Wednesday, April 30, 2008

For the Greater Good?














Would you be willing to murder an innocent person if it would end hunger in the world?
-The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, PH.D.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Success


Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Take Action: Education for the World's Children


Around the world, 72 million school-age children are not in school. The Education for All Act would commit the United States to investing in a comprehensive strategy to help these children get access to basic education, and break devastating cycles of poverty in the developing world.

I just took action with the ONE Campaign and asked my member of Congress to co-sponsor the Education for All Act. You can too, here:

http://www.one.org/edforall/?rc=efataf

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carter seeks peace: US & Israel want to shoot him.

Many are calling President Carter a "traitor" for visiting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal. Yet Carter is following a Christian principle in seeking peace and doing all he can to put an end to the bloodshed.

i applaud him for seeing the discontent among Palestinian Arabs, desiring to have a conversation with them about it and attempting to find a reasonable solution. Jesus teaches us to seek peace. He came from heaven to earth in order to have a conversation with us, while we were yet hostile toward God. The Scriptures say that while we were yet sinners and his enemy, Christ died for us.

Thankfully Jesus didn't have a bunch of preconditions we had to conform to before he entered into a conversation with us. If he had not taken the first step toward reconciliation, where would that leave us?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Guest Post: Social Justice a Distraction?

Is Social Justice a Distraction from the Gospel? (Part 2 of 5 by Rich Nathan)

Social justice is not a distraction from our commitment; it is part and parcel of the gospel of the kingdom. We read in Mark 1:15:

"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"

What is the message of the kingdom? Certainly the center of the message is the proclamation that through one's faith in Jesus Christ (the King), a person can be eternally saved. Thus my church regularly calls people to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be born again and enter God's kingdom.

But that is not the circumference or totality of the message of the kingdom. The ultimate goal of the kingdom goes beyond the salvation of us as individuals (wonderful as that is) and involves the restoration and renovation of the entire universe. The message of the kingdom is a fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 65:17, 20-25:

"See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. ...

"Never again will there be infants who live but a few days, or older people who do not live out their years; those who die at a hundred will be thought mere youths; those who fail to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the Lord.

This message was echoed by all the prophets. So the prophet Micah says this in 4:1-4:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

The apostle Paul speaks about the cosmic sweep of this message of the kingdom. He tells us that not only we, but the entire creation, will be freed from the curse of the fall (Romans 8:19-21). In Ephesians, the apostle Paul again enlarges the scope of the message beyond our individual salvation when he says in Ephesians 1:9-10:

[H]e made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment; to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

This enormous plan, involving the renovation and restoration of the entire universe, is what we pray for when we pray the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

So when we Christians feed the hungry in the name of Jesus, or heal a sick person in the power of Christ, or work for peace in this war-torn world, or help reconcile a marriage, or extend help to immigrants, or work for the responsible care of the environment, these actions are not a distraction from our commission to preach the gospel of the kingdom. Rather, we are living out our calling as kingdom people to partner with God in bringing about the healing of the entire universe.

Rich Nathan is the pastor of the Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio, which is the co-sponsor with Sojourners of next week's Justice Revival. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Presuppositions in Religious and Secular Faith


i was reading an article in the Daily Mail called "So is free will really just an illusion". The premise was that machines have proven people's minds have subconsciously made choices several seconds before the person themselves consciously make the choice. Therefore, there is really no free will, but instead we act on subconscious determinations. If you are interested in this, check out the article. What i found particularly interesting though was the last part of the article. i'll share that here:

As the authors freely admit, the way is now open to a general mind-reading machine, "perhaps even to access the visual content of purely mental phenomena, such as dreams and imagery".

If we can read minds, and even dreams, and prove that free will is a nonsense, then what does that say about the mystery of our minds?

In fact, the human brain, for all this, remains by far the most mysterious object known to science.

It is still completely unknown how 3lb of wet jelly, plus tiny electrical currents powered by the energy we release from our food, can give rise to consciousness. But it does.

