Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Music of the Bible revealed

An interesting 1986 "discovery" ...

Friday, November 21, 2008

UMM have snazzy new web site

UMM home page

The old look and slow speed of the United Methodist Men's web site is a thing of the past. Praise the Lord! The new UMM site has a greatly improved look, sort of mimics the UMC redesign, and is faster.

Some remaining problems:

  • A web editor should never let text exceed the "allowed space" (as in the "Nashville news anchor to produce video for 10th National Gathering" text). That's just plain sloppy.
  • The web addresses (URLs) contain "gobbdegook" code as part of the address. That's common when a web is based on a database and the web administration team fails to make the system display words, not garbage code in the URLs. To me that shows a lack of focus on visitors and a lack of either expertise or lack of caring by the web administrators.

Overall, though, the UMM web site design changes are a significant improvement.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Herod's tomb

Scene from Herod's Lost Tomb on National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel will be showing "Herod's Lost Tomb" Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 9pm. So here are some links related to Herod's tomb:

Monday, October 13, 2008

In the news

Below are a few links related to care for God's earth (one part of Christian Stewardship). What have you done for God's world this week?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An incentive for Bible reading

Have you tried reading through the Bible but failed to read consistently? If so, Logos may have a helpful tool for you.

The Logos Global Bible Reader (GBR) software (now in beta) lets you pick a Bible reading schedule. When you open the program, you see Bible passages. You login to the reader, read the displayed passages, and then click on "Done Reading" when you finish.

The incentive part of the process is that you are part of a world-wide Bible reading community. Logging on via a free account at Logos, the Global Bible Reading program shows your general location on the globe with a red dot. When you select "Done Reading", your dot changes to green.

The program never identifies you by name, but just seeing red dots changing to green helps motivate you to "go green" by reading the Bible passages.

The program also fosters a sense of community by letting you post a comment about a passage and to read comments from other readers worldwide.

If this sounds interesting to you, surf on over to Logos, create a login account, and download the Global Bible Reader software.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Do we truly follow Christ?

Are we ont he right path?

Sometimes it seems that United Methodists are not truly united. Not that we all need to be of one mind on all issues, but it often seems that we deliberately strive for unloving discord.

Most often the strife is about either social and environmental issues or else spreading the Gospel. It need not and should not be an "either-or" proposition. It needs to be a "both-and" one. We need to bring the light of Christ into a world of darkness. But we also need to realize that a strong faith and truly following Christ expresses itself through Godly actions. That certainly includes social and environmental actions.

People who truly follow Christ consider themselves caretakers of God's earth. They wouldn't dream of spoiling God's wonderful planet, harming his people, or ignoring the plight of his plants and animals. True followers of Christ would not ignore mistreatment of any of God's children. They would also prefer to use their own riches to help others rather than to add more "bling" to their possessions.

Those who truly follow Christ have an "attitude of gratitude" that shows in their everyday actions, their generous giving, their love for all God's creatures, and in their love of others who are not like them.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Military "Biblestick"

The Military Ministry part of the Faith Comes By Hearing organization has a "Military Biblestick" program. The item is small and looks like a USB flash drive (a.k.a. jump stick). Military Chaplains can request the device to give out to their flock.

About the size of a pack of gum, the Military Biblestick is a portable digital audio player that FCBH pre-loads with the New Testament. A small set of ear plugs completes the package.

Since it's designed for members of the military, the Biblestick has a non-reflective matte black finish and uses only red light for operation.

Donations provide funding for these special Bible audio players for our military. For more details, see the Faith Comes By Hearing site.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Audio Bibles online

BibleGateway, part of the Gospel Communications family of sites, keeps expanding its Bible Study tools and Resources. It now offers audio versions of the Bible. Current English language versions are the CEV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, and TNIV. Currently the CEV is only available for New Testament readings.

For most Bibles, you can choose between a Flash Player or the Real Audio Player. I prefer the Flash Player, as it's a bit faster to start.

You may want to try listening to the Contemporary English Version (CEV) for New Testament passages. The CEV was specifically translated with a focus on being easy to understand in modern English when hearing it read. It's not a literal translation and it is more thought-for-thought than the NIV or NRSV, but it's a translation, not a paraphrase.

A Spanish Bible and Spanish audio are also available.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tradition though a telescope

An odd thing happened while I was doing some Bible Study online ... I suddenly began thinking about the tug between "traditional" worship services and "modern" ones ... between "traditional" music and "modern" in worship. I deliberately use "modern" instead of "contemporary" or similar that currently carries more connotation baggage.

