Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff -- WATCH IT. RIGHT NOW. ALL OF IT.

So I was thinking about getting a watch. A nice watch. Like this one:Hollatchaboy!
But then... good ol Sarah Lee had to put that link up on her fb status and just make me feel guilty about my materialistic ways. So I guess I won't be buying the watch as a self-congratulations for finishing midterms :(

But now that I think of it, it's been a weird transformation this semester, starting to care about these weird hippie social issues like sweatshops, the environment, and saving money. Freakin' Berkeley man... Oh and that guy Shane Claiborne...

Yes. My greatest fears are being confirmed. The high hopes I had for this semester in regards to serving the homeless and caring about money are beginning to fade away. I've done a good job not buying clothes, but when I really think about it, that's not really the problem. I don't have a clue on how to love the poor.

Dang... I think the more I learn about Jesus, the more I learn that I have more to learn. Not necessarily bad a thing, but difficult when you're looking for answers. But then again, why would I ever want a God that I can fully understand? ...

Well, good bye, sexy Nixon watch! We could have had something special, but you are merely a worldly item that moths and rust will destroy!!!!!!

Love, Nate

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 17. Signs.

Psalm 86:17
Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

I have friends that have been going to church their whole lives who are beginning to give up on their faith. And so many times I've prayed that God would just give them a sign of his goodness. I mean, I have a lot of everyday things I consider signs of God's goodness. Things like sleep, good food, laughing, people, sunset. And then there are those not-so-everyday things that happen and you know it's from God.

There's this one guy that hangs out by Fisherman's Wharf in SF named the Bushman. Basically, the dude hides behind a couple bushes and scares people for money. Sometimes I wish God was more like the Bushman and he would just pop out and yell "Surprise!" and we'd all just say, "Oh God, you're so silly!"

Sometimes I wish faith wasn't so hard, but I guess that's a stupid thing to think. Sometimes I get mad when I read the Bible because of the Disciples' lack of faith. I mean, surressly now... Jesus was right in freakin front of them, how could they ever doubt? Imagine how easy evangelism would be with Jesus right next to you... "Hi, meet my friend Jesus, he can give you eternal life." Soooo easy. It would be so useful to have Jesus there. Like, if you're struggling with sin, just call Jesus in, "Hey Jesus, could you purify my thoughts right now? Thanks man, I appreciate it."

But no, faith glorifies God. Faith is uncomfortable. Faith determines commitment. For me to ask God for a sign is not a bad thing, but for me to live without doubting is better.

And I think this is a fitting way to end Psalm 86, especially since it's Lent right now. Lent is about trust and faith and knowing that God will provide, even if I wake up an hour earlier every weekday. Faith is not about me, so I hope that the last 23 days of Lent for both you and me are glorifying to God. Thanks for joining me in this, even if my thoughts are not coherent in the mornings. Happy Lent!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 16. Parent.

Psalm 86:16
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant
and save the son of a woman
who served you before me.

That last part is weird. And I wonder if it really makes a difference... if my mom was a good person, does that mean God will treat me better?

Reminds me of when my pastor was telling me that one of the blessings/curses of our church was that it was generational; that is, we have kids and their mamas and their mama's mamas at our church. And she basically said that if you look at the kids who are really lukewarm about God and then look at their parents, you can see why.

This verse also makes me think about my own parents. Mom and pops became disillusioned with the church to the point that they gave up on it altogether a little before I was born. Part of me is happy that I wasn't raised in a church and that I found God on my own, but part of me is sad that my parents left Christianity in the dust. They have no problem with my faith, but is tolerance my only aim? How do I convince them that the church can actually live up to what it's supposed to be? ... only time will tell.

How about you? What are your parents like?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 15. Two for one.

Psalm 86:14-15
14Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
a band of ruthless people seeks my life--
they have no regard for you.
15But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

So today's a double double since I didn't make time to Lent yesterday. My bads. I think today's a good day to double your pleasure though.
These two verses make a lot of sense to me in light of the La Burrita and Bart situation that happened a couple weeks ago (that you can also read about!). I guess I was just thinking, these guys don't give a crap about me, what difference would it make if I tried to love them? They were just a bunch of jerks trying to take my money--they don't care about my feelings and I wouldn't know how to show love to them even if I tried.

But then verse 15 says that those "arrogant foes" are shown compassion and grace. Wtf, God? Seriously? Ok, let's get things straight. I'm the Christian here--these jabronis trying to take my money obviously don't love God and they're just a-holes, so why do THEY get compassion and grace?

And then I realize that I'm exactly like those fools who tried to take my money. I keep taking and hoarding stuff without any regard for the One who gives it to me... I am an arrogant foe of God, but somehow there's still compassion and grace. Wtheck is that...?

A wise rock band once said, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair." Holla.

Day 14. Oops.

Ok. I overslept yesterday.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 13. Love.

Psalm 86:13
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.

