Monday, March 31, 2014

Logic, Politics, Consequences--and Truth

One of my favorite professors from my college days was the man pictured at right. Bruce R. Reichenbach is his name. He's still listed on the Augsburg College website.  He must be well up in years by now because I was at Augsburg more than 30 years ago... actually, almost 40 now.  The first class I took from him was in the fall of 1974.

Dr. Reichenbach strengthened within me a passion to follow the truth wherever it leads. (Here's a link to his webpage.)

There are many examples of how his teaching has affected my life and ministry. Particularly through classes such as "Logic" and "The Philosophy of Religion" I was introduced to an "logical fallacies."

Logical fallacies are tricks people use to get someone to believe something that is false. There are many fallacies - you can access a list on Wikipedia by clicking here.

Don't be tricked!  The devil is the "father of lies" and "logical fallacies" are one of the ways that he works in this world, coming to steal and kill and destroy.

One kind of fallacy is the "Association" or "Guilt by Association" fallacy.
This form of the argument is as follows:
1. Source S makes claim C.
2. Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
3. Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits how negatively viewed it is.

An example of this fallacy would be "My opponent for office just received an endorsement from the Puppy Haters Association. Is that the sort of person you would want to vote for?"

(from an article found here.)
Here's a example in regard to the "Climate Change" issue from Climate Conservatives.  The author here is warning people to avoid the association fallacy.
Don’t Let Al Gore or President Obama Get in the Way

A climate conservative realizes that the positions taken by Al Gore or President Obama on climate change are irrelevant to the facts and should not shape the way conservatives approach the issue. Choosing to ignore a real problem simply because liberals acknowledged it first, is not conservative–and doing so limits options for addressing it to ideas proposed by liberals.

When it comes to how conservatives view climate change, Al Gore has been the 500- pound donkey in the room. Many conservatives are skeptical of climate change simply because Gore made it his pet issue. Conservatives should not give Gore, Obama, or any other liberal that kind of power over their thinking.

If Gore decides to champion the cleanup of a river that is clearly polluted, his advocacy does not make the river any more or less polluted, nor does it have any bearing on the merits of cleaning up the river. In the 1980s Gore sounded the alarm about ozone depletion, but it was President Reagan who pushed through the international treaty that actually did something about it.

(you can read the rest of this here)
Here's the point: You may be a conservative or a liberal or somewhere in between -- but please don't let your like or dislike of "messengers" keep you from examining the truth.

Another way that people often avoid the truth is through an "Appeal to Consequences."

People will use this fallacy in order to avoid having to make difficult decisions.

In the case of climate change, for example, if one were to come to the conclusion that climate change is caused by the way we human beings are using resources, there may need to be significant changes in the way we live our lives as individuals and as a society. Regulations and even multinational governmental action may be required. If you are already opposed to governmental or "United-Nations-like" intervention you may choose to not believe the science.  Or you or I may be selfish and resist anything that might affect our comfortable "first world" lifestyle.  Uff.

You can learn more about this "Appeal to Consequences" fallacy here.

Climate change, of course, is not the only area of concern where we can fall prey to lies.  I'm thinking about this today, in particular, because another climate change report was just issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. No matter what your opinion may be about "intergovernmental" work, I believe Christians--especially Christians--need to be paying close attention to this scientific work.  If not, we may promote the devil's agenda in this world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

These Days

Good evening friends.  It's the end of a long day.  Early today I was in a car accident -- I'm fine -- but my favorite car, a Honda Civic that I got from my uncle, has significant damage to the left rear.  We'll see if it's fixable.  It's in the hands of the insurance company now.

We got a rental car so we're not car-less, though we are down to one... our Ford Focus is being used by our son Dan while he's looking for another car himself because the van he was using (our "Dilly" a.k.a. "the wedge" see Toni's eulogy at right) gave up the ghost last week.  None of the options he's looking at have worked out yet.  We're helping the best we can, and part of that is letting him use one of our cars so he can get to work.

