Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Favorite, Odd, Worship

I am 65 years old and have been in worship almost every Sunday since age 4 or 5.  So 60*50= over 3000 worship services plus some special services.

I experienced my all-time favorite last Friday.

Hear this:
  • No sermon,
  • No choir,
  • No corporate prayer...
But there was a Eucharist.

Our Good Friday service involved, this year, 6 stations.  The first was a Holy Communion, administered by yourself to yourself, at the pace you chose, with the reflection you chose guided by some Scripture and a guide sheet.

The second station was a representation of Gethsemane, followed by a place representing the Praetorium.  I cried quietly at most of these, weeping at points as I contemplated what The Christ had done for us corporately, and for me personally.

After this was the point of the flogging and persecution of Jesus.  Then the last two places were both reflections on the cross. First we were at the large central, life-sized cross.  But the last one was a smaller cross laid on the floor. Here you could write anything you chose and nail it to the cross.

  • No sermon,
  • No choir,
  • No corporate prayer...
All there was, was calm reflection on what had transpired that day in history when G^d gave up his Only Begotten Son, who suffered, and bled, and died, that we might live.

What a sad day, what a glorious day, what an important day.

Thank you Jesus.  Let me live in a way that earnestly expressed gratitude for you did.

Genuine gratitude.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Testimony of Nature

Romans 1:20 tell us about the 2 Scriptures, the one written in the Book, and the one written in nature. 

"20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

How can we MISS this message?

The beauty of a flower, a hawk, a groundhog?  Yes groundhog.

So, you're saying this doesn't point you to G^d? This doesn't convince you of His eternal power and divine nature?

How about this:

So the beauty, the perfection that we see in what G^d has created doesn't convince you for G^d's power and majesty?

Then consider this, also from Rom 20:
" 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."

and this:

"32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

Enjoy the beauty of spring!

But don't overlook the important message! 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

FaceBook - clichés to avoid

I hate to admit it, but I am a FB fan!

I find FB to be interesting, amusing, and a handy way to keep up with friends.  I think it even has good Evangelical applications.

But, probably like you, I find a few things pretty annoying.

My biggest complaint is the hype.
                “This is the funniest thing ever!” has never lived up to its billing.
                “One weird trick to…” has almost zero potential of doing what is promised.
                “The ending will surprise you!” sometime is actually true… I was surprised to be so disappointed after all my experience with over-hyping.
                “You’ll never believe…!” Yes, afraid I will believe.

If there is one saving grace for FB, it’s that Yahoo may well be worse.  You click on a Yahoo link and now expect that it will be almost impossible to figure out how to get to the next page you WANT to get to, as opposed to the ads that you accidentally invite.

How can I complain about something that is free?

You’ll never believe it!

I value my time, even on FB and Yahoo.

Didn’t that ending surprise you?  No?

Well at least I didn’t promise it to be, “The funniest thing ever!”  

Monday, April 20, 2015

My kind of Fun

Brenda and I, at the time of this writing (i.e. last month) were in Panama City Beach, FL.  One of our all time favorite friends, Grady, invited us over to the motel where they were helping out over Spring Break. The top two floors of their motel was filled with students with the Intervarsity Christian Ministry, from WI and IN.

These students are holding evangelical outreaches at the motel and surrounding area.  Grady invited us to the evening hot dog cookout evangelism.  I was chomping down a hotdog when a sweet young Christian IV gal comes up and introduces herself.  I pick up on the conversation and I ask her if she is a Christian.  We are off to the races now...

As she begins her evangelism spiel, I pretend to be an atheist.  With a straight face, I ask her (Emily) how can she believe in G^d, when little children have cancer... She tells me about her own mother's battle with cancer and how her Mom's faith was such a testimony.

A sweet story, but I'm not buying it.  But the little kid with cancer probably doesn't have your Mom's faith.  The kid is suffering, and how could G^d do that.

We move to other topics, and I put up the typical atheistic arguments.  Still she sweetly persists and asks  questions and offers her own views.

After about 15 mins, I can't stand it, she is so sweet, I confess that I am a Christian, and a long time affiliate of CRU.  She is surprised, and we review our conversation and all the good things she said.  As we are talking about Christianity and evangelism, another Christian guy walks up to "rescue" Emily.

Emily does a great job of playing along as I light into the new evangelist, Zach.  I am able to string Zach along much longer than Emily.  Emily keeps a straight face as I rail on arguing Zach's every point.  After a while I give up the charade and spill the beans.  We have a good conversation about the way atheists see the world.

My kind of fun.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bishop Version of a Great Parable

One of my all time favorite parables is told by Jesus as recorded in Luke 16 ( I suggest reading vv 19-31 now).  In this story, with the funniest punch line in Scripture, Lazarus dies and is carried away to the bosom of Abraham.  In the original telling, Lazarus is extremely poor, and the other guy, now in hell is extremely rich.

In my version, Lazarus is an uneducated common-sense only kinda guy, and the rich guy in the original is replaced by a Ph.D.  Both Lazarus and the doctor die and the Ph.D., to his surprise, finds himself in hell.  During their earthly lives, Lazarus and worked and earned a  living, and never thought of himself as particularly astute. He had loved G^d and accepted salvation through the Messiah, Jesus. The Ph.D. was far too smart for any of that. He had joined the Skeptics Society, and the the Freedom from Religion Association. The Ph. D. wasn't afraid of hell, and had little fear of death.

