A Lesson from Smuggling

Old carOne of the first editions of Ruport Murdoch’s new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily, included a story that had all the makings of a great old-fashioned G-Man tale.1 An unmarked truck sneaks out from Pennsylvania before dawn with liquid contraband destined for Manhattan. After arriving, the banned substance is clandestinely slipped into a crowded room of addicts waiting for their once-a-month fix. Images come to mind of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, high speed chases with cars not long past the Model T, Tommy guns, and the FBI kicking over huge vats of illegal liquor.

However, Prohibition ended in 1933, and long ago those famous moonshine runs morphed into NASCAR racing. So, what new liquid has led to such an illicit trade? Perhaps some normal beverage beefed up with a narcotic? A new caffeinated alcohol drink (like Four Loko) that five states outlawed before the FDA finally stepped in to make it illegal for everyone?2 Considering this fluid has caused raids reminiscent of Prohibition it must be pretty addicting and the Devil’s juice.

The Amish smuggler, Samuel, was sneaking in…gasp…. Continue reading A Lesson from Smuggling

Diane’s Miracle

Diane's MiracleIn the "we took way too long to start it" category are the monthly church prayer meetings that began in January (and will repeat every fourth Sunday at 10AM instead of Bible study). Although other items were also brought before the Lord, one request especially stood out—Diane’s need for an operation that might finally stem the tide (actually reverse it) when it comes to the progressive damage multiple sclerosis has been doing to her body. Over the past couple months, Rick has been sharing the amazing results of a new treatment called the Liberation Procedure, and after one recent service Rick explained how this is one case where they just cannot "go it alone." The Davis family needs our help.

Continue reading Diane’s Miracle

How Far Would You Go?

Machine gunThe lead article in the most recent Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter is about the exploits of Rolo, a former member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) who now spends his time leading residents of FARC-controlled areas (and FARC rebels themselves) to Christ. Needless to say, it is a very risky proposition. Not only is the guerrilla organization anti-religion (they are Marxists), but his former membership in the organization makes him, in a sense, an apostate. It isn’t only religions that consider turning your back on your “faith” a major “sin,” and every time he crosses over into FARC territory it is only the protective hand of God that is between him and death.

Continue reading How Far Would You Go?

Would Jesus Use Facebook?

Facebook imageAs an avid user of Facebook it would seem especially important for me to answer this article’s title. However, I’ll admit that I never slowed down enough to ask myself its question; instead it only came to mind when a friend (in a Facebook message) mentioned that "since joining Facebook [she has] often wondered if Jesus would use Facebook."

Quickly…without opening your Bible…what’s your gut reaction? Yes or no?

Continue reading Would Jesus Use Facebook?

You Are Not Alone

Jesus with happy manEarlier this week I got a Facebook suggestion from Diane Kendall to "like" the Facebook page of an organization called YANA1. For those not familiar with Diane, she is half of the John and Diane Kendall husband-and-wife team that is such a significant and welcome part of the Antrim community, including owning one of my favorite stores, Place in the Woods2. (Not to mention they have some great kids too!)

So…I take any recommendation from Diane or John seriously, whether it be for good running shoes, proper food for our pets, or a Facebook page to check out….

Continue reading You Are Not Alone

Reacting to a Shooting

Pistol with bloodThis past Saturday a lone gunman allowed the demons in his mind to escape in the form of a deluge of bullets, starting with one into the brain of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. By the time bystanders were able to wrestle him to the ground six people had been killed (including a nine year-old girl) and fourteen more had been injured. As of writing this article, Congresswoman Giffords is holding on in intensive care, but she is not out of the woods yet. This morning President Obama and his wife held a national moment of silence for our country to corporately remember the dead, the injured, and their family and friends (who are also victims of the demented assailant).

When a tragedy happens (especially of this magnitude), people naturally want to understand how it could occur—and to have swift judgment and punishment of the perpetrator(s). Every initial indication is that Jared Lee Loughner acted alone (and that he was a psychopath with a strange brew of political beliefs), but anyone watching, reading, or hearing the news know that our predilection for blaming was instantaneously in full force. We were informed that the rhetoric of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and conservatism in general drove the shooter to target the congresswoman and spray her supporters with deathly lead. Myriad liberal talking heads, and the majority of the media, were quick to incriminate the aforementioned list—although the media often did it by (for example) "innocently" juxtaposing mentions of Sarah Palin’s map that had a gunsight over Congresswoman Giffords’ district during last November’s election with discussions of the gunman’s motivation. (When they wanted to really establish the connection they quoted Giffords herself stating that Palin’s "targeted list" could lead to violence—"When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action"1).

