Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Beliefnet Quiz

About once every week or so I search "Adventist" on Technorati to see who's blogging about my church and what they're writing. The majority of occurrences of the word on blogs are in results from a "Belief-O-Matic" quiz on Beliefnet.com that supposedly tells you what faith group you most closely align with (if you didn't already know). Well, I figured today I'd finally break down, take the quiz, and see how orthodox (not that Orthodox) I am.

After warning me that it assumes no "legal liability" for my "ultimate fate" (nice to know I'm in good hands), the Belief-O-Matic rendered these results:

1. Seventh Day Adventist (100%)

2. Orthodox Quaker (94%)

3. Eastern Orthodox (91%)

4. Roman Catholic (91%)

5. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (88%)

6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (63%)

7. Hinduism (61%)

8. Orthodox Judaism (60%)

9. Islam (48%)

10. Jehovah's Witness (48%)

11. Liberal Quakers (48%)

12. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (46%)

13. Sikhism (44%)

14. Baha'i­ Faith (42%)

15. Unitarian Universalism (38%)

16. Jainism (36%)

17. Mahayana Buddhism (29%)

18. Theravada Buddhism (28%)

19. Reform Judaism (27%)

20. Neo-Pagan (27%)

21. New Age (20%)

22. Secular Humanism (20%)

23. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (18%)

24. Nontheist (15%)

25. Scientology (15%)

26. Taoism (14%)

27. New Thought (11%)

Well, I guess I'm well within the Adventist fold, except that I took the quiz twice. The difference between "Orthodox Quaker (100%)" and what you see here hinges on whether I believe baptism is necessary for salvation or not. Unfortunately the Belief-O-Matic doesn't offer the option of a nuanced answer on that point. Maybe that's a topic for another post...

Vaughan Williams and Herbert

Ralph Vaughan Williams (pronounced "rafe vawn") is one of my favorite composers. His music is rich, British, and evocative. Vaughan Williams probably best known for his Fantasia on Greensleeves and the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which was used extensively in the film Master and Commander. However, tonight I want to share with you the lyrics to one of his Five Mystical Songs.

Five Mystical Songs is a lesser known work by Vaughan Williams in which he set five poems by the fifteenth century poet George Herbert to music for baritone. I once had the privilege of singing in the chamber choir that accompanies some of the songs for a friend's senior recital. It was an unforgettable experience, and Glen Graham is probably the best male vocalist I will ever have the privilege to sing with.
"Love Bade Me Welcome"

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:
Love said, you shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who make the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat.
So I did sit and eat.
Lyrics taken from the jacket of a Vaughn Williams CD on the Hyperion label.

New Picture

Phantom Ship Island, Crater Lake, Oregon, USA

I'm going to use this picture of Phantom Ship Island in Crater Lake National Park for my title bar. It was taken on a day when forest fires had filled the crater with smoke, creating a endless horizon effect.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Top Five Combos For A Rainy Day

Today is a overcast, rainy, cold day in Northwestern Alberta. The farmers really didn't need this right now, and neither did I. There is something about rainy days that takes away any motivation I might have otherwise had and makes me want to lay around the house avoiding any physical activity. Thus I submit for your consideration my favorite synergistic combinations of lazy activities (an oxymoron?) for a dark, damp, depressing day.

Top Five Combos For A Rainy Day:
  1. Reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien while listening the The Planets by Gustav Holst.
  2. Watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail while eating frozen pizza (after it's been baked in the oven) doctored with garlic powder, basil, oregano, and fresh mushrooms and onions.
  3. Reading the Bible commentary Revelation of Jesus Christ by Ranko Stefanovic while listening to A Bach Festival by the Empire Brass.
  4. Cuddling with my wife in bed while delaying our eventual departure from its warmth and comfort.
  5. Blogging in one Firefox tab while checking the conversations on HeavenlySanctuary.com in the other.

Sermon Summary 8-27

The the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew contains a startling statement: "Therefore You are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Many have used these words to justify a perfectionist attitude characterized by a strict obsession with proper behavior and an intolerance of mistakes. But it seems that they have failed to notice the way Luke phrases Jesus' words in his account of the same sermon--"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

It would seem that some Christian perfectionists have an imperfect understanding of what the Bible has to say on the topic, because 'merciful' isn't usually the first word that pops into your head when you think of such a person. I think this is because they fail to realize that perfection in the Bible isn't about behavior. Luke doesn't say, "Do merciful deeds"; but rather "Be merciful."

