Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A New New Year's Resolution

It's that time of year again. Like it or not the pressure is building to change your life, make a difference, do something new, right, better. You may have already decided what you want to do for this coming year. Hopefully you are not trying to accomplish the same thing that you failed to do last year. I resolved to lose weight for several years in a row before I finally gave up.

I have a suggestion for your resolution this year. It is something new for most of us. It will not take much time or sacrifice but it will dramatically change your life. It is simple and almost anyone can do it. In fact, if you are reading this, you are qualified to take part in a congregational resolution. I want for all of us to read the New Testament this year. There is a schedule in this newsletter to help guide you.

If you are conscientious to follow this program each day, by the end of the year you will have finished all 27 books of the New Testament. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament. That means that you will have to read less than one chapter each day. There are 7,956 verses and 138,020. Don't even ask me how many that would be each day. This seems like a very manageable challenge.

But I can already hear those who are hesitant. The resisters will argue, “I just don't have time to read the Bible.” I fully appreciate how busy people are these days. I am busier than I have ever been. But with around five minutes a day, reading the New Testament doesn't seem impossible to me. So let me give you some suggestions for getting your reading in.

Mute the television when the commercials come on and read your Bible then.
Do your daily ready while you are waiting in line at the BMV, the doctor's office or the WalMart checkout lane.
Set your alarm and get up five minutes earlier each day.
Give up reading People Magazine and devote that time to the Bible.
Do your reading while you are waiting for the movie, concert or ball game to start.
Do the daily reading as a family before anyone gets up from the supper table.
Take your Bible with you to work and read it on your lunch break.
Do your daily reading while in the restroom.
Read your Bible while waiting to pick your kids up at school.

You get the idea, right? In fact, I bet that you could come up with some suggestions of your own to accomplish this resolution. I am hoping that everyone will be reading the Bible in the New Year. I will be.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Work of the Devil (with my tongue in my cheek)

There are some things that have been invented by men, but are clearly the work of the devil. There are other things that may actually be good, but the applications with which they are used have made them prone to the work of the devil. When you read the preliminary list that I have compiled, I am sure that you will agree that these items do qualify as being unequivocally the work of the devil.
  • Heelies
  • Skateboards
  • 4 Wheeler ATVs
  • Pinatas
  • Liver and onions
Is there anything that I am missing?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What I Believe About... the Church

The Christian Church is an interesting institution. Yes, I believe it is an institution whether others think it is a movement, an organism or a tropical plant. Historically there have been times when the church has stood as the best thing in the world. At other times she has perpetrated more damage, violence and evil than even Satan himself. Overall, I believe that there is little doubt that the world is better today because of the presence of the church.

What follows is my interpretation of the current state of the church. There are a lot of warts, but here it is, as I see it.
  • The church has more potential for good than any other entity in the world today. With current efforts to eradicate human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and to provide clean, safe water the church is doing more than almost anyone else. And that does not include hospitals and other health care facilities, homes for orphans, abused children and seniors and educational institutions in general. The church has done great good, and continues to do so.
  • The church provides social interaction for millions of people around the world. The church is the place that many people (including me) met their mates or lifelong friends.
  • The church is the custodian of the most important message in history. With all its faults (and there are many, but more of that later) there is no greater message than one of grace, acceptance and forgiveness for all people without regard for race, education, social status or financial resources.
  • The church sometimes thinks it is more important than the message it teaches. Unfortunately, leaders in the church are sinful, fallen people. They sometimes become greedy for money, fame and power. It is easy for them (and often us, as well) to become consumed with maintaining power and gaining more of it. When this happens the church tends to push away the very people we are called to serve.
  • There is too much conflict in the church. People with different political opinions or theological persuasions can be downright mean to one another. Everyone knows someone who has had their feelings too hurt by some Christian person.
  • Elements of the church are definitely too judgmental of others. The Christian faith needs to be upheld by standards of belief, behavior and practice, but we should never use our 'church' as a club to beat others. It is common these days to hear people express their admiration for Jesus and Christianity but to be completely turned off by the church.
  • Denominational differences can be used by God- they need not be a source of division and animosity. It is my belief that there are some people who will only be Christian if they can be Baptist, or Catholic, or Methodist, or Pentecostal... God uses these differences for his glory.
I believe the church has a great future. We only need to be honest about who we are, what we have done, and where we are headed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Limited Government vs. the Bible

Here is a problem that I have: People who believe the Bible and want to severely limit government. To a certain extent I understand this. After all, governments, at least in the USA, seem to limit the reach of the church, or other faith-oriented organizations. Free exercise of religion may be tolerated, but often its advancement is impeded. This happens as the state tries to restrict the ability of public school teachers to express their faith, or even their opinions on issues of ethical or moral significance. In another instance, municipalities are prevented from displaying any form of faith expression, even as it represents the culture of the community, around holidays.

In these cases, and others like them, I agree fully that government, federal or local, should be prevented from limited any expressions of faith. We should always remember that a fundamental principle of American independence is freedom of religion, not necessarily freedom from religion. However, we must take care to not place restrictions or limits on government that will cause us to compromise our Christian, biblical principles.

Here is what I am driving at. People are bad. Christian theology is based on the biblical ideal that humans are fundamentally flawed. We all inherit sin from our ancestors, beginning with Adam. We call this original sin. The New Testament puts a specific spin on this concept. Romans 3.10 say that there is no one who is righteous. Romans 3.23 affirms that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

And that is exactly the problem with limiting government. The Bible teaches that if we are left to our own devices we will sin. Eventually, our sin will cause harm to others. That means that your sin will eventually cause the loss of my property, health or life. We need government, therefore, for protection. Government is necessary because we are basically evil.

If our government limits itself too much, we will all suffer because of it. Anarchy will be the natural result of this. We must be wise in our calls for limited government.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The People you See...

When I spend time at a fast food place, I run into a lot of different people. Some of them are truly unique, but there are also some general categories that others fall into. Let me know if you have seen any of these people at your local McDonald's.
  • It seems that as often as not, usually in the evenings, there is a group of loud and disrespectful teens. They are usually accompanied by loud swearing, obnoxious talk and inappropriate actions. They are in every town and almost every day.
  • On most mornings you will find a group of retirees. This group is almost as noisy as the disrespectful teens, but much more polite. These men and women will be a cup of coffee at 8am and then leave several hours later. I have named them members of the "Golden Arches Social Club."
  • There are also lonely and elderly people. These are people who live alone and for whatever reason don't participate in the retiree group. They are in a favorite restaurant almost every day, eating alone and smiling at strangers.
  • At lunch time you can spot salesmen and other travelers. They make a pit stop with a day planner, a newspaper and a cell phone. They keep to themselves, but waste no time.
  • On weekends it is not unusual to run into dads with their children for their weekend visits. You can find these most often at fast food establishments with playgrounds.