Sunday, November 25, 2007

In the days of my youth

In the days of my youth
I was told what it means to be a man
Now I've reached that age
I've tried to do all those things the best I can
No matter how I try
I find my way to the same old jam
---Led Zeppelin, "Good Times Bad Times"

Let me tell you about my wife. I love my wife and think she is incredibly beautiful. If I posted a picture of her, some people might agree, and some might say "Ehh, overrated if you ask me." But I think she is lovely so the heck with the other opinions. All in the eye of the beholder.

Kind of like that with music. I grew up when Led Zeppelin was still together, before John Bonham died. My cousins were typical 70's classic rock lovers, with their bedrooms full of Nazareth, Nugent, Johnny Winter Group... anything Circus magazine covered at the time. But they loved Zep. The cool guys in my junior high and high school all loved Zep. I just didn't get it and didn't care. My band was Kiss. I got into a lot of Kiss vs Zep arguments/fights. I can remember when Bonham died. A lot of guys were bummed because they had tickets to the upcoming tour. For me... Zep was gone and good riddance. I would have told you that they were incredibly overrated. Fool In The Rain? What the hell was that crap, Beavis?

You've been learnin'
And baby, I been learnin'
All them good times
Baby, baby, I've been discernin'-a
---Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love"

Flash forward 15 years. Page and Plant put out the No Quarter album, and just out of curiosity I watch the show. The song Thank You comes on and I am very taken with how beautiful the song is. All of a sudden I have to give Zeppelin a second look. Now Thank You is the same song now that it was then that it was in the 70's, but I am different, and looking at it through a music lover's eyes rather than a junior high "clique A vs clique B" attitude. I bought the CD but still didn't think about getting into the Zeppelin catalog. I didn't want to hear any backwards messages or anything. (Not that there were any; that was just my mindset at the time.)

Jump ahead another ten years. It is now 2006-2007. I am still a big Kiss fan, and I have just discovered the magic of bootlegs. A downloadin' I will go. Amidst the 200-plus shows I get by Kiss, I notice some Zeppelin boots. My inner stoner says to taste and see that the Zep is good, and I comply. The 1977 Cleveland "Destroyer" show didn't do much for me, but when I downloaded the Blueberry Hill boot... well holy stinkin' crap. That concert kicked my a**. When this band get this good? I had to get as much as I could. 80 shows is nowhere near what is available, but some trading vines are going to bump up my total.

To make a short story long, my point is this. Was Zeppelin overrated in 1979 but the greatest thing since sliced bread in 2007? No; they were the same band playing the same music. I was the one that changed. I found it much easier to appreciate the band's musicianship when teenage boys weren't threatening to kick my a** unless I traded in my Kiss Army badge for four runes. Time changes perspective. I think that Jeff Beck is just another guitarist. I hear Eddie Van Halen and think "ehh, whatever." Give me some time and maybe I will change my tune (pun intended).

Do I think Led Zeppelin is overrated? No, but my opinion doesn't really matter that much. I personally think that history will hold out Led Zeppelin as very influential in the course of hard rock music. The fact that they could pull off electric blues, hard rock and folk music on the same album, and made it sound cohesive (in most cases) testifies to their musicianship. Yeah, they stole from blues masters. Bob Dylan stole from old folk records; Alex Haley plagiarized a good portion of Roots. Their art still had an influence that went beyond their "reworking" of original material. Heck, without the Zeppelin records I would never have bothered to check out the old blues stuff.

If you like Zep, raise the banner high. If you don't like them and think they're overrated, turn people on to the bands you do like. There are people out there who need to be turned on to a fantastic show that you have your hands on. Go out and spread the word!

Little drops of rain whisper of the pain
Tears of loves lost in the days gone by
My love is strong, with you there is no wrong
Together we shall go until we die, my, my, my
An inspiration's what you are to me, inspiration, look and see
---Led Zeppelin, "Thank You"

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Father's Story

This is the one entry that I am most proud of. I wrote this two years ago in the hour before I had to get my kids on the bus for school, and it is probably my most read piece of writing, due to the fact that it was printed in the local newspaper as part of a feature story on autism.

