Archive for August, 2009

They Love Too Much

August 31, 2009

“They love too much”  was a comment made to me about the ELCA after the news about the decision to ordain individuals involved in a long term, committed, homosexual relationship.

God is love, so is it possible to love too much?

No, it is not possible to love too much, but it is possible to allow our love to corrupt our understanding of the nature of God. 

God is love, but God is also just.  The scriptures clearly speak about a coming judgement, where there will be a final division of humanity for an eternal  reward or punishment.  Hell, is an eternity without God and will be worse than anything ever imagined by mortal imaginations.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”  (Matthew 7:21-23)

We are saved by grace through faith for good works. ( c.f. Ephesians 2:8-10).  God’s grace combines with  faith and  results in a new relationship with God, which changes us from the inside out.  We are saved as we are, but we are not left in our sin. 

Do not be deceived.  We are called to repentance and faith, and repentance is not simply confessing our sins, but turning from our sins.  We may not achieve perfection in this life, but we ought not to call sin, righteousness; and righteousness,sin.

A House Divided

August 27, 2009

Last week the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America voted to allow homosexuals in a committed, lifelong relationship with a same sex partner, to be ordained and serve as ministers to churches willing to extend a call to them. 

Some people are rejoicing.

Some do not understand.

Some understand, but vehemently disagree.

Some will join the ELCA because of this decision.

Some will leave the ELCA because of this decision.

One thing is certain, this decision will have a profound, and lasting impact on the character, and nature of the ELCA.  The makeup of it’s constituency will change.  The church of 2015 will be very different from the church of 2005. 

What would Martin Luther think of this church that bears his name?

What does Jesus think?

Interfaith Dialogue

August 26, 2009

I read a sidebar story the other day in the newspaper about a rift that had occurred in the dialogue taking place between Jews and Catholics.  Apparently the Jews got the impression that the Catholics were using the dialogue as a means of seeking the conversion of Jewish people.

The purpose of interfaith dialouge is to gain a better understanding of each others views.  It also aids in the acceptance of each other as human beings.  We also explore ways in which we can peacefully work together for common goals. 

  Some would say that in order for interfaith dialogue to be effective, all parties must accept the views of others as acceptable alternatives.  Others would recognize that we can hold conversations with people with whom we profoundly disagree, but still be rational, civil, and productive in our discussions. 

For many Christians, they consider “The Great Commission”,  the mandate of Christ to “Go into all the world and make disciples” to be their primary directive.  They take very seriously John 14:6 where Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”  For these types of Christians, it is a part of their nature to seek the conversion of nonbelievers.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t talk?  That the lines of communication should be closed?  That there are no areas in which we cannot cooperate as religious people, for the common good of humanity?

I don’t think so.

Irrational and Inconsistent

August 25, 2009

I have been riding motorcycles for over twenty years.  I always wear a helmet.  I have never had an accident. (OK,  in my first year of riding,  I dropped the bike once, on loose gravel, starting up from a stop sign, turning right.  I don’t count that.  I didn’t say, I never dropped the bike!)  I am well aware of the danger of head injuries caused when a persons head comes into contact with pavement, even at relatively low rates of speed.  I know people who have died, and others who have sustained serious injury, because they were not wearing a helmet.  I do not want to join those statistics.

I recently started riding a bicycle around town.  My town is rather small, about two miles square, and you can get anywhere in town on a bike, pretty quickly.  I have also started to include bicycling as a part of my exercise routine. 

I had never wore a helmet on a bicycle. 

That is irrational and inconsistent.

I can wipe out on a bicycle, just like I could have an accident on a motorcycle.  The sidewalk or the pavement are equally hard, and as I said earlier, you don’t have to be going very fast. 

I grew up riding bicycles without a helmet.  It has never been a problem. 

After it is a problem, it is too late to don the helmet. 

Sigh…

Yesterday, for the first time I wore a bicycle helmet while riding.  I plan to make it a habit.  I really don’t want to be irrational and inconsistent.

I really, really, don’t want a head injury caused by thinking it couldn’t happen to me.

Kingdom Work

August 24, 2009

The impact that we have in the spiritual realm is not limited to the number of people whom we lead in the sinner’s prayer.  Sometimes our lives and actions have their greatest impact beyond the realm of our observation.  The song “Thank You” by Ray Bolz, wonderfully expresses the view that we cannot know what impact we are having, while on this side of eternity.  Our lives should be lived in obedience to the Lord, seeking to let our light shine,  trusting that God is pleased, not with what is outwardly observable, but with what He observes inside of our hearts.

How Do We Know The Truth?

August 20, 2009

“You can’t believe everything you read.” 

Except this blog of course, I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… unless of course I am confused, have my facts mixed up, bad memory, wrong information and so on.  OK, at least I promise not to intentionally lie, but you don’t necessarily know me, so does my word mean anything?

We know our own experiences.  Whether those experiences are remembered and interpreted correctly are another issue.  Sometimes people who were at the same event have different recollections of what happened and what was said.  So our collection of remembered data is relatively sound, but not absolute.

Things that we can see at the moment can be pretty certain.  Unless we are having a temporary, or even not-so-temporary break with reality caused by drugs, fatigue, mental illness or other factors.  Still, for most of us we can believe our senses, unless, of course we are deceived by a magician, or illusionist, or a quick talking con man.

Still for the most part, we can know a good deal about the world by our accumulation of assorted experiences.

We can also know what we hear from other sources.  The only problem with that is that we are relying on our sources to relay accurate information. 

Sources are not always accurate.

Now if we have multiple sources, or if our sources have been credible and reliable in the past, then we can become more certain of our knowledge.

What happens when our sources disagree? 

