Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are YOU Berean?

Acts 17:11
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day
to see if what Paul said was true.

The Bereans are one of my favorite peoples that Paul ministered to while on his journeys! Not just because they received his message but more than that, they investigated for themselves what the Scriptures said. In other words, they went to the source, the best and last word-Scripture!

One of my pet peeves is that people quote or otherwise express opinions without first checking the source for themselves. Many go and "eagerly receive" a message from the pulpit and then implement it without first studying for themselves what the Word really says. After all, the pastor IS a man of God isn't he?

In this age of information overload this really puzzles me. Today, we have access to so much more than did the Bereans and yet we hear something-whether from a leader or a commentator or some YouTube video and take it as truth without SEARCHING for ourselves!

About the Bereans

BEREA [beh REE ah] — a city of Macedonia about 73 kilometers (45 miles) west of Thessalonica (modern Salonika). On his first missionary journey, the apostle Paul preached at Berea (Acts 17:10) with much success. The Bereans were "more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica," because they "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

The Berean Jews were "more fair minded" (or of more NOBLE CHARACTER) because they valued truth and so daily tested Paul's teaching against their standard of truth, the O.T. The Thessalonian Jews had been more concerned with the number of Greeks who showed respect for Judaism than with truth.

What this says to me is that they took personal responsibility to find out the truth for themselves instead of taking the word of another. Like the Bereans, it is my opinion that we should search out the truth, whether in Scripture study, in the news, on television and yes, even on the internet! Especially on the internet.

Going even further, just as when studying our Bible, consider motives, customs, and culture!

Before you vote…

Getting more to my point…we're in the last days of an election season. Needless to say its pretty ferocious out there as politicians scramble to get your vote. It is said (and yeah, I've checked sources) that this year more money has been spent than ever before to win the privilege of representing you in Washington D.C.

The airwaves (and the internet) are full of all kinds of negativity and ugliness as far as I can see. My hope is that, regardless of how you may vote-GET OUT AND VOTE! Going further, I pray you will not just take the words of a well crafted ad, or a popular commentator or even a news story and especially NOT a video found on YouTube. I pray instead that you will be Berean-MORE FAIR MINDED and listen to all sides (even those you disagree with J ) before going to the polls next Tuesday. Making a truly sincere and informed decision is your choice.Don't be swayed by those that tickle your ears-check it out for yourself!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

…the cruelest month

I've been pretty uncommunicative of late. It's just that I really don't like September. I know it seems strange to not like a "month". It's really just a way that we mark the passing of time, of years, of seasons. Nevertheless, I really don't like it when the calendar brings me to this place.

What is really strange is that I know its coming. That right after the hot August nights comes the cooler air heralding the onset of the Fall season. September sees the temperature drop 10% almost overnight. The pool in our neighborhood gets locked up, and the previously welcomed breeze quickly changes to a cooler and more energetic wind that knocks the leaves from the many trees surrounding me.

Oh, I know the reasons. September seems to be when many hurtful things have happened in my past. One, my first marriage, which when ended, left me an insecure, emotionally drained single mother of four. The loss of my dad, in 2003, which was totally unexpected, found me having to acknowledge my own mortality and that yes, I was indeed getting nearer to "leaving the building", with so many dreams left undone.

Of course, you know the saddest one. On September 11, 2001 I was a project manager for a financial firm in the heart of lower Manhattan. The office located about 3 blocks from the World Trade Center. I'm not going to go into all that I saw that day, or how scared I was, or the shock and horror of even the next few days, when I was, at last, home. After all, I DID survive, right? Except for this nagging distaste for September.

So, now you know why I don't like this month.

As the years have passed, and healing continues, I am trying, today to "forgive September". Given all the ugliness, bigotry, and hatred that now surrounds the event that, for a time, brought us all together, it's not easy. Some of our "leaders" are now politicizing what was a time of unity. Even so-called "Christian" folk are saying, proposing and doing horrid things.

Husband and I were talking last evening, as the "Tower Lights" were on for a moment, reflecting brilliantly off the clouds above. The place where the light reflected looked like what I'd seen in countless movies just before something ominous was to happen. As we discussed current events, our lives now, and the political divide, the view from the balcony seemed more and more representative of all that was REALLY accomplished on that morning nine years ago.

Never mind the 3000 that were lost, or the buildings that fell, or even the scars, emotional and physical. As we fight about buildings, books, and the "right" kind of government-the bad guys won. They have us at each other's throats, and we are divided. Dare I say it? I imagine that those who attacked us on 9/11/2001 are looking at the news and congratulating each other "mission accomplished".

