Dictionary Death

However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language. (1 Corinthians 14:19 WEB)

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In my life, I’ve been heavily involved in electronics and communications media. From suitcase powered radios to rotary operator assisted car phones which filled the trunk with electronics and tubes to cell phones that fit into the palm of my hand to smart phones, suitcase computers, laptops, notebooks and tablets. In each case one of the objectives of the device was to carry information from one place to another. In most cases, it was to allow two or more people the ethereal ability to communicate across long distances without physical connections.

As we moved from verbal loquaciousness to SMS the bandwidth allowed to communicate our message was reduced from limitless expressions of proper grammar and vocabulary to 240 characters or less. What might be expressed, discussed and clarified in several minutes of verbal banter has been redacted to basic simplistic monosyllabic abbreviated gobbledygook. I used to carefully consult a dictionary while composing even a simple letter to insure my spelling, word choices, and grammar were succinctly carrying the precise entirety of my message to the recipient. It was a combination of both form and content which carried a clear thought or concept.

For centuries mankind carefully crafted its many languages to insure one person understood what the other person was communicating. In some cultures, the dogged inflexibility of the language and its resident grammar police have stifled the etymological progression necessary to encompass the radical changes in modern life brought about by modern technological developments. In other cultures, the adaptability of the language, inclusion of any workable word from any background for clarity, made the language highly flexible in a cross cultural interaction. Thus, some languages are preferred over others for international encounters and business.

Then along comes the modern, highly technological generation, not well versed in their own language much less any other, who thrive around the convenience of instant messaging. To accommodate this new limited bandwidth, they develop their own micro language distilled from the few roots of the mother tongue they remember and peppered with regional dialectical expressions. To the generation which preceded them it seems disrespectful to the nuances of their historical language. To the generation following them it’s a stepping stone to further distill an expansive and often cumbersome language into even smaller packages.

What can be done? Not much of anything. This sort of dictionary death has developed around the world from generation to generation. As a missionary, I’ve dealt with language barriers over and over. Sometimes I’ve been successful in discerning the Rosetta stone aspects of different tongues to communicate on a fundamental level. Other times . . . not so much. Some think we’re moving toward a global tongue. Some think social media has provided a platform for language to morph into an abbreviated conglomeration of multiple cultural languages and dialects understood at least at a fundamental level by all.

I’m not a linguist and apparently neither was the apostle Paul. I agree with his assessment of tongues and languages. It’s better to find those fundamental few words which express God’s love and the propitiation for our salvation than to expound fluently filling tome after tome. Which dictionary can we consult to share God’s grace today?

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Venture Capitalist Missions

Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:3 WEB)

I know I’m not young so when I think to myself, “I miss the way things were,” I feel even older. But I must admit I do miss some things from the past. I miss some of my old music, my hair, and other things I don’t want to talk about. I do want to talk about the old approach churches took when considering new missionaries for support.

I remember going from church to church presenting the work of the ministry, presenting how we were called to the ministry and presenting our desire to bring God’s love and grace to a world in need of salvation. We were looking for opportunities to share the work of the ministry with the people of the church to encourage their prayer for the impact of the ministry. Yes, we were also hoping God would lead the church or people in the church to support our financial needs in the ministry.

guam97God touched their hearts and they did partner with us. In those days you shared your calling with the body of Christ and received prayer, encouragement, financial support whatever was needed for the ministry. Of course, folks had to be convinced that you were sincere about your calling and they received assurance when they prayed on your behalf for clarity and confirmation. If your life reflected the calling and commitment and the body was convinced through God’s reassurance, then you were sent off.

Folks expected to hear now and again about how God was working in your life and the lives of those where you ministered. Just sharing a story or two of how things were pressing forward and how God was helping your spiritual growth in the process was enough to encourage the church and continue to affirm your ministry and calling. It didn’t take an analytical demonstration of the efficaciousness of your particular style or methodology weighed against the numeric counting of those claiming conversion to understand God was working in and through your life and ministry. People wanted to simply know that God was working and you were still committed to obedience to God’s call to ministry.

