And So it Begins…

And So it Begins… (CaD Gen 1) Wayfarer

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Genesis 1:2 (NIV)

A few months ago, a dear friend sent me the text of an autobiographical account about a young adolescent girl who coincidentally (or not) struck up a relationship with an old Frenchman she quite literally ran into while running. He told her to call him Mr. Tayer, and the two of them began walking together in the park two days a week. The quirky old man opened the eyes and the mind of this young girl to see the world in new and transformative ways. On the Thursday before Easter, at the end of their walk, he bid her good-bye. He stopped showing up for their walks.

Many years later, she read a book that had been given to her by a friend. The things she read in the book were so reminiscent of the things that Mr. Tayer would talk about on their walks. She searched to find a photo of the author of the book. Mr. Tayer’s real name was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a world-renowned paleontologist, scientist, philosopher, a Jesuit priest, and man whose ideas were so controversial that the Roman Catholic church forced him to stop publishing or speaking publicly.

I had heard of de Chardin, but I knew very little about him. The account of his impact on this girl’s life, the way he saw creation, and controversy he inspired made me think he was my kinda guy. I’ve been learning more about him ever since.

de Chardin’s most well-known for what he called “the Omega point.” The details get a bit thick, but the notion is that everything is connected and that everything will eventually unify and collapse into one point, just as physicists believe that everything began with one tiny point (“the Alpha point”) before the Big Bang.

As a follower of Jesus, of course, this reminds me that Jesus revealed Himself to John as “The Alpha and Omega.” In the divine dance of Father, Son, and Spirit, it is Jesus who is identified as the agent of creation in the Great Story. John writes in his own beautiful creation account at the beginning of his biography of Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Today my chapter-a-day journey take me back to the beginning with the book of Genesis. It’s been eight years since my last journey through these parts, and as I read through the well-known account of creation, I found both my heart and mind struggling to distill my thoughts down to a simple, coherent thought. So, I began to explore with both heart and mind what it was that my heart and mind were struggling with.

First, there’s the reality that over 40 years of study I have observed so many teachers, preachers, and scholars who try to simplify the account of Creation into a box that serves their purpose. Instead, as I read it, I find it infinitely complex in beauty, form, and mystery.

And that reveals to me the next layer of my struggle. There is so much here that to try and condense it into a blog post on a Monday morning in September feels like a fool’s errand. I don’t want to be yet another reductionist of something so expansive in both significance and subtlety.

That’s what brought me back to Mr. Tayer and his young friend walking through park and stopping to consider the wonder of a caterpillar (just like Wendy and I were doing with our grandson Milo on a FaceTime call this past week) and metamorphosis, and time, and physics, and connectedness, and a giant, ever-expanding universe, and the notion of everything being contained in one small point, and of Jesus being the Alpha Point from which everything flows in the beginning, and Jesus being the Omega point to which everything flows in the end, and that same Jesus become flesh-and-blood and moving into the neighborhood.

And so it begins, this journey through Geneisis. In the quiet I find myself determined to enter this journey, not constrained by what I’ve been taught it is or is supposed to be, but with my mind and heart open to the possibilities that it is far more than I ever imagined.

If you’d like to read the story of “Mr. Tayer” by Jean Houston, you may download it here.

A new message (on Ecclesiastes 2) has been uploaded to the Messages page.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Is This the End!?

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…
2 Peter 3:14-15 (NIV)

In recent months, I’ve had multiple followers of Jesus who I know to be learned and wise ask me whether I believe the return of Christ will happen in our lifetime. I’ll get to my response in a few moments, but let me explain the question, and why I find it fascinating.

Jesus spoke quite directly about a day when He would return in the final chapters of the Great Story (see Matthew 24-25). At His ascension, Jesus’ followers were told by angels that He would one day return just as He departed (see Acts 1). Naturally, The Twelve asked Him “when” (multiple times). Each time they asked, Jesus responded that the answer to “when” is “hidden” with Father God. Before the ascension, He quite directly told His followers, “It’s not for you to know.”

