Monday, October 31, 2005

Don't Touch The Microphone! - Pastor electrocuted while performing baptism - Oct 31, 2005

It's a deadly reminder for baptizing pastors: Don't touch the microphone!

I still have childhood memory of a pastor repeatedly reaching from the baptistery for a microphone and a faithful deacon pulling it away from his grasp. Back then I thought it was funny. Now I realize that he probably saved the man's life.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Review: Serenity

If you know any of the devoted fans of the cancelled TV sci-fi series "Firefly", you're probably familiar with the question, 'Have you seen Serenity yet?' I capitulated to this request some weeks ago and now one movie and thirteen episodes later I have emerged with one question. Have you seen Serenity yet?

It's hard to explain to "Firefly" virgin why the show and the movie that caps it off are so awesome, but that won't stop me from trying. First, it's sci-fi and western rolled into one using the best parts of both genres. Second, it evokes that feeling you got from watching the first three Star Wars films and wished you'd got from the last three. And finally it's set in an anti-Star Trek universe where the bad guys spread 'civilization' riding starships with lasers while those left on the margins suffer and die.

The guy behind "Firefly" and Serenity is the writer/director Joss Whedon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame (or infamy). I guess he's known for his witty repartee and character development. Judging by the strong script on which this film rests he won't be loosing that reputation any time soon.

The actors are all people you've never heard of, but they come through with great performances. Nathan Fillion, a native Edmontonian, plays the leading role as captain of the titled space ship and is the Han Solo of his generation (last Star Wars comparison, I promise.). If I had to single out another performance it would be Chiwetel Ejiofor's unique and compelling villain, The Operative.

I have hardly any quibbles with Serenity; it is a nearly flawless film. Although you will certainly get more out of it if you have watched the preceding series, it by no means excludes the uninitiated. One could make the argument that by the end Serentiy descends into space-opera camp, but this can be forgiven in light of the moral complexities it explores.

I recommend Serenity to any movie fan who loves great action, dialogue, and characters. However this movie does have some brutal violence. It's not on a Saving Private Ryan or Passion of the Christ level, but you may want to avoid it if you're squeamish. You will also want to avoid this film if you don't want to get hooked on a certain cancelled television series with 13 episodes and about 11 good ones.

FIREFLYFANS.NET is the fansite for all things Firefly.

Our First House

My wife and I are considering buying a house. I reckon that after paying about $7,000 to our landlord it's about time we started putting some money into our own equity. An old pastor in Australia told me that if you put a little equity into a house each place you move, when you retire you'll own your own home. So that's our goal.

Right now we're navigating the confusing array of mortgage options. We figure we'd better move now before the interest rates go up. Any advice for this first time home buyer?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Bigger, The Better?

I found this to be one of the most interesting results of the Natural Church Development international research project of 1000 churches.
Small churches grow 1600% more
When we compared all of the churches with less than 100 regular attenders (average size being 51 worshippers) with all of the churches that have a regular attendance of more than 1,000 (the average being 2,856), the result was striking. We discovered that "small churches" grow 16 times more than megachurches.

When doing such a comparison, we could not compare one church of 51 people to one of 2,856. We had to compare the results of 56 churches of 51 people each, to one megachurch with 2,856 people to come up with exactly the same number of people, just differently organized. On average, the small church category had a 1,600% higher growth rate. They one 16 times as many people! Interesting results, aren't they? Small churches really have no reason for a low self-esteem. (Color Your World With Natural Church Development, 34, author's emphasis)
Perhaps there is more to this than just helping small churches feel better. Maybe this statistic should tell us something about what size of churches we ought to be striving for. After all, a small church that experiences great growth will soon become a large church that grows more slowly.

Since organisms grow most quickly when they're small and young, the best way for God's churches to grow would be for them to multiply by dividing after they grow too large. As the author points out, it's "the same number of people, just differently organized." Perhaps we should say that they are organized for better growth.

I should say that I'm not totally against megachurches. Some people will be won by megachurches that wouldn't be won any other way. However I don't think that they are the model most churches should aspire to or emulate.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

10.22.05 Sermon Summary: Service of Worship

The "Seven Deadly Social Sins" according to M. Ghandi include the sin of "Worship without sacrifice". Some Christians might wonder if this is even a sin. I've worshiped many times without sacrificing, does it matter? When was the last time you saw a animal slaughtered or food burned in church?

In most cultures worship involves sacrifice--indeed even ancient Hebrew culture of the Old Testament. Whenever God would bless his people they would worship by offering sacrifices upon an altar to Him. Abel, Noah, Abraham, and many others expressed their devotion and love to God in this way.

