Get Your Elbows Off The Table!

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized
      How does art influence real life? Here is a great example:
Image

      Has your mother ever told you to “Get your elbows off the table!”
If you’re like me, you probably learned to obey quickly or suffer the consequences!… but I always wondered, what is the big deal about elbows on the table? Who said that it was ill-mannered in the first place?
      Would you like to know who started it?
     … Leonardo Da Vinci.
      That’s right… the Mona Lisa dude started it. He didn’t mean to… but it is still his fault. Yes, he painted the Mona Lisa, sculpted David and envisioned things that were hundreds of years ahead of their time.
      He also painted among his many masterpieces a painting called The Last Supper which depicted Jesus and his disciples having one last meal together before Jesus faced his arrest and crucifixion. Well, in this painting, there is one disciple that has his elbow on the table. Can you guess which one? That’s right. Judas.
      So… based only on the artwork of Leonardo Da Vinci, a tradition was formed that has been passed down through the generations that if you have your elbow on the table, you are identifying with Judas. So, we get to hear things like, “Get your elbows off that table before I knock you into next week!”
      We know we are not supposed to do it, but many of us have had no idea why or where it came from. Well… now you know, but you may be asking, “What does this have to do with me or the price of tea in china?” Glad you asked:
      The things that we do in life… our work ethic, the words we say to our children, etc… I think we can all agree that it affects our family for generations. If we are a churched family verses an un-churched family, we will see different attitudes and behaviors because of the way we were brought up. The atmosphere of our development, good or bad, affects us. Subsequently, the atmosphere that we embrace or reflect will affect all around us.
      What about the art you enjoy? How are you affected by that? Maybe you think it doesn’t affect you at all, but I know that the popular music of every generation begins to shift and alter that generation’s thoughts and beliefs. Look at the music of the late sixties, The Beatles, Elvis… their songs shifted their generation. There is power in music.
      So how about music that praises God? It shifts the atmosphere to one that God can inhabit… and that His enemies must flee! It gives you the right mindset for worship and puts you in a great place to hear from God.
      Does art influence reality? Without question! So allow yourself to be influenced by art that God can inhabit!
      And while you’re at it… get your elbows off that table!… and lift your hands in worship to our God!

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Here is a photo of a Grunow All Wave Superheterodyne radio from the mid 1930’s. My dad has one almost identical to the one seen here.

I remember the day my dad bought that radio. I was maybe twelve years old when he called me and said, “Go get in the truck. We’ve gotta go pick something up.”

It was summertime and I remember riding in his 1966 Ford pickup out into a rural part of Scottsboro that I had never been before. We had the vent windows pushed out, allowing the wind to cool us without blasting us out like a full blown rolled down window will do. (Vent windows were awesome!)

We arrived at our destination and walked out to an old shed where a man was waiting for us. Into the shed we went and followed the man through a maze of mostly just old junk before turning the corner and seeing the radio. Dad handed him some money and the two of us carried it back to the truck, loaded it and headed home.

I thought the radio was neat, but I was more interested in modern technology… like cable tv! The cable company had just ran the service through our neighborhood and after having three channels on the antenna, we now had about thirty! I couldn’t believe there were thirty channels on the tv! We’re talking about 1978 here; My brother had an Atari video game with a joystick and one red button and we had thirty channels on the tv!

When we got it home, I helped dad carry the radio into the house and place it next to his bed. He plugged it in and… just as the man promised, it lit up and began to crackle. The dial was interesting. It lit up white, green and red and had different bands you could adjust the needle to and pick up the police band, regular radio broadcasts… and one of them allowed you to select what country you were interested in tuning in to!

“Dad, does this thing really pick up other countries?” I asked, suddenly a little more interested in ancient technology.

“That’s what it says… I guess we’ll find out soon enough.” He answered.

Dad left the room and came back with a small piece of cable, a small metal post and some antenna wire.

“I’m gonna go under the house. You stay here and listen for me.” He handed me the cable and the antenna wire. “There’s a hole drilled in the floor right here behind the radio. When I call you, thread that cable down in the hole to me.”

A few minutes later, he called and I fed the cable down. “Now send one end of the antenna wire,” he said and I poked the wire down in the hole, letting it slip through my loose grip as he pulled the slack.

A little later, he came back to the radio and started working at the back of the radio.

“What are you doing, dad?”

“I went under the house and drove that metal post into the ground under the floor here and wrapped the metal cable around it and now I am hooking it to the ground post on this radio.”

“Why do you have to do that?”