So, of course, like children being told we can’t play with a certain toy, it only serves to make us want the thing even more. In today’s chapter, Peter addresses those in his generation who desperately wanted know “when,” along with addressing those who scoffed at the notion it would ever happen. And so, I’ve watched people in my generation obsessed with cracking the mystery that the Son of God Himself said was hidden from even Him and “not for you to know.”

And, that’s why I found it intriguing that my wise and learned friends are asking the question to which they and I both understand to be unknowable. Why is this question being asked now? And how do I answer?

First, as an amateur historian, I’ve come to believe that from the time Peter was first scratching out his second letter to today, there has not been a single generation that has not contained individuals convinced that Jesus return and the end times would happen in their lifetime. In addition, the more tumultuous the times (wars, plagues, revolutions, etc.) the more acutely people have felt “this is it!” Furthermore, I have observed in my own lifetime that the older believers get (and feel the impending end of their own life journey) the more they feel anxious about the changes of life and culture in their own lifetime. Thus, as they feel the end of their own earthly journey drawing nigh, they become convinced that the end of all things is near.

Second, and keeping these things in mind, I must also logically conclude that some of the descriptions of life in the end times as revealed in Revelation have never been more possible: cataclysmic natural disasters, events that affect the entire globe, one-word government, one global currency, the entirety of a persons finances and transactions being dictated by some kind of mark on the hand or forehead, and etc. Never in human history have these descriptions been more possible or probable.

So, it makes sense to me that my friends are asking this unknowable question. We are living in tumultuous times while at the same time observing that the events described in the final chapters of the Great Story feel less like spiritual science fiction and more like current events.

When asked the question of “when” by The Twelve, Jesus told them a story of unmarried bridesmaids whose responsibility it was to have their oil lamps filled and trimmed in anticipation of the bridegroom arriving for the wedding. It was their responsibility to provide illumination for the nighttime ceremony, and their lamps illuminated these eligible girls for all the eligible groomsmen and guests looking for a wife! In the story, some of the bridesmaids (like the scoffers of every generation who say, “It’s never going to happen”) got tired of waiting for the groom, and essentially gave up, believing the groom would never show up. But he did, and they were caught off guard. Not only would they be shamed for not upholding their duty, but they would also miss out on finding a husband themselves.

And, that’s my answer.

Are these events going to happen? Yes! Absolutely!

Will they happen in our life time? I don’t know. Silly question.

Am I ready if they do? Yes, of course. That’s what Jesus asks of me. Bring it on!

In the meantime, I wait and walk this journey doing the best I can to love God and love others in increasing measure in hope that others will follow along with me. I’m ready if Jesus should return, unconcerned whether it happens in my lifetime or not, and content not to know the unknowable.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Well-Worn Playbook

The Well-Worn Playbook (CaD 2 Pe 2) Wayfarer

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
2 Peter 2:19 (NIV)

The Great Story is, at its heart, a story of good and evil. The evil one tempts Adam and Eve into disobeying God’s demand by questioning God’s goodness and promising them that they will be “like God” if they just have a taste of that forbidden fruit.

The punishment is their expulsion from the Garden and fellowship with God to live and die in the world, where the “Prince of this World,” as Jesus referenced the Evil One, has dominion over the kingdoms of this world. Before starting his mission, Jesus and the Prince of this World met, and Jesus faced the same basic temptations used against Adam and Eve (the Evil One’s playbook is really pretty basic). He offered to give Jesus all the “kingdoms of this world” if he would merely bow and worship. Jesus passed on the offer. The night before He was crucified, Jesus told His followers that the “Prince of this World” stood condemned. His sacrificial death and resurrection was righting a wrong on a grand scale.

The final chapters of the Great Story tell of the climactic confrontation of God and evil. It’s an end, and then a new beginning, which is yet another recurring theme in the Great Story.

Along my life journey, I’ve tried to be mindful of this foundational conflict as I interpret all that see and experience along the way. God is Love, and that Love is the source of life and goodness. Evil is an oppositional force. It opposes all that God is, and does, and desires. God is love, and so evil sows hatred. God is for life, thus evil gloats in death. God is about goodness and order, and so evil rejoices in destruction and chaos.

