Thursday, April 23, 2015

War and Peace from My Volcano

Living Lessons: War and Peace from My Volcano Experience
By: Christopher Wiles

Photo I took of the sign at Volcano Poas.  Keep calm if it erupts. Yeah .... riiiiiight.
Topher at Poas Volcano on April 21st, 2015

Two days prior to my writing of this I was standing at the top of the crater at Volcano Poás in Costa Rica.  The pool at the top was steaming.  The crater was lifeless as it boasts of one of the most acidic lakes in the world.  The air stunk of a sulfuric acid mixture.  The last eruption was in 2011, but you could still feel the heat standing 40 meters away.  The place gives you a sense of tension, devastation, and power.  You felt as though the temperature war within the earth was ready to escalate at any moment. 

Steam Rising from Poas.
Then I walked 500 meters away through a dense rainforest trail to a beautiful pristine blue lagoon.  The birds were chirping, the butterflies were dancing, and a squirrel was happy to eat a peanut butter cracker snack with me.   Lake Botos too was a lake in the crater of an eruption.  Yet over the course of 1000's of years (this one may have erupted around the time of Job in the Bible) that violent and destructive eruption has created a magnificent sanctuary for life and peace on the Poás mountain. 

Lake Botos Lagoon 4/21/15
I was amazed at the beautiful peace that followed a once violent destruction.  Then I am reminded by God that peace often comes from war, tranquility from trial, harmony from harrowing situations.   Why else would God inspire these words from James the brother of Jesus, "2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4

We all have tumultuous, turbulent, and testing trials happening at different points in life.  You might be experiencing one now.  If you are, you can still keep your chin up and have joy, knowing that God has declared through creation and through scripture, that peace comes from war for those who serve Him.  So do not lose hope in the middle of trial, rather seek joy and "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7

Here are a few of the photos I took comparing life around the crater to life around the lagoon and nearby forest.  You can find my whole set of Volcano photos by clicking HERE.
View of the entire crater from 2011 eruption with Nadia (Costa Rica).
View of Lake Botos Lagoon water with friends Alexi (Belgium) and Eva (Germany).
Local wildlife in the park away from the crater.

Local plant life in the park away from the crater with Hanna (Germany).

Local wildlife in the park away from the crater.

Local plant life in the park away from the crater.

Local wildlife in the park away from the crater.
 You can find my whole set of Volcano photos by clicking HERE.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Costa Rica Adventures #01

Costa Rica Adventures #01
Good morning Gabriel, Ethan, and Micah.  I sure do miss you boys.  I bet you're having a good time at Nana & Haha's house.  Have you played any Wii bowling, mario kart, or airplane yet?  Speaking of airplanes, you guys haven't flown on a commercial airline yet, so I thought I might just show you around a little bit on my blog.  There's a lot of fun to be had and a lot of interesting sights and people to see!

At this moment I'm sitting in a little Costa Rican Cafe inside the airport, and it's pretty early in the morning!  (2am more precisely.)  I just bought an orange Gatorade to drink (be careful of local water) from my new friend Pablo.  He said it was a good thing I was going to the church this morning after leaving the airport.  He acted like it was a very rare thing and Pablo asked a lot of questions. Then I chatted with a guy named Caz from Vancouver, Canada.  Caz was an idea type of guy who had lots of suggestions about seeds we should take down to our friends in Guajire, Honduras.

So that's where I am now, but why don't I take you to where I was?

The Indy Airport Rolling Walkway!

Inside my small commercial plane

I've got more videos and pictures to come, but the internet here is SOOOO slow.  I look forward to seeing you all soon!

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." - Philippians 1:3

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sign Sign Everywhere a Sign

Living Lesson:  Can't You Read The Sign?
By: Christopher Wiles

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"
Chorus lyrics often stick in your head, especially if they are from the 1971 Five Man Electrical Band song "Signs".  Have you ever wondered if God is giving you a sign?  I sure have.
For the last few months I've increasingly avoided technology. I've been pushing myself to give up Facebook for more "face time".  No, we're not talking about the iPhone app.  Instead, I've chosen to try to spend more time face-to-face with my family, our congregation, and members of the community who need the truth and encouragement of God's Word.  Talented with technology?  Yes I am. Wiz with websites?  Check. Good with graphic design?  You bet.  Yet, I have increasingly felt that my best and most effective ministry time is with people, not a screen. 
So why did I get an invitation out-of-the-blue to an all expenses paid trip to speak at Harding University Lectureships in September on the topic of church technology?  Like Moses in Exodus 3:2 who turned aside to the sign of God in the burning bush, I too ask the question, "Why is this happening?"  God, is this some sort of a sign?
Is it a sign that I should be doing more with technology? Or maybe it a sign that I should tell church leaders to trade their Facebook for real face time?  I feel nervous, conflicted, and confused as I try to read this potential sign.  Have you ever been conflicted or confused when trying to discern if something is a sign from God?  Don't worry, you're in good company.  Even Moses was conflicted, confused, and argumentative even when God's voice spoke directly to Moses from the burning bush! 

