22 September, 2009


Exd 33:3 & 4 "Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.

I recently read an article commending speaking everything that enters your mind to everyone. The journalist reporting on his experiment told about the thrill of his initial experiments. He explained how it was frightening to tell his boss he didn't like an assignment, his girlfriend what he thought of a story, and his interview subject what he thought of his whole life. He also explained how powerful it felt, too.

That's a power some of us never feel.

Yes, there's a danger in speaking the truth hurtfully and inappropriately, but there's an equal danger in being unable to speak a truth in time of need. Some of us would rather lie to ourselves than tell the truth to anyone who might overwhelm us. That is the message of my movie, Lucie's Prayer. Lucie was lying to herself, telling herself that she was the one who needed to change when she was being abused. The first person with Whom we can begin to build a foundation of truth again is God. At the end of the movie, Lucie finally hears God wants to deal truthfully and He's not afraid of her problems. Lucie began the slow, difficult process of learning to tell the truth. As she's learning to tell the truth to God, she'll also have to learn how to tell the truth to her friend Julie, and some day she'll even be able to tell the truth to Billy. On that day, she'll feel the power of truth.

That's a power God always has.

Yahweh tells the Israelites they're a stiffnecked people, and He casts them into mourning. There is no remorse in His words, because there's no ill-considered rage in His statement. Whenever you read the words of God, you should read them out loud, and you should give thought to the tone you choose. Try reading Ex 33:3 & 4 in some different tones.

Sweet Jesus
Go up to the land I've promised you. I have a wonderful plan for your life there, and I want to be the bridge across the gap between here and there. I will turn a kind eye to your imperfections, and hide myself from your learning experiences.

Suffering Jesus
Go up to the land I worked so hard to prepare for you. I want to take the journey with you, but I can't when you're stiffnecked and stubborn. It kills me to love you so much, and for you to keep hurting yourself by not listening to me. I hope you can enjoy your blessings without Me.

Stern Jesus
Try to get to the land flowing with milk and honey without Me. You will never get there without me, and I won't go with you because you've forgotten holiness.

Scientific Jesus
I wonder how many of these people will go to the land flowing with milk and honey. I've repeatedly set good advice in front of them, and at each proving they've chosen against my recommendation. Let me back off and observe their performance.

I've modified the words to emulate various tones, but we each hear some consistent tone in God's voice when we read His word. An addict, a codependent, a narcissist, and a passive-aggressive will all inflect God's text differently but ascribe their inflection to God without a second thought. Part of the Spirit's work is to inflect the word of God more accurately to us, to let us hear God's words the way He meant them to be heard. That's also a big goal of our work in studying the scripture. We must labor to see how God reacts to real people doing real things right and wrong. Then we can adjust the inflection we impose upon His voice to match the reality we see in His stories.

Inflect Yahweh's pronouncement here as powerful, accurate, and unflinching without adding any inflection of dependency, shame, rage, or worry.

Exd 33:3 & 4 "Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.

And now that you've heard these words with an accurate tone, do you hear love in them?

No Buddhist koan can top that question for mind-breaking complexity! The sound of one hand clapping? A mere trifle. Trees falling in the forest without anyone to hear them? A child's illusion. Can Yahweh reject Israel lovingly? It's an impossible question. No matter how you define love, the concept of rejection has no part in it. And yet God is love, no?

Maybe this isn't a rejection? But no. It's too hard to defend that thought, when He goes on to ask Moses for permission to destroy these people and start over with a people from Moses.

Maybe this is tough love? Um. Maybe, I guess.

Whatever it might be, it's devoid of any attempt to manipulate. It's a simple declaration of simple truth. Yahweh never threatens to resent His people's acceptance of His gift. He offers no carrot. He doesn't promise them one last chance to do the right thing, and then He'll go with them. There's no sugar-coating and no exaggeration.

I call it honesty.

It's a powerful thing, and it's the only way God knows to deal with us. May we learn to be like Him.

20 September, 2009

Skilled Builders

Exd 31:1-6 The LORD also said to Moses,"Look, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, intelligence, and skill in all kinds of crafts. He is able to create beautiful objects from gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in cutting and setting gemstones and in carving wood. Yes, he is a master at every craft! "And I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the naturally talented craftsmen so they can make all the things I have instructed you to make:

1 Cor 3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

Moses tells us Bezalel and Oholiab were gifted builders working on the tabernacle in the wilderness. Paul tells us there were other builders of the church in Corinth. There's a very strong analogy between these two groups of builders. The tabernacle and the church are both the dwellings of God, one temporary and the other permanent. The tabernacle was an image of the way God dwells in His kingdom and the church is a foretaste of the kingdom itself. Both come, "some assembly required."

