Close Up of the Prodigal’s Father

A good friend of mine at the church will be celebrating his 80th birthday on Wednesday.  Bill is not only 80 years old but he is coming by on his birthday to give me some lessons on how to make the pictures on my website look a little better.  For all of you who are a “mere” 60 or 70 and think that you can’t learn to use a computer any more than to read e-mail.  Think again.

I say that because Bill cropped this shot of the prodigal’s father and a close up of his hands.  For those of you who didn’t read my blog about this painting, go back and read it, it is only a couple of forms back.  This shot will give you a little better look at the hands of the father on the kneeling son.

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The Prodigal Son

As those of you that know me from Coral Ridge or from Knox Seminary realize, my favorite gospel is that called Matthew.  I must admit, despite my love for the gospel of Matthew, that one of my favorite parables is found only in Luke’s gospel.  To help you hear it fresh, here is a different translation (the Cotton Patch Gospel)

Luke 15:11. He went on to say, “A man had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Dad, give me my share of the business.’ So he split up the business between them. Not so long after that the younger one packed up all his stuff and took off for a foreign land, where he threw his money away living like a fool. Soon he ran out of cash, and on top of that, the country was in a deep depression. So he was really hard up. He finally landed a job with one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed hogs! And he was hungry enough to tank up on the slop the hogs were eating. Nobody was giving him even a hand-out.

“One day an idea bowled him over. ‘A lot of my father’s hired hands have more than enough bread to eat, and out here I’m starving in this depression. I’m gonna get up and go to my father and say, ‘Dad, I’ve sinned against God and you, and am no longer fit to be called your son—just make me one of your hired hands.’

“So he got up and came to his father. While he was some distance down the road, his father saw him and was moved to tears. He ran to him and hugged him and kissed him and kissed him.

“The boy said, ‘Dad, I’ve sinned against God and you, and I’m not fit to be your son any more—’ But the father said to his servants, ‘You all run quick and get the best suit you can find and put it on him. Get his family ring for his hand and some dress shoes for his feet. Then I want you to bring that stall-fed steer and butcher it, and let’s all eat and whoop it up, because this son of mine was given up for dead, and he’s still alive; he was lost and is now found.’ And they began to whoop it up.

“But his older son was out in the field. When he came in and got almost home, he heard the music and the dancing, and he called one of the little boys and asked him what in the world was going on. The little boy said, ‘Why, your brother has come home, and your daddy has butchered the stall-fed steer, because he got him back safe and sound. At this he blew his top, and wouldn’t go in. His father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look here, all these years I’ve slaved for you, and never once went contrary to your orders. And yet, at no time have you ever given me so much as a baby goat with which to pitch a party for my friends. But when this son of yours—who has squandered the business on whores—comes home, you butcher for him the stall-fed steer.’ But he said to him, ‘My boy, my dear boy, you are with me all the time, and what’s mine is yours. But I just can’t help getting happy and whooping it up, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive; he was lost and has been found.’ ”

Jordan, C. (2004). The cotton patch gospel.  Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys Pub.

Here is a copy of the famous painting called ‘The Return of the Prodigal’ by Rembrandt:

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A couple of interesting things about this painting.  One is that the prodigals face is unseen.  I think that is to remind us that this is our face.  In the midst of this heartrending scene, we all, who depend upon the grace of God are in the middle.  Not proud because we have forgiven someone else, but thankful because we have been forgiven.  Until we realize how much we have been forgiven of, it is impossible for us to show the kind of forgiveness that we should to others.

A second thing, and maybe this is just me, but look at the father’s hands.  It seems that the left hand sits on the shoulder of the boy with great strength, it is a powerful, manly hand.  The right hand, situated between the returning prodigals shoulder blades seems almost feminine.  It is a picture of the justice and mercy of our father.  A strong hand of justice that did not just “forget about” our sin, but required payment be made (in the form of our Lord); a gentle hand of love that does not overlook justice, but makes a way for the prodigals to make a way back home in spite of our having wasted our money. 

