Monday, December 15, 2008

Revival Tarries

1What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:1-4 (ESV)

These four verses offer a plethora of topics to discuss. I think I'm going to focus on just a line or two. “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Some of you just about stopped reading because you thought “Oh no, another Vending Machine Jesus message.” Keep reading though. This one's about revival.

A couple of days ago, a good friend of mine updated his status at Facebook. My friend “is grieved in my spirit...we need revival.” I can't agree more. A Southern Baptist evangelist recently wrote an article that suggested that the lack of revival in America is attributable to churches not bringing in traveling evangelists. Leonard Ravenhill wrote books like “Why Revival Tarries” to explain why we are not seeing a sweeping move of God across this country...and this was written 40 or 50 years ago. To a man, the entirety of American Christianity will tell you that we need revival. If we all agree that we need it, why don't we see it?

There's several reasons, I believe. First, I don't think most Christians are actually praying for revival. That's Mr. Ravenhill's stance. I don't watch much of the TV preachers or the ones on radio but I can't think of the last time I heard one of them preach on either evangelism or revival, let alone tell people to pray for it. I hear requests to give more because the ministry is facing hard times. I hear about praying for the election. I hear about praying to receive that car, house, job, functional savior that will make you life perfect and show God's favor to you.

I also think that the average American Christian has no idea what revival is. I'm not talking about my friend here, just the average church goer in this country. When I do hear someone talking about revival from the pulpit, it almost always seems to involve politics. We need revival so folks will vote the right way next time. We need revival so that gay marriage doesn't get legalized. We need revival so that young girls quit wearing short skirts. We need revival so our taxes will get lowered. We need revival so that God will be pleased and the stock market will go back up and gas will come down to stay.

When we do ask God to pour out His Spirit and bring revival, if we aren't seeking political change, we're looking for a personal renewing. Many people's idea of revival is their church getting excited about Jesus again. It usually involves a traveling preacher stopping in for a few days, preaching some really well delivered and exciting sermons, collecting the offering and leaving. Sometimes it involves someone reading a new book and getting excited. Maybe it's stumbling across an Emerging leader or someone offering different ideas from what their church has been doing for 50 years. Sometimes it is a new “outpouring” of the Spirit. We abandon all Biblical discernment and chase after signs, wonders and miracles. Sure, more often than not that involves manifestations of things long considered to be demonic possession or of men pretending to pee on the church walls, but feels good. It is also ALWAYS temporary. Take the Lakeland circus this summer or the Airport Vineyard thing a decade ago.

The last dramatic revival on this continent took place over a hundred years ago during the Third Great Awakening. Maybe not since the Second. Not even the Jesus people movement of the 60's and 70's or the Charismatic Renewal of the 80's came close. In fact, I would argue that the Charismatic Renewal is exactly the type of revival we want from God; one that blesses us. We seek revival not to spread the word of God and warn the lost to flee from the wrath to come into the arms of Jesus. No, we seek revival so we can feel better, consuming it for our own pleasure. We have sought material gain and labeled it as Godly while trying to criminalize the lost while calling it “family values”.

Can you even imagine a mainstream preacher preaching a sermon like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” now days? Less than 2% of believers have shared their faith with someone in the last year. Of that 2% how many offered God's Plan for a better life instead of warning them that apart from Jesus they are headed to Hell? Is it any wonder we don't see people coming to Christ in the thousands? Does it surprise you that the gifts of the spirit seem to be manifesting less and less? Ask your self when was the last time you saw a true, immediate healing? Mine was in 1994 or 1995 on my knee. Sure, prophesy is still around but it all seems to be political or “encouraging” words. When was the last time you or someone else “read someone's mail”? The gifts of the Spirit are there to give credence to the claims of the Gospel. The power shows that Christianity is not just another man made religion. If we aren't seeing the gifts, is it because we aren't preaching the Gospel.

We have not revival because we ask not. When we do ask, we don't want to share we just want a bless-me club and call it revival. We have to go OUTSIDE of the Church walls if we ever hope to see revival.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Legalsim or Antinominism?

Recently over at the Internet Monk, there was a discussion on how to live as a Christian in the midst of legalistic churches. That's a sticky question on all sorts of levels. First, we have to define what "legalism" is. I would say that any church or person who puts more faith in works, or what your deeds are, to get you into heaven than in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is legalistic. This is doubly true if the deeds that are emphasized are not deeds mentioned in the Bible as being problem areas. If there is any sort of a Checklist of Salvation the chances are pretty good it's legalism. And we are not under the law but under grace.

Shall we sin so that grace may abound? Ahhh, yeah. That part. The most common response to legalism is to go hard the other way and essentially state that there are no rules. Jesus loves you even when you're banging the neighbor's wife and anybody that says otherwise is being judgmental. The war cry for these folks is two fold. The aforementioned "under grace" line and the ever popular "Judge not lest ye be judged." In my experience everyone who has said "Judge not" while discussing sin and the repentance from sin, is currently doing some thing that violates their conscious but would rather ignore it than repent.

