Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Twofold Blessing of E-giving

As the world changes, there are more options, even in how we give at church. Remember when dad used to drop an envelope into the plate as it went by. Some people still prefer this time tested method, but Amy and I have been giving this way to FRC for the last two years, and we love it. Let me share with you some of the benefits of electronic transfer giving:
1. It has made us more consistent. As you might guess, we have a lot to do on Sunday mornings. After determining our tithe and setting the amount for the year that amount is given automatically without us ever having to “remember” to fill out the check and prepare the envelope. To be honest, we would occasionally miss this detail, and have to “make it up”, the next week.
2. We have become more faithful in our tithe. Our consistent giving, even while on vacation or attending a ministry event off site, does not impact our regular giving and we are not tempted to withhold when we go away.
3. It keeps us disciplined. In the past, when finances were lean, we sometimes would hold off giving, with the intention of making it up in the future. While we usually did, there were times when we never caught up. Since we have switched, we don’t consider it and have never had an issue with God not providing.
4. It has made us more generous with God’s money. In the past, we would consider giving a portion of our tithe to things other than the church and then subtract that from our weekly offering. Now we consider these gifts over and above our tithe. Giving to missions, youth group, the needy, special offerings etc., are now in a different category of giving for us.
Electronic contributions mean fewer envelopes to open, less manual accounting and reduced chances for errors. It also increases giving because it minimizes the weekly ebb and flow of giving regardless of members’ weekly attendance. When for example we have had to cancel services due to severe weather, the offerings dip and are not completely made up the following week. When vacations are at their peek in the summer time, the giving drops right with the attendance. How does it work? E-giving is very simple. Through a simple form, provided by the financial secretary, a church member pre-authorizes the church to have his or her contribution automatically debited from a checking or savings account. The church member can choose to have the contribution deducted weekly, semi-monthly, monthly or even annually. Once the church receives authorization for an electronic funds transfer, the church’s bank account is credited, and the parishioner’s account is debited the same amount on the schedule that is set up. It’s that simple. For us, this form of giving has helped us become more generous and more faithful. If you are interested in giving this way, you need only contact the church office.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

From Disney to Discovery

Our family just arrived home from Spring Break after visiting the Mouse's House, in Orlando, Florida. We all had a great time, but I must confess, from a Christian perspective, the world as we know it coming about by chance gets old. We went on the Spaceship Earth ride, in EPCOT and had our faith in God’s word challenged, Disney style, with 100% presumption of old earth theory. How do we respond to the predominant theories of our day? Do you believe in a literal 24 hour day of creation, or can the Hebrew word for day, yom, also be interpreted to be a long period of time, or an age?

This is certainly not a new question, but most very good questions have been asked before. This question makes for a great debate, which often pit’s geology and astronomy against the biblical account with such authority that we Christians begin to question what Genesis 1 and 2 really mean. This often results in some kind of theological compromise by Christians, like Theistic evolution- The belief that God does exist, and that God must have created things by natural means over a great period of time.

At it’s center is the problem one faces in reconciling several scientific discipline’s “old earth” theories, and a biblical young earth presentation of earth history. I happen to side on the 24 hour day side, simply because it makes a lot more exegetical sense to me despite many theologians who interpret the Hebrew word the other way. Let me explain why I take this position. There was evening and there was morning, the first yom. Either there was another light source that God used in the Genesis account, or we are operating on the same system that we are accustomed to today. The solar and lunar cycles are in place already in Genesis 1.

Then do I just ignore geology, physics, fossils, the expansion of the universe and all the natural processes that have been demonstrated as scientific fact? No. I don’t. I also don’t ignore God. Let me explain what I mean. Let’s start with Genesis. What does Genesis mean? Beginning right? But, not just the beginning…In the beginning, God. What happens when you take God out? Something that we often forget when it comes to modern science is that it works from a naturalistic philosophy that predates Darwin. It is the belief that God does not exist; there is no supernatural, outside or inside force that affects natural processes. Darwin’s theory was a result of this philosophy in biological systems, but Geology, Astronomy and other disciplines have also been impacted by it.

