Thursday, November 29, 2007

Books a plenty

I mentioned Allan Bevere's blog a couple of posts ago. Well I'm going to draw attention to one of his posts again,
Elements of Good Preaching #3: The Life of Study. Allan makes the point that preachers (one of the comments adds that anyone who desires to grow spiritually) should be constantly reading. And not just the Bible. Preachers should constantly be upgrading their knowledge base by reading from various fields including theology, pastoral ministry, and biblical studies. John Wesley said,

I want to know one thing, — the way to heaven; how to
land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach
the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down
in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!
I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius
libri. [A man of one book.] - Preface to Sermons of John
Wesley, volume 1.

Wesley read the Bible, spoke the Bible, taught the Bible,
and lived the Bible the best he could. But he also read other books.
His life was measured by his reading of the Bible. But his mind was
enriched by the reading of other books.

Anyone who visits my office will see plenty of books. If you go to my home you will find books. If you look on my computer you will find a large folder of e-books that I have downloaded. Reading is my primary source of information. It may be reading on the internet (although you always need to fact check the internet). Or I may pull a book off of one of my shelves. At any time I could be reading from 3 to 7 books. It may not sustained reading. I may read a little each week. But I constantly have books available.

There are some who call the age we are shifting through the "post-literate" age. By that, most mean that we are visually, image, and icon oriented for a our information. Pictures (still and moving) are replacing text as our primary medium of learning.

The simple truth is that we don't read as much as we used to. In days gone by, the newspaper was the main source of, well, news. Now we have multiple 24-hour news services available on our televisions. Talk radio has replaced the editorial page as the opinion platform with talk radio hosts become stars in their own right. The internet puts more information before us than any person had available in the previous two thousand years combined (or so it seems).

We all need to grow our brain matter. According to the Literacy Company, more than 20 percent of adults read at or below a 5th grade level; more than 3 out of 4 of those on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers, and 68% of those who are arrested are illiterate; 44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child. 50% of American adults are unable to read an 8th grade level book.

With all of the increase in information available we seeing large numbers of people who can't read or understand it. Prior to the Renaissance (the explosion of culture, art, and learning from 14th to 17th centuries) the ability to read was mostly limited to the clergy and the very wealthy. With the coming of the Renaissance, and especially the printing press, more people had access to books and written material. The spread of the Protestant Reformation, the revival of John Wesley, and the birth of the United States of America all took advantage of the ability to read and the availability of material to read.

There is a lot more I could push on this. But I've gone far afield from where I intended this post to go. So I want to come back around and encourage you to read more. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read your Bible. Read outside of your interests. Read people you know you will disagree with.

Here are some suggestions:

The library. If we don't support this wonderful blessings in our community, they will go away.

The Guttenberg Project - This is an online collection of over 20,000 free books you can download to your computer.

Wowio - This is a subscription based service. You register and can download up to 3 books a day for free. They have many subjects and areas of interest. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Plough Publishing House - This is the printing house of the Bruderhoff religious community. There are some outstanding titles on this site. You can download them for free. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

I am sure there are many other websites for downloading electronic books.

Then there are bookstores a plenty.

Get out there and read. Give a book for Christmas. Spend some time developing the gray matter. And pass it on to others.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

In Honor of Cyber Monday

My family always wants to know my Christmas list about this time, so I am sharing it with them. Please don't feel that you have to read it. But it may prove insightful to my psyche.

Happy Shopping!