Perfection is easy to achieve when it means
trying to be like other 'perfect' people, pointing out and condemning others mistakes, and not focusing on the big issues that we have in our own lives (Luke 6:37-42). But it's a little more difficult when we realize that our standard of perfection is the attitude Jesus had and that good deeds are not just obeying the rules but are judged by the effects that they have on others (fruit). It's even harder to achieve when we come to understand that perfection produces behavior, and not the other way around (Luke 6:43-45).

Perfection is impossible without Jesus, "the author and perfecter" of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He's the only one who has the ability to take out our imperfect, unmerciful mindsets and replace them with a perfect, merciful mind that reflects who he is. This doesn't mean we won't make mistakes some times, because perfection is a process. Paul says that those who are perfect will realize that they aren't (Phil 3:12-15). But we can continue on nevertheless, because with Jesus as our perfection and forgiveness we have nothing to fear (1 John 2:1).

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bible Studies: 8 The Great Controversy

My internet was down last night (cable bottlenecks), so I published yesterday's post this morning. Nevertheless, I'm going ahead with next installment of my Bible study series on the Fundamental Beliefs of the Adventist church. You can use the Bible Study Tools Search on the side bar to look up texts, and the 'answers' are at the bottom of the post. You can find the previous study in the archive.

These studies are a work in progress, so comments and criticism are appreciated. Enjoy.

Study 8: The Great Controversy

1. The Great Controversy started with the r_________ of Satan against God (Isa. 14:12-14, Eze. 28:12-18, and Rev. 12:3,4).

2. The result was a spiritual w___ that encompasses heaven and earth (Rev. 12:7-9, Eph. 6:12).

3. S_________ is the result of this conflict (Gen 4:1-8).

4. Battles in this war are over whether our relationship God is based on l____ or f____ (Job 1:6-12).

5. At the c_____, Jesus proved that God’s character is good and defeated Satan (John 12:23-33).

6. To win the conflict God seeks to bring peace by r___________ us to Himself and each other (Eph. 2:12-22).

7. God takes responsibility for evil by using His p_____ to intervene when things get too bad (Gen. 6:5-8).

8. God will intervene again to end the war, but not before everyone has a chance to be r_______ (2 Peter 2:4-10 and 3:3-9).

9. Do you see God as the author of the story of your life or a character in it?


1.
Rebellion. 2. War. 3. Suffering. 4. Love, Fear. 5. Cross. 6. Reconciling. 7. Power. 8. Rescued.

Rational Religion

I read an article on Slate.com some time ago about the logician Kurt Gödel and his incompleteness theorem. The theorem states, as Slate's Jordan Ellenberg summarized it:

Given any system of axioms that produces no paradoxes, there exist statements about numbers which are true, but which cannot be proved using the given axioms.

And Gödel not only stated this theorem; he proved it (see the article for details).

I'm going to make an analogy between Gödel's mathematicalcal thinking and my theological thinking--bearing in mind Ellenberg's cautionary statementent: "Any scientific result that can be approximated by an aphorism is ripe for misappropriation." The similarity between Gödel and myself is that my rational study of the Bible has led me to the same irrational place (There's only one irrational place, right?) that his rational study of logic led him. In Gödel's terms, here is the result of my theological thinking:

Given any system of dogmata that produces no paradoxes, there exist statements about God which are true, but which cannot be proved using the given dogmata.

What led me to this conclusion was Jesus claim to be the truth. If this is the case then any system of statments about Him (or doctrine) will never reveal truth in its entirety, because truth can only be fully known by knowing (having a relationship with) the Person who is truth, Jesus.

So what now? Do I give up on rational enquiry of my faith? Forget my Greek and Hebrew? Throw out my theological books because their words cannot reveal their fullest meaning? Perhaps even leave behind the Bible in my quest for spiritual enlightenment?

I believe I overstate my case, as would someone who thinks Gödel's theorem proves mathematics to be a meaningless exercise. Did I mention that the title of that article was "Does
Gödel Matter? The romantic's favorite mathematician didn't prove what you think he did." Ellenberg explains why:

...what's most startling about Gödel's theorem, given its conceptual importance, is not how much it's changed mathematics, but how little. No theoretical physicist could start a career today without a thorough understanding of Einstein's and Heisenberg's contributions. But most pure mathematicians can easily go through life with only a vague acquaintance with Gödel's work. So far, I've done it myself. How can this be, when Gödel cuts the very definition of "number" out from under us? Well, don't forget that ...there are some statements that are true under any definition of "number"--for instance, "2 + 2 = 4."...Gödel's theorem, for most working mathematicians, is like a sign warning us away from logical terrain we'd never visit anyway.

I guess we don't have to give up on rationality, and I don't have to quit my blog. After all, there are statments that hold up under any Biblical understanding of God (e.g. "God is love.") All a statment like "Jesus is the truth" does is show us the boundaries of rational inquirey, not remove its usefulness altogether. Logic and reason are simply a tools we use to describe and comprehend truth, not the beginning and end of it.