Quoting from scripture (Luke 11:17), Abraham Lincoln said it best; "A house divided against itself cannot stand". Of course he was talking about slavery, but isn't the fear-mongering also a type of slavery? Isn't feeling that others are evil because they are different a kind of slavery? And isn't looking back to "the way it was" also a prison? Isn't "my way or the highway" a kind of fence that prohibits moving forward, and keeps us from the peace and unity that really IS what we desire?

Ah well, I'll be glad when September passes.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What would Jesus say about Islamic Center near the WTC site?

What was, initially, a local (NYC) issue has now become media frenzy throughout our great country. I've especially seen it become a political furor, and no wonder, as it IS an election year.

Of course you must have guessed by now that I'm referring to the "mosque" NEAR the former World Trade Center site or "Ground Zero". As the uproar has festered and become a national issue and fodder for politicians to raise their voices, I have become increasingly discouraged that so many of my fellow Christians seem to have forsaken some of the basic tenets and teachings of our Lord. In fact, my heart breaks and I wonder "What would Jesus say?"

Some background :

I am a survivor of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, working at Wall St. and Broadway…getting caught in the "lookie-loo" stream that tried to take me nearer while I fought to get far far away. I got caught in the debris of both fallen towers, have scars to this day of burns suffered, and that's just the physical stuff. I saw horrors never before seen on an NYC street and I still look up when I hear a plane nearby. Mentally and emotionally, while I have healed, there is still hurt. My balcony looks out across the Hudson River where there is now a hole in the skyline. Ok…hoping you get the picture, While I didn't personally lose a loved one, I have a sense of their pain. I "get it" OK. That being said, these same folks who are calling the actual WTC site "holy ground" have held up construction at the site for various and sundry reasons. In part, IMHO because they really never got any closure. Truly I hurt for them.

All that being said, over the years whenever a politician wants to get attention, or express outrage we hear "Remember 9/11" or "national security"

What most distresses me is the huge negative response from many of my fellow Christians. It seems to me that, while still calling themselves followers of Christ, their loyalty to their favorite politician has blinded them, or at least given them some selective memory. It distresses me that a church in Florida is holding a "Koran burning party" . I don't know enough about this church to comment on their beliefs, but I bet these same folks would be outraged at a "Bible burning celebration"!!! Jesus said we are to LOVE our enemies! Matthew 5:44–48 Where is the victory in vilifying those whose beliefs are not our own? And really-are ALL Muslims our enemies? I really have to wonder if these folks have ever read the Koran! Even MORE scary is that I would like to ask if they've ever truly read what Jesus taught!!!

Have folks who protest this building, or other mosques in other parts of the country given any thought to the truth that Jesus died for them too? John 3:16 (please note the word "WORLD") How would these same feel if we, as Christians were the underdog in this? Didn't Jesus say, love thy neighbor AS thyself? Matthew 22:37-40. My question and one I believe Jesus might ask is "WHERE IS THE LOVE?" As Christians, isn't that at the very heart of all we believe in? Have so many lost sight of the truth that God is sovereign and in control? 1 Peter 2:13–17 I really and truly resent those who claim the fellowship of Jesus Christ and yet have so much HATE! And Jesus warned them too! Matthew 7:15–23 . In my ears I hear from these protesting Christians "Lord Lord, didn't we protest mosques, burn others holy books and kill Muslims in Your name"

It hurts that so much real HATE SPEECH is out there because someone is a practicing Muslim. SO WHAT if they are! Some politically motivated groups say that our President Obama is Muslim. Again, SO WHAT! This one is, IMHO, just a disguise for those who are really upset that a black man is president and/or that their political party is not in power. Check it out! Never mind the fact that before he was elected these same folks were outraged that he was a 20 year(?) member of a church that featured a pastor who had, on occasion, spoke in terms that were also hateful.

All that being said, let's get on to some facts:

First, it is true that those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and many others are indeed Muslim. That does NOT mean that all Muslims are terrorists! I submit that these use their faith as an excuse to force their own beliefs on others and it's not really about religion but about POWER. Throughout history, all three major religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have done the same. Check it out people!!

Remember that many of the Muslim faith are also descendants of Abraham-and blessed by God Genesis 17:20. It amazes me that so many Christians who embrace Israel as a "cause" forget this truth from Scripture.

People of the Muslim religion have been in our country practically since its founding.

The Cordoba Initiative and Imam Rauf are of the Sufism sect. A very moderate "denomination" of the Islamic faith. Check it out for yourself. Use your intelligence and do PERSONAL research people, instead of listening to all the talking heads whose REAL motive is television ratings, getting re-elected, etc. In other words $MONEY$, POWER, INFLUENCE which of course leads to more of the same if they win.

