Monthly Archives: November 2006

thankful

My daughter Joanna, and some friends from college who were in for Thanksgiving dinner, were in the storage room of our basement this afternoon and found a couple of pix that blew me away… one of them was this pic of a group of kids at a refuge camp in Hungary.
This pic was taken in June of 1999; the summer of the NATO war against Serbia. Our mission team took flip-flops, t-shirts and shorts for kids collected by students from my school. These are Kosavar refugees who had fled their homes because of Serb oppression.
I remember carrying milk, oranges, and toys to these kids…
I remember when asked, their dads didn’t ask for money or anything for themselves; they asked for milk and fresh fruit for their children…
I remember going into one family’s room and their sending a kid out to buy a 2 liter Coke so they could entertain some of us…
I remember being thankful…
I am thankful…
[this refugee camp was the model for the camp in “a story i’m writing”]

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yet another thanksgiving post

I’m sure that many will post thanksgiving messages all across the blog-o-sphere… and so I add mine too…
I’m thankful for:
– the love of God, which was demonstrated for me on the cross and in the resurrection…
– my sweet wife, who has been so faithful and true and therefore shows Jesus to me all the time
– our girls, who bring such joy to our lives
– my parents: resting in Jesus
– great friends: who accept, love and help no matter what
– freedom: and the ability to understand how we get it
– creativity: both the ability to be creative and the ability to appreciate it
– the image of God: in which we find the ability to hope, love and reason

there is my serious list… but I feel compelled to demonstrate thankfulness for other stuff too!
trains
coffee
Greenberry’s
ZNagy
music
Italian Renascence and Byzantine art (no kidding)
spell check!
sausage balls (thanks for the recipe Jeri!)
maps (yes, maps – it’s my list okay? I happen to love maps)
sunsets over the ocean (my only good memories of Okinawa are these)

okay that’s enough… but I should close this post by reminding myself that I need to be thankful in all things: the good, the bad and the ugly!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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getting past doubt

doubt…

last Sat. one of my former teachers, Gary Habermas[1], gave a talk on doubt… here are some thoughts I brought from it….

“it has been said that doubt is half way between belief and unbelief” (perhaps it is the opposite of hope)

“doubt may be the most common issue present among Christians”

“(apologetic type) evidence is great, but it is not the biggest answer” (because it does little for emotional doubt)

Some causes of doubt:
a. assurance of salvation – (“there is no sinner’s prayer in the Bible, it’s about where you heart is”)
b. why bad things happen to good people
c. why is God silent (as opposed to the Bible where he ‘talked’ all the time)
d. ‘what if’ anxiety (what if this or that happens? what if this or that aren’t true?) leads to more anxiety

Some thoughts on getting past doubt – we need to remind ourselves of some important stuff

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (E.S.V.)

1Pet. 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (E.S.V.)

by reminding ourselves – telling ourselves these important truths we are “changing our minds” – look at what Paul says about that…

Rom. 12.1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (E.S.V.)

It is the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling us that is the agent of getting past doubt… Thanks Dr. Habermas for bringing a reminder about the heart to a very “heady” conference.

To sum up… from my own experience, I doubt most when I have chosen to step back from God and my fellow followers of God… others have different experience… but one thing is sure, living a life of thanksgiving… a life of reminding myself of all that I have to be thankful for – reminds my soul of how much He loves and cares for me. Thanks be to God on Thanksgiving!

_____________________

[1} Prof. Habermas was an awesome teacher when I was in school… someone is maintaining a web site for him. On this site are two books on doubt… The Thomas Factor & Dealing With Doubt. he mentioned them to me after the talk and told me they are out of print so they are free online.

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a double feature

ok, so today I had the day off… I did some errands for a couple of hours… mainly ceo stuff… then i went to Greenberrys to grade some papers – not a table in sight… left, went to get medsdr. has me on daily aspirin… i guess you know what that means… went to the video store… why do we call stores that rent mostly dvds “video stores” – old habits die hard i guess… so ANYWAY… rented and watched Archangel with Daniel Craig (the latest Bond) and loved it… looked to have been filmed completely in former Soviet Union… I thought I was back in Kyiv! Lots of historical stuff mixed with conspiracy theory, Moscow style – – – most significant line: “When you leave Moscow, you see how bad the real Russia has it.” I think most of Eastern Europe is like that… SO, I took it back to get a credit and the lady asked about it… I told her I loved it ‘cuz I’m into the whole Eastern Europe thing… good commentary about modern Russia… I do recommend it IF you can find it… THEN, later, when I picked up Chinese for dinner, I got National Treasure (turn your sound down before clicking this) which was just good fun! fairly mindless (unlike the above Archangel) adventure based on conspiracy and regaining the family credibility… haven’t seen it? I suggest it for fun, with some interesting historical factoids.

