Monday, November 19, 2007

Recommended Film

Watched a moving documentary last night. "God Grew Tired of Us" is the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan - their flight to safety in Ethiopia, then Kenya; and finally the immigration of a select few to the U.S.

I won't go into a full review here, but I wanted to comment on one particularly disturbing aspect of the film. It was embarrassing to watch these young men (who had endured incredible hardship, formed their own system of government, prayed fervently for peace, and learned a new culture) treated as if they were stupid, dangerous thugs.

As my wife and I discussed the film, we reflected on some of the prejudice and racism we see in our own community. We were reminded of recent conversations with people from our Multi-Cultural church - one conversation where someone expressed their frustration with 1st generation immigrants who were still learning the language, another conversation with a person who wanted their child in an all-anglo sunday school class, yet another where a person pulled a child from one school because there were too many of a specific ethnic group there. My wife, who sells used books, told me of a book she recently saw that talked about our education system being "dumbed down" because of other ethnicities in the system (I think it may be being "dumbed down", but if it is, it is because those teaching them think they are less capable.) Our son-in-law (an East Indian) has talked about being treated differently everywhere from public places to girlfriends houses simply because he's "brown".

It seems that the thinking goes something like this... "People who look, think, and act like me are smart. People who look, think, and act differently are stupid." Talk about stupid!

My friend Nathan explored this on his blog. Brad, a commenter on this blog, is an educator who is also passionate about cultures coming together in unity. I'm hoping he may have some insight on the education piece of this issue. Others, like Jennifer, have experienced this first hand as one of the growing number of inter-racial marriages.

In the end, I'm convinced that the new kingdom that Jesus invites us into is the only solution to this craziness.

In Christ's family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What To Do With Evil?

I just finished "Evil and the Justice of God" by N.T. Wright. Wright is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

This book, as the title implies, explores the problem of evil in our world and develops a theology of what God is doing about it. My brain is still wrestling with some of what he proposes, but near the end of the book, I was really encouraged by this wonderful paragraph.

"...and now (Revelation 5:9-10) the Lamb has ransomed people from every nation in order to make them a royal priesthood, serving God and reigning on the earth. This theme, so frequent in the New Testament and so widely ignored in Christian theology, is part of the solution to the problem [of evil]. It isn't that the cross has won the victory, so there's nothing more to be done. Rather, the cross has won the victory as a result of which there are now redeemed human beings getting ready to act as God's wise agents, his stewards, constantly worshiping their Creator and constantly, as a result, being equipped to reflect His image into His creation, to bring His wise and healing order to the world, putting the world to rights under His just and gentle rule. A truly biblical ecclesiology should focus not so much on the fact that the church is the community of the saved but that the church is the community of those who, being redeemed through the cross, are now to be a kingdom and priests to serve God and to reign on the earth. Our fear of triumphalism on the one hand, and on the other hand our flattening out of our final destiny into talk merely of "going to heaven," have combined to rob us of this central biblical theme. But until we put it back where it belongs we won't see how the New Testament ultimately offers a solution to the problem of evil.

Paraphrased... a big part of what God has saved us for is to work with Him in "putting the world to rights". My question for you... what would that look like in your home, neighborhood, workplace, world?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pretty Good News

Been doing some reading lately. Well, I actually read quite a lot… just haven’t posted about it much. Okay, I haven’t posted much about anything lately – so this seemed like a good thing to appease the blog-gods. I’ll give you fair warning… this could be a long post.

I should also preface this post by saying that while on the outside I may have the appearance of a well behaved evangelical, on the inside I’m often troubled by the too neat, too “we have all the answers about God” approach that shaped my Christian upbringing. There are times that I find myself caught between a modern and post-modern world; relating to and understanding parts of both, while also rejecting some aspects of both. (some of you might think I’m suffering from a bad case of spiritual bi-polar disorder and need to get help… quick!)

