Saturday, April 30, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 2)

This is a re-post of the second part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


I'm going to take Part 2 of this series to tell why I chose the series title I did. Simply, "The Sunday Church Service" is what most of us can relate to. As my friend Bruce points out in his post What Hebrews 10:25 Doesn't Say, [Update: this link is no longer available] much of our own personal experience or ecclesiastical opinion is read back into the text. I'm the first one to point out that the Greek word ekklesia, most often [mis]translated into English as the word "church", has as its root meaning "assembly" or even "congregation." I'm providing two links that deal with this issue here and here. I'm not claiming to agree with everything said in both of these links, but if the good Protestants in my theological past can use this definition of ekklesia against the structure and teachings of the Roman Catholic church, I can surely use them against the structure and teachings of the Protestant church who have adopted nearly the same things over the centuries.

Most of us are accustomed to the Sunday Church Service (or "worship" service). Meeting on Sunday is nowhere forbidden in the New Testament. Neither is meeting in a building, with a cross. Neither is meeting at the same time every week. Neither is stained glass. Neither are chairs instead of pews. Neither is preaching, nor a sign outside telling passersby what is being preached. Neither is a choir or making tapes of the sermon or pastors, elders and deacons or fellowship meals in the basement. I'm not saying, either, that structures other than the ones most of us are familiar with are wrong. I'm just going to focus on what most of us know and address the possibility of reforming it from within. I'm going to address what I think is a lack of application of Scripture that results in a lack of real community, a lack of a sense of belonging and a lack of a sense of being useful.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

Weak week:

  • This was the first time I had to change a tire in our van.  All new stuff to me.  Trying to find the right tools in the back and coordinating it with the instructions.  But I got it.  Putting everything back together was the easy part.  A very large screw and even larger washer were embedded.  We got the screw back from the tire shop as a souvenir.
  • The kids went wild this week with getting stuff up onto the roof.  Plastic easter eggs, foam balls, then a whole line of things, each one meant to knock the previous one down that was used to knock the previous one down that was used.... okay, you know what I mean.  Broom handle very valuable.
  • It's time to tape over the hole in the mailbox so that wasps don't start a new nest.
  • Everybody into the pool!  Okay, well maybe not.  The weather is better, but it's not close to being summer.  Only a few more months until it's so hot I wished it were winter again.
  • What kind of ale to they drink in a royal pub?  Maybe it's a stout.  I'll have to Google that one.
  • A crowd at Buckingham Palace was just about the same size as the Giants World Series victory parade.  Must have been an important event.
  • Bop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service (Part 1)

This is a re-post of the first part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009.  For a brief explanation, click here.


In this new series I will look at some things I think are ailing churches in America today. And have been for quite some time. Many people are leaving churches because they find no difference in church than they do outside of it. They either don't fit in, or if they do, they don't see a difference church makes in their lives. They see a lack of community in church.

I'm not going to talk about the obvious absurdities like mud wrestling pastors to increase attendance. Nor am I going to talk about music and which instruments are appropriate for church; nor about what women should wear on their heads or whether Calvinism is better than Arminianism. I'm going to look at problems in churches whose theology is fairly decent; churches that have had a rich tradition and history. I will touch on liturgy, but not as a main topic.

I will focus primarily on relationships within the church, most specifically the actual Sunday church meeting itself. These relationships are described by the bible. I will write about the relationships between God to man, and man to man.

A main area of focus will be this:

Has our American church tradition so focused itself on the worship of God - loving God according to the first great commandment - that we have neglected the second greatest commandment - loving our neighbor as ourselves - when we gather on Sunday?

I'm still sorting out things in both my own experience and in what the bible says about our relationships, so this series will develop over time. Hope you enjoy it, and as always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service - Series Re-Post

Several years ago I did an ongoing blog series titled Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service.  I took it down last year for reasons I won't go into here, but I've decided to re-post this series as I think it is relevant to what I'm still writing about.  This series was key in my development of how I view the church meeting on Sunday and what I think the bible says about it.  I looked at the church service as most Americans have come to know it and compared it with what I see in the bible.  This was just one of my ongoing "Re-Thinking" blog series from the last five years.

