Daily Archives: February 24, 2007

Sperm, scapegoats, traditions and thought-life, part 2

Yesterday I had an extended chat with a gentlemen who finds himself in a predicament. A “simple deacon” (his words) in a Baptist church, he was thrown into a morass that is so horrendous that it is affecting his health. The chairman of the deacons was caught in a child pornography sting two weeks ago soliciting what he thought was a 14 year old girl for sex. Yikes! Made the front page of the local paper and even some of the larger state papers. He may even end up on tv on NBC’s To Catch a Predator. Oops! Not good, right? It gets worse.

The church is reeling. Intense public scrutiny. The inevitable whispering and sidelong glances. Out of the blue, the husband of the choir director runs off with his secretary! Bummer! Talk about a one-two punch.

Now here is where my “simple deacon” enters the picture. He is tapped as the new chairman of the deacons! There is no pastor — he’d left town under less than optimum conditions a short time prior. So my deacon friend now has to step in to deal with this catastrophe and he has nothing to draw on other than his “heritage.” Talk about being at the wrong place at the right time . . .

His blood pressure is sky-high, his cholesterol is at dangerous levels, his blood sugar is in diabetic range, he’s exhausted, unable to think clearly or perform at work — a real basket case. He doesn’t know what to do because his “Baptist tradition” (his words) gives him no real direction.

While not the same thing Jesus is referring to in Mark 7, it does illustrate the point. Tradition can be nice at a holiday, but in real life it sucks! When life comes rushing in, tsunami-style, kicking you between the legs, wiping out everything that is familiar to you, leaving you ridden hard and put away wet, tradition is worthless. What you need at that moment is the calm in the middle of the storm, the Water-Walker, the Storm-Stopper, the World-Maker.

“These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it.”

And then life happens . . . 

The one thing that reading through the Word each year has taught me is that no matter how bad it gets, the same Being who is concerned about me not eating food that might make me sick (e.g., Leviticus) is extremely concerned that I know that I am able to run to Him, crawl up in His lap and hold Him tight when everything around me begins to crumble. What the deacons before me might have done doesn’t help; what He can do, will.

Even more to the point, the reading in Psalm (40:17) today:

the Lord is thinking about me right now. [emphasis mine, of course]

Don’t tell me this stuff is boring. No more so than parts of your life are rather monotonous, uninteresting and boring. But when the brown stuff hits the whirling blades, in your life as well as what you find in the Word, it becomes maddeningly interesting!

Sperm, scapegoats, traditions and thought-life, part 1

Today found me in Leviticus 15-16, Mark 7 and Psalm 40 — strange combination on the surface.

Genital discharge, menstrual periods, intercourse (I’m not making this up) and putting them all together (such as monkeying around while the woman is having her period) were the topics of discussion in Leviticus. Quite a change from the previous chapters! But, in the midst of all this “wild” stuff, the concept of the scapegoat appears for the first time in history. Have I gotten your attention? Go read the section!

Flipping to Mark 7, I came across the Jesus Lord really getting bent out of shape over traditions. Now, even Jesus notes that traditions aren’t evil or wrong, in and of themselves. They can even be beneficial at helping you make a connection with past spiritual events and thus enhance your current walk and future battles. As the wise sage notes, “he who does not study history is bound to repeat it.” The slant he takes at this juncture, however, is in an oppposite direction.

He pulls a passage out of Isaiah and states: “These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.” [SIDENOTE: if you do not own a copy of The Message translation, get one! It can radically change the way you've always read and understood what the Word is saying!]

Do you get the gist of what he’s saying? He slams the substitution of tradition over obedience, service and worship. Not for the simple sake of slamming it. It can totally substitute “ditching God’s command” for what is comfortable. He really gets nasty later in the chapter when his disciples mention that they didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Jesus asks: “Are you being willfully stupid?” He makes the point that what you eat has no bearing whatsoever on who you are before him. It’s what’s in your head or your heart that screws you up. The older 1994 NLT version uses the term “thought-life” to describe what defiles a person, as opposed to “it is what comes from inside that defiles you.” I really like “thought-life;” it’s not a one time affair, it’s what is continually rolling around in there that defines who you are — it’s your life, not just some random thoughts.

Interesting stuff, yes, but you’ve got to ask the question: “so?”

Which brings us to Part 2 . . .

It’s hard to fix stupid, especially when it’s you

Ever felt stupid?

A rare sensation for me (hehehe :) ), yesterday I actually experienced it! An interesting feeling indeed.

Phone rings. I answer. “Hello.”

Heavily accented voice that is almost Indian on the other end asks to speak to me in English. I’m sure I recognize the voice as a Brasilian friend, so I respond in Portuguese: “Fala rapaz!”

Caller: “Sir, I do not understand what you are saying.”

Me: “Rapaz, sou eu mesmo falando!”

Caller: “Sir, do you speak English?”

Me: “Cara, o que está errado contigo?”

Caller: “Sir, if you can’t speak English, may I speak with your wife?”

Me, beginning to get really tickled and laughing: “Isto é bom! Você está fingindo bem!”

Caller, in a rude, condescending tone: “Sir, if you can’t speak English, I’ll have someone call you back who can speak Spanish!”

Me, realizing the caller isn’t who I thought, but irritated by his tone: “I speak English perfectly well and I resent your tone! And it was Portuguese, not Spanish.”

Caller, not realizing that I’m now speaking English: “Sir, since it is obvious that you cannot understand what I’m saying and are unable to communicate with me, goodbye!”

Hangs up on me.

Me: “Aargh!”

Caller ID: “Unavailable.”