Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Opus,44, Should We Encourage People To Vote?

There are certain points of accepted wisdom that I am beginning to question as I get older and do more thinking on my own.  One of them is this idea that we need to encourage people to vote.  I am not so sure that is a good idea.  I used to accept it and repeat it, but the more I am aware of the general quality of the potential voter, the more I question the wisdom of pushing voting.

I refuse to wear the “I have voted” sticker.  I accept them graciously and then stick them somewhere that no one will see them.  I work in a public school.  I am surrounded by educated, vocal sheep who tend to disagree with me on everything.  They don’t disagree because they have knowledge I don’t.  They can’t explain why they have the opinions they have.  They live in a bubble that was blown by their progressive professors and have not busted out.  These are the people who put up banners that proclaim if they can dream it, they can do it.  These are the people that threw out phonics because it was old fashioned.  If they forget to vote, I figure the country is better off.

People who care enough about the issues make sure that they vote.  Others do it because it seems the right thing to do or because their spouse told them to go.  One indication of who deserves to vote is the sample ballot they bring with them to complex elections.  They have marked them and are ready to go.  They are in and out quickly.  Others take forever as they play, “Enny, Meeny, Mynee, Moe...” with the ballot.

There may be someone who has suffered a personal earthquake and has just forgotten, but the odds are against it.  So don’t go out and vote.  Unless you really want to.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Opus 43, Discernment Watch: Christian Pornography

I am not a consumer when it comes to pornography.  I will admit that in my life I have looked at a few fold-outs and such but the inbuilt guilt complex usually kicks in before long.  On the internet I have gotten a few clicks toward what I later realized would become serious stuff, but usually a few screens in I wake up to where I am going and back out.  Or my guilt buzzer gets so loud that I can’t deny what I am looking at any longer and I hit the cancel button.  It is not because I am a paragon of virtue but more like someone reminded me recently, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

But there is a form of pornography that is widely consumed in Christian circles and is openly praise by devout believers.  Years ago when Jim Dobson was on a presidential committee looking into the problem of pornography he wrote about the problem and why it was a problem.  I am writing from a long memory here but one of the problems with pornography is the expectation factor.  This was above and beyond the moral issue of lust.  Pornography sets up a false image of what is possible.  For the husband who is being sucked in it gives an artificial picture of idealized physical perfection that becomes the standard that his wife is compared to.  No human being can measure up and it sets up a stress that begins to destroy the marriage.

There is a form of pornography that has penetrated Christian homes which would never dream of bringing in smut.  Our children are encouraged to indulge.  We have it in print and video.  This pornography is found in a genre of literature that is best represented by the writings of Jane Austen.  I am referring to such books as Pride and Prejudice.  I have not read her works but my wife and daughter really enjoy her.

I picture Mr. Darcy, if I have the right name.  I have the picture of a man riding out of the mist on a glorious horse.  He gracefully swings down from the saddle, dressed in those beautiful clothes of the era, his ruggedly handsome face topped by wind tussled hair and he stands stammering before the beauty of the innocent and pure damsel facing him.  This is Christian pornography.  It sets up “an artificial picture of idealized physical perfection that becomes the standard,” if I may quote myself paraphrasing Jim Dobson.

Does my wife expect me to measure up to that?  I know I get tired of hearing about these men.  Let reality intervene.  First of all, after riding a galloping horse for any distance the rider is hot and sweaty, not to mention smelling like a horse.  His hair, which for a man his age would be much thinner, is plastered to his head by sweat and mud.  His clothes represent the wages of entire village for a full year.  He has servants to clean them and dress him, not to mention care for his horse.

Which brings up the lifestyle of these people.  If you watch carefully you will see the servants.  They stay in the background.  They know their place.  The main characters never do a lick of work.  They get up and change their clothes.  After breakfast they change their clothes.  For lunch they change their clothes.  They sit and drink tea and change their clothes.  For a little work they may change their clothes and go into the garden to clip a few roses, of course with a servant to hold the basket.  And then they change their clothes.  I hate to tell you but if America were at this social stage, out of 300,000,000 people there might be 100,000 who lived like this.  I hate to break it to you but we would be the servants, not the served.

The stammering I can understand.  Leave aside that he has been a soldier who has stood up to cannon fire and violent death.  Leave aside that he probably has a girl in every town.  I know what it is to stand speechless before an innocent and pure damsel.  That part is okay.  At least it is real.

We have millions of Christian women who have this false idea of manliness before their eyes on a regular basis.  Young girls think all worthy men know how to ride horses and don’t sweat.  We imprint the glories of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  Then we expect them to go out and be humble, non-materialistic servants of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what you call it, but for want of a better term I will label it Christian Pornography.

Opus 42, New Book: Letters and Papers...

I am beginning to read a book I have had for years, Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I am about 30 pages in and will be throwing parts of it at you.  In a normal work week I will only be able to do any reading on week ends so don’t expect a book review soon.

Bonhoeffer was a martyr to Nazi Germany.  He was safe in America in 1939 and returned to Germany fully aware that it could lead to his death.  It did.  This book is set in the context of Nazi tyranny.  Although we are still a long way from those extremes it is strange how what he has to say echoes what is happening in our government today.  In the context of hope and change I offer this quote from Nazi Germany:
“What matters in the long run is whether our rulers hope to gain more from the folly of men, or from their independence of judgement and their shrewdness of mind.”
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich.  Letters and Papers from Prison.  New York:  The Macmillan Company,1953, p. 24.

Does it apply?  You be the judge.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Opus 41, What Should the New Republican Majority Target?

After we get through the lame duck session of congress the balance of power will change.  The Republicans (and any conservative Democrats if they still exist) will have a chance to make a statement.  I have read suggestions about what they should tackle.  Here is the list I have seen so far that I think are doable in the House.

1.  Lightbulbs
2.  Toilets
3.  NPR
4.  Department of Education
5.  Voter Fraud
6.  Soldier’s votes
7.  Sunset for regulations

What would you add to the list?  They probably won’t pass.  They would need to get through the Senate and a presidential veto.  They can make a statement and develop an atmosphere.  The key will be communication.  It will require use of the internet and old media.  It might even involve buying some air time to get the message across.

Opus 40, Christian Cliches: I can do all things...

(Philippians 4:13 KJV)  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

This verse is quoted frequently.  It is a great one for positive thinking, prosperity and self-help speakers.  It is a verse in the Bible.  Rarely have I heard it quoted correctly.  Remember what is important to understand a verse:  Conext, context, context.

On the surface this looks like a verse that promises us success.  “Of course it does.  I can read,”  You say.  Okay so read.  Read the two verses before this one:
(Philippians 4:11 KJV)  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

(Philippians 4:12 KJV)  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Paul was not saying he could always come out on top he was saying that he can live in victory no matter what situation the Lord puts him in.

You will not always get the promotion, but you can live in victory without it.  You will not always get the girl, but you can live in victory without her.  No matter what the extreme, you can live in victory. 

I am sorry if that is not what you wanted to hear, but it is the truth.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Opus 39, Why Do We Have Denominations?

Methodists.  Baptists.  Roman Catholics.  Eastern Orthodox.  Church of Christ.  The list goes on.  Why are there so many denominations?  This does not bother me, but some people seem stressed over it.  I remember having a conversation with someone I would not hesitate calling a brother in Christ.  He was doing some cold-turkey, door to door, evangelism and saw me as raw meat.  He was a Calvinist, I am Arminian.  We had what I thought was a great conversation, but even I run out of words after a time.  As we were parting I said something to the effect that it would be interesting when we got to heaven and found out who was right.  A look of sorrow came over his face.  He sadly shook his head and said that since the Holy Spirit was not the author of confusion, and I disagree with him; "he did not expect to see me in heaven.”  He said it in the most humble attitude you could imagine.  He was sincere.  He was loving.  He was gentle.  He was condemning me to Hell.

