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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Opus 2011-170, On the Street: Separation of Church and State, Not!

I was forced to attend an unannounced assembly at our middle school this week.  We knew it was coming, just not when.  Years ago is was in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.  Since no one in our schools seems to be able to get anything done on time they changed the name to Latino Heritage Assembly.  It was getting strange celebrating Cinco de Mayo in June.

It had some quality, educational moments.  A group of children from one of our elementary schools did a couple of dance numbers.  They were dressed in beautiful flowing dresses.  They twirled and swayed.  They were good but they were only about 10% of the assembly.  Another major feature was girls in tight clothes dancing and bouncing in such a way that would have made me think of nothing but sex if I were a middle school boy.  They were having fun but could not even stay in step. 

The part that interested me the most was the anti-Christian bias of the program.  As they worked through some of the Latin American celebrations they came to Las Posadas.  This is a tradition that comes from Spain and celebrates the journey of the Holy Family looking for a place to stay.  They claimed the word meant “journey.”  According to the article in Wikipedia it means “lodging or accommodation.”  The entire celebration is steeped in the Christmas story and the Nativity.  The school version made no mention of the Holy Family or the Christian faith.  It was described as a family festival where neighborhoods took turns having everyone over for a meal and a party.

When it came to the Day of the Dead there was a different approach.  It was described as a combination between the Catholic and Aztec traditions of honoring the dead.  On the stage an altar had been constructed that had death masks and offerings to a dead couple.  As the lights were dimmed you could see candles burning on the altar.  Students wearing death masks came down the aisles of the auditorium carrying candles.  They went up on stage, knelt down in front of the altar and place the candles before it.  What we watched was a pagan worship rite. 

When it comes to Christian traditions the school is mute.  When it comes to demonstrating pagan rituals there are no restraints.  This is the separation of church and state that is taking place in the public square.  

Home schooling anyone?

homo unius libri

Monday, May 30, 2011

Opus 2011-169, Discernment Watch: Nuance and Neutrality

Western post-modern culture is rebelling against the traditional English language.  For centuries when generic gender was required English used “he.”  We talked about “man” as a term for all people.  Everyone understood.  Life was simple. 

With the rise of feminism and the advance of the anti-God and anti-Christians elites this has become unacceptable.  Now everything must be gender neutral.  It must be that way even if it goes against the original language of the scripture.  These are cultural modifications, not what God actually meant to say.

These people totally miss the nuances that are necessary in the covenant between a living, eternal God and people He created in His image.  Eternal truths are not always simple.  To quote C.S. Lewis,
“It is not good asking for a simple religion.  After all, real things are not simple.  They look simple, but they are not.”  Mere Christianity, p. 40
So in the Christian faith we have this balancing act between being one before God but having different roles in our relationships with others.  We have people with the gift of leadership.  They have greater responsibility, that does not make them superior.  That is part of the miracle of the American system.  We have adopted the acceptance of success and status without accepting the European idea that certain classes are innately superior. 

Compare this view of the roles of men and women with what you see in Muslim cultures.  In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive cars.  The Koran says that a man’s witness is worth four women.  Women are definitely second class citizens in every way.  And yet you still have Muslim women speaking out in favor of this system.   There is no nuance.  Women are inferior.  If you ever see a gender neutral Koran, Islam will be dead.

I am not sure that a gender neutral Bible doesn’t say the same thing about the religion of the translators.  If your choice of words is made to satisfy people who hate the God of the Bible, then you have rejected that God because you have rejected what He, yes I said “He,” said.

homo unius libri

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Opus 2011-168, Focus, Focus, Focus

I am in the process of re-reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  One of the reasons I don’t have time to read the newest, hot off the press, cutting edge books is that there are so many great books that deserve being read again.  The Screwtape Letters is one of those.  I am reading only one “letter” at a time and savoring it as I go.

Today the topic was the fear and suffering that is brought on by war.  Of course Lewis is talking about World War II but with our concerns about a nuclear Iran and international terrorism we are in a time with similar fears.

Screwtapes nephew, Wormword, is a junior demon.  He is tasked with destroying a certain human for eternity.  The advice given to him is “So do not allow any temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and preventing the development of virtues.” (page 22)  This is reminder to us.

In uncertain times we are not to be distracted by the enemy.  We are to continue to seek to grow as believers and followers of the living Christ.  We are to be upright and blameless. 

That does not mean we stop voting or writing letters.  It means that we are to do it all in the thoughtful loving style that is typical of people who follow a righteous, holy God who is also love.

Lewis, C.S.  The Screwtape Letters.  Norwalk, Connecticut:  The Easton Press, 2002.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Opus 2011-167, Headlines: Thank You, Harold Camping

End of the earth forecasts are common in history.  So far they have been wrong.  At least I think they have been wrong.  If I am one of those left behind on May 21 I seem to have a lot of company.

I want to thank the people that perpetrated the prophetic hoax.  It gave me a lot of chances to talk to people about Jesus and what the Bible really said.  I am a teacher and I respect parents desire that I not evangelize, but when kids ask questions, what is a believer to do but answer them?  It has been a good time.  I expect to repeat the fun as the 2012 end comes near.