Anyway, one of the things that has bothered me over the years is that the gospel we preach is too small, and perhaps not very relevant. For example, we say that Jesus died for our sins so we can go to heaven. For many, that may be gospel (really good news.) But for many others, we have to first convince them that there is a heaven (and a hell to be avoided) before we explain the gospel, which might end up being just "pretty good news". Surely, a gospel from God would have to be really, really good news. So good, in fact, that it would be hard to resist. And yet, time and time again, my experience tells me that the gospel we preach is pretty resistible by a lot of the people we share it with.

Now, before some of you go crying “Heretic!” or “Blasphemer!” let me try to assure you that I do believe with all my heart that I am a sinner, and my sin caused a separation (death) from God (my source of life), and that Jesus’ work on the cross somehow paid my debt and restored my relationship to God. In fact, part of my frustration has been, how can I believe the above statement – while at the same time, reject that it is not the whole answer? Asking these questions out loud causes really odd looks from some, and real frustration and hurt from others.

There are, you probably realize, several other ways of explaining the gospel. Different theologians over the years have focused on different statements in Scripture to explain the gospel. But each of those explanations seems to leave out aspects of one of the other explanations, and results in a “too small” gospel.

Lately, when discussing the gospel, I’ve sort of landed on this really broad definition that says “the gospel is that the kingdom of God is breaking in, changing everything, and Jesus invites us to be a part of that.” This, of course is way too loose for many – like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.

I recently read Scot McKnight’s “Embracing Grace” (remember, this post was about reading?). In it, McKnight says that the gospel is too big for just one story to be able to tell it. One metaphor (penal substitution, for example) cannot tell the whole story. In order to tell it, we will need Irenaes’ story of Recapitulation, Anselm’s story of Satisfaction, the early theologian’s story of Ransom, the reformer’s story of Penal Substitution, Abelard’s story of Moral Example, and even more contemporary stories –being written today– like the Christus Victor story. This may make your head spin (it does mine), but at the same time it begins to form a story of Gospel that is VERY BIG and VERY GOOD NEWS.

In the end, McKnight lands on a definition of gospel that says that “the gospel is the work of the triune, interpersonal, relational God to form a community in which cracked Eikons (that’s us – cracked “image of God” people) are restored through the Cross and Resurrection and Pentecost to union with God and communion with others for the good of the world.

I rather like that. And as I talk to people, they seem to think that if such a thing were true, that’d be really good news. Trouble is, they don’t always see us promoting that gospel. But that’s another post.

Friday, October 19, 2007


My wife hates the way guitar players screw up their faces when they play solos. I tell her that they're just feeling the music and expressing it on their face. This guy takes it to a whole new level!

For those of you who go to my church, how cool would it be if everyone expressed the music this way?

Thanks to Pat at The Good Donut for showing it to me!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Grand Worship

Becki and I visited the Grand Canyon today. As it was the first time for both of us, neither of us was sure what to expect. One of Becki’s family members told us that you are likely to be overwhelmed by the awesome power of God. One of my family members told us that it’s just a big hole in the ground.

I really had no idea what to expect. Really… none. We had extended a “take our son back to college” trip and turned it into a little vacation for the 2 of us. I really hoped it wasn’t just a big hole in the ground, but I also didn’t want to get my hopes too high.

We parked in the lot and walked over to the first of many viewing points. I was amazed! I’m not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t speak. Not so much because of the sheer beauty (it was beautiful!) but because I felt a strange sense of God’s awesomeness, even presence there. It was kind of a “take off your shoes...” moment. It reminded me of when I was a kid and got to watch my older cousin Randy take in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. He was from Pennsylvania and had never seen such a sight. He just stood there, alone, for the longest time. I guess Becki’s sister was right. Sorry, un-named family member of mine.

The sacredness of the moment was in pretty steep competition with the din of the the crowd. This is peek tourist season, and they (we) were out in droves. Many internationals chattering away in various tongues; children (too many unsupervised) running around, going off the trails, throwing assorted items of clothing over the edge; and young lovers oblivious to their surroundings – clinging and slobbering as if it might be their last goodbye.