To put it another way…they don’t factor in the miraculous (supernatural) at all. If you don’t factor in God, then you must be able to explain how something has transformed to its current state by random chance. This was not always the case in the scientific community. There was a time, when scientists tried to puzzle out the mysteries of the micro and macro worlds to learn more about their creator. But, we live in an age where the predominant presumption in science is that God does not exist. When this shift took place the primary presumption- that God exists, was rejected and then replaced with the Natural Sciences. We now have museums of Natural Science and History. What’s the difference? All scientific and historical explanations of ourselves and the world around us is limited to natural reasoning.

A basic principle in the scientific method is that if you have a faulty presumption, you will always have a faulty conclusion. That is why it is always dangerous to base one theory upon another. Theories should always be founded on observable facts, not other theories- which by very definition have not yet been proven. Take for example the theory of evolution, and the second law of thermodynamics. The former is yet to be proven; the latter has become a law. Yet, scientists continue to advance the theory of evolution, while ignoring a scientific law, because the theory fits their presupposition- no God factored in.

In Natural systems (Nature), we observe processes and make predictions into the future and past based on those processes. This is very logical. So what happens when you observe and prove the second law of thermodynamics (put into layman’s terms- everything over time breaks down into a more chaotic system until finding a balance), as was first established in 1824. What impact does that have on your observation of so many complex systems that exist? Let’s explore together the two possibilities. This law, without the existence of God, should reveal that the older the cosmos, the more disorder or chaos there should be? This law, with the existence of God, might attribute the power (or energy) of God, in the giving of order in a universe that would break down without it.

So if you don’t believe in God how did our own bodies and all the complex systems around us get so ordered? Answer- Time. Lots and lots and lots of time! Because order should not be observed, because we should not exist, it would take a very long time for it to happen in a random system…like a miracle (but not like a miracle performed by God, because God does not exist) but, a miracle just the same. So, how much time would it take? 15 to 20 Billion years. While the number is much debated, it is debated in the Billions, not thousands. Life as we know it with all it’s complexity should not exist at all in a natural system, so you have to allow for huge quantities of time and chance for it to randomly occur.

I’d like to get back to God for a moment. If you believe in God, you believe in an outside or inside force that can impact natural processes. Take for example Jesus healing someone. Our hospitals are filled with people who we can expect to get well, as the processes of healing occur. Our bodies fight infection, gain strength, and recover…over time. Jesus said, take up your mat and walk. And the lame man walked. We call this a miracle. A doctor operating on someone’s cataract and giving them sight is not a miracle, even though we might use the expression. A miracle is a person going from blind to sighted, without the hand and expertise of a surgeon in real time. Something supernatural, from outside the system has changed the natural course of things.

The Bible unmistakably describes the character of God and his attributes. God is the creator. God is the sustainer. God rules over all things, and God from time to time alters the design he created in what we call miracles. From a purely scientific perspective, our very existence is a miracle. Christians simply attribute the miracle to God instead of luck. Rather than believing (having faith that) against all logic, we are the result of astronomical odds in a universe ordered by random events, we simply believe in God.

With this argument laid out for you, let me ask you a question. If you had the ability to create, anything you wanted, at any time you wanted, simply by saying the words, (Genesis account- and God said, let there be…) would you take 15 billion years to do it? Time itself is a measurement that we have been given by God, for scripture teaches us that God is eternal. In Genesis, God provided something to order our lives: light to rule the day, and darkness to rule the night… there was evening, and morning, the first yom (day). To God a day is like a thousand years, because God exists outside of our parameter, but to us a day has been ordered.

