Monday, February 29, 2016

I Have Been Committed to an Institution

I have been committed to an institution for many years now.  and my commitment grows steadily over time.

No not that kind of commitment!!  And, not that kind of institution!

I am talking about my commitment to The Christ, and the institution of the Christian Church.  I have shared over many blogs about this issue.  As I reflected in Sunday School and Worship service this AM, it struck me how important it is to FOLLOW Christ as opposed to just "being a Christian".

Another buddy and I are teaching an adult SS class this term on discipleship- which is really what I just described above.  A disciple follows someone, and they are serious and committed to it.

"To whom (not where) shall we go, you have the words of life?" said Jesus' disciples (Jn 6:68).

Indeed, if one seeks the "words of life", there is NO other source than Jesus.  "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."

We think we can "make a better life" and be happier, etc., etc., but it never seems to work for us.  Go figure.  The L^rd of the Universe, the L^rd who made heaven and earth and us, might know something about how we ought to live. As I read Scripture, us seeking our own way is NOT consistent with obeying G^d.

The "here-and-now" exerts great pressure on us, and the promises of G^d are distant.

But, think about it, we all know how this all works out in the end.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Khaki Pants

I have a friend who is in the midst of changing jobs.  He has been, for several years, the youth minister in a local Christian congregation.  His new job coming is to become the senior pastor.

Even as youth pastor, this guy preached in the main worship service very often.  He most always dressed the same when he preached.  He dressed like Frances Chan and several other of the younger preachers, in denim jeans and an un-tucked plaid shirt.  You could count on it.

But then a couple of weeks back, he steps to the podium to start the sermon wearing... Khakis!!  Oh, and his shirt is tucked in also.  What to make of this??  Very strange.

And then it dawns...he is dressing for the NEW job.  Old job, with youth= jeans.  New job, with older adults= khakis.  OK.

But there is a message here.  We understand others' perceptions and expectations.  We generally cater to those.

Now what is G^d's expectations for us?  How does HE expect us to dress, but more applicable, how does HE expect us to speak, think relate?

How would we know?  Well obviously from Scripture.  But we are not so pressured to conform to G^d's expectations, are we?

We are odd people, we Christians.  We are more interested in pleasing men than in pleasing G^d.


Monday, February 22, 2016

More About Stats than You Might Want to Know...

One of my areas of thought/study/training is inferential statistics.

Inferential statistics takes data collected on a sample of some population, analyzes and then INFERS the findings to a population.  We measure samples, because MOST useful populations are far too big to measure in their entirety.

We collect data from our sample, then compare the differences in two mean values (two averages) to the variation in sample to estimate the probability that a difference of that size occurred strictly by luck and NOT due to a real difference between the two mean scores.

This, my friend is an exercise of faith, posing as science.

Do what?

I said, that the use of inferential stats is an exercise of faith.  It is important because a great many sciences, those that deal with quantifiable data, depend upon inferential stats.

So where's the faith?  Faith lies herein:
1) The sample is a truly representative sample of the population of interest.
2) The data are correctly measured with sufficient precision (sometimes this is NOT true!).
3) The probability outcome does NOT rule out the possibility that something happened by chance, even if the probability is quite small.

So a scientist designs research, selects a sample and then runs statistics on the data derived from their particular, and sometimes small, sample.  They sometimes rely on others to input the data and run the statistical programs for them.  Then the scientist takes the small probability and assumes that their judgment of the probabilities is correct.

But, my science friends aver, science requires replications.  Well, a dirty secret of science is that science isn't useful until it is published.  And guess what type of science tends to be VERY HARD to publish?  Yes, replications of others' research studies.  In fact, in a recent effort to replicate Psychological research, out of 100 studies replicated, the same results were found less than half the time!

So, if you put your total faith in science... you don't have the intellect to be doing the work.

That's my view, and I am sticking with it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

G^d Revealed in Nature

In the last post I reminded us that G^d is revealed in Scripture and in nature (Romans 1).

I am extremely blessed to be paid to study nature.  The nature I study is the physiology of the human body, and it is indeed revealing.  I have written about this before, so let's shift our focus a bit, to other aspects of nature.

