Saturday, November 8, 2008

Make Some Noise

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

                        Psalm 100.1-2 (KJV)

Bottles and Bugles

If you drive through the American South this time of year, occasionally you’ll spot a tree with colorful bottles swallowing its recently bared limbs. As fable has it, the bottles lure encroaching evil spirits and trap them before they reach the house. When a breeze shakes the tree, they rattle to indicate they’ve snared an imp. When we usher in the New Year with millions of cosmopolitan New Yorkers, Times Square roars with blaring paper bugles—another fable. Medieval Europeans believed a surge of racket warded off last year’s evil to offer a fresh start. Before dismissing these traditions as artifacts of primitive cultures, it bears noting the Bible also endorses making noise. But its reasons have nothing in common with other noise-related fables.

Could Have, Wouldn’t Have

God tells Israel to march around Jericho for a week, adding trumpeters the last day. “When you hear a long blast on the trumpets, give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse,” He says. It does. (Joshua 6.5) The dedication of Solomon’s temple climaxes when the congregation raises its voice in praise; according to 2 Chronicles 5.13-14, a cloud descended “and the priests could not perform their service… for the glory of the LORD filled the temple.” In Acts 16, Paul and Silas pass time in jail, singing and praying aloud. A violent earthquake shakes the jail, its doors fly open, and everyone’s chains come loose. The jailer rushes to the scene. Seeing no one escaped, he converts to Christ on the spot.

Let’s grant it’s unlikely the noise caused these phenomena. More reasonable explanations actually clarify how God’s noise dynamic works. The question isn’t if these miracles could have happened in silence but what wouldn’t have happened had noise not preceded them. Would Israel have been prepared to take Jericho after its fortifications fell? Would worshippers have seen God’s glory? Would Paul and Silas have led the jailer to Christ? It’s possible—but not probable.

Pump Up the Volume

Psalm 100 encourages us to make a joyful noise. As the above accounts prove, when we fill the air with joy, we alter our environment. David sang, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16.11; NKJV) We believe God’s promise to be with us every step of the way. Because He’s there, joy—fullness of joy—is there too. Rain or shine, up or down, alone or in a crowd, whatever we face and wherever we are has no influence on the joy that enfolds us. We have presence of joy.

Joyful noise shows confidence in God outside of other emotions, fears, and doubts we wrestle with. There’s no better time to pump up the volume than when it seems most unrealistic and inappropriate for our circumstances. Facing walls we can’t climb, searching for God’s glory in our lives, or striving to break free of situations we’re locked into, we make some noise—sing, shout, speak, pray, praise, whatever comes naturally to us in times of joy. Joyful noise clears our minds. It clears our vision. It clears the air. It’s bigger than fable. It’s faith.



(Tomorrow: Time Management)


Glen said...

Hi Tim... I came across your blogger site seeking a gay friendly church and your page is on a Google link. I stopped and read your essays and I really enjoy your writing style as I find it educational, interesting and engaging. As a gay Christian myself, I too, as many others, have been on the receiving end of ostracization from my church. Thanks for the refreshing reading this morning! Glen

Tim said...

Hi, Glen! Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you can come by often and add to the discussion.

There are so many wonderful things about our God that none is better than the rest. But one my favorites is how His Word brings His people together. It's like a bottomless well we gather around and even though we draw from the same water, its "taste" carries unique nuances for each of us.

I'm saddened by churches and believers who insist everyone's water has to taste exactly the same, it has to be drunk in exactly the same way, etc. They miss out on enjoying its full, beautiful complexity by not allowing everyone to come to the well as they are, bringing his/her life knowledge and experience to the discussion, and describing what they find most refreshing, nourishing, and exciting about what they hear God say specifically to them through His Word.

Christians who ostracize others ultimately hurt themselves as much as, possibly more than those they try to keep from the well. They miss much of the richness of God's Word and Spirit by not allowing those not like them to express them in exciting, often surprising ways.

Straight-Friendly is an "open well." While its core ministry seeks to refresh the hearts, souls, and minds of rejected believers--to give them water for their journey--God has blessed it with an amazing assortment of regular readers, straight and gay, who enthusiastically share the personal tastes and ideas they draw from God's Word. My job here is perfunctory; I'm just the guy who serves the water. The real "magic" happens when the rest of us comment on its taste and texture.

Glen, feel free to join us often at the well. And by all means, share your thoughts. We all have much to learn from each other. You'll find you're in great company here.

We'll pray God's guidance in your search for a gay-friendly church. If you've not yet gone to, I encourage you to do so. (The link is in the church listings.) They update the list often and identify welcoming congregations in every state and most nations. And of course, if you're near any of the churches on the list, I urge you to give them a try. Each of their pastors have personally written Straight-Friendly in support of what we're doing here and asking we list their congregations as "safe homes" for all believers. Finally, if there's anything I can do to assist in your search, feel free to email me.

Sorry for replying in such a lengthy fashion. I somehow wanted to convey that you're welcome, accepted, and free here. I'm delighted you've found us and look forward to seeing you again!

Be blessed,

Glen said...

Hi Tim! First and foremost..Thank you so very much for taking the time to write such a warm and receptive note to me. I can cheer you on when you share your thoughts as I too am spot on where you are in your walk with God. You see, I personally do not think God is as complicated as the typical Christian makes Him out to be. The church has done its best to create a dark cloud over the GLBT community. It's seems the very God they "serve" came to admonish loving your neighbor and that message seems to be forgotten in some of the fringe Christian churches.

My life with God is built on a foundation of time spent with Him alone and study of His word. It is my rock and foundation to guide me as I have allowed myself to stop white knuckling my walk and let go to let His Spirit guide me. When I feel I am stepping out of His will, I will sense it by conviction in my heart. It makes my life so less complicated and enhances a more joyful relationship with God and others around me. I truly feel free in Christ.

I feel knowing God is a personal relationship each person can have without requiring a "middle man" to tell you who God is to you and who you are to Him. That is a good start as a new Christian but sooner or later, one has to make the effort to get to know Him on a personal level. It's takes an investment of time of meditation, prayer and reading the scriptures alone with God to develope an deep relationship with Him. Some Christians never give that a chance. They follow like sheep and don't even truly know God. If they did truly get to know Him on a personal level, they would not hurt each other, people like you and I and your readers. They just do as their told and it ends there. Pretty sad..

I do want to close with sharing another Gay Christian Blog site by my friend Edrick who is a blogger and poet and invites others to submit their thoughts, blogs, quotes and stories for all to enjoy and be enlightened by. I thought you and your readers would enjoy visting "The Epistle".

Please enjoy and I did link your site to him as well. I hope that you and everyone here find as much inspiration there as they do here.

Thanks Tim and it certainly is a pleasure to have come across your path. Pretty amazing! Many blessings Tim!



Tim said...

Glen, there's so many wonderful comments in your note that I don't know where to start--and don't have anything to add, because you've put it all so clearly and splendidly.

So I'll just say this: your wisdom and determination are truly an inspiration--exciting to see and beneficial to learn from. I'm thrilled that you've come across our path and hope you'll continue to share what you've learned and experienced with us as we move ahead together.

Make yourself at home! We're delighted you're here.

Blessings and joy,

PS: I checked out The Epistle--it's terrific! I wrote Edrick, asking permission to link it here and inviting him to link S-F there. As the world of gay and gay-welcoming believers continues to grow larger, we have to do all we can to ensure it also gets tighter, more unified, and built up in our most holy faith.