22 December 2012

The Significance of a Sunset

       As the sun was setting the other day in Dana Point (California), I peaked out of the trailer to have a look.
       "Breath-taking" comes to mind. "Splendor" is another descriptor. It was peace-full, quiet, transcendent.
       In the Hebraic worldview this is the beginning of the day rather than the end. The day begins with sunset - the picturesque and breath-taking site of the Pacific Ocean!
       At a time when the news is full of school massacres and fiscal cliffs, the sunset is a reminder that god creates beauty as the beginning, even as His creation mars that creation.
       It has been good these days to gaze at sunsets, to behold splendor, and to allow time to slow a bit.

19 December 2012

Traveling Down the Road...

We traveled more than 1,200 miles this week, pulling a 5,000-pound travel trailer through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally to California.
       Enroute we saw a lot of things - funny signs, shacks where people live in New Mexico, RVs and travel trailers of many sizes and shapes. And we saw this:

     Yes, it's a tractor trailer which slid off the road somehow or other. It landed under the sign, "Speedy's." I should not laugh at this, but there is a certain humor and irony to the whole scene.
       Just to make the photo all the more interesting, in the background is a teepee of some sort! Welcome to New Mexico and Arizona!

09 December 2012

The "dog eat dog" world

It's a "dog eat dog" world, right? That's just how Western Culture is.
       I fly on United Airlines a lot, and I observed their "merger" with Continental Airlines. Actually it wasn't a merger, it was a takeover. Continental Airlines disappeared.
       I have a friend in Europe whose job in the corporate world is "Mergers and Acquisitions" between companies.
       This is all a form of Social Darwinisn, right? Survival of the Fittest.
       So here is my question: Does this apply to Christians and churches? You know, the "big gorilla" churches taking over the little guy churches. Is this a legitimate approach if a church's motivation is to introduce the most people possible to Jesus?
       It's got me thinking....

03 December 2012

The Legal System and the Grace of God

Today I will be on a call for a legal hearing with a judge. There is a claimant, a defendant, lawyers, witnesses, and a judge.
      I have a huge knot in my stomach in anticipation of this call. And I am not even the one accused of anything!
       I cannot think of a motif that is more the antithesis to grace than a courtroom and the legal system in Western culture.
       This leaves me with a real tension - one of the images in the Bible is of God as Judge and His creation as both criminals as well as victims of crimes by others. Surely it is not the predominant theme of Scripture, but many well-meaning people (mainly in Reformed circles) have been their entire theology around this. But it IS an important part of God redeeming His people (i.e. Jesus has paid the price for our sin by dying on a cross, we all are guilty (Rom. 3:23) and need to be redeemed).
       With all this in mind, I find it more instructive to see how the Bible both begins and ends. Neither scene is a courtroom and does not involve victims or defendants. The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city (actually the city descends on the people). There is not even a hint of a gavel or witnesses or testimony or victims.
       And I assume that the People of God in that city will not have knots in their stomachs because they have been victimized by others. Instead, they will hear the words that God's dwelling is now with His people, and they will be His for eternity. It is a return to the Garden in the midst of the New Jerusalem.

01 December 2012

Give it away, Give it away!!

This time of year we are asked to donate money from a horde of places, people, and causes. Many of them are very good causes.
       I am also one of those people who asks for money this time of year. I ask loads of people for loads of money so that the gospel (Good News) will go to people from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds. I ask unashamedly. I actually like asking people to give money. Here's why:
       You can't take it with you anyway!
       Once I was at a funeral listening in on a conversation between two businessmen. One said to the other about the deceased, "How much did he leave?"
       The second man said, "A couple of million bucks and a couple of houses."
       I wanted to say to them, "The answer is, HE LEFT EVERYTHING! You can't take it with you!"
       This year in America my sense is that people are sitting on their wallets and giving a lot less. This includes Christians. Why? FEAR.
       * Fear of the Bush tax cuts expiring
       * Fear of the so-called "fiscal cliff"
       * Fear of health care reform
       * Fear of the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and every other lawmaker
       I understand that if you are not a follower of Jesus you have a ton to be afraid of, including fiscal cliffs . But if you are a follower of Jesus this is what he says to his disciples:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
       That peace should translate into many different actions, one of them being generosity and giving it all away. I'm not talking about giving a tithe, or "skimming off the extra" to give at year-end so that you get a tax deduction.
       I'm talking about giving extra, over-and-above, sacrificially so that it changes our lifestyle. We all need to re-examine our bank accounts and checkbooks and take some leaps of faith and give in ways which honor Christ and bless people. That's following Jesus.