Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Welcome Aurelia

She’s here. Good as gold. Aurelia Miles Schumacher, the newest addition to our family. She was born March 27 and its taken me this long to post a comment about her. The name Aurelia means “Gold.” She’s a babe! What can I say? I’m totally biased. I don’t own a lot of gold. I have a gold wedding band, which I rarely wear because it irritates my skin. The fact that I don’t wear it is probably the reason I still haven’t lost it surfing—like a lot of my other friends have! But Aurelia isn’t an irritant. She’s a blessing. Our prayer for her is that she’ll see that God is even better than gold, more precious than gold, and that she’ll delight in him more than she would gold. Welcome Aurelia. You are loved.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why Christianity Makes Sense

I was on vacation last week. I was sitting on the side walk eating in little Italy at my favorite Italian restaurant—Paesano’s on Mulberry Street—when I met two couples from Canada. We struck up a conversation. It was 2:00 pm. They were drunk! I know they were drunk because after talking with them for a few minutes one of the women started saying, “Oh, isnt’ he cute? He’s so cute! I could listen to him talk all day” right in front of her husband. He did nothing but nod his head. “Oh, he’s so cute.” She kept saying. Anyone who calls me cute like that must be drunk. At any rate, the conversation went from food to religion then to tourism then back to religion again and as I got up to leave, I said, “Consider Jesus. Really! Consider Christianity. It makes sense.” They nodded their heads and she said once again, “Isn’t he cute.” I left and doubt they’ll remember much of our conversation, but why would I say Christianity makes sense? Over the past several years I’ve pondered that and came up with a short list of reasons it makes sense to me. This is not definitive but its something to build on. To me, Christianity makes sense because:

•A robust Christianity provides the best foundation for answering our deepest questions about life (like why are we here), our deepest wants, our deepest desires, our deepest needs.
 •Christianity is not rooted in some religious code of morality that we follow so that we can be better than others, but rooted in the belief that our best efforts at being moral end in failure and make us no different than others--therefore we all need a savior!
 •Christianity believes that while it’s a mystery as to why God allows evil to continue, he’s not indifferent to it. God takes our suffering and misery so seriously that he is willing to be involved in it personally through the life, death and suffering of Jesus Christ.
•Christianity believes that God wants to free us from the thing that enslaves us the most—the compulsion to make good things ultimate things and center our lives around temporal things that were never really intended to satisfy us—things that leave us empty.
•Christianity believes that people are full of goodness because we’ve all been created in the image of God---though every part of our lives is tainted by bad and sin.
•Christianity believes that because we are so flawed ourselves, it’s patently unfair to be judgmental of others! We must discern right from wrong and justice from injustice, but judgmentalism has no place in Christianity.
•Christianity believes in loving our enemies and those who are different or those who disagree with us, because God loved us when we were his enemies, and sent Jesus to die for us, so who are we to be hostile to others!
•And furthermore, since Christianity believes that God has revealed himself in time and space in the person and work of Christ, we humbly and tactfully invite others to consider what we claim to be the revelation of Gods truth because it makes more sense and answers more questions than other religious claims.

Honestly, the Christian religion is rooted in history, embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, and expressed in the church. The apologetic or defense of the Christian faith is not in logic or reason but in revelation! A revelation embraced by the church and embodied in the scriptures the church embraces as true and reliable. And because its rooted in revelation, Christians can relax when talking about it because the goal isn’t to prove it rationally but to show that it makes sense.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Agnes Laughs--A Resurrection Experience

Agnes laughs. She’s 94 years old and she laughs—all the time this lady laughs! I first met her in a training event at Calvary church during our first Leadership Summit. She laughed—if felt like she jumped—at me so hard that it startled me. I got a pretty cool adrenaline rush from it all. She laughed so hard at startling me that she doubled over. She laughs. Why? She delights in God. Seriously, this old lady loves Jesus. She laughs because of Jesus. Not the religious Jesus with the wimpy fair skin and the flowing brown hair and blue Scandinavian eyes but the Jesus that the Gospels talks about. That Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins has so captured Agne’s heart that she laughs. The playful side of the work of Christ on our behalf makes her laugh. The joy of the resurrection life makes her laugh.

Of course, the other side of that whole business is what theologians call the atonement. It is serious. God’s love for us cost him dearly. It wasn’t this sort of sentimental love found in refrigerator magnet theology. The eternal God lost, for a time, the infinite intimacy he’d had among the three members of this Triune community of One. While Christ hung on the cross for our sin, things got dark. God the Father turned his back on God the Son. That’s serious! But the other side of the coin is playful. God, in Christ, invites us into the joy and delight of this Triune being because of the cross (John 17:22-23).

Agnes has it figured out. She laughs—hard and long and loud. She says, “I can’t hear so well!” Then she laughs. No kidding!! I want to be like Agnes when I grow up. I want to laugh and because of the serious work of the cross I can!! C.S. Lewis, in his book The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia series puts it like this, “There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious.” Get serious and laugh. Its resurrection day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Topography of Terror

That was the title of the museum: The Topography of Terror. It was set up in the middle of a large urban lot filled with drab gray stones. (That’s expensive real estate) And in the middle of the drab gray stones was a drab steel building—very plain and modern and functional—but drab. A path wandered around the stones highlighting various historic sites but the drabness, the grayness of it all grabbed my attention. The historical setting of the building was also attention grabbing. It was the former location of the headquarters of the Nazi SS, and the Gestapo—the long arm of the Nazi party during the twelve years of Hitlers rule over Germany in Berlin. The museum was set back from a display located in the Gestapo’s exposed basement, highlighting the rise and fall of the Third Reich, the eventual rises of communism, and the creation and demise of the Berlin wall. The wall, which ironically bordered the property, was a prominent part of the display.

This museum, and the display it highlighted, took up nearly an entire city block. The irony of the location, the choice of stone, and the color were not lost on me. The German people were saying, “The bareness of this property, the ugliness of it, represents the bareness, the ugliness of this part of our history. It is barren, ugly, dark—but its part of us and we will let the world see what these kinds of choices lead to.” An ominous quote from Heinrich Himmler garnished the windows outside the building though, for the life of me, I for some reason didn’t write it down. The scene was quiet and surreal. Nearby was the site of Hitlers bunker—the place where he stayed and eventually committed suicide near the end of the war. It’s a parking lot now.

The logical and practical implications of the social Darwinism that led to the Nazi worldview are still practiced and at work in our world today. That people don’t seem to see that puzzles me. Inside the museum one can listen to speeches by Nazi leaders, like Himmler, espousing the reasons for their choices. As the war ended, and the Nazi leadership fled for their lives, many like Himmler, chose to commit suicide rather than explain, and then be held accountable for, the atrocities that they’d fostered on those they didn’t like. The hardest part in all of this is to recognize the Topography of Terror that resides inside each of us. Its not popular to say or think, and may even be offensive to some readers, but the topography of terror is resident inside the human heart. The heart—we can’t live without it and yet in it there is the potential for great evil. Sobering!!