Jesus talks about how to properly, and lovingly, correct someone and, if they refuse it, to kick them out of the church. Paul, who stresses unity above almost everything, still says there are times when a person needs to be asked to leave. He even cites a couple of cases. What's this got to do with legalism? Simply, there ARE some "rules" that one needs to follow if he/she expects to remain in the fellowship. Jesus didn't just say "give me your burdens". He also said to take his up. Carry your cross daily. James said faith without works is dead. It's impossible to read the NT and not come away with the idea that if you do indeed believe in Jesus, there will be things you do, and don't do, because of it.

The big danger here for churches and church leaders is knowing what to expect from the congregation. Quite simply, if the Bible doesn't forbid it expressly, I think it's best to leave that up to Christian Conscious. Drinking alcohol is nowhere forbidden in the Bible. Therefore to preach that it is sin to EVERYONE is wrong. Are there those in your church to whom drinking is a sin because God and their conscious has deemed it so? Yes. And your job as a brother or sister is not to drink around them, not to tell stories involving a good drink etc. around them and to encourage them in their own walk. If it's too big of a sacrifice to go out to eat at Perkin's instead of Applebee's when they're with you, maybe you need to examine your own heart. The same is true if they insist that nobody, EVER has a drink.

There are any number of things clearly spelled out in the Bible as "sin". Lying, gossiping, sex outside of marriage, unforgiveness, irrational anger at somebody are among them. If somebody in your church is doing these things, it is our responsibility to bring them up. Not in a finger pointing, AH-HA!!, sort of way but in love, like the way you would tell your children not to play touch football on the four lane street. On the flip side, these things can not be allowed to fester and grow in the church. If the person continues to resist the correction both Jesus and Paul say to kick them out of the body. Like a cancer needs to be cut out before it kills you, people sinning unrepentantly need to be removed from the church body before it catches on.

It's a fine line. Separating the two takes a lot of prayer and a lot of time in the Bible. I was once told "Stupid rules get made because people do stupid things." This is true. It is also how legalism gets started, with the best of intentions to help someone you love. Soon, what started out as a temporary request becomes doctrine that must not be violated.

Pray hard.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And we wonder why the Church is shrinking...

The last 24 hours have been interesting. Last week news broke that Tony Jones, one of the muckity-mucks in the Emerging Church movement, has come out to say that unrepentant homosexuals can be a part of the Church and continue to date other men or other women etc. While there are some that pounced on the news, it was mainly the folks who think loving your neighbor should take a back seat to not drinking and making sure every one's dressed "appropriately".

Meanwhile, Ed Young makes national headlines by encouraging his married members to have sex everyday for a week. People who normally are for the whole "community" idea and a more "honest" Christianity went immediately ballistic over this. It was dirty. It was a cheap publicity ploy. It was unloving to single Christians or to those with troubled marriages. That church is a "cult".

One man proclaims as truth things that are not only not in the Bible but against what it says there. The other preaches that married couples aren't supposed to use sex as a weapon against each other, do what they enjoy and do it more often; all of which can be found in the Bible...both Old Testament and New. The one who seems to be getting the majority of the criticism from "christians" is the guy preaching the Word.

If you are more offended by the idea that married people are God ordained to have sex and yes, even to like it, than you are by accepting people still in active sin they have no intention of ever repenting of then you need to check and see if you are still in the faith. Don't give me any of that "We all still sin.." garbage either. Yes, we all have sin that God has not convicted us of yet. Very few of us, however, have sin that is clearly spelled out int he Bible that we have not addressed. If you do, you need to check yourself again.

I believe this is why the Church, at least in Europe and America, is shrinking so dramatically. We can't or won't even get the basics right. We'd rather be guided by our emotions (scared or offended by open sexuality or compassion for the lost that over rides the call to repentance because it might hurt their feelings) than be guided by the word of God.

If judgment comes to America it will be because of things like this not who we elect. Judgment begins in the Church, one of the Apostles told us.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The Idolatry of Obama

It is the summer of 64 AD. A great fire has swept through Rome, the seat of one of the greatest empire's to ever exist. Of the 14 neighborhoods in the capital city, four have been completely destroyed and seven more have been badly damaged. The people of Rome are furious, looking for someone to blame. Many blame the the man in charge. They know he had plans to build himself a bigger palace and the fire has freed up land in the crowded city for him to do so. In order to deflect blame from himself, the Emperor begins to blame a small sect of weirdos that have come to Rome. These folks, followers of a man named Jesus, whom they call Christ, refuse to worship the Emperor as a god and deny that Rome, and by extension he, is the final authority in the world.

This man, Nero, sends out orders to his military. He has Christians arrested. He opens his private gardens to the public, hosting parties for the commoners that last well into the night. All is well, however, there is plenty of light to see by. He has ordered some of these Christians covered in wax or pitch and had them crucified them along the paths of his gardens. When it becomes dark, his servants light the Christians on fire, illuminating the party.

When the parties are not enough, he hosts shows at the Circus. He has Christians wrapped in animal skins. They are thrown into the arena with wild dogs or lions, neither of which have been fed in a long time in order to increase their aggressiveness. Nero and the crowd watch as the animals hunt, kill, and eat the Christians. This is great entertainment.

The Emperor does not stop there. The people are behind him. He has free reign to deal with these people not just because of their religion but “ for hatred of the human race”. He tortures and murders Christians in such heinous ways that the very people who once cheered it begin to show sympathy for those killed.

