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Archive for October, 2012

Where was God when Sandy hit? It is quite easy to wonder about these things when a natural disaster strikes. Some answer that these types of events are evidence that God doesn’t exist. Or they may argue that if he does exist, he is either not powerful enough to stop the storm, or else he is unloving (and maybe even hateful) for allowing the hurricane to inflict such destruction and death on people. How can God be good and still allow such evil and suffering?

Throughout history, people have been terrified of the sea. This is evidenced by some biblical passages which refer to the waters that “roar and foam” and mountains that tremble at the swelling of the sea (Psalm 46). And now this week we are again reminded of why these ancient folks would be more likely to run from the ocean than lay on the sand of its beaches. God’s creation is full of delights and dread. Christians live with the tension that we worship a loving God who keeps his eye on the sparrow and yet allows 1000 mile wide storms to deface his creation, destroy property and take human lives.

There are no easy answers to this.  Of course, Christians who think a lot about these things usually have well prepared answers to those sorts of answers.  One thing we do know is that we wouldn’t be aware of the apparent injustice of it all if we didn’t have a sense of what is good and bad. Deadly hurricanes shock us because we have a sense of what is good and just – and where could that come from besides a benevolent God? Regardless, our aim as Christians is not prove ourselves right, but to show just how good and loving our God really is. That cannot be done through our words alone:  John the Apostle said, “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.”

Jesus was well aware of the perils at sea. One of his more famous miracles is his calming of a storm whose waves were about to sink his disciple’s little fishing boat. “Peace, be still” were his words.  And that was it. The sea returned to normal.  This passages points to something a little more than God calming the “storms” of our personal lives. It shows that when God comes to reclaim his creation from the forces of evil and destruction, all of nature responds in silent obedience, doing no more harm to God’s image bearers – humankind. Obviously, this has not come to final fulfillment as it seems that natural disasters are getting worse if anything. Yet Jesus appearance on earth as the one who calms the raging storms points us to a time when all creation will be restore to its rightful condition. A time when winds will only bring gentle spring-like breezes and the waters will bring only cool refreshment. A time when John the Apostle also said he saw “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more.” And along with that, no pain or death.

Until then, the Christian challenge is to be anticipating that day, by being about the business of showing God’s love in practical ways.  Most of us probably can’t take a chainsaw up to New Jersey or deliver supplies. But some of us may be able help out those who are helping out. I have listed some links to organization below who are assisting with the relief effort.

Samaritan’s Purse –  Christian relief organization that helps out around the world and in the U.S. (especially during disasters such as Sandy)

http://www.umcor.org/ – The United Methodist Committee on Relief

http://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-sandy-victims/story?id=17598687#.UJHWamf4JdI
– List of several (mostly well known) charitable organizations who are accepting donations.

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Even in this Age

In my previous post, I wrote about the information overload that seems  to overwhelm us in this digital age. I don’t belive the answer is to hide in a cave and avoid technology. In many ways, the our 21st century problems are not much different from 1st century problems.  Just like us, our ancestors faced the challenge of being still and intentially seeking to hear God’s voice and experience his presence.  The pagan nations that surronded Israel would ridicule their Jewish neighbors for not working the seventh day of the week. The Gentiles saw the Sabbath rest as laziness. Yet God had given Israel the Sabbath not such much to lay around and indulge themsevles; but  to intentionally worship him. The day served to give the people a break  from all the things that could distract them from their God given purposes.  Work was not the problem. If fact, God has blessed labor and intends for mankind to be fully engaged in the work of maintaining his creation – for the good of human society and his own glory. However, God knew in their sinful state, that his people would need to intentionally withdrawl from their labors and focus on him, or else they would forget the reason for their work.

