By Scott Harrup | November 8, 2013
[In honor of Austin’s 13th birthday, I’m reposting one of my favorite entries, which originally appeared in January 2008 when Out There was just getting started. Happy Birthday, Austin! You make me proud.]
I have an early morning tradition with our youngest son, Austin. He’s 7, and since he was 4 we’ve spent a lot of mornings getting up before the rest of the family for “buddy time.”
I brew some coffee and pour myself a mug. I heat up some milk for Austin and add enough of my brew on top to brown it a little and make him feel like he’s sharing the coffee with me. Lately he’s decided he prefers hot chocolate, so the menu’s changed.
There’s no big ritual. We sip our drinks and talk about random subjects. We usually have about 10 or 15 minutes tops before I need to get the rest of the family moving. We wrap it up with a simple prayer for Austin’s upcoming day at school.
I’m amazed, particularly on dark winter mornings, how Austin will groggily insist he’s ready to get out of bed for our minutes together. Only on a few occasions has he asked if he could sleep in a little longer.
And he only grasps the surface of how much those morning minutes mean to me.
Which reminds me how much God enjoys it when I spend time with Him. And that’s pretty mind-boggling.
By Scott Harrup | October 31, 2013
Halloween has practically become a national holiday. Americans now spend nearly $7 billion on creepy costumes, candy by the bushel, and increasingly elaborate home decorations. Kids especially take to the day as a chance to dress up and put their neighbors’ generosity to the test. Our family likes to hand out the Kids Edition of the Pentecostal Evangel to trick-or-treaters. (Good news/bad news — this week’s issue sold out before I could take a stack of remainders home. But you can still read the issue online at pe.ag.org.)
I believe people’s fascination with scary entertainment is tied to a natural desire to minimize fears and experience real peace. We make up tales about “the bogeyman” to offset our concerns over genuine threats to ourselves or to our loved ones.
In contrast with our flawed attempts to calm our own fears, the Bible is filled with God’s promises of genuine peace. Life doesn’t have to be scary when we take God at His word and trust Him to guide us through each day’s potential anxieties.
“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165, NIV).
Have you found time today to discover a promise or two in God’s Word to restore your calm in the midst of today’s storms?
By Scott Harrup | October 28, 2013
Dr. Carol Taylor spoke in chapel last week at the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center. Taylor, president-elect and CEO of the newly consolidated Evangel University here in Springfield, Mo., shared insights on Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.
One of Taylor’s key points: Our attitude can make us blind to God’s glory, even when that glory is right in front of us.
Consider John 11:45-47,53: “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. … From that day on they plotted to take his life” (NIV).
People in the first group, apparently in the majority, had the kind of reaction one would expect following the resurrection of a man who had been dead for four days — recognition of the divine at work. In contrast, the reaction of the minority, the “some of them,” seems inconceivable. They go to Jesus’ enemies to tell them “what Jesus had done.”
Notice that? The second group didn’t deny Lazarus had died and had been miraculously resurrected. The man’s illness and death would have been indisputable in a small, closely knit community like Bethany.
And there is no indication the Sanhedrin doubted the report given to them. But their reaction? “Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Let’s kill Him.”
There is a form of doubt one rightly exercises when only some of the facts are in and the evidence for a claim is slim. But there is also a radical, belligerent doubt. A doubt that says no amount of evidence can influence me away from my tightly held antagonism toward a given set of facts. The truth is there, but I refuse to acknowledge its existence.
Jesus, the living Truth, met this variety of doubt head-on among His enemies.
I’m no enemy of Jesus, but I still struggle with doubt. Not in the big issues, such as God’s existence, Christ’s divinity, or whether a providential plan is at work in the cosmos. Rather, doubt creeps into the moments of a day, into my questions regarding a particular set of circumstances.
Taking a cue from Lazarus’ sisters in John’s narrative, I offer “If only…” prayers to God. “If only You would do A, B, or C, God, then I could really trust You.”
There will always be challenges in life, issues that remain unresolved, situations that stay stubbornly in place. That will be true even as God continues to work in and around my life, often behind the scenes in ways I cannot discern but that powerfully shape my today and my eternity.
I want to radically confront my doubts and discover God’s radical glory.
By Scott Harrup | October 17, 2013
During some Netflix time together, Austin and I recently discovered Monsters Inside Me, an Animal Planet series about parasites. It is not a show for the squeamish, or particularly well suited for dinner viewing. I could feel my sandwich losing its flavor with each scene.
