Archive for March, 2009

Senseless Violence

March 31, 2009

I read in the paper yesterday about two separate acts of senseless violence.  One was the attack on the nursing home in North Carolina where a man went in armed with a rifle and shot and killed a nurse and seven residents before he himself was shot by a police officer.  The second incident involved a twenty three year old man who stabbed his seventeen year old sister to death, decapitated his five year old sister, (whose birthday cake was sitting on the kitchen table) and started for his nine year old sister, before he was shot by a police officer.

From the elderly to the very young, we are shocked at these latest acts of senseless violence.  My heart goes out to the families of the victims, the police who witnessed these tragedies, and all who are involved, touched in any way by these horrendous crimes.

Why??  Why would anyone kill helpless elderly people whom they don’t even know?  Who would kill their little sister on her birthday??  What is this world coming to???

I suppose that sociologists, and psychologists will try to decipher  the root cause of  these actions.  Some kind of explanation will be suggested as the cause of it all.  Violent television, violent music and games, depression, anxiety, the recession, divorce, rejection, name calling… something will be offered as the reasons that led to the violence.

I don’t know what caused it, but I know what can prevent it.

The senseless violence of today can be avoided by accepting the senseless love that God offers to all the world. (I call it senseless love because why does God love us?) 

God loves us as we are, we do not have to earn God’s love by our actions.  God’s love is a transforming love that heals the hurts of the past and brings a brighter future.  All people are loved by God and invited into a relationship with him through Jesus Christ.  The love of God offers hope to all the people of this world.

But not everyone will accept that love.

More Atheists?

March 28, 2009

There was a recent poll that showed an increase in people claiming to be atheist.  The conclusion that was being drawn by many is that this means that the church is failing, that fewer people in church means that the church is losing relevance.

I have a different interpretation of the data.

It is possible that the people who are now claiming to be atheists formerly attended churches only out of pressure to do so for appearances sake.  It might have been to appease their family members, or maybe because they wanted to maintain a certain image in their communities, or maybe even just to network for business purposes. At any rate, if they were attending church for the wrong reasons then it is good for both the church and for them to no longer attend.

It is good for the church, because we have enough problems with hypocrites.  If a person is attending church and has no belief in God, or no interest in learning about God, then they are being hypocritical.  They are there for the wrong reasons and will possibly contribute to church problems.  Problems in the church, as well as problems in the community for the churches reputation.   So atheists leaving the church is a good thing for the church.

It is also better for them.  If they are a part of a church, people will treat them as fellow believers.  There will be no effort to convert, those already perceived as believers.  If they are avowed atheists, not attending any church, not pretending to believe, they will be recognized as people who need the Lord, and will be the subject of peoples’ prayers and witnessing.  This may lead to their salvation, and back to the church as believers, which would be a good thing for them.

The Plan

March 24, 2009

I like to have a plan.  I like to figure out where I am going and how I am going to get there.  Choose an objective.  Make a plan on how to achieve the objective.  Follow the plan.  Work the plan.  Don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  Do not deviate from the plan.  This comes from my military days where “Accomplish the mission.”  was the number one rule.

This does not always work so well in the civilian world.

Plans are subject to change. 

Goals may need to be reevaluated.

There are other people involved, who may have their own goals and plans.  It is not simply a matter of whom outranks who. 

Sigh… In some ways, military life was easier than civilian life.

Today for example, I have a list of activities that I am supposed to get done, or events to attend.  It is going to be a full day, even by my crazy standard.  Things were going well until I got to the part on my list labeled “update blog”.  Now, what that means on a Tuesday, is that I am supposed to write something.  That doesn’t necessarily take that long if I have an idea of what to write about. 

Today, however, I sat here and thought …. and thought.

I have nothing to write, and sitting here thinking about what to write is wasting precious time. There is a lot on my list.

Then, I got to thinking that I hadn’t written on Saturday because I had a wedding to perform.  I really should write something.  That is the plan. 

Don’t deviate from the plan. 

Then it hit me. 

The plan.  

Most of the time it is a good thing, but I need to remember to be flexible, to allow myself the freedom to deviate from the plan, to change goals, or even just to disengage once in a while. 

Life is not always planned.

Nor should it be.

Problem with Authority?

