Monday, February 27, 2006

New Sermon - the Promise of Wisdom

Hello, I just wanted to let you know that i just put a new sermon on my sermons blog. If you're interested its called The Promise of Wisdom. I thought it was pretty cool, but of course i'm biased :)

Evangelism and the Matrix

I just read a really neat article about evangelism as taught by the movie The Matrix. It's kind of long but really interesting. Basically the author points out that Trinity, Morpheus, and the Oracle don't so much tell Neo what he needs to believe as much as communicate to him that they have found what it is that he's looking for, and they ask him questions that help him think about what he believes. It's kind of long but a good read

New Jack Ministry

The only problem with that kind of evangelism, though, is that it requires that you do, actually, know what the other person is thinking. Morpheus and Trinity were able to accurately judge what was going on in Neo's head b/c they had been there. Neo was drawn in because their ability to "read his mind" convinced him that they knew what they were talking about. For those of us who came to Christ early in life and never really experienced that extended searching process, where supposedly people have a sense that something is wrong but they can't put their finger on it, it is hard (and maybe dangerous) for us to try to "read their mind" or identify with their struggles. But still, it would do us well to quote fewer verses and ask more questions.

Civil Rights and Evolution

Ok, I can't take any credit for this one but it is a really good thought. In Sunday School yesterday a lady in my class pointed out that, even though many of the civil liberties lawyers and activists are opposed to teaching creation, the very idea of civil rights rests on a creation viewpoint. We believe all people have certain rights because they were created equal - this is even stated explicitly at the beginning of the preamble to the declaration of independence:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (from Wikipedia)

Right here they are in the same sentence and connected logically - we believe people have rights because we believe that there is a creator who gave them to us by creating us as equals.

I'm not arguing that we should all be creationists just because the declaration of independence mentions a creator. But what we need to recognize is that our civil rights only make sense within a creation perspective.

Evolution, on the other hand, really tells us that we have no rights. The evolutionary system is based on survival of the fittest. So, we shouldn't be protecting the weak, we should rejoice when the strong trample on them and advance forward. If life really is about survival of the fittest, what's so wrong with slavery? If one race is strong enough to subjugate another race, then obviously the stronger race is more evolved and has become superior. What's so wrong with letting the rich exploit the poor? And shouldn't we let the sick die instead of spending tons of money to try to keep them alive? Why educate all children? Why not just pick the healthiest and most intelligent and only educate them?

So it seems illogical that anyone could dedicate their lives to promoting civil rights and at the same time deny the fact that there is a creator who gave us those rights. And if there is such a creator who gave us our rights, don't you think our children in school need to hear about it? Otherwise, later on down the road, what argument will they have to defend their rights if someone tries to take those rights away?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Like Big Bibles

Ok, you have to see this - it is totally hilarious! This guy did a spin-off of "I like big butts" but is talking about how he likes girls with big bibles. It even starts out with the one girl talking to Becky - it runs a little long but it is hilarious!

Baby Got Book

P.S. Thanks Zac for leading me to this one.

Loving the One Year Bible

I've been doing the One Year Bible since New Year's and i have to say it is great. I've owned one for maybe around five years now and never used it, probably b/c i thought it was too regimented or it would take too long each day. But i am really appreciating the fact that each day has a section from Psalms and from the NT as well as the OT. So even though i'm in leviticus right now for the OT portion, I'm still reading Mark and Psalms at the same time. I know tons of people don't read their Bibles b/c they can't make it through the OT laws, but this really makes a difference. You still have to read them but it's not you're spending weeks learning nothing more than regulations about hygene and how to cook your food.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Prophet and Politician

It's been hitting me recently that pastors have a lot more in common with politicians than we might realize.
- Only pastors and elected officials are commonly required to live in a house specifically provided for those fulfilling their role. Ie. White house, governor's mansion, parsonage. Who else has a designated house? (besides monarchs, but they get to stay there for life.)
- Only pastors and elected officials have traditionally involved automatic roles for the spouse. First lady is a job you get automatically by your husband getting elected, and traditionally pastor's wife has been the same sort of thing.
- Both are elected. Many other leaders are not - like ceo's (at least i don't think they are).

