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Venice Time

December 20th, 2012
Marla on Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

Time in Motion

Our Italian doctor in Milan is fond of making the assertion, “Let’s look at the science.” Similarly, like a good scientist, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, in his book: A Brief History of Time, after laboring for ten chapters with the science, offers this startling conclusion: The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe to describe”. He then goes on to posit further, “Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?” (174). These questions are telling, especially after Hawking began his book, “And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in” (13).
The Christian worldview has an appreciation for “the science.” But, it also realizes that to describe the universe from inside the universe can be precarious. In other words, not all secrets of the universe are given up at Cambridge or Princeton or MIT. To the Christian worldview, there is information which places the Lord outside the jurisdiction of the universe. Do we understand this? Reference Colossians 1:17, for example, where Christ is referred to as, sunesteken, in Paul’s Greek. This is translated, “…in him all things hold together (ESV). Hawking allows Guth to explain a GUT (grand unified theory) (see chapter 8, The Origin and Fate of the Universe):

Clocktower on Island of Murano in Venice, Italy

Ventian Clocktower

“In an attempt to find a model of the universe in which many different initial configurations could have evolved to something like the present universe, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Alan Guth, suggested that the early universe might have gone through a period of very rapid expansion. This expansion is said to be “inflationary,” meaning that the universe at one time expanded at an increasing rate rather than the decreasing rate that is does today” (127). The Christian portrayal of a GUT must involve the Hebrews 1:3 data, which places the ultimate source of energy and dynamics outside the system.

Island of Murano, Venice, Italy

Isle of Murano

Now, when it comes to appreciating the above information, we are at once confronted with the ramifications to prayer. The God who answers prayer, being outside of the system per se, and yet concerned with the interior, is able to deliver (Ephesians 3:14-21). A second reason for relevance in these matters about a theology of Christ involves how the Lord is able to enter history. Throughout the biblical text there are invitations for participation in this, The Greatest Story Ever Told.
So, we give thanks today for solar physics and biological thriving (a biology and physics of Genesis); for gravitational force (attraction); and for atomic stability (coherence). This is My Father’s World!

Perception, Power and Puccini

December 15th, 2012
Old canal in Milan, Italy

Old Canal

In 1 Samuel 9 and 10, we find the narrative about the beginning of the United Kingdom under Saul. One of the signs by which the Lord confirmed his selection of Saul as king involved lost donkeys (9:1-5). But, the donkeys were not the main show; the kingdom was the power to be perceived (10:2, 16). This origin story of the Kingdom of Israel introduces an important point, that the communications in Scripture often involve information which requires a searching and contrite heart to get it.
Recently, my wife and I were walking in our neighborhood of Porta Nuova, Milano. We had just turned the corner, when upon looking up, I noticed a plaque on a building (palazzo). It read that Giuseppe Puccini, the famous Italian composer had once lived there. This information was new and surprising to us! Now, if we had not known of the work of Puccini, the information would have been meaningless or not well appreciation. But, since we knew Puccini, we were able to drink it in and be glad about this serendipity.
The parables of our Lord are also like this. These parables contain coded messages for those who are able to see, able to hear, and able to understand (Matthew 13: 14-16). But, for those who are unable, they become a hindrance and a problem resulting in spiritual resistance.

In front of La Scala Theatre, Milan, Italy

In front of La Scala Theatre

When Jesus described the kingdom he likened it to small things, common things, insignificant things, which in turn become grand, uncommon, and significant. The seeds (such as the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds); the little coins; the one lost sheep (Luke 15), these all serve to show the nature of the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In other words, the kingdom has arrived (Colossians 1:13), but not with irresistible force. God allows for humans to reject it, if they wish; which, of course, is not his wish at all.
In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus explains that the kingdom is not subject to observation in the common sense.  When he says that the kingdom is “within (entos) you,” [rather than among you] there is good reason to prefer this meaning which infers within your hands; that is, in your power of choice, if you choose it (See Zerwick and Grosvenor, 251-252).

So, who was that Puccini fellow?

What are We Doing Here?

March 10th, 2012

Job 42:1,2 reads: “Then Job answered the Lord and said, I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (ESV).

At the end of the day, with tired feet and well spent energy, one might still question what we are doing here?      We want our supporters to know  that Job 42:1,2 is a reminder of a faith that is based in God; not based in economy, politics, selfishness, avant garde,  polemics, or any other fleeting reality.   What we are doing here is all about God; it really is that simple.   Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”    What is this simplicity that leads us on every day?  What is this ultimate sophistication?   Just this, that God is (Hebrews 11:6); that he is “God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1; Hebrew: El Shaddai); and that, His purposes will be maintained throughout history (Job 42:2).

This is the simple and solemn reason for our toiling in the backyard of history.   It is enough.  That is why what we are doing in Milan matters.

Milano Winter Campaigns

February 28th, 2012

In 2012, we held two campaigns in Milan.   There have been many military assaults upon Milan through the years, but this was about a kingdom of peace.   The Lord knows the work of Larry and Karen; Pat and Morissa.   Nearly 35 presentations were made between these individuals.   We appreciate every word spoken in the name of Jesus.   These are the kind of encounters recorded in the book of Acts (See 5:42)—a ceaseless sense of teaching, proclaiming, and caring about the spread of Jesus as the Christ.  Thanks!