Two years later, I look back on this article and feel like at times I romanticized daily life as the parent of two autistic children. I do talk about the struggles but state that it is all worthwhile. Well, let me tell you, the struggles sometimes don't feel worthwhile. When your son is screaming for hours, you don't feel blessed, you feel angry and depressed. When your daughter wets the couch for the umpteenth time, you don't feel overjoyed that she is still your daughter, you wonder whether you will be changing diapers when your kids are in their twenties.

Don't get the wrong impression. I love my children as much as life itself. But life with two disabled children is fraught with difficulties. If you know someone whose children are disabled, buy them dinner sometime. Chat with them. Give them some respite.

This was originally published on January 17, 2006.

A Father's Story

Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient
’cause it’s a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes it’s a long way to go
But in the meantime

Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy making other plans
Beautiful boy
---John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”

My wife and I had been married just shy of a year when we discovered that we were expecting our first child. I had developed a brilliant plan. I knew that with the dawning of the year 2000 just around the corner, any child lucky enough to be the first baby born in their communities would make out like bandits. There isn't anything a manufacturer of baby-related goods loves more than to get their name out before the public. So... Laura and I were planning on starting a family anyway- why not make it our goal to have the baby on January 1st, 2000? The Y2K baby. We would be drowning in free diapers, formula and “Y2K” onesies.

Laura's biology didn't cooperate with my material desires, however. We found out we were expecting in June of 1999, with an E.T.A. of February 2000. Man, a guy just can't cut a break :) We were ecstatic. We started our marriage wanting a large family, and now we were going to get our first crack at it. I was so excited that I declared myself the official father of the new millennium, and even had a t-shirt made to commemorate the occasion.

We had decided early on that if we had a son we would name him Matthew. His middle name, Stanley, is in honor of my grandfather Arthur Stanley MacNair Jr., specifically, as well as my great-grandfather and my father, both of whom had the middle name of Stanley. My grandfather was an American Baptist minister for over 50 years. He was a compassionate man, an educated man, an important man who always had time for his family. There aren't that many people in my life who have earned my respect, but Grandpa Mac will always be one of those people. He has been dead for 9 years but I haven't stopped missing him. If my son grows up to be half the man that his great-grandfather was I will be a happy man.

Laura went into the hospital on Monday night, January 31st, 2000. The plan was to induce labor on Tuesday morning. Seeing how nothing was happening that night, I went home to watch pro wrestling (catching a lot of grief from my sister in the process) and came back in the morning. All vestiges of Laura's modesty were stripped away, and the waiting began. Contractions came, contractions went...but no baby. February 1st came and went- the first day.

Second verse- same as the first. Hours went by. Finally, after 30 hours of labor without a baby to show for it, they decided to do a C-section. The baby would be born on Groundhog Day. I cracked a joke to the effect that if the baby saw his shadow there would be six more weeks of pregnancy… but it didn't go over very well. They wheeled her away and came to get me an hour later. When I went into the operating room my wife was on the table, her arms stretched out, a curtain hanging just below her chest. Her abdomen had been cut straight across and the skin stretched open, and there was blood. The Discovery Channel had not adequately prepared me for how cool this would be. I mean, you think you know your spouse, but you really don't know her until you see her guts, you know? A short while later the doctor pulled this purple, rubbery looking human out of the depths, and my first thought was "oh man, there was a human being in there!" Matthew Stanley MacNair entered the world at 2:25 PM, out of a window instead of the door.

