Fitting In

When I left California for the promised land of Tennessee, I knew it was the right thing to do. I still know it. What I never could have imagined was how blessed I was in California. I’m blessed here too, Praise the Lord! But recognizing what we have or had is half the battle in recognizing the grace of God in our lives. In my life.I have a tendency to be dissatisfied with the way things are. I want change – not your change; my change – and I want it now. I want enough money, enough entertainment, enough spirituality, enough intellect, enough, enough, enough. I always want.

Recognizing I already have makes all the difference. I can’t dwell on my family and friends left behind in California too long. It’s painful. What I need to recognize is that is the way it is because of Gods grace. For God so loves me that he sent my only begotten friends and family.

God dying for us is so cliché. I’ve heard it before. God sending my brother or sister to me is new.

Now that I no longer have them at my finger tips, I recognize what I had. And I am prompted to thank God for his many blessings. What a blessing it is to have friends and family.

If God blessed me there, is he also blessing me here? What blessing has he given me that I have yet to recognize? One of my brothers, whom I love but was estranged from, spends more time with me now than in the last several years combined. It’s not to the point where we spend a lot of time on very personal matters, but it is time. We talk even if it’s, “Someone get the Sniper on the far bridge!”

I have a close, new relationship with my wife’s family, who generously let me live with them for several months. In many ways, they are now as much a family as my blood siblings. They never were when both of us lived in California. By the grace of God.

By the grace of God, I look forward to recognizing the blessings I have. Recognizing that they are enough.

Fear

When I was a teen I switched parents and moved from the big city to the big mountains. Once within her grasp, my God-fearing mother wanted to undo the damage done by being exposed to sinful things and the lack of going to church that I experienced while living with my father through most of grade school. Seriously, I respect her for her zeal. Unfortunately, I only now recognize that I was placed in a situation where one set of negative influences was replaced by another. Anti-Church replaced by Anti-World. I didn’t then realize the danger.Many good Christian people spend much of their time afraid even after hearing (and no doubt memorizing that) “God is bigger than the boogie man! He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV!” (Veggie Tales). We live a life of fear in opposition to the life of freedom from fear that Christ promised us. Jesus died so we would no longer fear death! Yet, we live afraid of music, books, movies and TV (AKA the nefarious “media”).

I remember in Youth Group, my well meaning lay leader – whom I love – made us watch a video on the evils and dangers of … Dungeons & Dragons. In the late 80’s and early 90’s Christians were afraid that D&D would lead many unsuspecting young kids into the realm of darkness and wizardry. Thanks to that video this expected epic apostasy was stopped in its tracks! Or it wasn’t something to be afraid of in the first place. You pick.

Never mind the fact that I love D&D, I still wasn’t buying the idea that role playing was bad. Being creative – in essence practicing creation – echoes the Creator. How can that be bad? Only in its intent and content I would guess. I don’t know where the documentaries found their few crazy kids to use as examples, but I remember that when I got together with friends we spent most of our time battling bad guys, saving the day, and or imagining worlds where non-sense made sense. Kinda like drawing pictures, reading, writing, playing with G.I. Joe, or whatever.

Many good Christians, faced with the obviousness of their overreaction to D&D, Rock n’ Roll music, and Smurfs have since moved on to demonizing Harry Potter. “If Harry Potter were in the Old Testament he would have been put to death!” cried a children’s pastor/leader in the documentary, “Jesus Camp.”

Do we Christians really want to equate the Old Testament with fiction?Imagining demons and devils and evil books behind every corner seems much more dangerous to our souls than role playing D&D. Harry Potter is just a book set in a fictional world where magic works. If it weren’t magic, it could just as easily be ray guns, light sabers, the force or – even – prayer.

Many of my (five) readers may not like me equating prayer with magic.

But the truth is we Christians have more magic in our church than Harry does in his spell book.

Don’t believe me? Try “The Prayer of Jabez.” Do it for 30 days and watch the results! How about Televangelists knocking people down with their arms pointed at them? Or “Send us your money and you will see God open up the flood gates and richly bless you 1 bazillion times more than you give. (But you need to have faith and send in $1000 to start.)”

Giving to get. Reciting words to reshape reality. How is this different from magic?

It isn’t. The most obvious truthful correlation between magic and this stuff is that neither of them work.

We Christians are afraid. We see the world around us and we turn inwards. We see the symptoms of the world and mistake them for the sickness.

Harry Potter, TV, music, movies aren’t the cause of the diseased world. Sin is the cause. The products of the sick world will undoubtedly be touched by that sickness. But we are products of this world and we are touched by the sickness, too.

Pastor Ronnie Meek this week* spoke briefly of Ezekiel asking about unclean things defiling the holy. Pastor then pointed out that in the New Covenant unclean things are made holy by being touched by the holy.

We should no longer be afraid of the world. We should now be the harbingers of a Kingdom about to burst on the scene. “No Fear!” should be our battle cry (if you can safely imagine it).

Paul says, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is profitable.” If Harry Potter or D&D bugs you or isn’t your thing then don’t read it or play it. But don’t be quick to make your opinion into rules for others. Some of us can remain Christian and still enjoy these kinds of things. The key is fear. Don’t be afraid.

What makes us different from the world isn’t that we call ourselves “Christians” or even that we try to live life by a set of morals. It’s that we aren’t afraid! We don’t even fear death. If not death then why should we fear anything?