Interpretation of a dream

25 April 2009

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29)

Well, I know that much of the time these days I certainly feel like an old man.  So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that God might speak to me through a dream or two.  Seriously, it has happened to me before, even back when I was indubitably a young man (in my twenties), though I will admit that it doesn’t happen often.

Usually I can tell when a dream seems to be God trying to get something through my thick skull rather than the effect of a stressed subconscious (or an overindulgence of pizza).  There are two keys:

  1. I actually remember the whole dream when I wake up.  For the most part, when I become conscious I forget what I was dreaming except for a snippet or two (the same with nightmares, and thank Heaven for that).  It’s rare that I’ll recall upon awakening what I’ve dreamt, so when I do, I pay attention.
  2. Upon regaining consciousness, I immediately realize what the dream was supposed to convey.  Often it takes the form of a passage from the Bible; sometimes it’s just a clear statement in my head.

Why am I bringing all this up?  You guessed it — because of a dream I had Friday morning.

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Congregational Journey follow-up #3: the weeknight meeting

25 April 2009

I’ve found an odd paradox in my Congregational Journey — often the friendliest congregations, the ones that have treated me with the most friendliness and gone the farthest to include me in their “family activities” are the ones that have the least amount of organized outreach.  I’m not sure why that would be the case — you’d think that the ones where evangelism was emphasized would be the ones that would welcome outsiders the most.  But it hasn’t been my experience.

Why not, I wonder?  Maybe it’s that in a congregation that does less evangelism, a person wandering in “cold” is more of a novelty and therefore gets people more excited (I doubt it).  Perhaps the congregations that put greater emphasis on reaching the lost slip into a mindset where the focus is more on “winning souls” than loving people (seems possible, but it’s not the sort of thing you say about your friends …).  Maybe I’m just trying to draw conclusions from too few samples (definitely possible).  Or maybe — and this strikes me as at least a workable hypothesis — maybe these seemingly “less-open” congregations have just put more work into loving each other, so when a stranger drops by, it’s just natural to love him or her too.

That fits my experience when I first visited God’s Throne Baptist Church back in January (details here).  And it fits my more recent follow-up visit last Wednesday night.

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Periodic Pingback: TMQ calls out AIG … and BHO

21 April 2009

(Blogger’s note: On occasion, I run into something on the Internets Superfreeway that is so genius that I wish I’d written it.  So I’ve decided to live vicariously and post links to them here.  “Periodic Pingback” will feature other voices on the Web that I a) agree with and b) are better-written than I ever could manage, on no real schedule; that’s why I call it “periodic”.  Anyway, enjoy!)

One of my favorite writers for is Gregg Easterbrook, who pens their Tuesday Morning Quarterback column during the football season.  Kind of ironic, since I’m at best a mild football fan.  (Too many people being crippled over the years for my taste.)  But I don’t like it so much for the football insight (though he’s very good at that) as for the observations on just about everything else.  TMQ is sort of Easterbrook’s hobby — he used to be a fellow for the Brookings Institution (the Washington think tank), he’s a contributing editor for the New Republic and the Atlantic Monthly, he’s a big fan of astronomy and science fiction, and he’s published books on theology and sociology.  Dude has a wide range of interests, and they all end up in his columns.

This week, Easterbrook’s pre-NFL draft column also features an extensive rundown of the AIG executive bonus scandal that supposedly caught the Obama administration by surprise … but shouldn’t have, since he, a football columnist, was writing about it back in November!  As part of a February follow-up, Easterbrook warned that “if the new president stakes some of his prestige on what seems like a dramatic decision and it turns out a year later that CEOs easily evaded the seeming ‘limits’ and stuffed their pockets with tax money anyway, Obama will seem an ineffectual leader.”  And what happened was … yeah.  If you like football (and the Battlestar Galactica finale), enjoy the whole column; if you just want to check out the AIG stuff, it starts about 2/3 of the way down.  Either way, when anyone this intelligent is willing to write about anything and everything, it’s well worth your time.

The UN: at cross-purposes with itself

20 April 2009

There are times when you see things being done in a manner so clearly ridiculous, so antithetical to the goals the actions are supposed to achieve, that you wonder how anyone could deceive themselves into it. I guess we all do it from time to time, but some seem to adopt it as a lifestyle, and when you observe them you’re left wondering what (if anything) is going through their heads. People who cuss and rage at their kids because they think it will teach them to behave … folks who run up debt on their credit cards to try and achieve financial freedom … politicians who lie to protect themselves so they can keep their positions as “public servants” … you get the idea.

Reading the news yesterday, I ran across a textbook example of this, an event that is almost guaranteed to achieve the exact opposite of the ends it’s supposed to. It’s the United Nations’ Durban Review Conference on Racism, which began today in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Congregational Journey follow-up #2: the “prayer meeting”

18 April 2009

On Friday I was able to get ahold of Ron Martinez, pastor of Family Worship Center (where I visited about a month ago) – he had expressed some interest in getting together over lunch or coffee, and with the bulk of my Congregational Journey out of the way, I wanted to take him up on his offer. When I mentioned the same over the phone, he hemmed and hawed for quite a bit regarding his schedule before suggesting that I come to the congregation’s men’s prayer meeting on Saturday morning, adding that some of the guys usually go to breakfast afterward.

I told him that would be fine, but afterward wondered about his reticence. Eventually I shrugged it off, figuring that as a pastor, his schedule was likely to be both busy and fluid – you have to be ready for any crisis the people in your care experience, after all. And visiting a prayer meeting would allow me to see a different side of the congregation that what one experiences in the Sunday service. As this was a congregation that seemed to be emphasizing discipleship, it might give me a chance to view how that was being carried out. And it would almost certainly give me clues as to the spiritual depth of the ministry going on there. So I went.

I’m glad I did. I’m also sorry I did.

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Congregational Journey recap: the road ahead …

16 April 2009

So … if I’m now referring to my initial twelve-week odyssey of congregation visits as “Phase One”, it clearly implies there will be a Phase Two, right? So I’ve been praying about what form Phase Two will take.

One thing I’m sure about: it WON’T be another long stretch of dropping in cold on congregation after congregation. And thank Heaven for that! Not that I’m angry at God for sending me in that direction, or sorry I obeyed. But it was surprisingly tiring – especially when you’d get a couple of congregations in a row that were off-base theologically and/or relationally, it could be a wrenching, exhausting experience. Even if I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to start that again (and I don’t), I don’t know if I could do it right now; I’d need more time to get my strength back.

So if not that, then what is God guiding me toward? Well, mostly following up on the visits I’ve already made. Here are five steps I’ll be taking in the next few weeks along those lines:

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Congregational Journey recap: the trip so far …

14 April 2009

Well, Part One of my Congregational Journey has been done for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I’ve seen and heard. If you haven’t been following along the whole time and want to play catch-up, you can click on the Congregational Journey link in the CATEGORIES box to the right – it’ll have everything and then some. The short version, though … I felt God was guiding me to visit twelve different congregations in my hometown of Stockton, California, to get an overview of the church in this area (and by extension, in the United States) and to see where I could contribute to the life of same.

Well, I visited the twelve (plus a few others along the way) and I’ve been able to draw a few tentative conclusions. Strap yourselves in, and please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times …

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