Saturday, March 22, 2008

It is a matter of the Right Question

I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they cannot believe in a God who would allow this and that to happen. Or, I cannot believe in a God that would allow some people into heaven and condemn others to hell. Or, how can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world? Or, how can I believe in a God that would allow little babies to go to hell? My answer is always that you are asking the WRONG question.

It is a matter of perspective and worldview, NOT a matter of God’s goodness or existence. Let me lead you through an exercise.

A guy falls in love with a girl but the girl’s parents won’t let him date her. Are the parents being unfair? Should the guy date her anyway? What if I told you that the guy was 50 and the girl was 13? Are the parents being unfair? Should the guy date her anyway? What if they met online and the 13 year old girl was actually a 45 year old cop pretending to be 13 in order to catch a deviant 50 year old? Should they arrange a meeting to arrest the guy?

How can you really answer the questions or even ASK the right questions when you don’t know the facts behind it. All you have is one perspective, only one view. That is the way it is with the matter of God and his goodness. You ask how can a good God allow anyone to go to hell, how can there be bad in the world if God is good? Let me give you different perspective.

God created good and part of that good creation is a creature with the freedom to choose to do good and love God OR chose to do bad and hate God. Unfortunately, to the pain of the creator, the creature chose BAD and to not love God at all. The good creation grew into a dark and dim place with the creatures constantly fighting and hurting each other until EVERY action and EVERY thought was evil all the time and darkness enveloped the good like death. Into this land of the living darkness steps goodness and light in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus grabs the hand of many of the living dead and pulls them into the light, sometimes kicking and screaming, but irresistibly, inevitably some come into the light.

You ask: How can a good God allow bad? But the real question should be: How can a good God stand to save even one of us when we are all dead, ugly, nasty and spitting in his face?

You ask: How can there be evil in the world if there is a good God? But the real question should be: How can there be ANY GOODNESS in this world that is so corrupted by these creatures?

You ask: How could a good God allow this to happen to me? But the real question should be: Why should I even think that anything will turn out good when I do such bad things?

You ask: How could a good God allow anyone to go to hell? But the real question should be: Why would God choose to pull any of us out of the hell we created for ourselves?
As we celebrate Easter wrap your mind around the fact that Jesus stepped into hell itself to grab his chosen people from the self-imposed darkness and death, he bore the pain, insults, abuse and even death so that many will be able to walk in the light of life again. THAT is not just a good God, that is a GREAT GOD!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The PERFECT Hamburger!

My wife buys the burgers from our local grocery store and they are thin and frozen but something magical happens when I throw them on the grill. They thaw, then sizzle, and sometimes catch fire if there is too much fat in them but it really doesn’t matter. I would complain and send back that burger if it came to me in a restaurant but coming off my grill it is the PERFECT hamburger.

I know people who spend a lot of time with the hamburger itself by putting secret ingredients into the raw ground beef, mashing it together into a thick burger, and THEN slapping it on the grill. Some consider grill time the key by perfectly flipping it at the right time, creating a cross pattern on the burger and just the right amount of brown to pink. Others believe it is the type of grill itself that makes the perfect burger: charcoal vs. gas. Others now want turkey-burgers or veggie-burgers.

Popular Science Magazine now has the perfect hamburger for you. The Bun is vitamin enriched through genetically “enhancing” the wheat gene. The Bacon you might want to throw on it now can be grown in a dish by adding glucose and amino acids to pig stem cells. The cheese now comes from engineered cows and by adding an enzyme to the cheese that takes out a bitter taste. The beef is from enhanced steers is leaner and tastier. The ketchup is from tomatoes that are engineered to be 10% sweeter. Even the lettuce is packed with high vitamin C content by combining it with a rat gene that is a vitamin C maker. (Yea, you read that right, a RAT gene in our lettuce). They call this the perfect hamburger.

Okay, now I don’t have a problem with genetic engineering like a lot of people do. In fact we have been doing it for decades and the effects on the population has not been Frankensteinish, the effects have been more production for farmers, cheaper but better for you food, food that will last longer, starving countries now having a crop to grow in their climates, and many other benefits. But the perfect hamburger has nothing to do with its genetic makeup. The perfect hamburger has more to do with the people you share it with than with its condiments.

The perfect hamburger can be burned at the edges, thin, store-bought, and even dropped on the ground, brushed off, and put back on the grill again to have the bugs burned off it. The perfect hamburger is the one you share with friends and family in a back yard party, in a tail-gate party, or sitting in front of the TV watching American Idol together. The perfect hamburger is best served with a heavy dose of love and acceptance, the BEST kind of genetics.

