Sunday, September 25, 2011

God in a Box

I've received quite a few comments concerning the talk I gave at the last Faith Fellowship Church's Men's Breakfast this month (see "I Grasp It, But It Keeps Slippin' Outta My Hands!"). One of the points was that we, as finite beings, have a heck of a time trying to grasp God's "infinite". Below is a poem I wrote several years ago that touches on our arrogance to assume that we know all about God, and have no need to learn and grow. And you know what happens when you break down "assume" . . . 

God don't do that.
Not like that.
Not my God.
That's not Him.
I've figured Him out.
I know how He moves.
Just like this.
Not like that.

Don't shake me.
You'll break me.
Don't flip my ship.
Cease the wind.
Calm the waves.
I believe what I believe.
And that don't fit.

Picking and choosing.
A little this.
A little that.
God in a box.
He just fits nice.
Open it when I want to.
Close the lid when I'm done.

Go ahead.
Capture the wind.
Keep it in your box.
Try it.
Tell the Potter - you clay.
Tell the Painter - you canvas.
Go ahead.
Tell Him.

Lift the lid.
Look inside that box.
Where do you store Him who encompasses the heavens?
Your vision of God is as only big as the box you place Him in.
Out of the box.
Into your heart.

J.P. Wiegand
©Emittravel 1997

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Grasp It, But It Keeps Slippin' Outta My Hands!

What follows is the talk I gave at the men's breakfast this morning. I did add comments on the fly which are not recorded here:

(Jim, our music leader, started singing:) "He's got the whole world, in His hands. He's got the whole, wide world, in His hands. He's got the whole world, in His hands. He's got the whole world in His hands."

(I interrupted him when he started the second verse and told him thanks, but that's enough.)

I never liked that song anyway. How many believe that? That He's got the whole world in His hands? What if I told you that song is wrong? What if I told you that that song is limiting the scope of God. What if I told you that, instead of trying to live our lives in His image, that we constantly try to mold Him into ours?

When Bill asked me to share I thought, "I'm not worthy to stand in front of these men and share." But then the Lord said, "I am."

It was about two weeks ago on a Friday that Bill contacted me - "Facebooked" me. I called him back and told him that "I got nuthin'." I asked him to give me to Sunday morning to see if that changes, so he'd have time to find another speaker.

Lisa and I were on our way to watch the Lakewood Ranger's lose - actually, they are not that bad - and they have a great band. I kept thinking all evening on what I could possibly share and still had nothing.

On Saturday morning I prayed and the Lord said "I am".

"I Am." It was at that moment that I "heard" the Lord's provision. And think about it: you are here to partake of that provision. I know what you're thinking: "I came for the food." Yeah, I know that's true. "I came for the fellowship." That's true too. But you are sitting here now. And that means that my prayer has been answered. What prayer? That the Lord would have the very men here that need to partake of this provision. Congrats, guys. This means you.

I was hoping to see Darryl here this morning. I had the pleasure of seeing him and his family at a Dunkin' Donuts last Saturday. My in-laws were in town from Florida and my father-in-law and I were out getting a few things, and I needed the sugar. I need to apologize to Darryl for not immediately introducing him to my father-in-law, but my brain blanked out when it came to his family's names. I even got Pat's name wrong. After he left I told my father-in-law that I'm usually so embarrassed by my terrible memory with names that I hesitate when it comes to introductions. My excuse is actually very scriptural: according to Revelations, when you get to heaven you will get a new name. So I figure, why waste a lot of energy trying to remember a temporary name, when you will get a completely different one for all eternity.

Of course, I'm hoping the white robes come with "Hello, My Name Is" stickers . . .

Speaking of names, my name is J.P. That's it. Just J.P. Once, when Lisa and I were at one of her friend's house for a party, someone asked her how I spelled my name. She said, "J.A.Y. P.E.E." I turned to her and said, "How about P.E.A.?!?"

I work as an executive assistant for a company in Akron. It's a servant role. I take care of the Chief Technical Officer and about 70 IT members. I'm also the building coordinator.

I teach the Microsoft Outlook class. I use an outline and none of my jokes are written down.

