Sunday, August 17, 2014

Let's Talk About My Calling

I'm weird. I believe in really poetic, non-linear, semi-esoteric things that many other people might dismiss as "ungrounded," "illogical," or just "different." I look at God not as a being somewhere else who sometimes interacts with what I'm doing here, but instead as the Thing every other thing exists within--swimming through God like clumsy fat fish.

So it makes sense that when I hear people talk about "Calling" (as in "this is my calling, you guys) I react differently than most. See, I'm deeply committed to my belief God is calling and speaking to us all the time, through all the things around us. I believe we are called to a lot of specific things every day, and then if we don't answer, then God will just keep calling us to something else like the kid in the car who is so excited about every single thing he sees out the window--"look a tree! A cow! A horse!" He wants to call us to stuff because it makes Him happy to make us fulfilled. 
Sometimes He might just want us to invite Him into what we already love to do. If you love playing soccer, let Him get some of that! God loves you to be you doing what you do. If you see something that is completely against the way God wants His world to be (like a policeman shooting an unarmed black kid just for not walking on the sidewalk in Missouri maybe) then you are already called to do something about that.

There was a man named Saul who hated what the early followers of Jesus were saying. He felt like his version of religious truth was THE truth and that the early followers of Jesus were heretics because they didn't believe exactly the same way he did and they didn't follow the rules like him and they didn't interpret Scriptures like him (man, the first century was TOTALLY unlike today, right?).  Saul was so mad at these guys that he was roaming town to town making sure they were arrested and even executed. One day he was heading from one execution to another when a light blinded him and then Jesus asked him why he was persecuting these guys. Jesus spoke to Saul from a light and he was immediately blinded. After that event, he changed his name to Paul and started preaching the Gospel of Jesus to non-Jews all over the Mediterranean area. Well, there was a bit of him "working out his salvation" and all that, but basically he was called while riding a donkey, and then he answered the calling. This is a special case, and is not indicative of the way God calls most people, but that should be painfully obvious as I don't know anyone who has been blinded Jesus and told what he or she was going to do for the rest of his or her life. 

To me, "calling" is a progressive revealing of the future God has for you. You may not ever see your whole calling all at once, but instead you'll see bits and pieces of your calling coming through the fog while the rest hides. To believe that I know I am called to spend the rest of my life doing___ would be really presumptuous of me. I believe I am called to work with students right now, but as far as the next 25 years go, I have no idea what I'll be doing.



Recently I took a job with Youth For Christ. I'm going to work in Germany with international students. These are kids whose parents have been transferred to Germany by their jobs. The students I will be working with are from all over, giving me the opportunity to share the Love I have found with young people who can take that Love back to their homelands and spread it all over the world. I am extremely excited about this next step and believe it is the calling for the next few years of my life. I believe God has revealed through my study of my past as well as prayer about my future that I am supposed to go do this, that I am skilled in what I need, and that he is going to make me adequate. God's absolute futurity--to be God is to be the future and the present and the past all simultaneously--would speak to His ability to prepare me completely for His calling. He has prepared me, is preparing me, and will prepare me in the same way He has called me, will call me, and is calling me simultaneously. The reason the traditional view of calling falls short of the mark for me is it negates what we now know about the quantum nature of time. God has always been calling me in the same way I have always been moving through God to the moment in which He called me. 

I would love your prayer as I move into this new position. I would love your support as I try to raise the substantial funds needed to make this ministry possible (Click HERE to donate to my ministry account). I would love your encouragement because the hardest part of this calling is going to be leaving so many friends behind in the states for long stretches, and loneliness can kill a calling. 

This is an exciting new chapter and one that I could not have foreseen for me even a year ago. I am excited to step into it, and excited to see what God is going to amaze me with as I do. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and I will continue to follow His love like a pillar of fire in the night.   

