Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I LOVE My Library

I'm a Christian and I read. My reading is eclectic and covers many disciplines and genres. I also read atheist works.

And as a hardcore bibliophile, I will never have a library big enough where I will say, "That's enough."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pastor Killer Churches

Job offers roll across my desk all the time but for all of them I am either not eligible (though I have two Masters degrees, I do not have a seminary degree) or their pay rate is somewhere around "all the tree bark you can eat."

But then I get some like this that make me run screaming:

I only have one thing to say:

Let's talk some commonsense here.

You can have a leader who is a teacher/administrator (task orientation) or you can have a leader who is a preacher/counselor (relational orientation), but you cannot have both. In both Exodus 18 and Acts 6, God teaches us the serious danger of trying to fulfill every role. Moses and the apostles learned this the hard way.

I know way too many pastors who have burned themselves out attempting to meet unrealistic expectations and if the church who sent out the job call insists on a pastor who would fulfill all five roles, the search team has set a course for certain disaster. Scripture and my interaction with burned out pastors affirm this.

Just out of curiosity, what about your church's expectations?

The Parable of the Tiger (Human Sexuality)

Dear Francois,

It is almost midnight. But I want to answer your letter right away.

You write that Christ hasn’t heard your prayer. I ask you, what did you pray for? That he would deliver you from being a man? What do you want? To be without sex? To have no more desire at all?

What you speak of is not possible. All that one does, one does either as a man or a woman. Your sexuality is in your waking and sleeping. It is present with you when you work and when you pray. In your holiest feelings and in your purest prayers it is there.

If you believe in Christ, then you know that your body has become a temple of the Holy Spirit. If you pray for the mutilation of the temple, then Christ will not hear you. Christ wants to make you capable of living with your manhood. 

Must the one who believes flee from love? I know there are many Christians who withdraw themselves and who turn their backs on it. They avoid the opposite sex and think by doing so that they are especially mature and redeemed Christians.

They fool themselves. He who believes does not flee.

You can’t run away from your manhood: it belongs to you; it is a part of yourself.

Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time there was a tiger. He was captured and put in a cage. The keeper’s task was to feed him and guard him.

But the keeper wanted to make the tiger his friend. He always spoke to him in a friendly voice whenever he came to his cage. The tiger, however, always looked at him with hostility in his green, glowing eyes. He followed every movement of the keeper, ready to spring on him.

The keeper was afraid of the tiger and asked God to tame him.

One evening, when the keeper had already gone to bed, a little girl got lost in the vicinity of the tiger’s cage and came too near to the iron bars. The tiger reached out with his claws. There was a blow, a scream. When the keeper arrived he found dismembered human flesh and blood.

Then the keeper knew that God had not tamed the tiger. His fear grew. He drove the tiger into a dark hole where no one could come close to him. Now the tiger roared day and night. The terrible sound disturbed the keeper so that he could no longer sleep. It reminded him of his guilt. Always in his dreams he saw the torn body of the little girl. Then he cried out in his misery. He prayed to God that the tiger might die.

God answered him, but the answer was different from what the keeper had expected. God said, “Let the tiger into your house, into the rooms where you live, even into your most beautiful room.”

The keeper had no fear of death. He would rather die than go on hearing the roar of the tiger. So he obeyed. He opened the door of the cage and prayed” “Thy will be done.”

The tiger came out and stood still. They looked into each other’s eyes for a long time. As soon as the tiger noticed that the keeper had no fear and that he breathed quietly, he lay down at his feet.

That is the way it began. But at night the tiger would begin to roar again, and the keeper would be afraid. So he had to let the tiger come into his house and face him. Again he had to look the tiger directly in the eye. Again and again. Every morning.

He never had the tiger completely in his power “once and for all.” Again and again he had to overcome him. Every day brought the same test of courage.

After some years the two became good friends. The keeper could touch the tiger, even put his hand between his jaws. But he never dared take his eyes off the tiger. When they looked at each other they recognized each other and were glad that they belonged together and that each was necessary to the other.

Francois, you have to learn to live with the tiger, courageously, eye to eye. For that purpose Christ will set you free. 

(From I Loved a Girl, by Walter Trobisch, reprinted in My Beautiful Feeling: Correspondence with Ilona, by Walter and Ingrid Trobisch) 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Life Well Lived

I have done many a memorial service in my years as a pastor, but today, for the first time, I looked at the timeline of the life of the man whose life we celebrated today.

