Wednesday, January 31, 2007

January Blogger Awards

The Matthew Never Knew had a good start to 2007, breaking its record for most 'unique visitors' in a given month. Over 2,400! Here are ten posts that caught my eye in January:

AJ's Loss of Faith
AP on CS Lewis' Fame
Jo's Great Gift
Sarah's Fish
Elizabeth's Long Dream
Heather on Churches Stealing
Kayla's Kid Counts
Mark's Full House Update
Steph's 'Experts' advice
Tammy's Long Walk

Blog of the Month? A Bowl of Stew(art)
Elizabeth posted with a lot of quality & variety in January. Oddly enough, she also won the Poster of the Month Award in January of 2006. Props to Liz for starting years off strong! Also, check out her cool new design :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gilmore Girls 13

The Gilmore Girls are on again tonight and so our Survivor Series continues. Logan, Dean, Chris & Emily have been kicked out of the competition. Via your votes, we'll lose another Gilmore "Girl." Remember, vote FOR (+1) one character and AGAINST (-1) character.


Mrs. Kim

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mission %

Elliott, Robin, AJ & Dena all seemed to agree that 10% is a good benchmark (minimum, place to start, guideline, etc). I agree. 10% or more is a good number. Out of curiousity, I checked the WNY District's annual conference journal to see what our 32 churches have been up to in this area. Here is my statistical report:

0-3.9% (6 churches)
4-7.9% (6 churches)
8-11.9% (12 churches)
12+% (8 churches)

Here are the the top 5 % givers: (clickable links)
1. Canaseraga- $16,878 (24.6%, 22nd in attendance)
2. Silver Creek- $15,187 (21.3%, 20th in attendance)
3. Houghton- $119,053 (14.8%, 3rd in attendance)
4. Hess Road- $31,830 (14.3%, 7th in attendance)
5. Hamburg- $585,156 (13.4%, 2nd in attendance)

The churches gave $1,421,542 (or 10.1%/church)

My Statistical Analysis:
  1. I was surprised that the average is over 10%
  2. I always assumed that small churches gave a higher %, but this is not true in my district. Of the 6 churches that gave less than 4%, all 6 average less than 95 people for their a.m. service
  3. Church size, in fact, has very little to do with the missions giving ratio.
  4. Every church that has a name beginning with the letter "H" is in the top 5 in missions giving :)

Any other stats you want me to look up?
Anyone know the stats for their church/district?

Thursday I'll post the breakdown of where the money is spent in the district and, specifically, in our churches missions budget. Tomorrow is Gilmore Girls Survivor Contest and Wednesday is the January BBC Blogger Awards.

*** My statistics are based on the combination of 5 line items in our annual journal (Wesleyan missions, non-wesleyan missions, world hope, local benevolences, native american ministries). Our journal does NOT have a line item for TOTAL missions giving, so I simply added up those 5 categories and divided by total income to reach the above percentages.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mission Budget

I have a couple questions for any interested readers

1. What percentage of the income in a local church would you direct toward missions if it were solely up to you?
2. How would you spend that percentage? Just give the sum to Global Partners? Specific Wesleyan missionaries? Non-Wesleyan missionaries you know about? World Hope? Local outreach? What ratios would you use?

Over the next few days I'll be sharing with you about my plans/goals for our church's missions budget including specific information. I'd be glad to hear about yours as well!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Despite the fact that hockey is my favorite sport, I had never seen the movie "Miracle" until tonight. This film tells the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team which won the gold medal against all odds. Good stuff! I enjoyed both the movie itself and the special features on the bonus disk which includes a roundtable discussion with some of the actual participants and a taped discussion between the film-makers and Coach Herb Brooks.

Rating: 7.9
Status: Must See

Thursday, January 25, 2007

S.T.I.C. to the Drink

Sometimes in the midst of life I forget that I am the head of a multi-national campaign. I founded the Stop Taking Ice Campaign (or STIC) in 1997 on the campus of Houghton College. The purpose of STIC is to raise global awareness in regards to the ice-in-drinks epidemic. STIC will have accomplished its task when restaurants stop assuming that people want ice in their soft drinks. The assumption should be that people do NOT want ice since it is evil in the following 3 ways:

1. Ice prevents access to drink
2. Ice means you get less drink
3. Ice waters down your drink

So, if you hate it when restaurants put ice in your drink, become a member. Get out of the ice age! Join STIC today and all your problems will melt away.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gilmore Girls 12

It's been a long time, but I believe the Gilmore Girls are back tonight. That means we can continue our Gilmore Girls Survivor Contest. In the past 3 polls, all you men-haters have kicked Logan, Dean & Chris out of the competition. This week, 3 more characters subject themselves to your scorn. Remember, vote FOR (+1) one character and AGAINST (-1) character.