In today’s chapter, Peter is writing to the first century followers of Christ about the oppositional forces that were already at work to disrupt the powerful impact that their faith, expressed through Christ’s love in action was having in the world. Individuals with selfish and evil motives were leading Jesus’ followers astray. Interestingly enough, one of the tactics Peter mentions is their promise of freedom. He states that these false teachers were telling people that they are free to indulge any and all of their appetites (both the Greeks and Romans were famous for indulging all their appetites in creative and unrestrained ways). Peter warned them to be wary of this deceit.

Jesus is often quoted: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Rarely do I hear the previous sentence quoted with it: “You are truly my disciples if you do what I tell you. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

See the oppositional forces at work? Evil tells me “indulge your appetites and you’ll experience freedom,” though what I end up experiencing is self-focused indulgence which leads me into slavery to my own appetites and all the destructive consequences that go with it (personally, relationally, physically, spiritually, and mentally). In contrast, simple obedience to Jesus’ law of love, which gets expressed in part by the spiritual fruit of self-control keeps me free of those destructive consequences so that all the other fruit of love (goodness, kindness, etc.) has room to pour out of me into others.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but recall a Tweet I saw yesterday from a celebrity and former Disney star:

Again, the playbook is pretty basic. “Indulge your appetites and you will experience freedom.” As the Sage of Ecclesiastes says, “There’s really nothing new under the sun.” And yet, I’ve never found anything really free or good traveling down any alley of indulgence. Pleasure? Certainly. But that’s fleeting and then requires another fix to feel it again, then a bigger fix, and then yet another even bigger fix. I like the way Bob Dylan described it: “A bad motorcyle with the devil in the seat, going ninety-miles an hour down a dead-end street.”

And so, I press on in this earthly journey one more day, choosing the path that Jesus prescribed to freedom. As for me, I have yet to be disappointed on this path, nor has it ever led me down a dead-end street.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

On Being a “Member”

On Being a "Member" (CaD 2 Pet 1) Wayfarer

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:8 (NIV)

Along my life journey, I have served a number of local churches in either a volunteer or paid part-time basis. As a young man, I spent a total of five years in full-time pastoral ministry and served two different churches in very different denominations. These two full-time stints were very different experiences, but there was one thing the two experiences had in common. In the middle of my tenure at each of these churches, I was called to account by well-intentioned, legalistic busybodies for having not become a “member” of the said church.

I will never forget receiving a phone call asking me to be at an emergency meeting of the elders; the raw emotions of disappointment, anxiety, and suspicion expressed with regard to my reasons for not being a “member.” I will also not forget the abject silliness of jumping through all the institutional, bureaucratic hoops to appease the religious busybodies, including apologizing in a congregational meeting for my “oversight” and requesting that my “membership” be approved by the people who hired me to be their pastor.

It was no different than Jesus getting called to account for healing someone on the Sabbath day of rest. Being a member of a church does not make one a follower of Jesus, and being a follower of Jesus has nothing to do with adherence to religious, institutional bureaucracy. Confusion of the two is one of the legitimate realities that lie at the root of the world’s criticism and condemnation of Christianity. There are a host of other reasons, both legitimate and illegitimate, that lie with it.

In the opening of Peter’s second letter to first century followers of Jesus, he begins by identifying those who are legitimate followers of Jesus. You won’t find mention of a “membership certificate” or congregational approval anywhere in the description. Rather, Peter points to the evidence of ever-increasing spiritual maturity:

Faith that leads to goodness in words and deeds toward all.
Goodness that motivates a desire to know more about the things of God.
Knowledge that contributes to personal self-control in temptation.
Self-control that contributes to perseverance in tough stretches of the journey.
Perseverance that produces deeper levels of godliness in the daily mundane.
Godliness that shows up in sincere affection for others more than self.
Affection that results in acts of sacrificial love for others.

