Archives For December 2010

It’s Sad…. But Joyful…

December 31, 2010 — 2 Comments

For a number of weeks now I have been looking for stories about Christians doing good in the world. When I brought up the new category entitled Let’s Show the World I thought finding Christians reaching out to the world would be an easy thing. It is sad for me to say but I found the opposite to be the case. After hours of searching the internet I was only able to find one story that fit the bill for this category and it was five years old! I was able to find that most Christian denominations have some philanthropic type divisions linked to them but most lack specific instances of showing the world. I also have found that when it comes to resources these divisions account only for a very very small percentage of the spending of most of those denominations.

Joyfully I have found a couple of organizations that do fit this category but they are very insistent that they do not affiliate themselves with any religious organization. How sad it is to see that the division, and often times corresponding animosity, that occurs in Christianity causes people who are trying to show the Lord’s love in their lives to separate themselves from religious organizations.

The two most prominent organizations to “show the world” are

www.values.com

www.randomactsof kindness.org

These sites contain hundreds of stories and blog posts that maintain the brother’s keeper mentality. I very much encourage you to browse the sites for those uplifting stories. So, to populate the “Let’s show the world” category on this blog I will from time to time pull some stories from these sites.

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WARNING

I am going to get on my soapbox here. I try not to do it very often but sometimes things just grate on me too much! I want to get this off my mind so I can start fresh in 2011

 

I am sorry to say that I have evidenced a strong link between what is probably the majority of Christians who call themselves Evangelicals and the radical right wing of the Republican Party. It is unfathomable to me that those who say they take Jesus’ words as absolute truth can then turn around and align themselves with such a anti-brother’s keeper type worldly organization. The two seem to be diametrically opposite in their philosophies so I am confused as to why they seem to be linked by so many?

Yes I understand those who are religious are opposed to abortion, I certainly am. But to then  attach themselves to a political party just because they verbally, but without any corresponding action, say they are also against abortion are words only intended to accomplish a politically advantageous association and nothing more. Why can’t more people see that obvious fact?

The latest example of the radical right mentality is their attempted blocking of the child nutrition bill which give poor kids at least one hot meal a day. They deemed the program unnecessary government intrusion and a waste of taxpayer money. I guess they think the money would be better spent on building a few more smart bombs than on poor kids. They certainly don’t have any compunction about giving unlimited resources to the world’s biggest war machine. This is something that many in the evangelical community seems to be actively promoting and even celebrating. Where are God’s words in this action? (Since I have written these words the Republican has finally given in and allow this bill to pass above their objections.)

Does this link between Evangelicals and radical right politics damage the kingdom of God on earth. In my opinion it absolutely does! Someone who, like myself, has an ingrained God given desire to help others is surely very turned off by this association. I’m pretty sure Bill Gates among others has mentioned this strange  link as a reason to totally separate his philanthropy from the religious environment. Given my strong propensity to trying to obey God’s command to help others I am often times very reluctant to let some know of my religious affiliations.

It is extremely sad to me to see this type of negative link between religion and worldly politics. Jesus warned us of this many times but I guess many choose to ignore those biblical passages. That saddens me greatly!

Sometimes a burst of questions comes into my mind. They usually come and go before I have time to even put them on a Post-It for further study. This time I was at my keyboard. Here is what I have been thinking of this afternoon.

In the past I have been a member of different Christian denominations who say we must go out and save the rest of the world by telling them about Jesus.

  • But I’m not a Jesus freak as the world has come to know many of us. At least not any longer. If you want to go about your life without any in deep knowledge of Him that is your business. You will certainly have many opportunities to know Him if that is your desire. Unless you ask me I will not try to push you in that direction. I am a guy who has chosen to make the teachings of Jesus the central theme of my life. If you choose otherwise I won’t bug you. But if you ask I will certainly tell you why I have the joy that I have in my life. I will not try to intimidate you into believing by threatening God’s eternal damnation. That is between you and God. I have been exposed to various methods that supposedly bring people to Christ. I have come to believe as the Bible says that is the business of the Holy Spirit.