The first few times I just told the kids the Bible says no one will know.  I realized that was being somewhat of a woosy, so I began to use the name of Jesus.  I would say, “Jesus said no one would know when He returned.  He said even He did not know.  If Jesus didn’t know I don’t think this guy knows.  He needs to read his Bible more.” 

Of course I make that recommendation to everyone.  It is one of those things in life that really seems to be one-size-fits-all.

Jesus discussed this many places but the best, short summary of His opinion of this kind of Bible manipulation is here:
(Mark 13:32 KJV)  But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Look it up and read the whole passage.  Evidently Rev. Camping didn’t.

homo unius libri

Friday, May 27, 2011

Opus 2011-166, Labels: Postmodernism Really Isn’t

I was listening to Alistair Begg as usual.  He was repeatedly referring to “modern man.”  I said to myself that he should be referring to “post-modern man” instead.  That got me thinking about labels.

We are in what is called the “post-modern” age.  This would correspond nicely with the idea that we are now in a “post-Christian” age.  The two harmonize well.  The modern age was the age of science.  Logic, reason and the scientific method would solve all our problems.  Truth existed and we were on a journey to discover it.  Progress was real.

On one side this was based on the Judeo-Christian world view.  No other religion has allowed the development of what we consider science.  The scientific method depends on an understanding that the universe was created by an immutable God.  Because He is a god of principle and is eternally unchanging, the universe He created also has those qualities.  Thus, pure water will always boil at 212ยบ F at sea level.  You can take it to the bank.  In all other religious systems the gods are free to be capricious and adjust the world to fit their whims.

The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, although many of its thinkers rejected God, was only possible because its philosophies were based on an understanding of the world based on the God of the Bible.

Post-modernism claims to have moved beyond that.  No longer can you know truth because truth is not absolute.  Truth is different for everyone.  Thus the Bible is a well meaning but corrupt work and Jesus is just one view of truth, no more valid than the ideas of Gandhi.  This is well illustrated by the heretical arm of the Emergent Church movement.  Here are a few more quotes from An Emergent Manifesto of Hope,

p. 228, “The modern age was ruled by science and structures of control....In the past modern milieu, the humanities are asserting themselves,...”

p. 228, “ the world we live in now, facts alone are not adequate.”  (EO)

p. 191, “But Christianity’s idea that other religions cannot be God’s carriers of grace and truth casts a large shadow over our Christian experience.”

p. 203, “The more we lean into the tension between competing truths, the closer we are to the heart of God.”
One of their favorite illustrations would be the Blind Men of Indostan  explaining what an elephant is.  We only see part and miss the whole.

I believe this should be relabeled as either “pre-modernism” or “deja vu paganism.”  This philosophy does nothing more than adopt the ideas of eastern religions that are syncretic and pagan.  It is not a moving forward but an attempt to turn the clock back and reestablish the rule of sun and earth worship.

You cannot be truly Christian and truly post-modern.  On one side or the other you are not a true believer. 

Pagitt, Doug and Jones, Tony, ed.  An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.  Grand Rapids:  Baker
    Books, 2007.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Opus 2011-165, Green Piece: Christians and the Environment

The condition of the world is a Christian concern.  God gave man the commission of caring for the physical world and the animals.
(Genesis 1:28 KJV)  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
I like the KJV use of the word “replenish.”  The NASB uses “fill.”  In one sense this means that God approves of the spread of mankind over the face of the world.  When I compared translations available on my computer they seemed to reinforce the idea that this means to have children and subdue the earth.  The idea of the glorious primeval wilderness is not of divine origin, even though I enjoy getting away from civilization.

The deeper meaning of “fill” is to complete.  It has the idea of bringing something to its intended state.  It is often translated “fulfill” with this in mind.  The human hand is part of the completeness that God had in mind for the world.  Of course that was before the fall.

The difference between the Christian view and the modern environmentalist is that the Christian believes that the world is to be maintained in stewardship so that it will serve man well.  Earth will be renewed in the end times and become a special place, but it is always a part of creation.  The pagan believes that the earth is to be maintained to make it happy and show that it is loved.  To the pagan the earth is a living being, a goddess.  You may have heard or seen the name Gaia.  It is the name of a pagan deity for the earth.

Man is given a responsibility. 
(Genesis 2:15 KJV)  And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
The word “keep” is defined as “to keep, guard, observe, give heed.”  We are not to be wasteful or destructive.  We are to take care of the earth because it is on loan from God, not because it is a god.

The heretical arm of the Emergent Church movement has fallen into the trap of giving the physical earth a place it does not deserve.  One book I read was An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.  It is a collection of essays by leading thinkers in the Emergent Church movement and is published by what I used to think of as an orthodox publishing house.  Each of the following quotes comes from a different author in a different part of the book.

p. 67, “...that we aren’t the center of creation but called to worship it, to give ourselves up for it?”

p. 133, “God’s single mission - restoring Creation.”

p. 204, “As important as both right beliefs and right practices might be, neither was Jesus Christ’s primary mission,...In the incarnation, God became human as a continuation of God’s hope for creation.” 
Beware of those who want to make protecting the planet the major goal of Jesus.  Accept that we are to be stewards of the earth but don’t throw out eternity for the temporal.