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mario not Bombs

We were going to buy souvenirs. Quick in-quick out trip to a souvenir shop downtown and then a drag race back to the compound to avoid the Ramadan late night traffic that the Kingdom is famous for. The traffic in Saudi Arabia is usually like ants scrambling to rebuild an ant-mound if the ants all had chainsaws and were on fire, but during the nights of Ramadan it is doubley murderous.
We went in to the shop and quickly found the things we were going to buy, and then paid for them. I wanted ot walk upstairs and get coffee from the coffee shop I had seen plenty of times, but never when it was open. I wandered up there and an Arab teenager made me a macchiato. Another Arab teenager asked me where I was from and what I was doing there. I told him I was from near Dallas. So was he, apparently. Born and raised in Irving, TX, this young Saudi had moved back with his family to the homeland only a year prior. The world in so small it can fit inside a marble. 
The coffee shop was crowded. Jeremiah, my work associate, asked why there were so many young dudes hanging in a souvenir-shop's coffee house and we were told there was a Super Smash Brothers tournament on the Wii taking place that night. Of course there was. Why wouldn't this coffee shop in Saudi Arabia be the perfect setting--and these young men the perfect hosts--for a nintendo game tournament? 
Sometimes international travel exposes your preconceived notions of people groups. Sometimes it shows you that--no matter how progressive you think you are--you really are a prejudiced and racist son of a gun. And sometimes you play a Smash Brothers tournament in a coffee shop drinking Italian espresso in Saudi Arabia at midnite in Saudi Arabia and nothing on earth makes sense. 
The internet has broken down walls wars and "spreading democracy" never could. The internet is the greatest export the West has ever given the world, and is responsible for the spread of culture, communication, information, and the quest for freedom across every continent on earth. We are in a great and magic age of our planet's history as every person on earth is growing more and more connected each day. As this growth happens, we are seeing the growing pains. We are seeing the old ways of doing things continue to rear its ugly head. We are seeing bombs and guns still being thought of as "redemptive" and "peace-making" instead of Love, understanding, and compassion.
The Middle East is in the middle of a rebirth. The more the wars and fires of hate rage on in the region, the more the youth gathered in coffee shops playing video games will demand a different recourse. These kids will see the West in a different way than their grandfathers. They will be able to interact with people and find it hard to hate them. 
I got destroyed in the first round of the tournament. I hadn't played that game since college, so I wasn't expecting much out of my entry, but I was demolished in minutes. The guys shook my hand and Jeremiah and I left the shop and risked our lives driving back home. Meanwhile, Israel and Palestine were beginning another round of violence miles away. Hate and ignorance were ruling the region that was once the home of the Son of Man who asked us to "turn the other cheek." The words of the Prince of Peace were muted in the ears of so many that night. I pray we can find compassion, understanding, and love for people who we view as different from ourselves because war and violence are ALWAYS so far removed from the will of Jesus, they aren't even in the same building. 
More mario, less war. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One Good Thing

The world is absurd, if we are to believe Camus, and no meaning can be found in existence. There really isn't a difference between winning and losing and any narrative of meaning is a forced construct of our selves attempting to synthesize meaning on a life devoid of purpose. Nihilism is the only proper reaction to the evil and darkness we see in the world.  This is a totally logical response to life, and I can't fault anyone for having the belief that evil is proof of the meaninglessness of life. However, I subscribe to a different school of thought.

You ever work with glitter? Of course you have. You probably loved it as a kid, because everyone loved glitter as a kid. We all did, because GLITTER. Now we don't like it as much. In fact, I can't stand glitter and when I grab something that has glitter on it, I drop it immediately because I don't want to get glitter on my hands because it will literally never come off of them. Glitter is resilient and magic in its ability to leap from objects onto other objects and then cling to them like a tick on a dog. I can be in the same room as something with glitter on it, like a Christmas ornament decorated by a child, and then five days later I will have glitter on my face somehow. 
I will look at my face, which may not be the best looking face in the world but is decidedly mostly non-glittery, and I will immediately see the shimmering glint of a microscopic speck of glitter on my cheek. Glitter just rubs off on everything.

The world is full of terrible things. It may have been created perfect, but is decidedly mostly non-perfect. There is violence inherent in the systems of government we love and the ones we hate. There is death all around us--literally everyone we love we will have to mourn one day. Kids get cancer. People are kidnapped and sold into slavery. There is a reason the "problem of evil" is a problem. There is a reason why we jump through philosophical and theological hoops trying to explain how a good God who loves us can allow such terrible things to happen to people--how our Father's world can seem to be full of misery and heartache. 
Why do bad things happen to good people? 
Are there good people?
What if there aren't?
What if there aren't good people and 'good' is merely an illusion created by the relative goodness of some people compared to the evil of other people. 

