Remembering the Bow

Noah's ark and a rainbowThis year I am reading the entire Bible again (you should too), and yesterday the flood subsided. Afterward, our Lord tells Noah:

14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9:14-16, English Standard Version).

Considering God is an omniscient and omnipotent being, doesn’t it seem odd that He would need a rainbow to be reminded that he promised not to drown all of us again? We could say that this is a case where humans, naturally being human-centric, are using anthropomorphic language to describe God…but here the Most High is being directly quoted.

So, does God have to, like His creatures, tie a string around His finger to not forget things?

[Read more…]

49

Birthday cake with candlesWhen I was young, my birthday was second only to Christmas in excitement for me. As I've aged, however, they have morphed into more of an annual time for reflection. Sure, I still appreciate the love and attention I receive from friends and family members, the gifts, and the myriad Facebook Happy Birthdays, but as I begin my 50th year of life three thoughts stand out for me more than the actual celebration of my birth.

#1: Wasted potential.

I suspect I am not alone in thinking that I have, in great measure, wasted the gifts that God has given me (and the opportunity to be much closer to Him than I am). How about you? Do you embarrassingly look back on the hours you squandered on activities that helped no one, including yourself? Do you imagine what you could have been if you kept your eye on the prize and then lower your head in shame as you see the delta between it and where you are?

And just think…this is how I feel now…wait until next year when I turn 50. 🙂 [Read more…]

A God that Does Not Want to Be Measured Will Not Be Measured

Measuring tapeOne of the (many) shortcomings of Christian religion to atheists is that God remains unmeasurable.  Here is a being that purportedly has often interfered in the natural realm (including its very creation), yet no scientific instrument, photograph, video, or so on has captured a single one of His miracles (although I'm sure some Christians would argue otherwise).

Yet, as much as it might be claimed a cop-out, reality is that…

A God that does not want to be measured will not be measured.

Now, that is actually slightly inaccurate in that it implies God has hidden Himself, whereas Christians believe that He has actually gone through great efforts to reveal Himself, finally providing the ultimate form of communication: [Read more…]

Getting Back on the Horse

Man falling off horseI'm not really an emotional man, and change the last couple years has been so constant that (as much as I desire some stability in my day-to-day and week-to-week life) I cannot claim that the move to Colorado has thrown me for a loop.

However, leaving New Hampshire about a month ago has had a lot more impact on me than I wish. We left a town that we loved (and called home for over 9 years)…but more importantly we left a church family that can never be replaced. Additionally, we transitioned from living in a home in a rural town to an apartment in a heavily populated suburb. We've resided in even more urban areas, but not in about a decade. We were spoiled by being able to see stars by night and avoid traffic lights by day.

We drove to Denver from New Hampshire starting on a Tuesday night and arriving late Friday afternoon. That Sunday we found the closest Church of Christ and showed up for the 9AM service. The gathering was fine—nothing great, nothing terrible (although Michelle is definitely not a fan of using PowerPoint during song service and the sermon). The message was unmemorable, but not especially aggravating. Augie enjoyed his Bible study class, and the people who took the time to say hi were friendly. [Read more…]

What Is Your Greatest Fear?

Scared manWhat is your greatest fear?

I've heard before that people's greatest fear is public speaking. As a preacher I've either overcome that or have learned to fake it pretty well, eh? Personally, I think my greatest fears (if I allow myself to think about it) have to do with my children. I won't go into specifics (to write of them would bring them to the mental forefront), but even a common human fear…that of death…for me is mainly a fear of how it will affect my children.

How about you? What is your greatest fear? Was it public speaking or death? Flying on airplane? Spiders? The dark? Clowns? 🙂

We all have fears, and often irrational ones. They really aren't a problem unless they prevent us from living a normal life. We can avoid speaking in public, steer clear of dangerous activities, take a bus across country, stay away from creepy-crawly things, plug in night lights, and never enter a circus tent.

But sometimes fears can overwhelm us, and we've heard of individuals who (for instance) have agoraphobia and refuse to leave their homes. If we had a friend like that we likely would encourage them to visit a psychiatrist.

However, perhaps the worst types of fears are those that keep us from doing the right thing at the right time. Maybe at school you saw a kid get picked on and you should have spoken up, but you kept your mouth shut for fear that the bullying bullseye would move to you. Or maybe at work you made a mistake but you didn't tell anyone because you were worried about getting in trouble (and possibly even lose your job). [Read more…]

What’s in a Preface?