This man, this Emperor, was so full of rage at Christians that he killed not one, but two men known as Apostles. Nero had Peter crucified upside down in 64 AD reportedly on the Vatican hill. Paul was beheaded along the Via Ostiensis in 67 AD. He was a hateful, sadistic ruler that ruthlessly persecuted and murdered Christians. In was under his tyrannical rule that Paul wrote :

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
1 Tim 2:1-4 (ESV)

What?! No cry for revenge?! No call to overthrow the government that so coldly, if such cruelty can be called cold, persecuted himself and the Church? No, not even the thought of it.

Perhaps, as the events of our recent election unfold, we should remember this. While Barak Obama was not, is not, my choice to be President of the United States the fact remains that is what he is going to be. If God really does raise up kings and powers, then God has put Mr. Obama on the throne of our country. Paul says very clearly in Romans that as God's appointed man, we owe the incoming President respect, honor and our prayers.

Those of us who believe that the “wrong guy” got elected or that we're going to be judged because we elected a Democrat are simply wrong. I find it amusing that they grieve that a man who claims to be a brother in Christ got elected over a man who once called Christians “agents of intolerance” and, if I remember correctly, “a poison in the political system”. He referred to Falwell and Robertson , and those who follow them as an “evil influence” on the Republican Party. I'm crushed that the Christian hater didn't win over the socialist.

Back to my point, God is not angry at America because we elected Barack Obama. He is not going to judge us unless we repent and elect lots of Republicans for Congress in 2010 or a Republican (even if he HATES Christians) in 2012. There are lots of reasons for God to judge America and they have been going on for 30 years or more. Not the least of which is idolatry.

The bulk of the American Church has spent 30 years worshiping at the alter of the Republican Party. They are our champions against abortion. They will protect us from those who wish to harm us. They will give us freedom. If we elect Republicans, then God is pleased and all will be right with the world. Except it isn't...never has been, even during the Regan years. There are those on the other side who will sacrifice to the Democrat god. They will supply all our need.

Both sides are looking for a messiah. We have elevated a political party to the stature of “savior” in practice and emotional responses if not in creed. Anything worshiped as savior other than THE Savior, is nothing short of idolatry.

If you think judgment is coming because we rejected the Republican candidate...repent.

If you think that Mr. Obama and his Cabinet will make your life great and give you everything you want, bringing justice in his wake...repent.

If Paul can tell early Christians to pray for the man who will eventually kill him, a man he has met before, then we need to quit our whining and prophe-trying of God's wrath and get to praying for the man elected as our president who has not, as far as I am aware, used one Christian to light a cocktail party in his backyard.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I don't know if it's because it's October or if it's the election coming up and the incessant bleating about it. I don't know why but I am once again on my anti-American Church kick. Not that I'm going to stop going. Some of the same old things are starting to really rub me the wrong way again. Why do we read the Bible and, when it's hard enough to live up to the standards that are CLEARLY printed there, we add to it.

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Rev 22:18-19 (KJV)

Most churches seem to apply these verses to the entire Bible. I think it is specifically for Revelation but let's assume it does apply to the whole Bible. God has told us, through His written word, what is required for salvation. Believe on Jesus and follow him by loving our neighbors and God. Easier said then done but there it is nonetheless. So what do we do? Add things to that.

If you are saved or a “good” Christian you don't smoke. We have preachers who from the pulpit will preach with great enthusiasm that smoking is a SIN. Not a bad choice. Not a bad habit. A sin. That means, no matter how they hem and haw about it, that these folks believe that smoking will take you to HELL. Haven't you read that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit? The Bible says it twice. One reference is about sex and marriage and the other is in a discussion of works and the judging thereof.

Of course, we don't apply this principal to other areas of our lives. Are you fat? That's fine. Skinny but sedimentary? Okie dokie. Eat red meat? With gravy. Extreme sports that lead to broken bones, concussions or worse? Rad. You can do anything to abuse your Temple you want to as long as it's not smoking, drugs or possibly alcohol; then it's a sin.

Then there's drinking. Since the late 1700's here in America and in England, there has been a segment of the Church that rails against drinking alcohol I all forms and in any amount. It was not always this way. Various abbeys were regarded as great breweries. Monks INVENTED champaign. The Reformation, which most of the anti-drinking crowd is a proud part of, was, in part, launched/discussed/debated in pubs and taverns. Luther himself said this of the Reformation: "I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26-29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it."

I can't find a single verse in the entire Bible that says “Do not drink.” Not one. The bible repeatedly condemns being drunk but never once mentions drinking. Jesus mad wine for the wedding party!! He drank wine at the Passover! What sort of twisting of things do we have to do to come to the conclusion that drinking is a sin? I've heard the arguments that the wine Jesus made was non-alcoholic. I've been told about the word in Revelation 21:8 is pharmakeus which comes from pharmakon which means a drug, i.e. spell-giving potion. It, and it's derivatives, are translated as sorcery or witchcraft. Somehow this means that drinking is wrong. Taking aspirin, or other legal PHARMAceuticals is fine, but drinking is wrong. To be fair, there is a group that has seen the logical problem with this argument and forbid taking all medicines (ie drugs) as sin.

Jesus very specifically said that what we eat or drink does not “defile the temple of the Holy Spirit”. Really, Jesus said that.

