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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Opus 2012-108, On the Street: Snow White Is Back

This week I noticed a poster advertising a new movie.  I think the title was “Snow White and the Huntsman.”  I watched the trailer for the movie the last time my wife dragged me into a theater.  It looked like one I might go see but not one my wife would be interested in.  I will wait until my son is in town.  This movie, from what I remember from the trailer, was a silly application of the fantasy genre.  It contains everything that I think makes fantasy a waste of time.  I remember warriors turning into flocks of birds.  What?  How about a little plot line here.

Why would I be interested in seeing a movie like this but would not want to read the book?  Because in a movie I can get into the special effects.  I call it the “Star Wars Effect.”  It is the application of cool technology that is entertaining even if it is ridiculous.  In a situation where I am ready for warp speed distraction I can suspend belief, thinking and rational expectations for things like X-wing fighters banking in a vacuum like WWI bi-planes.  In a book I need a plot and characters to support the excitement. 

The current generation doesn’t understand plots.  What they want are weird special effects whether on the screen or on the page.  They have not been taught the principles of cause and effect so they have no problem with new magic tricks that resolve the tension of a story.  Remember, this is the generation that voted for Hope and Change.

They have no sense of literature and are poverty stricken intellectually.  They can read the sentence, “Washington crossed the Delaware.”  When you ask them what he crossed you get blank stares.  If you ask why he crossed, you get blank stares.  How about if you ask, “How did the crossing of the Delaware and the following victory effect the American Revolution?”  You don’t even get blank stares.  They have already tuned out and are texting a comment to a friend about how dull the class is.

I may still go see the movie.  It provides a little escape and as long as you don’t take it too seriously does no real damage.

I hope.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Opus 2012-107, On the Street: Balancing the Budget

Recently, on my way to work, I passed a motorcycle cop who had pulled someone over and was writing a ticket.  There was nothing unusual about that.  I noticed that it was a policeman from the town I work in.  There was nothing unusual about that.  What was strange was the location of the ticket writing.  The ticket was being written in the city limits of another town on the side of the freeway heading toward the town.  There is no way that this cop had any kind of jurisdiction over how this guy had been driving.

On the same day I saw a highway patrol cop take off after someone.  He was sitting out of sight by an off ramp.  In this case there was no question of his right to enforce the law at that location. 

So what?  California is having trouble balancing its budget.  Every day we sink lower in the hole.  Instead of slowing the spending the politicians are looking for more income.  I think perhaps the word has gone out to try to balance the state budget by writing tickets.

We should always obey the law.  We should always drive with care.  Having said that, maybe this would be a good time to be extra careful.  Not only is The Man from the Government here to help you, he wants you to pay for the effort.

homo unius libri

Friday, May 25, 2012

Opus 2012-106, Immortal Quotes: Foolish Questions

I can’t remember where I first heard it.  I am sure that it was identified as a Chinese proverb, but then everything is attributed to the Chinese, Benjamin Franklin or the Bible.  The saying goes like this:
 “Any fool can ask a question that a wise man cannot answer.”
The simplest application of this is the simple, and often impossible to answer, question, “Why?”  Any parent has experienced the perpetual series of “why’s” that children can generate.  If you haven’t then I assume your children are not talking yet. 

Think about it.  How many people who would be thought to be wise can explain how an airplane stays in the air?  How many have even heard of Bernoulli’s Principle?  At school I am being asked if I know what a “cataract” is.  I can give them several definitions but none of them are the current meaning to an 8th grader who walks in ignorance and wears it with a badge of pride.

When it comes to the big questions, I don’t feel that I need to have the final answer.  Can you explain the Trinity?  What is love?  Why do people vote the way they do?  What is the purpose of life?  I have answers but I am always open to new information. 

Kids will say, “I have a question.”  They get tired of me answering, “I have an answer.”  What they really don’t like is the answer, “I don’t know.”  But it is the answer that wise men use more often than the ignorant.

homo unius libri

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Opus 2012-105, Monday Pulpit: The power of Music

Recently the Pastor was doing an innovative worship service, which I already wrote about.  In the process of his comments he said the following:
“...which music does better than preaching any day.”
I missed what preaching did better.  He was either talking about a particular point of truth or the ability to communicate in general.  I question the statement.

