What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

200 Best Attitude Boosters

Here are my favorties excerpts from "200 Best Attitude Boosters - Train Yourself to Think Positively", by Michael A. Mitchell.

If you want to grow a flower you water it, you don't criticize it.

Man does not live by bread alone. From time to time he needs buttering up. Pay someone a compliment today.

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

The greatest enemy of success is fear of failure. A positive attitude enables us to erase fears, forget past defeats, and move on to success.

The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide. - Bonnie Christlieb

Your brain is like a bank - you can't make a valuable withdrawal unless you first make a valuable deposit.

Even if you're on the right track you'll get run over if you just sit there. - Will Rogers

Problems are guidelines - not stop signs.

He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses friends loses more; but he who loses courage loses all.

Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never knew existed. - Cicely Tyson

A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.

Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pockets.

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More

It is interesting that the word "listen" contains the same letters as the word "silent."

Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act!

An optimist is a person who takes cold water thrown on an idea, heats it with enthusiasm, makes steam, and pushes ahead!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

One of God's Best Ideas

Sitting here in the family room with all of the family on Christmas Day makes me think of how great an idea God had when He created the family.

Laughing, talking, sharing, eating, opening gifts, sitting by the fire, playing games, watching favorite old movies, listening to good music, singing good songs, I getting really hokey?

Growing up, my family was sometimes fractured by problems and even death. Everyone has something about their family that isn't perfect. But God's idea of a family is perfect.

And if someone doesn't have a good family to share with there is God's extended family - the church. No, the church isn't perfect either, but it is a very workable family if you work at it.

God has it all covered.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

Why do some songs become our favorites?

I love Christmas carols in general and have some favorites among them. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is my number one pick. Why? Somehow it struck a chord in me growing up - both the lyrics and the stately tune.

I think my spirit is not as often at rest as it needs to be. I am often restless. So I need the message of letting my spirit be at rest that this song encourages.

Do you have a favorite? I would be interested in hearing what it is and why you prefer it over others.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Blue Like Jazz

I recently read the book, "Blue Like Jazz", Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, at the suggestion of one of the college students in our church. The book was published in 2003, authored by Donald Miller.

I took some notes on what I read and want to share some of the things in the book I found of interest.

I will forewarn you before you read this book. Miller makes steaks out of several sacred cows.

From the author's note: "I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theatre in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.
After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before this happened.

Page 13 - "I believe the biggest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time."

Page 18 - "Just think about the Congress...and even the president. The genius of the American system is checks and balances. Nobody gets all the power. Everybody is watching somebody else. It is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse."

Page 23 - "...the path to joy winds through the dark valley."

Page 86 - "Our behavior will not be changed long with self-discipline, but fall in love and a human will accomplish what he never thought possible. accepting God's love for us, we fall in love with Him, and only then do we have the fuel we need to obey."

Page 111 - "I don't think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool Web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It is just another tool of Satan to get people passionate about nothing."

Page 112 - "I am learning to believe better things. I am learning to believe that other people exist, that fashion is not truth; rather, Jesus is the most important figure in history, and the gospel is the most powerful force in the universe. I am learning not to be passionate about empty things, but to cultivate passion for justice, grace, truth, and communicate the idea that Jesus likes people and even loves them."

Page 152 - "I think our society puts too much pressure on romantic love, and that is why so many romances fail. Romance can't possibly carry all that we want it to."

Page 173 - "Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think it is something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community, give himself to a community, humble himself before his friends, initiate community, teach people to care for each other, love each other."
Jesus wants us interacting, eating together, laughing together, praying together. Loneliness is something that came with the fall."

Page 181 - "Living in community made me realize one of my faults. I was addicted to myself."

Page 205 - "Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little time allowing our hearts to feel awe."

Page 206 - "I don't think there is any better worship than wonder."

Page 233 - "A guy I know named Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was a big man, full of life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions. I don't know what they were, but as a final question he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair behind his big desk and wept."

Page 237 - "I think the most important thing that happens within Christian spirituality is when a person falls in love with Jesus."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ever been blessed by a "small" church?

When I was about eight years old our family moved from Maryland, where I was born, to a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

My two older brothers and I went to school in Sparta but our address was actually in Piney Creek. Never heard of these communities? No wonder. Alleghany County, in which these communities were located, was once know as "The Lost Province" because of its relative obscurity.