The Bible is the word of God.  It generates strong feelings and beliefs.  There are many that are consistent in all Christians.  I will discuss those in my articles labeled Basic Beliefs.  There are others that people have disagreed on since Paul and Barnabas split up on their missionary journeys.  Do you baptize by sprinkling, pouring or immersion?  Do you use wine or grape juice in communion?  How often do you take communion?  Is sanctification a process, a crisis, or both?  I could go on but I hope you get the idea.

The reason we have denominations is the same reason we have political parties.  Although some people won’t accept it, you can be a Democrat and a loyal American.  The same could be said of Republicans, Peace and Freedom and American Independent.  I am not sure about the Greens.  I know that you cannot be a member of the Communist Party and be a loyal American.  One of the goals of the Communist Party is to destroy America as a free and independent country.  They won’t admit it.  People don’t see it.  It is there.

In the same way you can be a member of almost any denomination and be a follower of Jesus.  We will never agree on how to worship or what translation of the Bible to use, but we are committed to love and obey Jesus.  When you move to the cults and heretical sects, that changes.  You cannot be a member of a group that denies the divinity of Christ and call yourself Christian.  You cannot have other books that trump the Bible and call yourself Christian.  You may be nice people.  You might make good neighbors.  I might even vote for you for president, but you are not a Christian.

Denominations give us the flexibility to be individuals as we seek to follow Jesus.  Don’t knock them.

Opus 38, Unexpected Spam

Every once in awhile I come across a gift idea that sets a new record for the question, “Who thought this up anyway?”  We had one of those this year.  If this is one of your favorites, you have my apologies.  And sympathy.  This year my daughter gave my son some Macadamia Nuts with Spam.  Yes you heard right:  Spam flavored macadamia nuts.

If you are from the mainland you won’t understand.  Spam is like the Official State Food of Hawaii.  If you go to Wal-Mart you will see pallets of it in the aisles.  If you go to a large grocery store you will find a dozen different flavors of Spam, so in a sense it is not surprise.  In fact this treat was purchased in Hawaii.  I think every other state has laws against such things.

Always ready for new experiences, I tried one.  It was everything you would expect:  Unique, memorable, disgusting, revolting.  It was kind of a combination of Vienna sausage and deviled ham.  Always learning from my new experiences, I did not need to try a second nut.  The label calls it a “classic flavor,” but remember in Hawaii, poi is also a classic flavor.

I looked inside three days after Christmas and they don’t seem to be going away.  Unlike the Christmas cookies they almost seem to be multiplying.  Remember the widow in the Old Testament who had her flour and oil replenished?  I think we have another miracle here.  Either that or no one is eating them.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Opus 37, Book Notes: Mere Christianity

Notes from
Mere Christianity

by C.S. Lewis

Book 1, Chapter 2

p. 13, “Progress means not just changing but changing for the better.  If no set of moral ideas were truer or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilised (sic) morality to savage morality, or Christian morality to Nazi morality.”

Book 1, Chapter 5

pp. 28-9, “We all want progress.  But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be.  And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer....There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake.”

p. 32, “Comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it.  If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end:  if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth...”

Book 2, Chapter 1

p. 35, “If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through.  If you are an atheist you have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the world is simply one huge mistake.  If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.  When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view.  But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong.  As in arithmetic - there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong; but some of the wrong answers are much nearer right than others.”

Book 2, Chapter 2

p. 40, “It is not good asking for a simple religion.  After all, real things are not simple.  They look simple, but they are not.”

p. 41, “Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack.”

p. 41, “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd.”

p. 41, “Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed.  That is one reason I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed.”  Hugh Ross said much the same in The Fingerprint of God.

Book 2, Chapter 3

p. 48, “Some people think they can imagine a creature which is free but has no possibility of doing wrong; I cannot.  If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad.  And free will is what has made evil possible.  Why, then, did God give them free will?  Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

p. 52, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronising (sic)  nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

Book 2, Chapter 5

p. 61, “We have to take reality as it comes to us:  there is not good jabbering about what it ought to be lie or what we should have expected it to be like.”

pp. 62-63, Discussion of free will in the context of physical life

Book 3, Chapter 1

p. 69, “Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or friction, in the running of that machine.”

p. 72, “Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things.  Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals.  Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonizing the things inside each individual.  Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole:  what man was made for:  what course the whole fleet ought to be on:  what tune the conductor of the band wants to play.”

p. 74, “Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about seriously if I am going to live forever.”

Book 3, Chapter 3

p. 87, “Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says:  we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party.”

Book 3, Chapter 4

p. 91, “Human beings judge one another by their external actions.  God judges them on their moral choices.”

p. 93, “Good people know about both good and evil:  bad people do not know either.”

Book 3, Chapter 5

p. 94, “Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes.”

Book 3, Chapter 6

p. 109, “But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.”

p. 110, “Our experience is coloured through and through by books and plays and cinema, and it takes patience and skill to disentangle the things we have really learned from life for ourselves.”

p. 112, statement about marriage

Book 3, Chapter 7

p. 119, “All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery.”

Book 3, Chapter 9

p. 129, “But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion.”

Book 3, Chapter 10

p. 134, “Hope is one of the theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not...a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do....  If you read history you will find that Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

pp. 136-7, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

p. 137, “The answer for such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.”

p. 137, “People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.”

Book 3, Chapter 11

p. 139, “The batle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.”

Book 3, Chapter 12

p. 148, On the tension between faith and obedience:  “...but it does seem like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary.”

Book 4, Chapter 1

p. 155, “For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

Book 4, Chapter 3

pp.  166-71, Explains the paradox of free will and foreknowledge in terms of God being outside time.

Book 4, Chapter 5

p. 178, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

p. 178, “But that is guesswork.  You and I are concerned with the way things work now.”

Book 4, Chapter 6

p. 183, “Have the words ‘could have been’ any sense at all when applied to God?”

p. 186, The Devil:  “He always sends errors into the world in pairs - pairs of opposites.”

Book 4, Chapter 8

p. 198, Wheat vs. grass

p. 198, “It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.”  - take this to why salt added in cooking is better than at the table or why marinades give more flavor than a shaker

pp. 198-199, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:  it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad.”

Book 4, Chapter 9

p. 201-6, A chapter on Christian Perfection

p. 203, Quoting George MacDonald, “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”

p. 205, “The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas.  Nor is it a command to do the impossible.”

Book 4, Chapter 10

p. 208-9, Controversial comments on salvation

p. 209, “But when we are comparing Christians in general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real people whom we know at all, but only the two vague ideas which we got from novels and newspapers.”

p. 210, “To judge the management of a factory, you must consider not only the output but the plant.”  I would add raw materials also.

Lewis, C.S.  Mere Christianity.  Norwalk, Connecticut:  The Easton Press, 2002.

Opus 36, Book Review: Mere Christianity

I have just reread a book by C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity.  I have read it at least three times and plan to read it again in a few years.  I think it is that good.  Every time I read it my thinking is stimulated and my walk with the Lord is strengthened.  This book was originally put together as a series of radio talks about what Christianity was all about during World War II.  It was sponsored by the BBC.

One of the values of this book at this point in my life is that the chapters are short enough to read as stand alone studies.  You can easily read a chapter before someone interrupts you or a duty calls. 

Lewis writes from the perspective of a fully committed, orthodox, Anglican of the early 20th century.  There are places where he might have differences from you or I but the differences are usually what I would call cultural or semantic.  There are places where you realize that Lewis is not a theologian, at least not one aware of some of the modern heresies.  One place is toward the end where he talks about us becoming like gods.  He does not mean what the modern cults mean.  You understand that if you are reading for understanding.

If you have never read this book, do so.  If you have, read it again.  It is worth it.

