Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Divisions

Acting in the prophetic office department: I found this in the comment section of an article about Tyler Perry. In the article, Mr. Perry remarks about what Jesus and the church does for him and his work. In the comments, someone could not fathom how God could bless someone who claims to be a believer, yet professes different opinions than the writer. What??!


I see two glaring problems here. The first is about Mr. Perry being called a 'liberal.' I do not know about Mr. Perry, and cannot make any evaluation of his beliefs. However, the implication is that in the mind of the writer, someone who is of the liberal persuasion cannot be a real Christian. I think that is a very dangerous and erroneous conclusion. This type of thing happens every day, and it is dividing the body of Christ in the worst way. Jesus prayed that we would be one. But our society is causing divisions that are spilling over into the church.

The second problem is that this poster has a serious theological lack of understanding about the sovereignty of God.  If you think that God only will bless those that are of YOUR political/denominational/whatever opinion persuasion then you have missed the biblical point. He can (and will) bless those He wants to bless. He doesn't have to follow our opinions or get our permission. God uses who and what He wants to to achieve HIS, not our, purposes.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

How To Answer

Every time there is a natural or other disaster (like a shooting) people come out of the woodwork criticizing those of faith for their comments of "Thoughts and prayers." See what good your thoughts and prayers do! they say. Your thoughts and prayers didn't prevent this! they say.

I say these people miss the whole point. (And sometimes purposely, too, because they have this animosity toward people of faith.) By not understanding how prayer and faith actually works, there is this misunderstanding. Prayer is not a dismissal of action. It is not absolving oneself from the situation at hand. By invoking prayer and faith, it is acknowledging that some things are bigger than us, and we need outside help. It does not mean do nothing.

So how can you answer someone who says thoughts and prayers don't work? Well, here are the first thing that always come to mind:

    Ask: What are you doing about this situation?

The implication with the 'thoughts and prayers don't work' argument is that the person who believes in thoughts and prayers is basically doing nothing. But it is equally valid to ask the critic if what they are doing (or not doing) accomplishes anything better. Complaining about religion or religious people accomplishes nothing.

I believe in prayer. And I believe in being part of the solution. When I was younger and healthier, I was involved. I was a Red Cross disaster relief volunteer. I participated in many disaster relief operations. I was a shelter manager for evacuees from Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. I did disaster relief for floods and extreme cold weather. We made a difference in people's lives.

While most of those who criticize 'thoughts and prayers' are trolls, they do have a point. Simply saying 'thoughts and prayers' online is an empty gesture. This is one of those "faith without works is dead" moments. Pray, but do something! There are so many agencies that are in need of volunteers. And having volunteers works, too. A church here packs school supplies for those who cannot afford them. Volunteers from 5+ churches came to their packing day, and instead of it taking a whole day, they packed 1000 back-packs with school supplies in less than 45 minutes. These same volunteers came to the back-to-school event, and passed out the back-packs and ministered to others needs.

Always pray when there are times of crisis. But also remember that we, who believe, are most often God's answer to those prayers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Linux at 28

I was recently reading an article about the 28th anniversary of Linux. Thinking about it, Linux significantly has impacted my life, and it also significantly impacted my ability to do ministry. Granted, talking about computer software is not a usual ministry subject. Everyone has their own ideas and preferences. But Linux, for me, turned out to be something different altogether.

My interest in Linux really started out as a geek kind of thing. I found a box in a bookstore with it. I still have those disks: it was Mandrake Linux. I noodled with it and, to be honest, didn't find it to be very practical. That was in 1999 or thereabout, so the idea of a Linux distribution was still in its infancy.

What started to change my interest in Linux was two things: 1) The quality of the distributions got radically better, and, 2) Windows XP. As far as distributions getting better, Ubuntu definitely was a game changer. Their installer made things work right out of the box. And as far as Windows XP was concerned, it's release is when Microsoft and computer manufacturers started to really make our previously purchased computers obsolete. The hardware requirements for running Windows was increasing, and support for older software was removed. My older computers were getting left in the dust. I wrote about this very thing in 2012 when Windows 8 came out. Windows 10 requirements are steeper still! You can find my original article here:

http://dianovo-cumberland.blogspot.com/2012/09/software-changes-alternative.html

This is how Linux impacted my ministry: I could not afford new hardware and software every 18-24 months to keep up with Windows. It sounds like a cliche, but Linux really did keep my old systems alive. (And it still does! I am typing this right now on a Linux system.) It also opened an opportunity for me to have software resources that I could no longer afford. I could not afford Microsoft Office, but I was able to get Star Office, and later its replacement, Open Office. I could not afford Photoshop, but I could get GIMP. I could not afford recording studio software, but I could get Audacity. I hope you are getting the picture. The Linux community provided free alternatives to the usual commercial packages. I could handle free! I was able to create quality presentations, documents, photo-editing and recordings.