In Piney Creek there was a small church, New Home Free Will Baptist, which you most likely have never heard of either. It's a "small" church in a "small" community. But that doesn't mean it's impact on my life was small. I was never a regular attender. In fact, I haven't been in worship in that church but once that I recall, after our family had moved back to Marlyand and were back for a visit.

But that "small" church impacted my life because my mother was there one night in a revival meeting and came to know Christ as her personal Savior. There was rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God! (Luke 15:10)

Shortly after that monumental decision in her life, my father's alcoholism became worse. He wouldn't even let my brothers and I attend mom's baptism. Dad became more and more violent when he was drinking and mom had to leave him, taking my brothers and I back to Maryland with her.

When we got back to Maryland mom set out to find a good church. We wound up at the Mt. Calvary Free Will Baptist Church in Perryman, Maryland, just two miles from the front gate to the Aberdeen Proving Ground - at the time, the largest Army Ordinance Center in the world. Mt. Calvary was another "small" church. But I made a faith commitment to Christ there as a twelve-year-old boy. That decision has made all of the difference in my life.

Now, two "small" churches had impacted my life in a great way.

I want to always be a part of a growing congregation. But I don't ever want to fall into the trap of believing that a "small" church is "small" in significance even if it is "small" in number.

Do you have a "small" church story? If you do I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Favorite Christmas Movies

My favorite Christmas movie is "A Christmas Carol", the 1951 black and white version starring Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.

What's yours?

I like it so much because of the great way Sim portrays Scrooge's transformation from a miser to an altruist. I believe in that kind of redemption and am always hoping to see it in others who are haunted by their ghosts.

It is a Christmas tradition of mine to watch the movie each year, usually on Christmas Eve.

What Christmas traditions do you have?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Primer on Postmodernism - Part II

This is a continuation on my Dec. 2 blog thoughts about the book, "A Primer on Postmodernism" by Stanley J. Grenz.

P. 164 - "Our commitment to the God revealed in Christ compels us to stand squarely against at least one aspect or outworking of the radical skepticism of postmodernism: the loss of a 'center'...In contrast to postmodern thought, we believe that there is a unifying center to reality. More specifically, we acknowledge that this center has appeared in Jesus of Nazareth, who is the eternal Word present among us."

My thoughts: Here is precisely the real danger of postmodernism. Yet, ironically, Grenz also immediately points out the following:

P. 164 - "Postmodern thinkers rightly alert us to the naivete of the Enlightenment attempt to discover universal truth by appeal to reason alone."

My thoughts: Statements like this are why I said in my first blog post on this book that Grenz handles this subject more accurately than most. He is not afraid to state how postmodernism, while lacking the "center", still alerts us to the dangers of the modernism that preceded it.

P. 165 - "...we simply cannot allow Christianity to be relegated to the status of one more faith among others."

My thoughts: This is one of the greatest dangers of postmodernism - that many faiths can simultaneously be right.

P. 166 - "...the Christian faith entails a denial that the rational, scientific method is the sole measure of truth. We affirm that certain aspects of truth lie beyond reason and cannot be fathomed by reason."

My thoughts: I like that quote because I wrestled with this decades ago as a new Christian. Looking back, I now believe the reason I struggled was because my faith was born in the midst of the modernist era. We looked so much for reasons for our faith back then that we failed to admit that some aspects of faith are "beyond reason."

P. 167 - "...articulate and embody the gospel in the context of culture."

My thoughts: Good advice.

P. 168 - "...establishment of community - faith that is highly social."

My thoughts: More good advice.

P. 174 - "...the gospel is the answer to the longings of the of the postmodern generation."

My thoughts: Bottom line!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

When Computers Don't Work at the Computer Store

Just got back from Circuit City to buy a cable for a new printer for my computer. I had no choice but to go even though it's the Christmas shopping season.

Besides being patient in traffic, being patient finding a parking place and being patient in line to buy the cable, it took extreme patience waiting to make the purchase.

Today and tomorrow the store had a sale involving a ten percent off coupon. But every time the cashiers tried to activate the ten percent off the computers balked. Lines were backing up. Some customers were becoming irate. Others were just putting their items on the nearest racks and walking out.

I am not a patient person. (See December 5th's entry in my blog - "My Disability")

While waiting in line (for nearly 30 minutes!) I considered the irony of having trouble with the computers at a computer store.

Then, as I was driving dawned on me. I already had a cable like this one in my garage! Double the irony!

Life is full of time wasted when you don't intend to waste it. Along with our imperfect efforts at accomplishment, there are the inevitable technical difficulties.

