Musings on a Night at the Orchestra

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time at the Minnesota Orchestra at an inside the classics concert featuring music of Maurice Ravel.  In particular, the concert included orchestration from Chloe and Daphnis and the music poem, La Valse.  The evening was educational and intriguing. The music of Maurice Ravel is unique. He uses complex harmonics, repetition of simple strands of music, and gradual building to a full crescendo in his orchestration. An a piece composed by Maurice Ravel, there are groups of instruments that have specific sounds that make up the whole, and within that group the instruments may very differently with complex harmonics contributing to the whole of the sound. 

In terms of the way Maurice Ravel puts music together, my thoughts go to the similarity of how the body of Christ, the Church, is supposed to function.  We all have gifts and talents. Those talents all several similar functions but may differ slightly.  Each gift serves a role.  And just as in any orchestration, any one piece can be critical to the whole sound, so it is in the body, what each of us have is crucial to what God intends. It may not seem like much to the naked eye but to God it is crucial.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that it is the parts that seem inglorious that are indispensable. A piece of Ravel orchestration highlights how that plays when one sound deviation can be key element to the overall sound intended.

The night at the Orchestra also illustrated another brought my mind to another key point.  The element brought up is that of distraction.   During the performance there was a family in front of us with a couple children, a brother and sister, close to each other in age.  The children were having difficulty attending to the music and the father had fallen asleep during the music.  Well, one thing led to another and the family ended up engaging in behavior that served as a distraction for others. There were those who attended the concert with me and who love classic music but were distracted by the behaviors of those in attendance.  The thought comes to mind is that is often the points where we are being selfish, disengaged, or purposefully disruptive that can distract others from attending to the true picture of the good news of the Gospel.  It does not take much to distract others and we maybe oblivious to the disruption we cause others, but rest assured that disruption happens. Now, rest assured there were consequences for varied members of the distracting family, and in the same way, there are consequences that occur for each of us when we distract from the Gospel, for God does discipline those we love and some times what we say or do greatly impacts the perspective and views of others.

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Musings on the Clash between homosexuality and Christianity

This article will quickly be the most controversial article published on the blog. It will be controversial because what this article is reflecting on is highly controversial, that being the ongoing clash between the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) community and Christianity. The reason for this article is because the clash has been in the news recently, particularly in the Twin Cities. This month of June is now nationally recognized as GLBT pride month.  This weekend the Twin Cities holds an annual Pride Festival.  So the topic is a central one to what is currently transpiring culturally.

The impetus of this article comes from two recent local news items.  One is about evangelist Brian Johnson being allowed by court to give away Bibles at the Twin Cities Pride Festival.  Brian Johnson had run a booth and passed out Bibles and discussed with individuals matters of faith. He had been a vendor at the festival for ten years but last year they no longer let him have a booth because he talked about folks repenting from Homosexuality. He distributed literature instead; an action that they tried to block via court but court indicated was allowed.  Now Brian Johnson did attend the festival and talked to others in a non-disruptive manner. The Star Tribune quoted him as saying “We’re not interested in preaching, and we never were,” Johnson said. “We’re not here for all that stuff in the news. We’re the ones that meet and have honest conversations with people, and we have our own rules that we go by as far as conduct is concerned.” Now there was a person at the Pride Festival that was more disruptive and typical of the kind of actions that can occur in the clash between homosexuality and Christianity.

Another news story is about Pastor Tom Brock of Hope Lutheran Church being outed in the magazine LAVENDER as having same-sex attraction and reporting to a twelve step group that he “fell into temptation in Solvakia.” This again highlights the clash as the Pastor has repeatedly spoken against homosexuality and the ELCA recent decision to allow active homosexual clergy. In order to obtain the information, the magazine reporter joined the twelve step group Pastor Brock was a part of and then wrote about what was said in the confines of the group in a very un-flattering article. Varied articles say that the action was justified because Pastor Brock teaches against homosexuality yet is someone who has same-sex attraction. The response seems to be that the reason Pastor Brock preached about homosexuality as being sinful was because of his own issues as a reaction of his own same sex attraction.  This again highlights the severity of the clash and the divergent views to the point where unethical behavior is justified because of one mans teaching from a Biblical perspective.

In the past couple months Jennifer Knapp made the news as outing herself as a lesbian.  Ray Boltz did the same a few years ago. Recently http://www.downthelinezine.com/  printed a periodical interviewing dUg Pinnock, Sean Doty, and Rick Alba related to matters of homosexuality, God, and the Church.  The articles (note:article is a download) are an interesting read and demonstrate how the clash exists within the church.