Monday, January 22, 2007


Later this week I'll be doing some posting about the Sabbath, but I wanted to take a little survey first. I'd appreciate if some of my readers shared their view of the Sabbath. I'll outline some of the views I've come across below and you tell me which # most closely resonates with your position.

#1 I'm a Sabbatarian. The 4th Commandment still stands as is. Christians should keep Saturday holy in every way possible as described in the Old Testament. No work, buying, selling, etc. We probably shouldn't put those who do otherwise to death anymore, but they pretty much deserve it.

#2 I Celeberate the Lord's Day. The Sabbath (Saturday) should now be kept in honor of Jesus' resurrection (Sunday). The early church seems to have celebrated on the first day of the week and we should follow this tradition.

#3 I Celebrate a Perpetual Sabbath. The Sabbath was fulfilled in the peace we have through Jesus Christ. Now, every day is holy and equal in God's sight. I'll probably keep going to church on Sunday, but only because that's when everyone else is there. Plus, a general day of rest is a wise idea.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sanctity of Life Quotes

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday so I wanted to share some quotes from the early Christians Church on the subject of abortion and life:
  1. You shall not kill the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born (Barnabas, 70-130).
  2. You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born (Didache, 80-140).
  3. We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder (Athenagoras, 175).
  4. Murder is once for all forbidden. Therefore, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb...To hinder a birth is merely a speedier way to kill a human. It makes no difference whether you take away a life that has been born or destroy one that is not yet born (Tertullian, 197).
  5. Among surgeons' tools there is a certain instrument that is formed with a nicely adjusted flexible frame for the first of all opening the uterus and then keeping it open. It also has a circular blade, by means of which the limbs within the womb are dissected with careful, but unflinching care. its last appendage is a blunted or covered hook, by which the entire fetus is extracted by violent delivery. There is also a copper needle or spike, by which that actual death is brought in this treacherous robbery of life. From its infanticide function, they give it the name, "killer of the infant"- which infant, of course, had once been alive (Tertullian, 210).
  6. The Law of Moses punishes with appropriate penalties the person who causes abortion. For there already exists the beginning stages of a human being. And even at this stage, the fetus is already acknowledged with having the condition of life and death, since he is already susceptible to both (Tertullian, 210).
  7. Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of drugs? I believe it is no more lawful to hurt a child in process of birth than to hurt one who is already born (Tertullian, 212).
  8. There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels. So they commit murder before they bring forth (Mark Felix, 200).
  9. Women who were reputed believers began to resort to drugs for producing sterility. They also girded themselves around, so as to expel what was being conceived...See what a great impiety the lawless one has advanced! (Hippolytus, 225)
  10. The womb of his wife was hit by a blow of his heel. And, in the miscarriage that soon followed, the offspring was brought forth, the fruit of a father's murder (Cyprian, 250).
  11. If anyone is unable to bring up children because of poverty, it is better to abstain from marriage than to mar the work of God with wicked hands (Lactantius, 304-313).
  12. You shall not slay your child by causing abortion, nor kill the baby that is born. For everything that is shaped and has received a soul from God, if it is slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed (Apostolic Constitutions, compiled 390).

Saturday, January 20, 2007


My sister wanted me to watch 'Click' with her, but then she went to a friend's house and I didn't want to stop the flow of Netflix deliveries so I watched it tonight in my sleeplessness. Think '50 First Dates' if you've seen it, there are a lot of parallels. Both movies struggle with whether they are primarily goofy or serious. This is sometimes a major problem, it seems, with Adam Sandler movies. He can definitely pull off the goofy movie, but for whatever reason someone feels that every movie he's in has to have some really stupid stuff in it.

Click could have been a very good movie, and it had some very good moments. It's about a guy who wishes he could fast forward through the struggles of life and only enjoy the good times. His wish is granted when he is given a high powered 'universal' remote. Ultimately, two major lessons are learned. 1) Going through struggles is necessary in making us the person we need to be and 2) Every decision we make changes who we are and if even a little decision is repeated enough, it can have drastic results. The movie makes these two truthful points well, so it was too bad they were interupted regularly by stupid stuff.