No sooner had Becki said something about God getting people’s attention, than a huge black cloud exploded with a flash of lightening, a boom of thunder, and a deluge of huge raindrops. It was as if HE was saying “HEY!!! People... I’m speaking through this creation… shut up and listen.” I’m not sure any of the people heard Him, but they scattered mighty quickly (being native Oregonians, the rain doesn’t bother us) Suddenly the place was empty, we were alone. The holy hush this place deserved was back, and we were both caught up in worship.

We spent the next several hours working our way down the canyon (downstream, not down to the floor) enjoying the vistas and marveling at the constant changes as the sunlight and clouds morphed the picture. Curtains of rain seemed to usher in new scenes, as in a play. As we approached the last viewpoint in the line (Hermit’s Rest) we saw a huge rainbow arching across one of the side canyons. Once again, we were caught up in worship.

We wondered if anyone else was drawn to worship in this place, or had it become just something to do when you’re in Arizona? (kind of like seeing the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona (we did that yesterday, and that’s quite another story).

Well just when a person might give up any hope of God getting credit for any of this, I stumbled across this sign… it’s from Psalm 68:4. Kinda funny, I think. All of the hullabaloo about separation of church and state, and here – at a national park that celebrates the millions and millions of years it took “nature” to carve this ditch – here, at last, God is honored. Very cool.

We finished the visit at sunset with a few hundred people at the Hopi Point Vista, a perfect place for watching sunsets. And you know what? I think in the hushed “wow’s” and “that’s amazing’s”, worship may have happened for some people who never find themselves in a church. I think, for most of us gathered there, there was no escaping Creator’s awesome power and beauty.

Thanks God, for a beautiful day. And thanks for a wonderful soulmate who loves to stand in the rain on the rim of the canyon and worship.

Monday, July 23, 2007

3 Funny Videos

These are a couple years old now, but I just found them today. They made me cry from laughing so hard...

Karate Kid


Injured Bad

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

iTunes Missile

I received a software update for iTunes this morning. At the suggestion of a friend, I actually read the EULA. Here is item #10 of the agreement...

10. Export Control. You may not use or otherwise export or reexport the Apple Software except as authorized by United States law and the laws of the jurisdiction in which the Apple Software was obtained. In particular, but without limitation, the Apple Software may not be exported or re-exported (a) into any U.S. embargoed countries or (b) to anyone on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of Specially Designated Nationals or the U.S. Department of Commerce Denied Person’s List or Entity List. By using the Apple Software, you represent and warrant that you are not located in any such country or on any such list. You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Are they serious?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Too Far?

My friend Bob Hyatt made it into USA Today in an article about churches and patriotism called "Faith Shouldn't be Red, White and Blue". It's a good article. You should read it.

My church is nowhere near the overboard "worshiping America" that he speaks about in the article, but I always find myself a bit torn on these more patriotic weekends (4th of July, Veterans Day, etc.)

I have a deep appreciation for those who, throughout our nation's history, have fought for the freedoms we now enjoy. I also know that for those who have personally fought for our freedom, it is nearly impossible for them to separate patriotism from worship. When they see the flag, they say "I risked my life so that we could gather to worship." Some have family or friends who gave their lives for this cause.

Yesterday, many (most?) churches across the US sang patriotic songs as a part of their worship service. We didn't. Not one. We are a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church with 4 worship services through the weekend. My task (as worship leader) is to lead these diverse generations and ethnicities into a worship experience where they encounter God and are deeply changed in the process. How do I lead Koreans, East Indians, Hispanics, Chinese, Ethiopians, and others in worship through these patriotic anthems?

After one of those 4 services (one that had a high percentage of men who served in WWII) a couple of men that I respect and love came up to me and asked why we couldn't sing at least one patriotic song. "Couldn't we at least sing 'God Bless America'? What's so bad about that song?" I told them that I really appreciate their view on this, but it just didn't fit with the theme we were working with this weekend. They both left disappointed in my answer.

