Thursday, December 29, 2011

Makoto Fugimura: Christian AND artist.



Here is an amazing Christian artist; who illustrated a commemorative printing of the KJV (King James Version) of the Gospels.  Fugimura is trying to promote Aesthetics within the Evangelical circles.  For some reason, art has a bad name within Christian circles.  I would like to help change that attitude.


As we can understand God; and his attributes, beauty is included in that.  There is such a thing as 'Objective Beauty' as well as Goodness, Holiness, Righteousness, etc..."  These things are not just  subjective.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peace

Photo by Alice E. (Lisa) Guinther


In the quiet beauty of falling snow, here at the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.


"...And on earth, peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14)


Shalom


Amen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From "Christmas Devotions From Denver Seminary;" Dr. Noelliste,

Nativity window, St. Luke's Episcopal, Atlanta 





From “He is Born!: Christmas Devotions From Denver Seminary.” A meditation by Dr. Dieumeme Noelliste, Professor of Theological Ethics and Director of the Grounds Institute of Public Ethics.







“…Though he was rich…for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard people wonder whether it is proper for Christians to observe Christmas.  Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard them give reasons for their suspicion such as our ignorance of the date of Christ’s birth, the pagan origin of some of the feature of Christmas, and the many Christmas-related celebrations which have nothing to do with the birth of the Savior.

How should we respond to these objections? Is it enough to say that our ignorance of Jesus’ birth date doesn’t matter, since our celebration focuses on the fact that He was born?  Does it suffice for us to say that whatever cultural coating may overlay our observance is offset by numerous references made to the name of Jesus at Christmastime?

There is merit in these responses. But I believe something much more compelling needs to be said.  Our response must be more than a clever argument for the continuation of a cultural festival.  For me, that response is not made verbally, but in the manner in which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.

How do we do that?  By putting the values and attitudes that characterized His life at the center of our celebration.  2 Cor. 8:9 brings to light helpful principles which make our observance Christ-like and authentic.  First, our celebration reflects Christ when it minimizes self-enjoyment.  In our culture, Christmas has become synonymous with materialistic self-indulgence.  Our Christmas is joyous if our wants are satisfied and our desires gratified.  In stark contrast, self-enjoyment was not the dominant characteristic of our Savior’s life.  Self-denial was!  His coming to our world and dwelling with us were acts of self-renunciation.  We honor Him in celebration when we resist the pull to self-indulge.

Second, a Christmas that resembles Christ maximizes self-abasement.  The coming of Christ to the earth was a costly journey. It involved self-demotion and self-condescension.  His birth and life were marked by self-giving.  What have we given up as we remember Him?

Third, a Christ-like Christmas observance emphasizes the enhancement of others.  Christmas has to do with the great exchange—a transaction carried out in our favor and Christ’s disfavor! He, rich became poor, so that we, poor, may become rich!  Who are we blessing by our celebration?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"You mean this is true whether I believe it or not?"



Here is a great video where Craig Hazen speaks on the truth of Christianity: "You mean, this is true whether I believe it or not?"


No more blind faith!


Recorded October 12, 2009

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"What is True?" Defining My World View


As a part of an apology (defense) of my beliefs as a Christian, I am postin my paper I wrote as my final for World Views (Philosophy 205) for Colorado Christian University. 



                        Jesus said “I am the Way the Truth and the Life…” and Pilate said “…What is Truth?” as he washed his hands.  If we believe the first, we will know how to answer the second.  This paper seeks to clarify my position on my own World View. I will try to clearly write what it is I believe, and why; and finally answer the question of how this applies to my daily life. I will answer this in three parts; Part One is Natural Theology, proof of God from nature. Part two is Revelation from Scripture, and the historicity of the Bible, and finally Part three will be an explanation of how I integrate this into my life and how I treat others based on my understanding of what is real and true.

Part One: Natural Theology

            In our text book, James Sire (2004) made for me the stunning observation of how our ontology, how we understand the “really-real” effects our own perceptions. He writes, “…the object of knowledge controls the way knowledge of the object will be able to be apprehended.”  (p 88) In other words only if the Infinite is personal, are we able to perceive Him.  An impersonal force is an enigma and undefined, and ineffable.  So in my life, I look to the Infinite-personal God, the Creator of the Universe as my ground to ontology that shapes my life and world view.  My faith needs an object, not a projection of my psyche, or a wish-fulfillment as put forward by Sigmund Freud.  Frances Schaeffer (2006) writes it this way “…Faith in faith, rather than faith directed to an object which is actually there.” (p 84) But how do I know that there is a God out there?

            My first proof of there being an infinite-personal God, is in Cosmology.  William Lane Craig (2008) developed the early 13th century argument known as “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.” (p.111) This argument from philosophy/cosmology gives us a look at a syllogism that explains the origin of the universe.  The argument runs like this:

1.     What ever begins to exist has a cause.
2.      The universe began to exist.
3.      Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The argument is that because as we can see, we have ‘something’ instead of nothing; there has to be a ‘first-cause’ and that attempts to prove God.  As we have grown up with the astronomers and physicists who developed and prove the “Big-Bang,” we have come to take for granted the idea that there was an absolute start to the universe.  But if the universe has an absolute beginning, there has to be a cause; nothing just ‘pops’ into being; this is why the Big-bang cosmology sounds like problems for Atheists.  But this is not proof, but a strong possibility for the existence of an All-powerful, Unlimited, Being…God.

