A New Age

It has become a cliche phrase that beauty queens mutter from the stages at Miss America pageants, but yearning for "peace on earth" isn't a new adage. And it certainly isn't a desire to be dismissed, thinking it's some "pie in the sky" wish. Who doesn't want "peace on earth?" Some--very few--may deny it, wanting instead a power to rule the earth in their own power.
Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth"
-
Peace on Earth
, U2
In our gut, sitting on the throne of the seat of all of our desires, is the two-headed yearning for Peace and Love. From the day man rebelled against God, we've been reaching for it. We've failed and at times, in little ways, we've succeeded. But it doesn't last. We want it, though.

The ancient writings of a prophet named Daniel foretold of the fall of four of the major empires in history (Babylonian, Median, Persian, Macedonian), and each was compared to a different fierce animal of the earth. But there was another king who would come, Daniel wrote. One who would be a "son of man." One who would usher in a fresh kingdom. One who would bring lasting Peace.

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." Daniel 7

Enter Jesus.

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him..."

So often, eternal life is thought of as this far-off dream of life after death. And it is that. But it is much more. It is life now. It is to enter into the very life of God, here and now in this life. To be drenched in his peace and his love and his abundant grace. But is also an expectation. A hope. Of a superior age, a new age when Peace will reign over all and believers in Christ will experience unobstructed fellowship with their creator. Forever enjoying his perfect love.

I want that.

I need that.

I was created for that.

Now? I anticipate its full realization, and just enjoy the peace that has already been given through redemption in Christ.

art

I'm reading "The Heart of the Artist" by Noland and I wanted to share a couple quotes from the book. Thankfully, there has been a resurgence of the arts within the Church, but we are far from realizing the potential of the whole realm of the arts to capture our wonder as is expressed in this reflection by John Fischer:


“When artists reach into their colors or to the notes of a musical score, into the developing solution in a darkroom tray or to the flow of words on a page, they are interacting with the eternity God has placed in their hearts…Because their minds cannot fathom what their hearts know, they feel the weight of the God-placed burden. Art often seems irrational, because the heart is reaching beyond the mind…trying to find the meaning of its existence.”

Francis Schaeffer had these sentiments in regard to the mediocrity and resistance to the pursuit of excellence in the arts with regard to the Christian:

“Of all people Christians should be addicted to quality and integrity in every area, not be looking for excuses for second-best. We must resist this onslaught. We must demand higher standards. We must look for people with real creative integrity and talent, or we must not dabble in these creative fields at all. All of this does not mean that there is no room for the first halting steps, for experimentation, for mistakes and for development. But it does mean that there is no room for lazy, entrenched, year after year established mediocrity, unchanging and unvaried.”


Is Schaeffer to being too elitist? I recall Colossians 3:23, which says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as if working for the Lord and not for man." Sounds like pursuit of excellence to me...

Building friendships

If you live on or near a college campus or in an urban area where international students live, consider this quote from an Indonesian student who came to study at USC:

"Before coming to the United States, I loved the music, films, freedoms, and I thought, the people. Now I'm not so sure. It's hard to make friends here. Everyone is so busy, into their appearance, and clueless about the rest of the world. I long for friendships where people can talk intelligently about world issues, travel, art, and life outside of our little worlds on campus. To be honest," she says, "I feel lonely a lot of the time. I don't get to see much of American life other than on TV or the area surrounding my university."

Certainly, this isn't true across the board, but over 500,000 international students are studying at American universities right now and over 70% of them never enter an American home! So, in other words, on average, we pretty much suck at inviting in "strangers" and those from other cultures. :) Let's change that! International students (speaking as one who was once an int'l student in another country) really want to get a "window into America" and we have an opportunity to give them a really positive experience to take home to their friends and family. As Christians, we can really reflect Christ by simply giving someone a ride to the grocery store, inviting them over for dinner or helping them learn English. If we aren't to show them respect and love because of the universiality of the Gospel, then who?

As an international friend told me recently, after I asked him if he had any American friends after being here for eight months, "No, everyone is really busy." Ouch...

Wind

There's a winter storm today.

I'm sitting at my desk, peering through my oversized bedroom windows, watching a snow covered evergreen tree bend its knees at the force of the wind. The wind is really howling today fiercely.

This morning, as I hear the wind and see the wind's force, I am reminded of God's power.

As I watch the snow fall on the pre-existing white blanket from last week, I am reminded of how God can still bring beauty out of brokenness.

But man, it sure sounds cold out there....I'll be doing work from the home office this morning. :)

Feeling International

The last few days have been very international.

On Thursday, I went to the Cosmo Club on campus. Each week a different nation is highlighted, and this week it was Iran. The stew was savory, the music enchanting and the historical and cultural presentation quite eye-opening. I live for these types of things. Two weeks ago it was Lebanese night and last week it was an international trivia night (our team took a close second place...we just missed out on some huge Toblerone bars!). I try to make a point of having at least one conversation with someone new and I hit the jackpot this week. I found myself in a very long conversation with a guy from Saudi Arabia. Cool guy. Very curious. Lots of questions.

