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June 6, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I was at the workplace for my part time job, and had just clocked in.  If you clock in early they fix the punch so you’re in at your appointed time.  But in fairness to them, if you clock out early they bump it forward to your appointed ending time, as long as their 7 minute window isn’t breached.  And, if you run out of work to do near the end of the shift, they pay you for a full day because you showed up.  It’s hourly, but they sometimes run out of work to do because the support staff behind our production team hasn’t fed the work to our system yet.  I was a little early and noticed a little button that said something like “view user information,” I had never clicked before.  So being as impetuous as I sometimes always am, I clicked it.

It showed my information, from the time I started working there until now.  But the verbiage used by the system was…  Well I’m not sure if it was hilarious or disturbing.  Maybe strange is the word I’m floundering for.  I’ll let you be the judge as I am still reflecting on what it means.

It said my start date but proclaimed it “The Beginning of Time.”  I swear I am not making this up.  Apparently the earth is younger than you all thought, as the “Beginning of Time” is somewhere in the latter part of 2006.  Take that, Old Earth-ers.  Not Millions and Millions as Carl Sagan estimated. Carl Sagan approximates the forming of the earth at about 4,142,465,753.42466 years ago – which puts the beginning of earth on about June 4 (http://peace.saumag.edu/faculty/kardas/Courses/HP/Lectures/sagan.html ).  Not spun into motion 6017 years ago, in October 4004 BC (James Ussher, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher_chronology).  Take that, Young Earth-ers. Nope.  My computer said “The Beginning of Time” was September 2006.  If it’s right because it’s on the internet, surely it’s just as right because my computer said it.  If life begins in the beginning, unless you were born after 2006, you, friends, are only 7 years old.

There was no end date or projected end date.  Instead it declared my end date as “Forever.”  No kidding.  If this is forever, I must have died and gone to heaven by now.  Wait.  Um…


Yeah, I’m doing it for my family and also for me.  And it isn’t paradise, but it isn’t hell either.

How old are you?  How old do you feel?  Friends of mine comment on my childlike impetuousity, some in less than flattering ways.  I’ve been described as an “old soul,” when tapped for wisdom, but if any wisdom I share actually works, I stole that from the Bible.  I’ve been described as “foolish,” even “childish.”  That’s the cold stinging truth, although it’d be nice if you toned that down and said I was “refreshingly childlike, with an irrepressible, youthful mind.”   And in life and marriage I’ll assert, I only feel 23.  That is to say, old enough to be legal and young enough everything is still good.  But this darn white hair growing in my beard…  and the silver threads creeping onto my head…  must be lying. When my back is sore, or my feet are tired, unless I am resting I feel about 65, which is telling me it’s time to retire and rest from whatever labor I’m involved in that’s making me so tired.  (For the record I am somewhere in the low middle in between those two ages.) 

∞ – that little math symbol means “infinity.”  I’m only awake from just before 7AM to just after 12:30 or 1AM, working the 8 hours in the morning and the 4 and a half part time at night.  I’ve been at this two job thing for a while, but it’s starting to feel like infinity.  Thank God it’s Friday. Sadly, I feel like I’m on a wheel trying to revolve it from need to pay the bills to paid the bills, and I’m afraid I’m actually on a Möebius strip, getting nowhere but back to the same side.  Same thing with arguments about certain things, they go nowhere.