The Bible makes a clear statement about the role of preaching.
(Romans 10:14 KJV)  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Jesus made it clear that preaching was His most important activity.
(Luke 4:18 KJV)  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
I asked myself the question, “Does the Bible lift up music anywhere?”  My personal opinion was, “No.”  It turns out I was ignorant.  Don’t assume you know what the Bible has to say just because you have not noticed it.  I did a few simple searches on my Bible software.  I love Bible software, even when it shows me my ignorance.
I started with a search on “sing” in the KJV.  I was surprised at how many times it was used.  In its basic form it was used 119 times.  In defense of my original position, it seemed in a quick look through that the singing was toward the Lord, not to communicate truth to others.  “Singing” was used 29 times.  “Song” came up 78 times.  Okay.  I am impressed.

In looking through the verses that used “song” I came across this:
(Deuteronomy 31:22 KJV)  Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
We see that Moses was writing songs to teach the congregation.  I began to wipe the mud from my face.  Just a few verses before that I found,
(Deuteronomy 31:19 KJV)  Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
So Moses is writing the songs to bring people to conviction.

I lose.  Music is given of God as a means of communicating truth.  I don’t know if it does it better but I am afraid to look deeper.  I have been wrong enough for one day.

I hate it when that happens.  But I love to grow in my knowledge and understanding of the things of God.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Opus 2012-104, Monday Pulpit: The Innovative Service

Sunday the pastor put on an innovative service.  He had a local songwriter sing a number of his works interspersed with pastoral comments and scripture.  I had my typical reaction:  Ho, hum.  It was not a problem with them.  The pastor does a good job.  It was his idea to get the other guy to sing, not the ego of the musician.  As home grown music writers go he was above average.  The problem is in me:  I come to worship, not to experiment. 

I know that pastors have this need to be creative.  They are told that contemporary worship requires innovation.  To that I will do a little proof-texting:
(Proverbs 24:21 KJV)  My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:
For me worship involves finding ways to focus on the person and works of God in His three persons.  I want to praise, hear, grow.  I don’t want to be entertained.  I don’t want to be surprised, except by the Holy Spirit touching a spot I was covering up.

Innovation drives people away.  Have you ever been to a Brazilian Barbeque.  They are awesome places to eat.  A multitude of waiters are walking around with swords and skewered on the swords are an endless variety of meats that have been prepared in the kitchen.  They will come up to you and offer you some.  I would always ask what it was and, depending on how adventuresome I was feeling, say “yes” or “no.”   Innovative worship is like being required to eat whatever they bring around.  Most people would not come back.

Or suppose you go to a place that has a world class salad bar.  Innovative worship is like sending your tofu-and-bean-sprout, crazy uncle to the salad bar for you.  It would only require one trip to decide to do it different next time.

Or picture the church pot luck that would stand out as one of the highlights of your culinary journey.  Imagine that you were required to sample every third dish with no variation.  I might leave and head for the golden arches.

So if you are a pastor, you might want to back off on the innovation.  If you have a say in worship you might go with the recipe that makes a restaurant stand the test of time:  Great food in a pleasant environment with the innovation on the daily special list, not the only game in town.  People looking for innovation tend to come once.  People looking for good food come back if they find it.

homo unius libri

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Opus 2012-103, Tax Dollars at Work: Smokey Is Back

Or maybe he never left.  I have noticed a sudden deluge of posters with a new, upgraded Smokey the Bear, pointing at me and telling me that only I can prevent forest fires.  Got it.

My question is why do I need to know this driving down an asphalt street bordered by concrete sidewalks and businesses that have sprinkler systems?  I don’t smoke so I won’t be throwing any cigarettes out the window.  I am not homeless so I won’t be building any bonfires in the trash cans.  I am not so evil that I expect to be receiving any lightning bolts soon.  The nearest forest is miles away.

Do I really need to be reminded about forest fires in the middle of town?  And I have to pay for it.  It comes from either direct transfer of my wealth in taxes or in indirect Robin Hooding by giving tax deductions to people who follow the bidding of government officials.

Just another little way in which we could move toward smaller government, eliminate the deficit and lower our tax bills.