The definition of a call to ministry has changed. It isn’t that I’m called by God to server where He leads. It’s that I’m called and here are the spectacular, awe inspiring, facts, figures and examples of how you’ll be impressed with my calling. Support (financial, prayer or spiritual) has changed from trust in God’s calling someone to ministry to become man’s statistical analysis of a person’s potential. Just ask any missionary trying to raise support in the accountant guided world of church administration. Numbers and spectacular new methods are the guiding indicators of whether someone should be supported or their support should be continued. Like venture capitalists trying to convince potential investors (aka supporters), those in ministry must come up with a new and spectacular methodology for presenting an ancient simple message to a complex and technologically advanced world. If my story isn’t better than your story then I lose. It has become a competition for those called by God in the human arena of predictive bang for the buck. They must convince the body of Christ by presenting a new flashy ministry, complete with astounding numbers, that they are called. If we can’t quantize it, then it isn’t sustainable and thus unworthy of the church’s backing.

Why should someone feel guilty and need to apologize for not having large numbers, personal encounters and spectacular stories of salvation? People usually come to the Lord in the simple, everyday ways of life. Even with the increasing number of avenues for proclaiming the simple Gospel message people still respond in simple humility, not spectacular world shattering declarations. But that’s what we came to hear about. That’s what the church and the mission committee wants to hear, the spectacular.

But God, spectacular as he is, isn’t looking for spectacular people but humble people who recognize their need and turn to him. He’s not looking at the bottom line of a ledger but the end of a pathway that leads to salvation. God’s not calling workers into special ministry based on their high tech approach or their book sales or their ability to captivate an audience with spiritual literary quotations. God is calling humble servants willing to follow him wherever, whenever, and however he needs them.

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Lofty Aspirations

He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. (Ephesians 4:10 WEB) 

At one time we lived in an apartment with a loft. It wasn’t really a room but it was large enough to substitute for a library and office. Connected with the master bedroom and bath it made a nice little upstairs get-a-way in our apartment. This came in handy when we had company in our guest room on the first floor. It let us have some semblance of morning privacy until breakfast called.  
Sitting up there was like being away from it all. It was a great place to sit, think and come up with lofty thoughts and aspirations. We could develop these aspirations in the thought provoking confines of our small library. It was just a step away from all the comforts of home. It was like sitting in a master’s library composing earth shattering philosophies while the simple people wandered through the stacks below contemplating the common thoughts of life. 

I’ve had some lofty aspirations in the past. I was going to be a famous folk song musician. I was going to write the great American novel or at least a fascinating children’s book. At one time I was going to be an astronaut and make amazing discoveries. I’ve been a poet, song writer, theologian, and never thought I’d work with computers or spend most of my life overseas insuring a lifesaving message reached the world.

I’ve often wondered what lofty aspirations the apostles had before they met Jesus. Were there thoughts of being a famous tax broker or building a nationwide fishing industry, or setting up the first health clinic in the Middle East? I just can’t see them growing up with visions of giving up everything to follow a preacher claiming to be God’s son and the nation’s Messiah. Needless to say, I doubt they talked about suffering in life to proclaim a new interpretation of their nation’s religious teaching contrary to established theology.

Whatever their lofty aspirations I’m sure things went a different direction as soon as they met the Savior. Lofty aspirations have a way of being deflated by the reality of earning a living, raising a family or answering a heavenly call. We can wistfully look back and wonder what happened. Or, we can realign our aspirations to discover the loftiness of what we’re doing now. What do we aspire for today! Do we want to be famous, build a fortune or just do nothing? I’m really good at doing nothing when necessary.

My aspirations have changed over the years. I still aspire to fulfill my calling to bring the message of God’s love to the world. I’ve added some new exciting things. I want to build and maintain a great relationship with my wife, children, and grandchildren.

I want to encourage others in their walk with Christ. I want to help build them up, train them to answer God’s call and to walk faithfully. I want to live my life in faithfulness as a redeemed believer that God loved so such I was worth Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I want to finish what I started well.

I figure, as long as my aspirations focus on God, His love, and His grace I’m aspiring for good things. It will all be interesting even if it wasn’t one of my lofty aspirations. God has a way of keeping things interesting. If I’d known some of the places I’d go, or things I’d eat, or situations I’d find myself in, I’d have run for the hills like Jonah and probably ended up in some giant beast’s belly. So I sat in my apartment loft considering my next lofty aspiration.

There’s nothing wrong with making plans or contemplating lofty aspirations as long as, at the end of the day, God is the one who makes the decisions. When we aspire and then place our aspirations in his omnipotent hands we’ll find ourselves in good hands indeed. Aspire to big dreams, then let God make them happen. . . or adjust them slightly.

