Thursday, December 01, 2011

Quote of note

Always keep your words soft and sweet ...

just in case you have to eat them.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Quote of note

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot."

- Michael Althsuler

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Quote of note

"The highest reward for a person’s work is not what they get for it, but what they become because of it."

-- John Ruskin

Friday, September 02, 2011

Quote of note

“To be a superpower is to be the champion of peace, freedom, and democracy, of human rights, environmental quality, and the alleviation of suffering.”
-- President Jimmy Carter, PBS Newshour Interview, 19 Novemeber 1996.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Open thoughts

An upcoming sermon is about Christians acting with openness. Recent sermons have dealt with boldness and generosity. Below are a few "open thoughts" about openness.

Are you:
  • Boldly open to new ideas?
  • Open to the Holy Spirit?
  • Open to constructive comments?
  • Open to people not like you?
  • Boldly open to a different style of worship?
  • Open in a way that lets others "in" to know you better?
  • Open to forgiving others?
  • Open to not getting your way?
  • Open to focusing on helping others -- open to generously giving of your time, talent, and money when you have more than they do?
  • Open to letting others help you in your time of need?
  • Open to changing your mind?
  • Open to being a true servant leader?
  • Open to discovering new talents? (You have to try something new to discover a new talent).
  • Open to asking forgiveness when it's appropriate?
We may think we are "open" in many of the above ways, but would our friends, coworkers, and strangers agree?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Shopping for a church

In "Church Shopping: Why Do We Do It?", blogger Jamie Lath lists a few reasons:
  • Fewer people are tied to a denomination.
  • More people are looking for a sense of community -- a place to feel at home.
  • There are more church choices today.
  • We fail to first go to God for direction.
A church friend told a business acquaintance and I that he and his wife were changing to a different church. The other guy said, "Wow! What did they do to make you change churches?" He was thunderstruck at the action. That was the way it used to be. Today, if we get upset at someone in a church, don't think a preacher's sermons will be YouTube hits, or decide that we want to be on a better church sports team, zoom -- off we go to a different church to fill our "needs".

We don't want to help establish or even improve a children's ministry at a church, we want it all provided already. We want a concert every Sunday -- with music that fills our exact preferences. We want to be handed a multimedia extravaganza week-after-week. We want to be fed a perfect sermon every Sunday, but we hesitate to spend any time to "feed ourselves" though personal and group Bible study. We don't care as much about a church's theology; it's more important that we"feel good" about being there.

Jamie's last point may be the most important. It seems that many shop for churches because they are not looking upward (going to God about their choice) or looking inward (examining our motives) or looking outward (how their spiritual life might improve by focusing on and helping others) but rather about their personal wants without regard to any of that.

Our modern society has changed quite a lot in the last 50 years. Is it much of a stretch to think that these changes have had an impact on church selection and even church attendance?
  • Families live further apart thanks to ease of transportation. Some rarely see each other. Some rarely talk to each other.
  • Mobility of the workforce means more changes of location due to job changes.
  • Two-parent families are declining.
  • More kids are left on their own at a much younger age due to working parents.
  • We may not even know the people who live next door.
  • Computers, which were supposed to give us more free time, have really just added stress -- we can get more work done in the same period. We work faster and as hard or harder. Computers have added stress to the workplace.
  • We multitask more and think we are being more efficient. Yet studies show that multitasking actually reduces efficiency.
  • The explosion of use of the Internet has resulted in a lot more communication, but in a much less personal fashion and with a drastic increase in trivial communication.
  • We tend to fill our days, adding stress upon stress. Many people feel bad if they are not always busy.
Easier, faster transportation has "freed" us to travel wider in attending a church. We can no longer assume that someone will attend the nearest church of "their" denomination. Parents can no longer assume that their children will be the same denomination or even religion as they are.

Another issue is denominational identity. With the glut of types of churches, it's sometimes hard to see how they differ.

There is also significantly less relating to people face-to-face today (... no, Skype or Facetime don't really count as "in person" communication). An online "friend" may be someone we have never met, don't really know, and have no deep personal relationship with. We don't even know for sure the gender or age of most people we "meet" online (as some teenagers find out the hard way). Perhaps this lack of personal contact is part of what leads some people to prioritize community in selecting a church.

Our hectic lives remind me of a fire ant mound that someone has just stepped on -- swarming all over the place in a seeming random pattern. So we get home and collapse -- grab a meal and become a couch potato to try, often in vain, to relieve the day's stress. Many may lack the energy to delve into Bible study or church work of any sort.

We work hard to feed ourselves food, but we fail to put as much effort into feeding our souls. Jamie Lath suggests that we need to become less hedonistic in selecting and supporting a church. The result could be great soul food. That's food for thought!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Quote of note

"The emptiest lives are those stuffed with motion from morning to night,"

-- pastor David Henderson

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Don't repeat wrong 'facts'

We may fall into a trap of "assuming" that what someone claims is factual really is a fact -- that is, completely true. That's how we get led astray and repeat bad information.

Below are a few "facts" that many believe to be true yet are not (I've repeated a few of these errors myself). These come from an article at Ministry Matters.
  • Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute
  • John Wesley never said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
  • John Wesley never said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."
  • Gehenna was not a garbage dump.
So what can we do? Don't automatically "assume" that because a person you like or trust makes a claim that it's really true. Be willing to check out "facts" before you repeat them.

With another election season coming up this fall, that trait will stand you in good stead. It seems that many politicians hope we will just trust what they claim and repeat it as fact. The result can be voting against our own best interests. Check out the facts from reliable sources. Repeat only truths.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Religion led to cities?

Did the urge to worship together spark civilization? The June 2001 National Geographic magazine has an interesting article on "The Birth of Religion".

The author says we used to think that increased agriculture moved humans from a nomadic society to one using cities. An archaeological dig in Turkey makes those assumptions suspect, though.

The dig's implications lead him to conclude that wonder at the changes in the natural world led to religion. The earth's warming after the last ice age led to this wonder. The author suggests that gathering together for worship created a need for food. This in turn led to increased farming and cities.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Quote of note

“When we advertise the gospel in terms of the world’s values, we lie to people. We lie to them, because this is a new life. It involves following Jesus. It involves the Cross. It involves death, . . . We give up our lives.”

-- Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, expressing concern about using the language of our culture to interpret the Gospel.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Babies born helpful

Are we born helpful by nature? Could altruism bebuilt into our genes? Why do we seem to lose that focus as we age?

Digging through some old web links I had collected, I came across one to an article about research indicating that babies are naturally helpful.

Children can also be selfish, but Dr. Michael Tomasello says that we can encourage the almost reflexive behavior to help others. How? By inductive parenting -- telling children about the effect of their actions on others and stressing the logic of cooperating with others.

Don't you wish that more politicians had received good inductive parenting?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Constitution writers were Christians

An interesting factoid, derived from a posting by Bill Federer in "The Moral LIberal" blog. The religious composition of the 55 writers of the U.S. Constitution was:
  • 26 Episcopalians
  • 11 Presbyterians
  • 7 Congregationalists
  • 2 Lutherans
  • 2 Dutch Reformed Christians
  • 2 Methodists
  • 2 Quakers
  • 2 Roman Catholics
  • 1 Deist Christian – Dr. Franklin, who called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bad religion causes lost faith

Up to his death Darwin insisted that the Christian faith and evolution were compatible. It was bad religion that caused Darwin to lose his faith says Rev. Martin Thielen, a United Methodist writing in The Tennessean newspaper.

And, says Thielen, there's a lot of bad religion causing people today to lose their faith.
"... closed-minded religion, arrogant religion, intolerant religion and judgmental religion. You can add to that list religion that tells women they are inferior to men and religion that says science is the enemy of faith."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Violence grows in Sudan

Samaritan's Purse reports that fighting has increased along the border of North and South Sudan. This is happening just before the July 9th date for independence of South Sudan. Meanwhile, the people living in the Nuba mountains are caught in the crossfire.

Among targets in the attacks were two churches in the south -- ones that Samaritan's Purse had built. A church partner has said,
"...we have lost everything of the church. The house where my staff lives was looted, and the offices were burned. Many people fled from town, but some stayed. There is no food or water now for them. There are only soldiers all over the streets. We need prayers and support.
Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham urges Christians to pry for our brothers and sisters in Sudan.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Black history is American History

The status of Black Americans has improved over the years, but prejudice against them in both word and deed is still around -- just more hidden. An article at the Black Voices web site states that Black History Month is still relevant, but then adds "for now".  There is disappointment yet hope in that statement.

The article mentions the comment of Rochelle Riley, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, "Having a special time to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to American history is wonderful, but when it is used as a substitute for teaching black history to all students all year round, we are stunting the educational growth of students of all colors and backgrounds."

Black History is an integral part of American History. But until history books and teachers include Black Americans in schools, we need Black History Month to help remind more people about the wonderful contributions of Black americans.