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Most of us are familiar with the bell curve. [ I believe it is named after our friend and willohroots blog poster The Eclectic Christian, but I am not serious about that.] The curve is a way of showing graphically that the largest number of a given group is in the middle but out on the ends there are extremes, but in lesser number. With my Psych background, I am most familiar with IQ plotted in this manner. Intelligence Quota, or as measured, how successful one is at taking an IQ test, can be shown in a population as most in the middle being an average, and some with genius on the right side, and a roughly corresponding number of the less intelligent on the left.
Let us say a bell shaped curve was drawn not to show intelligence in the population, but to show Christian beliefs. Say we got some data from the Barna group. Barna is the Christian Gallop. Here is an example of a recent poll.
I am not about to address the findings of that survey, that is a different post, today I am asking, because I wish I knew, How far out from center can you get and still be a Christian?
Are the 7% of born again Christians who believe in a God who is not all powerful, all knowing , are they really Christian? Are the 38% who believed Jesus was a sinner really ‘saved’? The 53 % who work to earn salvation?
Let us look at this behaviorally. How far out can you get not only in your beliefs but in your practices. This one is chewing me up today. Are the men crawling around on all fours barking, claiming the Holy Spirit is involved in this asinine behavior Christians? Are the people who pantomime drinking and then fall around as drunk Christians? Are people who ‘Toke on the Ghost and then act stoned Christians? I really don’t know, but it sure makes me wonder. A perfectly nice fellow here in town, invited me to his church, where , he explained, you can plunge your head into a basin of holy water and come up speaking in the tongues of angels. I missed that in my bible, and have no desire to do such a thing. Where do each of us fall on the graph?
Lets look at people who hold up signs that say “God hates America” are they too far out on one side or the other to be called Christian? What about women preachers who marry Gay ,Lesbian, Transsexual, Trans gender Couples? Are they on opposite sides of the bell? How far out are they?
What would be measured? Adherence to doctrine? Toleration for others? number of baptisms? Love?
They way the bell curve is viewed by many in the Christian blogosphere, is the X marks the spot. X of course, is where they are at. They define themselves as the pivot of the Faith. To the left, not saved, to the right, in danger of Hellfire. It is obvious to them that they are right, Saved, justified, logical, and to be emulated. Maybe they are right. They can’t all be right as they are certain that the other guys are all wrong, so who is in the center of the curve? Does being in the center of the curve make you correct, or just popular?
I have no metrics to plot my faith, no measuring stick other than Scripture, which is the same gauge that the others, some of whom I consider real wackos, say they use. I am no longer sure the group called Christian would plot out in a bell shape. There are times I feel far out numbered by the kooks, hard-hearts, blasphemers, apostates and swindlers. If I am the x on the graph, these guys are so far out in left and right extremes that I can’t see them.
I do not think X marks the spot, I think the spot is marked with a cross.
It must be the preacher in me. So often things in nature, in life, in movies or a show, reach out to me with the Truth of God’s Word. At church, before the sermon, someone may put something in ‘The Mystery Bag” and I am challenged to preach a 4 or 5 minute impromptu sermonette to the children about whatever it is I may find there. The kids seem to love it. The principle is that since God is the Creator, everything created must tell His story. I find that is true in all of life.
This spring there was a high water occurrence do to heavy spring rains. We have been blessed with a small creek in the back yard, running down the middle of the property , normally home to striped minnows, crayfish, and the occasional frog. This spring the high water brought some unexpected guests. From the pond at the top of the hill came some Bluegills. Some of you may know them as blue-gilled Sunfish, or bream. They had been swept down stream, over a 12 foot waterfall past the rocks and downed trees, and ended up in a small dammed area in the back yard.
