20060731

Jack and The Washer

I ride motorcycles. I have two bikes and my wife has one.

I'm a member of the Christian Motorcyclists Association ("CMA" http://www.cmausa.org/). My local chapter, the Olympia Lightriders (http://www.olylightriders.org/), participated with the state-wide rally called, "The Classic" on July 15th, 2006. All the chapters meet locally and then ride to a central location. Our chapter met at the Hawkes Prairie restaurant at Marvin Road and I-5. We're in Washington state so all the state chapters from west and east come to Packwood on US 12 for an afternoon.

I didn't ride with my local chapter but rode with friends, Scott & Joni Wheeler, and we took off early to get to our stops early to see if help was needed. Once we got to the park at Packwood and saw that things were good (especially that the BBQ lunch was on target - yes!), the group from my local chapter rolls in. It was good to see familiar faces and I went over to say howdy and small-talk about the ride, bikes, and such. As I was making the rounds, I noticed one of our members, Jack, was hovering over his ride.

Now Jack Veggin is one of our more "colorful" members. His ride that day was a tricycle. It has a VW backend and a motorcycle frontend. So Jack sits on a single rider motorcycle seat and there is a back bench for two other riders on the rear end. Jack had a gal, T.J., as a passenger that day.

Jack was saying that his clutch was binding something awful ever since the group had started off from the restaurant. There were a couple of other guys around standing around like myself as Jack tells us what's wrong. Jack decides he's going to tear into it right there. So he starts disassembling the back bench and looking at the clutch linkage. We look at this and that and finally, as Jack is working the clutch pedal, he notices that the linkage is binding at a particular point. It is a cobble. The actual part that is used for the VW isn't there. The problem is that there is a nut swiveling against a cupped flange - but it isn't moving smoothly.

I don't know who mentioned it; Jack, one of the other "supervisors," or myself; but I remember saying that what Jack needed was a wide and stout washer that would allow that nut to move more smoothly.

That got Jack's attention. He started patting down his vest and pants muttering something about 'where is that thing??' I though the heat had gotten to him! He said that he'd found a washer that would probably do him just right. When did he come across this washer? Would he still have it on his person? Would it be the right size? This was getting more absurd the more I watched.

But then Jack clarified it: that morning, while he was waiting for everyone to show up at the restaurant, he'd just happened across a washer laying in the parking lot. Like picking up a penny, Jack just stuck it into his pants pocket and commented AT THE TIME (confirmed by T.J. who'd now joined us): "This might be useful someday."

So he tells us that story and then he finally located the washer - a little rusty but still very sound - in his pants pocket and proceded to see if it fit.
It did.
Exactly.
And the clutch now worked properly.

The lesson we learned was that God provided the solution for a problem THAT DIDN'T EVEN EXIST YET.

Jack picked up the washer (the solution) in the parking lot of the Hawkes Prairie Restaurant. He didn't notice the clutch binding (the problem) until he got on the road. The solution to that problem was in his pants pocket all that time.

Now this is just one of those everyday little miracles of providence, but it's pretty cool to remember that God can provide for even the smallest of needs.

Restoration

I have a passion for restoring churches. No, that doesn't mean the "Extreme Makeover" or "Decorating on a Dime" types of restoration. Rather I mean working with a church that has experienced severe stress or stagnation that now threatens its survival. Christ-centered churches, when they are working right, can be a powerful force for God-energized good in our society as well as God's Kingdom.

I am always on the lookout for biblical accounts of restoration to see what they can teach me.

One of the Big Ideas of restoring a church to health and vitality is that the church's leaders need to be restored. In my studies, I came across a real interesting mini-biography that helped me understand this a little bit more. I'm indebted to Dr. Carl Laney for some of these insights.
The Biblical book of 2Kings is pretty depressing. The book records the rise of Solomon as the king over Israel. He is very smart, has a clear mandate to rule, and prospers as is fitting for a great man and a great nation. However, as the rest of the book reveals, even Solomon falls into idolatry and begins to forget Yahweh. From there, it is mostly downhill. Solomon's son takes bad advice, most of the tribes of the kingdom succeed, and thus begins the inevitable downward spiral that will lead to captivity, exile, and dispersion.

It has been pointed out that in the Northern Kingdom (commonly referred to as "Israel"), there is not a single good King to be found. All of them forget God of the Exodus. They are conquered by the Assyrians and dispersed, never to return en-mass to the Promised Land.