“Well, I don’t guess you have to, but it will protect it from lightning and probably make it work better.” He worked silently as I watched for a minute more and then said, “Now, I’m gonna connect the antenna wires,” pointing to where they connected. “Then I’m gonna run the other end up to the tv antenna and see what all we can pick up.”

Well, we didn’t need it for tv anymore, so… why not.

Dad took his ladder, climbed up on the roof and connected the wire while I just stood and watched. Then, we went back inside to see if the old Grunow had any life in it.

Dad turned the switch, the lights came on and the crackle was now a low, warm tone. Dad turned all the knobs and dials and… unbelievable to me, picked up stations in several foreign languages, ham radio operators, local country radio stations… I was amazed! It had WAY more than thirty channels and I was hooked on it for the next several hours, slowly turning the dial and checking out what all was coming  at us over the air. It was amazing!

I thought about that radio the other day and couldn’t shake the thought that before we got it, all of those signals were coming at us already, but we had no way of listening to them. It seemed to me to represent our relationship with God.

God is speaking, but are we listening? Are we plugged into the power source of Jesus like the radio was plugged into the wall? Are we grounded in the truth of his word like that steel cable? Can we survive a lightning strike without it? Do we lift our hands in worship to him like that antenna stretched out to the sky, trying to capture the signal? Are we even tuned to the right station to enable us to hear what He is saying to us?

There are a lot of signals out there… There are a lot more than thirty channels on the cable; there are a lot of schools of thought; there are many pairs of itching ears… searching for something new under the sun… but I think deep down we all know, the old way is better.

Let’s tune in to God.

Hello, I’m Bob the Tomato…

Fans of Veggietales will not need any explanation as to who Bob the Tomato is, but everyone will probably be wondering why I would post something along these lines. Well, here goes!

A couple of years ago, I had a dream.  In this dream, I was talking to someone at our church about how much we had grown spiritually as a body and the conversation went as follows:

Friend –     “You know, I was just thinking how God has planted us all here together and, though the church has been in its infancy and struggling the past couple of years, I can see how we are all finally beginning to take root!”

Me –           “You really think so?”

Friend –    “Absolutely! Just look at how many of us have been searching for our place and matured and put down our roots and really are starting to blossom. Who knows what kinds of flowers God has planted each of us to be.”

Me-           “Yeah, I guess you’re right!” I said, smiling.

Just then, my “friend” had a change of expression. He or she seemed to be reeling, thinking maybe he/she had said too much, The happiness faded into a smuggness. The facial expression became one of contempt as he/she said, “Well, what kind of flower do you think you are?”

I didn’t even think about my answer. I said, “Oh, I’m not a flower… I am a tomato plant!”

It didn’t register with me until a while later when I was at church (for real this time) and told a different friend (not the one in the dream!) about what I had dreamt. Rather than a smug or condemning look, this friend smiled and said, “You know, most people think that a tomato is a vegetable, but it’s really a fruit.”

When you think about it, a tomato grows on a vine, like a grape… it even has a skin like a grape, so I guess it is fruity, but it sure feels like a vegetable. A few weeks back I even posted this on my facebook status: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing NOT to put one in the fruit salad!”

So, what was the problem with the friend in the dream? I mean, does everyone have to be a flower? If so, I am in trouble. Tomato plants do have little yellow flowers on them for a season, but if that little yellow flower is compared to a rose… well, guess who loses? I’m glad that there are flower gardens, vineyards, orchards, and vegetable gardens that bear the types of “fruit” that they are designed for. Hopefully, nobody ever expects an acorn to produce a watermelon!

So, in the world of fruits and vegetables, do you think the vegetables say, “Hey fruits! He’s supposed to be one of you… you guys take him!” Do the fruits call back, “No, he is clearly a vegetable, you guys keep him over there!”  Does it really matter? Shouldn’t the tomato, having no say in the matter, just be the best tomato it can be?

Here’s another thought: Not everybody likes tomatoes. I know, what a terrible thought! How could anyone not like tomatoes. They are delicious… that is just my opinion and everyone is entitled to share the same opinion as me!!

What I get out of the dream the most is that maybe I can be a little bit of it all. Sometimes a tomato has flowers… a tomato sure is good on a hamburger or in that garden salad… or it can be, strictly speaking, a high faluting fruit by pedigree and scientific classification if it so chooses!

So, to sum it all up… Hi, I’m Bob the tomato. I’m a flower, a fruit and a vegetable: Maybe I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength!

What say you?

Hummingbird Christianity

Posted: February 9, 2011 in The Word

       Have you ever watched a hummingbird? I have always been amazed by their ability to hover in one spot while they drink the nectar out of flowers. I mean, other birds can’t do that! They can fly from point A to point B (which is amazing enough in and of itself!), but they can’t hover.

