Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We do need God...


I was reading some of the Christian news stories on Crosswalk.com, the Religion Today Summaries, and I came across this one from Reuters (full story)...

Pope: Fall of Communism Proved Man Needs God
Ending his first trip to the Czech Republic, Pope Benedict XVI declared Monday that communism's end was "proof that God cannot be excluded from public life," Reuters reports. The country celebrated the 20th anniversary of Velvet Revolution, which ended decades of communist rule, during the pope's visit. The pope reminded the crowd of 50,000 young people "of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights" but suddenly "found themselves stripped of their power." Speaking on St. Wenceslas's feast day, a national holiday, he continued, "Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired." The country has one of the lowest proportions of religious people in the world, according to Reuters.

I personally like this story.  Communism created a system where the people worshiped they're leaders, and tried to purge any other religious pursuits from its people.  Religion was seen as a "crutch for weak people."  That concept failed, because man was created for a relationship with God.  We cannot reach our fullest potential without that relationship, and more importantly, without the God who created us.

More and more, I see America drifting further away from God.  In fact, industrial countries all over the globe are drifting away from God.  The concern is, if communism proved that trying to exist without God will fail, why are so many "intelligent" countries trying it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

See You At The Pole

This morning, all across America, and even internationally, students met at the school flagpoles for a time of prayer before school started.

I joined about 28 others this morning on the front lawn of Alfred-Almond Central School for a time of singing and prayer.  It was great to see so many kids come out.  And there were a fair number of adult supporters as well. 

The time was student initiated and student led, which made it even more special.   Whether you were there or not, please take a few minutes during the course of the day today to pray especially for our students and our schools.  Prayer is invaluable, it opens doors that are otherwise closed;  it opens hearts that are otherwise closed as well...

Thanks to all who were there, and remember, if you couldn't make it out, you can still join them by praying now.

The trip is done, it's back to work...

What a great trip!

Isn't it good to get away once in a while?  Overall, we saw about twenty-two lighthouses, an Antique Boat Museum, two forts, lots of history on the War of 1918, the Vietnam Vets Moving Wall Memorial, and Presque Isle, a Pensylvania State Park that I've wanted to see for years - it was worth the wait!

The picture here is a picture that my son, Stewart, took of the 30 mile point lighthouse in Barker, NY.  This is thirty miles east of where the Niagara River empties into Lake Ontario.  I think it was my favorite - at least right up there with many favorites...

Anyway, we're back, I'm rested from the trip, and I promise to do better at updating this blog.

As always, thanks for reading... 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lighthouses

I've always been a big fan of lighthouses!

I don't know if has to do with the historical significance of lighthouses, the natural beauty, set on the shore, towering over everything else around them, or the marvel of building such structures long before cranes and power tools.

I like to think it has something to do with the image of Jesus being the light of the world, guiding us in our spiritual pilgrimage safely to our final destination, much as the lighthouses were the lights of the shore, guiding ships in their voyages safely to port.

My son Stewart and I will be taking a lighthouse tour this week. We leave today, Tuesday, and will be gone for a week. We will be seeing twenty-eight lighthouses and traveling over 900 miles.

Pray for us as we travel. Pray for the bonding time, father and son, and times of shared spiritual insight. Pray for refreshment that time away can often bring. And pray that the light of the world will be our guide.

See you next week!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Faithfulness...

Faithfulness was the topic of Sunday's message.

Have you ever met someone with incredible faith?  Someone you really admired because of their level of faith and understanding?  This week we looked at how we might achieve that level of faith, by looking at the faith of someone who wasn't expected to have any faith - a Greek Gentile born in Syrian Phoenicia.  Can we learn from her faith?

To read the message, click here.

Thanks for reading.

Pastor Steve

Saturday, September 5, 2009

This month's Pastor's Pen...

Each month, in our church newsletter, I write a short devotional for the front page.  It's called The Pastor's Pen, but maybe it should be Steve's Scribblings or something like that.  If you read these posts, you'll see that they sometimes wander...

