Sunday, January 31, 2010

Odds & Ends

This week's project:

1. Watch this video explain the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August von Hayek.

2. Prepare a similar video that compares and contrasts the two sides of a theological controversy. Examples could include:
  • Calvinism vs. Arminianism.
  • A forensic view of the atonement vs. the Moral Influence Theory.
  • Creationism vs. Theistic Evolution.
3. Post, and await the applause. 

(h/t to Brainiac)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This week's lesson: patience

Over the years, few things have tried the patience of the saints more than the patience of God.

Don't believe me?

Think of Revelation 6:9f.
When [Jesus] opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
Or Psalm 74:10f.
How long will the enemy mock you, O God?
       Will the foe revile your name forever?
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
       Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
Then there's the complaint of Habakkuk 1:2-4.
How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
       but you do not listen?
       Or cry out to you, "Violence!"
       but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
       Why do you tolerate wrong?
       Destruction and violence are before me;
       there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
       and justice never prevails.
       The wicked hem in the righteous,
       so that justice is perverted.
And who can forget that final fit of pique in Jonah 3:10-4:3?
When God saw what [the people of Ninevah] did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
No, if we were running things, then judgment would be swift, sure, and automatic . . .

For other people.

Instead, we see God treating their sins with the same forbearance and compassion that He treats our own.

Needless to say, this really annoys us -- yet as we're reminded in II Peter 3:9 --
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
In short, God is patient with us.

That's why we need to be patient with God.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • I may be wrong, but it looks as though we're going to make it through the Great Recession without any major changes in the structure of the Adventist church or the way it allocates funds. Is this a bullet dodged, or a crisis wasted?
  • If there's no post on Tuesday, then you'll know my trip to the dentist took longer than expected.
  • And I'll close with Matz's Maxim: "A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

This week's lesson: peace

When it comes to church, there are few things that cause more trouble than our desire for peace.

We don't like trouble, after all. And we hate it when people argue with each other. No, that's not something that Christians are supposed to do!

So when somebody comes up with something that might upset the status quo, we hesitate. We wait to see who might object. We strive for consensus -- and lacking that, we give way to anyone who is willing to make a fuss.

The result is a church in which change is difficult, risk is shunned, and whatever conflict takes place is covert. Secret. Behind the scenes . . .

Until people decide that "enough is enough" -- and when that happens, then the gloves come off. A "holy war" is declared. And an issue that might have been settled with 25 minutes of heated discussion turns into our own, local version of Armageddon.

Not that this ever happens at my church, of course!

But I've found it helpful to remember that peace not the same as an absence of conflict. No, it is living life the way God wants it to be lived -- and sometimes, that means we need to work through some of the things that keep this from happening.

Just because we're not fighting, in other words, doesn't mean we're at peace.

And just because we are fighting, that doesn't mean we don't love each other.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gray whales

Looks like I missed the gray whales.


Every year, they migrate south from the Gulf of Alaska down to Mexico -- and every Christmas, tourists come from hundreds of miles to the Oregon coast, where they can watch the whales swim by. It is a beautiful, magnificent sight . . .

Or so I am told -- but even though I live less than half a mile from the beach, I've never bothered to go look for myself. It's not that I have anything against the whales. One of these days, as a matter of fact, I fully intend to take a look.

But as the New York Times pointed out in a recent article, the world is full of wonderful things that we never quite get around to doing.

Because we're busy.

And we're sure that we'll have more time to enjoy them tomorrow. Or the day after. Or someday . . . soon. Really. We promise.

But if there's one thing I've learned from twelve years of not watching whales, it's that God's blessings can pass right on by unless we take time to notice and enjoy them.

Yes, this is the day the Lord has made.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • "It was Sunday, and it was raining, and it was Oregon" -- John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley.
  •  For the past month, I've given my Bible commentaries a rest -- I just read the text, spend the week thinking about it, and write my sermon on Friday. I wouldn't do this all the time (or with every text), but thus far, it's been a nice change.
  • The New Republic magazine has always been famous for its book reviews; I'm enjoying the way it has expanded this section online with The Book.
  • No, I haven't seen Avatar; I did not see Titanic either. And I'm not watching either movie until James Cameron apologizes for the way he ended The Abyss.
  • My wife and I spent the first part of this week in Astoria, watching ships sail up the Columbia River. Best place for conversation: The Astoria Coffeehouse
    • And I'll close with this quote from George Burns: "I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than be a success at something I hate."

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    This week's lesson: joy

    by G. K. Chesterton

    Here dies another day
    During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
    And the great world round me;
    And with tomorrow begins another,
    Why am I allowed two?

