Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Full-time Christian Work?

I am reading a book by a Christian and come across the phrase, "were full-time Christian workers."

Hmm... didn't know there were alternatives, did you?

I know he meant that this couple were "professional" ministers who were paid for their work, but I find it a bit strange that this term, "Full-time Christian" would ever enter the vocabulary. But no, sadly I think I know why we must distinguish between part-time and full-time Christianity.

In my opinion, our eagerness to obtain "converts" has greatly exceeded our eagerness to obtain "disciples". All evangelists can easily count "converts", but there isn't much to count when someone moves from "convert" to "disciple".

It would seem that this is NOT what Jesus had in mind.  He seemed more interested in committment.  Don't take my word for it.

But most benefit, check it our for yourself.

Just How DO we expect pagans to act?

My question is NOT rhetorical.  How do we expect pagans to act?

Christians seem appalled when pagans act like... well, pagans.  And I am NOT trying to disparage pagans here. Pagans have no choice but to:
  • 1) Go for the gusto!
  • 2) Act as if YOLO.
  • 3) Focus on enjoyment.

Sooooo, when they do, don't get all worked up!

On the other hand, when we Christians do the SAME THING, we ought to then be agitated.  I am NOT saying that we aren't sinners saved by grace. 

Christians sin. 

You see Christians have a choice.  We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  We have been freed from the domain of Satan.  We are capable of living HOLY lives, not because of who we are, but because of who G^d is.

So, let's try to keep it straight.  I know it's tough for us all, but it matters.

No, let's all really try.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Different View of Evangelism

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12, or Romans 12 or here is Ephsians4, "11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."

Notice a key word in this passage, "some".  A lot of bible expositors (preachers_ fail to notice the "some".  They eagerly exhort us all to be evangelists, regardless of our gifting and calling. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we tend to promote our own gift, and evangelists typically have a better position for promoting than most other Christians.

In the USA we have prospered under a capitalistic economy.  I am a capitalist myself. As I shared in an earlier blog post, capitalism thrives because it takes the fallen nature of man into account. Evangelism is the most capitalistic of the gifts. If we recruit more "customers" we make more money, which allows us to recruit more customers, and so on in a very productive cycle. Hence evangelism is a productive gift.  Who can argue against evangelism?  Certainly I cannot and would not.

However, the above lists of gifts do NOT promote any one gift over another.  Then why do we do that?  Why do we promote evangelism as if it were the highest gift?  Maybe i have already explained it, maybe it is our capitalistic bent that explains it.

If we look at Jesus' example, it seems He did NOT put evangelism as the best and greatest.  Jesus' own evangelism was different thatn ours. Take a look at Scripture. He seemed to be quite serious on helping people see their sinfulness- their need for salvation.  Like the Rich Young Ruler and the Jewish Lawyer, Jesus is NOT intent on "closing the sale."

Maybe we should re-think our devotion to evangelism as the highest gifting.  Evangelism is a calling, just NOT the only calling.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Story- Reprise

The Christmas Story still intrigues me after all these years and all these retellings.  No one could have, or at least would have, made up such a wild story.

Consider some of the KEY aspects:
  • An obscure young gal, from an obscure city is selected to be the mother of G^d on earth
  • Her cousin, at quite an advanced age, also conceives just a bit earlier
  • The older cousin's "womb leaps" at the first encounter w Jesus in the womb.
  • Just by coincidence (not) the young lady,despite her advanced pregnancy, and her bethrothed are governmentally mandated (unfunded   mandate) to travel to an obscure village known as Bethlehem
  • In the crudest of accomdations, with no more fanfare than singing angels, the baby is born
  • Magi are notified and appear, bringing gifts.

Special note:  Every detail of these events was foretold in the ancient Jewish Scriptures.  What are the odds?  Astronomical, astronomical.

What a story!  Unbelievable!

Joy to the World, the L^rd is come...

Group Dynamics

The semester has just ended.  It is nice.  This last term I had an excellent group of undergrads in my 0800 (8 AM) Measurement and Evaluation class.  It is noteworthy because that doesn't happen every time.

What made the group so good?  They were willing to participate actively in their own learning.  They didn't have a lot of questions, which is too bad, but they did respond to my questions, for the most part.  They were engaged.  They laughed at my jokes, and my costumes.  In fact, I didn't even have to break out my costumes to the last half of the semester.  When we invited them to our home for pizza, a good number came.

I have also experienced the opposite, and that detracts greatly from the class, and my enjoyment of teaching.  I have had two very bad undergrad classes.  They're tough.