March 19, 2009

As Americans we sometimes have a problem with authority.  We question authority. We challenge authority. We reject, rebel and overthrow authority, if we do not like what it is doing or saying.  It is practically part of our American heritage, but it is not necessarily a good thing

Hebrews 13:17 begins with “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive…”

The whole concept of “obey and submit” almost creates a gag reflex.  We are outraged.  We are independent thinkers, responsible for our own actions. 

This attitude towards authority can get people in trouble at home, school, work and society.  There are consequences for rebellion and disobedience at all levels of society.  The punishments vary; including grounding, detention, loss of employment, fines,  jail or even death, depending on what authority has been disobeyed, and to what extent.

A proper attitude toward authority begins in childhood at home.  The Bible tells us “To honor your father and mother, that it might be well with you, that you might live long upon the earth.”  (Exodus 20:12)

As children our parents teach us about rules.  There are rewards for good behaviour and punishment for bad behaviour.  As we grow. the attitude that we learn at home is applied to our teachers at school, our bosses at work, and the society in which we live.

Romans 13:3 says “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”

This does not mean that we are to follow all instructions mindlessly.  Sometimes, those who lead, are themselves led astray.  We are not to be mice following a piper to our destruction.  If the instructions from our leaders clearly goes against what is right, then it is appropriate to “obey God, rather than men”.  Yet, I think that the tendency is to far too quickly rebel. 

May God help us to find the balance, to do what is right.

 

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A Mixed Breed

March 17, 2009

I was baptised, confirmed and became a member of an ELCA Lutheran church.  Then I attended an independent pentecostal church, then went to an Assemblies of God college, back to the Lutheran church, attended a Methodist church for a while, then an Assemblies of God, back to the Lutheran church; while finishing school at the A/G college, then on to Lutheran seminary, then credentialed and serving in A/G churches.  Finally, I finished a Masters degree in pastoral studies at a Catholic university.  Religiously, I guess you could say, I am a mixed breed. 

I teach philosophy at a community college.  I am a dualist, in regards to metaphysics.  In epistemology, I accept some things from a rationalist view, some things from an empiricists view, some things from religious revelation, and  I am skeptical about quite a few things.  In ethics, my approach is sometimes, teleological, sometimes deontological, sometimes, virtue, sometimes caring.  I guess I am a mixed breed philosophically.

When I exercise, I do a variety of things.  I run, swim, bike, and practice martial arts.  I do some weightlifting.  I do some power lifting, some Olympic lifting, some body building, some conditional training.  I do some of a lot of things.  I am not very good at any of it.  I guess that I am a mixed breed when it comes to exercise. 

 

When it comes to food, I like Chinese, Mexican, Italian, German, American, and I am willing to try almost anything.  I like food of all types.  I guess I am a mixed breed when it comes to food.

Musically, I enjoy Contemporary Christian and classical.  Musically, I am not as mixed as in other things, but I still do appreciate a variety of different styles within the Christian context.    

I guess that I am just a mixed breed.

Or maybe I’m just mixed up.

The Will of God

March 14, 2009

How do we discover the will of God for our lives?  It is my belief that God has a plan and a purpose for everyone.  I believe that this plan is foreordained, but that somehow, human will is still free to choose the course that our lives will take in life.  My desire is to do God’s will in my life, but what is that will?

First, we need to familiarize ourselves with the Bible.  God’s will for our lives will not go against his revealed word, so we can know some things that we are to do, and somethings that we are not to do.  For example, we are to love one another, and we are to give thanks to God.  We are not to lie, steal, or commit murder.  What is revealed in the Bible could be termed God’s permissible will.  I think that we can do better than just what is permissible.

I believe that God will guide us if we use the tools that he has given to us.  He has given us the Bible, our brains, councilors,, and most importantlyl his Spirit.

I believe that it is appropriate to use the brains that God has given us to evaluate situations; that in many cases God has given us the wisdom to recognize right from wrong, and good from bad decisions.

God also has given us the opportunity to seek godly council.  In making important decisions, it is good to get advice from people who have specialized knowledge.

Finally, God has given us his Holy Spirit.  If we pray and ask God to guide us in our decisions, I believe that he will do so.  God can use a variety of means to lead us in the path that he has for us.  If we week to do his will, he will reveal his will to us.

Covetousness

March 12, 2009

Thou shall not covet. 

This simply stated command is an abbreviation of one of the Ten Commandments.  The basic concept is frequently repeated in scripture.  Covetousness is clearly bad, but what is it?