Blue gills are not native stream dwellers. They live naturally in ponds and lakes, where the water is warmer and still. They are not streamlined like trout, which are designed by the Creator to cut through currents and live in cold moving water. Their color helps them to blend with the weeds and grass of a shoreline, but betrays them in a free stone stream. If my wife and I did not feed them they would never survive, and if we did not protect them the Great White Herons would have had a wonderful meal. I’ll not soon forget the image of a 3 to 4 foot high bird in a larch tree giving my wife dirty bird looks, as she scolded it for trying to get its lunch at stately Willohroots Manor. They have grown on their diet of bread and scrambled eggs. I guess we could eat them, or ignore them and let the high water or ice take them to their doom, but they have given us much pleasure this year, as we have enjoyed watching them through crystal clear water as they fed and swam around. Abandoning them now would be very out of character for Dawn and I. This weekend we are going to scoop them up and give them a car ride back to the pond where they belong, so that they can live with their fellow pond-dwellers in safety and security, safe from the ravages of winter.
Do you see the sermon in this yet?
This world is not our home. It is a cold place where we are buffeted with the currents of the stream of things far beyond our control. We are for a time in a damned place, damned by our disobedience to to merciful God, living in a place where the adversary prowls like a roaring lion waiting to devour us, where ravenous birds of the air prey upon the seeds of the Gospel that have no firm root in good soil.
Were it not for the protection and provision of a kind and loving Creator we would perish. This Creator so loved us that He walked among us, being for a time, a little fish in a great pond, not choosing to rule, but to teach and guide us to repentance and love. We have grown, even in this hostile environment, by his provision, and he who has started a good work in us would never abandon us to the flood and the chilling cold of a time when His warming love is absent from the stream of history. We hope we have given him pleasure with the sacrifice of our Worship, and our feeble attempts to imitate Him. He has promised to gather us up, all of us, the living and the dead, and take us to a place of warmth and eternal provision, where we can be with others of our kind in a place protected from all assault and deprivation. He will not do this because of what we have done, but because that is His Nature, and His promises are sure.
Somehow that fish symbol means a bit more to me today.
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Every once in a while, when I feel tough enough, I peruse the other side of the blogosphere, the atheists. I do not do it to find someone to argue with, I don’t feel you can argue someone to the Lord, I do it to hear their arguments, and see what they think of us. Mostly it seems, they think we are idiots and sometimes I think they are right. Not because of our faith, but because of the witness some of our little families show to the world.
Look at the young fellow in the picture above. Is that the Gospel? Is that the Good News of Jesus Christ? Do you see hope for redemption on his sign. I was once many of the things listed on his ‘go to hell’ placard, and at times can slip back towards a few of them, yet I am not in danger of God’s Judgement. That is the Good News.
This will pack them in. Everyone is welcome to everlasting punishment. Great.
This one ticks me off! Sure God was the one who said water would not be compressible, but He never said to build hotels on the sand. Actually I remember something about the solid rock. Anyway, If I just lost a loved one to AIDS I would not go here for comfort. Aids is spread primarily through behaviors God does not approve of. Look at the spread of heterosexual AIDS in Africa, adultery kills. I have not heard of God starting a war in the last few thousand years. I thought dictators and politicians start wars. Don’t blame God for man’s sins. What sort of ego do you need to put words in God’s mouth? I have a fear factor that just would not allow me to do that.
Now there’s a reason to come to the Lord.
I have nothing to say on these two that does not speak for itself. It is not just church signs.
I don’t know what they are protesting on the top picture, but whatever it is they are really advertising for it. The guy on the bottom gets credit for using the word salvation, but salvation is not a right, AIDS is a plague not a right, and Hell is not mentioned as a right in Romans. There is a really bad attitude showing here. This is not “Come let us reason together.”
Update… This is a spoof picture, but they did such a good job, people took it as real! See Chris’s comment below. Sorry Mark O. First of all, maam, where in scripture do you see the Lord crying over dance. And you sir, I have been married 30 years, I like to dance with my wife, and I can testify with truth that dancing does not lead to sex. Not always, and in my humble opinion, not often enough. Using the technology hidden in the basement of stately Willohroots manner I was able to enlarge the book the man is holding.
