Peter and an Orchestra Concert

It’s a big concert hall, one of those places that has all of the dazzling lights and it seems like they have about 157 balconies that just seem to go up and up and up and everything is shiny and clean and everyone is wearing black suits or tuxedos and really fancy dresses pretty much every pair of shoes in the place could make my mortgage payment for at least 2 weeks.

You walk in, the usher shows you to your seat and makes sure you are satisfied. The musicians start slowly drifting on stage – even they are wearing tuxedoes and fancy dresses. Their instruments shine so brightly that you if the lights were lined up right, you’d need sunglasses.

Little by little, the sound grows. It’s not music, it’s a cacuphony of warm ups. It’s nerves being let out. It’s last minute efforts to make sure their instruments are in tune. It’s adjusting the stands so that the 2nd violin doesn’t bump into the 1st Viola. All sorts of last minute adjustments to make sure everything is perfect.

The first violin stands up and everyone immediately quiets down. That brings the audience to a complete silence too. She (or He) then walks through a predetermined routine to tune the intruments. While it is almost always the same, the rest of the symphony is not tuning to “perfect pitch” – no they are tuning to the concert master. They are tuning to make sure that every single instrument in the symphony is in tune with the leader. Once that is done, the Conductor comes out.

The audience applauds. Why do they applaud? Because the Conductor has done something grand? Because he didn’t trip on the way to the front? No, they applaud because for the symphony to live up to their potential, for the performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to be the beautiful masterpiece that it really is, there needs to be a leader.

So, our story continues. The conductor stands up in front of the symphony, raises his baton and starts directing.

And the most awful hideous noise comes out of the symphony that you’ve ever heard. The cellists are yelling at the bass players because they are playing the wrong song. The violins are trying to figure out whether they have the right music or they have their music upside down or if they have the viola’s music. The director stops and they keep playing (if you call it that). The audience starts booing.

The director starts yelling at them. They just keep on playing. The audience flocks to the entry way like the concert hall is on fire (which it isn’t). The line at the front desk asking for refunds is outrageously long.

It’s a total disaster.

Never happen, would it? I doubt it – at least to that extent but let look at something….

“….Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
http://bible.com/97/php.4.8-9.msg

Three things that Peter is telling us there…..

• We need to incorporate into our lives what we learn from being in His community and part of his gathering of believer and from studying his word.
• God makes everything work together – in His time, not our time.
• He will work you into his most excellent harmonies. In other words, God’s already got a song going on, are we going to be part of his symphony or are we going to play a different tune?

If we’re going to be part of God’s excellent harmonies, then do play the part of the violinist who has decided to play a different song? Or do we seek to play God’s song?
If we’re going to play the part of the cellist, do we do that by yelling at people on social media in ways we probably wouldn’t wouldn’t dare face to face?

God’s perfect harmonies are indeed at work in our communities and our governments and our world, but the cacophony of misdirection and noise is making it harder and harder to see what God really wants us to do and to be.

May we all have enough quiet to be able to see and realize how we can be part of God’s excellent harmonies and not part of the out of tune cacophony that currently is clogging up the world and our airwaves…..

Tom

What day is it?

Read the verse below:

“So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath; My arms wave like banners of praise to you.”
Psalm 63:3-4 MSG
http://bible.com/97/psa.63.3-4.msg

Do you think that the writer of this Psalm was referring only to Sundays?

No, I don’t think so either.

Do you think that he was considering only the 1 1/2 hours on Sunday mornings when we gather together in our places of worship?

Nope, I don’t think so either.

I believe the Psalmist is testifying to receiving the love of God, to his overwhelming gratitude for all God has done. He is praising God and basically saying, “God doesn’t care what day it is. God loves you all of the days. All of the days of your life. So if he loves you all of the days of your life, then you are always in your place of worship.”

Are you a teacher? Then your place of worship is your classroom.

Are you a nurse? Then your place of worship is your patient’s room.

Are you a mechanic? Then your place of worship is underneath the hood of your customer’s car.

Are you a student? Then your place of worship is in school – even in public schools.

You get the picture…..

I could keep going for a very long time, but I won’t. Because a list of the places isn’t what matter. What matters is that as you head into this Monday morning (or maybe your Monday started a long time ago) remember this:

God’s gracious and generous love Is for you

He is more than able to fill you to overflowing with His strength, glory and love.