We evaluate our information by number of sources, reliability of sources, and how well the information meshes with the rest of our understanding of reality as we know it.

Good luck with that.

Jesus said that he is “The way, the truth, and the life..”

and that “we shall know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.”

In Proverbs it tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

I believe that through my faith in Christ I can have a knowledge that is secure.  I have a firm foundation upon which to build my life-view.  Once you have The Cornerstone, the rest can be built up.  If I occasionally have to take out a section, and rebuild, that doesn’t shake my world.  I don’t always have to be right, as long as I know The Truth.

Stuff!!

August 19, 2009

“The key to accumulating wealth is to live well within your means.”  I read this quote in a newspaper a long time ago. (Sorry, I can’t remember who said it.)  

I have not managed to accumulate much wealth, but I have succeeded in living within my means, and I have accumulated a lot of stuff. (Does that count? Even if it’s not worth much?)

Too much stuff…

“Sometimes the things we posses begins to possess us.”   (I think I read that somewhere.)

What happens when a pack rack lives in a consumer society?  You accumulate stuff… a lot of stuff.  (Don’t get rid of that, I might need it someday.  It could be used for…)

Ugh!!

The thought of my basement or my garage makes me cringe.  (I once heard that however big your house or garage, your stuff will increase until it is full.)

Somedays I just want to sell everything and start over.

Can you have an estate sale while you are still alive?

Anyway, I suppose what I am trying to say, (That is, if I am trying to say anything.)  is that it is not in our possesions that we find true wealth.  It is important to live within our means, to be thankful for what we have, to be good stewards of our time, money and possesions, to enjoy the life that we have in this world; but our true happiness comes from our relationships.  Our relationship, first of all, with God; then our family, and our friends.  If we are rich in our relationships, then we are truly wealthy.

Don’t throw that out!!

Long Term Pastoring

August 18, 2009

One of the joys of pastoring in a community for a long time is being able to be involved with people’s lives.  We have teenagers in our youth group who are children of people, who were themselves in our youth group, years ago.  There was a baby shower at the church recently.  I have known the father since he was a small boy.  There are many such examples.

My children grew up, staying in the same school system, from kindergarten to graduation from high school.  I don’t know if they realize how unusual that is, for a pastor’s kid.

Our town feels like home. Actually, I have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else.

Still, I realize that I am first of all, a servant of God; that if God directs me to leave, then it will be time to leave.  The church is God’s church, not my church.  It was here when I came, and will be here when I leave.  Only God knows how long we will minister in this community.  We seek to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to either stay or leave.   

Of course, that has always been the case.  We regularly pray about God’s plan for our lives.  So far, there has been no prompting to move on.  We will continue to minister in this community until God leads us elsewhere.

Breakdown!

August 17, 2009

Gloria and I recently went on a motorcycle trip celebrating our anniversary.  It was a wonderful trip, until the last leg of the journey. 

At the end of our second day Gloria noticed an oily residue on her calves.  We attributed this to her applying suntan lotion during the day.  We thought that it was just road dirt sticking to the lotion.  The next day at lunch we noticed that there appeared to be a pattern in the way the dirt was accumulating.  After looking more closely at the bike we discovered that the rear shock was leaking fluid.  I asked at the place where we had stopped whether there were any shops in the area….no.   I called a friend who has worked with motorcycles for years and asked how serious a problem it was.  He informed me that the shock itself might be ruined but that it should be safe to drive home, as long as we were careful.  We were still dripping oil, so it wasn’t dry yet, so we started for home. We were about sixty miles from the end of our journey.

Shortly after getting underway we hit a massive bump.  Then, there was a different sound to the bike.  The road noise sounded different.  Everything felt fine but there was a hum we hadn’t heard before.  I told Gloria that I would stop at the next gas station and look everything over.  As we were going down the road, Gloria started complaining about her seat getting warm.  There was a problem.  I asked if she could make it the two miles to the nearest town and she responded with a resounding,  no!  Stop the bike now!  I pulled over, she hopped off the back and I notice a small column of dark smoke rising from beneath the seat area. 

Our bike’s previous owner had been short.  The bike had been modified from it’s original construction.  My friend that I called did not know that important piece of information.  The placement of the rear shock had been lowered.  This had an unintended consequence.  When we hit that bump we bottomed out the shock.  Since the shock had been lowered this meant that instead of hitting the mechanical stop on the shock, we hit the rear tire.  That took a chunk out of our tire which resulted in the changed sound that we were hearing.  Then, enough fluid and air had been forced out  that we were making light contact with the tire as we rode.  When I looked under the bike at the back tire, it was very hot to the touch, had chunks missing, and had obviously been literally melting down.

Our ride was done.

We called AAA, thankful that we had the premium service that would provide towing up to 100 miles, and more importantly that the tire hadn’t blown.  We looked up and realized that we had stopped at the entrance to a hospital.  We were thankful that the only service we needed from them was a cold drink and a cool place to wait for the tow truck. 

I believe that God was watching out for us.  It could have been much worse.  My bike needs a new tire, a repaired rear shock, and we have to undo the modification.   We are fine, enjoyed our trip, and had an adventure, even if it included a breakdown.

Looking for the Silver Lining

August 13, 2009

As a child when I was feeling disappointed I would be told “Every cloud has a silver lining.”  As a Christian adult I hold onto Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (NKJ)

Sometimes we are able to see how things work together, and other times that “silver lining” is pretty ellusive. 

I like to be able to understand, to be able to connect the dots and see the picture of what is going on, but when I cannot see, I can still believe.

God loves me. 

I love God.

God is good.

All things work together for good. 

I do not have to understand.  I only have to believe, to have faith in God.

In faith, we can find peace, a peace that passes understanding; a peace that is not of this world, and that this world cannot take away.