After God rescued Israel from Egypt He instructed Moses to build a portable temple called the tabernacle where His presence would dwell and His people would come to worship Him. The place in this tabernacle where the average Israelite could worship was at the altar of burnt offering. There they could offer animals and grain as sacrifices to be burned on the altar, but a usable portion was given for the priests to eat.
In this way the offerings that the Israelites gave were similar to the money we place in the offering plate to sustain the church.

The purpose of these sacrifices was to point towards the sacrifice God made for us, when He gave His Son to die for our sins. He was the perfect sacrifice, and as such we can easily get the idea that sacrifice doesn't play a role in the Christian worship. We tend to worship for what we can get out of the experience, rather then thinking about worship as an activity where we give. Is there still room for sacrifice in the Christian experience

Yes. The apostle Paul wrote: "
Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Rom. 12:1)” In response to God's total sacrifice for us, how else can we demonstrate love back to Him? This is what it means to worship--to give every part of ourselves over to God's will.

This sermon was actually inspired by a one of my blogs (Seven Deadly Social Sins), not the other way around.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Plug For Adventists From National Geographic

Secrets of Living Longer (click on "The Seventh-day Adventists' Way")

Wierd, eh. Evolution's best propaganda machine giving props to the religion that spawned George McCready Price and preaches "worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters (Rev. 41:7)". I guess that's the power of the Adventist health message - one that I believe, but don't always apply as well as I should.

If you attend an Adventist church and are over the age of 30, sign up for "Adventist Health Study 2" and share the benefits of the Adventist lifestyle through research.

(via joie de vivre)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Blog Review: Philobuster

Philobuster* hasn't been updated for awhile, but it has some very cool art. It's actually one of the best combinations of philosophy and art that I've seen. Click on the pictures for the full effect.

I believe the blog was created by a professor on the Faculty of Religion at Pacific Union College.

*This is no longer the same blog I linked to years ago.

Top Five: TV Shows I Miss

I have now been TVless for over a year except for the shows I've downloaded off LimeWire. I'm just to cheap to get one until I get other things I want more (like a digital camera). To celebrate my freedom from the one eyed idol and approximately 400 hours of time better spent (conservative estimate) here's a top five list.

Top Five TV Shows I Miss:
  1. Jeopardy
  2. Seinfeld
  3. News Hour With Jim Lehrer
  4. Hockey Night In Canada
  5. The Outer Limits
A friend recently offered me a TV. (She's got four and is looking to get rid of one.) I'm still debating whether to take her up on it. On the one hand, I do miss some shows. But do I really want that time-drain temptation sitting in my living room? I didn't call it the one eyed idol for nothing.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bible Studies 12: The Church

Another Bible study today. I'm starting to run out, so I'm only going to be posting them every other week or so. You can look up the Bible references here, and find the previous study here. The 'answers' are at the bottom. These are a work in progress so your feedback is welcome.

Study 12: The Church

  1. The ancient nation of Israel were God’s people through the old c________ [contract] (Judges 20:1,2; Deut. 5:22; Deut. 7:7-11).

  2. God’s people today, His c______, are the spiritual nation of Israel through the new covenant (1 Pet. 2:4-10; Heb. 8:6-13; Gal. 3:28,29).

  3. As the b____ o__ C______ the church manifests the presence of Jesus to the world (1 Cor. 12:12-20,27; Eph. 1:20-23;)

  4. Jesus is the foundation of His living t______, the church (Matt. 16:13-19, Eph. 2:19-22, 1 Cor. 3:6-17).

  5. The story of God and His church is a r_______ (Ezek. 16:1-8,15,16,35-39,60-63; Eph. 5:25-33; Rev. 21:1-3).

  6. The N___ J_________ is where the members of the church have their citizenship (Gal. 4:21-31, Phil. 3:20).

  7. The church is a f______ with the Heavenly Father as our father, Jesus as our eldest brother, and the other members as our brothers and sisters (Gal. 4:1-7, Col. 1:13-15, James 2:14-16).

  8. The ‘i_________ church’ consists of all those who follow Christ regardless of what church organization they belong to (John 10:16, Mark 9:36-40).

1. Covenant. 2. Church 3. Body of Christ 4. Temple 5. Romance 6. New Jerusalem 7. Family 8. Invisible

News: God Blogging Conference

AP Wire | 10/15/2005 | SoCal university hosts nation's first "God blogging" conference

What would Jesus blog?