But this Big-Bang Cosmology was not always taken for granted.  Up until the development of this theory and the mathematical and astrological support, it was assumed by most that the universe was eternal.  This was the belief of most philosophers, including Plato.  But Plato and later Aristotle had the sense of a ‘beginning’…they understood the idea of the problem of motion.  Aristotle proposed the ‘un-moved mover,’ the start of the ‘chain’ of motion. But according to W.T. Jones (1969) this un-moved mover of Aristotle was not our idea of God.  Jones writes

There are virtually no religious overtones in Aristotle…Hence it is misleading to modern ears to talk about Aristotle’s theology.  It is better to use the neutral expression, “Aristotle’s account of his unmoved mover”…Thus there is …no divine providence, which is so important an aspect of the Judeo-Christian view of the world.  His god does not look out for, care about, and provide for man.  He did not create the universe, for it is eternal, and he[god] is utterly indifferent to it. (p 231)

This is an interesting observation, even more so when you understand that W. T. Jones was an Atheist.

            So now I have some proof that God may exist as evidenced by the cosmos.  Next, another sign of God from the area of Biology; and this is the evidence of design in nature, or Intelligent Design.  Intelligent Design, is a term coined by Dr. Michael Behe, professor of Bio Chemistry at Lehigh University.  As Mike studied the complexity of the cells in plants and animals, even the smallest eukaryotic cells, he could not understand the seeming level of complexity and how un-explainable this was by a Darwinistic evolutionary process.   Mike explains the working of the “swimming systems” of a cell; the cilium (2006).

A cilium is a structure that, crudely put, looks like a hair and beats like a whip.  If a cell with a cilium is free to move about in a liquid, the cilium moves the cell much as an oar moves a boat…But discovery of the Lilliputian details of cilia had to wait for the invention of the electron microscope, which revealed that the cilium is quite a complicated structure. (p 59)

So what he discovered was the amazing molecular machines, which have a level of “Irreducible Complexity”; these systems can only work when all the parts are together.  Mike’s theory which he wrote in his book Darwin’s Black Box is that a much more feasible explanation for this complexity is an intelligent designer.  Mike is a Christian, but although this complexity points to God, he only makes the modest claim to an intelligent designer. But with the organization of not only the universe, and the impossibly complex molecular machines in living cells, there is a much higher chance of the existence of God as evidenced by Nature itself.

Part Two: Revelation of God; the Bible

            If we are to understand a being like the Creator of the universe, and if his hand can be seen in the creation around us, it would seem that he would give us a revelation of himself.  That book is our Holy Bible, a combination of the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament (the testimony of the fulfillment of prophesies of the promised Messiah).  Frances Schaeffer (1982) writes of our senses and our rationality here when he wrote;

These two eyes which the Bible gives us to look through always agree perfectly—the eye of didactic teaching and the eye of God working into history and in the cosmos…That when God reveals his attributes to man, they are true not only to man but to God.  God is not just telling a story; he is telling us what is really true…What he tells us is not exhaustive, because we are finite and we know nothing in an exhaustive way.  We cannot even communicate with each other exhaustively…But he tells us truly—even the great truth about himself. (p 79)

So a rational God created rational being with senses that can apprehend the world; and this God gave us a revelation of himself and his created order.

            But with any communication, there is the telling of not only God’s creative power, but the comprehension that there was a time when humanity was perfect, but we rebelled against God’s order, and caused a divide between the true and good God, and ourselves.  This is the revelation that God wants us to know in his Word, the Bible.  But as with any rebellion, restitution had to be made, and when that rebellion is against our creator, the only satisfaction is our very lives.
 
            One can read between the covers of the Bible and see the means and methods over time that this infinite—personal God used to remove the separation between us.   As we read in the New Testament, God sent his own Son to be that means of removing the gulf.  That God would so desire our hearts, and for us to be in fellowship with him; he would allow his Son to be sacrificed for our sin and rebellion.

But unlike other religions which are grounded in impersonal essences or forces, our Father and Creator, became exactly like us, to show us how God really is.  Jesus was fully human and fully divine.  He was the Truth incarnate!  Douglas Groothuis (2001) writes;

The truth of the gospel is not subject to any human veto or democratic procedures.  Jesus was not elected Lord by humans but was chosen by God; nor can he be dethroned by any human effort or opinion or insurrection. (p 68)
So you see Jesus, the Messiah, came to save the lost.  But we rational beings need to believe the writing of God’s revelation to humanity in his Bible.

            The challenge then becomes to prove that this is the actual truth of God written through humans who were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.  To help the belief in the veracity of the Bible is the fact that it is grounded in history.  You can follow a historical narrative that can be corroborated in many places, both in archaeology and other writings, to give us confidence in the truth of what is being revealed there.  But the most remarkable and earth-shaking evidence is the empty tomb of Jesus himself.