So, I guess that means I can still parse the Greek, account for context, critique theological arguments, and use the Crosswalk.com Bible Study Tools I just added to apokalupto [shamless plug]. But now I'll be a little more humble as I do it and a little more lenient with those who don't see things exactly my way. And, hopefully, I'll always have in mind the reason why I study--to understand a good Friend a little better.

Adventist author Clifford Goldstien recently authored a book called God, Gödel, and Grace. I have not yet read it, but you can read reviews of it by those who have at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Holy Land

The Holy Land is the type of no-name, indie movie that I look for in video stores. These films have a complexity and feel for reality that you rarely find in Hollywood fare. And Holy Land doesn't disappoint on that level, although like most Indie films the acting is slightly sub-par.

The characters and backdrop of Holy Land is based largely on the experiences of the writer and director of the film, Etian Gorlin. The main character, Mendy,
a rabbinical school student who's so obsessed with the opposite gender that he can't focus on his studies, seems to be Gorlin's alter ego. As a last ditch attempt to remove Mendy's pre-occupation his rabbi advises him (based on some obscure Talmudic law) to visit a brothel in a neighboring city and avail himself of their services. Mendy heeds this sage advice and finds himself enamored of the prostitute whose services he secures.

The actors in this movie are not terribly strong, but principle characters are played convincingly enough. One of the remarkable things about Holy Land's script is that it uses English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian--languages through which the actors navigate seamlessly and with realistic accents. (English subtitles are provided were necessary.) The cinematography is quite good, and the whole film is shot on real locations in "the Holy Land".

I appreciated the way Holy Land deals with the complex issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It portrays the brutality and savagery
of both sides as well as their virtue and hospitality. And I enjoyed most of the crazy characters who lighten the film. One of the most outrageous is a Jewish settler nicknamed "The Exterminator" who is never without his locked and loaded M-16.

What I didn't like in this movie was it's pervasive nudity. (Canada needs to add more explanation to their rating system. "14A" doesn't tell you much about why the film was rated that way.) Granted, there were some scenes where nudity was called for, and it was generally not used in a gratuitous manner. However, there were also scenes where the camera lingered longer than was needed.

As someone who was raised in a religious home, attended religious schools, and did 'rabbinical' training I could identify with Mendy. Religion and exploding hormones don't mix well and make for a time of confusion and angst. But as I see it, the
message of this film is that while religion may seem confusing and feel constraining, a life devoted to pleasure has just as many, if not more, pitfalls.

I would recommend this film to anyone who has 'come of age' in a religious setting, and isn't easily offended by nudity and sexuality (or is willing to fast forward).

Christian?

U.S. evangelist calls for assassination of Chavez

Wow, I didn't think it was possible for an evangelical Christian to be more hawkish than Bush. I guess Pat Robertson proved me wrong. According to Reuters:

"Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a presidential candidate in 1988, said [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez, one of Bush's most vocal critics, was a 'terrific danger' to the United States and intended to become 'the launching pad for communist infiltration [that's, like, sooo 1950s] and Muslim extremism.'

'We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,' Robertson said during Monday broadcast of his religious 'The 700 Club' program. [Exactly the kind of brilliant foreign policy I would have advocated at age 14 during my Tom Clancy phase.]

'We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator,' he continued. 'It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.'"

Maybe Robertson has a different translation of the Bible than I do--One that says, "Love your neighbor as yourself....Unless he's got alot of oil." Or maybe it includes the line "Praise the Lord and pass the ammo" somewhere in the Lord's prayer. I don't know.

Now I'm not saying assassination attempts are necissarily evil. The famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was involved in an attempt on Hitler and with good reason. But just because the guy's a personal friend of Castro doesn't mean he's on the same moral level as a genocidal dictator. (Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was also a friend of Cuba's dictator.)

Robertson's comment is sure to be all over the media (and the talk of the blogosphere). Just the kind of publicity Christianity needs to improve it's image. At least it's proved that no one has the 'corner' on the 'fundamentalist market'.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Revolutionized Church of the 21st Century

The title of this post sounds terribly pompous, doesn't it? It's actually the title of a book I'm reading by Russell Burrill, a professor at the Andrews University Seminary and the director of the NADEI. The Revolutionized Church, the latest in a series Burrill rethinking the way Adventists "do church", focuses on the importance of relationships and small groups. These two paragraphs caught my attention:
The children of Cain build cities. Cities originate as people rebel from God and the community He wished to establish among His children. Broken relationships do not build community--they build cities where people are distant from one another. A city as defined here is not the literal city, although it can include that. Rather, a city is defined as any place where people are living close together but not in community. Many "country" churches in this sense are cities, fortresses where people hide from each other rather than live in dependence upon each other....

