Home and Place

Moving day. Did I just stir in you a childhood memory of hope for a future adventure mixed with longing over a loss? That’s what the memory of moving day does for me. Unlike some, my family didn’t move around much. So July 20, 1989, the day my family moved across the country from LA to DC, was a major event in my childhood. When the moment arrived to jump in the car and drive to the airport, I paused in the driveway of the only place I’d ever known, turned back, and gave a long hard look to home. Even though I’ve since gone back to visit my old stomping grounds as an adult, and come to realize that house on Grevillea Avenue is not my home anymore, my heart still occasionally plays tricks on me. I think most people can relate. Why is this the case?

We all need a place to call home. Wherever home is for you, that’s where your heart tends to reside. We get nostalgic over the memory of home. We feel heartbroken over losing the good home we once had. And so we continue the restless pursuit of finding a new place that will feel a little more like home. Could it be we’re not so much living in the wrong place but longing for the wrong place. Could it be the restless longing of your heart testifies you were made for a different kind of place?

The book of Hebrews is for discouraged and disheartened Christians who are longing to go back home. It’s essentially a sermon for Jewish believers in Jesus who miss the feeling of home, of family, of nostalgia, of familiarity, of security and comfort, of tradition. They used to find a sense of home in the Jewish religious ceremonies and communal festivals. But when they became Christians by faith in Jesus, they lost access to their former home, and by faith they left it all behind to find a new home. Now they needed instruction, encouragement, and a vision of the future because it turns out the Christian’s quest for our true home can be terribly hard going. Temptations are many and strong, tugging at our hearts to go back to our old home and place where we once found happiness. And so it is for us today. We need this message of our true home, some of us desperately, to either cure the restless ache for those of us who are afflicted, or to awaken the longing for those of us who are comfortable. Hebrews 11:1-16 speaks to this longing of home and place.  What can it teach us?  Even when they die in faith, God approves his faithful people who, like resident aliens, persevered through trial and hoped in his promise of an unseen heavenly homeland. Only in Jesus Christ’s presence can we find a satisfying and lasting sense of home—a place where we will finally live happily ever after. Continue reading

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Can We Even Know the Age of the Earth?

When it comes to the intersection of science and faith, this is a topic that I’ve been passionate about since my teen years.  But there is one aspect of this discussion that seems much less certain—the age of the earth.  “O boy, here we go!” you might be mumbling to yourself now. “What is happening to my beloved Dangitbill!”  Allow me to try to put my readers at ease, and explain why I’ll be reading several Christian books that explore the question of the earth’s age.

First, let me say I am convinced that the age-of-the-earth question is an “intramural debate”.  In other words, this is an in-house or familial discussion that believers should not divide over.  There are basically three camps that Christian creationists (as opposed to evolutionists) land in regarding the earth’s age.

  1. Young Earth Creationism (YEC)
  2. Old Earth Creationism (OEC)
  3. Uncertain Earth-Age Creationism (UEC—that’s my term!)

For a while, depending on what I read or heard last, I would vacillate between YEC and OEC.  Understand that during my upbringing, taking a specific and confident position on the earth’s age was just not a major issue.  I didn’t know many staunch apologists for either position.  Every now and then I’d come across a Christian who took a dogmatic and exclusive view, but those folks appeared to be one-issue believers—if you know what I mean.  And I just didn’t see the point of majoring on something that didn’t appear to be essential to being a growing Christian.  So I guess you could say my background prepped me for being an agnostic (UEC) about the age of the earth.

Fast forward to about 5 years ago. Continue reading

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The Book of Kells (Book Review)

Last summer my family visited Ireland.  We stayed in two castles, ate a lot of great food, soaked of the local culture, and did some typical touristy things.  On our last day in Dublin we had tickets to see the famous Trinity College library (Harry Potter fans will remember the Long Room) where Irish cultural artifacts and very old books are on display.  But nothing in the collection is as old or as historically important as their most precious piece: The Book of Kells.  It’s fair to say that the Book of Kells is the main attraction, and the configuration of the tour and museum testifies to this.  So a few of us were salivating to set our eyes on such a quirky, mysterious, and beautiful work of art.  I don’t know if it was the time of day (11:00 am), or the day (Friday), or the time of year (early summer when the weather is typically grand), but the tour was WAAY oversold and somewhat of a disappointment.  Simply put, there were far too many people allowed in at one time to allow anyone (all paying customers) more than a glance at the ancient tome.

Half-way through the line outside just to get to the line inside

This is how our tour went down.  After entering the gate, the tour path leads you through a couple rooms of museum information displays to prepare for what you are about to see.  But I didn’t see more than a handful of folks loitering or reading in that section.  Nearly everyone bee-lined for the Book of Kells where a glass case table stood in the middle of a dimly yellow-lit room.  A circle of people three layers around in circumference formed a mob around the book, which was actually two volumes opened to the page of the day (the curator turns the page daily).  Some museum attendant was pleading with the crowd to continue moving around the circle (no stopping) and to let others get a change to look.  Some complied, others didn’t.  Lots of nudging and even a little pushing.  Many people, including some in our own party—especially the kids—didn’t even get one glimpse.  Sad.

I’m staring down the crowd behind the camera. Wait one sec!