I think sometimes we forget what it means to be loved by God. Just stop and think for a sec:

We're sitting in our rooms right now in front of our computers
The earth we stand on is 25,000 miles in circumference
We're traveling at 65,000 mph around a sun 1 million times the earth's size
The galaxy we live in is 100,000 light years across. That means it would take us 100,000 years to get from one side to the other if we were traveling at 186,000 miles per second. (which means, if you've taken 3min to read this, you would have been able to travel around the earth well over 1300 times at the speed of light.)There are over 125 billion galaxies in our universe... ridiculous.Our universe is 14 billion light years across. Our minds are not programmed to understand numbers this big...

And there's a God up there who made all of it, and he's crazy about us... what else matters?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day 12. Forever.

Psalm 86:12
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.

Ok, I'm not gonna lie on this one. This verse is kinda cliche. I'm sure it wasn't cliche back then. Or maybe it was. Probably not AS cliche because there was no mass culture or anything. But especially today, this verse is kinda cliche.

But in all seriousness, forever is a long time. Like, forever. Kinda like verse 2, which talked about doing stuff all day long, forever is a hecka freakin long time. Honestly, like honestly now, I don't even know if I could praise God forever without getting bored or distracted. Maybe that's because my idea of what praising God means is wrong. But dang, forever.

It's like getting married. I'm excited to get married. Not that I know who it's gonna be with or what it's gonna be like, but I imagine marriage is pretty tight.(What kind of political commentary am I making with this picture???)
Anyways, yeah... marriage is one of those things that's "forever" (atleast on this earth). People always talk about the fire fading or falling out of love or whatever, but I'm convinved that married life is gonna be the shizz.

Maybe I've become numb to the thought of eternal life from hearing about it so much. I bet it's like marriage, except a billion times more cool and exciting. I dunno... But I know the people that make the biggest difference in this world are those who are more consumed with the next.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Day 11. Counter intuition.

Psalm 86:11
Teach me your way, Lord
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

Sometimes Biblical poetry is very clear in its parallelisms. For example, you may get a verse like, "The righteous man rises above troubles; the unrighteous man falls into a very deep, inescapable pit." ...ok maybe not exactly like that, but you get the point. And then there are verses like this one where the connection isn't as intuitive.

Being taught God's way = I rely on his faithfulness. This is especially encouraging for me right now, because I feel like I've gone so far away from what faith really is. I really wanna relearn everything. I wanna be retaught, and I'm hoping that can bring me back to relying on God.

I feel like the church has given me so many mixed messages and I just wanna get back into the Word for myself and rediscover what Christianity is all about at its core, away from all the structure, all the ministry, all the music, all the other junk that comes along with organized religion.

The second part of the verse is just as crazy... undivided heart = fear. To me, this means that when we focus on God with everything we have and when he's the center of our lives, we see him as he really is, in all his holiness. I imagine a scene like Isaiah 6. I think if we truly understood how holy and how BIG God really is, we would have so much more respect for him...

This verse is crazy. I think we all need a little bit of this...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 10. Miracle.

Psalm 86:10
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
you alone are God.

When's the last time you saw God do a marvelous deed?

I think it depends on your perspective... Some would say that it's a marvelous deed that we woke up this morning. Others would say that it's pretty marvelous that we have food to eat and a roof over our heads. Still others would say that they've never seen God work any kind of marvelous deed.

From previous posts, you may already know of my fascination with "marvelous deeds" or miracles. And I think this verse fits in the with the rest of the passage so far... that understanding God as "great" and as able to do marvelous deeds is contingent upon our being poor and needy (v1), trusting (v2,4), able to cry mercy (v6), and willingness to sacrifice (v9). If we feel like we have no need to have these things, then God has no need to work any miracles.

And I think the last part of the verse just kinda sums it all up. God is the only one who's God, regardless of whether I'm poor and needy or filled with joy. And the God that I curse and question in my spiritual lows is the same God that I thank and worship in my spiritual highs...

...Ok this post just kinda rambled on, but the question I have is
What kind of marvelous deeds has God done for you? What kind of marvelous deeds do you want to see God do?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Day 9. Worship.

Psalm 86:9
All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.

I like the word "bring." I just imagine some dude carrying the word "glory" up to God's throne. In my head, the word weighs about 50lbs. When I think about it that way, the task seems tiring and burdensome. But I guess the point is that worship can sometimes be difficult. Worship is not for ME.

Sometimes I worry that "worship" has become this nebulous term referring to electric guitars and powerpoint slides, when really it's about bringing something heavy to the throne. Worship was never about feeling great. God is not glorified when we say, "Worship was really good this past Sunday" when we're talking about the music. Those who are being persecuted for their faith, who are probably filled with more joy than we'll ever have, probably don't say "this act of worship is really good" everytime they get beaten for their beliefs.

Dang I sound so cynical. I guess I just feel like I don't know what real worship is because the American church has distorted it into a fun and entertaining time, when I don't think that's what it was intended to be. I believe that worship is sacrifice (rom. 12:1), and sacrifice is often painful. While I know that joy is a byproduct of this worship and sacrifice, that joy comes from giving, not receiving. We've subtituted sacrifice with guitar riffs and peaceful piano intros, and I think as a result, we receive a shadow of what real joy is. Worship is not for me...