Unless a church develops small relational groups where people can find community, it is still partaking of the spirit of Cain in building a city rather than seeking to help people find real community. Cities are pseudo-communities. Millions of people are controlled by people in power. When this happens, there is no community, either in the world or in the church. The gathering of people into smaller groups results in the building of community. Churches that exist in the city, then, must concentrate on building community in the city rather than attempting to accumulate power. (The Revolutionized Church of the 21st Century, 34,35)
Properly functioning small groups distribute power. They make people participants rather than spectators, and when that happens those in charge loose some of their control. This is threatening for people who want to accumulate power in the church. They see "church" as people lined up in the pews listening to them, rather than people empowered to do great things. I pray that God will help me, as a pastor, to avoid the spirit of Cain.

To read the story of Cain click here.

Introducing Rob

I've asked my friend Rob to join apokalupto and help me spruce it up a bit with his knowledge of HTML. I met Rob at Canadian University College where we shared a mutual appreciation for the same TV shows, writing, racquetball, and sci-fi. (I also ended up marrying his cousin.) Rob's been doing web design for awhile now, so expect a few changes to the layout.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sermon Summary 8-20

There are some verses in the Bible that I call crazy texts, the kind we read and skip over because they're too crazy. A two examples would be "Rejoice in the Lord, again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)", and "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (James 1:2)". Now I don't know anyone who likes suffering. How can God expect me to rejoice when I'm in trouble?

Suffering is probably the hardest thing for people who believe in God to explain. The argument goes: If God is good and God is all-powerful, how come there is evil? Therefore God is either weak, evil, or a fantasy.

But God is not just good and all-powerful. These are indeed attributes that God must have, but the Bible says the very essence of God is love (1 John 4:8). God is love and wants us to love Him back, but that love implies a choice. And when our first ancestors chose to believe that God is a liar they rejected his love and evil entered the world (Gen. 3).

So how did a God of love respond to this? He couldn't violate our freedom of choice, so He came and suffered with us (Is. 53:4-6). He did it so that He could set up the Kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom based on love, not fear. It is an upside-down kingdom where everything is the opposite of what you would expect of a human government (Matt. 5:1-10). And in this upside-down Kingdom of Heaven persecution is a good thing (Matt. 5:11-12).

The Apostle Peter says that Christians shouldn't be surprised when we have "fiery ordeals", but that we should rejoice to the degree that we share the "sufferings of Christ" (1 Pet. 4:12,13). God showed his love to us by coming and suffering with us, and one of the ways that we can show love back to him is by suffering for Him in persecution. When we do this we show Satan, the accuser who throws ordeals at us, that we don't "love" God because of what He gives us, but that we will do anything for Him because of who He is (Job 1:6-12).

This is why we can rejoice when troubles happen to us for no reason, because we have been given an opportunity to show our love for God, in the same way that He showed His love to us. To stand by Him no matter what, and to rejoice in a relationship of love that nothing can take away. And to relax in the certainty that our reward is indeed coming--an eternity with our greatest Friend.

Crowing With Thorns is in the later style of the long lived, Venetian, renaissance painter, Titian.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Google Maps

Google Maps has got to be the hottest online map service with their new satellite imagery. I could waste hours playing with this feature. Just go to maps.google.com and type your address info into the search field (Yes, just one search field!). Now click the "satellite" button in the upper right hand corner of the map and, voila, an aerial photograph of your house. Click the "Hybrid" to get roads superimposed on top. And just click the mouse and drag to move the map.

For me Google Maps is just about as good as it gets. There are very few roads even out here in Northern Canada that don't show up. Their directions are also excellent, and there is even a search function that allows you to find various shops and services near your location. This alone puts them up over MapQuest and Yahoo Maps. But their international coverage is limited, so don't expect to use it to find your way around Budapest.

Click here to see a picture of my family's old house in Minnesota. I learned to canoe in the algae infested lake on the north boundary of our property.

Bible Studies: 6 Creation

This is a continuation of the series of Bible studies that I'm writing on my church's Fundamental Beliefs. Today's study is shorter than most, but it gets you to do a bit of 'scholarly work' with the text. You'll see what I mean.

You can find the previous study in the archive. And you can look up the Bible references here. The answers are at the bottom, and as always comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

Study 6: Creation
1.
God begins His written Word by telling us that, through His Word, He is the Creator of the u________. (Gen 1:1, Heb. 11:3)

2. Make a list of all the different active verbs that describe what God does in Genesis 1:1-2:3. How many different verbs are there? What does the structure of Genesis 1:1-2:3 tell you about the Creator, God?

