Encountering Jesus

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When Jesus encounters our lives, it is anything but average.  It is anything but mediocre.  That doesn’t mean it’s incredible and a thrill ride either.

As with most things when it comes to Jesus, it’s different from what we expect.  It’s not all rose-colored glasses and happy, happy, joy, joy.  At least that’s my experience.

Jesus has a way of taking the established norms, sides, and structures and not fighting them directly.  Rather, Jesus has this way of not accepting the premise that they are legitimate to begin with.  And then he points us in a new direction.

The world wants you to be average and mediocre and predictable.  To play you part as a cog in a big wheel that tells you that you need more because you aren’t good enough and you don’t have what it takes.  But Jesus has a different message.

A message that says you don’t have what it takes, but God does.  Stop trying to do it yourself – you won’t make it.  No matter how hard you try on your own, you aren’t ever going to get there.  So stop.  you aren’t a rat in a cage.  You are a beloved child of God.

Eating at Joe’s

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Yesterday I showed you a page of the menu at Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek, Namibia.

Today I reveal what I ordered.

 

 

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Still not sure what it is?

Here’s a sheet they give to people who order this dish:

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It was a piece of heaven right here on earth.  It was a meat-eater’s delight.

I loved the Springbok and the Kudu.  I could have left the Crocodile though.

Overall, my impression was a big thumbs up.  Eat at Joe’s people.  You won’t be sorry.

What would happen if fans took a knee?

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Fighting about whether NFL players should be allowed to take a knee during the national anthem is apparently far more important than just about anything else these days.  It’s what I keep seeing stories about, hearing statements from the President, from players, from the media, from this person and that person.

And the focus is on what the players should or should not do.  And whether the league and teams should discipline their players for expressing their views.

But I wonder, are fans taking a knee during the national anthem?  If the fans support what the players are doing, I wonder what would happen if those fans took a knee when the players did.  Would the fans be brave enough to do that?  Would it get covered?  Would it have an impact?  There are no rules for fans concerning if they stand for the anthem or sit or kneel or anything.  Mostly social pressure to conform and follow what everyone else does.  I’m sure the president might devote a few tweets to it, which might actually draw attention to it.

I’m being serious here.  Why is everything focused on the players?  What about the fans who show up?

I just wonder what would happen if a segment of a stadium started taking a knee during the anthem.

Part of the reason that it hasn’t happened is that the discussion would change.  It would no longer be about those high-paid African-American football players on the field.  It would be about the fans in the stadiums.  And that might cut a little too close to home for people. When the celebrities are doing a protest, it’s easy for people to verbally support it.  When you are asked to participate in the protest – that’s different.  Or is it?  At this point it wouldn’t be about those players.  It would be about us fans.

What would happen if fans took a knee?  Would the conversation about race change?  Would we find some other distraction to draw our attention away from this protest?  Would nothing happen?  I don’t know, but I’m curious to find out.

Anyone going to a football game?  If you are and you support what the players are doing, I challenge you to take a knee at the same time as the players.  And I’d love to hear what the reaction is.

We came, we saw, we ate

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After riding out in the plains of Africa, we got hungry.  We ended up back in Windhoek at Joe’s Beerhouse.

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I was intent on living the legend.  I couldn’t wait to see what the menu options were.

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I looked through the menu and finally made my decision.  (You’ll read about it tomorrow.)  Any guesses as to which I couldn’t wait to try?

While we waited for our orders, I couldn’t help but look at the walls.  Some of the walls contained the following items:

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These are reminders of Namibia’s past – a German colony.

And some of the wall reminds us of their present.

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Why the story of Samaria matters today

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Last week during a bible study I lead, we talked about Acts 8:4-40.  It’s the story of Philip in Samaria.  To our modern ears, that sounds like Philip got in the car and drove down to the next city over and started preaching.  But it’s far from that.  There’s a ton of history underlying this situation – centuries of animosity and deep-seated division.

