Archive for March, 2010

Hubble Telescope

March 26, 2010

Looking at pictures taken through the Hubble Telescope makes for a marvelous trip.  As the earth fades into the distance, our solar system fades into the distance, and eventually our galaxy fades into the distance.  Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is so fantastic in its beauty.  I thought it would be a milky white cloud on a black background, but it has color.  Amazing!  Then as the Milky Way fades into the distance, other galaxies appear, and they, too, have color.  As they fade into the distance, we see something like the electron cloud of an atom, as it is portrayed by artists.  Countless galaxies form a colorful cloud around something that appears to be in the middle of it, yet is invisible.   350 Billion galaxies are in this cloud!  Its just unfathomable.  Children would see it with wonder in their faces.  How many of us have any of that wonder left, or do we just say “ho hum, so all of this just happened, maybe someday scientists can tell us how.”  Children see the infinite mystery, and wonder Who did it.  That would explain why Jesus said unless we become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Maybe the door to Heaven has a key called worship!!

Jesus in my Purse

March 26, 2010

Crazy Love by Francis Chan is one of the most profoundly life-changing books I have ever read.  It is truly counter-culture, both in terms of American culture and Christian culture.  Ultimately it asks, “How much do you love Jesus?”  How much do we think we love Jesus?  How much do we love the real Jesus?  How much of our love is devoted to a Jesus who fits our own image of what a God should be?

I think American women really want a Jesus they can fit into their purse.  If Jesus can fit into my purse, the convenience is amazing.  He’s small enough that I can carry him wherever I go, not a big God who (God forbid) carries me!  He’s  easily hidden so he doesn’t show up and embarrass me.  I take him when I please, and leave him home if he’s too much trouble to drag around wherever I’m going.  If  he’s with me, I want him to be sort of like a small spray can.  If I’m lacking confidence, poof!  I have it.  If I’m scared, poof!  I have  courage.  If I’m feeling weak, poof!  I have the Power!!  If I need money, the right words, a parking place, I name it and poof!  I have what I need instantly.  Oh yes, I’m grateful.  I’m always saying “Thank you Jesus!”  People think I’m really religious since they hear my thanks so often.  I even try to do things for Jesus to keep him happy there in my purse.  God forbid he should jump out and quit taking care of me.

Oh wait!  I have just broken the second commandment and broken it in a huge way.  I’ve made a Jesus in my image.  This is NOT the Jesus who came to earth to teach me who HE is and what HE wants of me.  This is not the Jesus who “set his face like flint” and headed to Calvary so He could die for me and the boatload of silly, selfish, foolish users just like me who treat the Lord of Heaven and Earth like my personal assistant.  This is not the Jesus who asked me if I would take up my cross and follow him.  This is not the Jesus who told me to love God with all my heart(passion), all my soul (emotion), all my mind (faith), and all my strength (commitment), and actually commanded me to love the other person (any other person in need) as much as I love myself.  No, the real Jesus won’t ever fit in my purse, and I have to ask if He will fit in my puny life.  My life is about keeping my shoes clean, looking good and not breaking a nail.  My life is the life of a “nice” lady who is only beginning to realize the depth of her sin and the enormity of the loving grace of Jesus.

Medicare

March 24, 2010

I have been really upset the past couple days.  On the heels of healthcare reform, I get a letter that I must find a new doctor.  Now, if you know anyone on Medicare who has to find a doctor, you know that is not an easy thing today.  Medicare reimbursement to doctors and other providers is so abysmal, a lot of doctors no longer see new patients.   If I find a doctor at all, the next issue will be finding a specialist if I ever need one.  This is just the beginning.  The other problem is the $500 billion in Medicare cuts at a time when the number of patients is rising.  The architect of how to do the $500 billion in cuts is the same British man who invented the National Health Service agency called “N.I.C.E.”  This is the board who decides how many “quality years” (QALY) you have left, and whether you will receive medical care.   This is the board who advocates no treatment at all for the sickest, and is the direct cause of thousands in England being put to death by dehydration while in a morphine induced coma (so their families can’t quite figure out what happened).   Looking at all this, and being without a physician, I realize I am “of an age”, and it scares me.  If I get sick, I may have to do my duty and die.  Actually, it will likely be decided for me.