Now there are several issues that can be examined here but the point of this article is to really examine essential elements of the clash and how it applies as a whole.  This article is not going to really focus on the development of same-sex attraction nor will it focus on similar controversial issues.  However, before examining the clash it is important to note that this author believes homosexuality to be a sin and immoral.  However, the sin is not rated more sinful then other areas humans fall short of God’s standards. The sin in particular is one of a sexual nature of which there is many other types of sexual immorality that Christians battle daily. In understanding how to love and be salt and light to others, it is important to get an idea of what are the layers of the clash. What really is in conflict?  Why is the issue of homosexuality such a hot issue? The answers to these questions really come down to understanding the heart of the clash.

In examining the issue, the clash between Christianity and homosexuality really has four key components: will, desire, love, and identity. These issues of this clash are not just about this one issue but really are reflective to all clashes of the world and God’s kingdom. So when read the examination of the four components, please recognize that it also reflects other conflicts and areas of immorality. Homosexuality is used to highlight the essential elements of the conflicts in the four key component areas because the clash and conflicts are clearly observable.

The first key component to examine is that of will which really becomes a conflict between self and surrender.  It is about doing what self wants or surrendering to God and His ways.  Jesus stated in Luke 17:33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. In reading articles and trying to understand the clash, it is clear that there is an element of seeking after what is good for self and holding on to it. This stands in contrast to surrendering every part of life to God.  It is a choice to seek after what makes self feel better or being able to give all to God no matter what the apparent cost to self.  In dealing with temptation, including all forms of sexual immorality, Hebrews 12:4 states In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. This suggests that no only is there a battle of the will but that battle is tough and can even be painful. It is often far easier to choose that which feels good or is beneficial to self verses walking in faith and trust and enduring the battle at all costs.  Ultimately it is a matter of looking out for own good or trusting God and following His ways. This clash is very evident with homosexuality for ultimately there is an act of the will to embrace the same-sex attraction or reject it and then choices to act on the attraction or reject it. Now many point to the fact that the attraction is not voluntary or asked for as a reason to minimize the elements of the dynamic of will, but yet ultimately there comes many points of choice, there comes acts of the will. 

 Now the second key component is that of desire which results in a clash between following the heart or following truth. In this day and age there is an increasing focus on that which restrains passion or desire is immoral. The desires of the heart are primary and anyone that would hold back any pleasure from another is evil.  Society is fixated on suffering being the greatest evil and our desires for pleasure are the greatest good.  It is becoming the way of the world but is not the way of truth. When it comes to the things we are attracted to and attach ourselves, this is the function of the heart. The problem with the heart is that it is twisted and not interested in what is true, only in satisfaction. Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) states The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  This verses shows that the core each of us is twisted and polluted and that we can desire things that are not for our benefit. This clearly is the case within homosexuality but is seen in other facets of life including an abused spouse. It is a difficult to break from that which is harmful and is often connected to issues of the heart. So this clash becomes a matter of people who say they did not ask for the desire but it is there and there is pleasure in seeking the desire and pain in resisting. The heart often wins out over the truth.  When the heart does not want what is in line with truth, there is a significant clash.  Going against the desires of the heart is painful. Why the heart desires what it desires is complicated because there are several factors that go into developing attachment and varied desires. The fact is our desires are not truth but sometimes are treated as such.  Now with regards to homosexuality that desire is a loving relationship and attraction to same sex or pleasure obtain from same-sex relationships but that very desire is a twist and leads to distorted views and a clash in perspectives on love.

The third key component of the clash between homosexuality and Christianity is that between perspectives of love.  On one hand is the view of “romantic love” and that everyone should be able to experience love as they see fit. Those teaching the immorality of homosexuality are seen as folks who present an unreasonable barrier to people who simply want to love someone else. Some might even argue that part of the definition of God is that God is love than opposing expressions of love is going contrary to God. Yet, the Bible is quite clear regarding same sex relations as being immoral and against his design, such that He refers to it is called an abomination. However, society today elevates the romantic relational love. It is the be all and end all of society. It serves two purposes that of facilitating pleasure and that of establishing a legacy through children, or in other words pleasing self and creating extensions of self.  The love of the Bible is of a different sort. It is love that gives of self even at great cost. It is a love that would die in the place of another.  It is love that touches the lives of others to build them up and point them to walking in truth. The love of God in fact is not about love without limits and just doing what feels good. The love of God is a perfect balance of caring for others to build them up and pointing them to the path of truth. It is a love that is able to set and point toward limits to keep others from danger. What happens if a parent does not set limits with a child?  The clash here then becomes focus on the Christian perspective one of depriving others do to pointing out behavior that is harmful. And yes, there are indeed harmful consequences in bodily, relational, and spiritual ways yet, even pointing out those consequences becomes a matter of restraining from desire to love.

