- Sometimes faith in an individual can appear to others to be arrogance.
- I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I may not be able to save the world, but I can make a difference to someone.
- Long term vision requires long term commitment requires long term resources.
- Fear God and nothing else.
- Some people have more faith in their own desperation than they have in God's ability to overcome their desperation.
- No matter what you do in life, always have fun. If you cannot have fun, change what you are doing.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The first good thing about The Andy Griffith Show is the characters. I do not mean Opie, Andy, Aunt Bea and Barnie. Yes, those are great characters, but I mean Otis and Floyd, Goober and Gomer, Ernest T Bass and Howard. These are the characters that make the show entertaining.
But there is a lot more than entertainment in Andy's World. There is a lot to learn as well. The Andy Griffith Show entertains because it is filled with funny characters, but it endures because it is filled with life lessons.
- Loyalty. It does not take long to realize that one of the great values that is shared in Mayberry is loyalty. Everyone, men, women and children, are loyal to family, friends and community. Promises get kept. Marriages endure. Children and parents love and respect one another. Commitment to loyalty is high.
- Honesty. Do not even think about lying to Sheriff Taylor. He can tell when you are not telling the truth and the consequences are great.
- Fair Play. Opie learns about fair play on a regular basis. You cannot cheat. You must not treat other people poorly, or take their things, or talk badly to them. Andy, the sheriff and Justice of the Peace, measures out justice in a fair and even-handed way for everyone. There is no prejudice in Mayberry.
- Kindness. This may be the most important value for us to learn. Be nice to people. Care for those you love, and those you don't even know. Treat everyone like you would like to be treated.
I certainly do not believe that if we emulate these values, even on broad terms, that we will live in a Mayberry-type environment. Mayberry is a made-up television town. No one should ever expect to have that sort of community. But I do believe that if more people took the lessons of Mayberry more seriously, we would all be a lot better off.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Their divorce announcement is not so shocking in light of some other facts. Although they co-pastor the church in Tampa, Mrs White keeps homes in New York City, San Antonio, Texas and California. And although he is married, Mr White has been seen publicly with women who are not his wife. And now we learn that both of them, Mr and Mrs White, have been married before. Now that they have failed marriage number 2 (for each of them), does that make them more likely to divorce again (and again)?
This article is not intended to be a condemnation of televangelists (although the Whites certainly give us a lot of material in the area), nor do I intend to pass judgment on who is right or wrong (although it seems that there is a lot of wrong and not very much right in this situation). I am tempted to write about the need for accountability and discipline where two people seem to think that they can do whatever they want. But instead of being negative, I want to offer hope.
I believe that there are certain steps that every married couple can take to avoid the problems that have plagued the Whites and so many others. Every marriage can be saved if both parties in the marriage will take their vows seriously.
- Make decisions to not be tempted, to not succumb to temptation and to be faithful, before temptations come. Although this seems terribly naive, it can have a powerful preventive effect. I know before passion begins that there is no future in it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.
- Every couple who gets married should believe the vows that they speak. Although commitment is very difficult, if you promise to stay married until you die, you should stay married until you die. There are definitely times when getting out of a marriage would be easier, but a commitment before God is a commitment before God.
- Follow God's Word. The Bible is very clear at this point. Divorce is sin. Do what God tells you to do. Maintaining your marriage and being faithful in it is a simple act of obedience.
- Never spend time alone with a person of the opposite sex who is not related to you. Sin cannot happen if you give no place to temptation. Take precautions to prevent temptation. There are enough temptations in this world without looking for them.
- Confess to your spouse when you are tempted. I do this on a regular basis. I let my wife know when I encounter an attractive woman. In this way I am not keeping secrets from her. My temptations, my faults, become a little more public. I become a little more accountable, and a lot less likely to stumble.
- Make yourself unavailable for members of the opposite sex. What I mean is, let it be known to your friends, your co-workers and others that you are not interested in any extra-marital activities. I regularly tell my congregation how much I love my wife. In this way I let everyone know that I want to maintain my marriage.