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Privilege Requires Responsibility (1 Peter 1:10-16)

Have you ever had a hero in your life? I’ve had a number in my life. I remember how I watched with wonder as John Wayne rode across the High Sierra to stop the bad guys. I remember meeting Carlos Montoya, a world renowned flamingo guitarist. I’ve met Van Clyburn, Peter, Paul and Mary, John Glenn and a host of other “famous” people who were heroes in one form or another. I’ve always held my parents as heroes. Anyone who can live with me that many years and still love me deserves a medal. My wife, Beth, is another of my heroes. There are many heroes that have crossed the path of my life. I’m sure you can think of heroes who have touched your life through personal relationships, messages or movies.

Whether it’s someone’s musical prowess, their theological expertise, their loving care, different people have impacted our lives. Most never know we look up to them as examples to be emulated. But we try to copy something in their lives which we think is cool, exciting, proper and right. As Christians, we look to Jesus as the ultimate hero to be emulated. But does anyone look at us that way? It’s an interesting question Peter touches briefly in this passage. Let’s begin in 1 Peter 1:10.

1 Peter 1:10-12 NASB

(10) As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,  (11)  seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.  (12)  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look. 

I’m encouraged when someone does something for my benefit. Whether it is a word of encouragement, a good meal, or a loving hug, they all lift my spirits. Peter lets us know that, in case we missed the point, the prophets were working for our benefit. They weren’t working for themselves but for us. The Holy Spirit was guiding their efforts. Throughout their investigations, God revealed to them their work was for the future generations. They knew God’s grace would be revealed in an unique way, in a special person and through His suffering, and glorification.

That’s good history to know. Our salvation wasn’t defined by some haphazard interpretation of God’s word. It was carefully orchestrated by God through the prophets before Christ’s appearance. But what really caught my attention was the last phrase, “things into which angels long to look.” What? Angels are already privy to the heavenly throne —aren’t they? And still they have questions . . . amazing! Our relationship to God the father is a curiosity to the heavenly angels.

Peter is showing us the unique place we hold in God’s kingdom. We have a “new birth,” a “living hope,” and an “inheritance” which never perishes. Through fiery trials and tribulations, we are kept safe in God’s mighty hands. Our faith is tested and proven genuine. And in these verses, we see it was all part of God’s eternal plan. It’s a plan He has revealed to us through the prophets that even His angels didn’t decipher. God didn’t leave His children’s eternity to chance, but carefully revealed it through the ages. We are privileged. And with privilege comes responsibility. In the next four verses Peter begins to explain our responsibilities. Let’s dissect God’s word beginning in verse 13.

Verse 13; “Therefore, . . .” A great and simple word. It can be translated, “for this reason.” Whenever you see this word you should look at the previous verses. They are leading up to the point which follows the “therefore.” Because of our new privileged position, we have a response to make. Let’s continue; “Therefore, prepare your minds for action.” Literally this would translate, “gird up your minds.”

In Peter’s time everyone, men and women, wore long flowing robes. If something was about to happen they would grab the extra material and stuff it in their belts. Then they would be girded up (their belts stuffed) freeing their feet for quick action. And there always seems to be something calling for action.

Life just doesn’t stand still. It’s so busy there are times I would like to put my brain into neutral and coast for a while. But Peter is calling us to be prepared. He’s building up to a point. It’s like the flag man shouting to drivers in the Grand Prix, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” All the horsepower of their finely tuned engines comes to life with a roar. Mechanics make last minute checks to insure everything is just perfect. They’re ready to go, ready for action.

In the same way, we’re called to start our engines, put our brains in gear and get ready for the wave of the flag. All this takes careful preparation for insure success. When things are not properly prepared engines run rough and slow. The writer to the Hebrews mentions some of the things which make our motors run rough. He tells us, “Therefore,” that special word pops out again, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

If our lives are filled with sin then we aren’t prepared for action. Think about a race car. If the engine is filled with the gunky sludge of the past it won’t work well. It will fail when put to the test. The same is true in our walk with God. If our lives are filled with sin we’re not going to function well. We might get out of the starting gate but somewhere along the way that sin will bog down our engine and smoke will start to billow out of our lives.

We need to change the oil, reorient our thoughts, our lives and remove the sin which easily entangles us. We need to discipline our thinking. God gives us the strength through the presence of the Holy Spirit but we are called to do our part and act. What interferes with your Christian walk? Is it TV? Is it the Internet? Is it the people you work with? Is it . . ..? I could go on with a long list of questions but we each know what’s corrupting our life. Maybe it’s time for some internal evaluations.