Like work, technology is not the problem. The problem is with the way technology can consume us and, in a sense, replace God in our lives. Mobile technology promises to always be there for us, whenever and wherever we need it. Does this sound familiar? It should. Jesus himself has promised to be with us always. He has sent his Holy Spirit to be our constant comfort, friend, and teacher.  It is hard to be aware of the presence of the Spirit in our lives when we are continually distracted by digital companions and guides.  Instead of searching the web, our first thought should be to cast all of cares upon him. We must once again believe that God is really everywhere, that his grace is given to everyone around us, and that he works through his people to accomplish amazing things, with and without 4G wireless networks.

Thinking like this doesn’t come automatically. Its not easy to avoid distractions – Jesus himself had to get up extra early to avoid the crows in order to pray.  So, at times, we must turn off the TV, put the iPhone on the charger, and leave the iPod at home – a “Sabbath” from technology.  We must choose to be still and know that the creator of heaven and earth is God.  We must choose to intentionally be available to serve our neighbors as Christ taught us; all the while remembering that he truly is with us until the end of the age – even the digital age.

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Information Overload?

t seems that we are hammered with a steady stream of information. From listening to the radio on the way to work, to talking and texting on our phones, watching TV and updating our Facebook status, there is always some voice, some image, coming at us.  We have iPods in our ears and computers in our laps.  The major feature of technology is its mobility – communication and information wherever we are. I recently saw an ad from a Christian publishing company extolling the virtues of being able to study anywhere with its software downloaded to a smartphone or tablet.  What a long way theologians have come. St Paul longed for a copy of the scriptures to read and study and had to request Timothy to bring him “the parchments.”  Now it is possible to have all of scriptures, virtually every commentary, and all the writings of Christian thinkers from the 1st Century until now – all on the iPhone in your pocket.

Yes, mobile technology has its uses. I’m all for certain time saving devices, and I happen to be writing this on a laptop computer (by the way, laptops are those old fashion machines that  were invented before the iPad). However, can we have too much of a good thing? Is it ever OK to just be in one place without being in some distant virtual land at the same time. Is there any value in stopping and smelling the roses around us without identifying the species on our iPhone app? Am I better or worse off having all the knowledge of Google at my fingertips?  Is all this information consumption making us smarter or dumber? Is watching the news constantly making us depressed?  Are we able to hear the still silent voice of God in our everyday lives with the iPod in our ears? Are we able to see God’s self revelation in the beauty that surrounds us with our gazed fixed on our iPhones?

Just some of my musings….any thoughts?

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As we come to the table of the Lord, we are not only coming together as a local church. We are  coming together as one global body in Christ to remember his broken body and bloody death for the sins of the world. The problem that infects humans – namely sin and the failure to live properly as God’s image bearers – has affected the whole earth. St Paul tells us that the whole creation is subject to the bondage of decay. This is the Christian explanation for all the suffering, destruction, chaos and even death itself that ravages our planet.

From very early in the story, God’s plan was for the redemption of the whole world. Even as God was establishing his covenant with Abraham to make of him a great nation, he promised him that all the nations of the earth would be blessed as a result of Abraham. Simeon, a faithful Jew living during the days of Jesus’ birth, was familiar with prophecies of a new Jewish King who would reign over Israel and all nations, bringing salvation and peace to the world. Here is part of what he said after he saw the baby Jesus:

“…for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon realized that this new King would be a king for all peoples, bringing much needed salvation and restoration to the entire earth. He would be a light to the whole world, including those wretched Gentiles, who were not so well liked by first century Jews because of their pagan lifestyle.

Jesus himself told of “many who will come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  This was in the context of receiving a request from a Gentile Roman military official (just the kind of people the Jews didn’t care for) for the healing of his servant.  This was Jesus way of saying that in his kingdom, all nations, tribes, and ethic groups who trust in him as Lord will be welcomed to come to his feast.  Race, ethnicity, and geography are no barriers to the Lord’s table.  Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, and has risen again to “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”  So lets eat the bread and drink of the cup, not as mere individuals, but as members of Christ, who is fulfilling God’s global purpose to rescue the earth from its bondage to decay and destruction, and to unite all peoples under the banner of King Jesus.

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