Christians are abuzz about the fact that Michael Phelps is talking about God and the book Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Hopefully, Michael truly has found a purpose larger than winning another medal. Celebrities are often heralded for these things, but sadly, it is easy to be skeptical. Many celebrities have made their faith public only to later be entangled in scandal. Yet, maybe they reflect the unfortunate norm in many churches...
I am a former police officer. Half of my three years of service was spent in a community where 50% of the population was African-American. The remaining portion of my service was in a community that was 85% Caucasian. This short time in law enforcement showed me that skin color has no bearing on the level of depravity in a human. I engaged criminals of every ethnicity, and I helped victims of every ethnicity. Sin is not an ethnic condition but a human condition. Why has the racial tension exploded in this nation? How should followers of Christ respond?
Visiting folks in the hospital always raises the question about God and healing. Does God heal, and if so, why does it seem to occur so rarely? Is God's power waning, or does He just not care? I've prayed for healing over many people both at home and in the church. Why do I not see "miraculous" healing more often?
Jesus once asked an invalid, "Do you want to be healed?" (John 5:6) This may seem like a silly question, perhaps even rude, but maybe it reveals more about both God and us than we realize.
Interesting how packing to move has shed light on Syrian refugees and ministry. I had to wrap up a large framed poster of a photographed lion that hangs over my desk. My wife had it framed and matted for me before we moved to New Orleans ten years ago. The lion is galloping toward the camera. Eyes locked. Locked on you, or through you? Will the lion eat you, or is he on his way to something? The quote framed with my photo: "Aslan is not safe, but He's good."
Strangely, looking at ancient ruins challenged me to consider what matters most. I doubt the people who lived in the basalt-stone homes of Capernaum ever thought someone would want to see the remains of their dwellings two thousand years later. If the remains of my house were even able to last two thousand years, would there be any remarkable reason to study them? Would the ruins of my home testify to a remarkable moment in history as the ruins in Capernaum do?
The shelves in Christian bookstores display orderly rectangles of bound pages promising neatly packaged ways to deal with a messy life. Daily radio broadcasts by para-ministries attempt to encourage strong families and share better ways to navigate every area of life. All too often, however, they can make our sense of inadequacy worse. What if I fail to do a family devotion every single night? What if I fail to write my congressman? What if I fail to have a balanced budget or fail to take my wife on a date this week? Will my kids grow up to be axe murders?
Goliath's skull is found. The final resting place of Noah's ark discovered. There have been some wild archaeological claims over the years. I also know there have been some credible and helpful finds in biblical archaeology, but I'll admit that I cautiously and rarely cite archaeology (or statistics) in my preaching. But now, I'm challenged to reconsider archaeology in sermons. Here's why...
We parked on a small turn-around off of a highway in the Galilean countryside. Men were sitting next to their ice cream truck, hoping to gain some customers from the traffic and tourists like us. We walked down an overgrown, steep path through a tree-covered area where people were camping. Then, after walking down another steep, overgrown path, I found myself standing by the Jordan River. Immediately, I was struck by the almost cobblestoned riverbed, half inundated and half exposed. This detail shed new light on a familiar story...
My trip to Israel is coming to a close and it appears there will be several mysteries left to solve. We have been digging in an ancient tunnel and the experts are trying to determine its nature and purpose. It is awesome to be part of such a project as it is one of the most important archaeological digs in Israel at this time. I'm looking forward to what will be discovered in the coming years, but here's what I've been up to for three weeks...