Between Castle and Cathedral

December 27th, 2011

 One day in December, while walking between the Castle and the Cathedral of Milan, we heard some very elegant electric guitar music echoing between the stone walls.  There he was sitting on the ground playing Imagine by Lennon.   Short's remembered in MilanHe played slowly with delicate finesse.   Then, while admiring his instrumental work (because the lyrics are wanting), I looked down to see he had no legs (uhm).   His gift was undoubtedly despite his severe limitations.   Again, recently, in the cavernous chambers of the Metropolitana, I heard Mozart being played by a gifted violinist.  We understand such beauty when it comes to music because of the immediate feedback.  But, sometimes in the cause of Christ there are no immediate overtures or encores.   But, we believe that one day things will resolve when the books are opened.

The great Luciano Pavorotti said, “I think a life in music is a life well spent, and this is what I have devoted my life to.”  Brooks remembered in Milan We understand that not long after the Italian tenor said those words he passed on into the great hereafter.    Someday, perhaps not long from now, we may like Pavarotti reflect back on our life and muse about what our gift has been.   And, like the music of Pavarotti, though he is gone, his music plays on.

We recently came across an anonymous line which we dedicate here and now to those of you who have left your gift between the Castle and the Cathedral of Elizabeth and Doug remembered in MilanMilan (Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:11).   “Some people come into our lives and quickly go.   Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.   And we are never, ever the same”  

Italian Magnum Opus

November 27th, 2011

In A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan introduces the Cambridge Professor of Mathematics, Stephen Hawking,  by saying something thoughtful:  “We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing about the world” (ix).  Maybe Sagan was speaking more of himself than for Christians (see Romans 1:19-21).  But, it does appear that he had a valid point.  Our problem with a purely Marlamaterial position of the world is that it is strongly tilted toward a set of presuppositions which exclude outside forces  (namely the Lord God) from the git-go.    That is why, when people sometimes state, “I believe in Science,”  they are actually admitting to a higher power that is observable.  An immediate problem here involves the nature of God being spirit, not chemical or a mere force field (John 4:24).  So, end of discussion, right?

The world from a physical standpoint does have four fundamental forces: (1)  Gravitational  (2)  Electromagnetic  (3) Weak Nuclear, and (4)  Strong Nuclear.  The Bible writer to the Hebrews, in 1:3, 10-12; 10:3 , presents Christian faith as including a  cosmological view of things.  So, those forces for Hawking are contained; while for Christians they are contingent.  Allowing for this data, we may move into the discussion of God in history.

There appear to be some firm components in the mind of the apostle Paul.  One such idea is that God is at work in the world.  But, even before Paul, we may delve into what Jesus himself thought of the world.  What kind of a place is it neighborsanyway?  For, to think as Jesus thought, to feel as he felt, and to see as he saw , we will need to acquire his set of beliefs (or, belief system).  John 5:17 captures this assumption in a  few words. Jesus believed that the Father was at work in the world, and that he was also involved in this magnum opus.  When the gospel is preached and people respond in baptism, they are raised by the power of God out of the watery grave of Christian baptism.  This is the Lord’s  continuation of John 5:17.  This is furthermore a call to believers to participate in the work of God (opera in Italian), by submitting to his plan.  If it begins here, commencing in baptism, it takes the believer far away and yet nearer to the one who calls.  This may be seen in Philippians 1:6, where the work of God in history has high continuity with John 5:17 and Colossians 2:12.

Why then emphasize making new friends or teaching worldview to bambini in Italy?  Of course, it is part of the plan!  Sagan and Hawking have done their homework and have gained the plaudits of men.  But, they have also limited their world with the rejection of any divine working in cosmos or history.  That is because of the Science, right?  Think again.  Sagan may know why stars twinkle (to the human eye), but we know why they shine on (Rom. 1:19-21; Ps. 19:1-6; Mal. 4:2; Dan. 12:3).    The great Italian Magnum Opus does not belong Albertaexclusively  to Columbus, Galileo, or Fermi.  The sub-atomic level may appear random; neutrinos, for example.  But, the speed of light is still a constant (300,00 kilometers per sec.).  Dare to participate in the drama.  Jesus will meet you there (Jn. 5:17; Col. 2:12; Phil. 1:6).  Pronto?

Only in Milan!

October 11th, 2011

There is an Italian proverb by Marco D’Oggione which says, “A man should learn to sail in all winds.”  As Marla and I walked through the Magenta neighborhood recently (likely that of Leonardo’ da Vinci), we felt the cool autumn winds and saw the bluest sky.  But, the winds of this autumn are not limited to the skies of Lombardy.

Piero e Eveline

Let me explain.  Last Sunday night, we had a couple from Zurich, Switzerland over to our apartment for a late supper (la cena).  They were originally from the lake region of northern Italy.  He was Italian, she  was of German descent.  If you notice the photo, our new friend looks like the actor George Clooney!    A Milanese stopped him to ask  if he was Clooney; he said, “No, I’m his brother.”