Spurgeon pointed out in Morning and Evening the other day that even the most wonderful bare foundation provides very little comfort during a storm. You need the building as well! The building needs a foundation, but you need the building as badly as a foundation.

Bezalel was a builder. A literal one. Earlier in Exodus Moses appointed judges over 1000's, 100's, 50's and 10's. Bezalel probably was not one of those. He was probably one of those guys who who took his gripes to Joe who was in charge of 10. And Joe might say his gripe was a tough call and tell him to bounce it up to Frank who was in charge of 50's. Bezalel was just a guy in the tribe of Judah. He happened to have a knack for hammering gold, and the Lord called him to service in the tabernacle.

And the Lord filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God.

To make a lampstand?

Yes. To make a lampstand.

And to carve a pomegranate.

The judges over 1000's, 100's, 50's and 10's weren't filled with the Holy Spirit, but Bezalel was. That's dramatic. The Lord ignores the men given power, and fills those skilled in crafts. The Lord pours out His Spirit on Bezalel as truly and as purposefully as He does on Moses, and not just Bezalel: Moreover, I have given special skill to all the naturally talented craftsmen so they can make all the things I have instructed you to make

Can you begin to imagine all the things there are to be made in the house of God that you attend every Sunday? I'll start, but I'm sure together we could come up with many more.

First, did you note from the Corinthians passage the church was not founded by Christ? Paul laid the foundation of Christ, not Christ Himself. Jesus is the Stone and the Cornerstone, but He deputizes stonemasons for the work. Even the most fundamental work in the church is done by men with the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Others built upon that foundation. Floorplans were designed, walls blocked out, doorways, roof-lines, windows all needed to be built for strength and function. Provision had to be made for cooking, cleaning, and disposal of all the kinds of waste life creates. But then the stuff actually needed to be built. Mistakes needed to be corrected. The walls needed plastering and painting. Trim needed to be fitted. Doorknobs and shelves and countertops needed installation. Pictures needed to be picked out for the walls, and flowers for the entrance.

The church is like that.

Money needs to be safely gathered and handled. People need to know how to reach each other during the week. The sick need to be remembered and supported. The lazy need to be chided. The young need to be kept happy and the young in the Lord need milk. The old need to be visited and the mature in the Lord need to be employed in His service. The observant need to heard and the unpleasable need to be singled out. Almost every small gathering needs food and drink, and everyone needs a chance to tell someone how their week is going. Everyone needs a little advice and everyone needs a little coaching in how to receive it graciously (especially when it's poor.) The young singles need to feel included. The parents of young children need to feel included. The older couples need to feel included. The older singles need to feel included. The new people need to feel included. The steady dependables need to feel included.

And you are skilled at one or more of these things. Bezalel was skilled in all of them. Oholiab was skilled in one or two. Both were filled with the same Spirit toward the same end - building the tabernacle of God.

The tabernacle was wild with incredible variety, and every bit of it was executed by skilled craftsmen filled with the Spirit. Did you know there were a dozen or more pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet embroidered around the hem of Aaron's vestments? Or the lampstand with its almond blossom lamps was entirely beaten from a single piece of gold? Or that the Lord specified this because it mattered to Him? The construction of the tabernacle was spelled out in painstaking detail, and showed just how many jobs the Lord's builders performed.

These littlest things matter to Him, and He's naturally gifted you to add some little thing to His church - to your church. He's ready to fill you with the Spirit. Are you ready to build? Your church will profit greatly when your gifts are employed in His service.

19 September, 2009

Fixing It

There are millions of Christians in America, and I could not begin to count how many of them are trying to fix the church right now, even just as I'm typing this. However many it might be, it's a huge number. And here I am, adding my name to the list again.

And all those people with fixes are right.

The ones complaining the church is too effiminate and drives men away are right. The ones complaining the church is too patriarchal and drives women away are right. The emergent church is right and those pressing for more commitment to the churches we already have are right. Insightful saints are recommending we correct our doctrine, our worship, our practice, our preaching, our prayer, our evangelism, our methodology, our spontaneity, and our focus. And they're all right.

The focus of this blog has been to correct how distantly we live from our churches so we can spend time with each other more easily. I'll even allow as I've been right, too. Why should I be any harder on myself than on millions of my brothers and sisters?