My next post will be the notes that I took as I read.  They are not intended as an outline or exhaustive study, just the things that got me to thinking or made me want to think more.  The page numbers are from the Easton edition, they might not work in your copy so I have tried to indicate the location by also putting in the book and chapter designations.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Opus 35, Got Bulbs?

I am constantly amazed at how out of the loop the general population is.  Are you one of those who is not aware that your federal government, in a bipartisan action by the previous administration, has voted to take away your incandescent light bulbs and force you to buy florescent substitutes?  You know the type.  They look like a cork-screw, often take forever to light up, don’t give very much light and burn out long before advertised.  And don’t forget they are more expensive.  You know the ones you may have tried and decided not to get any more because they were not a step forward in technology.

Did you also know that they were loaded with mercury?  Yes, that mercury, the one you are warned about when you eat fish.  Your federal bureaucracy has seen fit to require you to bring them into your home in the name of saving the environment with energy efficiency.  Did I mention that if you break one in your house you are considered an environmental disaster area and should really call for a Haz-Mat team to come clean it up.  I hope you enjoy the energy you are saving.

I am amazed how often in casual conversation I meet people who are totally oblivious to this.  Oh, yeah, they don’t vote or pay much attention to other issues either.  If you doubt, do a Google search and see for yourself.

Remember, people get the government they deserve.  What kind of government do you deserve, one that forces you to bring poison into your home to further their green dreams?

Opus 34, Giants, Not Pygmies

I have just finished Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  It was a re-read.  As I stop and reflect on the reading I am overcome with gratitude to God.  We do not need to wallow through the mud.  We can stand on the shoulders of Giants.

The Giants start with Moses, David, Solomon, Paul, John and the other Bible writers.  If we had nothing else that would be a springboard for some fantastic Olympic class lives. 

But on the shoulders of those Giants we have the other giants.  For me, right now, those start with John Wesley and C.S. Lewis.  I have been touched by Brother Lawrence and Thomas a Kempis.  For you it might be others.  I accept that.  There are so many that I will never be able to touch.  My shelf of “must reads” and “must re-read” keeps growing.  I will probably never get to Calvin or Luther;  I have Arminius to contemplate and I am getting old. 

It is important that we stand on the shoulders of giants who stand on Giants.  There is a lot of nifty stuff out there by pygmies.  They have a place.  They are not evil, just pygmies.  They pontificate about how to really-put-it-together-if-you-just-follow-their-advice-and-do-it-like-they-do.  I have read some of them myself.  Enjoy them but make them the desert, not the main dish. 

There is a reason people still read The Imitation of Christ.  The message has endured time, cultural change, and translation.  These authors may be dead but their work lives on.  They may be white, or not, but their ideas are color-blind.  They may be men, or not, but the truth they share is not based on x and y chromosomes.  They may be from other cultures but what they share is eternal.

Treasure abounds and it is not buried, just shelved.  Keep digging.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Opus 33, Worship Is Not a Spectator Sport

Christmas Eve we went to a worship service.  Overall it was an uplifting experience and helped us focus on the Word becoming flesh.

There were certain jarring moments.  I have experienced them at regular Sunday worship and it reminded me of conversations I have had with myself before.  I am old enough to remember when traditional worship had life to it.  Hymns were sung with enthusiasm by people who knew how to follow a hymn book.  Many people were taught to read music at different levels and it was not uncommon to hear harmony coming from the congregation.  We had what we called choruses that were thrown in to enrich the experience.  For you younger people, a hymnal is a book with words and music that contains songs old enough to be printed.  A chorus was what you refer to as praise music.  Praise music is not new, just re-labeled for marketing purposes.

So we are singing a traditional Christmas song.  At least it started off that way, but a few measures into the song the young man at the keyboard started playing different chords than are traditional.  The reason for different chords is that they give a different feel and generate a different response to the music.  So very quickly the musical team is imposing what they consider to be their musical genius on an unsuspecting audience.  Then when we get to the end of selected lines, instead of the melody going up like 300 years of worshipers are used to they went down.  At that point I stopped singing.  If I had their arrangement on my I-pod I would listen to it and be stimulated by the variety in the arrangement.  In a congregation I don’t want to spend my time trying to figure out what new variation the musicians have decided on this time.  Several times I found myself singing out with gusto, by myself, as I failed to realize that they were going to add a few measures of accompaniment to “enrich” our worship time.  I gradually withdrew from participant and became a spectator. 

I am sure that they feel they are leading me toward a more modern worship style.  They would probably tell me that the Holy Spirit leads to new creativity so I need to be open to change.  In reality they are making worship a spectator sport for me.  I love to sing.  I really enjoy congregational singing.  There is something about standing shoulder to shoulder with other believers and raising our voices together.  I can do that with contemporary praise music or a medieval classic that has endured the test of time.  Good music comes in many styles.  What I can’t do is try to guess what the ego of a musician is going to do to what geniuses have accomplished. 

I don’t go to church to listen to a choir or hear specials sung.  I have an I-pod.  I don’t go to admire the skill of someone in the worship team showing how they can sound like Kenny G.  I am not interested in guitar riffs to show how many styles the axe-man has mastered.  I am not impressed by the box they build around the drummer.  In fact, I don’t even go to hear the sermon.  Again I have the I-pod.  I have daily access to Alistair Begg, among others.  I go to worship with God’s people.  To do that we need to be able to know what we are doing so that we can raise our voices in agreement, not in chaos.

Opus 32, Read the Second Verse

Why do people miss the meaning of Christmas?  They never read the second verse.  I am talking here about the “real” Christmas music, the hymns, carols, and classical selections that actually are concerned with the story of Jesus.  Many people can sing along with the first verse.  They can do so without engaging their minds.  Since most public singing focuses on the first verse, that is enough to be socially acceptable.

Have you ever read the other verses?  Take for instance “Joy to the World.”  Let me share the third verse with you:
No more let sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.
If that isn’t a message of hope and change, I don’t know what is.  How about the fourth verse of “Silent Night?”
Silent night!  Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at they birth,
Jesus, Lord at they birth.
That is a little more than wanting a “White Christmas” or being “Home for the Holidays.”

The same truth holds for most of the hymns and gospel songs that have been sung for generations.  Everyone knows the first few words to “Amazing Grace” and “Abide with Me.”  They sang them in a lot of the old Cowboy movies.  Its like getting a seven layer burrito and only licking the sour cream off the top.

Read the second verse, please.

Opus 31, Glorious Incarnation Day

I have a large and diverse selection of Christmas music on my I-pod.  I have everything from the Nutcracker Suite to “Percy, the Puny Poinsettia.”  I shuffle them every couple of days.  The one that caught my attention today was called “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle.”  It was some nonsense about Santa and Jack Frost and a catchy little tune but the words that jumped out at me were:

    “The bell that couldn’t jingle, it had nothing there inside.”

Do you have a hard time with Christmas.  It could be one of at least two reasons based on this thought.  First, it could be that your Christmas has nothing inside.  You may be so distracted by all the man generated trappings around Christmas that you don’t see the core of eternal truth.  Men are clever.  We have come up with some glorious diet celebrations but when you come down to it there are no nutrients in man made Christmas.  The is a celebration of the perfect Lamb becoming the perfect Man so that we could find salvation.
(Matthew 1:21 KJV)  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Second, you might not have anything inside.  Jesus came to die for you sins and be resurrected for your eternal hope.  Have you embraced that?  If not, it is no surprise you have a hard time with Christmas.  I occasionally have long discussions at breakfast with a man who has lost almost all of his hearing.  Once in a while he forgets his hearing aids.  It is an exercise in frustration.  It doesn’t matter how brilliant I am, he can’t hear a word.  Nothing I say has any effect except the few words he can lip read.  You might need to put in your hearing aids to understand what is being said at Christmas.
(John 1:12 KJV)  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
Merry Christmas, or if you can hear it, Glorious Incarnation Day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Opus 30, Why I Don’t Like Fantasy

When I entered seventh grade I was reading Dr. Zeus.  Sometime during that year I discovered science fiction in the school library and there has been no looking back.  I enjoy westerns, spy thrillers, mysteries, adventure stories, historical fiction and of course my favorite is still science fiction.