You may have heard of the anthropic principle- that our universe seems particularly structured for humans.  Lucky break, or the existence of G^d as Designer?

But, I argue that maybe we are here because the particular constants allow for OUR type of life and not some other.  But how about the complexity of DNA?

Well, that is hard to argue against.  There is enormous information in DNA.  The human genome  DNA is comprised of over 3 billion base pairs!  What?  Yep, that is a LOT of info.  Doesn't info imply intelligence?

Well, no, except for that pesky Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI.  Yep, even the famous pagan Carl Sagan was excited to look for information in the cosmos.  He was confident that we could recognize intelligence if we saw it... except on earth, where intelligence apparently is only the "appearance of design" as opposed to true intelligence.

But wait, despite scientific skepticism, those of us who believe in the SETI, believe it has been found and it is in fact G^d, the author and finisher of our cosmos.  After all, we agree that G^d is extra terrestrial.  We believe that G^d originated intelligence.  Hence G^d is ETI!!!  No problem.

Not only is the universe finely tuned, but physiology is finely tuned so that we remain alive, to continue the search for what many of us have already found, Intelligence that is ET.

Not only is G^d the ultimate ETI, He, for reasons that I do not understand, He loves us!

Now that is a mystery indeed!!

Monday, February 15, 2016

G^d is Real! Really.

G^d, the G^d of the Judeo-Christians, is real.  How do I know?  Well, no one can know with absolute certainty, such is the situation that G^d created.  Those who come to G^d, come by faith.

But there is PLENTY of evidence of G^d.  Romans chapter 1 tells us that there are two testimonies of G^d:  nature and Scriptures.  For those willing to look, and Romans 1 tells us that this number is not unlimited, there is ample evidence of G^d's existence and nature.

If G^d were a creation of human imagination, as almost all skeptics insist, He would be either totally comprehensible, like the Greek and Roman gods, or He would be totally incomprehensible.

Instead, the Judeo-Christian G^d is somewhat comprehensible, but is clearly mysterious in many ways.  The mono-theistic triune G^d is extremely difficult, and in my view, impossible, to understand.  And, this is what a skeptic like me would expect of a G^d whose foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Should mere man be ABLE to understand G^d?  Nope, not a G^d who breathed the cosmos into existence.

And despite human inadequacies, G^d has graciously revealed MUCH about Himself. He is ominpotent, omnipresent, and omniscient- the 3 O's!  These are impressive, but more understandable than His being beyond time.  We humans are locked into time.  Ricky Dawkins (author of the God Delusion) seems incapable of conceiving of an ETERNAL creator.

"Who created God?" asks Dawkins.

G^d is eternal- uncreated- and beyond time.  Yep, hard for mere mortals to understand, but why would we expect to understand?

"But we are so smart!"

Not!  In fact, I'd argue that we humans are incredibly stupid.  I could cite ample evidence, but the sale of "pet rocks" may be sufficient.

"The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing." ~ Socrates

Think about it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Holiday Blues

Today as I write this, it is New Year's day.  This marks the END of the "Holiday Season".  Many of us had hihg expectations for this time.  Many are disappointed, and some are even depressed.

I am NOT a psychologist, nor do I know anything about such matters, but I suspect this is a KEY time for depression.  Likewise, I know nothing of the cause or treatment of depression.  But I never let my personal ignorance stand in the way of having a definitive opinion!  And neither do many others.

There is much emphasis in our culture on happiness.  There are many folks looking for fulfillment in presents, parties, and possessions.  These things never meet our needs.  Our pursuit of happiness takes us far and wide, and consumes much of our attention.

As I have written before, this is NOT wise.  "Life is tough, and it's tougher if you're stupid", attributed to John Wayne, is true.  We suffer at our own hands, or at the hands of our expectations.  Our pursuit of happiness is pretty much a fool's errand.  Not that there are some genuinely happy people in the world, but rather that they don't get there by pursuing it!


Yep, the way to lasting happiness is NOT to seek it out. Don't worry about happiness, worry about establishing... yep, a deep and abiding relationship with  the G^d of the Universe.