“10And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
Matt 15:10-11 (ESV)”

17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Matt 15:17-19 (ESV)

Not only does he specifically say that what we put in our bodies does not defile us or is not sin, he goes on to list out things that ARE sin and do defile us.

Then we'll go to Halloween. It's a pagan holiday. It's roots are in ancient pagan traditions, child sacrificing and such. So it's bad. The spring solstice is also an ancient pagan holiday accompanied by the same kinds of acts that came with Halloween. The winter solstice is also a pagan holiday of high order. We celebrate two of these in the American Church every year. Easter (the spring solstice) and yep, Christmas (the winter). Easter is a form of the name Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess of war and marriage. Why is one pagan holiday evil while using the trappings of two others for our own purposes is fine? Why do we have Harvest festivals and Fall Celebrations the week of, or actually on Halloween and call these good when we are still essentially celebrating Halloween????

Again, we stress out over these things while we allow divorce to flourish. We even appoint divorced men and worse, remarried men to the eldership or pastorship clearly against God's will. Our kids our having sex. We gossip like lonely old women, usually under the guise of a prayer request. “Could you pray for Bertha? She found out Tom was cheating on here and really needs God's grace.” “Pray for Bob. He really needs God's provision. They've cut off his power and they may come take his car next week.” We judge each other at the drop of the hat over both Biblical and not-so Biblical things. We covet after things of this world all the while claiming it's the promises of God. We don't tell the lost about Jesus.

Lord, Lord. I didn't smoke or drink and I sat locked in my dark house hiding from Trick or Treaters.

41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: 42for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Matt 25:41-43 (ASV)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Are we offended by sinners?

Think about that question. Am I, as a good church going Christian, offended by the sinners I interact with every day?

The Jews of Jesus' time certainly were. Not only did the completely write off the Gentiles as lost but they considered the Samaritans unclean. They worshiped wrong, said the wrong things, did the wrong things. It was so ingrained in the Jews that they would rather travel AROUND Samaria than through it.

Who would you rather go around than deal with? What bothers you so much that you flee from it?

Most Christians I have met from the “Holiness” spectrum of things seem to spend most of their energy staying away from “worldly” things. By that I mean anybody outside of their church. If a sinner cusses, they get offended. If they make a bawdy joke, they get offended. If another Christian doesn't live according to their “holiness” rules they get offended.

It's not just the far wing either. The problem is, too many of us sit in our little comfort zones. We get used to hearing only "Christian-speak". No one smokes, no one drinks, no one cusses, every one is perfect. When we are forced, and it does sometimes take force, to go out among the "unwashed", do we take the Light with us? How many times have you seen Christians out protesting some show, song, book, or movie for being too whatever? They are offended by something that they will probably never see in the first place but want to make sure that others, sinners, don't get to see it either. Because then everything will be fine...if only the sinners, and everyone else, lives just like us.

A while ago a couple in Pennsylvania were taking a city to court to remove a billboard that deeply offended them. What was this billboard about, you ask? A porn shop? A strip club? Some atheist group? Nope. Sheetz Gas Station. Why? Because the sign read “Crispy Frickin' Chicken”. Let me spell this out clearly: this is NOT being light. This is being a moralist. This is trying to impose your beliefs on others not for their good, but for your's. Removing this sign does not get anyone closer to accepting Jesus. Removing this sign does not move anyone further away from Hell. All it does is piss people off or cause them to mock you, and your faith, for being a whiny little brat.

Jesus was never offended by the sins of the ignorant. He never condemned the woman at the well, the tax collectors, the whores. No, he condemned the priests and religious folk of his day for trying to follow the Law the way it was written (the letter of the law) while ignoring the whole point of the Law. That's what this guy is doing. His moral laws say cussing is wrong and so is fornication. There fore, all references to such things are to be done away with. Meanwhile, he's ruined his ability to witness to any number of people who hear about this. How many people may end up in Hell because they won't hear him, or another Christian, now because he's just another "religious kook"?

There are times to fight. Clearly, there are times to stand up and call sin sin. Cursing, foul language etc. is at best a gray area. Like drinking, gambling, smoking, rock music; I don't think you can make a case from the Bible that it is SIN. Not helpful, yeah, probably. But sin, no. Yet these things deeply offend so many Christians, not just when it's in the church, but when their lost neighbor does it. Do you know why the guy across the street gets so drunk he can't walk? Because he doesn't have Jesus. Do you understand why the girl down the road sleeps with every guy that she can? Because she doesn't have Jesus. Do you know why the guy at work is so full or bitterness and rage? Because the world has stomped on him, spit on him, left him broken and bleeding and he needs Jesus.

One of the Christians highest callings, maybe THE highest calling, is to warn people of the judgment to come and point to Jesus as the ONLY way to escape from that judgment. To do this, we need to get out of our little buildings and go into the world. It means to not have only Christian friends but to have friends that wouldn't set foot in a church if you paid them.

How can we be "in and not of the world" if we are so offended by the world we can't stand to be around it?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I don't know exactly when it started. Right around the turn of the year, I think. I came across a video on Youtube called "Hell's Best Kept Secret". It's from a series of videos called "The Way of the Master", which is also a TV series though to be honest, TBN would rather you see "Your Best Life Now" than this show, which airs at about 2 am.
It's hosted by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron...yes, THAT Kirk Cameron.

