Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Poor and the Christian Church

As I've noted here numerous times, I'm really uncomfortable with Christian churches taking money from the government to meet their God-given commitments to those less fortunate, while shelving God's command to preach the Gospel because that's not allowed with USDA food distribution grants or the HUD housing rehab or the HHS neighborhood clinic. "Peace and Justice" Christians, whether liberal or conservative, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox, need to open the Old Testament--to the Book of Job. The story of Job is a non-Israelite story. Scholars don't agree on how old the story is, or where it came from, but a casual reading shows that Job was considered a righteous and moral man by his peers and himself, a man devoted to God. Job in his own words described his close fellowship with God, his wonderful family, his blessings of wealth, and his respected position in the community (this sounds like the "health and wealth" gospel you find on Christian TV). Then disaster takes it ALL away. We see that Job is an adherent of an ancient patriarchial religion, common among many desert people--he avoids adultery, including carnal lust, even the smallest thought that would contaminate his mind; he doesn't lie or deceive and was never unfair; he was fair even to his slaves; he was a man of great charity, helping the widow and fatherless orphans; he didn't worship idols and knew that silver and gold could be idols; he didn't gloat when his enemies failed; he didn't hate the foreigner and practiced hospitality; he hadn't obtained his land by robbery; no one ever charged him with being hypocrite. He "wore righteousness as a garment."

So if this is the sum total of what Jesus came to preach, he was a few centuries late--the people already knew all this. What constituted righteousness was well known, common knowledge, just as today. So Christians need to make sure that their own "righteousness" is more than that, it must include the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the USDA summer lunch and snack program forbids distributing printed Bible tracts, or says you can't sing songs about Jesus or that you can't console a pregnant mother with life giving testimony about your own situation, then DON'T TAKE THE MONEY! Don't pay your church staff to go after and manage these grants. It's a deal with the Devil.

President Obama promised us in his 2008 campaign that he was going to strip religion from these programs--and even in the old days of "a thousand points of light," (Bush I slogan) Christians were restricted about what they could do or say in order to receive government grants. But we've already seen how President Obama co-opted the Catholic church in their own building on their own grounds dangling before them the prestige of having the President stand at their podium. He won't be any less harsh to Lutherans running lunch programs in neutral community buildings in Hilliard and on the Hilltop.

Government programs are rarely "temporary" and almost never go away. They just get bigger because so many staff government jobs are dependent on them. They spawn entire marketing and printing projects, distribution channels, factories to process food, conferences and workshops to keep employees informed of changes in the law (with travel to interesting cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans), warehouses and storage equipment, soup kitchens, special healthy snack creation, and all manner of cross fertilization of other projects, especially environmental, the current craze. What started 65 years ago when my grandparents were farming in Illinois and Iowa to use up agricultural surpluses to help the farmers after WWII, has run amok creating a dependency among the poor and the distributers alike. And I use the word "poor" loosely here--to qualify for food assistance, the family of 4 can earn $41,299 and add $6,959 for each additional family member.
    "Ohio Foodbanks began in 1985 to develop the federally funded Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) within the state of Ohio. Working in conjunction with the Department of Education and then the Ohio Department of Agriculture and finally with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services the Ohio Foodbanks struggled through many years of programmatic development, burdensome federal bureaucratic processes, repeated threats of cuts to the TEFAP food sources, and the constant recognition that even in the best of times, the food was generally in insufficient amounts to meet the growing needs of the hungry Ohioans." So now they are a line item in the state budget guaranteeing a permanent income stream. OASHF

    • 87% of pantries, 70% of kitchens, and 36% of shelters are run by faith-based agencies affiliated with churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious organizations.
    • At the agency level, 80% of agencies with at least one pantry, kitchen, or shelter and 69% of all agencies including those only with other types of programs are faith-based. Toledo NW Ohio Food Bank, 2006"
Cross posted at Collecting My Thoughts.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making room on the shelves

for Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. A two volume commentary published by Fortress will have to go. I blogged about it here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Strong verses for tough times

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29: 11

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. John 10:27-28

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Do not fear what you are about to suffer...Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

I found this list in a Concordia confirmation certificate pack, but just as they are good for the long haul, the are also good for the next day or week, which is about as far as we want to go right now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Support Lutheran CORE

Lutheran CORE is a coalition of individuals, congregations and reform movements in the ELCA. Lutheran CORE seeks to be a voice for the solid, faithful core that is the majority of ELCA members, pastors, and congregations.

You may give online at or send gifts to:

Lutheran CORE
c/o WordAlone Network
2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220
New Brighton, MN 55112-2202

Please make checks payable to the WordAlone Network and indicate that your gift is for Lutheran CORE on the memo line.
    "Over the past three years Lutheran CORE has worked for the reform of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Our chief goal has been to serve as a voice for the Word of God within the ELCA. We have sought to maintain the Christian doctrine of marriage and the normative use of the Biblical names for the persons of the Holy Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Within the ELCA we have sought to uphold both Biblical authority and Lutheran identity. To effect these reforms, we have used the constitutional structures of the ELCA — synod assemblies, churchwide assemblies, and the election processes for synodical and churchwide leaders. . .