The next day, after spending some time with one of my friends from Singapore, I got a call from my new Saudi friend. He wanted to hang out and grab some tea. He another Saudi friend and I spent the next two hours in deep discussion about American politics, oil, my faith, their faith, the cultural landscape of Saudi Arabia, not to mention a decently thorough Middle Eastern geography lesson. I've invited them over for dinner for some "authentic village cooking" as they so requested. Should be fun.

Friday night I went to our weekly international bible study and for the past two weeks we have had a couple students attending who are at the basic level of investigating the person of Jesus Christ. We started week one with "This is the Bible..." if that gives you some indication.

Every Saturday night, I attend our weekly evening worship service, Saturday Night Grace, and this week we topped off the night with a Latin American Fiesta. I am helping to lead a team of 15 from Illini Life down to Honduras for a spring break missions project and we decided to throw a Fiesta after SNG so that we could raise money to hopefully purchase a washer and dryer for the Malnutrition Clinic that we'll be serving at. The food was spectacular and the turnout even better. Get this...we raised nearly $800. Isn't that incredible? This is a party attended mostly by college students!

As if the weekend hadn't had enough international flare, I spent most of the Fiesta chatting with a friend who hails from Ghana. Quite the weekend. It's a good thing I had the day off to spend with my fiancee...

The Power (or lack thereof) of Words

Do you think words have been cheapened in postmodern society? In an overstimulated world, where we receive thousands of messages each day, I wonder if we've lost the ability to communicate with words only in a way that truly pulls at our heart strings or delivers a message of unfiltered truth that can be coherent and understood. Perhaps that is why we rely so much on the fusion of words, images, sounds and constant movement. Certainly that combination packs a powerful punch. How often do you encounter a brilliantly, but succintly written speech or sermon or letter that cuts you to the core? Maybe it happens more often that I think it does. I guess I am just thinking of time when I've gotten lost in others' wordiness or how often I've come to the table with presuppositions that distort the potential impact of anothers' words. Does our society have too many false messages and too many skepticisms? Or has this always been? Maybe this isn't all so bad, I'm not really the best wordsmith when I commnicate anyways. :)

What's caused this surge of interest in "words?" Well, I've been going through John's Gospel slowly and carefully, trying to absorb as much (or more than usual) I can. The opening passage has always seemed powerful, but I've never investigated it deeply.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." John 1:1-3

To someone who maybe didn't grow up in Sunday School culture, this would be a weird thing to read. The Word? Just tell us the guy's name. So, for as long as I can remember, I've known that "the Word" in this passage is Jesus Christ. And I still believe that. But why "the Word" I've always wondered. I've heard bits and pieces about this Greek word logos, but have never understood it fully (and still don't!). This is a summary of some of what I've discovered recently from studying this passage, in particular from William Barclay:

John wrote his gospel after the other three gospel accounts. The basic problem at the beginning of the church was that it began within Judaism. Greeks had never heard of a “Messiah” or even had an expectation of one. Jesus’ ministry primarily took place in Jewish areas. The task of the early church was to create a predisposition in the Greeks to receive the Christian message. In 100 AD, John was living in a Greek city (Ephesus) and he tackled this problem. Solution: in both Greek and Jewish thought, their existed the idea of “the word.”

1) To Jews, a word had independent existence-it did things. For that reason, Hebrew had few words (10,000) compared to 200,000 in Greek.

2) The OT is full of examples. Jacob receives his Father’s verbal blessing and it can’t be taken back. God creates the universe through his words. Isaiah 55:11, God’s words accomplish the purpose for which they were sent out.

3) From 100 years before Jesus until his day, Hebrew was no longer spoken, except by scholars. Instead, Aramaic, a development of Hebrew, was spoken by the common people. Targums were the Aramaic translations of the OT and they did not use anthropomorphisms in reference to God, e.g. instead of saying “to meet God” they said “to meet the word of God.” And thus, the “word of God” (the Memra) became a common expression.

4) In Greek, “word” is Logos and it means word and reason. Wisdom and reason are very much the same thing and wisdom is God’s agent in enlightenment and in creation (Prov 3:18-20 – The Lord by wisdom founded the earth…). The most important is Prov 8:1-9:2, in which wisdom appears to have had an eternal existence, in a similar way to how John describes the existence of the Word.

5) In Ephesus, in 560 BC, there was a philosopher named Heraclitus who believed that all existence was in a constant state of flux (you never step into the same river twice) and that which controlled this pattern was Logos, the word, the reason of God. He believed nothing moved aimlessly, but that the Logos controlled the specific way that things played out in the universe. He further believed that it was the Logos of God that implanted reason, knowledge and the consciousness of right and wrong in each individual. The Stoics agreed with this belief and could not dismiss the fact that their was order in the universe. The stars are held in place the seasons change, etc, and all this is held in place by the Logos of God.

6) Additionally, Philo, a Jew living in Alexandria knew the Jewish scriptures and Greek thought intimately and he too believed that it was the Logos of God which created the universe. He believed that the Logos was the intermediary between God and the world and that Logos was God’s stamp on all human thought and consciousness.

So essentially, John came to the Greeks saying, “This Logos which you say is the wisdom, reason and power of God from the beginning of all time, this Logos became flesh…the mind of God became a person.” And similarly, the Word directly spoke to the Hebrews, because of their predisposition to believing in the power of God's words.


Now, how's that for some wordiness :)