BibleHave you ever been asked to do something where, instead of lamenting the burden you were just handed, you felt extremely honored to be chosen? If so, were you especially diligent in your efforts, being extra careful to do it right and to live up to the charge you were given?

If you haven't had that type of opportunity, what kind of request would cause you to feel that way? Being asked to be the best man or the maid of honor? The President personally ringing you up to help with an important initiative? Something else?

Perhaps for a Christian one of the most significant tasks we could ever enter into is translating Scripture. Unless you've had years and years of biblical Hebrew and Greek (I haven't), it is probably difficult to imagine, but just ponder what you would be involved with. These are the very words of God being converted from their original languages into your common tongue. Every decision you make directly affects whether your reader is being given an accurate rendering of what our Lord said, either directly or by inspiring prophets of old. When manuscripts disagree, did you choose the correct one? Is it better to translate word-for-word than thought-for-thought so as to avoid putting your own interpretation into the verses? Is it better to translate thought-for-though than word-for-word because the latter would be near impossible to read and would not make any sense to the average human? [Read more…]

“Alan the Atheist”

If you are a regular reader of my bulletin articles, you already know that Twitter is often an inspiration for what I write. This week's motivation began when a Christian I follow retweeted:

I am #atheism, and the behavior of the most fanatically devout is so often my best argument. #islam #catholicism #christianity

I responded to the original tweeter:

Legit embedded criticism of religion acknowledged *****. However, do misbehaving rabid atheists equally disprove atheism?

What ensued was a conversation that continued long enough to mean I was a wee bit tired the next day. Initially it was painful—and I ultimately I found out why:

I started suspicious of you because you are a minister. I have found your profession to debate dishonestly in the past.

Ouch…but mostly because I suspect it is true.

The conversation improved after that, although he no more ended as a Christian believing in our resurrected Lord than I ended as an atheist believing in evolution. At best, we laid a foundation for future interactions. We will see what the future holds.

However, what I especially found interesting is something in common between the four atheists that crossed my path that night. Here is the Twitter bio of the original gentleman:

Atheist Twitter Bio #1

Demanding proof of all religions' legitimacy. How offensive you find my tweets is inversely proportional to your rationality.

That wasn't especially contentious, but also not very welcoming to those of us who believe. The second atheist of the evening was a biologist the first suggested could answer any questions I have about evolution. From his Twitter profile: [Read more…]

Did Jesus Shed a Tear Over Judas?

Eye with tearsConsidering the difference between today's culture and that in the early years of the kings of Israel, it may be a bit hard to do an "imagine"…but…

Imagine you are a popular king of your nation, blessed by God. You make a huge, huge mistake, but you are honestly (and completely) contrite.

You understand if your enemies try to take advantage of your error, but you expect your sons…the sons you love…to support you in your politically weakened state. Instead, your third oldest decides to try to grab your thrown. One of the maneuvers he makes to cement his coup is to sleep with your concubines…and, we aren't talking about a private approach here: [Read more…]

You’ll Get Your Chance

Pastor Louie Giglio (taken from the Passion City Church blog)[Before you read this article, please read "What I Think about Homosexuals and Homosexuality."]

Earlier today (January 10, 2013), Twitter lit-up because an Atlanta pastor, Louie Giglio, withdrew his acceptance of an invitation to present the benediction for the upcoming presidential inauguration. Considering what Addie Whisenant of the Presidential Inaugural Committee said, it may have been the equivalent of an employee resigning before being fired:

We were not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection and they don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration's vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.1

What were the remarks that set-off gay activists? Quite a few in a 54-minute sermon called "In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality"2 from around two decades ago. Describing it as preaching "rabidly anti-LGBT views," ThinkProgress LGBT appeared especially incensed that he suggested Christians needed to fight efforts that would lead "to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle, as it relates to family."; that he clearly and unambiguously stated practicing homosexuality is a sin; that he asserted that it doesn't matter if homosexuality is genetic, it is still a choice; that he dared to reference and discuss on a verse that said practicing gays won't make it into heaven; and that he posited Jesus Christ is powerful enough to heal homosexuals from their sinful behavior.3 [Read more…]

A Christian’s Letter to Santa

Letter to SantaAfter typing the title to this article, "A Christian's Letter to Santa," it hit me that there are brothers in sisters in the body of Christ who would immediately assert, "A Christian would never write Santa" or even "A Christian would never celebrate Christmas." For instance, after posting a quick "Merry Christmas from the Antrim Church of Christ!" (followed by four applicable scriptures) on our Facebook page, one saint commented:

Is this the true church of Christ who celebrate xmas? Church of Christ does not do such thing.