The dictionary says that it is to “desire enviously”.  We see something that someone else has, and we want it.  We are not happy with what we have, we want something else.  We are discontent. 

I think that there is an underlying attitude that is the key to understanding this sin.  The attitude is the belief that something, anything, other than God, is what we desire in order to be happy.  I won’t be happy without… you fill in the blank.  If it is anything other than God, then you are coveting.  God is all that we need to be happy and at peace.

God is a jealous God and he wants to be the most important thing in our lives.  We are told to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33).   I wonder how often we place our emphasis on all these other things.  In Colossians 3:5 we are told that covetousness is idolatry.   We are letting other things take the place that God should have in our lives.  He should be our chief desire.  In him, we find true joy and happiness, not in the things of this world.

Obama Reverses Stem-Cell Policy

March 10, 2009

President Obama has reversed the Bush administration’s policy on stem-cell research, opening the way for new embryo’s to be processed for use in research, funded by government dollars.  He said “Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values.”

Actually, he is the one making a false choice.  It is not all sound science that is the problem.  It is science that intentionally destroys innocent human life.

As for morality, I hope that we can agree that it is wrong to intentionally destroy innocent human life.

So, this brings up the question of when does human life begin?  This is a religious, or philosophical question, not a scientific one.    There are many people in this country who believe that human life begins at conception.  Therefore, for all of those people, embryonic stem cell research may be  scientific, but it is, and always will be immoral. 

President Obama has clearly sided with a certain philosophical view regarding the beginning of human life.  That is clear from his views, and his action, on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.  That is the choice that has been made, not a choice between morals and science.

It is the wrong choice.

Pastor Shot and Killed

March 9, 2009

On Sunday morning, March 8th, Pastor Fred Winters was shot and killed while delivering his sermon.  This did not happen in some far away country but In Maryville, Illinois,  a suburb of St. Lois.  At this time, there is no known reason for the murder.  The gunman tried to commit suicide, but was prevented from doing so, by members of the congregation, who were themselves, injured by the assailant.    I imagine that in the days ahead he will give the reasons for the attack.  My sincere sympathy is extended to his wife, family, friends and congregation.  May God help them to deal with this horrific tragedy.   

I wonder if this is a sign of things to come?  A colleage of mine keeps a file of the “hate mail” that he has received over the years.  People can sometimes have very strong feeling about the actions that a pastor takes in leading the church.  Furthermore,  I have noticed that Christians, and pastors in particular, have often been poorly represented in movies and television.  Finally, the  accusation is made of  “preaching hate” when activities are labeled as sin.  These three things when added together   are a powerful toxin to the attitude that people have towards the work of the church. 

Pastors are supposed to provide leadership for their churches.  They will make decisions that will not be popular with everyone.  Pastoral leadership is not supposed to be about popularity, but about doing the will of God.

It would be nice to see the entertainment industry portray Christians, and pastors in a better light.  There are many wonderful people of faith and it does not do anyone any good to make a mockery of what is so important to so many people.   

Finally, it is not hate to call sinful activities sin.  Christians are called first to love God, and then to love those around them.  Christians are motivated by love, not hate.  When we condem sin, it is an expression  of  a religious belief, not an expression of hate. We have religious freedom in this country.  That means that I am free to preach what I believe to be true.  You don’t have to agree with me, but I hope that I won’t someday be shot for preaching the truth as I understand it.

Back on Two Wheels

March 5, 2009

Yesterday I rode my bicycle to the church for the first time this year.   It felt great to be back on two wheels.  I enjoy the exercise, being outdoors and the sense of simplicity.  I started using my bike last summer when the gasoline prices went so high.  I plan to continue, even though the cost of gasoline has substantially dropped. 

I also charged up the battery on the motorcylce and attempted to start the engine. 

Unsuccessfully. 

 Bummer.  

However, I am charging the battery some more and will be giving it another try later this morning. 

I believe in the resurrection. 

Yes, it can be applied to motorcycles:) 

Every spring  there is new life all around us.  We celebrate the return of warmer weather.  We celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. I also am reminded of new life when my motorcycle, (and formerly, my boat engine) comes to life for the first time.   

Today it is supposed to be sunny and in the mid fifties.  I will ride my bicycle to church, and hopefully, prayerfully, my motorcycle to the school.

It’s great to be back on two wheels.