I wasn’t here at the beginning of Earth-time.  I wasn’t here at the beginning of Creation or Big Bang or whatever flips your trigger.  Neither was Carl Sagan and neither were you.  Carl took what he thought to be an educated guess, it’s a theory, not something we can go back and prove.  Ussher did his calculations and took an educated guess, but he wasn’t there either and we can’t go back and see it happen so we can’t prove that either.  Does it make a huge difference to you if the earth is 4 billion, 140 million years old and started on June 4, or 6,017 and started sometime in October?  Scientific theory that wants to edge God out asserts they can prove theirs.  Scientific theory that wants to shove God in asserts they can prove theirs.  At the risk of having stepped in it, I actually believe the Bible tells it right, but I’m not as precise feeling about it as Ussher.  Speaking as a fan of Dr Who, maybe it’s one of those wibblywobbly things that, surprisingly, I don’t believe requires a precise answer.  It goes to show how people can take what they want and pay their money, and make their choices, no matter how foolish those choices may or may not turn out to be.  Whole religious movements started out because someone made a calculation, made a prediction, and the blind led the blind until they all fell into a pit.  Or someone said they found an ancient manuscript, but they don’t have it any more, because the hobgoblins took it to the mountain.  Or someone wrote a pretty good story with an intriguing philosophical viewpoint.  But that doesn’t make them right.  It doesn’t make what they wrote somehow holy, especially when the details are so paradoxically different from things like manuscripts and books they claim are also true.  Nor do the guesses of Jimmy or Carl, however educated, make them right.  God asked Job, near the end of his trials, if he (Job) was there when He (God) made the earth.  He stammered and fumbled.  Some actually take that verse and think God wasn’t being hyperbolic.  They actually believe he (Job) was there.  Well if he was there, he should have been able to answer.  In my humble opinion, none of us were there, so we don’t know.  Maybe God asked him by way of saying, if it’s My plan perhaps it’s outside the scope of your understanding, so hush and I’ll take care of things.  Or perhaps it’s the same as in Romans 9, where Paul talks about some vessels being created unto honor and some being created unto wrath.

Paul told both Peter and Titus (Titus 3, II Timothy 2) to steer clear of genealogies, and of probing the infinite depths of idiotic questions because they just start fights.  Whose family is better, yours or mine or theirs?  Well my ancestor was a President.  Well his ancestor was a bank robber.  Well your ancestor was famous.  Well his ancestor was a drunk. Well, well, well.  What have they done for me lately?  Is my life better because they did whatever they did?  Does not matter.  They aren’t here, they’re dead.  It means nothing to me, it affects nothing in my life.  When did the Earth get created, or form because cosmic particles coalesced and cooled in just the right random coincidental way?  Doesn’t matter.  I wasn’t there and neither were you.  Those answers mean nothing to me, and affect nothing in my life.  We’re here now.  What have we done lately to help another person or make things better?


People waste so much time arguing over how old God is, how old the Earth is, scientific and other pseudo-scientific and genealogical and genetic and dare I say Law, and other name-your-field inquiries that don’t go anywhere or contribute to the welfare of anyone except the person spending the grant money.  How do I get on that gravy train?  Ask a silly question and make it sound important enough to explore for an answer.  And then publish my findings in the scientific, or pseudoscientific, or legal, or Biblical Studies, journal.  The scientists are looking for God so hard they named a subatomic particle after Him.  Or maybe it’s just that they want God to be small.  It’s fascinating, but does it really contribute to a better world?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?  a) You don’t believe in angels, or don’t believe in them the same way I do.  b) I don’t care.  Why would they do something so stupid? c) depends on the size of the angels and the pin.  Get one of each and we’ll measure. Historically that question was asked by way of sarcasm, at people who ask questions like it, trying to disprove the existence of God, or delve into mysteries that are worth less to answer than “Has your (homeless) neighbor eaten today?”  Are there ghosts?  If there are ghosts, why don’t you believe in a God who created souls, and all other things?  What about demons?  Have you read the newspaper? There’s so much evil I don’t even think Satan needs to send them out as he already owns humans who do enough evil in the world, they’re not necessary (call me crazy but I believe demons do exist, since I believe angels and God exist).  Can God make a rock he can’t move?  Someone or someones, actually took the time to write this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox .  My head is spinning and I only looked at the first half of all of that.  But then I have my mind on other things so perhaps it’s just that I’m distracted.

In the spirit of jumping onto a gravy train and riding it all the way to the roast beef and mashed potatoes, I think it’d be fun to have one or two of those questions for my very own, with a per diem for my efforts, to ponder, to philosophize, to research, to write, and to publish until I am obscenely wealthy. until the earth is a better place and people are able to be better people because I was on it.

My favorite question reminds me of one of the old “how many fill-in-the-blank does it take to change a light bulb” questions.  It goes:

Q:  How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?  
A:  One.  But the light bulb has to really want to change.