The link provided above will take you to the group of posts that made up the series, but starting soon (maybe tomorrow) I will re-post each part of the series individually every few days until the entire series (all 14 parts as of my last series post) has been re-posted.  I invite you to join along in reading each post as it comes out, and I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - A Few Thoughts

I'm not linking to a blog today to spotlight.  However, I wanted to throw out a few thoughts on some of the blogs I will highlight in the next few weeks, and over time in this series.  I'm going to link to some that I don't "agree" with, or am not on the same page as.  Some of them I regularly follow, and even link to in my blogroll, but they are more there for me to keep a pulse on certain types of thinking or what's going on over in another theological world.  Maybe those blogs are about how I used to think.  Sometimes I comment on those blogs to poke the hornet's nest as it were.  I'll give a brief explanation to why I read them, and maybe point out a few disagreements I have with them.  All in all, I'm not necessarily endorsing them, it's just that they keep me sharp in my beliefs as to why I might disagree with certain views.  For what it's worth.  I should be back to highlighting blogs next week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Doubts and Questions

Do you have doubts about God?  Or about the message(s) of Christianity?  Do you sometimes wonder where God is, or why you can't seem to find him?  Do you have questions about any of these things?  Do you question your own faith sometimes?

If I look back over my life - or look at it even right now! - I would have to say that certainly I have had doubts and questions.  Many of them.  To what degree, about what, or for how long is a different matter.  Yet doubts and questions have existed.  I think if any of us are honest, we would probably say the same thing.  I am of the opinion that doubts and questions about our own religious faith are normal to some extent.  But what I want to do here is look at how doubts and questions are dealt with by categories of people.

There seems to be a group of people, let's say from the post-modern/emergent type of view, that have many doubts and questions.  Doubts and questions about God, Christianity, and even the major doctrines of historical Christianity.  Then there are the people, let's say from a more fundamentalist or conservative type of view, that have no doubts or questions about anything.  They have rock solid certitude about what they believe in, and doubts and questions are considered the enemy of faith.  Then there are those in the middle who have a certain amount of solid belief, yet have doubts and questions.

To categorize in a general sense, the first group I mentioned seem to err on the side of glorying in their doubting and questioning.  It's hip or cool to doubt God or to question Christianity.  Questions are asked and doubts are raised, but there seems to be no answers to the questions or assurances that solve the doubts.  The next group are so certain about themselves that they view anybody who has any doubts or questions with contempt.  The middle group aren't afraid to ask questions, but seek to have those questions and doubts answered.

Reflecting on these groups using statements about belief, the middle group could be represented by, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief."  The first group could be represented by, "Lord, I doubt and question.  Look how genuine I am!"  The second group could be represented by, "Lord, I believe.  Judge those who have unbelief."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

Holy week, or week of holiness?

  • Our third grader did the "egg drop" science project this week.  He schemed up a cube-shaped Kleenex box filled with cotton balls and attached to a parachute and helium balloons.  Dropped from the top of the school gym, the egg didn't break.  Doing trial runs from our own roof allowed me to clear off all the small toys up there.
  • Some in-laws dropped by this week in what to our kids was a surprise visit.  Our kids and theirs always have different Easter weeks off so we can never plan big things to do together.  Well, playing basketball and going to the creek were great for a few hours, and a weeping willow switch is a great toy for a three year old.
  • Spring is in full bloom here in California.  Although there's no snow, we get plenty of blossoms falling to make it look like it in my neighborhood.
  • We've got some really messy pine trees in our yard.  At least I think they're pine trees.  They drop huge clouds of pollen all at once, and the tiny, wispy cone things fall and make a mess all over.  Rain makes it worse. 
  • I've got some blue towels from 1988.  Yes, that old.  We use them as scrunge towels to clean things up and to lay down on certain surfaces so they won't get messy.  The 80's are still with us!
  • I tried some pine nut flavored hummus this week.  Pretty good.  Reminds me of Euell Gibbons commercials for Grape Nuts cereal back in the 70's.  "Ever ate a pine tree?  Many parts are edible."
  • Whatever you make of the title is your business I guess.  Happy holy weekend.