When God created Adam, did he begin with a bacteria, fungi, plankton or an amoeba? No, he took all the materials from the dust of the earth and made a man. Not, an infant, not a boy, a man. Why is this significant? God created sustainable systems in the beginning. When we observe the rocks of the earth and the stars in the sky with the assumption that they were formed without miracle, we can only do it by attributing processes that take much more time, like the healing process within the human body. In Hebrews 1:1-3 we not only find that God created, but that God also sustains all things through the power of his word. That is why certain scientists who believe in the power of God, like Einstein, when discovering predictable, yet invisible power packets inside of unseen atoms, (quantum mechanics, or quantum theory), believed he was discovering a mystery of God.

If you are frustrated as a Christian, at the exclusion of God in science, I would encourage you to stand firm. The origin of science was founded on the search for truth. Christians do not have to compromise their faith to find it, for God’s word is truth. The evidence of God, and his divine attributes are clearly seen, even if the predominant cultural view is contrary to it. There is a reason, despite the fact that evolution and natural sciences are taught in all our public schools, and displayed over and over till nausea strikes on the National Geographic and Discovery Channels that over 80% of the people in our nation still believe in God! Natural sciences do not provide very convincing answers to life’s biggest questions. The irony is that if Science was purely a search for truth, without any error, it would discover…God.

How do you stand up to the challenge?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Need a Break!

Do you ever get that feeling… the spring break mentality? Brought on by hard work, and busyness, it’s been popularized by students escaping from assignments and exams, but everyday work, church, and family commitments also bring it on. You start to feel like you’re in a rut, and you want to “break” out of it with a little spell of rebellion and self-indulgence. The melting snow and Winter holding onto Spring intensifies the anticipation of a change of pace. Some look so forward to this break that it goes from a desire to a need. Have you ever started living for your vacations, spring break, or retirement? We’re all susceptible to it because life is hard, painful and difficult at times. But something’s wrong with this way of thinking. Looking forward to when troubles are left in the past delays our happiness into the future and robs us of the joy we can have today.

Another problem with this kind of thinking is that our great adversary the Devil takes advantage of the ‘I need it bad’ mentality. Advertisers take advantage of this mentality every day. We’re more susceptible to purchase something we know we can’t afford, or yield to temptation in this mindset. Blank check credit card offers and “no payments until the year 2020- sales” are aimed directly toward this kind of thinking. Once you buy into the idea that you need it or deserve it, they make it easy, so you can’t resist. The temptations rage on each day: “I deserve to have a good time as much as the next guy”; “I worked hard, now I deserve a reward”; “She went on a shopping trip, so why shouldn’t I go on a fishing trip”; “Just do it”; “you’re worth it”; “you’re #1”… the list goes on. Satan sells his ideas the same way. As soon as we begin thinking about what ‘I’ deserve, need, or want, we place our foot into a snare.

How can we avoid this trap? We should live fulfilled on a daily basis, so we are content with who we are, what we have and what we do. A basic biblical principle easy to forget and hard to learn from (Gal. 2:20) is: “I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” We feel run down and tired and in a rut when we begin to do things in our own strength instead of the strength of Christ. True fulfillment and contentment in Christ aught not be an occasional experience. It comes from a daily walk with our Lord. God will provide what we need, if we depend on Him to provide. This view of the world has been clarified for me, when witnessing the joy of believers who live in absolute poverty. Our prosperity makes us susceptible to always want more and slip into a self focused view of life.

I recently did a contentment check, and realized that I was fueling my lack of contentment with some things:
1) I had a mental “to buy” list of hunting equipment. I routinely went through the Cabela’s magazines, marking the “things I’d like to have”. Because hunting and fishing gear is my Achilles heel, I decided to pitch the magazines so I would learn to be content with what I have. What’s your weakness? Clothes, trips, Jewelry…
2) I had a To Do list at home on the fridge that had many household chores. It was all about “stuff.” No names were on it. I found it interesting that I while there were many projects planned, I didn’t have goals to build relationships or spend time with people on my list. I decided to change that. What’s on your To Do list?

Welcome to the conversation.