            The four gospel accounts are an amazing array of eye-witness testimony, which most biblical scholars believe now to be reliably dated as being written before 70AD and the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Titus.  Not only did the writers use their own witness, and the accounts of other eye-witnesses, the extant writings corroborate the existence of Jesus as written by Josephus, and contained in Tacitus’ writings of the burning of Rome (Licona 2011) and the persecution of Christians. Tacitus explains “Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.”  (p. 243) We have good and reasonable accounts of the life and death and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, Son of God.

Part Three: Integrating Beliefs in My Life.

            I once believed in Jesus because it gave me good feelings, and I liked hanging out with other Christians, and the music was great.  But I had a period of my life where hard times hit me, and I turned my back on God. For many reasons, I blamed God for my problems; but mostly because I never was taught that faith could be reasoned and reasonable.  When I finally stopped running away from God, I wanted to ‘do things your way, God.’ One of the first things I did was to intensively study the Bible.  But next I studied commentaries of Bible; and soon that grew to the Philosophy of Religion, and Apologetics.  This meant that now although worship is a wonderful (and sometimes emotional experience) I now can articulate why I am a Christian.  I am a Christian because I believe in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; who is the Son of God.  He, with the Father, sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in me and guide me in my life and in the fellowship with other believers.

            Because I understand the Bible is a historically reliable book, I know that I am reading Truth.  That leaves me with options of what to do with that truth; I can either ignore it, or I can follow it.  I have been pondering what it really mean to “love my neighbor” and “who is my neighbor”, the same question the Lawyer asked Jesus in Luke 10:29.  I know the utterly difficult words of Jesus and his “Sermon on the Mount.” When you really study these words, they are revolutionary and truly difficult…so difficult you cannot walk in His words.  But that is the point, you need to surrender your will to God, and He will work the change in you.

            But one other application; as an Apologist for the Christian faith, I am called to lovingly give an answer for the hope within me, the hope I am required to share to spread God’s kingdom on this earth.  The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) is not optional.  We all need to learn how to share and defend our faith, hope, life, and the Truth.

            What is Truth?  Jesus, the Son of God.  The Way, The Truth, and certainly The Life.
Amen.


References:

M. Behe (2006) Darwin’s Black Box. New York, NY: Free Press

W. L. Craig (2008) Reasonable Faith 3rd Ed. Wheaton, IL: Crossways

D. Groothuis (2000) Truth Decay. Downers Grove, IL: IVP

W.T. Jones (1969) A History of Western Philosophy: The Classical Mind. New York, NY:
Harcourt Brace & World.

M. Licona (2011) The Resurrection of Jesus. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

F. Schaeffer (2006) The God How is There.  Downers Grove, IL: IVP.
                  --(1982) He is There and He is Not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

J. Sire (2004) Naming the Elephant. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Least Among Judah's Princes"


I received a wonderful devotional yesterday from Denver Seminary; and I wanted to share some of the meditations in it with all of you who follow my blog.
This meditation is for December 3, and is written by Dr. Rick Hess, who is the Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages.

“Least Among Judah’s Princes”
Mica 5:2 (NIV) “As for you, O Bethlehem Ephratah, although you are least among Judah’s princes; yet my ruler in Israel will emerge with origins that are ancient, from long ago.”

The prophet Micah wrote some seven centuries before Jesus’ birth.  It was a difficult time when the people of God had turned away from Him and the prophet warned of judgment.  He also promised a time beyond of restoration and the return of a ruler who would bring peace and the kingdom of God.  This ruler would be found in the line of David who was born in Bethlehem (1 Sam. 16), centuries after Micah prophesied.  Many hundreds of years later the gospel writer Matthew saw God’s people experiencing that judgment in his days.  He found in Jesus the fulfillment of Micah’s promised ruler.  This was made crystal clear in both Jesus’ human lineage from David (Matt. 1:1-17) and in His actual birth in Bethlehem.  It is there that Matthew cites Micah’s prophecy (Matt. 2:6).

But in doing so he changes the description of Bethlehem.  Micah, picturing towns as “princes,” had noted how Bethlehem (in the region called Ephratah) was the least or smallest in Judah.  Perhaps he remembered how David had been chosen despite being the youngest or least among his brothers (1 Sam. 16:10-13).  Matthew, writing after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, could not bring himself to call Bethlehem the “least” any longer.  However humble and insignificant His birth at the time, the Son of God’s incarnation in this village would forever transform its status so that it was “by no means least.”

In a similar way we are called to live like Christ.  For many of us this does not mean that we will become popular or powerful in the eyes of the world.  However, it does mean that our lives can change the world where it counts in following Christ and spreading the good news of His Kingdom.  As Micah and Matthew knew in their times, the meaning of Jesus’ apparently insignificant birth was far more earth-shattering than the great powers and leaders of their times.  As with Jesus, God delights to take the weak, the poor, and the insignificant, and to transform the world through such disciples.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Psalm 143


Psalm 143

Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in your righteousness! And do no enter into judgment with your servant, for in your sight no man living is righteous.  For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me to dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.  Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart is appalled within me.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.  I stretch out my hands to you; my soul longs for you as a parched land. 