If you've felt like you've been taking two steps forward and three steps back lately don't feel alone. It's the human condition. And evidently its the machine condition also.

Friday, December 09, 2005

For His Name's Sake

Sitting today at the funeral of the grandmother of a young lady in our church, I listened carefully as the minister quoted the familiar 23rd Psalm.

When the pastor got to verse 3, "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake", seemed to me like the Holy Spirit whispered that phrase over again in my ear, "he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

When you live right it brings honor to God's name - and bringing praise to God is to be your primary motivation. God leads you to do right. When you follow His leadership into those paths of righteousness He gets honor.

What parent hasn't watched his or her child do right and felt honored by their right doing? We get that from our Heavenly Father. In heaven He gets praise too when we do the right thing.

You don't have to achieve great status or wealth or achieve great deeds for God to receive glory from you life - just do right!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

In God's Hands

Studying for this Sunday's sermon, "Does God Still Send Angels", I decided to use Revelation 1:20 (New Living Translation) - "This is the meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. "

I don't know of any Bible commentators who don't believe the "angels" are the pastors of the seven churches of Asia addressed in chapters two and three of Revelation. The pastors are God's messengers in the churches.

All of a sudden the realization of the Scripture dawned on me in a powerful and personal way: God has churches and their pastors in His right hand!

My cup ran over for several minutes. (See Psalms 23:5)

I often sense that Satan has a big target painted on the church and the pastor.

I am confident however when I realize that the devil's fiery darts will have to invade the airspace of God's hands!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas Giving

Have you found someone yet with whom to share the true spirit of Christmas?

1) Give someone the greatest gift there is and tell them the simple story of God coming to earth as a man to be our Savior. Continue by telling your personal story of faith about how you came to know God. Do it before Christmas gets here. Make a commitment and follow through.

2) Do you know someone personally who has a child who will not have any or very little to unwrap under the tree this Christmas? Why not add the personal touch by investigating the needs and personally delivering the gifts to the parents and/or the children of someone you know than simply signing up to help through an organization. I am not knocking the organizations that help acquire gifts for Christmas. That's good too. But if God sends someone across your path that needs help why not address the need your self if you can?

3) Be nice when everyone else is short-tempered and ill at the mall and on the highways. Smile a lot!

4) Wish everyone, even the politically correct, a "Merry Christmas!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Imago Christi

Imago Christi: The Example of Jesus Christ, by the Rev. James Stalker, Published 1890 in London by Hodder and Stoughton.

This rare old book not only caught my eye because of the age and title, but because of the author. Years ago I read Stalker's well-known Life of Christ. That volume challenged me, not only because of the subject matter, but also because of the author's rich devotional style. Even though the language is somewhat dated, it is one of the best treatments of our Lord's life in my opinion. He also authored The Life of Paul, another noteworthy treatise.

The Example of Jesus Christ used to be much more rare and difficult to obtain than Stalker's Life of Christ. I have noticed that the book was reprinted in 2002. If you can get your hands on a copy you will be enlightened by the insights of this Scottish preacher/professor, also well-known here in America in the late 19th Century.

Here are several comments I recorded years ago when I first read Imago Christi.

P.47 - "If anything could arouse the indignation of Christ is was any attempt to dissuade him from his duty."

P.76 - "One sometimes hears even professedly religious people at the present day disparaging public worship, as if religion might flourish equally well without it - and for trifling reasons or for no reason at all, they take it upon themselves to withdraw from the visible church as something unworthy of them. This was not the way Jesus acted. The church of his day was not a pure one and he could have deemed it unworthy of him."

119 - "It is surprising how many of the notable sayings of Jesus were table-talk."

139 - "Jesus died praying."

209-210 - Stalker points out that, during the French Revolution, Rousseau sent his own children to the Foundling Hospital to save himself trouble and expense. (When you have a chance, study the historic differences between the American and French Revolutions and their leaders.)

213 - "When Jesus gave alms it was the poor giving to the poor."

259 - "Whenever a preacher makes you feel that there is a world of realities above and behind the one you see and touch; whenever he lays hold of your mind, touches your heart, awakens your aspiration, rouses your conscience - that is Christ trying to grasp you, to reach you with His love, to save you."

337 - "A man may strive for influence and miss it. But let him grow within himself - in self-control, in conscientiousness, in purity and submission - and then he will not miss it...The road to influence is simply the highway of duty and loyalty. Let a man press nearer to Christ and open his nature more widely to admit the energy of Christ, and, whether he knows it or not - it is perhaps better if he does not know it - he will certainly be growing in power for God with men, and for men with God."

