Monday, January 30, 2012

Singleness Sermon

Almost half of American adults are single, but how often is the subject of singleness addressed by the church sermon? A sermon on singleness need not be anti-marriage. One can be pro-marriage and pro-singleness. So here is my 3-point sermon for singleness.

1. Singleness is good
In Judaism, singleness is next to sinfulness. And the same is true for a variety of religions. Film & FM Radio speak the message loud and clear: Singleness is a deficiency. You're not complete until you've found 'the one.' But Jesus and Paul have something different to say. Jesus talks about people choosing singleness for the benefit of His Kingdom. Paul bluntly states that singleness is good, even better than marriage from his point of view. Do we agree with Jesus and Paul? Do we, as Christians, view singleness as a high calling? A good gift?

2. Singleness may come with greater freedom
I don't mean this so much on a superficial level (more freedom to have your own morning routine, all your favorite foods, choice of TV show, etc.). Most importantly, singleness may bring greater freedom to serve Christ. Paul is very clear on this issue. Marriage brings divided attention. A husband or wife must pay attention to their spouse/family (it would be sinful for them not to). A single person (granted they don't have children, of course), will most likely have greater freedom to serve Christ. Jesus and Paul are great models for living the single life well. Are single Christians using their freedom to serve God?

3. Singless has a message to tell to the church
When a Christian single recognizes their singleness as a good thing and utilizes their freedom to better serve Christ, they become a teacher of many lessons to the church. They teach that wholeness comes through Christ alone (I don't need marriage to 'complete me'). They teach us that the church truly grows by conversion, not by procreation. They remind us that single-minded focus on Christ is the way of the future. It is not singleness that is a temporary role we play until the wonders of marriage, it is marriage that is a temporary role until the wonders of eternity.

If singles can say this to the church, what does the church say to singles? Do we value their singleness or do we try to play match-maker? Do we invite their singleness or do we declare ourselves a 'family friendly church'? Do we learn from their singleness or do we segregate them to their own ministry area? A healthy church needs healthy singles for the sake of the Kingdom.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Teaching Topics

I'm really enjoying the various books/topics I've been learning/teaching about recently.

LWC & SS = War & Peace
We've studied Jesus, the Apostles, the Early Church, Constantine, Augustine, the Crusades/Inquisition, and we've still got a long way to go. I've really learned a lot through this series.

HRWC Sermons = 1 Corinthians 7
Looking forward to preaching on 'redeeming singleness' this week and 'redeeming marriage' next week

Prayer Meeting = Prayer
We spend about half an hour each week looking at the next prayer in the Bible. We've been doing this for over 60 weeks and are currently in Matthew.

Wednesday Night = 4th in 1: A study in John
We're almost done with John and have been working at it for about 30 weeks. I think we have 3 weeks left. I've been using Carson and Lincoln commentaries and they've proven to be worthwhile purchases. John is the final book in the Bible for me to teach through. I've been avoiding it, but in some ways I saved the best for last!

MOST = Luke
MOST is my 20-something small group that meets every other week. Most of us are in our 30's now though, haha. We methodically study a small portion of Luke each week after sharing supper together. I try to pick a theme for each night and use the Q&A approach.

LWC Small-Group = Genesis
We just started an every other week get together for the Lockport Wesleyan Church. I decided to start right from the beginning with Genesis. We've only been doing it for 2 weeks, but I've really enjoyed each session. I'm using Hamilton's commentary as support.

Thesis = Hell
I've also been working on my Master's Thesis on Hell. My thesis is basically that given our theological epistemology, The Wesleyan Church should be more open to various views of Hell than the current Discipline statement on Destiny seems to allow. I will take 3 views of Hell through the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and see what comes out the other side.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Five

I realized recently that there are 5 Christian thinkers/teachers/writers that have most heavily influenced me.

Greg Boyd
Bruxy Cavey
Steve Gregg
Clark Pinnock
N.T. Wright

How about you?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Modern Sitcom Top Ten

I'm trying another Top Ten list. This time, it is a list of my favorite Modern TV Sitcoms. The criteria here is that the show has to be a half-hour situational comedy no older than Cheers. This was a hard list to make and many quality shows had to be left out.

10. How I Met Your Mother
It may be a bit premature to place this on the list ahead of some shows that I've seen plenty more of. Truth be told, I'm only on season 2 of this show, but I really enjoy it. Each episode is well written and the characters all bring something to the show. I predict it will climb into the middle of this list before too long.

9. 30Rock
I've always liked fast-paced humor. I think Tracy Morgan, on this show, is a classic character. It's well written. Most of the episodes are well worth watching. I don't think this show has much of a chance to climb more than a spot or two, and it could fall of the list completely, but it deserves its spot for now.

8. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec. has the potential to move up a little bit. I think the new storyline with Leslie running for office could be really funny. I think the Andy character is hilarious. Of course, if the show gets lame it could lose a couple spots and be left off the list.

7. Friends
In some ways, Friends makes number 7 more out of respect than actual preference. I know a lot of people love it and it was certainly one of my favorite shows for a couple of years. It had a good run and plenty of funny lines, a decent storyline, and a good cast. Unfortunately for this show, the 3 shows ranked behind are gaining ground right now.

