Saturday, August 06, 2016

Another good reason to read... may add to your longevity.
Researchers say they found book readers live an average of two years longer than people who don't read at all.

The study's authors analyzed data from more than 3,500 people who were participating in a larger health study. They were all over the age of 50 and answered several questions about reading.

Researchers then divided the participants into three groups: those who didn't read any books, those who read books for up to three and a half hours a week and those who read books longer than that.

After controlling for certain factors such as gender, education level, income and race, the authors found those who read for up to three and a half hours per week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up.

And those participants who reported reading more than that were 23 percent less likely to die.

Tonight You Belong to Me by Eddie Vedder and Cat Power

A little ukulele music.

This is an old standard, of course, composed by Billy Rose and Lee David.

Try fitting this in with the Pearl Jam catalog.

Things We Said Today by Paul McCartney (and some misunderstood lyrics)

When I was a kid, I thought the words to the bridge went like this:
Me, I'm just the lucky kind
Not to hear you say that love is bluff
And though we may be blind
Love is here to stay and that's enough
I still kind of like that version, expressing thanks that the object of the narrator's affection isn't a cynic.

In fact though, the bridge goes:
Me, I'm just the lucky kind
Love to hear you say that love is luck
And though we may be blind
Love is here to stay and that's enough
The melody, as is typical of McCartney, is beautiful. And, in this version as in the original recorded with the Beatles, the harmonies are fetching.

Cling to the Cross by Lost and Found

Politics-free zone

I posted this simple update on my Facebook timeline last night:
As a service, this post is designed to ensure that, at least in the space it takes up, you will see nothing political. You're welcome.
So far, it's gotten 44 "likes." Are you as sick of this election year as those 44 are?

A Prayer

Because of Your free grace, Lord, help me to be obedient when I don't want to be. In Jesus' name.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Some Kind of Zombie by Audio Adrenaline

I want to be a zombie.

Tremble for My Beloved by Collective Soul

Reach Out (And I'll Be There) by the Four Tops

Always loved this song!

This weekend, at my niece's wedding, the "cake"...

...will be composed of doughnuts from the third best doughnut shop in the US, Bill's Donuts of Centerville, Ohio. (While I won't be able to eat them--blasted Celiac Disease, I will be able to smell them.)

Yer Blues by John Lennon

...with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell. (Quite a line-up!)

The song, of course, is one that originally appears on The Beatles White Album.
If I ain't dead already
Ohhh girl you know the reason why
Man, can Clapton play!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

More on the importance of pastors staying out of politics

I wrote here that I think that pastors need to refrain from talking about politics.

Yesterday, Pastor Eric Swensson posted a link on his Facebook timeline to this blog piece that makes much the same argument, although the author claims that pastors should speak out on gay marriage and abortion.

I would agree that the Scriptures are clear on the value of human life, so abortion is an issue I have felt free to comment on. I consider the Bible to be pro-life. And that includes compassionate understanding of the tragic circumstances under which abortion may be indicated. Historically, most Protestant Christians have recognized that abortion is warranted in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is threatened. (My own birth was difficult for my mother and it appeared at one point that my parents would have to choose between saving my mother's life and saving mine. My father was clear, and I think that he was right, that if it came to that, he would opt to save my mom's life.)

And while I believe that marriage in the eyes of God is a covenant involving God, a woman, and a man, that there is no Biblical warrant nor any suggestion from Jesus that He had changed the definition of marriage from the Old Testament understanding, as a Christian pastor I was able to accept the US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage as a civil covenant. I talked about that here. So, this is another issue on which I wish the Church and pastors--whether "liberal" or "conservative"--would remain mum.

The article's author essentially agrees with me about the importance of pastors not getting involved with politics.

