Monday, October 29, 2012

Global Warming is Heating Up

It was announced this last week that global warming ceased sixteen years ago--that is, the average global temperature has remained constant for sixteen years.  The new data put the global warming proponent's model in jeopardy, and of course, the whole idea of an anthropogenic cause of the alleged global temperature rise.  The anthropogenic global warming proponents will not capitulate, but insist they won't worry about their theory until they see the data four years from now.

All of this comes coincidental to a recent request by a dear friend of mine for my opinion on the global warming debate.  Being an organic chemist, I'm not well versed in atmospheric chemistry, geophysics, meteorology, or earth science in general; in fact, my ninth grade science teacher left all of that as a bad taste in my mouth.  However, I did provide my friend with a copy of a reasonably fair treatise of the debate written by Steven Ritter in the December 14?, 2009 Chemical & Engineering News.

Interestingly, I was recently perusing the 1954 archives of C&E News, and chanced upon an article about the then raging debate over whether cigarettes cause cancer.  There I found two scientists, each  representing his own set of supporters, discussing the same set of data, and coming to completely opposite interpretations.  It's almost as if the script used in that cigarette debate has simply been updated for the global warming debate.  The 1954 article didn't attempt to explain the underlining cause for the disagreement, as did the 2009 article, the global warming debate; but I suspect the reason was the same: economics.  I can only imagine how influential the tobacco industry was back then.

I gave my friend a copy of the 1954 article as well, in order to help him see, as we all should, how biased scientists really are, even though they affect Spock-like objectivity.

But as I explained to my friend, the whole global warming brouhaha is less important to me than how many professing Christians have been reacting to it.  What follows is a part of a letter I wrote my friend to explain what I mean.

A growing portion of the Evangelical church has a penchant for eclipsing Christianity with patriotism, politics, and economics.  One of the most egregious of these types of marriages is the adoption of Ayn Rand’s economics, when Rand was a hardcore atheist.  Similarly, many professing Christians have so embraced American political philosophy as to coming dangerously close to saying one isn’t a Christian unless one holds strictly to traditional American political values, and then only as has been interpreted through a Republican lens.

This is not to say there aren’t Christian elements in American political philosophy; nor is it to say the American political system isn’t the best in the world—I believe it is.  But Christ-centered ideology didn’t dominate the thinking of the founding fathers of this country; it was Enlightenment philosophies of Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, and their ilk, framed largely by Deist and Unitarian perspectives, that primarily inspired the founding fathers.  Even John Adams, who was certifiably Christian, took his political cues from Cicero.

The founding fathers did embrace the Judeo-Christian ethic as the basis of Constitutional Law.  Jefferson certainly understood the wisdom in this; in fact, it reflects those parts he retained in his Bible after dissecting out the rest.  I have long believed the grounding of American Law on Judeo-Christian ethics to be one of the main reasons the American Revolution succeeded where the French Revolution failed.

Why have these Evangelical elements taken a hard right-turn—literally—into politicizing Christianity?  I believe the answer is fear.  These professing Christians no longer trust our King Jesus’ methods of bringing justice in this world by acting mercifully and making disciples, which Jesus explicitly said will make our lives uncomfortable to the point of at least rejection and worse, death.  Instead, this growing Evangelical coalition wants to force society into the coalition’s own concept of the Kingdom of God, so the group can feel comfortable, and according to the reckoning of some of its members, return to the Golden Age of America.  All of which betrays a doubt  the Kingdom of God has truly come, or can survive without these confessing Christians resorting to Human institutions and methods.

This coalition of Christians is unknowingly falling into the same trap that ensnared the Pharisees.  The latter reduced the Kingdom to ethnic nationalism framed up by a complex system of rules and regulations, instead of seeing it as being based on an indefatigable and uncompromised trust (faith) in God that God has insisted upon from the very beginning.  These Evangelicals are speaking less and less of faith in this holistic sense, and are relegating faith to the category of salvation alone, with the disturbing result of seeking worldly solutions to allay their fears and insecurities—fears and insecurities, I might add, Christians wouldn’t feel if they truly believed Jesus to be their King.