Rating: 6.9
Status: Worth the Time

Friday, January 19, 2007


We have left our regular phone service in exchange for the internet-based SunRocket. Bottom line? We save hundreds of dollars each year AND all calls to USA and Canada are free. Only down-side is if the power goes out since that makes the cable modem go down. Overall, easy decision to switch. So, if you ever want me to call you in North America, I will check to see if you are on my favorite people list and act accordingly.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Day in the Life

I get a lot of emails asking, "what's the star of this blog REALLY like?" or "What would it be like to walk a typical day in Never Knews shoes?" In fact, I don't get any such emails and the following isn't super typical, but I'll post it anyways...for the fans.

12:01 am - After getting home from basketball later than usual (after 10), and watching a fast-forwarded edition of the Sabres 6-3 victory, I sign online with a taped American Idol playing in the background and my right knee all skinned up from diving on the gym floor.

2:03am - I'm startled that my 'smart-clock' (you know, the one that sets its own time) is of the opinion that it is 2:03am considering that 5 minutes previous it was only 12:58. Other clocks unite to assure me that smart-clock is in error. This has never happened before, but it reminds me that I have to wake up at 6:30am and actually, for once, need a reliable alarm clock.

1:04am - I unplug the smart-clock and plug it back in, to no avail. I rename it the dumb-clock and decide I'll just have to pull an all-nighter in order to make sure I leave the house on time.

2:03am again - I play some tetris. I don't allow myself to quit until I've gotten 100 or more lines. After a few failures due to impatience, I end up with 112 lines and turn the Nintendo off. I then realize that I could just change my alarm clock wake up time by an hour and everything would work out fine. I re-name myself 'dumb-jock' (you know, in contrast to 'dumb-clock').

2:08am - Unable to sleep, I watch an episode of Newsradio and then an episode of Joan of Arcadia and then listen to Steve Gregg's discussion of Romans chapter 1 with some internet surfing in between each.

5:30ish - I fall asleep

6:30am (or, in Smart-clock time, 7:30) - I wake up, get ready and drive to the church to meet Pastor Joe who then drives us to our monthly WNY District Pastor's meeting, talking about basketball along the way.

8:00am - We are quite early for the meeting, so I just stand around for a while. Then I run the PowerPoint for a few worship songs and listen to like an hours worth of announcements while I sip on orange juice. Eventually we have 'table-time,' but our groups discussion reminds me of the First Wives Club, even though I have never seen that.

11:40am - We head home, discussing some churchy stuff along the way.

1:30pm - I sorta fall asleep in my office chair for 5 minutes a few times while attempting to prepare a study of Romans 1:1-15 for my evening men's group. I eat some candy and finally make some progress, though I get distracted by an online discussion regarding oath taking.

4:08pm - I make a hospital run. First, I visit a 95 year old lady who is usually in a nursing home. She looks healthier at the hospital than she had looked in the previous month. Next I visit a great guy still suffering the aftermath of a 2002 stroke. We have a good time of prayer together.

4:59pm - I pick up some Chinese food. I haven't been in there very much lately because I got a speeding ticket (I realize that doesn't logically follow, but in my world, when you get a speeding ticket you have to skip 18 chinese take-outs to make up for it). I try a little Chinese, but I'm out of practice so I basically whisper it and the girl probably didn't even notice.

5:31pm - I did it again. I always eat too much Chinese food.

6:21pm - I am typing in the blank spaces for my Romans handout when a lady in the church comes in to discuss some serious subject matter. We talk for a while and I just hope my words were in some way helpful.

6:38pm - I print off my handout, make copies, and fill in my own blanks. But I don't feel quite as prepared as normal. Too late, though, as I hear the first guys arriving.

7:01pm - Men's group starts. 7 guys having a good time studying Romans 1. It goes fairly well, though I felt somewhat off. Lack of sleep, perhaps, was setting in.

8:46pm - I leave the church after locking up. I have to deliver a package to the home of the couple that leads our small groups. I stay a while chatting about that ministry.

9:17pm - Per request, I pick up toilet paper at the store. I'm feeling generous toward my family so I decide to get a gallon of milk as well.

9:31pm - I eat my remaining egg-roll with some chips and Mountain Dew and then re-commit to my no soda-pop decision, it being quite gross and all. Speaking of gross, I look at my knee and decide I should put some hydrogen peroxide on it. It stings. I tough it out.