Peter goes on to explain that the goal is life that is effective and productive. This is exactly what Jesus told Peter and the team on the night before He was crucified: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The goal is a life of connection to Jesus, being a “member” of the divine dance in the larger work He is accomplishing in the Great Story. Being a “member” of Christ effectively produces fruit in my life, and that fruit includes the very character traits Peter listed.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about this penchant I’ve witnessed in many for taking institutional church membership so seriously. I’ve just never considered the bureaucracy worthwhile. I’ve always believed that my “membership” is proven, not by taking a class, signing my name, receiving a certificate, and saying “I do” to list of rote questions, but rather by the evidence of my being spiritually effective and productive within my local gathering of Jesus’ followers and my community, just as Peter describes. If I have the former without the latter, then “my faith” is not faith at all. It’s just a membership that carries as much spiritual benefit as my membership in the rewards club of my local grocery store.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Latest: Summer 2021

Summer for Wendy and me has increasingly become a series of celebrations in recent years. The big three summer holidays (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day) are the pillars of the season which we spend at the lake. Then there are minor celebrations and summer moments unique to each year’s trip around the sun.

This summer began with the annual VL, JP, VW Memorial Day gathering at the lake. When we started this tradition the eldest JP and VL children were babies. Now we have high school and middle schoolers enjoying the rays, waves, and lake fun.

June was marked by a visit from Wendy’s sister and her family. Wendy’s sister let us know that raising their daughter, Lydia, was like raising a “little Wendy.” Lydia let Aunt Wendy know that we’re welcome to adopt her. We also enjoyed the perks of having a brother in the sign business. Tim and Kumi stopped by on their never ending travels to install that sign that he designed and made for the Vander Well Pub.

After the year of COVID, I was feeling the need to get out of Dodge and indulge a growing case of wanderlust. What better way to appease both than the Great American Road trip? One week, three-thousand miles, and over fifty hours behind the wheel. Pella, Elkhart, Logansport, Richmond, Columbia, Gainesville, Little Rock, Sunrise Beach, and back home. I got to mix a little business with a little pleasure, as well as meeting a few old friends face-to-face. By the time I got home my body was a little stiff, but my soul was full.

My road trip was highlighted by G, Madison, and me at the Columbia (SC) Fireflies game. So much fun!!

Wendy and I continue to enjoy supporting our community (the coolest small town in America). We loved supporting the Pella Opera House at their annual gala. We also loved celebrating the Pella Historical Society on a gorgeous summer evening of Big Band music. The new Wyatt Earp experience (Did you know Wyatt Earp grew up in Pella, Iowa?!) is amazing.

The pinnacle of the summer was our Fourth of July week at the lake with the family. Tay, Clay, and Milo were back in the states for six weeks from their home in Scotland. They were with us for a week in Pella. We got to spend some time at the Atkins’ Oasis and Milo got to ride on the tractor with Papa. We then for a week at the lake. Madison and G (and Bertha) made the road trip from SC to join us all at the lake. It was so fun getting to introduce Milo to his first water slide ride, fun on the beach at Captain Ron’s, and swimming off the dock.

One of the worst parts of COVID has been the way it has kept us from being with people we love. We were, therefore, so excited to have our friends Kevin and Linda with us at the end of July for a visit. The visit was way too short, but we made the most of it doing the things we love: great food, great drink, cigars, laughter, love, and spirited conversation. We can’t wait to visit them in Palm Springs.

We were sad to see our Scottish crew go in August. Nevertheless, we were so excited to have Tay and Milo join us for one last night together and to join us at our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. Clay joined us for a final meal together in Pella. We also made a quick trip to DSM for one last hug before they left for home.

This summer was also marked by the arrival of two new nephews, bringing our total count of nieces and nephews to a baker’s dozen. Ian, born to Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, was born at home in Mexico. We can’t wait for the opportunity to meet him in person. Owen, born to Wendy’s brother, Lucas, arrived here in Iowa and we have enjoyed getting to hold him.

As always, Labor Day weekend marks the end of the summer. It has been a tradition for many years to toast the season’s finale with an adult weekend at the lake with the VLs and JPs. We did so again this year. It was a mellow weekend of good meals, good drink, and good conversation. Our friends left a few hours ago.