Among the Southern Kingdom (commonly referred to as "Judah"), there are occasional good Kings. However, there are more evil ones. A good King was Hezekiah. He got rid of the terrible and gruesome religious cults that had insiuated themselves into the people. BTW, there was nothing "earth friendly" or "noble" about these religions - they were wicked, murderous, oppressive, filled with hate and fear. Hezekiah got rid of their various "high places," phallic monuments, and other icons of creatures that were being worshipped rather than the Creator. Hezekiah was a good guy, a reformer, and he brought prosperity and success in his efforts because "he clung to the Lord" - like I said, a good guy.

However, his son was a different matter. Hezekiah died in battle due to an unwise action and his son, Manasseh, took the throne. He did evil - for reasons that escape me, after watching all that his father had been able to accomplish, Manasseh decides to go in exactly the opposite direction. He deliberately undoes all of the obvious progress that his father had worked to achieve and - is this predictable or what? - he suffers. I can't imagine the pain that must go through a person to reject the good, the faithful, the prosperous, the pragmatic, and embrace hopelessness, fear, death, and worthless sacrifice. I can't blame it on his dad - there's no indication that Hezekiah was anything but a good guy.

Manasseh continues down this road and "misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom" God had already punished! Manasseh is captured by the forces of Assyria and taken away in "hooks, bound in bronze chains" to exile. This wasn't a nice exile being kept in comfort - he was "in distress." 2Chron.33.

Yet, only then did Manasseh come to his senses. He finally did business with God and humbled himself "greatly." Manasseh had earned the reputation of being one of the most evil Kings in his country's history and after a lifetime of intentional wickedness comes to God - maybe for the first time - and repents. It is recorded that God heard Manasseh's prayer and then was moved to rescue Manasseh from captivity. Manasseh returned to his old Kingdom, his old capitol, and instituted several reforms that renounced his former ways.

So what this shows me is that God is very sensitive to a repentant heart.

What is sad is that while God allowed Manasseh to come back and try to put things back right, there were still consequences to Manasseh's former life. Manasseh apparently couldn't get through to his son, Ammon. Ammon turned out to be another evil king, carrying on in the ways of his dad's early career. Sadly, Ammon ruled for only two years and was assassinated when he was only 24 years old (2Chron. 33:21-24).

The happy ending to Manasseh's story is that while his son Ammon was a loss, it looks as though Manasseh got to his little grandson, Josiah. Josiah was only six when Manasseh died and Ammon became king, but the impressions that little Josiah got from listening to the stories from his grandpa must have been very powerful. For it was Josiah who became one of the most powerful reformers of the Northern Kingdom.

The lesson I learned from Manasseh was that while there may be painful consequences to a life poorly led, yet God can redeem and restore based merely on repentance. Churches and church leaders willing to repent can see restoration as God works through them.

20060717

Review of the FiveBooks

In my study of the first five books of the Bible I've noticed how harsh God's judgment can seem to me. Why would that be?

God tells us that he is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and overflowing in kindness and truth (Ex 34:6). Yet there he is sending plagues, having the earth swallow up the rebellious, and so forth. Is there an inconsistancy there?

I say no.

What I'm learning is that God places a special premium of responsibility to those who have seen him work directly. These people were the very eyeballs that saw the cloud by day and the fire by night every waking moment of their day. The saw - repeatedly - the miraculous working of God and the repeated confirmation of Moses as his prophet. And yet several still didn't want to get it. That's what I get out of the judments I see: God saying (I'm speculating here): if you don't believe me after all of what you've seen, you just never will.

I think specifically of the guy named Korah who claimed Moses was lording it over the people. Moses actually listened to this, gave Korah the night to think it over, and then Korah continued to resist the inevitable conclusion of all the years of Moses' prophetic role with Israel in the wilderness. Korah was judged and his life taken from him.

Yet, in these same books, I see that God is as he says he is: compassionate and forgiving. One might think that Korah's name would be blotted out forever in the history and culture of Israel. But the contrary is the case: it is the "Sons of Korah" who contributed 12 Psalms to scripture. Later generations of Korah's family pressed in so close to God that their poetry was recognized as God's Word.

I think that today, when we see God work directly, is there not as terrible a responsibility to live according to what we've seen?

I also see God's working on Abaraham, even though Abe made terrible choices early in our biography of him. Abe's family was plauged with "dysfunction," yet God was faithful and kept his promise to them. I think of Moses - God continuing to work in Moses' life as a leader even though Moses wasn't going make it to the Promised Land.

That gives me hope! If God can take Abe and Moses from "zeros" to "heros," perhaps he can work in my life, too.