Banded collar shirts (XL) 19.99-24.99 (Great examples: Microfiber by D'Amante; Scandia Woods; Irvine Park)

An Inconvenient Book (Glenn Beck)

TV on DVD - Firefly, complete series; Animaniacs; Doctor Who (with actor Tom Baker); Flash; Greatest American Hero season 3; Highlander; Hogan's Heroes season 2;Quincy; Jericho

Lace up ropers 11 1/2

Bluetooth phone earpiece (the Jabra BT125 as an example)

Bagpipe chanter - Yeah, I'm still hoping

Bagpipes - Ummm, not many hits on this either

Conversation (book by Stephen Miller)

Dremel Workstation
Dremel Plunge Router attachment
Dremel Shaper/Router table
Dremel Router bit set

Under Armour shirts (cold weather/hot weather)

Nintendo Wii w/ Wii Play and Wii Sports

External Hard Drive (320-500 GB; 1 TB would be nice)

Movies - Pursuit of Happiness; Rocky Balboa; I, Robot; SpiderMan 3; Bourne movies; Last Samurai

Chick-fil-A gift cards - I love Chick-Fil-A

Best Buy gift cards

Black and Decker Workmate Workbench

Kyser Capo (6 string guitar/12 string guitar)

Marvel Vault (book)

Star Wars Vault (book)

Wireless headphones

G.I. Joe - Snake Eyes Commerorative Sword

Swiss laptop computer backpack

Segway X2 Adventure Personal Transporter

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who set the standard?

I need a little help. I keep running across a point of view that I can't find any scriptural basis for it. Perhaps you have heard it as well. It goes something like this.

"Pastors are held to a higher standard than others."

My guess is that somewhere in the history of the earthly church when we created a separate class of clergy, the idea of a higher standard of behavior was imagined. Perhaps it was the self-imposed orders that monastic communities lived by that created a separate standard for ministers. But there is no scriptural basis for a more "holy" standard of living for ministers/pastors/priests that is above all Christians.

I don't want to confuse standards of holiness for qualifications for positions. Paul writes to Timothy about the qualifications for elders and deacons. But when we read those passages we read that the life they were to lead was to be exemplary and without room for disgrace. If I read my Bible rightly, this is no less and no more than what all followers of Christ are to be pursuing.

Pastors are not called to a higher level of holiness just because we are ministers of the gospel. We, all believers of Jesus Christ, are called to "be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:49)." That does not say that preachers are to be perfect while everyone else can live mediocre lives. Every one of our lives is put next to the standard of God in heaven.

Pastors are not professional Christians. Pastors are professional leaders, shepherds, teachers, and proclaimers. They are called to equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). Pastors are not the example of Christ in our communities. We are all the embodiment of Christ in this world. We are all ambassadors of God in this foreign land, the earthly kingdoms. We are all the children of God, created in God's likeness, called to live righteous, holy, and true lives.

As we are constantly reminded in news reports, pastors are people. People who struggle every day. People who sometimes fail. People who strive to live up to the same standard that every other believer has been called to live. The next time you want to lift your pastor up next to that higher standard, take a moment, then raise yourself up to that standard with your pastor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Methodist History 101

I recommend that anyone who wants to get a very brief, but decent, overview of the life of John Wesley, please go see this post.

This is one of the blogs that I frequent. Check out all three videos to get a brief overview of the founder of Methodism.

There will be a quiz.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Take the time to make some time

Some of you may be wondering why I would bother putting up a boring story about my families vacation. Reading about someone's vacation is even more boring than looking at their vacation slideshow.

I put our vacation story up on the blog for me. It was an exercise in remembering what we did. It is a way to hold on to the memory of the time that we shared as a family. Even the bad times are a part of the memories.

But let me go on to say that anyone reading my trip report might take it as a reminder to take time away from your work to create family memories. Pastors are some of the worst about removing themselves from work long enough to have an adequate vacation. But studies are showing that our nation as a whole is not taking time off to be together as families.

I remember growing up going to trips with my family. We didn't always get to go to far off places like Disney World or Buffalo. But we did make those trips. Sometimes it was to Dallas to go to Six Flags. But we took the time to make trips as a family. And those trips, in turn, made memories that I hold close today.

Before totally discounting my trip report off as boring filler, think about the memories you have with your family. Have you ever written down the story of a favorite Christmas or a trip you took together? It may be an exercise in memory practice. But who is to say that your family won't be blessed by reading what you feel is important?