And depending on your political bend, you were likely either joining the condemnatory chorus or decrying how hypocritical it was that those who said not to jump to conclusions about motives when Major Nidal Malik Hasan gunned-down thirteen at Fort Hood last year now couldn’t wait for the smoke from the bullets to clear before damning various people and groups.

Continue reading Reacting to a Shooting

Scribbling On the Back of an Old Envelope

EnvelopeIn the preface to his book, The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan fondly recounts his college years, where he was able to learn from the minds of some of the 20th Century’s greatest minds, including astronomer G. P. Kuiper. He notes:

It was from Kuiper that I first got a feeling for what is called a back-of-the-envelope calculation: A possible explanation to a problem occurs to you, you pull out an old envelope, appeal to your knowledge of fundamental physics, scribble a few approximate equation on the envelope, substitute in likely numerical values, and see if your answer comes anywhere near explaining your problem. If not, you look for a different explanation. It cut through nonsense like a knife through butter.1

Although those thoughts were related to a scientific approach, it seemed to me that they were also completely applicable in the theological realm. Even though some spiritual concepts are "simple" to comprehend (or should be), Christians (especially our scholars) often spend the majority of their time trying to wrap the infinite with finite words. We want to be able to explain exactly how salvation works, how God is both three and one, how Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine—the list goes on ad infinitum. Although there is much that can be elucidated, frequently we seem to be trying to describe the indescribable. Continue reading Scribbling On the Back of an Old Envelope

A Father’s Hand

Heavenly Father's handMore often then not, when I run errands close to home I am joined by a most affable companion. For instance, if I ask Augie if he would like to go to T-Bird I am guaranteed a hearty "Yes please!" At this point whenever he sees me throwing on shoes and the like, he assumes it is his duty to escort me and immediately says, "Bye bye mum mum."

And I am not complaining :-)…although "mum mum" isn’t always so amused at his energetic willingness to abandon her…

Getting from the house to the car is generally a safe and effortless task, but Augie is still a bit small for the front deck’s stairs, so he prefers to hold my hand. As a whole my grasp is fairly light, but once a few weeks ago he started to slip and my grip quickly tightened, keeping my munchkin from toppling over. Continue reading A Father’s Hand

“Jesus loves me (but not you), this I know…” (Part 2)

Jesus and childrenPart one of this discussion quoted a tweet from Steve, a famous Christian artist who is now also a pastor in Florida. In response to my question whether God loves everyone, this brother in Christ responded that God does not saying, "His love, as is His grace, is salvific & not common."

The first half wrapped up noting those who think like that musician do have a scriptural basis for what they teach, whether it is Psalm 5:5 saying (of God) "you hate all evildoers,"1 Psalm 11:5 noting our Lord’s "soul hates the wicked," or (perhaps most famously) Paul quoting the Old Testament to remind his readers of God’s statement, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Romans 9:13; see also Malachi 1:2-3). We were left wondering if our axiomatic assumption that God loves all people is wrong. Additionally, where should we start in order see if we should agree with that godly Floridian—or instead have the confidence of the toddler from northwest Arkansas that is expressed in this other tweet from my friend, Daniel?:
Continue reading “Jesus loves me (but not you), this I know…” (Part 2)

“Jesus loves me (but not you), this I know…” (Part 1)

Jesus with ChildrenI think most English-speaking Christians are familiar with the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me,” which begins with the words, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I’ve appreciated the fact that within our little congregation we don’t consider it unworthy of adult attention, and hymn 1014 in Songs of Faith and Praise has made it into our worship repertoire multiple times this year (thanks Winslow and Warren!) Even if we didn’t have a congregation half-composed of children, it is an appropriate hymn to have in constant rotation (to borrow a radio term).

The belief expressed in the first three words of the tune (“Jesus loves me”) are so widely held and seem so obvious that it would be fair to say they are axiomatic (“self-evident or unquestionable”1). Even if we insist on actual evidence that Jesus loves us, the most famous verse of the Bible quickly comes to mind:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, English Standard Version).