In that same spirit, here’s my favorite foolish theological question and my own favorite foolish answer:
Q:  Can the Omnipotent God make a rock that He can’t move?  
A:  Yes, it’s called the human heart, or the human spirit.  That has to want to move (change).  See II Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Mental Note To Self:  He might strongly support me better if my heart was completely His. Maybe I wouldn’t need the night gig.

And Prayerful Note to God, please change my heart and fix my sights and my heart on You.  I want to see that.

Because God made us with free will, the first man, back at the beginning, had the ability to choose whether to obey or not.  He did the one thing God told him not to do.  He was advised it would cause bad things to happen.  He did it anyway, and then tried to put the blame on Eve.  More recently other legends have been written to explain the problem of evil.  Pandora’s box, a rose which by another name, again, just blames Eve.  Blame the Serpent, AKA Satan.  Blame Shiva, The Destroyer, who says destruction isn’t really a bad thing anyway.  Blame Loki, but he’s just playing a joke.  Blame Ahriman. Blame our strongly held illusions on our mutual path to enlightenment. Blame Voldemort.  Blame the guy who just selfishly and quite ignorantly, cut you off in traffic.  Or, look in a mirror.  Ignore the guy in the car behind you who’s flipping you the “you’re number one!” sign because you cut him off.  

Because we still have a free will, one of those principles which is rarely trumped, is that we have a choice to do things that are good, or do things that are bad, or fritter away our time doing nothing of impact and lasting value.  God doesn’t usually step in there and make us follow Him and do good work.  Just like Adam and the tree of knowledge options, Moses and the burning bush instructions, Noah and the ark blueprints, and Jonah’s ticket to Nineveh offered the choice of whether to do what God wanted or not, so also do we.  And then we live with the consequence of what was, or wasn’t, done.  Don’t get me wrong, God has been very persuasive in the past, so if it really needs to be done He’ll keep asking until someone comes along and does it.

If nothing else, it’ll keep you entertained and working hard in the time between “The Beginning of Time” and “Forever.”  I think those questions people ask like that say something about the position of their hearts, more than the depth of their character on being able to ask some unanswerable question.  The dawn of time, the age of the Earth, they mean nothing to me, and affect nothing in my life.  We’re here now.  What have we done lately to help another person or make things better?  And because we can’t go back to the past, what’s our plan for the future, and for eternity? 

Will we bury ourselves in minutiae and questions that don’t go anywhere?  Will we bury ourselves under mountains of proof of how good our family ancestry was, as if that furnishes some kind of proof of how worthy we are?  Or will we listen and see if God calls us?  And If we hear the call, who will answer?  Why not you?

Why not me?

I believe He calls all of us.  I may have questions and doubts just as Moses.  I may run the other way just as Jonah.  I may disobey just as Adam.  People may call me crazy, like I’m sure they called Noah as he was building the ark.  But I hope my answer is yes, when He calls me.  And I hope your answer is yes, too.


Dare We Ask for An Apology from God? April 3, 2014

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The story of Job came to mind yesterday. Certain people have read the book of Job with a less than “religious” devotion, and their take is that God is kind of a prankster who plays with lives like they were toys to amuse himself with, or break, on a whim. I’m sorry if this makes me sacrilegious, but I saw a video on YouTube that played to that perspective and I thought it was hilarious.

Assuming the story of Job is true, and for the record, I do, God allowed Satan to test Job as a test of his character. Temptation is a curious beast. In the New Testament there are all manner of warnings about approaching temptation and our attitude toward God about it. Consider I Corinthians 10. The list of things is perhaps obvious: pursuit of evil things, idolatry, fornication, and murmuring. I get that. Don’t run after things you know are bad. There’s only one true God. Avoid extramarital (that is, anything outside of marriage), um, extracurricular activities. And don’t murmur. Apparently Job’s soliloquies between the awkward jabs from his “friends” were not considered murmuring. But the complaining Israelites in the wilderness “murmured,” which God didn’t like.