Laura and I both had expectations- all new parents do. I wasn’t much different from most new fathers- I wanted to take him to the circus, I wanted to take him to the baseball game, I wanted him to throw the winning pass in the championship football game and sink the buzzer-beating fullcourt shot to win the state tournament. It’s all the rage these days to poke fun at fathers, and consider their parental goals superficial; I’m here to tell you that even though my goals and plans were different from my wife's, they were no less meaningful to me. One of my earliest memories is that of sitting in the nosebleed seats at Oakland Coliseum in the early 70’s, watching the great Oakland A’s of that time, shelling peanuts and having a great time with my grandfather, father and brother. I wanted a chance to relive that experience with my son.

Real-life intruded at the age of two when we noticed he wasn’t talking. No big deal- he’s just a little slow, he’ll get the hang of it. When months went by and he still wasn’t developing a vocabulary, we began to get concerned. You never think about troubles arising when you’re beaming over that 9-pound bundle of joy in the delivery room. (I thought it would be cool to have a ten-pound baby, but Laura… we’ll just say that she didn’t approve of my aspirations.) But Matthew Stanley MacNair was our son. We loved him and would continue to love him no matter what.

If we had a real two cents for every time someone threw in their two cents, we would be rich. Everyone had advice. Everyone knew someone who didn’t talk until they were five or something. We might get a forwarded e-mail, or a newspaper clipping, or a friendly tap on the shoulder after church. I’m a brash and upfront person by nature, and I really wanted to say “Hey! If you want to help us, just invite us for dinner or something. Save the advice. We’ve had enough for one lifetime.” I held my tongue.

At the age of three we started seeing a pediatric neurologist named Max Wiznitzer. Now, I don’t believe in labels. I think labelling a child can restrict how people interact with him or her, and define that child for years to come. I didn’t want people to look askance at my child. I was ready to take up arms against anyone who would give me “the pity look.” Yet I also wanted to know what was wrong. I wanted to hear my child say “I love you Daddy!” I wanted someone to get me a Pepsi from the fridge when I was too lazy to get up :) I wanted… normal. What fathers have experienced for generations gone by.

We received the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder when Matt was four. My hopes and dreams slowly toppled. I had to develop a different set of goals for my son. When other kids were dressing themselves, I had to help my son get his head and arms through the right hole. When other kids were going out for soccer, my son had to be watched so he wouldn’t take his diaper off in public and put the contents in his mouth. It was a frustrating experience. It didn’t, however, keep me from loving my son. Normal? Next question, please. I had to change my definition of what that was.

I look for my future
And I feel a peace about my past
Surprised by joy
I see my Father’s mercy in you
You make a fine tutor
And my vocation’s clear at last
I can’t wait to hear you call me something
Or see the world as you do

You are the laughter in your (father’s) eyes
The stars are bright
But not like the shine I’ve taken to you

And who gave who the gift of life
We call it a toss-up
But these changes in me tell the real truth
I’m grateful for you
---Ashley Cleveland, “Rebecca”

In the span of three days, January 21-23, 2001, our car died, I was fired from my job at a chocolate factory, and we discovered that we were expecting our second child. The party line is always “I’ll love my child no matter what sex it is”, and that’s true, but the fact is that I really wanted a girl this time. I wanted a little sweetheart that would wrap me around her little finger. I wanted to braid her hair like my grandfather braided my sisters hair. I wanted a girl that I would one day walk down the aisle… when she was 43, of course :)

Once again we had a name picked out very early on. I wanted to name my daughter Rebecca, after a song I’d heard. No Becky, no Becca or Bekah or any variation- Rebecca. Sweet and feminine. For a middle name we chose Evelyn. Evelyn Jean MacNair was my aunt, my advisor, one of my best friends. She passed away in April of 2001 at the age of 49 after two heart attacks. Rebecca Evelyn’s due date- my birthday. Yes!

Laura’s second C-section caused Rebecca to be born a week early. She weighed in heavier than her brother did, tipping the scales at 9 pounds, 5 ounces. Another week and we would have had ten pounds, I know it :) We took up residence in the birthing suites at EMH, and a few days later Matthew got to meet his little sister. The first thing he did was grasp her head and then twist it sharply. That would be the most interaction he would have with her for two years.