When we welcome that and Him into our lives, it doesn’t matter what day it is.

It doesn’t matter what time it is.

It doesn’t matter where we are.

We are here to worship and praise God.

As I heard a speaker once say, (Paraphrased) Live your life in quiet Christianity so that your neighbor’s, co-workers, friends and people on the street see how you are living a life of worship to God they stop you and say, “I want what you’ve got.”

TJV

I went out for Dinner last night…..

It was at the Frederick Meijer Gardens – the food, the atmosphere, everything was wonderful.

It was a gathering of people, many of whom knew my Dad. Many of whom worked with my Dad these last 15 years during his “retirement career.” Many of whom knew my dad either because they had him in class, they were in class with him or their friends and family told them what they learned from my Dad.

This was the first year in the last 16 years that my Dad wasn’t there.

In person, that is. But it was so obvious that his impact lived on through his words.

Through the books that he’s written.

Through the classes he has taught.

Through the valleys he has walked – both his own valleys (our valleys) and also the valleys he has helped students and others walk through…

So, while he wasn’t there, I saw him in many ways and in many faces.

But that wasn’t the only high point. The other high point was the stories from three of the seminarians – in their own word. One of them was talking about the work she was doing on her internship. There was a lady who kept coming back to her bible study with a “troubled” past. She spent significant time with her and eventually Susie got to the point where she believed and then she went around and told the whole town – including everyone in the bible study, everyone at the group home, “This stuff is real!” “You got to read this bible thing. This stuff is real!”

As I was listening to her story, and unfortunately “Susie’s” time on this earth didn’t end well, I thought, that’s what makes a seminary and the training of future pastors so important.

This stuff is real.

Jesus is real.

But evil is also real.

And so is sickness and heartache and pain.

And Trauma and violence and racism and cynicism and

And we could add more and more and, but we won’t.

Because even though this stuff is real,

I went to a dinner last night with a whole bunch of people who are fighting to make sure that we all know that “this Jesus stuff” is real.

And it wasn’t just the food that was good.

TJV

It’s been everywhere lately…..

Twitter…..

The White House…..

The White House on Twitter…..

All news sources whether “fake” or “real”

Facebook – personal stories that would break your heart.

Facebook – personal attacks that brought friends of mine to tears.

The local coffee shop

Sexual abuse hotlines were inundated with people seeking help.

Instagram and I’m sure there were even people on SnapChat talking about it.

Oh and there were “big wigs” (supposedly important) people in various religious organizations and denominations who had to add their voice to the noise.

Who knew what? What said what? Who did What?

Who threatened what? Who had to take their family into hiding? Who had bad memories, horrible memories brought up again that they had tried to move past?

I am not even going to mention names, because while the issue is about a Supreme Court Judicial Nominee and his accuser, the issue is much bigger than that…..
• The issue is about our society’s treatment of women.
• The issue is about the church’s failure to stand up for the rights of the abused, no matter what color, what gender, what age they are.
• The issue is about why “adult” (and I use that term loosely) white men seem to think they can get away with anything – and why they have for so many years.
• I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point……

“….If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.”
John 15:18-19 MSG
http://bible.com/97/jhn.15.18-19.msg

How many of the people who currently run the United States government claim to be “Christian?”

Do they live on the world’s terms or on God’s terms?

How many people who spoke up this past week trying to either minimize, downplay or explain what might or might not have happened, how many of them claim to be Christians?

Do they live on the world’s terms or on God’s terms?

How many people who currently run Christian organizations honestly believe that the people in the current administration run their personal lives and their actions in the government according to God’s terms?

If the leaders of churches, the people that every week we turn to for leadership and direction and encouragement, if they are openly supporting someone who doesn’t support life on God’s terms, what sort of message does that say about the church?

And we wonder why people are leaving the church?

Really?

Do we really wonder why people are leaving the church?

Or are we just afraid to face the answer to that question?

People are leaving the church because the church is leaving God.

Let me repeat that.

People are leaving the church

Because

The church is leaving God.

The church is spending more time focusing on being popular and being liked and being welcoming and being this and that and less time focusing on what Jesus said it needs to be about:

The first and great commandment is this – Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul and strength.

And a second commandment is like it – Love your neighbor like you love yourself.

Now I think we should all go figure out what that means for our own people and our own world and make this coming week a better week.

TJV