3. Man and women were e_______ created in the image of God and placed in charge of the earth. (Gen. 1:26-30)

4. S_______ is the only thing that God created by not creating. (Gen. 2:1-3)

5. Make a list of all the active verbs that describe what God does in Genesis 2:4-25. How many different verbs are there? What do all these verbs tell you the Creator, God?

6. Adam was tasked with caring for the garden and everything in it was for his p________ except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 2:9,15,16)

7. In Genesis 2, God makes the animals to show Adam his need of an h______. (Gen. 2:18-20)

1. Universe. 2. Created, Said, Saw, Separated, Called, Made, Placed, Blessed, Completed, Rested, Sanctified = 11. 3. Equally. 4. Sabbath. 5. Made, Sent, Formed, Breathed, Planted, Placed, Caused, Took, Put, Commanded, Said, Formed, Brought, Took, Closed = 15. 6. Pleasure. 7. Helper.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sermon By Samraj

Dr. Tennyson Samraj was my philosophy professor, student newspaper sponsor, boss, and friend at Canadian University College. He is loved by students of every academic discipline, who make it a point to take his classes. I recently found a sermon that Samraj presented at the student organized ACTS for Christ youth conference available online. Well, it's not really a sermon, but more like one of his legendary ethics classes.

Samraj begins his presentation on the topic of how to deal ethically with sin and mistakes in the lives of others. Then he goes deeper into his thoughts on forgiveness, why we believe in God, and what it means to live an ethical life. And he illustrates his points with many of his classic stories.


Maybe you're not into listening to sermons. To tell you the truth I'm not either. But this one is worth it. Just put it on while you're surfing the net or kicking back, and you'll soon be drawn in.

Click here to download the .mp3 file. Go to 7:31 if you want to skip the preliminaries and start his talk. You can read 2 Samuel 12 here.

If you liked what you heard you might want to get Samraj's, book What Is Your Belief Quotient?. But I'll warn you: It's got some heavy, philosophical sentences.

Lament For The CBC

The Canadian Broadcating Corperation's regular programing went off the air Monday morning due to a labor dispute. For those who don't know me well, I'm semi-addicted to CBC Radio 1 (kind of like NPR in the States). Therefore, I take up a Lament For The CBC.

Lo, how the CBC hath fallen--
That soared on the hights of the airwaves,
That flew through our brains with clever ancidotes and viewpoints.

The champion of liberal idiologies,
The defender of the marginalized
Will fight no more this day.

Thou hast said in thy vanty,
"I shall hire more temporary staff."
"I need not mine talented producers and showhosts."

Now thy snare is sprung upon thine own backside,
And the minds of thy faithfull listeners are left barren unto thee.

Top Five Favorite CBC Radio One Shows
1. Ideas -- Documentaries about, you guessed it, ideas
2. Tapestry -- A magazine on comtemporary spirituality and religious experience
3. As It Happens -- CBC's flagship, telephone interview, current events, show
5. The Current -- A hard hitting news show with satire
6. Northern Lights -- Soothing classical music late at night.

I'd link to the shows, but they've taken down the webpages.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Harvard Jumps Into Evolution Debate

Harvard Jumps Into Evolution Debate

An interesting bit of news from WP.com. Appearently Harvard (which, incidentally, started out as a seminary) will put up 1 million USD a year to research how life began. "My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention," said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard.

Tsk, tsk. Such confidence in the hypothesis. However according to WP, "The project begins with an admission that some mysteries about life's origins cannot be explained." Well, at least we're being objective. Stay tuned.

This is my first post using the "blog this" butten on the Google Toolbar. To download the Google Toolbar for Firefox click here.

Check my August archives for my earlier article on evolution

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sermon Summary 8-13


There wasn't a sermon summary last week because I recycled an old one. Sometimes I do that just to save time. As it turned out last week, the Holy Spirit didn't give me the sermon I wanted because sermon I ended up preaching was the right one.

But that was last week. Here's what I said this week:

After Jesus told the rich young ruler that he needed to leave everything behind and follow him (Matt. 19:16-26), Peter was wondering if he was going to have to spend the rest of his life in poverty or what? Jesus reassured him that eternal life in Heaven would be more than worth the hardships here on Earth. Then Jesus stated a fundamental principle of His upside-down kingdom "Many who are first will be last, and the last, first" (Matt. 19:30).

Then Jesus told the story of the day laborers (Matt. 20:1-16). Basically, a land owner hires day laborers to work in his vineyard. He hires some at 6:00, some at 9:00, some at 12:00, some at 3:00, and some at 6:00; but at the end of the day he pays the all the same wage. Of course, the ones who started at 6:00 were ripped that they didn't get more.


