Some random thoughts this morning. Most often we attend a small group Bible study on Sunday nights. This week we hosted at our place. It is a nice time to relax and enjoy other’s company. It is a good time to pray corporately. Almost always it is part of making new friendships in the transient world of a missionary community. We miss friends back home . . . did you know we have been living outside the US for almost 9 years! It has felt short and long. Our kids were small when we left, and now we send our oldest off to college next year at Abilene Christian University. Time really does fly as they say. It is sad to see him go, especially after such a bummer year with the COVID restrictions. On the other hand I am really happy for him. ACU is a blast, or at least it was. I hope it continues to be so. In the picture below are several of our Kijabe friends. One couple runs an organization committed to environmental protection while encouraging productive farming. Another teaches at the local seminary. Another is helping to establish small clinics in the poorest communities of Kenya. Another is an anesthesiologist at the hospital. There is a lot of good work being done!
“The position was not, as I had been comfortably thinking all these months, merely a question of whether I was to accept the Messiah or not. It was a question of whether I was to accept Him—or reject. My God! There was gap behind me, too. Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble—but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God—but, by God, there was no certainty that He was not. If I were to accept, I might, and probably would, face the thought through the years: ‘Perhaps, after all, it’s a lie; I’ve been had!’ But, if I were to reject, I would certainly face the haunting, terrible thought: ‘Perhaps it’s true—and I have rejected my God!’ This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do, once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it and flung myself over the gap toward Jesus.”
Simmons III, Richard E. Reflections On The Existence Of God: A Series Of Essays (pp. 249-250). The Center for Executive Leadership. Kindle Edition.
Working my way through a good book. Here it is quoting an article by Philip Yancey.
I then read an article in Christianity Today that its editor, Philip Yancey, had written. The article summarized an interview that he conducted with a pastor who had fought in World War II and, in fact, had been at Dachau as it was liberated in April 1945. The following is the account of Yancey’s experience: “It was a blustery Chicago day, and I sat hunched in a wool sweater next to a hissing radiator… The pastor looked off to his right, seeming to focus on a blank space on the wall. He was silent for at least a minute. His eyes moved back and forth rapidly, as if straining to fill in the scene from forty years before. Finally, he spoke, and for the next twenty minutes he recalled the sights, the sounds, and the smells especially the smells that greeted his units as they marched through the gates of Dachau. For weeks, the soldiers had heard wild rumors about the camps, but believing them to be war propaganda, they gave little credence to such rumors. Nothing prepared them, and nothing could have possibly prepared them, for what they found inside.
A buddy and I were assigned to one boxcar. Inside were human corpses, stacked in neat rows, exactly like firewood. The Germans, ever meticulous, had planned out the rows alternating the head and feet, accommodating different sizes and shapes of bodies. Our job was like moving furniture. We would pick up each body so light! and carry it to a designated area. Some fellows couldn’t do this part. They stood by the barbed wire fences, retching. I couldn’t believe it the first time we came across a person in the pile still alive. But it was true. Incredibly, some of the corpses weren’t corpses. They were human beings. We yelled for doctors, and they went to work on these survivors right away. I spent two hours in that boxcar, two hours that, for me, included every known emotion: rage, pity, shame, revulsion every negative emotion, I should say. They came in waves, all but the rage. It stayed, fueling our work. We had no other emotional vocabulary for such a scene. After we had taken the few survivors to a makeshift clinic, we turned our attention to the SS officers in charge of Dachau, who were being held under guard in a bunkhouse. Army Intelligence had set up an interrogation center nearby. It was outside the camp, and to reach it, you had to walk down a ravine through some trees. The captain asked for a volunteer to escort a group of twelve SS prisoners to the interrogation center, and Chuck’s hand went straight up. Chuck was the loudest, most brash, most volatile soldier in our unit. He stood about five-feet four inches tall, but he had overly long arms so that his hands hung down around his knees like a gorilla’s. He came from Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, known mainly for its racism and its association with Al Capone. Chuck claimed to have worked for Capone before the war, and not one of us doubted it. Well, Chuck grabbed a submachine gun and prodded the group of SS prisoners down the trail. They walked ahead of him with their hands locked back behind their heads, their elbows sticking out on either side. A few minutes after they disappeared into the trees, we heard the rattling burp of machine gun in three long bursts of fire. We all ducked; it could have been a German sniper in the woods. But soon Chuck came strolling out, smoke still curling from the tip of his weapon. “They all tried to run away,” he said, with a kind of leer. ’
I asked if anyone reported what he did or took disciplinary action. The pastor laughed, and then he gave me a ‘get-serious-this-is-war’ look.