I even understand this one. Think, despite their traveling uncertainties, how posh the Israelites had it in the wilderness: fire by night to guide, guard and warm; cloud by day to shelter from the sun and guide; manna, quail, flocks, water coming out of a rock sufficient to sustain EVERYONE, AND, for 40 years their shoes and clothes never wore out. If I were God and I were doing all that for like a million people, and they still complained, I’d be unhappy with them too.

But back to temptation. If I Corinthians 10 is clear, there’s supposed to be a means of escape, to make the temptation bearable, or maybe even avoidable. Despite the story of Job, “when tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me,'” since God doesn’t tempt anyone, he just allows Satan to dangle temptation in front of us (James 1:13). God, on the contrary, only brings “good and perfect gift[s] (James 1:16)” our way. According to the story of Job, and a cross-translational reading and a slightly skewed perspective of Matthew 6:34, God limits the amount of evil that is allowed on any given day. I picture God’s hand on the door of Hell, keeping it almost closed to avoid having “all hell break loose” at once, as the saying goes.

A joke that asserts “Hell is Exothermic” comes to mind. You can read it here: http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/joke/exoendo.htm , and follow, for your amusement, the random linkages of my brain.

Surely Job was tempted to follow his wife’s suggestion to just get it over with. (Job 2:9) But no, the book went on for an additional 40 chapters, and through it all Job weathered the storm and came out on top. Well, second to God of course. And Satan lost the challenge. If there’s anything that can be learned from Job’s example I suppose it is that my challenges are not as severe as Job’s and he did well, so therefore, I should strive to do as well under mine. If my trials are light and momentary” (II Corinthians 4:17) I should just grin and bear it, as “it came to pass.” Not to stay.

But wait. Job’s trials were explicitly allowed by God. By extension, our trials are allowed by God, who releases just a little bit of hell on earth every day. Earthquakes, tidal waves, nuclear plant pollution, hurricanes, tidal waves, feet of snow, floods of rain, work stress, home stress, traffic jams, “traffic accidents,” and car-b-que-s, crime, the daily news, stuff breaking, marriage difficulties, bills, plumbers, electrical technicians… “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…” Which makes me wonder.

When things are stressful and things break, and relationships get into realms where “it’s complicated,” and all manner of hell seems to be breaking loose all over people, it’s not JUST that we have failed, it’s not JUST that Satan and his minions are wreaking the havoc over our lives, it’s that God has ALLOWED it. In the secular realm they have the rainfall just like in the sacred (Matthew 5:45). I’m saying it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christ follower or not, you’re still going to have issues. The secular world says “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I say yes, but it still leaves scars.

Job didn’t exactly have anywhere to go or any means to escape. Tidal wave victims the same way. And us. “The rain,” that’s kind of a poetic understatement for how bad life just plain sucks sometimes. When I was a kid I kind of blocked out the crap from my childhood illness that affected me like a stroke, and much of the aftermath in the wake of that tidal wave in my life. I didn’t complain about my “special shoes” (think Forrest Gump). And when I was crying after a painful operation in my childhood, the on-duty nurse’s bed-snide manner inspired her to tell me to keep quiet, since I “[didn’t] hurt any more than anyone else in the recovery room.” A gem of a nurse. But it sounds Biblical in a Job-trauma kind of sense. Stuff your feelings. Don’t cry. You’re no worse off than anyone else. It could be worse. It’s your fault it happened, you just brought it on yourself. You ought to be thankful and praise God through the storm. I hate it when people say stuff like that. It’s so unloving. And frightening. I don’t want to think about, if it could be worse, how bad it could be.

When you have no means of escaping whatever life serves up, one possible coping mechanism is, you do stuff your feelings and learn to suppress. I have so much missing childhood, that other people remember vividly. Perhaps that’s God’s mercy for me? But what I remember wasn’t all rose-colored.

When Job went to heaven, and I presume such a heroic figure would ultimately end up there, did God apologize for allowing all that, along with commending Job’s stellar endurance under pressure? And what about us?

The question is, if through our throwing ourselves on God’s mercy and Jesus’ sacrifice for forgiveness of our sins we obtain heaven through the means of our faith, does God ever ask, and expect, us to forgive HIM for allowing our suffering and temptation that there ISN’T a way of escape from? I really don’t have an answer for that.