Wendy and I love the week after Labor Day at the lake. The crowds are gone, but the summer weather remains. We’re looking forward to working remotely this week and enjoying some time together in the quiet, by the water.

Nahum (Aug 2021)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Nahum published by Tom Vander Well in August of 2021. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Nahum 1: Faith in Justice

Nahum 2: Smack-Talk

Nahum 3: “Kingdoms Fall”

“Kingdoms Fall”

Kingdoms Fall (CaD Na 3) Wayfarer

Nothing can heal you;
    your wound is fatal.
All who hear the news about you
    clap their hands at your fall,
for who has not felt
    your endless cruelty?

Nahum 3:19 (NIV)

I am wrapping up the book Band of Brothers by Stephen A. Ambrose, the book that inspired the HBO miniseries of the title. I’m enjoying getting more depth and insight to the actual story told in the miniseries, and I’m impressed with how closely they stuck to the true story.

For those who are unfamiliar (if there are any) Band of Brothers is the story of one company of airborne infantry from boot camp through D-Day (when the Allies invaded Normandy) and to VE Day (Victory in Europe) in World War II.

One of the things that has stood out in reading the book is the way that things changed for the soldiers when they made their way into Germany itself. There was such a contrast between the German towns and villages which had been untouched by the war and the violence, destruction, and devastation Easy Company experienced fighting its way through France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Even more stark was the relatively “normal” life they witnessed of German towns and citizens protected from the carnage their country had unleashed on others and the horrors of the concentration camp the men discovered in the nearby woods. Richard Winters wrote, “…it leaves feelings that cannot be described and will never be forgotten.”

I have to believe that this is about as close as most modern readers can come to understanding the schadenfreude the prophet Nahum spews in today’s chapter. Assyrian brutality is infamous in history.

From one commentary I read:

“Many casualties, piles of dead” (vs. 3). Assyrian armies had inflicted these horrors on conquered enemies. The inscriptions of Ashurnasirpal give the most frightful reports: “I captured many soldiers alive. The rest of them I burnt. I carried off valuable tribute from them. I built a pile of live (men and) heads before his gate. I erected on stakes 700 soldiers before their gate. I razed, destroyed (and) turned in to ruin hills the city. I burnt their adolescent boys and girls.” When Sennacherib conquered Babylon, he related, “I left no one. I filled the city squares with their corpses.” Relief sculptures depict Assyrian soldiers bringing the heads of their enemies for secretaries to record.

The epilogue of Nahum’s prophetic message is its fulfillment. Assyria an its capital city of Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612 B.C. Nineveh was utterly destroyed. Assyria became a province of the Babylonian and Persian empires, then faded into history. Just 200 years after Nineveh’s fall the Greek adventurer, Xenophon, traveled through the area and was completely unaware that Nineveh, once the largest city on the planet, had ever existed there.

As I’ve been reading and contemplating Nahum’s prophetic poetry this week, lyrics of an old U2 song keep flitting through my soul:

Kingdoms rise, and Kingdoms fall.
But You go on, and on, and on.

As I prepare and study for a series of messages this fall on the wisdom of the Sage of Ecclesiastes, I also can’t escape the notion that all life is simply “vapor” that comes and goes so fleetingly. I can see it. It appears tangible, yet when I try to grasp it simply slips through the fingers.

And so I leave the words of ancient Nahum for now, until the journey brings me back this way. Kingdoms and empires come and go on this earth as they have since the first civilization in Sumer. And so, they ever will until the Great Story is concluded. And so I press on with the words of Isaiah echoing in my soul:

Doom to those who go off to Egypt
    thinking that horses can help them,
Impressed by military mathematics,
    awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders—
And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance,
    not so much as a prayer to God.
Still, he must be reckoned with

Isaiah 31:1-2 (MSG)

And so, I reckon I’ll take a brief respite from this chapter-a-day journey to enjoy an extended Labor Day holiday with dear friends. I plan to resume Wednesday of next week. Enjoy your holiday, my friend. Cheers!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Smack-Talk