Friday Good

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  Having said this, He breathed His last.  Luke 23:46

Jesus here quoted Psalm 31:5 when he said, "into your hands I commit my spirit."  It is interesting that he did not commit his body to the Father.  Rather, his body was buried in a tomb, to be resurrected on the third day.  Even Jesus, the Son of God had a dead body, just like the rest of humanity, and was buried just like the rest of humanity.  And He would be resurrected at a later time, just like the rest of humanity.  Jesus shared in our life, death and tribulations.  Things man had always experienced.  But He led the way in being resurrected, because unlike us, we have no power over death.  So, as we remember His death today, we also await the resurrection.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Need A Holiday for The Return of Christ

Dan Allen at the Ekklesia in Southern Maine writes a post about missing what it really means for Christ to come back.  We get caught up in the eschatological schemes we dream up but miss the main point. He makes the point that we're thinking about his death and resurrection this week and urges us to think about his return as well.

This got me to thinking about all the religious holidays we have to remember various events in Christ's life and death here on earth.  The biggies that come to mind are Christmas, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter.  If we're missing out on the real meaning of his return, why not have a holiday to remind us?  I mean, it doesn't have to be on the exact calendar date of his return - nobody but Harold Camping knows what that day is anyway - just like Christmas is not likely the actual date of Jesus' birth.  We could call it "Return Day."  We could have a special church service on that day to celebrate His coming.  If it's on a Sunday, maybe it would be instrumental in getting nominal church goers to increase their obligatory attendance by 50% by adding Return Day to Christmas and Easter.  All the various traditions of historic Christianity could celebrate it and it wouldn't be a denominational thing.  Maybe the Eastern Orthodox could celebrate it one week before or after the rest of us, but that's a matter of church debate.  :-)

In any case, I'm up for it.  Maybe we all could vote on it at our next church membership meeting.  [Disclaimer:  this is not taking Dan's post less seriously.  I like his post, but it made me take a leap in logic to somewhere slightly on the humorous side.]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

The Internet Monk website has long displayed a gadget linking to Rod Rosenbladt's The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church on his New Reformation Press site.  "The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church" is a message to those people who converted to Christianity once upon a time, but who have become either "sad" or "mad" because the church has presented them with an unattainable or impossible paradigm for living the Christian life.  Many people have been broken by their church and its teachings and might have even left the church altogether.  Rosenbladt's message is that these people aren't beyond hope, and gives some basics about the gospel that counter much of the problematic methodology out there.

It can be used by either those broken by the church or by people who disire to minister to them.  I only recently read/watched it, and I think it may be of some good use.  I've seen this link up for a long time now, and it used to cost a few dollars, which is the reason I never used it.  It is now free.  You can either watch it on the site or download an .mp3 or read it in .pdf format, or both as I did.  The video is about 47 minutes long and the PDF is just over 20 pages.  Check out Rod Rosenbladt's The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Islam and Christianity

Abu Daoud blogs at Islam and Christianity.  Abu is a Christian who lives in the Middle East among Muslims and he is active in engaging Muslims in discussions of Islam and Christianity.  Abu Daoud is not his real name, but it is what is known as a filionym which is commonly used in some Muslim countries.  When a man has his first son, he is given the name "Abu" plus "son's name."  His first son's name translated into Arabic is "Daoud," so his filionym is "Abu Daoud."

