Wednesday, August 30, 2017

MASS MEDIA INFO AND MISINFO

Ed Stetzer, in writing a CHRISTIANITY TODAY article yesterday, August 29, 2017 entitled, ‘Some People hate Joel Osteen More Than They Love Truth,' cautions Christians against hating Joel Osteen so much that they misrepresent his Lakewood church decision not to use the immense facility in Houston to shelter people affected by the ongoing flooding. Apparently the church itself is in a flood zone. My purpose here is to reference Stetzer’s advice about handling real and fake news.

  1. Stop the selective listening. Let’s face it. Many already hate Osteen, so they are hungry for a scandal. Here’s the tough question: Are we hungry for a strategic or moral failure at Lakewood, too? As I mentioned above, I have serious thoughts about Osteen’s theology. But I need not plug my ears so that I can’t hear what is true.
  2. Speak without the rage. Some take to Twitter like a death metal band. The screaming squeezes the logic out of our comments. When we dial back the emotion we are also more likely to retract when we have been wrong.
  3. Tweet your retractions too. If we can learn anything from piling on at this time, it may be that saying sorry is something that Christians should do well.
  4. Be silent. I waited to spill some ink on this topic. I had one thought at first. And another thought as the facts came out. What if I had piled on at the beginning? Or defended their decision too quickly? It has been best to be silent until there is something to say. And perhaps the best is to simply pull the plug.
Setting aside for the moment the presenting Osteen reference, we can isolate four worthwhile pieces of advice. We can make the application of these points fit all of our online communications and personal conversations, and it would be wise to do so. 
Stop listening selectively
Speak without rage
Tweet your retractions as well as your pronouncements
Be silent until there is actually something to say

Additionally: Lakewood’s website provides its explanation of their efforts to help people and the limitations caused by flooding on its own properties. Scroll the page. Some other reports suggest the church has been fully accessible and flooding has been limited. Discernment is needed in reading and listening to all the news options isn’t it?

Monday, July 3, 2017

THE SPIRIT AND THE BRIDE

Motivated by a personal need to assess local churches in the Fraser Valley in this year 2017, I have hit upon a poem I composed in 2015. It speaks to the priority relationship that all of God’s people must understand that they have together in this changing world culture that so easily consumes our spiritual fealty. 

THE SPIRIT AND THE BRIDE

A malaise in today's church, disabling
Faintness, mood swings, low resistance
The condition warrants her attention,
She disregards the diagnosis.

I told you there was something wrong.
The bride lives in an aberrant world,
Enticements streaming to disrupt her
Faithfulness is on the line.

From what's known to what is not
Analogy speaks to her of marriage
She has been violating vows
And he says softly "I'm your husband."

The resource ignored far too often,
God's Spirit resident within her
Can make her all that she should be
The noble bride he came to save.


© Ron Unruh, July 3, 2015

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Definition of New Birth

This morning a friend wrote on Facebook and I replied.
This morning I read this in the notes of a study Bible by a Reformed pastor, "New birth is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the believer." I think there is something wrong with the wording here. Does anyone else? If so, wherein lies the difficulty?
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Dan Tolly I find that any time a man [any man] attempts to 'explain' or 'say in other words' what Scripture says, he is going to falter in his explanation. I can appreciate the attempt to explain how God brings about salvation, but the choice of words does not necessarily clarify the matter.
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Ron Unruh Your question challenged me. Here are my initial thoughts. I don't believe the definition is wrong. It is an inadequate definition of the term 'new birth.' It doesn't say enough. Mention of 'an act of God' is appropriate in that when Jesus spoke about being 'born again,' he was attributing new birth to God. It is God's doing. Fine. In John 3:3-5 he said, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." When Nicodemus expressed his confusion with the words, "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." The inadequacy of the definition for me concerns that of which the act is supposed to consist. Granting eternal life to a believer is an insufficient description of 'new birth.' Eternal life is a result, a consequential benefit, to a person who has undergone the act of God that Jesus describes as a spiritual rebirth, an experience of being born again, a birth from above and which according to Peter is not derived from corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:22-23). New birth is the regenerative act of God by which a change so profound occurs that it requires other descriptors such as being translated from darkness to light, and dying to sin and living to righteousness. 

I would prefer to say, "New birth is that regenerative act of God whereby a believer in Christ is spiritually reborn as God's child to live a holy life eternally."

Friday, May 12, 2017

CYNICISM IS OUR SOCIETAL CURRENCY

Cynicism is our societal currency. It's harmful to democracy but it is our default social coinage. It is injurious to relationships but it our learned security.
Hope was the preferred currency until we ruined it. Any institution that you name has lost people's trust and confidence, government, law enforcement, banks, corporations, organized religions, education, and even the press. In fact, news sources are the propagators of cynicism. Networks are predisposed to an interpretation. Objectivity is obscured by bias. Comedy, talk shows, celebrities and film augment cynical attitudes. Saddest of all, we have become less trusting of one another. 
Too often politicians have failed to keep promises and have catered to special interests. Law enforcement has broken law and failed to keep streets safe. Banks have screwed customers' futures with easy credit. Corporations have expanded the space between wealthy and middle class. Religions have displayed repeated hypocrisies. 
As the institutions fail us, our immediate worlds are filled with truth-starved, connection-starved, hope-starved people.

