I have been at some airport 4 times in the past 4 days. Pretty intense. But one interesting happened – I was walking down a hall, and I passed four groups of people, and each group was speaking a different language. I thought that was cool. Only in America.
Anyway, we learned in Cog Psych how when we hear people speaking in a different language, the first impression we get is that they’re talking really fast. It’s true. Try it sometime – when you hear people speaking in a language you don’t understand, it just sounds like they’re talking really, really fast. It’s weird.
This summer at KCPC we’re going to be going over parables. Today Pastor Eugene kind of gave an overview. It was great. He had this fascinating interpretation of this verse; I don’t know the reference off hand, and don’t know it verbatim, but it’s the one that comes after the parable of the talents. It says, “Whoever has will be given more, and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” He was remarking how that goes against every “fair” inclination in us, and any socialist, Robin Hood type idea. I mean, we want to equalize, and here this verse goes, doing the exact opposite. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.
Unless you understand what it’s trying to say. We have to understand what it means to have. It says we have, but have what? What does that mean? In Pastor Eugene’s opinion, it means having Christ. This then makes a lot more sense, especially in the context of the parables, because if we have Christ, the parables will make sense to us, and will bless us and enrich our lives. The more we study them, with Christ, the more we will be blessed. But if we don’t have Christ, the parables will be nonsense to us, and studying them more will not make any more sense, but will confuse us all the more. This was tremendously insightful to me, and something worth thinking about.
Pastor Eugene also went into the history of parable interpretation. It’s actually quite interesting. They used to go crazy in terms of interpretation, and made really fanciful, and bold claims. He cited St. Augustine, who had many great ideas, but as Pastor Eugene put it, just a few messed up ideas. His interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable is that the man is Adam. The robbers are Satan and his angels. The priest and the Levite are the law and the prophets, which do nothing for the man. The Samaritan is Jesus, and the stuff he does is quite involved, up to the point where he puts the man in the care of the innkeeper and says he’s coming back for him. Maybe this interpretation goes a bit too far, but I thought it was fascinating.
I’ve been getting my dad’s sermon tapes recently (translated into English) and they have really been great. One phrase that stuck in my mind is how he said there’s something wrong with our attitude with prayer. We shouldn’t be surprised when God answers prayer; we should be surprised when God doesn’t answer prayer. We pray and when He answers, we get all excited that He answered our prayer. Instead, we should be praying and be surprised when He doesn’t answer our prayers, and wonder what we are doing wrong.
I realized also how much of a wuss I am. Even in simple things, like praying before a meal. What is the point of that, anyway? Is it for God only, just praying in thanks and His blessings on the food, or as a witness, a declaration of our faith? Or both? I don’t know the answer. But I do know how timid I am. We went out for lunch for work, and time came to pray, and it was just a huge struggle for me. Not whether to pray, but how to – boldly or shyly. I ended up praying as inconspicuously as possible. Maybe this is a good thing, as it’s just something between you and God. But the thing is, my heart was timid. It’s just so hard.
There was this article in the Mercury News recently about how there’s no quality films anymore – everything this summer is just your standard blow things up fare. Even in the past, films like these had some kind of redeeming value, some characterization, social message, or even just plot, but even that is gone nowadays. The writer wondered why studios think that this is the kind of stuff that people want to see.
I realized that we really do live in a different society now than we used to. I was reminded of this when watching Star Wars when it was rereleased. Star Wars is a great movie, but the reason, I think, that it succeeded so much and maintained its popularity through time is that it wasn’t built around special effects (though these were impressive at the time) and had a really substantial story. The thing is, I think a movie like that would just bomb today. It’s just really slow, and requires a lot of patience. It just seems like no one has that kind of patience anymore. In fact, all the people I know that saw Star Wars for the first time last year didn’t like it too much. People just don’t have that kind of patience and stamina anymore.