I come back to the hit song lyrics, "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind, Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"  Perhaps we should quit looking for and trying to interpret what we think might be "signs" around us. We can get caught up in worry while trying to read the supposed signs that we let them consume us, break our minds with worry, and block out the scenery around us.  Rather than relying on the wisdom that we frequently ask for in prayer, we mistakenly turn to sign interpreting as the basis our decision making.
Let's stop getting caught up in all the potential and confusing "signs" but instead have simple faith in Scriptures that with Godly wisdom, we can make good decisions.  Ask God for wisdom in how to best honor Him, then make a decision and do it.  You'll be glad you did.
"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." - James 1:5 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The World is Starving

Living Lesson: The World is Starving
By: Christopher Wiles
My boys needed something from me.  As I overheard their argument pushing their tones to get higher pitched, their volumes louder, and their reasoning to falter, I knew they needed something from me.

Our world is starving for something of which you and I have a potentially unlimited supply. You can get it by simply deciding to have it. You can give it away freely to thousands of people and still have plenty to give yourself. In fact, the more you give away, the more you will be surrounded with it. This illusive, yet potentially unlimited substance is simply “an encouraging word.”

So, why is it in such short supply? We live in a society where we love to spread bad news. Too many of us are constantly on the look out for something negative or shocking to talk about. The news media is our worst example. In spite of the fact that we are surrounded with people who are honest, law-abiding citizens, only the criminals get headlines. Many companies and individuals are succeeding and growing despite the temporary setbacks in our economy. Wouldn’t you think this would be newsworthy? Of course it is! Unfortunately, we cannot depend on the media for this positive news. They are too busy seeking out and spreading the worst possible messages they can find. Unless we take immediate action, we will drown in this negative avalanche.

Our families, our friends, our neighbors are starving for positive encouraging words.  I didn't want my children to fall victim to the negative avalanche.  I bounded downstairs with my "serious" face on.  I interrupted the ensuing argument with the directive, "Give me one reason why I shouldn't spank both of you for the way you're treating each other."  After they thought for a second, both boys decided they were wrong and deserved punishment.

I responded with encouragement, sharing with them the care I believe they were capable of, the level of respect I thought they deserved from each other, and with how much I loved them.  They needed no negatives to remind them of the lesson, they only needed encouragement. The hugs and smiles reminded me how powerful encouragement can be. 

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." - Hebrews 3:12-13

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ecclesiastes Introducation Class

Romans 15:4
 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Ecclesiasts 1:12-18 (NIV)
12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.

The Big Picture – General outline of Ecclesiastes






Old Testament Books Timeline

Questions from the Bible Conversation
1.       What is the book of Ecclesiastes called in the Hebrew and Greek?  What does it mean?  ______________________________________ ________________________________________________________
2.       According to Jewish and early Christian tradition, who is the author, and when was it likely written? _____________________________ ________________________________________________________
3.       What internal evidence is there to identify the author? (1:16; 2:4-6, 7-9; 12:9-10 ______________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________
4.       What question does the preacher seek to answer in this book?  (1:3) ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________
5.       What key word and key phrase are repeated many times in the book? __________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________
6.       What would you say are the two main messages found in the book? (1:14; 12:13)  ____________________________________________ ________________________________________________________
7.       Your homework for next week is to read up on chapters 1 – 2.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Budding and Living

Living Lessons: Budding and Living
By: Christopher Wiles

Oh the heights, depths, and riches that exist in the world our Lord created!  We witnessed the wealth of miraculous beauty this past week as we inspected a Japanese maple tree in our front yard. 

I gave of the tree as lost, dead, without a chance of life.  It sat in a bucket unattended in Tennessee for 6 months last year.  It looked withered and hopeless when someone gave it to us in November.  We transported it, planted it, and then watched it be buffeted by snow and wind this long winter. The coming of spring left little hope in me that this tree might survive.  When Ashley recently declared she thought the tree a loss, I was little surprised. 

But wait!  Buds!  Little budding leaflets!   These are what we saw when we took a closer look on Wednesday.  Those little buds are signs that life yet exists in the dry and cracked trunk.  Against all odds, this amazing creation of God's continues to live.  Everywhere we turn we are reminded that God gives life.  

Faith in Christ's Resurrection
Can you imagine the disciples' faces when they first saw Jesus after the empty tomb realizing that there was still life and power in Him? Imagine the joy, the awe, the tears, and the feeling of triumph when they realized that love and life had overcome the seemingly unbeatable death of their precious Rabbi.

I think it very appropriate that the Passover, Easter, and Spring all coincide.  Each event celebrates God's gift of life after what seems like certain death. Each event gives me hope for eternal life as well.  My hope and prayer is that we'll take time to look around this spring and be grateful for God and the life only He gives.  

"You, man of God, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." - from 1 Timothy 6:11-14