- I believe that at their very core, people are bad. The precedent for this belief comes from the Bible, but there is very little in my experience or observation that would dispute this belief. If left to their own devices, people would devolve into deeper and deeper levels of selfishness, degradation, immorality, evil and sin. Ultimately, individuals would rise up against one another and threaten the very existence of humanity.
- I believe that people have unlimited potential. It is from people that have received Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. People have given us the cure for polio. I believe that in the future there will be cures for cancer, for HIV/AIDS. I think that there will be new, greater, more beautiful art and literature. There is no end to what is possible for people.
- I believe that, as bad as people might be, they can be fixed or redeemed. If this were not so, there would be no hope for humanity. I could not be positive about human potential if I did not believe that we could all be fixed. Not everyone will be fixed. There will always be those of us who prefer to live to and for ourselves. However, we can know that there is hope.
- I believe that all people deserve a chance. Jesus taught that would should be willing to forgive people an infinite number of times. We must always be optimistic about how people behave and their potential to change. If I believe that they can change, I must give them time, space and understanding to allow that change.
- I believe that all people should care for and love all other people. It is not easy (none of these beliefs is) but we should be understanding, patient and caring for others. Encourage others to move toward the change that is possible.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
- Movie Club. It has been said that modern theology is being created in your local movie house. I would love to organize a group to go to movies together about once a month. After the movie the group would retire to a coffee shop or ice cream parlor to discuss the film, and to specifically address the spiritual implications of it.
- Book Group. As a person who loves reading, and who loves to talk about what he is reading, I would love to have a book discussion group that focuses on reading "secular" books, but with an eye toward spiritual content. This group would be open to all, but would give Christians a chance to share their particular perspective on modern literature.
- Dinner Parties. This program would have to be a somewhat closed group. We would eat at different homes, restaurants or have progressive dinners. I believe that 'real' things happen as people eat together. Lives can be changed in this program, and quickly.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
This is a sad statement, but unfortunately I am afraid that history, and my own experience, bear this out. To begin with, the historic foundation of the Christian faith asserts that all people are essentially sinners. People are evil. People sin. And not only that, they want to sin. (There are many passages that support this. Begin with Romans 3.10, 23; 6.23.) The normal spiritual state of people is that they sin.
In the most basic terms we can see this in our desire for self-preservation. Generally speaking, humans are selfish. We want to look out for ourselves, take care of ourselves and protect ourselves. This selfishness flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus who said that we should think of ourselves last. We are to put the needs and interests of others above our own. Whenever we do not think of others first, we sin.
We see this self-interest at work every day. It is easy to point it out in others, but honesty compels us to confess to our own selfishness as well. We are more concerned with us, than with them.
And all of that brings us to our premise. Everyone is more concerned about themselves and their needs than they are about you. It is a harsh reality, but one we must consider. But this causes us a great amount of confusion. Taking it seriously will cause us conflict. For if I am to survive in this world, I must look out for myself. After all, no one else is looking out for me. But when I look out for my own needs I only exacerbate the problem.
So here is a simple solution for beginning the process of making the world a nicer place.
- Care about other people. Whether they care for you or not, you should care for them.
- Be careful to not get yourself run-over. Take care of your own needs because no one else will.
- Encourage others to think about making things better.
- Consciously make decisions based on more criteria than your own needs.
- Help others who are hurting or down-trodden.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
- We are suffering from Bush overload. There have just been too many mistakes, misjudgments and missteps in the last eight years. You may be too young to remember (although I am sure you know this), Bush never had a strong mandate from the electorate. He lost the popular vote in 2000 and barely won in 2004. Because USA was never fully behind Bush, his policies were scrutinized more closely. Between the two wars, the economy and the erosion of civil rights, coupled with the increase in executive authority, almost any decent democrat would have won this election.
- Barack Obama is won of the most inspiring and eloquent speakers we have seen in a long time. He causes people to believe that we can be a better place, a better people, a better country. No politician has done this since Robert Kennedy in 1968. (I don't remember that, but I have read about him.) If Obama was a white man with the same gifts and beliefs, I think he would have won the election.