I was also reading this article in Worship Leader magazine – can you believe there’s such a thing? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – that Pastor Dave copied off for us. It was talking about how the safest place to be for a Christian should be in the fellowship of the saints, worshipping God, but even here there are dangers – in particular starting to worship the worship leader above God. This is something I’ve struggled with for a really long time. On the one hand, we are called to give our utmost for Him, in every aspect, and this certainly includes worship. Throughout the Old Testament and in the Psalms, which is often used as a guidebook for worship, we are called to serve, and play skillfully, with the talent God has bestowed upon us. And it certainly doesn’t give Him glory to play deliberately poorly. But on the other hand, the music so often can be a distraction, and we end up saying worship is good if the music was good. This always troubled me, how there seemed to be such a close correspondence between the quality of the music with the quality of the music. It frustrated me because I thought the thing that marked true worship was the Spirit, and that this was independent, or at least a little more independent than I saw, of the music. But it never seemed to be so. Also, I got frustrated when emotional high was equivalent to spiritual high. In fact, I still don’t know how to distinguish completely these two. When I hear people talking about a spiritually high time, so often it’s marked by an emotionally high time. Is it that spiritual highs are always accompanied by emotional highs, even if the reverse isn’t true? Is it possible to experience a spiritual high without an emotional high? What does that feel like? Has anyone really ever experienced this? I don’t know. At any rate, this music worship frustrated me, and I would want to go back to as simple as possible things all the time. It would kind of be like a pendulum, from trying to sound as good as possible to being as simple as possible.
I’m now of the opinion that we are called, commanded even, to use our talents to the best of our ability. I really believe that praise is to be offered like a sacrifice, and God demands our best praise, from the heart to the music, He deserves the best. That this might be a distraction for some isn’t the fault of the music, but of the person. In the Old Testament, when they made the tabernacle and the ark and all that, they went mad crazy. And this is the same society that was so weak they were easily led to worship the golden calf. My guess is that it must have been so easy for that society to stumble and worship the work rather than God Himself. But that didn’t make it bad; in fact, God wanted it.
Which brings up another interesting point – after they made all this fly, dope stuff, from the garments to the gold-plated everything, they did something a little crazy. They got a mixture of blood and oil, and sprinkled it on everything. Then they sprinkled it on the priests, then started throwing it on the people. Kind of insane. Imagine that today. That we build this really fresh building, with diamond aisles and chandeliers, and really really cool stuff where we can worship, and it’s all pristine and perfect, then the first day, they throw blood on everything. Kind of crazy. (This was also from that magazine.)
My claim is that this must have made it so much easier to worship God. I mean, you see all this cool stuff, and can stumble, but on everything you see the blood, and are reminded of the covenant and the God with whom it was made. The point of the article was to challenge us to pour the blood of Christ on all of our sacrifice, be it physical or whatever. So my goal in worship now is to make sure that the blood of Christ is evident in the praise, while pursuing the most excellent musically. So people may stumble with the good music, but it’s my prayer that the blood of Christ may be evident in this sacrifice, so that even if one has potential to stumble, he will be reminded, through the blood, of the object of worship.
Anyway, the article was saying how easy it is to worship the worship leader. Really easy – even St. John did it. He mentioned how when the messenger angel showed John the things in Revelation, John bowed down and started to worship him, the messenger. The angels’ reply was basically, “Stand up, dork. Worship God, not me.” But it was so hard to do that John does it again, later, even after the angel’s reminder. So it’s pretty easy to do.
In fact, this issue was pretty great. There was another article mentioning how we seem to think it’s wrong to praise when we feel like our hearts are not right with God, that somehow it’s hypocritical or something. The author was saying how this is so wrong – because it whittles down worship to something emotional, that when we feel right it is OK, but when we don’t “feel” right, it’s somehow not OK to praise. No – his claim is that God deserves and is worthy of our praise all the time, not just when we are “right” with Him. I could go more into it and probably am not doing the article justice, but the take home message is this – praise God all the time. Even after you’ve sinned, even after you’ve done wrong, or feel really distant from Him. Because He deserves our praise no matter what, and it’s not about us at all, it’s all about Him. So just praise Him and don’t worry about being a hypocrite. I mean, worry about that, but don’t let that stop you from praising God, because praising God isn’t based on our righteousness, it’s based on His worthiness.
You know, there have been a proliferation of Web tributes to John Yoon, which is cool and all, but having had the opportunity to hang out with him more these past couple weeks, I just gotta say that he is human, with human flaws and weaknesses. I don’t feel bad in saying this because I’m not bagging on him at all, a