I quickly made plans to reign in her adolescent years. No dating until age 18, of course. When she first brought a boy over I would place a shotgun in the corner. I wouldn’t say anything about it. Just the mere presence of a firearm would get my message across- if you mess with my daughter, you mess with me.

Rebecca’s development progressed at a normal rate for her first two years. She babbled quite frequently and had a personality all her own. And she was as cute as a button! We nicknamed her Rebecca Boo, after a character in the movie “Monsters Inc.” She wasn’t talking right away, but we were sure that she would soon enough, and we would never be able to silence her :)

Yet once again we made the rounds of tests, and paperwork, and specialists, and more paperwork… until September of last year, when Dr. Roberta Bauer of the Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation diagnosed her with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Pervasive Development Disorder. I can’t put in print what my thoughts were at that moment because I was pretty angry. Not at the doctor, but at the situation. Laura and I had planned to have a large family, but now we weren’t sure if we wanted to become a breeding ground for the special education services of Lorain County. Dating, marriage- would that even happen now? We were cast off into the darkness, a ship without a lighthouse to guide it. What the future held was a secret locked up with the key thrown away.

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning
To a light that’s in the distance

Oh, don't sorrow
No don't weep for tonight
At last I am coming home
I am coming home
---U2, “A Sort of Homecoming”

I am not sorry that Matthew and Rebecca were born. My children are blessings to me and I love them. I wouldn’t have chosen for them to be born with development disorders, but sometimes you just have to play the hand you’re dealt. I try to be an involved father. I go to all of their school conferences and I maintain strong communication with their teachers. I try to make it to school parties in which parents are invited. I attend a parents support group where quite often I am the only man there. I don’t care. When the discussion topics turn personal I just go to the snack table and grab another soda :)

Let me entrust to you a secret, a secret which you can then shout from the mountaintops. Sean MacNair loves his children. No qualifiers. No “if only…” attached to the sentence. I am their father, and if a father is any kind of a man he will be there for his kids. End of discussion. Now if you will excuse me, it is time to put them on the schoolbus.

Have a good day, kids. You make me proud.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Speaking In Tongues

Originally published on Friday, February 10, and Sunday, February 12, 2006

Speaking in tongues

“It would be an arbitrary and strange interpretation of Scripture that would make tongues-speaking in the New Testament anything other than known languages. There is no trace of Scriptural evidence that tongues were ever heard by anyone as incoherent, incomprehensible babbling.”-Lehman Strauss, “Speaking In Tongues”

“All these things being true, it is not difficult to see why God would use the speaking in tongues to express the greatest, most wonderful experience that mortal man could receive. In the baptism of the Holy Ghost, His Spirit and yours become one. He uses your tongue and voice to express it. It is a wonder of wonders, chosen not by man, but by God, the sovereign ruler of the universe. Why be found fighting against Him? Believe His Word, accept what He says and you too can receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”-Fred E. Kinzie, “Why Did God Choose Tongues?”

“Finally, I must conclude that I am convinced both biblically and experientially that when people receive the Holy Spirit they do indeed speak with other tongues. Now it is not tongues that we should seek for. As I heard one preacher say, "You don’t go to a shoe store and buy tongues. You buy shoes and the tongues come with the shoes." So it is with the Holy Spirit. We should seek to be filled with the Spirit and when we are we will speak with other tongues.”-William Arnold III, “Why I Speak In Tongues”

“Some gifts were intended to be temporary. I Corinthians 13:8—“where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Notice tongues is associated with prophecy and knowledge. They always go together. These three gifts were given for the introductory stage of the church until the complete revelation of God was given. We now have that revelation in the Bible and we have no reason to expect any new revelation. Since there is no new gospel truth, there is no need for these gifts.”-Randy Childress, “Why I Don’t Speak In Tongues”

Interesting. One says that tongues are for today, one says they aren’t. They both turn towards the Bible to buttress their claims. The "cessationist" says that speaking in tongues means speaking in an actual language that someone understands. The miracle of different languages was needed in the beginning for the furtherance of the gospel, and was meant for the apostles to found the church. Once they died, tongues disappeared. Are they right? Let's see.

