Archive for February, 2014

Repentence, Bias, Technology

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Technology

I have repented… or maybe I’ve accepted my addiction… or perhaps it’s recognizing my bias… Whatever. After a very serious and concerted effort to leave the Apple techosystem, I have ceased the struggle and allowed the Apple gravity well to draw me back into it’s embrace.

The migration away from Apple products began about a year and a half ago. I stopped using iWork applications to create documents and switched to Google Apps or LibreOffice (OpenOffice) for most uses. Projects that had been created with Pages or Numbers I began converting to either .doc or .pdf depending on whether they were a static document or I thought I’d need to edit them in the future. Keynote files were converted to .ppt (Google Presentation still is not robust enough to replace Power Point or Keynote in my opinion). While I had ceased to use as many Apple applications as I could, I was still tied to the hardware (since the computer was still working, I couldn’t justify buying a new one).

The transfer almost completely away from Apple occurred six months ago when the hard drive in my almost six-year-old iMac died. I began to search for a new computer. After taking stock of what I needed and wanted my new machine to be able to do, I made my purchase. It happened to be a Windows 8 machine.

Unlike many others the Metro interface did not initially turn me off. I found the OS to be different, but I dove in learning the layout and function. Over the next couple week, however, I decided that Windows 8 is a schizophrenic OS. Metro and Desktop are two completely different operating systems running in tandem…and they don’t talk well with each other. Perhaps with a tablet or touch-screen PC the user experience might be different, but with a standard point-and-click mouse setup, I found it cumbersome and clunky. I eventually installed an app which completely by-passed Metro and reinstated a classic start menu and a Windows 7 like functionality.

Shifting gears slightly I want to add that I love the hardware of my purchased machine. The power, speed, graphic clarity, etc. are awesome. Over time, however, my constant wrestling with the OS simply increased my frustration. I began looking at replacing the OS with Linux, but found that Open Source development hadn’t yet caught up to the hardware in my machine. So I continued to slog it out, trying to make the best of it, but looking back longingly at my Apple days and wondering if my gripes were really that serious after all.

One day not long ago my wife (who’s desktop computer – running Linux – is almost as old as my dead iMac) stated that there were somethings which her machine just couldn’t do and expressed a desire to purchase a Windows laptop. A couple days later, my metaphorical hat in hand, I approached her with a deal. If we purchased a refurbished Macbook Pro, I’d trade her my 18″ six-month-old Windows laptop for the refurbished (i.e. older) 13″ (i.e. smaller) Apple machine.

And so, I am once again in the clutches of Apple Inc. – and I’m okay with this.


Losing Focus

Posted: February 20, 2014 in Church


American Baptists have a long history of being concerned with equality and social justice. We have many initiatives in our own right and partner with other organizations to fight hunger, oppression, and injustice, to promote equality and social well-being. One of our mottoes is “Being the hands and feet of Christ.” This is all very good. But I have this against us. We seem to have forgotten our first love.

Recently my wife attended an American Baptist Women’s conference. She was largely disappointed in the experience and told them she probably wouldn’t be back next year. One major critique was a lack of prayer. There was one pre-prepared prayer read at one of the final sessions … and that was it. Hardly a sign of a vibrant spiritual life.

In all of the ABC-USA conferences I’ve been to the message was much of a sameness; our efforts in social causes and how we can do better. The one sort-of God centered conference could be summed up as follows: “We have no idea where we’re going, but we’re sure God’s leading us there.”

We seem to have lost our focus on proclamation and disciple making. When a church meeting or conference can be confused for a Rotary or Kiwanis function, then “[s]omething is rotten in the state of [the ABC-USA]”.

I’m not just trying to bag on my chosen denomination. Baptists were born out of the English Separatist movement and it’s easy for us to continue in that vein. That’s why there are so many different Baptist groups, conventions, associations, etc. Rather I’m trying to be a Puritan, urging us to repent and return to our first love. Return to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which declares that we were dead in our sins and He brought us to life, that salvation comes by grace alone though faith alone in Christ alone, and not through all our good works.