What if....

There is just One Good Thing in the whole universe.  This One Good Thing is spinning and moving and holding the other things all together and is so big It runs into stuff all the time and pops out to say hello. The One Good Thing is so good, so amazingly good It can't do anything but good things. It is The One Good Thing after all, and these good things It does are merely pieces of Itself left like glitter on stuff. The One Good Thing is so big and so good It is leaving Its goodness-glitter all over the universe and we can see this goodness and it confuses us because it stands out so much against the evil everywhere else. We can't describe the Good Thing without talking about the good things It does and good people stand out because they have the most glitter on them--the One Good Thing has rubbed off on them the most. The only way to get the One Good Thing to rub off on you is to be close to It, to touch It, to get glitter on your face and then watch as that pesky glitter keeps showing up in the strangest places. On a table where there are fifteen things without any glitter on them, and one thing with glitter on it, your eye will be drawn to the glitter. Eventually, if you move the glittery thing around the table, shaking it over the other less-shiny stuff, there will be glitter on everything. Glitter has to get on stuff, it has to make things shine. Goodness is not the norm, but the One Good Thing is rubbing off on people, making them carriers of the One Good Thing to the evil and dark world in which they live. 

God is the One Good Thing in the universe. He is so good He can only do good things all the time, always, forever. He invented good by His existence because good is predicated on what He is because good is, by definition, God. Nothing good is done without God being a part of it. No child can laugh without God existing on the sound waves of the pure and undefiled joy that laughter carries. No lovers can kiss without God existing in the micrometers between their lips, holding love in His being because He is LOVE. He is everything good, everything beautiful, everything that makes birds sing and flowers grow. He is the giver of good gifts and the bringer of stars into darkness. The One Good Thing is good enough to overpower a broken world because glitter shows up where you least expect it. The One Good Thing is big enough. In It we live and move and walk around covered in love and glitter and good things. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Johnny Cash Met Jesus in a Cave in Tennessee

Johnny Cash once crawled into a cave to die. Depression, loss, heartache, and drug abuse had made him regret living and he crawled into a cave in Tennessee, hoping to never crawl out. Somewhere in that cave he met Jesus. Although it seems like a funny place for the God from God, Light from Light to be hanging out, a cave is the perfect place to go looking for Jesus, even if you don't know you need to find him. 
Jesus is hiding out in the open sometimes, but we don't look for Him there. He is waiting for us in caves, too. Johnny Cash was ready to die. He had betrayed everyone he had ever loved and felt the world might be better off without him. Hit records and money couldn't keep him from crawling into a dark hole, and they didn't get him out of there either. He had a vision of Jesus in that cave, after several hours. This Jesus told Cash he was loved and that he should live his life in service of Jesus. Johnny Cash crawled out of the cave. When he reached the mouth of the cave, his wife and family were there waiting on him with armfuls of forgiveness. 
Miracles appear in the strangest of places. We can't be sure we will notice them when they happen unless we are available to their happening. In John 12, one of the weirdest things that has ever happened is described. Jesus is talking with His disciples about the day of His death and He just says to the sky "Father Glorify your name," and then God audibly answers "I have glorified it and will glorify it again." That's so remarkable to me.
Because you've heard God answer someone else audibly before, right?
When this happened, some people in the crowd were convinced it was just thunder, and others that an angel was talking with Jesus (because that happens all the time too).
God just spoke to the man in front of them, and they heard it, but they were so unable to see the miraculous in that moment they missed it. We miss the miracle all the time. 
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Cynicism is not on the list. Cynicism is the fruit of the first-world. We grow tired in our comfort and security and callous ourselves to anything not obvious or empirical. We are cynical because we can afford to be. Cynicism is a commodity like air-conditioning or wifi access that we stockpile and expect of one another. We hear someone's faith-like-a-child description of a miracle in his or her life and immediately discredit it because it doesn't fit into our box. We have our lives and our God so compartmentalized, we get upset when He spills out of His box. We put leather Bible-covers over our leather Bibles, a metaphor of the distance we like to keep from the penetrating, convicting, and instructive Word of God. We use the verses we like to put down dirty-living people and make ourselves feel better while being unable to recognize our god-in-a-box is dying because He can't be kept in captivity. 
Either everything is miraculous or nothing is. Either Jesus appeared literally to Johnny cash in a cave or He doesn't appear to anyone ever. 
I choose to believe the whispers of God are blowing across the grass. I believe the sun-rays on my cheeks are gifts of the Father who loves us and gave Himself for us. I believe the God of the universe became a person once and lived among us. I believe the Light of life dwelt among the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. I believe resurrection is not a one-time thing, but that dead men are brought back to life daily by the God who can't help but do miracles and blow people's mind. I believe grace is found in caves in Tennessee and coffee shops in Saudi Arabia, on this mountain and in Jerusalem, and that your feet can be anywhere and your eyes can see Heaven. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Robert Horry and the Church

