Monday, April 27, 2009

Between Two Worlds

In my post way back on March 9 (ancient history in the blogosphere), I commented on the need for the church to be involved with "new media" if we hope to reach/teach/evangelize the rising generation.

As I thought more about it, I considered my own place in the discussion.

Here at ACWI, we find ourselves with one corporate foot in the world of "old media" and one foot in the "new media" world . What do I mean?

Well, just consider where and how we communicate our message:

  • OLD: Christian radio and print publishing
  • NEW: podcasting and blogging (and one of these days when I have more time on my hands, Facebook)

Way back in 1997 (this was before there were specialized career titles like "network security analyst" or "information technologist"), a friend who was known simply as a "computer guy" was forecasting the end of the book - that we'd all be reading e-books on our computers before long and the libraries would all close up shop.

I don't ever see a day when it has to be one or the other. It will depend largely on who your intended audience is. If we were to plan a conference for youth pastors or their youth groups this year, you can be sure that we'd focus our energies on new media. But if we wanted to reach the general population, we'd probably use a mix of both old and new media.

Consider these words from Phil Cooke. In The ‘Open Media’ Revolution, he writes,

"The ‘Open Media’ Revolution will change everything you know about reaching this generation. If church and ministry leaders don't understand and respond to this change, our impact will eventually disappear. Think that's being a little melodramatic? Let me explain it by showing the difference between the closed media world of the past and the open media world of the future. . ."

Cooke then goes on and gives these as his first couple of examples:

Closed: TV was the hub of marketing and advertising campaigns
Open: TV is now TIVO-we skip commercials
Closed: Programmers controlled the message
Open: The audience influences the message

Cooke — along with my old friend the "computer guy" — seems to think that "old media" is taking its last gasping breaths.

I'm not quite there yet - if for no other reason than the fact that curling up in a big comfy chair with a book and a cup of coffee (or for some people, tea) just isn't the same if you've got a laptop (or a Kindle) in place of the trusty old book.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hymn: HE wills that I should holy be

John Wesley

1 HE wills that I should holy be,
That holiness I long to feel;
That full divine conformity
To all my Savior’s righteous will.

2 See, Lord, the travail of thy soul
Accomplished in the change of mine,
And plunge me, every whit made whole,
In all the depths of love divine.

3 On thee, O God, my soul is stayed,
And waits to prove your utmost will;
The promise, by thy mercy made,
Thou canst, thou wilt, in me fulfill.

4 No more I stagger at thy power,
Or doubt thy truth, which cannot move:
Hasten the long-expected hour,
And bless me with thy perfect love.

5 Jesus, thy loving Spirit alone
Can lead me forth, and make me free,
Burst every bond through which I groan,
And set my heart at liberty:

6 Now let thy Spirit bring me in,
And give thy servant to possess
The land of rest from inbred sin,
The land of perfect holiness.

7 Lord, I believe thy power the same,
The same thy truth and grace endure;
And in thy blessed hands I am,
And trust thee for a perfect cure.

8 Come, Savior, come, and make me whole!
Entirely all my sins remove;
To perfect health restore my soul,
To perfect holiness and love.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saving, Ministry, Evil and Music

Things I read and listened to and thought about this past week.

I found this article very pithy.

ARTICLE The Man Behind The (Divine) Conspiracy: A Conversation with Dallas Willard

I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes. Charles Spurgeon, YES!!!

It was my pleasure to attend a dulcimer workshop in Silver City, New Mexico. The Mogollon Mountain Dulcimers had the gifted teacher and artist Maureen Sellers. I particularly love to hear an artist that takes special note of the origins of the songs she teaches and plays. And!! I was again delighted to play and sing along, “The Ninety and Nine”.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Post American Culture

"To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population."
“While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world." As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America's unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. At our best, we single religion out for neither particular help nor particular harm; we have historically treated faith-based arguments as one element among many in the republican sphere of debate and decision. The decline and fall of the modern religious right's notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment and, for many believers, may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.”

Thus writes Newsweek editor Jon Meacham in this week's cover story, "The End of Christian America." The image on the front cover says it all, declaring "The Decline and Fall of Christian America" in type set to form a cross.

Albert Mohler says, “This is a fair and insightful rendering of the pattern. What does become clear in this paragraph is that what Newsweek sees as the essence of the issue is political influence. While this is hardly a non-issue, my greater concern is not with political influence and what secularization means for the political sphere, but with what secularization means for the souls of men and women who are now considerably more distant from Christianity -- and perhaps even with any contact with Christianity -- than ever before. My main concern is evangelism, not cultural influence.”

I believe many will read this article with a death denial. Why? It seems too many believers fight the American culture and in their fight have moved it to a secular position. It would seem to me that the American culture has been secular for a longer time than the stats indicate.

Mohler’s concerns, “Our proper Christian response to this new challenge is not gloom, but concern. And our first concern must be to see that the Gospel is preached as Good News to the perishing -- including all those in post-Christian America.” Redemption comes from Jesus Christ, which is His mission, proclaiming the Gospel is our mission.

(Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Passion Week 2009

Devotions from Charles Spurgeon

“They took Jesus, and led him away.”
(John 19:16 WNT) Then Pilate gave Him up to them to be crucified. Accordingly they took Jesus;

He had been all night in agony, he had spent the early morning at the hall of Caiaphas, he had been hurried from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate; he had, therefore, but little strength left, and yet neither refreshment nor rest were permitted him. They were eager for his blood, and therefore led him out to die, loaded with the cross. O dolorous procession! Well may Salem’s daughters weep. My soul, do thou weep also.
What learn we here as we see our blessed Lord led forth? Do we not perceive that truth which was set forth in shadow by the scapegoat? Did not the high-priest bring the scapegoat, and put both his hands upon its head, confessing the sins of the people, that thus those sins might be laid upon the goat, and cease from the people? Then the goat was led away by a fit man into the wilderness, and it carried away the sins of the people, so that if they were sought for they could not be found. Now we see Jesus brought before the priests and rulers, who pronounce him guilty; God himself imputes our sins to him, “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;” “He was made sin for us;” and, as the substitute for our guilt, bearing our sin upon his shoulders, represented by the cross; we see the great Scapegoat led away by the appointed officers of justice. Beloved, can you feel assured that he carried your sin? As you look at the cross upon his shoulders, does it represent your sin? There is one way by which you can tell whether he carried your sin or not. Have you laid your hand upon his head, confessed your sin, and trusted in him? Then your sin lies not on you; it has all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and he bears it on his shoulder as a load heavier than the cross.
Let not the picture vanish till you have rejoiced in your own deliverance, and adored the loving Redeemer upon whom your iniquities were laid.

“Is it not strange, the darkest hour
That ever dawned on sinful earth,
Should touch the heart with softer power,
For comfort, than an angel’s mirth?
That to the Cross the mourner’s eye should turn,
Sooner than where the stars of Bethlehem burn?”

“The power of his resurrection.”

(Philippians 3:10 WNT) I long to know Christ and the power which is in His resurrection, and to share in His sufferings and die even as He died;

The doctrine of a risen Savior is exceedingly precious. The resurrection is the corner-stone of the entire building of Christianity. It is the key-stone of the arch of our salvation. It would take a volume to set forth all the streams of living water which flow from this one sacred source, the resurrection of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; but to know that he has risen, and to have fellowship with him as such-communing with the risen Savior by possessing a risen life-seeing him leave the tomb by leaving the tomb of worldliness ourselves, this is even still more precious. The doctrine is the basis of the experience, but as the flower is more lovely than the root, so is the experience of fellowship with the risen Savior more lovely than the doctrine itself. I would have you believe that Christ rose from the dead so as to sing of it, and derive all the consolation which it is possible for you to extract from this well-ascertained and well-witnessed fact; but I beseech you, rest not contented even there. Though you cannot, like the disciples, see him visibly, yet I bid you aspire to see Christ Jesus by the eye of faith; and though, like Mary Magdalene, you may not “touch” him, yet may you be privileged to converse with him, and to know that he is risen, you yourselves being risen in him to newness of life. To know a crucified Savior as having crucified all my sins, is a high degree of knowledge; but to know a risen Savior as having justified me, and to realize that he has bestowed upon me new life, having given me to be a new creature through his own newness of life, this is a noble style of experience: short of it, none ought to rest satisfied. May you both “know him, and the power of his resurrection!” Why should souls who are quickened with Jesus, wear the grave-clothes of worldliness and unbelief? Rise, for the Lord is risen.

(Colossians 3:1-4 WNT) If however you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, enthroned at God's right hand. Give your minds to the things that are above, not to the things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ appears--He is our true Life--then you also will appear with Him in glory.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Cruelty of God Toward Amputees

Awhile back I was roaming around You Tube when I came by this video asking theists (though it became clear from the start that Christians specifically were the target) ten questions. The video concludes with the claim that the only reasonable answer to the ten questions is that God is imaginary. I have watched the video from start to finish and have rejected the idea that the only reasonable answer to these questions is that God is imaginary. I will provide the questions the video asks in written form. Still, if it is at all possible to do so, I encourage my readers to go and watch the actual video which can be found here. There is no cursing or sexual (implicit or otherwise) language on the video. Still, due to the videos highly negative stance toward the Faith, I would plead with any readers still under their parents to seek their permission before watching.

Although I am only dealing with the first question I hope to have responses to the other nine as time goes on (I know, this coming from the guy who promised about five of his posts ago that he would do the prophecies of Jesus in the O.T).
The video begins with a statement from the narrator that he assumes you are an educated Christian i.e. you have a college degree; the Christian along with this degree is assumed to have some formal training in logic and critical thinking. The narrator goes on to list possible positions the assumed educated Christian audience might occupy: engineer, scientist, teacher etc. To transition from the introduction to the questions the narrator asks if the assumed Christian audience has ever used those critical thinking skills to think about their faith. I agree with the videos assumption that a college education does give people to some degree or other formal training in logic and critical thinking (or at least it should). I also agree with the video that many educated Christians do hold the positions listed. However, I do have one problem with the introduction. The introduction from the start creates a dichotomy between logic/critical thinking and Christian belief. In other words the video starts out by communicating to the audience that if you are intelligent and have these skills, then ultimately you will end up agreeing with me. So right off the bat the person who will disagree with this video has already been categorized by the video as not using logic and critical thinking. Still, if the introduction is completely removed and or retooled to not set up this false dichotomy between Christian belief and reason, there are still the ten questions to be dealt with.

