Archive for August, 2010

1st Day

August 31, 2010

Today is the first day for the classes that I teach at the college.  The start of a new semester brings with it a variety of feelings.  I did not get as much done over the summer break as I would have liked to get done.  So there is the vague sense of disappointment that there was more work to do, and more fun things to do,  that just didn’t get done.  There is the sense of weight that comes with the addition of weekly responsibilities that need to be squeezed into an already full schedule.  There is also a sense of hope and anticipation.  You see, I still enjoy teaching.  Even though I have been teaching the same courses, and the same basic material for years, every semester is different.  Each class is composed of a unique combination of students so that no two classes are alike.  It makes every semester a new experience.  My classes include discussion and I learn something new every semester.  I challenge my students to think…and they challenge me to think as well.  It is a learning experience for us all.

Today is the first day.

Chi Alpha @ CCC

August 26, 2010

I have been pastoring the same church since 1991.  I have been teaching at CCC since 1998.  This fall there is something new.  In a way, it is a combining of the two jobs that I have been doing for so many years.  This year we are hoping to start a Chi Alpha group at CCC.

Chi Alpha is a student ministry organization affiliated with the Assemblies of God.   Frequently Chi Alpha groups are led by individuals who act as campus missionaries, or pastors, on a full-time basis.  They raise their support from churches that support their vision of reaching out to the college students.

I am not becoming a full-time Chi Alpha worker, but none-the-less, will be working in campus ministries on a volunteer basis.

We are starting with a light schedule.  We will have bi-weekly meetings consisting of a time of sharing, a time of prayer and a time for Bible study and discussion.  We may have occasional outreach or fellowship activities as time and interest dictate.

At this time I have fulfilled the school requirements for a student group, except that I need a sufficient number of students indicating interest.  I have sign up sheets around the college and hope to have enough names shortly after classes begin in the fall.

I would appreciate your prayers as I begin this new endeavor.

Judging Judges

August 25, 2010

This November, in Iowa, three of the judges that made the decision to allow gay marriage in Iowa will be on the ballot.  The people of the state are given the opportunity to ratify their appointment, or not.  This is an opportunity to express how we feel about their work.  It will not change any laws, but it may send a message about what the majority of the  public thinks about their decision.  This could make a difference in what happens in other states.

The Iowa Supreme Court  created something new in our state by allowing gay marriages.  It is my opinion that the judges exceeded their authority.  I am glad that I will have the opportunity to express my opinion with my vote in November.

Inform or Inflame?

August 24, 2010

A partial truth can be more damaging than an outright lie.  I have had conversations with people who had a small piece of the truth, but that piece had been taken out of context, or misapplied for the express purpose of provoking an emotional response.  Emotions can be powerful motivators to get a response, but it might not be the right response.

It would be best if we responded with both reason and emotion.   In fact, perhaps we should take a lesson from Mr. Spock, and allow reason to guide our decisions, free from the entanglement of emotion.  Once a decision is reached, then our emotions can come on board.

Be careful of the sources of information.  They may be telling the truth, but is it the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?  Or are portions of truth being used to manipulate a response that is desired for reasons unknown to the recipient?   We are responsible for our actions, and we should be careful of the informational sources that guide our decisions.

The Common Good

August 23, 2010

Disasters often draw people together.  Survival and recovery are two goals that people facing a natural disaster have in common.  People of diverse backgrounds and beliefs can be drawn to work together once a common goal is recognized.

There are goals that should be able to unite us.  For example,  I would like to think that most people desire to be able to live in peace.  Force should be used only to restrain those who would perpetrate harmful acts.  Disagreements should be settled by other means than appealing to force.

I suspect also that helping people to avoid starvation is another goal that all but the most callous could agree to work towards together.  Whatever the political or religious beliefs of an individual, no one deserves to starve.   I believe that the world is capable of producing enough to sustain the people of the world.  It is the details of storage and distribution that hinder an ending of world hunger.

If the people of the world could focus their efforts in these two areas, it would be a different world.

We can start by changing the way that we talk with each other.  Instead of using rhetoric that divides people, and  inflames passions; that may result in  people acting motivated by anger instead of compassion: perhaps we can try to discuss our differences in a way that will promote peaceful resolution, rather than armed conflict.

Politics as Usual

August 19, 2010

The first trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has ended with him having been found guilty of only one of the many counts against him.

He was found guilty of lying to federal investigators.

I am afraid that I have become somewhat jaded when it comes to American politics.  As a young teenager I watched as the Watergate scandal unfolded.  I am not surprised that politicians would lie.  I have wondered if any of them would consistently  tell the truth.

He is accused of trying to “sell” the Senate seat, formerly held by President Obama.   He certainly sounds like he is trying to make a deal for it.  After all, it was “golden”.

Don’t politicians make deals all the time?  If we arrested every politician that traded their vote on an issue for something else that they wanted in return, would we have anyone in congress?

The cost of the first trial was over twenty million dollars.  Plans are underway for a retrial.  It sure seems like that money could be put to better use.

Ok, so he lied, and,  he talked privately about trying to make a deal for the senate seat.  I am sad to say that it sounds like politics as usual to me.