Selah.

Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; Do not hide Your face from me, or I will become like those who go down to the pit.  Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in you; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to you I lift up my soul.  Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.
Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.   For the sake of you name, O Lord, revive me.  In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.  And in you lovingkindness cut off my enemies and destroy all those who afflict my soul, for I am you servant.

Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Oh come, oh come Emanuel..."


Isaiah 64 begins with; “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence—

Israel was looking for smoke, flames, earthquakes…drama.

Yet Jesus you came in all humility.

Annunciation window: St. John's Denver
In this day and age, we still seem to be looking for a “light show”, stage acts, and pyrotechnics.


But when You came, You came quietly; as a child born to an engaged, but not yet married, teenage girl.

Yet hungry hearts still find you…with no glamour at all.

“Oh come oh come Emanuel…”

May we in all humility find You, in our families, friends, cast-offs, and nursing homes.

“God-With-Us” is right here…why not go and be with Him. 

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest post: Are you looking for wisdom or "nice."



 Deacon Christopher Pietraszko posted as a note on Facebook November 18, 2011 and he graciously shared with me this homily.

So, are you looking for wisdom or “nice”?

Be sure to read carefully.

******************************************************************

I would like to begin by telling you a useless story that captures the essence of modern thinking:

There was a man who had left his gated community and was looking for a new place to live.  He came across another gated community, and asked the security guard one simple question:”What is this community like?”

The security guard responded to his question with another question, “What was the last place you lived like?”
The man responded, “Well, it was terrible. Everyone was selfish and hard to live with.  I had a difficult time living there, that’s why I left.”
The security guard responded by saying, “You will find the same here.”
The man left in frustration, and kept looking.

Meanwhile another man came to the same security guard and asked the exact same question: “What is this community like?”
The security guard asked in response the same question: “What was the last place you lived like?”
The man answered, “It was great! People were loving and understanding, and helpful to one another.  It is terrible that we had to leave, but business has forced us to move away.”

The security guard responded, “You will find the same here.”

 ~End of Story~

This story is an attempt to speak a certain truth, which is that our perception sometimes taints our experience.  If we are negative people, we will have negative experiences.  And if we are positive people, we will have positive experiences.  And while all this may offer some insight on being either pessimistic and/or optimistic, none of it tells us a darn thing about what this “new” community is like.  Rather all it tells us is that an optimistic and pessimistic person projects their wishful or cynical views on reality.  But it does not tell us what reality is.


The modern era emphasizes the importance of “perception” and how being either positive or negative affects our goal towards self-fulfillment.  This modern emphasis is junk.

If a woman has been physically abused by her husband, she has been through a horrible experience;  and in her healing, her feelings need to be validated.  If we are to say to this woman, “Wow you are so negative about your experience, I guess every relationship will be a failure as a result” we are being uncharitable, unrealistic and judgmental.

Sometimes communities are good, sometimes communities are bad.  However, our culture avoids standards, and as a result wishes to avoid the whole question in general.  We would rather focus on what makes us feel good, and what instills positive thinking, because that illusion is preferable to the illusion of pessimism.

Pessimism and optimism are distractions from an authentic and genuine spiritual life.  Hope is the ultimate goal of our faith, and hope is grounded not in wishful thinking or cynical mindsets, it is grounded in objective truth:  God loves us and offers us something greater than all the sin and despair and evil in this world.

That hope, which was encountered in the most sufferable moments in human history, be it a concentration camp or a prison cell filled with darkness and torture (St. John of the Cross), does not involve wishful thinking or despair.  It involves a dry thirst for something more, and the realization that there is something more in the midst of that suffering and beyond it, because of God's immense Love.  God's love allows hell and invites us to heaven, and as a result, His love involves both negativity and hope, both condemnation and redemption.

To look at the entire world with rose-coloured glasses is ultimately to do numerous things:  namely to condone evil, to ignore evil, or to redefine evil as good.  In all cases, those who have become victims of evil should be outraged when, as a result of optimism (false-hope), their pain and suffering has been neglected and ignored.  When optimists have ignored the very real injustices done to others simply to foster "positive-thinking."

This modern story may have some degree of truth when it comes to the disordered tendency to think negatively and positively, but it in no way authentically begins to grasp the reality of genuine Christian Hope.  Our hope is not grounded in an attitude or a personal expectation and illusion we can easily draw up for ourselves.  Hope is grounded in a trusting relationship with Christ, that accepts the fact that purification and suffering in this life hurts, and feels terrible, while nonetheless infused with love and worth suffering because of what is discovered at the end of that road.


G. K. Chesterton says it perfectly when he says:

“Whatever the reason, it seemed and still seems to me that our attitude towards life can be better expressed in terms of a kind of military loyalty than in terms of criticism and approval. My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.” (Orthodoxy, Chapter 5)  
In other words, as we learn from scripture, our love for God is grounded in a love for the good and a hatred for what is evil.  It is not a matter of saying that the glass is half full or half empty, but it’s about the common-sense statement that it is both, and that there are no sides to choose on this issue.  If we choose a side we are choosing to be ignorant of either what is good or what is evil, and in both cases that is neither good, and is certainly evil.