    The commitment of the ELCA to its Trinitarian heritage continues to weaken, as evinced by the increasing avoidance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our church’s liturgical and educational publications. The ongoing debate over marriage and sexuality seems never-ending. We see indications of a weakening Lutheran identity within our church." Additional information at the April 2009 Newsletter.
You may be yawning at this point if you are not a Lutheran, however, the same issues are happening in your denomination whether Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Congregational. In fact, your church has possibly already been sunk by the world, the flesh and the devil working in concert (it takes three) with tiny committees who have usurped your authority and taken the people in the pews hostage.

I've blogged before about the bizarre twisting of language and theology in the ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Be sure to read the article on p. 10 of the above newsletter by Paul Hinlicky: "I Think I Want A Divorce from ELCA." There are some marriages that cannot be fixed, and the ELCA has been flagrantly unfaithful to her bridgegroom Jesus Christ, afraid to even mention his name, and is out and about on the streets whoring. She needs to be cut off from her source of funding to end the prostitution.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Noise--the asbestos and allergies of the future

Interesting note in one of my husband's architectural journals, "Schools of the 21st Century," Supplement to Architectural Record, Jan. 2009.
    "But one thing that is universally true [in designing buildings for children] is that the senses of a child are nearly always more acute than those of an adult. Poor air quality, bad lighting, extraneous noise, and rooms that are too hot or cold are enormously distracting, especially if one is struggling to learn." Welcome, p. 11

I don't see any Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) on the list of top 20 songs used as "torture," but I've left services, or even the building, so if I were confined to a stroller, or baby holder, it would be uncomfortable.
    Music as a means of torture became commonplace in 1989, during the effort by US troops to force Panama president, Manuel Norriega to surrender. The brutal practice was also a regular part of interrogation tactics authorized by then commander in Iraq, Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez in a September 14, 2003 memorandum.

    Since then, music torture has become the norm in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in particular, where it is blasted at high volume over PA systems to create fear, disorient detainees, prolong capture shock, induce sleep deprivation – and to drown out screams. Link
Some Christians worry CCM lowers standards (actually lots of public domain, traditional old timey hymns have terrible theology); I worry about it raising decibels. Architects can't do much after the building is occupied. The music speakers at our X-Alt services blast the fragile and developing and elderly ears alike. I think parents who bring babies and young children into those services, carefully watching for peanut allergies, carrying hand sanitizer, and checking for ear infections, will some day realize they created hearing impairment and auditory processing disorders--especially if universal health care is expected to supply hearing aids to 30-40 year olds. The boomers barely notice, they are already hearing impaired from rock concerts and want the music cranked; the gen-x-ers have never known anything else and think we're just old fuddy-duddy fun spoilers. Those of us in our 60s, 70s, and 80s, are more sensitive to it than the younger people. Someone needs to show those pastors and parents (and musicians) an ear chart.

And I guess it will be me!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rip and Read

Now when I hear news stories like this, it means so much more--we were in the Holy Land in March. "Pope Benedict XVI prayed at Christianity's holiest site on Friday as he wrapped up a Holy Land tour in which he pleaded for Palestinians and stirred criticism he lacked remorse over the Holocaust. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, . . "

The problem was the young woman reading the news on the radio pronouced Sepulchre as ska-PAL-ter. Yes, Church of the Holy skaPALter. Reminds me of when he first became Pope and there were people who didn't know how to read Roman Numerals. Poor guy was all over the place--13th, 14th, 17th.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Prayer; does it make any difference?

Reading the first chapter, I am reminded that "doubt" and "questioning" are cherished values among many Christians--liberals, evangelicals and fundamentalists. I like Philip Yancey's writing--he's an editor of Christianity Today. In His Image that he wrote with Brand is one of the most wonderful titles I've ever read. But he is so tortured with doubts and questions from minutiae to mountains from his early upbringing in a fundamentalist church, that I really have to slog through his, "is it this," "is it that," "dare I be dogmatic, and make a final judgement" style. I'm reading his book on prayer because I'm in a group, and . . . well, I like the group.

For example, in Chapter One he grabs me immediately with the first sentence--"I chose the wrong time to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. I went in November of 2002 just as the city was reconstructing itself to prepare . . . " You see, I was there in 2006 and it seemed it was reconstructing itself for the G-8--in fact, our tour had been cancelled for fear of problems and the take over of our hotel, so we were reassigned to another group of six--we called ourselves the G-6. Yancey goes on to tell of a chain of events that led to a prayer of last resort. Even as I'm reading I'm thinking, "How dumb is this American--jogging in a construction zone, in the dark, in a city controlled by the Russian mafia, during the Chechen rebellion, in a country where it's not safe to go to the hospital?" In desperation, after doing a string of really stupid, unsafe things, including taking aspirin and sleeping after a head injury, he struggled to an Internet cafe where he figured out the Cyrillic alphabet before the time runs out so he can send an e-mail to friends. . . "We need help. Please pray."