- Outline rules for arguing within your marriage. Every couple deals with disagreements. You cannot pretend that you do not argue. But you can set up some ground rules for 'fair play' in your fights. For example, my wife and I are so committed to our marriage that we can never threaten to divorce in the heat of a disagreement. We don't mean it, so we won't say it.
- Put your partner first. Always be sensitive to the needs, desires and hurts of your spouse. His/her life and success should be more important to you than your own.
None of these are a guarantee for the happiness of your marriage, but these steps will help to maintain health and longevity. These things would not have hurt the Whites.
Monday, September 24, 2007
And then there are some trivial matters:
- There is at least one United Methodist Church in every county in the United States.
- There are more United Methodist Churches in the USA than there are US Post Offices.
- The United Methodist Church has more than 4oo missionaries serving around the world.
- The United Methodist Publishing House produces some of the best resources in the Christian world.
And although I am excited about all these things, none of them get at the heart of my commitment to the United Methodist Church. I am a United Methodist for two primary reasons.
- The doctrine of the United Methodist Church and the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church as outlined in the Book of Discipline, are right on target. For a person who believes in the Bible in general and Wesleyan theology specifically, there is no better summation of belief and practice. (One of my concerns with the church is that we do not always live up to, follow, or enforce those things that we say we believe.) The United Methodist Church fits me in belief and practice.
- My particular beliefs, especially concerning the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit, would not allow me to be in any other denomination. In United Methodism I am given the freedom to believe in the work of the Holy Spirit. I can believe in and even practice, healing, speaking in tongues and the other gifts. There is no pressure that I must use these gifts, and likewise, there is no prohibition concerning their use.
Oh sure, I get made at the church. It frustrates me that we have rules against ordaining gay pastors, and yet some gay pastors still get ordained and appointed. I get upset that our General Board of Global Ministries sometimes loses sight of the evangelistic element of mission in all it’s work to feed the hungry and alleviate suffering. It bothers me that so much of the church is pre-occupied with politics rather than ministry. But, I am a United Methodist, and I am glad that I am.
I was growing accustomed to this when we left to go home. During our 24 hour layover in Cairo, however, it got worse. I was not exactly impressed with the security system in the Cairo airport. Everything seemed at once too relaxed and too chaotic. But when we left the airport, one of the first things I noticed was the Cairo police officers that seemed to be everywhere outside the airport terminal. They were carrying automatic rifles. It is truly a different world.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
- There are deeply committed Christians all over the world. Although we came from vastly different cultures and languages, we were united in our love for Christ.
- Personal happiness is not equal to having money. I saw abject poverty all over Uganda. In fact, at times I became downright depressed at the poor conditions I saw. Inside plumbing is a luxury that few people enjoy. Electricity is non-existent in most homes. These people live on dirt floors. And yet, they are extremely happy.
- I learned that patience is a virtue (one that often does not exist is the USA). Waiting 45 minutes for a grilled cheese sandwich in a restaurant teaches you that speed is not always the most important thing.
- I learned that it is possible to be exceedingly kind, even to strangers and foreigners. Everywhere I went it was obvious that I was from somewhere else. And everywhere I went I felt safe, welcomed and befriended. Kindness was something that I saw every day, and that I need to incorporate at home.
Of course, I learned a lot more than these few things. If you would like to know more about my trip, you can see some pictures and read our team journal at http://ugandabibleacademy.blogspot.com/. I do not know if I will go back, but I know that I will never forget this experience and I will never be the same.
Friday, September 21, 2007
The church has done a very good job of making Jesus pretty harmless through these last two millenia. He makes no significant claims on our lives, our time, or our money. He has very low expectations and a lot of grace and forgiveness. In fact, Jesus loves us so much that we can do almost nothing that is wrong. Sin has become an out-moded, out of touch doctrine that is inconvenient at best. Or at least, so goes the popular notions of Jesus in the church.