Do I have a point?

Pagitt, Doug and Jones, Tony, ed.  An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.  Grand Rapids:  Baker
    Books, 2007.

homo unius libri

Monday, May 23, 2011

Opus 2011-164, Bus Ministry

Years ago when I was a young pastor I had great insights into how the church should function and how certain “ministries” were shallow and pointless.  It was at the end of the heyday of evangelism through bus ministry.  I began to serve in a church that had a bus and a lady who was pouring her life into making it happen.  She was a saint.  She had a great attitude and she never allowed my youthful arrogance to dim her shine.  She considered the bus to be the answer.  I looked at it as a problem. 

My reasons were logical.  She was bringing in a boat load of kids.  The church was full of elderly who struggled to teach the classes.  In all the years of picking up kids, I could see no fruit.  We were spending our resources repairing and maintaining a bus.  The tail was wagging the dog.

I was wrong.  The bus ministry did serve a function.  It was laying the groundwork for future culture.  It may not have been building our local church but the kids it was touching were having seeds planted in their hearts that would influence their thinking for the rest of their lives.

Look at our culture.  Integrity has disappeared.  Monogamy is on the way out.  Perversion is becoming the expected norm.  Discipline is for chumps.  Obviously there are many reasons but I think one of them is that churches have withdrawn from Sunday School outreach as a major arm of the church.

Evangelism is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot win anyone by our clever arguments or education.  Witnessing is the work of the saints.  We need to get back into the neighborhood.  One way is through Sunday School. 

Who knows, maybe a bus would be in order.

homo unius libri

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Opus 2011-163, On the Street: Preferred Parking

I stop by our neighborhood Fresh and Easy grocery store occasionally.  Yes, I know they are a yuppie haven and are into all the latest fads but sometimes on selected items they have good prices.  I can rub elbows with my supposed betters if it saves me money.

My problem is not the shelves but the stalls.  I mean the stalls in the parking lot.  They have these special reserved parking spots.  Like everyone else they have the blue marked handicapped spaces.  Okay.  They have some stalls reserved for people with infants.  Cool.  Then they have spaces reserved for people with hybrids.  Red flags. 

I know that they think they are trying to encourage “green” thinking and saving the earth.  This is the perfect example of Green Hypocrisy.  We will leave aside a discussion of whether hybrids are really environmentally friendly, you already have your opinions on that.  My questions is, “Why are they reserving special parking for the rich?” 

Let’s face it.  Poor people can’t afford a Prius.  They are expensive to buy and expensive to maintain.  Why should these people be given a space by the door while I have to walk across the parking lot from my stuttering twenty year old antique?  Why don’t they just supply free valet parking for people with large bank accounts?

I also saw this at the place where I donate blood.  There was a row of shiny new, expensive hybrids right outside the door of the center and I had to walk from around the corner. 

I guess I should be grateful that they are making me walk more.  It is good for my health.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Opus 2011-162, Spiritual Gifts: Ministry

(Romans 12:6-7 KJV)  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

The gift of ministry is also called the gift of service.  The Greek word is one you should recognize, diakonia or deacon.  It means to be a servant even though you might be in a position of authority.  It is where we get terms like Prime Minister. 

A good place to see how this is applied is in Acts 6.  The church in Jerusalem was having problems with administering the help they were giving to widows.  The apostles called for the appointment of seven men to oversee this.  How did the apostles describe the job?
(Acts 6:2 KJV)  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
The word “serve” is our Greek word.  They did not actually hand out the food, but they were in charge of it.  Now look at what the apostles said they were to do,
(Acts 6:4 KJV)  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
The word “ministry” is our Greek word again.  Both specialties, serving table and ministering the word, are considered “ministry.”

We have lost some of this meaning by calling the man who preaches the minister.  In reality he is one of many ministers. 

homo unius libri

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Opus 2011-161, Nanny State: Bullying Survey

We have students wandering the halls during class.  The tardy bell is widely ignored and assumed to mean that it is time to start thinking about thinking about getting a last hug from your girl friend before you start thinking about start thinking about moving toward class.  We have kids getting drunk, stoned and pregnant during school hours on campus.  Our kids can’t read, write or do simple word problems in math.  Public education is a mess.

We now have the answer!  We going to administer the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire.  The leaders in the Nanny State, public education, are doing their best to make sure that children are not bullied at school.  I could save them a lot of money.  Children are bullied.  Children will always be bullied.  One way to stop bullying is to remove the bullies.  That however is not part of the program. 

We are “participating in a school-wide Bully Prevention program paid for by the Department of Mental Health.”  (Federal, state or local?  Who knows?)  I know you thought there was a budget crisis.  I know you thought California was on the verge of bankruptcy and the federal deficit knows no bounds.  In the midst of this we have found money to print and distribute a Bullying Questionnaire.  We are going to find the funds to send teachers to training for this program.  And somewhere in all this will be experts and consultants making a ton of money.

The solution is at hand.  Sit down, shut up, hang on, and enjoy the ride.

Your tax dollars at work.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Opus 2011-160, Headlines: Libya and Common Law

We are all following the events in Lybia.  Opinions are all over the place.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about what I read but there is one point of extreme danger that I think is being ignored, Common Law is based on precedence.