This story and thus this painting speaks to me in a way that the phrase “God loves you” does not.  Maybe it’s just me, but somehow I hope not.  Somehow I think that there are lots of us who have hearts of poets who are spoken to by stories, songs, and paintings.  Maybe you have one of those inside you.  Let your story, your song, your poem out; for the glory of God and the blessing of those of us who are a little different.

Knox Seminary’s incurable story lover,

DrSamLam

Apologetics Class Fall at Knox Seminary

I would like to invite you to the upcoming apologetics class that will take place at Knox Seminary this Fall and tell you a little about my interest in this course since this will be the first time I have taught it.

I have been fascinated in the apologetic venture since my own crisis of faith in 1980. Perhaps I will tell you more about this in class, but the crisis drove me to make sure that my own Christianity was real and not just something that I had been ‘born’ into. I have spent a great deal of time investigating apologetic methods and have studied under Dr. Reymond as well as Dr. J. P. Moreland. I am also a historical Jesus specialist and have spent a good bit of time working on the reliability of the NT documents and especially the historical truthfulness of the resurrection of Jesus. With all of this behind me I hope to be a novice, but hard working and excited guide in this class.

In this class we will be looking at the why, how, and what of the apologetic method as well as spending a good bit of time actually doing apologetics.

We will wrestle with some of the most significant problems that the Christian faith has ever faced and will be doing so from some old, some new, and some of my own mixed methods.

I am excited about the class and about what the Lord is going to do in our lives as we study how we might glorify him and ‘give an answer to every man’ who asks us why we believe.

This will be a class with lots of dialog, lots of questions, and hopefully, many blessings as we realize the truthfulness of our faith does not just rest in ‘a leap of faith.’

It is my prayer that this class will be one that you will remember for many years to come as the Lord works in your life through his word.

For the Lamb,

DrSamLam

I look forward to seeing you in class where we will use a variety of teaching methods, from video, forum discussions, reading and listening to debates, and thinking deeply about the truth that is set before us.

New Alien Puppet

As some of you might know I am the resident magician/juggler/magician at Coral Ridge Presbyterian.  I have been plying my trade in this area for a long time and payed my way through school by doing birthday parties, corporate gigs, comedy nights, and just about anything else I could get to make a few bucks.  I’ve been a chicken outside of a chicken wing restaurant as well as the old Mac Tonight when he was a McDonalds character.  I have performed (with my very good friend and partner Dave; I should say juggling partner, what with all that “partner” implies these days) all over the US and a few times in Canada.  We can still be caught on Nickelodeon re-runs with our old “Zucchini Brothers” act.

All of that to say that I have been doing CRPCs Vacation Bible School for the last 13 years and have done a lot of the same stuff with a lot of the same puppets for all of that time.  Many of the older kids know my stuff as well as I do. This years theme is outer space and I will be “Space Man Sam” (not an entirely bad title for me I am told by some).  I decided since this year’s theme is outer space that I would get an alien puppet.  I actually waited until the last minute, but I bought one today from EBay.  I don’t want to spoil the whole surprise, but here is a shot of his face.

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Let me know what you think.  I don’t have him yet, but I’ll let you know how he acts, sounds, and what his personality is like once he arrives.  If you are around Ft. Lauderdale in a few weeks and would like to help out or just stop by for VBS, call Coral Ridge at 954 771-8840 for more details.  I remember VBS as one of the great times of my life as a child and I want to pass that on to the kids at Coral Ridge.  I want them to leave thinking, this is a great place to be; I really like coming to church.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

DrSamLam

AKA “The Space Man”

My Spelling Problems for All the World to See

I am not quite sure how that last blog (sometimes I let things get to me) actually became public.  I was writing, more as a catharsis than anything else and I was definitely not ready to put the piece on the blog.  I thought that I had saved it into an area that was only to be seen by me.  Little did I know that it was out there for everyone, spelling errors and all.  I suppose that I should tell you now, because you have figured it out, that I have a very serious spelling problem.  I’m not quite sure why that is, though I can think of a number of excuses (improper toilet training; sight reading method; harsh first grade teacher; kind first grade teacher; one excuse is as good as another) but I am not sure of what the real problem is, and I have tried reading books and listening to tapes but it doesn’t seem to have done me much good.

