Saturday, December 24, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The fourth century mystic Ephrem the Syrian saw this analogy. He wrote, “A thirsty person is happy when drinking, and not depressed, because the spring is inexhaustible. You can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring; then when you thirst again, you can drink from it once more.”3
A simple spring of water beside Interstate 90. Water from the mountain. Year after year. Each time someone passes that place, he may pause to drink. The water is sweet and cold.
Jesus is saying to us with a loud voice, “come to me and drink.”
Are you thirsty?
Drawing of Lookout Pass by Byron Dudley4
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
With that face staring at me. I kid you not, I felt physically nauseated for a moment.
THE WHY QUESTION
As that quickly passed, I asked myself “Why would he do that?”
For cosmetic reasons? Was it a belief that somehow that tattoo enhances his appearance?
Or was it a drunken, spur-of-the-moment decision that movies like Hangover Part II tell us can happen. How drunk would you have to be, and for how long, to get a tattoo that size on your head?
Was it a part of a spiritual ritual? A contract with the devil? Was he imprinting the face of an intimate aquaintance on his body?
Was it simply his individuality showing through, a signature that says, “This is who I am?” Was it like Julia Roberts smile or San Francisco Giant closer Brian Wilson’s beard, or my feeling most “myself” in jeans and a t-shirt?
Maybe it was none of these. Maybe the tattoo was really cool, but I am just an old fogey stuck in the past?
Or did the face communicate his inner landscape? Maybe his experience of life culminates in that tattoo.
Last night at a coffee house I heard a girl read a poem. It expressed her inner landscape. The moving verses were of her growing up, and revealed the pain of being abused by her mother’s husband and her mom seeming not to care. “Why didn’t you help me?” It encapsulated her life experience and ended triumphantly with her tearful declaration, “I forgive you. I love you.”
If that leering tattooed face was an expression of a man’s inner life, then what was the emotion it expressed? Anger? Fear? Intimidation? Rebellion? Loneliness? The look of the face seemed to rule out the more positive emotions like hope.
I wanted to talk to the man. Just wanted to be kind and loving to him in some way, but I didn’t get a chance.
So… why the tattoo?
I’d have to get to know him to find that out.
"The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.”
Lamentations 3:19-22 (New Living Translation)
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
A few thoughts on Judgment.
Although few people took the prediction seriously, it did create fear. The time mentioned was so specific and assertive. Until 6 pm on the 21st it was not certain what would happen. While watching one sporting event, the announcer said, “I plan on being here at the ballpark tomorrow.” And then, almost under his breath he said, “I hope,” as if there was doubt. There was. That was the fear of uncertainty that many felt.
Second, most Christians I talked to held to the Scriptural teaching that “Heaven and earth will pass away ... No one knows about that day or hour not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”1 So those I spoke to had serious doubts.
Third, Camping’s prediction makes Christians in general look like idiots. He was convinced he had some inside information from God. He was wrong. It was not God, but his own sense of importance or desire for the limelight or whatever. One Alameda Pastor commented, “He is self-deluded.”2 This episode reinforced the stereotype that Christians are extreme. I am amazed that God continuously allows His name to be drug through the mud – by us!
Fourth, I hope that Camping will now stop predicting the end of the world. It is true that we see signs of the end, such as wars and earthquakes, as Jesus said. Most Christians believe that. But since Camping also predicted the end in September of 1994, it would be refreshing if he would just stop. Will his ego or his entrenched theological beliefs allow him to? Hope so.
Finally, it’s not altogether bad that, as Christians, we should live in the light of the certainty that the final day will come. Christ will return. This life will end. World census information from 2008 indicates that 155,000 people3 (roughly the size of Salem, Oregon), die every day. For 155,000 people it was the end of the world on May 21.
But I am glad to be here still, and that this world is still intact. There is much good to be done. Things like the horrible tornado in Joplin make us aware that we have a world to love. No time to make end-of-the-world predictions!
