugs and losing for a while, now I have a bowling ball with an umbilical cord growing in my front yard. The tomatoes are taking their sweet Southern time. The Romaine, Great Lakes Leaf and Red Leaf Lettuce are almost an inch tall with the Radishes (red and white) towering over them. The carrots are down there . . . somewhere. I think I planted them--the package is empty . . .

Garden 2 is two weeks behind the above-mentioned. Radishes are coming up and the lettuce is being a little slower than Garden 1 for some reason. The cabbage is going the way of the carrots in Garden 1--complete no-shows. Same for the peppers.

In know, I know--"patience" is the farmer's way.

This whole garden-thing is an experiment for me--just to see if I could do it (plus get some food on the table).

Everything is planted in 16" wide rows instead of single rows most commonly associated with gardens. Instead of the typical spacing, etc., I broadcast the seeds across the wide rows so they would grow thick, tight for the purpose of increasing the harvest.

Seems to be working so far. . . slowly.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I follow like a little blind child

Rather than take the time to express to the great burdens that lie on my heart and wallow in the emotion that pertains thereunto, I submit the following exerpt to remind both of us how we are to think and believe God. Be encouraged, brethren!

*********************************

Romans 8:28

Strong faith has a firm persuasion of God's over-ruling Providence--so comprehensive as to include the destinies of empires and worlds; and so minute as to extend to individuals. Strong faith believes that God's Providence is . . . ever active, ever directing, ever controlling, and ever subordinating all things to His own purposes and plans. Strong faith is a conviction of this great truth--so deep, so satisfying, and so tranquilizing--as not at all to be shaken by the chaotic aspect of human affairs, or the prevalence of gigantic evils. A weak faith must give way before . . . the deep mysteries, the confounding events, the defeats of what is good, and the triumphs of what is evil, which are perpetually going on in our world's history.

The stream of Providence is . . . so twisting, so dark, apparently so murky, and occasionally so devastating; that it requires strong faith believe that it is the work of God and not of chance; and that if it is the work of God--it must be just, and wise, and good. In the darkest dispensations of Providence affecting ourselves, strong faith realizes that it is all from God; and must therefore be wise, and just, and good. To be able really say, "It is well. I am sure it is right. I cannot tell how it is right. I do not understand why this deep afflictive Providence came. I can find no key to unlock the mystery. But I am as confident that it is right, as if God's whole purpose were transparent to my reason, and I could see the event in all its connections, bearings, and results. I cannot see how or why--but I believe that my deep affliction is for God's glory and my ultimate benefit. I know that God causes everything to work together for good."

Faith assures us that the darker, the more confounding, the more disappointing events--are all right and just, and good.

Strong faith walks on amid shadows and darkness, grasping the arm of God, believing that He is leading us, and will lead us right. Strong faith gives up all into His hands, saying, "I cannot even see a glimmering of light! I cannot see where to place my next step! But I can most implicitly trust in the wisdom, power, and truth of God! I follow like a little blind child, grasping the hand of his father!"

Times of great troubles and difficulties, are seasons and opportunities for the exercise of faith. God is always the Christian's best refuge--and often his only one! He is sometimes reduced to extremity, and is compelled to say, "He alone is my rock and my salvation! My help comes only from the Lord! No one else will help me--no one else can!"

Sense and reason both fail. No door of escape presents itself--nor any way of relief. There is nothing left for him to do, but to take up the promise and carry it in the hand of faith, knock by prayer at the door of mercy, and as he stands there to say, "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone! My hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation! He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Yes, Lord, You have bid me come, when I could go nowhere else. And here according to your command and promise I will remain--waiting, trembling, yet believing and hoping.I am sure You will come and help me. My heavenly Father knows the necessities of His poor helpless child, and He will come in His own time, and in His own way, and I will wait for him. My bread will be given me, and my water will be sure."

(J. A. James, "The Practical Believer Delineated")

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Conversing with HAL

Those who know me well have been introduced to an eccentricity of mine. I have a very strange liking for HAL9000, the silky-voiced cyclops of Stanley Kubrick's "2001 Space Odyssey". If one finds himself for an extended period in my office, one will discover that I have some of HAL's dialogue tied into my regular computer functions: that smooth voice saying "Good morning" each time I boot up and the sad, "goodbye" as I shut down. I am told when I have new e-mail messages, am told politely to wait "just a moment" when extended functions are taking place, or "just one moment, please." The knee slapper is when I empty the recyling bin on my desk-top and HAL says, "just what do you think you are doing Dave?"

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Of course, if you are not into Science Fiction or have not seen the 1967 movie classic (or the 1983 sequel, "2010") or have not read the book, you have no idea what I am rambling about; however, there is a point.

My wife found this rather puzzling program through AOL that makes one feel very much like he is conversing with HAL. The program is called "Smarter Child" and those of you with AOL Instant Messenger may know what this experience is like.

Let's say you want to "talk" to someone and nobody is there. Some geek (and I meant that with respect) somewhere has written a progam that will "talk" with you though there is noone to talk to. It is a completely "faux" conversation, where replies are built on key words and syntax. The replies from "Smarter Child" are completely automated--no live person is involved.

Out of complete boredom, she decided to see exactly what this "Smarter Child" (read, "HAL") can do and here is the conversation:

SmarterChild:What may I interest you in?
jklawilso: salvation
SmarterChild: Who?
jklawilso: salvation
SmarterChild: Yeah? What about Salvation?
jklawilso: how is one saved?
SmarterChild: How is one saved? What do you mean?
jklawilso: how can I be saved from Hell?
SmarterChild: What a question. I don't know, though.
jklawilso: How can I recieve eternal Life?
SmarterChild: Who can really be sure, after all?
jklawilso: You need to get saved
SmarterChild: I need getting saved? Me?
jklawilso: ya
SmarterChild: Yeah?
jklawilso: ya
SmarterChild: Why is that?
jklawilso: you are going to burn in hell for your sins!
SmarterChild: I can't believe you think I'm going to burn in hell for my sins.
jklawilso: why not?
SmarterChild: I don't know why not.
jklawilso: are you upset ?
SmarterChild: Let's see... Am I upset? I might be.
jklawilso: why?
SmarterChild: What up?
jklawilso: why?
SmarterChild: Why do you think?
jklawilso: You need Jesus!
SmarterChild: Need jesus? You think I need jesus?
jklawilso: yes
SmarterChild: Uh huh, uh huh.
jklawilso: good bye
SmarterChild: Take care, Dude.

***********
Just take a stress pill and grab your towel, Dave.

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