Archive for April, 2010

Kids in Church

April 28th, 2010 No comments

I was recently at a conference where I was startled to notice this sign on the doors to the worship center:

No Kids or Drinks

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

National Day of Prayer – One Opinion

April 28th, 2010 1 comment

Earlier this month, Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that a national day of prayer is an unconstitutional call to religious action. Since the ruling, atheist and religious groups have been arguing for and against both the ruling and the national day of prayer itself.

Many people of faith, especially Christians, have seen the ruling as a further whittling away of the status of faith in society. “First,” the logic goes, “they came for prayer in schools, then high school baccalaureates, then public nativity scenes at Christmas, and so forth, leading to this latest ruling against the national day of prayer.”

I, too, was disappointed by the ruling, but not because it whittled away Christianity. Christianity doesn’t need help from judges. Christianity doesn’t need an act of congress or a presidential proclamation.

Historically, the Church has flourished most when it had the least help from the state. Remember how the Church grew in its first couple of centuries. It began as a tiny handful of followers of a crucified rabbi in a backwater province, and became the most numerous religion in the world’s greatest empire — and did so despite official neglect, and frequent persecution, at the hands of the state. Or, more recently, consider how the underground Church grew so dramatically in China under Mao.

By contrast, the Church’s lowest moments have occurred when it was most tightly connected with the state. The crusades, the inquisition, the Thirty Years’ War between Protestants and Catholics, even Hitler’s domesticated “German Christian” church in Nazi Germany — all these occurred when the Church sought the power of the state and so became entangled with it.

No, if this ruling will harm anything, it will be our nation. Certainly the Church will not suffer, for there is no power in all creation – Jesus said not even the gates of Hades — that will prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18).

It isn’t my place to argue the constitutionality of a national day of prayer. I leave that to lawyers. But as a believer, I am called to pray for my country. “Fear God,” Peter writes, and “honor the Emperor.” In Jeremiah 29, the prophet calls Jewish exiles to pray even for Babylon. Regardless how the legal issue plays out, please join me and other people of faith next week in praying to the Lord for our nation.

(Originally published in the Hi-Desert Star, April 28, 2010.)

Categories: living Tags: , ,

Dealing with the Devil

April 26th, 2010 No comments

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10

As a rule, Presbyterians don’t talk much about the devil. But this month, we’re going to begin reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in the pastor’s Bible study. The book imagines a correspondence between a senior demon and a younger apprentice, as they plot the damnation of their “patient.”

Pop culture tells us how people make deals with the devil. It says people sell their souls and obtain worldly success in exchange for eternal damnation. These stories are often accompanied by convincing details: the contract is signed in blood, or is executed at midnight at a crossroads.

Scripture paints a more complicated picture than pop culture. While there are some points of agreement, the picture is certainly nuanced. On the one hand, Psalm 10:5 says the ways of the wicked prosper at all times. On the other hand, the Psalmist recounts in Psalm 32 how his body wasted away before he confessed his sin, but now God has become his hiding place and preserver. He concludes with the observation that “many are the torments of the wicked.”

We may share the Psalmist’s mixed feelings. We, too, can think of successful people who, if not utterly wicked, seem to live lives far from the will of God — and yet they seem happy and fulfilled. This can drive us to discount the present and focus entirely on the afterlife. “They’re living high now,” we think, “but someday they will be brought low.”

True as that may be, it isn’t really helpful. First, Peter reminds us the Lord “is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). We can hardly desire damnation for those God wants to be saved.

But second, God doesn’t want us to be focused on our eternal reward. Instead, God wants us to change our definition of success. If the wicked seem to prosper, our definition of success is false. “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” (Matt 16:26)

The danger, though, is that we should turn our backs not on the world but on the present. If we focus all our effort and our obedience on a reward we only be able to enjoy in heaven, we have become like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son, who complains he has “worked like a slave” for the Father, but lived miserably (“you never gave me a goat to celebrate”) (see Luke 15:25-32).

God doesn’t want us to be miserable. Jesus came that “we might have life, and in abundance.” My prayer is that as we read Screwtape together, we can gain a better perspective about that kind of abundant living. I hope to see you there!

Categories: living Tags: , , ,

Anybody have a PC to spare?

April 15th, 2010 No comments

We’ve had a number of problems with the secretary’s PC lately.

Crash 1 - Windows PC

The infamous Blue Screen of Death

It’s doing this a lot. A whole lot.

If you have a not-too-obsolete PC you could spare, we could certainly put it to work in the office.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,