Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dress for Success

In a recent article in Relevant magazine the author made the claim that Americas cultural standards of modesty are sexist, citing as evidence that men are allowed to go bare chested on beaches and women aren't. Read the article HERE. Leaving aside for a moment the adolescent nature of that statement (Mikey does it!), it seems to me that women and men are held to different standards of dress as it pertains to modesty because, well, men and women are different.

Is allowing women to go topless on a beach really a way to achieve equality? Is that what they really want? Women are sexually harassed all too often, do they really believe that dressing provocatively is going to help?
Don't get me wrong, unwanted sexual advances are never justified....NEVER.....but until we figure out how to change the sordid reality of how many men treat women, a little restraint, modesty if you will, in how women dress couldn't hurt.

I've been through a number of changes in my lifetime regarding my attitude on the subject of modesty, ranging from my college days in the late 60's as a flamethrowing liberal raging against the outmoded mores of my parents generation. The Age of Aquarius, free love, radical politics, and rock and roll were the buzzwords of the day. Transparent tops and no bras were political statements not slutty dress. Then in my alcoholic days, it was all about slutty. Morals were buzz kill not a way of life, and modesty was boring. Hardly one of my finer periods.

Today, I walk with the Lord, I'm busy trying to help others recover from the devastation of addiction, AND, I'm 60 years old with a teenage daughter. It's called growing up, which some people never do. Loose morals, suggestive clothing, and disregard for common sense are no way to address life, and modesty is a sign of character, not uncool. My idea of what constitutes attractive in a woman has changed, I long ago shed the idea that casual sex was anything more than emotionally destructive friction, and I don't find women attractive that dress in a way that suggests otherwise. And I want above all that my daughter strive as much to show character as she would to appear attractive to the opposite sex.

I guess what's really surprising to me is that we're revisiting a conversation from the 60's and 70's that I thought had been settled in the rehabs of the 90's.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yeah, But What Did He Really Mean?

In two recent articles in the Washington Post, one a rebuttal, the two authors claim that Jesus was A) a socialist, or B) a capitalist, two contradictory positions that they support using identical scripture. Both the Jesus was a socialist guy, read his article HERE, and the Jesus was a capitalist guy, read his rebuttal HERE, proceed to explain to us what Jesus meant when He said what He said, as if He spoke in highly complicated, multi-syllabled language too obtuse for us unwashed morons, unschooled in the finer points of biblical economics.

Really? Jesus preached on the finer points of socialism vs. capitalism? His words were so vague that we need other sources of information to explain what he meant? Mathew, chapters 5 and 23, were so intellectually dense that we need other writers, both in scripture and in the secular world, to explain them to us?

Or is Matthew 19:23-24 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” so maddeningly obscure we can't understand ?

Feed and clothe the poor, take care of widows and orphans, cling to a childlike faith, spread the Gospel, and love one another are not liberal or conservative political positions, they are the command of our sovereign Lord. Don't parse His words, just do it. Don't claim that these commands are the responsibility of the church, not government, then let your church food pantries go empty and families in your community go unfed.

Jesus did not say feed the poor that can prove they can't find work. He said feed the poor, period. Don't tell me Paul has the authority to put qualifiers on our precious Jesus' commands. When Jesus sent out the twelve His instructions were simple, "Heal the sick,raise the dead, cleanse those that have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give." Mathew 10:8 how hard is that to decipher?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Take Your Time

It is said that Satan once called to him the emissaries of hell and said he wanted to send one of them to earth to aid women and men in the ruination of their souls. He asked which one would want to go. One creature came forward and said, "I will go." Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell the children of men that there is no heaven.” Satan said, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that right and good must have the victory. You may not go.”  Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hell." Satan looked at him and said, "Oh, no; they will not believe you, for in every human heart there's a thing called conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but that evil will be defeated. You may not go.”  Then one last creature came forward, this one from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, “And if I send you, what will you say to women and men to aid them in the destruction of their souls?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hurry.” Satan said, “Go!”~Bruce Thielemann

