Saturday, March 26, 2011

Over the Hill

Some years ago, we were visiting with our friends Fritz and Carol. Gary and Carol were in the kitchen getting a start on supper, and Fritz and I were sitting on the couch, just relaxing and talking. He said something I will never forget. He was 45 at the time, and he figured that meant he was probably "over the hill," more than halfway through life. He said he'd reached the top of the hill, and from here on out, he was not only closer to home, but also picking up momentum to reach his destination.

For most of the world, "over the hill" is a bad thing -- black balloons, black streamers, and birthday gifts of Depends and denture cleaner. But ever since Fritz made those comments in passing, I can't help but look at gray hairs and milestone birthdays as evidence of being that much closer to home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Demand an Apology

Well, okay, so that's not exactly how Paul put it.

Do you remember the story in Acts 16? Paul and Silas were preaching in Philippi. Paul cast the demon out of the fortune-telling girl, and her masters were majorly hacked off. So they went to the government, told lies about Paul's preaching (that he was teaching people to be subversive and to disobey the laws of the land), and had Paul thrown into prison. In the midst of the Christians' prayers and hymn-singing during the night, God sent an earthquake and opened the doors of the prison. The jailer was about to kill himself before his boss found out about the escaped prisoners and executed the poor jailer. But the prisoners were still there. They didn't save themselves when given an opportunity: they sacrificed their freedom for the sake of the jailer's life. That kind of love caught the jailer's attention. He heard their preaching, took them to his home, treated their wounds, and he and his whole household were baptized.

Okay, so the next morning the magistrates sent a message to the jailer to let these dudes go. The jailer told Paul and Silas they could be on their way.


What do you mean, "NO"????

They hadn't given Paul a trial. They beat him, uncondemned. They'd thrown him into prison for no reason. And now they wanted to shoo him out on the hush-hush. Paul said the government-guys were just going to have to come to the jail themselves and let him out -- they weren't going to get by with doing this in secret.

Was this snottiness? Was this revenge? Was this making them grovel and own up to their mistake?

I guess I'd never really thought it through before, but, yeah, that's kind of what I thought. But Pastor recently discussed a different (and more evangelical) reason for Paul's refusal to disappear quietly.

The public charge was that Paul preached against the government. The charge was that his preaching disrupted society. The charge was that his preaching was dangerous. But that's not true. As Jesus told Pilate at His trial, "My kingdom is not of this world." Christianity is no threat to the civil authorities. Paul wasn't wanting a personal apology. He wanted the authorities to publicly declare that Paul's teaching was not about insurrection or civil disobedience. And that was for the sake of the Gospel, not for the sake of mere human reputation. It was the honor of God --not self-defense-- that prompted Paul to wait for the magistrates themselves to come let him out of jail.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wives and Daughters

The BBC mini-series "Wives & Daughters" is currently available on Netflix insta-play. It's one of those shows that looked good to me, but I didn't know when I'd ever find time to watch a five-hour show. With a cold recently, and finding it hard to stop and rest and heal, I determined that I would watch this mini-series, partially because it's looked enjoyable and partially because I figured I could make myself sit down and rest if I got myself hooked into a tv show.

I loved the scenery. I loved how the characters were portrayed -- realistically, and not all-good versus all-bad. I appreciated the way the plot turned out. I appreciated the attitude toward marriage held by the most important people in the story. In BBC-fashion, the humor was subtle and understated, but it was there, and there were some pretty funny spots.

I thought this was better than "Pride and Prejudice."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rejecting the Messiah

As we have been studying Acts, we see again and again how Paul preached first in the synagogues. Some of the Jews rejoiced in the message. Others tried to kill the preacher or run him out of town or have him thrown into jail.

When I was growing up, one of my best buddies was Jewish. I always had this notion that our religious difference was because her family just didn't get it that Jesus was the messiah they were waiting for.

Pastor pointed out that the Jews' rejection of Jesus is not because they're lacking information that shows Jesus to be the messiah foretold by the Old Testament Scriptures. The Jews rejected what the Old Testament taught about the messiah. They didn't see their messiah as the suffering servant. They didn't see him as one who would bless the Gentiles as well as the Jews. They didn't see him so much as a savior from sin as a savior from their political enemies.

Some Jews believed in Jesus. These would be the ones who believed in a merciful Savior for all. They would be the ones who recognized the fulfillment of prophecy in His suffering, death, and resurrection. They would be the ones who believed in a God of love who forgives instead of demands.

The Jews who didn't believe in Jesus were the Jews who all along had misunderstood the God of the Old Testament, who had perceived him to be a vengeful god, and who expended their efforts trying to get in his good graces. So when Jesus came, forgiving prostitutes and tax collectors, it wasn't necessarily the person Jesus they were rejecting; rather, they were rejecting all that the Old Testament had said of the messiah-to-come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Corner Gas

Watching "Corner Gas" the last few weeks has been a hoot! Jenny recommended it. It's a Canadian sit-com, set in Podunkville ("Dog River"). It's funny. And it's --overall-- pretty clean. There are jokes that are plays on words. But mostly it's jokes about the interaction of the characters and about life in a small town, primarily at the coffee shop and the convenience store. We're burning through the Netflix CD's of the show, and we'll be lost when we finish the whole series and there are no more to watch. The first two seasons have been really fun!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Government and Inflation

Charles Sumner, Republican senator from Massachusetts, announcing that he would vote in 1862 for the Legal Tender Act, even though he believed in "hard money" (backed by gold and silver):

Is it necessary to incur all the unquestionable evils of inconvertible paper, forced into circulation by act of Congress? To suffer the stain upon our national faith? To bear the stigma of a seeming repudiation? To lose for the present that credit which, in itself, is a treasury? And to teach debtors everywhere that contracts may be varied at the will of a stronger? Surely, there is much in these inquiries which make us pause.... Surely we must all be against paper money. We must all insist on maintaining the integrity of the government. We must all set our faces against any proposition like the present, except as a temporary expedient.

So the legislators and economists 150 years ago worried that fiat money would bring disaster. Many commentators of that day (and since) have suggested that greenbacks turned out not to be so bad after all.

Anybody look at the national debt recently? Anybody heard of the protests in Madison WI because government employees believe that the government has a never-ending supply of money? Anybody notice that many debtors today have indeed learned that it's okay to change a contract if they can get by with it? (The attitude of our former governor seemed to be, "Oh, piffles, why should we have to pay back Minnesota just because we owe them money?")