Sunday, March 29, 2015

Grievous mayhem and loss

Like James Bond, my hobby is resurrection. 

At one point I made a handwritten list of all the times I almost could have died over the decades. After I filled the entire front of that sheet of paper, I started feeling incredibly depressed, crumpled up the sheet and threw it away. 

True, I can't outpaced Agent 007, but it sometimes feels that way. 

Much worse, however, was almost losing my wife, Renée, 20 months ago here in Portland. It was late. Renée was heading toward downtown to pick up our son and his girlfriend after a formal dance. A woman from out of town pulled off the freeway, missed the signs, turned onto a one-way, quickly sped up and smashed right into the front end of Renée's car. Air bags saved both of their lives, but Renée was cut and severely bruised and found herself trapped inside mangled metal and shattered glass with the smell of smoke filling the air. Try as she might, Renée couldn't get the driver's door open. She pounded and sobbed but couldn't get the passenger door open. Desperate, she climbed into the back seat. The door on her left wouldn't open either. The smell of smoke kept getting stronger. Finally, the door on her right budged a bit. She kicked it open, crawled out of the car and started weeping. 

This next Sunday is Easter Resurrection Sunday. It's not always chocolate and bunnies. Sometimes God breaks our heart. He allows our lives to be shattered. He permits grievous mayhem and loss. A belief in resurrection "some day" must be replaced by the hope and prayer for resurrection "today." And if not, we keep hoping and praying for it "tomorrow" and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

No matter what our past experiences, current circumstances and future prospects, I'm so glad we always can thank God for His sovereignty (greatness), providence (goodness), holiness (glory), love (graciousness) and mystery (God only knows). Without that, I don't know how Renee and I would have survived the crushing trials, enormous losses, and wrenching sorrows that have been ours to experience and endure and persevere through. 

Many have asked how we've kept the faith. It's not because this life is easy. Instead, it's because we know we can trust God as He is (not how we wonder or wish or want Him to be). Every day, and that includes "today," we can enjoy His gifts of faith, hope, love, joy and peace...

Friday, March 27, 2015

"...I will finish strong"

Dr. Joe Aldrich

One of the greatest temptations you and I will ever face in this life is to spiritually drift away from the Lord. No one is immune—no matter how long and faithfully they have walked with the Lord.

The late Dr. Joe Aldrich, former president of Multnomah Bible College, is one of several godly men who have motivated me to stay in the Christian race until the end. I still remember many of the lessons I learned under his mentorship nearly 30 years ago. 

On Dr. Joe’s desk at his death was the following statement: “I surrender my life into the hands of God, knowing He has predestined for me His best. I will count the cost and by God's grace I will pay the price to become the best that I am capable of becoming. I will hold to my course and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will finish strong.” Powerful words from an amazing man whose ministry and life were cut short by Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. John G. Mitchell
Besides Dr. Joe, few men have influenced me more than Dr. John G. Mitchell, co-founder of what is now Multnomah University. Dr. John F. Walvoord once said Dr. Mitchell reminded him of an aged apostle. Never have I met a man who was more in love with the Savior. 

On two occasions Dr. Mitchell made a point of reminding me—more than sixty years his junior—that there are only three reasons Christians die. These reasons are true in Scripture, in church history, and in our experience today. Believers die (A) because of the discipline of God, 1 Corinthians 11:29−30; 1 John 5:16, (B) for the glory of God, John 21:18−19, and/or (C) because their work is finished, 2 Timothy 4:6−8. 

Dr. Mitchell also urged me to make sure, when it comes time to die, that dying is all I have left to do.

Thanks to the influence of Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Joe, and others, I love God’s Word. As a teenager, I started reading it from cover to cover, and before college I had memorized nearly 100 pages of Scripture. I’ve read through the Bible dozens of times. And I’ve discovered that only four chapters don’t talk about sin and temptation. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 we find that the biggest temptation is for believers to experientially “lose” our faith. How? We stop doing what the Lord says. Why? We stop believing what God’s Word says.

The startling truth is no one exempt from the temptation to experientially “lose” his or her faith. Not even Dr. Mitchell. Not even Dr. Joe. Thankfully, both did finish well. The question is, how will you and I die? 

Are we willing to make Dr. Joe’s commitment our own?

Consider it again: “I surrender my life into the hands of God, knowing He has predestined for me His best. I will count the cost and by God's grace I will pay the price to become the best that I am capable of becoming. I will hold to my course and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will finish strong.”

Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Nagging Questions After Watching Chappie

Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver with Chappie
This Wednesday evening I had the privilege opportunity to attend an advance screening of Chappie. No, it won’t be in the running for best sci-fi movie of the year. Not even close. Still, it raises a number of important questions, not the least of which is, When will man create the first robot that’s human? First, however, a few other questions.

1. What’s with the name “Chappie”? Whatever you do, don’t slap this name on your next child. If you don’t know why, imagine your child’s kindergarten teacher reading roll call and saying his or her name aloud. Yes, you know what happens next. Not good. They’re already saying the same thing about the movie.

2. Why such a flat storyline? Sci-fi is supposed to spark our imagination and offer possibilities, even epiphanies, about other (future?) realities. Chappie the movie (not your kid) starts well. The first few minutes raise expectations fairly high. The next 110 minutes, however, relentlessly swear, threaten, shoot, stab, maim, kill and grind those expectations into the grimiest parts of Johannesburg, South Africa. True, you grow to care about Chappie and his creator, and a bit for ¥o-Landi Vi$$er, and the last few minutes offer a predictable but sufficient ending. Even the best of endings, however, can’t atone for such flat screenwriting.

3. How can great actors fail us? Not one, but two of Hollywood’s most consistently successful actors, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, find it impossible to rise above the movie’s flat storyline. Not even for half a minute. I don’t know how much they got paid, but their star power is tarnished, if only for a season.

4. Will this movie bomb? The screening audience laughed. Once. For the wrong reasons. When it was over, applause was muted and mercifully brief. Chappie the movie might last in theatres for two or three weeks. Then again, that’s probably too sanguine. Already the Internet is abuzz with “Chappie is c*appy.” Call your next kid anything but.

5. What about the movie’s premise? Doesn’t Chappie win points for tackling a pressing question? After all, the title character runs a Google search for “uploading human consciousness” and a few hours later declares he’s learned everything he needs to know. Try the same search in March 2015 and you’ll be surprised at the vast array of search results. Everything is in place, including confidence. Oh, except for the “how.”

6. When will man create the first robot that’s human? If you believe everything you read, this is supposed to take place by 2030. You might think of it as the Garden of Eden II—the opening chapters of Genesis reimagined in the not-so-distant-future. Instead of God, we have a youthful and geeky engineer. Instead of creating Adam, he creates Abel, who lands in the wrong hands, falls into sin, becomes Cain, and then is redeemed.

Last but not least…

7. Is it worth seeing at least once? Sure. Without the kids. Fifteen years from now. Just be sure to ditch any and all expectations. If you laugh, that’s okay. If you yawn, that’s okay too. Just be thankful Jackman and Weaver went on to make more great movies.