This verse says that one day we'll all know what worship is, and we'll all do it. That's gonna be crazy.

What burdens are you carrying to the throne?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day 8. Gods.

Psalm 86:8
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours.

The word "gods" confused me at first, but I guess there are a lot of gods these days too--Buddha, Allah, Krishna, Kobe Bryant. If you call yourself a Christian, none of the aforementioned are the God, and one of them is actually a criminal.But I won't say which one. But I think on a more personal level, we have our own gods. Things that we cling onto so tightly, things that we love more than the God we profess to worship, things like comfort, money, relationships, reputation, security, safety, and ourselves.

David says there is no god like THE God; they can't do what he can do. I don't think I ever give God the chance to show me how satisfying he can be. I wanna see him take care of me, but I'd much rather go to the doctor. I wanna see him provide for me, but I like having a chunk of cash in my wallet and a bank account with some backup money. I wanna see God make me happy, but I look to friends, videogames, the Warriors, and shopping for that (Ok, the Warriors don't make me happy very often anymore). But honestly, when does God ever get to do anything for me?

Nothing can take the place of God, but everything in my life has become a substitute for him. No wonder I don't understand true joy. No wonder I'm not always content with my relationship with God. I barely know him. I just know the things that have taken his place.

What gods do you worship?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Day 7. Emergency.

Psalm 86:7
When I am in distress I call to you,
because you answer me.

I think this verse is pretty simple. I kinda wish the first word was "if" and not "when." But I think if that were the case, God would be like a fire extinguisher. He would sit there, maybe on the wall, maybe in our trunk, and he would go totally unnoticed until there was an emergency, and only then would we look for him. I'll be damned if God lives in a box that says, "Pray in case of emergency."

The verse says that God answers when we're going through crap. Agree? Disagree? I don't know if I can testify to the truth of this verse... I know people who have been asking God for help for a while now, and they're still struggling. There is no timeframe given with this verse. It doesn't say, "because you answer me in 5 minutes" or "within the month" or even "before your 80th birthday."
That scares me. It's so cliche to say that God works on his own time, but dangit, it's true. It's another one of those beautiful letdowns that God decided to make. A letdown because we have to go through so much crap, beautiful because God will soon flush it down.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 6. Mercy.

Psalm 86:6
Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.

Do you remember the game Mercy? We used to play it in elementary school. Basically, you and one other person face each other, hold both of each other's hands, intertwine fingers, and basically try to cripple the other person before they cripple you. I swear some messed up kids with anger problems created this game, but it was fun.

So the goal of that game was to get your opponent to say, "Mercy!" which would signal your victory. Kids had a variety of techniques; some included:
a) The nails-in-back of knuckles (NBK) - girls would often use this method, and it was generally effective. But if you're going up against someone with a higher pain tolerance, this technique probably wouldn't get the job done.b) The Pressure Point Pursuit (PPP) - sometimes kids would go for that pressure point kinda between your thumb and index. Apparently, according to this picture, that pressure point also induces headaches... I never knew... but now it makes so much sense.c) Brute Strength Approach (BSA) - these guys (and sometimes girls) would just beat you by being hecka strong and bending your arms and hands every which way. It wasn't pretty. (Not that I ever lost this way)
(that's what brute strength looked like in first grade)

d) The Joint Lock - Probably my weapon of choice, this technique required patience and involved aligning the arm and wrist of the other person just right until BAM you get em in the joint lock. Never fails.

Anyways, when I read this verse, I think of that game. Crying mercy means we give up. We can't take the pain anymore. We acknowledge our weakness and we give up whatever feigned pride and dignity we had at first. Crying mercy means we are overpowered and outdone, first by a ruthless world and second by a relentless God. When we cry for mercy, we surrender everything.

What are you crying out for?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day 5. Grace.

Psalm 86:5
You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love for all who call to you.

Let's just say it. David was an effed up guy. I wikipedia-ed him the other day and that crap just kinda bothered me. The guy had hecka wives, his kids were idiots and pervs (I'm not judgmental), and of course, he was an adulterous murderer. Maybe I'm not seeing things right, but it kinda bothers me that this is a guy, chosen by God, who supposedly has a very tight relationship with God, and he does all this stupid stuff... I thought once you had the relationship with God, it got easier not to sin.

With David, we see the grace of God at its finest. It annoys me almost, that someone like David could know God so deeply, because his actions obviously didn't deserve it.

I have yet to understand that kind of intimacy, but I definitley understand the guilt and shame that comes with falling short of the Christian standard.

We are all effed up people with effed up tendencies and we are desperately in need of God's grace.

Sometimes I don't believe in it. Sometimes I forget that ALL of God's wrath and anger and disappointment was put onto his son. Sometimes I feel like I'm too unclean to even pray or talk to God, but this verse tells me that there is no condemnation. God is abounding in love for all--the sinners, the hypocrites, the liars, the pot-smokers, the shop-lifters, the porn-lovers, the greedy, the selfish, the pervs... even a guy like Nate Lee.

Check out this amazing site I found
my favorites are Brian Welch and Nate Larkin