A few lines:
We need to remember...that many of the hotly debated issues today fall squarely in the area of Christian freedom. As Christians, we can honestly disagree on immigration, the economy, gun control and the like. The Bible does not say whether you should be allowed to own a gun or not. The Bible does not advocate or condemn socialism. The Bible does not tell us the best way to protect our borders. 
Faithful Christians can fall on both sides of the aisle.
When posting the link, Eric asked for others' opinions. This is what I wrote:
I believe that pastors should steer clear of advocating particular political positions or particular candidates. As ministers of Word and Sacrament, our call is to patiently plant the seeds of the Gospel, trusting Christ to build His Church, make disciples, and transform minds.

You cannot achieve Christian ends and you can't make disciples through the coercive tools of government, as essential and God-ordained as governments and their coercive tools are.

People become disciples of Christ and are transformed as people as they are wooed by the Holy Spirit unleashed in God's Word.

That, in turn, can transform the ways we think, act, live, and vote, though God is clearly not a Republican or Democrat, not a Libertarian or Communist or Fascist. God is God.

Political engagement from the pulpit or from denominational bodies is almost always a worldly way to force God's Kingdom on people rather than trusting in God to bring His kingdom to people by the power of the Word and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Doing so expresses a lack of faith in God's method for transforming people, replacing God's wisdom with our own. Not good!

There are exceptional circumstances under which it may be necessary for the Church or its pastors to speak on public policy, but only if governments command its citizens to do things contrary to the will of God. Romans 12 and 13 give us good guidelines on this: Don't be conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your minds in Christ. AND honor the emperor.

The bottom line is this, to me. First, the world is not waiting to hear what we have to say about political issues. Second, the moment we advocate for one position over another, we lose the chance to give witness for Jesus and make disciples with those who disagree with us or who rightly understand that opining politically is not our job!
Quite frankly, I feel that pastors and denominational bodies who have pressed their personal political views on the world, selling them as derived from God, which they are clearly not, have made the Gospel message of Jesus Christ odious and offensive to people who otherwise be reached. The Gospel, with its call to repentance and surrender to Christ, is offensive enough to we human beings, something the New Testament talks about frankly.

But political pastors, right and left, have done more to harm the spiritual welfare of the United States in recent years than any other group I can name. It's tragic.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

You Can Close Your Eyes by James Taylor

I know that I just recently posted this song. But it's been in my head lately and I guess that I'm going to close my own eyes now.

Not the One by Collective Soul

When Love Comes to Town by U2 and B.B. King

"Now I stand accused of the things I've said...
"That was the day before love came to town."

Celebration (19th. Movement, 'Standing Stone' by Paul McCartney)

Someone to Watch Over Me by Willie Nelson

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning by Frank Sinatra

Walk Between the Raindrops by Donald Fagen

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

For the young and the old

All the cool kids love Columbus. (Of course!)

The best large and small US cities to age "successfully."

Two huge lies our culture buys

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle you must hate them or fear them. The second is that to love someone means you have to agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise your convictions to be compassionate." ~Rick Warren

Sunday, July 31, 2016

So You Believe Jesus is Lord...Now What?

Colossians 3:1-11
As some of you know, on June 14, I began reducing the calories I take in each day. I’m starting to lose a little weight and, in doing so, learning the truth of what a friend said one day when we went to an ice cream parlor. “I’ll take two scoops of mint chocolate chip,” he said, “one for each thigh.”

Well, ice cream has never been a craving of mine and my food seems to not land on my thighs, but on my waistline. But it is true that what we put into us is going to show up in us.

That’s equally the case when it comes to our spiritual lives.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been exploring the apostle Paul’s letter to the fledgling Asia Minor church in Colossae. In response to the preaching and teaching of one of Paul’s associates, people had come to repentance for sin and faith in Jesus as their God and Savior. But shortly after that, the Colossian Christians were abandoning Jesus as “the way and the truth and the life” for a kind of “ice cream parlor faith”: one scoop from mysticism, one from Judaism, one from angel worship, all with a small Jesus topping.

Jesus is clear when He says that “no one comes to [God] the Father” except through Him. His forgiving, eternity transforming grace is free. But when we turn to earthly thinking for spiritual nourishment, we turn away from Christ and eternity. We are either, in Paul's terminology in Colossians, "of the flesh," facing eternal separation from the God we meet in Christ, or we are "of the Spirit," filled with God’s life forever.