It’s this deep-seated seething that makes the parable that Jesus tells about the “good Samaritan” so shocking.  But explaining all of this takes some time.

So I’m going to offer a modern-day version of the parable so you might get the effect of what Jesus was saying.

There once was an American who traveled to the Holy Land.  He wore his American flag shirt so everyone would know he was an American.  He was traveling along and seeing all the sites in the region when he was mugged and beaten by some local thieves.  They beat him badly and left him for dead.

As he lay there, wondering if he would survive, along came a tour bus full of American tourists.  The bus driver knew that this was not a safe area that he was driving through, so he kept on going for fear of robbers jumping the bus and robbing everyone.  As they pass, the tourists snapped pictures of the poor local who benefited from American’s generosity with our clothing.

The man was distraught and was starting to give up hope when along came a pastor on a motorcycle.  He saw the man on the side of the road but kept going – he had many committee meetings to get to and had to make an important presentation about the finances of the church he served.  He reasoned that someone else would stop.  As he left, he offered a quick prayer and went on his way.

The man who was beaten lay there, dying.

A third man approached.  This man looked nothing like the people from two other groups.  He was a member of ISIS – a sworn enemy of the American.  He came across the man who was beaten badly and he was moved with compassion for him.  He took what first aid materials he had and used them on the American.  Then he lifted him up and took the man to the local emergency room and told the intake person that he would pay for the care of the man.

And Jesus asked “Which of these three was the neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

So, now do you get how radical Jesus’ parable was?  Do you get how unlikely it was that the Samaritans would have listened to Philip?  And yet, they did.  Amazing!

The highlight of the trip

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The absolute highlight of the trip was seeing two rhinos.

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Yes, two real live rhinos.  Our driver walkie talkied some of the other employees of the ranch to see if we could find the rhinos.  After driving around for about 1/2 hour, we found them.

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This was an awe inspiring experience.

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We did get a little nervous when the one got up and faced our vehicle.  But all was well.  No charging took place.

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No sooner did this large beauty stand up, then he/she laid back down again.  That’s what happens when they realize we didn’t have food for them.

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To give you a sense of how close we were, look at the picture above.  We couldn’t have been more than 10 meters or 30 feet away.  Extremely close.

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Until next time rhinos. I only hope there is a next time.

What it means to be a Christian

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I don’t pretend to have all the answers, especially on such a touchy topic of defining what it means to be a Christian.

I think there are a range of answers to this question.

But I also think there are some basic tenants that go into defining what it means to be a Christian.

Like this: Being a Christian means that one has identified themself as a follower of Jesus Christ.  Even that might be a bit tricky since we need to define what it means to be a follower.  In this sense, a follower is someone who is committed to a way of life and teachings of someone else.  They aren’t just a fan or have an interest in something, but have actually committed time, energy, and other resources towards the person or cause they are claiming to follow.

So, if this is true (And that’s debatable), then what would it mean to be a Christian?

I would say that it would be someone who does their best to follow the teachings and commands of Jesus.  Like the Sermon on the Mount.  Like the end of Matthew 28 which calls on Christians to go and make disciples and baptize.  Like John 6 which calls on Christians to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  Like Matthew 25 which implores us to take care of those less fortunate like the hungry.  And many more examples throughout the bible.  Like Luke 9 in which Jesus calls on us to pick up our cross and follow him.

I don’t see how Christianity means to dedicate oneself to the path of domination and acquisition of power.  I don’t see how Christianity means advancing a partisan political party, leader, or cause.  I don’t see how Christianity is about lining up your faith beliefs with that of your political convictions and finding they match up perfectly.  But I could certainly be wrong.  I welcome people showing me how Christianity is actually about this – show me where Jesus talks about this.  Show me how Jesus wanted to advance the Empire in order to advance God’s kingdom.  I welcome those references.  I’m not going to hold my breath waiting though for those references.