All of which is a long way around to the issue of climate change.  Christians shouldn’t approach science from a fear perspective, as if to agree at all with anything we might learn from scientific investigation will somehow place us on an unrecoverable slippery slope to hell.  No, we as with everyone else—including scientists—should approach the data objectively, and then make decisions based on truth instead of fear.  Christians should be best suited for this daunting task, because they know that Jesus the Christ is truth and God has restored His kingdom through the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ, so humans can resume their duty as stewards of the earth God calls His footstool.

Christians should, therefore, reflect this Kingdom glory to the fallen world using the methods of King Jesus—not the world’s--motivated by a supreme trust in Him to take care of everything: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added to you.”  What I mean is we should obey our King even if in the short term it seems too expensive. Then the fallen world will see the light of Christ shining in His Kingdom, and perhaps begin to ponder if, indeed, God has visited Humankind.  On the other hand, a reaction based on fear will inevitably leave the fallen world with the impression that those so-called Christ followers is just another faction seeking to protect itself from opposition.

My friend, please know I’m not lumping you in with this regrettable trend in the church, today.  I only say all of this to encourage you to sit back away from all the noise and consider the data objectively and prayerfully (mutually inclusive elements) before rendering a verdict concerning climate change or any other hot-button issue.

We would all do well to do the same.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Zack's Story--Part 2

[Please read the last posting before continuing here....]

Zack became intoxicated with power.  For him, power meant solitude on the one hand and control on the other--the high watermarks of a successful life.

An Arab once told him, "Death is power, I believe.  You kill a man, you own his brother."

"No, my friend," Zack replied, "If it is believed you will kill without remorse, then you own both brothers.  That is power."

Conversations of this type were purely academic to Zack, though.  It was one thing to cheat a man of his purse, but quite a different matter to cheat him of his life.  Even though Zack had the means to kill with impunity, he would never actually do such a thing.  But only he knew that.

This is why Zack became intrigued by reports of an itinerant Rabbi who has exhibited great power.  It was said he healed sick people--the blind, lame, even lepers.  Others made the fantastic claim this Rabbi  had raised the dead.  When news came this Rabbi would be traveling through Jericho, Zack determined to see him.

The day did arrive, and the streets of the city were pregnant with people, all vying for a peek at the living legend.  Zack pushed against the shifting wall of humanity.  At first they reluctantly accommodated him.  But when Zack's desire to see the Rabbi became apparent to them, they deliberately closed him off.  They flashed him barely disguised looks of contempt as they happily blocked his way.

Seeing a sycamore tree arching its long branches towards the narrowing of the road by which the parade was traveling, Zack ran behind the throng to the tree, and climbed it.  Out on one of its thick limbs, Zack could peek over the heads of the crowd and see the Rabbi leading a procession of his disciples.

Zack doubted the reports.  From his vantage point, the famous Rabbi seemed quite unremarkable.  Surely a man of such alleged power would show it.  But this man was ordinary and plain--far too humble to possess such prowess.

"What are you doing?" Zack muttered under his breath.  The Rabbi had stopped and was watching him.  Oh, please, please don't draw attention to me, Zack pleaded in his heart.  Too late; everyone began looking around to see what had caught the Rabbi's eye.  The Rabbi started towards Zack, keeping his gaze on him.

"Well I'll be," someone in the crowd said.  Another pointed and said, "This might be good."  A person overhearing the comment agreed and added, "Yeah, maybe Scratch will get what's comin' to him."  Suddenly, all up and down the line the people quieted to catch what the Rabbi would do to the old sinner.

Standing beneath Zack, with his eyes still fixed on him, the Rabbi said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.”

The onlookers gasped in astonishment.  "Doesn't he know who that is?" someone said.  "I don't believe it," chimed in another.  One of the Pharisees in the group said, "It's just the kind of thing I'd expect him to do."

But Zacchaeus was dumbstruck for an entirely different reason: the Rabbi had called him by name--by name!  Why would he do that?  How could he do that?  And even more perplexing, when the Rabbi had gotten close, Zacchaeus could clearly see a kindness in the Rabbi's eyes of a quality he had never experienced before, and doubted anyone had.  What power is this?  Zacchaeus thought.

Coming to his senses, Zacchaeus quickly clamored down the tree--practically falling out.  People stepped aside to let him join the Rabbi.  "Oh, please, yes, Rabbi.  I would be most honored. Please, allow me to lead you there."