It was to warn the Colossian Christians of the dangerous ground on which they were building their lives by turning to the world’s faulty wisdom and dead idols, that Paul wrote to them.

In the first two chapters of Colossians, Paul makes an extensive confession of Who Jesus is: God in the flesh come to earth to die and rise and share His victory with believers. All who believe and are baptized are Christ’s resurrection people.

Now, in chapter three though, from which our second lesson is taken, Paul turns to a question that’s central to anyone who confesses Jesus as their Lord and God: Now what? Jesus hasn’t come back yet nor have we died and come face to face with Jesus yet, so how do we live today?

Paul talks about several things we need to do today and every day in order to stay close to God.

Take a look at the beginning of our second lesson, Colossians 3: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ [Remember last Sunday, we pointed out that in Holy Baptism, our old self is drowned and our new selves rise? Since you’ve been raised with Christ, Paul says], set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. [In other words, when Christ returns, you and I who believe in Him will rise again.]”

The first thing we need to do in response to how God has changed His relationship with Him through Christ and our faith in Christ, is set our hearts and set our minds not on what the world says is important, but on the things of God.

How can we do that?

Above all, we need to read God’s Word regularly. Aim for reading the Bible five days a week.

Many studies have been done about the impact that gratuitous violence in media--movies, games, and books--has not only on kids, but also on adults. It makes them less social, less sociable, more impolite, sometimes violent.

Other studies have shown--and experience bears this out, I think--that a steady diet of cable news, whatever the netwoek, will make people pessimistic, cynical, angry, and fearful.

Garbage in, garbage out. The things of this world in, the things of this world out.

Conversely, if we fill up on the Word of God, in bite size chunks on which we prayerfully reflect and seek to apply, Christ and eternity invades the ways we think and live.

Setting our hearts and minds on heavenly things will also mean bringing everything--our sins, our hopes, our fears, our cynicism, our families, our church, the people around us--to God through prayer in Jesus’ name.

A man once told me, “You know how you always talk about praying? Well, I’ve been trying it and it really seems to be helping me to deal with things each day.” He reported that he’d been able to better deal with his grumpy wife and that, since he’d started praying everyday, she seemed a bit less grumpy.

Setting our hearts and minds on Christ also happens when we worship regularly, receive the sacrament regularly, fellowship with other believers regularly, reach out and serve others in Jesus' name regularly.

After setting our hearts and minds on heavenly things, Paul says, there’s something else we need to do in response to Christ’s grace everyday. Colossians 3:5-7: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.”

A big area of our lives most of us must deal with and keep dealing with as Christians, is our sexuality.

Sex is God’s invention, part of His creation. But turn on your computer or your TV, watch Hulu or Netflix, and you’ll immediately notice something: Most of the world can’t handle sex.

We have an inborn human tendency to misuse sex, misappropriate it, overestimate its importance, or underestimate its power.

Theologian Richard Foster compares sex to a river, beautiful and useful when kept within its banks, but deadly when it floods past them.

Paul warns the Colossian Christians that their earthly rather than heavenly orientation leaves them open to the misuse of sex. In fact, he says that we are to put to death--to crucify through repentance--all of our misuses of sex, from pornography to lust, from adultery to exploitation, from unclean talk and sexual intimacy outside of marriage to making sex an idol. He says that one day, God’s wrath will burn hot against these and other sins.

Blessedly, no sin is beyond forgiveness.* And God blesses and helps anyone who wrestles with a sin, bringing it daily to the foot of Jesus Christ to be crucified and overcome. That includes sexual sins.

Then, starting at verse 8, Paul deals with another set of sins to which we’re prone when we orient ourselves to the world, the sins that emanate from our minds and our mouths. “But now,” Paul writes, “you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

Get rid of--daily crucify--Paul is saying all your anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lies. That’s the third thing we need to do every day in response to God’s grace.

