Monthly Archives: April 2007

Memorable Messages

Sticking with the memory theme. I have heard probably thousands of sermons in my life. Or at least it seems like that many. Yet I remember only a few. Sure, a lot of the messages are in my heart and head somewhere. And the information comes out when I really need it.

The sermons that I remember usually hit a deep connection with me, were very novel, had a memorable illustration or stuck out for some other quirky reason. I have doubted the real significance of sermons as a communication method for a number of years.

While sermons have their place, I believe too many people put too much significance on them. People learn best through interaction. Sermons typically engage only two of your five senses. Jesus taught through a variety of methods. Sermons were only one tool that He used, but they have become the predominant teaching method in most churches today.

People can come in and out of churches for years and experience very little transformation. This can be the case even if you have a great preacher in the pulpit. The best way to communicate God’s message is through a variety of teaching methods. And even then, it takes a willingness to hear for anything significant to happen.

Here are a few of the sermons/teachings that I remember the best:

  • Nothing really from my childhood years. I remember a lot of Bible stories. 
  • Carter Gate’s teaching on James 3 – the tongue is a restless evil full of deadly poison. Wow! That’s some powerful truth for a middle school boy to hear.
  • None from my high school years.
  • In college, Pastor Bill Moore’s preaching on the genealogy of Jesus. It took guts to preach something that boring. Yet he made it come alive.
  • Rev. Billy Dempsey, my college campus minister, preached on Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. The first thing that Nehemiah did was pray and intercede for others.
  • Rev. Billy Dempsey preaching on Hebrews – especially chapters 10-11.
  • Pastor Don Coleman speaking at Commonwealth Chapel on racial reconciliation. He said it must first be about Jesus and not people in order to work.
  • Pastor Don frequently spoke about Christians needing to “receive God’s love.”
  • My message about God’s glory being everywhere and using pictures to facilitate the youth group discussion.
  • Paris Reidhead’s sermon about humanistic ministry titled, “Ten Shekels & a Shirt.”
  • Zack Poonen’s “Real Jesus” sermon series. Visit www.sermonindex.net.
  • Pastor Don’s  ‘famous’ Biblical quote, “The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.” 
  • My message on negative thoughts and bad influences where I shredded magazines and destroyed a TV with a metal baseball bat.
  • Dr. Michael Brown’s “Go & Sin No More” message. 
  • Rob Bell’s “Dust teaching from the Nooma video series.
  • Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Sabbath.  
  • Pastor Fred Michaux’s talk about healing. Faith and hope are the two wheels on the bicycle. He was very real about his process of doubt even as a man of God. That made this message a memorable conversation.
  • Pastor Dave Simiele’s illustration of the hole in the wall covered by the poster. It made me  think about what in our lives do we like to keep hidden even though it is still there.

Trying to Remember

Have you ever stopped and tried to think about what you can remember from childhood? It’s kind of strange the things that we can remember. Some things just seem to linger either because they were novel, scary, exciting, unpleasant, really good or just downright weird.

If you have never tried this experiment, it’s fun. See what you can come up with.

Here are some of my memories… for better or for worse:

  • Trying to kiss Jennifer Valent in kindergarten and getting in trouble for it.
  • The day in kindergarten that the teacher told me that I could sing. I never thought I could until that moment.
  • Speech therapy classes and my fight to overcome a bad stuttering problem. My parents prayed for me and I got better. For a while, it was horrible because kids made fun of me a lot. 
  • My mother’s incredible cooking. Her constant prayers for me. 
  • When I discovered that I couldn’t see the blackboard clearly, I knew it meant one thing – glasses. Oh, the horror! 
  • The day my dad mistakingly gave me vinegar to drink for lunch. He thought it was apple juice.
  • Playing on the bunker in the woods. We had great battles back near the creek.
  • Getting attacked by a drug-crazed motorcyclist who assaulted me, my mom and my grandmother.
  • Leroy – my imaginary friend in second grade. He was a big black guy who I thought was my guardian angel.
  • The night that I went downstairs and saw my brother smashing all of his records. I think he re-dedicated his life to Jesus that night. 
  • Taking a dump in my back yard and then getting a spanking for it.
  • The day that I asked Jesus into my heart at GABC.
  • Winning the Christian character award at school and then feeling jealous of another student. 
  • Getting “10 thousand yuan” from my parents after a trip. I thought that I was rich and was planning what I would buy with my wealth. I was devasted when my parents told me it was worth about two bucks.
  • Going to Bush Gardens with Granny and Gramps.
  • Playing capture the flag in recess.
  • A major fight with my dad that caused him to lock himself in his room and cry. I had never felt so bad in my entire life.
  • Getting kicked in the privates during a recess soccer game. To this day, I hate soccer. It took me minutes to catch my breath.
  • Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Carter, Mr. Shelar, Mr. Sawaya – my best teachers growing up.
  • Carter Gate’s sermon on James 3. The only sermon that I remember from my childhood because I thought God had written the chapter just for me.
  • Running away from home because my parents wouldn’t let me watch TV. I didn’t get very far, just the neighbor’s dog house. I talked to their dog for hours and then went home when I got cold.
  • The day that I was baptized in church. That was my first sermon.
  • Trading baseball cards and getting a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie.
  • Using the word “Pussy” at my “Christian” school and getting in trouble for it.
  • Snoopie – my dog. He stank all the time. But he was lovable.
  • Wining my first Ranger of the Year competition in Royal Rangers.
  • Playing bed football with my dad.
  • My mother telling me that God would make sure that I always get caught when I lie after getting caught cheating on a test. I never cheated again.
  • Getting attacked by a ravenous dog, and my brother coming to the rescue.
  • Playing sick when my parents were out of town and getting out of school for one day. Sorry Hazie. I shouldn’t have done that.
  • Getting mono and being out of school for two weeks in middle school.
  • Numerous crushes on girls throughout middle school. Names withheld to protect the innocent.
  • Incredible Christmas mornings thanks to my mom.
  • As a child being in the Master’s Plan, a major theatrical production put on at the Carpenter Center.
  • My brother’s green camaro. He let me ride in it once I think. That was the bomb!  
  • Sleep walking and ending up downstairs with a class of milk and half eaten sandwich. Honest, I don’t remember a thing between going to bed and waking up downstairs.
  • Hiking trips with Royal Ranger outpost, especially the long trips. 
  • Going to my first concert with my big brother. It was Degarmo and Key, the ultimate 1980s rock experience.
  • Backyard football at Eric’s house.
  • The day my brother cut his finger off. My mother and I prayed while my dad took Scott to the ER.
  • Gary Redus of the Pirates signing autographs for ALL of the fans at the Diamond.
  • Faking speaking in tongues at a Royal Ranger camp.
  • Meeting Ozzie Smith, my baseball hero.