Islam and Christianity is a fascinating blog because it looks at Islam as a religion, Islam as a political system, and the interrelation of Islam and Christianity as it occurs in the Middle East.  Many helpful insights are noted, and there are often stories of his interaction with Muslims.  Abu also sprinkles in some commentary of news events in the Arab world, and gives a number of looks at the history of Islam (and Christianity) as well as the writing of and content of the Quran.

Abu has given the better part of a decade to the study of Arabic and Islam.  He also discusses the roles of the major Christian traditions in the Middle East, which are Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Islam and Christianity is a must read for people who are considering mission work in the Islamic world, and either way is a good read for those with even a mild interest in Islamic religion and culture.  Please give Abu Daoud's Islam and Christianity a read.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Does "all" Really Mean ALL? (2)

...not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9b

In my first post on this topic, I looked at 1 Corinthians 15:22.  Now for another "does all really mean all?" verse.  This verse has not only an "all" but an "any" as well.  It is quite clear from the absolute truth of the verse above - and it IS absolute truth because it is from the bible - that God doesn't wish for any person who ever lived to perish, and wants all people who would ever live to come to repentance.

This verse is a favorite proof texting verse of Arminians I've come across, and even one used often by Calvinists, to show that God wants everybody in heaven.  There's only one problem with using this verse like that.  It doesn't work.  That's because it has to be taken out of context in order for it to be used that way.  First, taking the immediate several-verse context:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9

Just as in the first post, the questions need to be asked, "all of WHAT?" and "any of WHAT?"  There's a clue in verse 9.  "...but is patient toward YOU, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  So taking the context of YOU, the meaning of the verse can be narrowed to "...but is patient toward you, not wishing for any [of you] to perish but for all [of you] to come to repentance."  And just who are the you that Peter is writing to?  Chapter 3, verse 1 gives us further information:  "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder..."  Here, Peter is writing to a "beloved" group of people.  The letter of 2 Peter opens with the following:  "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:"  So the "you" Peter is writing to is those who have received a faith of the same kind as Peter's.  So, returning to the verse I'm looking at, we can substitute this as follows:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved [you who have the same kind of faith as Peter and to whom he is writing], that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you [to whom Peter is writing who have the same kind of faith as Peter], not wishing for any [of you to whom Peter is writing and who have the same kind of faith as Peter] to perish but for all [of you to whom Peter is writing and who have the same kind of faith as Peter] to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

So, taking this verse in context it becomes clear that it cannot be used as a proof text to support Arminian or Calvinist theology, but simply relates to Peter's readers that God didn't want any of them to perish, but for all of them to come to repentance.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

Three hundred sixty five divided by fifty two:

  • Well, yeah, I know, all you math freaks, there is a remainder because it doesn't divide exactly.
  • Every day we walk by a row of fruitless mulberry trees.  All the switches were pruned off this winter, and the trees look like they have a bunch of large stubs with numerous knobs attached.  It is from these that new switches grow.  Right now single or small clumps of leaves are growing out of the stumpy branches.  Our three year old started laughing and asked what kind of trees they were.
  • Weeds, weeds, weeds.  Tons of rain produce many weeds.  I'm sure glad I have a pair of pretty good knee pads.  They're especially great for kneeling in the rocks.
  • Occasionally I see an odd pickup truck around town.  It's like a Dodge from the 60's and it looks like the cab is a mini-van cut short, with a slightly different pickup bed in the back.  Some of you might know what I'm talking about.  It is painted all red, white and blue with stars on it, and it really sticks out when you see it.  Well, last weekend it was in the opening day parade of our six year old's baseball league.  I guess the coach of the Pirates drives it as he turned the bed into a pirate ship and drove backward through the parade with the kids on the team in back - er, uhm, front.  Now I know.
  • I've been on Google Satellite quite a bit lately for numerous reasons.  One is that I'm looking for work, and the satellite image actually helps out somewhat in looking.  I think you can learn a lot from Google Satellite.  I don't have Google Earth loaded, so I'm a step behind the rest of the world.  I wonder what technology will allow us ten years from now?  Sometimes it's scary to think about.
  • Why is the moon out during the day?  That's something that little kids might ask.  They've been taught their whole short lives that the moon is out at night.  In the sky when the sun isn't there.  In pictures, books, and the like.  So how do you answer a small child this question?  I could explain it to an astronomy class, but a three year old?
  • Like, I mean, what else am I gonna link to today?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just What Exactly Is "Ethnic Israel" or an "Ethnic Jew"?