- He did get a lot of votes simply because he was black. Our problem, as middle-class white people, is that we have no clue how significant that is for African-Americans. We have always had candidates who looked, acted and talked just like us. Obama's victory was as large as it was largely because he became a symbol for African-Americans and minorities all across America.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the
Father is seeking such to worship Him. John 4.23
One of the key practices, or disciplines, of the Christian faith is worship. It is essential for the life of every Christian, but at the same time there are a number of misconceptions about worship. Let’s tackle those misconceptions first.
- Worship is not necessary for those who are truly in touch with God. This may be true in the most academic sense. However, most of us do not live in a theoretical world. We are in real places with real problems and temptations. Worship is crucial for us as we seek to know Christ and grow in him.
- Worship can only happen in a church. How wrong this is. We should be worshiping God every day, and in every place we are.
- Worship is an obligation that Christians must fulfill. Too many of us have a sense that Christianity is all about rules and regulations. We think that we are required to obey, required to live a certain way. We need to begin to view worship not as a rigid observance of an ancient ritual, but as a living event that refreshes and renews us.
- Worship is something that keeps us faithful to God with no benefits. This is a wide spread, but seldom discussed, opinion. Open your eyes! There are many benefits to corporate worship: fellowship with other Christians, insight into God’s word and plan, inspiration for life.
- Worship is a dead exercise that has no meaning for contemporary people. I believe that in many cases this may be true. However, if it is true it is because of the attitudes and expectations of the worshiper. God certainly does not want worship to be lifeless or meaningless.
But if there are that many things that are wrong with our attitudes toward worship, what is right about it? What can we do? What can we expect from worship? How should we approach worship?
- We should worship God as true worshipers. That is, we need to come to Christ with open, honest, expectant hearts and attitudes.
- We should worship God in spirit. This means that worship is not an exercise of the mind. It requires a commitment of the heart. There are mysteries involved in worship.
- We should worship God in truth. Integrity of heart and mind are essential for worship. Do not approach God with an eye toward impressing someone else.
I hope this is helping you get a picture of what worship can be- of what it ought to be. But let me leave you with a couple of questions. Ask yourself these questions regularly. Keep a log of how you answer. “Did God show up in worship?” “Did I notice?” I believe that if you were alone in worship, it was not God’s fault. The Scripture says that God is seeking worshipers. If we come in spirit and truth, he will meet us.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I read the other day that 12% of Americans are atheists or agnostics. (http://atheism.about.com/b/2004/12/02/how-many-atheists-in-america.htm) Now I have some serious questions about whether or not a person can truly be an atheist, but I thought the total, 12%, seemed very high. That means that more than one out of every 10 people does not believe in God. This does not take into account the number of people who believe in the god of some other religion. What this boils down to is that there are a lot of people in this country, with a lot of different beliefs.
Then a friend gave me an article about a new study on prayer being conducted at Indiana University at South Bend. This study claims that over 90% of Americans say that they engage in prayer. (http://www.iusb.edu/~sbocm/may07/ladd.shtml) The first and most obvious problem is that there are at least 2% of the people who pray, but do not believe in God. But more importantly, we can gain great comfort and encouragement from knowing that most people are praying.
Since we pray-ers are the overwhelming majority in this country, we should...
- Not be embarrassed about talking about prayer.
- Offer to pray for co-workers, friends and family members. After all, they pray too.
- Be willing to ask others to pray for us. They are praying already. We should get them on our team.
- Work together to form prayer teams. We gain encouragement and discipline when we work together on a project. Why should prayer be any different?
- Expect God to do great things because of our prayers.
So pray. Pray with gusto. Pray with confidence.
Prayer: It is great to know that we are not alone, Lord. We have you with us all the time, but what comfort to know that so many people are praying. Help us to fulfill our responsibilities to you and to others, and to allow others to pray for our needs. Amen.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
I just came through an unusual period in my life. (Maybe I'm still in it.) It is not necessarily spiritual laziness, but I would at least call it lethargy. I have kept up with my regular disciplines- Scripture reading, prayer, meditation, journaling- but there has not been a lot of pizazz in my walk with Christ. It has been a long time since I have had an "eureka" moment. You know what that means. A eureka moment happens when you receive some revolutionary new insight or revelation. It has been a long time since I have been to the proverbial mountaintop.