Within Our Limits

August 18, 2010

The other day I was out for another long run.  By long,  I mean ten miles.  After the run I commented to a guy at the gym that I had achieved four out of five objectives.

1.  I survived.  (That is always a good thing!)

2.  I made it back on my own, no one had to come get me.

3.  I ran the entire distance without having to walk.

4.  My time was better than the last time.  (The last time, I had to walk part of the time.)

5.  I did not make the goal of averaging either nine or ten minute miles.

I felt pretty good about the run.

While running I try to pay attention to what my body is telling me.  I really don’t have a death wish and so if I need to slow down, or walk or even quit, I will make adjustments as necessary.

It is important to recognize our physical limitations.

I once read that “the key to accumulating wealth, is to live well within your means”.

I have sought to live within my means for all my life, not because I seek to accumulate wealth, but because I want to avoid financial hardship.  Many of those hardships are caused by poor financial planning or decisions.

It is  important to recognize our financial limitations.

When I was young, I had a tendency to over-commit.  I would stuff my schedule so full of  activities and commitments that I would run myself down and have to quit abruptly.  Over time I have learned how much I can handle.  I still try to do too much, but I have become better at selecting what needs to be done, and have not crashed…yet.

It is important to recognize our limitations of time and energy.

God however, is not limited.

The challenge in doing the work of the ministry is to have the wisdom to recognize when we must stay within our limits, and when it is time to allow God to stretch us, to go beyond ourselves.

If we operate only within our limits then we may not realize the fullness of God’s plans for us.

If we go beyond our limits on our own initiative, and not by the direction of the Holy Spirit, then we, and others with us,  may suffer serious consequences.

May God grant us wisdom to run the course that is set before us, to achieve the full potential of his calling in our lives.

Confusing Excellence and Godliness

August 17, 2010

Over the last few years I have heard a lot about pursuing excellence.  I am concerned that people may begin to confuse excellence with godliness.  They are not synonymous terms.  It is true that we should do our best,  that “whatever we do, we do as unto the Lord”.   However, a person’s best may still be mediocre in the eyes of the world.  A godly young person may be an average athlete or musician.  They may pour their heart into their efforts and still be average, not excellent.  That does not make them any less pleasing in the eyes of God.  On the other hand, a person may be a gifted athlete or musician, work very hard and be excellent in their fields of endeavor.  However, they may be arrogant or proud, or fall short in many other ways, not being very godly at all.

On a different note,  a church may have excellent facilities, a beautiful building, the best equipment money can buy, a polished performance by the musicians and preacher, achieving excellence in every observable way, but they may be cold, loveless and dead.  A different church may have an old building, worn carpet, and a failing sound system, with less polished musicians and preacher, yet they may be filled with warmth, love, and the presence of God.

It is possible to be godly, but not achieve excellence.

It is possible to be excellent, but not godly.

I submit that God is more pleased with godliness, than excellence.

In our pursuit of excellence,   we should remember that it is, at best, a secondary virtue.   We should place more emphasis on godliness.

Free to Offend?

August 16, 2010

There are currently plans to build a new Islamic Center a few blocks from where the twin towers stood.  This has resulted in an enormous amount of debate between two opposing camps.   One side: including the mayor of New York, and President Obama,  proclaims that American freedom declares that a building can be built anywhere if the local zoning allow that particular type of building.  They say that to deny the right to build because it is building designated as Muslim would be a restriction of religious freedom.  The opposing view is that it would appear to be a shrine risen to proclaim the victory of the jihadists that sacrificed their lives for their Muslim faith in the destruction of the towers.  As such, it would be offensive to a large majority of Americans.

I appreciate the ideological argument of freedom.  There is something to be said for taking the moral high ground.  Freedom is a very important part of our American culture.  We have lost enough freedoms lately.   Freedom should be preserved whenever possible.

On the other hand, the proposed center would clearly be offensive to many people.  It would not be well received, and could easily become a wedge causing additional division between Muslims and the rest of the American people.  We do not need another source of strife.

I do not think that the center should be built at its’ proposed location.

It is ideologically correct to grant permission in the name of freedom.

It would be even better, if the developers freely selected a different location for the sake of peace and goodwill.

If they do not voluntarily change their plans, then we must ask ourselves if freedom is worth the offensiveness of the center’s location?

Martyred!

August 12, 2010

On Thursday August 5th,  ten members of a medical team doing humanitarian work in Afghanistan were murdered by the Taliban.  They were captured, accused of trying to convert people to Christianity, and of spying.  They were executed without  mercy and without trial.

They were Christian.  This is true.

It is claimed that they had Dari language Bibles with them.  This could well be true.

It is claimed that they had “spying gadgets”.  They probably had an assortment of electronic devices, probably associated with their medical work.

Did they deserve to die?  Absolutely not!!

They were aware of the risks associated with working in the area.  They had accepted those risks because of their love for Christ and for the Afghan people.  We are again reminded of the ruthless nature of the Taliban, and our need to pray for Christians around the world who may live, or work, in areas that are hostile to Christianity.

God will welcome these martyrs to their heavenly home.

We should pray for their families comfort, strength, and peace.

We should also pray that their executioners may come to repentance.

It remains to be seen, what will be the full  impact of their lives, and deaths, in the region, and around the world.