The episode we watched the other night featured rare worm infestations that nearly killed their victims. In each case, the worms started out as microscopic larvae that invaded their victim by way of an intermediate host. In two cases, the worms found their way to the victim’s brain and caused significant damage.
Followers of Christ deal with “brain-eating” invaders of their own. A momentary temptation matures into a thought pattern and comes to life in a destructive choice. What started out small and hidden grows into a broken marriage, ruined reputation, or lifelong regret for the pain and loss inflicted on others.
The apostle James describes this process in his epistle: “A man is tempted to do wrong when he lets himself be led by what his bad thoughts tell him to do. When he does what his bad thoughts tell him to do, he sins. When sin completes its work, it brings death” (James 1:14,15, New Life Version).
But Scripture gives us more than a description of this mind-threatening problem. Other passages list effective countermeasures that lead to a healthy mind and a fulfilling life.
“Let the sins of the sinful stop. But build up those who are right with You. For the God Who is right and good tests both the hearts and the minds” (Psalm 7:9).
“I will give honor and thanks to the Lord, Who has told me what to do. Yes, even at night my mind teaches me” (Psalm 16:7).
“Test me and try me, O Lord. Test my mind and my heart” (Psalm 26:2).
“The mind of the one who is right with God thinks about how to answer, but the mouth of the sinful pours out sinful things” (Proverbs 15:28).
“You will keep the man in perfect peace whose mind is kept on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not make himself unclean with the king’s best food and wine” (Daniel 1:8).
“Jesus said to him, ‘“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”’” (Matthew 22:37).
“If your sinful old self is the boss over your mind, it leads to death. But if the Holy Spirit is the boss over your mind, it leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
Do you feel like temptation is trying to “worm” itself into your mind? You don’t have to fall prey to its destructive influence. You have a divine Friend who waits to respond when you pray for His help.
By Scott Harrup | September 30, 2013
During a Virginia summer evening, perhaps in 1968, I was playing King of the Hill with the neighbors’ kids. The hill was really more of a depression in their yard, but provided enough of a slope for us to tussle on the grass and try to maintain a winning position near the top.
Our clambering attracted the attention of some yellow jackets, whose nest was buried somewhere in that patch of lawn. I was near the bottom of the hill when the disturbed colony poured out of the ground, stinging our increasingly frantic group.
Some 45 years later, I retain a memory of tiny black silhouettes against a twilight sky dive-bombing me from every direction. I was crying hysterically by the time I ran home. Mom treated a dozen or more stings.
I was too young to distinguish species of flying insects. Anything with wings became a “bee” for me. (I was also too young to say “yellow jacket.”) For the next few weeks I grew terrified if even a housefly buzzed too close.
At the time, Warren Cornell’s hymn “Wonderful Peace” was popular at our small Assemblies of God church in Franconia where my parents pastored. The chorus goes like this:
Peace, peace, wonderful peace/Coming down from the Father above!/Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray/In fathomless billows of love!
Comforting words, to be sure, except to my fear-tinged toddler mind the chorus rang out:
Bees, bees, wonderful bees/Coming down from the Father above!
Perhaps fellow parishioners took my spontaneous crying as youthful, repentant soul-searching. All I could see was that cloud of yellow jackets coming in for the kill.
Dad finally coaxed an explanation from me, and promptly composed a new chorus he would play cheerfully at double speed on his ukulele at home.
Coming down, down, down/Coming down, down, down/The honeybees are coming to the ground!/Coming dowwwwnnnn/Coming dowwwwnnnn/The honeybees are coming to the ground!
You can say almost anything with a big enough smile and convince a kid life really is not so frightening as it once seemed.
Yet, that truth took hold in a strange sort of way. Sometimes a bees/peace connection echoes in my mind when I encounter a major stressor. I see the oncoming “bees” of life that want to knot up my stomach and raise my blood pressure. Concurrently, I’m reminding myself God desires my trust and wants to give me His peace. When I pull back from the moment and breathe a prayer, He consistently gives His assurance.
Peace, peace, wonderful peace/Coming down from the Father above!
By Scott Harrup | September 16, 2013
It seems lately I can’t get away from the New Testament Book of Acts.
Months ago, I accepted a writing assignment for three curriculum lessons on Acts. That overlapped with registration for a class on Acts at nearby Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Both coincided with the scheduling of our fall Kids Edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (Adventures in Acts!). All of the above were in play at some level when Pastor Jeff Peterson at Central Assembly set aside several Sundays for sermons on Acts.