       Do you know how fast a hummingbird has to flat it’s wings to achieve this? 55 times per second…

       I’ll say it again…  55 – times – per – second!

       That is a lot of flapping. Just think of that effort. I just tried to flap my arms 55 times a minute and failed miserably! Of course, God didn’t design me to flap my arms like a hummingbird. If I take a flying leap off the roof, there had better be a group of firemen holding that trampoline looking thing they use to catch people or else I’m gonna be a greasy spot no matter how much flapping I do!

       Even though this is true, the word does compare me to a bird. Not a hummingbird, but a different kind of bird:

       Isaiah 40:31

       But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

       They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they wil walk and not be faint.

       Have you seen an eagle in flight? There is no comparrison to the hummingbird whatsoever. An eagle launches out with a few powerful flaps of its wings, but before long you will see it soaring… gliding along on outstretched wings with very little effort, the master of the skies.

       How does it stay afloat without continually flapping?

       Eagles search out a spot where they can feel the warm air rising from the earth. These spots are called thermals. An eagle will spread its wings and tail feathers to catch the upward rising wind of the thermal, riding it as high as possible, then soar around until it finds a new upward thermal and then repeat the process. An eagle can stay afloat for a  long while without expending its energy… just as the verse in Isaiah tells us.

       To run and not grow weary or walk and not faint would not be possibe in our own strength, but if we catch the momentum of God’s will and go with it as an eagle rides a thermal, we will be able to do much more without wearing ourselves out. It is God’s will for us to ride HIS thermal for our lives.

       So why is there so much hummingbird christianity? It could be one of two things:

       1.   We are not designed to do what we are trying to do.

       2.  We have chosen to ride the sky without the thermal.

       We never see an eagle flap, flap, flapping away trying to hover around a honeysuckle because he is not created to do that. Even though he is powerful, he is not cut out for that type of flight any more than a space shuttle can perform like a helicopter.

       We must also be careful to search out the thermal.

       God wants to carry us through our efforts in serving Him. Finding out what God’s will is in a situation is paramount to how well the situation is going to go. If we find our thermal, we will stay afloat longer without tiring ourselves out and accomplish more for His purpose than if we flap along on our own power, ignoring the thermals and going our own way until we finally touch down early, looking at the skies, wondering how the other guys seem to soar so much higher and longer than we do.

       I choose to leave the honeysuckles to the hummingbirds. I want to soar higher and farther than I can do in my own strength.

       Show me the thermal, Jesus!

      

Get Your Own Male Camels!

Posted: January 27, 2011 in The Word

                                                                    Most of us know the story of Esau and Jacob. You know… Esau and Jacob are twins, yet nothing alike. Esau is born first with Jacob holding onto his heel. Later Esau gives up his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew and Jacob goes to his father Isaac disguised as Esau and decietfully receives Isaacs blessing ahead of his first born brother.

       Of course, this didn’t sit well with Esau. Jacob fled and went to work for Laban, seven years in return for his daughter Rachel (Which turned into 14 years and two sister/wives). Jacob ended up leaving Laban feeling he had not been treated fairly. (Imagine that!)

       So, after deceiving and being decieved a number of times, Jacob finally comes to the time that he must face Esau. As their caravans approached each other at some distance, Jacob sent out a gift ahead of himself for his brother. Genesis 32:13-16 says the gift was as follows:

       200 female goats, 20 male goats

       200 ewes, 20 rams

       30 female camels and their young

       40 cows, 10 bulls

       30 female donkeys, 10 male donkeys

       That is a pretty impressive number… but I’d like to point out one part of the gift that doesn’t match the rest of the gift: 30 female camels and their young.

       All the other animals, being both male and female, were set up from the getgo to be able to reproduce immediately and to increase exponentially with no investment from Esau. All he had to do was receive the gift. However… if he wanted any more camels, he would have to supply the males himself.

       I don’t believe this is just some random list that is casually mentioned as a boring statistic for us to skim over. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, Esau already has some male camels, so Jacob didn’t need to give him any.” Maybe, but in chapter 33 verse 9, Esau tries not to accept the gift, saying he already has plenty. He already had his own livestock. Jacobs gift was to find favor in his brother’s eyes and to smooth over their differences. So, is there a significance or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

       I think it is symbolic for us today. Here’s how I see it:

       Sheep and goats and cows are used for food and sacrifices. God is our ultimate provider. The male and female given together suggest that the gift, given a little care, will multiply. This is a symbol of God taking care of His people, giving them enough for food, clothes (wool, skins) and enough to continue making sacrifices to Him.