MARK 16:14-18
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The general argument against speaking in tongues usually begins by saying that the word “tongues” in the Bible means languages. It most certainly does. In this passage it may mean languages; it may mean a private prayer language. But this passage doesn’t support the claim that they were only for the apostles. Jesus in this passage makes a connection between preaching the gospel, seeing people baptized, and seeing them perform miracles. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe….” The cessationists will argue that tongues have passed away; if they have, then why do they still baptize? Has that passed away also? Most certainly not. Yet the order here is “believes- baptized- signs.” "These signs will follow those who believe.” It isn’t saying that the signs are only for the apostles, only for the preaching of the gospel. The signs come after the gospel has been preached. They follow the belief.

ACTS 2:1-8
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

This is a definite case of people speaking in actual languages. Some have suggested that the miracle here was that the crowd heard the apostles in their own language; I would differ. The passage says that they (meaning the apostles and their posse) spoke in other tongues. But that’s neither hear nor there. These people were from many nations, yet they all understood the preaching. Mark one up for the cessationists here.

ACTS 8:14-19
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

This passage doesn’t specifically mention tongues, but let’s look at it a minute. Samaria had received the word of God and they were baptized. There wasn’t a need for a miracle to further the preaching of the gospel; it had already been preached. And Simon had already been following Phillip and conversed with the apostles; he didn’t need the use of another language to understand. So how did Simon know that the Holy Spirit had fallen? Was there some tangible sign that He had? Based upon all the passages in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit fell, I believe that the sign was speaking in tongues that were unknown to all present.

The entirety of Acts 10 is devoted to the story of Cornelius, a centurion in an Italian regiment. He saw an angel who said that Simon Peter was coming. At the same time Peter saw a vision concerning animals that Jewish people considered unclean. A voice said “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” three times, and when Peter refused the voice said “What God has cleansed do not call common.” The message here is that Peter needed to preach to the Gentiles and not avoid them.

vv. 24-28And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

Notice that Peter conversed with “them”, meaning that Cornelius wasn’t the only one that spoke Peter’s language. There wasn’t a need for a language miracle to preach the Gospel, as we see in vv. 34-35:

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

And vv. 36-43 are the rest of Peter’s sermon.

vv. 44-46While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.

How did “those of the circumcision” know that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the Gentiles? “They heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Remember, they all spoke the same language. I propose that the only way they knew the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Gentiles was that they were speaking in languages unknown to both the speaker and the hearer. Why? You’ll have to take it up with God.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

1 Corinthians 12-14 give us an in-depth look at spiritual gifts, the good and the bad. Paul had just finished rebuking the Corinthians for turning the Lord's Table celebration into a drunken party. He then starts chapter 12 by saying "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant." There are some things that need to be set straight. First, there is a diversity of gifts but one Spirit who distributes them to each one as He wills. Not everyone will have everything. the rest of the chapter is a development of that idea. "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way." (1 Cor. 12:30-31) Now wait a minute, Paul. We aren't supposed to pursue the gifts, but the Giver. We need to seek His face, not His hand. At least that's what the latest revival websites tell me. Not everybody is going to have everything, but we are encouraged to desire the gifts nonetheless. Both times that tongues are mentioned here interpretation is right afterwards.

Paul tells us to earnestly desire the best gifts, and in 1 Corinthians 13 he tells us about the greatest gift- that of love. You've heard it at every wedding you've ever been to. Chapter 13 continues the theme of doing things in order to benefit one another.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."