6. Cheers
Like Friends, Cheers makes number 6 largely out of respect. Yes, it's a great show, but I also value the role that it played in changing television. I think Cheers really prompted a new era of sitcom. The cast on this show was great. Few shows can change leading ladies and survive. They also switched bartenders pretty successfully. I liked the squabbles with Gary's Old Town Tavern a lot.

5. Arrested Development
This is a very different kind of show, but in a good way. I don't think nearly as many people have seen this show than the others on the list. It has a lot of re-watch-ability in my opinion b/c of the fast paced humor. And, apparently, its coming back in some form via Netflix.

4. Coupling
This is a BBC show. It's like Friends in a lot of ways, but more obsessed with sexual humor. I just found it so well written and cast. It'll be hard for any current shows to reach this level in my book, so Coupling's spot in my top 10 is pretty safe for a while I think.

3. Frasier
Frasier is not so much laugh out loud funny as it is just downright clever. Well crafted, I cared about the characters in Frasier more than those of any other show on this list. It wasn't just a comedy; it actually said something about life sometimes. But that's not to take away from how funny it was.

2. The Office
The Office (US version) was well on its way to claiming the top spot, but then it faded pretty fast and has only sometimes recovered with a good episode here or there. The first 3 or 4 seasons were pure comedy gold. Almost every episode was classic and quotable. Now such episodes are few and far between. Barring some amazing last season, this will probably stay number 2.

1. Seinfeld
Seinfeld wins the top spot. Jerry, George, Elaine, Kramer and friends took a little while to develop great chemistry, but then kept it for season after season. It really was a show about nothing, but at the same time it was about people interacting with all their idiosyncrasies. The last season wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst either. This show contained too many great quotes and moments not to be first.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Best Bad Speech Ever?

It's a campaign year, so there are plenty of people out there trying to give great speeches. Of course, you can give a great speech that gets people excited and, yet, has terrible content! In this regard, perhaps the best 'bad' speech ever was given by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in the year 1095. This speech started The Crusades. I'll give you the highlights (via 4 ear-witnesses):

Account 1 Summary:
"The Turks and Arabs have attacked... If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account, I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends... Christ commands it... All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins."

These statements are rendered even worse when you consider that earlier, in the same speech, he had urged the church leaders to be examples of righteousness by declaring, "If anyone hates peace, how can he make others peaceable?" And even though he was trying to arouse a war at the request of the secular leaders, he had the nerve to tell the church leaders under him to, "keep the church and the clergy in all its grades entirely free from the secular power." Besides these things, the summary (above) is alarming in and of itself. The insistence that his words are actually God's words, the seeming hatred of the Turkish race, the promise of forgiveness of sins for anyone willing to serve as a soldier... all these elements make this one awesomely bad speech.

Account 2 Summary:
"An accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God... has invaded the lands. You, upon whom above other nations God has conferred remarkable glory in arms, great courage, bodily activity, and strength to humble the hairy scalp of those who resist you. Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements... Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors... the land that you inhabit... is too narrow for your large population... wrest that land from the wicked race, and subject it to yourselves. That land which as the Scripture says 'floweth with milk and honey'... Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins, with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the kingdom of heaven. [at this point the audience cried out: 'It is the will of God! It is the will of God!' to which Urban replied...] Let this be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God... wear the sign of the cross of the Lord... fulfill the precept of the Lord, as He commands in the Gospel, 'He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.'"

Again we see the seeming hatred of Turks (what happened to 'love your enemies'?). We see the abundance of guns as an obvious sign of God's blessing. We see an appeal to ancestors, but which ancestors are in mind? It is not their spiritual forefathers (the early church, which was a peace church), but their natural ancestors who are in mind. We see an outright appeal to greed. Again the promise of forgiveness and eternal reward. We see the implementation of religious props to provoke passion and unity. And to top it all off, we see a total mis-interpretation of Jesus' words (turning the passage on its head!). Instead of the cross being a symbol of sacrifice for the good of one's enemies, it is used as a symbol of sacrifice toward the death of one's enemies.

Account 3 Summary:
"Christian blood, redeemed by the blood of Christ, has been shed... base and bastard Turks hold sway... blindness of mind rules over them... you rage against your brothers and cut each other in pieces. This is not the (true) soldiery of Christ... the Holy Church has reserved a soldiery for herself to help her people... if, forsooth, you wish to be mindful of your souls, either lay down the girdle of such knighthood,or advance boldly, as knights of Christ... Under Jesus Christ, our Leader, may you struggle for your Jerusalem, in Christian battleline, most invincible line... but if it befall you to die this side of it [Jerusalem], be sure that to have died on the way is of equal value, if Christ shall find you in His army... you should shudder at raising a violent hand against Christians; it is less wicked to brandish your sword against Saracens. It is only warfare that is righteous, for it is charity to risk your life for your brothers... the possessions of the enemy, too, will be yours, since you will make spoil of their treasures and return victorious to your own; or empurpled with your own blood, you will have gained everlasting glory... Short is the way, little the labor, which, nevertheless, will repay you with the crown that fadeth not away... brothers and fellow bishops; you, fellow priests and sharers with us in Christ, make this same announcement through the churches committed to you, and with your whole soul vigorously preach the journey to Jerusalem... you who are to go shall have us praying for you; we shall have you fighting for God's people. It is our duty to pray, yours to fight."