Although I am spiritually healthy, I would maybe describe my spiritual life, my relationship with God, as blah. That is why this passage is such a warning to me (and maybe to you too). Jesus is teaching his disciples- all of us- to always be on the alert. We must always be preparing and prepared for the work of God in our lives or the voice of God in our hearts.
There are several things that can cause us troubles here.
- Sometimes we get distracted and lose our focus on the Lord.
- At other times there are obstacles that keep us from a proper relationship with God.
- There are always temptations that try to interfere and draw us away from Christ.
- There are occasions when I am "too busy" to be bothered by God.
- I have known people (and sometimes it happens to me) who simply get too discouraged to even think about Jesus.
Watch and pray. Be prepared. Do not be discouraged by temptation or evil. Stay the course. Focus on Jesus.
Prayer: Lord God, you are good to us, even when we are not watching. Help us to be more vigilant, more focused, more committed to you and your word to us. May we not be discouraged, but always do your will. Amen.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
- Our small things must be incremental. We cannot walk across the room until we take one step. We cannot walk across the country until we walk across the room. Do not be discouraged by the big picture. Visualize the first goal in the process. Start with one small thing and then celebrate that victory. Then take another incremental step. Mother Teresa's ministry began by helping one person.
- We must be persistent in doing our small things. We need to keep going, even if we meet resistance, discouragement or even failure. Great things will not be accomplished by those who give up too easily.
- Finally, we must take our small steps consistently. It is not enough to work at it for a few days and then take a couple of weeks off. We must be consistent in our work to have any kind of positive influence at all.
Monday, January 5, 2009
I am setting some goals for reading in this year. As with all my goals, I know that these are too lofty. I will not accomplish all these, but I will get some of them done. This year will be a better reading year than last year. I am sure of that. I will make sure of that.
- I will read one book on prayer each month of the year.
- I will read one book from the classics each month of the year.
- I will try to keep up to date with current literature and read some popular titles.
- I will read the New Living Translation of the Bible.
- I will read fewer magazines and newspapers and more books.
- My goal is to read 50 books this year.
It's a tall order, but I think I can do it.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
- While traveling with my family, we got to Memphis, Tennessee safely.
- Through some unusual circumstances (not coincidences) we were able to see all of Graceland for only $13. That's right. All of us got to see all of Graceland for about 10% of the normal cost.
- On one evening two of us were able to have dinner and go bowling for no cost.
Tonight is the topper though. We heard that there was bad weather coming in at home, and we were driving. We were a little nervous, but on the way. However, about half way into the trip our car started vibrating and we heard a loud pop. A little while longer there was another pop and more vibration. We had to call a tow truck. When we got new tires for our trip, the tire shop did not tighten the lug nuts on the front driver's side. We lost two lug pins and the other three nuts were loose.
By the time we got that accomplished, we had to stop in a hotel. The people at my churches were willing to cover for me for Sunday morning. I am very blessed to have people that I can not only count on, but who will not be upset about taking care of things. That in itself is a great feeling. Tomorrow morning we will get those pins replaced and be on our way home. Finally. And God will get the glory for keeping us safe.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
I am moving closer to a reasonable plan. This year there are only five resolutions. If everything goes well I should be able to accomplish them. We will just have to see.
One other thing, it's still early in the year. This should be considered a first draft. I may change, add to, or delete some resolutions. Let the reader beware.
- In 2009 I will read the New Living Translation of the Bible.
- In 2009 I will lose 24 pounds and get in better shape. (I think this is my first- ever weight and health related resolution.)
- In 2009 I will learn how to record and post podcasts, and start to do it.
- In 2009 I will write my book on prayer (whether I can get it published or not).
- In 2009 I will copy- by hand- Ruth, Titus and the Sermon of the Mount- from the Bible.