Few modern people believe that the brain is pervaded by some sort of mysterious "soul"; but how the neurones and synapses of the mind can generate subjective experiences of colour, smell, hate, fear and love is an utter mystery.

In fact, many scientists believe it is the greatest mystery of all.

But unless we want to believe in "souls" or "auras", we must believe that the brain is a machine - a very complicated machine, but a machine nonetheless.

And that means its workings must, in principle, be deducible, that we can predict its every move, as this freewill experiment seems to show.

Does that mean we will one day be able to calculate what powers love, creates artistic masterpieces, sows awe, and experiences both great sorrow and utter joy?

Maybe one day science will have an explanation for all this, but one suspects that even after the questions of the atoms and quarks, the planets and galaxies are finally answered, the deep puzzle of what exactly is going on in our heads will remain forever unsolved.

And perhaps that's the way it should be.

----

i think this writer just put forth a very solid argument for the existence of a creator, which i myself couldn't have crafted.

Also, did you catch the presupposition: But unless we want to believe in "souls" or "auras", we must believe that the brain is a machine - a very complicated machine, but a machine nonetheless.

We all begin with a presupposition, and i suggest that this ultimately determines where we end.

i choose to believe in the existence of God and move forward from there. The author of this article chooses not to believe in the existence of God and moves forward from there. Both are an act of faith.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Not a Christian Issue?

Garbage Island




Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Resource Drain: The Church [building]

The early believers gathered in homes for the first 300 years of Christianity. This helped them free up and use their resources to the fullest extent. Here are a couple of examples:

First, the Church is intended to be a priesthood of believers, where everyone uses their gifts to build up and edify the body toward Christ’s reality and carry out his mission. Our observer model church [theatre seating] with hired ministers works against this model of resourcefulness, handing ministry over to a few while seating the majority passively so they might experience church, rather than be the Church. Therefore, we get the “20/80” principle [20% of the people doing 80% of the work] which undermines our greatest resource: people.

Secondly, the overhead costs of both the purchase and upkeep of a church building along with the paid salary of professional clergy and administrative staff sucks 40% to 85% of our financial resources, which could otherwise be used for actual ministry. This hits home as I look at a church budget where more than 50% of our annual intake goes to pay my salary. On top of this, we have less than $3000 to help those in need, while we have $145,000 in savings for a new addition or building.

I’m beginning to see the contradiction I’m a part of.

These thoughts are inspired by the book “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola and George Barna

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sacred Space

In Christianity there is no such thing as sacred space. Unlike pagan and even Jewish religion, Christians were never intended to have buildings and "sanctuaries" that were considered "set apart". This is something that makes Christianity distinct from most other religions.

When Jesus was crucified, it is said that the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom. God left the temple, no longer to dwell in buildings, but in the hearts humanity. The woman by the well asks Jesus where it is appropriate to worship, at the temple on Mt. Gerizim or the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus replied: The time is coming and now is when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. Jn 4:21, 23.

There is no holy or sacred building anymore. The temple where God's presence literally dwelt has been intentionally destroyed. Here's a conversation that starts out much the same way we might hear some describe our sacred temples...or churches. But note how it ends:
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” Lk 21:5-6.

For the first three hundred years of Christianity there was no such thing as a church building. The term Church was only used to refer to a specific group of people. It was only after the pagan emperor Constantine embraced Christianity (for political reasons) that he initiated Church buildings, based on pagan temples.

What's the point? The point is that the church sanctuary is not a holy place. It is a pile of bricks neatly stacked and is to be used for ministry. Use it to house the homeless during the week, feed the hungry...turn it into a recreational area for the community, in order to build community.

The only sacred place is within your heart. Jesus said this is where the Kingdom resides (Luke 17:20-21). And please, don't tell the children not to run in the sanctuary. If it is God's, then it should be doubled as a playground. Teach the kids that God cares about what goes on inside their hearts, not some echoing space in a building.