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One Sandwich continued

missed the earlier episodes? click here to go to the beginning

He was surprised by the intrusion, but he wanted to have a working phone tomorrow as he headed for Hungary, so Scott took a minute to plug his phone into the charger and plugged the charger into a wall socket above the sink. He laid the mobile phone on the sink as it charged. He walked over to the door and opened it. A man he recognized from the meeting was standing in the doorway, he wore a priest’s collar. Scott remembered that this was one of the men who prayed before he ate.
“Jó estét! (Good evening)” Scott said, offering what little Hungarian he could pronounce semi-correctly as he grasped his visitor’s hand.
“Good Evening” the priest replied. I am Balint Szoke, I serve the spiritual needs of the camp. May I speak with you?”
“Yes, come in” Scott replied. He stepped away from the door to make way for the visitor to enter. He offered his visitor the only chair; Scott sat on a bed.
“Please forgive my English, your language is difficult. I have come here to caution you about doing business with government. They will say to you one thing and do different.” His English was not polished, but quite understandable. He had the look of serious concern on his face. He was a man who seemed to be in his late forties. Scott thought that he had, perhaps, seen much. “I do not say to you do not help our situation, just to use wisdom. I noticed that you prayed at the meal. What is your religion?”
“I am a Christian, not particularly protestant, not especially catholic, not opposed to orthodox. I try to follow God through the Bible, I work with any Christian who follows Jesus.”
“What kind of church do you attend?”
“Episcopal”
“I do not know this.”
“It is the American branch of the Church of England.”
“I see.”
Scott wondered why this priest would come to ask about his religion. “Why do you ask?”
“Because American Christians come here and offer, but they do not return. Most are against Catholic Church, they dislike the pope and our system.”
“I am sorry about this, I know it is true, I have met many that have had the same experience. While we should understand that there are people who do not truly believe in the savior in every tradition and in every Church, but that is for God to evaluate. It is our working as agents of God’s grace that makes a difference.”
As Scott spoke a small smile came over Balint’s face. “I am glad to hear these words, I believe you are my brother.”
“Thanks be to God!” Scott replied.
“So let me tell you, be careful, ask God to give you wisdom as you deal with government officials.”
“Thank you Balint, I do try to be discerning, um…to… use wisdom and have God’s eyes when I deal with, uh… do business with people.” Scott was trying to be sure Balint understood him. “My prayer is for wisdom and God’s mind about things. I have many people praying for me at home, they too pray that God would give me His wisdom.”
“This is very good, very wise; very… what is the word? Prudent! I am sorry about my English”
“Please, no, your English is excellent; I admire your efforts to learn such a language.”
“Thank You”
There was a knock at the door; Balint told Scott that he must go. Scott asked him to pray so they shook hands and prayed for each other. There was another knock at the door, this time louder. Someone was impatient. Scott went to the door and Sara stood there, not happy at being kept waiting, she entered. She and the priest exchanged pleasantries and he left, closing the door behind him. She had an envelope in her hand.
“I bring you train tickets and your passport.” Scott had surrendered his passport at the gate which he knew was standard procedure in this type of facility. He was surprised to get it before leaving.
“Your train leaves in an hour and forty-five minutes. I’m sure you have wondered about the car. It was taken back to Szeged the morning after you arrived by a family who had received their visas with the funds you brought with you. It is now back in the hands of its owner, a Mr. Szoke. You are being driven to the station in Beograd by one of my Serbian colleagues, there will not be any trouble in town as you experienced on the way in.”
Scott wondered how she knew about that. Then he wondered why he wondered about anything on this trip.
“We kept two clerks late and they have completed the verification of the information you need. It is all here in this envelope. We hope for the sake of these people you have at least some success.”
“This is all very sudden; I don’t even know the logistics of how to get whatever funds I can get my hands on to the right place.”
“It’s all in the envelope: bank routing numbers, addresses, names, everything. We wish you well. Now, you should go, you’re late, it is an hour drive to the train station in good weather, and it’s beginning to snow.”
“Thanks, I’ll just get my things together.”
He took the envelope from her and turned and put it in his bag. He walked over to the sink and unplugged his phone and put the charger in his bag and the phone in his coat pocket. He put on his coat and scarf and walked out the door closing it behind him. Sara was waiting at a car with the door open. As he approached the car, she extended her hand; he grasped it firmly in a businesslike handshake.
“We look forward to your successful return, I wish you well, Scott”
“Thank you Sara, may God bless you. I look forward to our next meeting”