Do you know what the footnote on that page says? "Everything healed fine. And the request for prayer had one very practical benefit. The wife of my dentist, who was on the prayer team and received the message, immediately reserved an appointment for me so that the day after my return from Russia I had a root canal procedure!"

Here's a famous Christian author, beginning a book with an incredible story of answered prayer, and he makes the whole thing sound like a happy coincidence in the dentist office! I haven't finished the book, so maybe he has a follow-up somewhere else in the book.

That's what bothers me about doubting, questioning, faithless (in prayer, in service, in politics) Christians. It's not that God can't handle the doubts, just read the Psalms or Job, but it sure doesn't do much for those bystanders watching and listening who have no faith at all to read about those who have faith and still question how God is going to get them through the messes they create.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's time for UALC to leave ELCA

They just don't get it--either what the Bible says, or what the people are saying. The excuses just keep coming. If we're "clearning the rolls," then why aren't we bringing in new members? If there is an economic slump, what about all the good years we've had this decade? The homosexuality position is totally unbiblical but it is built on many other unbiblical beliefs that have come out of the seminaries in the last 50 years. Rev. C.J. Conner at The Christian Post.
    "Since 2001, the ELCA reports a loss of 400,078 members. In 2007, on any given Sunday, only 28.9% of ELCA’s 4,709,956 members attend services. This is a steady annual drop in Church attendance, and leads many to theorize that the trends suggest the loss is far higher than the ELCA is able to quantify.

    John Brooks, ELCA communications director says that all of these things have nothing to do with the protracted debate in the ELCA on homosexuality. He points to the economic recession that engulfs all of America right now. He also maintains that the loss of membership recorded for the last 7 years is due to congregations “clearing their rolls of inactive members” and is relatively equivalent to membership losses experienced across the mainline churches.

    Brooks echoes the sentiments represented in a recent Public Religion Research survey of Mainline Pastors, including ELCA pastors. 46% of those surveyed do not believe that the mainline churches are declining because they are becoming theologically liberal. In fact, 47% thinks that the decline has been caused by a loss of courage among the churches to take prophetic stands for justice.

    Mark Hanson, presiding Bishop of the ELCA, has consistently and strongly urged his clergy to take prophetic stands on social justice issues. At the same time, he has asked his members not to let the ELCA’s position on homosexuality to detract from all the good work the denomination does. “The issue of homosexuality in this Church is not all that we are,” he says.

    But to many in his flock it seems the conflict has consumed the church, has depleted valuable resources, tarnished the ELCA name, and has overtaken the Christian priority of bringing people to Christ. For them, the ELCA has indeed become too liberal. Many of the polite and gracious people of the ELCA, primarily of quiet and reserved Scandinavian background, are more apt to vote with their feet and pocketbooks than to engage a fight with denominational polity."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Hymns and praise choruses--the difference

A Funny Little Story About Hymns and Praise Songs~
By: Author Unknown
Seen at Maiden in the House of God

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the farmer. "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns."

"Praise choruses?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"Oh, they're okay. They're sort of like hymns, only different," said the farmer.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The farmer said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you,

'Martha, Martha, Martha,Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA,the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows,the white cows, the black and white cows,the COWS, COWS,COWS are in the corn,are in the corn, are in the corn,in the CORN, CORN, CORN, COOOOORRRRRNNNNN,'

then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus."

~As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was.

"Well," said the young man, "It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs."

"Hymns?" asked the wife. "What are those?"

"They're okay. They're sort of like regular songs, only different," said the young man.

"Well, what's the difference?" asked the wife.

The young man said, "Well it's like this ... If I were to say to you, 'Martha, the cows are in the corn,' well that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you,

'Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.

For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.

Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.

So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.'

Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Great lead in for discussion--Jesus my Stepping Stone

Here we are in the North American church—conservative or liberal, evangelical or mainline, Protestant or Catholic, emergent or otherwise—cranking along just fine, thank you. So we’re busy downsizing, becoming culturally relevant, reaching out, drawing in, making disciples, managing the machinery, utilizing biblical principles, celebrating recovery, user-friendly, techno savvy, finding the purposeful life, practicing peace with justice, utilizing spiritual disciplines, growing in self-esteem, reinventing ourselves as effective ecclesiastical entrepreneurs, and, in general, feeling ever so much better about our achievements.

Notice anything missing in this pretty picture? Jesus Christ! p. 9

"Where the gospel is not taken for granted, it is often a means to an end, like personal or social transformation, love and service to our neighbors, and other things that in themselves are marvelous effects of the gospel. However, the Good News concerning Christ is not a stepping-stone to something greater and more relevant. Whether we realize it or not, there is nothing in the universe more relevant to us as guilty image-bearers of God than the news that he has found a way to be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). It is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), not only for the beginning, but for the middle and end as well—the only thing that creates the kind of new world to which our new obedience corresponds as a reasonable response." p. 22

Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2008. Foreward, p. 9, Ch. 1, p. 22.