I'm a writer. I write better than I talk, so as you can probably tell, for the most part I'm reading this talk. I'm a Baptist trapped in a Charismatic's body. I have a blog called My Humble But Accurate Opinion, which, as the title suggests, is tongue-in-cheek.

I've been a Christian since around 1991.

I started playing the harmonica in 1985/1986 when I was in the Navy. I'm sure many of you are thinking "keep practicing, boy!"

I've been married to a fantastic woman for five years, but more about her later.

Anyone who has gotten to know me knows that I am hooked on the concept of time and time travel.  I collect movies that have time-related concepts. It doesn't just have to be a ride in a DeLorean, but anything that looks at time outside of our normal concept of it.

Some of the movies I've collected are

12 Monkeys
13 Going on 30
17 Again
2001: A Space Odyssey
50 First Dates
A.I. - Artificial Intelligence
Altered States
Army of Darkness (big Bruce Campbell fan - anybody watch Burn Notice on the USA network?)
Austin Powers (the first two movies - the third was AWFUL - okay, not awful - it sucked!)
The Back to the Future trilogy
The original Planet of the Apes movies
Bicentennial Man - a robot's two-hundred year journey to become human, and the relationships he has with those who are "mortal"
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure & Bogus Journey
Blade Runner
Blast From the Past
The Butterfly Effect

That's just up to the B's in the collection. And you'll notice I haven't even gotten to classics like The Time Machine. By the way, I highly recommend watching both the 1960's and 2000's versions.

I can remember the exact moment I got hooked on time: Last day of the sixth grade, Lee Eaton Elementary; they showed the original, 1960's, George Pal version of "The Time Machine" in the gym. I was hooked.

The main character travels about 800k years into the future. Mankind is divided into two groups: the Eloi - living above ground, and the Morkocks - living below. The Eloi are vegetarians and eat from the fruit of the land. The Morlocks are carnivores and eat . . . vegetarians.

The Morlocks scared the crap out of me back then. Today I notice the blue paint coming off one during a fight scene. Still great though.

Television has seen a run of time-related shows over the years. A few examples are

Life on Mars
Quantum Leap
Doctor Who
Early Edition
7 Days
Time Tunnel
Tru Calling

 . . . And it's showed up in other series as well:

Star Trek (name an incarnation)
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (did I mention I was a big Bruce Campbell fan?)
Red Dwarf
The Outer Limits

And the list goes on. On Wednesday my wife mentioned seeing a commercial for a new cop show that has time travel in it. So, indeed, the list goes on!

In 1980, NOVA had an episode entitled "It's About Time", which was hosted by Dudley Moore. At one point during the show Dudley asks the unseen narrator, "When did it all begin?" The show then presented a giant scrap book. The cover was opened to the first page, a blank, black page, and the voice said, "In the beginning there was nothing." As the page was turned the voice said, "After the first billionth trillionth of a second there was", and started to describe the Big Bang. I was not a Christian and just in ninth grade, but remember asking the TV, "Who turned the page?" Even back then, in the midst of my "passions", God was trying to reach me.

I read, both fiction and nonfiction, as much as I can find. I even find time travel in the bible.

One story I really like is the time Moses wanted to see God's face. God told him He couldn't because He was holy, but He could show him His backside. I always found it funny that God's back side wasn't as holy as His front side. I guess that is just His humor.

God puts Moses into the cleft of the rock, covers him with His hand, and then removes His hand after He passes so that Moses can see His backside.

Think about it: BEFORE God gets there He puts Moses in the cleft of the rock. At that point Moses didn't see Him. And you know what the cleft of the rock is - a symbol of Jesus. God put Moses into the cleft of the rock. Moses didn't go in there on his own. God did all of the work. Moses didn't put himself there.

BEFORE God gets there He covers him with His hand. If God was there Moses would have seen Him.

AFTER God passes He removes His hand and Moses gets to see Him.

That's time travel.

I Am. The God of the Now. The Here and Now. He is also Alpha and Omega - the Beginning and the End. That means He is the God of the Past and the Future.

The Lord has a way of taking your passions and using them for His kingdom. I believe that He has something to share with all of you this morning. Words of hope and comfort. And just a small look into His greatness. A look that will show that His hands are big enough to hold more than the "whole world".