Many non-lawyer citizens think that laws are passed and then enforced as written.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If you lived in countries that had statutory law that might be the case but the tradition that came from England and was adopted in the United States is called common law.

Common law indicated that the actual law is what the judges say it is, based on a review of previous decisions.  That is why when the Supreme Court reaches a decision they spend a lot of time writing the decision.  They explain their reasoning and what previous cases they are stressing.  Both the majority and the minority offer a report.  When lawyers look for something to bring to a case they review the decisions and the reasoning.  All decisions are based on what previous decisions have been made.  The current law is understood in terms of the past.

Now we have a problem.  In the “war” in Libya we have made decisions based on the reasoning of NATO and not our legislature.  We can see the same when we look at the two wars in Iraq.  For those we stress the U.N. resolutions that give us the authority.  In all three situations we have accepted the opinion of international tribunals to intervene in the affairs of sovereign countries. 

How is this a problem?  By doing this we are giving our consent to the idea that international organizations have authority over single nations.  Right now we are powerful but what happens when say, China, decides that they have the right to tell us what to do?  We have established the precedent that a decision by the U.N. would give a coalition of nations the legal right to invade our country. 

This is going to come back to bite us in a big way.

Am I totally out to lunch here?

homo unius libri

Monday, May 16, 2011

Opus 2011-159, On the Street: Buying the Middle Class with the Bail-out

On the way to work I have been seeing the signs put up to declare to the population that their federal government is using part of the bail-out funds to improve their neighborhood and bring jobs to their town.  A section of the street I drive over has had extensive work and resurfacing.  It is a nice job. 

The problem is that it is a bribe to the middle class.  The street goes through a very comfortable neighborhood.  On one side of the street is one of the largest churches in the area.  The houses on the other side of the street are probably 3,000 square feet and at Christmas time put on quite a show with lights and animation.  I have nothing against these people except that they can afford to fix their own streets.  They don’t need the government to borrow money to do what the local town counsel should have taken care of on their own.

This is an example of how the federal government is trying to bring the middle class into the welfare society.  This town now has learned that it can have its hand out.  Guess which way it may vote in the next election?

homo unius libri

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Opus 2011-158, Immortal Quotes: Two Mistakes about Devils

I am beginning to work through The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis so you may hear a lot of Lewis quotes for awhile.  This one is fairly well know and comes from the Introduction of the book,
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors,...”  p. ix
It seems to me that I read this somewhere else in his writings also, but this book starts out with it.  For a long time I tended to be in the first group.  Not because I don’t believe the devil exists, because I do.  I just put him in a category with eschatology and such.  Give me meat and potatoes.  Let me study Isaiah and Paul. 

Find a balance.  Also admit that the devil gets a lot of credit for things that people in the control of their sinful nature execute on their own steam.  Either way the antidote is Jesus.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Opus 2011-157, WWLID

This may be a new one to you.  It means “What Would Laura Ingles Do?”  For those of you with limited cultural awareness, Laura Ingles Wilder wrote the books that were the basis for the TV series “Little House on the Prairie.”  If I remember what my daughter told me, Laura Ingles began teaching when she was 16.  I don’t know that she had much more preparation than attending the same type of one-room schoolhouse that she taught in.  This was the norm in a society where most people completed 8th grade and moved on to adult responsibilities. 

My father graduated from high school but only had 16 people in his graduating class.  That means his experience was not far from the one-room school.  My uncles came from the same type of background. 

So?  They all received an education that prepared them to go out and be successful in their world.  With only a high school education one went on to work in the aero-space, one worked in the steel industry, one became a high level manager in the industrial community, one worked in a slaughter house and my dad started his own business.  Not bad for a high school education.  I was the first one that I know of on my father’s side to graduate from college.  I don’t expect to do better than they did.

Today we have college graduates who can’t fill out a job application.  The colleges have gone to exit exams to show that the graduates have basic high school skills.  I have heard from several sources that they don’t pay a lot of attention to GPA any more because the grades are so inflated.  Instead they use SAT scores.  Guess what test the educational establishment is trying to do away with?

Historically the one room school houses with very limited facilities and teachers with little training did better than modern schools.  Why don’t we ask ourselves WWLID and go back to trying the things that worked instead of trying to fine tune the things that fail?

homo unius libri

Friday, May 13, 2011

Opus 2011-156, Headlines: Lightbulbs

Are you seeing the light yet?  What kind of bulb do you have at the end of the tunnel?  The juggernaut of fluorescent bulbs is coming.  Are you aware?

Congress, with bi-partisan support passed a law when George Bush was still president that was designed to take away the cheap, environmentally friendly, versatile incandescent bulbs that the world has been using for decades.  In the near future you will be allowed to buy only the new fluorescent bulbs that you see filling the shelves under the title “energy saving.”  No it is not your imagination.  It is happening.

These new bulbs are an Al Gore dream come true.  They are expensive.  They don’t last near as long as advertised.  They don’t save near as much energy as advertised.  They contain mercury, which is a toxin.  They do not work with dimmer switches.  They don’t give as much light.  Think of it as global warming in a glass case.