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

The Ph.D. calls to G^d asking that poor stupid Lazarus dip his dirty finger into water and then touch his tongue to give him some relief.

Sorry, smart guy, there is a GREAT GULF separating heaven from hell- yes that hell that you did not fear.

Too bad.

The Ph.D. makes one last plea, "Send Lazarus back to warn my Ph.D. and M.D. colleagues!"

Abraham replies, "They have the testimony of Scripture and nature."

But the Ph.D. argues, "But if someone comes back from the dead, they will realize they aren't as smart as they think."

But, here it comes, "They have the Scriptures, if they don't believe those, they will not believe even if someone comes back from the dead!'


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Retirement Shortage

I am approaching SS retirement age, and I read a LOT about retirement.  I first started attending retirement seminars about 2001, 4 years before I first retired in 2005.  I learned a lot.  I read a lot, but most of it does NOT pertain to me.

Most folks are anxious to retire.  Retiring at 46 or 47 or 48 years of age is supposed to be the highest and best a person can do.  I was eligible at age 55, in 2005. I still haven't given it up for several reasons, foremost that it is such a great ministry opportunity.  But there is more...

I was thinking last Friday that I can't retire too soon, because I have a pile, a BIG pile of research questions I need to answer.  I want to do some/most of these:
  1. Figure a better way to propel a manual wheelchair,
  2. Work out a better way to score Power-lifting,
  3. Work out a better way to score decathlon and heptathlon,
  4. Work out a better way to predict the heat stress in people wearing protective clothing,
  5. Work out a better way to measure hydration on the go,
  6. Work out a better way to calculate true age, as opposed to calendar age, of humans,
  7. Work out a better way to recover from training in a bunch of sports,
  8. Etc., etc., etc.

I can't bring myself to walk away.  Maybe one day they will carry me away. Worse ways to live, worse jobs to work, I guess.

Doesn't sound all that appealing to you? I understand.  G^d made us all different.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Church Mystery

As you know, faithful reader, I ask lots of rhetorical questions.  This question is NOT rhetorical.  No beating around the bush, here it is, in all its simplicity:

How did the sermon become the ESSENTIAL aspect of Christian worship?

I know that in some locales, the congregation may well have been illiterate and travel may have been difficult, so a focus on teaching Scripture to illiterates makes some sense.  If the pastor were the only educated person (Keep in mind that over 90 of the first 10 universities founded in the USA were originated chiefly to train pastors), then preaching sermons is one of the ONLY options.

Our USA literacy rate is supposedly around 99% (per Wikipedia), so illiteracy is hardly a good justification for sermonizing.

As I have blogged before, Sunday School seems a much better teaching venue than congregational sermons.  As I have also mentioned, yet the sermon is the most common basis for hiring a pastor, regardless of the pastor's shepherding skills.  Sermon style and "quality" often is a key reason that Christians "choose" a congregation (a mystery of which I have also blogged).

I have no answer to this question.

Can you enlighten me?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just a Little More on Proving G^d

Back in early March I posted about "proving" G^d does/(does not) exist.  It got a bit long, so I didn't get to far afield.  The key reason my friend raised the quesitons centered aroudn the "falsifiability of hypotheses.

In simpler terms, my friend asked a legitimate question, 'What evidence would cause you to disbelieve in G^d.?" Is the concept of G^d one that could ever be proven wrong?

A staunch Muslim or Christians could reflexively answer, "nothing!"

Sounds like a good answer? Not from my friend's perspective.

Consider this. I proposed that there is way, way, way out in space somewhere a tiny little (think Rhode Island) colony of people who have green skin and watch old US sitcoms 24/7.  How could anyone, including NASA, test my claim?  Not even the Hubble space Telescope could track down my small colony of supposed beings.

So my claim is not testable, not falsifiable, and so my claim can stand your scrutiny. And of course if there is no way to "falsify" your belief existence of G^d, we have fallen into my trap. G^d may not exist, but there is no way to prove your G^d, any more than my colony of "Mayberry" viewers.

So my friend would say, if G^d can't be falsified, then why do you believe in HIM?

The thing my friend has confused is science, which deals with the natural world, and whose rules are set up for the natural observable, repeatable world; and philosophy whihc considers things such a s"what is good?".

Science, by it's own admittance cannot tell us WHAT we should study, only HOW we should study natural phenomena. Science is no good at saying what is "good", it can only say this followed or did not follow the rules of science. 

So, when we apply scientific rules to things outside of science, we should NOT be surprised when those rules fail us. Applying the rules for successful baking to a situaiton requirign good leadership will, and does, turn out badly.

Just sayin...

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Prayer to Think About

Whereas I am always in favor of prayers, and whereas I understand fully that different folks have different means of praying, and whereas I understand the audience is G^d, not me, and whereas G^d is the true judge; nevertheless, this prayers seems to be slightly flawed.

Can you see it?

Why do we feel that WE are the only entities in the world?  Why do we so often pray in a similar way?

Pray, by all means pray, but intercede for others, think of our brothers and sisters around the world, suffering and dying because of their faith.  Think of those who are deprived.  Think of those with sick children and friends.

Type "AMEN" if you want to pray about someone besides yourself.

Now, to live this out.