The same thing applies to those who are “approachable.”  An honest man seeks the advice of a wise person, not a nice person.  An honest person seeks the advice of someone who is helpful, not someone who is cynical.  Finally, an honest person seeks a man who can condemn evil and praise good, all in one action.  Only those who love to reinforce an illusion of cynicism seek cynics, and a person who seeks the illusion of optimism and an inauthentic hope seek nice, happy people.  If we are sinning with a smile on our face, it’s still a sin, and if we are being negative about the good, we are someone to become criticized. What makes pessimism and optimism evil is when they are non-integrative; that is to say when they cannot be seen as a reality that necessarily belongs together.  If we love what is good, we will naturally hate what is evil.  And if we love what is evil, we will naturally hate what is good, since the two cannot ever be reconciled.

Is the community we seek good or evil?  How can we even begin to answer this question if we are so immersed into what we think good and evil should be?  If we live by perception alone, there is no meaning to anything.  But if we live in common-sense and self-honesty, our hope will become less wishful and more real.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Internet+ Google = Scholarship?

One of the most disastrous illusions of the Internet age is that an amateur plus google is equivalent to a scholar.  A search engine offers information , more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher.  but it does not sift that information ; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff.  It does not explain which facts are relevant and which are beside the point.  It does not weight the merits of competing arguments and tell the user where the balance of evidence lies.  A bright amateur armed with the Internet may be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error.  But it will not turn him into a scholar himself.


There is no such thing as effortless erudition.


Dr Timothy McGrew
Philosophy Department
Western Michigan University
From a 'note' on Facebook
November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A brief thought...

I realized today why I like philosophy so much.



As I read some wonderful thoughts by philosophers whose works I enjoy (at the moment, James Sire); it struck me that the authors of these works do not care if I am young or old, male or female; they just ask that I try to understand what they write…carefully and thoughtfully.


They are not asking for me to like their work, but to try and comprehend the “what’s” and “why’s” of their writing.  They are trying to teach me, if I allow them to.  This is a chance to be in a sort of dialog as I read.


I am honored to be included in the conversation.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Aging In Postmodern America"


I’d like to post the closing thoughts from a paper I wrote a couple of years ago, on “Aging in Postmodern America.”


As I have been blessed with a ministry to bring “church” to a local nursing home that was neglected by local churches, I would like you to read some of my thoughts on the care we need to give the older members of society.


If anyone would like to read the whole paper, I can send you the pdf of it.
*****************************************************




Over the centuries there has been a gradual shift in the response to the elderly in society. Yes, even in the time of ancient Israel people had to be reminded to care for the non-productive (widows, etc…). However, most people wanted to honor God by showing compassion to the elderly, and into the early twentieth century the aged parents were still thought of as valuable addition to the home, being allowed to live out their days in relative comfort. Children were not segregated from the old, and so they grew up understanding the decline of old age. But with a shift in the 1960’s to a postmodern, relativistic form of thinking, the elderly were seen as a burden and put aside in nursing homes or retirement communities. Now, with our striving for youth, beauty, and status, people do not wish to be reminded of their mortality by having to deal with aging. The church in today’s society could do much to begin to reverse this trend by starting ministries to the elderly and begin to bring forward the “radical” notion of compassion to the “least of these…” American society needs to re-emphasize the intrinsic value of all human life as made in the imago Dei, the image of God. The church could be the leader in re-introducing the very young to the very old and show the children and the adults that the elderly have great stories to tell and great contributions to make to succeeding generations. But are we willing to be compassionate listeners?


Finally, I would like to end with excerpts of a poem shared by Dr Vernon Grounds, found in the personal effects of an un-named woman who died in a home for the aged in England


What do you see, nurse, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you look at me-
A crabbed old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit with far away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try.”


…The worn body crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There now is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my embittered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.


I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurse, open and see
Not a crabbed old woman,


Look closer- see me! (p 10)




An excerpt from the poem published in the book, Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality (2004).



Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Overflow": Both Suffering and Comfort.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance [overflow], so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:1-6)


As we walk through this life as Christians, we don’t go looking for trouble; we don’t have to, it finds us. Many days I cry out to God “Why?” I ask for an answer to the “why’s” of others sufferings, or more often, the “why’s” of my own. Let me share some thoughts written by Linda Belleville from her commentary on 2 Corinthians on the above verses.