Obvious racism here. An interesting admission that they already aren't practicing Christianity (maybe they should have judged themselves a bit more aggressively before commenting about the Turks?). Ironically, he refers to the blindness of the Turks when, in reality, he was blind to the teachings of Christ. Promised blessings, appeal to greed, appeal to ease of victory... and a pretty convenient announcement at the end about how Urban himself will be staying home, of course.

Account 4 Summary:
"You should strive with your utmost efforts to cleanse the Holy City... If in olden times the Maccabees attained to the highest praise of piety because they fought for the ceremonies and the Temple, it is also justly granted you, Christian soldiers, to defend their liberty of your country by armed endeavor... you have thus far waged unjust wars... we now hold out to you wars which contain the glorious reward of martyrdom... [According to Prophecy] Antichrist is to do battle... He will attack Christians. And if Antichrist finds there [in Jerusalem] no Christians, no one will be there to oppose him... With the end of the world already near... it is first necessary, according to their prophecy, that the Christian sway be renewed in those regions... before you engage in His battles, believe without question that Christ will be your standard-bearer and inseparable forerunner."

Notice how the strongest appeals for this sort of thing usually come from Old Covenant times. Interestingly, in this version, we see an appeal from eschatology. If prophecy says the Antichrist is going to fight against Christians in Jerusalem, then we better make sure the Christians are in power there so the end of the world can come!

Best. Bad. Speech. Ever.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Space/Alien TV Top Ten

This top 10 list ranks my favorite sci-fi shows that specifically deal with space and/or aliens. I don't know how to compare these shows to other sci-fi shows that don't involve space and/or aliens. So here we go...

10. Star Trek (Voyager)
I avoided watching this show until recently... and even then I skipped most episodes that weren't centered on either the doctor or Seven of Nine (both characters seemed to be a spin-off of Data from TNG). But I did watch a few dozen episodes and enjoyed most of them. I also liked the ending. This beats out the only other candidates for #10 that I can think of (shows I've seen): Star Trek (Original) and Earth 2.

9. Firefly
I think I will get in trouble for ranking Firefly 9th instead of top 5 (or even top 3). I know a lot of people really loved it. I liked it a lot (there's a big gap b/w 10 and 9 here). I wish it had been on for more episodes. It certainly could have climbed the list a bit if that were the case. The combination of Sci-fi and Western was creative (I also liked Dollhouse, from the same mind... though I maybe even liked Dollhouse better).

8. Roswell
Yes, I know, this was a teen romance more than sci-fi sometimes. But I have to admit I really enjoyed this show. I thought the storyline was good and the characters likeable. It was a bit longer than Firefly, which gives it the extra spot.

7. Caprica
I posted this list on Facebook some months back, but have sinced watched the one season of Caprica. Why was this cancelled. I really enjoyed it. I don't think the storyline could have gone more than a few seasons, but they would have been good.

6. Stargate Universe
This is where it gets really tough for me. All of the top 6 make a strong case for the #1 spot in my mind. I really feel that if Stargate Universe had continued for 5 or 6 seasons, it'd be number 1. I know I'm in the minority since most stargate fans liked this show the least, but I really enjoyed it. I wanted more.

5. Stargate Atlantis
How do you decide between these Stargate series'? I find it very difficult. I've basically ranked them, here, according to length of the show since I value quantity when quality is pretty equal. This show was a good combination of solid storyline, quality character development, and humor.

4. Stargate SG-1
Longevity is a big help here. Great show and it was on for a long time. Solid characters. They were even mildly successful and totally changing the enemy and some of the major characters to enlongate the series. Plus, this show gets the credit for making the spin-offs possible.

3. Farscape
It was a tough call, but I am ranking Farscape beyond the Stargate shows. I very much liked this show. It wasn't that the enemies were the worst or the storylines the best, the show was just fun. The characters were so varied and fresh. I really liked the cast selection here.

2. Star Trek (Next Generation)
If I'm watching this today for the first time, it gets nowhere near #2, but I have to keep in mind that if it weren't for Star Trek TNG, I might not even have bothered watching the other 9 (including the original Star Trek, which I watched after watching TNG). Growing up, this was one of my favorite shows and, though it's hard to look at compared to today's sci-fi, it's still great.

1. Battlestar Galactica (New)
The original Battlestar Galactica was pretty good for its time, but I would have to say that the new Battlestar Galactica is, by a very slim margin over most of the shows on this list, my favorite Sci-Fi show of all time. Lots of episodes, awesome character development, fresh episodes, solid special effects, plenty of twists and turns, etc. Granted, I didn't always like the storyline, but that simply shows that I cared. The ending was so-so in my opinion, but overall, this show tops the chart.

Feel free to argue or tell me what I NEED to see that fits this genre

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Should this blog be resurrected? I require 3 comments from 3 different people to re-activate this blog.