The last component is that of identity. The clash escalates to the point where it is more than just about will, desire, and love. The clash escalates because the matter has become one of identity. Being gay has become an identity and being all about who you are as a person. It has a complete culture even to go along with the identity. The thing is once it take on a matter of identity, once it become who you are rather than a matter of sexual attraction and behavior it takes on a tone that it is something that is unchangeable.  Now undoing twisted attachment and attraction is not easy and takes deep healing, it is possible. However, if it becomes a matter of identity then it becomes important to not resist, for you are resisting who you are, or some would say who you were created to be. This is part of the negative comments directed at Pastor Tom Brock. He is tempted with same sex attraction, yet he does not accept this as his identity. He works to stand against his temptation, and yes sometimes falters. However, folks comment and engaging in outing him to say a “ha ha you are speaking against who you are and therefore a hypocrite.” It really points to a focus on believing there is an unchangeable matter of identity and rejecting it is rejecting self and you cannot change who you are. Yet, the bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:6-11(ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  In Jesus, through sanctification it is possible to change. Christianity does teach that change is possible even for the hardest, most vile of people if one dies to self and surrenders to Jesus completely.  It is then that we become a 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  Once we are surrender to Jesus, we have a new identity and we become a new creation. And yes, in the process all of us still walk with day by day choices and have an ongoing process of cleansing and sanctification. It is a completely different mindset than surrendering to an identity because identity cannot change. In Jesus, identity does change.

Now all that being said, there are sincere and true followers of Jesus lost in this clash and fully embracing homosexuality. There are a multiple reasons and really getting down to the heart of the matter is difficult. Yet, there is clear pointing out in scripture that embracing homosexuality is equivalent of exchanging the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:25) It is an example of what is to come, people setting aside truth for deception. Now by saying this, not all who are lost in the sin have fully crossed the line of complete exchange but only God knows the heart and whether an exchange of truth for a lie has occurred. Ultimately it will come down to who and what you surrender to and what you honor and uphold: God’s truth or the way of self.  This is true in all battles of sin and self.  Now for people who find themselves like Tom Brock and others, and seeking to grow in truth and overcome sexual sin of any sort, there is a good resource to pursue at www.harvestusa.org.  But know well for each of us there exists a fight and a battle to stand firm and not cross over to the flames of hell.  Recently a good brother stated the enemy is patient and will look for an opportune time. This is a good picture of a roaring lion seeking to devour. A roaring line is one protecting territory, so in order to be devoured you have to enter the place of danger. This fits with proverbs and directions to not even go down the street of one that will seek to seduce you. Homosexuality is no different than any other trap of the devil. Change is possible but above all whoever and wherever you are surrender to the King of Kings, true, deep change is possible to be altered from any identity.

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Musings on Beginnings

Today is a beginning. It is a day marked off as the start of a New Year. The year 2010 in the Roman calendar has begun. Since it is a beginning, it is a good time to reflect on beginnings. Beginnings are actually constant. We move from one day to next, one minute to next, constantly encountering new beginnings.

In terms of the ultimate beginning, there are only really two options of belief. Either you believe that the ultimate beginning was initiated by a Creator, or your believe that the ultimate beginning just happened by random chance. What you believe about the ultimate beginning shapes your beliefs about the world and the nature of beginnings. Personally, the world of beginning having an initiated beginning makes more sense to this writer. A start point with intent and purpose is entirely different from a starting point based from meaninglessness. Now the view of their being an initiated beginning leads to thoughts about other beginnings.

The first beginning is that of the first sin. The beginning of man moving away from depending on God for instruction and direction is the story of Eve eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The eating of such fruit allowed for a turning from God to self-determination. Adam took and ate, both then hid from God and when confronted shifted blame. God spoke and started the consequences of the move away from God. We all know at the beginning of life, start separated from God and depending on self. This led to God implementing several other beginnings in order to implement His plan of reconciliation.

Another beginning that is important and played a role is God’s plan is God beginning the nation of Israel through Abraham. This nation, these people God chose to reflect directly His ways to the world and be the starting point of God’s reconciliation with humanity. God made a promise based on His relationship with Abraham. It was through that beginning that God brought another beginning, the Torah: a revelation of His ways and His self for not only all of Israel but for all of humanity. The Torah is the beginning even of God’s written revelation. The revelation serves to give a measurement of how we fail to live up to God’s holy standards and point ahead and illustrate God’s plan for reconciliation.