10:06pm - After reading a little bit of Josh McDowell's book "The Last Christian Generation," which I am finding moderately disappointing, I tell my parents about the 'dumb-clock.' My dad, then, fixes 'dumb-clock' quite easily. I rename myself 'super-dumb-dork' ('jock' is changed to 'dork' since I obviously can't survive a basketball game without injury anyways).

11:48pm - While chatting, I finish typing this post. I feel super tired, but predict I'll fall asleep between 3-4am. Time to check facebook.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Elisha & the Bears

There are certain stories in Scripture that are often brought up by skeptics as if they prove that God and/or His prophets, especially in the Old Testament, were un-necessarily violent, unjust, and downright pathetic. One such story is found in 2 Kings 2:23-25. The skeptics version goes like this, "don't your remember that story when Elisha was walking down the road and some little kids poked fun of his baldness so, over-reacting, he asked God to curse them. God responded to Elisha's request by sending 2 bears that mauled 42 of those little kids. Why would I worship a God like that?"

There are probably many ways to respond to such an accusation. Below I will list 5 points that come to mind that should be pointed out in regards to this story. Once the skeptics version is somewhat deflated, there may be opportunity to begin a healthy discussion about God. First, though, here's the actual passage:

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

1. Elisha was just taking over for the recently departed Elijah. God used a series of events (Elijah's cloak falling to Elisha, the waters of the Jordan dividing, the purification of the water in Jericho) to display to the other prophets that Elisha was, indeed, a true successor to the great prophet. It was a new beginning, which God tends to accompany with memorable events. Ultimately, He does this to save Israel from her sin.

2. Bethel was a town known for 2 things. For one, it was infamous for its idolatry. For two, it was famous for its prophetic school. It was a show-down town. Who was more powerful? The idols or the Lord? God answered that question with this event. Again, this was a necessary truth for Israel to recognize and so this 'negative' story had a 'positive' purpose.

3. The Hebrew word beneath the word 'youths,' here, is very flexible. The term can mean little kid, young lads, young men, servants, etc. Joseph was described by this term at 17 years old. His younger brother Benjamin was at least 22 when the term was used of him. Skeptics usually utilize the KJV rendering 'little children' (surprisingly, Peterson's The Message follows the KJV's lead and translates the term as 'little kids'). It seems more reasonable to imagine that these weren't little kids at all, but young men in their late teens or early twenties. (*)

4. The people involved weren't lightly poking fun at Elisha, they were mocking God. To jeer, or scoff, at God's prophet is an intense act of rebellion. And his baldness was, likely, only one target of their disdain for Elisha. The fact that they said 'Go on up' was probably a mockery of his claim that His mentor had done just that prior to this event. In other words, they quite likely were telling Elisha that he should just follow Elijah into the sky. The fact that they came out of town to say these things and the repitition of the statement itself shows that this was a hard-hearted attitude and not a spur of the moment joke.

5. Elisha didn't take vengence into his own hands. Granted, He wanted the Lord to do justice to the mockers, but letting God be God is very different from trying to play God ourselves. He let the Lord deal with the problem as He saw fit. One could fairly ask, 'Would Jesus have made the same request of His Father if He were in Elisha's exact situation?' Even if the answer is no, I think it would have less to do with the fact that Jesus is Jesus and more to do with the fact that Jesus was revealed progressively later in God's redemptive plan.

In summary, objections to this passage are based on failures to understand the historical, cultural & revelatory context as well as reliance on weak translations of the Hebrew text. By deflating the emotionalized opening arguments of the skeptics with truthful information, one can steer the conversation toward a worthwhile discussion of God and His word.

(*) Some commentators accept the translation that those mentioned were children, and see this event as a judgment against their wicked parents while, at the same time, an act of grace upon the children in that it prevented them from maturing in wickedness. But even if children were the mockers, one wonders how a skeptic can hold it against God for killing them, while yet refusing to praise God when Elisha raised a young boy from the dead 2 chapters later.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One of Aesop's Fables

David Bercot, in his "Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up" illustrated his point about the church at the time of Constantine with one of Aesop's Fables. The story goes like this:

One day the Sun and the Wind got into a dispute over who was mightier. To settle the issue, they subjected themselves to a test in which both attempted to make a man take of his coat. The wind tried long and hard with violence, but the man actually held tighter to his coat amidst the chaos. After a long time the wind gave up and the sun had its shot. The sun simply emerged from behind a cloud and gently beamed its warm rays onto the man. Within minutes the man removed his coat.