In the movie "Sliding Doors", Gwyneth Paltrow, living in London in an apartment with her boyfriend, goes to work one morning and finds herself getting canned. She heads to the "tube" (or "subway", in our vernacular) to go back to the apartment. As she is going down the steps, a mother and child are coming up. The child blocks Gwyneth's path. She hesitates and then goes around the child, and makes it to the subway just as the doors close in front of her - blocking her entrance. The scene stops, runs backwards to the point where she is coming down the steps, and as she approaches the mother and child, the mother pulls the child out of the way before Gwyneth has to stop, and she makes it in time before the doors close on the subway car.

From this point the movie shows you both outcomes as her life goes on from that intersection. Both radically different, but intertwining. At the end of the movie only one "history" wins out.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever looked back and wondered what if? What if I would have said this or that, went here or there, or shut my mouth and stayed put?

Hang on - we serve a God of Hope!

Last Sunday we sang a song during worship that struck me while we were singing it. It didn't strike me during rehearsal on Thursday, or during the warm up on Sunday morning. It didn't strike me at all during all of the times we've sung it in the past. It struck me then.

"I have a Maker, He formed my heart.
Before even time began, my life was in His hand."

The song? "He Knows My Name". Guys, I don’t necessarily look for this stuff. Like I said, the Lord has a way of taking your passions and using them for His kingdom. And sometimes, to give you just a small glimpse into His majesty; to show you how big He really is.

Two words: finite and infinite. One describes limit. The other? Without. One describes us. The other? Our heavenly Father. The Bible says, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." When? When shall we know even as also we are known? Not now, but then. Why? Why not now? Why can't we know in fullness now? Because we are finite.

Anyone here have a swimming pool at home? Do me a favor. When you get home, cup your hands and have someone pour the contents of that pool into your hands. You will get just a glimpse of finite trying to hold onto infinite.

I love the line from Lou Costello: "I grasp it, but it keeps slipping outta my hand!"

When we get to His realm, eternity, we will then be able to know.  You have to understand, His realm IS eternity. What is eternity? Not time without end, but NO TIME.

How do we get our heads around the first ten words of the bible: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth? When was the beginning? At the beginning.

People have tried to dispute the existence of God by stating that in order for anything to exist it has to have a cause. And for the universe to exist it has to have a first cause - a beginning. And for God to exist HE has to have a first cause as well - a beginning.

I tell them there is a flaw in their logic: God existed BEFORE the beginning. BEFORE there was time. He is causeless! He created TIME. Time is not something for Him, it is for us - and the realm we live in. In HIS realm there IS no time. And one day we will live in His realm:

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.'"  (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)

And know what is really cool? God took upon Him flesh. And not just flesh, He took on "finite". He was hungry (time to eat), tired (time to sleep), and hungry for the Father (time to pray).

This, the concept of time in the finite and infinite, is something that has been wrestled in the past by such men of faith as St. Augustine - long before the days of H.G. Wells.

"Furthermore, although you are before time, it is not in time that you precede it. If this were so, you would not be before all time. It is in eternity, which is supreme over time because it is a never-ending present, that you are at once before all past time and after all future time. For what is now the future, once it comes, will become the past, whereas, you are unchanging, your years can never fail. Your years neither go nor come, but our years pass and others come after them, so that they all may come in their turn. Your years are completely present to you all at once, because they are at a permanent standstill. They do not move on, forced to give way before the advance of others, because they never pass at all. But our years will all be complete only when they have all moved into the past. Your years are one day, yet your day does not come daily but is always today, because your today does not give place to any tomorrow nor does it take the place of any yesterday." (Saint Augustine Confessions, Penguin Classics, © R. S. Pine-Coffin, 1961, pg.263)

We try to make God live according to OUR time, instead of enjoying the wonder of HIS time. We pray and, like my father would say, "I want it immediately if not sooner." And when the response does not come before the "amen" we start getting fidgety.

Daniel was told by the angel to not fear, that from the first day Daniel prayed that his words were heard. But due to circumstances in the heavens it took TIME for the angel to get to him. God hears you immediately. He always does. But sometimes the answer takes time. But you need to trust Him that He has your best interests at heart, even when you don't.