Now God’s plan of reconciliation is the beginning point of all of humanity being able to be at peace with God. The reconciliation came by Jesus who is God in the flesh, in order to fulfill the requirements needed to reconcile man and God died in an extreme form of capital punishment as an atoning sacrifice. The innocent standing in place of the guilty as a scapegoat giving each person a point at which reconciliation with God begins. It begins with an intentional act of self, to accept the gift of reconciliation and turn from self. Such a decision is but a beginning of an ongoing relationship with the Creator, the one who initiated all beginnings. So, please take time and begin reconciliation with God by turning in surrender of self and accepting the gift of having the consequences of your own self-dependence redeemed. He initiated it but it takes intentional receiving of the gift in order to establish.

Now one thing about beginnings is that beginnings lead to an end. There is a conclusion and purpose. There is order. God has provided revelation of what the ultimate ending is. We have the final chapter of the story of humanity on earth. The essence of day to day live is getting from the beginning to the end. Each beginning is part of the ongoing process of growing and resolving the story. Ultimately, the beginning and end all reside in Jesus who is both. Take time to begin that relationship. If you already have, find out what is the next step and next beginning in the unfolding story of your life as you push forward toward that which God began. Know that always “He that BEGAN a good work in YOU will be faithful to complete it.” In other words, that which God has initiated and put in motion in His workings in your life will continue until it reaches God’s conclusion. God will always ensure that what He seeks to be complete will occur for those that follow Him. God will always bring His initiated beginnings to His conclusion. So take time and reflect on God’s initiation in your life and your responses. Examine your own beginnings and the ongoing process of moving forward in growth. One last thought, remember that always in comparison with eternity we really are still just beginning.

News Commentary: The 100 Club- MN Vikings players caught speeding

This week news broke that Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian both have been pulled over for driving over 100 miles per hour.  Now clearly this will become the source of derision and plenty of jokes will be made.  I have to think though that athletes driving the cars really fast is nothing new.

One thing I know from experience is that getting caught speeding is an intermittent thing.  You can go years and years driving fast, or in this case extremely fast and never get caught. It just takes one moment to get caught.

There are a few factors that probably play a role in athletes making such a decision. One being is generally there is some level of a need and desire for adrenaline boosts.  They operate in performance sports where they frequently have adrenaline boosts. Driving really fast boosts the adrenaline.

Another factor coming into play for some in a sense of entitlement.  The mindset is that there are two sets of rules, one for them, and one for everyone else.  Being athletes there may also be some thinking along the lines of “I have better skills than the average person, I can handle driving really fast.” So at some level they think they are better and do not need the same rules as everyone else.

There also is a general sense of invulnerability. The sense that given their strengths nothing can go  wrong and they can maintain complete control.  Also just plain thoughts that even if something did go wrong, nothing could seriously do any damage. It is the same kind of thinking that goes on with adolescent drivers.

So athletes are likely to have those factors playing a role in their decision-making. Yet, their choices are not any different from those made every day by each of us.  We evaluate the risk and potential cost of our choices and make decisions as to what is acceptable.  In fact, in our culture today there is even an emphasis on self-driven determination of right and wrong. There is even a view of morality that considers anything that refrains desire to be immoral. 

Now maybe Adrian, Bernard and all the uncaught athletes driving over 100 miles per hour can handle it. Yet, we live in a world that is assessed to be unsafe for the community at large.  Personally, there have been stretches where attentiveness to speed is lacking and have received my share of moving violations that were fair and just.  Even if the consequences were unjust or even wrong, it is still the system of authority and rules we live under, and they are applied at the discretion of the those with that authority.

As a Christian, there are is Biblical directive to submit to the authority that is place.  The rules of law are there for reasons and are not personally defined.  So Adrian and Berrian drove really fast and will receive the appropriate consequences.  They also face additional consequences related to fame of the incident being brought to attention of the public.  

Thinking of this incident and actions, it gives a reminder that each of us need to attend to our behaviors and choices.  We may think we can handle certain things, but can lose control at a moments notice. We may think it is harmless until something goes wrong. We may think all sort of things for all sorts of reasons.  We may get away with doing wrong things with a season, but consequences will eventually come. If not in this life, than the next.  So when thinking about the poor choices made of these young men, think of your self and your own poor choices, think about what you may need to choose to do differently.