Bercot's point is that Satan tried for about 300 years, via persecution, to take the church off course. But persecution only made the church hold tighter to truth. And so, later, Satan finally gave up and offered the church gifts, praise & honor. The latter method was far more successful from Satan's point of view. I probably don't have 'as' negative a view of Constantine as Bercot, but I think his point is made well. And as much as we don't like to hear it, I suspect that the best thing for the North American church, today, would be some good old-fashioned persecution. We've been enjoying the sun too long. What do you think?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dream Dream Dream

I'm always very tired on Sunday nights. Sometimes I fight it. Last night I just went to sleep. Usually when I sleep due to exhaustion I have very vivid dreams and last night was no exception. Three distinct dreams blended together:

#1 I was back in high school, but my first class was a free 'study hall' period. About 5 minutes into the class I found it pretty odd that everyone was in complete silence, especially since this was the 1st day of school and people surely didn't have work. So I asked the teacher if it was alright to chat. She didn't even respond. So I raised my hand and asked again and she said no! After the class, I went up to her and calmly explained how dumb she was for starting the year out on such a sour note.

#2 After 1st period I wanted to look at my schedule to see my next class, but I couldn't find it. So I went to the school office to get another one and they said my next class was a business field trip of sorts. I ended up at Donald Trump's house with 4 or 5 other students, though he wasn't even home. For some reason we were supposed to remodel his living room which didn't match the luxery of the other rooms of his house to any degree. We finished that and went outside, accidently starting a fire in a nearby cornfield. We called 911.

#3 After the firetrucks arrived and Donald came home, we were all told to go to a movie premier with the rich grandparents of one of our fellow students. I suddenly realized that one of the girls I had been working with all day was Rory from the Gilmore Girls. She was mad at me for not noticing her all day, but quickly forgave me and we sat together as the movie started. Then I started asking her questions about Joan (from Joan of Arcadia) because they are best friends in real life.

I slept for 11 hours.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Virginia was one of my favorite routine "pastoral visits." Despite being in her 80's, she maintained a sharp wit. In fact, she was one of the few people I've known who was able to blend kindness and bluntness into 1 pleasing personality. Each Wednesday I would visit her at the nursing home. Toward the end of her life on earth, she was often too tired to be talkative and so I ended up talking to her room-mate.

Nancy liked to keep care of Virginia. She always updated me on how Virginia had been feeling so far that week. When Virginia went home to be with the Lord, it would have seemed odd to not see Nancy each week. And so I continued to visit, but I never knew these visits were so meaningful to her until she wept best wishes to me on Christmas Eve. Nancy is also pretty social. She likes to sit in the hallway and shoot the breeze with her fellow residents. She's in the 'hip' crowd at the nursing home (and I don't mean those without broken hips). One day Nancy wasn't in her room, so I found her in the cafeteria talking to Doug.

Doug is the President of the nursing home residents. Nancy introduced us and from that day on whenever I saw Doug in the hallway, I'd stop and chat for a bit. A couple of weeks ago Doug told me that he had organized a Saturday Night Bible study. He asked if I wanted to come some week and I said I'd keep it in mind. Yesterday, I decided to stop in. As I walked down the hall I saw Doug in the distance looking a little nervous. When I finally reached him he said His brother who usually leads the Bible-study hadn't shown up and he was glad to see me. He led me into the small cafateria where 15 or so people were ready to hear from God's Word. After an hour of Discussion on Luke 2:52, I was introduced to a man named Nick.

To be continued...because God is a God of providence.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Food Photos

My Five Favorite Foods

#5 Chicken Cordon Bleu
(Also good as a sub)
#4 Chicken Finger Pizza (Hot)
(Also good as a sub)

#3 Sesame Chicken
(Best served with rice)

#2 Ritz Crackers
(Best with Peanute Butter)

#1 Beef on Weck
(Western NY Specialty)

Friday, January 12, 2007


It's rare, these days, to buy something that's as good or better than advertised. That being said, I'm forced to give two thumbs way up to Netflix. If you spend enough time on the internet, you've prolly seen Netflix advertisements. If you're a movie fan, it's worth the click.

For those who don't know, Netflix is like a video store. Except you don't need to drive to pick out the movie. And you don't need to drive to return it. It all happens through the mail. You sign up. You put all the movies you want to see on a list. Then they start coming. When you send a movie back, they send you the next flick on your list. And it's fast! There's usually only 1 day in between sending and receiving.