Question One

The first question asked is “why wont God heal amputees?” First, the background behind this question should be looked at. Before the first question is actually asked the video establishes that Christians believe in the power of prayer. Ok, so far so good, I think that most Christians can come to a consensus that prayer is powerful. The video then states that three out of four doctors believe that God is performing medical miracles on earth right now. Then the narrator explains that Christians believe God is healing diseases, curing cancer, and reversing the effects of poisons. I want to pause real quick and say that I agree with that, but there needs to be some things said. Miracles are the exception in history not the norm. I can see why someone would think they are the norm because there are copious amounts of miracles in the Bible (I believe all those miracles). However, when the amount of time the miracle accounts in the Bible covers to the amount of time of History from the beginning until now, we see that miracles are by far the exception. Furthermore, there are reasons that the Bible has a lot of miracles. Miracles were a way in which God revealed himself to his people. We now have the perfect revelation of God in the Bible. Also, we can clearly see many of the miracles have specific use for that time only. E.G. Jesus performed many many miracles but they were to announce and prove the arrival of the kingdom of God and its king. Do not get me wrong, when someone recovers from disease, cancer, or poison, it is right to praise God for He did do that. However, God uses the means of medical doctors and treatments to do those things. So, the normal mode of operation for God healing these things is through the use of medical professionals, medicines, and treatments. Moving on, in light of this background the first question is asked. The argument is, if God is healing those other things, then why do amputees who offer similar prayers not receive the re-growth of their limbs. The video then claims that in order to answer this question, Christians have to make up silly excuses on behalf of God.
To begin to answer the question, I would like to point out a faulty view of prayer that is being used in the video. Prayer is seen here as something that obligates God to do something as if he were a genie in a bottle. There is a movement called the Word of Faith movement that does hold to this view of prayer, but it is not the Biblical view and it should not be the view of the followers of Christ. Furthermore, there is an assumption here that prayer is meant to change the mind of God, as if God is having a hard time trying to decide what to do and our prayers tip the scales. Please do not get me wrong, prayer is an important part in our walk with God, and God has ordained that our prayers play a vital role in the life of the church. In fact it is because He has ordained prayer that prayer is powerful. Prayer is not powerful because if it is used enough it will somehow tip the cosmic scale in favor of the people praying. No, God has called his people to pray as a means of the work God has already chosen to accomplish. I think of Daniel praying for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem when God had already said that he would return a remnant to Jerusalem. Daniel was not trying to persuade God to a certain action. God already said what he was going to do, and Daniel was humbly seeking this promise. That is why when the Christian prays, his attitude is not that his will be done, but that God’s will be done (sounds familiar right). The view of prayer that this video assumes i.e. the afore-mentioned genie in the bottle is one that Christians should reject. However, the video depends upon this view of prayer to give the question potency: why wont God heal amputees? I do not know why God does not heal amputees. I do know that He has not promised he would, and is not obligated to do so just because there is prayer involved. This is not a silly excuse for God. It is the claim that God does not need an excuse, because God has done no wrong.
I have already explained above that outright miracles without the use of normal means are by far the exception not the rule. I will though, for the sake of argument assume that God does heal cancer disease and Poison supernaturally on a regular basis and show that it still does not obligate God to heal amputees. The video maintains that since God sometimes works a certain way in circumstances A B and C (i.e. cancer, disease, poison) that He than must do the exact same thing in circumstance D (i.e. healing amputees). There is no logical reason to maintain that God doing something in one circumstance necessitates that he do the exact same thing in another circumstance. If God chooses to heal in circumstance A-C it is all of mercy and God would be perfectly just to choose not to heal those things. God often does not heal disease, cure cancer, or reverse the effects of poison. If we are using our critical thinking skills here, unless one can make a logical connection that necessitate God healing amputees because he heals cancer, disease and poison than the argument falls apart. My wife and I pick up cans when we go walking because they are recyclable, but we do not pick up glass even though that is recyclable as well. No one would say to me that I had to pick up glass because I picked up cans. How even more silly would it be for a two year old to say to me that I only had silly excuses for only picking up cans just because the two year old cannot think of any reasons why I would do so. How much more silly is it for creatures to demand of God that he heal amputees because he heals cancer patients and then say that Christians only have silly excuses about why God acts as he does. Remember, I am even granting the premise that God heals cancer, disease, and poison supernaturally on a regular basis. I have a hard time believing that someone could consider this a serious reason to reject the existence of God. Rephrase what is being said here: God does not exist because amputees do not grow their limbs back. I could be wrong, but I find that most Christians who think seriously about their faith are not impressed with this kind of argumentation. In conclusion to this question there is no logical connection between amputees not being healed and the reality of God, and by saying there is, the atheist is failing to use the critical thinking that he is calling Christians to use.