A week ago I was having a conversation about these issues with some guys in their 20's. They were wondering if we could take the flags out of the sanctuary during the services that target younger people. I said "sure, but isn't that the service that our soldiers coming home from Iraq will tend to come to? How would they answer that question?" The 20-somethings didn't know what to say. They had perceived the issue as something pertaining to people 2 generations removed from them... an easy choice.

I am not personally prone to patriotism expressed in church. It just seems too easy to cross the line into "Worshiping America" instead of worshiping God. Our Pastor closed the service yesterday with a great prayer that thanked God for our independence, but also acknowledged that what we really need is for more of us to declare greater dependence... dependence on God. To me, the image above is DEFINITELY crossing that line. But where is the line? Is there a line?

Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tech Support

A friend of mine recently blogged about a communication snafu between he and his wife. It reminded me of one of my favorites…

I was in an online chat session with Dell support to address a malfunctioning computer. Here is the conversation:

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support. My name is Jayati and rep id is 114928. How may I assist you today?"

Dean Christensen: "Several weeks ago we had a laptop repaired. When it came back, there was a letter saying it needed a new AC adapter, but that it was back-ordered. I've heard nothing and would like to know the progress of this support ticket."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "Please let me know if the system working on AC adapter?"

Dean Christensen: "No! The AC adapter was broken and needed replacing. That's what Dell told me. They said that they would be sending one, but it's been several weeks now with no response."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "You need not worry at all, as I will resolve the issue for you."

Dean Christensen: "Okay, thank you."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "However, please confirm me if the light on the AC adapter stays solid green."

Dean Christensen: "You don't seem to understand... let me try again. The computer and AC adapter were sent to Dell for repair. They replaced the Mother Board because the AC connection on the board was faulty. They sent the computer back to me (repaired) and instructed me that the AC adapter was also bad, but a new one had been ordered. It has now been several weeks, and we have not seen that new adapter. I'm wanting to know the status of that ordered part .

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "Thank you for elaborating."

Dean Christensen: "I'm sorry if I wasn't clear in the beginning."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "That is fine."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "I will send you the AC adapter."

Now, I like to think of myself as a guy who is quite capable of multi-tasking. My wife says I should never attempt it, but I still try all the time. On this particular occasion, my wife’s instant message window popped up and she started talking to me about the house or kids or something that I don’t really remember right now. I do remember shifting windows back and forth many times between her and Jayati, the Dell support guy. Suddenly, as I was wrapping up my conversation with my wife, the conversation with Jayati went sideways…

Dean Christensen: "Okay, I love you."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "You what?”

Dean Christensen: "I love you, I’ll see you tonight."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "I’m Sorry?”

Dean Christensen: "Oh! No, I’m sorry, I was talking to my wife."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "Your wife?"

Dean Christensen: "Yes, you see, my wife was talking to me in another window on IM and… you’ll send the AC adapter then?"

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "You need not worry, I will make sure it is sent to you."

Dean Christensen: "Thank you so much for your help."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "Have all your issues been resolved? Are you satisfied with the level of support provided to you in this interaction?"

Dean Christensen: "Yes, thank you"

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "It was a great experience chatting with you. You have been really cooperative."

Dean Christensen: "You too."

Agent (Jayati_01114928): "It was a pleasure assisting you ;-)"

Dean Christensen: "Thanks again… goodbye"

Now, I have no idea what agent Jayati, the Indian support guy for Dell thought of our little chat session – and his little “wink” at the end freaked me out. But I think perhaps my wife is right… I shouldn’t try to multi-task.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Under the Influence

I grew up surrounded by music. My grandmother began teaching me to play piano at about 4 years old. One of my uncles had a Johnny Cash album that I loved listening to when I was at his house (loved “Ring of Fire). Another uncle gave my family a Kris Kristofferson record that was great (Jesus Was a Capricorn… loved the harmonies with him and Rita Coolidge).