God had been speaking to me, I believe, before that. "Be Fruitful." How God? How do I be fruitful? Go to church? Listen to "good" music only? Never have a glass of wine with dinner? Tithe?

"Do the work of an evangelist."

Ah, crap. I have a saying that I'm fond of: I'm really more of a preaching to the choir sorta guy...

Then I saw a video about doing just that, going out to the Lost and telling them the Good News. I was convicted of my own sinfulness, even while doing the "right" things, and that no one was out telling people that they were lost and had earned Hell but God, in his love and mercy, had made a way for them to escape.

So, I bought the book "The Way of the Master". That only made things worse. It convicted me like I had never been convicted before. I was sinful. Even as a Christian, I was every bit as sinful as the Lost. I had lusted after women, I had stolen without even realizing it (making copies of software that I never bought etc), I had lied. I needed to repent.

I bought the book "Why Revival Tarries". The author is right, we need to pray more, not just for revival, but for everything. He was also wrong on this one count: we can pray all day but if no one does the work we're still in sin.

God commissioned US, you and me, to go out into all the world and make disciples for Jesus. Every time we shrug off the urge to walk up to a stranger and tell them about Jesus we sin. Every time we fail to tell someone we know the truth about the sin in their lives, like living together, we sin. Every time we separate ourselves from or are offended by the very sinners God came to save WE SIN. That's a whole post in itself.

So here it is August. In a week my church starts the Way of the Master Basic course on evangelism. It gives you some tools to break the ice and start THAT conversation without having to beat someone over the head. I am reading "Radical Reformission", the idea that we need to be out among, friends with the lost in their culture, but different from it. Just like we do when missionaries go to Africa. We don't try to make them all white American suburbanites we meet them where they are...where Jesus met us.

I've said all this to get here: I have sinned. I have sought the approval of man before that of God. How? By being afraid of the rejection from folks if I tell them about their desperate situation and The Way out. I have chosen, repeatedly, to be liked or, at least, not disliked, instead of telling warning people to flee from the wrath that is to come. Are there people in Hell right now because I was afraid of them? And by that fear, ashamed of Jesus?

I never thought I was ashamed of Jesus. If anyone asks me a question about Him, I answer directly. I admit to being a's no secret. Yet, every time I refuse to tell someone about Jesus I prove that I am, when the rubber hits the road, ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

I repent. I have no idea how to fix that flaw in me, but I will. I will pray because Jesus is the source of our strength. But just praying isn't enough. I need to find concrete ways to force myself to do things I am uncomfortable doing. Hopefully, this Way of the Master course will help.

I may not be the guy standing on the street corner today. Or even tomorrow. I will get there, however.

Here's the part of the video that really got my attention, there's three other parts before this one and I encourage you to watch all four. Watch how the kid's attitude changes from mocking and light-hearted to serious and concerned. The fields are ripe, my friends, over flowing in fact. If you aren't telling people about Jesus, repent. I'm not talking about street preaching, I mean just talking to the people you interact with every day. Now. Before it's someone you love who dies without Christ.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

“Hey Brian, we have a problem.”

I look up from my desk to see Alan, my assistant leaning in the door to my office. What's new, I wonder.

“You need to see this. Now.”

Oh great, this can't be good. I wonder what the dimwits up stairs have done now. Sooner or later, the guys with initials in their titles will figure out that we actually have a clue about what we're doing and quit trying to make us “better” at our jobs. Better always means lots of meetings, some headaches and maybe a sleepless night or two before we sneak back to doing things the way we always have.

“Channel 13.”

I really wish they'd figure out a way to keep people from stealing code while still allowing the FEED into the building. I hate not being able to access my tech FEEDs.

I follow Alan down the hall to the conference room. He has the TV on one of the 24 hour news networks still around. Footage from one of the SecureCams of a man walking into a McDonald's with an AK 47. He hoses down the whole place. They follow this with a clip of the man being drug out on a stretcher. His eyes are wide open but clearly not seeing. He ticks his head to one side repeatedly like he was having a seizure; the same seizure over and over again. A terminal feedback loop?

“Any reason to think that's us? I mean, it's not like someone's real brain doesn't break every once in a while.”

“Keep watching.”, he responds coolly.

The next story makes my heart drop. A woman in Duluth had run her entire family through a wood chipper. The scene is something out of a nightmare. There's still a leg sticking out of the feed port of the chipper. Red and small chunks are sprayed all over the bushes on the other side of the machine.

“When did the last Update go out?”, I ask.

“Twelve hours ago.”

“That's an awful long delay.”

Usually conflicts are immediate. Even if they're not, we usually catch any bugs long before an Update FEEDs.

“Daniels called down.”, Alan informs me, “He wants us to find out if we've got a bug and quick. He didn't sound happy.”

Of course he didn't sound happy. His programmers screwed something up that may cost Ment-ronics real money. Now, he's going into full CYA mode...which means he's going to try to blame us. I will NOT let that happen.

Of course, if it was a bug, then one of my guys HAD missed it. We all had.

“Damn it.”

I go back to my office. I need to make some calls. It's Saturday and most everyone is off. I only came in to grab my sunglasses.