Imam Rauf has worked with the State Dept of both political parties to foster a better understanding and dialog with our Muslim neighbors. Remember Jesus teaching about peace and peacemakers? Matthew 5:9

Summing up I am feeling very ashamed right now. Ashamed of those who blindly protest without practicing the Berean method (Acts 17:10–11) and do the research for themselves! Ashamed of those who, under the guise of "American patriotism" foster hate! Ashamed of those who, in the name of Jesus Christ, burn books that others regard as holy! While I empathize with those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, I believe its time to FORGIVE and get on with it. Jesus said a LOT about forgiveness too. Matthew 18:21–22

I hope that this has given readers some food for thought. I am interested in hearing opposing views too.




Saturday, July 24, 2010

Consider This: The Power of Words

Prominent in the news this week was the story of USDA employee, Shirley Sherrod, who was fired after a blogger/commentator posted a video snippet of a speech she gave 20 years ago without first reviewing the entire speech. In other words, Ms. Sherrod's words were taken so far out of context that it ended in her being fired! Half truths compounded by irresponsible laxness in fact-finding, led to a major change in her life.

I am not encouraging a political discussion or even commentary on the media's failure to thoroughly investigate before broadcasting in this age of 24/7 news What I DO want to discuss is the art and science of communication in this technology driven, socially networked era.

A little personal history…
My own experience with internet communication began way back before the advent of the WWW, SocNets(social networks), and even email as we understand it today began while I was in the USN, using Arpanet to send email and files. Honestly, at the time I had no real understanding of how it worked. What I DID know is that what was sent was reviewed, edited and scrutinized by lots of folks before that button was pushed.

Later, while in college, I was doing research for a paper. Earlier, my first PC was a TRS80-III and now I needed something much better. With the new computer: a sign up floppy for CompuServe. Needless to say I now wanted a modem! The fastest out there was a 1200 Baud; and yes we used a phone line/dial up!

Inadvertently, I discovered an area of CompuServe called "CB Simulator". Essentially a group of "channels" of various interests, where people actually chatted Real-time! In case you're wondering-this was back in 1988 or so. OK so I'm aging myselfJ. (BTW, this is also where my beloved and I first met- A long time before eHarmony!)

More recently, I spend most mornings as a volunteer at CHURCH Online which features chat to accompany the Worship Experience. I serve with a great group of people from all over the world. To make it really exciting, we also get many who discover the ministry via AdWords after searching for uh, other things.

Many of our visitors and volunteers are relative newbies to Church Chat, though they often have experience with IM or some other text-based live chat application. Of course there's also FaceBook and Twitter, where we can share our lives in 140 characters or less!

In recent days, how we communicate in this chat has led me to discover what I believe is a problem in every day communication…which is not thinking before we share as well as not fully realizing that the people on the other end may take something we type in a way other than what was intended.

In the olden days when it was all ASCII text we used a lot of the same emoticons that are in use today. These little symbols coupled with abbreviations (<s>mile, <gr>in, etc) helped us to put our words in context, giving them the intended "flavor" we were trying to express. Additionally, fully understanding the ENTIRE conversation taking place was a given before pushing the ENTER key. In other words, scrolling back to see what was taking place before and ALWAYS keeping it in context.

Lessons from Scripture

James ( James 1:19 ) gave some great advice that I'd like to see practiced more often, in all our online communications: "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry". Later, in James 3:1-12 he provides a lesson about how powerful our words can be.

What may seem a quick, "witty" line may be mis-understood by others new to the environment. While regulars know what is going on, visitors don't. Even those who frequent the room can be taken out of context by others who are also regulars, if they just entered.

The bottom line- THINK before you push that enter key! Be aware that the words you type may not be how others see and understand them. Get a grasp of the conversation in its entirety-not just the immediate lines you see. Consider how others who aren't familiar with you or the conversation may perceive your words.

Whether its Twitter, Facebook, IM, or a chat room consider your words! Philippians 4:8 is something to take to heart as we communicate, regardless of the medium. Following this advice can never go wrong!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Christmas in July

Ever had one of those spontaneous and uncontrollable urges to hear a song NOW? I'm talking about a real and powerful urge to drop everything and hear it! Today it happened to me and I'd like to share a little of how it came about.

My daily devotional readings for this year come from The 365 Day Devotional Commentary by Larry Richards (a part of my Logos Library). Today's reading begins the transition from OT to NT with Matthew 1-2.