Linda writes:

The Christian is not promised release from trouble but help in the midst of it. The implication is that if we are serving Christ, we will encounter hardships. This is a given of the Christian life, as it was a given in Christ’s life. As Paul puts it the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives (v. 5). The Greek verb translated “to flow over” means “to exceed the measure.” Not only does God not deliver us from suffering, but he actually permits suffering to brim over into our lives. Yet this is not just any suffering but specifically the suffering of Christ. What does this mean? It does not mean that we somehow complete what Christ failed to finish on the cross. The idea is, rather, that to identify with Christ is to identify with the suffering that was an essential part of his earthly ministry. What Paul articulates here is in essence what Jesus taught his disciples—to wit, that all who would come after him must deny self, take up the cross and follow him (Mk 8:34) Suffering overflowed into Christ’s life; suffering overflows into ours. This is a hard truth for many of us to accept, and the Corinthians also had a problem in this area. In their case, they thought that they had “arrived” and had conquered the frailties of human existence (1 Cor. 4:8-10). As a result, the sufferings that Paul underwent tended to discredit him in their eyes. In response, Paul attempts to drive home in verses 3-5 that both the gospel ministry and the lot of the Christian involve suffering.

Paul’s purpose in this eulogy is not merely to praise God for personal comfort received or to discuss the nature of the gospel ministry. His primary concern is to show the Corinthians [and us] that their lives are inescapably intertwined, so that what impact Paul impacts the Corinthians and what impact the Corinthians impacts Paul. It is for their benefit, he says, that he encounters trouble. For, if we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort (v. 6). Whatever he experiences, be it suffering or comfort, the Corinthians personally benefit. Paul then goes on to state an important but often neglected truth. Service to the body of Christ results in personal gain rather than personal loss. The experience of comfort received and imparted produces patient endurance (v.6). The net effect is the ability to endure the same suffering we suffer (v. 6)—that is, hardships and trials experienced in the course of proclaiming the gospel.(pp55-56)

So the point that I am trying to get across with this passage, is that to remind myself ( and you) that if we are truly walking with Christ; we’ve all got a ‘tough row to hoe.’ Although not every day is a trial; we will gain in the end…not just in the ‘sweet by-and-by’ but in strength, patience, and love poured into us by Christ’s strengthening us…for us to be ‘conduits’ of His love and grace…to overflow to others.

L. Belleville, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: 2Corrinthians (1996, Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Sunday Comics" From Robin

Here are a few Sunday Comics from the wonderful drawing board of Robin Jensen.




If you would like to see Robin's original artwork go to his web page "Jazz-Art Jauntin"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Undesigned Coincidences" in the New Testament

Here is an introduction of the idea of "Undesigned Coincidences" which is being re-introduced and expanded by Dr. Tim McGrew, philosophy professor at Western Michigan State.  Cris Putnam designed this video to explain an over-view of how this works.


You can visit Cris' blog Logos Apologia here.

And you can visit Tim McGrew's blog Library of Historical Apologetics here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness

The next time you think that you can never forgive someone for the awful things they put you through.


And you think “I wouldn’t want to be in heaven with them!”

Remember this:

From the cross, Jesus spoke these words “Father forgive them, for they do not understand what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)


It is clear that many of those who heard Peter preach at Pentecost were the very crowd who cried “Crucify Him.” Or is it possible that in the crowd were some of the Pharisees who were in the Sanhedrin the night Jesus was condemed; the ones  who punched Jesus in the face (see Matthew 26:67 & Mark 14:65). It seems from history that many of the Pharisees were among the first Christians, and were a large part of the early church (Remember Nicodemus).


“What can we do to be saved!” they cried.


Peter said “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins…” (Acts 2:38)


These same people who cried for Jesus’ crucifixion are in heaven with Him.


God gives forgiveness.


God is the one saving.


God is the one doing the changing...renewing hearts and minds.( see Romans 12:2)


Remember “…that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1Timothy 1:15) And who said that?

...and how many years did it take him to get squared away in his mind?
 
(Acording to the records, somewhere around 14 years!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peter Scheibner "A Pilots Story"


I'm not really sure how to intro this video; so I won't.  But please watch it through to the end.  We all should live our lives "To the Glory and Honor of God!"

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Franciscan Benediction from "Beautiful Feet"

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships – so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people – so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war – so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world – so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen. (Franciscan Benediction)

This posted at "Beautiful Feet"




Friday, October 7, 2011

"Are Biblical Laws Imoral?" (video)

I posted this video on my facebook page; but I decided to also post it here...partially because I wanted to see if I could...and partially because there are some followers of this blog who are not my facebook 'friends'.  You will note that at the end of this video, Brett gives a great plug for Paul Copan's book "Is God a Moral Monster", which I also reviewed on this blog.

Thank you Christiana S. for originally posting this on her blog "In Defence of the Christian Faith"( go here) 


You see, God never changes...But what does change is how we as finite, fallen humans, understand God.  We are the ones that do the changing. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Swans

Swans,

birds that make no sound.

Yet,
according to legends,
will sing a most beautiful
Song,
at the time of their death.


There was another
who spoke
lyrics to the
Ultimate Song,


that changed the world.


Surrounded with darkness
and blood—“It is finished!”


Changed history,
Changed the world,
And can change your eternity.


But only if
you—forfeit;
will,
pride,
vanity,


and take up your cross.


If only you—like swans,


Sing.