Vote the suckers out.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Opus 2012-102, Christian Cliches: The Writing on the Wall

You may have heard someone talking about reading the handwriting on the wall.  You may not be aware that this is from the Bible.  Here is the key verse.
(Daniel 5:5 KJV)  In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
Belshazzar was king of the Chaldeans and was having a party in Babylon.  In the process he was mocking the God of Israel.  Suddenly a hand appeared and wrote on the wall.  When the writing was interpreted it spelled out his doom.

The way this is used seems to tell people to look at what it clear before them.  Usually it is inferred that the news is bad.  That is the current usage but, like many teachings taken from the Bible, it is not true to what actually happened. 

If you go and read chapter 5 in Daniel you find that the king could not read the writing.  He called his wise men and they could not read the writing.  It was there in plain sight, but they could not understand the message.  Finally someone mentioned Daniel, he was summoned and he translated it. 

This is much more typical of where we are today.  The writing on the wall is clear.  Society is in decay.  Government is becoming a tyranny.  Education is becoming a joke.  The church is becoming irrelevant.  Marriage is becoming a game.  What does it all mean?  Much of the world sees the writing and instead of calling a man of God, a Daniel, they turn to their own wise men who consult their psychology texts and sociological gurus and ultimately don’t have a clue.

The church has the ability to read the writing but they are ducking and bobbing to avoid being put on the spot.  The problem is in the heart of men and women.  It is sin.  The theological terms are original sin and depravity.  The Biblical terms are the flesh, the old man, and of course, sin.  That is sin as a condition, not as an action.  Even the world will admit that there are things that could be categorized as “sin” but they deny the evil in the hearts of men.

The writing is on the wall and the news is not good.  To find a solution you need to recognize the problem  It will not be made clear by the ignorant intellectuals who reject truth.  It is time for the people of God to step up to the plate and speak truth.  In Belshazzar’s time the translation came too late. 

We had better not wait too long.

homo unius libri

Friday, May 18, 2012

Opus 2012-101, Tax Dollars at Work: A Worthy Cause

Yesterday our absent minded administrator struck again.  I was in the middle of a lesson and a young man walked into my room with an armful of large brown envelopes stuffed with stapled papers.  In a very polite way I asked, “Who the bleep are you and what the bleep are you doing in my room?”  He apologize and told me that a long time ago our district had accepted some federal money for some nifty program and it was time to pay the piper.  He had a survey to give the students and wondered if this was a good time.  He confessed that this had been scheduled but it seems that our leaders forgot about it, let alone told us.  It was another example of the situations in which we hear that phrase, “Let’s all be professional and work as a team.  Remember we are in this together.”  To be translated, “I have screwed up again and it is your job to bail me out while we all act like this is how it was supposed to go.”

He passed out the surveys.  The students answered them.  I collected them.  He came back for them.  I never did get the class back on track.

Later in the day as I was working on my conference period I was hunted down by the secretary for the administrator and asked to go to a “brief” meeting.  They wanted to interview some teachers about the program that the survey was about.  I was sent to a room that already had a meeting going on.  We finally found a place to go.  Four teachers showed up.  Two interviewers were there.  This is what was going on:

About two years ago our district received $3,000,000.00 in a Federal Grant (Tax dollars for those who are not paying attention).  The money was to be used by six schools.  (For those who went to public schools that comes to $500,000.00 per school.)  Two people were hired to work with the students who were truant in attendance and tardies.  The one who was labeled “full time” was at our school two days a week.  They were supposed to work with these kids on their attendance issues and it was supposed to change their lives. 

We were asked if we felt like it had made any difference.  I pointed out that all the data was in the computer system and could be evaluated objectively.  They ignored me.  They did not want to know if it had made a difference, they wanted to know how we felt.

Did you get the numbers?  $3,000,000.00 of your tax money to hire two people to interview kids about why they were cutting class.  Over two years that breaks down to $250,000 a year per school for two part time people.  Not bad money if you can get it. 

I just want to thank you for your contribution to the cause.  Every dime of it came out of your pocket.

Vote the suckers out.

homo unius libri

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Opus 2012-100, Pentecost Changes Perspective

Pentecost is coming May 27, 2012.  We are between it and Easter.  Pentecost is the day the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit described in Acts 2.  Before that day God’s Spirit was available for selected individuals.  After that day He was available for all believers. 

Picture the difference in point of view.  At the Resurrection the women were met by the angel who said, “He is not here.  He is risen.”  That was true and complete statement for that day, but now we have something better.  Because of Pentecost we would now say, “He is here.  He is risen.” 