I would love to meet and join with other Christ centered, Gospel driven ABC-USA churches and pastors. I would love to see revival in our midst, to see the fire for the Gospel of Christ rekindled in the hearts of a people who’s love of Scripture led them to stand against the established religious authority. I would love for us to be not only the hands and feet, but the mouth of Christ as well who proclaimed “…the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”

I would love to see us return to our first love.

I just read an article titled “17 Things ‘The Princess Bride’ Taught Me About Autism Parenting.” As a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum I found the article amusing and encouraging. As I read, I also became aware of many similarities between parenting an autistic child and pastoring a church. So here’s my spin-off (some sections I have taken whole from the original article as they apply to church life equally without modification):

1.  Affection doesn’t have to mean saying I love you.
There are a lot of ways to tell your people you love them. A phone call, a card, shoveling their walk, raking their yard, sitting down to a cup of coffee, offering a hug or a gentle pat on the shoulder, or playing rhyming games that annoy their spouse.
2. Optimism can get you through the fire swamp.
Just because you haven’t tackled a problem before doesn’t mean there’s no solution, even for POUS’s (Problems of Unusual Size).
3.  Having a target will help you stay focused.
Vision and mission are key components in the success of any organization, the church included. You simply don’t have the energy or resources to tackle every challenge that’s in front of you. Find your six-fingered man – prioritize your goals, work out which of those you can tackle and then pursue them with everything you’ve got.
4.  You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.
Be patient. Change and growth take time and prayer. There are no corners to be cut here. Every church is different, and each member grows at their own rate.
5. Success means using the right moves for the terrain.
As the cultural terrain changes we must change with it. It’s been said over and over and it remains true: The gospel doesn’t change, but the way we deliver it does. We must exegete not only scripture, but the culture in which God has placed us as well.
6. There’s not a lot of money in revenge.
People will hurt you. Members of your own flock may stab you in the back. Other pastors may belittle or bad mouth you for any number of reasons. Don’t get bitter about it. Don’t resent “more successful” pastors. Remain faithful to the God who called you to be His, who called you into ministry and to the vision He has given you.
7. Inconceivable doesn’t mean impossible.
Your people will achieve things beyond what you ever expected or imagined. Believe this and they’ll believe it too.
8. You may already have a wheelbarrow.
It’s easy to focus on the problems and difficulties, but don’t forget to take stock of your assets too. What experiences and skills are present in your church that can help you overcome the challenges before you?
9. Who says life is fair? Where is that written?
Scripture never says life ought to be fair. In fact Grace and Salvation are the least fair things in the universe. Are you familiar with the passage about the wages of sin being death but the free gift of God is eternal life? How’s that fair. Was it fair for Christ to suffer and die for your sin? Let go of the idea that you have more than your fair share of crap to deal with. There are no shares. You don’t have a big pile of crap, you have life, a calling, a ministry, a church. Go therefore and make disciples…
10. Sometimes words don’t mean what you think they mean.
Humans are notoriously bad about expressing their feelings in constructive ways which make sense to others. We hurt people accidentally and are hurt by people accidentally. If you’re wondering what someone meant, or you feel inclined to take a comment in a negative light, dig deeper. Don’t use email or texting for this. Face to face conversation in a casual environment is the best way to sort it all out.
11. Wiggling a finger is worth celebrating.
Take time to enjoy even the smallest of accomplishments, for they were hard earned and are signs of bigger things to come. Do you have two more people this Sunday than you did last year? Praise God! Did you manage to shave fifteen minutes off a business meeting? Rejoice!
12. You always come back for the ones you love.
It’s not for nothing that Paul tells Timothy that the goal of our instruction is love. Pastor, you must love your people. Let your people know that no matter how hard things get or how confusing life may be, you’re someone they can depend on to help them find the answers.
13. Mostly dead is slightly alive.
Two angles on this one… No matter how much your church may be struggling, remember two things: 1) it’s the bride of Christ. 2) Christ came to make the dead alive.
Secondly, on a personal level, Even when you’re too tired to breathe and the odds stacked against you seem enormous, you will survive to fight another day.
14. It’s one hell of a story.
Sure there’ll be laughs, adventure, pain and tears… but at the heart of it all, it’s about a God who loves enough to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Have fun storming the castle!