I’ve been blogging here since mid-May 2010, and because we are now at the last day of the year, I thought it appropriate to take a look back at the top 10 GOK blog posts of the year, as determined by you. If you didn’t realize it, you voted with your mouse.
In a few weeks I leave for a trip to Byzantium. Of course it’s not called that anymore. It’s current handle is Istanbul, and as was discussed in a recent blog post, it was heart of Christendom for 1,123 years.
We will begin with 3 days in Istanbul, along with one day in Cappadocia, before starting a Black Sea cruise that includes a stop in Ephesus before ending in Athens.
I’ve wanted to do this trip for years, and in preparation for it (and the blogging I plan on doing during the trip) I’ve been reading about the Byzantine Empire. Here’s what I’ve recently read and/or am current reading in preparation for the trip:
For those looking for a good introduction to the Byzantine Empire, I strongly recommend Norwich’s book. It’s well-written and tells the fascinating story of Christianity’s first experiment in empire in a way both engaging and interesting. This book is actually an abridged version of Norwich’s three volume treatise on Byzantium.
As the kingdom of God expands and Christians are elevated to positions of authority they will be foolish not to learn from the curriculum provided us by the past. The Byzantine Empire provides a rich course. GS
After writing yesterday’s blog post, I thought I would address another false accusation often made against Christians: that Christians are narrow-minded because they believe Jesus is the only way to God. In fact, it has become quite fashionable to believe all religions provide equally valid paths to God. In times past, those better educated than we are today did not make such silly errors.
To believe one thing to the exclusion of something contradictory is not narrow-minded but rational. To believe two contradictory propositions is not being open-minded; it’s just stupid. If Mohammad said Jesus was only a prophet, but Jesus said He was God in human flesh, it would be irrational to say both were correct. And, of course, Jesus said no one could come to God except through Him (John 14:6), a statement that doesn’t leave any wiggle room for those desiring a religious pluralism. It’s not open-minded to pervert the words of the founders of religions to fit one’s own purposes; it’s dishonest.
My experience has been that Christians on a whole are more open-minded than unbelievers. Think about it: to have become a Christian one must have gone from one set of beliefs to a set of contrary beliefs. Such change does not occur unless one is open-minded. Conversion is a radical word, but it is absolutely necessary to becoming a Christian. However, the unbeliever, who has persisted in his unbelief, continuing to cling to the same belief system, has proven himself close-minded.
Between the Christian and the unbeliever, it is the Christian who has been demonstrably open-minded. GS
My parents and most of my extended family live in the same small town, halfway across the country from where my wife and I live. And when I visit my parents for a day or two, I usually spend all my time with them. As a result, I haven’t seen many of my aunts and uncles and cousins for years.
Yesterday, though, we had a Fourth of July celebration with food, fireworks and family fellowship. Seeing a person you know well in five year increments is a lot like time-lapse photography. It gives you perspective familiarity plus proximity obscure. Change is highlighted instead of hidden. All this got me thinking about aging.
I’ve noticed as people age, one of two things happen. If they are not a Christian, they tend to become more self-centered and set in their ways and care less about the needs of others. If they are a Christian, submitted to the lordship of Jesus and subject to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, with age they become less self-centered, more adaptable and concerned about the needs of others.
I realize this is a broad generalization, subject to exceptions and gradations, but the distinction is real. It’s like the first group becomes more abrasive with age and the second palatable.
It’s the same with beer and wine. As beer ages it becomes offensive to the palate. This realization is what gave birth to the idea of “born-on dating” for beer. A lot of people like beer, but I don’t know anyone who likes it when it is old. Wine is the opposite: as it ages it gets smoother and more palatable. Even very expensive wine, if you drink it too soon will have a harshness to it, but age will transform it into something even a wine novice can enjoy.
Jesus is the Great Vintner. He turned water into incredible wine. (John 2:1-11). So here’s the question: are you beer or wine? GS
I’ve spent the entire day at the airport. My wife and I arrived at 9:30 a.m. for our 10:50 a.m. flight. First, it was delayed for nearly three hours. Then, once we boarded, our plan was stuck in line on the tarmac for an hour waiting to take off because of the weather. Our plane then pulled out of the line because we had a mechanical problem. When it couldn’t be fixed, we taxied back to the gate where we waited and later deplaned when the flight was cancelled. Not good.
By the time those of us who had been on the flight got into the long line back at the gate to try to find alternative flights to our destinations, it was 4:30 p.m, and it looked like it would take an hour before we reached the desk to find out our options. People were not happy.
While standing in line, I overheard a man behind me on the phone, explaining in a loud, angry tone to whomever the events of the last 7 hours. He blamed the airline for making us wait out on the tarmac for an hour and for making us wait while they tried to fix the problem and then for not canceling the flight sooner.
As I tried to tune him out, I heard another man directly behind me also talking on the phone, explaining to someone what had happened. His voice was calm and pleasant. “Brother, it’s all good,” he said, “It’s better they cancelled the flight than that we all end up with our heads between our knees on landing. It’s for the best. We’ll see you when we get there. Lord bless you.”
I suspected the second man was a Christian, and I was right. Over the next 30 minutes I engaged him in conversation. It turns out he and his wife were on their way to a Christian conference. He had a delightful attitude and he even drew a smile from the airline representative, who had been dealing with angry customers all day. It made me proud to be a Christian.
As I write this, it’s 7:45 p.m. and I’m still stuck in the same airport. It’s not clear whether our new flight will be cancelled. It’s ok though because there are more important things, like being a good ambassador for the King and His kingdom. GS