Matthew begins, first showing Jesus' human lineage and then quoting from Old Testament prophecy to show that Jesus IS indeed King of the Jews. The long promised Messiah.

As I read, I came to the passage where Matthew refers to Isaiah 7:14, and that one Word that got me going: Immanuel! (And I bet you know the song, too.)

A little background: This last Christmas was my first time serving as a volunteer at church during the season. If you don't already know, I serve at LifeChurch.tv-Church ONLINE. Their presentation of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" has, so I've heard, become a classic! And THIS is the song that played in my brain to the point where I just needed to stop what I was doing and play it.

I located it on You Tube, and closed my eyes and started singing, still in my head. Very soon, this just wasn't enough..I needed to stand. Then raise my hands in praise, then dancing-and praising and worshiping until tears fell, and I cried out in love for all He is, for all He's done, and for all the promises He made!

You see, I've been going through one of those dry spells. Not really a "valley" or dark time. Intellectually I know and believe that our Lord is always with me. Daily, I spend time in reading and study of the Word, I pray (sorta) and I journal. Truth be told, I have just been going through the motions lately. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. You know what I mean-impersonal, unconnected.

And so today, led by the Spirit, I celebrated Christmas! Not just the baby in the manger, but the truth that God IS with us-with ME, right here, right now, all day, EVERY day. So often, I think, especially at Christmastime, we focus on this wonderful blessing and all too quickly get back to the mundane. Why can't we celebrate all day every day? After all, He is with us 24/7/365.

The glow of that brief time, fully surrendered in loving worship has faded. Ah how I'd love to just stay in His presence like that. Now I know how the Apostle John felt on Patmos-to be so thoroughly enthralled by our Lord! And like John my heartfelt prayer is AMEN! Come Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Looking Within to Look Ahead

I can hardly believe it myself but it's been 6 months since I've bothered to blog about this road called "life"

Back then I mentioned that the last day of the year was a day of reflection on what was behind, and goal-setting and planning in anticipation of what would lie ahead. As I wrote I also mentioned that seeing as how I'm now in the "mature" stage of life, that I had come to accept that I just couldn't do it all as I had in the past. While I said it, and believed it then, well, ACCEPTING it just didn't come as easily!
Soon after I wrote that and the family departed after the holidays, I was all excited and ready to get to all those things I mentioned. Well, that too quickly went by the wayside and my sense of personal integrity very quickly diminished with it.

There were a number of things that soon altered the path of those grand plans. First, the "Margin" series at church which really brought home the truth that MY plans had none. OK, so back to the drawing board…and just when I thought I "got it", along comes the "Forgotten Virtues" series that again blew my seemingly wonderful goals and ideas out of the water and me into a spiraling emotional and spiritual crisis. As I cried within, and took it the One who knows me best, He provided a bit of guidance as I was reading one day. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says "Examine yourself…test yourself…" …and so, since then, that's exactly what I've been doing, even now.

As to accepting that I'm leaving one season of life and entering into a new adventure-well, it still isn't easy. I feel the aches, and can forecast the weather by them too! I see the wrinkles starting to form around my eyes and realize I'm looking more and more like my mom. I'm also learning to appreciate the unscheduled afternoon nap which I find is needed because I can't seem to sleep for more than 4 hours a night. And most of all, as I continue to get used to this "getting old" thing, I am (most of the time) giving myself permission to stop trying to do so much!

I, like most people, I think; am my own worst critic. I'm still quite a perfectionist in all I do and with that comes the procrastination. After all, if I can't do it right, put it off until I can! I set lofty (can you say "unrealistic") goals then beat myself up when I fall on my face. Did I mention that this has been a pattern throughout my adult life? Consequently, as another year and another birthday passed, I felt even more and more unworthy, useless, hopeless with each day that I didn't accomplish what I wanted!

Along the way, the lessons I've learned are many. The greatest one is that I am loved with an everlasting love just as I am. I am accepted by God and need only love Him and my neighbor-even as He loves me-UNCONDITIONALLY! That being said, I've been a lot more into the Word, and more disciplined in prayer. Each day I ask only to accomplish what I can and trust God that this is all I can do and more so NEED to do. Best of all, I'm starting to like this "getting old" thing. There is a certain freedom in going slower, doing what I can and most of all believing that I'm right where God wants me.

My prayer is that you all have a safe and wonderful Independence Day. But remember that our only real freedom comes from knowing Christ! (Gal. 5:1 & Col. 2:8)

If you would like to see the messages from Church ONLINE that I referred to check out the archive