Everyone watched as Zacchaeus led the Rabbi and his disciples to his house.  Zacchaeus suddenly felt angry at all the sneering, envious, derisive, and disgusted faces meeting him as he passed by.  Every so often Zacchaeus would look furtively back at the Rabbi, fearing it had all been a joke at his expense.  But the Rabbi still followed, and his face retained that inexplicable countenance of serenity and mercy.  The contrast between the Rabbi's gentle demeanor and the crowd's contempt pounded hard on the door to Zacchaeus' heart, causing the framework to crack and the hinges to loosen.

Later, the Rabbi and his disciples reclined with Zacchaeus at his table for the evening meal.  Zacchaeus had left the door to his house open so people could watch the proceedings from the sides of the room.

The Rabbi spoke of how the Kingdom of God was near--even at the threshold.  A Pharisee scoffed and said, "Why do you recline with such a sinner?  Don't you know who this man is?"

The Rabbi turned his head back towards the Pharisee and said, "It's not for the well the physician comes, but for the sick."

"You are demon possessed to pay such honor to a demon," the Pharisee snapped.

"Why are you so ready to see this man condemned?  Do you not know that when judgment comes the end comes with it?  Or is your heart like Jonah's, who feared God's mercy more than His wrath?  Know what it means, ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.'"

Zacchaeus listened to this exchange in disbelief; he had not seen power such as this any where at any time.  It dawned on him this would have to be the case because what he was witnessing was real power.

As that power continued to bash down the door to Zacchaeus' heart, his mind desperately tried to wrap itself around the profundity of this revelation of real power.  He knew it was true, but what did real mean?  His power was real, too, wasn't it?  People feared him; they fawned over him; wasn't that real power?  Yet here was a man who spoke with such authority, and no one in the room feared him. Why?

Zacchaeus' eyes darted from the Rabbi to his disciples to his servants to the quests and back to the Rabbi.  Suddenly, Zacchaeus realized how perilously close they all were to a precipice.  Zacchaeus had the means to push them over the edge; they all knew it, and that's why they so easily capitulated to him.  But he also knew if given a chance, they would push him over, in a heart beat.  But Zacchaeus began to suspect this Rabbi would willingly jump first if it meant keeping all of them from falling.  This was real power.  The power Zacchaeus possessed, the kind these people secretly coveted, flowed from  fear, and so could vanish in an instant.  The Rabbi's power flowed from mercy, so it would go on and on.  Yes, this was real power.  Everyone in that room should fear this power; instead, they sneered at it, not realizing how close they all were to falling into the abyss.

The door of Zacchaeus' heart could no longer bear the strain, and came crashing down.  The anger pent up behind it gushed forth.

"How dare you insult a quest in my house!" Zacchaeus screamed.

For the first time in his life, Zacchaeus had defended another person.  And for the first time in his life he experienced the mercy he had sought with wailing until his tears ran out and he shut up his heart.

“Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!” Zacchaeus declared.

Then Jesus (for this was the Rabbi's name) said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Zack's Story-Part 1

Zack was an angry man.  Who could blame him?  He was a short, dumpy kind of a guy, who stood out from the crowd as one to be avoided.  Although that wasn't always the case; as we shall learn he brought most of this shunning upon himself.  In his youth he had stood out from the crowd for a completely different reason.  In those days Zack was the world's whipping boy--a mobile and accommodating punching bag for anyone and everyone to vent their frustrations, insecurities, and rage.  Only later did people's response to Zack change from exploitation born out of indifference, to pure hatred wrought by jealousy and envy.

Zack didn't know he was angry.  He regarded people too little to consciously muster such an emotion.  He may have known anger back in the day when how people felt about him mattered.  Now, for Zack, the public was nothing more than cattle to be bought or sold.  The damage he inflicted on them was far worse than the pitiful effects of the abuse he had received as a child and adolescent, and definitely more lucrative.  His antipathy towards his fellow race seared his conscience and rendered fleecing them a simple matter.  After all, it's easy to win the game when you don't have to play by the rules.

As with all families, being the second son disadvantaged Zack.  The contrast between him and his first born brother made Zack's plight far worse from the beginning.  His elder brother, Andrew, was a tall, handsome, strong, and self-confident man who shared his father's passions and aspirations.  On the other hand, Zack had been born prematurely, which stunted his growth, and left him weak, clumsy, pale, and sickly as a child.  He was a child only a mother could love. As one might expect, it was a no brainer for Zack's father to dote on Andrew and ignore Zack.  If in those inevitable public situations, Zack's father was forced to acknowledge both his sons, he quickly diverted all attention to Andrew.  Zack quickly learned to not fight it, and would happily and unobtrusively slip into the solace of the shadows.  After a time, the adults of the village hardly knew Zack was alive.

