A Noisy Mess

In youth group we have been teaching through Romans and reading through a chapter Micah each Wednesday.  This past week we read Micah 2 and I was struck by a phrase in verse 12.  God promises His people that He will gather them “like sheep in a fold, like a flock in a pasture, a noisy multitude of men.”  It’s that last phrase that stuck out to me.  A “noisy multitude of men.”  I was talking with a friend recently who said “church work is messy.”  (He works in a different church, far far away from wherever you are.)  This got me to thinking.

God has gathered to himself a people who are a noisy mess!  Let’s be honest, we are… aren’t we?  Beyond the humor of the church being symbolized as one of the most helpless, half-witted creatures on earth: sheep, we are also sometimes privy to the view of what we look like from the outside.  Here in Micah 2:12 that is: noisy.  So let me just bring to light some of what is going on in my head at the moment.  I don’t like noise.  However, I used to.  You see, I always had some sort of noise around me.  A TV playing, a radio, a Walkman, a sibling yelling, a friend talking, etc…  (Props to anyone who remembers Walkman!)  The sound was a constant divergence to the things around me.  It kept me from ever having to deal with the real issues going on in my soul.  That is until my Dad passed away and we moved to a new house.  My mom started to sit out on the back porch with some frequency.  She would drink hot tea and watch the birds.  It was quiet out there.

For a while I stayed inside and watched the normal every day lineup of reruns.  Friends, Sinfield, etc… (you watched them too!)  TV, Radio, Internet… any noise that would distract me from my soul.  Then I began to realize that mom was on the back porch (I’m sad to say I can’t tell you when I noticed…  like most teens I was so self-absorbed that it could have been a year before I realized her routine).  So, one day I went to join her.  Let me set the scene.  Mom comes home from work, I’m lying on the couch, being a typical teenage boy hoping she doesn’t ask me to sweep or take out the trash.  Ginny was in her room watching Sound of Music, interactive style.  Now…  just so you realize, mom is a whirlwind of activity… even to this day she is a whirlwind.  She comes into the house lays down her bags, starts a pot of hot water, gets dinner going, goes to her room to change into jeans, picking things up in the midst of all this, comes back out into the living room, says hi to her silly teenage son on the couch, grabs her hot tea, opens the sliding glass door, shuts it behind herself and sits down with her cup of hot tea for about 20 minutes before going back inside to face the noise.  She was sooo loud when she came home!

So one day I walked outside and there was no sound other than the wind and birds.  I didn’t know I would like tea.  So I sat with my mother and had hot tea.  It was a peaceful moment in an otherwise fiercely noisy day.  Our lives are generally a noisy mess.  As a community we live in a noisy mess.  Sometimes more mess than noise.  In my mother, God taught me about noise.  You see, God has something better for us than just aimless noise.  He leads us to still waters, he restores our souls. (Psalm 23)  We are a noisy mess, but He can be the back porch.  On that porch God dealt with my noise.  I learned to love being noisy for Him and I started to care less about the noises around me.  So…  now I don’t like the noise of this world.  But, the noise God makes: AWESOME.

Now just to be careful, the noise that we make is not always a bad thing.  In the 13th verse of Micah 2 the image is that of a King leading sheep as if he is a warrior and they are his army.   He is the King who can deal with the noise and lead us to direct the noise the right way.  A noisy mess of people following their King to battle!  Oh that we could be a noisy mess that way!!  Oh that we could terrify the world with the noisy power of the love of God that invades every painful crevice of this world!  What a noise that would be!  It seems to me that God wants us to make noise in this world.  He wants us to stand up and be the noisy mess that challenges this life, the noise that shuts off entertainment and shallow nonsense for the sake of making a bigger noise for His Name.  He calls us to make a noise for Him, to shout His name, and to watch the walls of oppression fall down.  So… let’s make some noise…  He will lead us to the back porch when necessary, let’s you and I make some noise for the Kingdom.  (more on “how” later.)

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Thoughts About Heroes

We love heroes.  We love to have heroes who rise from the ground to fight the enemies of all that is righteous and good.  My favorite example of a hero is from an old TV movie that I used to watch.  I don’t remember the title, but it was one of those cheesy early 90s made for TV movies that was about a student or a teacher who moved into a high school where there was a drug dealing conspiracy in which the principle was getting rich off the drug dealer in his school and the student, or teacher, or whatever was the only one who could stop him!  Most often, the janitor was some sort of ex-special forces superhero who had to teach his amazing martial arts skills to the young hero.  (the moral of these was clear, when in trouble, find a janitor.)  We love these movies and stories of heroes who show the power of the redeemed human spirit.