So then it hit me, why are we surprised when pastors start caving to pressure from church politics? it's the way the job is set up - we are in many senses politicians. Churches and pastors alike generally think of the pastoral role as more prophetic - we look to Moses and Jesus as our role models. But neither of them were elected or faced re-election or being voted out. Of course we're having problems if we expect ourselves to somehow be prophets and politicians at the same time. We're going to fail at one or the other because they are incompatible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Visited the Local Synagogue

This past weekend i visited one of the services at a nearby synagogue. It was a really neat and even fun experience, and i highly reccommend it. Just be prepared to be sung to in Hebrew! (or would they call it Yiddish?) The music was beautiful.

The thing that i found most interesting was how much it reminded me of church. The service followed roughly the same outline as would be found in many Christian services: music and announcements followed by a sermon and closing. The attendees were mostly middle-aged or older, and they seemed thrilled to have visitors - especially young ones! They followed a liturgy in a prayer book that reminded me of the books followed in Catholic and Episcopal churches. The gathering was a moderate size (maybe around 100?) but i get the impression that they have a lot more on their holidays. In fact, if they had just added some references to Jesus, it would have been a basically complete Christian service, just one for people who knew and liked to sing in Hebrew.

It actually scared me that things seemed so much the same. They seemed to deal with the same problem of lagging attendance, and practice many of the same worship forms as we do. Of course part of the similarities in worship must be because Christianity "descended" from Judaism. But i wonder, if we are supposed to be a truly different people with a truly unique power source and unique hope, shouldn't things have been more different? Might we be guilty of putting too little emphasis on Jesus, so that a service could be relatively unchanged if His Name was simply skipped over? Maybe there is good reason to emphasize communion - it is the one ritual we have unique to ourselves, where Jesus is worshipped in ritual as well as in word.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Freedom Vs. Justice

I'm starting to wonder if part of the problem we're having in America is because we spend more time worrying about freedom than about justice. If you think about it, we can never have perfect freedom without becoming lawless. And yet we emphasize freedom so much here that it's like we're moving in that direction. We're more concerned about a person's freedom to privacy than with how to prevent and solve crime. We're more concerned about freedom of speech than we are with making sure the truth is known.

Freedom itself is hollow. It is given to enable us to do things. We don't have freedom for freedom's sake, but because freedom enables us to protect ourselves and others. But if all we're thinking about is freedom, we end up with the kind of abuses we've been seeing, where criminals go free on minor violations of their rights, and where parents are kept in the dark about their children because of the child's right to privacy.

Freedom and justice are inseparable. The reason our founding fathers emphasized freedom was because they saw the old government's system as being injust in its denial of certain freedoms. So there will always have to be freedom if there can be justice. But it seems we've been getting into trouble because we've been pursuing freedom for it's own sake.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Indeed, we are suitably employed

Late last night i caugt the last 10 minutes of Stargate SG-1, and although i missed most of the action, i caught a really cool quote. They had just finished dealing with whatever imminent disaster this episode involved, and came home through the stargate. As they headed back to their quarters, Lt. Mitchell threw his head back and declared to Teal'c that they had the best job in the world. Teal'c, in his trademark way, swelled his chest and said "Indeed, we are suitably employed." And I know how he felt.

I had just gotten back from surviving the biggest youth event i had ever planned. It went really well, and I think everyone had a lot of fun. Once again, i'm reminded how lucky i am that i get paid to (among other things) play dodgeball under blacklights.

It became even more clear how lucky i am this morning as i was thinking about how some people become dissatisfied in their jobs simply because it stops being a challenge. Everything else about work can be great, but if it's not challenging them anymore, it becomes a rut. I realized that I have never, ever, as far as i can remember, heard a pastor of any sort say that he or she felt like their job didn't challenge them anymore. It's impossible! The very nature of ministry is that we are always facing challenges, whether new or continuous. We never find the groove where things become simple and uncomplex. Satan has a vested interest in never leaving us alone, so, however difficult ministry may be, one certainty is that we will never get bored.