On one of those rare intimate moments Zack coveted with his father, his father told him, "Don't expect too much from life, boy."  Any other child would have starved on such meager nourishment; Zack would live off that thin gruel of his father's attention like a roach from a grease spot.

Zack's mother loved him. But in those days it was a man's world; a mother's love hardly mattered to a boy.  His father's obvious distain of Zack gave the other boys permission to taunt Zack.  And this they did with relentless relish.  Zack needed no mirror to see himself, his peers gladly assumed the role.  And the image they reported back to him was decidedly unflattering.

Zack was angry with God.

Yet Zack possessed one favorable trait that had gone unnoticed by his peers, the villagers, and his father: Zack was smart.  And it is an awesome thing to see what a brilliant mind can accomplish when left alone to contemplate.  A person can learn a lot by watching life from off-stage.  Zack quickly learned where people were most vulnerable.  When he completed his education, Zack departed home to make his fortune.

Zack the man knew business.  He could turn a denarius into a talent with a flick of his wrist.  He had become a financial wizard overnight.  Many suspected Zack of cheating, but could never prove it.  Zack did cheat. Some have said if a criminal genius put that intellect to honest work instead of crime he would be far richer.  Zack proved the aphorism false.  In short order Zack amassed enough to buy the muscle he had been robbed of at birth.  The little man had grown big.  No one was laughing any more, and there was nothing they could about it.

Zack settled down in the Las Vegas of Palestine--the oasis of the rich, famous, and influential at the cross-roads of the world.  Jericho was the perfect place for a man of Zack's means and genius to prosper.  Opportunity frequented Zack's door.  No one liked him, but Zack's business acumen brought patrons from the four corners of the empire--Phrygia, Alexandria, Carthage, Ephesus, Damascus, Tyre, Athens, Tarsus, Rome.  Zack grew richer just sitting by his swimming pool.

All this acquired power drowned out the anger burning within Zack like Gehenna outside Jerusalem.  Even though he no longer sensed it, his deep seated resentment lived on as a curse he long ago raised up to God for being born.

One of Zack's many slaves lowered a platter of fruit to him.  He drew a few figs from the plate as he recalled what his father had said.  Flinging one of the fruits into his mouth, he thought, I won't, Pops.

[Come back Sunday night for the conclusion of Zack's story......]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Great Gatsby

My wife and I recently watched the movie rendition of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. This is one of her favorite films, so she has seen it many times.  The last time I watched it was when it first came to the theaters way back in the seventies.

As with all great works of literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald powerfully captures the human condition, this time in the mileau of American aristocratic decadence of the roaring twenties.  The story depicts for us how people attempt to buy relationships--that is, love--but of course, utterly fail with tragic consequences.  The best money can buy is a cheap facsimile of loyal love; like a well crafted prop used in theater, what money buys looks good only from twenty feet away.

You may be thinking I'm stating the obvious.  Yes, there are many more important ideas to be fished out of this piece written at the height of Existentialism.  But obvious or not, I know all too many people who have reduced relationships to commodities.  Nothing has changed with humankind except the dress, technology, and, perhaps, the latest philosophical vogue.  And contemporaries of Fitzgerald would have said the same.  The message as conspicuous as it is, is apparently lost on most people, and there is a reason for this, but we won't go into that, now.

You might also be wondering why I have this tendency to be a bummer in my blogs.  I'm sorry.  What hope do we have, though, if we believe we have evolved away from the shallow bankruptcy, decadence, and prejudice of eighty years ago, when we clearly haven't?  Let's be honest; our entire society is structured around the lie that money--that is, power--can buy me love.  As painful as this is to admit about ourselves, I would be remiss to not bring it up just to avoid being a bummer; I really care about all of us; in every great story you can't have the resolution of the third act without the dire straits of the second act--unless of course,  you were one of the early twentieth century American writers who didn't believe there was any resolution to be had (there's that Existentialism I mentioned, rearing its ugly head).

The Great Gatsby poignantly shows us how powerless money (power) is at securing for us love and justice--the two things we secretly desire most of all.

