The danger of words

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a dustup over Rush Lumbaugh’s criticism of Sandra Fluke’s, a law student at Georgetown, about birth control coverage.  The political aspects of the issue aside, what is more telling is the impact of words and assumptions.

In what would seem to be an unrelated situation, a young girl has taken Limbaugh’s words personally and it points to how what we say can have unintended consequences. (warning: the language may be strong, but the context in which they are spoken matters.)  Even if Limbaugh is being bombastic and playing to a crowd, he should take responsibility for the uncivil tone and impact of his words.

Shades of Nebuchadnezzar

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia again.  In his victory speech, Putin said, “I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia.”

It reminds me of Daniel 4:30-32 and Herod in Acts 12:23.  While his win was numerically resounding, there are questions about it’s legitimacy.  I’m wondering if there will be any fallout from these words and what happened with the election process.

credibility of the Gospel

July 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I was reading about Jesus and the Samaritan woman and was struck by something I never had given consideration.  When I’ve heard the text taught/preached, many comment that the woman visited the well at the hottest part of the day, the sixth hour of the day (noon).  But is that true?

It is my understanding that the hottest part of the day tends to be the afternoon some time between 2 and 5pm.  This can be tested by simply checking the weather forecast for any city.  Furthermore, there is no indication about what time of year Jesus is making this trip through Samaria.

Asserting that it is the hottest part of the day is sloppy thinking and exegesis, and hurts the credibility of the Gospel.

If we are not careful with how we expand upon what we see in the text OR are unwilling to acknowledge that there are some things we don’t know, we do our listeners a disservice.  If we make up spin a good illustration to catch the ear of our audience then we bring more attention to ourselves than to God.  Sadly, I’ve heard (and, being guilty myself, have told) amazing, fictional insights about the significance of the Samaritan woman enduring the heat of day to go to the well alone.  It was no doubt, warmer in the day than the morning but that’s about all we can say regarding the weather.

It is disconcerting to realize that I can create false obstacles because when readers go to the text they won’t see the same thing and may come away thinking that they need more learning or spiritual maturity like that of the preacher/teacher in order to understand Scripture.

I appreciate discovering things I haven’t seen or thought about before, but it is also humbling to find that some of the assumptions I’ve made are not true.

Free will or robots…

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

There is a common saying/belief that God had to give humans “free will” or we’d be automatons.  Is that really true?  I think this view is flawed for a couple of reasons.

First, it assumes the “will” is truly free.  However, this can be tested by simply asking, “Why does a person do something?” (what is their motive?)

The reality is, the “will” (volition) is subject to something, either intellect (cognition) or heart (affection), as demonstrated by motive (why do you do what you do?).  The will isn’t free because it is directed by motive.  Motive, in turn, comes from affection/desire (“heart”) or cognition.

Without going into all the details, I would argue that affection is the driving motive, and not cognition.  There is a body of research that shows why this is true, but I’ll leave that for another post.  A brief example of this assertion though is the power of marketing.  Businesses sell products based on our affections and not intellect.  They appeal to our desires and not statistics.  Why?  They understand that motive (based on affection) drives the purchase decision (volition).

Therefore, intellect (cognition) provides information to affection, but in the end affection determines action.  In short, there is no such thing as “free will” because it is captive to (driven by motive, our affections).

Second, “free will” is not the same thing as freedom of action.  I think what people mean is that God, within His sovereignty over everything, allows for freedom of action.  This means God does not proscribe a specific action, and is fine with a range of actions.  Based on the notion that there is no free will because it is subject to motive, then affection/love is the source of action/behavior.  For example, as a husband I want to show love to my wife.  I can choose how to express love in a variety of ways — go on a date, give her time alone by taking all the kids, bring her flowers, etc…  Likewise, God allows us to see Him for who He is (1John 4:19, Romans 5:5, Ephesians 2:1-9).  We are in a love relationship with Him, initiated by Him, and we are “free” to express this love in any way we wish.

God wants us to love Him and express this love in the way we would choose — freedom of action.

Grace is good

May 23, 2011 2 comments

Harold Camping, of the “May 21st rapture prediction,” made a mess of it, and lots of folks are reminding him, and his followers of how he was wrong.  I get that piece.  Inside, I was hoping for his comeuppance.  A recent blog post put me in my place.  By virtue of its compassion and thoughtful response, I realize how much I need grace, just as Mr. Camping would need and hope for.

Tim Dalrymple offers an excellent response and reflection on what Mr. Camping could do.  It’s worth checking out.  His interaction with Camping’s prediction are good reads as well.

Celebrating death by death

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been struck by the lyrics of this song.  I heard it at an Easter service, and appreciate the message of hope.  For me, there is something about putting Scripture and biblical theology to music that is stirring.

Old habits die hard

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

A recent article about computer security observes that the passwords used most are “123456, password, 12345678, qwerty, abc123.”  It notes that users will pick a common word or simple key combination as a password 50% of the time.  As a result of having passwords that can easily be cracked, cyber crime is easy to commit and it is costly.

The reason for the lapse in password security is memory and ease of use/convenience.  This short-run cost is high enough for many to take the easier, more insecure route.

What does this have to do with faith or spirituality?  I am wondering if the inconvenience of secure password generation is on par with prayer and our relationship with God.  Speaking from personal experience, how I talk to God sometimes veers to the simplistic or ritualistic, simply because cultivating something more thoughtful is too difficult.  Or, more accurately, it requires an effort that I don’t feel like making.

I have offered (still offer) vacant petitions to God that, more or less, are fairly plain and uncreative.  They can become like a string of hocus-pocus utterances that hope to elicit some sort of blessing response from God.  Why?  For me, it’s hard to have a conversation that is focused on Him (versus myself and my needs/wants), and/or take the time to listen to Him.  I prefer the illusion that I am giving God my time during the day to satisfy my self-perception that I have a good relationship with God.  Sometimes this type of prayer is a salve for my conscience letting me accept the notion that I have “spent time with God.”

I want and pray for a prayer life that is substantive.  The alternative hijacks the opportunity for a real relationship because it treats God like a program — plunk in my password, open Him and get what I want.

lessons from Tunisia and Egypt

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the stirring discontent in other Middle Eastern countries is a good reminder to the Church.  Not that the Church is run by local mini-regimes, but that the leadership has a responsibility to care for its people.

It would be easy to pontificate that oppressive governments deserve to be overthrown, but it would also miss a fundamental truth.  God has installed governments (oppressive, democratic, benevolent, monarchies, etc…) with authority over its people, and a responsibility to care for its citizens.  Likewise, church leadership is put into place by God with both the spiritual authority and responsibility to watch over His people.

it’s never too late to love on your kids

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

A thought-provoking story for parents — the power of writing letters to your kid(s). It speaks of the love a father has for his son, dealing with grief and the power of legacy.

If you’re a father, this might be an encouragement to connect with your kids in a way you hadn’t considered.

<whoops, lost hyperlink.  sorry, fixed problem – now links to story>

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