What about the price? The price is very fair, especially if you watch a lot of movies (or want to, but haven't been able to afford it). There are various plans based on how many movies you want to be able to have at a time and per month. For my family, I figured the best plan was this: 2 movies at a time, and an unlimited amount of movies per month. The price? $14.99. Technically, we have enough time to get 30 movies/month, which is only 50 cents/movie. But even if you only watch 5 movies/month it's only $3/movie.

To see the pricing plans, click HERE

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Joan of Arcadia

First, I jeopardized my masculinity by confessing my love for the Gilmore Girls. Now I must admit to watching a second show, namely, Joan of Arcadia. Sadly, Joan and her co-characters only survived for 2 seasons, but I'm enjoying each and every episode I watch. The only reason I watched 1 in the first place was because it airs every night on the HDNET channel, which means I get maximized bang for the bucks (stock profits) I spent on my HD Widescreen TV. But I've seen a dozen or so episodes now and I'm already sad that there are only a couple dozen more.

Joan is a typical high school student except for the fact that she hears from god on a weekly basis. God speaks to her through random strangers and gives her a mission to accomplish. The missions are usually aimed at teaching Joan something about life and/or helping people. The writers weave Joan's mission together with 2 or 3 sub-stories to teach a fresh lesson each episode. In short, I like the acting, the writing, and the music and plan to watch the remaining episodes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Of Reading Books...

I am always reading a few books. I have a book for pretty much every location. I have an office book, a car book, a bedroom book and, of course, a washroom book. And I've been reading some good stuff latelely, some of which I'll be posting about in the near future. I just finished "Josephus: The Essential Writings." Pretty good. I recently came across a new author that I really like so far. His name is David Bercot. I am enjoying, from said author, "Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up" and a topical dictionary of early Christian quotes. I am also reading Josh McDowell's book "The Last Christian Generation" because we, as a church, are looking to develop some strong foundational curriculum for our children. I have a couple more books on the way from Amazon as well. Have you been reading anything good lately?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I have to admit, I am somewhat obsessed with Nintendo. No, not that new Nintendo that makes people break their TV's, but the old Nintendo with Tetris and Super Mario Brothers and, of course, Super Tecmo Bowl. I downloaded an NES Emulator that runs through your computer and then downloaded about 20 of my old Nintendo games. I run my laptop through my TV and its fun for hours a couple days a month.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The 10 Commandments

And Why I Don't Follow Them

Last night we had a very good discussion regarding a Christian view of the Old Testament Law. I argued that there are 3 common positions: 1) We must attempt to follow all of the Mosaic Law 2) We only need to submit to some of the O.T. Law or 3) We are not subject to any of the O.T. Law.

Of course, anyone wishing to take position #1 will soon find it is impossible. Literally. A lot of the 613 or so laws are about temple worship. The temple doesn't exist. But even if it did, none of us are able to obey all of those laws (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8). And actually, even if we could obey them, it wouldn't justify us (Galatians 2:16, 21, 3:11).

Position #2 is just as problematic because it seems incredibly arbitrary. Who gets to pick which laws we should obey? Is this anti-tattoo law a good one to obey simply because the person picking has no interest in getting one anyways? Either Moses is our final authority, or he isn't.

So I take position #3, which sounds radical to some Christians, but makes a ton of sense once the discussion lasts more than a minute. We are free from the law of Moses (Romans 7:1-6). We have no need for it (Galatians 3:25) because we have a new law-giver (1 Corinthians 9:19-21). Jesus is our one and only King. We submit to only him since he's the one with all authority. Thus, a Christian has no need to submit to the 613 laws of the Old Covenant. Christians submit to Jesus and his law.

Are some of Jesus' laws the same? Sure. I'd say 9 of the 10 commandments, though sometimes modified, were carried over to the new covenant. Sometimes, though, people say that the 613 was a lot and Jesus' laws are easier. Not really. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, made the commandments much deeper (heart level). The difference is, Jesus equips us to obey whereas the Old Law did no such thing.

One could ask, 'Why did Jesus carry-over some Old Testament laws and not others?' Well, it doesn't really seem incredibly complicated to me. He didn't bother including the ceremonial laws because they were simply fingers pointing to him (Colossians 2:16-17). He didn't include the civil laws because the physical nation of Israel was no longer God's vessel. The laws that he did re-instate seem to be the moral laws that flow from the very nature of who God is.

