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Category: Bible

The safest place in a storm

On my office wall hangs a vivid photograph entitled, “Phares dans la Tempete, La Jument.[1]” It shows a lighthouse keeper at La Jument reef, standing in the door of his lighthouse just as a towering wave nearly engulfs the structure from behind.

Original photo by Jean Guichard, http://www.jean-guichard.com/

As retold later in Celtic Countries magazine,[2] the story of the shot goes as follows.

On December 21, 1989, a powerful storm smashed into the area, hitting the lighthouse with gale force winds and with waves reaching up to 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) high. During the night, the massive waves crashed through the lighthouse’s lower windows, flooding its living quarters and forcing the keeper to escape to the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse. read more

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That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)

On November 30, 2015, the ABC television network aired the 50th anniversary special of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” This annual animated TV show, based on Charles Schultz’s comic strip “Peanuts,” has traditionally aired shortly following the Thanksgiving weekend to kick off the Christmas season. It tells the story of Charlie Brown’s depression and angst at Christmas as he tries to find the point of it all amidst the shallow emptiness of commercialism.

The show is a big deal for me—so big, in fact, that I consider it the start of my Advent season. My tradition is that my Christmas tree and lights must be up and glowing before the program airs.

I want to kick of my Christmas celebration with the whole Peanuts gang. read more

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A tale of two miracles

There are two occasions in the Bible when God miraculously parted the waters:[1] the more famous Exodus account (Exodus 14:21ff), and the lesser known Joshua account (Joshua 3:7ff).

The Exodus account gets all the acclaim, primarily because it was none other than Charlton Heston standing at the banks of the Red Sea majestically holding his staff over the water. Thus far, the best we have come up with to portray Joshua is a cucumber from Veggietales.

Still, both miracles fall into the category of “something that doesn’t happen every day.” Both go against the laws of physics, Both defy explanation. And both result in making a way for God’s people, sending them from the old into the new. read more

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One day every knee shall bow…including Google’s

“Knowledge is power,” Sir Frances Bacon wrote in 1597. Three centuries later, English historian Lord John Acton added, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority.”

Hmm…

So, if “knowledge is power,” and “power corrupts,” then one might conclude: “Knowledge corrupts.”

Granted, this is a syllogism – not the most valid form of argument.

Still, the world seems hell-bent on proving it true.

Knowledge seems very squishy these days. Each of us considers our own perspective to be based on “facts,” and opposing perspectives on “alternative facts.” Even “fact-checking” has lost credibility—especially when it exposes the fact-checkers’ own biases. Yet most of us tend to find and believe “facts” that support our preferred narrative, with no further thought or research at all. read more

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Battling demons and finding God on the ash heap

2017 finally comes to a close, and I am ringing in the new year firmly ensconced upon a pile of ashes.

This is definitely not the place others flock to when welcoming in a new year. Dusty, bleak, a place of exile and uncertainty. You don’t count down the final seconds of 2017 on the ash heap; instead, you wrestle with endless questions about how you got there with a God who seems more interested in the annual ball drop in Times Square. You wait, trying to understand the rationale of another who is infinitely above your pay-grade.

Kind of like Job after the Accuser chopped him off at the ankles. As part of what looks like a mysterious cosmic bet, Job loses his children, his livestock, his wealth, and eventually his health over a short period of time. He retreats to the mound of ashes where he sits quietly with friends, saying nothing for a week. Then the characters engage in a misguided debate about the cause of suffering and its relation to sin before God himself finally enters the discussion with one of the most beautiful and frustrating responses to humanity’s suffering in the entire Bible. read more

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When the world rejects your prayers, pray anyway

It didn’t take long after the tragedy in Las Vegas for the bloviating and hyperbole to begin. While many expressed shock and sadness for both the victims and for the city itself, sadly others took the massacre as a call to arms to press their political agendas. In the name of compassion, this latter group rejected the compassion of a country that was shocked into momentary paralysis as though they even had right to reject it in the first place.

Armed with the principle of never letting a crisis go to waste, they insist, “No! Only action is compassion.” And so, they shame, guilt, and demand action even before the blood is dry.

This has always bothered me. While the nation is still doubled-over in shock, using intense grief to promote an agenda—no matter how sincere—seems to amount to little more than emotional abuse. Any grief or pastoral counselor will tell you, decisions made in the heat of emotion almost never turn out well. In seminary, I had a professor tell his class, “Never resign on a Monday.” read more

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Final thoughts: Jesus, his kingdom, and predicting the end of the world

Apparently, in a matter of hours, we’re all going to die.

Really.

According to a Christian Numerologist—whatever that is—September 23, 2017 is the day when an unseen planet known either as Planet X or Nibiru will come crashing to earth, creating tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, flooding, and—far worse—the widespread release of the movie mother! to a frantic public.

This will result in wide-spread panic, confusion, and other levels of mayhem.

There is already evidence of this: The Great Solar Eclipse, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the flooding in Houston, and the Mexico City earthquake.

Even the Bible backs up this claim, Luke 21:25-26:

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” read more

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When the world went strangely dim: God’s glory amidst suffering and hate

My wife and I traveled down to my sister’s house in Albany, Oregon to experience the great eclipse a couple of weeks ago. From Oregon to South Carolina, the moon blocked out the sun, casting a 70-mile-wide shadow across the United States. Albany happened to be in the path of totality. Portland would get a 99.2% showing of the eclipse.

But what a difference .8% makes.

My wife and I sat in my sister’s backyard and donned our dorky eclipse glasses.

For an hour, we watched the moon slide slowly across the surface of the sun. A show like one we have never seen was about to begin. About fifteen minutes out of totality, Albany grew darker—a strangely dim type of darkness, not quite twilight, not quite dusk. It was like looking through oddly-tinted sunglasses. read more

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Changing our response to a violent world

We live in a violent world. Always have. And if I were a betting man, I’d say we always will. If humans excel — truly excel — at anything, it is coming up with new, exciting ways to kill each other. This will always be the case, as long as we exist in a broken, sinful world.

At the May 22 Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, a terrorist attack killed 23 people and injured 116. Days later, on a cross-town train in my town of Portland, Oregon, a white supremacist knifed three protectors trying to stop his hate speech toward two minority women. The women escaped, but two of their protectors died.

Acts like these obliterate the idea that this world can somehow overcome violence and achieve peace. We can preach platitudes, but does anyone really think Katy Perry can change the heart of ISIS by begging them to “coexist”? We can pass laws, but does anyone truly believe determined terrorists can’t circumvent them? And if we ask our governments to respond, virtually their only tools are sanctions (not always effective) or brute force (more violence). read more

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Why is the cross so hated around the world?

Last Tuesday, as I waited outside for someone to unlock my church for an event, a young couple walked by. As they passed, the woman read aloud, not once but twice, a sign on the door and gave a loud, exaggerated snort of derision. Then she actually turned around and came back to snap a photo of it. Judging from her sharp, sarcastic laughter, I was sure the photo would be posted online with a snarky comment — something about the stupidity of church people.

On the outside, I briefly made eye contact with her and gave her a nod and a smile.

But on the inside, I sensed the insult and felt a rush of snappy retorts. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit kept my pie-hole closed.

After she left, I turned to see what she had found so funny. The sign just said: “No woman’s [sic] Bible reading tonight.” read more

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