Friday, September 30, 2011

"Just kidding around"

I had the chance to stop in at Denver Seminary's annual book sale.  Of course, I just 'happened' to be there on the last day when they give the books away (hmm).  At any rate, in the pile of paperback pamphlets I found this little comic book with drawings by Robin Jensen, who was at the time Professor of Art, at Calvin College, and I am guessing because of the style of the comics, this dates to the mid-to-late 60's.

At any rate, I have copied with attribution a couple of his comics.  I may use more at a later date.

So, many thanks to Robin Jensen and his "Id-Bits."

And an update: I found Robin Jensen's web-site!  Go here for a gallery of Robin's art:http://www.jazz-art.org/index.htm




"Just waiting for an
inspiration."

"But of course, these Are my opinions!"




Saturday, September 24, 2011

Apologetics: "Always having an answer"

I am adding some ‘help’ to my blog. My friend Paul Ernst is a local of Boulder and has given me permission to share some of his email answers to local “New Age” and Atheist/Agnostic friends.


As Christians, we are called to “…always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is within you…” (1Peter 3:15) Below is an example of what this looks like.

Here is the back-story:

An acquaintance of Paul’s viewed a program on the History Channel on the Shroud of Turin and sent him an email with the question: “What difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?” This person is a self-professed “Gnostic” (New Age believer)…follow Paul’s answer and see if it can help you to explain questions to those who ask to know the “whys” of our faith.
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Last week you asked me why the resurrection mattered. You were the 2nd person that week to ask me that. I thought God might be prompting me to take my nose out of all those books about it and give an answer. So here goes.

The Jews had some very good reasons to think their scriptures (OT: Old Testament) were from God. Even so, the OT itself said it was incomplete and that a new deal was coming.

When Jesus came he claimed to be the promised messiah. Others had made the claim and it ended badly. Jesus claimed to be more than just the long awaited messiah, he claimed equality with God—God’s ONLY son. This was not some general notion that we are all sons of God in some sense. This was blasphemy to the Jews and it got him crucified. As with the other pretenders, he got killed and a dead messiah was a failed messiah—except for the resurrection.

No other leader of a world religion ever made that claim. Why would a proper orthodox Jew go around making that claim? CS Lewis called it the Lord, liar, lunatic dilemma.

Folks like Deepak Choprah want to make him into an Eastern guru. This violates Jesus personal self understanding and the worldview of Christians and Jews. I may say I don't believe someone else's religious claim, but for me to tell someone they don't understand their own religion, and I as an outsider do, is the height of arrogance.

So if the resurrection is true, Jesus is God; and what he says about man's relationship to God is the final authority on the matter. The resurrection is a matter of religious epistemology, it's how we know it’s true. The 1st Century Roman world is close enough to us and the documentary evidence good enough that we can get at this with the tools of the historian. As with anything in history, some will dispute. It is up to each to evaluate the evidence.

The resurrection proves the Incarnation (God took on flesh as a real person). This assumes God would not validate a false claim by resurrecting the perpetrator. The incarnation gives us the truest picture of who God is that we can understand. The Jews had some understanding from the prophets, who God had revealed himself to with dreams, visions, voices etc. God had the prophets predict certain future events like the Babylonian exile so the prophets themselves would be validated for inclusion in scripture. But the average OT Jew knew God through the mediation of a priesthood/temple system.

Philosophers could speculate about God; what it means to be "Omni" this or that. They could see God in the creation. The OT tells us about his character: good, just, hates sin, forgiving etc. But there is nothing like seeing the real thing. God can show us what he is like as a man, which is what we can understand. Most importantly he showed us what he is willing to do for us in order to reconcile us to himself. His suffering on the cross not only paid our sin debt (the Judge himself pays the penalty) but showed us his love in the most graphic way.

But why a physical resurrection?

God is spirit. God created a spiritual realm (angelic beings) and I suppose he could have stopped there. For his own reasons, he wanted to create something "other"…a material world. I guess he just likes the stuff. He pronounced it “good" and humanity “very good!” The Jews understood this. The Greeks, following Plato, didn’t. They despised the material world. God becoming man was blasphemy to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. If you tried to invent a religion for the 1st century you couldn't come up with a worse story.

But only in Christianity are you more in death than in life. Buddhism is nothingness, Hinduism (after enough tries) is union with the impersonal. Gnosticism (ancient/New Age) is a merger with a "world soul". Islam has the sexual fantasy thing but you won’t enjoy God, because Allah is "totally other" and cannot be personally known. Only his will (Quran) is known.

Christianity, with reunion with loved ones and the fellowship of other believers, all enjoying God forever, with perfect bodies in a new creation (a real world of some sort), would seem to be the best alternative. The resurrection gives us warrant for believing it’s true. The others are just guessing.
****************************************************************************************


Now the ‘verdict’ (so to speak) is still out as far as I know.

Perhaps this man will see the truth, eventually.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sharing from "The Cold and Lonely Truth": Joe Wright's Kansas Senate Prayer

This was posted yesterday, September 18th, 2011 at Arthur Khachatryan’s blog “The Cold and Lonely Truth”. The link to track back is here.

I have read this before, but I think we all need to read it again.  Thanks for posting this Arthur.