I was never allowed to play point guard. Not like it was against the rules in my house growing up or anything like that, but I just wasn't good enough at handling the ball as a kid for any coaches to think about letting me run the point. I was also tall and uncoordinated for my age until high school, so I played down low during my formative years and dribbled the ball on rare occasions at most. If the ball came to me on a rebound, I looked for the nearest fast guy on my team and passed the ball to him. I still instinctively do that in pick-up games to this day--I don't dribble the ball up the court.

In 1992, Robert Horry was selected with the eleventh pick in the NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. Horry would go on to play 16 seasons in the NBA and win seven championships, helping the Rockets, Lakers, and Spurs all get rings. No player who didn't play for the 60's Celtics has won more championships than Robert Horry, not Michael Jordan, not Kobe Bryant, and not Lebron James. Horry was instrumental in many of those title runs, earning the nickname "Big Shot Bob," due to his knack for hitting clutch shots at the end of games. Many of you probably haven't ever heard of Horry, unless you're an NBA fan like myself you probably don't remember much about him. Most likely he won't ever be in the hall of fame, but he is a perfect example of someone who utilized his talents and played his role on his team to perfection. I mean, it was like he was always wide open at the end of games, ready to knock down a three.

Each team needs a superstar, and each team needs players to fill holes and play roles on the team in order to be successful. Robert Horry played with Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'neal, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan. He was never relied on to be the superstar, he just needed to do his job.
If Robert Horry walked out on the court, gave Shaq a fist bump, and then said, "This is my night, big fella, I'm going for 50." Shaq would have slapped the back of his head. The Lakers didn't need Horry to be gunning for big point totals each night. In fact, if he tried to be the superstar they would probably lose more games than they'd win. They needed him to facilitate Shaq and Kobe, play good defense, and knock down wide open threes. If he deviated from his role, the team would suffer. Robert Horry's career is a study in self-awareness, commitment to a group effort, and the importance of knowing one's role.

The Church could learn a lot from Robert Horry.

In the 1990's, President Clinton invited Billy Graham to a rally for his campaign. This was in the midst of President Clinton's infamous sex scandal, so there were many people upset with Rev. Graham for attending the rally. Some people equated attending the rally with condoning the immoral behavior of the President (imagine that!). When pressed about why he was there, knowing all the bad things Clinton had been accused of doing, Rev. Graham answered simply, "It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge, and my job to love."

Billy Graham from the corner...YES (Marv Albert voice)