       Donkeys are for bearing burdens. Here is a symbol of God’s never ending desire to help us carry our load. He tells us in His word that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He says we can cast all of our cares on him. His word also says he will not put more on us than we can bear. The number of donkeys increasing would mean that more burden could be handled, that more possessions could be carried more easily… and the donkeys would increase!

       So, what about the camels? What are they good for? Transportation.

       You see, if Esau didn’t move around, his herd would eat all the grass in the area and soon die. He wouldn’t need any donkeys to carry anything, since he wasn’t going anywhere. Sure, he could ride the female camels… and when their young grew up, he could ride them. Maybe some of the young were males, but we are not told that. Besides, who needs a bunch of inbred camels! Soon, the transportation would not be available.

       I think transportation represents ministry. We are told to go into all the world and to spread the gospel. We have our general orders and it is up to us to carry them out. We can choose to go nowhere, stay on one spot of land and let it be devoured, put no burden on the donkeys rendering them useless… or we can join our efforts to God’s plan by exercising our free will to go as we are asked to do.

       The choice is ours. We don’t have to go, but if we choose to go, God will multiply our effort by joining with us! He will provide food and clothing, he will carry our burdens and our efforts at ministry, joined with Him, will be prosperous and will multiply as well.

       Or, we can stay put, eat up all the grass, let the donkey’s wander around wonder why we seem to be in such a struggle to stay afloat.

       I think I’m going to put my own camels in the mix and see what God does!

       What do you think?

         Have you ever heard the term “to much of a good thing can be a bad thing?” How many of you know that ice cream is an incredibly good thing, but too much of it can lead to a range of complications from a stomach ache to a diabetic coma!

          Being a worship leader, I listen to many different types of worship music. Like most people, over the years I have developed a taste for it and have become somewhat judgmental of certain forms of music that I don’t particularly care for while praising the “worship artists” that are more to my own liking. I have my favorite worship leaders and when they are in the area I am excited to get the chance to be in service with them.

          There is something about being in worship and singing your favorite songs along with the person that God inspired to write it… but I must be careful. I must ask myself the question, “Am I worshiping God right now, or am I just excited over the worship that is going on?”

          Take a look at the book of Nehemiah:       

Nehemiah 9

5 “Stand up and bless the LORD your God
          Forever and ever!
          “ Blessed be Your glorious name,
           Which is exalted above all blessing and praise!
(NKJV)

          Above all blessing and praise, His name must be exalted. We must be careful not to be a greater fan of the blessing than we are of the one who gives us the blessing.

          Have you ever noticed that some people get excited over a particular song in worship? Maybe you’ve seen people worship with one worship leader and not another. This is not worshiping God… it is worshiping worship.

          God is the same God, yesterday, today, forever, on the mountain and in the valley. He can be praised on the guitar, the piano, the accordion, the ukulele, the drums or all of these combined.

          We may not personally enjoy certain forms of praise and worship music and that’s okay. We are blessed to be able to pick and choose our own music from a wide variety of styles and I am thankful for that… but God is still praised even in the style that I am not fond of.

          So if I am in an environment where the worship music is not my favorite, the same God that I worship is being lifted up and I must join in, because it is Him that I am worshiping.

          Likewise, if I am able to be in a worship setting with one of my favorite worship leaders, doing all of my favorite songs… my mind and heart must be focused on Jesus.

          Don’t get me wrong. I like diversity in music. I enjoy many different types. I dislike many different types. I believe that a person should find an environment where the style of worship is to their liking… not because one is greater than another, but because we need to be comfortable in the environment we are in, comfortable enough to express ourselves to our God without being annoyed by the sounds around us!

          But God is big enough to enjoy it all! He is big enough to inhabit all worship that is lifted to Him, whether it appeals to me or not. He is the same God in either setting. I will give Him the honor He is due.

PRAYER FOCUS

          God, You are worthy to be praised. Let Your praise be glorious as it flows from Your children as an outcry of love to You. May I never exalt one form of blessing above another, and never exalt any blessing above Your name. I love You.

DAILY DARE

          Tune in to a radio station that plays worship music. If that particular station plays a style that you don’t enjoy, listen for a while anyway and find the worship that is lifted there. Don’t be hampered by your personal taste. Then, tune in to or play a CD of music that you do enjoy. Thank God for the diversity that is in Him.

          A few years ago, Kevin Costner starred in a movie called “Field of Dreams” about a farmer who was walking through his cornfield one day and heard a voice speaking to him. The voice said, “If you build it… he will come.”