Resource Conflict

Huh? What's that?

Rebooting in ...3....2....1

Systems Check......Online

“What'cha need Alan?” I ask my assistant who is leaning in my office door.

He stares at me blankly for a moment. He looks like I just said something funny.

“The news?”, he finally answers.

What about the news? Oh, crap! Is that ours?

Five people. Out of a division of 30, five people could be bothered to show up to help with this. There are times I really hate people. Daniels called again. He really is near panicking. He's got all his programmers coming in to help. I already know this, however, since one of his guys, Debbie, is standing in front of me. She came down to help troubleshoot the Update. She's still new and doesn't know that Daniels' folks and mine aren't supposed to play nice together.

Still, I'll take her over Steve any day of the week. She's his replacement. Upgrade really. She's easier to look at and a thousand times more competent than he was. He was never what I would call Top Shelf anyway but he had gotten to the point where all he did was play WOW: D all day long. He was too stupid or smug to even pull up a programming window to open if a boss walked in. Daniels sent him packing six months ago. One of the few times I've ever agreed with Daniels on anything..

“Thanks for the help, Debbie.”

“No way I wouldn't be here. If this is us...we screwed up bad.”

Sooner rather than later she needed to learn that around here, as a programmer, you never, ever admit to a mistake. It just isn't done.

“Everybody here is going to get the Update...fresh and clean. Then we'll...”

Resource Conflict

“What now?”, I grumble.

Rebooting in ...3....2....1

Systems Check......Online

“Then we'll....what?”, Debbie from Programming was looking at me asking.

“Then we'll what, what?”, I have no idea what she's talking about. Programmers aren't really used to interacting with other people.

“You were just telling me how we were going to troubleshoot the Update.”

“Troubleshoot the Update?”, was she drunk, “On a Saturday?”

She stares at me like I've lost my mind. I just came in to grab my sunglasses. Why would I want to spend the day troubleshooting an Update that had already gone out? Especially with this head ache coming on.

“Brian, what's the plan?”, Alan asks me.

There's five of our Shooters standing in the conference room behind him. On the TV, images of a blood stained wood chipper fill the screen. Holy crap!!! I forgot where I was, what was going on. Talk about a brain fart.

“Everyone gets a clean install of the Update.”, some groans, “I know. Just back up your implant now and when we're done you can overwrite that image back to it.”

Most people had a lot of stuff loaded on to their implants. Music players, videos, photos of family members, some games. Deleting everything and starting from scratch sucked.

“After the clean install, we add the standard suite to two of us, the power user suite on two of us and the newbie suite on two of us. Debbie and I get nothing. She's not one of us, and at least one of us needs to be unaffected. Then we wait 12 hours and see what happens.”

We can't help but watch. After all, it isn't every day that the world goes mad. In Las Angeles there were riots spreading though Compton and Watts. Detroit was apparently burning to the ground, thousands were hurt or dead. In Texas, a refinery worker had rammed his car into the facility causing a massive explosion. It had even knocked down buildings in the nearby town. There were even unconfirmed reports of a company of Marines and a company of soldiers trading shots down at some military base in the south. The reports were overwhelming.

In just under 30 hours since our Update had gone live nearly twenty percent of the population, about Ment-ronics market share, had gone fruit-loopy.

“Well, anybody showing any problems?” I ask Alan.

“Nope. All our diagnostics are normal.”

“Then it can't be our Update, can it? By now, people were shooting up McDonald's and chipping their families. The worst we've had is an argument over what to put on the pizzas we had delivered.”

“Maybe we just don't have the right suites installed. There's a thousand combinations and any one of them could be causing this.”

Thanks for the pep talk, Alan.

“We have simulations...they're close. What's different here as opposed to the wild?”, I ask.

“Any number of things. It could be some badly programmed open source stuff. We update our suites from drive while most people use the FEED.”

“The FEED?”

“That couldn't cause this, could it?”

“There used to be viruses that lived totally within the protocols for the old Internet. It's possible to add a bit of data here...a bit there.”

“How do we find out? Send someone outside to use the FEED?”

“Not if I can avoid it. I know a guy over at InterMind. I'll give him a call and see what he thinks.”

I pick up the phone and search my contact list for Corey at InterMind. Do I even have a home number for him? Yes! Good.

Resource Conflict


Rebooting in ....3....2....1

System Check.....Online

“Hey, Brian!” a voice on the other end of the phone greets me. Who is calling me?

“Uhm, hey. How's your Sunday?”

I hate when people do this. I check the screen on the phone. Corey at InterMind? Why would he be calling me on a Sunday?

“I'm still alive and not in a riot. How about you?”

Not in a riot? What does that mean?

“I, uh, I've got a screaming head ache.”

There's got to be some aspirin or Tylenol in my desk somewhere. Oh come on!!!

I slam my drawer closed.

“Crap. Someone stole my painkillers.”, I think, out loud apparently.

“I bet you guys are really kicking yourselves.”

“Over what?”

“Steve Abati.”

“I don't miss him one little bit.”

“Really? You guys must have some really strong programmers if this is the type you let go.”

“You guys hired him!?”

“Steve's sharp. He comes in early, works late every night. He's even caught some problems with the other programmers code.”