We keep running back to Jesus the lover of my soul, the friend of sinners, because that is a lot more comfortable than Jesus the Judge. We prefer the Jesus of Easter morning than the Jesus of Good Friday. Good Friday Jesus is filled with sin. He was a bloody, sinful mess. In fact, on Friday, at his crucifixion, Jesus was so full of sin that his Father could not even look at him. And most of us find that Jesus hard to look at too. It could be that this is the most important Jesus to see, however. You see, it is when Jesus is at his worst, that he has about our best.
In the crucifixion he takes our sin. All the nasty, secret, dirty, ugly sins that you and I have ever committed are taken away by Jesus on the cross. His sacrifice allows us to be made whole. The ugly Jesus is a great sight for us.
In the crucifixion Jesus takes our sickness. The prophet of the Old Testament tells us that by the stripes, the scourging, of the Messiah we can be healed. How appropriate then, that Jesus' body was beaten and broken so that ours' could be made whole. Our healing and restoration is taken by Jesus.
In the crucifixion Jesus takes our sorrows and sadness. When we know that our guilt has been taken away, we have cause for celebration. There can be no sorrow, no sadness, among those who are redeemed. The forgiven are by definition joyous.
The crucifixion is a terrible, ugly event. But it is through the bloody sacrifice of Jesus that so much of what is bad in my life is taken away.
Yes, Jesus is a taker. And I, for one, am glad about that!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I believe that every moment of every day in every life should be lived with complete zest and gusto. That television commercial from my childhood said that 'you only go around once in life.' How true. We should be intentional in our decisions and actions. We should make life the most and the best that it can be.
One of my philosophies of life- I may have too many philosophies- is to always have fun. If I find myself in the middle of an activity that proves to be dull, it is my responsibility to either stop it, or to find a way to make it fun. Life is too short. Carpe Diem. Live for the day. Make a difference.
So, here are some suggestions, some ways to live life more fully and to be more fulfilled. I like to think of this as life in 3-D.
- Discover who you were meant to be. Many people are unhappy in life because they have no sense of purpose or direction. You might be drifting from one job to another, one experience to the next. God has given everyone a specific purpose in life. Find what your purpose is and fulfill it. Discover your 'calling' and answer.
- Develop the gifts and talents that you have been given. Interests come from a number of places. Everyone has them. Be sure to use the gifts that you have. Learn what hobbies and activities create energy in your life. Focus on those things. Do those things. God gave everyone their own particular gift combination. Your gifts, interests and talents are to be used. Use them.
- Deploy and do the work that you were created to do. You will find that fulfillment comes when you are actively pursuing those things that you are best suited to do. When you go and do the work that you were meant to do life will get better.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Marty is caught between two worlds. On the one hand he is lonely. His mother constantly reminds him that he is the only one of the family is not married. And, in fact, Marty would like to be married. He longs for companionship and a mature relationship. On the other hand, his friends see any relationship that Marty might pursue as a threat to their established order. They do not want to deal with a new member to their group (if Marty gets a relationship), and they do not want to lose Marty (if his new relationship becomes serious).
Marty's other difficulty is that he is very shy. He has a hard time meeting and relating to new people, especially women. That is, until Clara comes along. Clara turns out to be just as plain, lonely and shy as Marty. They are a perfect match. But, the complications with Marty's friends and family do not go away. No one likes Clara. No one wants to lose Marty.
The tension in the movie comes from all the relationship pressures that Marty and Clara have to deal with. And these pressures are significant. They are actually the sort of pressures that you and I deal with quite often. We work hard to make other people happy. And when we make someone else happy, we realize that they do not care if we are happy.
I do not want to give away the movie because I loved it. You should see it right away. But I do want to encourage you in several ways.
- God wants you to be happy. The pressures that you are dealing with need to be secondary to God's plan for your life.