And the status quo of millions of Americans questioning the status quo is more or less working. By and large, Americans feel at home in that kind of melee. I believe there are cultures out there that like to complain without being inconvenienced by real change. Americans are a couple shakes and a wiggle more comfortable with change than some, so we see a certain (smallish) amount of change in our churches and feel pretty good about things.

And by and large, our little changes make some things a little better and some things a little worse. We have churches that preach a little better, worship a little better, practice a little better, and perform a little better. The status quo of complaining about how things could be better continues and the little changes continue and things get a little better and people seem to stay about as happy as they want to be.

So how does one little Codepoke swim in that mighty river of status and quo?

For starters, I wonder if just maybe my little blog won't be able to fix the church in my lifetime. (Saying that kind of hurts, "right here.") (Point to any of the usual places, and you've probably guessed right about where it hurts.) I'm disenchanted with social media as a whole (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, IM, game consoles, iPod, etc.). In fact, I'm really learning to fear social media. In deeper fact, I'm even tempted to try to fix the church by arraying her as a mighty army against social media, but maybe I know one half-nutty voice can't save the world. Or maybe the irony of blogging against church blogging stops me. Who knows?

Here's what I know.

The Lord did not send me to fix the church, as badly as I wanted that sending. I pretty confident He's sent me to add a blessing or two to the little church where I hang my hat, and maybe given me a couple thoughts to share with people who visit this little blog. I'll enjoy doing those two things.

Today my heart is to blog a bit about Jesus in the church, and I hope to do that for a couple weeks. Jesus is more real, bigger, holier, and more loving than we can hold in our minds for more than a few minutes. I'd like to blog a little about how the church can appreciate Jesus in her midst a little more. The love of our brothers and sisters should make tangible the reality of Jesus, and anything we can do to make that happen is a good thing.

May the Lord bless and have mercy on this little series.

18 September, 2009

Digestion and Aging: Enzymes to the Rescue

Yep, this is a post about old bowels. Sorry, but someone might find it useful, and that's my criterion for "post-worthiness."

I've been under a small freight train of stress these days, and it's been starting to show in a number of ways. One of them has been failing digestion. For the last couple months, I've been having a hard time digesting normal meals. I've actually been tempted to eat less, which makes no sense given the workload I'm under. And when I've given in to that temptation, I've had to cut back on the things I'm doing.

I'm getting older, right?

Then I was hammered with an allergy to wheat. Every time I'd eat wheat, my mouth and throat would begin to swell, and I'd have indigestion all day. I carefully eliminated all other changes to my diet, and yep, the staple of my life was suddenly poison to me.

So I cut out wheat. My problem did not go away. The swelling was gone, of course, but the weakness and indigestion were still there. The wheat thing appeared to be more a symptom than a cause.

I researched. I had an idea what I was looking for, so when I found it I was not surprised. As we age, our ability to make/use/whatever enzymes weakens. This is significant because enzymes are the doodads that break proteins up into usable thingamajigs. My body was running out of thingamajigs, even though I was eating plenty of good stuff.

Long story short, I went to my local health food store and bought the best enzymes I could find. 4 days into the new routine, I'm on the tennis court again and feeling pretty solid all around. I'm going to give it another week or two before I man up to trying wheat again, but the turn-around for my health was dramatic. Everything I eat feels well digested soon after I've finished.

Give it a try if you find you're experiencing age-related digestive problems.

11 September, 2009

Lucie's Prayer

HT: GlenScriv linked to these two hilarious videos

(Interesting. I cannot see the "comments" link on this post. Here's a manual link to comments)

09 September, 2009

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers

What are they?

It's a trick question. I'm not sure there are any highly effective bloggers. ;-)

OK. I might possibly concede there are some effective bloggers, but I think there are a lot more successful, ineffective bloggers than there are effective ones.

So what's the difference? If effectiveness is having a lot of subscribers, then there are a lot of effective bloggers. If it's having a bevy full of commenters who disagree with you, then there are a lot of effective bloggers. If it's richly expressing yourself, then there are a LOT of impressively effective bloggers. I applaud all those things, but in my opinion those are measures of success, not effectiveness.

An effective blogger is one who has achieved synergy with his/her commenters. Together they are meaningfully wiser and more capable than they could be apart.