Have the Republicans tried to pass a law to repeal this nonsense?  If they have I haven’t heard about it.  It might be a good idea.  It would win a few votes.

homo unius libri

Technical Difficulties

The Blogger techies have been playing games.  Every time I had a window to post I received the screen telling me Blogger was down.  It seems to be back, so let the games begin.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opus 2011-155, Key Scriptures: Romans 12:1-2

(Romans 12:1-2 KJV)  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

These are verses I find myself quoting frequently.  I bring them up often because they are ignored often.

First, Christians are called to willingly deliver themselves to the service of God.  This is not easy.  It is not our nature.  Notice the words “sacrifice” and “holy.” 

The second part is largely ignored by the multitudes in the churches of this country.  We are not to be conformed to the world.  This does not mean we are to be the opposite of the world in all things.  It is not a call to weirdness.  It is a call to a different standard.  The world has been trying to get the United States to switch to the metric standard.  I hear mixed reviews about how it is going but I have had the experience of trying to use a metric wrench on a SAE nut.  It just doesn’t work the way it was intended.  Sometimes you can make-do but if you are trying to put a metric bolt into a SAE nut, good luck.

We are threaded different if we serve the living God.  Sometimes it is so subtle that you don’t know you are different until you try something on for size.  Sometimes it is a glaring reality.  When we vote we are to vote by God’s standards.  When we dress we are to dress by God’s standards.  When we listen to music we are to listen by God’s standards.  When get the idea.

Instead we slowly let the word adjust our thinking.  Look at the “praise team” at your local church.  Go look at a video of a rock concert.  Do you notice similarities? 

We are to be transformed by the power of God.  We are to be different, not in reaction but in foundation.  You can’t build a ranch style house on the foundation for a Cape Cod, not if you want it to last through the first rain.

Present and be transformed.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Opus 2011-154, Monday Pulpit: A lesson on Prayer

Okay, so it’s not Monday.  It started on Monday.  I listened to the first half of a Mark Driscoll sermon when I walked yesterday.  It was okay.  This morning I felt led to finish it so I plugged it in as I drove to work.  The second half was pay dirt for me.  If you are into sermons in the car then you might want to down load it and give it a listen.  It was “The Parable of the Persistent Widow” with a date May 1, 2011.

His subject in the second half was prayer and I felt challenged.  It went well with the teaching of the pastor on Sunday about listening to the Holy Spirit. 

Isn’t it funny how God is able to work things together from different sources.  But that should not seem strange since He is the Source.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-153, Whatever Happened to Dandruff?

I was taking a shower the other day and had what I call a “shower thought”:  What ever happened to dandruff.  Remember how it used to be a big thing.  We had the Dandruff Shampoo Wars between Enden and Head and Shoulders.  We were convinced that a few white specks on our black blazer would ruin our chances of marriage, family or career.  Happiness and success were riding on our shoulders.  Or not riding if you used the right shampoo.  It was serious.

Now the kids are concerned about being ashy.  I have kids who will stop in the middle of almost anything to take out a tube and smear some goop all over their body.  They are worried about being ashy.  I try to tell them I have never been refused service because I was ashy but it makes no difference.  They have their standards.

Or they have the standards of their peer group. 

Are we any better?  We seem to be more concerned about the phoney standards of our peers and the advertisers than the standards of God. 

homo unius libri

Monday, May 9, 2011

Opus 2011-152, Monday Pulpit: Where is Jerusalem

I am going to start a new category.  I find that at times I am really hit hard by something shared from the pulpit, lectern, I-pod, or pew.  If it sticks with me it might be worth passing on.  I am going to call this category “Monday Pulpit.”  Sometimes this will be as accurate a paraphrase as I can produce.  I might even have written something down.  Other times it will be the tangent that the Holy Spirit took me on with the catalyst of another’s thinking.  Maybe the Spirit will say something to you.  I believe it will be of use to me to rethink and imprint these ideas on my mind and heart.

Sunday the pastor was sharing this verse as an aside,
(Acts 1:8 NAS77)  but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
He read the verse and substituted local geography to get across the point that this applied to us today.  Nothing new here.  How this hit me was not particularly new either, but it was like hitting the “refresh” button on your screen.  I was reminded that this also could be broken down as “in your living room, in all your neighborhood and friends and even into the remotest parts of your workplace.” 

As I said, nothing really new in this but I find that I need to be reminded of the basics.

How are things in your living room?

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-151, New Terms: Calvinians

I used this term in the title of a previous post.  I don’t know if I have read it somewhere else or if I just made it up myself.  It isn’t so clever that many people could not have come up with it.

Calvinian is a combination of Calvinist and Arminian.  A Calvinian is someone who belongs to a church tradition that officially follows the teachings of John Calvin but often acts, preaches and teaches like an Arminian.

Calvinists officially accept the five points of Calvinism which are expressed in the acronym TULIP.

    Total depravity
    Unconditional grace
    Limited atonement
    Irresistible grace
    Perseverance of the saints

Arminians would agree with the first point and have serious disagreements about the other four, at least as Calvinists understand them.

I came across an acronym, FACTS, on an Arminian site called An Introspective of an Arminian Christian.
Freed to believe by God's grace
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ
It is attributed to Dr. Brian Abasciano

As you can see, the only agreement is on total depravity.  All Christians believe that man is not just a sinner but is in a condition of original sin.  The others tend to be opposites.