There's two main messages in this story as I see it. (1) People in the church who we think of as out front and huge Christians are actually not as important as people who seem to be doing small things. It's actually those small things that are the greatest.

(2) For those who are still standing around waiting for work, God has a place for you to contribute. This is actually a critical component of having a relationship with God. We show love back to God by following the example of Jesus and showing love to others. This is the "work" that God gives us, and He's the best boss on the planet (Matt. 11:28-30).

Friday, August 12, 2005

Bible Studies: 5 The Spirit

Here's the latest in my offering of Bible studies based on the Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. You can look up the Bible references here. You can find the previous study here in my monthly archive. As always, feed back is welcome as this is a work in progress.

Study 4: God the Holy Spirit

1. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God which is in everything that has l____ (Gen. 2:7; Job 33:4; Job 34:14,15).

2. The Holy Spirit needs to give us s_________ life if we are to be saved (John 3:5-8).

3. Having the Holy Spirit living in us means that we are s__________ (1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Cor. 3:16,17).

4. The Holy Spirit e________ us to live by God’s law in Christ (Rom. 8:5-11).

5. The Holy Spirit enables us to have a living r____________ with God (Rom. 5:5, John 14:16-21)

6. The Holy Spirit reveals God by s________ directly to our hearts (John 16:5-15, Acts 7:51).

7. Under Jesus’ authority the Holy Spirit is poured out during the e___ t_____ (Acts 2:1-16; Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:41).

8. Our m________ in the church is appointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-4, 1 Cor. 12:1-7).

1. Life. 2. Spiritual. 3. Sanctified. 4. Empowers. 5. Relationship. 6. Speaking. 7. End times. 8. Ministry.

The Deep Things of God

I try to always have a "technical", exegetical Bible study book on the go that pulls out the Greek and Hebrew and syntax and other good stuff. My latest is The Deep Things of God by Jon Paulien, an Adventist seminary professor. It's not a book one can read quickly, but it's well worth the effort.

Deep Things is a book about Revelation, the last book in the Bible. But the author only rests there briefly before plunging the reader back into Genesis. From there Paulien proceeds forward through the Old Testament, building rules of prophetic interpretation that help one uncover the prophecies of Revelation. Understanding these principles of interpretation is imperative for anyone who undertakes a serious study of Revelation.

What I liked about the book--the parallels Paulien points out between the creation, fall, flood, and exodus stories, the analysis of OT prophecies and their implications for interpretation, and the detailed explanation of how to find, categorize and apply the OT allusions (references) in Revelation. What I didn't like about the book--Nothing! My only complaint is how long it would take to study this book thoroughly. Unfortunately, the only thing that could change that would be computer augments for the human brain.

But seriously folks, I could only recommend this book to the serious Bible student. If you are a causal or beginning Bible reader, there are probably better ways to become aquinted with structured Bible study. Deep Things is written in an accessible, non-academic style, (few unexplained terms, footnotes, etc.), but it isn't for those who are afraid of expending brain power. However, if you are willing to dig deep into the word, you will definitely find The Deep Things of God to be an excellent guide.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

To Print Or Not To Print...That Is The Question

On an earlier post I imtimated that I enjoy parody. The fact is I most certainly do, considering myself to be a sort of parody conisoir.

The poem I intend to share with you tonight is one of the best examples of parody I could offer. It does a ripping job of keeping the forms of the orriginal piece while adding its own distinct message (one that I find very applicable). But what I appreciate most about it is that it is not at all snarky, as many parodies are, but actually quite thoughtful and edifying. Like all good parodies this poem contains many cultural references, so if you don't get something, click the link I've provided. You can look up unfamiliar words here.

Hamlet's Soliloquy, Imitated

By Richard Jago (1715-1781)
To print, or not to print -- that is the question,
Whether 'tis better in a trunk to bury
The quirks and crotchets of outrageous fancy,
Or send a well-wrote copy to the press,
And, by disclosing, end them? To print, to doubt
No more; and by one act to say we end
The head-ache, and a thousand natural shocks
Of scribbling frenzy -- 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To print -- to beam
From the same shelf with Pope, in calf well bound:
To sleep, perchance with Quarles -- Ay, there's the rub --
For to what class a writer may be doom'd,
When he hath shuffled off some paltry stuff,
Must give us pause. -- There's the respect that makes
Th'unwilling poet keep his piece nine years.
For who would bear th'impatient thirst of fame,
The pride of conscious merit, and 'bove all,
The tedious importunity of friends,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare inkhorn? Who would fardles bear?
To groan and sweat under a load of wit?
But that the tread of steep Parnassus' hill,
That undiscover'd country, with whose bays
Few travellers return, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear to live unknown,
Than run the hazard to be known, and damn'd.
Thus Critics do make cowards of us all.
And thus the healthful face of many a poem,
Is sicklied o'er with a pale manuscript;
And enterprisers of great fire and spirit,
With this regard, from Dodsley turn away,
And lose the name of authors.

