Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ich bin ein Turfuhrer "I am a tour guide"

They asked me to give the new staff a tour of Vienna. So I pretended to be an expert for a few hours (they are all new and so if I said anything that was incorrect it's not like they'd know the difference anyway).

The above picture is the Rathaus. I know that doesn't sound like a place you'd want to hang out but auf deutsch (in German) it's city hall. It is without a doubt my favorite building in Vienna. When I look at it I see beauty...elegance...it literally puts me in awe. I realize that someone designed it and that many people spent time building it. Tour guides have to be very observant.

I'm reading a book right now called The Velvet Elvis by a guy named Rob Bell. You should all read this book. I don't agree with everything in it, but it has been a breath of fresh air in terms of "Christian" books. One of the things he talks about is the kavod of God. Kavod in Hebrew means glory but actually denotes weight or significance. Isaiah says, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty. The Earth is filled with His glory."

We can see the glory of the Lord all around us. David said, "The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it." And later he prayed, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence."

Rob Bell points out in his book that some people think missions is "taking God somewhere." While I somewhat see what people are saying, if we have truly understood the scriptures we realize that God is all around us. Not in some pantheistic way, but to quote Steven Curtis Chapman, the "fingerprints of God" are all around us. And not just for us believers, but unbelievers as well. The Earth is literally FILLED with His glory. Look for it.

Paul understood this. He brought the truth and the Word of God, but he also pointed out everyday things. He was a tour guide. If you read Acts 17, Paul observes that the Athenians had many gods they worshipped and thanked for all of the good things in their lives. Paul tells them that there is one God and He is the source of all of these things. He even goes on to quote one of their poets in sharing the truth with them. Paul meets the Athenians where they are and speaks to them in a way they can relate to. He infuses all of the life experience and practice of their reality with meaning by linking it to God, the most real thing.

I'm learning that I'm not taking God anywhere. He's really big and doesn't need a ride from me. He is already intimately involved in what is going on in the lives of my kids. In Colossians it says that in Christ all things hold together. In a sense, anything we do or experience involves God's active presence.

As Christians maybe we need to stop trying to "take" God and start to "observe" what God is already doing. In Romans it talks about all people having a knowledge of God from what has been made. Let's start relating to people from the good things God has placed in their lives. The things that surround them that they can't deny. Let's speak the truth to them in love and make ourselves available to God for His use in other people's lives.

So this weekend I was a tour guide. I think I'll keep trying to be one the rest of this year.


Anonymous said...

good to know you're finally getting around to reading rob bell... where have you been?

only joking... he has another book entitled "Sex God" that you might enjoy (if you liked velvet elvis).

twas great seeing you. and glad you guys made it back all right.
hope this year goes well.

Anonymous said...


Alisha said...

Hi Gardners -- Followed the Richards' blog to find you here. Have you seen any of the Nooma videos? I think they're done by the same Rob Bell. I don't agree with him on all points, but they're very good videos nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

good post, thomas, i very much enjoyed it. i will be reading velvet elvis before long, i promise.
i am so glad you are back with your "kids" where you guys belong...i'm so glad you feel at home in vienna and energized for the school year ahead. y'all are in our prayers!
love, kim

Aaron said...

Glad to hear you are a tour guide my friend. I am sure you were great at it.

Concerning Mr. Bell, however, he does have me rather concerned. Not to say that nothing good is in his books, but you may be interested to read this article excerpt from Christianity Today that is commented on by Brannon Howse of Worldview Weekend. This is an article of Bell and his wife. Very concerning.

Here is the link. You may have to subscribe to worldview weekend to read it. It is free though and they actually have a lot of good articles they send via email.

Hope the school year is starting off well. We think of you guys often and keep you in our prayers.

Aaron said...
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