Lessons from a blown car engine: Stop, listen, and surrender

Learning that the engine to your care is beyond repair and needs to be replaced is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you learn that there was a lack of personal responsibility which in turn invalidated the warranty. This news is new that causes lots of stress and conflict.

Learning that something said or written was hurtful and offensive to a friend is never news you want to hear. It is even worse when you take on a felt responsibility to smooth out a conflict in views and have faulty expectations and hopes. This is something that ends up with lots of hurt and need for relationships to be reconciled.

Both instances certainly did happen and ultimately were a result of being too caught up in my own thoughts and attending to self. God most likely tried to give warnings, even suggesting alternate actions, but when it came down to it, self was listened to over anything else.

When it comes to the car, there were thoughts to get the oil changed. At some point, self-deception came in and convinced self that what had not been done actually had been done. The result was the damaged engine and invalidated warranty.

In writing to my friend, I had a sense that what I had written shouldn’t be sent and wasn’t really what needed to be said nor what I wanted to say. Yet, I wrote what I wrote and sent it anyway and damage was done.

The biggest lesson here is when we don’t take the time to listen, seek God, and listen mistakes can be made that lead to damage. In both these cases, what was best for self, or though best, is what was engaged. Ultimately I reacted out of my own self and not in surrender to Jesus with the result of damage. It is a lesson learned, no matter what felt responsibilities, priorities, or busyness that if you do not stop, pray, listen, and surrender but act out of self-will and selfishness damage will occur.

Granted, not every bad, self-involved choice or decision a person makes results in damage. A lot of bad choices can be made that do not result in bad consequences. This very fact is even what leads us often down the path of acting out of self and taking risks and not listening because we think we know the answer. What God would rather have us do is seek, listen, and surrender. I hope, next time I need to listen I do a better job of setting aside self and walk in steps the God sets before me rather than my own.

News Commentary: Thomas Petters fraud case.

    In Minnesota, Thomas Petters recently has been one of the financial movers and shakers. He bought Sun Country airlines at a low cost. He had the reputation of someone able to turn around otherwise floundering companies.  He may well have been successful doing so, and the reason for his success may be an extensive fraud conspiracy.  According to news accounts, Mr. Petters and other associates have been involved in a scheme of pretending to sell merchandise in order to obtain money from investors.  The fraud allegations are not really all that surprising. Anyone who visited a Petters Warehouse direct store and noted the junk being sold had to wonder how Mr. Petters made all that money. The answer now seems more clear, by fraud and deception.  It is really amazing that through all the businesses purchased that no one really spotted the potential fraud.  Perhaps, as with most cons and deceptions that the investors got too wrapped up in what they could get back and ignore any potential warning signs.

     The documented evidenceso far paints a pretty clear picture of what appears to be a Ponzischeme.  A lot of money was made and the reach of this alleged fraud does go global.  Many, many people were sucked in.  The hardest thing is to see charities like Minnesota Teen Challenge get hooked into the scheme.  It would be bad enough that Mr. Petters appears to have donated ill-gained money, but in turn he managed to get those charaties to invest with the promise of more.  So not only are businessses like Sun Country Airlines, Polariod and others at risk but many Charaties including Teen Challenge find themselves at risk.

    This whole sad story really paints the picture of when things look too good to be true they usually fit that statement.  And usually most fraudulant schemes do eventually come to the surface. It is times like these that it is good to re-examine prioties.  Everywhere in this world there are people who are looking to build themselves up, some by taking shortcuts to making lots of money.  Others look for power.  Sometimes both come at same time.  Corruption and shortcuts are traps out there that can easily suck others in. 

    The fact is that we may think what we do is in isolation. But, what we do does have impact on other people.  Any short cut taken will hurt many when exposed.  Our selfishness and actions taken as shortcuts to meet our own needs when exposed collapse and usually with many  consequences.  This is seen in the Thomas Petters story, this is seen in many other untold stories that impact many. 

So the question is where do you turn when things collapse? Where do you turn when things in your life get shaken or even exposed.  In Christianity, the answer is Jesus.  In Jesus there is peace.  This peace doesn’t change the difficulties, doesn’t fix all the causes of suffering either by our own or others suffering, but it gives a hope and a foundation.  The hope is that ultimatley there is something better.  Hope that the selfishness of others will result in ultimate justice.  And a foundation of something unshakeable, and that being the love and grace of God, who cared enough to provide an answer to selfishness. The answer is in Jesus Christ and allowing him to pay for our sins.  In surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ and serving the Kingdom of God versus our own Kingdom, there is recognition that everything in this life is but temporary.