     

  • Are there other paths to heaven besides belonging to a present day Christian organization? At this point in my life I am not willing to say that there aren’t. Jesus said to get to the Father you must go through him. But to me that does not necessarily mean that you must fall in lock step with any current groups who call themselves Christians.
  • Is it possible to be Spiritual without being religious? If being religious means going to church every Sunday (or Saturday) then I don’t know? But I believe I have found my path to the Lord. It is studying the red letters found in the Bible. All of the Bible contains some degree of inspiration from God. All of its many human authors believed they were speaking for Him. But if I really want to know from a firsthand account what God is all about then I must concentrate on those words that came directly from His lips. All the other words found in the Bible at best just reinforce those words. Jesus’ ministry lasted three years. He had enough time to personally tell us what God is all about. I believe he did just that. Study the red letters if you want to know the real messages of God.
  • I know the words of Jesus known as the Great Commission tell us to go out and make disciples but he did not give us a laundry list of just how to do that? I think he chose to leave the details up to each of us individually. I chose a way that is best for me. That is to listen to the last half of that message which is to obey all that he has commanded. That part of the Great Commission seems to have been lost in much of today’s world. In order to know what he has commanded we need to study his words on a daily if not minute by minute basis and to make every attempt to obey them. We will lead people to Christ by our examples, not by our words. And no, I don’t obey his commands perfectly; that is just not possible for us human beings but that does not excuse us from even trying. Giving up even the attempt is a total cop out.

Speaking up in church..

December 27, 2010 — 1 Comment

Speaking up in church is something that varies widely in the Christian world. When my wife and I joined a small startup church eight years ago everyone there felt welcomed to speak up after the service. Since the church was a liturgical one speaking up during the service was a limited to chanting the required verses as they came up in the service text. But after the service anyone who had something to say could stand up and speak their mind. During those years we were renting space in a strip mall so our church was somewhat unconventional at least from an architectural standpoint. We were a small congregation so speaking up was a good way for everyone to get to know their fellow members.

Five years or so after the startup and with a new pastor we bought and remodeled a space that looked much more like a conventional church. Not long after the new facilities were completed a decision was made to restrict speaking up to only the pastor. If someone wanted to say something they are now required to give their written message to the pastor and he would recite it to the congregation after the service. I’m not really sure the purpose for this change but one of the results, at least from my viewpoint, was to take away much of the small church feel and personal fellowship. I was saddened to not hear those special, although sometimes long winded personal recitals. 🙂

I know when I was a member of a Catholic congregation many years ago speaking up was also limited to pretty much the pastor. The ability to stand up and speak varies greatly among different denominations. Some encourage speaking up with an occasional “Amen” during the service; some allow more personal utterances. But I think there is primarily only one who actually have “speaking up” as the primary means of worship and that is The Society of Friends known as Quakers. For those Quakers who use the unprogrammed worship format speaking up is what the service is all about. It is left up to the congregants to decide what is said during their worship time. Some meeting (services) go the whole period in silence; some are a constant messages as received by the members from the Holy Spirit.

I think God meant us to speak up during our worship time and not to just have everything set up to automatically speak for us.

Genesis One – A book review

December 26, 2010 — 1 Comment


With this post I am reviewing a book named Genesis One – A Scientific Perspective by Hugh Ross. Hugh Ross is a noted astronomer and the founder of Reasons to Believe which is a foundation dedicated to reconciling the Bible with scientific findings. This short 34 page book goes line by line through Genesis 1 – 17 and shows how each passage is backed up by scientific findings.

The knowledge that Mr. Ross has regarding the meanings of the original Aramaic and Greek words adds great insight to this findings. I will not be covering each text that was discussed in the book. I will leave that up to you. I did want to include one paragraph about how human history begins:

DNA analysis can now test the Bible’s claim that humanity is descended from one couple living approximately 50,000 years ago. We all get our mitochondrial DNA from our mothers. All men get their Y-chromosome DNA from their fathers. Mitochondrial DNA studies confirm that the human species is traceable back to a single woman who lived 50,000 years ago (taking into account that 10 to 20 percent of the population inherits two types of mitochondrial DNA and less than 1 percent three types). Y-chromosome DNA studies confirm that the human species is traceable back to a single man who lived between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago.

DNA recovered from a dozen Neanderthal species eliminates Neanderthal as a possible ancestor for humanity. It also shows that Neanderthals as a species experienced little if any change with respect to time. Similarly, DNA recovered from human species that date back more than 20,000 years show little, if any, change with respect to time in the human species.