Ok, things have not always been perfect. I've fought with printers and video cards. And I've also learned which distros work the first time, and which ones won't do the job for me. But the benefits far outweighed the negatives. (And to be fair, I've had the exact same issues with both the Windows and Macintosh operating systems.) What started as a hobby project of a college student has blossomed into its own niche in the computer industry. And it has become a blessing to us who do ministry.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Another

I recently read an article explaining how yet another minister from a megachurch announced he no longer believes in the Christian faith. Truthfully, I don't have a problem with this. I didn't have a problem with any of the others, either. What very few who are associated with churches seem to see is that this is the logical outcome of what we in the west have been practicing, namely organized religion instead of real Christianity.

This latest individual raised some questions about faith and what he thought Christianity was about. He mentioned the lack of miracles, the failure of 'men of God,' and how people could suffer. His questions are valid. When he became part of Christianity, his church made promises to him. But where are all the things that had been promised? The organization this individual served at failed him, and he was rightfully disillusioned.

If we are honest, every believer reaches this point at some time in their lives. There is a point where we have to take stock of what we think we believe, what we have been told is the 'truth,' and compare it with what is in the Bible. It happened to me. After a series of incidents where the organized church put me through what amounted to spiritual abuse, I was shaken in my faith. My conclusion however wasn't to discard Christianity. I concluded that what was happening wasn't the Bible or God's fault. It was the fault of a corrupted system that men created, namely the organized church. Because I came to understand that it was the institution, and not God, that was the problem, I never lost my faith or wanted to give up believing. Unfortunately not everyone comes to the same conclusion I did.

The organized religion we called 'church' in America and the west is very sick. There is no wonder people leave it. Those famous people are just the tip of an iceberg. Many people are disillusioned and jumping ship. The good news is that other people, who have already gone through this process, are trying to reach these newly 'unchurched' people. People are creating new and more authentic methods of fellowship. People are showing love and support to people like them. This love and support may not bring them back into an organized religion, but it can bring them back home to the family of God.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Down

One commonly held opinion about Christians is that they seem to be "down" on almost everything in our culture today. The dust-up that happened on the show "The Bachelorette" is an example of this. One of the "eligible bachelors" claimed to be a Christian, and was not a fan of premarital sex. He was highly criticized as being out-of-step with reality, a bigot, somehow defective because he claimed he wanted to live by the Bible's standards.

We as believers are often put in this type of position. When trying to figure it out, I narrowed the reasons why we appear to be like this to two factors:

     1. What the Bible says

     2. We already screwed up our lives because we did it in the past

This is especially true for adults when trying to explain to youth why they shouldn't do something, particularly when movies, books, TV and popular music is teaching them otherwise. We say what we do because we already failed. We know what the consequences (and penalties) are. They also know that the Bible warned about these very things, but we refused to listen and paid the price.

What appears to be being down on something is really trying to keep a standard and to warn about the consequences. No one is trying to spoil the fun. But sometimes the "fun" has lasting negative consequences. Society conveniently leaves that part out.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Suggestion

One of the things that I enjoy about the internet is the many things that content creators put out. Specifically, I am talking about YouTube videos. There are many content creators who put together hours of music into playlists of praise and worship. Probably every genre of music is represented, too, so there is something for every one. These are great if I want to listen to, say, 70's Maranatha! songs. I can go to a playlist and list to an hour or more of just that music, already sorted and arranged for me. If I am in a more modern praise and worship mood, I can pull that up.

I find these playlists to be an excellent way to spiritually recharge. When life seems to be getting a bit to stressful, I can put on praise and worship and it helps lighten the pressure I feel. It helps me move my focus from on me to on the Lord. And the best part is that it is free! All I needed was an internet connection.

I encourage you to try it for yourself. I can't recommended any specific YouTube channels (there are so many of them), but if you do a search of "praise and worship" you will be able to find something you will enjoy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Babes

Last week I talked about how non-Christians cannot understand the things of God as they are revealed in the Bible. But sometimes we have to ask ourselves, "Why do people who claim to be Christian fail to understand basic biblical ideas?"

This is a good question, and it is answered in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2:

     But I, my friends, could not speak to you as people with
     spiritual insight, but only as worldly-minded - mere infants
     in the faith of Christ. I fed you with milk, not with solid
     food, for you were not then able to take it.


Lack of understanding, for the Christian, is not a sign that the person is not saved. Rather, it may be a reflection of where they are in spiritual growth. That sounds like a rebuke, but it really isn't. Just as how biologically people are of different ages and maturity levels, so it is with the spiritual life. Paul talks here about how some in the Corinthian church have the spiritual maturity of babies. His conclusion is not to cast them out of the church, but to approach them where they are. He doesn't bring up complex spiritual things to those people, but keeps to the basics ("milk"). He does want them to grow into maturity, but first meets them where they are.

Not everyone is at the same maturity level, and not everyone can understand the deep theological ideas we can glean in the scriptures. That is how it is in the spiritual life. An immature Christian does appear to be worldly-minded, but that is a reflection of their maturity level. Rather than criticize the "low" of a level of spiritual maturity someone (or group) has, it is better to be like Paul, and do what we can to help them grow.