I'm back home now after youth (a great evening at JAM).  I'm listening to the news about the missing Malaysian airliner.  We've also been paying attention to the complex Crimean/Russian/Ukrainian situation.  And I'm getting ready to preach on the commandment "You shall not kill."  This business with cars is such a small thing.

For enjoyment I've been having fun with pictures that I took in two different Brazilian communities 30 years ago, scanned during Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year's break and have since uploaded to facebook.  Acquaintances from both areas are commenting and liking and sharing and "friending" me.  Honestly, it's so much fun to see the appreciation from these people, some of whom did not have access to photography back in 1983-84.  If I had some time I'd write personally to each one.  (If you want to see the pictures go here for the Ceil├óndia album, and here for Rio Pardinho.)

There's no ministry point to all of this today, I just wanted to get something written tonight.  I'm curious what God will do through it all.

God's peace to you tonight.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Flesh and Faith

It was a warm day.  Snow is melting even now at 10:00 p.m.  Looking at the forecast there aren't more highs predicted in the upper 40s, but it's nice to have this one.  Earlier today I connected downspouts and extensions to keep the melt water away from the house but will most likely disconnect them tomorrow since we'll be back to just above freezing days and well below freezing nights soon.  But spring is coming.

God cares about "nature."  Sometimes Christian believers forget how big our God is.  There are some spiritual philosophies that make it seem as though God wants to separate us from physical, natural life, but that teaching is not in harmony with what I read in the Bible.  Not only is God the creator and maintainer of all things physical, God chose to enter nature by taking on human flesh (in the "incarnation"), live with us in the man Jesus, experience suffering and death as a prelude to a bodily resurrection.  God cares about the physical "natural" world.

In our series of Sunday messages on the Ten Commandments we've been counting backward from the purely spiritual (coveting) to words (testimony) to possessions (stealing).  Next comes the area of intimate, physical, bodily relationships as in "You Shall Not Commit Adultery."  I'm preparing to preach on that on March 16.

One thing that has been highlighted for me as we've been going along though this series, especially last week as we talked about stealing, is that for God there is no separation between "faith" and any other part of our lives.  Our actions, good and bad, out attitudes, our "heart" and "mind," and our physical bodies go together.  It's not all about our thoughts and intentions. God cares about what happens in the real, physical world--and what happens in the physical connects with the spiritual.  Every time.

An example of this is found in First Corinthians 6.  In that chapter, beginning at verse 12, the Lord rejects the idea that what happens with our bodies doesn't matter to Him.  In verses 19-20 He says:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
We also find this connection in scriptures about physical healing--verses that are sometimes connected with the forgiveness of sins.  I often think of the way that Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic before healing him--and of what the Lord teaches us in James:
"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:16)
Returning to First Corinthians 6:12 and following, we see that the sexual unions that we have with others are of great concern to God.  I plan to share more about this in the days to come as I prepare to preach on "You shall not commit adultery," but for now let's just say that it's obvious that physical sexual unions are never just "casual" or unimportant.  Verse 16 says that the physical union, even when there is no emotional or spiritual connection, still makes a person "one" in body with another.  Every sexual connection we have with another affects us--in a way that is deeper than we may realize at the time.
"All other sins we commit are outside our bodies, but the one who sins sexually sins against his own body... [which] is a temple of the Holy Spirit." (v. 18,19)
Bodies matter.  Your life in connection with others, especially in terms of sexual connections--it affects you very deeply.  God's plan for such unions is called "marriage," a way for man and woman to come together in a lifelong union where God's faithfulness is reflected and appreciated, and where new life may come to be as children are conceived and born.

There's lots more to say, but this is a start.  Pray that God will grant good counsel as we prepare for Sunday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scriptures for Lent and Every Season

I started writing this at about 5 AM - I'm getting back to it now at 11.  I've got a few minutes while I'm waiting for the "Team Sports" class to finish up their broomball game.

