Monday, March 31, 2008

Family Fun

For the second year in a row, I got to go out to Ecola Bible School and teach a class for a week. Not that they begged me to come back after last year. More the opposite. Back in September I called them to say that I was available if they wanted me, and they asked me to fill a spot and teach the Minor Prophets. I said, "This is not an area of primary study for me, but I am willing to research it so that I can teach it well." They said that was okay.
The class seemed to go well. It was great to teach, to get to know some students, and to have some family time. I taught an hour each morning and evening, but we had the daytime to hang out. Here are some pics.

Being in the area, we hit the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Matt loved it! Here we are by the official cow.

Here it Matt enjoying the results of a trip to the Cheese Factory. He is having Chocolate and Peanut Butter ice cream. He shared it with his mom. I had German Chocolate Cake ice cream. Wow.

There were also some fun times together for the boys. Here they are after their baths.

But Matt's favorite part was the game room at Ecola. Here he is learning to play chess.

We also played some rounds of mini golf at the game room.

Jack didn't get to play yet, but he had a good time watching us.

Matt gradually improved his swing with each round.

And, by the way. . .

Woo hooo!!!!! Final Four in three straight years! I love Howland. I love Love. I really love to watch Westbrook. He has great speed and power. Now lets see if they can bring the championship home. I am nervous to see how they match up with Memphis.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Endorsement

I know some of you have been wondering from previous posts whether or not I would end up officially endorsing anyone.

I have given this a lot of thought. It is sometimes difficult to think about the impact that my choice will have on those around me.

After much thoughout, though, I have decided to throw my choice in the mix.

I would, therefore, like to throw my full support behind. . .

UCLA for the College Basketball National Championship.

I think they have the coach, the defense, and possibly the offense to make real change happen. We have had enough of Florida the last two terms. . .err. . .years. It is time for a fresh face that we can look to.

They are not necessarily conservative, but they are trustworthy.

They can bring change.

And they have the experience.

I support the Bruins.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brothers Because of Easter

This week at our Department Heads meeting we read through the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Something was really striking to me, and Stu later mentioned it in his Easter sermon. It takes place when Jesus, after being raised, reveals himself to Mary. He says to her, "Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.'"
I had read this passage many times, but I was struck by the fact that in John's account, Jesus tells Mary to go to his brothers. In other Gospels he tells her to tell his disciples. In John's account, though, he uses the term "brothers" to refer to his disciples. On top of that, he reinforces the statement by saying that he was going to ascend to his Father, who also happened to be their Father. If he is Jesus' Father, and he is the disciples' Father, then that makes them all brothers. That is just basic family theory. :)
It is possible to respond to this and say, "Well, in one place he says disciples, and in another he says brothers. No big deal."That might be true if not for the fact that Jesus' brotherhood with humanity is not something only mentioned here in passing. Hebrews 2:11 says,

"For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren."

And then in 2:17 the writer says,

"Therefore, he had to be made like his brethren in all things, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."

We call Jesus Christ our Lord, our King, and our Savior. But do we dare to call him our older brother? It just seems irreverent. "Make Jesus your buddy. In fact, he is your older brother." Well, it might be irreverent if we had made this up. But the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is not ashamed to call those who are sanctified through him brothers (inclusive of sisters also, of course).
I am not going to act like some expert on brothers. In fact, while I am an older brother, I don't have an older brother. However, I do have an older sister and a younger brother. While we are all different in many ways, the thing that strikes me most when I think about Ami or Chris is that we are all the same. No matter how different in personality, demeanor, or anything else, there is a great sameness that pulls us all together. It is powerful. Why does it exist? Because we all come from the same parents. We are forever identified with one another.
This just blows my mind, and reminds me that I don't really tend to get what it means that Jesus is fully human. I like to think, "Yes, he is human and divine, but he is more divine than human." This is simply not true. He is fully both, and to deny either is to deny who he is. In fact, when you read the New Testament, you might be able to argue that the writers were more defensive of his humanity than they were defensive of his deity (this was probably because the attacks at the time were specifically against his humanity; Gnosticism, etc.).
The great hymn says, "God our Father, Christ our Brother." Do we really embrace this? Jesus Christ, our brother. That is not meant to exalt us. It is meant to exalt him. He has shown such humility and sacrificial love that he has eternally identified himself with us as our brother. What could be closer than a brother?
All praise and honor and glory to Jesus! He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. And he is our brother, our friend.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Worlds Colliding!!!