Bottom line, I don't intentionally follow any Old Testament laws. When they overlap with the Law of Christ, I follow Christ (and therefore, indirectly, follow OT Law). This teaching seems quite clear to me in the New Testament, but I rarely hear it stated boldly. Christians seem confused about their relationship to the Old Testament Laws, not always sure if they really are free to do or not do the things they're doing or not doing.

What about things that Jesus didn't directly address? We are free, in such cases, to be led by the Spirit. Of course, different Christians often testify of being led by the same Spirit in different directions. These are disputable matters, and I'm quite content to let one another be stronger or weaker brothers in different areas. I'm sure I'm the strong brother on some issues and the weak brother on others. As long as Christians are thoughtfully considering their positions, following the Spirit as best they can, and putting the interest of others before their own, I don't think it's a big deal that we disagree on such things.

These thoughts are not as carefully crafted as my other lengthy-type posts. I'm open to any comments, insights, suggestions, etc :)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Favorite Athletes

I was attempting to type a post listing my 10 favorite athletes of all-time, but was having great difficulty. As it turns out, very few athletes have won my heart. Dominik Hasek is probably the athlete that has provided me with the most entertainment. I don't know that I've ever seen a player dominate like Dom did. But in the end, he demanded a trade from my beloved Sabres and tainted my memories. I have been a loyal Bill Elliott (Nascar) supporter through the years, but his victories have been few and very far between. I like clutch performers and so David Ortiz is among my favorites, but alas, I don't really 'love' baseball. I do love football, but strangely enough, I can't really think of any football players that I'm a passionate fan of. Thus, nobody on this list is loved, but below you'll find my top 10 athletes:

Top 10 athletes
Dominik Hasek (NHL)
Bill Elliott (Nascar)
David Ortiz (MLB)
Pat Lafontaine (NHL)
Jeff Bagwell (MLB)
Larry Bird (NBA)
Roger Clemens (MLB)
Carmello Anthony (NCAA/NBA)
Barry Sanders (NFL)
Henrik Tallinder (NHL)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

NFL Playoff Predictions

Don't bet based on my guesses
2005: 6 right, 5 wrong
2006: 4 right, 7 wrong
2007: 5 right, 6 wrong
This year I'm going by my gut

Indianapolis over Kansas City
Dallas over Seattle
New England over NY Jets
Philadelphia over NY Giants

Baltimore over Indianapolis
Chicago over Dallas
San Diego over New England
New Orleans over Philadelphia

San Diego over Baltimore
New Orleans over Chicago

New Orleans over San Diego

*all picks subject to complete inaccuracy

Friday, January 05, 2007

"In Favor with Men"

IM an introvert. They may not respond. Just kidding. I'm an introvert. I've never been popular or unpopular. So when the Scripture states that Jesus grew in favor with God AND men, I sometimes worry most about the latter. How can I emulate Jesus in this way?

I think it's important, first, to recognize what growing in favor with men does NOT mean. It can't mean we give everyone what they want. Jesus often pleased people, but his mission wasn't to be a people-pleaser. The Pharisees often wanted a straight answer. The crowd often wanted attention. The disciples often wanted promised-positions. Jesus sometimes responded with stories, privacy & rebuke respectively. Not everyone liked Jesus. Some men hated him.

So how can an introvert gain the favor of those around him? I want to mention 4 practical ideas that I intend to try often in 2007:

I resolve...
1) To truly listen- Am I the only one that catches myself thinking of what to say next instead of truly listening to the person I'm conversing with?
2) To take interest in the interests of others
- Not as a means to an end, but because I'm truly interested in the person.
3) To keep in touch
- In this age of mail, email, ims & blogs, it's really not that hard to initiate and maintain contact. It's amazing how far a simple email can go.
4) To compliment people behind their backs
- We often are reminded not to speak about someone negatively behind their back, but God always wants us to replace a bad habit with a good one. Behind the back compliments travel fast and work wonders.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"In Favor with God"

From Abel to Noah to Moses to Mary, certain men and women of history have found the favor of God. Was it because they were Israelites? No, Israelites didn't even exist in the physical sense at the times of Abel & Noah. The Apostle Peter came to discover that God does not favor people based on name or nationality. Instead, the favor of God is found by those who fear Him and do what is right. In his 1st 30 years on earth, Jesus grew in favor with God by doing those very things. How can I follow his lead in 2007?