In my experience, some people (clergy and laity alike) link "traditional" worship with "authentic" worship, as if any style of worship other than what they personally prefer is false worship -- not "authentic". Some carry it even further by decrying any use in a worship service of music that's considered gospel style, inspirational, or praise. They insist that "people want" the traditional hymns and service, not the "contemporary" ones. Is that true or are they projecting their personal desires onto "facts" and perhaps even selectively touting research into the area?

Perhaps we would all do well to step back a bit, peer down through the ages and take a long, unemotional look at the work of John Wesley. Wesley was considered a rebel in his day and he didn't make the Anglican Church of England very happy at all. He was concerned not only with feeding people the gospel but in feeding their bodies as well -- a primary regard for the welfare of others. Charles Wesley created tons of new music -- the Wesleys didn't just insist on music of their "good old days" during worship.

What would Wesley think of those who today insist that we must continue singing "old" religious songs merely because they are "traditional" and sung centuries ago? Would he not applaud those who create new religious music to touch the hearts of today's people? If "modern" music and worship services offer some light to people in a world of darkness, would Wesley not consider a good thing?

Like many businesses that stagnate, some current church leaders and clergy prefer to conduct worship "like we always have". We would do well to consider the words of the famous comedian Will Rogers who said, "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

So let us move forward in worship, not backward and not standing still, doing worship "like we always have." Remember, charges were brought against John Wesley for his "unusual liturgical experiments".

Something tells me that Wesley would wholeheartedly approve of using "new" inspirational religious music and even experiments in worship in order to better reach those who so desperately need to know Jesus or to know him better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Religious Beliefs interactive

"USA Today" has a neat interactive summary of some Pew Forum research data about religious beliefs in the United States as well as a "Topography of Faith" section. Both use Flash.

You can select one variable and then sort the bar chart of results based on that variable. It's a great way to squeeze out visual patterns from the data.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ten mistakes of worship leaders

Rex Miller, author of the Millennium Matrix, posted several articles about mistakes that worship leaders make. They contain much food for thought.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Christian magazines online

If you have not read an online magazine listed below, give it a try. Some are new and some are ones never linked here before.

  • CCM. Christ, Community, Music. Modern christian music. Includes audio and video.
  • Christian Computing magazine
  • The Christian Pulse. "The place where cutting-edge faith meets the global community, without shame and without reservation. Take Action, Get Involved, Share Life, Be A Light..."
  • Christianity today online
  • Christian Women Online
  • Christian Women Today
  • Collide."Where media and the church converge"
  • Grace Centered
  • Guide. A story magazine for kids.
  • Guideposts. The familiar magazine with inspiring stories of inspiring people.
    The web site logo shows as "Beta" but the magazine is colorful and links work.
  • Heartlight
  • Lookout
  • New Man
  • Plugged in Online. From the Focus on the Family folks.
  • Precipice. For and about the emerging church.
  • PRISM. By Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA)
  • Relevant
  • Sojourners. Faith, politics, and culture. Winner of 22 awards.
  • TheOOZE. The desire of TheOOZE is to create environments where church leaders (traditional teachers/theologians as well as emerging storytellers/artists) can converse about and collaborate on resources and experiences for the broader faith community. This is done by providing places for people to gather and communicate both online and offline about how to be the story of Christ to our emerging culture."
  • Virtual Christian. By the United Church of Christ (UCC) .

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Millenium Matrix

The book "Millennium Matrix" has an online site with a timeline of changes in communications:

  • Oral
  • Print
  • Broadcast
  • Digital

The Oral timeline page states, "Jesus lived and spoke in an era so profoundly different than ours that we can miss the full meaning of his teachings. ... His world was not our world."

Though the book is primarily about communications and culture by the futurist author, it includes references to religion. That's normal for a person who graduated with a degree in theology and communication and has been a lay preacher. He also mentions God on the Broadcast page for example.

But perhaps tellingly, on the Digital communications page, when I searched for "God" or "Jesus", I got "Not found".

The book does seem like it might be fertile ground for religious group discussion, Sunday School classes included.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Wireless devices may affect church sound system

Oh, great -- one step forward, two back. The FCC plans to open up frequencies now in the analog TV range to any wireless device once all TV stations have to transmit digital signals in 2009.

The problem is that devices such as church wireless microphones now use the frequencies "in between" the analog TV ones. These are called the "White Spaces". Once the whole frequency range is open to all wireless devices, cell phones, Blackberries, and more could wreck havoc during church services. The Shure Pro Audio site linked above has more information on the matter.

Some in Congress want to speed up opening these white spaces; others want testing on interference done and protection in place before opening up the frequencies. For example, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), an ordained Baptist minister, introduced a bill, "Interference Protection for Existing Television Band Devices Act of 2007".

Read more about The Dark Side of White Spaces and decide if you need to contact your members of Congress.