Ah ha!" the cessationist will declare. "Where there are tongues, they will pass away, when the perfect has come. We now have the perfect, the Bible, the Word of God." In the words of the ancient prophets, "Context, people, context!" In verse 9 Paul says "For now we know in part and we prophesy in part." In verse 12 he mentions knowing in part again. "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." He is contrasting. Before and after. Now we see dimly- then we'll see face to face. Now I know in part- then I shall know just as I am known. Has anyone here seen Jesus face to face? Sit down, Benny Hinn. The perfect isn't the Bible, it is the second coming of Christ. This chapter can't be used to "prove" the cessation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 14: 1-5
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. (emphasis mine)

Paul is not downplaying the gift of tongues two chapters after he just said that God gives the gift to people as He wills. I emphasized two portions to make a point. He is talking about gatherings of the church here. The person who speaks in tongues speaks not to men but to God. Huh? Wait a minute. If the gift of tongues is merely for the establishing of the church, and it means a definite known language in every instance, then why is Paul telling us that the tongues-speaker is talking to God? Doesn't God understand every language? Does God need the gospel preached to Him? Because that's why the gift of tongues was given, according to the anti-charismatic. No, Paul is saying that in the church we need to speak words of exhortation to each other. Tongues mean nothing if no one interprets.

Let's go on.

1 Corinthians 14:9-11
So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.

Why would Paul say that unless I know the meaning of the language I shall be a foreigner to him and he shall be a foreigner to me? The whole point of the gift, according to those who rail against the gift today, is that the speaker will be understood by the hearer. Just like the 2nd chapter of Acts. Unless... there are two types of the gift of tongues that are being spoken of in these passages- one unknown that is being spoken to God, and one along the lines of the beginning of the church, where people spoke in tongues to further the gospel.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19
Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (emphasis mine)

Paul isn't teaching either/or, he teaching both/and, with the caveat that if you are in the church you had better be understood. Paul said that he speaks in tongues more than all of the Corinthians believers he was writing to, but in the church he would rather speak words he understands. So if he is speaking words of understanding in the church, where is he speaking in tongues? He uses the phrase "pray in a tongue." If the gift of tongues was a special miracle for the preaching of the gospel in known languages, why would people be praying in tongues. And yet here is Paul telling the Corinthians to pray in the spirit and pray with the understanding.

So let's mop up here. I think I've made a good case that the Bible talks about two different types of tongues- prayer tongues and Book-of-Acts preaching tongues. Yet even the person who is following me up to this point might say "Sure, they had tongues back then, but they passed away with the last apostle." Really? How do you draw that conclusion? Because the Scripture was completed then and the "perfect" had come? I shot that down earlier in the essay. Because they radically faded off in importance as church history progressed? Things have faded and regained prominence in church history that people don't say need to be buried. How many people had Bibles and read them for 1500 years of church history? Tongues may have been slim to none and slim has left town, but that doesn't mean that they have passed away. That's letting experience dictate your interpretation of the Scripture. Hmm... where have I heard that argument before? From the cessationist's very own lips. They will say that the charismatic/Pentecostal believer is interpreting Scripture by their own experience when that person prays in tongues and says it's God; but aren't they doing the very same thing when they see someone obviously faking tongues and they say none of it is from God?

Listen. I have been around the block and seen some wacky things. Just read the archives to find out more. I know that there are people out there who are not praying in tongues but trying to ascend the ladder of prominence in their church. But even if there isn't one genuine instance of speaking in tongues to be found in the world today, that doesn't mean that the gift has passed away. Now your theological system may say that they have; but Scripture says no such thing.

At the same time, if someone isn't interested in speaking in tongues, that's cool. They just have another gift is all. So Phil Johnson, John MacArthur, Dallas Theological Seminary- lighten up. I like your writings, you obviously are intelligent and well-educated, but in this area you need to relax.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who are you/ What have you sacrificed?