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pastoral Search Report

 We do not have a happy report to give. We’ve not been able to find a suitable candidate for this church, though we have one promising prospect still. We do appreciate all the suggestions from the church members, and we’ve followed up each one with interviews or calling at least three references. The following is ...our confidential report on the present candidates.
* Adam: Good man but problems with his wife. Also one reference told of how his wife and he enjoy walking nude in the woods.
 * Noah: Former pastorate of 120 years with no converts. Prone to unrealistic building projects.
  * Abraham: Though the references reported wife-swapping, the facts seem to show he never slept with another man’s wife, but did offer to share his own wife with another man.
 * Joseph: A big thinker, but a braggart, believes in dream-interpreting, and has a prison record.
 * Moses: A modest and meek man, but poor communicator, even stuttering at times. Sometimes blows his stack and acts rashly. Some say he left an earlier church over a murder charge.
 * David: The most promising leader of all until we discovered the affair he had with his neighbor’s wife.
 * Solomon: Great preacher but our parsonage would never hold all those wives.
 * Elijah: Prone to depression-collapses under pressure.
 * Elisha: Reported to have lived with a single widow while at his former church.
 * Hosea: A tender and loving pastor but our people could never handle his wife’s occupation.
 * Deborah: Female.
 * Jeremiah: Emotionally unstable, alarmist, negative, always lamenting things, and reported to have taken a long trip to bury his underwear on the bank of foreign river.
 * Isaiah: On the fringe? Claims to have seen angels in church. Has trouble with his language.
 * Jonah: Refused God’s call into ministry until he was forced to obey by getting swallowed up by a great fish. He told us the fish later spit him out on the shore near here. We hung up.
 * Amos: Too backward and unpolished. With some seminary training he might have promise, but has a hang-up against wealthy people. Might fit in better in a poor congregation.
 * John: Says he is a Baptist, but definitely doesn’t dress like one. Has slept in the outdoors for months on end, has a weird diet, and provokes denominational leaders.
 * Peter: Too blue collar. Has a bad temper—even has been known to curse. Had a big run-in with Paul in Antioch. Aggressive, but a loose cannon.
 * Paul: Powerful CEO type leader and fascinating preacher. However, short on tact, unforgiving with younger ministers, harsh and has been known to preach all night.
 * Timothy: Too young.
 * Jesus: Has had popular times, but once when his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all and this church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And, of course, he’s single.
 * Judas: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We’re inviting him to preach this Sunday. Possibilities here.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Are Atheists Always Wrong?

In a recent opinion piece in USA Today, Jerry Coyne, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago and avowed atheist asked the question, "Can atheists be good and moral people"? You can read the full piece here.

A Christian doesn't have to renounce his faith to answer with a hearty "yes they can". While I can only offer anecdotal evidence I don't live in a religious cocoon, I have dear friends and long time acquaintances that either worship other faiths or don't believe in God at all but share a moral code of behavior no different than mine. I remember telling a friend one day, "Man, the way you live and the things you believe you might as well BE a Christian, why not just take the final step and ask Jesus into your life?" Sadly his answer was no.

Where I differ with Professor Coyne was his assertion that secular moralism is inherently better than God inspired morality. Of course he cherry picked scripture to make his point,  "Was God being moral when, after some children made fun of the prophet Elisha's bald head, he made bears rip 42 of them to pieces (2 Kings 2:23-24)? Even in the New Testament, Jesus preaches principles of questionable morality, barring heaven to the wealthy (Matthew 19:24), approving the beating of slaves (Luke 12:47-48), and damning sinners to the torments of hell (Mark 9:47-48). Similar sentiments appear in the Quran. This isn't just philosophical rumination, because God — at least the God of Christians and Jews — repeatedly sanctioned or ordered immoral acts in the Old Testament. These include slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46), genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-18), the slaying of adulterers and homosexuals, and the stoning of non-virgin brides (Leviticus 20:10, 20:13, Deuteronomy 22:20-21)."