Anyway, I didn't really start off to talk about all that; I have another point to make.

As I said, the last time I watched The Great Gatsby was when it first came out in the theater thirty odd years ago.  My girlfriend and I (actually, Melissa was a close friend who was a girl; so it is somewhat misleading to call her my girlfriend) loved to go to movies, and since we had met in American Lit. class, what better movie to see together than The Great Gatsby.

Well, there we were sitting side-by-side in the dark theater watching the film, as any boy and girl would if they were only good friends, when the climatic scene came where Gatsby is shot while he was floating in his swimming pool.  Some lady sitting behind us gasped and cried out, "Good god, he shot Robert Redford!"  Melissa and I turned around and glared at the women, incredulous.

It dawned on me that most people respond to the Gospel of Christ much the same way as that woman did the tragic end of Gatsby.  What is the Gospel of Christ?  The Gospel is this.  Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was raised to life on the third day, and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.  God brought the long sweeping epic of the story of Israel, which was for the benefit of the whole world, to the promised climax of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Israel's representative, Jesus the Messiah (Christ), Lord, Master, King.  The typical response seen, I'm sad to admit, both in myself and much of American Christendom is "What's in it for me?"  And from outside American Christendom the typical response is "By god, who does god think he is?"

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father [God] except through Me."  We know Jesus isn't blowing smoke because He was raised from the dead back to life.  The historically proven fact of Jesus' resurrection validates all of His claims, and puts Him on the throne as King over all creation, which includes you and me.  Shouldn't our response to the Gospel be markedly different?

I wonder if all those who have preceded us, who, when they heard the Gospel, cried out "What must I do?" and submitted themselves to the King, I wonder if they aren't facing us with that same bewilderment Melissa and I felt towards that clueless woman.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Enter at Your Own Risk!

Do you ever pause long enough during your fast paced life to consider your life?  If you do, what do you see?  Do you shudder and quickly slam the door to the room housing the effects of your past?  While almost in a panic, do you then lock the door, and begin searching for some way to conveniently lose the key--wondering what madness ever possessed you to attempt such a thing in the first place?

If you're similar to me, you probably retain the key for those times when curiosity, or the need to be validated, or a need for a ready excuse for your actions, or a need for an explanation suddenly compels you to peek again into the dark, dusty, dank room of your life.

Perhaps you're not like me, at all.  Instead, you approach your life after the fashion of the fabled Italian race car driver who, while ripping the rear view mirror from its mooring, proclaims, "Whatsa behinda me isa not importante."

Then again, maybe you live in that room, obsessively filing, polishing, and scrutinizing your past failures or successes--hopelessly ensnared by past glories and crippling guilt.

And maybe you find all this kind of chat rather annoying.  Your motto is to live for the day.  You see no need to worry about either the future or the past; today is all that matters--carpe diem--eat, drink, for tomorrow we die.

I wonder who of us is right.

Well, herein lies one of the great marvels of the Gospel, where we encounter evidence of the insuperable liberating power of Jesus, because we are all right--that is, there is truth  in each of the above life strategies.

Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day was raised to life; so we can live in His kingdom as forgiven people; we no longer have to fear the contents of that old room, but able to leave its door wide open; because of the faithfulness of Christ, we are able to confidently proceed in a life submitted to Jesus. Indeed, Saint Paul spoke for all of us in Christ:

"Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." [NET]

Nor do we need to fear the future because we know in following Jesus, even should we stumble, He is faithful to forgive us, and pick us up again to keep moving on in life--eternal life.  Through His Spirit He lovingly gives us, we recognize when we fall and the path to repentance.

By this same Spirit we learn how to live in His kingdom.  One way His Spirit accomplishes this is by reminding us of our past failures--not in condemnation, but to redeem them into a wisdom for living in the present and beyond.  His love being poured into our hearts steadies our path through this present life of certain temptations, distractions, and yes, troubles by using our experiences to teach us.  What were once agents of guilt become for us in Jesus agents of restoration.

You see, there is truth, and therefore value in opening  the door to the room of our past; there is value to taking time to evaluate what we find there, so we can properly press on by living for today without worry for tomorrow.  Jesus promises this to everyone who dwells with Him in His kingdom:

"So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own." [NET]

On the other hand, to cling tenaciously to any one of those above life strategies will always leave us wanting. Jesus would not have us use the freedom He has purchased for us to either wallow in our sinfulness or pursue our selfish-ambition.