Continuing in our series of flashbacks, here is one originally published on Friday, December 02, 2005

Who are you/ What have you sacrificed?

Every time I look at you I don't understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand?
---“Superstar”, from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar

Do you think Jesus knew what he was starting? When he told Simon Peter that he was going to build his church, did he have his fingers crossed behind his back, saying to himself “oh God, please don’t let him screw it up?”? When Pat Robertson opens his mouth does Jesus sit up in heaven and think “oh crap, he’s at it again”?

Of course he knew what would happen. He’s God, right? When God created Adam and Eve he obviously knew that they would eat the fruit, otherwise he wouldn’t be God. So when Jesus made his final instructions to his disciples, telling them to preach the gospel, start Christian rock bands and sing “Kumbayah” a lot, he knew that some of those future disciples would be real a**holes. Unless he wasn’t God while on this earth, and I’m not even going down that road.

Christ you know I love you
Did you see I waved?
---“Simon Zealotes”, Jesus Christ Superstar

So let’s imagine Jesus walking through the sands of time. The church starts, everything is cool, the Romans hate their guts but the believers give a collective middle finger to the Romans and meet anyway. The Romans throw them to lions and find many other ways to separate the believers from their lives, but it doesn’t matter. They have a fresh vision of Jesus. Jesus is all that matters to them. Some of them even saw the man face to face.

Then when we retire, we can write the Gospels
So they'll still talk about us when we've died.
---“The Last Supper”, Jesus Christ Superstar

Gospels are floating around now. Everybody and their brother put pen to paper and churn out Gospels like network TV churns out reality shows. And even if someone didn’t know Jesus personally, they probably knew a friend of a friend who shared the Passover meal with an apostle’s cousin, and if they say Jesus would have done something this way, he probably would have.

And so it began.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
---Matthew 16:13-15“

And the people said, ‘Let us make Jesus in our own image, after our own likeness.’” Over the course of time people began to develop interpretations of who Jesus was based on what they wanted him to be. Jesus automatically approved of everything the Church did, because after all, he started the thing. The apostles ordained successors, and so on and so on, and Jesus smiled on the whole chain.

Pretty soon Martin Luther said “you know, screw this” and broke off, starting a revolution that revolved around the belief that Jesus wouldn’t make us do works, it’s all about grace. Jesus wouldn’t approve of this hierarchy stuff…Jesus would want us to read the Bible for ourselves…Jesus wouldn’t baptize infants- what do they know, anyway? And branches continued to fall from the tree.

Look at the artwork. Jesus Christ became a white man from the Middle Ages instead of the man of Middle Eastern descent that he actually was. In the 1700’s and 1800’s Jesus had no problems with people owning slaves because, well, that’s what the people wanted so they projected it onto Jesus. Marcus Garvey said that Jesus was a black man, because he wanted him to be one. To the emerging women’s movement Jesus was the first feminist. After all, Mary Magdalene was the first to see him after his resurrection, so to hell with all the tired old white guys running the show- Jesus obviously favored bra burning and reproductive freedom. To the hippies Jesus was the first hippie rebel. He stood up to the man, man! He fought the power! He had long hair and a lot of crazy ideas about love and freedom.

“Not so fast,” the fundamentalist movement intoned. Jesus didn’t have long hair- long hair was a shame to a man. To them Jesus was a short haired Bible thumper- just like them. Jack Hyles even wrote a book entitled “Jesus Had Short Hair.” Jesus was the original fightin’, feudin’ fundamentalist who spoke in King James English. 1611, straight from heaven baby!

Along about 1976 Jesus Christ took the form of a peanut farmer from Georgia. Oops, my bad- that was Jimmy Carter. Same initials, though. A born-again in the White House- who woulda thunk it? But he was a Democrat, so he was destined to disappoint the crowd who was quickly seeing Jesus as the first Republican. When the 1980 elections rolled around old J.C. found himself thrown out on his peanut shells. The world had a new savior- old Ronald Wilson Reagan himself, the great white hope.