CAN WE TEACH MORALITY TO A ROBOT ?

Here is an issue. He is Gunter the Robot. Humanity has invented AI, Artificial Intelligence, so now, how can we teach rules of morality and ethics to artificial intelligence? Are humans agreed upon those values across national, cultural and religious lines? No? What can we then teach him? Watch this 5 min. movie to get you thinking. Gunter swears, but then, who decides that, since Gunter assimilates all of human history and practice to create his own algorithm.

https://youtu.be/-S8a70KXZlI
GUNTER THE ROBOT MOVIE

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MY HUMANITY HAS FRAYED ENDS

Nine years into retirement from formal day-job and career commitments seems hardly possible for me. I officially retired from ‘formal’ Christian service in summer of 2008. That statement is not to be understood as retirement from Christian service or ministry. The key is the word ‘formal.’ I am a follower of Christ. Easter Sunday has now come and gone. The resurrection of Jesus Christ remains the essential element of Christian faith. ‘Gospel’ is good news. There is no gospel without the resurrection. If the resurrection did not happen for Jesus Christ, then nothing that he told humanity can be believed and further there is no divine forgiveness of human sin and there is no hope for life beyond the grave. However, I am convinced that the Bible concentrated upon personal testimonies that affirmed Jesus revealed himself demonstrably alive after his violent execution and further, that all that pertained to him had been prophecied hundreds of years earlier. His arrival on earth, his death and his resurrection was a divine plan. In the act of dying, he who was sinless through three decades of living, sustained punishment for all of human sin, and he could do this because of who he is. He is the one included in the conversation in the garden of Eden as God spoke as a plurality, “Let ‘us' make man in ‘our’ image, according to ‘our’ likeness. He is the one about whom the apostle John wrote when he said, “all things were made by him and without him nothing was made that was made.” Jesus has been invested in human spiritual and moral wellbeing from the beginning of our human race. Sin so soon tarnished the reflection of God in humanity. Jesus’ death makes possible the restoration of the image and likeness of God in each person who trusts the good news summed up so memorably in the words, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In these retirement years that rush me forward to my completion, my service is confined, no longer speaking weekly to several hundred people, but rather to the few I randomly meet in our housing community, and at the golf course where I marshall and play, and through my contacts with artists and clients. Occasionally I am given the privilege of preaching from scripture as I once did regularly. Interestingly, almost cruelly, I remember as a young inexperienced pastor preparing and preaching twice on Sundays, teaching two or three times each week, and yet now I have doctoral level knowledge, the wisdom of years, acquired communication skills, the confidence of experience, and the understanding that I can accomplish nothing of significance without God. What’s missing is the sustainable energy for a full-time ministry commitment. Everything about a three score plus ten plus five human has frayed ends. What is important is for me to be faithful to my vows, my promises to God. Ultimately, that is the commendation for which I am waiting. 

In keeping with the Easter and resurrection theme here is a painting of interest to me. 
Ron DiCianni is an American illustrator/artist specializing in Christian themes. His ‘Resurrection’ mural measures 12X40 feet and commissioned for the Museum of Biblical Arts in Dallas, it is the largest depiction of this theme in the world. This size permits the viewer to look into Christ’s eyes. It required two years to complete. Definitive scenes are identified with some great artists, like Michelangelo and his “Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel; Rembrandt, and his “The Prodigal Son.” DiCianni sees “The Resurrection”, as his definitive piece particularly because this act in history distinguishes Christianity from every other religion, philosophy and dogma. It authenticates The Nativity, The Crucifixion of Christ, and legitimizes every word Jesus said concerning Himself and His relationship to God. Blessed Easter to you. (If you care to hear him describe how and why he painted this cast of characters, here is the link,https://youtu.be/-yABivU-AKQ )




Monday, March 13, 2017

EUGENE PETERSON’S ADVICE FOR MORE AUTHENTIC DISCIPLESHIP

Jonathan Merritt interviewed Eugene Peterson in September 2013 and Peterson was about to turn 81 years of age. That means he is 84 years old as I write this. He lives in Montana, having taught Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver for 6 years. 

One bit if that interview conversation may be of interest to you as you think about church, and particularly if you are restless about church, concerned about church or considering changing churches.

Merritt’s question was "Eighty-one years is a long time. As you enter your final season of life, what would you like to say to younger Christians who are itchy for a deeper and more authentic discipleship? What’s your word to them?

Peterson answered, "Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.

So what do you think about that?