I don’t ask for much, just a well written story with characters that I can enjoy.  I don’t want political statements or left wing nonsense, although, if the story is good, I will put up with it.  The problem I am getting is that good science fiction, as I define it, is getting harder to find.  More and more women are getting into it which is sometimes good, but sometimes brings the touchy feely of Pride and Prejudice to the space lanes.  The environmentalists are still trying to set their stories in a world recovering from global warming and rising oceans.  The anti-Christian crowd are continually coming up with ways to explain why evolution may not work but there is still an explanation on where life and mankind came from.  Usually it is some kind of alien.

I have been trying more and more fantasy.  I find it very unsatisfying.  It is not because I have a knee-jerk reaction to the occult because I am a Christian.  I can enjoy fantasy if it has a good plot and doesn’t try to bail out with unexpected new powers and spells.  The problem is that most fantasy is just cheep shot, easy solution boilerplate.  Sometimes I can overlook that.  Star Wars is a good example.  The special effects on the first three movies were so grabbing that I was willing to ignore the inconsistent use of the force.  Really, if Darth Vader could choke someone just by making the ok sign, the rebel alliance could have been wiped out on a long week end.  But it was a fun movie.  I especially like the way the x-wing fighters were able to bank and roll in a vacuum.  Later on they realized their mistake and worked an explanation into the books but I didn’t care.  It was fun.

Some authors can construct a paradigm that is consistent and believable.  They don’t pull new powers out of thin air to bail out weak plots.  They have well balanced characters who relate in ways I can identify with.  They don’t make up weird new words for swords and horses.  They put their energy into the story.

Some people try to put the Bible in the same category as fantasy.  Why do I not like fantasy but accept the Bible?  Read the above.  No new magic powers.  No unrealistic characters.  Good writing and a consistent basis.  I don’t get the fantasy feel in the Bible.  I get the feeling of history written by people who believe what they are writing.  J.B. Philips is a man who knows his myths and legends.  He has this to say:

“I have read, in Greek and Latin, scores of myths, but I did not feel the slightest flavour of myth here.”   Phillips, J.B.  Ring of Truth.  New York:  The Macmillan Company, 1967, p. 77.
Notice he read them in the original languages.  He has done his homework. 

I will continue to read my Bible as a document given to us by God.  I will re-read, study, dig and meditate.  I will continue to read fantasy and science fiction, but I will put it aside when it gets too silly.  I will not take it too seriously.  I will keep it in its place and hope that more of its authors learn their trade well enough to entertain me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Opus 29, Christian Cliches: Judge not.

A generation ago the best known Bible verse was John 3:16:
(John 3:16 KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
We live in a different age.  The new best known verse is much shorter:
(Matthew 7:1 KJV)  Judge not, that ye be not judged.
The change reflects the different focus of the generations.  The older generation was oriented more toward absolute truth and the belief that man was a sinful creature.  The post-modern youngsters and their gurus are more into relativism, self actualization and relationships.  The older folks wanted to get right with God.  The younger ones feel they are alright and the world needs to adjust.

This verse is usually quoted by people who know that they are wrong but don’t want to hear about it.  They want to use the words of Jesus to keep you from pointing out their sin.  As usual they miss the point of what Jesus was saying. 

Jesus was saying not to be arrogant and try to tear other people down.  He was not telling us we should never try to straighten others out.  If you read over the passage it points out that we usually have bigger issues in our own lives than the person we are looking at.  We are to examine our own lives.  We are to repent.  We are to confess.  We are to change.  Then notice the last verse in this passage:
(Matthew 7:5 KJV)  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Notice what the ultimate goal is:  to get the mote out of the other person’s eye.

The warning is to live humbly ourselves and keep checking our own pulse so we don’t get sick.  The goal is to help the other person.

Always read the full context of a verse.  Even if a verse is quoted accurately in itself, it may not convey what it is meant to convey without the context.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Opus 28, Is the President Smart or Dumb?

We have all heard references to the intelligence of different presidents.  Notice I did not mention any names in the title.  We used to hear a mantra about the cosmic intelligence of President Obama.  We still hear reference to how dumb President Bush is.  I guess my big question for these people would be, “Based on what?” 

I teach middle school.  We are always having parent conferences and one of the comments often made is, “He is really smart.”  Or, “She has a lot of ability.”  Some of us avoid those statements because we always want to know, “Based on what?”  When a student is failing all classes, always in trouble and dripping attitude, I wonder just what is it that makes people think they are so smart.  Whatever it is, it does not seem to make any difference in their lives.  I don’t care if my plumber can’t read Aristotle if he knows how to fix my backed up sewer pipes.

So, is the President smart or dumb.  Is it dumb to say we have 57 states?  Is it dumb to pronounce “corpsmen” as if they were dead bodies?  Don’t smart people know that Austrians speak German?  I have read other places the observation that when someone is really smart, like and Einstein, no one spends any time commenting on how smart they are.  It is obvious.  They don’t need advocates. 

“Smart” is one point in a matrix of qualities that make up a person.  It should not be the highest ranking quality.  It is not something that can be measured.  It all comes out in the performance.

It the president smart?  I keep hearing people claim it.  I see no evidence of it.  History will hopefully have a better way of judging than what school he went to and how many autobiographies and children’s books he has written.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Opus 27, The Tyranny of the Micro-Minority

When the Founders were hammering out the Constitution, they deliberately did not choose a pure democracy.  They studied history and realized pure democracy did not work.  One reason was that it was cumbersome and inefficient.  Another concern was what has been termed “The Tyranny of the Majority.”  This is a fear that 50% plus one can force anything on everyone else.  Picture if renters could take away property rights by a simple vote.  How about if people who owed money could eliminate their debt anytime at the ballot box.  Picture if your children could vote on what they wanted for dinner.  Oh, they do at your house?  You have my sympathy.

We were given a federal republic with checks and balances put in place to keep small groups of people from running away with things.  They are also there to keep big groups from running away with things.  For over two hundred years it has worked well.  Occasionally we have small groups of wannabe tyrants who try to get around the system.  We are at one of those points in our history.  We will survive but the damage can cripple us as a free people for years.

We do not have a Tyranny of the Majority.  We do not even have a Tyranny of the Minority.  We are coming to a place where we have a Tyranny of the Micro-Minority.  We seem to have a bunch of career politicians who believe that they are beyond the will of the voters.  They believe that logic, cause and effect and responsible behavior do not apply to them.  They are the new nobility, above the common man and able to manipulate society for their own personal preference.  I won’t even say it is for personal gain because I don’t know what financial gain they get from repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or banning lightbulbs or trying to regulate the temperature in our homes.  It is all about the power to mess with people.

Maybe we need a Constitutional Amendment that makes legislatures and judges liable for the unintended consequences of their actions.  Maybe they would respond to hard time in maximum security facilities where they would be afraid to drop the soap.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Opus 26, IQ: Power Corrupts

There is a quote that pops up every once in awhile.  It usually goes like this, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Like many phrases this is attributed to different people.  Google leads me to “The Phrase Finder.”  This verifies the source.  I had assumed that the original author was someone called Lord Acton.  In this case I was correct.  The original quote is given this way:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

This is a theme of much literature and a daily meme on the news.  We see this and in our hearts know there is some harmony with the idea.