Friday, March 14, 2008

There is Something about the Sun

The Sun has come back out in Las Vegas and I love it. There is something about the sun.

The sun draws me back to the carefree days of summer on the farm in Indiana. Lying down on the grass with a new batch of puppies, rolling around and around down the slight decline in our yard getting covered in the newly mowed and fresh smelling clippings.

The Sun reminds me of pulling our tractor up to the deep end of the pool and raising its bucket high to form a high dive for us scrawny, pre-teen, crazy boys. We pretended to be Olympic high jumpers as we laid a garden hose across the pool to form the high bar and in slow motion we did the Fosbury Flop in perfect form. We challenged each other to see how many lengths of the pool could be swum on one breath. Then, breathless, we would lie in the sun and soak in the rays.

The Sun reminds me of driving the “old time” tractors. Not those new-fangled ones with cabs, CD playing stereos, and air conditioning but the ones out in the sun, where I would sit at the edge of the seat so my tan would not have a “farmers-tan” line from the back of the seat; where I was dust covered from the rich Indiana soil sticking to my suntan lotion and the whitest thing on me was the teeth exposed by my smile.

The Sun reminds me of my in-law’s cottage with family close by, little kids in little lifejackets playing in the shallows following fish in the sun sparkled water, the smell of hotdogs or hamburgers on the grill, and boats going by pulling multicolored skiers.

The Sun shining on my face reminds me of good times and a blessed life. The Sun shining tells me of smiles on farmer’s faces as it feeds their crops. The Sun smells of spring and new life. The Sun fills the earth with the warmth of its creator as if God himself is shining his smile across the world, moving carefully, chasing away shadows and darkness, and reminding us every day of his goodness and attention.
There is something about the Sun. In fact, what am I doing here in front of my computer? Sunshine, here I come, again, it’ time to play hooky.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Platonic Body Slam

Have you ever gotten yourself into a philosophical rut? I get into those quite often. This is not the kind of rut where you simply do the same thing over and over again and cannot seem to get out of it. This is the kind of rut where the there are two equal and opposite sides that you keep bouncing around in and cannot seem to get out. Back on the farm after a good hard rain you would drive out into the fields and unknowingly create ruts in the soft dirt. The dirt bakes in the sun and suddenly you find you have no other options but bouncing around in the sun baked ruts even though you try to break out you end up back in the same place. An existential rut is the same thing.

In early Greek, pre-Socratic times there was a guy named Heraclitus (500 BC ish) who taught that “whatever is, is becoming.” His nemesis was another Greek philosopher called Parmenides who taught that “whatever is, is.” These two greats of their day did battle arguing opposite philosophies. Parmenides yelled that things have always been and always will be the same, there is nothing new under the sun. While Heraclitus yelled back that EVERYTHING changes, every time you breathe or move you are changing and changing the world around you. They fought and came to no conclusion in the minds of the people that heard them so the people threw up their hands and dropped all this philosophy junk like so much verbal trash. They thought that if the two greatest minds of our age cannot agree then we don’t have a chance and they dropped into a philosophical malaise, or rut, and did whatever they wanted. It wasn’t until Socrates, and really Plato came along did this quandary get solved and people started listening to philosophers again. Throughout history when two equal and opposing ideas did battle for an extended period of time the “masses” tended toward malaise and inaction. A philosophical rut.

Today we have mental ruts too. In simple terms your parents tell you one thing is right and just and true and the world and friends tell you the opposite is so you dissolve into a philosophical rut. You don’t know which is true, which to believe, which to make happy so you just ignore the whole argument and do what you want. In more difficult terms the world and your own body tells you one thing but your parents, your church, your religion tells you that thing is wrong, evil or just not good for you. You get tired of the battle so you just pull back, stay away from parents, church, friends and just sit at the bottle of your rut hoping the problem will just go away.

What you need is a Platonic body slam. (That is a joke for all the philosophers out there who knew that Plato was his professional wrestlers name, his real name was Aristocles) We something to wake us up and getting thinking NEW THOUGHTS; or something that will challenge us with new ideas. Take a trip. Read a totally different book. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or mission. Take a college level class in something totally unrelated to your field. Find a different way home from work, longer but more scenic. Climb a mountain. Eat raw fish.

I stole this first from John Maxwell, who stole it from someone else: A Play in Four Acts.
Act 1: I walk down a street, I see a hole but I fall in it, I get out and go on my way.
Act 2: I walk down a street, I see the hole and attempt to get around it but I fall in, it is harder to get out but I finally manage and go on my way.
Act 3: I walk down a street; I see the hole and attempt to get around it, this time I almost make it but I fall in, this time I need help getting out and I go on my way.
Act 4: I walk down a different street.