The first album that was my very own left a mark though. I played it ‘til the grooves were going through the other side. That first album was Elton John’s 1974 release of his greatest hits. It was quickly followed with an earlier release simply called Elton John. My dad made fun of him, calling him Elton Toilet (you know, like “I gotta go to the John”), but I couldn’t get enough – and my playing began to take on Elton’s influence… that heavy bass line and the percussive right hand. (the old ladies in church never stopped complaining about my "banging on the piano")

Around that same time, I started listening to KINK radio here in Portland. On KINK, I discovered James Taylor and Jackson Browne. While they were primarily guitar players, they both left a bit of a folk-rock mark on me.

A couple years later I discovered Billy Joel. Now Billy was tough… a boxer… and a “piano man”. I was in high-school now and discovered that while all the guys thought playing the piano was gay, the girls loved it. Cool! I even wrote some “Just the Way You Are-esque” love songs (they’re horrible!) and added some of Billy’s chord progressions and voicings to my tool-kit . Billy’s signature dress was jeans with a sport coat and tennis shoes. I started dressing like him too.

In 1978 (the year I graduated high-school) I discovered a new sound. The Doobie Brothers had recently hired a replacement for their leader, Tom Johnston. His name was Michael McDonald. It was almost like I was hearing music for the first time. I quickly began acquiring every Michael McDonald recording I could find. I also began adding his percussive R&B rhythms to my playing. He was a god to me (not the greatest thing, but I guess we all do it). I made a comment to a mentor of mine about how cool it would be if Michael became a Christian and wrote Christian songs. He challenged me to pray for him. I started doing that. Slowly, over the years as I followed his career, I noticed his searching lyrics began including answers. In 2001 he released a Christmas album called “In the Spirit”. On it, the song “Peace” tells of his journey to Christ. He had become a Christian. He doesn’t know me, we’ve met… talked briefly… and he doesn’t know I prayed for him. But I’m convinced it worked. And one might even ask "who influenced whom?"

Anyway, those are the big musical influences in my life. Matt, you asked.

PS – I’ve never listened to a Keith Green album, so he isn’t one of the influences… sorry, Keith fans.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Let Sleeping Blogs Lie

Bit o' the Blogger Block going on here. Cut me some slack.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Help me Laugh, Help me Cry

Romans 12:15 says "Rejoice with those who rejoice, Weep with those who weep."

This story reminds me of one way that happens in a faith community.

A four-year-old child's next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."

Pretty dang cool, I think.


Ingmar Bergman on Art & Worship

Ingmar Bergman was a filmmaker who was particularly known for depicting rather dark stories on the silver screen. A few years ago, a friend shared this quote with me (in bold font below) that I found to be really intriguing, and quite insightful. I'd love to hear your thoughts on his statements.

“People ask what are my intentions with my films – my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. I prefer to describe what I would like my aim to be. There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed - master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen , priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres.

"Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are unimportant in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; 'eternal values,' 'immortality' and 'masterpiece' were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility. Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation.

"The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other's eyes and yet deny the existence of each other.

"We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the ganter's whim and the purest ideal. Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel, a devil - or perhaps a saint - out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts.

"Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stuff Happens

Stuff happens.

What do the world’s religions have to say about this vexing existential problem?

Taoism: Stuff happens. Who gives a stuff?

Hinduism: This stuff has happened before and will happen again.

Buddhism: The stuff that happens doesn’t really.

Zen: What is the sound of stuff happening?

Islam: The stuff that will happen will happen.
Judaism: Lord, why is this stuff happening to me?

Evangelicalism: Jesus, we praise you, we bless you, and we just really wanna ask "why this stuff isn’t happening to someone else"?

Catholicism: Stuff happens because you deserve it.

Open Theism: Stuff happens to God too.

Pentecostalism: Tuffs appensh.

High Church Anglicans: Verily, verily, stuff happeneth.

Atheism: Stuff happens. Then you die. No more stuff.

Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke the stuff.
Hare Krishna: "Stuff" happens! "Stuff" happens! "Stuff" happens! "Stuff" happens! . .

Jehovah's Witnesses: Let us in and we'll tell you why stuff happens.
Quakers: Quietly praise God for the blessings that stuff brings.

