Thursday, May 29, 2008

I have Issues...again

Difficult Math: 3-1 = 2

In grade school math was always difficult. It didn't change much in high school and I'm not sure I darkened the door of any math classroom in college. There are many reasons I teach English for a living - my affinity for math isn't one.

This morning I experienced a practical mathematical application. The Civic normally transports three Brandts in the morning. This morning, May 28 that number decreased by 1: Papa Brandt + Baby Brandt - Senior Brandt = Two Brandts and a very different feel to the ride.

Oh, we left a bit earlier but there was nobody sleeping as we passed the local landmarks - a different ride indeed.

I guess it's just the start of many differences as Senior Brandt looks to the horizon and plots the beginning of his next race.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Last Chapel of 2008

Years ago we decorated a room in our house with a Noah’s ark theme. I was looking at the cute elephants decorating the lamp and I wondered why Noah’s ark is so often portrayed in such a “cutesy” manner. Ironically enough, despite the cute pictures, the lamps, the wallpapers and everything else, the story is about God’s wrath and the death and destruction he brought to the wicked people of the world. You know something like this:

I asked some of my freshmen in English 9 the same question: Their responses were insightfully telling:

Student Response A: "I think it’s because Noah’s Ark and the flood is a happy scene because that’s where our world basically came from. We always remember the signs that God gave him like the beautiful white dove and the gorgeous rainbow. We just always look at the bright side of things and that’s why I think it’s always a happy and smiley scene."

This illustrates my point. The ark, God's wrath and the death and destruction that ensued are not "happy scenes"

Student Response B: "Noah’s ark is so “cutesy” because they want it to appeal to children so people will take interest in it and enjoy seeing it. If they make it “cutesy” more people will think that the story is so peaceful so it seems like nothing was wrong n the antediluvian world. But there really was a lot of sin that upset God. However, they leave that part out so people will appeal to the cutesy story."

Bonus points for antediluvian.

Student Response C: Noah’s ark is so cutesy because it involves a lot of animals and kids like animals so they made it into a story kids will enjoy and like reading. It’s a way for people to make money from people of all ages.

Student Response D: Noah’s ark was actually a terrible thing. It killed all people in the world besides Noah and his immediate family. It was a terrible occurrence in history. Therefore many people like to take away the reality and make it seem better.

Ahhh, now that last response is closer to the truth. There is nothing cute or fanciful about the Lord destroying the entire earth on account of His anger and wrath toward the sin of mankind. Perhaps our desire to make the flood more palatable is nothing more than our vain attempt to forget the wages of our sin and therefore we can recreate God in an image more acceptable to the world. Because the devastating reality of God’s wrath is clearly evident in Genesis 6: 5-8, “The Lord saw that the people on earth were very wicked and in their hearts were always thinking only evil. Then the Lord was sorry He made people on the earth, and he felt sick at heart. “I will wipe off the ground the people I created,” the Lord said, “people, cattle, creeping thing and birds of the air, because I’m sorry I made them.”

And so, instead of this distorted, trivialized depiction of the story, the reality is probably closer to this:

And so while I used the trivializing and distorting of Noah’s ark, it’s really the same thing we do with our sins. You see if we convince ourselves of anything but the condemnation we deserve because of our disobedience, then we think we really haven’t done anything too wrong. Ugh! The horror of such thinking is vile in so many ways. First, it ignores the truth of God’s Word as revealed by Paul in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Our wages for our sin is our death. That’s not a comforting picture so rather than face the consequences we ignore them. But we can’t ignore the truth. Our sins, the sin we inherited at the moment we were physically conceived, Psalm 51:5 “I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” And the actual sins we commit through our action or inaction as James clearly points out in 4:17, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” are the reason we deserve God’s wrath.

The horror continues because if we don’t believe we have sinned, if we don’t believe we are evil, if we don’t believe we are destined to an eternity of hell, then we don’t need Christ. He’s simply some guy who died on a cross and experienced extreme suffering. Hmmmm, how tragic. But since I’m not really that bad, I don’t need anyone to make me good. Again, Ugh! The horror of such thinking.

Our sins have condemned us. We have severed ourselves from God’s love and mercy. Unfortunately, our actions prove this on a daily basis. Our lying to our teachers, lying to our friends, lying to our parents proves we are a condemned people. Our underage drinking and our legal-age, but drinking to drunkenness proves we are a condemned people. Our disrespect for human life at all levels from birth to death proves we are a condemned people. Our cheating on homework, tests, quizzes, taxes proves we are a condemned people. Our entertainment that causes us to lust proves we are a condemned people. Our complete inability to keep God’s law proves we are a condemned people.

We are sinful. Listen to that word: sinful - full of sin, sinful, sin-full. We can fill ourselves with nothing but sin. No wonder we’d rather view cute images of Noah’s ark, because the death-and-destruction reality of God’s wrath is much too frightening.

But as God clearly reveals to us in Colossians 1: 13-14 “He (Christ) has rescued us from the tyranny of darkness and transformed us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, who paid the ransom to forgive our sins and set us free.”

On our own our sins certainly condemn us, but like Noah and his family, we are not alone, we are Christ’s. “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” states our creator through his servant Paul in Romans 10:4. Through Christ’s death and resurrection the eternal condemnation of the law does not damn us. Christ makes us righteous. We are a new creation in Christ. A creation that God, through and because of Christ, now sees as spotless, sinless, perfect in His sight.

I Peter 2:24 reveals that “Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” Our eternal disease, death, damnation are no more. We have been healed, restored, renewed. We have been given hope, forgiveness, salvation.

We can rejoice with Paul as he writes his second letter to Timothy in chapter 1:10 that “Our Savior, Christ Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”

We can celebrate with Peter when he writes in his first letter 1:3, “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

No longer do we need to fear death. We can boldly claim, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:55, 57)

Our hope, our life, our confidence, our strength, our forgiveness, our salvation, our eternal perfection are all in Christ. And God made sure that He gave Christ to us. He gives us Christ in the Word. He gives us Christ in our baptism. He gives us Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Through Christ we have life, and we have it abundantly.

We close with Martin Luther’s Flood Prayer. We pray…

Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, Yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all. You drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea , yet led Your people through the water on dry ground, foreshadowing this washing of Your Holy Baptism. Through the Baptism in the of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin. We pray that You would behold us according to Your boundless mercy and bless us with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in us, which have been inherited from Adam and which we ourselves have committed since, would be drowned and die. Grant that we be kept safe and secure in the holy Ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Seat With a View

My last Piston experience was a near disaster. Game two against Orlando was much better: great seats, lead changes, controversial calls, clutch jumpers, 'Sheed yahooliganisms a victory and free pizza. Aaron was loud enough and commanded enough attention to be on the receiving end of a small Domino's pizza. A great night