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost fulfilled a promise of Jesus.  Because of that He is where we are.  He is here in the church.  He is here in our hearts.  He is here.  It doesn’t invalidate any of what was said then but it makes it more complete.

Think about it.  Seek the fullness of the Spirit.  Rejoice.

He is risen!

homo unius libri

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Opus 2012-99,  On the Street:  Crosswalk Insights

Recently as was waiting to turn left in front of my school, I observed a Latina and her three children crossing the street.  They were strolling like they had not a care in the world.  It was a happy picture of a mother, surrounded by her brood as she shepherded them to their days.  Little things like this make me grateful I live in America.

She was a Latina.  I have no clue as to what country she or her ancestors were from.  It did not matter, she was in the United States and she was walking without fear.  I don’t think that would have happened in Mexico, or Nicaragua or ___________.  You fill in the blank of a Spanish speaking country.  We have our problems but they are mild and gentle compared to what it is like to live other places.

Think about it.  Think about the things they were not worried about, things that are every day occurrences in other countries.  They were not worried about:

    being run down
    being shot
    being arrested
    being kidnapped
    being ______________

At the speed they were moving, they were not even worried about being late for school.

This is the USA.  Things happen, but they are not the norm like they are where these people come from.  Rejoice that you were born here.  Rejoice in the heritage we have.  Assume that these people are legal.  They are welcome to enjoy the fruit and add the nutrients they bring to the soil of liberty.  If they are illegal, that just speaks well of the culture we have.  The world wants to come here.

We are blessed.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Opus 2012-98, New Terms: Idiot, Imbecile, Moron

Have you ever called anyone an idiot?  We have a lot of labels for people who seem to lack a direct connection to the mental internet.  They seem to be running on wireless during a power outage.  You know the type.  I thought maybe you should know what accusation you are actually making.

Idiots are the lowest level.  They have an I.Q. of 0-25.  Next you have imbeciles at 26-50 and morons at 51-70.  I think that above 70 is considered in the normal range. 

Some words are totally relative.  Retarded simply means slow or turned backward.  Ignorant does not mean stupid, it means uninformed.  Space cadet can mean anything you want it to mean.

Currently I don’t know of any commonly accepted understanding for the words, liberal, administrator, lawyer, blogger, or politician.  Remember that Wikipedia can be edited by the contributors. 

homo unius libri

Friday, May 11, 2012

Opus 2012-97,  Should-a-Beens:  Obama Confession

There is another headlines I would like to see.  I don’t expect to see it but it would go like this:
    Obama confesses he is not all that smart
There are two reasons I won’t see it.  First, he would never admit it.

Second, the press would never print it if he did admit it.  One of the articles of faith of the Progressive Church of Humanity is that Barak Obama is very smart.  It goes right along with __________ is stupid.  You may fill in the blank with any person of conservative opinion with special attention to women and minorities.

In a perfect world....  But we don’t have a perfect world.  At present we have a Progressive world.  Remember that our clocks are right two times a day.

homo unius libri

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Opus 2012-96, On the Street: Does It Have Blue Lights?

I saw him coming up behind me.  I wasn’t really worried because I was well below the speed limit, all my lights were working, I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t on my cell phone.  He had a white helmet, a black uniform and a distinctive motorcycle.  It was obvious that everyone saw the cop coming up behind us.  As he roared past he looked the part but I noticed something:  His motorcycle did not have blue lights on the back.

I was out of state.  I don’t know the rules in other places.  In the People’s Republik of Kalifornia the police motorcycles have blue lights on the back so you can identify them.  I thought that was universal.  Maybe not.  Was he a policeman, an imposter or a wannabe?

For me at that time it did not matter.  At another time it might.

Think of the people you come into on a daily basis.  How many of them see themselves in a role?  Some think of themselves as caring and sensitive.  They have the expressions and phrases to prove it. 

Think of the people that have influence.  We listen to campaign speeches.  We listen to experts in education and science.  Are they for real or are they just tooting their own horns?  They have certificates on the wall and offices that show they are important.

Think of yourself.  What kind of facades do you have in your own life?  Do you try to fool people into thinking you are what you are not?  Do you drive a car you can’t really afford?  Do you wear design labels to impress?  Are you a name dropper?