Here is this month's Pastor's Pen...


...Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   -John 8:6-7
Are you one that likes to doodle?  If you have a blank sheet of paper in front of you, do you like to draw pictures or shapes or lines or circles?  I know some people who seem to have more doodles than notes following a lecture.  It doesn’t look like they got anything out of the talk when they’re done.
In a sense, that’s what Jesus is doing in this passage.  A woman was caught in adultery, the men who presented her wanted to stone her to death.  And they were well within their rights.  The law was very clear, and it called for stoning. 
I wonder what Jesus was drawing with his fingers as they were presenting their case.  His presence and His silence seemed to make the men very uncomfortable.  So much so that when He got up and suggested anyone who had never sinned might throw the first stone, they didn’t argue, though I would think that might be human nature.  They didn’t defend themselves. They quietly gave up, dropping their stones and walking away.
I’m really intrigued that Jesus would just sit there and doodle in the sand, while those around him were so angry they wanted to kill someone.  This picture of Jesus writing in the sand is an image of almost childlike innocence, seen at a time of intense anger and even hatred in those around him. 
He didn’t buy into the emotions of those around him.  He remained calm and in control, while so many around him were pushing Him to be angry as they were.  This is a model for us.  We see so many around us who are angry, and sometimes fighting to make us angry.  People who are out of control, trying to push our buttons so we, too, may loose control.
The image of Jesus quietly writing in the sand is an image that can help us remember that our Christian faith allows for a very different response.  Can we respond in love when those around us a filled with hate?  Can we keep innocence when others want to destroy?  Can we offer forgiveness in a culture that has already condemned?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Changing a favorite Bible Translation...

On Wednesday, the local Christian radio station had people call in to share their views on the report that the familiar NIV translation will be undergoing a slight change to make it more gender nutral.  The spokespeople at NIV claim it will correct some errors in the translation, and that the intent is not to make it more palatable.  They claim their emphasis is on preserving as true a translation as possible.

It always bothers me when radio stations and news sources ask for the opinions of people who don't know any more than the news source has told them.  The people of Christ shouldn't be judging or jumping to conclusions without knowing a lot more information than we've been given.

It surprised me that nearly all of the callers were against the change, nearly all stating that it's another example of the church catering to secular interests.  While I am as against watering down the gospel as anybody, and I certainly don't want to see another translation that caters to the secular interests, I readily admit that I don't have enough information to comment on this story.

If the good folks at NIV have found some errors in the translation, it seems to me that those errors should be corrected.  I personally want to have as accurate a translation as I can possibly have.  And if that means changing some of my favorite verses, then maybe I need to learn them over again, the correct way this time.  Let's make sure the translation is accurate, then face the consequences if it requires change to make it right.

I was thinking as I was listening that the only really truly inspired text was the one that the authors wrote.  God spoke through the authors.  For well over a thousand years, people had hand copied that inspired text.  Did errors occur?  Most likely. I believe that the Spirit of God was involved in the copying as well, and that the errors are minimul, but I suspect there are some there. 

As we pursue our life of faith, we should study for ourselves.  You're Pastor might be a good source for more information if you have questions.  Many people read the same translation all their lives, swearing that it's the best, without ever comparing.  I suggest that you find a couple of good translations (not paraphrases) to base your understanding on.  Compare them, note where they differ, and consider why another translation might use a different word in a favorite verse. 

Paraphrases are helpful in understanding text from a different viewpoint.  Don't use them to form your foundation, but it's interesting to see how they may differ.

And above all, don't judge.  Not about your favorite Bible translation, and not about new stories that you're invited to comment on, even though you don't know both sides of the story. 

Our Christian faith is about understanding and forgiveness, so be slow to judge and quick to forgive.  As always, your comments are welcome...

Favorite Chapter...

Yesterday I talked about being asked what my favorite verse was.  I answered with Galatians 2:20, which we talked about yesterday.  But I al...