Born Wednesday, August 8, 1923, Earl DeHaven, Sr, passed away on Friday, July 10, 2015, a total of 91 years, 11 months, and 3 days or, a total of 33,575 days.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
The gentleman left behind an incredible legacy: nine children, six stepchildren, 24 grandchildren, nine step-grandchildren; 54 great-grandchildren; three step-great-grandchildren; and 18 great-great-grandchildren.

Born during the administration of Calvin Coolidge, Earl lived through 15 presidential administrations.

In 1927 when Earl was just shy of three years of age, Charles Lindbergh made the first successful transcontinental flight. Earl also saw the start of the space age, men walk on the moon, and he was 4 days short of experiencing humanity finally visiting every large body in our solar system as the New Horizons spacecraft sped by Pluto.

Earl served on the USS Hornet during World War II as a signalman under Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey Jr. and the story is that Halsey preferred the way Earl made coffee over everybody else. After WWII, Earl also lived through the Korean Conflict, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Vietnam War, and all the other recent conflicts we have all experienced.

Yet, Earl was a farmer almost all of his life and he lived in tune with the transition of the seasons.
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. (Genesis 8:2)
And yet in the midst of it all, Earl lived his life in very much what reminds me of the  first line of the poem, Desiderata:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

There is much wisdom that comes from being a farmer. Life is not only a teacher, but nature’s Creator speaks with a wisdom all His own:
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, (Romans 1:20)
Earl was also a Christ-follower.
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (Romans 10:9-11)
I suspect that when Earl opened his eyes to see the eternally green fields of Heaven, his first question was probably, “Where’s my tractor?” and the first words were that of Halsey saying, “DeHaven! Finally! It’s about time I get a decent cup of coffee up here!”

It is a privilege to know Earl’s family and it was a great honor to lead his celebration of life.

So what do I want for you to carry away from this?

You call them cemeteries. I call them “God’s library.”

Each tombstone represents a story. Write a good one. Make sure it has a happy ending and does not have for its sole purpose only to serve as a bad example. We celebrate the conversion of Scrooge with multiple readings. You only read the tragedy of Tess of the D'Urbervilles once.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (The Apostle Paul writing to his friend, Timothy)
May God's peace be with those who mourn.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Logical Fallicies In The Pro-Gay Marriage Movement

Written before the Obergefell v. Hodges by the Supreme Court that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states. However, the argument against logical fallicies still holds.
I hate having to make posts like this, but I confess that I've become weary of the supposed logic of certain arguments I see thrown about in social media in the form of what is supposed to pass as a witty graphic.

I could make a witty graphic for this as well, but I have a bad habit of not insulting the intelligence of other people and I'm not going to insult yours.

Now most of you will think this post is about homosexuality, but it isn't. It's about logical fallacies and how to read ancient documents. And I must confess I have no idea why I wasted my time writing that sentence because there are some of you who are going to injure yourselves with your keyboards rapidly typing out how much I'm a homophobe and a throwback, ad nauseum and will delightfully miss the whole point of this post.

But for the adults present, let's talk about the real point of this whole shebang.

People who support homosexuality as a valid lifestyle use two arguments against the stance of most evangelical churches: the supposed fact Jesus said nothing against gay marriage and the argument that the verses that speak against homosexuality in the Old Testament book of Leviticus also speak against all sorts of other actions that Christians do not follow today.

For those gay supporters on my friend's list, please stop using these. I confess they may work against a lot of Christians because the level of education in most American churches is so low that most church attenders today probably could not pass a standard fourth grade Bible class test, but I have a Bachelor of Science in Bible Studies and two Masters degrees. So allow me to explain.

Argument #1: Jesus said nothing against gay marriage, therefore he was completely cool with it.

This is called argumentum ex silentio (the argument from silence) and is a logical fallacy. Let me explain:

On your own social media, you have never condemned yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater and you have never condemned sacrificing children to the ancient god, Molech. Therefore, since you have not condemned them, should I assume you support these and other unsavory activities?

Jesus was a good Jewish boy and as I will address in the Levitical argument, you need to understand all ancient literature in its cultural context. Jesus did not speak against gay marriage or cannibalism or going on a berserk murderous rampage because it was a cultural given. Regardless of your own personal stance, everybody back then agreed these were automatically wrong. One does not need to restate the obvious.

Whether you agree or disagree, the Jewish culture of the day looked down on homosexuality, period. Anybody who studies ancient Near East literature knows this.

Now you may not like this little factoid, but if you continue using the argument from silence, you will understand why I place you on the same intellectual level of a backwoods, snake-handling, pulpit thumper who "don't need no book larnin'!" (an actual quote)

Now let's look at the Leviticus argument.

