What do the swine flu outbreak and this year’s graduating class have in common?April 29th, 2009
What do the swine flu outbreak and this year’s graduating class have in common? For over a week now global news outlets have made the North American Human Influenza A (H1N1) virus their lead story! And when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the World Health Organization in Geneva both weigh in on the headline and declare varying states of emergency, who doesn’t take notice? Costa Rican health officials are now discouraging the traditional kiss-on-the-cheek greeting. Israeli officials are suggesting that the virus should be renamed the Mexcian flu, since the reference to pigs is offensive to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork. Mexican officials aren’t responding to their suggestion, and who can blame them! After all, no one is sure yet where the virus originated.
The good news is that this never-before-seen strain of influenza—a mix of pig, human and bird viruses—can apparently be contained and controlled, much like previous flu outbreaks. And a vaccine is reported to be ready by early May. So public health officials are stressing there is no need for panic.
The bad news is that this new flu strain is highly contagious. And therein lies the something-in-common with the graduates of Andrews University this weekend. Not that any of you has contracted this flu (as did a Notre Dame University student this past week). But rather that the very mission of Seventh-day Adventist Christian education that Andrews University embraces is by definition intended to render all graduates contagious for Christ. Which is why our prayer here at Pioneer for all of you who embark on your new post-graduation venture is a simple one. We’ve been honored to be your spiritual home-away-from-home, and your presence here over the years has blessed us. Now we pray a special outpouring of the Spirit of Christ upon you—so that wherever you go in the journey ahead, his radical love for this world will shine through you, rendering you a contagious primetime change agent for his kingdom!
Because truth be known (and it is), the most serious pandemic this civilization faces can only be remedied by the vaccine of Calvary’s sacrifice. And because you know Jesus personally, you’re the most logical person on earth (in the school or office or workplace where you’re headed) to be the contagious carrier of his life-giving grace and power. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us . . . and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of [Christ] everywhere” (II Corinthians 2:14 TNIV). So go forth and be contagious for him. We’re cheering you on!
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Paul Hawkens in his “green” book, Blessed Unrest, tells of an old rabbinical teachingApril 23rd, 2009
Paul Hawkens in his “green” book, Blessed Unrest, tells of an old rabbinical teaching that if we hear that the world is ending and the Messiah is coming, we must first plant a tree and then go and determine if the story is true or not. For Seventh-day Adventists, who champion the seventh-day Sabbath as God’s creation memorial and who celebrate the return of the Creator one day, planting a tree isn’t such a bad idea, is it—Earth Day or not?
Consider for a moment this “green” declaration of Holy Scripture: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Romans 8:19, 22 NRSV). It’s true, isn’t it? For millennia now our creation has suffered deeply under the effects of our very human rebellion. Can you imagine the latent longing within the “green” natural world for the promised deliverance?
But until then, how shall we live, we Sabbath-keepers of the Creator’s flame? Why not begin by “green” eating (as in “greens”)? That’s right—vegetarianism would diminish the number of animals raised and killed for consumption, and thus reduce the one-fifth of earth’s greenhouse gases livestock produce! We can turn off the lights in the rooms we exit. We could inflate our tires and save two billion gallons of gas a year, some say. We could shorten our showers by two minutes, saving twelve gallons of water. We could recycle. We could save a few trees by skipping the receipts at ATMs and gas pumps, saving by one estimate 3 billion feet of paper. We could use our own thermos bottles and quit drinking bottled water, since a one liter bottle requires 5 liters of water to cool the plastic, thus resulting in six liters of water for each bottle! Lists of “green” or environmentally friendly ways to live (like these from Ashleigh Burtnett in Andrews University’s Student Movement) are all over the web, and you can make your own.
The point? As Creator-worshiping, Sabbath-keeping, nature-preserving friends of Jesus, shouldn’t we be at the forefront of ecological conservation and environmental care and protection? Truth be known, God himself planted a tree once upon a time to save this creation. “To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread [our farmland] we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water [our rivers, streams] we drink is bought by His spilled blood. . . . The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring” (Desire of Ages 660). Given the infinite cost of planting that tree, shouldn’t we join him in saving his creation?
Did your parents ever say to you, “Don’t let the Cimex lectularius bite!”April 16th, 2009
Did your parents ever say to you, “Don’t let the Cimex lectularius bite!” Probably not. After all, a bed bug is just a bed bug, isn’t it? Not to the federal government that convened this week in Arlington, Virginia, the first-ever National Bed Bug Summit! Topics included: “Bed Bug Perspectives,” “Bed Bug Basics,” and “Government Response to Bed Bugs.” Never mind the Somali pirates and the Afghan terrorists—apparently we’re under a bed bug attack!
But why all this fuss about an insect barely the size of an apple seed with a painless bite and not known to spread disease? Because it appears that though eradicated fifty years ago, the little parasite is making a debut reentry into American life. CBS radio reported this week on a New York apartment dweller who was so overrun by bedbugs he hauled his mattress out on the side walk and burned it! Tenement houses, high rise apartments—apparently these itchy, scratchy blood-sucking pests are no respecters of persons, wealth or domiciles. And they’re back with a vengeance!