Where now is the lions’ den,
    the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
    and the cubs, with nothing to fear?
Nahum 2:11 (NIV)

When I was a younger man, I enjoyed being part of groups of friends who would compete in on-line pools in which we tried to pick which teams would win each week. I listened to a lot of sports radio while I was on the road. But, I grew weary of the constant braggadocio, belittling of others, and never-ending “smack-talk” in which people played this kind of verbal “king of the mountain.” They would gloat over the fans of the teams they hate, until the tables turned and the gloating went the other way. It was stupid. So, I still enjoy being a fan of my favorite teams, and I find it fun to casually follow them. Otherwise, I try to avoid the world in which sports is taken seriously.

That sub-culture of smack-talk in sports came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter because Nahum’s entire prophetic poem is an ancient version of talking smack against his people’s greatest enemy, Assyria. Choose your favorite sport, Assyria was the big-market dynasty that never loses and has been dominant forever. Nahum is part of a small market team that had a few good seasons back in the day but has been nothing but a doormat ever since.

If a fan was going to talk smack against the New York Yankees, let’s say. You’d want to take well-known things about the Yankees and then turn them into negatives:

“The house that Ruth built will be reduced to rubble.”
“Black pinstripes will turn blood red when they are slaughtered.”
“Aaron will be ‘Judged’ and found wanting.”

That’s exactly what Nahum is doing with Assyria, thought it’s easily lost on modern readers.

When Nahum writes:

The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
    like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
    and have ruined their vines.

He’s alluding to Assyria’s earlier domination over the northern tribe of Israel and Assyria’s insult-to-injury tactic of destroying all of an enemy’s vines so that they will have no wine to drown their sorrows. Nahum is proclaiming that the little underdog will rise again, while the mighty dynasty of Assyria is coming down.

When Nahum writes:

The shields of the soldiers are red;
    the warriors are clad in scarlet.

He’s referencing a common Assyrian boast of their shields and robes dripping with their enemies’ blood. Nahum is turning the tables, saying it will be Assyria’s blood coating the shields and robes of their enemy.

When Nahum writes:

The river gates are thrown open
    and the palace collapses.

He’s referencing the network of reservoirs and irrigation canals in and around Nineveh. When the dams are opened the river floods, making the Nineveh palace weak and compromised.

When Nahum writes:

Plunder the silver!
    Plunder the gold!
The supply is endless,
    the wealth from all its treasures!

He’s referencing the incredible wealth of Nineveh which they hoarded by plundering other peoples. This time, it will be a conquering army that plunders all of their treasures. By the way, in the late 20th century the tombs of Assyrian queens were discovered. Click here to view an online book that catalogs the hoard of gold and treasures they found (scroll past page 220 or so to see the images). It gives you an idea of the treasure that awaited those who conquered Nineveh.

When Nahum writes:

Where now is the lions’ den,
    the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
    and the cubs, with nothing to fear?

Ashurbanipal defeating a lion.

He’s alluding to the fact that Assyrian kings were closely associated with lions. Ashurbanipal, who was likely on the throne as Nahum is writing, was often depicted with lions or hunting lions. Statues of him always show him holding a lion. Nahum is saying that “the lion’s den” of Nineveh will be desolate after their defeat.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about how hollow Nahum’s smack-talk must have sounded when he wrote it. No one could have imagined Assyria’s defeat, and Nahum would have been laughed at and mercilessly derided for suggesting such a thing.

But, he was right. He might not have been right in the moment, but he saw the handwriting on the wall. He would be proved right in time.

That’s the way it is as a follower of Jesus. Having faith in justice and believing that the Great Story will unfold as prophetically predicted rings hollow for most people. You can find plenty of people who laugh and shake their heads. And, it neither surprises me nor do I ever think that will change. Still, I believe that justice will prevail one day and that Love wins, just as Jesus claimed it would.