And lose the name of bloggers...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

VCF

If you are not comfortable reading about or have no interest in sexual topics like contraception, skip this post.

Ok, now that every one under 12 and over 50 has left, let me inform you about the best contraceptive on the market--Vaginal Contraceptive Film (VCF). It's basically a spermacide that can be used alone or with a condom for the greatest effectiveness (97%). Of course, getting that darn latex out of the way is the whole point of VCF, because it's 94% effective on its own.

Yes, it's now possible for you and your spouse to enjoy baby free sex with out the mood swings of pills, the benumbing of condoms, or the surprises of the rhythm method. Now don't break your bedroom door off its hinges in a libedo fuelled rush to the pharmacy. Read these informative links first:

A good summary of VCF

A comparison of various vaginal contraceptives

Are spermacides the right methods for you?
Yes!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Can We Talk?

A number of events have coincided to bring the topic of evolution into my thinking life yet again. My father has just finished (or is about to) a year or so long Sabbath School class on the topic of the scientific evidence and Genesis 1-11, the Adventist church has just finished holding a worldwide forum on the same topic, and President Bush has recently expressed verbal support for the intelligent design theory. Now this topic is a very hot potato for an Adventist pastor to handle. So before we go anywhere else, I want to state that I believe that the earth was created in seven days in harmony with my church's Fundamental Beliefs. I plan to elaborate why I believe this in a later post.

Right now I want to talk about way it's so hard to talk freely and honestly about the creation-evolution debate. But first, a brief personal history of Dave and evolution. I was home schooled until grade 5, went to an Adventist elementary school until grade 9, and attended an independent, conservative high school operated by Seventh-day Adventists from grades 10-12. After this education I came away with the understanding that people who believe in evolution were misinterpreting the clear evidence of creation because they hated God. Ok, there's a bit of hyperbole in that statement, but you get my point.

Next, I was off to an Adventist university for my first year in college. The regular science class for
scientifically uninclined, Religious Studies majors was full by the time I registered, so I got to take Geology instead. Fun, I thought. I'll actually get to learn something, and I certainly did. In one of the first classes my Adventist professor basically stated that the evidence indicates that the world is millions of years old, and then he proceeded to explain the good reasons why he had come to those conclusions. (I suspect that he is a theistic evolutionist). Over the course of my first semester in college I was forced to radically re-evaluate my position concerning the scientific evidence and the beliefs of evolutionists.

At that point I felt betrayed by my upbringing. Why didn't anyone have the guts to tell me that there is good evidence in favor of evolution before I got to college? Why were all those smart, Christian, science teachers so biased with the evidence? Why did they highlight weaknesses of the arguments for evolution, and teach only the strengths of the arguments for creation?

I've since come to realize that children can only handle one version of the truth and they expect answers, not questions. Therefore, parents and teacher have to teach their children what they believe, and in time the children themsleves will learn to question it. I was simply experiencing the disillusionment of my idealistic and absolutist, childish ideals.

I also realized the Evolutionists aren't the only people who taint science with an ideological/spiritual bias (and you can't tell me that someone like Steven Jay Gould isn't an ideologue). Christians are also biased in their scientific theories, because they also want the evidence to say certain things about God. The problem is that as a Christian, if I say anything that might support evolutionism, my status as a Christian is questioned. Within ideologies there is no tolerance of disinterested analysis. Why do we have so little faith in the revelation of God through nature?

And along those lines, I came to understand that just because someone believes in evolution does not mean that they don't believe in God. Maybe their understanding of God doesn't agree with what the Bible says, but that doesn't mean that God isn't working in their lives or that they don't have a relationship with Him. I'm sure that I have misunderstandings that God is seeking to correct. What evolutionists probably have are different concerns about the character of God than I.

For example, I have a problem with the idea death before the first sin, a necessity for evolution to occur. All the best arguments for evolution won't convince me, because I believe that if God is love, death must be a consequence of sin. But I recently heard a evolutionist saying that she belives in the theory because it gives people a reason to take care of their environment, unlike all those Christians who trash the planet because Jesus is coming anyway. I don't think the best creationist arguments would change her mind because she believes that if God is love, His teachings wouldn't cause people to destroy His creation.