This morning I had a conversation with a man about the need for character education in our schools.  I told him that character education for the students needed to start at the top, the superintendent of schools.  It needed to then move to school administrators and teachers.  I can’t really teach someone to play the piano if I can’t play the piano.  I may explain it and teach the theory but until they see it done, time is wasted.

Society has problems.  They will not be solved unless we start with ourselves.

homo unius libri

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Opus 2012-95, On the Street: What Is Your Favorite Book?

I was checking out of the library recently and they had a PR sign up saying, “What is your favorite book?”  They had a wed site which I assume I could go to and enter-to-win. 

What is my favorite book?  Asking me to decide on my favorite book is like asking which bite in a meal was my favorite.  I have a corner lined with books.  I have a house full of books.  I have a life saturated with books.  I have a couple of shelves of books waiting to be read.  I have a list of books I hope to find in the library or a used book sale.  I have a shelf of books I want to read again.

What is my favorite book?  The easy and obvious answer is the Bible.  That is one of those answers that is so simple it is not the answer they are asking for.  After that, what would I choose?  This is on the level of being asked which is your favorite child or having your wife ask you, “If you had it to do over again, would you marry me?”

So, what is my favorite book?  The answer is, “Yes!  Now get out of my light.  Can’t you see I am trying to read here?”

homo unius libri

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Opus 2012-94, Who Are the Orthodox?

I constantly deal with a point of confusion in my students.  One of the questions that gets asked is “Are you Catholic or Christian?”  My standard reply is “Catholics are Christian.”  What they really are asking is “Are you Catholic or born-again Protestant?” 

Christianity has many branches.  There are certain beliefs that tie all of us together regardless of the name on the sign.  There are certain lack of beliefs that will keep some out of heaven no matter what it says on the sign. 

Most of us are familiar with the many denominations of the Protestant world:  Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.  We are aware of the Roman Catholic church.  A growing part of the mix in the United States is a group that falls under the generic label of Orthodox.  Often they have a nationalistic adjective in front of the title, such as Greek Orthodox or Armenian Orthodox.

Who are these Orthodox?

A little church history is in order.  The Christian church emerged and grew as a pariah in the Roman Empire.  Christians were fair game.  They had no rights and were persecuted in various ways, but the church grew anyway.  That changed in 313 when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity legal.  As the churches came out of the closet and began to include increasing numbers of people who had not risked their lives to believe, politics and cultural influences had a growing influence in the church.  As the Eastern Roman Empire began to differ from the Western Roman Empire the local churches went along.  The Eastern Church became more Greek, the Western Church more Latin.

At the birth of Mohammed, 670, there were a number of cities that boasted a strong Christian presence.  Rome was one.  It was also the traditional center of the Roman Empire which gave it extra prestige.  Roman Catholics seem to believe that it was always the center of the church but the Bishop of Rome was really one of several influential Bishops.  Others were found in cities like Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria.  Islam began to change the map in 630 when Mohammed conquered Mecca and the armies of Islam began to spread the faith.  The areas overwhelmed first contained some of the strongest Christian centers.  This decimated the churches.  Consider this:
“The author talks about how tolerant the early Muslims were but gives facts that contradict:  About Algeria and Tunisia, ‘In the sixth century, some five hundred bishops operated in this region; by the eighth century, it was hard to find any.’  What happened in the 7th century?  The Muslim conquest.”  (Jenkins, Philip.  The Lost History of Christianity, New York:  Harper One, 2008, p. 34)
One by one the Christian centers were eliminated until only Rome and Constantinople remained.  They both claimed to be the one true church.  In 1054 the leaders of the two branches, the Orthodox Patriarch and the Roman Catholic Pope, excommunicated each other.  They have been separated ever since.  They are in constant talks but so far nothing has come of it.  In 1453 the Muslims conquered Constantinople and the Pope was the last man standing.

The Orthodox have survived but the last hundred years have seen an increase in these Christians fleeing Muslim countries because of increased persecution.  Christians are fair game in countries from Egypt to Indonesia. 

So embrace them as part of the family of God.  They have some differences but they are with us on the basics.  If Baptists and Wesleyans can get along, so can the Orthodox.

While you are at it, work on the Baptists and the Wesleyans getting along.  Set a good example.

homo unius libri