In 1987 and 1988, when Bakker and Swaggart took a dive, it was no longer cool to say “Jesus Is Lord.” Smacked too much of pushy televangelists and an image Christians were trying to get away from. Jesus was your buddy, your friend. He’s not going to push anything on you, man! He just wants to share a Budweiser and some smokes with you, maybe shoot a round of pool or go club-hopping. He was straight-edge before Fugazi took their first breath. Jesus was a vegan- he wouldn’t have eaten poor, defenseless animals! Lamb of God? Oh , umm, well….

How about the pro-life crowd? “Jesus loves the little children…” they intoned while chaining themselves to abortion mills. Some of them got the idea that it might be kind of cool to kill a few doctors- after all, Jesus did say “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” Most of that same pro-life crowd are now pleased that we’re killing a lot of Iraqis for Christ. After all, George Bush is a man of God, and Jesus told him to invade Iraq.

A few months ago a fellow blogger challenged me to say who I believed Jesus is. I had every intention of making that an essay, too, but then I realized that it would be pointless. Nobody really cares who Jesus was. They only care about the carefully crafted image they’ve made of Jesus. They have a Jesus that they’re comfortable with, and everyone else is wrong.

You want a statement of belief from me? OK. Jesus is Lord. The implications of that statement are still being determined.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

First published on Friday, October 20, 2006

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

I had an interesting experience at the grocery store the other day. I am the type of person who looks like he is always in a hurry. When I'm eating, I'm eating fast. When I walk, I'm walking fast, even if I'm not really headed anywhere. So when people are at the store taking a survey, or taking up a collection, I walk right on by. I have learned that if you don't meet their eye, more often than not they will leave you alone.

But there is always an exception to the rule.

I am one of the least patriotic people you are going to meet. I am against the Iraq war, and seeing military recruiters at the vocational high school where I teach really bothers me. I didn't fly a flag on Sept. 10, 2001, and I didn't suddenly "find religion" the next day. I felt like it would be hypocritical of me to start flying one just because everyone else was, even though I had no feelings for it. You won't see a yellow ribbon magnet on my car, I won't be sporting a "We support our troops" bumper sticker... I just feel like it's too easy to say "We support the troops", but people don't often support the troops in some practical way.

A gentleman had a table set up outside Giant Eagle and he was taking donations for the Lorain County Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. I decided to talk to the guy, and after a few minutes of conversation I put a $5 bill in his jar. He thanked me and asked if I would like one of the assortment of flags or bumper stickers he had on the table. I declined. I explained to him that I didn't want to show off patriotism (I didn't explain that I didn't have any). I said that I was glad that he made it back alive, and I could see a wistful look in his eyes as he stared away, just for a second, and then thanked me. My groceries and I proceeded on the journey home, with the little paper flower I bought from a World War II veteran several months ago still wrapped around my rear view mirror.

A guy I know only via his online business, Bill Staffa, is retired military. On his Delphi forum a few months ago, in the midst of a right/left debate on Memorial Day, he made this observation:

The guys we remember on memorial day don't give a flying f*** about the NEA, or any other issue. They did what they believed to be their duty.

Memorial Day is not about protests, riots, political agendas, or anything else.

When you die, it all becomes rather moot, doesn't it?

And that's it. The guy standing outside Giant Eagle that day wasn't conservative, he wasn't liberal, he wasn't from a red state or a blue state- he was a guy who most likely watched a lot of his buddies die. The elderly man who sold me the paper flower, who had to point to the enclosed explanation because he couldn't talk, who is probably close to death and wondering why Johnny bought it on the muddy battlelines in Europe and he survived- he isn't an ideology, he's a man.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.


And who was wrong?
And who was right?
It didnt matter in the thick of the fight
Billy Joel, "Goodnight Saigon"