Do you know where you stand on these doctrines and why?

homo unius libri

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Opus 2011-150, Spiritual Gifts and Learning Styles

Just as science has learned the miracle of flight from studying the wings of birds designed by God and has not given Him credit, we find other areas where the secular world has caught on to things that have been revealed for centuries.  I want to look at one that is popular in education known as Learning Styles or Multiple Intelligences.

The basic idea is that people have different ways of seeing the world and understanding it.  They are intelligent in different ways.  An extreme example would be an idiot savant who can work miracles in music but can’t dress himself.  The opposite would be the Renaissance Man (or Mary Poppins) who is highly skilled in almost every area.

The application in education is that people learn in different ways so we should customize our teaching.  We all know people who never read the directions and yet can figure things out.  Others can’t do either but if you show them once they have it.  Some people do well with math but can’t read well.  This is why math and science tend to go together while English and history are interesting to the same people.  Even in mathematics the person who loves algebra will hate geometry because they appeal to different types of learning styles.

I wonder if this is just an application of the Biblical idea of spiritual gifts.  The Bible teaches that everyone is given at least one spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit.  When it comes to their area of giftedness, they are something else.  At the same time they might have a hard time understanding each other.  The clearest example of that are the gifts of knowledge and mercy.  Some people are naturally scholars and can lay it all out for you.  Others are very sensitive to people and their feelings and can really relate, but can’t explain how.  They are opposites.

As in learning styles, spiritual gifts can be taken to extremes.  Just because you don’t have one quality does not mean you don’t need some understanding of it.  For instance, just because you are a spacial learner doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn to read and write.  Or just because you have the gift of administration, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to witness.

Believers have nothing to fear from genuine science or other types of scholarship.  Much of what researchers discover we already know.  We serve the Creator.  He is the one who wrote the book.  Truth will win out in the end.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Opus 2011-149, Book Reviews: Letters and Papers from Prison

Today I finished Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison.  I will move on like I am leaving an old friend.  It has taken me a long time to get through it, not because it was boring but because I only seem to find time to read on weekends.  In addition to that it is ideally designed for devotional reading because it has many relatively short writings.

This is a book I would fully recommend.  He is writing as he is incarcerated in a Nazi prison.  It gives him a different perspective than those of us who complain about the little pricks of life.  He knew what bondage was about.  In spite of that he comes across as amazingly free and joyful.

I will probably refer back to this book from time to time.  I have taken notes as I read.  I expect to continue thinking about his ideas.  It is a book I would like to read again but at the rate I am going it may not happen in this life.

Get a copy.  Enjoy.  Be inspired by one of the Giants.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-148, The Modern Protagonist

I just put down another novel after a few chapters.  The plot line was interesting and I could tell it would be well written.  The problem was that I could not get into the story. I was too turned off by the main characters.  There was noone that I could wish success.  Let me describe them.

One was a young woman who had been to college and was now sitting at home living off her parents.  She was a regular pot smoker and it seemed to be totally casual.  Casual drug use was  assumed to be a normal part of life.  She had a history of casual sex.  She lied to her father and stole his fishing boat when he was out of town.

Another was a government agent who was supposed to be the secret agent type.  Nothing was developed to show that he was anything but an opportunist.

A third was a young scientist for a semi-government agency doing research on a trip to Mars.  He was depicted as an opportunist.  He was using secret material to advance his own personal career, material that had been illegally removed from the agency.  He made it a habit to go to bars, drink heavy and pick up some available babe for a one night stand.

Have you noticed this trend?  There is not sense of moral fiber or noble goals.  Everyone is selfish and out for themselves.  If I want that kind of cast all I need to do is talk to the people I work with.  These are the examples that people have today.  Is it any wonder that society is falling apart?  We can’t even create fiction worth emulating.

homo unius libri

Friday, May 6, 2011

Opus 2011-147, Salt or Tofu?

(Matthew 5:13 KJV)  Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

If you looked at modern Christians you might think that this verse is a mistranslation.  Everyone knows that salt is a bad thing.  It is one of the great evils of our daily diet.  It causes high blood pressure.  Every book I have read dealing with nutrition and health says, “Cut down on salt.”

Surely Jesus meant to say that we are to be the tofu of the earth.  I am not an expert on tofu because I usually only eat it when someone sneaks it into a recipe.  I have nothing against it.  It just isn’t on my radar.  My main conception of tofu is that it takes on the flavor of its surrounding ingredients.  In the KJV language, it has no “savour” to lose. 

Doesn’t that describe the modern church?  The mantra is to be “user friendly.”  We want the pagans of the world to come into our sanctuaries and feel comfortable.  We want them to feel accepted and be overwhelmed by our friendliness and concern for meeting their needs.  Have I got it right?  Does this mean that they should be free to bring their beer and boom boxes?

Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture?

The Bible does not describe the church as user friendly. 
(Romans 12:2 KJV)  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I always love Phillip’s paraphrase here.  He says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”  The world should not be comfortable on the front pew of the church, or the back pew, or the parking lot.  It should be feeling the weight of sin and the need to repent.  That is not a product of comfort.  Remember that people are convicted of sin by the work of the Holy Spirit, not by your clever interior decoration and worship style.