Argument #2: Leviticus condemns homosexual practice and also condemns wearing a shirt composed of two different materials, eating shrimp, and a whole host of rules not followed today. Therefore, homosexuality can no longer be considered immoral.

When you read ancient literature whether it be Beowulf, The Illiad, or the Old Testament, you need to understand its historical and cultural context.

The Leviticus argument says that since Christians use the passages of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 to condemn homosexual practice, then they are hypocrites because the passage also condemns such unique practices such as eating shrimp, not wearing two types of fabric in a shirt, etc.

Sorry. That don't work on me because I understand the historical and cultural context not just of Leviticus, but of the entire Torah. In its context, the Old Testament laws are divided into three areas. Quoting J. P. Holding:
1. First, universal moral laws. This includes do not steal, do not kill, by common agreement.
2. Second, cultural universals. By this I mean laws geared to Israel's culture that have a universal moral law behind them. (As an example, some have suggested the prohibition on trimming your beard [Lev. 19:27] relates to pagan practices that cut facial hair for magical purposes. So the universal behind this cultural would be, don't do the occult.)
3. Finally, ceremonial laws. Instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant, for example. 
Sometimes, all three types of laws found themselves stated side by side in the same chapter (Bible chapters and verses, by the bye, are a man-made invention to help with finding certain passages. The original writings don't have them. Did you know that? No? Hmmm.)

Regardless of your stance on homosexuality, the sanction against homosexual practice was considered by both the Old and New Testament to be a universal moral law.

By the way, Levitical law also condemns incest and sacrificing children. Should we toss those aside as well? Just asking.

Now again, you can continue to use the Leviticus argument, but if you do, what does that leave me to ask about your intellectual integrity?

Again, this is a going to blow your mind, but this post is not about homosexuality. It's about coming up with better arguments because the two I addressed should not be used by intelligent people. They just don't work.

I'm .... What Now????

I was told that because I do not support gay marriage, I am homophobic and deep down inside, I am actually gay myself.

Because I am genuinely terrified of bats, does that mean deep down inside I am actually Batman?

Yeah, baby! I'm BATMAN!

Just keep those creepy winged mice away from me.

ADDENDUM: A little while ago, I used my new-found discovery that I am the Batman to attempt a dramatic leap off the roof of my home.

I must now painfully deduce that I am NOT the Batman and therefore, following logic, neither am I subconsciously gay.

BATMAN and all characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics. The image is used in compliance with fair use laws.

A Quote To Consider

Tounge In Cheek Explanation of Several Bible Translations

Original graphic is located here. Personally, I use the NASB (New American Standard Bible).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What Is A Lukewarm Christian?

I was asked to explain what a "lukewarm Christian" was. Below is my response:

Actually, I’m probably the best person to come to as interpreting Scripture through its cultural and historical context is my bread and butter. I imagine that you will discover that my answer mirrors several other responses you’ve gotten.

The phrase originates from the third chapter of Revelation.
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
16 So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (NASB)
Now take a trip back with me to around Anno Domini 85 to the ancient city of Laodicea.

Laodicea was a city of immense wealth. In fact it was so wealthy, when the city was devastated by an earthquake in AD 60, the citizens turned a down an offer from Nero to help rebuild the city on his dime. Imagine a city that almost mirrored the glory of Rome herself. Lovely architecture, beautiful statues everywhere, and an aqueduct that carried water to the city that was so well built, a good portion of it exists to this day. It is also home to a very famous medical school and there is a tradition, most likely untrue, that Dr. Luke, author of the gospel that bears his name and the Book of Acts, studied there.

Now let’s go back to that aqueduct. The water supply for the city came from hot mineral springs about five miles from the city. By the time the water reached the city it was of a tepid temperature and reeked of sulphur. The water was nauseating to the taste and smell.

Now lukewarm water does not taste good. In order for water to be of any value it must be hot or cold. Cold water refreshes; hot water cleanses and heals.

What Christ was saying was that Christians who are neither refreshing to the world around them or healing to the world around them are to him of no value. As I tell my own congregation, nobody is allowed to sit in the bleachers. As Christ-followers we are all down in the playing field and we better be refreshing or healing.

Hopefully, this answers you question, but if you need any more info, please ask away. Just be aware that it may be weeks before I respond due to many deadlines nearing in my personal and vocational life.

God bless.

About White Rabbit Ministries

White Rabbit Ministries is the brain child of Craig Alan Loewen: ordained clergyman, author, parlor magician, public speaker and lecturer, and adventurer extraordinaire.

It's mission is to faithfully serve the King of Hearts (and dodge the Queen's axe) in this ... um ... interesting world of Christian ministry.