After stewing for hours over what is happening to the old and the sick under Medicare (and likely to quickly get worse under “Obamacare” due to the consultations with N.I.C.E. by the Obama administration,) I had a change of thought.  I’m not going to put my hope for life or health in the government.  So many in our nation look to the government instead of God.  So many count on the government to come through for them for their income, house, disaster relief, healthcare, etc., etc.  But the government does a very bad job of being god.  However, the good news is:  God is still on the throne.  Unlike my doctor, God doesn’t leave the area.  He doesn’t take vacations, he doesn’t retire, and in fact, he never sleeps.  He doesn’t miss a thing.  Furthermore, I belong to God.  It is He who protects my health and well being.  As long as He has something for me to do on this earth, I’ll be alive to do it.  I won’t live one day less that He has planned for me, no matter what the government thinks.  When He comes for me, it will be on His timetable, and if He chooses to let the government be the instrument of my demise, well, we all go by some means.  It will still be God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s time to come for me.

Healthcare Reform

March 23, 2010

All who are cheering our new healthcare reform ought to be studying the National Health Service in England.  In particular they ought to be looking at one of the many bureaucractic offices set up to run the Health Service “fairly”.   N.I.C.E. is the acronym for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.  In reality it is set up to determine such things as how many quality years a person has left.  QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Years) puts you in your proper place in the rationing queue.  If you are an older person, or if you have a condition which someone from N.I.C.E. determines as causing your quality of life to be less, your QALY score is lower, and you either wait longer for care, or you don’t get it at all.  N.I.C.E. also determines such things as whether the NHS should offer certain treatments to anyone at all.  If a treatment helps some people, but not enough people, it is taken off the schedule completely and no one gets it.  Its not cost effective to use it for just a few.  So now everyone’s worth is determined by their QALY score and the cost effectiveness of treating them.  In fact the Brits call N.I.C.E.  by other names such as “National Institute of Cost Effectiveness” and “Nazi Institute for Commoner Extermination”.  The two men most instrumental in setting up N.I.C.E., Sir Michael Rawlings and Simon Stevens are both working with the U.S. government to determine the most efficient ways to run Medicare.  Sir Michael Rawlings has had video conferences with our health bureaucrats, and Simon Stevens is now living in the U.S. and advising Medicare.  In the Healthcare Reform package which just passed congress is a plan to save $500 billion from Medicare over 10 years.  This is supposed to help finance the reform. Mr. Stevens, one of the architects of N.I.C.E., is architect of that part of healthcare reform.  Nancy Pelosi hailed Healthcare Reform as being a historical landmark like Medicare.  Medicare looks like it will soon be a plan senior citizens will wish they could escape.  Although the quote was frequently thrown at us that Europe has better health statistics than we do, England does not.  England’s cancer survival rates trail ours by 10-20%, and so do their cardiovascular survival rates. That is despite Britain having had universal healthcare for 60 years.  As my own father used to say, “Everything costs something.”  Nothing is free.  If we want to give free health insurance to people who by choice do not work full time, and have the taxpayers cover it, something else has to give.  I just can’t champion Medicare when I paid into it for 40 years of my working life and now can’t find a doctor who will see Medicare patients because of its abysmal reimbursement to doctors.  Our new healthcare reform model is mirroring the British model, which has been a complete failure.  Wake up America, and keep your sense of urgency until November when we have another chance to elect a new congress and do healthcare reform right.

The Alabaster Jar

March 15, 2010

Lord, I’m looking at Your response to the woman who poured perfume over You, and I see some new things.  I see extravagance on her part we nust never see today.  She sacrificed probably a year’s wages to honor You.  How many of us have hearts like that?  This alabaster jar of perfume may have been her dowery.  She sacrificed, in a sense, her whole future for love of You.  I see a motive of pure love and sacrifice of literally all she had.  She may not have plotted shrewdly where her gift could do the most good, but she gave out of the deepest, most beautiful desire to honor You.  You were pleased.