Maybe something like: "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth." (1 John 3:18)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Days of My Life

Brief highlights from my existence:
  1. Thursday - Did hospital visits - Drove to Calgary in my '85 Camery with a broken antenna - Listened to a lot of country music
  2. Friday - Attended Color Your World With Natural Church Development Conference - Went looking for Brad Pitt in the hills around Cochrane - Saw a lot of hills - Found out a lady I visited on Thursday died
  3. Saturday - Did Sabbath School song service, scripture reading and prayer at the last minute request of my mother-in-law - Drove back to Grande Prairie at night - Sang a lot of songs to myself
  4. Sunday - Went to church meetings early in the morning- Found out that a letter I wrote to the Adventist Review was published in Adventist World magazine - Wrote this blog

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Song: My Father's Heart

I recently came across "My Father's Heart" by Rachael Lampa, and it brought back some warm memories. I sang this song with a singing group my college put together to tour Adventist campmeetings in Canada. It has rich lyrics and a simple melody that our arranger filled out with tight, complex harmonies. (Seriously, we worked for weeks to get them right.) In memoriam of one of the best summers of my life:
My Father's Heart
by Rachael Lampa

Let everything that breathes praise You.
The earth, the sky, the sea praise You.
Just as nature shows to us Your blessing
Soon I find my heart confessing.

My love is not my own;
It all belongs to You.
And after all You'’ve done, the least that I can do
Is live my life in every part
Only to please my Father'’s heart.

Love is all You need to heal us-
Flowing from the heavens, Jesus.
And with one voice we'’ll sing together,
And this will be our song forever.

My love is not my own;
It all belongs to You.
And after all You'’ve done, the least that I can do
Is live my life in every part
Only to please my Father'’s heart.
(from Christian Lyrics Online)

Simple and true--a beautiful expression of devotion.

News: CBC Labor Dispute Over

CBC Workers Whistle Back To Work

My public media drought is nearly over. When they went off the air I wrote a "Lament for the CBC" I should write another poem celebrating its return, but, alas, sorrow be my muse. I can, however, make another top five list.

Top Five CBC Radio Personalities I Look Forward To Hearing Again (and their shows):
1. Rick Phillips (Sound Advice) - hilarious music critic without trying to be
2. Barbara Budd (As It Happens) - sarcastic sense of humor
3. Shelagh Rogers (Sounds Like Canada) - most likeable person on the airwaves
4. Jonathan Goldstein (WireTap) - has a reality radio je ne sais quoi
5. Promo Girl (promo spots) - the sexiest voice on the planet

And 6. BRING BACK DON HILL (Wild Rose Forum) - More info here

I took the edge off my public radio jones by listening to NPR online.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sermon Summary: 10-8

God is like Zep. When I was in college we had to do a thorough cleaning of our rooms at the end of each school year. I kept my room pretty clean but the shower would be thoroughly stained by the end of the semester. Each year I'd scrub it with Ajax, and after failing to remove the stains ask the dean for Zep, an industrial solvent that would melt the stains clean off my shower. God is like Zep.

In Acts 10 we find the story of Cornelius, a centurion in the Roman army who worshiped the God of Israel. One day while he was praying an angel appeared to Cornelius and told him to send for the apostle Peter, so Cornelius did as he was told. But Peter was a Jew, and the Jews thought that contact with Romans would make them unclean and thus unholy.

But on the same day the messengers arrived Peter had a vision as well. He saw a sheet coming out of the sky with all kinds of animals on it, and a voice told him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" (Acts 10:13). Peter, not wanting to become unholy by eating unclean meat, refused three times. As soon as the vision ended Cornelius' men were knocking at the door.

Peter realized the vision wasn't about his diet but about Cornelius, so Peter decided to get dirty. He let the men stay in his house, accompanied them back to Cornelius, entered his house, and preached the gospel. When he did this the Holy Spirit fell on those Romans and they began doing the same things the disciples had done at Pentecost. The Jews were amazed that the Holy Spirit would enter these unclean people.

The Holy Spirit is an industrial strength cleanser for your soul, and He can take out the deepest stains. We human beings find out ways to get dirty early on, but when God enters your life He doesn't get contaminated, He cleans you up. God is like Zep.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Review: The Revolutionized Church Of The 21st Century

About a month ago I blogged Russell Burrill's book The Revolutionized Church of the 21st Century, and now that I've finished it it's time to do a review. The book "addresses our urgent need to recover a sense of community through small, relational groups." The author deals with the theological whys of doing relational church, starting at Genesis and moving through the Old and New Testaments to Wesley and finally the early Adventist movement.

For me the greatest contribution of Revolutionized Church is Burrill's work on the "social meeting" of the early Adventist movement. The "social meeting" was a relational time when Adventist congregations would meet together and give brief testimonies about their spiritual journey and receive encouragement from fellow believers. In early Adventism the "social meeting" was considered to be where church really happened and was considered more important than having a preaching service.