We need to prepare our minds, tune our thoughts and be ready for action. Let’s read further; (13)Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit. . .” What’s Peter saying? He’s not only talking about our drinking habits. The word has another meaning in English. The NIV translates this as “self-control.” I think that’s a good choice of words.

Our minds control our actions and therefore our self-control. If we are not mentally prepared our actions will be uncontrolled. We need to be sober physically and mentally to be properly prepared for action. We can’t know what will come our way. Eugene Peterson expresses it well in his translation, The Message, for 1 Peter 3:15. “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” Are we ready this morning . . . or are we side tracked with all the activities from last week? Are we distracted by the activities we see today and in the future?

Peter goes on to help us focus. It’s much easier to prepare our minds for action when we focus on the right things. Let’s finish verse 13; “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

When we focus our life on the grace of God we are better prepared for action. What is this grace from God which should hold our attention so fully? When I think of grace I think of many things. Someone once taught me a simple definition, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” I’m not sure who figured that out but I like it. I’m also drawn to Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 and 9 where we read, “(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.

God has already finished what is necessary for our salvation. He’s extended His grace through Christ’s death on the cross that we may be redeemed. Nothing you or I can do, no matter how righteous and good, will make us fit for God’s kingdom. It’s only through His grace, only through belief in Jesus, that we can cross the chasm between our sinful nature and God’s holy house.

As we focus on what God has done for us it’s easier to keep our thoughts in order. Our actions reflect our salvation. As James wrote, “(18) But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:18 NIV)

Action is the active result of faith, not the cause of faith. God calls us to be prepared for action and to obedience. Look at verse 14; “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14 NASB)

The phrase “do not conform” is used only one other place. Glance over at Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB) Before salvation we were lost in sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NASB) At salvation we are born again. Just like new born children we learn and grow.

As we learn and grow we make mistakes. It happens. But we need to be growing from those mistakes and leaving the former “lusts” behind. Paul writes a lot about this in Romans. After a long discussion, he writes this great summary; “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14 NIV) We have a new master to obey. He calls us from our past to a new life.

Look over at (Eph 4:17) “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” And then down at verse 22, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph 4:22-24 NASB)

We were ignorant before but now we are learning and growing. We are looking for a hero to follow and we find it in God.

1 Peter 1:13-16 “(15)  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  (16)  because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” (NASB)

I started talking about heroes as people I look up to and try to imitate. I want to be like them because they have it all together. God is telling us that He has it all together and we need to try to imitate Him. A desire for holiness should weave its way through all our behavior in this world.  But what is holiness?

Striving for holiness is to do what Jesus would do. I’m not a lover of “Christian” slogans but there is a good lesson in this thought. Whatever we approach, if we consider what Jesus would do in that circumstance, and then follow his example, we will be working on Holiness.

Ravi Zacharias, a well known Christian apologist, says this about the pursuit of holiness;

“Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in interpersonal relationships. The time I spend with God must enable me to relate to a world of people and things in a right way. In fact, I can be holy when I am by myself; it is when I come out of my room and meet the world of people and things that I run into serious problems! I am afraid that the emphasis on holiness that we often talk about is my preoccupation with my hands being clean and my conscience clear for my own sake, and that happens to be a pretty selfish motive. A selfish motive to be selfless, indeed! It would be almost as if Moses, on coming down from Mount Sinai, began to enjoy his shining face in a mirror!” (Zacharias, Ravi, ed., Beyond Opinion, Thomas Nelson, 2007, p.247)

We need to form our character to be like God’s character. It is in the confines of relationships to one another and the world our character is tested and proven faithful to the original. This includes justice, faithfulness, fairness, love, grace, and a long list of other aspects of God’s character.

Unlike the other creatures which God created we were created in His image. We fell from that but can still try to reclaim that image in our daily walk. When someone looks at you or me, what do they see? Do they see what Jesus would look like? Do they see the reflection of the one true God? This is our calling. Our minds need to be prepared to act like God would act.

I don’t believe we reach perfect holiness this side of Heaven but we can do our part to show the world a glimpse of God’s holiness. God has a plan for His children. He has a plan for you and for me. We are privileged to be part of his family. We need to be prepared, constantly ready for action, with our focus on God’s grace and not our past. Over and over I remind myself of Philippians 3:13, “(13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. (14)I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

Will join me in the race today? Let’s get our engines tuned and our focus on the goal. Together let’s seek to behave like our Savior would and give the world a glimpse of His holiness.