But think how G^d must feel.  G^d gives His Son for our salvation, and we are a "bad class" most of us, most of the time.  We have NO enthusiasm for G^d's instruction.  We are unenthusiastic about learning.  We want the grade, we are not so interested in learning.

And only G^d's grace saves us.  We may be a bad class, but G^d is rich in mercy.  We do NOT catch G^d by surprise.  We do not exhaust His patience.  G^d invites us to his house, and invites us regardless of our attendance or behavior. 

Thanks be to G^d.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Today (14 Dec) we concluded a semester long Sunday School class on 1st and 2nd Peter.  In 1Peter, Peter spends a lot of time talking about suffering.  He does so because much of the Christian church was suffering one way or another.  Peter himself was in prison in Rome as he wrote the letters.

To summarize, Peter says that we can suffer for two reasons.  He says some of our suffering is self-inflicted.   We make bad decisions and these decisions lead to suffering.  The remedy for such suffering is simple, stop making bad decisions.  As John Wayne said it, "Life is tough.  It's a lot tougher if you are stupid."

So how do we avoid making bad decisions?  Well G^d is the sole source of consistent top decisions.  We ought to do two things:  1) Read G^d's word so we know what to do, and 2) when G^d's written word isn't specific to our situation, we can pray and ask G^d for His guidance.

But Peter says that some suffering isn't self-inflicted.  He says, "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."  1 Ptr 4:16.

Many Christians, especially those in Higher Education, are afraid of suffering for the name of the Christ.  Instead we ought to be willing to stand up and if we suffer, rejoice.

Like so many other principles, it is easier said than done.  

Only by G^d's grace...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Small Town Clean Fun

Tonight was our annual "Dickens Downtown" celebration. It is one of our favorite holiday celebrations. It is good clean, small-town, fun.

It's nice to see old friends, some of whom we see only at this event.  It is nice to see the lights and decorations, to hear the bagpipers and other musicians, and taste the hot cider and hot chocolate.  One of my friends, Ben M, has a beautiful carriage with beautiful horses, and his costume is worth a look too. The line of people waiting for a ride suggests that Ben and Eddie made some serious dough that night.

Most things at Dickens, are free, as is the festival. The streets of downtown Northport are closed, and people fill them.  We see old friends and new.  We see our friend, Queen Victoria, and our friend, Santa.  We talk, and we walk.  Three of our grandkids are at this year's celebration, and that strikes us.  It used to be US pushing our own babies in buggies and trying to see as much as you can with this impediment.

There's nothing super technical about Dickens.  It's not overly sophisticated, just good clean, small-town, fun.  And that's nice.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 "Scientifically Proven" Ways to Be Happier at Work

A few days back I rank across an article titled, "5 "Scientifically Proven" Ways to Be Happier at Work".  Now if you really understand science, you know that things are only very rarely, "scientifically proven".  Nevertheless, it caught my eye, and i had to check out what was "scientifically proven". Here's their list:

  1. Start the day on a good note.
  2. Make fewer decisions.
  3. Help a colleague.
  4. Make progress and acknowledge it.
  5. End your workday with a simple gratitude pause. 
None of these look too hard.  In fact, come to think of it, all these are fundamental Christian principles.
  1. Start the day on a good note equates to having a quiet time with a little prayer and Bible study.
  2. Make fewer decisions equates to listen to what G^d is directing us to do, and do it.
  3. Help a colleague is the simple application of "He who is greatest among you is servant of all."
  4. Make progress and acknowledge it equates to growing in Christ and realizing this is a great gift of G^d.
  5. End your workday with a simple gratitude pause equates to saying "thank you" to the G^d of the Universe who made us.  Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
So, I guess I'm going to believe these, even if they aren't really "scientifically proven."

But words are cheap.

Monday, December 15, 2014


As we celebrate the approach of Christmas by observing Advent, our son-in-law Ben is doing a sermon series on Waiting.  His topic this week was "Waiting with Patience".  He gave an excellent sermon.  Afterwards I remembered an old skit from boy scouts from well over 50 years ago.

A boy scout leads his donkey around the campfire. "Water! Water!" cries the donkey with a raspy voice.
"Patience, jackass, patience" says the man.
The boy scout leads his donkey around the campfire. "Water! Water!" cries the donkey with a raspy voice.
"Patience, jackass, patience" says the man.
And they keep walking in circles around the campfire and repeating this (about 5 times) until someone in the audience yells, "Hey, when are you going to get to the punchline???"
The boy scout yells back, "Patience, jackass, patience!"