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Odds & Ends

    • Here on the Oregon Coast, the skies may be gray but it's stopped raining, and the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50s!
    • The emergent church is dead, Willow Creek is rethinking, and Rick Warren has stopped wearing Hawaiian shirts. As a result, I'm fast running out of places where I can go to steal ideas!
    •  Did I mention we're expecting temperatures in the mid-50s today?
    • Solid writing, careful attention to the text, helpful applications -- don't tell anybody, but I'm actually enjoying this year's devotional, Snapshots of God, by Richard Coffen.
    • Take the number of active church members you have, and divide it by fifty -- if my experience is any guide, that's roughly the number of funerals you can expect in a year.
    • Sure feel sorry for all those people at the Seminary who won't be enjoying temperatures in the mid-50s today!
    •  We've been doing Exodus in the Bible class I teach; our final exam was to compare the text's picture of Moses with the one in Prince of Egypt. Bottom line: todays' consumers want a young, emo Moses with a sassy-but-beautiful sidekick. Coming up next: the story of Samson gets a happy ending!
    • Don't expect a post on Tuesday -- I'll be celebrating the 273rd-birthday of John Hancock.
    • And yes, it's so much easier to celebrate these things when you're enjoying temperatures in the mid-50s on the Oregon Coast.
    • And I'll close with this quote from Colin Powell: "You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours."

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    This week's lesson: love

    All you need is love . . .
    • Unless, of course, you're part of your church's Student Assistance Committee . . . 
    • And you're discussing a request for financial aid from parents who think the church should pay their child's tuition so that they can continue to afford their time-share in Cancun . . . 
    • And if you don't approve their request, then they've stated they will pull their child out of school and stop attending church because you're all a bunch of meanies . . . 
    • And did I mention that the child's grandfather is also the head elder of your church?
    In short, love is patient and kind -- but sometimes, it is also perplexing. And figuring out just exactly what is the loving thing to do is not always easy.  What's more, saying and doing the loving thing is not always going to be popular . . .

    Especially if there's money involved.

    Or children.

    Or money and children..

    That's why love is essential, but it is not enough. No, it requires wisdom. It requires tact. And sometimes, it requires that you confront people who can't understand why you won't let them go on hurting themselves and others.

    If we only needed to love our friends, after all, then philos would be enough.

    And if we only needed to love the people whom it is easy to love, then eros would be enough.

    But if we want to love all kinds of people -- and if we want to love them the way God loves them . . .

    Then it's going to take more than just love.

    No, it will take everything we have.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    Taming the Web

    The internet is a wonderful thing -- but it's also one of the biggest time-suckers in my life. Here's what I've done to keep things from getting completely out of hand.

    Track use
    Google lets you keep a detailed history of your time on the web . . . which comes in handy when you're trying to figure out why you didn't get anything done last Friday, and at least part of the reason is that you checked 172 web-sites after lunch. And just to keep me honest, I've asked my wife to check this on a weekly basis.

    Time use
    I keep a stopwatch by my computer. When I'm on the web, I start it. When I'm off the web, I stop it.  At the end of the day, I clear it. And no, I don't do this in an effort to limit my time -- I tried that, and it didn't work. But just knowing how the time adds up does help me to control it. 

    Interrupt Use
    I also keep a kitchen-timer by my computer --one that's preset to go off in ten minutes. When I go on the web, I start it. When it beeps, I reset it and keep working until it beeps again in ten minutes . . . at which point I usually say, "Okay, that's enough."

    Schedule use
    It's tempting to check favorite websites every 15-minutes or so, just to see if there's been an update. To avoid this, I've set up a "Daily Reading" folder for bookmarks to the sites I check daily (viz. The New York Times or Facebook), and a "Weekend Reading" folder for bookmarks to the sites I check Sunday mornings (viz. Lifehacker or Cool Tools). And yes, I suppose that I could still check those sites every 15-minutes if I wanted to . . . but just opening the folder is usually all it takes to make me pause and say, "not today."

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Odds & Ends

    • Gray skies, but it's stopped raining and the temperature has warmed up to 53-degrees. (That's an answer to prayer for all the students driving back to Walla Walla today!)
    • It never fails that, each and every Sunday morning, I feel like quitting the ministry and getting a job bagging groceries at Safeway. Fortunately, the feeling passes . . . which is just another reason why I try not to make any big decisions on a weekend.
    •  There's good news and bad news in Barbara Stauch's article in The New York Times on "How to Train the Aging Brain." On the one hand, we're not as good as we used to be when it comes to remembering details. Then again, we get better at detecting the Big Picture.
    • And I'll close with this quote from Stauch's article -- one that strikes me as offering some very good advice to preachers:
    Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”

    Dr. Mezirow developed this concept 30 years ago after he studied women who had gone back to school. The women took this bold step only after having many conversations that helped them “challenge their own ingrained perceptions of that time when women could not do what men could do.”

    Such new discovery, Dr. Mezirow says, is the “essential thing in adult learning.”

    “As adults we have all those brain pathways built up, and we need to look at our insights critically,” he says. “This is the best way for adults to learn. And if we do it, we can remain sharp.”
    Preaching as a "disorienting dilemma" -- I like that!