          He interpreted that the voice was telling him to build a baseball field in the corner of his cornfield on which the great ballplayers of the past could magically come back from the dead and once again play baseball. Sure enough, he goes ahead and builds the field and… one by one… old long dead ballplayers show up, as they were in their prime, to play baseball once more.

          One of the players asks the main character, “Is this Heaven?”, to which Costner responds, “No. It’s Iowa.”

          Another great scene in the movie is when the main character is reunited with his deceased father and plays catch with him out on the field. He did build it… and he did come, along with hundreds of people we see at the end of the movie who are inexplicably drawn to the field to witness these events.

          Nice movie. Touching, but it’s only a movie.

          Still… it makes you wonder… Is there something we could build here on earth that would draw God’s presence from his throne in heaven? Could it be that simple? “If we build it… He will come…” But what would we build that would be grand enough for God?

           How about Solomon’s Temple? It was clearly the grandest and most expensive ever built. Maybe we could recreate Moses’ Tabernacle! It was built to God’s specifications and used by the Israelites in the wilderness. Or maybe God would just like to see what we would come up with? Maybe some grand gothic design reaching high into the heavens or a painstaking display of artistic beauty like the Sistine Chapel?

          None of these are terrible ideas, but it just so happens that God does not desire any of these. Let’s look in scripture for a hint at what God desires for His house of worship.

Amos 9

 11 “In that day I will restore
       David’s fallen tent.
       I will repair its broken places,
       restore its ruins,
       and build it as it used to be,

 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
       and all the nations that bear my name,”
       declares the LORD, who will do these things. (NIV)

          This scripture is referenced by James in the book of Acts Chapter 15:

Acts 15

16” ‘After this I will return
      and rebuild David’s fallen tent.

   Its ruins I will rebuild,
      and I will restore it,
 17that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,
      and all the Gentiles who bear my name,
   says the Lord, who does these things
    18that have been known for ages. (NIV)

          Okay. Great! We have been told in scripture what God’s favorite  house of worship is. So what was so special about David’s tent (tabernacle) that God would desire it over the splendor and magnificence of the Chrystal Cathedral? What was the difference between it and God’s other places of worship? Compared to the standards of man, It was the poorest place of worship of all… so we must look at what it had instead of what it had not.

          It is believed David established worship in his tabernacle around the Ark of the Covenant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year… for an estimated 36 – 40 years.

1 Chronicles 9

 33 Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night. (NIV)

          This phrase “day and night” is seen throughout scripture as a phrase meaning continually or without rest. Here are some other examples:

Psalm 32

 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
         My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  Selah  (NKJV)

1 Timothy 5

5The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 3

10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (NIV)

1 Chronicles 6:31-32
31 Now these are the men whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after the ark came to rest. 32 They were ministering with music before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they served in their office according to their order. (NKJV)

          The Worship of David’s tent was meant to replicate the worship that God is receiving in Heaven at all times.

Revelation 5       

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

      “ You are worthy to take the scroll,
      And to open its seals;
      For You were slain,
      And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
      Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
       10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
      And we shall reign on the earth.”

          Although this is great in and of itself, let us not overlook the reason God gave in Amos 9:

Amos 9

12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
       and all the nations that bear my name,”

          We learn in scripture that Esau is the father of the Edomites (Genesis 36). Through out scripture we see that the Edomites were constantly at war with Israel, doing battle and being enslaved… worshiping false idols and corrupting Israel with them (2 Chronicles 25). They were against Israel always, as the world is now against the church.

          God wishes to rebuild David’s fallen tent in order to possess the remnant of Edom.

Remnant:

1. a remaining, usually small part, quantity, number, or the like.
2. a fragment or scrap.
3. a trace: vestige: remnants of former greatness

          God knows that in the world today, there are some who will come out of their sinful ways and find the Lord… a remnant of Edom. He is not willing that any should perish.

          We have learned a lot about Davidic worship in this study. Why? Because God has made it clear that he is interested in restoring Davidic worship. He wants to do it because it will draw out the remnant of Edom.

          David’s fallen tent. If we build it… they will come.

PRAYER FOCUS

          Lord, give me an attitude of worship to you, day and night, without ceasing. Let my life be a sweet aroma of praise rising to Your throne. Give me an attitude for worship like David had that I might be considered by You as one who is after Your own heart.

DAILY DARE

          Invite someone, not to church, but to worship. Demonstrate worship before them for the glory of God. If you obey God in your worship, The Holy Spirit will do the rest. Do this… to rescue the perishing.