The point of Revolutionized Church is that relationships are the point of Christianity, and if we miss them everything else falls apart. God's whole purpose in setting up his people is to bring about restoration of relationships between ourselves and God. Burrill's thesis is that church is where two or three are gathered, and if we aren't gathering in "small, relational groups" we are not really doing church.

What I didn't like about this book: Burrill has a tendency to overstate his case; the title of the book is a case in point. Revolutionized Church a relational manifesto that, while I agree with the concepts, is written in such a way that makes you wonder if it's too good to be true. I would have preferred to see him acknowledge more of the difficulties that reality brings to his theories.

I would say Revolutionized Church is a must read for Adventist ministers,
because of Burrill's exploration for the relational church of early Adventism alone. Ministers and members of other denominations will find this book enlightening as well, but may wish to explore these ideas from the plethora of books available in local Christian book store (who Burrill quotes extensively). Adventists with a passion for small groups will also especially benefit from this book.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

News: Dr. Ben Carson

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Doctors back conjoined twins op

Ben's at it again. Adventism's favorite neurosurgeon is going to try to seperate 10 year old twins conjoined at the head if their parents give it a green light. If you haven't heard the Ben Carson story yet, check out his autobiography.

Update: Ben Carson has a website here.

Monday, October 03, 2005

At The Right Hand Of God Or In The Holy Place...?

I have recently been asked by two people--one a church member of my church the other not--to explain the passage in Hebrews 8:1 that says,

"Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens...." (Emphasis mine)

The question is how this passage can be compatible with the teaching that Jesus did not enter the Holy of Holies until the 2300 day prophecy ended in 1844.

If you aren't familiar with Adventist theology, I suggest you go to this page and do the studies called "A Heavenly Model" and "Cleansing the Temple" or watch the videos, otherwise you'll probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Many objections have been raised to the Sanctuary doctrine, and I don't intend to deal with them all here. You can find a basic litany of objections here and an orthodox Adventist response here and here.)

I believe that to properly understand the book of Hebrews one must realize that the sanctuary is a metaphor to help us to understand the ministry of Christ.

"For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;" (Heb.9:24 Emphasis mine)

Heaven is a holy place, a true sanctuary, a place where God lives; and the earthly sanctuary and its services were given as illustrations (more specifically "types") to help us understand Jesus ministry on earth and in Heaven.

However the sanctuary is not the only metaphor that the Bible uses to describe Jesus' ministry in human terms. In fact there are many, but the one that concerns us here is the 'prince/king' metaphor. This illustration describes Jesus as the "Prince of Peace" (Is. 9:6), who establishes the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by His death (John 18:36). Revelation 4-5 describes the throne room of Heaven and Jesus' receiving the kingdom from the Father after His resurrection using symbolism drawn from the enthronment of Old Testament kings. Revelation 3:22 says that at that time He sat on His Father's throne.

Now with this in mind let's look at Hebrews 8:1-2 again:

"Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." (Emphasis mine)

What we see here is a mixing of the metaphors--the priest taking the seat of the prince. The author of Hebrews is saying that Jesus is able to fulfill both roles at the same time.

We could picture Heaven as having a 'throne room' and a 'sanctuary'. In the throne room Jesus is in the immediate presence of the Father, at His right hand; but in the sanctuary He stayed behind the second veil until the time for cleansing came at the end of the 2300 days. While one must always remember that 'prince' and 'priest' metaphors become one in Jesus, we must be careful not to put the characteristics of one on the other and thus detract from the overall picture of Christ to which they both contribute.*

Both illustrations help us to see the multi-faceted ministry Christ is doing for us in Heaven while we await His return. Jesus is not on holidays while we slave away down here. He is ministering by preparing Heaven for us (Dan. 8:14, John 14:2) and preparing us for Heaven (Dan. 8:14, Heb. 4:16).

*There is a sense in which the Holy of Holies represents the throne room. In Hebrews 4:16 we read of the "throne of grace" which probably refers to the "mercy seat" (Ex. 25:2) in the Holy of Holies--a part of the 'priest' metaphor. This indicates again that both metaphors find their unity in Christ.

A Double Whammy for Adventists

James Coffin, director of the Center for Secular/Postmodern Mission has an excellent article on adjustments Adventist churches need to make in order to effectively reach postmodern thinkers.

My observation is that on a we need to practice the spiritual fruit of patience in our evangelism. Yes, we believe Jesus is coming soon, but we still must allow people their own 'journey' with the Holy Spirit. For me, doing this means giving up my pride and quest for success and trusting that God to run His show.

When I do outreach (however it may happen) I've learned pray, "Lord, remind me that it's not about me." And when I do this those butterflies in my stomach seem to settle down.