- God made you to be in relationships with other people. Marty had a family. He had friends. And finally, he found his partner.
- It is important to stand strong for truth and right at all times and in all circumstances. The tension that comes in life is secondary to justice.
- Perseverance is one of the most important virtues of life. Never give up.
- Do not lose hope. God has a great idea about where you will end up. Hold on to his promises.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Think what you could do with your life if you would spend more time reading and less time watching television. In a year's time you could read dozens of classic novels. You could easily read the whole Bible. You could change your life.
But maybe no television is too big a step for you. It could be that you need to take baby steps. So, here is what I suggest.
- While you are watching television, make sure that you have the remote control in your hand. Use the mute button whenever a commercial comes on. (You really do not want to change the flavor of pop-tarts that you eat anyway, do you?) There are about 15 minutes of commercials in every hour of prime time television. That is a lot of reading time, and you do not have to give up Desperate Housewives to get it.
- Always have a book on your lap. Never go anywhere without a book. Read while you are waiting for the doctor or the check out clerk. So much of our lives are spent waiting we ought to put that time to use.
- Do not spend too much time with magazines. Use magazines to stay up on current events and trends, but do not be consumed with them. In a few weeks (or months at the most) your magazines will find their way to the trash bin. Generally speaking, your books will not.
- Commit yourself to a certain amount of reading. Make commitments to read a set amount of time each day, and a certain number of books in a year. Making goals is a good way to increase your reading intake.
- Read from a wide range of genres. It is easy to get caught up in reading a favorite author, or staying with a familiar topic. But be sure to read biographies, mysteries, non-fiction and classic novels in addition to your favorite kind of books.
- Join a book discussion club. This will do several things for you. It will help you widen the scope of what you read. It will also help you to read more thoroughly and critically. Book groups and their discussions also cause the reader to enjoy the reading as he/she anticipates the debate that is ahead.
- Read some books that get good reviews, but are not very popular. Just because it sells a lot of copies does not mean that a book is worth your time.
One more word of encouragement; Reading is hard work. It can wear you down and be overwhelming. But, reading is one of the most rewarding and beneficial things that you can do. Commit yourself to reading and reading a lot right away.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I have never been trapped in a house, a bunker, an island or a board room with 12 body building, fitness trainer super-models. And even if I was, I think that I would volunteer to leave. Who are these people? Where do they come from? Why does anyone care about them?
Meanwhile, network television executives are loving the reality craze. Production costs are relatively low for these programs. There are no actors to pay. There is a small crew, and only one host. The main expense is the 'large' cash prize at the end of the season. The cash prize is nothing to the producers and advertisers who bring us this stuff.
And ultimately, reality television adds nothing of value to our lives or our culture. After an hour of the Apprentice Survivor in Hell's Kitchen, we have no new knowledge. We have not been enlightened. We have not grown. The best that can be said for these programs is that they leave us mildly amused and curiously interested. There is nothing soul-stirring or conscience-pricking about them.
And so, I propose we take action.
- Stop watching these reality television shows. There is surely something else on. After all, we have hundreds of television channels to choose from. And if there is nothing else, simply turn off the television.
- Encourage your friends to stop watching reality television programs. This will require swimming against the current, but you can do it.
- Find other ways to occupy your time and expand your horizons. Television should be art, and as art it should make the world a better, more beautiful place. And if it cannot do that, it ought to at least provoke some thinking and discussion. When television fails, think about books, films, museums, dance. Live!
- Look at the world in realistic ways. Do not be fooled into believe that every person in the world is 28 years old and beautiful.
- Finally, be alive. Use television. Do not let television use you.
Friday, September 14, 2007
But, now I am back from the mission field. That means that I will be focusing once again on...
- my local churches
- the Shed (youth outreach ministry)
So, whether you look forward to it or not, there will be some new posts in Rev Dewey's World. Look for new posts starting on Monday of next week.