I've heard a lot about "ethnic Jews" and "ethnic Israel" when eschatology is discussed.  But exactly what are these terms and what do they mean?  What is meant by "ethnic?"  A dictionary definition seems to include genetic ideas, but doesn't mandate them.  Is an "ethnic" Jew a physical descendant of Abraham?  Or merely a religious one?  Yes, biological descendants of Abraham are Jews, but Abraham's servants and any other servant who embraced Judaism and was circumcised was considered a Jew.  Ruth was a Moabitess, but I look at her as a Jew because of her identification.  And if what I've heard is not mistaken, there was no small debate when the current artificial geo-political nation state of "Israel" decided to allow "Jews" to settle within their boundaries a few decades ago.  Any ideas?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Vache Folle

Vache Folle blogs at St George Blog.  His is one of the first blogs I read regularly so many years ago.  I don't know his real/birth name, as he writes with a pseudonym, Vache Folle.  Do I need to know his name?  He's a character from the keyboard, a self-proclaimed libertarian/anarchist.  He is an attorney and attends a Dutch Reformed church in the New York area, and writes many opinions on religion and politics, with a bit on legal issues surrounding children.  He is originally from the deep South and moved to the New York area many years ago.  He uses a pen name out of worries about his job, and blogs out of a sense of belonging to community.

One of the best of flavors that comes from his blog is his skillful ability to write anonymously about anonymous - but real in real life - people.  Aside from occasionally naming public figures, his subjects are the people next door, in the carpool, at work and as he comes across them, but without names.  Candid talk.  His terms for describing people are also colorful.  He uses "conspecifics" to describe co-workers or co-carpoolers, and "co-religionists" to identify fellow church goers.  He practices laughing at himself, and others, and is constantly engaging in slapstick sociology. He loathes mindless, sheepist conformism, and knows well his place on the Bristol Stool Chart.  His anonymity also allows him to post some very personal stuff, but there always seems to be some underlying humor in it.

VF is refreshing to read for me as he is almost his own unique literary genre in and of himself.  I know some people have issues with internet anonymity, but I'm a fan of his nonetheless.  Maybe almost in spite of the issues.  Vache Folle's St George Blog can be found by clicking your mouse, old school or wireless, here on this underlined hyperlink.

What Does A Bishop Oversee?

Alan Knox at The Assembling Of The Church re-posts one of his own all-time favorite posts, What Does A Bishop Oversee?  He asks whether an "overseer" should oversee an organization or oversee people.  He shows from some bible passages that shepherds are supposed to be concerned for people first of all.  Alan brings this from the heart of an overseer because he is an elder in the church he assembles with.  To my mind, a church whose overseers neglect its people or allow oversight of the organization get in the way of putting people first is fairly useless and to be avoided [Update: your own approach may differ, and I'm fine with that].  Along with Alan, I would have overseers choose people every time.  Read Alan's post here.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

Week of spicy food:

  • A friend from my school gave me some very hot peppers.  Perfect for taco night tonight.
  • For some reason I've been putting hot sauce in most of my food this week.  I wonder what the craving is about.
  • In just a few days we went from wearing shorts in 80+ degree weather to hail, iced windows and snow on the hills and mountain.  Spring is so difficult to predict.
  • It was Opening Day in my parts, and the Giants got to hoist their championship flag.  Going to a game will never be the same.
  • Okay, my third cell phone died in the last couple of months, the last one after only a week.  I tried everything with the carrier, and they were baffled, too.  I think I narrowed it down to a bad charger, so they replaced it.  I hope that's it, because I really do need a phone.  Do you?
  • I recently discovered that Google Maps lets you create your own custom maps.  So I decided to put it to use to chart all the locations of potential jobs.  Quite a tool that helped me apply for some of the best.
  • And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Get With The Program

There have been a few times that I (or others, from a sermon, etc.) have been told to "get with the program."  The church program, that is.  But that raises a question.  What if the program, and not my lack of getting with it, is the real problem?  What if I can't get with the program?  What if the program is ungetwithable by somebody like me?  What then?  Maybe there shouldn't be a program like that.  And what if there is a program I could actually get with, but don't really think the program is right to begin with?  Can I get out of the program?  Why?  Why not?  Just some thoughts late on a Thursday night.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - grain edit

I'm taking a bit of a detour tonight on Blog Spotlight Monday.  Tonight's blog has nothing to do with church or theology.  Tonight I am highlighting a blog titled grain edit, a blog devoted to modern graphic design.  One of the main contributors to this blog is named Dave, and although I've met him only a few times, he's a friend of many friends of mine.  grain edit focuses on a certain era of graphic design (as distinguished from modern art), what one might call "classic," from the 1950's to the 70's.  Examples of the best of this era of design (with maybe some retro tossed in) are continually shown.

Graphic design of one form or another has been part of my life for many years, especially with my previous career in the field of architecture.  Many of the features within this genre of design have been very visible in all of our lives in the form of advertising, book covers, album covers, public signs, children's cartoons, etc.  Dave and crew do an outstanding job of putting this genre on display, and grain edit has won an award for being a top design site on the web.  I agree with the award givers.

Check out grain edit, even if you aren't particularly drawn to modern graphic design, and you might actually grow to enjoy it.  Maybe check out a few back pages with older posts to gain an overall view of their work.  Next week I'm probably back to a normal theology/ecclesiology theme.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Belated Opening Day Post

I usually post something about the start of the baseball season, me being a big fan and all, but important things took up my blogging week.  So, as of two days ago, it's baseball season again!  My team won it all last year, and of course I'm looking for them not only to repeat, but threepeat.  I think it's about time.  But even if they don't, there's still baseball on the radio, available seats at the nearest ballpark, and seven more months of my favorite game.  You can read more from me about baseball over at my baseball blog, From the Bleachers.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri


  • It's school project time, and I recall my high school science project.  I made a contraption that would execute various bells and whistles and whatnot, and ultimately ignite a home-made fuse made with home-made gun powder, the ingredients for which I easily picked up at the local chemical supply warehouse.  I called it "The Time Bomb."  Of course it only went as far as lighting a fuse.  If I were in high school and tried that today, I'd be in Gitmo faster than you could say "boom."
  • This morning I went out into the back yard to kick the dog and suddenly remembered we didn't have a dog.
  • I picked the worst day of the year to be out of beer.  So, excuse me while I slip out to the store.
  • Okay, back from the store.  Some guy cut me off and I'm glad my kid's bat was still in my car from baseball practice.  I hope nobody got my plate numbers.
  • For dinner one night this week, I dumped a bunch of hot sauce on my mashed potatoes and gravy.  I would recommend this to every red-blooded American.  Or Canadian, for that matter.
  • My "free" forced upgrade phone died within a week after I got it, then my second one died after only ten weeks.  The third one is having issues, too.  Phone curse?
  • I really wanted to link to some Marilyn Manson for a good example of grown-up evangelical music, but I chickened out at the last minute and pasted this instead.
  • [Update: yeah, some of my above bullet points are wacky.  Twisted April Fool humor, I guess]