Don’t let it poison your thinking.  I don’t know the full context of Acton’s remarks but they were made in a letter to a bishop so spiritual issues may have been under discussion.  To Christians this is based on our belief in the carnal nature.  Men are born with a sinful nature.  If we stop there all is despair.  But we don’t stop there.  We go on to grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Without God’s touch the statement is totally true but with God’s touch our character can be transformed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Opus 25, Christian Cliches: Turn the Other Cheek

Christians are expected to be forgiving.  One way that Jesus illustrated this is in a passage where he used the phrase, “Turn the other cheek.”  This is part of a section of the Bible called the Sermon on the Mount.
(Matthew 5:38-9 KJV)  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:   But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Some people use it to mean that Christians are required to be door mats.  It is more an indictment of self centered egotism that demands having your own way all the time.  It is a call to humility and service.  It takes God’s desire that His people be different to a new height.

Notice the first part of the verse.  This is quoting the OT.  This idea shows up at least three times.  The earliest is part of a series of statements about justice:
(Exodus 21:23-5 KJV)  And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
This sounds like violence to us but what it was doing was limiting response to equal value.  What Jesus is doing is saying even that is too much.  We are to forgive.

Why is this important?  Picture what all parents have seen in the back of the car every Sunday morning.  Your daughter gives your son a look.  He smacks her.  She hits him with a book.  He hits her hard.  Now transfer that to the school ground between two boys.  One jumps on the other and starts pounding.  Some friends come to help the underdog.  A few minutes later friends come to help the other.  Continue this scenario until we get to the level of  nations and eventually we have nuclear war erupting. 

Why do you have the nuclear war?  Because the boy insisted on responding instead of forgiving.  Things start small and escalate.  Accepting that you have been wronged and getting on with life is part of the contribution to social graces that have made western civilization strong.  It may not be justice for you, but it stops an escalating chain of aggression that can go very badly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Opus 24, Why Isn’t Hair Contagious?

I accused a student of giving me her cough.  Then it occurred to me, she has a full head of hair; I would be classified as bald;  Why isn’t hair contagious?

Have you ever had those days when you wonder why God did things the way He did?  In my more arrogant days I wonder if I could have designed things better.  Like, mosquitoes.  What is their purpose in the great scheme of things?  Do we really need disease carrying blood suckers in every pool of standing water?  That seems a silly question is you look at the books kids are reading today.  We have invented our own blood suckers.

But then I remember how I can’t even get a simple recipe right.  I always leave something out or cook it too long or have the temperature too high.  Some times I walk across the room and can’t remember why.  How in the world would I design a universe?  It may be that before the Fall mosquitoes were given more than one note and they would sing people to sleep at night.  Maybe they would land on you and instead of punching a hole, they would scratch you where you itched.  It’s hard to tell.

Maybe if hair were contagious it would grow on your nose.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Opus 23, Basic Christian Beliefs: Inspiration of Scripture

I had intended to begin the discussion of Basic Christian Beliefs with the divinity of Christ but I realized that all of my points would be rooted in the Bible.  That means I had to back up one step and cover that territory.

Christians believe that the Bible is the written Word of God.  They believe that the Bible is inspired by God.  “Inspired” is a word that means breathed into, so we believe that God has breathed into the Bible. 

You will find many understandings of the word “inspired.”  Some, in their enthusiasm, will believe that the words of the King James Version are set in stone and not to be tampered with.  I was joking with one of these brothers and I jokingly said, “If the KJV was good enough for Paul, then it is good enough for me.”  He said, “Right.”  I was joking.  I am not sure he was.

Some believe that the inspiration was so strong that it was like the Holy Spirit using one hand to write while they read a book with the other.  Some believe that on some level God caused the authors to write the exact words He wanted.  Some believe that every word, letter and number is totally without any kind of error.  Others believe that it is without error in the key parts. 

There are a lot of understandings and misunderstandings but all Christians agree that the Bible is not an ordinary book and it is to be the source of our knowledge about God and His plan of salvation.

Why do we have so many translations?  The original manuscripts were written mainly in Hebrew and Greek with a little bit in Aramaic.  All of the originals are long gone.  All we have are copies, some very old, but copies none the less.  There are some variations in the copies.  None of the variations are of any major consequence in themselves.  There are no Christian beliefs that are called into question, but the most accurate translation is sometimes a challenge.

A second reason for translations is that the language changes.  The original King James Version was translated in 1611.  It is a contemporary with Shakespeare.  The language has changed a lot in that time so people try to update it with the changes. 

The third reason is that different scholars have different philosophies of translation.  Some want to be as close to word for word as possible.  Some try for parallel thought and call it dynamic equivalence.  Some just admit they are making a paraphrase.  Some try to translate using words below a certain grade level.  All of these considerations make for different translations.

A fourth reason is the motive of propaganda.  Some non-Christian sects translate the Bible so it says what they want it to say.  People with political or social agendas will translate it to push their pet issue.  These should be avoided.

There are many good translations in all price ranges.  Get one and read.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Opus 22, A Second Look at a Theology of Sexuality

You were not happy with my last post.  I can see it on your face.  It wasn’t long enough?  It didn’t give enough attention to your feelings or what your learned friends said?  It did not link to any articles by Ph.D.’s? 

A lot of the scholarly writing about key issues is really nothing but an attempt to show how clever the author is or to find ways to twist the truth to justify open disobedience to the known will of God.  Some things are so clear that to avoid seeing them you need to be like my niece as an infant.  My brother demonstrated how she would not look at him.  No matter how he turned her or moved himself, she would look away.  So it is with some people and the truth of God.
ROM 1:18-20  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (NASB)
It goes on, but you can get the idea.

Sex is to be between two people, a man and a woman, who are married.  If the sex is involves one who is married and one who is not, it is called “adultery.”  Do a word search.  It is one of the ten commandments.  Most people won’t argue with this.

But what if neither party is married?  Then you get into the Biblical word “fornication.”  The KJV translates it this way consistently.  The NASB uses several words including “immorality”, “sexual immorality” and “unchastity.”  This is the Greek word “porneia” which gives us our English word pornography.  It is condemned just as much as adultery.  The Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. p. 494, has this to say “ porneia the limits which are willed and set by God (in this case in the realm of sexual ethics) are obliterated.”

What about homosexuality?  It is condemned without exception in both the Old and New Testament.  The only way to question this is to refuse to accept the simple and clear statements because your mind is made up and you don’t want to hear any more.  I have a picture of a little child with their eyes screwed shut and their fingers in their ears.

Marriage is generally between one man and one woman.  It starts in the beginning:
(Genesis 2:24 KJV)  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The same standard is maintained throughout the Bible.  Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 19:5 and Paul refers to it in Ephesians 5:31. 

What exceptions do we need to acknowledge?  First, we have the concubines of the OT.  They existed.  Look at Abraham.  The only explanation I can give is that they were not casual, one night stands.  Concubines had a legal status.

Second, some men had more than one wife.  I am not aware of any that were not kings though.  It seems to have been a part of diplomacy in those days.  You want a treaty?  You marry a daughter.

Both of the exceptions tended to lead to major problems.  They were exceptions to the rules.  Some of the extreme cases such as sodomy and incest are also dealt with but at least this month no theologian is trying to make those sound acceptable.  But brace yourself, it is coming.

Opus 21, Do We Really Need a Theology of Sexuality?

I have not had the time to visit some of the blogs I have been reading in the past several months.  At the time there seemed to be a rash of posts about the Theology of Sexuality, whatever that is, and links to scholarly articles written by people who were real scholars. 

I can save you a lot of reading.  Here is a Bible Believers Theology of Sexuality:

1.  Sex between a man and woman in a life long monogamous covenant is a wonderful gift of God.
2.  In all other scenarios, it is sin.

There, that wasn’t so hard was it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Opus 20, IQ: Jesus a Poached Egg?

IQ stands for Immortal Quotes. 

This is one of the great quotes from C.S. Lewis.  The page number is from the Easton Press edition.  If you have another edition it might help to know it is from Book 2, on the last page of chapter 3.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronising (sic)  nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.” 