Billy Graham wasn't confused as to what his role should be. He didn't have to think twice about being at the rally. He was there to love people, because it is his job to love people. From the standpoint of how we as followers of Jesus treat people we disagree with--people we call "sinners"--this statement should hit us right where we live. We need to give up the ball to someone who can actually dribble.
Oftentimes the Church is guilty of getting its role confused with the role of Jesus. We, as a church, can find ourselves equating membership in our club with salvation, and try to get people into church instead of allowing Jesus to do the saving. NT Wright says it better (as is always the case):
"Only when we grasp firmly that the church is not Jesus and Jesus is not the church--when we grasp, in other words, the truth of the ascension, that the one who is indeed present with us by the Spirit is also the Lord who is strangely absent, strangely other, strangely different from us and over against us, the one who tells Mary Magdalene not to cling to him--only then are we rescued from both hollow triumphalism and shallow despair." 
The church tries to fill the void left by a Jesus it presumes to be absent from the world, when in fact He is as present now as ever. He is still Lord, and is now King of His Kingdom. The Church is merely His servant on earth. If you try to put the Church, your church, or your pastor on the pedestal reserved for Christ, you will be doomed for despair when humans prove themselves human. The Ascension of the risen, fully-human Jesus shows us that He is in the heavenly dimension, running the show. It goes against the idea that "heaven" is a non-material realm of spirits, which only proves the importance of this life, this body, and this Church. We broken jars of clay are holding the Truth of the universe and are charged to be ambassadors of love in a world desperate for it. When we get our role confused we do anything but draw people to the love of the resurrected Savior who sits on His throne forever. Let the Savior save, let the Almighty be all-mighty, and be ready to hit open shots.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'm an Occupier, but Learning

Two men play chess a table away from me. Another reclines on his ice cream cart. He might be asleep. Lazy waves reluctantly meet shore a few yards behind him. The unmistakable sound of a small engined motorcycle--the liberator of the third world--moves closer and then past me. It's 1:30pm on a Tuesday, but weekday and weekend blend together in the Philippines. This year for Lent I have been trying to give up, to truly allow God to be in charge of the future and to not worry about things so much. 
A lot of people claim to take the Bible literally until it gets to passages that make them uncomfortable, then they will tell you what Jesus really meant, instead of what He said. The people He was talking to had a lot more in common with the guy asleep on his ice cream cart than they have with me. I am not one of the opressed. No matter what the preacher on TV is saying, Christians in America aren't being persecuted. I am not a member of those living on the fringe of society. 
In fact, I'm a citizen of the empire. I live in the most affluent society in the history of the planet. My country is in charge of global politics and bends the world's resources towards its wishes. America has little in common with first century Palestine, and I have less in common with a first century Palestinian Jew who has been living his life under Roman occupation than I do with the Roman soldiers doing the occupying. 
So when Jesus tells people who are worrying about being clothed tomorrow not to worry about anything, how do I read that? I have never once worried about not having clothes to wear. I have never once worried about not being able to feed myself. Fundamentally--literally--this passage has nothing to do with me. I worry about things like not having the right clothes, about not eating the best food, and about not having the most fun all of the time. 
Many of the 99 million people who live in the Philippines get by on 50 cents a day. I can't even begin to think about trying to do that. Poverty as they experience it doesn't really allow for financial planning. They are rarely guilty of storing up treasures on earth. One of the problems found among the extremely poor is an inability to save extra money when they do get it. They spend every nickel they make because that's all they've ever known to do. For them, currency is current. This is one of the hardest things for middle-class people to understand when working with the financially impoverished. I was always taught to save, but I was always under the impression there would be money coming in tomorrow. 
Jesus literally tells us not to be anxious about anything at all. For us, clothes and food are minor anxieties, but for his listeners they were major worries. Jesus makes it clear that our motivation should be gratitude for the provisions of God. If the motivation for saving is worry, then you're out of line. Action is never the point of Christ's teachings because He isn't concerned as much with the external attributes of man as He is with the heart. Your motivation for action is His biggest focus. If gratitude, selflessness, and love aren't the reason for doing something, then it is probably wrong. If the reason for doing it is worry, even if the action is moral, then it is wrong. Worry sucks the life out of life. It robs the joy from the miracle of existence. 
The lesson I learn from the Filipinos is a lesson of gratitude. They don't wear worry on their faces. They smile every moment of the day and make the most of the life they have. I may not worry about whether I am going to have clothes tomorrow, but I do have worries. I am still guilty of acting out of that worry, instead of acting out of a full, grateful heart. I'm thankful for lessons like these and for the pace of life in the Philippines that allows me to learn them. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why I'm Giving Up For Lent

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, which means some of you may not be able to read this because you're seeing two laptop screens right now. No judgements here. It also means tomorrow is the first day of the forty days of Lent. I'll admit, until about five years ago I really had no clue what Lent was or how to properly observe it. I knew people who spent the season not eating chocolate or meat or not watching TV, and thought they were weird for their obsession with self-denial. More often, I was just put off by them telling me about how hard it is to not drink sodas for 40 days every single time I saw them. They basically were doing Lent just to do it. And to tell me about it. 