God of the Dark Places

March 15, 2010

Sometimes I can hardly stand to read the news.  The wars, rumors of wars, crime, violence and hatred, make everything seem so black.  But it isn’t black to You, is it Lord?  Its as though we’re in a box and the lid is pulled over the top, making it dark for those of us living inside.  But outside the box its daylight and You can be seen.  You won’t let that lid stay on forever.  You’ve set the times for just how long You’ll allow things to stay the way they are.  And the timer is ticking down.

Prayer During Lent

March 12, 2010

Jesus, how incredibly difficult it must have been for you, in your humanity, to face all you did in your earthly ministry.  You faced opposition everywhere you went .  Leadership was waiting for a chance to trip you up, dripping with criticism, sarcasm and hate.  The mob was filled with cynics and skeptics with attitudes ranging from “ho-hum, another populist” to “show us a miracle–impress us!” Much of the mob wanted only something for themselves.  Some was legitimate: people who needed an illness cured, for example.  However, many only wanted someone to take care of them so they could give up the responsibility of taking care of themselves.  And everywhere–sin.  Yet, you served and you loved.  In your divinity you healed.  In your humanity, you got tired, hot, hungry, thirsty and frustrated.  It was a trial beyond our understanding, to have to deal with all our sin all the time.  But you did, until it cost you your life in the most tortuous way of death.  Thank you Jesus for loving like no one has before, or since, or ever will again.  I’m humbled to realize I will never be able to love you as you deserve.  Help me at least begin.

What is Worship

March 8, 2010

This morning’s message was on worship.  While taking notes, I made lots of my own observations–reflections on the reflection, so to speak.  Anyway, a “fleshed out” version of my total note page follows.

What is worship?  The pastor likes the definition “loving God back”.  I like that too.  How can worship even be worship without love?  How can a phone call to a parent, made out of duty and without love have any value at all?  If I’m loving God back, it explains why the scripture tells us to “lift up holy hands”.  A little child lifts up its hands to its parent, saying “pick me up”, “I want you”, “I want us to hug”.  Since we are to come to our heavenly father as little children, lifting up our hands conveys all that childlike emotion and desire.

God loved me even before I was formed.  The scripture says God watched my formation and recorded the prenatal events in his book.  How like a pregnant mother!  That is love!!  I want to love him back with my whole heart.  How can I do that?  Love requires expression for its life.  How can I express that love to God?

I can offer God my whole day.  If I think of my daily life as an offering, it changes the way I see it.  In this day of offering, I can look for “divine appointments”.  I can be on watch for things God would like to show me.  I can be primed to show gratitude and appreciation for the things, people and events all around, for which I owe God thanks.  I can ask for and watch for an opportunity to share God’s love with someone else who needs that encouragement.  I can also watch for opportunities to serve God’s kingdom in some way.  I can be aware of the need to be loved–my own and that of others.  Everyone wants love and everyone wants to belong to something wonderful and bigger than themselves.  Everyone actually wants Jesus, although they can argue they don’t.  They aren’t being honest about what is keeping them from Him.  Jesus always demands that honesty, and will go right to the heart of that issue if we aren’t too busy pushing Him away.  When he probes us, sharp though it is, He always touches us with His tenderness.

Jesus said God wants worship in Spirit and Truth.  We worship in truth when we use our intellect.  It is based in growing knowledge of God and His ways.  Worship in spirit is emotional and is based on growing love and appreciation of God.  The “AHA” moments of discovery involve worship in truth.  The misty eyes and lump in the throat involve worship in Spirit.  We can’t have one without the other.   Spirit without truth results in emotional excess (there is such a thing), and  Truth without spirit results in dead intellectualism.  (I think its the reason theological schools can produce agnostics). 