A whole other can of worms is getting proper rest. I’ll save that for another conversation.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things We Do Wrong at Church

People outside the church very quickly identify the things churches do wrong, but I have some unique experience as a church insider both growing up in the church and then working in them for the last 25 years, that reveal some things we do wrong in church.

To identify what churches do wrong, all we have to do is look at what causes churches to split. Did you know that there are currently over 38,000 different Christian denominations! History reveals to us that new denominations are formed as a result of conflict and confrontation which leads to division and separation.

Central points of doctrine that have united believers for centuries are not usually the problem. Most divisions take place over differences of opinion by godly, albeit flawed, people seeking to honor God. In other words, their intentions are usually good, not evil. But, you know what road is paved with good intentions.... Most quarrels in churches are about the little things done in the church that people don't like. This happens frequently when a new person introduces an idea that upsets "the way it is supposed to be, or has always been". Our consciences and our interpretation of the Bible often support the way we have come to see it, even if it doesn't. In other words we use verses in support of our idea, rather than allowing the verses to speak freshly to the situation.

As a result, people disagree about how to do things in church that have no doctrinal significance at all, and assign them great importance. All churches struggle with these issues and are at the center of a lot of their conflicts. What kind of things am I talking about? The sacred pulpit, stained glass windows, the display of the cross, the moving of the communion table, type of baptism, style of music, how we observe holidays, the use of drama, projecting the scriptures, the use of certain instruments, Bible translation preference, the display of memorials…etc. The list goes on and on. Do’s and don’ts are also extended to proper behavior inside and outside of the church, like clothing style, dancing or kinds of entertainment. Over time we make some of these practices and items sacred.

In our minds we make sacred, things that we like, rather than being led by God's word on the matter. We are very quick to identify errors that "other" churches make, while falling into a very similar, but unidentified trap of our own. We think our style of worship, our liturgy, our moral choices are “the right way.” Have you ever noticed the lack of emphasis given in God’s word to the church about: furniture (pulpit, Communion Table), modes of communion, order of worship, approved instruments, length or number of services, the repetition of creeds (that were yet to be written), which translation is superior, musical styles, who is approved to serve communion, proper clothing for worship, kinds of prayer, the correct number and kind of songs, approved liturgy…etc?

I have been told that my sermons are better when I dress “like a preacher” (meaning suit and tie). I have been told that a “Man of God” should be clean shaven”! I look at the wall of past preachers on our church wall and find that many of them wore beards. Were they all bad preachers? If they were clean shaven, would more people have been saved? Imagine how much more powerful Jesus' teaching would have been if he only shaved!

We often do not realize how selective we are in the scriptures we emphasize. As a theologically conservative church, we have a tendency to have many dialogues about certain sins. Sins that are visible and public are fair game, because they are “out there”. Part of this is due to the fear of the spread of liberalism and the moral decline of our nation, but we often fail to apply the scriptures to the issues that often divide us within the church. With our devotion to the inspiration of the word, you would think that we would be just as quick to dispel the errors that are so prevalent within the church. It is not the case. What scriptures do people use to defend their prefered music style, placement of church furniture, the proper way to serve communion?

Answer...None. Because the scriptures only give us general principles to follow, not rules. More specifically, people don't go to the scriptures on these issues, because the scriptures do not side with them! Hymns vs. praise music. Robes vs. Robless. Contemporary vs. Traditional. King James vs. NIV. Dressed up vs. Casual. If we boil it down to the most simplistic answer possible, we are often self centered instead of Christ Centered when it comes to worship and how we do things in the church. We can get very upset about things we have assigned great importance that God hasn’t. We don’t realize that when we focus on these things instead of Christ, we have the potential to offend God and divide the church. To further this point, I am going to apply scripture to a few of the prominent conflicts occurring in our churches today.