We are to be witnesses to a holy, eternal God, not therapists concerned about self-esteem.

homo unius libri

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Opus 2011-146, Headlines: The Late, Great Osama

The headlines are screaming it:  Osama is dead.  I noticed that the sun came up again this morning.  At least for us.

Setting aside the accuracy of the report and how reliable it is, lets move on to the question of how Christians should respond?  Someone has met a violent end.  Where do people who are followers of a Holy God understand this kind of reality show?

On one side you have the people with the gift of mercy.  They want to focus on the tragedy of a human life being taken.  They have a point.  Christianity, unlike Islam, does not endorse violence and killing as a standard fall-back position.  We are taught to turn the other cheek, love our enemies and to forgive. 

There is a verse in the Love Chapter that often pops into my mind in situations like this,
(1 Corinthians 13:6 NASB)  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
This reminds me we are not to celebrate the failures or misfortunes of others, even if deserved.  We should not have a party when sinners suffer.  Since I am spending a lot of time in Proverbs I have also noticed that this thought is not original with Paul but has been God’s eternal policy,
(Proverbs 24:17 KJV)  Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
So a block party is not in order.

At the same time we should not be unhappy that this has happened.  Turning the other cheek is a way in which we are to respond to the everyday slights we face but God does not live in an ivory tower.  Remember what Paul said,
(Romans 13:3-4 NASB)  For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
The government has the authorization of God to take the sword and go after the “one who practices evil.”  If you accept that Jesus said turn the other cheek then you must also accept that having the military hunt down a piece of murdering baggage is also okay.  If you are one of those people who believe that Osama was just misunderstood or the product of a difficult childhood then go back and take Theology 101 and read about the sinful nature.

Do we have a Biblical equivalent?  How about the death of Goliath?  He was a violent challenger of God’s people and mocker of God.  When David took down the giant you will notice that the nation of Israel did not express shock at such violence or weep for Goliath’s mother.
(1 Samuel 17:52 KJV)  And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.
I am sure the shout was one of triumph and celebration.  Then they went after the enemies of God with extreme prejudice. 

So don’t walk down the street giving high fives or dance in the parking lot.  Just have an inner satisfaction that evil is punished and sometimes we actually see it happen.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Opus 2011-145, Key Scriptures: The Love Chapter, part 4

So what is love?  I am glad you asked.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 KJV)  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love is a combination of choices, positive and negative.  On the positive side you have patience, kindness, rejoicing in truth, endurance, faith and hope.  And that is just what is listed here. 

On the negative side there are behaviors to avoid.  We should not envy, be arrogant or conceited, rude, selfish, sensitive, dirty minded or enjoying other’s pain.

The key here is the idea of conscious choice.  Love is not an emotion Biblically.  It is a way of living based on decisions.  You can choose to be patient or not.  You can choose to be kind or cruel.  When you look at the gifts of the spirit, love is not listed.  When you look at the fruit of the spirit, it heads the list.
(Galatians 5:22-23 KJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Notice that “love” is listed first.  Some have said that their should be a colon or semicolon after love.  That would follow the Love Chapter in showing how all of these things are simply expressions of love.  You will also notice that “fruit” is singular.

The fact that love is first on the list of the fruit of the spirit also reminds us that this kind of love is impossible without the grace of God working in our lives.  We can try and might even have times of success, but this kind of love is only sustainable with the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

Does it sound like something that you might want a part of?

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-144, Key Scriptures: The Love Chapter, part 3

(1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Although you may not be aware of it, what you are reading here refers to people with many sought after gifts of the spirit.  It begins with people gifted in speaking in unknown tongues and preaching.  It moves on to prophecy, wisdom and knowledge.  It concludes with faith and giving then throws in martyrdom for good measure.

The basic message is that no matter how gifted you are, if you do not “have” agape love, you might as well have nothing. 

This first part of the Love Chapter also focuses on telling us what love is not.  Sometimes that helps us to see what love is.  Our culture is so full of twisted ideas of what it calls “love” that the meaning has been totally lost.  Love is not squishy.  Love is not empathy.  Love is not irrational.

Love is required.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Opus 2011-143, Key Scriptures: The Love Chapter, part 2

Now that you have had a chance to read I Corinthians 13, let me share a few basic details.  If you are a believer who regularly attends worship, this will be simple review.

The word translated “love” is the Greek word agape.  It is one of five words in Greek that are translated love in English.  The others include the ideas of brotherly love, friendship, family love and romantic love.  This word is special.  It is an expression of the unselfish love of God.  It is a love that believers are expected to demonstrate in their lives.  It is at the center of Christian morality. 

In my opinion the Old Testament equivalent of “agape” is the Hebrew word “chesed” which is translated best, “loving kindness.”

Notice that love is not an emotion; it is a decision. 

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-142, Key Scriptures: The Love Chapter, part 1

Years ago I was working in Sequoia National Park for the summer on the maintenance crew.  I was placed by Christian Ministries in the National Parks.  I worked a regular job five and a half days a week and lead worship in the campsites on Sundays.  I was a Vietnam veteran and in my second year of seminary.  I was working and living in a sub-culture based on college students away from home for the summer.  To say the least, it was interesting.