When I detect a providential echo in life, I take it to heart. I figure God is trying to tell me something. People of a nontheistic frame of mind could argue my Acts writing assignment influenced my choice of an AGTS class and our editorial team’s discussion of our Kids Edition theme. But I needed a New Testament class that fit my work schedule. “Speeches in Acts” filled that bill precisely. Our editors offered plenty of other ideas for the Kids Edition before everyone agreed “Adventures in Acts!” worked best.
I had no input whatsoever in Pastor Jeff’s sermons.
What I call “orchestrated coincidences” don’t have to proclaim life-altering guidelines; a simple reminder to pay closer attention to fundamental biblical values may be all that is intended.
I’m taking a renewed interest in how God used everyday people to communicate the world-changing message of the gospel across the first-century Roman Empire. I’m seeing afresh the repeated call for unity among followers of Christ. I’m noting the Holy Spirit’s guidance can be as simple as timely counsel from another Christian or as dramatic as a supernatural vision.
But I allow for a more sobering explanation of my repeated intersections with Luke’s Early Church history. The Church flourished throughout Acts’ narrative arc, but it did so amidst persecution and deep opposition. Perhaps opposition and persecution lie beyond the horizon for my faith community.
Most of my life I have lived out my commitment to Jesus Christ within a culture that prioritizes personal freedom, including the freedom of religion. Yet, there have always been challenges posed to that freedom. In years to come, the challengers may take center stage in our nation’s government and judicial system.
Should that happen, I pray the lessons of Acts take root in my life. That the example of an apostle Peter, missionary Paul, or even martyr Stephen may prove congruent with my expression of faith.
For however long I’m blessed with continued freedom of expression, I pray I make full use of it for the benefit of those around me still viewing the gospel from a distance.
By Scott Harrup | August 23, 2013
Rob Rhinehart is tired of eating. More to the point, he’s tired of the time needed to prepare and ingest a meal. And he’s not too fond of the money he spends on the array of foods required for a well-rounded, nutritious diet.
The San Francisco electrical engineer has come up with a remedy he finds personally satisfying. In fact, he’s so happy with his solution (which happens to be just that, a liquid solution), that he’s marketing it.
Following a personal crash course in nutrition, Rhinehart identified the key components in a healthy diet. All can be obtained in powdered form through food additive and chemical suppliers. Having purchased his various dry concentrates online, Rhinehart mixed them in his kitchen into a milky liquid. He has spent the better part of this year surviving on little else than Soylent, his almost-ready-for-mass-production nutrient-packed drink. You can read more about Rhinehart’s liquid life preserver here and here.
A slight aside — Rhinehart admits his chosen name for his concoction is a nod to Soylent Green, the 1973 Charlton Heston film positing an overcrowded Earth (now just around the corner, in 2022) and a government-dispensed foodstuff (soylent green) processed from … the dead. “Soylent green is people!” Heston’s character bemoans once he makes the macabre discovery.
But back to Soylent. So far, all indicators are it delivers on Rhinehart’s promise to provide total nutrition while saving time and money. I, for one, have no desire to assist my schedule or my budget by quaffing the stuff.
Here’s my take on Soylent. Yes, it has great potential for temporary food relief in famine- or disaster-stricken regions. But if God wanted us to slurp our sustenance daily, He would not have bothered to create all the sensory components that work together seamlessly to give us pleasure while eating.
Think about it. God didn’t just equip us with teeth, saliva, gastric juices, digestive muscles, and internal chemical factories to turn bulk food into cell-accessible nutrients. He gifted us with some 10,000 regenerating taste buds on our tongues and millions of olfactory receptors packed into our nasal cavities. That’s the thing about God — He didn’t just create us as an expression of divine practicality. He shows us His love, in part, through all the engines of happiness He has made available.
Limit yourself to Soylent (which Rhinehart and others freely admit does not get high marks for taste) and you’re bypassing the joys God intended for our “daily bread.” Not to mention the social cost of eliminating meals lovingly prepared by friends or family and the inestimable loss of no longer sharing those meals.
I admit, catching a bite in the Harrup home can be both rushed and informal. Lindsay’s college and work schedule, three jobs between Jodie and me, Connor’s medications, and any variables Austin decides to add all mitigate against a Leave It To Beaver dining room tableau.
But whether it’s a quick pizza, or simply soup and sandwiches, all of us gather with the assurance of mutual love and a real interest in everyone’s day. We bow our heads and thank our Creator for another shared meal, for each family member present, and for the abundant joy of living.