Just some observations about our hero’s characteristics.  First, there is always a redeemer.  Either the hero is the redeemer, or some outside influence (the janitor) is his redemption. I love the image of a janitor being the redeemer.  You’ve all seen this cheesy line, but I wonder if you have ever thought of the spiritual reality of a man who is quietly cleaning up trash on this earth while retaining some hidden power.  This is the image of our King.  He takes the lowest state now, sweeping up refuse.  Waiting…  waiting for the right time.  Occasionally He redeems a warrior for His Kingdom and that warrior rises under his instruction to defeat one of the enemies of righteousness.  The hero either starts as the redeemer or becomes the redeemer.  This is the call of Christ on the life of all believers.  We are to be agents of redemption on this earth.  Because we have been loved, we are to love.  When we encounter our redeemer, we become his agents.  Human nature needs redemption.  We are wicked, but we don’t have to stay that way.  Christ makes us righteous.  (Romans 5-8.)  More than that, He gives us a mission, on to the next point…

Second, there is a clear enemy.  The hero always has an objective.  In the early 90’s that was the drug dealer in the fictional school and the corrupt authorities of this world that needed to be supplanted by goodness and righteousness. For us it’s Abortion, Sex Trafficking, Education, Poverty, Homelessness, Drug Addiction, etc… Place whatever justice issue you want there, lets just aim at all injustice and unrighteousness of mankind, deal!?  Good.  So the hero stands against these wicked ravings of mankind.   It is a clear enemy.  More modern hero stories try to complicate the hero’s mission.  They propose that the enemy has a justifiable end for what end it wants to see come to fruition.  However, in the end, the redeemed hero is not taken in by the ridiculous display of nonsense and he smashes the enemy.  In the same way, we as redeemed creations are called to war against wickedness…  while we are not THE HERO, we are His agents in this world…  until He comes back to get us, then the war ends.  (If you’re one of my non-christian friends…  I know I sound crazy, sometimes truth does.)

Third, the hero must learn to walk in redemption.  In every story the hero undergoes some type of training period.  The training is intense and usually done in some secluded area (the basement of the school with the janitor… cause all janitors live in the basement?)  Cut to a montage of martial arts and weapons training with the janitor.  Only after learning to live as redeemed is the hero able to defeat the enemy.  Now, this one is just a little sketchy.  The truth is that heroes are made in battle, not in training.  Our training is the battle.  The redeemer teaches us to fight in the midst of the war.  Another of my favorite hero stories is in Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom.  At the climatic war scene, the entire army of Saladin is outside the gates ready to charge, and Orlando Bloom and his 50 men are the only knights to protect the city.  The priest (a coward in the story), yells at Bloom, “we must escape! we cannot defend Jerusalem without knights!”  So Bloom turns and grabs a young squire, makes him kneel, and knights him right there.  In a fury of rage, the priest retorts, “does calling a man a knight make him a better fighter!?”  Bloom replies without looking up, “yes.”   That scene sends shivers down my spine!  It’s true!  Jesus changes us, gives us a new title and all of a sudden we go from wretched enemy of the cross to warrior for it!  II Cor. 5:21- “we become His Righteousness!”  You’re given a sword and told to go to war, no more beating around the bush.  Now, don’t get me wrong…  I believe that Christians should train.  Study your Bible, learn from others, find mentors, and the like… but you study in the tent on the battle field.  The enemy does not stand far away, you were given a sword and called “Knight,” so go to battle!

Fourth, the hero always gets beat up first and then rises for the victory.  The story always seems to go like this: hero rises, hero beat down, hero trains, hero rises again and tares the enemy to pieces.  So it is with us…  we have to learn to walk in this redeemed power and sometimes it takes some beat downs on us.  We become little heroes only when we imitate and walk along side THE HERO.

Fifth, their is always potential for a sequel.  So it is for us…  constant sequels until the day our King ends it all!  Revelation 21 will come sooner than we know.   As for now, when in trouble, look for the janitor.

Pick Your Memories

Ed Newton- “Choose the memories your kids go home with.” 

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 the LORD says,

 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

In my most recent read through the Bible, I was impressed by how many times the LORD commands us to remember, or think about, or impress, or constantly refresh your knowledge of the commands and instructions of the LORD.  I began to think about memories.  Specifically I thought about my own memories of my youth group and the trips we took.  What do I remember?

I remember “Roll Call.” I remember when Matt and Fahad got sunburn on their heads because they shaved their heads and then forgot sunscreen.  I remember “don’t check your brains at the door.”  I remember Philippians 2.  I remember playing basketball.  I remember the sermon illustration when that guys sang I’ll be watching you by Sting, and how much that creeped me out.  I remember the man telling us that Jesus was the great potter and he does not make mistakes.  I remember hanging out with my youth pastors.  I remember the cafeterias and their nasty smells.  I remember those awkward camp romances.  I remember my wiser friends telling me to let off that nonsense.  I remember not listening to their wisdom.  Shawn sorting nasty clothes with me, Walter singing songs with me, Ryan eating cereal for lunch and dinner, gasmasks, duct tape, snowballs,  and my brother making tremendous efforts to disciple me.

So it occurred to me, while I was taking my own youth group to camp that I wanted them to remember something better.  A phrase popped into my head, “pick your memories.”  That is what God tells us to do in Deuteronomy.  Pick your memories!  Don’t let circumstances or the enemy decide your memories. So, how do you pick your memories.  Contrary to popular belief, memories are not things that are made in an instant.  Rather, they are things that are relived in the mind of the person over and over and over again.  So the first step to choosing your memories is to insure that you are reliving the memories that are the ones you want to keep.  Paul encourages us to do this.  Philippians 4:8, “… think on these things.”

Second, don’t let others force you to relive pointless events.  When someone else brings up a memory that they want to relive, you bring up one you want to relive.  Let them relive what they wish, but for you…  You “take EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE.”  (2 Cor 10:5.)

Finally, tell everyone you can about the memories you want to keep.