Much has been made of the downfalls of the 'fire and brimstone' preaching of previous decades. But while contemporary witnesses were busy trying to eliminate the phrase "you're going to hell" from the list of evangelistic 'ice-breakers,' it seems, somehow, the concept of fearing the Lord went by the wayside. It's one thing to downplay fear of eternal flames as a motive toward salvation, but it's a completely other thing to neglect the fact the Jesus, besides being Savior, is our Lord, King, Master, Owner & Judge. In other words, I (and anyone) can become one of Lord's favored one's simply by remembering and living out a balanced view of who He is.

The other way to become one of God's favorites is to do what is right. I suggest that for about 30 years Jesus found the favor of his heavenly father by doing what is right in all the 'little' areas. He submitted to his earthly parents. He worked hard. He was a good friend. He was a devout Jew. Etc. If I want to find the favor of God this year, and I do, I think I'll find it by being consistenly loving in the little things. For me, that includes a passionate commitment to nursing home ministry, more giving to the needy, more investment in the lives of those around me, and hard-work in preparation for teaching.

Ultimately, I don't think we find the favor of God by desiring to be greatest in the kingdom. I think we find the favor of God by making ourselves awful (as in, full of awe) and obedient servants. And the last shall be first.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"In Stature"

Jesus grew in stature. Literally, this simply means he got taller. It's the same word that caused problems for Zaccheus. It implies that our Savior became physically mature. It speaks to the issue of having a healthy lifestyle that creates an environment for natural growth. If I want to be like Jesus, I should strive to be a healthy person in the physical realm. How am I doing?

In 2006 I saw vast improvements in this area of my life. Previously, I wasn't involved in any routine exercise. But in the past year I purchased and utilized a bike for the first time in a long while. Additionally, in the past few months I've been playing basketball every Wednesday Night. Now, there is no observable difference in my physique, but I can tell this has made a drastic change in my level of health. I no longer get tired quickly.

So, exercise-wise, I am feeling pretty good. But there's more to the physical realm than that. How can I best prepare my body for service to my king? As much as I hate to say it, 2 things probably need to be adjusted in my life if I'm going to follow Jesus' lead: 1) I'll need to eat healthier and 2) I'll need to wake up earlier. I like to keep things simple and attainable. My goal is to stop eating after 10pm and to wake up before 10am. Shamefully, this demands a drastic change in my life. I'll see how I do.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"In Wisdom"

What was Jesus doing when he was 25 like me? For one, he was growing in wisdom. How can I grow in wisdom in 2007? First, I think I have to understand the difference between 3 terms: Information, Knowledge & Wisdom. For example, I have information if I read a story, knowledge if I understand what truth the story teaches, and wisdom if I live the truth of that story.

Usually, so called 'Wisdom' type resolutions are commitments to read 50 books, learn to play the piano, or speak Chinese. Such resolutions are usually only about information and/or knowledge. Gaining information is like getting a whole bunch of money handed to you throughout the year. Knowledge is like organizing them into denominations. Without wisdom, what good does it do us? We just get tired from carrying around so much purchasing power. Proverbs 17:16 asks, "Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom, Since he has no heart for it?" Wisdom is using that money for good and godly purposes.

My goal is to move from information to knowledge to wisdom. Wisdom is the principal thing. My 'wisdom' resolution is not a commitment to read 50 books, play the piano or speak fluent Chinese. Instead, my goal is be changed whenever I read, be able to worship through music, and be able to build relationships with Chinese people in their own language. The results of such a goal aren't easy to chart and so, since I love charts and statistics, this realization isn't easy for me. But it's an important realization nonetheless. My hope is to play my part in the story of 2007 without having to constantly look back and say, "I wish I would have handled that differently."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Growing Resolutely

I believe one of the most applicable answers to the faddish question "WWJD?" is Luke 2:52. It answers the question of what Jesus was busy doing between the first Christmas and his own baptism: "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

New Year's Resolutions aren't usually made resolutely. They usually last a week, or a month if we've got a lot of will power. I certainly have never really taken them very seriously. Let's face it, if we were truly determined to change in a certain area, we wouldn't wait until January 1st to start the task. Any change worth making is worth making now.

But, today, New Year's Day IS now! Every Christian should be firmly determined to grow as a person with each new year. I think a good way to make intentional plans for personal growth is to apply Luke 2:52 by looking for ways to grow in the same 4 areas Jesus grew. So over the next 4 days I'll be sharing some ways I hope to grow like Jesus in 2007.