Calvinists: Stuff won't happen to you if you work hard enough.

Christian Scientists: Agree that there is no stuff.

Televangelists: Stuff won't happen to you if you send in your love offering.

Any that were missed?

HT to Monastic Mumblings for this hilarious bit of... stuff.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A "Creed" from the Book of Hebrews

Some of you have asked for a copy of the "creed" we read from the Book of Hebrews this weekend. Here it is...

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.

We believe that Jesus is the heir of all things and the creator of the universe. He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He provided purification for our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven and serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Therefore, since we have a Great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
This high priest meets all our needs—He is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from their sins.

Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

And let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Meditating on Hebrews 11

We’re studying Hebrews 11 right now. I can already tell that this is going to be another series where God really messes with us… or rather, “messes with ME.”

We started two weeks ago by looking at the first 2 verses. From those verses, we got a definition of faith. We learned that faith is acting on a God implanted hope. A hope that sees the unseen in a way that becomes more real than the things we see with our eyes.

So this week, we looked at Abel – the first in the list so many of us have come to know as the “Hall of Faith”. Abel, as you may recall, was the first homicide victim in the Bible. He and his brother both brought an offering to the Lord. His offering pleased the Lord, his brother Cain’s did not. Cain got ticked and killed him.

So a couple things came into focus for me this weekend…

A God-implanted Hope.
So, what was Abel’s hope that he was acting on when he brought the better offering? I’ve been stewing on this for a couple weeks now; even looking ahead to the people who will be mentioned in the coming weeks. I can’t seem to get away from the thought that the “God-implanted hope” was not a specific task. It was bigger than that. Sure, specific actions flowed out of that hope as they acted in faith, but I’m thinking that the hope was on a pretty grand scale.

What if Abel’s “hope” was a restored worship? A proper understanding of who God is with a deep desire to respond to Him appropriately. Or how ‘bout Enoch? Could it be that he somehow had a God-planted hope, or longing for an intimacy with God that men hadn’t known since The Garden? Noah? 2 Peter 2:5 tells us he was a herald of righteousness. Did his God-implanted hope come from looking around and seeing nothing but evil?

I guess what I’m thinking is perhaps there was a hope for the Kingdom of God to be realized. To return to it. I’m not positive this holds up through the whole chapter, but it’s something I’m meditating on.

All of this also causes me to question what the God-implanted hope is in me. What is it in you?

Abel’s Worship
Something else that came into focus for me this weekend had to do with worship. As pastor John talked about Abel’s worship, he asked us to consider our own worship. He said many churches being built today are built to be an auditorium, others are built more like a night-club. But, he said, really the sanctuary is an altar. As he said that, it occurred to me that an altar is really an instrument of death. It’s a place where you sacrifice something, and the thing being sacrificed is killed.

What does that mean for us? Well, it seems to me that if this is true (and I believe it is), then every time we come to worship, something in us must die. That’s pretty contrary to how we tend to think of worship. There are a lot of people out there (I call them worship junkies) who love the feeling they get when the music plays and they sing. Doesn’t sound very much like an execution, now does it? It seems to me that we do a pretty poor job of coming into worship with a right mindset. I’m afraid we tend to approach worship much more like Cain than Abel. An approach that asks the question “how little can I give and still fulfill my duty?” rather than “I am nothing, God is everything, He owns it all anyway, I’m going to give it all.”

Following Abel’s lead, the only thing we should desire to get out of worship is the pleasure of God. In the end, his reward was simply that… and an intimacy with God (through death) that exceeded any other reward.

What’s in a Name?
Lastly, it was pointed out that Abel is a name that means “vapor”, or “nothing”. Here one minute, gone the next. Now, pastor made a bit of a joke about how maybe his parents coulda done a better job naming him. But I got thinking that maybe his name was sort of prophetic. Could it be that his name speaks to his understanding of his self importance in light of the greatness of God? Could it also be that God knew that Vapor’s (Abel’s) life would be cut short? Here one moment, gone the next.

Not “preaching”… just pondering.