High school…. some things I try not to remember. 🙂

Neurotheology: Are Humans Hardwired for Faith in God?

CNN has carried a number of religious-oriented articles of late. This one was kind of interesting about scientists studying the human brain and its connection with a person’s faith in God. It seems that there is a new field emerging called neurotheology.  

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/04/04/neurotheology/index.html

I believe the answer to the question posed in the subject head of this post is “Yes.” We all have faith in something, someone or some ideology. We are all worshippers. This is true even for those who don’t believe in God. It’s just that they are their own god.

Great Little Devo Site

Here is a great devotional site that I came across the other day. It has excerpts from My Utmost for His Highest, daily Bible readings, some audio teachings, inspirational thoughts, etc. If you are looking for a great way to start you day, a visit here would be a good idea.

http://www.rbc.org/utmost/index.php

Liberal Bias – Dishonest scales or not?

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”– joked Stephen Colbert last year at the White House’s annual correspondents dinner

Full disclosure: I am a conservative who finds himself getting more liberal as I get older. But I still remain way too conservative for most die-hard liberals. I am a Christian first, which means that Jesus is my sensei. Every other label must come after that.

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I seldom watch TV news. But last night I saw a spot on Fox Newswhile over at a friend’s house. The segment talked about the well-known concept that the media has a liberal media bias. Conservative reporter Bill O’Reilly pointed to a report published last year by researchers from UCLA and the University of Missouri (my Alma mater) that sustained this theory.

Here are a few things that I know about the situtation from my perspective….

  • Most people think they are fair and don’t see themselves as biased. This is true for both those on the left and the right.
  • Our views seem normal to us.
  • The media seems too liberal if someone is a conservative and too right wing if the person is a true liberal. 
  • Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” can be hard to really define. Everyone has their own view of these descriptions. And that makes it difficult to really answer the question if there is a liberal media bias or not. Maybe a better question should ask about the fairness and accuracy of the media not their political
  • Instinctively humans tend to give those who they agree with the benefit of the doubt while people different from them are naturally held to higher levels of scrutiny. This tends to be a defense mechanism to shield us from blame more than it has to do with any other person.
  • Stereotypes are information shortcuts that people use to make snap decisions. We are all somewhat biased whether we want to admit it or not.
  • Everyone is biased if you have brain wave activity. We can’t help it. That’s part of what makes us human.
  • Reporters are people too.
  • You can be biased and still be fair. This is the bigger issue. Is the media fair?
  • Our labels and  show our bias. For example, the term “environmentalist” may not really be accurate. A logger or farm worker and a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) might both describe themselves as nature lovers who want to do the right thing to protect the planet. They each have a different definition for what this looks like. Using the term “environmentalist” to describe someone from NRDC automatically makes the person on the other side of the discussion an “anti-environmentalist.” And that may not be a fair statement. I try to find a more descriptive term like “preservationist” or “naturalist.” It depends on the issue and how both sides measure up.
  • As a journalist who graduated from a major journalism program, most of my classmates were left of center. There were a few conservatives like me at Missouri. But we were a minority.
  • Many of the journalists that I know don’t think they are really biased. They seem to be deceived about this fact. I recognize my bias and have always owned up to it.
  • Even though I am biased, I want to be fair to hear what the others have to say because I can definitely be wrong. This is the best I can do because I believe it is impossible for a rational, thinking person to completely separate themselves from their experiences and biases when reporting on issues. This is because our experiences shape the questions that we ask and who we think to contact.
  • Even if many U.S. reporters tend to be more liberal than the average voter, they are still Americans with a pro-western, pro-capitalism mindset. These people might be considered almost the same as a right winger by people in other parts of the world.
  • I don’t believe that there is an organized media bias where people sit around and pick favorites. Generally, most true journalists try to be as fair as possible unless they are a columnist or pundit. Their desire to  be seen as professional supercedes any political agenda. I simply believe that any real media bias results from human nature not conspiracy.
  • Most journalists, especially in Washington, tend to follow the pack. It can be real easy for something repeated frequently enough to be considered true even though it may not be. Most journalists don’t want to follow the pack and try to be individualistic. But this is harder to do than most realize. 
  • The public’s desire for quick, sound-bite news makes it difficult to report the truth on many issues. The audience/readership simply wouldn’t listen/read long enough to get all the facts. Issues are complex with many variables to consider. And Americans don’t have enough patience for that.
  • The Internet is changing journalism is some interesting ways. Now, everybody has a voice and can be a reporter of their view of what the facts are. This has both benefits and drawbacks.