Indeed, we are suitably employed.

(ok this ruins the profundity of the moment but here's a clip of Teal'c saying something else in another episode, it should give you an idea of his voice: Teal'c on the helpfulness of Television

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Read "The Liberty of Obedience"

Recently i ran across a small paperback by Elisabeth Elliot called The Liberty of Obedience. It's a short collection of a few articles written while she was living with the Aucas/Waodani in Ecuador, observing the way they lived and contemplating the nature of the gospel. (If you haven't heard the story of the Saints and the Elliots and the Aucas/Waodani - you definitely need to do a web search on this and find out - it's an incredible story.) It's a short read but really good. She talks about what it really means to "avoid the appearance of evil," what true worldliness is, and how Christian maturity involves moving past a simple (but often long) list of rules to a deeper ability for discernment. If you can get a hold of it i highly reccomend it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Why do we serve God?

Ok here's one: Do we serve and worhsip God because He is good, or because He is powerful? Which is it that makes Him worthy of service?

A while back i was watching Stargate SG-1, and they were working with this group of people on this planet and trying to convince them not to surrender to this other group of aliens who claimed to be gods. And at one point one of the stargate guys says that he doesn't doubt their power, just their worthiness as gods. So the question is, how do we pick a god to worship? Does power alone make the decision? If so, what if satan somehow managed to become more powerful than God - should all the Christians just switch sides?

But what if we discovered something about God that didn't seem right? What if He wasn't really completely honest, or less than perfectly just? what if He was less than God should be? would that then give us the right to stop serving Him? (Do we really have any "rights" in this context at all?) I know for some people, they refuse to serve God because they believe He is less than worthy of their worship. Should they give in anyway because of His power?

Of course, what we have to realize is that we really don't understand enough to judge God's worthiness. all we can compare him to are our ideas about justice and goodness. After all, isn't God the one who tells us what is good and right - rather than the other way around? But, on the other hand, would we encourage people to follow any spiritual power that could influence the world, regardless of its nature and character?

This is really a moot point because God is, in fact, both good and powerful. But for those who are still trying to choose which (if any) god they will serve, should we encourage them to pick based on power (which is posessed in small quantites by many evil people and spirits), or on worthiness, which we aren't fully capable of judging? Of course we could say both, but i do wonder if one is more important than the other.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Is Customer Service Really a Virtue?

Ok, so i was pondering this one yesterday while i was on hold for a very long time with our local Wal-mart. Now, i know from personal experience that not all Wal-mart's are this way, but it seems the one around here has gotten the idea that good customer service is bad for business or something. I often can't find a person to help me without a lot of effort, and yesterday i never did get a hold of anyone who could even try to answer my question.

I was sitting there on the phone getting really annoyed about having to wait so long, and getting genuinely offended that i was being treated so poorly. Doesn't the store have any respect for it's customers? When it hit me - am i really entitled to good customer service?

Right now i'm in a class dealing with race relations and we've been dealing with racism and the priveleged position held by majority groups. The thing that hit me yesterday was that my frustration with the store started to remind me of what i might have thought if i had lived several decades ago and had not recieved the respect that i thought i deserved from a person of a different race. That got me thinking. What if, as a customer, i'm really not entitled to be waited on hand and foot by the people who need my money? What if that's just an idea that has been generated by our money-hungry culture that worships anyone who will provide us with cash? What if i've gotten so used to being worshipped by stores who see me as a source of money, that i've forgotten that i really don't deserve it?

What if the tables were turned, and the things they sold at wal-mart were more coveted than our money. Would customers have to be on their best behavior to enter stores? Would we have to make sure we made the store clerks happy or risk being forced to leave without the merchandise we desired? Would we all wear buttons saying "the shopkeeper is always right?"