Lewis, C.S.  Mere Christianity.  Norwalk, Connecticut:  The Easton Press, 2002, p. 52.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Opus 19, He Giveth More Grace

Sunday we had a guest preacher.  He was having a great time preaching about grace.  He was in John 1 and quoted this verse:
(John 1:16 KJV)  And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
He then was trying to encourage us about how grace would meet our needs.  I was with him.  Then he referred to the widow of Zarephath.  She is the one the prophet Elijah stayed with and eventually raised her son from the dead.  The preacher was talking about how we get grace on grace and he used as an example how the oil jar was full to the brim.  She would pour out what she needed and it would still be full to the brim.  Something struck me as wrong about that but I did not stand up and challenge him in the middle of the service.

Instead I went home and did some homework.  I might recommend that you do the same.  Listen with your Bible open and check out anything that sounds a little off.

I found nothing about an oil jar full to the brim.  Instead I found a much more realistic picture.  I found a jar that was never empty.
(1 Kings 17:16 KJV)  And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
What difference does it make?  There are times when God provides the promise of plenty.
(Luke 6:38 KJV)  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
But in my life it is usually more a matter of never being exhausted.  I think that is a better picture of the walk of faith.  God will provide, not what I want, but what I need.  I tend to lean a little better that way.  Why do rich people tend to find it hard to follow Jesus?  Because they think they can provide for themselves. 

So don’t worry if your pots are not overflowing.  Those are messy to clean up anyway.  Rejoice that there will always be enough to take the next step.

Opus 18, What Page Are We On?

Have you ever wondered why people seem so ignorant about basic stuff?  Borrowed money must be paid back.  Being on time is important.  TANSTAAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch).  The chicken came first because if God had just made an egg, it would not have hatched, and keep in mind it had to be a chicken and a rooster. 

At school I announce several times, “Turn to page 248.”  I point to where it is printed in large letters on the board.  3/4 of the class is on the page and four people have their hands up.  The first one asks, “What page are we on.”  I answer them.  Guess what the second one asks.  And the third one?  The fourth wants to go to the bathroom. 

Then I have the kid who says, “The answer isn’t in the book.”  I tell him yes it is, read the book.  He says he has read the book.  I tell him to read it again.  Finally, I ask him to read the question.  Then I ask him to read the first line of the book.  He gets half way through and stops.  All I hear is “Oh.”

Why are people so ignorant.  In some cases it is because they have not had a chance to learn.  Usually it is because they are lazy.  They are too lazy to read for themselves.  They are too lazy to wear their glasses.  They are too lazy to think.  They are too lazy to even listen.

We make a lot of excuses, but usually it comes down to not wanting to know.  I hear a lot about learning disabilities but the same kids who can’t listen when I give an assignment remember every verbal mistake I have made all year.  The ones who can’t read find every typo I make on a paper I hand out.  The ones who can’t tell time when it comes to getting to class are doing a count down for the bell to ring.

When I am elected king, one of the first things I will do is repeal compulsory education.  I will make it available and encourage people to come but when something is given away free it tends to lose its value.

Will you vote for me to be King?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Opus 17, Christmas Attacks Racism

Sunday we were in church and one of the songs was the traditional carol which starts out, “Some children see Him lily white...” and then proceeds to work through every different color of skin.  The point is that children see Jesus as being the same as themselves.  It is one of the great overlooked truths of Christmas.  If you do any traveling you will see how in each part of the world there are always some who portray the Bible characters as being racially one with the locals. 

Would it bother you to walk into a store and see a mural of the Holy Family as being African or Japanese?  Why?  If you think it is the lack of historical accuracy then do you get upset at the mention of three wise men or of Mary riding a donkey?  If that is the reason why do you not get upset at portrayals of Mary and Joseph as if they were Nordic types?
(Genesis 1:27 KJV)  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Notice that both sexes are mentioned but no racial types.  God is the creator of all and the Father of all who are redeemed, regardless of physical characteristics.


Opus 16, Basic Christian Beliefs: Introduction

What do we call people who are going to spend eternity with God?  Most terms have been watered down or adulterated over the years.  Take the word “Christian.”  We see that this is a Biblical term.  It is used in at least the following three places:
(Acts 11:26 KJV)  And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

(Acts 26:28 KJV)  Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
(1 Peter 4:16 KJV)  Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
And yet the term is becoming empty of meaning in our post-modern culture.  Words mean what you want them to mean today.  There are many who would say they are Christian and all they mean by that is they are not Muslim or Hindu.  Labels have value but only if they mean something.

So what do we call people today that used to fit in the category of “Christian?”  Disciples, believers, born again, Baptists, narrow minded bigots?  What is necessary to fit into this classification?  I want to look at some of the things that I feel are necessary.  You may agree, or not.  Maybe we can have some dialog. 

I will try to avoid being dogmatic about denominational differences, not because doctrine is not important, but because most of those I consider family arguments.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Opus15, Spiritual Gifts: Healing

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to everyone.  The main passages if you want to read them are Romans 12: 6-8, I Corinthians 12:1-11, Ephesians 4:11-12, and I Peter 4:8-11.  There are other possible lists.  People would disagree on whether all the gifts are listed or the lists are suggestive.  In secular terms we might consider them talents.  In Christian terms they always have an application that edifies and builds up the Body of Christ.  Each person has at least one.  No one has all of them.  No one gift is possessed by everyone.

One of the spiritual gifts is healing. 
(1 Corinthians 12:9 KJV)  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
This says that some people have a special power from God to bring health to others.  There are a lot of showmen who make a circus of this.  You can safely assume that they don’t have the gift of healing but have the gift of smoke and mirrors along with the gift of ego.  I have only had a few reliable brushes with people who have experienced this gift.  Their physical bodies have been touched and “fixed.”  None of the cases I have heard of were instant healings but the change was definite and a clear act of supernatural power.  I think the best doctors and nurses have this gift.  They may not know it, but there are things that happen in their offices and operating rooms that cannot be explained by medicine.

There are sights such as Lourdes in France that are associated with healing.  I understand that the Catholic church keeps careful records of people claiming to be healed there.  They make sure that they were really sick in the first place and check for proof of the healing.  The Church does not take it lightly so they can safely document many healings.

One of the interesting things about spiritual gifts is that every gift has a corresponding duty in the believer.  Thus some may have the gift of giving, all are expected to tithe.  Some may be gifted with evangelism, all are expected to witness.  I am expected to pray for people’s healing.  Recently we had the child of a friend involved in a motor cycle accident.  I have family members who have serious issues.  Although I don’t have the gift of healing, I am to intercede for them. 

We can also ask for God’s touch for ourselves.  Recently I went for a second try at donating blood.  The last time I went in I was told that my blood was too iron rich, the opposite of anemia.  They refused to take my blood.  I decided to try it again but asked for the Lord’s touch as I drove to the clinic.  My iron level was fine.  Miracle of healing?  We will never know but it sounds like it to me. 

How many times have we prayed about something and forgot about it.  God answered and we did not notice.  I think He might appreciate a word of thanks now and then. 

Theology, Spiritual Gifts, NT 07 I Corinthians 12

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Opus 14, Logical or Scientific, part 2

Is your thinking based on the logic of a pagan or the science of a Christian?  Logic leaves room for superstition and opinion in ways that pure science does not.  Notice I said “pure” science.  Much of what parades as “science” today is just political manipulation to limit your freedom.  One current example is the phoney science of global warming.  Another might be the “research” into whether homosexual are born or made.  Much of the so called research quoted in education is either research that never happened, research designed to give a certain result or sloppy research with no controls and too many variables. 