1 - Matthew 24:35-36, New American Standard Bible
2 - “Despite Careful Calculations the World Does Not End,” Jesse McKinley, New York Times, May 21, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/us/22doomsday.html?_r=1
3 - “How Many People Die a Day,” Shane Birley, January 23, 2008 http://www.shanesworld.ca/how-many-people-die-day
Friday, April 29, 2011
But if a person attacks and kills his fellow man, we have an elaborate, expensive, and often fallible system to mete out “justice” to the offender. We say that person is wrong. This sense of what man ought to do is one of the human beings unique qualities. It illuminates something invisible that exists, - as CS Lewis would say, an “ought to.”
Manhattan Pastor Timothy Keller speaks of the argument for God from the violence of nature, in his excellent book, The Reason for God. Is nature violent? Isn’t that the core of survival of the fittest? Reality is a contest for survival according to Darwin.
Keller tells of writer Annie Dillard who spent years living by a creek in Virginia to “be inspired and refreshed” by the purity of nature. Evidently, Dillard came to the conclusion that nature is ruled by one overriding principle, “violence of the strong against the weak.”1 Dillard wrote, “There is not a person in the world that behaves as badly as praying mantises. But wait you say, there is no right or wrong in nature; right and wrong is a human concept! Precisely! We are moral creatures in an amoral world…”2
Man is judged by a different yardstick than animals. He is held to an invisible code of morality. A “homicidal” praying mantis is just being natural, but a Muammar Kaddafi is considered by right-thinking people to be a monster for his role in the Lockerbie mass murder.
So there is an unseen something, a code of conduct, of what ought to be, that permeates human existence. Something exists, something that we all recognize, beyond what is seen. It’s recognition is unique to man.
In the Bible, Paul says it this way of those who did not accept the Jewish law. “… the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”3
Yesterday I saw a video that talked of the trillions of stars in the known galaxy. Many are not visible, but no credible scientist would deny their existence. We accept this as fact on the word of scientists. Something invisible, but real.
The violence in nature also tips us to something that is invisible, and yet real.
1- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, (New York, Riverhead Books, 2008) 161
2- From Chapter Ten, “Fecundity,” in Annie Dillard, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (Harper-Collins, 1974)
3- Romans 2:15 (New International Version)
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Recently, I have been reminded of another, much larger, but more quiet invasion. That was the American expansion that displaced and dominated the American Indian tribes, forcing them into land no one wanted.
In roughly a century and a half, American settlers, businessmen, adventurers, missionaries, politicians, fortune seekers, and soldiers pushed across the American continent, settled in it, and claimed lands long occupied by the Indian tribes. It was a massive, quiet invasion.
Today criticisms about American expansion are rampant from commentators like Glenn Beck who on his website claims Andrew Jackson was “… the guy who went in and just started slaughtering the Indians,”1 to prominent Christian writers, like Shane Claiborne, who highlight our injustice to the Indians. (“Forgive us Lord, for stealing the land: Have mercy and set us free.” 2)
Was it really that bad? After doing some reading, I make these observations:
- It is true that the settlers did the Indians wrong. Time and again our forefathers mistreated them; for example the displacement of the Cherokee nation, -- "the trail of tears," which had elements we would associate with the Bataan Death March of 1942.
- Often the greed of the common man, government officials, commercial interests, corrupt Indian agents, or biased legal decisions violated agreements. Treaties were constantly broken and new ones made.
- The colonial population of 4.5 million at the end of the Revolution jumped to 12.5 million in 30 years, thus creating conditions where “the westward pressure for more land was enormous” 3
But it is also true that…
- The Indians were largely nomadic, hunters with relatively few people claiming vast territories; their culture was different from the European, farming, and individual plot of land mindset. As often happens today, the two cultures missed each other.
- Extensive efforts were made to treat the Indians fairly. The US government generally espoused policies respecting Indian rights and land ownership
- There was a core of Americans who felt the Indians should be treated justly and generously. Among them were Christians like Episcopalian Bishop Henry B. Whipple and government appointed Indian agents like William Bent (Left and second from left).
