December 2017 Streams of Thought
A recent commercial jingle for the Samsung Galaxy 8 cell phone said, "I've got the answer here inside of myself;" I'm not sure if that refers to the phone (likely) or the user but it struck me sideways.
What kind of question(s) needing answers are implied? The location of the nearest Starbucks or Buffalo Wild Wings? Or big questions like "Is there a God and does it matter?" I believe there is and it does, but that's another topic; a related topic is the almost religious fervor/ devotion/ faith that resides in the most militant tech-minded folks out there. Their faith is in progress--AI (Artificial Intelligence)--and a belief that one day all will be well through technology.
But I digress. There are blogs, forums, chat rooms, and e-books that address and debate the big questions. Many have a Christian worldview and that's good. But some questions can't be answered this side of heaven (check out Job 38-42). Christian blogs and forums often have good, helpful, and thoughtful insights and God uses them in powerful ways.
But nothing beats going directly to God in times of frustration, confusion, and pain (see Job again + the Psalms). An internet search is helpful, but God is the Ultimate Source of wisdom, strength, grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and joy. And even if God (see Job again) doesn't answer directly, we can still come to Him and pour out our pain, grief, anger, frustration, and despair and rest in His holy and loving peace.
That's something the Galaxy 8, iPhone X, Google, or a
thousand gadgets or internet connections can never match, respond to, or do.
Grace and Peace,
November 2017 Streams of Thought
As many of you know one of my hobbies is building scale models of military vehicles, figures, ships, and aircraft. While usually a relaxing hobby there are moments of frustration (poor fit, fuzzy instructions, or "operator error;" (plenty of that)). But I've learned valuable lessons:
1) There's no such thing (obviously) as perfect this side of heaven; a fellow modeler once said "Aim for a four-footer; if it looks good from four feet away you've done well" (his finished work looks good from four centimeters away!) Perfect doesn't exist but well-done does.
2) When you've done all you can stop and enjoy the results. One thing I'm learning recently is painting complex uniform camouflage patterns used by German troops in WW2. I research patterns and practice on scrap pieces. I paint the figure in question and when it looks close to the original I stop and enjoy.
3) Take risks; I have kits in my "stash" I would have avoided 10 or 15 years ago because of their complexity or materials. Which leads to
4) Practice makes "perfect" (see #1). According to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers becoming an expert (world class pianists, pro athletes, guitarists Slash and Jimmy Page) requires at least 10,000 hours of practice, rehearsal, study, etc. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Gladwell, at least in my case. I've passed 10,000 hours but I'm not about to claim the title of "expert." I've seen models (not mine) that if photographed in black and white could pass for a real vehicle from WW2 (with requisite wear and tear, colors, etc.).
The fact that life teaches us lessons and insights isn't accidental;
I think it's God's way of helping us learn about ourselves and especially about Him. We'll never be perfect, hence the need for grace; when we do what God calls us to do we must leave the results to Him; when we take risks God stretches, challenges, and teaches us. And as one great writer said, "practicing the presence of God" means we grow in our faith. We'll never be experts in the things of God but we can be solid examples of faith, love, and grace.
What has life or even a hobby taught you that can be applied to your faith?
Grace and Peace, Pastor Brian
October 2017 Streams of Thought
My last two or three articles have focused on our turbulent social,
moral, historical, and cultural setting. Some Christians find it scary,
others see opportunities for outreach. Some want to ignore it and hope it goes away. The Church has experienced turbulent times before; after all--it lives in a crazy, messy, sometimes violent world.
Christians throughout history have weathered violent social, moral, historical, and cultural storms. Psalm 2 says nations "conspire and plot" against the "LORD and His anointed"; the immediate context speaks of Israel's enemies arrayed against its king and, ultimately, against God who enthrones the king.
There are echoes of this in the modern political situation Israel faces; the psalm can be widened to include God's people in general. There are people who strongly
dislike (even hate)
God and His people. In addition to this, natural forces (hurricanes,
tornadoes, floods, fires) cause turmoil without regard to who is in the way.
Sometimes Christians get caught in the crossfire of human conflict, whatever form it might take. Christian theology traces this to
Genesis 3 where human sin caused a seismic shift that makes even
creation groan in despair (Romans 8:18-25). The promise of a "new
heaven and earth" (Revelation 21:1-5) relays hope for a future devoid of violence, death, despair, and pain.
But in the meantime we are left with a crazy, messy world. We believe God calls us to trust Him no matter what, but we're often accused of an escapist mentality by enemies of the faith. But the real hope is more than that; the Biblical record says God is present in the entire story; even when it seems He's absent, He's still there (Psalm 22). We're never out of His care or sight (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5); Jesus said "I am with you forever, even to the end of the age/world" (Matthew 28:20).
Whatever might happen in this crazy world, there is above everything a God who cares.
Grace and peace,
September 2017 Streams of Thought
The recent case of Charlie Gard, a British infant who died from a rare condition, caused considerable controversy. Doctors in the U.S. offered to treat him with an experimental procedure and the Vatican offered their private hospital. But a British court ignored his parents' wishes and upheld doctors' decisions to end care and prevent treatments. The case highlighted differences in U.S. and European law.
In the U.S. patients have the right to seek other opinions or treatments--doctors cannot legally deny treatment. We'll never know if the treatment would have worked, but the case highlights the increasingly utilitarian view of Western culture that sees people as disposable and courts as all-knowing.
The question before us is: What will the Church do to confront these frightening trends?
Grace and Peace,
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Come as you are
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