And yet we do that too, I could point out the real evil perpetrated by atheists on their fellow man, witness Russia during the revolution or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge to name just a couple. But I would hardly care to dispute Professor Coyne's irritation at Christians who stupidly claim that atheists cannot possess a moral code of conduct because they don't believe in God. After all, aren't you glad salvation is not about good works? And therein lies the sad truth for atheists. As Christians we have much more than a moral code for living, we have the assurance of eternal life and the presence of the Holy Spirit here on earth. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Get In The Wheelbarrow

Would you like to know the difference between trust and faith? I love the story about going to the circus and watching the high wire artists perform dazzling feats of balance, a hundred feet in the air with no net. One high wire artist pushes a wheelbarrow back and forth and watching him you trust that he can do it perfectly without plunging to his death. Faith is getting in the wheelbarrow.

I'm having one of those wheelbarrow moments now, you know what I'm talking about, we've all had them. Some seasons of life seem to crush in on you, and the path ahead is not clear, so there's nothing to be done but get in the wheelbarrow. Dear friends in Christ scripture does not say you'll never experience fear, it does assure us that the perfect love of Jesus will cast out fear. It's waiting in the wheelbarrow that's uncomfortable.

So what I plan to do while I'm in the wheelbarrow is what I do every day I'm not. Pray, read scripture, and try to be of service to others, when I do that my life is less about me and I suspect that's alright with God.


In 1440 a German inventor, Johannes Gutenberg, invented the printing press and the nature of Christianity changed forever, the balance of power between flock and shepherd shifted, with power flowing steadily away from the church elite as the bible became available to anyone who could read. The importance of this shift cannot be overstated, as people gained the ability to read what Christ said and commanded for themselves, the ability of priests, popes, and pastors to manipulate the flock steadily eroded.
But the church elites still had one thing in their favor, the pulpit. As groups of believers splintered off from the Holy Roman Church, they soon formed their own bureaucracies and theologies, and with the rise of seminaries and divinity schools in the late 1600’s, they were able to control the pulpits of their denominations and thus the minds of the flock. So by the mid 21st century the body of Christ was just as rigidly controlled as it was in 1400, just with more flavors.
So now comes the internet and it looks like the shift in the balance of power that began with the invention of the printing press is racing towards completion and the religious elites are squealing like stuck pigs. One believer with a blog, a bible, and a way of speaking to other believers in a manner they can understand can reach as many people in a day as most any pastor and they don’t like it at all.
Some of their complaints are valid, the internet is the most powerful megaphone ever invented and there are a lot of morons out there propagating silliness of the first magnitude. Turns out false prophets have high speed connections too. It’s wild, undisciplined, often messy, but often exhilarating. There are incredibly moving voices being heard that would never drawn attention had it not been for a megaphone of their own, and my walk with the Lord has been enriched by people from all over the world, people I would never have known had it not been for the miracle of the World Wide Web.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Atheist And The Believer

A few days ago I commented on an article in the Christian Post that complained about atheists putting up 30 signs in bus stop shelters out in Orange County, California. The main thrust of my comment was we've got more important things to worry about, why are we getting our skirts all in a bunch over this tripe. What really annoyed me was the headline "Atheists Storm Calif. Bus Shelters with 'No God' Ads" Seriously? They stormed the bus stop shelters? Sounds to me like they blew a few thousand dollars.

But what happened after I posted my comment was almost comical. 81 replies and 31 "likes" later the whole conversation turned into an atheist versus believer tirade. 

First of all I had no idea so many atheists read the Christian Post. I have no interest at all in cabinet making so I've never read a woodworking magazine, why atheists hang around a Christian site is beyond me (although it certainly can't hurt). Secondly, it became clear after reading the comments both for and against the existence of God, that both sides completely neglect the central role of faith in the debate. A wise friend once told me that the atheist and the believer arrive at their separate conclusions with an identical leap of faith, that there is no conclusive, unarguable, scientific proof  for or against the existence of God, nor is there ever likely to be one (although Christians have nothing to fear from science).

Now I'm not an atheist so I'll not speak for them on the amount of faith required to believe there is no God, but I know that to believe in Jesus you're gonna need some faith. I know that because, excuse me here Mr. Atheist, the Bible tells me so, read Hebrews 11. So why do we as believers get all defensive when atheists tell us our faith is childlike and based upon belief in things unseen when that's what scripture tells us?