Now, I know that sounds easy, but it's not. Covey's 7 Habits was a smash hit, and for good reason. It sets a high and useful bar for the idea of what's effective. I might be wiser because of a comment on one of my posts, or a reader might be wiser because of something I said. Those are certainly effective moments, but moments like that fall way short of synergy. Take a look at Covey's habits 4-6:
+ Habit 4 - Principles of Mutual Benefit: An attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought that satisfy the needs of oneself as well as others, or, in the case of a conflict, both parties involved.
+ Habit 5 - Principles of Mutual Understanding: Covey warns that giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in that advice being rejected. Thoroughly listening to another person's concerns instead of reading out your own autobiography is purported to increase the chance of establishing a working communication.
+ Habit 6 - Principles of Creative Cooperation: A way of working in teams. Apply effective problem solving. Apply collaborative decision making. Value differences. Build on divergent strengths. Leverage creative collaboration. Embrace and leverage innovation. It is put forth that when synergy is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

These are the "Independence to Interdependence" habits and build on the "Dependence to Independence" habits. I think blogging really suits the first three habits wonderfully, and maybe the 7th habit, but I don't think many bloggers have really achieved interdependence. I'm not sure they can.

I can imagine interdependence working in the blog world, but not very easily. It takes my most optimistic and idealistic dream state to really picture it. I'm sure opium would help with that. But opium or not, I don't think imagining it is going to make it happen (no apologies to John Lennon - the dude was way wrong.)

We bloggers are too ethereal to support deep relationship - strong relationship sometimes, but never full-bodied.

You never have to put up with my bad breath. You can skim/ignore my tennis posts. You can ooh and aah when I get something right and quietly ignore (or loudly protest) my errors. You can picture me with red hair or a pleasingly Benedictine demeanor. Whatever images drift lazily across your consciousness as you read my words, they mean only what you perceive them to mean. I relate to you as whatever your subconscious assumes me to be, and it's impossible for you to see me any other way. You're kind and optimistic people, so you almost certainly see me as better than I really am (and I appreciate that) but I am assuredly different from your subconscious picture of me. Only a handful of verbal slivers of Kevin Knox are real to you, and the more we attempt to overcome that unreality, the more we're just spray-painting a ghost.

I cannot commit myself to people who vanish simply the moment I unsubscribe from their blogs and delete their emails. I can only commit myself to people who are still there, week in and week out, no matter how badly they frustrate me. It's only in the daily grind I can really learn whether they're trustworthy. Via the Internet I can share a mutual commitment to Christ with anyone in any corner of this wonderful globe, but I can only interdepend with people who've seen the real me - with people who will soon have to forgive me, because they can't just change the channel and make me go away.

It's only the church, concrete and frustrating, that can be effective.

06 September, 2009


How many people have you had over to eat in the last two weeks? Or, if you're an introvert, the last four weeks?

Yeah. If you haven't, you're not alone.

Have you given any thought to why?

The human brain is wired to need social connection, but getting people together is a tough job. We're wired with lots of needs and connection is one of them. We need social connection just like we need food and sleep. Food and sleep both require their own share of work, but they are very loud needs and motivate us directly. Shopping and cooking are mildly painful experiences for most of us, so we pay good money to have other people do it. Many of us wish we loved cooking, but most of us simply tolerate it because being hungry is worse.

Eating is easier! We didn't become the most overweight nation ever by hating the eating part of the equation. No, eating is the pleasure while cooking is the pain, and hunger is the bridge between the two. The pleasure of eating might convince some of us to cook, and the desire for energy and health might persuade others, but hunger is the first alarm system and almost all of us find hunger persuasive.

Imagine your life without hunger. Imagine you still needed food, but you would never feel hungry again. I'd probably still cook the occasional special meal or maybe enjoy my favorite food once in a while, but there's no chance I'd eat enough of the boring foods that keep me going. I'd find myself losing weight. And soon I'd be losing too much weight. And eventually I'd lose so much weight my body would begin to fail. It would not take long before I'd wish I could be hungry again!

Ditto for sleep. We only stop the fun and lay our bodies down because tiredness is so intolerable. If we found ever a cure for feeling tired, we'd quit sleeping entirely. Soon we'd be suffering from inexplicable pains, poor judgment, and long term memory failure, but we wouldn't feel tired so at midnight we'd still be rearing to go. Midnight works great for curling up with those systematic theologies! Within a year or two we'd all be educated theologians. Or just maybe dead. We need sleep, and tiredness is the first alarm that tells us we're not getting enough sleep.

