Thursday, August 26, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • Blue skies. Warm weather. Yup, things turned nice, just in time for the beginning of school.
  • I am puzzled by this week's Sabbath School lesson on Romans 8. A chapter about God's grace in the face of human suffering has become a pep talk -- one that says little more than "Jesus will help us try harder." Just as a suggestion, try including verses 18ff in this week's discussion; they add a lot (even though the quarterly did not think them worth mentioning).
  • I love what Eugene Peterson says about the Psalms of Ascent in his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Unfortunately, I'm not finding anything in this book that I can use in a sermon . . . so I guess I'll just have to read it for my own benefit. (Sigh.)
  • I don't know anything that causes more headaches (and heartaches) than our local church's Student Assistance Fund (i.e. the program that grants scholarships to our local SDA school). I guess it's one of those things where you do it, not because it makes you feel good, but because it's the right thing to do.
  • And I'll close with this quote from the United States Marine Corps: "If you want it bad, then you get it bad."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • The weather here on the Oregon Coast continues to be gray and cool, with temperatures in the mid-50s. The main difference between our summers and winters, in other words, is 15 degrees.
  • This week's Sabbath School lesson on Romans 7 can easily lead to despair. Tell people it is possible to overcome sin, after all, and you risk discouraging those who find this difficult -- but tell them it is difficult to overcome sin, and you risk discouraging those who hope it is possible.
  • The Oregon Conference will sponsor a Creation Summit, March 30 to April 2 -- and for my own benefit, I'm putting together a reading list. Any suggestions as to what should be on it?
  • Speaking of which, I'm enjoying Three Views on Creation and Evolution -- a book that gives evangelical scholars a chance to explain, defend, and critique views such as young earth creationism, old earth creationism, and theistic evolution.
  • In his discussion of legalizing cannabis, libertarian (and Atlantic columnist) Mark Kleiman points out that 10% of American adults drink half the alcohol sold in this country, while another 10% accounts for an additional 30%. Only 20% of American adults, in other words, drink 80% of the alcohol . . . which is why he says:
To the consumer, developing a bad habit is bad news. To the marketing executive, it’s the whole point of the exercise. For any potentially addictive commodity or activity, the minority that gets stuck with a bad habit consumes the majority of the product. So the entire marketing effort is devoted to cultivating and maintaining the people whose use is a problem to them and a gold mine to the industry. . . . [That's why] “an innkeeper loves a drunkard,” says the Yiddish proverb, “except as a son-in-law.” [h/t to Brainiac]
  • And I'll close with this quote from Mencius: "Before a man can do things, there must be things he will not do."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This week's lesson: Romans 6

It's an issue we deal with all the time as parents, on school boards, and with our worship team leaders: it's the issue of what happens when we start changing things.

When Paul wrote about "the law," after all, he didn't just mean the Ten Commandments -- or even the Old Testament. No, Paul was talking about the whole system of written and unwritten rules that made up the Jewish way of life. In our language, we'd say he was talking about The Way We've Always Done Things Around Here (or TWWADTAH for short).

Then as now, some people feared any change of TWWADTAH. "You let people start messing around with the rules," they'd say, "and people won't know what to do. No, you let them start reading novels/drinking coffee/wearing jeans on Sabbath, and it won't be too long before this place starts looking like Ft. Lauderdale during spring break."

In truth, these people have a point. People need rules, after all -- especially children. And a culture that doesn't provide clear rules for its children shouldn't be surprised if they act as as though there are no rules at all.

Fortunately, Paul provides a way to deal with these issues.
  • To conservatives, he says that TWWADTAH doesn't work any more; it needs to be changed.
  • To the liberals, he says that change is no good unless we make sure it is a change for the better.
  • And to liberals and conservatives alike, he points out that our behavior will always fall short of God's expectations -- and that's why we will always need God's grace.
In short, there may be times we need to change The Way We've Always Done Things Around Here.

But God never changes the way He deals with us.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I'm back!

Yes, I've been on vacation.
Yes, Canada was wonderful.
No, I did not try poutine.