But hey, I’m a Cubs fan. I’ve learned that “someday” does actually arrive.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Faith in Justice

Faith in Justice (CaD Na 1) Wayfarer

The Lord is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,
    but with an overwhelming flood
he will make an end of Nineveh;
    he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.

Nahum 1:7-8 (NIV)

The world has watched in horror the past week-and-a-half as Afghanistan quickly fell into the hands of the Taliban. No matter which side of the political aisle one stands, and setting aside the argument of whether NATO forces should have been at all, there is no escaping the brutal realities of life under the Taliban. It’s been hard to read and hear the eye-witness accounts. A woman shot in the street for not wearing a burka. Another woman burned alive because she was considered a bad cook. When a mother is willing to throw her own baby over barbed-wire in an effort to ensure that he/she will have a life elsewhere, it tells me something.

Much of the story of what we refer to as the Old Testament is really about how one people, the Hebrews, lived and survived throughout several centuries in which one empire after another sought to control the world: Egyptians, Medes, Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans.

The ancient prophet, Nahum, lived in a time when the Assyrian Empire was the largest the world had seen to-date. Its capital city, Nineveh, was the largest city on the planet. He was probably writing his prophetic poems during the reign of Assyria’s last great king, Ashurbanipal (see featured photo). The Assyrian army was particularly brutal. Ashurbanipal’s records speak of him flaying enemies (removing the skin off of bodies) and draping the human skins over piles of corpses and city walls. The Assyrian armies would leave piles of dismembered limbs and dead bodies impaled on stakes as calling cards telling everyone they’d been there.

Enter Nahum, a prophet who both seeks to comfort his people and encourage them to trust God, but who most warns the Assyrians/Nineveh that God will see to it that their mighty empire will fall. In today’s opening poem, Nahum establishes God as both kind and stern. He predicts Ninevah’s fall and Judah’s joy when it does.

The Great Story is layered with recurring themes. Justice is definitely one of them, and Nahum is a mouthpiece for God’s message that the mighty empire of Assyria/Nineveh with its record of violent oppression and brutality will not last. Their just downfall is coming. But that same message also exists on a grand scale of the larger eternal epic of the Great Story. The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He tells His followers that “the prince of this world stands condemned.” The end of the Great Story is about eternal justice on a cosmic scale. Wrongs are made right. Justice prevails. Love wins.

In the meantime, the story continues. The journey goes on, and the kingdoms of this world perpetuate injustice, violence, and brutality. Jesus tells His followers to be agents of a very different Kingdom marked by blessedness of those who are poor in spirit, the mourning, peacemakers, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the persecuted. He asked me to be marked not by power, anger, vengeance, violence, hatred, but love that is manifested in joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Being a follower of Jesus is a faith journey, and that faith includes believing that justice will prevail, just it did for Nahum. After Ashurbanipal’s reign the Assyrian Empire quickly fell apart. Its decline was swift and historians argue to this day how could so quickly fall apart and recede. So, I believe, the end of the Great Story will come just as prophesied.

In the meantime, I press on doing what I can to act justly and with love. One simple agent of a different Kingdom journeying amidst the kingdoms of this world in faith that justice will ultimately prevail, and that Love wins.

Wayfarer Weekend Podcast: Dr. Bob Laurent

(WW) Interview with Dr. Bob Laurent Wayfarer

The night I made the life-changing decision to become a follower of Jesus, Dr. Bob Laurent was preaching. A bit further down the road, Dr. Bob was my professor. Bob is my friend, and one of my most cherished mentors. At the age of 75, Dr. Bob has more passion than ever for being a follower of Jesus, a student of the Great Story, and he continues to passionately preach Jesus’ truth and love.

This week, my Wayfarer Weekend podcast is a phone conversation Dr. Bob in which we discuss topics from preaching to life and to the meta-lessons Bob has observed and learned in over 50 years of preaching and teaching. He’s still going strong, preaching regularly as part of the teaching team at Granger Community Church in northern Indiana. Here’s a brief clip…

Dr. Bob Laurent

Just another wayfarer on life's journey, headed for Home. I'm carrying The Message, and I'm definitely waiting for Guffman.

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