The feeling of hunger is different from our need to eat, and the feeling of tiredness is different from our need to sleep. If we were to cure the feeling without curing the need, we'd be in an awful fix.

I have the thought that the church is in such an awful fix because we've cured the feeling that once drove us to connect with each other.

It's hard to nail down exactly what that painful feeling might be, but we're not feeling it any more. I think of it as a mysterious mix of purposelessness, isolation, disconnection, and/or loneliness that once drove us to seek out relationship. Maybe we've lost the ability to clearly distinguish between all those feelings, but come 9:00 PM we sit down and "see what's on."

We're bored.

But we don't stay bored long.

At the first twinge of boredom, we surf our TV, Facebook, and the blogosphere. We've got DVD's, iPods, and XBoxes. We're IM chatting about youtube videos and Tweeting and Retweeting everything. Maybe the boomers shy away from Twitter and the teens hardly know what Network Television used to be, but together we unwind in front of channels, sites, videos and email before the pain of boredom has a chance to settle in.

We'd never try popping a No-doze every time we were tired or a Red Bull every time we were hungry, but we'll kick on the tube without a second thought. Give us 5 seconds without an entertaining idea, and the lure of easy entertainment ropes us in. We don't even have to be seduced any more. We'll set up auto-payment to our cable provider to make sure we have our fix. The scary thing is that advertisers pay entertainers very well to help us quit feeling our pain, so our entertainment is pretty cheap in the end.

But boredom is a blessing! We need more boredeom! Boredom is as important to our lives as hunger and tiredness, but entertainment painlessly melts boredom away. Oh sure, TV's not perfect. "There're 400 channels and nothing on," but maybe that's a sign of our problem. Perhaps we are so deprived of [something] that normal antidotes for boredom don't work any more. After a week or two without sleep, No-doze is worthless. What if normal entertainment loses its effectiveness when we're freakishly over-bored? Maybe we're so deeply bored we have to be twittering while watching a movie and planning the review we'll give it on Facebook to just feel normal?

To what might God have designed our boredom to drive us?

Hunger and tiredness drive us to nutrition and sleep. Red Bull can cure hunger and No-doze can cure tiredness, but neither can provide the things nutrition and sleep give us. We ought not to cure hunger or tiredness flippantly ... nor boredom. The objective of hunger is to drive us to prepare food and the objective of tiredness is to drive us to stop the fun and call it a night. What's the objective of boredom?


Our God created us to engage with life, to grab hold of its highs and lows, and to grapple with its possibilities. We were created to create. We are loved that we might love. We're steady so others might rely upon us through thick and thin. But the boredom that once drove us to engage life is systematically being anaesthetized. Entertainment is a huge industrial complex, and the most brilliant American minds are thinking and experimenting and sweating to make sure we're entertained as often and as deeply as possible. The promise of American advertising is that we need no longer suffer the painful labor of engaging with life, with each other, and with our own demons. We can check out a fun youtube video any time we need a break.

My problem is not with social media. I blog (obviously enough) and some day I'm going to Facebook (I see it coming, like a thunderstorm on the horizon.) A mature, spiritual, and complete person can engage with life and others using Twitter. My problem is I'm not mature, spiritual and complete. I'm human and easily drawn aside. Given a way to eat without the drag of cooking, which of us doesn't eat out too often? Given a chance to relax in front of the computer instead of shutting it down and going to bed, which of us doesn't blog a little bit longer? Given a chance to watch a movie a friend recommended instead of visiting them and listening to what's been happening in their life, which of us doesn't stretch out on the sofa?

The body of Christ is out there. You can reach out and touch your brothers and sisters - they need it. You can see their eyes light up or darken. You can hear the rhythms and intonations of their speech. You can smell their griefs in a hug. You can share a meal.

We are creations of this Earth, wired to engage with all 5 senses, not images alone. We were made to make and keep covenant with each other, to promise to be there for each other through thick and thin, and to seal that promise over roast beef and mashed potatoes.

Our brothers and sisters need meat and potatoes love from us. They need to see our eyes and feel the warmth of our skin when we say we'll be there for them. Promises on a screen vanish with a keystroke, and deep down those brothers and sisters know it. We know it, too. We need the same gift back from them, but getting and giving solid, earthy love is going to require the work of engagement from us. We're going to need to let ourselves be bored, and then let that boredom drive us to the work of connecting to the body of Christ.

If we're not careful, the church in America won't end with a bang, but with a punch line. We're long on jokes, but short on the ties that bind. Those ties require work, and eating together is a great place to start.