Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Olympics and Resurrection

The Olympics are a big deal in our household.  Our family has been excited about the 2012 summer games in London.  We will watch what we can and record what we know we will miss so we can watch it later on.  Mikayla and Bayley get in on the fun too.  It probably doesn’t surprise any of you that they’re favorite competition is women’s gymnastics.

Here are several reasons I like watching the Olympics:
1. I am amazed at the athletic ability of the individuals: just try to do one turn on the Pommel horse or swim 100 meters (any stroke) and you’ll be amazed too!  

2. I think about the time, effort, commitment, fortitude and determination the athletes put into training for the Olympics and I am just blown away. We get to see the culmination of all of that training. For the athletes, this is their moment and we get to root them on.

3. The motivation: They are not competing for money, they are doing it to represent their country by seeing how they stack up against the best in the world.

4. It’s so much fun to root for US athletes, not just for a particular team (like the Carolina Panthers). There is a sense of pride when a US Olympian medals.  

5. The stories: I love hearing about the sacrifices a parent has made or the incredible obstacles that an individual has overcome to arrive on the Olympic stage.

One of the coolest stories in this year’s Olympics is out South Africa about a runner named Oscar Pistorius.  He was originally ban from the 2008 summer Olympics by the International Association of Athletics Federations.  He wasn’t ban because of drugs or cheating, he was ban because he’s a double amputee and runs on prosthetic legs. 

This was deemed an unfair advantage by the IAAF and he was banned from competing.  However, in May of 2008 the Court of Arbitration for Sport reversed the ruling allowing Pistorius the opportunity to compete.  He failed to make the South African Olympic team in 2008 and vowed to train hard and make the team in 2012.  He succeeded in his quest and will be competing in the individual 400 meters and the 4x400-meter relay.  Did I mention he doesn’t have legs?

Its stories like this that impress, inspire and move me.  These kinds of stories remind me that the resurrection didn’t just happen, it happens.  Yes, even in athletics I see the resurrection power at work.  Some people will claim that these individual accomplishments are simply the power of the human spirit at work.  I don’t buy it… and even if I did I would ask “who gave us that human spirit?”  I choose to believe that it’s the work of God because of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  A man without legs competing against the top runners in the world could not happen if not for God’s involvement in our world. 

It’s not by accident that the writer of Hebrews penned these words in the first verse of chapter 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” 

If the Olympic Games aren’t a great example of the rewards of perseverance then I don’t know what is.  God is at work everywhere…we just have to be willing to pay attention.  I hope you will join in me in thinking about resurrection and perseverance and faithfully running the race of life as you watch the 2012 summer Olympics.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Carolina Cross Connection 2012

Last week I attended Carolina Cross Connection.  I attended last year as well and had a great time. 

Before leaving this year I was nervous.  I was worried about a getting a project that we couldn't complete or one that I didn't have the expertise to do well.  I had some reservations about going and not really want to go. 

However, I'm so glad I did go.  It was a week all about serving others and spending time with fellow Christians in an environment conducive to growing close to God.

It was a much different experience than last year.  I remember being stressed last year about building a wheelchair ramp, painting a really high area and cleaning out the basement of a house with awful mold and dead rats.  I guess that's why I was nervous before the trip this year.

The projects given to my work team this year were much simpler.  We painted two days, did yard work two days and built two small step down ramps in one day. 

The staff was passionate, fun, enthusiastic and all about the youth having fun and growing in their faith. 

It was a great week of work, worship and fun!  I would recommend a CCC trip to anyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Honey Bees and the Church

I have a new appreciation for honey bees and honey.  I don't know quite when it happened, but it happened.  Because of this new found appreciation I used honey bees as an illustration of how the church should function in the sermon last Sunday.  I have discovered that honey bees are fascinating creatures.  I'm so glad God made them!

Here are some fun facts for you:

-The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

-Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it's the only food that contains "pinocembrin", an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

-Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work. 

-The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

While those facts may relate to the church, the reason I thought about honey bees when I thought about the church is because each bee has a role to play in the hive.  Each bee has a purpose and if each bee does not fulfill it's purpose, then the hive is at risk of dying.

Here's the various roles of each honey bee:

-The queen lays eggs.

-The drones are the males, they eat and mate, that’s it.

-The worker bees are females…when they are young they keep the hive clean, they tend to the queen bee, they make the comb, they keep the hive cool and they guard the hive. When they get older, they become foragers and gather nectar, pollen, water and a special materials to construct the hive. Worker bees will even remove carcasses from the hive.