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Generation Mediation

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalm 7117-18 NIV) 

Picking a thesis topic can be tricky. You want something that has plenty of research materials available but not so over done that you’re inundated with endless materials to be sifted and sorted looking for viable and valuable information. So I chose the topic of worship in the context of historical and modern churches.

I found, and continue to find, a great disparity from one generation to the next. Each feels they have the unequivocal answers to the church and are unwilling to waver in their stance. Whether we discuss the function of Sunday school, music, home visitation, preaching or prayer, each feels they have learned the true and only way to accomplish each ministry and have biblical verses to support their beliefs. Even though it sounds like a contradiction I think both sides are right. They are right to the extent of their vision.

We tend to be myopic when it comes to faith, music, and form of worship. I call this a time myopic. It has nothing to do with physical vision but with differences in time, culture and training. I’m no longer part of the younger generation but I look at my tastes and remember how my parent’s generation often questioned them. The case is still true but now it’s both ways. Those older think I’m being too modern and ignoring the faith they carefully imparted. I tend to see the next generation in a similar light. I think it’s an inherited condition passed along from generation to generation.

In order for the church to continue, without falling into dust and restarting every few decades, we need someone to mediate between the generations and generate continuity. We need someone to teach us how to be accepting of people from older and younger generations and to realize our present generation doesn’t have a corner on the market with the only acceptable answers. This is what I call Generation Mediation.

Older folks have a cache of wisdom they’ve gathered throughout their life. There we can provide answers before we try to invent a square wheel and discover they already tried and knew it didn’t work well. On the other hand the young folks thirst for newness and innovation opening new avenues of ministry at an exponential rate. The older generation can find something new to revitalize old ideas and make them effective and powerful.

The old folks have wisdom and experience. The young have new ideas and approaches. Just think of what could be accomplished with the melding of these two! We’d have new ideas tempered with wisdom to bring an ancient message of hope and grace to a world struggling to survive.

Old hymns were once new, unacceptable and the raging’s of young upstarts in the church. In the depths of their metered lyrics we find a sufficient and succinct theology of God’s love and grace. In new music there’s value, message, and impact. The message is still that same ancient message of God’s love and grace.

Old folks, we need to remember our youth and learn from the young folks what they are shouting to the world and how to appreciate its value to encourage them with the wisdom God provided. Young folks, stop tossing aside anything older then yourself and see God guiding you via the heritage available in older folks. You’ll find you can avoid some of their mistakes. Talk to each other young and old.

Generation Mediation – someone who works with older and younger generations to teach them each to learn from the other, understand and see the importance, beauty and usefulness of the other generations music, ideas, methods, etc. I think every church needs to find someone to fill this important post and stand in the gap between the generations to insure the church continues to present the timeless message of God’s grace and love to a continually changing world.

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The Pirates who do I.T.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV)

I once played a pirate in a couple children’s musicals. I was a friendly Christian pirate whose goal was to help people, not rob them. My patch would mysteriously move from eye to eye between scenes during the performance. Even a pirate needs a little fun.

Patch considers lifeRecently I was sitting at my desk, in my cubical, in my corner of the office working on a project. At some point I experienced binary bifurcation of purpose (aka the computer didn’t do what I thought it should) and so I let out an “argh.” I wasn’t wearing a patch but my colleague in the next cubical asked, “Is this talk like a pirate day?”

In truth, it was close! There is an official talk like a pirate day in September. I was a few days early. Then I started listening to others expressing their reactions to computer disobedience and discovered pirate talk from different corners of the I.T. department all day. I think every computer geek has uttered some form of pirate talk, intentionally or unintentionally, more than once in their career.

Even the casual computer user understands when there’s a wayward program, unexpected patch, or other signs of a computer’s resistant to the operator’s insistence that a particular function should be performed. I don’t want to list all the possible permutations of pirate speak here for fear of offending some sensitive analog lover who’s never ventured into the exciting waters of computer technology.

The idea came to me to make a sign for our department. Every department these days has a sign which proudly displays the name of the department and their statement of purpose to help rescue the world through their diligent and heart felt work. I think a sign like “Computer Department” or “I.T. Department” would be just too plain. It wouldn’t be expressive enough for the deep running emotions of electronic ministry. So, I figured it should read something like this:

I.T. Department
We are the pirates who do I.T.
Bring us your recalcitrant, wayward, computer and we’ll teach it what for.

