Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Trouble with Angels

We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's, and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

With infinite complacence people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their dominion over this small, spinning fragment of solar driftwood which, by chance or design, man has inherited out of the dark mystery of Time and Space.

Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

Okay, so it’s the opening lines from The War of the Worlds – not The Great Controversy; the author is H. G. Wells, and not E. G. White.

Still, it’s worth remembering that “all the world’s a stage” with ETs out there lurking in the audience . . . well, it’s not going to strike everybody as good news.

Add to this the fact that we really don’t know who or what is out there watching. Take angels, for instance – both fallen and unfallen. Do they live on other worlds? Do they have bodies? Do they have mass, a charge, or spin? Say “yes,” and you’ve just answered the question of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” Say “no,” and you’re left with the question of just exactly what these creatures might be.*

Finally, it’s worth remembering that a fascination with angels is often the sign of a bankrupt theology. Angels give us a way to be “spiritual,” after all, without having to mess around with God – reason enough for the current interest in them . . . and reason enough for Paul to warn us off such things in Colossians 2:18.

All of which is why I’d recommend you be real careful with the theme of this week’s lesson. In fact, I’d recommend you stick with the story of Joshua and the Angel in Zechariah 3. Talk about the Adversary, yes. Make note of our sins, yes. But focus on God’s forgiveness and power to save.

Even if the whole Universe is watching, after all, there’s only One Person in the audience who really matters.

*Just so you know: if you believe that angels do have mass, then the answer is "one." If you believe that angels don't have mass, then an infinite number of angels can dance on the head of a pin. Charge and spin, however, don't seem to make a difference.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rendering unto Caesar

Click on the title for a nice profile in The Christian Science Monitor of SDA Pastor Barry Black, chaplain to the U. S. Senate.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Showers of blessing

If you’re not careful, you’re going to leave this week’s Sabbath School lesson thinking that the land of Palestine has two rainy seasons – not one.

It would be a shame if you did, because that’s bad meteorology.

And worse theology.

To be sure, the “early rains” generally kick off the growing season sometime in September or October – just like they do in California. And the “latter rains” generally end the growing season sometime in March or April – again, just like California.

But these are not two separate rainy seasons; no, they are just the beginning and end of one rainy season. In His promise of the “early” and “latter” rains, in other words, God did not say He would turn on the precipitation . . . then turn it off . . . then turn it back on again.

No, God promised one, single, extended rainy season – a rainy season that would start soon enough to give those crops a good start (i.e. the “early” rain), and continue long enough for them to ripen (i.e. the “latter” rain) . . .

Just the same as He promised His church.

At Pentecost, remember, God poured out His Spirit on the church; He gave it a good start, and things started to grow as a result.

But God didn't turn His back on the church after Pentecost; God's Spirit is not a neon sign that alternately blinks on, then blinks off, only to blink on again!

No, God has promised to keep pouring out His Spirit for as long as we need it, right up to the end of time.

That’s the promise of the latter rain. It’s not the promise that God will “turn on the faucet” after a long spiritual drought. No, it’s the promise that God will continue to bless His people, without stint or fail, from beginning to end, in whatever measure we need.

When it comes to the latter rain, in other words, the question is not when it starts -- it's been raining, after all, for almost 2,000 years!

No, the question to ask is how it could rain so long . . .

Yet we've still managed to stay so dry.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Raiders of the lost copper mine?

Okay, so the Bible talks about Edom as a powerful and prosperous rival to Israel back in the 12th-century BC . . .

"But we know that isn't true," say the revisionist historians, "because there was nobody living in Edom at that time except a few scraggly nomads."

Oops -- it turns out that somebody was mining a lot of copper in Edom back then . . . and that implies all kinds of economic and political and even military stuff was going on at that particular time.

You know, kind of like it says in the Bible.

Click on the title for a link to the article in The New York Times.

The Unpardonable Joke

It’s an old joke. Not a very good joke – but then again, how many theological jokes are out there that tie in with this week’s Sabbath School lesson?