When I get up in the morning, either when the alarm goes off or, like today, an hour or so before that, I take some time to read and meditate on the Word of God.

I've done this regularly, according to a set pattern, only since sometime in 2012 when the Lord connected me with a group of pastors and others who gather for prayer on the phone at 6:30 a.m.  For about 2 years I regularly phoned in and was a part of that group.  (See the end of Praying These Days for more about that.)

My morning bus route has changed a bit since then so I don't connect as often on the telephone for prayer, but I have continued to accompany this group in the reading of scripture--readings that follow the "Moravian Daily Texts."

If you don't have a regular pattern of scripture reading and prayer that works for you, I invite you to join me in this practice for awhile.  You might want to do this beginning tomorrow, a day that is, for some Christians, recognized as "Ash Wednesday" -- the first day of the "western" church's observance of Lent. Or, if you don't observe "Lent," it's still a good day to begin reading the Bible and praying on a regular basis. 
(For more about "Lent" as an "option" for Christians, see Gray or Grey?  If you live in the Dassel-Cokato area you might want to come to prayer tonight and on other Tuesdays.  Another option would be to come alongside our high school youth for "JAM" tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.  Give me a call and I'll fill you in on where we're meeting and what you can expect.  Those are great way to grow spiritually during this season.)
Early this morning I was reading Psalm 33:1-5, Exodus 10 (the whole chapter), and Matthew 21:12-22 together with the following key verses:
  • Watchword for the Day - "David found strength in the Lord his God."  (First Samuel 30:6)
  • Doctrinal Text - "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)
It's good to begin the day with God's Word.  Beginning this way brings my mind into line with God. Without a regular practice of Bible reading and prayer we end up being driven by feelings, the people around me, or popular opinion.  When I regularly read scripture and pray, however, I'm less likely to just be tossed around by whatever is going on around me.  Even the questions I have when reading scripture -- and there are many! -- even those questions will lead me to be more open to direction from God.
On Sunday (March 2) we handed out a "prayer guide" at Crossroads that provides an outline for a daily quiet time with the Lord.  This particular guide was especially provided for those who desire to observe the season of "Lent."  Download the "Lenten prayer guide" by clicking HERE.

At its heart you'll find the "Moravian Daily Texts" listed there for this week together with the following encouragements:
  • Take time for the reading of scripture.
  • As you read, don't rush.  Pause at words or phrases that catch your attention, words or phrases that push you spiritually or that make you rejoice.
  • Ask God to speak to you as you read.
  • When you have finished with your reading of scripture, take time for praise and intercession: praying for your own needs, for the needs of those you love, and for the needs of the world, that our Father God's will would be done everywhere.
    (Go here to see the Moravian Daily Texts for today.)
I don't personally identify strongly with any particular church denomination.  I appreciate the Moravian tradition of daily Bible readings, and the Lutheran focus on the Word of God, so this practice is pretty a good fit for me--though I'm not as "organized" as some... prayer flows right into the readings and the readings overflow into prayer.

I invite you to join me for this season.  Let me know you're doing so.  That will be an encouragement.

God's peace to you all.  Looking forward to seeing some of you tonight!


Added Wednesday morning - For some other ways to read scripture during this time before Easter - go to's-word-with-friends/.  There you'll find:
  • Lent For Everyone is a devotional featuring a daily reading from Matthew and inspirational words for reflection from renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright. 53 days
  • 40 Days of Lent chronologically traces Jesus’ last week on earth, through the New Testament gospel accounts. The seven Sundays are days of rest, according to tradition. 47 days
  • ReThink Life: 40 Day Devotional presents Scripture, key thoughts, and prayer to challenge you to “rethink” seven important areas in your life. 40 days
  • Hillsong: 40 Days of Revival reveals attributes from history’s greatest revivals — presence, prayer, purity, power, personal sacrifice, and praise — to help you know God and His ways. 40 days