Although he hasn't taken me up on my offer to discuss it, I do not question that an argument can be made for not celebrating a holiday whose date (and some customs) have pagan connections. Additionally, I do think that certain aspects of the American Santa Claus tradition are problematic…but I'm not going to potentially start any firestorm here. 🙂

Luckily, the Bible allows for differing views on the holiday: [Read more…]

Church Bulletin Goulash

Christmas Tree StarI had hoped to write this bulletin with Augie. I didn't know if it would work (never tried it before), but I figured that if he and I pulled it off it would be one of my best. Everything goes better with Augie. 🙂

Alas, I also made the mistake of convincing him to try Amazon.com's new service, Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. Basically, it is a program that locks your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD into books, applications, and videos that are appropriate for your child. (Even so, I've already let my munchkin know that SpongeBob and Yo Gabba Gabba are off limits. SpongeBob first because I really do think it's a bad influence on kids, especially ones who already are hyper and/or have behavior issues. The second 'cause it is just plain weird, and I'd rather watch Thomas the Tank Engine for seven months straight than view one episode of that bizarre show. For those wondering years ago…yes there could be something worse…far worse…than Barney the Purple Dinosaur. :-)) [Read more…]

Tempted by Half a Billion Dollars

Powerball ticketDo you remember the 1993 movie, "Indecent Proposal," where Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson's characters (married in the film) are offered $1,000,000 by Robert Redford's character if she will just spend a single night with him? Or perhaps 2009's "The Box," where the couple played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden are offered an equal amount if they'll simply press a button? The catch with their opportunity is that when they push the button in the box someone will die (although it won't be a person they know).

Would you take either offer? I'm assuming most people would immediately reject the second one…but I suspect there are some out there…folks in especially dire financial straits…where the first proposition might result in more than just a quick passing thought. One doesn't have to actually be greedy for money to be a terrible temptation—sometimes just wanting to be able to pay your bills can cause you to make questionable decisions. There immense of wisdom in Agur's words in Proverbs: [Read more…]

Surrendering to Be Free

Apple chrome Logo (from http://www.technobolt.com/)As I keep my eyes open for ideas for these bulletins, sometimes it seems more than coincidental that two items cross my social media streams so perfectly to highlight a potential subject. In one case, it was a random tweet that someone I follow must have retweeted combined with a Gawker article where the author explains an electronic wrestling match he had with, of all people, the late Steve Jobs (of Apple fame).

I'm not sure why those two didn't inspire the article the week I ran into them, but luckily I keep a note with sermon and article ideas…and I was reminded of them again today as I scanned through my list of potential topics.

I mean, you really don't want another article connected with the presidential election do you? 🙂

First, the tweet. This is what @lanalue wrote (Sorry…I didn't grab a screen capture at the time):

You will only experience the amount of freedom that u are willing to surrender to God.

Hmmm…seems contradictory, doesn't it? How many soldiers would say that they surrendered for freedom? You don't surrender for freedom…since it means (if you aren't just shot) you are going to become a prisoner of war.

Yet @lanalue is telling us that our freedom is directly proportional to our surrender to God (not inversely proportional as we would expect).

So, how can Steve Jobs shed more light on this apparent contradiction? [Read more…]

A Christian Voter’s Guide (2012)

Ribbon with the word 'Vote' on itBack in my original "A Christian Voter's Guide," I suggested some basic principles in deciding how to vote:

  • Vote based on your worldview
  • Some issue are so significant they almost dwarf all others
  • You should be fully convinced in your own mind
  • There is a lot at stake when it comes to the direction our country takes

I still stand by all of those (although I recommend you read the original article to better understand their individual applications).

This year, at least in my universe of Christians discussing politics, the most contentious issue is whether a Christian should vote at all. For instance, having both candidates claim to be Christians, but neither likely to actually be, for some, means we should vote "absent" on November 6, 2012. (This is not the only reason given for not voting.) [Read more…]

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Boy with his hand raisedOne of the reasons I like being around young children is because their excitement is infectious—even when it is about inconsequential or mundane things. Michelle and I have been blessed by the fact that Augie is especially able to appreciate life's ordinary occurrences. There is no school day where he isn't thrilled to hear the words, "The bus is here" or where an evening meal of noodles doesn't excite him. While the rest of the world is trying to find the next best thing, Augie is enjoying life's smallest and most repetitive events. I will miss when his little-boy, heartfelt "Fanks" disappears, but I suspect it'll be replaced by a grown man's "Thanks"; somehow I can't imagine the contagious glow that permeates his being will ever disappear. [Read more…]