You see, this guy is clinging to the roof of his house. The flood waters are rising fast, and he’s praying the kind of prayer you’d expect a man to pray in times like this – “Dear God, please save me,” or words to that effect.

And the Voice comes down from the sky, “Don’t worry – I have heard your prayer and will answer it.”

And no sooner does the Voice say this, then a Coast Guard helicopter arrives, a rescue swimmer drops onto the roof of the house, and they lower the basket for the man to climb in.

But no, the man won’t climb in the basket. “You go on without me,” he tells the rescue swimmer. “God said He’d answer my prayer, and I’m not going to settle for anything less.”

So they argue for awhile – but finally, the rescue swimmer has no choice but to get back in the helicopter and fly off. And no sooner does he do this than the flood waters carry off that house . . .

And the man drowns.

The next thing he knows, this man’s standing in judgment before the Great White Throne – and he hears God say, “Do you have any questions?”

“Yes,” says the man. “Why didn’t You answer my prayer like you promised?”

“Idiot,” says God. “Who do you think sent you the helicopter?”

“End of joke,” as my sister likes to say whenever my jokes are especially lame. “Insert laugh here.”

But the point it makes is worth remembering: that’s the simple fact that God always answers our prayers . . . but He doesn’t always give the answers we’d expect – and sometimes, He doesn’t even give us the answers we want.

And when that happens, we have a choice: we can wait and do nothing until God finally gets around to meeting our expectations.

Or we can get in the helicopter He sends us right then . . . and trust He knows what He’s doing

End of sermon. Insert personal application to your life right here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Forget "megachurch" -- this is a GIGAchurch!

His revival services routinely pull in 300,000 people. He has five million followers around the world. And his goal is a church within five minutes of every household on the planet.

What -- you mean you've never heard of the Reverend Enoch Adejare Adeboye?

Then click on the title of this post for a quick look in The Washington Post at what's happening now in Nigeria . . . because it's probably going to be happening tomorrow right here.

Actually, we plan to wait until it's out on DVD.

Click on the title for an interview in BeliefNet with Ralph Winter -- the producer of the X-Men trilogy (and a devout Christian).

"Behold, I make all things new"

The kitchen was 30-years old – and looked every day of it.

Not that this bothered me. Old paint, worn linoleum, out-dated light fixtures, and plywood cabinets covered with a varnish that the years had darkened to the color of smoke from a trash fire . . . these things were just part of the “background noise” that I’d long since learned to ignore. And as far as I was concerned, there was no need for change. No, if it had been left to me, the kitchen would have remained just as it was in the beginning, world without end, amen and amen.

But my wife had a different idea – and that’s why she’s spent the last four months remodeling that kitchen. New paint. New lights. New countertops and sink. A new laminate floor that she installed herself. And when the new molding gets installed (which should happen sometime next week), she will be done. All of her dreams for that kitchen will have become reality; all of her hopes for that part of the house will have been made visible at last.

No thanks to me.

And right there, you see why we need the Holy Spirit in our lives.

You see, I’m not the only one who’d rather live with a problem than fix it. No, the world is full of people who’ve learned to adapt. Who’ve learned to adjust. Who’ve lowered their expectations to the point that nothing more needs to be done than what they’re doing right now.

No, the world is full of people who can't see anything that isn't already there.

But the Holy Spirit is like my wife: it sees something that could be there.

And gets to work.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tech Support

It was one of those fiddly little problems that won't go away -- the kind that stops you in your tracks until it gets solved.

And try as I might, I could not find anything in the manual that would help me solve it.

So I called "tech support." It's a free call -- available 24-hours a day -- and the guy on the other end always knows just how to help without making making me feel like an idiot. In fact, he's always so helpful that sometimes I wonder why I don't call more often.

Anyway, it didn't take him long to figure out that this was one problem I couldn't deal with on my own. "Just send it to us and we'll take care of it," he told me. "It's free -- we'll even pay for shipping and handling."

So I did . . . and yes, he took care of it, just like he said he would.

But then again, that's just the way God is.

Great products.

And really great tech support.