The problem, you see, is that I would rather not have broadcast that to everyone who reads the blog, but because I didn’t know how everything works I was pretty much forced to.  I think sometimes that is a good thing.  I am reading a funny, but also pointed book now called Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture by Daniel Radosh (I found out about the book though a mention in a libertarian magazine that I subscribe to, this month it arrived with UFO magazine and Genii: The magazine for Conjurers, I think my post-man may be a little afraid of me).  Radosh follows one of his family members to a Christian concert for the first time and finds evangelicalism a rather strange subculture for a person who is not a Christian.  He then attends “Christian” concerts, book conventions, abstinence get togethers (it just doesn’t seem right to call it an abstinence show), comedy nights, and even Christian wrestling matches.  One of the things that I was struck with as I read the book was how often we evangelicals are not really honest.  Not honest with others and more often not honest with ourselves.  There is no lack of examples in the book of twisted statistics and sometimes downright lies that are accepted by the community when “used for good.”

Somehow I think that honesty and openness is a better tactic than many of those that I read about being used by my brothers and sisters.  Don’t get me wrong.  The whole point of this piece is that I would rather not show my mistakes to the world and in many ways I think that is a good thing.  But in many ways I think that we have to be willing to admit that we Christians fail, often, and that God loves us in spite of that, in spite of our spelling errors, our lack of love, our hateful mean-spirited ways, and our less than Christian and sometimes anti-Christian actions.

The truth is, we are all broken.  Some of us hide it pretty well, but for others there is no spell checker in the world than can hide the brokenness that is written on their face.  I can’t help but think of the great Derek Webb song “They’ll know us by the T shirts that we wear”

They’ll know us by the T shirts that we wear

They’ll know us by the way we point and stare

At anyone whose sin is worse than ours and who cannot hide the scars

of this sin that we all bear

Can’t we do a little better job at showing the love of Christ to those that are around us? 

Just a thought, Your mileage may vary,

DrSAmLam

Sometimes I Let Things Get To Me

We have all seen someone snap at something that just seems so small and irrational that the reaction seems completely out of touch with what just happened.  The person in line who finally looses it and just starts yelling at both the checker and at everyone else in line because the line is too slow; the driver, stuck in traffic who lays on the horn as if that is going to get the traffic moving (like there are people at the front of the traffic jam just sitting there daydreaming and when they hear the horn, that gets them going); you can fill in your own blank here.  What happens in those situations?  I have a theory.

My theory is that problems build up like burdens on a proverbial camel.  They come a little at a time, more and more until one day, the unlucky person who happens to be in the one who finally pushes the one burden, problem, or issue that just sends someone over the edge.  Maybe you’ve seen that person.  Maybe you’ve even been that person.  I have a tendency to let small things bother me, but not to tell anyone.  As I teach at Knox Seminary sometimes I let some small student issue bother me much more than it should.  At the church sometimes the slightest complaint can send me into a tailspin.

But I should be better.  I should be

In the church this is not a good thing.  We should, in obedience to Matthew 18, be willing to speak to a brother or sister who has offended us or if we are not willing to speak to them, then to let it go.  If we are not willing to speak to a person whom we think has wronged us, how can the matter ever be settled?  This is a difficult issue and I am in no way saying that I have always or even nearly always done the right thing, but I can say that I believe that I know what the right thing is.  Relationships are often damaged forever by the failure of individuals to come to one another and speak.  To say to a person “I feel that you have hurt me in doing this . . . “ is to force them to come to grips with the fact that wronging another human being is a sin.