- There were Indians who bucked the system and sought peaceful co-existence with the whites, like Black Kettle of the Cheyenne
But what do we do with the reminders that we stole the land? How does it help us to see a past President and American hero as evil? Should I apologize to an American Indian? Maybe. It wouldn’t hurt.
Human history has been interwoven with invasion and conquest. The Europeans who subjugated the tribes of North America had themselves been conquered earlier.
Is it better then, to forget what happened to the Indians? Turn off Beck and Claiborne? No. I don’t think so.
As a nation, like an individual, remembering our sins can help or hurt us. Remembering helps when it humbles us, stirs us to want to change, warns us not to repeat those things, and when it makes us realize our need for God. Remembering hurts us when we can only see how bad we are, and when there is no hope of redemption.
1 - http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/48248/
2 - Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, “February 8.” In Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010) 137
3 - Ezra Bowen, Edit. The Indians. (New York: Time-Life Books, 1973.) 157
Friday, February 18, 2011
The Bible is very clear that God wants to relate to you. As we seek him, we are promised that we will find him.
Scripture also stresses our need to love others and be in right relationship with them. As we seek others we find ourselves.
Relationship with God and with others are the core of our purpose on this planet. It’s not our career or our bank balance, although these affect our relationships.
It is disturbing in this modern age that some argue that animals are on the same level of worth as people. I remember reading about Paula Stibbe, the English woman in Austria who wanted to become legal guardian of a chimpanzee. She said: "He is a colourful character with lots of energy. The least we can do for him is give him ... a future in society."1 I am sure the chimp, is colorful – but a future in society? She has fought for the same rights for the chimp that a human child would have. USA Today reported, “Some legal analysts warn of a danger in giving apes equal legal status because an animal's rights could conflict or supersede a human's rights in future court rulings.”2
God’s Word is clear regarding this issue of value. “… what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” (Ps 8:4-9) In God’s eyes a person is infinitely more valuable than a chimp. People are crowned with glory and honor by God.
Jesus said it very clearly. “You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:31)
So relationship is God’s plan. Relationship with God and others is at the center of what is worthwhile in life.. Relationship to animals is just underlining this fact. Icing on the cake of life.
It is not good for the man to be alone.
1 - Kate Connolly, “Court to Rule if Chimp Has Human Rights,” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/apr/01/austria.animalwelfare (April 2007)
2 - Jeffrey Stinson, “Activists Pursue Basic Human Rights for Great Apes,” http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2008-07-15-chimp_N.htm (July 2008)
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Where do domesticated animals come from? How did we get them? Science traces their domesticity back thousands of years… dogs, cats, pigs, horses, and cows. Various scientific proofs say that through processes of evolution, and intentional breeding by man, our modern domestic dogs, cats, and other animals have come to be over vast stretches of time. Domestic dogs slowly came from grey wolves they say.
Driving on I thought, “God gave them to us for companionship.” That is one of the main purposes of domestic animals. They are companions. It is true that dogs perform vital functions in some cases, like sled dogs in the arctic. Pigs are raised for food. Horses can bear burdens, including us. But one of the greatest things about these creatures is that they are friends. Have you had a favorite pet?
God is a God of relationship. Out of love for man, he gave us some 4-legged friends. He’s concerned that we not be alone. So he gave us what we call “man’s best friend.” How cool is that?
Consider these verses regarding animals.
- God owns all the animals, He made them.
Psa 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
- He watches over them, even as He does people.
Psa 36:6 O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.
- We are to be concerned about the life of animals.
Pro 12:10 A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast:
- Although God feeds and loves the animals, it is the person who trusts in God that is first priority for the Lord.
Psa 147:9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
Psa 147:10 He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.
Psa 147:11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
No, it's not good for us to be alone. Thank you God that you care about me.
Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World
“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman
“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias
“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney
I love those idyllic, Christmas-card pictures. A snowy landscape; a couple driving their horse-drawn sled toward a warm little bungalow; bri...