Monday, June 15, 2009

Get Real, Christians!

Here's a great post by pastor/writer Paul Prather about how Christians need to be real. A few snippets:

"If I had to name the most debilitating problem with Christianity, I might say it’s the 'everything’s great, I’m so blessed' syndrome. Christians often feel compelled to show only their happiest and most saintly faces to their ministers and fellow churchgoers."

"What ends up happening, then, is that dedicated Christians frequently live in private hells. They think they’re the only ones with problems. They’re guilt-ridden. They’re spiritually hamstrung."

"The fact is, everybody’s messed up in one way or another . . . It’s just that hardly anyone wants to admit it."

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

I was thrilled to read this. I found it liberating and it rang true with my personal experience. I also know how much I've been encouraged as those I've admired over the years have opened up about their own struggles and how God has remained faithful to them.

A couple of years ago when my wife and I were being mentored in the ministry, she was discouraged from starting an outreach to struggling young women. We were told that, as ministers, it was not a good idea to open up about our frailties and failings. To do so would threaten our reputation and we needed to maintain an air of authority. The truth is that when we open up about our struggles and how God has comforted us in the midst of them, we then are able to become agents of that comfort to others who are struggling. I call it the Cycle of Ministry (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Does this resonate with anybody else?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Religious Freedom is in Deep Doo-doo

Okay, here's the story: In Nicktown, PA, an Amish community is in deep doo-doo over local sanitation ordinances. Seems that the Amish elders have decided that state laws are ". . . enforcing stuff that's against our religion . . ." by requiring them to upgrade their outhouse waste storage capabilities.

I won't go into details about what the Cambria County Sewage Enforcement Agency found at the Amish school house (you can read the story by clicking here), but they laid down the law and required the community to make substantial improvements.

The Amish elders complied with some of the regulations, but felt other requirements (such as installing a 5,000-gallon precast concrete tank and allowing someone certified by the state to use an electronic meter to test the waste’s chemical content) were way too modern. Meanwhile, people are compaining (and rightly so) that not handling sewage properly can have a seriously bad affect on the entire county's health.

The case is still pending - there've been meetings and jail sentences - and neither side is willing to budge, but it does bring up the thorny issue of how far religious freedom should be allowed to go.

What if an elected official wants to be sworn in on something other than the Bible? What if a Rastafarian is elected and he wants to smoke a little ganja at his inaugral ceremony? Sounds extreme, but we've seen parents let their children die because their religion wouldn't allow them to see a doctor . . .

Many would like to see prayer taught again in the schools, but what if the official at your child's school is a Muslim, a Buddhist, or (gasp!) a liberal?

That's when the poop would hit the fan . . .

Debaptism: the latest trend in Atheism

So, you realize that you made a rash decision years ago and you want to take it back . Or maybe you were baptized as an infant and you want to officially undo that bit of nastiness. What do you do? You can download a Debaptism Certificate from the National Secular Society! According to this article, they claim that over 100,000 people have already taken this step to purge themselves from the eternal waters of holy immersion . . .

A few thoughts:
  • Baptism is an outward indication of an inward consecration. That being the case, if your heart wasn't in it at the time, the only thing your baptism did was get you wet. A "debaptism", then, is nothing more than a public renouncement of church affiliation, which I guess is the point.
  • I've never been a big fan of infant baptism. I think it's okay as a ceremony where the parents commit themsevles to training the child up in the faith, but not as an indication of saving faith. I mean, come on . . . experience has proven that a baby's brain is nothing more than one big drool-and-poop gland - can we really assert that the child has weighed the course of his life and decided to accept Jesus as his Savior?
  • If a person "gets saved" at one point in his life and later wishes to recant, was he ever really saved to begin with? This is the classic "once saved always saved" issue that has divided Christians for centuries. For passages supporting both sides of the issue see John 10:27-29 and Hebrews 6:4-6.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Memorize the 10 Commandments and Win $20K?

Here's an interesting take on learning the 10 Commandments I read over at Todd Rhoades' blog Monday Morning Insights:

Darrel Rundus is distressed that Americans readily can tick off a list of 10 stores, 10 sports teams – even 10 beers, but there's a collective "Uhmmm" when those same people are asked to cite the Ten Commandments. To change that, he said, he and his wife decided to do "something a little crazy." They are taking $20,000 of their own money and posting it as a prize that either will be dispatched via casher's check or wire transfer to the first person who, on Monday, Oct. 26, answers his random telephone calls and can recite the Ten Commandments in order in 20 seconds or less.

Here's the promo video - then a couple of questions:

First off, I like the idea and I think the video is well done and makes a good point. But, if we live under grace, what is the value in learning the Law? (Hint: Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:24)

Secondly, do ploys like this serve the cause of Christ well? Or does it cheapen the gospel?

BTW, I've registered and I hope he calls me 'cause I'm READY!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Can Twitter Help Worship? Does Twitter Hinder Worship?

Unless you've been hermetically sealed in a chamber for the past few years, you're aware of the social networking tool Twitter. What you might not be aware of is how people are using the twitter phenomenon to inform the world about every aspect of their lives. Even the rich and famous are getting into the act.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $25k for his Twitter comments criticising NBA officials, and some members of congress were "tweeting" during Obama's prime time speech back in February.

The question has arisen about the etiquette of churches allowing and promoting tweeting during worship services, and there are several compelling arguments both for and against the idea. Reverend Taylor Burton-Edwards - director of worship resources with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship - has written a thorough article exploring both sides. You can read the article here, but I'll give you a quick synopsis:

Pro: Twitter can allow for a genuine sense of interactivity between the congregation and the ministry staff at appropriate times during the worship service - i.e. prayer requests, Q & A sessions.

Also a person could tweet the service making the experience available vicariously to the world at large (think especially how this could benefit shut-ins and other home-bound people).

Con: Using Twitter might privilege the "haves" over the "have nots," and the "techies" over the "non-techies."

Switching focus from one thing to another . . . creates a gap in our primary attention . . . This means that for parts of worship where continuous primary attention is appropriate, the physical act of Twittering actually reduces attention to whatever is going on at the moment and causes a total loss of primary attention between the time you start Twittering and the time you return your focus to whatever is going on in worship.

There's lots more at the actual article, but I'd love to get your thoughts on the subject . . .