These things are hard, though.  Sometimes the person feels terribly offended and some sort of war starts.  Casualties arise that no-one could have seen and battles rage on for years over things that should have been settled in seconds if not minutes.  It seems that we who are members of Christ’s church should be better than that.  It seems like we ought to conduct ourselves in a way that is different from those who don’t know the grace of the saviour.

I have often thought that those who claim to hold to the doctrines of Grace (Calvinism) are sometimes the most ungracious of people.  How can we understand grace so well in our minds and yet not have one whit of an idea of how it works out in our lives?  Put more starkly how can we speak with such eloquence about grace and live with such evil in our hearts?  Shouldn’t the church be making more of a difference?

I think that it does make a difference.  After all who knows how mean I would be if I were not a Christian?  But I think that we all need to examine our lives and ask ourselves about our own grace.  Are we willing to be gracious to others and if not what does Matthew, at the end of his 18th chapter, have to say to us?  What do we say to ourselves when we say the Lord’s prayer (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtor’s).  I ought to be more gracious.  I ought not to let things get to me.  I ought to show the gentleness of Christ more in the way I act.  Perhaps that is what is wrong with our Christianity.  It is not that it is not working, it is that we are not changed.

Just a thought,

DrSamLam

Father’s Day

Yesterday was father’s day and I got up to go to church and found one of the greatest gifts ever.  You can see the picture below.  Josiah, Charity and I are going to the 51st anniversary of the Roswell crash this year (the Lord willing and the aliens don’t attack), so you will understand the gift a little better.

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This picture is from my hotel room in Dallas.  To the left you can see the book depository and the road on which the murder of JFK took place.  It was an eerie feeling looking out at that scene all these years later.

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I have been doing a lot of thinking about the JFK assassination since visiting Dealy plaza.  I’ll share my thoughts l’ll share my thoughts later.  For now, don’t ride around in any open limousines.

DrSamLam

More Photos from Dealy Plaza

This is a shot of the book depository from quite a distance. You can see the open window on the sixth floor with a box against the window.

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This is a close up of the window from which the shots were fired, notice the boxes piled up, in the same way they were on the day of the shooting.

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This is a shot of the map showing the parade route which led JFK onto this road.

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Here you see a historic marker at the foot of the book depository.  Notice that the word “allegedly” has been underlined by lots of scratches.

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Here are Seminary President David Nicholas and COO Buz McNutt standing on the very X where the head shot hit JFK.  There is no fear in Knox leadership.

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I will tell you more about the people I met on the grassy knoll later on.  It was quite a trip, in more ways than one.

DrSamLam

Knox Lunch at GA

Knox had a wonderful lunch with a number of graduates at the PCA general assembly today.  We were spoken to by our new president, Dr. David Nicholas who reminded us of what great things God is doing at Knox.

Here is a picture of the graduates who were at the lunch.

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God is doing some wonderful things at Knox seminary and I am excited to be on board.  There are new classes being formed, a new track in “Leadership” being developed, and some great new students are enrolling.  I can’t wait till classes start in the fall.  This has been a year with a lot of controversy at Knox and Coral Ridge, but I know that God is in control and is going to do things that we can only dream about.  As we teach young people about the truth of reformed theology, I expect to see God move in a mighty way.  I am proud to have graduated from Knox and proud to be a part of the seminary right now.  Stay tuned to see the blessings that God pours out.

DrSamLam

Hello from the Grassy Knoll

Yes, I have made it to one of the places that I wanted to see before I died.  The infamous site of the shooting of JFK.  I have some pictures.  This first one is me standing in the road which has an X on the spot where the shot first hit President Kennedy.

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The next is standing on the X looking up at the school book depository from where the shots were fired.

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Next is Jim Dietz, my fellow conspirator at Knox and roommate here in Dallas, and myself standing on the “grassy knoll.”

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Last is the fence behind which the gentleman whom you may not be able to see in the picture, is telling me that the fatal shot came from, finally killing the president. 

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It was a very interesting time.  I’ll tell you all about it later, but for now, I can mark another thing off my list.  Now if I can just get to a snake-handling service maybe I can mark off two in one trip.

DrSamLam