Later in this topic author makes the following statement.

The evidence available today is staggering both in quantity and quality. For the first time in history, science confirms every creation event – and its sequence – as described in Genesis.

 

What this tells us is that if we concede that the earth was created in seven day ages instead of seven 24 hour days then science very much aligns with biblical text. It seems that many Christians link the theory of evolution with the scientific belief of Genesis. Mr. Ross very much rejects that idea. Evolution is very much an unverified theory and has no scientific fact to back it up.

While I certainly realize that this book will not change minds of people who are totally locked into the seven 24 hour day interpretation of the bible it should at least make everyone else appreciate how well science and the Bible are intrinsically linked. We Christian should not fear God given scientific facts given to us by the Holy Spirit as we are able to understand them.

Merry Christmas…

December 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

After the flurry of posts around my leaving my church of eight years this two week respite has been refreshing. I will probably start up again soon.

Via this post I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  May we all spend a few extra minutes in the next days contemplating some of the red letters. After all that is what this day is really all about.

Science & Religion…

December 13, 2010 — 2 Comments

Why must some versions of Christianity pit scientific discovery against religious doctrine? It seems from my personal experiences that to some if you believe in God then you cannot believe in scientific discovery. Of course much of this goes back to the literal interpretation of Bible. Since those holding that view must believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old how do they reconcile that with all the scientific facts known today. The most prominent of these recent discoveries is carbon dating. I don’t pretend to know all the details of this branch of science but I do know that it has been shown to be accurate in every instance that it has been challenged.

Since it seems impossible to disprove carbon dating then those who dispute it on religious grounds must do so by saying that it is just God tricking us! But why would God need to do that? This is just one discovery of a long line of discoveries that God has presented us with through the ages. Of course the most remembered disputed discovery was made by Galileo when he publicly stated that the earth is not the center of the universe. The religious establishment at that time came down hard and mercilessly on him for that and they were the power to be reckoned with at the time. They were convinced from their interpretation of the Bible that God had to have made the earth the center of everything. They simply would not even conceive of the idea that the earth was simply a very minor and almost totally insignificant part of the universe. Fast forward five hundred years and the Catholic Church finally got around to admitting and then apologizing for this error. I guess by that time the scientific proof was just impossible to deny even for them.

Todays logic by some is that since carbon dating must be wrong then we must be skeptical of all scientific discovery. So to those who believe this they must also look with suspicion on anyone who is a proponent of science. If you believe in science you must not believe in God. Of course this small group (at least I hope they are small) could not be more wrong.

There are many scientist Christians around today who are just as much a Christian as anyone. I consider myself to be one of them. I think the group that has the most problems being accepted by the religious community are the scientists. For them it seems much harder to be a Christian than not as they don’t feel they are welcomed in many Christian communities. The most visible scientist and Christian today is probably Francis Collins. He was the leader of the genome project that mapped out DNA. His book entitled The Language of God does a very good job to point out how science and religious beliefs can be melded very nicely if only we let it. It does no good for any of us to put a high fence between religion and science. It only drives people away. I will close with a paragraph from the above mentioned book.

If you are a believer in God who picked up this book because of concerns that science is eroding faith by promoting an atheistic worldview, I hope you are reassured by the potential for harmony between science and faith. If God is the Creator of all the universe, if God had a specific plan for the arrival of humankind on the scene, and if He had a desire for personal fellowship with humans, into whom He had instilled the Moral Law as a signpost toward himself, then He can hardly be threatened by the efforts of our puny minds to understand the grandeur of His creation.

 

Soon I will be reviewing a small book written by another scientist Christian. He is an astronomer named Hugh Ross. His book entitled Genesis One – A Scientific Perspective reconciles the creation story with that account in Genesis. It is very interesting reading at least to those who are not locked into the literal interpretation of the Bible.

What about the Bible???

December 11, 2010 — Leave a comment

I don’t believe that the collection of documents put together in the fourth century by Emperor Constantine’s council which is known today as the Bible was one hundred percent dictated by God.  Because I believe there is a human element to it some say that I surely must therefore deem it all worthless.

No! No! No!