We could all get eye patches and expand our pirate vocabulary to include some technical derivations beyond the demonstrative argh. Instead of “blast it all” we could say, “binary it all.” We couldn’t threaten users with “walking the plank” but with “disk disconnection.” It wouldn’t be “waterway congestion” but “Ethernet excess.” I’m sure there are plenty of particularly pointed platitudes which could be included in this theoretical thesaurus of pirate speak.

But, ours is not to develop an alternate alliterative language but to keep the forecastles and gunwales of the computer ships running properly so that the sweet message of the Gospel of Christ can smoothly sail the electronic oceans of the world. We have a goal on the horizon and no copious pirate platitudes will dissuade us from the destination. Unfurl the mizzenmast, pull up the anchors, shout out orders to one-eyed Jack, and shipshape Sam and turn her into the wind. We’ve got to get this ship in shape for the rough waters ahead. The enemy has many schemes and frustrating our intentions, even electronic ones, is one of the tools in his arsenal.

If another language helps, go for it!

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The Shadow Knows!

But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the wisdom that has been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds for our glory, (1 Corinthians 2:7 WEB)

Although radio dramas were popular before my time I’ve heard about them and the fun of gathering around the wireless to listen to the serial adventures of some super hero or master detective. When my children were little there were a number of Christian radio programs still on the air. I enjoyed the stories and listening to them with my children. There is a sense of excitement when you use your imagination to put the sounds, voices, and story into a mental picture. This gave way to more television and eventually the draw of computer games.

One of the characters I heard about on the old radio serials was the Shadow. In later years there was a movie to emblazon this odd crime fighter’s exploits across the big screen. I must admit I enjoyed the movie. One of the famous quotes went something like, “Who knows what lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows!” That’s a great tag line.

It’s nice to have a great tag line and be seen as a crime-fighting hero. This isn’t something I’ve had the opportunity to develop in my life. I’m not much of a sleuth outside of sifting through computer problems or transmitter failures. But an encouraging card I received from a colleague surprised me. He was congratulating me on my birthday when he wrote, “Often I am sure you are more perceived as a shadow rather than being present until something goes wrong and we suddenly realize how much you are part of a very essential reality!” (Emphasis mine)

2010_03_16_Office 008Cool! I just might be a crime-fighting hero after all. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a superhero character. What’s it like to always be ready when there’s a need? You never know where I’ll show up. I’d have secret abilities, which only appear when needed and just in the nick of time. Way cool!

My colleague was talking about working in IT and keeping things moving so smooth they only realize I’m working when something breaks. That’s a compliment, I think. Maybe I should wear a big hat, trench coat and scarf across my face to hide my identity. I could be lurking in the myriad bits and pieces of computer technology. Just when you think it’s time to reboot I can jump out, fix the problem, and then disappear into the shadows of your office.

Working with IT is sort of like working in the shadows without the nefarious connotations. If I do my job right then no one should know that anything has changed or, even better, was broken and then fixed. Most folks haven’t a clue what I did to fix something after I came and resolved an issue. They’re just glad it worked again. In the IT department we do a lot of work in the background keeping things secure, up to date, and making necessary adjustments to keep up with the relentless forward march in the technological world and continuous barrage of attacks from the outside world.

All of this is done to bring a message of Hope to the world. It’s a message from God’s heart to his creation. When I think of the frustration computers can bring, I’m amazed that God allowed us to discover how to make and use these electronic marvels. But he always knows what we need to accomplish our calling. It’s just a set of tools and I’m called to keep them working in proper order. When we fly we usually think about the pilot and not the ground crew who work in the shadows to insure the plane is safe. When we boot our computer and send email we think of the message, not those who keep the servers, network lines and software running so the message reaches the recipient.

Sometimes it’s nice to be a shadow, mysterious, effective, only a glimpse out of the corner of someone’s eye. That’s when I get things in order; out of sight in preparation. As a Christian I try to allow God to use me for reaching others by just being faithful. If I pay attention to what I do before I talk with someone then I become more effective than ever. Perhaps we need to stop for a moment while we’re in the shadows and make sure we’re walking faithfully with God, make sure things are in order. Then when we’re on display it won’t be much different than when we were invisible because we’re walking the same faithful walk.

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