When the Renaissance began, science was slowed down by their reverence for anything that the Greeks or Romans wrote.  One example is the Greek physician Galen in the days of the Roman Empire.  He taught that the blood circulated through tiny pores in the heart.  Eventually this was proven wrong with experiments by William Harvey, but not until 1628.   Through the middle ages doctors thought that health was the balance of four humors that were in the body.  This was why bleeding was a part of their medicine. 

How about some other examples of logical thinking without experimental proof.

I heard about some fisherman that harvested shell fish from the ocean floor.  I will admit that I heard this in a sermon illustration, but it makes sense in spite of that.  They were having trouble with an infestation of star fish.  Star fish use the suction on their arms to pry open the shell fish.  The fisherman decided that they would kill all the starfish they caught by cutting them up into small pieces and throwing them back into the ocean to feed the other creatures.  You know, recycle, reuse, reduce.  Eventually someone realized that each piece of star fish they threw back grew to be another starfish.  A logical solution led to disaster.

Have you heard the one about the world being overpopulated.  Have you heard about the book, The Population Bomb, that forecast the end of the world as we know it in the 1980's because of lack of resources and lack of food.  Last time I looked we were still here.  If you live in a major metropolitan area and listen to people who make money selling books, then the whole theory sounds good.  I have heard the author has revised his book every few years and it continues to sell.  Who knows?  Maybe someday it will come true.

What is the problem?  Why are we still alive?  A little research would show that population trends are not consistent.  As countries get wealthier they tend to have smaller families.  Currently many of the richer countries have minus population growth.  Then there is the advances in technology.  Medieval China came up with a new rice that produced more food.  The trend has continued down to today.

A little math is in line also.  Several years ago I got a copy of the World Almanac and divided the population of the entire world into the area of Texas.  It turned out that the entire world could live in Texas, in single family homes on 1/6 acre lots if the family size averaged 4.2 people.  If you want parks, malls, streets and such throw in Oklahoma.  The rest of the world would be empty.  That is not my idea of crowding.

Much of the food shortages are political, not lack of resources.  Take the central valley in California.  It used to be one of the biggest food producing areas in the world.  If you drive through it now you will see sagebrush, withering orchards and empty fields.  Why?  Because the environmentalists have cut off the water from the Sacramento River.  Why?  To save a fish in the delta that I am told is not even native to the area.  I could go on.  Maybe I will.  Later. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Opus 13, Was Santa Really a Woman?

Some things are right in front of us all our lives and we don’t see them.  The clues are clear.  The meaning is obvious.  I want to submit the hypothesis that Santa is really a woman.

Think about it.  In English we do not have gender designated by the definite article.  “The” is “the” is “the.”  The ending of words do not show gender.  This is not true in the Romance language.  If you live in Southern California you are used to the differences between San and Santa.  We have San Francisco and San Gabriel.  We have Santa Rosa and Santa Ana.  Do you see the pattern?  Santa is the feminine ending.  I don’t know where the legend of Santa Claus began but someone must have none something that we do not. 

Santa Claus is a feminine noun.  We are going to need to redo all of the pictures, songs and poems.  We might as well get started now.  And remember, you heard it here first.

This is a good example of thinking things through logically as I mentioned in the previous post.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Opus 12, Logical or Scientific

What is your philosophy of life?  Most people would say, “Huh?”  Yet everyone has one.  We just don’t think of it that way.  What is important to you?  How do you decide right and wrong?  How do you feel about family, money, career and faith?  This collection of thought patterns make up your philosophy of life.

Most of us have heard the expression “Post-modern.”  This is a philosophical term.  People say we are living in the post-modern age.  That means the modern age is over.  And what does that mean?  It means that we have some basic difference in how we come to decisions and make choices.  In a sense we are turning the clock back and ignoring hundreds of years of thinking.

Before the modern age people in the west looked to the Greeks and the Romans.  In the East there were different sets of philosophers but they had something in common.  They reasoned based on logic.  They would sit down and observe their world, think about it and come up with a logical answer.  Sounds good.  What is there to argue with?

Before I try to answer that let me explain how the modern era differed from the pagan world.  The modern world was saturated with the Judeo-Christian view of God.  He created the world and was unchanging.  Because of that people could assume that the world we live in is not full of little spirits that have to be placated.  God had a set of rules.  Western thought began to try to find out what the rules were.  After some stumbling around they developed what is called the scientific method.  It also had observation and logic but added another factor:  proof through experiment.  As science developed, instead of just sitting under a tree and saying, “This sounds logical” they began to say, “Prove it.” 

I believe it was Plato that talked about abstract ideals that we could never really know.  We could see their shadows and make guesses, but we would always have to guess at part.  Science says we can keep searching until we find what is true.  We can find answers based on evidence, not just what appeals to our logic.

We are now moving back to that pagan view of the world.  There are no absolute truths, everything is relative.  Even the meaning of words are different.  They mean what you want them to mean.  That is why President Clinton was able to say, “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”  In the long run science as we used to know it will become useless.  I recently read a blog post in which the writer said he would rather have a doctor with a good bedside manner than one who knew his medicine.   Read it yourself. 

Feelings become more important that facts.  Aspirin is more important than antibiotic. 

This is getting a bit long for one post.  I will return later and give some examples of how this works out in everyday life.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Opus 11, Lessons in Parenting

Recently I was sitting in church and watched a young girl get up and walk out.  She was about ten years old.  Trailing behind her was her mother.  A few minutes later the girl came back, followed by mom.  Another time I saw a similar sight in a restaurant only the mother was trailing three girls.  It took me back to when my children were young.  We would never have let them go off to an unsupervised bathroom.  There are too many perverts out there looking for unprotected children.  It took time, but they were our children and worth the effort.  It felt good to see others who were aware of the dangers.

I used to joke that I would write my book on parenting when my kids hit thirty.  Now I am reaching that milestone and feeling I need to wait until they are 40.  I am beginning to think I will never write the book, but I can offer a post.  Of course, you don’t know my kids.  They aren’t perfect.  They are still works in process.  But I am really proud of them as they are.  So here are a few pointers.  They are not offered in any specific order.  I will save that for the book.

1.  Don’t let anyone else tell you how to raise your kids.  They are unique.  You are an original.  You will run into people with lots of advice.  Listen.  Be polite.  Use what seems wise to you.  Our first child was strong willed.  We had friends who had easy children.  They were full of advice until their second child came and showed a little spirit.  Suddenly the advise stopped.

2.  You are a parent, not a buddy.  If you are concerned about being liked instead of obeyed they will play you like a drum on New Years.

3.  Don’t threaten or promise if you are not going to follow through.  It will undermine everything you try to do in the future.

4.  Be an example.  As part of this I would recommend that you get your spiritual life together.  Don’t think you can send them to Sunday School.  Take them.  If you are not right with God, the odds are they will never be either.

5.  It is a battle, not a game.  You can’t afford to lose this one.  They will say some really nasty things to try to win. 

6.  Love is a decision, not an emotion.  There were times we wanted to take them back and get a refund but we could not find the receipt.  Read I Corinthians 13 which starts with, “Love is patient, love is kind...”

7.  Don’t give up.

I reserve the right to add to this or change it at any time.  Enjoy the journey.  No matter how things are going remember those wise words that I did not make up:  “This too shall pass.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Opus 10, Squishy Vocabulary

I am really getting tired of the misuse of the term “social issues.”  It is usually used in reference to abortion and gay marriage.  These are not “social issues,” they are moral issues.  A social issue would be parade permits and dress codes.  They have to do with how people get along and who gets to use the park this weekend.  Abortion and gay marriage are issues of right and wrong.

It gets worse when Christian leaders use the term.  They are avoiding unpleasant confrontations by watering down issues that they know have standards given by God.  How can we expect society to improve if we keep whitewashing sin?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Opus 9, Impeachment Anyone?

