Monday, April 15, 2013

Church Assassins

Roy Williams is an advertising genius. I first met Roy by reading his book, Wizard of Ads. There’s no way for me to describe it, so just go buy it. When you read it, don’t hurry through. Savor his words, think, and gain some wisdom. I’ve been reading Roy’s weekly article called, “MondayMorning Memo,”  for longer than I can remember. He usually addresses business, advertising, or some combination of the two, but quite often, his words have application beyond his intended subject. I don’t know if he’s aware of it or not, but his articles often have direct and significant application to church and spiritual matters. I suspect Roy knows this, because it’s not completely uncommon for him to quote scripture, or at least make reference to some Bible verse. I don’t have a clue what his religious or faith background is, but Roy Williams is one of those people worth reading because he will make you think, and then he will take what you’ve been comfortable in and mess it all up for you. Usually, it’s for the better.

This week’s article, read just this morning, is a winner among winners. I say that because it’s one of those articles with amazing application to Christians.  I’ll try to explain in this post.

A little background first. Many years ago, way back in the 90s, I used to be quite active in what was known as “email lists.” You joined a list, got a list email address to which you sent email messages, and your message was then sent out to everybody else on the list. They could ignore you or respond with comments, questions, arguments, etc. In the beginning, it was quite good. Thoughtful, intelligent people with great ability to write quickly and informatively shared information and dug into topics that challenged and expanded everybody’s knowledge base. I seriously loved the early days of email lists.

Then something happened. The Internet began to catch on. When that happened, email lists got some publicity and lots of new people began to join. That was OK for a while, but slowly, things began to change. Another cyber phenomenon occurred, a little thing called a “flame war!” Basically, that was when somebody took it upon themselves to trash a fellow list member. Condescending, accusatory, inflammable language replaced reasonable discourse, and discussions were often impossible. Mailing lists began to be no fun.

Somewhere in the 90s, I even moderated of one of the most popular mailing lists among “Restoration Movement” people. I came to hate it. Instead of spending my time encouraging people to join and participate, I spent my time refereeing the list, trying to maintain civility, and threatening to put people in “time out!” It’s possible there were even a few people who were banned from the list because they were completely unreasonable.

So, enter Roy Williams and today’s “Monday Morning Memo.” Understand, Roy is writing about social trends and his target is business and how those trends affect the business world. But his words hit home because he describes something that has been going on among Christians, at least as far back as email lists, and now afflicts social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and other modern Internet inventions.

I belong to a “group” on Facebook that is made up of a lot of preachers. It’s not all preachers, you understand, but a sizeable number of the group members are in church ministry of one kind or another. On occasions, I’ve found myself in trouble with the moderator. I’m sure he’s got his explanation of why I was in trouble, and I’ve definitely got mine. You see, in my view, there are some people who get to say unnecessary things, using inflammable language, to demean and cut down others, accuse them of vile intentions and actions, and to stifle any dissenting opinion or comment. I’d bet that’s not what the moderator would say, but I’m willing to let him have his opinion. The trouble happens when I bring up the problem. If I point out what’s happening, and plead for peace and reasonable discussion, I’m the one that gets in trouble, not the people attacking with their words. Understand, this post is not a complaint about getting into trouble on a Facebook group. I’m a big boy and I can deal with these things just fine, thanks.

But I bring that up as a real-life, current illustration of the problem Roy Williams is addressing. One of the reasons it’s such a problem is that I don’t think people realize what they’re doing. I think it’s become fashionable to bash and trash people with whom one disagrees. Civility and respect are infrequent qualities to modern day discussions. We see this daily in politicians and public figures. To make matters worse, whenever anyone points out the problem, that person often gets the “penalty flag” thrown at them.

Here’s a graphic that Roy Williams used in today’s article that illustrates what he says is the “pendulum of society,” and it’s swinging toward the bad side.
In fact, if he’s right, we’re in for another ten years of this hostile atmosphere before it begins to swing the other way. I guess we might as well settle in and get ready. It’s likely not to be pretty. He says we're headed toward the "Witch Hunt!"

The question is: “Does it have to be this way?” The answer is both “yes,” and “no.” It’s “yes” in the sense that we can’t do much about societal shifts and swings. The world has a way of moving on its own and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it.

But if you ask if this is how Christians should behave, then the answer is, “No!” Christians are supposed to operate on the “love” principle. 1 Corinthians 13 is a great chapter to read if a person would like to discover principles for relating to others. Matthew 7:12 is still called the “golden rule” because it’s the operating principle that would immediately bring civility and reasonable treatment into any conversation, because it calls on us to treat other people in the way we, ourselves, would like to be treated. You might find a masochist that enjoys being bashed and trashed, but most normal people don’t really enjoy it.

14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
 Catch Paul’s language, please. “. . . if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” I once saw a cartoon of a dog that chased his tail, caught it and ate himself up! The cartoon was funny, but it’s not so funny when it’s people eating others alive.

Christians must set the bar higher. And if you think I’m complaining and leaving myself out, as if I’m some kind of innocent bystander, you’d be wrong. I am a Christian, and I’m also just as prone to get caught up in this hostility as anybody else. So when I say, “Christians,” I’m talking about all of us, including myself. We must not only set the bar higher, we must be the ones who actually reach for it. If there is one group of people in the world who demonstrates love, respect, and honor for others, it must be us. It must be us because Jesus expects it from his disciples, and we are his disciples.