Its not up to us to figure out how to worship God.  It is responding to God who moves first.  We worship as God instructs us both in the scripture and by His Spirit.  Its our spirit connecting to God’s Spirit.

Why do people find church boring ?  They don’t come expecting to meet God there.  They come for a bundle of other reasons, but don’t come to show their love to the God they already know and appreciate.  Worship is never about us, never for what we receive, and God forbid not about our entertainment.  Its about God’s Spirit touching our spirit, and when that happens, the worship style is irrelevant.  We can be touched in formal “high church” as well as a noisy “rock church”.  All that matters is coming into God’s presence, letting ourselves be open to God and grateful to Him, and the fruit of that is more love.  Its the love that the world will see on Monday.  If not, something was missing on Sunday.

The 45 Minute Solution

March 2, 2010

When confronting “the blues”, dullness, boredom and the like, I was once given a transforming recipe by a mature and wise pastor.  I call it the 45 Minute Solution.

First, spend 15 minutes a day reading the bible.  Ask the Lord to speak to you through the bible, and you can even ask Him what book of the bible to read.  Personally, I like the gospels, epistles and psalms, but I have never read a book of the bible where I didn’t find a little nugget of gold that met my exact needs at that moment.  Just be aware that God will speak to you if you ask Him and your soul is open and willing to hear Him.

Second, spend 15 minutes a day pouring out your heart to God.  Ask Him for everything you need, lay all your burdens before Him, and don’t forget to thank Him for all the ways you have seen Him help you.

Third, spend 15 minutes a day encouraging someone else’s faith, sharing the hope the Lord has given you.  You can do this through spoken or written words.  You can’t encourage someone else without the encouragement strengthening you, too.  As an old proverb says, the fragrance remains on the hand that gives a rose.

Try this for a couple of weeks.  I promise it will be life changing.

God and the Earthquakes

March 1, 2010

Yesterday our pastor asked if we were “clapping for God”.  In other words, were we worshipful, appreciative, and grateful to God.  My first thought was all the questions people would ask about the recent earthquakes.  If we clap for God’s goodness and His beautiful creation, what can we say about the earthquakes?

Earthquakes can mean at least three things.  First, what if God is not completely good, at least as far as we can see?  Second, what if God is not all powerful?  Third, what if there is an evil power which God, for whatever reason, allows to exist?

Jesus taught there was indeed an evil power, in fact, an evil being.  He taught this evil  had definite limits put upon it; this evil  would eventually be defeated,  and we would be personally victorious over the evil power through the greater power of God.  Jesus taught that God is all good and all powerful, but lets evil live among the good, because there are purposes being worked which benefit the good.  Read his parable about the weeds and the wheat for a very profound picture of great eternal truth.

The end of the story has already been revealed.  God wins.  The outcome is already determined.  Yet, like being in the middle part of a three-part trilogy, we don’t yet see exactly how the end is all going to be accomplished.  Yet today, even living in the choke hold of the evil one, this earth still shows more than just a glimpse of the original beauty and power of the creator.  We can certainly worship God for what we do see in creation, even if it has been spoiled by the evil enemy, called Satan.

The climax of the story already occurred.  It happened 2000 years ago on a hill called Calvary where the price to be paid for restoration was paid by God Himself.  The price to redeem the universe from evil was determined in the counsels of the heavenlies, and the second person of the divinity stepped forward to pay it.  He became a human named Jesus and died the most horrendous death anyone can imagine, all for love.  I imagine the shock and surprise of  Satan, who never thought Jesus would go through with it to the death, and never thought God would love His world so much.

The verdict has been announced.  Satan is a defeated enemy.  But, we are still in that middle book of the trilogy, and the implementing of the verdict is still being carried out.  Even after the judicial imposition of a fine, an award or a sentence, the verdict must be carried out.  That is still happening in our universe.   The completion of the story, and the victory are in the third book of the trilogy.  Its been written, and God knows what is in it, for He is the author.  It is yet to be published for humankind.