Last week I got the opportunity to attend a prayer retreat with my seminary class on, you guessed it, Prayer. It was a very interesting time.
First of all, it was great to get to know people in my class. I am only out at school Monday mornings, so I don't know many people very well. We got to spend two days getting to know one another. I got to meet everyone (there are 20 of us), and got to spend some meaningful time with a number of people.
More than that, though, the cool thing about the retreat was that it was a pretty diverse group. There was certainly some diversity in ethnicity and in age, but there was also a lot of denominational diversity. It was a prayer retreat, and we got to experience the fact that we all prayed and worshiped differently. In particular, I got to experience prayer with brothers and sisters who are from a more charismatic tradition. I was so blessed by the opportunity to experience togetherness with people whose Christian experience is so different from mine. After all, our differences seemed to be small when we were praying and seeking God together.
I am so thankful for the body of Christ. God is such a genius in making us all so different. God is really stretching me in getting out of my comfort zone, both culturally and theologically. He is teaching me so much about how to be humble and learn from those who are different from me. I am so thankful for what I get to experience when I do this.

For he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in his flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in himself he might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

I know this passage in Ephesians is talking about Jews and Gentiles, but it certainly seems to be applicable to God's heart in breaking down walls and bringing people together in Christ.
Enmity is put to death. Someone who disagree with me theologically is not my enemy. Someone who does church differently than me is not my enemy. Someone who prays differently, someone who frequently gives me "a word from the Lord," someone who dances while they sing songs to God, someone who simply sits in silence and prays to God. All of these are people who are not enemies.
He is our peace. He has established peace. Peace is not just the absence of conflict. It is not superficial. It is me looking at someone with whom I disagree with and clash with and embracing who they are. That's hard sometimes. I want to just avoid people because it is hard to be at peace with them. Can I, though, experience deep fellowship with a brother or sister who does things so differently? Why not?! Do I really think that I am not off-base in anything I do or believe? Seems a bit arrogant. Do I really not have anything to learn from others, even if they do, in fact, have things to learn from me? Seems a bit off.
Peace is a powerful thing. And Jesus said that others will know us by our love. One brother on this retreat mentioned this verse and then said, "And Jesus never told a lie." His implication was that Jesus said we would be known for love, and yet someone might conclude that he lied about this, since often we are not.
It is not the time to criticize.
It is the time to be part of healing and reconciliation.
It is time to be part of peace at a real, deep level that will show people the Person who is our true peace.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Baby Nicknames

We have a new trend with Matthew. After each bath, he asks either Karina or me to carry him like a baby. It's pretty funny. So, if I give him a bath, afterwards I wrap him in a towel, pick him up like a baby, and take him to see Karina and his "big brother" Jack. He laughs the whole way and then finally says, "I'm not a baby. I'm Matthew."
As this grew to become a pattern, I thought it would be appropriate for Matthew to have a formal identity as this baby that he pretends to be after his bath. In order to solidify this identity, he needed to be complete with a silly baby name. Our favorite silly baby name, Zamzubar, was already taken, however. That is the name we gave the baby on Jack's rice cereal box. So, after much consideration, we came up with Romococo. It is pronounced just as you would expect. So, Matthew is now known as Romococo whenever he gets carried around after his bath time. This lasts precisely until he breaks the spell and informs us that he is not really a baby, but is in fact Jack's older brother Matthew.

The more I thought about it, I realized that it was only fair for Jack to have a silly baby nickname also. Now, you may be saying, "Jack is a baby. Why does he need a silly baby nickname?" Good point. But it just seems like the fair thing to do. So Jack's new baby nickname is Fozzberry. There is no real rhyme or reason for when he is Jack and when he is Fozzberry because he pretty much always acts like a baby. Karina and I will just have to use our best judgment. We'll get by.
Jack's new baby nickname, though, created a little confusion between me and Karina. the conversation went something like this.
Karina: So, remind me, what is Jack's baby nickname?
Dan: Fozzberry.
Karina: Ha! I love it. So, it's like F-O-S. . .
Dan: No. F-O-Z-Z.
Karina: Oh! So it's F-O-Z-Z-B-U-R-Y?
Dan: No. B-E-R-R-Y.
Karina: Oh, so it's Fozz-Berry. Not Fosbury.
Dan: Right.
Karina: So, it's more silly baby, and less English servant.
Dan: Of course.
Karina: (with English accent) Fosbury, please have tea ready when we get back from the hunt.
The conversation went on from there as we pretended to order around the fictional Fosbury with bad English accents.
(Is anyone still reading this post?)