 Now that I understand the beauty and importance of the Lenten season, I love it. It is one of my favorite times of the year, and I think it's an important discipline for all followers of Jesus to observe. I'm convinced self-denial is extremely important to practice, but not because God demands it, requires it, or expects it. It's important because we need it. We need to learn to be content without certain things. We need to learn to be amazed by God's provision. We need to learn to be patient and trusting. 

That's why I'm giving up for Lent this year. You read that right. I am giving up. I'm quitting. I'm retiring. I am sacrificing my own plans and desires for Lent. I know God provides, and now I am going to live like I know it. 

Seems like a cop-out thing to give up, right? That's ok, I'm giving up some other things too, but I don't want to tell you about them. The point is trust. The most important weapon in the arsenal of a Jesus follower is unyielding trust in God for His mercies and provisions. Like any weapon, sometimes you need to do some maintenance on your truster. You need to keep it sharp, keep it clean, and make sure you can use it when it hits the fan.

Stress is the antithesis of trust, so practically this looks like eliminating stress from my life completely. How I do that is personal to me, but it involves a lot of reflection and meditation. Being mindful of my stress-level is going to be key for this exercise, but I think it's possible because the God who gives endlessly and erternally is in my corner. I have an unfair advantage over stress and He is gracious and kind. 

One of the hardest verses in the New Testament is when Jesus tells His follwers to "Give no thought to tomorrow..." Don't worry about what you're going to eat, drink, or wear. Give zero thought to it. Our human nature is to be always aware of things that threaten our comfort level. We are animals who look to remain fed, clothed, and sheltered and will go into survival-mode if any of those are threatened. Jesus' teachings are completely opposed to this aspect of our nature. If it was easy, there'd be no fun in trying it. 

Unlike most Lenten practices, I don't plan on getting stressed again after Easter. I see this as 40 days of hard work that will bear fruits for the rest of my life. Forty days surrendering to the One who is in control of the whole thing anyway. Giving up for Lent. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Seven Years

Seven years ago today my father died. It's a day I have replayed in my head a million times. The phone call, the realization, the tears. It's a day that hangs like a cloud over some family events, and a day that is never more than a remark or question away from my recollection. It's a day I am only recently coming to fully understand as supremely significant in my development as the man I have become. 

One of the things I have become more and more assured of since that day is the idea I haven't seen my father for the last time. I don't mean in heaven, I mean here on this earth in bodies a lot like the one I have right now. David Crowson is not dead, he is only sleeping. His rest is with God, and he is in paradise with Christ even now. However, there will be a day he walks this earth again. 

We all know the story of Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus had a buddy who died. He didn't get to his house in time to heal Lazarus, so he died. He was all the way dead. Then Lazarus' sister tells Jesus he blew it by not being there in time and Jesus says Lazarus will rise again. Then Martha says something interesting: "I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day." 

What?

As much as we put down ancient people groups for being backwards, misguided, and prone to using leeches to suck the blood out of sick people, there was one thing they were sure of: no one comes back from the dead. As a matter of fact, every people group on earth at the time of Jesus was absolutely sure that physical, bodily resurrection was a scientific impossibility. Well, every people group except one. The Jews, other than a group called the Sadducees, were believers in a physical resurrection from the dead for the righteous on the last day, when Messiah would come and make all things new. Martha was making a statement that would have led zero people to call her a heretic in her day. Her brother would come walking out of a grave in a literal, physical, skin-and-bones body one day--just not today. 

Then Jesus (as is always the case) blows her mind. "I am the resurrection and the life," He says, "Anyone who believes in me, though he dies, will live." 

What?