I can’t get that through a straw.
By Scott Harrup | August 16, 2013
I am now in my 50th year. I was 48 last Friday and turned 49 on Saturday. But that means I completed my 49th year, so I’m journeying through my 50th. It feels like I age two years with every birthday.
Lindsay’s gift to me at our Saturday family gathering was a hard-cover edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and a slip-cased set of his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m in Tolkien heaven. When Lindsay began building her own library a number of years ago, I gifted her with my four-volume paperback Tolkien set. Now I have these beautiful editions to enjoy. Talk about “casting your bread upon the waters.”
I started rereading The Hobbit right away, and used Jodie’s gift card to Barnes and Noble to purchase Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen. I’m reading a Tolkien chapter and then the associated Olsen commentary.
If you’ve never read Tolkien, and have only heard of The Hobbit as a very popular children’s book, you may wonder why anyone would write a commentary such as Olsen’s. But if you peruse Exploring… for a few pages or check out Olsen’s free lectures on his website, you’ll discover a wealth of life themes are embedded in Tolkien’s beautifully crafted prose.
Is The Hobbit a children’s book? Certainly. But it is so much more.
We forget that another Book is also a children’s book. The Bible, though deeply studied for millennia and the genesis for thousands of volumes of commentary, is brimming with truth aimed at the youngest heart.
It includes the Author’s personal invitation to fledgling readers: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14, NIV).
By Scott Harrup | August 14, 2013
Michael Dettlaff, 12, made headlines with his July 31 discovery of a 5.16-carat diamond during a family outing to Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park. The stone’s value is estimated at between $12,000 and $15,000 once cut.
The park is the only diamond-producing site in the world open to the public, and a finders-keepers policy attracts a steady stream of tourists. On average, two diamonds a day are found, although the great majority have little value.
Michael’s was the 328th diamond found by a park visitor so far this year, and the 12th diamond this year weighing more than a carat. Michael found his treasure after only a few minutes on site; most visitors can search for hours among the park’s 37.5 plowed acres with nothing gained beyond the thrill of the hunt.
Michael named his find “God’s Glory Diamond.” The name, and Michael’s experience, bring to my mind an old story of another field and another treasure.
Jesus’ parable of a treasure hidden in a field is one of His shortest stories illustrating the kingdom of heaven. If you read two or three Bible chapters in a sitting, you might miss the message in this single verse.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44, NIV).
Jesus was illustrating the immeasurable value of belonging to God’s kingdom. True, our salvation can only take place by God’s grace. But we must commit all that we are and all that we possess in order to fully realize everything God desires to do within us.
Visitors to Crater of Diamonds State Park have a far greater chance of shoveling worthless buckets of mud than of discovering a gem-quality diamond. I’m grateful that God’s treasure — though hidden by life’s countless distractions, temptations, and empty ambitions — is available to anyone who will listen to the Holy Spirit’s guiding voice.
By Scott Harrup | August 8, 2013
In the Disney adaptation of “Snow White,” a wall mirror belonging to Snow White’s evil stepmother not only could speak; it also possessed a strangely specific thread of omniscience — it could keep track of all the women in the land and identify “the fairest one of all.”
Despite its mythical abilities, the mirror displayed no ambition to influence the outcome. It simply reported the facts, akin to what all true mirrors are supposed to do.
That could soon change.
Operating on a principle called “incendiary reflection,” a mirror being developed by University of Tokyo researchers actively manipulates the image of a viewer’s face. How?
Instead of reflecting the viewer, the device is really a computer screen that projects a camera image of the viewer’s face with a mirrored orientation. Using a series of invisible reference points on the face, the computer software subtly changes the image so the viewer appears to be slightly smiling or frowning.
The researchers are testing the device to see if it influences participants’ emotions. Past studies have shown that when people make themselves smile or frown, it changes their emotions accordingly.
So, how might such a “mirror” be used? The research team suggests it could be installed in a clothing retailer’s dressing room. Customers who find themselves smiling as they wear an item would be more prone to buy it.
I’m not thrilled about the development of yet another manipulative advertising tool, but I believe all of us can do a little “incendiary reflection” on our own, and to our benefit.
It doesn’t hurt to look into the mirror once in a while (a genuine mirror) and give some thought to all the reasons you have in life to smile. And then, to put that smile on your face as an expression of gratitude for life’s blessings and an act of faith in the God who gave them to you.
Go ahead, try it.