“Sasha will drive you straight to the station.”
“Thank you, Sara.”
She closed the door and the car pulled away abruptly, he still had his bag in his lap. He looked at Barnabas but Barnabas’s attention was on his driving.
“Do you speak English?”
Sasha shook his head. Scott wondered how much he really understood. Scott took the envelope out and looked in it. The tickets showed that he was on the 20:05 train to Budapest. “Just as well,” he thought, “I can get a room and get in contact back home.” There was a six hour time difference and he would arrive in Budapest by five in the morning. That means he would be in Hungary at about 2:00 am. When he arrived in Budapest, it would be eleven in the evening on the east coast. He would have to wait until the afternoon to make the call unless he called when he crossed the border. He was unsure of when to call.
The ride was bumpy and slippery, he noted the gas station that he had stopped in and then slipped into a nap.
The stopping and starting of the city traffic woke him up. The streets were mushy but the rest of this city of 1.5 million was covered with a white blanket. The snow masked the bombed out buildings from the ’99 war with NATO. These buildings would sit there until there was enough peace and stability for economic growth to begin. He remembered his first trip to Hungary ten years before.
On that first trip, his friend Mihaly had taken him the Buda side of the Danube and up to the castle. Here were remnants of either the battle of Budapest from World War II or from the Hungarian revolution in ’56, he could never get it straight. It didn’t matter either way, the bullet holes in the stucco of these buildings were at least forty years old. Failure to repair was due to the failure of the socialist system, or at least that’s what he was told. Now the region was embracing capitalism and the free market. There was a time in the early twentieth century that the Hungarian stock market was third in all of Europe. Anyone who had spent any time in Budapest could see the beauty of the city and could see how it had once flourished as a cultural center. The parliament, the opera house the beautiful train stations, the wide avenue from the center of the city to Hero’s square, it was a very beautiful city that he loved to visit. Three days ago he had never even been above ground until he rode the escalator to the platform for his train. He would stay in Budapest for a couple of days.
The car came to an abrupt halt. “OK, here train.” Barnabas told his passenger. Scott looked out and saw that they were in a bustling station parking lot, he got out, said thank you to Barnabas in Russian, Barnabas smiled and drove off almost before Scott could close the door. He walked into the main part of the station and found the schedule board, there was no platform listed for the Budapest train. It was eight twenty, but he didn’t really expect the train to be on time. He decided to get coffee.
In the station café he ordered coffee then realized that he was hungry. He looked around for a place to get something to eat but the stands were all out of sandwiches. Then he remembered that he had a candy bar in his bag and so he found it and ate it, “there,” he thought, “this will take the edge off, perhaps there will be a dining car.” He heard the public address say something and thought he heard it say Budapest. So he left the café. The board now showed that the train to Budapest left from platform fourteen, so he followed the signs to the platform.
He was so intent on following the signs that he did not notice the tall figure watch and follow him down the platform. Scott walked the length of the train looking for a dining car. This train was bound for Novi Sad, Subotica, Budapest, then it split; some cars going on to Vienna, some to Krakow, others to Kiev; he thought it must have one. He passed the couchette and sleeper cars and finally found what he was looking for. So he boarded the train still not noticing the tall man following him. Once in the dining car Scott chose a table that seated two, put his bag on the overhead rack and hung up his coat. Sitting down he looked around the car; it was then that he noticed the man approaching him from the other end of the car.

Next Episode

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evil

I picked up Tom Wright’s book Evil and the Justice of God (IVP, 2006). I was struck by this idea:

“This… is a kind of response to the problem of evil. Postmodernism, in recognizing that we are all deeply flawed, aviods any return to a classic doctrine of original sin by claiming that humans have no fixed “identity” and hense no fixed responsibility. You can’t escape evil within postmodernity, but you can’t find anyone to take the blame either.”

Wright goes on to give an example from England when no one was held responsible for a rail accident becuase you can’t find anyone to take the blame either…

This seems to match up with the idea of plurality that I think seems to be a “doctrine” of postmodern thought.

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the smartest man who ever lived

I was reminded of a great truth tonight… that Jesus was not only compassionate, kind, God, forgiving, etc… Jesus was indeed the smartest man who ever lived… read this text carefully … so while I am not so smart, I do need to be as equipped as i can be to serve Him.

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