Monday, December 05, 2005

My Disability

To state it in the politically correct manner, I'm "waste-basket challenged." I can't hit a trash can with debris even while standing immediately over one. I have to place the refuse directly into the container.

I think it has to do with my impatience. I'm not that good at playing basketball for the same reason. (And because I'm nearly 50 and out of shape. ) I pull away before making the shot. I don't follow-through because I'm always thinking about the next thing on my "to do" list.

All my life God has been trying to teach me to focus, to concentrate on the matter at hand. But I fear my whole life my mind will be one step ahead of my body. It's often been difficult for me to relax. I'm always thinking of something else that needs doing. (My fingers "type" on my desk even between these sentences I'm composing.)

I can't just sit and watch TV. I have to sit and watch TV while stoking the fire in the fireplace, while reading a book or magazine, or while working on the computer.

I asked my mother back when she was still alive if she knew why I was this way. "Son," she said, "When you entered the world you were already in a hurry." I said, "I love you mom, but you're not much help."

I've read a lot about my personality type...and I don't want to talk any more about it. I've got something else to do right now.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Be Myself

Be Myself is the title of Warren Wiersbe's autobiography. Wiersbe is my favorite Bible expositor of the 20th Century so getting to read his thoughts while putting himself under the microscope was enlightening. Most of it I just sat back and enjoyed years ago when I first appreciated it.

Here are just a few notes and quotes I wrote down.

P. 93 - Wiersbe offers this solution to the problem of a pastor being criticized for preaching at other places: "Call a pastor nobody else wants to listen to."

P. 95 - "God doesn't want me to reduplicate myself - he wants me to reproduce."

P. 275 - "I don't know as much about prophecy as I used to, and I have stopped looking for obscure texts that will stun congregations."

P. 313 - After having his gall bladder removed Wiersbe asked his doctor, "If God gave me a gall bladder and you can take it out and I can do without it, why did God give it to me in the first place?" Doc's reply: "So I can send my kids to college."

320 - Wiersbe served on the boards of many Christian organizations. One was the Slavic Gospel Association. Someone inquired as to which version of the Bible this organization used. Wiersbe replied, "Russian." "Is it the Russian King James Version?" the inquisitor replied.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Writing For Posterity

As I sit and read the Bible this morning in my personal time listening and talking to God I am wondering how many of the Bible writers knew they were writing for such future readers such as myself.

I imagine they may have known that some of their contemporaries and maybe even the next generation or two might become aware of their compositions. But to know that thousands of years later people like you and I would read their work surely was beyond their comprehension. (Yes, I know that God knew.)

That is one of the many fascinating attributes of literature to me, that writing something down makes your thoughts live longer than you. That is why we should write our thoughts more. Who knows who may read them and be helped in the future.

No, I am not expecting my writing to be well known. I am just expecting it to live longer on this earth than I do. As I journey through mid-life that gives me some comfort when I think about the goals I had as a younger man that I will not achieve in life. Some of those goals were unrealistic. Some were wrong-headed.

I have not given up on setting goals. My goals now are wiser, more realistic, more others-focused. One of those goals is to write things that may be a benefit to others after I'm gone.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Primer on Postmodernism - Part I

"A Primer on Postmodernism" is a book by Stanley J. Grenz, Published by William B. Eerdman's Publishing, 1996, 211 pages.

I heartily recommend this book because it enlightens the reader on the tenets of postmodernism without going to extremes. For instance, I recently read an Internet article by R. Albert Mohler, an able Christian commentator on modern society with whom I normally agree, in which he said: "The shift from modernity to postmodernity has not been pretty. In the end, relativism is a more deadly enemy than denial." My immediate response is, "How?" Both the relativism of postmodernity and the denial of modernity are equally deadly. How is one "more deadly" than the other? He said other things like that in his article that seemed inconsistent to me.

Sometimes Christian leaders address postmodernism, which certainly consists of a faulty worldview, as if it is more dangerous than modernism. I think they are both dangerous but in different ways. It helps little to act as if modernism, which rejects almost without question all of the basic tenents of the Bible and Christianity, is safer than postmodernism.

I want to share with you how Grenz takes a more diplomatic approach in his book, what I to believe to be some of the more pertinent points he makes, followed by some personal observations after each . (I don't want to blame my comments on this noted author.)