And that's the level I think we need to dialogue on. The scientific arguments will end up being inconclusive anyway, because
, whether it happened 7000, 70,000, or 7 million years ago, none of us were there when creation occurred to perform scientific experiments. What we can talk about, however, is what belief in creation and evolution mean to us today. And after all, isn't that what's ultimately important.

So, instead of getting into ideological arguments about the evidence of science, I'm going to start talking about what belief in creation means in my life, and what it tells me about God. Then, maybe, I'll be able to freely talk about it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bible Studies: 4 The Son

Wow, campmeeting takes a lot longer to recover from than I thought. It's been a couple of days since my last post, but here's another Bible study in accordance with my Friday tradition. As always I welcome comments and criticism, as these studies are a work in progress. You can look up the scripture references here, and find the previous study here.

I'm changing apokalupto's archiving from weekly to monthly. It seems like that will be easier for you to navigate through. Also, be aware that I often update and edit posts with out loging the changes because that would be way too much work. But I will let you know if I make any major changes such as today's addition of new picture to the post on Take 3.

Study 4: God the Son


1. The Son is the W____ through Whom God acts (John 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 8:6, 2 Pet. 3:5).

2. Jesus Christ is the I A__ (Yahweh) of the Old Testament (Ex 3:14, John 8:58).

3. The Son had to become a human being in order to be a_____ us (John 1:14).

4. The Son was born as the baby Jesus in order to s____ us (Matt. 1:20-23, Luke 19:10).

5. Jesus lived his life on earth with human l___________, but did not sin (Heb. 4:15-5:2, John 5:30).

6. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament M_______ prophecies (Luke 4:16-21).

7. The Son became both P______ and sacrifice (Heb. 5: 9-10; 7:26,27)

8. Jesus is now i____________ for us in Heaven (Heb. 8:1,2; 7:25).

9. Right now, Jesus the King of a s_________ kingdom (John 18:35-38).

10. The literal Kingdom of God will be established at the s_____ c_____ (Dan. 7:13,14, Rev. 11:15).

1. Word 2. I Am 3. Among. 4. Save. 5. Limitations. 6. Messiah. 7. Priest. 8. Interceding. 9. Spiritual. 10. Second Coming

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Seven Deadly Social Sins





I came across them on the internet some time ago, and they inspired me so much I actually framed them. Every time I read them I must pause and ponder--the "Seven Deadly Social Sins" as defined by Ghandi:
1. Politics without principle
2. Wealth without work
3. Commerce without morality
4. Pleasure without conscience
5. Education without character
6. Science without humanity
7. Worship without sacrifice
What's striking to me is how Ghandi defines sin as a state of being "without". I've always thought of sin as a negative, an absence, a un-thing like darkness, which is not a thing in itself but rather the absence of light. Sin is a perversion of something that would otherwise be good.

Perhaps the most pertinent point to me as a Christian is "Worship without sacrifice", which reminds me of the forgotten yet essential connection between the acts of worship and sacrifice. In ancient times the two words were virtually synonymous. You couldn't worship your god without making a sacrifice of your livestock, produce, or even your own child. Yet how often do we 'spiritually advanced' Christians 'worship' without offering anything
at all to God. Instead, our focus is usually on the blessings God is supposed to give us during worship.

We Christians no longer sacrifice animals, since Jesus was the final sacrifice of life in death. So, what are we to bring to sacrifice when we worship. To me, the words of Paul have show us where real sacrifice begins:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1,2)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Top Five

I'm back from campmeeting. But since today is a travel day for me, this is going to be a short post. Every blogger needs to make top-five lists (at least that's the impression I get), so here's five, off-the-cuff, top-five lists for your reading pleasure.

Top 5 Countries To Visit That I Haven't Been To:
1. Japan
2. Israel
3. Chile
4. China
5. Russia

Top 5 Funniest Musicians I've Ever Heard:
1. Weird Al Yankovich
2. Peter Schickele a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach
3. The Arrogant Worms
4. Adam Sandler
5. Mark Lowery

Top 5 Books of the Bible
1. John
2. Genesis
3. 1 John
4. Ecclesiastes
5. Revelation


Top 5 Movies That Wasted Two Hours Of My Life:
1. Ever After
2. Election
3. Larger Than Life
4. Green Card
5. First Knight

Top 5 Coolest Names I've Ever Heard
1. Coomy
2. Igor
3. Thor
4. Luba
5. Tokugawa

That was an interesting exercise in self-expression. Going over those lists one could conclude that I like Asia, parody, Johannine literature, and any movie genre but rom-com. Well, self-revelation is part of what apokalupto's all about. Interpriting revelation is the reader's task.

The painting, John the Evangelist in Patmos, is by Hans Burgkmair.