For the hive to exist, each bee has to do it’s job. It has to fulfill it’s purpose.

It reminds me of what Paul wrote in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians.  After using the human body as an illustration of the oneness of the church and the purpose of each individual member, in verse 27 he says "You are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it."

You matter to God.  You matter to the Church.  You are valuable and you have a purpose.  You have a mission.  For the church to be everything God wants it to be in the world you must believe this about yourself and act accordingly.

Remember the honey bee. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Harbinger: My Thoughts

I just finished reading Jonathan Cahn’s The Harbinger.  A church member had told me it was a must read.  Just a couple of days after she told me about it I saw a copy of the book at my parent’s house.  One of my mom’s friends told her it was her favorite book.  My mom tried to read it and said she had to put it down.  I was curious, so I picked it up and read it in a morning. 

To be fair and honest, I did not fully immerse myself in the book, I skim read it after the first couple of chapters.  I found the book highly repetitive.  It seemed to be the same thing over and over again.  I am comfortable knowing that I would have come to the same conclusions even if I had read it with an intentional focus on detail.

The book is about a man who has been visited by a prophet several times and is given seven seals that are harbingers to America.  These harbingers connect the events of the Assyrian invasion of Israel to the events of 911.  It is told through the eyes of the man who received these visits as he shares them with a reporter.    

First, I like his conclusion: I do believe God is calling “us” back to him.  However, I would expand Cahn’s use of the word “us”.  I believe God is not just calling America back to him, I believe God is calling every individual of every nation, tribe and tongue!  And I believe He is calling us every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year for the rest of our lives. 

Second, it gets ridiculously repetitive.  Not just the story, but the dialogue.  After the 3rd or 4th chapter I knew I could skim read and get the message the author was trying to convey.  I cannot imagine wading through the overly redundant dialogue with a focused intention. 

Third, I do not agree with the connections made between Israel falling to the Assyrians in the prophecies of Isaiah and the events of 911.  Israel was in a suzerain treaty type of covenant with their God.  That’s why God operated the way He did: He was executing the arrangements of the covenant.  In the New Testament Jesus fulfilled the old covenant to bring about a new covenant:  a covenant of grace. 

I do not see the founding fathers of the United States of America entering into a covenant with God like that of the Isaraelites.  They couldn’t have even if they had wanted too because the new covenant is one of grace established once and for all through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, what bothered me the most is that what Cahn does in the book.  It's eisegesis at its finest.  On the surface, the connections made between Israel (Isaiah 9:10) and the events of 911 seem amazing and more than a coincidence, however, without using good biblical hermeneutics anyone can make the Bible say anything they want it to say.  I have a really really hard time believing that the fall of Israel has anything at all to do with the tragic events of 911. 
What was written in Isaiah was for a specific time to a specific prophet with a specific audience in mind to address a specific situation.  To do what Cahn does is to neglect the original intent of the author and avoid good biblical interpretative methods. 

The easiest question I have ever had on an exam in seminary was this: what are the three most important things to consider when interpreting a text of the Bible?  There were three blanks numbered one two and three like this:


The answer:
1.       Context

2.       Context

3.       Context

Cahn neglects the context of Isaiah and makes the text say what he wants it to say.  The reason it’s so persuasive is because Cahn breaks out some Hebrew words and meanings and demonstrates a capacity for bibilical history that the average Bible reader does not know.  The reader then gets sucked into thinking “well if he knows Hebrew and he knows Biblical history then his application must be right too.”  To be fair, my Hebrew is quite rusty, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of his use of the language.  While I do agree with the conclusion of Cahn’s application his process of getting there really bugs me as a pastor who takes serious consideration when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

Lastly, I can appreciate what Cahn is trying to accomplish with the book.  If I am right he is trying to warn America about it’s turning away from God (through greed, over consumption, selfishness, pride, etc.) and he’s trying to bring people to Christ.  However, these two noble purposes are executed with poor biblical interpretation and a redundant fictional story.

This book will probably be a bestseller because it’s about end times and America and mystery and seals and prophecies and how it is all connected.  For some reason many Christians love that kind of stuff.  I would just say “read with caution.”  People have said that this book has shaken them up and everyone needs to read it.  I didn't have that experience with this book.
However, books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Radical by David Platt, Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and my next read The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns are the kind of books that shake me up as a Christian. 
Also, if you really want to get educated on how to read the Bible in a way that is faithful to the original context, two books I would recommend are How to Readthe Bible for All it’s Worth and The Blue Parakeet (I haven't read this one but I trust Scot Mcknight and have heard good things about it).