I really tire of saying this but I must repeatedly explain to them that that is absolutely not the case!

I am unlike most of the inquisitors on this topic in that I am not an all-or-nothing person. I am instead like the most people in that I believe that almost everything, theology included, is shades of grey.

  • Yes, I recognize that many of the documents that made it into the final version of the Bible were ancient texts probably go back the 400 years to Christ’s times on earth.
  • Yes, the four Gospels are valuable resources in learning the messages of Jesus as understood by his immediate followers.
  • Yes, I believe that the authors were inspired by God to wrote down their accounts. I believe this is particularly true of the twelve apostles. Even though almost all of them were illiterate they managed to get their messages into written form. Some through Mark and Luke in particular
  • No, I don’t believe that every word, letter, punctuation mark was directly dictated by God.
  • No, I don’t believe that just because of the above that I must therefore throw out the Bible as worthless. To me that is the epitome of irrational thinking.
  • No, I don’t believe that God quit giving us messages once these authors had completed their works. He told us that he was giving us the Holy Spirit to eventually learn things we were not ready to learn during those biblical times. I believe he continues to do that through others and from scientific knowledge of his kingdom on earth. He told us to believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some have chosen to substitute the “Bible” in place of the “Spirit”. I am certainly not one of those.
  • No I don’t believe that the Bible is the word of God, that title is reserved solely for Jesus.  But I do believe that the Bible contains many inspired words from God.
  • No I DO NOT believe that the Bible is full of errors! The vast majority of what I read in the Bible I will take as truth. What I do believe is that some people’s interpretations of the Biblical messages are full of errors. They take fables which are only meant to teach us lessons and turn them into literal events. They then wrongly take that literal interpretation and use it as a corner post for their stands on institutional purity.  This same group would have very likely turned Jesus’ parables into literal events if Jesus had not directly told them that they were just stories to relay his message.  Too bad the other stories were not as clearly labeled.

So, do I think the Bible is a useful document? I can give you an emphatic YES to that query. In fact it is a totally awesome collection of works! It would have been wonderful beyond belief to have been one of those who actually sat at Jesus’ feet for the three years of his public ministry. The closest we can come to that now is to read the words of those who did. And many of those words are recorded in the Bible. Maybe someday some more Dead Sea type Scrolls will show up giving us more insight into those early accounts. But, until that time the Gospel text are the best we have. They are in my study on a weekly if not daily basis.

Let’s Show the World….

December 10, 2010 — 1 Comment

Some say I am too negative on this site and there is probably some truth to that. So with this post I am starting a new category called “Let’s show the world”. These posts will be about positive things we can do to make Jesus Christ more visible in the world today. They will also include stories about churches  and other Christian organizations who are presently showing the world the true light of Jesus Christ through their works and actions.  So, let’s get on with it.

In light of my recent post about billionaires giving away their fortunes, wouldn’t it be great if we Christians did more to show the world what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? I realize that our faith is a very personal matter between us and Jesus but He did tell us to go out into the world and make more  disciples and to teach them to obey his commands.  In today’s world the best way to get a message across is to lead by example. If we “walk-the-walk” as well as “talk-the-talk” it becomes a much more powerful message to those who are stuck in this material world.

Certainly not all of us Christians are millionaires or billionaires (but I imagine we are well represented in those groups also) but shouldn’t we all lead by example?  Let’s flood the food banks and soup kitchens with Christians volunteering to help. Lets be on the top at sending a few dollars to help with the dire problems in Haiti and the other similar spots in the world.  Let’s make sure that the poorest in this world have at least something to eat.  In other words let’s show the world that we really do care for “the least of these”. I know that there are some Christians already doing some of this but lets turn the volume way up so that no one can miss it.   I know we are not supposed to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing but I think God would forgive us if we did this as a group and not to bring attention to our individual selves.

All the statistics show that almost no one can tell a Christian from a secularist by their actions.  That needs to change and each one of us can do our part. Let’s show the world what it means to be a Christian.



RJ’s Comment

  • Wouldn’t it be great if Christian billionaires got together to make a similar pledge except in Jesus’ name and for even more?
  • How about 90%?
  • For that matter why not Christian millionaires too?

Wouldn’t that send a message to the secular world?