Again, the Jews had the concept of physical resurrection in their belief system. The concept that Jesus was taking about was the radical notion the HE would defeat death before the last day. That someone would be physically resurrected in an eternal body before the time in which all the righteous would walk out of their tombs. When Jesus died, was buried, and then came back to the world of the living he did so in a physical skin-and-bones body. If He hadn't, (as NT Wright points out in Surprised by Hope) He would have left bones behind in His tomb, He wouldn't have shocked the disciples (Jews who believed in the last-day-resurrection of the righteous) so completely, and he wouldn't have defeated death

If the physical, bodily resurrection of the dead is not true, then death is still winning and the grave still gets the last word. If the popular notion that we die and our souls fly away to be with angels and God and Jesus somewhere up yonder forever and ever is true, then Jesus' death and resurrection didn't accomplish a whole lot. Yet, He did rise. His tomb was empty. He was, as Paul wrote "the first-born from among the dead." First-born meaning there are going to be more who join him, including my dad. 

One day, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and when that happens the dead will rise from the grave. Not in a spiritual sense. In a literal, walking around, breathing and having fingernails sense. This world will be renewed, and our Savior will lead us into finally fulfilling His commission of bringing Heaven to Earth. 

My grief is different from that of an unbeliever because the Hope of glory is strong in my grief. I know death has been robbed of its power. I know the grave has lost. I know my Savior lives and because of that fact I can face tomorrow. I miss my dad every single day. I know he is with Jesus and I know he is proud of me and I know I will see him again soon--right here on earth. 

Early Christians would have the phrase "Resurgam" engraved on their tombs. It is a Latin phrase meaning "I will arise."

Yes I will. Because He did. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Emerging

Slap. I caught it in my hand and ground it between my palm and ring finger. I wiped someone's blood--probably mine, by the looks of the bites on my skin--on my shorts and the carcass of the tenth mosquito I'd killed into the ground. No matter where I go I find mosquitos, or they find me. Their presence is inexplicable from a Creationist standpoint because I don't know how a loving God could create something so horrible.

Rwanda is growing. It's still very much a developing nation, but there is a different feeling around this country than the malaise I saw in Haiti or the palpable struggle to survive I've seen in Ethiopia. There is a hope that tomorrow will be better than today. I've been here less than a full week and already I am jumping on the bandwagon. This whole country seems like the young baseball team on the rise--you know it is only a matter of years before success will find it. We visited a room in which civic planners and engineers were putting together the "master plan" for the city of Kigali. Sketches and charts and graphs littered the room, but the hope and confidence in planning was inescapable. They know they are on the way up. They are putting in the hard work in that room to guarantee it.

Driving past the US Embassy and down the hill, dodging motorcycle cab drivers who seem to be everywhere you turn, you'll be met with a staggeringly beautiful view of the city. Don't worry, it's probably the tenth prettiest view you'll see in the next few moments. Only 50% of the province of Kigali is buildable land. The rest is wetland or forests or hills too steep to build upon unless you're completely desperate. So the city is being built on whatever space nature allows. The city is literally growing from the earth itself like a flower.

Or is it re-growing? Our first day here we visited the genocide museum. In 1994 one portion of the Rwandan people put into violent action a hatred which had been stewing for a hundred years and killed a million people. Economic problems and other struggles of a poor nation were "solved" by blaming them on one minority group. Not to oversimplify too much, but hatred won the day in Rwanda in 1994 for 100 straight days as a mass genocide was carried out. After those days, a civil war which had been raging unrelated to the genocide was won by rebel forces. Rwanda was at rock bottom. The new ruling party had a decision to make and decided the only way to go was up as a nation. Reconciliation and forgiveness are extremely difficult. However, the unity and strength which come from fervent practice of reconciliation are undeniable.

Why did the genocide happen? I don't know. How could a loving God allow a million people to be killed in 100 days? I don't know. I do know that there are some days where evil wins. There are a lot of them. There are some days where it seems like the darkness is overtaking the light and that there is no one in control of anything. Claiming good doesn't exist because bad does is like claiming the sun doesn't exist because it is nighttime. If you look at the good in the world--if you really analyze hope and how much beauty is in a sunflower or a mountain view or a great cup of coffee--you'll be infected with the same attitude that exists all over Rwanda. Tomorrow will be better than today. God is in control. He will make sure the darkness will never overcome the light and is bringing ALL THINGS together in Him right now.


About Drew

My photo

A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.