***********************************************************************************

This prayer was delivered on January 23, 1996 by the Rev. Joe Wright in Kansas. It was said that most of those in attendance were outraged and some walked out. Without a doubt, it is a blunt and direct indictment on modern culture. Within just a few weeks, the Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, received thousands of phone calls. Surprisingly, only a few dozen of those calls were from those who were responding negatively. In the weeks to follow the church received international requests for copies of this prayer from all over the world.

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.


We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it moral pluralism.


We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.


We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.


We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.


We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.


We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.


We have killed our unborn and called it choice.


We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.


We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.


We have abused power and called it political savvy.


We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition.


We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.


We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our fore-fathers and called it enlightenment.


Search us O God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.


Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by you, to govern this great state. Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the name of your son, the living savior, Jesus Christ.


Amen.”



Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Taking a break"




To all my readers;

Due to "life" issues, I will be taking a little break from blogging.  Those who pray, please keep me in your prayers.

Thank you for your kind support.

May God bless you,

Alice E. (Lisa) Guinther

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A video 'fly-by' of Saturn

Here is an amazing link to an animated 'fly-by' of saturn.http://www.tecca.com/news/2011/03/15/saturn-fly-by-video/

Now I absolutely believe that our God is an artist...take the time to look at the amazing range of colors an pattern on the atmosphere of Saturn.http://vimeo.com/11386048

I've never added a video to my blog before...so this is an experiment.

Blessings,
Lisa

Monday, September 5, 2011

Psalm 91 Prayer for Protection

Psalm 91 Prayer for Protection.

Father, I thank you that I dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
I abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I say to you my Lord; that you are my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.
For it is You who delivers me from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence.

You shield me the way an eagle protects her young, and they take refuge under her wings.
Your faithfulness is a shield and high wall around me.

I am not afraid of the terror by night, or the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that lays waste at noon.

A thousand may fall at my side; and ten thousand at my right hand;
But it will not come near me, and I will see the wicked punished.

For I have made the Lord my refuge, even the Most High my dwelling place.
No evil will befall me, nor will any plague come near my tent.

For You give Your angels charge concerning me, to guard me in all my ways.
They bear me up in their hands lest I stumble over a rock.

I tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent I will trample down.
Because I love you Lord, You will deliver me;

You set me securely on high, because I know Your name.
You are with me in trouble, You rescue me and honor me,
With a long life You satisfy me, and let me behold Your salvation.

*Amen*




Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Turn the Other Cheek"




Over the last two of weeks, I have been spending a lot of time studying “The Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel. I would like to share some of the interesting insights I have gained from this study.

Anyone who has grown up in the church has heard this teaching of Jesus over and over again. I know that I am guilty of reading through this and saying to myself “yes, I know this; this is old hat…move on.” We all read over these passages and have probably highlighted favorite parts of Jesus teaching…but are we listening to what he is saying here?

For example; Jesus’ teaching in what is known as “the Beatitudes” (Matt. 5:3-12); this teaching of our Lord stresses humility (v.5) and endurance in the face of persecution because of our faith in Jesus (…on account of Me.” v.11). But note how Matthew arranges Jesus’ teaching towards the end of chapter 5, specifically verses 38-39 where it is written “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

What is going on here?

What is Jesus quoting from when he says “…An eye for an eye…”?

Look at Leviticus 24:17-22 which in my Bible is headed with the title “An Eye for an Eye” and when you read v. 20 it is written “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.” But for the followers of Second Temple Judaism in the day of Jesus’ teaching, could this rule of “eye for eye” have been being abused by persons wanting to be justified under the over 600 extant rules included in the teaching of Torah? Is it possible that in the minds of some of the Pharisees’ they hoped to bring salvation from Rome by their own piety and zeal; over-did rule-following, and committed evil deeds in the name of “eye-for-eye”?

Remember that in Ancient Rome a high priority was placed on one’s honor. But is there any difference in our society today?

What of Jesus’ teaching here; when insulted, (“slapped”) we should allow another insult? (the other cheek?) Really, shouldn’t we “stand up for ourselves?” If nothing else, don’t we get the chance to tell our “side of the story” when others talk badly of us?

Listen to what Dr Craig Keener writes, from his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (1999):

…A disciple must be so secure in his or her status before God that he or she can dispense with human honor. Such a person need not avenge lost honor because this person seeks God’s honor rather than his or her own…If their lives are forfeit when they begin to follow Jesus (16:24-27) they have no honor of their own to lose. (p 198)

And just in case you don’t get around to looking up Matthew 16: 24-27, I’ll write it for you here:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me, For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.”

This idea of honor-shame and losing ones own soul; is not some simple, glossed over teaching of Jesus.

Are we so bound to save our honor that we would lose our souls striving to win the world?

And Paul wrote “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Father in Heaven, these are tough teachings that my fallen nature fights against. When my possible livelihood may be in the balance; I ask that you help me to look to you, the Author and Perfecter of my faith. Please give me the strength to take up my cross and follow you…no matter what the cost, take the slap and offer the other cheek. In Jesus’ name I pray; Amen.

Reference:

Craig Keener (1999) Comentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.