I know I am not the only one who thinks he belongs in a different time. I’ve been a fountain pen user since 1973 when our general conference hotel placed us next to a drug store. Like all 12 year-olds I had to check out the stationary isle to see their school supplies. My affair with real writing instruments started with the purchase of a $2 Sheaffer fountain pen. This morning I am using a 1950’s Conway Stewart No 58 with a wonderful stub-ish medium nib. The sepia ink came from Charles, a good friend in Singapore who gets it. My paper is Japanese Midori paper with heavy cotton content that I pick up when I can stop at Anderson Pens in Appleton, Wisconsin. I know I’ll have to use my MacBook later, but I have a few more moments to enjoy the aesthetics of writing the way I like it a bit longer

I wore bow ties when I had to find vintage ones, have mom make them, or pay overpriced specialty stores for them. Thankfully they have reached cool status recently, so I am now stocked up for the next 50 years or so. I also wear fedoras rather than baseball caps most of the time.

Some things just cannot be found at a reasonable price. I have yet to find an outlet store with lounging jackets that look like a cross between a tuxedo and a house coat. Beautiful! People wore them when they read books or dressed for dinner. People did not generally use their car steering wheel as a dining table in those days. Several years ago I found one at an antique store in a beautiful mulberry color. The padded collars and tasseled sash were perfect. The price was in my discretionary income budget, and, since no vintage fountain pens were in sight, I bought it. I proudly took it home even though it did not fit my top end weight at the time. With some tonnage reduction the last couple of years I have shrunk. The lounging jacket now fits. I smile.

Acts 17 has so many misfit stories. Synagogues, market places, and the Areopagus debate club all had restraints on the Creator’s plan for humanity. Jews in the synagogue became jealous of the oversized dimensions of Paul and Silas’ God, so they protested the pending upheaval to the civil authority. They would rather call Cesare king and forget the hope for a restoration of David’s throne than to open their lives to the Messiah that suffered, died, and rose again. The Jewish leaders from Thessalonica even felt threated by the Bible study in Berea. Perhaps this oversized God would not stay confined to the city about 45 miles away. The threat rose to a level where the men undertook the day or two journey to stop the God that was too big for their synagogue.

Berean Jews had scalable faith. If someone opened their understanding of the text, then they searched and studied for themselves. Of course they did this the old school way without Bible study software. Their software was a set of scrolls. Since the Isaiah scroll alone took about 35 feet of papyrus, they truly had to search the scriptures. And they had to search the scriptures together.

Paul stopped in Athens, the large intellectual center of that part of the world. People still visit the city today and think about its capacity to give space for human thought and art. Its 30,000 sculptures of gods and heroes seemed to have the capacity to hold any idea, yet it was still too small to hold what God wanted to do for humanity. They sought for truth while God waited nearby.

Athens could not put down their preferred containers to receive God’s gifts. They mocked a theology where the Hero died and rose again. The same challenge limits humanity today. Looking back to a golden age of thought, art, heroism, family or human achievement always leaves a container too small for God. While Jesus people understand human efforts from yesterday do not fit God’s vision, they often shrink God’s plans for today by what He has before. I love to hear the stories of yesterday — of evangelists riding the train or sleeping in their cars. I love to hear of tent meetings and brush arbors. The Azusa Street story still sounds amazing, but those memories are too small for what God wants to do today. If Jesus told His disciples they would do greater works than Him, certainly He says the same today. Greater works will we do than what our grandparents in the faith did. Everything else is too small. We have not gotten any larger or increased our capacity … we just have not reached the dimensionless nearby God.

My vision just exploded. The only thing I can do now is pray.

Dear Lord,

Oh! Your vision for humanity’s restoration goes so far beyond my capacity to grasp. In the end, all will be reconciled back to You. My vision sees the anger, division, selfishness, misuse of Your glorious gifts, anxieties, and depression. My study and experiences show the threads of what You are doing, but it is like I used a microscope to zero into a tiny group of cells rather than seeing the universe of change You want to do.

Forgive me, Lord. Sometimes I and my people think the need is to be smarter, work harder, discover new strategies, or market You like You were a new Nike sneaker. Perhaps a bit better, but still inadequate, we think we need to develop some new spiritual discipline that gets You to finally bring an end-time Pentecostal experience our world needs. Forgive me for thinking I am the one that brings Your Spirit to the world. Purify my mouth, my heart, and my hands, I pray. But today I really need my eyes purified. 

Your purposes will be achieved in the earth, and You have invited Your church to participate by believing and living the message. Like Paul and Silas, I must see the many ways the death, burial and resurrection challenge every culture. Our society’s containers cannot handle the reality the message conveys. I wonder if I can handle it. 

Bless us with vision, I pray. Bless Your church with a vision to see both the horrors of our world and the dimensionless wonder of Your grace. You still want to bless those who study Your Word. You still want a church that can speak to hungry Bible study students and to professors like Dr. Dionysius from Athens. But a new shoot of faith says You will do as yet unseen things in this hour. Maybe I have wanted to be like the first century church when You are wanting me to be part of the church today, a church that can see the dimensions of 2000 years of faith and stand ready for what only You can do.

I do not need to get out of my box; I need to let You out of the one I have used to constrain You.

Is that what it means for Your kingdom to come and Your will to be done? What does that kingdom look like for nearly 8 billion people? My eye has not yet seen, my ear has not yet heard, and my mind has not yet conceived what Your death, burial, and resurrection want to do in the human chaos today.

Lord, I believe; please help my unbelief. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen