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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Randoms

The Gospel is more than a key that opens the front door.

A pastor reflects on why he does not answer the back door.

How are those resolutions going (now that we are at the end of January)? Here are "6 Ways to Make Your Resolutions Last Past January."

What time is it in Antarctica?

A tribute to sound engineers everywhere.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Overcoming Leadership Hesitation

Continuing my personal study of the life of Moses, I came across that famous moment of hesitation when he asks God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and that I would bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Interesting question.

First, the question sounds philosophical, “Who am I?” Moses is an older man now, so is he really wrestling with identity? Is this mid-life crises? Perhaps there may be some allowance for this, and it may be permissible if it were not an excuse to obey God. You know, “Ok God, I worship you and all, but if you really want me to do something, I’ll be over here trying to figure out who I am.” God does not play the “I AM” game because He knows who you are and that’s enough for Him. Since He is the great “I AM,” who do you think you have to be to obey Him?

The only way to answer what seems like a philosophical problem is to return to the creator who says to the one He calls, “you are not alone.”

Second, the phrase, “who am I” is connected to two other thoughts: “Who am I to go to Pharaoh,” and “who am I to lead my people?” Well, who do you have to be to stand before anyone, great or otherwise? You have to be a God-present person. People are not devoid of understanding.

See, Pharaoh and the Egyptians apparently have an idea of who God is and God put that idea before them. Notice Exodus 3:18 where God tells Moses to use specific words about Him when addressing the Egyptians. When we go into all the world, we move among people who have an idea of who God is. Dignitaries are small in the presence of the King of Kings (Note Psalm 2).

Notice also Exodus 3:15 where God tells Moses to use specific words concerning Himself to the religious crowd. They, too, have an idea of who God is. The goal is to get these people connected to the promises He has made.

Both these answers are enough for Moses to change culture. This is enough for us. If we have been reconciled to God in Christ Jesus and are filled with His Spirit, who we are is God-indwelled people with His power. Of whom shall we be afraid?

So here’s another question leaders ask when hesitating: “what if they don’t believe me or listen to what I say?” (Exodus 4:1). The problem is with those who fail to believe God, starting with the leader. What is the real cause of hesitation? Do you believe God when He says He is with you? Do you believe God when He says He empowers you? Do you believe the message He has given you to speak? Moses is on the precipice of failing to believe God.

If people don’t like what you have to say, it is because people fail to believe God. If they don’t listen, the problem is that people won’t listen to God. How often folks can be heard saying, “I believe in God, but . . .” These are the people we get to lead: people who believe God and those who think they do. We can’t lead those who outright don’t believe.

God equips Moses with three tools to overcome hesitation:

1. (3:12). God promises His very presence. Do you believe Him?
2. (4:1-9) God makes miracles happen. The evidence is in those who believe Him.
3. (4:10-17) God challenges our preconceptions of Him so we can live by faith.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Be Intolerant

Stumbled across this book and just had to read it. “Be Intolerant Because Some Things Are Just Stupid” by Ryan Dobson is an older book (Multnomah, 2003) that can be read in one sitting, but the premise is worth a lifetime of consideration.

It’s up to you.

This is actually a simple definition of moral relativism, a worldview that, when taken to its logical conclusion, is actually quite illogical and self-defeating. Moral relativism mixes well with nothing. Many don’t like to use the term “moral relativism” but can be heard to refer to “tolerance,” which is “the virtue of those who believe nothing.” (p. 36).

The first chapter identifies the problem raging at epidemic proportions, making the point that “tolerance” is a TUMOR and should be addressed, even removed as if with radical surgery. The TUMOR looks like this: we live in a culture where good feelings rule, so do what you want as long as nobody gets hurt; however, whatever you do, be untraditional even if it means someone gets offended. You are the victim and you are not the problem nor are you part of the problem (just leave the smallest footprint on Mother Earth before you leave). Do what feels right and you will be rewarded.

The second chapter identifies five areas of the TUMOR, suggesting ways to remove the problem, starting by demonstrating how “moral relativism does not work. It’s a broken system, a bankrupt philosophy, a worldview at war with itself” (p. 35). Chapter 3 seeks to answer the question, “Why do people believe it?”

Chapters 4 and 5 present the logical alternative to the black, goopy, quivering gelatinous mass of moral relativism, now that is lies exposed. Dobson makes the case for Biblical Christianity starting from the viewpoint of tolerance practitioners then a brief discussion of three absolute truths. Chapter 5 lays out the singular strategy of the necessity of practicing the kind of  intolerance that takes people seriously.

This easy, quick read is excellent for followers of Christ about to enter College. Dobson’s book should also be required reading for anyone with the desire to impact culture or desiring to have more evangelism tools.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tu B'shevat: Happy New Year, Trees!

Celebrate, Ents everywhere!

You know how it is--you just get all settled in, snug under the covers, sound asleep then the next thing you know, the alarm clock goes off. Just five more minutes. Just five more minutes. Just five more minutes, etc. The past few weeks have been unseasonably warm here and I can’t help but wonder if the trees have been thinking, “Really? Already? Just five more weeks.” Trees don’t have snooze alarms. Or do they . . .  ?

Today marks the new year for trees, so if Ents celebrate, they do it slowly today. Actually, Tu B’shevat is the Jewish observance of this kind of new year, recognizing that trees begin waking from their winter naps and start blooming for fruit-bearing. Produce growers in the Holy Land separate out tithes from everything grown and the day is observed by eating fruit, specifically of the “seven kinds” described in the Torah (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates).

Four thoughts and one question from God's unchanging Word concerning trees: 


  1. God originally intended that man be nourished from the fruit of the ground and of trees (Genesis 2:9);
  2. Man’s relationship with God was broken after deceived man disobeyed God by eating from the one tree disallowed by God among all those that were available (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-7);
  3. When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you?” (Deuteronomy 20:19) What is the mind of God here concerning humanity? 
  4. Man’s redemption from the penalty of sin was purchased by our Lord and Savior who being nailed to a cross, dying, then rising from the dead three days later to ascend to heaven.
  5. The throne of God and the Lamb is called the Tree of Life from which flows a river and bears twelve kinds of fruit for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Student's Day" (Russia)

Today is a popular holiday in Russia (i.e., not an official public holiday) and is celebrated two different ways depending on who you ask; or more precisely, on which party you attend. This is “Student’s Day” or “St. Tatiana’s Day” and no matter how one observes the day (or with whom), the feast remembering a christian martyr is oddly coupled with a landmark in education.

Think of the day as the last day of finals exams (that is probably enough to explain the reason to party). Students in the Universities have been taking exams since the first of the year, and now they are done! Interestingly, the day falls on the birthday of the University of Moscow, so toss that into the mix. This is the largest and oldest educational center in the country, founded in 1755. The celebrations actually started as “The Day of Moscow University,” a simple acknowledgement that education was accessible to all countrymen.

Years later, the Russian Orthodox Church built the Church of Saint Tatiana on the campus and declared St. Tatiana as the patron saint of education. St. Tatiana (according to the Orthodox Church) was the daughter of a wealthy family who found spiritual matters more significant than earthly ones, so she pursued God through prayer and by helping others, including visiting the poor and the sick. Her death came by the hands of leaders who were more compromising in their spirituality, under an emperor who often vacillated between Christ, Apollo, Abraham and Orpheus.

Here’s a great place to ask a meaningful question: “so what?”

Permit me to venture toward an answer through another set of questions: What does it mean to be a human being and what kind of person do you wish to become? What do you need to learn and how are you going to do it?

First glance makes it seem as if there is really no connection between spirituality and education, but a closer look is revealing. A closer look demonstrates the very point to be made: one is bettered by education, by looking closer. One might consider St. Tatiana the model student in that she evaluated who she was, what she had, where she was and where she was headed (in every sense of the word) and found a choice to be made. She chose to pursue God and in so doing actually impacted culture in a way that mere classroom learning could not prepare. She made a university of her spirituality. Her education (if we can be so bold to call it that) drove her made decisions backed by conviction that led to action.

What kind of person would we be if we did not explore our world, including the spiritual realm?

Here I return to my questions, adding another approach: in what ways have you explored what it means to be human and what kind of person do you wish to be? What do you need to learn and how are you going to learn it?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Randoms

The insignia of the Royal New Zealand Air Force is the kiwi, a flightless bird (ht: Futility Closet). Jus' sayin'.

Israel to open museum exhibit on King Herod (ht: BiblePlaces Blog)

Oh, the math and language of scripture! It helps if you speak the language.

Work out and tone with a towel!

Just remember: I'm-a Wario! Ha-hahaha!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Solving a Corinthian-sized Leadership Problem

How do you know you are "doing it right" as a leader? One way to tell is look at other leaders, such as Paul. Have you ever wondered what happened to all those churches Paul planted? Whatever became of the churches Paul wrote, such as the Corinthian church? They had so many problems.

We read in 1 Corinthians the church: was divisive (chapters 1-4); had misunderstandings regarding Paul’s ministry (chapter 4); fornication was occurring (chapter 5); believers were suing one another in court (Chapter 6); sexual immorality was rampant (chapter 6); there were marital issues (chapter 7); questions about Christian liberty and idolatry (chapters 8-10); The Lord’s Supper was out of control (chapter 11) and finally, doctrinal mis-understandings needed clarification (chapter 12).

So what was the outcome?Whatever happened with the Corinthians church? Well, there is another letter, a 2 Corinthians. Maybe we can find out what happened since the first letter. Here we find Paul appealing to believers to forgive (chapter 2), find motivation for ministry (chapters 4-5), appeal for reconciliation and be clearly defined apart from unbelievers (chapter 6). Paul encourages them to give (chapters 8-9) then spends the next few chapters answering personal accusations and defending his apostleship.

Doesn’t sound very promising, does it? Well, the gospel ain’t called “good news” for nothin’. 


Just like planting a seed in the garden, the harvest takes time. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about 56 years after Christ; then along comes Clement, about 95 years after Christ. Clement writes in his First Epistle to the Corinthians of a church that is: firmly established faith; demonstrates sobriety and moderation in godliness in Christ; practices habitual hospitality; shows perfect and well-grounded knowledge; people acting out of respect for others, walking in the commandments of God; obeying church leadership;  humble; people who are more willing to give than receive, being content with the Lord’s provision; carefully paying attention to God’s word; insatiable in their desire to do good and thus enjoy peace; prayerful and worshipful, making sure they have a clear conscience before God first before giving mercy to others; anxious for the brotherhood and those who were not yet part of the church; sincere, uncorrupt, forgetful of past injuries, considering factions and schisms as abominable; mourning over transgressions of others, even counting the sins of others as their own; not withholding any kindness, ready for every good work; adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, doing all things in the fear of God.

How did this happen? Clement writes summarily, “The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written on the tablets of your hearts.” Overall, these Christians did not simply start living biblically. They were first changed by repentant hearts, being made new creatures infused with new Spiritual life. One key descriptor should not be missed: according to Clement they prayed, they worshipped, they kept short accounts with God and they submitted to leadership who did the same.


Who were the leaders? Nobody, really. We don’t have their names--just the evidence of how they connected with God’s purpose for mankind through redemption. The leaders had been part of that crowd Paul wrote in the first epistle, but when they submitted to God’s authority, He used them to nurture others who submitted to the authority placed on them by God. They took their eyes off themselves, placed their vision on God and saw others clearly. The signs they were "doing it right" were the people being changed all around them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grandparent's Day!

Yes, it’s Grandparent’s Day! Actually, in the United States we’ve been celebrating Grandparent’s Day since 1978--in September--but it’s not September, is it? It’s January. Well, just as we have “Mother’s Day” in May and “Father’s Day” in June here in America, Poland reserves Monday January 21 for “Grandma’s Day” (Dzień Babci) and Tuesday January 22 is “Grandpa’s Day” (Dzień Dziadka)!

I like this idea of having these days to ourselves because my wife is both “Mom” and “Nana.” I am both “Dad” and a “Papa!” We are sort of a “Version 1.0” to our 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5. Then there is our little 3.0 that makes us Grandparents.

One feature that stands out about this observance is how many countries intentionally set aside a day to honor Grandparents. This is a day to appreciate culture and heritage: where we come from, who we come from, what they did. I recall many years ago when in Junior High School I interviewed my grandfather by phone, recording our conversation and writing a report. I wish I still had the tape; regardless, the conversation impacted me as I grew to love and appreciate both my Pop and my Grandad.

Here’s an idea: interview your grandparents. Here’s a list of suggested questions to ask, or be inspired to do more through StoryCorps.

What Were You Doing This Day, 40 Years Ago?

Many will say, “I wasn’t even born yet!”

Good point.


40 years ago on this day, the Supreme Court was considering  what we know as the “Roe vs. Wade” decision. Here are "9 Things You Should Know About Roe vs. Wade."

Consider how more than 54,000,000 people not born in America over the last 40 years get to remember this day . . .

. . . which, interestingly, is also "Grandpa's Day" in Poland and other countries.


Monday, January 21, 2013

To: Mrs. Williams

I am writing this as one who grew up in the time and place of change. I was a part of all that was happening, but was too young to fully understand what was happening. Here at the start, I want to acknowledge my gratitude to Mrs. Williams, an African-American teacher at my Elementary School who guided children like me through the transitions (and it is with great joy I have always called her MRS. Williams). I loved Mrs. Williams then and she still holds a special place in my heart because of how she took care of us in those times. When I moved, I cried and I kissed her. She is the first woman (relatives excluded) I ever kissed.

The significance of what was happening is partially due my age and partially because of, let’s just call them “life adventures.” I was entering Fifth grade and already had enough life adventures to keep me distracted enough to understand. The school district was moving all Fifth-graders from all over the district to open a charter school. The most important feature of this action was the school being formed: Bethune Elementary. A recent internet search indicates the school is still active despite present-day changes.

Mrs. Williams prepared us for the move and she did so with so much grace and wisdom that (I believe I am safe to say) we simply accepted it. We trusted her because her preparations affected the way we saw each other as human beings and we found unity, being all men created equal. We children were happy to be on the crest of the wave. We where white children who would be bussed into a black neighborhood to attend a school named after the civil rights educator, Mary McLeod Bethune.

Oh, times were exciting and life adventures eventually swept me away from Bethune Elementary and Mrs. Williams, but I will never forget her. What Mrs. Williams gave me is still precious because I see people in a different way than others.  Mrs. Williams was (to borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr) one of the few non-violent gadflies that helped others “rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.” Thank you for waging positive peace. Mrs. Williams, you are one reason my family are minority in our neighborhood where we have been continuing to wage peace for years, in Jesus’ name, our Prince of Peace.

Dr. King wrote from Birmingham, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do what is right.”

That which was instilled in me exists because somebody had a dream and somebody found it worth pursuing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jesus Baptism Day (Russia)

The Epiphany season in Russia includes “Jesus’ Baptism Day.” The English-Russia website is one of many that include a brief explanation of how the day is observed with the following paragraph (it is copied so frequently I can’t take the time to find the origin), plus a gallery of photos highlighting the icy conditions:

“In Russia there are few traditions for a Jesus Baptism Day. This day is celebrated in 19th of January and the night before the main tradition is going bathing in some natural source of water. So at this day usually the local rivers and lakes are full of the people wishing to commit this ritual, not minding the temperature of the air and of the water, which is usually just a half degree up from the freezing point at this time of year. Also, many people in Russian believe that the water being picked up at Baptism Day has some sort of magic. It can be kept next 365 days without getting any smell or become rotten. So many collect the water at that night and keep it at home, drinking it from time to time during all the year.”

The Baptism of Jesus is a unique event in the life of Christ that has direct implications for all mankind, and making our Lord’s baptism a time of celebration is something to which we westerners could give more thought--but why not wait until it’s warmer? I’m just asking.

What’s so special about Jesus baptism? A three features come to mind:

1) All three persons of the Godhead are present: God-incarnate being baptized publicly, God the Holy Spirit descending and God the Father expressing His pleasure audibly.

2) This is the first of three public declarations regarding Jesus. First, John the Baptizer calls Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), who “existed before me” (John 1:30). Second, the next day Andrew calls Jesus, “Rabbi (which means ‘teacher’)” (John 1:38). More on this in a later post. Third, Jesus is called the fulfillment of prophecy, “Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote,” (John 1:45).

3) John’s baptism was of repentance yet Jesus insists His baptism was different, fulfilling the  righteousness of God. Jesus conformed to the Holy character of God and obeyed all commands being fully human yet His mission required identification with sinners. Also, the prophet Isaiah described God’s Servant as being Spirit-empowered (Isaiah 42:1) and the dove symbolizes peace.

One feature that stands out concerning the Russian celebration is that people do not seem to be at peace with God. Instead of trusting what God has accomplished by the life, death and resurrection of Christ by faith, there seems to be hope in magical powers--as if what Jesus has done was not enough.

The baptism of Jesus changes how we think of our Lord and Savior. He cannot be bribed, but a celebration should slow us down enough to think.


Have you been baptized? Why--or why not?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Studying God

I recently read a short article written by Sarah Sumner, PhD, professor of Theology and ministry at Haggard School of Theology at Asuza Pacific University. The article begins:

“The word theology literally means “the study of God.” But if you think about it, no one can study God per se. We can study God’s words. We can study God’s actions. But we can’t study God himself [sic]. All we can study is God’s revelation of himself. So a better definition of theology would be ‘the study of the revelation of God.’”

She goes on to say that God is personally known despite our inability to study Him: we pray and hear, we praise, interact with His Spirit, are even comforted by Him--”we would never know him if he did not reveal himself to us.”

Initially, Sumner correctly defines the word theology in its literal sense; however, she suggests further thought on the matter, concluding that God alone cannot be studied. We can only study the evidence He gives of Himself through general (or natural) revelation and special revelation. How is the suggested definition better?

If one thinks about (and we should follower her suggestion), God intends to be studied as evidenced by the fact that He is personally known; converses through prayer; makes praise glorious; guides, convicts and regenerates through His Spirit and so on. Sumner admits that God can be known--but the study of Him is not possible? Once the Christian searches through general and special revelation, what then does he or she do with what is found? These are the means He gives us to think theologically! How are we to enjoy Him if He cannot be studied?

If all that can be studied is evidence, then creation is reduced to residue and the Bible becomes a block of paper, prayer is empty and praise is expressive noise.

I take Dr. Sumner’s words as an encouragement to use creation and the Bible to turn my eyes further up, to find Him who is personal. Yes, He is huge; yes, His thoughts are far above mine; but, He can be and must be studied.

When we “do” theology, we meet a person with attributes that He shares and some He does not share. We find THE individual with character and a specific nature. We “do” theology because He reconciled us through His accomplished purpose of redemption--we are reconciled for a reason.

Creation and the Bible should be studied, but the goal is to know Him. If we remain focused on lower things, our worship is skewed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Randoms

Bathroom graffiti that makes a difference.

President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill granting lifetime Secret Service protection to former presidents and their wives. What is the preferred tool of protection, one wonders?

Millions of Hindus try to wash their sins away.

H.P. Lovecraft's advice to writers: read the KJV

This is what it really looks like to travel at light speed.

The response starting at 2:36 is my fave:


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Photoblog: Bookshelf Philo-poetry

Three books side by side by side on my bookshelf, making a powerful statement in a poetic fashion:

Christ and Culture
Christ and the Modern Mind
A World of Difference


Yes, He Does!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beethoven and Blue Jeans

Enjoyed a wonderful evening at the SC Philharmonic the other evening thanks to some wonderful friends. This concert was part of the Master Works Series, "Beethoven and Blue Jeans," a very relaxed evening of music in comfortable duds. Very impressed with this orchestra and the conductor is outstanding. I hope to hear more!










Monday, January 14, 2013

"Coming of Age Day" (Japan)

Japan observes the 成人の日 , “Coming of Age Day” or “Adult Day” this time each year for every person who turns the age of 20. This is the formal day responsible citizenship begins and is a much different celebration than “Boys Day” (when boys turn 15) and “Girls Day” (when girls turn 13).

I recall my first Boy’s Day celebration because this was a day I felt included. I had a Japanese friend I often visited and though I did not know his family well, they opened their home and introduced their culture to me. I wore so many various traditional clothes and we enjoyed our favorite TV shows together. Boy’s Day was the day I was made much of because I was a young man coming of age. This was also the day I learned how much I enjoy eating seaweed and confirmed my distaste for ants--no amount of chocolate covering is of any help, believe me.

Two thoughts come to mind this day, the first being that Jesus was born and grew in the eyes of men and God. He was a man of time and space who, like any other boy, was made much of by family, friends and community--and this long before He began His ministry. He was a part of society and was expected to be responsible.

The second thought is more complex. What does it mean to become an adult? How long does it take to learn from mistakes? How does one know he or she is “doing it right?” Wheaton Professor Leland Ryken discusses what may be the only classic literary work known (to me, at least--outside of scripture) that thoroughly examines these and other questions about entering the adult world. The Old Testament book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings and most are “father to son” words of advice. There is a way to figure it all out, by listening to those who have walked with God before us.

The Bible plainly states the destiny of each person is to die once, then appear before God in judgement (Hebrews 9:27). The subject will not be how one shined his shoes, kept her hair, or contributed to culture per se. Our Creator sees and knows everything about us: our thoughts, or actions, our heart--everything committed in public and in secret. Everything we’ve forgotten and all we remember will suddenly make sense in the light of His righteousness, regardless of cultural norms.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Death of The Prophet

The death of The Prophet Muhammad is not a celebratory event for Muslims; however, the anniversary of his death reminds Muslims to reflect on the teachings of Islam. There is much discrepancy regarding the death of The Prophet.

The first part of the difficulty is “when” and the problem stems from the calendar itself. Did The Prophet die in January or June? We use a much different calendar system than Ancient Middle Eastern world, so it is difficult to say whether The Prophet died in June or January. Compounding the difficulty concerns the fact that days were often recorded and recalled in a different manner than we would. For example, a “springtime” day does not necessarily mean a day between what we know as March, April or May. Those of us who live in the South know first-hand that temperatures can reach the 70’s in the middle of December, a “springtime” day. Some holding to a June demise of Muhammed often refer to the day being a warm day, but this does not mean the day fell in warm months.

Sources disagree on other details the date of his death beyond. There is no agreement on exactly how he died, or where. Some say he died by poisoning while others say he simply passed after periods of extreme headaches and fatigue--and both claim source material. Some accounts tell of a few women who mourned his death by celebrating the freedoms Muhammad taught but they were punished for their observance by losing their hands to the sword.

If I understand correctly the implications are these: 1) death is not a celebratory event, especially concerning Muhammad; and 2) the writings and work of Muhammad are honored based on his life. The Prophet is considered to be a man among men, a gem among stones (as it were) and instead of being worshipped (Allah alone is to receive worship), Muhammad and his activity are symbols of Allah’s activity in the world.

A number of features become outstanding regarding the demise of The Prophet: first, there are no prophetic descriptions of his death from God. No one saw it coming. Muslims often comment that Muhammad became increasingly aware of the time of his death, but God makes no prophetic announcement.

Second, he remains dead. Karen Armstrong writes in her book, “Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet” that refusal “to admit that Muhammad had died . . . was to deny the basic truth about Muhammad” (p. 257). Islam teaches that he is no more than a messenger and has died like other messengers before him.

The Prophets that came before Muhammad have died--Jesus included; however, consider that Jesus' birth, death, burial and resurrection were described by God through the Prophets long before He was born and all these came long before Muhammad. The circumstances of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection are recorded in the Injil (The Gospels) and cannot be changed.

Why do you doubt? Have you not read the Holy Books that came before?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Leadership Impacting Culture: Stephen's Example of Moses in Acts

Reading through Acts 7:17-29, a few thoughts come to mind.

First, our present time and national circumstance is not very much unlike those of Moses’ day. National leadership is highly controversial, operating with a kind of amnesia regarding how we came to be a nation and the great men and women who got us this far. Notable leaders are not merely forgotten how they went about doing those things that made them great. There is a great reversal from the “how” (the blood, the prayers, the sweat, the tears) to the “who”, those who use immoral and unethical means to accomplish personal agenda. The Church exists in context. We are “the called out ones” within a nation of not remembering. More on this momentarily.

Second, the pragmatism that drives our national direction includes atrocities such as the exposure of our children. Just as Pharaoh killed the children of Egypt, we too are a culture of infant death. Abortion has been killing children for years and presently there is great debate concerning employers who are being forced by the government to participate in the sexual activity of employees by providing “morning after” pills via mandatory insurance coverage under the threat of heavy fines.

Exposure has another side. Children are being exposed to the culture of death. Recent news has unashamedly covered the death of innocents killed in schools--and this is not the first time. Sure, children may not sit and watch the news with parents, but the news will come around to them as they listen to radio, surf the net and watch various TV shows where memorials are observed. They will ask “what happened?”

Children are being exposed to death through video games, entertainment and the ‘net. Violence, crime, hedonism are the themes of today’s heroes. Parents have been portrayed as idiots on television for years and now we have passed the disrespect on to another generation. Children are divorcing their parents. Movies flow with blood, brutality, cannibalism. Exposure is ruining our children on the inside, in their minds. They don’t know how to think for themselves, not being challenged to examine and be convinced of what they know. Creativity is reduced to the production of memes, witty irreverent quips. They carry phones, but don’t know how to communicate.

Since by nature the Church is to be “the called out ones” the present context is perfect for us to return to the full sense of what this means. In other words, we are not to be hoarding food and ammunition, but taking a stand for righteousness and justice. Remembering is a central feature of who we are and who we are to be, like Israel and we use ceremony like The Lord’s Supper to help us recall. Our voice is not loud, but it should be understood to be without compromise.

Remember, when Daniel was removed from Jerusalem (and never to return), he took God with him. Daniel endured many, many years of ungodliness, but look what God did for him. Daniel did not change culture except when the hearts of other leaders were brought to God and the nation was able to enjoy Him.

Third, Daniel and Moses share another point of interest for us: they were educated within a context and God used what they learned to position them for leadership. Let me repeat: they used what they learned. What did they learn? They learned how their society functioned, the details of their culture, how people think. They were open-minded with a made-up mind, discerning truth and what was right. Moses was aware of how his mind worked and when God connected Moses’ knowledge with His purpose, he began to lead. Moses’ leadership would be civil, ceremonial and moral. God showed His grace through all these.

Reading Stephen’s words, we find something mentioned that Moses does not share when he wrote what we know as Exodus. Note verses 23-25. His calling had to be clarified. Moses knew God had a purpose for his life, but it becomes evident the details were not clear to Moses. We see him act to the best of his knowledge. Interesting that Stephen says, “they did not understand.” One cannot help but wonder if “they” included Moses himself, because he clearly did not understand. Regardless, he knew God had something for him to do and that “something” had to do with delivering his people. One wonders if God did not let Moses make a huge mistake in order to make it clear what was NOT in His plan for Moses or His people.

Perhaps Moses’ first mistake was that he tried to present himself as leader. The next mistake would be his method of operation.

Leadership is dependant on God’s calling, God’s preparing, God’s presenting and God’s action for His people. Leadership is assumed only by picking up what God lays down for a leader to use.

Finally, verse 29 shows that Moses ran right at the point when he thought he should be getting started. Don’t let this one detail escape notice: Moses had two sons. God gave Moses a practice  laboratory for leadership: his own family. The principle of Psalm 128 is now clear (a la Tony Evans): when a man takes God seriously, he is changed. When a man is changed, his wife is changed. When the parents are changed, the children are changed. When the family is changed, the place of worship is changed. When the place of worship is changed, the culture is changed.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Photoblog: Cool Beans

We jumped in the car late one night before New Years and got all jacked up on caffeine at this great little coffee shop downtown called "Cool Beans." This two-story house was originally built in 1901 and it is most recently occupied by this great little college coffee shop.
















Johnny wants to know why the Grandma tree changed her hair . . .


Monday, January 07, 2013

"Victory Day" (Cambodia)

Today is Cambodian “Victory over Genocide Day,” or “Victory Day” (shortened). This is not a day of celebration, nor is it fully observed nationally.

January 7, 1979 was the day Vietnamese troops entered Cambodia ending four years of bloodshed and the start of Cambodian dependence on Vietnam. This is a day of mixed emotions, depending on the perspective of those involved. This marks a day of transition and can be difficult to explain.


This day caused me to reflect on significant questions regarding what we are to do with the past, perhaps even a past that is difficult to explain. How do we press on in victory without the feeling that we have been defeated?
  1. Recognize that one’s personal past has a significant influence on the development of life but a person is not a helpless victim whose manner of life is determined by his past.
  2. One is able to creatively interact with and interpret past events and incorporate his interpretation into his manner of life; however, one does not deconstruct his past so that it has no necessary existence in history. Just as God acts and explains or interprets His actions, in the same way one must interpret the actual events in his life because they occurred.
  3. The follower of Christ should interpret his past as coming from God and for God’s glory; conversely, the unbeliever will distort the event with an explanation that does not honor God’s truth, resisting the truth and believing a lie.
  4. One is not always aware of the assumptions, values, and habits which shape his manner of life. One must explore the past, finding help to reveal his manner of life to produce biblical change that is pleasing to God.
  5. Change occurs in the present, involving a “putting off” (repentance) from the distorted values and habits of a false manner of life, and a “putting on” of godly values and behavior patterns in the present.  Change does  not occur in the past through the reliving of past experiences or through emotional release of stored-up emotions (a process commonly called “catharsis”).
  6. God is sovereign over all the events of a person’s life and works providentially through those events to make Christians more like Christ.
(these principles have been personalized from article: Bettler, John F.  “Counseling  and the Problem of the Past.”  Journal of Biblical Counseling.  Vol. 12, No. 2, Winter, 1994.)

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Epiphany Eve

This is the weekend we observe Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. Sunday (Epiphany Sunday) is the Swedish holiday called the "13th Day of Christmas." What did your true love give on that day?

We would be correct to recall the visit of the Magi. I like the common picture that comes to mind when we think of “epiphany.” This is when that little light bulb goes on, you know, the one above our heads when we have an idea. When we get it--but what are we to "get?"

A few short weeks ago as our pastor was preparing to deliver our Christmas message, a small child’s voice lifted above the congregation, “do you know what Christmas is about? It’s about Jesus, the light of the world.” All we could do was applaud our Amen. The child shared Epiphany perfectly. The child reminded us that the light turning on is more than a feeling, more than a concept, a realization.

Epiphany the is singular reality of God touching all mankind in the person of Christ. He is the Son of God.

The Magi got it when they saw the light. Then followed it.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Randoms

Curious to know if anyone missed "Randoms" being posted on a different day this week?

Erwin Lutzer offers some helpful instruction on how NOT to read your Bible in 2013.

A statistical snapshot of 2012.

Here's a list of stuff that got banned in 2012. Some things should be banned, but others . . . ?

InfoWars suggests "16 Things about 2013 That Are Really Going to Stink." Let's check back periodically to see if they are right.

Wikipedia says "Acetylcholinesterase, also known as AChE;or acetylhydrolase, is a serine protease that hydrolyzes the neurotransmitteracetylcholine. AChE is found at mainly neuromuscular junctions and cholinergic brain synapses, where its activity serves to terminatesynaptic transmission. It belongs to carboxylesterase family of enzymes." I just think it's a party waiting to happen.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Arba'een of Imam Hussain

Ok, I had to look this one up, but that’s ok because I learned something today that I did not know yesterday.

Today is an holiday called, “Arbaeen of Imam Hussain.” “Arba’een” means “forty,” marking 40 days after the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who was killed in the Battle of Karbala. 40 days is the time of mourning in Islam. This time is used to observe the establishment of justice and taking a stand against injustice, though interpretations of these details are disputed. Some observe peacefully, while others protest even with terrorism. Regardless, the Arba’een has been observed for centuries by walking to the tomb of Imam Hussain (with the exception of the 30 year ban of the holiday under the rule of Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq). Significant eternal promises are attached to this journey:



One may think of this a kind of New Year’s observance, as 40 days is more than enough time to establish a habit, a lifestyle change. This is a day to do something different with the hopes of making an eternal impact.

What does God’s Unchanging Word promise to those who submit to Him? Are you a person of The Book? The Qur’an says: ‘O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law , the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.’ (Sura 5:71) God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah saying, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)”

Would you like to study the Holy Books with me?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy "Day After New Year's Day!"

New Zealanders have a really cool name for today, which in some countries (like Scotland) observe as a “bank holiday.” Today is “Day After New Year’s Day!” The day is so cool I wonder why I'm not wearing a bow-tie, or a fez. Might start a new tradition here . . . hmmmm.

There are many ideas out there as to how this day came about, many of which include the word “hangover.” I trust you don’t have one, though it is a fact that hangovers are the result of sleeplessness more than alcohol.

Regardless, those of us who live on smaller islands off the coast of New Zealand are back to work today. You remember work don’t you?

New Zealanders may have something for us, though. Today is the next day. We are not promised a “next day,” but here it is. We should be thankful to our Creator for this day. He made it, so rejoice in it! 


Now, where's my bow-tie?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Hap-py New Year!

List all the ways you can make your New Year’s Resolutions meaningful from these Bible verses: 

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB)

Here is a suggestion, for your consideration: the Bible says that all scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction and training in righteousness that the man of God be complete (2 Timothy 3:16). Take the above-mentioned verses and ask these four questions:

  1. "What does it say?" (this is the "Teaching" part, very straightforward, without any interpretation);
  2. "How do I fail to do what it says?" (this is the "Rebuke" part, requiring a level of personal reflection);
  3. "What should I be doing?" (this is the "Correction" part, refer back to #1);
  4. "How am I going to do what I should be doing?" (this is the "Training in Righteousness" part, might require repentance).

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