When we apply scripture to our preferences, we will learn something about God and ourselves. For example- Something I hear often is the familiar criticism of contemporary Praise and Worship for it's repitition, and shalownes: “Praise hymns are 7/11 songs, seven verses, eleven times”. The implication is that they are too repetitive and lack spiritual depth. However, Psalm 136 repeats itself 26 times! So is that Psalm inferior to Psalm 118 that has more subject matter and only repeats the chorus 4 times? Isaiah 6:3 and Revelatoin 4:8 give accounts of the singing in the throne room in heaven. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, is repeated day and night without ceasing. So apparently God doesn’t mind repetition. Is it possible that repetition of Gods word might be beneficial to us as well?

Let's look at the other side of the debate. There are those that don’t like old songs, because of pace or antiquated words. Their boring, and have no energy. Have you ever considered what the scriptures say about old and new songs? We are given a list of songs in the Bible: Psalms- songs for the people of God. Pretty old songs if you ask me. Yet, in the Psalms, themselves, we are instructed to sing new ones as well! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy Psalm 33:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:3 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth Psalm 96:1. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him Psalm 98:1 These are just a few examples of the many times we are told to sing new songs to God. Is it a surprise to us that God would be honored if we were to write and sing songs about him ourselves, rather than only repeating someone else’s? Apparently, God values old and new songs, and desires us to sing both kinds.

What Biblical instruction do we have on the architectural layout of a church or its furniture? NONE! We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are living stones that build up the church (1 Peter 2). We may defile the temple of God when we become gluttonous at church potlucks and never realize it, but move a piece of furniture like a pulpit, or communion table and people get all upset. Did Jesus teach from behind a pulpit? No. Yet some denominations will not let anyone step into one, without being an ordained minister. It is as if a lectern has become some kind of holy ground.

Are there instruments you prefer in worship services? Of course you do. All of us have our own taste when it comes to music. So what does the Bible say about instruments? “David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals (1 Chronicles 15:16)”. “The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud. Stringed- percussion, brass, wind... (2 Chronicles 5:13).” So what guidance do the scriptures give about instruments? As long as they are played for God and not for us, they are acceptable. Worship is not supposed to please us; it is supposed to please the Lord. Do you think that God favors European, African, or Asian instruments? Why would God favor one instrument over another, when he measures worship by a person’s heart according to John 4:23-24?

What about Drama? You might say “There is no drama in the Bible!” I grant you that there is no English word drama in the Bible. There is no English word Trinity either, yet the Bible tells us of a triune God that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So what is drama? In our modern church context, it is a play (a dramatization) of something in real life, to help us to recognize something in our own reality that we might otherwise overlook. Have you ever read Hosea or Ezekiel? Moses’ whole life was a drama, as was Joseph’s. Let us not forget Jonah and Noah. Their whole lives pointed to the reality that we must repent and need a Savior. Paul said “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” ( 1 Corinthians 9:22). If we can use an art form to help communicate the Gospel, why on earth wouldn’t we do it?

We all have different preferences and thoughts about how to do things within the body, because of our own uniqueness. But, when we share our concerns with humility and temperance, not anger, pride or divisiveness, we can have unity and harmony with diversity. The church is much more attractive to people who are checking it out, maybe for the first time, when the people who are in the church get along! What a novel idea..."They will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." JESUS

We often offend the church of Christ with petty, selfish things that hinder the work of making disciples and sharing the good news. It’s like throwing mud on a beautiful young woman’s bridal gown. The church, after all, is the bride of Christ. So who we really offend with this muck is Christ himself, the head of the church.

Just in case you are wondering...I am not targeting a specific church or denomination, because all church goers are guilty of this kind of thinking at one time or another. We all need to understand this, because we all tend to be selfish. When we apply the scriptures, we will be corrected and oriented back toward the Savior we love. We will gain an appreciation for others who have different preferences and love them too. It is unfortunate that many in the world have identified Christians; by their propensity to disagree with each other. It’s my prayer that they will know we are Christians by our love. I think Jesus would like that.

About this Blog

Wayne's Worldview is a blog to share my unique perspective on the world around me as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.

I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.

Welcome to the conversation.