Reminds me of another species of small, pesky, life-sucking pests—who also hide from the light and come out in the dark—and who, too, can go weeks, even months, without attacking us, only to return eventually to penetrate their miserable way back under our skin. Who doesn’t know the scratchy, painful discomfort of tiny little sins? Not the big ones, mind you—the ones that are duly castigated in our proper, spiritual circles. I’m thinking of the small sins, those some call “venial,” the moral bed bugs that we can’t quite seem to eradicate: gossip, criticism, prejudice, envy, impatience, intemperance, unkindness, shadiness, stinginess, thoughtlessness, two-facedness. Ironic, isn’t it, that the longest list is for our “smallest” sins (if any sin can be called small)? But, as the proverb observes, it is “the little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15), the little bed bugs that infect our lives.
So how can we fumigate our souls of these vexing parasites? Wikipedia recommends the application of hot water (120 degrees F) to the bed bug bite for relief from the itching pain. The gospel remedy for sins—both small and great—is the application of Christ’s Calvary sacrifice to the infected heart: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Divine pardon for our sins comes instantly when we ask him (I John 1:9). Divine power over our sins comes over a lifetime as we keep on beholding him, God’s Lamb who died to take away our sins (Heb 12:1, 2). For it is in that beholding—that looking to Jesus day after day in the gospel story of Scripture—that we are imperceptibly but surely transformed by his Spirit into his likeness (II Cor 3:18).
Good news (bad news) for all our afflicting “bed bugs”—heaven’s Orkin Man is on our side! And because of his friendship, we don’t have to let the bed bugs bite.
As the London Guardian wryly observed, “Whatever faults Maria D’AntuonoApril 9th, 2009
As the London Guardian wryly observed, “Whatever faults Maria D’Antuono may have, wasting time is not among them.” The 98-year-old woman was one of the few survivors to be pulled from the rubble of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck central Italy this week. For thirty dark and interminable hours she lay trapped beneath the ruins of her home, not far from the L’Aquila epicenter. But they found her! And as the elderly woman was carried to safety amidst the cheers of the onlooking crowd, someone asked her what she had done to pass the hours while waiting and hoping for rescue. “Why, crochet, of course!” Her world comes down around her—but the 98-year-old matriarch survives with a hook, a ball of yarn and a heartful of hope.
Not even an earthquake can bury hope!
“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Mt 28:2). His enemies could have piled a thousand Mt Everests on top of the garden tomb of Jesus—but it would have made no difference. For not even an earthquake can bury hope. And when Christ came striding out of that quake-shattered crypt and declared over the pre-dawn rubble, “I am the resurrection and the life!” then at last humankind’s last hope was made forever secure. Death may bury us. But in the power of the risen Savior hope can still be resurrected.And is it any different for debt? Truth is that for too many debt and death are much too similar, leaving both life and hope entombed. Emotionally, financially you may feel buried right now in the rubble of this economic crisis. No way out of the collapse, no hope of rescue, no promise of resurrection. But don’t repeat the computation error of the eleven disciples, who neglected to calculate the power of divine omnipotence into their crisis. For only afterwards did they discover that no matter how heavy the stone that entombs us, the risen Christ can yet roll it away.So put your finger on this Easter promise and face your financial future with new hope: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams” (Eph 3:20 Message). So why not ask him . . . and crochet while you wait . . . and hope?
What’s the difference between the G-20 and the A-100?April 2nd, 2009
What’s the difference between the G-20 and the A-100? The G-20 are meeting right now in London in a gathering of the leaders of the top economic powers on earth. Mission? Seek to build a global consensus strategy regarding the economic crisis that belts the planet. Probability of success? If media prognostications are indicative, the U.S. push for stimulus packages from the rest of the G-20 will be rejected by them, as will their push for the U.S. to join them in greater regulatory control of financial institutions. Bottom-line—the G-20 leaders will seek to at least agree to provide greater funding for the International Monetary Fund, in a show of unity in this time of economic uncertainty.
And the A-100? Those are the nearly one hundred nations that are represented here on the campus of Andrews University. And on this International Student Weekend we recognize the mosaic of giftedness that God has gathered here from around the globe. My friend Najeeb Nakhle, director of International Student Services here at the university, gave me a breakdown of where our 835 international students hail from. Arranged according to the thirteen divisions of our world church, they come from: East-Central Africa 39; Euro-Africa 35; Euro-Asia 12; Inter-American 199; North American 120; Northern Asia-Pacific 127; South American 80; South Pacific 11; Southern Africa-Indian Ocean 45; Southern Asia 16; Southern Asia-Pacific 28; Trans-European 37; West-Central Africa 41; citizenship not listed 45. And so today Pioneer joins in celebrating the young adults of the church who are citizens of the world!
But how different the mission of the A-100 from the G-20! True, their assignment is just as global. But how radically different their quest, as depicted in the messianic Psalm 110: “Your [Messiah] troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor your young will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb” (v 3). I love that promise—on the day of earth’s final battle the young of the world will pour into the Messiah’s army for his endtime mission! They will be as pervasive and extensive as “dew from the morning’s womb.”
It reminds me of that prediction: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Education 271)
So let the G-20 be about their business. International Student Sabbath today is a clarion reminder that the Father’s business is banking on the investment of these bright young scholars for Christ. Then with joy let us celebrate the God who has already called them and who is even now mobilizing the young for his final mission!