I guess getting canned straightened him out.

“Is this stuff you guys?”, Corey asks.

What stuff? Can't people TALK and make sense anymore?!

“What stuff?” I ask.

Why is Alan standing in my office. Why are there Shooters here today? And a Programmer?

“There's a “glitch in the matrix” somewhere. Is it you guys?”

Glitch? The murders! The riots!!! How could I forget?! What a brain fart!!

“The FEED?”, Alan prompts.

“Oh, uh, yeah. Corey, we've been running tests here for the last 13 hours or so. We've got no issues either live or in the simulations.”

“So what do you think the issue is?”

“Well, we don't have the FEED in's blocked.”

“You think it's us?!”

“I don't know. When was your last update?”

“I don't know, Brian. I don't have that stuff at least not at hand. This is your mess. We're just the network.”

“There used to be TCP/IP viruses.”

“We've never even been able to create a FEED virus ourselves...and believe me we've tried.”

“Look, I know how it sounds. Could you just find out when the FEED's last download was? Please?”

“It was sometime Saturday. Wait a minute....let me look”, I can hear the clicking of a keyboard, “Yeah. It was 10 am Saturday.”

Two hours before Mr. Mc Donalds and Woody.

“Look, that was just two hours before this all started.”


“It's possible, right? Not probable, but possible?”

“Yeah. Yeah, it is.”, the tone in his voice is down, like the thought that I might be right just hit him., “I'll look into it.”

He hangs up on me. On ME?! Like I'm not having a bad enough day already!! People killing each other, locked into work on the weekend, a screaming headache and I keep forgetting things I ought to remember....

Three times. Three times in the last day I have completely lost track of what I was doing. No, four. Oh no. No!!! I've completely blanked out four times....since my Update. Is that even possible?

What was that? I look over at Alan who is staring at me like I'm Robin Williams. He looks up at the ceiling just as I'm about to think I'm hearing things.

“Fire crackers?” he asks the ceiling and the programmers above it.

“It wouldn't surprise me.”

It's not uncommon to hear Shooters cuss. In fact, it should probably be in the job description. I think nothing of hearing the Shooters outside my office let loose. Why is Daniels down here? What does he want NOW?!

“Brian.”, he says in monotones, staring at me wild eyed.

Is he bleeding?? Is that a gun?!!

Oh no!! He's infected! I start to dive under my desk.

“The guys....”, he can barely speak, “I came back from getting some Chinese and found them....Tim...”

“Alan, take the guys and go upstairs. See what's going on.”

I can't believe this!! Just what I need right now!!

“Daniels, could you, uh, give me the pistol?”

Why does he even HAVE a gun?

“I shot him. I killed Tim.”, he walks, no shuffles forward and lays the revolver on my desk, “He killed them all. Tim killed my guys.”

Alan runs past my office and I can hear him throwing up somewhere. Greg, one of the other Shooters stands in my door. He's pale and looks shaken.

“They're dead. All of them I think.”, Greg takes a deep breath, “I don't think most of them were shot...they's bad.”

BAD?! No this isn't bad. Bad is a flat tire on the way in to work. Bad is a Tim Burton movie. This is a DIASASTER!!

“Call the cops. We need to let them... Is that thunder?”

The sky is bright blue and cloudless. It ss a beautiful summer day. Oh, no.

“Look! Over there!!”, Debbie says, pointing out a window to the east.

I had caught a glimpse of it as it rolled up over the top of the Frasier Building. Now, she and the others were seeing it. A black cloud filled with orange, pushing towards the sky. Some thing had exploded. I guess the cops won't be coming to TV cameras in here, just SecureCams.

This has to end. Now. I don't care what Corey thinks. The FEED is causing this and it needs to stop now.

I flip through my contact list, there has to be someone who can help. My Dad was a HAM radio operator until they shut them all down. He knew a guy in the FCC....what was his name? We used to go fishing out on his farm? Tom!! Tom Koenig!!

Ah-ha!! A number.

He answers more quickly than I expect.

“Tom. Brian Tam here.”

“Brian!! How's your Dad doing?”

“He hates retirement with a passion. Look, I'm short on time. Have you been watching the news?”

“Sure have. It's awful isn't it?”

“I think I know what's causing it.”, I explain where I work, what the last 33 hours have been like and give him my prognosis.

“So, you want me to shut down the FEED? I don't have that kind of power.”

“Just shut it off for here. If it isn't the FEED, nothing's going to change. If it IS the FEED and we shut it off, they'll just sorta shut down.”

“Shut down?”

“I don't know exactly. I've only read some of the theories about a total FEED failure. The point is, if I'm right we stop the killing. If I'm wrong, a couple hundred thousand people don't get streaming video of it on their implant...they have to settle for cable.”

“Yeah, you're right. Let me see what I can do.”

We're all standing around the TV in the conference room. Tom had come through. The FCC was going to shut off the local transmitters for the FEED. If I am right, we should know immediately. As we watch, the growing mob of people here in town stop, one guy with a shopping cart raised over his head poised to go through a plate glass window. They stand there for a moment and then collapse to the ground like those goats that fall asleep when scared.

“It's the FEED. There is a bug in the FEED that corrupts our wetware.”, Debbie states the obvious.