One day we were putting a new coating of sticky black stuff on a roof and one of the guys had to show me this tremendous love note that his latest heart throb had written him.  It began, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love...” 

In case you don’t recognize that, it comes from the Bible.  It is the beginning of I Corinthians 13, which is called the “Love Chapter.”  If you are someone who has never read it that probably also means you don’t have Bible handy.  Let me reproduce it for you from the King James Version.  Remember that the word “charity” is now translated “love.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 KJV
(1)  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
(2)  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
(3)  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
(4)  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
(5)  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
(6)  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
(7)  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
(8)  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
(9)  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
(10)  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
(11)  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
(12)  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
(13)  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Read it over and enjoy the message that God is trying to get across to us.

homo unius libri

Monday, May 2, 2011

Opus 2011-141, The Worship Wars

“Contemporary” worship bores me.  It isn’t evil.  It isn’t of the devil.  It isn’t bad, it is just plain boring.  We were visiting family out of town.  One Sunday we went to a big church that has contemporary worship.  They had people jumping up and down, waving their hands, clapping and having a great time.  Most people weren’t singing, just responding to the beat.  It reminded me of a crowd after a Super Bowl victory.  In a word, choreographed, conformist, vanilla and boring.  I can watch a sports event without making a fool of myself.  I can also be the clown of the class if I want.  In church I prefer to worship.

Sometimes it is not even a difference of style.  It is a difference of quality.  I do not hate new “praise” music.  You young whipper snappers think it is new.  It isn’t.  We used to call them choruses.  In fact I had song books titled “Praise Choruses.”  Music is a bit like the parable of the sower.

Some music is dead on delivery.  No one likes it but the praise band.  Since they are in charge (and a member of the team wrote the song) they sing it anyway.  Some catches on and you enjoy it for awhile but it has no staying power.  Some is written to endure and will be with us for generations.  One category I can’t fit into the parable are those songs that you hate at first but after singing them awhile they grow on you.  Part of the worship teams job is to decide which type of song it is and repeat the ones that are of value to worship. 

I realize that there is good new music.  But there is a great library of great older music.  You know, songs that are more than a year old.  And there are a lot of great hymns that have endured for centuries.  There is a reason they have endured.  It shows a lack of leadership to only do the latest tunes at the expense of the proven.

I often wonder how much of contemporary worship is based more on ego rather than the leading of the Spirit.  Of course this criticism can be applied just as readily to traditional worship.  I have been in worship teams.  I always felt like practice was a great time of worship and I was always asking myself, will this help others, or is it just for my satisfaction.  Some songs are great for professionals but torture for poor singers.  The leaders should take this into consideration.  Just because it sounds good on a CD doesn’t mean it can be sung by a congregation.

Let the worship wars come to an end.  Sing new praise music.  Sing the old hymns.  Sing it with enthusiasm and give quality leadership.  If you do, I will not find it boring, no matter what the style.

homo unius libri

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Opus 2011-140, Discernment Watch: Opinion As Fact

I am currently working through a book called Unsolved Mysteries of History by Paul Aron.  It has a real grabber as a subtitle, “An Eye-Opening Investigation into the Most Baffling Events of All Time.”  Sounds good.  It was 50 cents on the used book table.  I thought it was a good deal, but I am finding out I was cheated.

When I got it home I looked through the Table of Contents and was surprised to find one of the chapters was “Did Jesus Die on the Cross?”  I don’t believe that there is any question about that except for certain heretics, some pagans and all Muslims.  People might not believe in the resurrection, but why question the crucifixion?  I read this chapter first and it gave me a good view of his research style.  He went through every attack on Christianity from the early Gnostics to the current Jesus Seminar.  He gave none of the historical or logical reasons to support the death and resurrection.  It was a one sided, anti-Christian hit piece.

I found the “scholarship” to be rather shallow in the rest of the book.  I continue reading to see if there is anything I can learn, but I have my doubts.

What brings me to this today is a statement he made on page 90.  He is discussing the “sign” that Joan of Arc gave to Charles to convince him to trust her.  He establishes in the first few sentences that no one knows but that does not stop him from repeating all the theories produced out of empty air and possible heads running on fumes.  The one position he totally discounts is the one with the most first person support.
“...historians are asking the same questions as Joan’s inquisitors:  Were there angels at work here?  Or devils?
    “To a historian, of course, the answer must be no.”
Why?  He quotes the most ridiculous theories and says they can’t be proven but might be true and discounts the words of the people who were there because he has chosen not to believe in the supernatural.  There is the assumption that people who believe in things science can’t measure are ignorant simpletons who don’t seem to realize that fire can make things hot.

Beware of assumptions when you read.  People come to write with limitations on their thinking.  We all do.  Filter what you read the way you would water from an unknown source.  Paul Aron comes with anti-Christian assumptions.  He seems to be willing to give some credibility to the idea of the Minotaur in the Labyrinths of ancient Crete and the magic of Merlin in King Arthur’s court but assumes that the cross was a hoax and that angels could not have spoken to Joan.

homo unius libri