Giovani e Lucia

On the evening prior, we had an Italian couple in our home, Giovanni, an attorney in Milan, and his wife, Lucia.

 

 

 

Then, again, last night, I taught two young women from Ethiopia at the office (And, yes, I used Acts 8 to finalize my thoughts; thrilling indeed! ).   Prior to that meeting, I had spent almost an hour answering a question posed by a man from Sri Lanka.  Tomorrow, I will be teaching a young married woman named Vanessa, from Peru, South America.  In the morning, I will have met with a student from Ecuador.

The Italian language  and culture has brought all of these people together from the four winds of Earth.  This is a situation not dissimilar from that of Acts 2 and Isaiah 2 (“and many people shall come…that he may teach us his ways”).

Marla and I feel that we were placed  in Milan for this special moment in history. The breezes of these times are like currents in history.  The apostle Paul believed and taught in Ephesians 1 that  the winds of history serve to connect and affirm that God has entered history through Christ, and that history itself is not static, but dynamic for those who participate by faith.  We will close with a piece from Dante Alighieri: “Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always.”

Jesus and the Isaiah Scroll

April 25th, 2010

(Luke 4:14-44)

Introduction: Kingdom concerns are at every level (1:33; 2:34; 3:5; 4:43). Jesus’ identification with the Isaiah Scroll brought out 4 characteristics: __________________,

_____________________, _______________________, ________________________.

I. Rejection at Nazareth (4:16-30)

A. Ambrose da Milano (Augustine’s question)

B. Charles Kraft’s, “central control box”

C. What is the anatomy of rejection?

1. ___________________________ (v. 20)

2. ___________________________ (v. 21)

3. ___________________________ (v. 22)

4. ___________________________(vv. 23-27)

5. ___________________________ (v. 28)

6. ___________________________ (v. 29)

D. Jesus still brings _____________________ today.

II. Confusion at Capernaum (4:31-37)

A. Confusion – “in their midst” (v. 35)

B. Demonic activity is ___________ stuff. Is there no _____________ today?

C. 4:18!

D. Jesus still brings _____________________ today.

III. Caring at Simon’s House (and vicinity) (4:38-41)

A. “Does Jesus Care?”

B. Caring brings transformational living among people of the ____________.

C. 4:18 again!

D. Jesus still _____________________ today.

Conclusion: (4:42-44; 24:44) The “Kingdom of God” is a word about God’s presence in the here and now (dynamic), as well as the hereafter (heaven). Sometimes, heaven reaches us before we reach heaven.

Classic Temptation and the Kingdom of God

April 18th, 2010

(Luke 4:1-13)

Introduction: The designation “classic” expresses temptation’s commonality to all men. In this presentation, we will explore the implications of temptation.

I. Implication 1: Temptation has continuity with _________________________.

A. Luke 1:48—54 (Note the “he has…” statements/bringing shock to 5 types of people):

1. ____________________________________

2. ____________________________________

3. ____________________________________

4. ____________________________________

5. ____________________________________

B. Luke 3:4-6 [continuity with chapter 4] (4 images of the coming kingdom):

1. ____________________________________

2. ____________________________________

3. ____________________________________

4. ____________________________________

II. Implication 2: Temptation affects the _______________________ of this World.

A. Lk. 4:2-4 – __________________ = an economic structure

B. Lk. 4:5-7 – __________________ = a political/allegience structure

C. Lk. 4:8-11 – __________________ = a religious structure

III. Implication 3: Temptation reveals what is in ___________ _________________.

A. Deuteronomy 8:2 (test to the intensity of our commitment)

B. Defines who we are (positive, negative, non-committal, etc.)

IV. Implication 4: Temptation serves to validate or ______________ whether Jesus is the __________ ____ God (cf. Lk. 3:38).

A. Lk. 4:3 (note the “if” clause)

B. Lk. 4:1 (if compromised, Hebrews 2:14-18 could not have been written)

Conclusion: Luke 4 would not be the last temptation of Christ; but, it did serve to qualify him for the final test (Lk. 9:21-22).

A Stage Set in theWilderness of Judea:

April 11th, 2010

The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness”

(Luke 3)

Introduction: A stage is set in the Judean wilderness. But, what is this?

I. Review –

A. Lk. 1:1-4 The Dedication to Theophilus. The importance of _______________________

B. Lk. 1:5-80 Announcement of Two Births. History in the _______________________v. 66

C. Lk. 2:1-52 Reactions to Salvation-History. Incarnation proves ___________________v. 34

II. Clues of Importance –

A. Lk. 3:2 (v. 4) – ______________________ is motif from the prophet Isaiah (40:3-5)

B. Lk. 3:15 – This is an _____________________ issue. We sometimes we ask people if they want to come to church with us. This not an inherently bad question. But, a better question might be—Do you think that Jesus was who he said he was?

C. Lk. 3:38 (v. 23) – So, you think that you understand ____________________________?

Conclusion: There is a voice now crying in the wilderness of our own 21st century wilderness. But, who can hear it? It’s not that the clues aren’t there! Clues of Wilderness; Identification; and Sonship.