October 26, 2015

I have been away for the past couple of weeks preparing for and taking part in my daughter Alissa’s wedding. It was a wonderful time but complicated by the fact that it took place in Omaha, NE. I’m back now, a little weary and ready to get away for a week with Ellen. That will have to wait for a bit I’m afraid. ANYWAY… enough about me.

One of the things that differentiates one Seminary from another are the things taught in theology classes. I won’t go into any detail at this point but suffice it to say it’s hard to believe that we can all fall under the category of “Christian” and yet have so many different and seeming contradictory and irresolvable convictions.
I remember my first day in Theology 101. We learned about the word “revelation.” Specifically our professor lectured on the ways that God reveals Himself to His creation. You may or may not know that there are essentially two types of revelation: general and special. Let me begin with special revelation since its actually general revelation that I want to focus on in a bit. Special revelation refers to the ways that God reveals Himself through very specific and personal ways, such as: voice, prayer, prophecy, the Bible, miraculous events, etc. General revelation is a bit more difficult to pin down.

Before I go much further down this road allow me to tell you what happened last week. I was sitting in my living room looking out the window. We have a maple tree in our front yard and the leaves were the most spectacular yellow color. Every year they are that same color in October and November no matter what. I was reminded of the seasons and the cycle of life and death that we see every year on this part of the planet. (It’s one of the things I missed most about my 3 years spent in Hawaii.) And that caused me to remember general revelation. “What” you say? So, what are we talking about?

Simply this: General revelation is the way that God reveals Himself through nature and history and even through our conscience. God has built into creation ways of “seeing” Him through the world and how our Universe operates. There is order and beauty to creation that all can see whether one knows of or believes in God or not. Even some in remote parts of the world today worship nature and the things of creation… sun, moon, trees, rocks and so on. This type of revelation does not specifically show or reveal to us the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus, but it certainly points us in that direction. We can’t make a very effective argument for the personal God of the Judeo-Christian faith through general revelation. But one can certainly make an argument for an Intelligent Designer. Again, look at the world. Consider your own body. Does all of this happen on its own through trial and error? I know the argument is, “Well, given a bajillion years, anything is possible.” I respond to that simply by saying, “It takes as much faith, if not more, to believe in no God or designer as it does to believe in a personal God or Intelligent Designer.” I kind of lean toward the latter but, that’s just me. Either way, “faith” is involved.

On that note I would encourage you if you have access to movies on television to watch, “March of the Penguins.” It is not intended to be a religious film for sure. But one can hardly view that movie and not come away saying, “There is no way those penguins could figure all those things out!” Seriously, I guarantee you will find it very entertaining as well as fascinating.

So when you look out the window or drive down the street today (unless you are one of the unfortunate ones to be in the South and miss all this beauty) be reminded that God is a God of beauty and order.


Go Pirates!

October 7, 2015

I was probably 10 years old the first time I ever went to a Pirate baseball game. Their field back then was Forbes Field located right in the middle of Oakland, PA across from the Cathedral of Learning on the Pitt campus. The stadium, built in 1909 had seen its day and was eventually torn down to make room for the current library at the University while the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium. Home plate is still displayed in the library in the exact place it would have been when Forbes Field existed. It’s the plate from the last Pirate game in Forbes against the Chicago Cubs on June 28, 1970.

I have a vivid recollection of walking through the entrance to the aisle leading to our seats. I can’t describe the feelings of wonder that I had! The giant green field was right there. Some of you will remember that the outfield walls were deep (463 feet to the center field fence). They actually stored the batting cages in center field… on the field! The players were there right in front of me… real live players… my heroes. Not players on a fuzzy a black and white television screen. Not very many games were televised back then so even seeing them on a broadcast was very rare. And not players on a baseball card which most boys I knew collected to some degree back then. But actual living, breathing major league baseball players! The great Roberto, Willy, Bill Virdon, Gen Alley, Maz, Don Clendenon and the list goes on.

With the advent of the internet, various sorts of technology, video games, easier travel, I don’t know if young people have the opportunity for that sense of wonder. Maybe they do… I don’t know. I have a sad thought of a 10 year old walking up to the edge of the Grand Canyon, taking a 10 second gander and then walking away as they pull out their phone to play a game. “No big deal… seen that on a video.” Maybe it’s just that their sense of awe and their experience of wonder are different from mine. Again, I don’t really know.

The 21st chapter of Revelation describes the vision John had of Heaven. Frankly, not many Christians agree as to how “literal” this description is. But look at a few of the verses:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

Whether we agree on how “exact” this description is, matters little to me. We will, however, likely agree (if we believe in a heaven) that “The City” will be spectacular and awe inspiring. Honestly, the Bible doesn’t tell us as much as we would like about Heaven and how it will all play out. And I think that much of what we do know is told so that finite human beings can have a small inkling of something that is too vast and infinite for us to grasp. But I don’t doubt for a moment that it will be stunning and breathtaking, assuming that we “breath” in heaven.

Like many of you reading this I have had the opportunity to travel a little. I lived in Hawaii for 3 years. I have seen the Grand Canyon, Mt Rushmore, The Pacific and Atlantic oceans. I have witnessed the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. I have been on the continent of Africa, in the Middle East, India and Thailand. And I have seen many other things that fall into the category of spectacular. None of them compare to the inexpressible vision of Forbes Field to a 10 year old boy. And yet I realize a day will come when Forbes Field will pale in comparison to the beauty and awe of God’s City. I’m not ready to leave my family just yet but I am not afraid of the day when I will walk into the Holy gates. How about you?

FYI – Tonight the Pirates will play the Chicago Cubs to determine who will advance in the Major League Baseball playoffs. We can only hope that they will have the same results they had on that last day at Forbes Field in 1970 where they not only beat the Cubs, they did it twice.