Yep, you've read all this before, but I stand behind it.  It is true.  "For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity]."  Matt 16:25

and this leads to one of my favorites right after, " 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success, me>> happiness], but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"


Monday, February 8, 2016

When Fighting is Good!

One of my friends, Craig V sent this out on New Year's Eve.  I asked Craig if i could use it here to share w you.  Here is Craig's email:

Many of us can identify with the sports analogy.

Everyday when I wake up and roll out I have to set my mind, warm up, and suit up. Because there's a strong opponent who meets me once I gain consciousness every morning. This team is faithful and has never missed a day!

At first base the big guy is "Complacency", On second base is "Arrogance".  Their short stop is a real athlete.  His name is "Pride". Third base is manned by "Excuses". And left field is covered by "Constant Fear". Everyone gives their center fielder a wide berth, his name is "Anger". The right fielder is a shy kid who's name is, "No one loves me". Their pitcher is pretty good, but if you ask him his record, he will tell you that he's never lost a game.  His name is "Denial". And the few times he comes out of the game in the late innings, old "Blame" is the best closer in the game. And the Catcher? Well his name is "Know it all". If you need to know something just ask him, he is never wrong...

Well I better get to bed, I've got a big game tomorrow....

Craig has captured several truths.  We are in a contest!  Our opponent is skilled with many good players on his team. And all of us are familiar with those named opponents.

Two little things I would add to Craig's excellent observations.  First it is more of a battle than a game.  And second, we KNOW who wins!!  It is important to recognize, we are empowered, not by our own metabolism but by the Holy Spirit.  We are not relying on our own muscles, but on the Strength of the L^rd G^d!

Now get suited up and get our there and fight!!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

On Frugality

I sought some counsel from an older (yes that IS possible) and wiser (no comment) friend about some financial matters.  We had a nice conversation, but at the end he remarked, "You're a frugal guy, you'll do fine."

Hearing that you are "frugal" is a bit hard to interpret.  Does that mean I am stingy?  I certainly hope NOT.  Brenda and I do end up giving away quite a bit of money and other goods each year.  I am generally surprised to see just how much when I total it all up for taxes.

But, stingy, frugal, or tight-wad, I am that.  I spend money only reluctantly.  I seldom pay anything for lunch unless you count the $0.25 for Ramen noodles.  The only time I buy brewed coffee is when I have a meeting in a coffee shop.  We drive old cars, most of which do NOT require collision insurance- it's cheaper to just buy another car.  I wear my clothes until they fall apart, and I mostly buy them from resale shops.

I spend little.  I save much.  Consequently I owe no one anything, except a debt of love.  I need little income, so I am fine, financially. 

Brenda is similar.  She is happy with clothes from the resale shop. She is happy with old autos, and cheap restaurants.  She is not quite as frugal as me, but we do well together.

What's the point?  The point is freedom.  Jesus, in Matt 6:21, tells us, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Money is often the treasure in our culture, and it is nice to be free of any need to treasure it.  Of course having money is no guarantee we won't be greedy, but it helps not to have to think about it so much.

This reminds us, that anyone, rich or poor, can be greedy.  Some folks can out-spend their earnings, no matter how big their paychecks.  But it is also true that money is a gift supplied by G^d.  He gives us the skills and opportunities to earn $$$.

How we think about it, how we spend it, and how much we treasure it-- now that's the test!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hidden Beauty

Our part of Alabama is (at the time of this writing) absolutely GORGEOUS, and I hardly ever use that word- except in describing my wife.  The ginkos are beautiful, the crepe myrtles are beautiful, the oaks are golden. It is a beautiful sight to behold.

And, you realize of course that this is ALL hidden beauty!!  The color has been there since the leaves were formed last spring. Those golds, and reds, and bright yellows ere there all along... we just couldn't see them!  Once the chlorophyll was withdrawn, there were those spectacular colors!!  They were there all along.

I figure it is exactly the same with people.  I'm not talking about physical beauty here, I'm talking about the hidden qualities.  Sure, mankind is fallen, and so am I, and so are you; but we all carry the imago Dei!  It's just well hidden in most all of us.

But one day the covering will be withdrawn, and we will be able to see the beauty as G^d designed it.

One day.  It might not be long off too!!