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MIZZOU NEWS wrote on its Web site, “Applying a novel approach based on frequently used ratings of the liberal or conservative leaning of politicians, a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered that most mainstream media outlets do exhibit a strong liberal bias.”

This MU professor worked with a colleague from UCLA. According to the researchers, all news outlets examined, except for Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times, received a score to the left of, or more liberal than, the estimated position of the average U.S. voter.

I believe the above research to be mostly true while I would argue that many media outlets are fair despite having a liberal bias. And I certainly don’t believe there is any organized bias other than informal peer pressure and a desire to avoid criticism by the boss.

At the end of the day, you have to filter any information that you get. This is true no matter the source. I believe we will all be held responsible one day for the judgements we make. That is why we shouldn’t care more about who wins American Idol than what is going on in the world.

 http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu/page.asp?RelNum=6664http://atmizzou.missouri.edu/feb05/liberalmedia.htm

Good Stewards

Jesus taught a number of times about being a good steward. Sometimes stroking a check to a ministry or charity may not be such a good decision. It all depends on what the organization does with the money. Will the funds be used wisely or not?

I recently came across the following page that provides a bunch of resources to help you check up on what a ministry is doing. It is best to support those organizations that you personally have a connection with. And it always makes sense to do a little homework before adopting a new one.

Of course, prayer is the first check that any Christian should do before any giving at all. For the Christian, charity begins as an act of worship to God. While man is the recipient of the aid, God should get the glory.

May these resources help you.

Biblically Illiterate America

Time Cover

Time‘s cover story this week suggests that the Bible should be taught in public school. Maybe pulling God and the Bible out of schools wasn’t such a good idea after all?

I guess all the violence, drug and alcohol abuse, teen suicide, and discipline issues in schools has convinced some journalists that a godless education may not produce the best students. Among the reasons suggested by Time for teaching the Bible is that many references in pop culture and the media are based on concepts in Scripture. This is true because the Bible touches on real life issues. It is the story of God and mankind. Many key political and cultural movements have been grounded in Biblical concepts. In the United States much of our moral code and our laws stem from the Torah.  

Time commented, “The Bible so pervades Western culture, it says, that it’s hard to call anyone educated who hasn’t at least given thought to its key passages.”

In the effort to avoid a pro Christian bias in public schools, the pendulum has swung the other way. Today any mention of God or the Bible seems to be taboo outside of some religion classes. This attitude has led to biblically illiterate students.

But God does seem to be on the minds of the masses. According to Google, the word “God” ranks very high on its total searches with 403 million, just behind the word “sex” at 412 million.

The Bible is filled with incredible stories that explore ethics, family relations, war, charity, emotional wounds, governments, human history, responsible living, etc. There is a big difference between teaching religion and teaching about it. The outright exclusion of the Bible has robbed students of a book that could help them become a better person.

According to Religious Literacy, many people believe the Bible contains the answers to life’s basic questions. Time reported that only half of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel. For so many people to declare themselves as Christians in this country, it is amazing how biblically illiterate many are.

From history to literature and poetry, the Bible is a book that many would study even if it were not a religious book. So many school districts have decided to avoid the issue altogether by trying to limit the Bible’s exposure in schools. This may be because the decision to teach anything about or involving the Bible could draw criticism from all sides. The evangelical Christians could oppose “misrepresentation” of Scripture by some teachers. Many atheists don’t want to hear about God at all. Some might argue for a number of major holy books to be studied beyond just the Bible.

Scripture has a way of getting to the heart of issues and making people wrestle with deep questions. That seems like it would be a plus for academic institutions. As a Christian, I don’t want to use schools to indoctrinate people beyond their will. Most Christians that I know believe that the call to follow Jesus is a personal decision. Nobody should be forced or pressured into any religous commitment.

Having said that, the exclusion of the Bible is an extreme that has gone too far. It doesn’t make sense from a history, culture, literature or academic perspective. I think that Time is onto something when it suggests that schools consider teaching the Bible.

What do you think?