Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Morning: America's Four Gods

Yes, you read the title correctly - America's Four Gods.  So I'm one week into yet another challenging grad school class and I've already had my eyes open to some religious realities.  I'm only going to talk about one today, and that is the title of this post.

America's Four Gods is the title of a book written by Paul Froese and Christopher Bader.  This was required reading for my Doctrine of God class and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.  The authors embarked on quite an extensive research journey to find out how Americans view God today.  This book doesn't have much to do with the Bible or Christianity per se, just about belief in God.  

Here's something interesting - a quote from the liner notes: "Despite the hype surrounding the New Atheism, the US remains one of the world's most religious nations.  In fact, 95% of Americans believe in God - a rare consensus in American life."   

First of all, this is encouraging news.  I'm sorry, but most Christians believe that non-believers and atheists are taking over and running our country into the ground.  As a country, we are getting further and further away from the biblical standards and morals of our forefathers for sure, but at least a belief in God is still prevalent in American culture, as the above data suggests.  A belief in God though, does not mean a belief in Jesus Christ.   

So what are America's Four Gods?   It's one God, viewed four different ways by Americans:
1.  The Authoritative God: engaged in the world and judgmental
2.  The Benevolent God: engaged in the world and non-judgmental
3.  The Critical God: judgmental but disengaged
4.  The Distant God: non-judgmental and disengaged

If you're into this kind of stuff, I suggest you get this book!

I believe God did intend, in giving us intelligence, 
to give us the opportunity to investigate 
and appreciate the wonders of His creation.
He is not threatened by our scientific adventures.

-Francis Collins, Human Genome Project leader 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Morning: Grace

I'm a person who worries too much.  I worry about my weight, I worry about my finances, I worry about my wife and kids, I worry about the challenges of owning an older home, I worry about my ministry pursuits and school work;  all of which cause me to worry about my lack of faith!  I admire people who are able to roll with the punches and just accept life's challenges as blips on the radar screen; I'm just not wired that way; yet.

Yesterday in church, we showed a video called Pictures of Grace.  I found this video as a transition piece to lead into the song This is Amazing Grace by Bethel Live.  The video is sound bites of ordinary people who explain what grace means to them.  In my verbal transition after the video, I asked "what does grace mean to you?"  Christians are really good at throwing the word "grace" around but I would submit that this word in the context of Christianity is not self-explanatory.  A quick Google search brought this definition of grace in regard to Christianity: gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved".  That undeserved gift is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

What is my picture of grace?  God granting me forgiveness of sins and eternal life, after living a life as far away from being a Christian as possible.  Grace is God granting me stability in my marriage and home life.  Grace is God allowing me, a goofed up guy (who struggles with trust - see above!) to be a worship pastor at an amazing church, where I can stand in front of God's people and define the word, Grace.  Worrying too much about the things on earth don't get us anywhere.  Grace does it all.

What is your picture of grace?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

"For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves,
 it is the gift of God, NOT by works, so that no one can boast."
 Ephesians 2:8-9      

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Morning Doughnut & Coffee

It's Monday again.  Mondays are not like Mondays for me like they are for most people because I work on Sunday.  It's not quite a full day on Sunday but it is usually a 6 hour day or so, so Monday for me is like Tuesday for you... kinda.

I've been thinking.  There are so many different facets to working in a ministry.  Yesterday was very stressful because we had a few challenges in the morning preparing for our services.  It was almost funny to see how God showed up, calmed everyone down, provided the necessary personnel and a great worship experience.  Yesterday evening, I was blessed to play a few worship songs for our middle and high school students; it was such a joy to hear them sing.  Today (my Tuesday, your Monday) we are preparing a funeral service for a dear Mainstreet member.  There seems to be a sense of reverence or quiet around here today as we get things ready for the people who will arrive to pay their respects.  I get to play the mandolin and sing in a gospel trio for the service - yet another facet of ministry.   

That's what I love about ministry - the different facets.  Weddings, funerals, celebrations, worship services, music, preaching, teaching... all in an effort to bring to life God's Kingdom on earth.  First and foremost though, to introduce people to Jesus Christ and secondly, to be His hands and feet on earth. What a blessing, honor and privilege.

What a day that will be
When my Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His face
The One who saved me by His grace

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Morning Doughnut & Coffee

My doughnut and coffee arrived as usual on time today.  Wow I really appreciate that from our amazing volunteers at Mainstreet Church.  Today though, is a different kind of Monday.  Today, March 3rd marks what would have been my dad's 84th birthday had he lived past 74.  I have many, many fond memories of my dad and it's hard to believe I haven't seen him in almost 10 years.  The last few years of his life were lived through a tough battle with cancer.  With all the fighting and struggling and chemo and radiation and everything else, it claimed his life anyway.  For me though, I rest on the truth that when it's your time to go it's your time to go.  King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for everything; our days on earth are numbered.

My dad (Jack) did his best to be the best dad he knew how to be.  His dad was an uninvolved alcoholic so he didn't have a very good role model.  He taught me how to throw and catch a baseball, how to throw and catch a football, he taught me how to cast a line and reel in anything that might be on the other end.  He also taught me how to be kind, honest, a hard worker, and how to love my wife and kids.  He taught me the importance of going to, and being involved in church- which was a priority for him.

My dad worked away much of his life to support his family - he worked two jobs as long as I can remember.  He still though, found time between sleep and work to coach my little league baseball team, eat dinner at the table every night, take us on vacations every year and church every Sunday.  He was a man of few words and no formal education but left a mark on all who were blessed to know him. Happy Birthday Dad!  I'll see you again someday!  

As John Mayer sings: 
Stop this train,wanna get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't, but honestly
Won't someone stop this train?