To me, the two most significant shifts associated with postmodernism that are identified by Grenz in his introduction are: 1) The shift from industrial society to information society; and 2) The postmodernistic tendency to "Think globally/act locally" which has led to more pluralism and diversity.

I believe it does us little good for those of us who are Christ followers to fight against these trends. Rather I think we should begin to plan our strategies with them in mind so that we may reach postmodernists with the Good News about Christ. We should take the intersections of biblical truth and postmodernism - yes there are some believe it or not - and major on them.

P. 31 - "Most of us have likely had our most direct contact with postmodernism through science fiction and spy stories." Interesting observation. I plan to read some science fiction - which I have never done before, so that I might gain more insight into this connection.

P. 32 - Grenz makes the observation that postmodernism blurs the distinction between "truth" and "fiction". This is perhaps one of the greatest and most justifiable objections Bible believing Christians have toward postmodernism and why we should be educated about it's fundamental structure.

P. 35 - "The 'screen' (TV or computer) creates a perpetual present; reality and fantasy are joined." Once again, this is a good fact to possess. We must be aware in the power of the "screen" in our attempts to communicate the truth of the Good News with postmodernists.

P. 49 - The author speaks of how postmodernists prize "difference over uniformity". I believe this is one of the primary reasons some Christian leaders are so especially hacked off at postmodernism. But I think we must be careful of maintaining the delicate balance between teaching believers to follow the instructions of Christ and His Word, and in allowing them to practice Christian liberty. Cookie-cutter Christianity is neither biblical nor pragmatic.

P. 55 - "Science is not merely a neutral observation of data." Touche' Grenz! The modernist believed it was - and we who believed in the scientific and historical accuracy of the Bible always had this in argument with modernists. Score one for postmodernism in the sense that, yes, many scientists aren't ever neutral. They have been found guilty of the most blatant presuppositions that have kept them from receving the truth of the inspired, innerant, and infallible Scriptures. Many scientists have disregared the miraculous in the Bible simply by the excuse that they could not fit them in their laboratories.

P. 68 - Grenz points out how that, during the "Age of Reason", which eventually led to modernism, "Reason replaced revelation." The objection to postmodernism on the other hand - is that it goes to the other extreme and opens up the floodgates to assume that any revelation may perhaps be valid - who is to say? To me, this is another reason why modernism and postmodernism are equally unacceptable - they both go to extremes.

Pages 88-151 - Discussion of Nietzshe and his influence on postmodernism. Nietzshe was a nihilist (believed we have no access to reality), while both of his grandfathers were Lutheran pastors. (Interesting.) Famous for his assertion about the death of God, Nietzshe's philosophies none the less were picked up by 20th Century successors like Michael Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Richard Rorty - "The Central Trio of Postmodern Prophets". I must say that these fellows bewilder me. That people actually adhere to this kind of empty thinking enlightens me to the stark desperation of the human heart and mind without God.

161 - Grenz points out how, "Evangelicalism shares close ties with modernity." Evangelicals often adopted the "scientific, or empirical approach, or "proofs" for the existence of God, the trustworthiness of the Bible and the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. In my mind there was nothing wrong about evangelicals adopting this approach in dealing with modernists. Now we have to adapt our strategy for dealing with postmodernists.

More in a later post...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Approaching God

I think I will write about some of the good books I've read the last few years.

I'll start in alphabetical order with, "Approaching God" by Steve Brown. Brown is the host of the radio program, "Key Life". Here are few things he said that struck a chord with me...and my thoughts in return.

In his introduction - "Prayer is not just for experts."

My thoughts: Thank God! I'm still no expert after decades of praying.

Page 16 - "On the proper posture for prayer: A rabbi fell in a well, he said, 'best praying I ever did was done standing on my head.'"

My thoughts: I think praying on your knees, with your head bowed is good sometimes, your posture can help show your reverence and submission to God. But I pray while driving my car, laying in my bed in the middle of the night, sitting here at my computer, standing in church, etc. The posture of my heart is what counts.

Page 24 - "The only thing settled at conversion is our salvation...everything else, learning the truth about ourselves, living the Christian life, etc., is only just beginning."

My thoughts: I want to be diligent to teach this to new Christ followers.

Page 35 - "Ever wonder what people think about you? Most don't think about you at all."

My thoughts: Many Christians have been defeated by worrying too much about what others think about them.


My thoughts: That's one of the best pieces of advice for prayer that could be given!