Next on the tour path was the Long Room which was amazing but also overcrowded.  Lots of people taking selfies.  And there was a sense that you had to keep moving because the crowds swelled continuously from behind.  Finally, the tour dumped everyone into the back of a gift shop.  Typical.  At least the quality was high and the prices were fair.

In the gift shop I purchased Bernard Meehan’s illustrated introduction to the Book of Kells (hereafter BOK) manuscript.  It’s definitely the best affordable guide available today for learning about and appreciating the art and history of the Book of Kells.  With 117 illustrations and 110 of those in high-gloss color, Meehan’s book is a feast for the eyes.  The text is authoritative since Meehan is the current supervising curator of the Book of Kells.  So he’s something of an expert on the book.  Although he’s not the first to write a book on this famous bound manuscript, he stands on the scholarship that preceded him, which gives BOK a cumulative-information feel.  Meehan lays out BOK like a good tour guide: Continue reading

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enGendered (Book Review)

What is the essence of human gender?  Right now this is a question at the forefront in our culture.  Turns out it’s not so easy to give a solid answer.  Just as Diogenes pointed out to Plato that man cannot be defined as a “featherless biped” when he plunked a plucked chicken down in front of his teacher—tongue in cheek for sure!—so also the vexing question of “what is human gender” is tying folks in intellectual knots nowadays.  Sometimes it’s enough to just say, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”  But when activists and ideologues begin wounding people with rhetoric and pushy agendas, it’s time to take the question seriously.

Pastor and author Sam Andreades has written an influential book that has moved the gender conversation forward in a unique way.  In enGendered: God’s Gift of Gender Difference in Relationship, the author proposes that people discover the beauty and distinctiveness of human gender in asymmetrical (i.e., male-female) relationship.  Through his pastoral interaction with people involved in the homosexual lifestyle (some in long-term relationships) in Greenwich Village in New York City, Andreades came to realize that folks who came out of gay relationships and entered as Christians into male-female marriages were in a unique position to provide information on whether relational asymmetrical sex differences make a significant difference.  Later the author wrote a doctoral thesis based on his DSM (“Does She Matter?”) Study that simply asked former homosexual men whether “she” matters, and if yes, how so.  But his book enGendered is more than a compilation of the findings derived from that study.  He also does much biblical, theological, sociological, and worldview thinking to situate his sociological data in a thesis that asserts men and women can only find genuine expression of the masculine and feminine genders to the degree they are intimately engaged in asymmetrical relationship with one another.  To summarize the testimonies of the DSM men, “Yes, she most definitely matters!” Continue reading

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Theology of the Westminster Confession: Perseverance of the Saints

My church is in the middle of an extensive adult Sunday School class.  The topic is the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).  The idea is that each teacher will develop a set of slides to aid in presentation and discussion.  We hope the completed set of slides (the goal is to cover all 33 chapters of the WCF) is a valuable resource not only for our folks at church, but also for individuals, other churches and schools to use (and modify) for their own purposes.  Here is the set of slides that present chapter 17 of the WCF on “Perseverance of the Saints.”  Enjoy and let me know what you think.  Are these helpful?  How could they be improved?

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The Fellowship of the Ring (Book Review)

Try this thought experiment.  Imagine you are once again your 12th grade self.  Can you remember what you thought of your high school summer reading list?  Books like The Catcher in the Rye, Ulysses, and Frankenstein come to mind.  My 12th grade self was not interested in any of these.  Top priorities included baseball, friends, and girls—probably in that order.  So with eyes unfocused and glazed over I pored over my list of reading options.  But my English teacher, Mrs. Labozzetta, wife of the baseball coach of the crosstown rival Garfield High School Indians, had my respect.  She knew the kind of guy I was—my 12th grade self.  “What do you think I should read?” I asked.  She considered the list for a moment and replied, “I think you’d love the Lord of the Rings—have you ever read it?”

Now, keep in mind that was 1991.  It was years before Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy would hit the big screen.  Ever read it?  Hey, I hadn’t even heard of it!  The last thing I had read something in the fantasy genre was some troll picture book when I was like 5 or something.  But I didn’t have any better ideas, and I trusted Mrs. Baseball Coach, so I bee-lined to the library, found The Fellowship of the Ring (hereafter LOTR1) in the card catalog (those were the days!), and started at page one that evening.

I wish I could tell you that LOTR1 moved me.  I’d love to wax eloquent about how Gandalf and Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Strider and Gimli, and the rest of the ring fellowship were precisely what I was looking for.  But to be honest, my 12th grade self was just not mature enough to get it.  As I recall, it’s doubtful if I even made a good faith effort to like it.

Thank God I’m not my 12th grade self anymore. Continue reading

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Theology of the Westminster Confession: Christ the Mediator

My church is in the middle of an extensive adult Sunday School class.  The topic is the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).  The idea is that each teacher will develop a set of slides to aid in presentation and discussion.  We hope the completed set of slides (the goal is to cover all 33 chapters of the WCF) is a valuable resource not only for our folks at church, but also for individuals, other churches and schools to use (and modify) for their own purposes.  Here is the set of slides that present chapter 8 of the WCF on “Christ the Mediator.”  Enjoy and let me know what you think.  Are these helpful?  How could they be improved?

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