There is a Christian named Dr. Hugh Ross - an astrophysicist, who really has a good way of showing the difference between our view of time and God's.

He says that for us, time is a line. We have a beginning and an end. We are at a point on the line and are continuously moving into the future. But we live only in the present. We can view time in different rates. For instance, "time flies when we're having fun", but "a watched pot never brews". I know it's "boils", but I like my coffee.

For God time is a plane, and He can move anywhere in that plane He desires - crossing that timeline at any point He desires. Thus He sees all of time at once, and can intersect our line at any point He desires.


Why do you think God kept telling the Israelites to remember the former days of captivity and deliverance? To keep faith that the Lord will be there for them again. But, more than that, I think it was to remind them that He knew their future (shared with them via prophecy) before the future became their past. Remember, that first Passover was celebrated before they were delivered from Egypt.

Omniscience - God knows everything. What about free will? Either He knows every decision you will make or He doesn't. And if He doesn't know, what kind of God IS He?

He knows every decision you will make. And by that I mean He knows every outcome of every decision YOU will make. He knows every possible outcome of every decision you will make - whether you turn left at this intersection, or right - and the impact of those decisions for the rest of eternity. And he knows every future decision you will make after that.

What He doesn't know is WHICH decision you will make. That is up to you. That is where your free will comes in. He doesn't know which decision you will make until you make it. But again, He DOES know every possible outcome of the decision YOU will make. And because He knows every possible outcome, His Spirit knows exactly how to lead you. His Spirit knows exactly what those outcomes are and what the BEST decision you can make would be.

What about predestination? Ooo - slippery slope! Not really.

Romans  8:29,30  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Ephesians 1:11  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Whom did He foreknew? Whom did he predestine to be conformed to the image of His son? I love the Ephesians one: "having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."

What is His will?

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that ALL should come to repentance.

If His will is that we all should come to repentance, doesn't that figure that by predestined He means "all"? He has predestined, or "destined before" ("pre" is a prefix meaning "before") that ALL should come to repentance, that ALL would be conformed to the image of His son. I think Paul is writing to those who's free will has come into agreement with God's predestined will.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. " - John 3:16-18

Do you see His will in there?

If, when you got saved, the old has passed away and behold, all things have become new, why does Paul admonish those who steal, to steal no more? He's writing to Christians. Christians stealing? Really? Didn't all things become new? Let me ask you: when you became a Christian did you become an automaton? A robot? A puppet on strings? Of course not! If so, wouldn't your love and obedience be nothing more than forced affection and following your programming? God did not create us for forced affection, but LOVE. And love is not love unless it is freely given. You DO have a free will still.

So to repeat,  that is where your free will comes in. He doesn't know which decision you will make until you make it. But again, He DOES know every possible outcome of the decision YOU will make. And because He knows every possible outcome, His Spirit knows exactly how to lead you.  His Spirit knows exactly what those outcomes are and what the BEST decision you can make would be.

("Hey Abbott!!!")

I can almost sense some of you out there are a bit uncomfortable by this view of God's omniscience, and that is okay. Let me ask you something: when you seek God's forgiveness does He give it to you?

(pause for an answer)

If He gives you forgiveness does He forever hold the sin over your head?

(pause for an answer)

That's right: He forgets it.

You mean God is forgetful? How can a God who knows everything forget anything? He choses to forget. He takes those sins and separates them as far as the East is from the West.

By the way, did you notice He didn't say as far as the North is from the South? What happens if you head north? You reach the north pole and immediately start to head south! What happens when you head east? At what point do you reach "west"? Never!

Again, He choses to forget them. If He is able to limit His own "memory", don't you think He can limit Himself to allow free will's operation? And under the definition I've given you, has He REALLY limited Himself??

The bible says to seek wisdom and you will find it.

James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

I love what God says in the book of Jeremiah, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (English Standard Version)

He knows the plans He has for you. The question is, do YOU NEED to? Are you someone that has to have every step in minute detail in order to move forward? Are you someone who can't take a vacation without pre-planning the entire trip?

I don't think that is God's intention. He isn't saying "I know the plans I have for you and I'll give you every detail so you will know how to walk in it".

His Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. I'm sure you've heard Pastor mention that the lamp was small, made of clay, and was placed (or strapped) to the foot. There was a little bit of oil in it and a wick. The light that was produced was just enough to light your next step. THAT is God's intention.

He wants to guide you each step of the way. Since He knows the path, since before you were conceived, it is in your best interest to trust Him.

But how will He guide you?

Jesus said, recorded in John 14, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, That He may abide (remain) with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth . . . "

Helper, Comforter, Guide.

Ever make a bad decision? That's okay. He knows all of the possible outcomes of that decision and knows exactly how to guide you when it comes to the next decision.

He is a heavenly GPS. You know, "God's Positioning System". Whenever you make a wrong turn you can almost hear Him saying, "Recalculating."

All we have to do is listen and He will continue to guide you towards your destination. And that is not as easy as it sounds. I for one love to think I know more than my GPS - and usually waste a lot of time and energy in the process.

I keep waiting for that female voice on my GPS to say, "Hey moron! I said, 'RECALCULATING!!'"

(At this point I gave an example of God's provision. I talked about my marriage to my ex-wife and the misery of it. I then told of how Lisa and I got together at our 20th class reunion. I mentioned the fact that if my friend Kevin had come I would have been in a corner talking with him all night, and if Lisa's friend Michele - underclassman to us - hadn't badgered Lisa to go she wouldn't. God was taking our individual decisions and guided us to that intersection where we would come together. I also told of how wonderful a marriage I have with Lisa, and how grateful to God that I am for His provision.)


(I introduced the following poem that I wrote several years ago:)

In theBeginning God

At all times.

Without ceasing.

Beyond Beginning.

You see ahead.
Make Provision.
Meet the need.
No surprises.
No fooling You.
You created a lamb.
Who can pull wool
over Your eyes?
Who can place
a stumbling block
before You?
Who can trip You up?

In the beginning God.
Eternal reign.
You are
who You say
You are.
No fooling.

J.P. Wiegand
© Emittravel 1997

He will guide you towards that final destination. And what is that final destination? Eternity with Him. Eternity - His dimension - with Him. Only day. No night. No death. Only life. With Him.


Mention: Hope, Trust, and Guidance

(I ended by singing:) "He's got you and me, brother, in His Hands. He's got you and me, brother, in His Hands. He's got you and me, brother, in His Hands. He's got EVERYTHING in His hands."

© Emittravel 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

One More Voice in the Cacophony

In memory of September 11, 2001. -j.p.

Overwhelmed by history
The tragedy that shook us
The memories that flood us
The broken hearts yet to heal

Songs have been written
Adding music to the ache
Pulling emotion into deeper canyons
Searching for hope in the middle of despair

One more voice in the cacophony
Trying to make sense of that day
Looking for comfort in shared memories
A prayer spoken to a God seemingly absent

Where were you when the towers fell
When life forever changed direction
When the cocoon was ripped open
When the skyline of our vision was forever altered

We reach for one another
Looking for warmth when our hearts were chilled
To pull some idea of sense from the horror
To tell each other we are not alone

We fly the flag of our freedom
Sometimes at half staff
To honor those who died
To give meaning to the senselessness

How can one forget
How can one not remember
How can we ever go back to the "good old days"
When the only thing to fear was fear itself

One more voice in the cacophony
One more song
One more prayer
One more day

J.P. Wiegand
©Emittravel 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stuff My Brain Says #21

You can always tell the first day of the work week by the number of red, Netflix DVD envelopes in the outgoing mail . . .

© Emittravel 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Stuff My Brain Says #20

How about a new amendment to the Constitution:
No one can campaign for public office prior to 30-days from an election.

This is a real winner for a number of reasons:
  • No one remember sanything said the two-years prior to the actual vote.
  • Think of all the money that could be saved and used for more valid purposes (insert silly ideas here).
  • We won't have to listen to all of the mudslinging.
  • No chance for flip-flopping on issues.
  • More advertising space for Cialis commercials . . . er . . . maybe not . . .
I'm sure there are plenty of other valid reasons. Any suggestions?

© Emittravel 2011