Federal judges are appointed for life.  The purpose of that was to protect them from political pressures.  Judges are supposed to be impartial observers who can take a real life situation and decide how the law applies or be unbiased referees between to squabbling parties.  Every parent has been a judge and understands how hard it can be to find a fair solution.

From time to time judges forget that they are supposed to be interpreters of the law and step in to make up what the legislatures lack.  They become what are called "activist judges."  They ignore all that is reasonable and push their own agenda.  A case in point is the California judge who declared a constitutional amendment unconstitutional.  I don’t know about you but something seems rotten in Denmark when I hear that.  If the constitution is unconstitutional then there is no basis for anything but "the guy with the biggest muscles wins."

The Founders knew this would be a problem.  I have read a number of quotes over the years to that effect, but they are hard to track down.  Here is one from Thomas Jefferson:
“The purest republican feature in the government of our own State, is the House of Representatives. The Senate is equally so the first year, less the second, and so on. The Executive still less, because not chosen by the people directly. The Judiciary seriously anti-republican, because for life; and the national arm wielded, as you observe, by military leaders irresponsible but to themselves. Add to this the vicious constitution of our county courts (to whom the justice, the executive administration, the taxation, police, the military appointments of the county, and nearly all our daily concerns are confided), self-appointed, self-continued, holding their authorities for life, and with an impossibility of breaking in on the perpetual succession of any faction once possessed of the bench. They are in truth, the executive, the judiciary, and the military of their respective counties, and the sum of the counties makes the State.”  see Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Taylor, 1816 for the context.
Is it time to start impeaching judges?  It is a scary prospect because it can be misused and abused, but how else are you going to put a fear of the law into lawyers?  Maybe we could move them to traffic court or have them scrub toilets, judge beauty contests or work in day-care centers.  Maybe we could only allow non-lawyers to become judges.  There has to be a way to deal with this.  Any ideas?

Opus 8, I Am Not Pro Gun

I am pro Second Amendment.  I am pro liberty.  I am pro responsibility.  None of these is pro gun.  A gun is a tool; a dangerous tool, yes, but still a tool.  Saying I am pro gun is like saying someone who believes in freedom of the press is pro ink, or saying someone who believes in the freedom of religion is pro transubstantiation.

I don’t mind labels, but get them right.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Opus 7, The New Math

We have an after school program at our school.  I won’t mention its name but it is bigger than just our school. It has lots of activities but the closest it comes to education is some tutoring classes.

Recently they were co-sponsoring a food drive with a neighborhood charity.  That was fine.  I have no problem with that.  The problem comes with a flyer they sent out to all the homes touched by our school.  It had the following:

One 8 oz can is ½ a pound!
For a class of 25 students

25 students x 2 cans = 50 lbs.

In case you went to public school and are having a problem seeing why I have trouble, notice that each can is a half pound.  Two cans equals one pound.  25x1=25 not 50.  There are simple ways to explain the error but it is not a good way to teach math.

Your tax dollars at work.

Opus 6, Whom Do You Believe?

I keep hearing about how knowledge is increasing geometrically.  There is just too much of it.  Add to that the internet and a world where “google” has become a verb.  This really doesn’t bother me.  There are a number of reasons.

One piece of comfort I take is that most of the “new” knowledge is totally useless to any normal human being.  It really doesn't matter how many snowflakes fall in an average snow storm.

I also rest in the knowing vast database is something I can research and don’t need to remember.  I really don’t need to have all the ingredients in an exotic pasta sauce in my memory.  I can look it up.

I can also go to “authorities” and “experts” if I pick wisely.  The key here is picking wisely.  My source needs to be someone I can trust.  Certain indicators tell me how far to carry someone’s water.  How many of us would accept the word of a politician or a used car salesman?  What if it were a Marine Gunny-Sargent who was also a deacon at your local Baptist church?  I know who I would believe.  Why?  Because of the basic value system of the Christian soldier.

Start with the soldier.  He belongs to an organization that is strong on honor, integrity and loyalty.  When you are in war, lies can get you killed.  When you work close with a group of soldiers you must develop a certain trust.

How about the adjective.  Why would I trust a Christian?  A true Christian believes the Bible is the inspired word of God.  They may have different understandings of how it was inspired but they agree that God had control.  When they look at the book of Revelation they see a very clear statement:
(Revelation 21:8 KJV)  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Notice that little phrase in the middle of the verse:  “all liars.”  Notice the fate of liars.  They are thrown into the lake of fire.  That can’t be good however you interpret it.  God does not like liars.  So a person who believes the Bible, has a real incentive to tell the truth.

On the other hand you have people who believe that everything is relative, that there is no absolute truth.  They are always saying things like, “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”  For many people truth is whatever advances their agenda.

So am I going to believe a post-modern relativist who has lied to me repeatedly or someone who believes if they lie to they will spend eternity in hell?  It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I tend to be one of those people who believe in absolutes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Opus 5, Are You Catholic or Christian?

I get this question a lot at school.  Our curriculum covers Islam, Feudalism and the Reformation.  I encourage the kids to ask questions.  Sometimes the questions are just ways to try for a tangent.  Sometimes they are invasive.  And believe it or not, there is such a thing as a stupid question.  This one drives me crazy even if it is not stupid.  Understand that in the minds of these kids the two groups, Catholic and Christian, are mutually exclusive.

Why?  Because the Roman Catholics have been taught that there is one true church.  The non-Catholics in my school tend to be either Fundamentalist or Pentecostal.  They also have been taught that their way is the only way.  Neither side understands the basics.  I try not to get too detailed, but they want to know and I don’t want them to sound ignorant in the future.

My first question to the Catholics kids is, “When you go into the church, who is that guy on the cross?”  They know the answer.  Next, “Who was it that died on the cross and rose again?”  Same answer.  “What do you call people who believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again?”  Sometimes a light dawns.  Of course I get the same question a week later.

One of my colleagues is a devout Catholic.  One time I quoted Ephesians 2:8 to him:
(Ephesians 2:8 KJV)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Then I asked him, “As a Catholic do you accept that and believe that?”  He thought a minute and said, “Yes.”

I am a born-again, Bible believing, evangelical follower of Jesus Christ.  I could never be a Catholic.  But then I could never be a Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. and I expect to see a lot of them in heaven.  They may be surprised to see me.  I look forward to seeing the look on their faces when I show up.  I believe that on the things that will take us to heaven we have a certain agreement, they just don’t know it.

Fortunately the final word is up to the Word.  I can live with that, forever.

Theology, Denominations

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Opus 4, Harassment Anyone?

This week at school we had an example of your tax dollars at work.  Each week we have a 45 minutes session called Advisory.  Think of it as homeroom on steroids.  We are supposed to share and discuss important topics like drugs, bullying, planning for college (in 7th grade?) and so forth.  This week’s topic was harassment.

Let me start with two definitions:

    1.  “Harassment is any inappropriate, unwanted, or cruel behavior that targets a particular individual or group.”
    2.  Harass, “to annoy persistently”

Guess which one came from the dictionary and which came from the PC educational police.

I started off by asking the students to tell me how the definitions were different.  I pointed out key words in the first definition:  any, unwanted, behavior.  I then asked what “persistently” means.  By the first definition the students are harassing me on a regular basis.  I am also harassing them on a regular basis.  It went on to talk about bullying and involving the legal authorities.  This is scary mind manipulation.  Fortunately the students don’t listen much.

The real issue that touches our society as a major problem, sexual harassment, was only mentioned in passing.  I spend some time explaining how it was okay to ask someone out but it should stop when they say, “No.”  They understood that part.

I learned some new terms for harassment.  We were warned about “size-ist harassment” and “look-ist harassment.”  Since I am overweight and going bald I could have students interviewed by legal authorities every day, but instead of being PC and needing the government to protect me, I rebel and laugh along with the kids.  Somehow it seems a better response.

Political correctness, brainwashing, education