It doesn't take long before the President is on TV. He announces that he has signed an executive order to shut down all FEED transmitters until a fix can be found. All over the country the images come in as transmitters go off. Rioters, fall to the ground, asleep with their eyes open. One man, braining a woman with a cobblestone stops. His eyes roll back into his head, he drops the stone from limp hands and he slumps off of her onto the bloody pavement.

“Is it over?”, one of the Shooters asks.

“Yeah, I think so.”, I answer.

My email is signaling. Who would be sending me an email right now? Save the country and I don't even get a moment to rest.

It's from Corey. He sent me some code. It's base code from the FEED!! Why would he send this to me? Oh, the Feds were raiding InterMind's offices. He needed to get this out. Why?

Wait. What's this line of code here? It doesn't do anything. Sloppy programming. Who did this, a drunk monkey? It should be digitally signed...huh. Steve Abati. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. He's not such a catch now, is he Corey?

I send the Shooters and Debbie home. Not much we can do right now. Not with only one, rookie programmer. Daniels is sitting slumped against the wall of my office. Pouting, I think. So he killed Tim? It's not like the guy didn't need it? Sheesh. WHy am I thinking like that? I bowled with Tim sometimes.

Down the hall, I hear the music that the news channel plays for breaking news. I glance at Daniels, still pouting, and I head down to hear what there is to hear. It's the head of the FCC.

“Due to the strategic importance of the FEED to both the national infrastructure and national defense, the need for such a system is clear.”

NO!! They're going to turn it back on?!!!

“The current system, for obvious reasons, is incapable of performing the tasks that are crucial to recovering from this crisis. As a result, the President has accepted an offer from Ment-ronics to allow the use of their new, high security, FEED system. It is a completely new protocol and can not be affected by whatever plagued the old FEED network. At first, the use of the new network will be limited to government officials and first responders.

"The new system requires a patch from Ment-ronics. It will be installed by hand. Once it is installed in all affected citizens then FEED transmitters will be switched back on in a few trial cities. The “reboot” will be gradual. We ask for your patience.”

We are now the sole proprietor of the Wetnet. InterMind's not going to like that one little bit. We have a patch for the FEED transfer? Was that what Daniels had his guys working on during all this? Couldn't be. He's not smart enough or brave enough to think that far ahead without orders. It couldn't have been done in the last 8 hours, the programmers are all dead. The cops and the morgue will get here as soon as they can..that's what they told me at least. What does this mean?

It means I need to take a look at our code. I don't believe in happy coincidences or in programmers that plan for their own, or another's, mistakes. Both are pure fiction.

I can't get into the source code from down here. I'm going to have to go upstairs. Well, I can't say I haven't wanted them dead before...Stop that!

Wow. The brutality of it all stuns even me. Maybe if my head wasn't about to explode I'd care more but as it is, I just have to know when that patch was written.

It doesn't take long to get to a usable computer. I just have to be careful not to slip in the mess. Oh, here we go. It was written a week ago? By....Daniels? He hasn't touched a line of code since I've worked here. Why this?

A TV somewhere up here catches my attention. The lawsuits are already pouring in. InterMind is being sued for trillions,TRILLIONS, of dollars in damages. Their CEO has come out accepting responsibility for a glitch. They are claiming it was in the transmitters themselves. Sure they would. They're desperate to not go bankrupt and keep us from taking over the Wetnet. They're done. And they know it.

Things are not adding up. Why would you write a patch to fix a FEED virus a week before it hits? How could you? Maybe, it doesn't fix the virus as much as just over writes it and installs our protocols over it. It was meant to switch new users over to our FEEDs. Still...

I pull up the source code for our latest Update out of the server. It could take me weeks to go through it all, line by line. Why am I even looking?

That's why. Look at this mess of code. I scrolled through just glancing at the code when I came across a section that looked like a hoarder's living room. Who writes code this jumbled? Oh, yep, there it is. Steve again. I'm so tired of cleaning up his messes. Didn't he ever hear about deleting useless lines....

Resource Conflict

NO!!! Not now damn it!!!

Rebooting in....3.....2....1

Systems Check......Online

Huh. What is this? Wow, this is some really bad writing. All style no substance.

You know, this almost looks like programming. They showed us some in school. I wonder if I can still make it out...It's been awhile.

Hmmm. Why did someone highlight this line? That's odd. I don't think that does anything.

Wait. I KNOW that line. I've seen it before...

AHHHG!!! I can't think with this head ache!!! It feels like there's a dwarf in there with an air hammer!! It's like the time the FEED got a loop-back error...

“THE FEED!!! That's where I saw that code!!”, I think out loud again.

"It's possible to add a bit of data here...a bit there." I can hear myself saying to Alan earlier. That's what they had done. Part of the code in our Update, the other part in the FEED's protocols!!

Oh no. Oh dear God no.

What was that noise? Ah, God that burns!!! Why...why am I bleeding?

Turning around, I see Daniels standing in the door way of the office I'm in. Ohhhh, this burns! He's holding that pistol...

“It was us.....WE did this!?”, I gasp as I fall to the floor.

He's walking towards me. I can see him but all I can do is lay here in this mess and burn.

Resource Conflict

Rebooting in....3....2....1

Systems Check.....Offline