‘No, and that’s what got to me. It was on that day that Ifelt called by God to become a pastor. First, there was the horror of the corpses in the boxcar. I could not absorb such a scene. I did not even know such Absolute Evil existed. But when I saw it, I knew beyond doubt that I must spend my life serving whatever opposed such Evil serving God. Then came the Chuck incident. I had a nauseating fear that the captain might call on me to escort the next group of SS guards, and even more, dreadful fear that if he did, I might do the same as Chuck. The beast that was within those guards was also with me. ’
I could not coax more reminiscing from the pastor that day. Either he had probed the past enough or he felt obligated to move on to our own agenda. But before we left the subject entirely, I asked a question that, as I look back now, seems almost impudent. ‘Tell me,’ I asked, ‘after such a cosmic kind of call to the ministry confronting the great Evil of the century how must it feel to fulfill that call by sitting in this office listening to middle-class yuppies like me ramble on about our problems?’ His answer came back quickly, as if he had asked himself that question many times.
‘I do see the connection,’ he said. ‘Without being melodramatic, I sometimes wonder what might have happened if a skilled, sensitive person had befriended the young, impressionable Adolf Hitler as he wandered the streets of Vienna in his confused state. The world might have been spared all that bloodshed at Dachau. I never know who might be sitting in that chair you’re occupying right now. And even if I end up spending my life with “nobodies,” I learned in the boxcar that there is no such thing. Those corpses with a pulse were as close to nobodies as you can get: mere skeletons wrapped in papery skin. But I would have done anything to keep those poor, ragged souls alive. Our medics stayed up all night to save them; some in our company lost their lives to liberate them. There are no “nobodies.” I learned that day in Dachau what “the image of God” in a human being is all about.
Ask yourself a very simple question. Do you believe that you—and all other human beings—are unique in a way that cannot be explained by the idea that you are a sophisticated animal or an elaborate machine? Do your family members and all the people in your life have value beyond the emotional, physical, and financial support that you get from them? The only way that human life can be extolled and held sacred is if God in His divine wisdom created humanity as a reflection of Himself.
Simmons III, Richard E. Reflections On The Existence Of God: A Series Of Essays (pp. 42-44). The Center for Executive Leadership. Kindle Edition.
Why does a worship-filled, charismatic spirituality thrive on the margins of society? Why do we dance in Holy Ghost conga lines? The answer should be obvious. When life is hard, we must constantly exorcise the demons of despair. And worship, praise, and testimony are how we combat the despair and reach toward hope.
Beck, Richard. Reviving Old Scratch (pp. 131-132). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
There’s nothing better than being wise,
Knowing how to interpret the meaning of life.
Wisdom puts light in the eyes,
And gives gentleness to words and manners.
From Tim Keller . . .
The Bible is not primarily a series of stories with a moral, though there are plenty of practical lessons. Rather, it is a record of God’s intervening grace in the lives of people who don’t seek it, who don’t deserve it, who continually resist it, and who don’t appreciate it after they have been saved by it.
Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be
his positively last appearance.
When something happens that we can’t explain, we say that’s a miracle. Under that set of definitions, most things that a magician does would be a miracle to me, and I know good and well they aren’t. Miracle, through the biblical tradition, is not what we don’t understand but what is done for us that we can’t do ourselves. Miracle is functional. It’s what God does for us or does for us through other people that we can’t do ourselves.It’s possible you could understand it, but even if you did, that wouldn’t make it stop being a miracle. The word does not mean that which is beyond our comprehension but rather that which is beyond our ability. So in that way I can, when I walk out in the morning and see the sun coming up over the horizon, say, “That’s a miracle.” And I would be biblically correct. Every morning is a miracle.So how do you focus your eyes to see the miracle of each day? – Eugene Peterson