Well, there you go. Updates on the Baby nicknames. Romococo and Fozzberry.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Weak and the Strong

If you have experienced life in the Christian community for any length of time, you have likely heard the term “weaker brother.” There are two major questions about this term. First of all, what qualifies someone as a weaker brother? Secondly, how does God call believers to interact when a weaker brother is involved? Romans 14 is a key passage that deals with this issue.

1As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

Paul begins this passage by giving us an immediate clue as to what it means to be a weaker brother. He uses the phrase, “weak in faith.” So, the weaker brother is one who is somehow weak in what or how he believes. And Paul tells believers to welcome him, or to receive him. The weaker brother is to be fully accepted, and is not to be forced to become “strong” before experiencing a full embrace by his brothers and sisters.

2One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.

So, Paul’s uses an example to illustrate his point. The issue he raises is that some Christians believe that they can eat anything and everything set before them. Others only eat vegetables. The issue is probably not the vegetarian issue that we are accustomed to in our culture. More likely this was a situation in which some were more stringent about how they followed Jewish kosher laws, or how they avoided eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.
So, who is who? The weak person only eats vegetables. This means that the weaker brother is the person who tends toward a more stringent practice of the Christian life. He avoids certain things that seem questionable to him. And, more than this, for him it is an issue of faith. Remember that Paul spoke about the one who is “weak in faith.” Then he says in verse 2 that some believe that they can eat anything, and others do not. The weaker brother is weak because he does not believe that it is permissible for him to do certain things that other Christians think are okay.

3Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.

Now Paul gives dual commands. The first command is to the one who eats. The one who eats is the stronger brother. He is the one who believes that it is permissible for him to do things that the Bible has not forbid. So Paul commands the strong person not to despise the one who abstains, the weaker brother.
The tendency of the strong person will be to despise, or think poorly of, the one who abstains. This certainly holds true to life. If a group of people sit down to dinner, and one person says, “I would rather that we not have wine with this,” it is likely that others, who were looking forward to a glass of wine, will be irritated. “Why is this person ruining our enjoyment of a gift of God?” they may ask. And then, in their minds, they may think, “What’s wrong with this person, that this is such a hang up for them?” And days later, when two or more of these friends are out, they may joke, “Let’s grab a drink. After all, that person isn’t here to stop us.” And in the end, that weaker brother may not be invited to the next dinner event.
On the other hand, the tendency of the weaker brother will be to pass judgment on the one who eats. “How can they drink wine? Don’t they know that drunkenness is a sin? Why would they put themselves in the way of temptation? They must simply not care about personal purity and righteousness as much as I do!” And then this person may very well gather together with others who have an objection toward drinking, and talk about how sad it is that so many brothers and sisters do not have their same desire to follow Christ.
Don’t despise the weak. Instead, accept them (verse 1). And don’t judge the strong. Accept them (verse 3).
4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

This command in verse 4 is then tacked on. It is a command to the weak because he is still talking about passing judgment (which is the tendency of the weak). He gives the reason why it is ridiculous to pass judgment. It is ridiculous because that person does not answer to us. That person answers to Christ (his own master). And just in case the weak person might respond in his mind by saying, “Fine, I’ll leave it to Christ to condemn him,” Paul adds in that the strong person will in fact be upheld because Christ will make him stand.
Who would you rather be? The weak or the strong? Well, while none of us would want to be labeled as the weaker brother, most of us have at least some areas in which we do not believe it is permissible for us to do something, even though the Bible does not forbid it. I may be fine with drinking a glass of wine, but I would never listen to secular music. I may think it is okay to watch an R-rated movie, but I would never wear jeans to church. I may go ahead and work sometimes on Sundays, but I would never permit my children to dress up on Halloween.
Why is this important? Because Paul does not command the weak to become strong. And he does not command the strong to become weaker. He simply tells the strong to accept the weak and not to despise them. And he tells the weak to accept the strong, and not to judge them.
Paul’s solution to the fact that we have different convictions within the Christian church is not to force us all to think the same thing. And his solution is not that we have a table for the weak and a table for the strong. His solution is that we all sit at the same table. And when the weak person humbly requests that we skip the wine, the strong person is more than happy to forgo a pleasure out of love for his brother. And when the strong person mentions that he just saw a movie that seems questionable to some at the table, the weak person chooses to think the best and does not condemn him in his mind.

Together. The Jew and the Gentile. The male and the female. The rich and the poor. The weak and the strong.