Waiting... we are not so good at that, at least I am not.  But, wait we must.  We have no choice.  But the promise is that G^d will give us endurance.  Just read the verse.

L^rd, give us Your Holy Spirit, your endurance.  Let us wait on Thee alone, with eager anticipation but patience, L^rd, patience.

Let us not cause you to say to us, "Patience, jackass, patience!"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Final Exams Again

Yes, It's that time of the school year.  Friday was the last day of classes, and Tuesday and Thursday I will give final exams to some grad and some undergrad students.  This is a stressful time for my students, much less so for me.

As I have mentioned before, it is  nice to have a job with clear beginnings and endings.  Finals, are, final. They are what we call "summative" evaluation as they are supposedly a test of what a student has learned all semester long.

Few people realize that grades have ONLY ONE purpose- to leverage learning.  That is, grades provide some leverage to encourage students to learn a little more.

I took a lot of final exams, and have given quite a few more over the 30+ years of teaching.  Most of my classes have exams.  Most students have a pretty good idea of what grade they will make on the exam, because the grade they made during the term pretty well predicts what they will get on the final.  A few students surprise me, but it is few.

We too will face a final exam.  It's call the Bema seat.

Romans 14:10-12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…so then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 

Some people misunderstand, this judgement.  It has NOTHING to do with entering heaven, it has something to do with our "rewards" in heaven.  We Believers will apparently stand before G^d and explain what we did with the talents that were give us for our stewardship. 

What grade are you expecting?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Party On Garth!

Last night we had our College of Education Christmas Dinner Party.  I look forward to it every year.  It was, as usual held in the Capstone Hotel Ballroom.  The food is always tasty, as it was last night.  It is nice seeing your colleagues from work in a more relaxed situation.

We have a relatively new dean, and he wanted to build more espirit de corps in the College, so he suggested that we have a talent show after dinner.  One colleague did a notable job MCing the evening.  Another fellow was a well-practiced magician, who did a nice mini-show.

Note to magician:  I figured out the rope trick and the handcuffs, but it was good show anyway.

One of my long time friends had to fill in on the keyboard and did a marvelous job.  Another colleague, one of my favorites, debuted a super-hero movie starring himself.

Sister Maddy sang, and led us in a couple of songs.

The Dean ended the evening with poking a little fun at our southern, and his Jersey, accents.

It was a valiant try.  The goal was a worthy one.

As the old Indian on Little Big Man says, "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't".

I'll leave the call to you.

How do we build Christian relationships, Christian Fellowship.

Not sure it can be done with good intentions and gimmicks.  Maybe it has to be done in living out life together.  We live through the good and bad together, we celebrate when the occasion arises and we morun with them, when that occasion arises.

We worship together, we pray together, we spur one another to love and good deeds.

Ultimately G^d does His work, and it's not magic... but it's close.

Hope you have a great Christ-mass season.  Blessings,

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's your Answer?

I have four questions for you today:

 If, in your convenient locale, the world's foremost authority on nutrition were speaking, and assuming this person was widely acknowledged to be far superior on the topic to anyone else, by a long shot,

1) Would you go to hear what they said?
2) Would you do what they said?

 If, in your convenient locale, the world's foremost authority on persoanl behavior were speaking, and assuming this person was widely acknowledged to be far superior on the topic to anyone else, by a long shot,

3) Would you go to hear what they said?
4) Would you do what they said?

My premise is that this has already happened, and yet few of us listen and even fewer obey.

But then again I am cynical.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christian Consumerism

Surely I have vented about Christian Consumerism before?  Surely!  It's one of my "hot-button" topics.  Don't get me started.

Too late!

One of the strangest questions I have ever been asked is, "How do you select a church to join?"

"That's the 'strangest'?" you ask.

It's not rare by any means, but it does strike me as very strange.

"What's strange about this simple, straightforward, sincere, question?  You should be happy that people are asking, particularly asking you." you say.

I see your point.  We Americans are nothing, if we are not consumers, or better, CONSUMERS!  We are used to "have it your way" and such slogans.  We are used to being appealed to, coaxed, induced, catered to.  We are accustomed to being wooed, persuaded, sold.

We see church denominations and congregations as "just another commodity", and we expect churches to cater to us.

What's wrong with this picture?  Isn't that what churches are supposed to do?  Don't churches exist in their myriad of worship styles and approaches to cater to our tastes?


Yep, you figured it out.  Churches are collections of individual Christians joining together, hopefully, for the purpose of worshipping G^d, not the "customers".

Notice that I used the word, "hopefully".