Kindness, gentleness, grace, and mercy are all words that must describe us. Even when taking on issues and even people with whom we vociferously disagree, we must resist the temptation to follow the pendulum of society. If it ever moves back the other way, may it find us waiting right where we ought to be.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Little Contemplation

44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. — Luke 22:44 (NASB95)
Contemplate the drops of blood, the blows in the face, the persistence of the whip, the crown of thorns, the derision and spitting. – Bonaventure, on understanding the crucifixion. "Faith in the Middle Ages," Christian History, no. 49.
It’s a mind-boggling thing to contemplate the suffering of Jesus. It’s something that can consume a person’s life. How much love must it have taken? Did Jesus really know what he was getting himself into? Was there fear behind his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane? What did Jesus expect to happen? Did he know the pain of the crucifixion? Why did he sweat so that it became like drops of blood? Really! What’s that all about?

Did it have something to do with the intensity of his prayers? Was the stress and agony of what he was about to face so great that it manifested itself in this startling way? Was it really the “weight of the world” on his shoulders? Why would a sinless man die for others? This way?

Did he really feel the sins of the world? If he did, how did he ever bear up under that burden to even get to the cross?

All that and more are worthy thoughts, but it’s just part of the kind of full contemplation needed. You see, all that Jesus went through was for me. You, too, of course! But contemplation is a very personal kind of thing. So I have to ask some different questions.

Do I have a clue as to why Jesus would do all this, endure all this, suffer this way for me? How much must he love me? How strong is the need for God’s mercy and grace to flow through him to me? What does this say about his desire for me to overcome Satan and sin? What does he really have in store for me?

Do I fully appreciate what God’s Son did for me? Is that even possible? How should I respond to these things? Would anything I do be enough?

Oh, and so far, I’ve just asked a few surface questions. And I haven’t even gotten to the empty tomb. Wow! I’m not even sure where to start. The more I think, the more fantastic it gets. Maybe the simplest statements are best. Jesus died and rose again. Contemplate that!

Higher Ground

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” — Revelation 1:8 (NASB95)
08-06-2008 11:51:59 PMI just purchased MEdia Net Unlimited for 15.00,is it really unlimited???Re: Is unlimited really unlimited?
‎08-07-2008 12:33:38 AMYes its pretty much unlimited as long as its used on an allowed handset (can't be used with smartphones, PDAs, laptops, iPhones etc as they have their own plan requirements) and as long as you stay withint the Terms and Conditions here paying close attiontion to the Prohibited and Permissible uses section:– Copied from AT&T Community Forums
That exchange reminds me of my Internet provider years ago who offered an “unlimited” service. Many of us who took advantage of were shocked to receive a notice from the provider that some were “abusing” the unlimited service by staying connected for too long. Back then, we won that argument and the provider had to either back down, or change “unlimited” to mean what they really intended to sell us.

Unfortunately, you must now pay attention to the highly defined terms in the small print, because “unlimited” might not mean what you think. Now this plays right into a discussion about God. Lots of people reject the idea of an “unlimited” God. They will argue that God can’t make square circles, for example. Don’t fall for that. God is also a God that operates by truth and reason. There’s no such thing as a square circle, and the fact that God can’t make one doesn’t detract from God’s unlimited power.

But God doesn’t always do what we expect him to do. We ask things of him and he doesn’t deliver, so we figure either he doesn’t care or can’t respond. Either way, we’re questioning his unlimited abilities. Be careful with that. If God is truly unlimited in knowledge, power, etc., then he just might know something you don’t.

The real question when it comes to God is not so much his unlimited nature as it is our faith. What do you believe about God? Can you accept the evidence in scripture, and God’s own claim to unlimited knowledge and power? It’s a big step. Big steps are easy to stumble on. But big steps often lead to higher ground.


26 It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. — Lamentations 3:26 (NASB95)
A church in England has recorded "the sound of silence" on to a CD which has become a surprise hit with its congregation. Members of St Peter's Church in Sussex, England recorded "a little bit of the silence" of the building's atmosphere. The recording features the ambient sound of footsteps, voices, background traffic noise—but mostly just silence.
Robin Yarnton, a church technician at St Peter's, said: "It does what it says on the tin. Silence is all you get. Mostly people have said it's nice and they like it, and that it's quiet and peaceful."
The full CD features a 30-minute track, with a spoken introduction, closing words, and 28 minutes of silence. An article in a Taiwanese newspaper called the CD a "half-hour of absolutely nothing." But it's more accurate to say that it's a recording of something valuable that we've lost in our frantic lives—silence. According to the church, customers from across the world have been snatching up the recording. – Chris Parsons, "St. Peter's Church Records CD of 'the Sound of Silence,'" Yahoo News (10-18-12)
This article caught my attention simply because of something that happened today. I ordered an upgrade to a computer program I use. The DVD came today, so I popped it into the DVD drive expecting to discover some new features on a program I use almost daily. Instead, I got nothing! I opened Windows Explorer to see if I could manually start the install program. There was nothing there! The DVD was blank! They sent me a program disk with nothing on it. I called tech support and discovered the problem. They sent me the Apple version instead of the Windows version. The disk was full of information, but since it was the wrong format, it might as well have been empty.

I don’t think I’d spring for half-hour of nothing for money! Then again, I think I understand what these folks are trying for. Have you noticed how much noise there is? Even in the middle of the night, it’s not totally quiet. Traffic, sirens, booming stereos, airplanes, loud people, even the wind! It’s a noisy world. Wouldn’t a little peace and quiet be nice?

This is the problem that keeps a lot of people from knowing God and following Jesus. Their world is so noisy, they can’t hear a thing God is trying to say. Jesus gets drowned out by the booming racket that plagues our world. Even Christians can get so distracted by the noise they can’t hear their Lord. Try for a little quiet this week. You might like what you hear!