When we think about that list of Paul’s and get really honest, it's clear that getting rid of all of these things from our lives might mean that you and I would say a lot fewer words than we do each day. And think a lot less sinful, hurtful, destructive things.

I know that a lot of campaign ads and campaign rhetoric would go away.

This past week, we finished Jon Meacham’s biography of our forty-first president, George H.W. Bush. It's a portrait of a complicated yet essentially decent man.

Meacham recounts that in 1988, Bush won a hard-fought campaign for the presidency. One of the most important figures in that campaign was a guy named Lee Atwater.

Bush unleashed Atwater, man of hard edges, sharp elbows, and few scruples, to throw everything at Bush’s opponent, Michael Dukakis.

Atwater felt no hesitation about creating a false picture of Dukakis: questioning Dukakis’ patriotism, painting him as dangerously out of touch with people, and soft on crime to the point of favoring murderers over ordinary people.

Several years after the election, which Bush won, Atwater learned that he had brain cancer. Near his death, Atwater surveyed his life, repented for his sins, and received Christ. In response to Christ, Atwater apologized for lying about Dukakis and misconstruing his record in the 1988 campaign.

Atwater saw the need for crucifying his sins and doing something else. That “something else” is something you and I need to do each day as followers of Jesus Christ.

And that’s put off the old self--the sinner who tries to live a life independent of God, who wants to misuse God’s gifts for our own short-sighted pleasure, who wants to conquer others rather than love them as fellow children of God. We need to put off the old self and, Paul says, put on the new self, the new person God is making of everyone who repents and entrusts their lives to Jesus.

This new self is, as we set our minds and hearts on heaven and put away the sins of this world, going to look increasingly like Jesus, God in the flesh, Who gave His life in order to give us life. Paul explains it all in this way in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all...are being transformed into his [Christ’s] image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Jesus Christ died and rose to make it possible for you and me to have an eternal relationship with God. It’s a relationship we can’t earn or perform our way to; it’s a gift for all who turn from sin and trust in Christ.

And how are we to live until the days we die or the day Christ returns? Paul puts it simply for us today:
  • Set your heart and mind on Christ and heaven where He reigns.
  • Put off sins, including the earthiest of sins, the misuse of sex and the misuse of our thoughts and words.
  • And put on Christ each day. Read God’s Word. Pray. Worship. Receive the Sacrament. Live in accountable community with Christ’s Church.
When we trust in Christ to live with the holy habits associated with putting on Christ as our daily touch-points, Christ will live in us and we will live with Christ forever.

It’s a simple proposition. Garbage in, garbage out. Christ into our lives and Christ will show out from everything about us. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This message was prepared this morning during the morning worship services of Living Water.]

*Of course, Jesus does speak of one sin that cannot be forgiven, the sin against the Holy Spirit. Jesus mentions this in Mark 10:28-30. The sin against the Spirit is the refusal to heed it when God's Holy Spirit points out our sins to us. It's not so much a specific sin as it is an unwillingness to accept God's definition of what constitutes a sin or our violation of it.

Hello, Russia...and the rest of the world

It's a funny thing. Millions don't read this blog.

But whenever I check to see where people live who do read it--and, by the way, I can only check on readers' countries, nothing about specific readers or the towns in which they live--the overwhelming majority are from the United States.

Russian readership is usually in a distant second place. Why that is, I have no idea.

But this week presents an even bigger mystery. Look at this screen shot of the most recent report on the countries from which people are reading this blog.

Hello, Russia...and hello too, to the USA, as well as to the Netherlands, Germany, Latvia, the Falklands (or the Malvinas, if you're an Argentinian), Luxembourg, China, the United Kingdom, and Ireland! It mystifies me how the biggest chunk of readers this week is from Russia. But you're welcome to read away!

To all who read the blog, next time you stop by, leave a comment. Tell me how you found the blog and what drew you here. I would be interested in knowing those tidbits.

Я буду видеть Вас здесь в ближайшее время .

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]