Deductive reasoning. God loves the world. We are part of the world. God loves us.

Or does He?

Continue reading “Jesus loves me (but not you), this I know…” (Part 1)

Jesus Wept

(This article is based on the sermon given at the memorial service for Rebekah Warren–who passed away instantly from injuries due to an automobile accident early in the morning on Saturday, May 8, 2010. Today, November, 16, 2010, would have been her 17th birthday.)

Bekah

Although the sudden, tragic death of a child can lead to many different emotions, I suspect for most of us the unexpected passing of Bekah, once the initial shock wore off, left us with a tremendous sense of loss. How could the grandchild, the friend, the sister, the classmate, the daughter, the fellow believer, be gone?!

They must be wrong! It’s a cruel joke!

But it wasn’t. It was real.

Then the tears. Lots and lots of tears. Tears that never seemed to stop. Tears that flow again so easily at a memory.

At an empty seat in class.

At a team short a dancer.

At a "goodnight" short a hug.

At a room that no longer has the girl with the magnetic smile in it.

Continue reading Jesus Wept

Finishing the Race

Men racing(Written 11/11/2010) As I mentioned in a previous article, I am in the midst of a nine week “Couch Potato to 5K” (C25K) program. Today was week 5 day 3–the first session comprised entirely of jogging (outside the five minute warm-up and cool-down walking periods). Twenty minutes may seem humorously minuscule to an accomplished jogger, but I knew that it was going to be difficult, partially because I am still so out of shape, but also because the genes my parents bequeathed me include flat feet, and my knees receive a tremendous amount of abuse.

From previous torture sessions I discovered that although my exhaustion increases, the physical pain actually decreases after the first jogging interval. So, this morning I tested a theory and jogged for sixty seconds before the five minute warm-up…and sure enough the discomfort was reduced.

I am not alone, when faced with a task, in figuring out ways to work around the most difficult aspects. When failure isn’t an option (for whatever reason), humans can be quite creative. It may just be that my ego was in control, but I was going to do whatever I could to make sure I didn’t bail-out of today’s run! Continue reading Finishing the Race

Halloween Crèche?

On a street quite familiar to those of us in Antrim who have needed medical or dental attention, there is a large outdoor crèche that helps bring a little Christ into Christmas during the holiday season–as it reminds us the Son of God, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, ESV), “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). I cannot explain why, but I’ve always been partial to nativity sets—there is a peace and calm they project—the carol “Silent Night” comes to mind. And, as I ponder it more I think of another Christmas favorite, “Away in a Manger,” where we learn that “the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head” in a feeding trough because He had “no crib for His bed.” Perhaps the joy and warmth I experience listening to that piece is the same as was felt by “the stars in the bright sky” who “looked down where He lay” and saw “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” What a glorious sight!

Continue reading Halloween Crèche?

A Christian Voter’s Guide

VoteThere are a good number of individuals who will find great discomfort in the title of this article. If you are a non-Christian…it may elicit fears of fundamentalists trying to elect their confederates so as to…in a nefarious conspiracy…change America into a Taliban-style Christian theocracy! Even if you are a believer, the title may be unsettling because throughout the ages the gospel has suffered at the hands of unholy amalgamations of religious and secular authority. A strong argument could be made that followers of The Way should be apolitical so as to avoid the leaven that ruins the whole loaf.

Continue reading A Christian Voter’s Guide

“Mighty Mouse come down and save the day…”

Mighty Mouse

(October 19, 2010 for October 24, 2010)

Today was day two of week two of my “Couch Potato to 5K” running program…and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that twenty minutes filled with repeating periods of jogging ninety seconds and walking two minutes is so exhausting for me–by the time I reach the final jogging cycle I’m pretty much spent. I was pleasantly surprised this morning, just as the last interval began, to have Tesla’s “Mighty Mouse” start playing through my headset. It’s a favorite song for both Michael and me, and was a perfect tune to provide motivation through that last painful minute and a half.

Was it luck? Coincidental timing?

God causing my iPhone’s shuffle mode to play the song I needed just as I needed it?

Continue reading “Mighty Mouse come down and save the day…”