God loves us and cares about our whole life; for this reason He has restored His kingdom to us who repent. And by trusting His one, only, and unique Son, Jesus the Christ--our King, Master, Lord--with a trust evinced by our obedience, we live that whole life to the fullest, forever.  It is the life we all secretly want, for it is a life of purpose and meaning.  Life we have with and through our King is true peace, and lasting joy, even though for the present it is not always happy.

In the kingdom of God, the room of our life need no longer be a fearful place; we can tear down that old warning sign, Enter at Your Own Risk!, and boldly explore the good and the horrible of our life's treasures.

What a terrifyingly wondrous, liberating thing it is to leap into the hands of the Living God.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm Packin' Heat

It seems to me we humans easily mistake emotional fervor for an indefatigable strength.  I remember as a young man after watching an action movie such as James Bond or Star Wars, I would leave the theater feeling invincible.  Bring it on! I'd think. Come on, make my day! (Can you guess what decade I attended college?)

Then came the season of my life when my friends and I would go shooting.  I packed a Ruger Super Blackhawk in a hip holster right out of Fist Full of Dollars, donned a Clint Eastwood Stetson, and with squinting eyes, rolled a thin cigar back and forth across my front teeth.  I swore I heard Ennio Morricone's music swelling in the background: Ah-e-Ah-e-Ah!  The problem with this was my mind's eye image of myself at that moment fell hopelessly outside reality; at nineteen years of age, I looked as if I were ten or eleven (good grief, I didn't even start shaving regularly until I reached twenty four).  I will say, though, I played the role perfectly if the movie had been entitled The Good, The Bad, The Baby.

And remember when visualization was the big rage in the winter Olympics? Let's face it, no amount of head bobbing up and down, back and forth, and round and round, in an attempt to psych the luger into a gold medal run, will ever substitute for ten thousand hours of actual practice.

In the final analysis, all of our emotionalism, mental resolve, and enthusiasm will fail us every time.  It's like flying in a plane, and seeing a thick dense bank of clouds, I convince myself I could walk on them; so, I step out of the plane...well, you know what will happen.

The apostle Peter suffered from these same kinds of delusions.  Just before Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples they would bolt the minute Jesus was apprehended.  Here's what Peter had to say about that:

Even if they all fall away, I will not!....Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you.

And all of them said the same thing.

But Jesus told Peter he would deny having ever known, Jesus.  And of course, Peter did exactly that.  Peter mistook his emotional fervor for a true indefatigable strength.

Standing alone, the picture I have painted must seem pretty bleak, even depressing.  But just because we so easily trust in will-of-the-wisps doesn't mean there is no real strength to be had.  Jesus urged His disciples to pray so they wouldn't fall into temptation.  In other words, God was ready to give them the strength to overcome their fears and stand with Jesus.  But Peter and his brethren decided to sleep instead of praying.  Now, we can sympathize with them somewhat; it was late, and they had recently finished dinner, so they were probably tired; you and I would have been tired, too.  Yet, there are times when we must override our fatigue, and this was one of those times for the disciples.  Like us, though, I suspect they argued for sleep on the basis of their resolve to loyally stand and defend their master, and the inherent benefits of sleep.

In one way or another, as did Jesus' disciples that horrid night, we all fall victim to our own hubris.

Having a vision or motivation is certainly valuable; the problem is thinking the vision is sufficiently powerful in its own right.  The real tragedy for Peter and the gang was not their determination, but their failure to pray for God to empower them to make good their determination.

As Christ followers--that is to say, as dwellers in the kingdom of God--we must trust God by surrendering ourselves unconditionally to Him.  Such trust is what it means to live by faith.  Our strength can only be found in God.  Jesus said, "Outside of Me, you can do nothing."  Without trusting God completely, we will fail to meet the vision He has given for us--even should we swoon at the sight of its beauty.  Worse, if we don't trust God as if our life depended on it--and it does--we will substitute our own vision for His vision.  And as with all lies, our self-delusions will propagate geometrically in an effort to cover themselves, leading us farther and farther away from the truth; we learn the hard way that the clouds in our minds we felt certain would carry us, leave us to free-fall into an abyss, every time.

When Jesus tells us to follow Him, He doesn't mean in vision only, but with utter dependence on Him for our strength.