This could explain a lot.
You put this on a billboard? Really? I read about the challenge, and my wife and I actually participated in ‘The One Day Challenge’ [ hey we are old and busy] I hear what you are saying, but people judge you by your signs! This is ridiculous! You want to challenge the world, try this, challenge them to go without sex for 30 days to discipline the body and honor God. Might not bring in as many people, you think?
If no one else has noticed, 50% of America is Democrat. Win an election, lose some souls. Fair trade? Somehow I doubt it.
Ah the bumper sticker crowd! Don’t you love it when they cut you off, or park in three spaces? I believe I believe the way this person believes but I bet I get to talk to more people.
Well for all that , these signs are not all that bad, I would much rather live in a country where I see these things listed above,,,,,,,,, not the one below.
Imagine, if you will, our travel through this vale of tears, the path of our walk toward Eternity, using as an analogy the wagon trains from the western expansion of the settlers in America in the mid 1800’s. Each wagon will represent for us a denomination. We have Jeofurry steering the Baptist wagon, TheOldAdam in charge of a Lutheran wagon, Rick Warren in a Purpose Driven wagon, ShawnW holding the reins on the Preacher Woman wagon, Bishop Martino in the RCC wagon, Rev.AndyLittle in the Rainbow Wagon, and Joel Olstein in the Your Best Wagon Now. These are just some of over one hundred wagons headed for The Promised Land. Each wagon is sure that they know the best path, and carry the most pleasing cargo.
While there are some definite differences in opinion and style of the occupants, there are definitely many commonalities.
- a desire to go in the same direction
- a belief there is a right and wrong way to get there,only the right way succeeding
- an eager anticipation of the journeys end
- agreement that there is an Enemy who would stop them if he could
- a belief [in theory] in loving their neighbor
- knowledge that the area off the path is fraught with danger
- reading of a common book, albeit with differing opinions
- the same Wagon Master commands them all
In the history of the United States people have put aside differences of national origin, language and even denominations to band together. Alone, in single transit they would be easy picking for the elements and enemy to pick off. Together they made history, and a new nation. This fact gives me some hope for the future. Are Christians as smart as were the settlers?
Some day, perhaps soon, if we do not band together and circle our wagons, the enemy will find us easy to defeat. Segmented and divided the flaming arrows of the evil one will surround each lone wagon and attack it from all sides. If the circle is unbroken we will have a safe middle ground, and present a united front. Some of my fellow travelers may be wrong, but at least they are wrong about the right things. The enemy will not care about our differences of opinion, they matter not to him. Anybody headed for our declared destination is fair game.
Stop on over at the Dayspring wagon, I make a mean plate of beans, bring some biscuits and we will sing along to the mouth harp. [ I hear that theoldadam’s wagon has a barrel of beer, but as a Baptist I am sure that is just an evil rumor], if we stick together the trip might actually be enjoyable!
Filed under: faith, Reaction | Tags: A.A., addiction, Alchoholics Anonymous, worship style
My family and I have done some traveling through the Christian wilds of northeastern Pa. There was a span of time where we visited quite a few different churches bringing the gospel message and singing blue grass and Southern gospel music. The kids were never overly impressed with any of the church families . Now, I will grant you , my girls are a rough crowd. They are very critical of “Holier than thou” and have a built in hypocrisy meter that goes off with great sensitivity. [ I just can’t imagine where they get it.]
Often times we would drive home with me being the apologist for the group we had just left. Usually the conversation revolved around one or two of the group who exhibited highly judgemental behavior, or in some other way played the ‘competitive Christianity’ game and managed to offend my young daughters in some fashion. In reality, it is not hard to offend young girls, they are sensitive to even implied abuse. I am not really sure the oldest girl ever healed from this duty fully, as she still thinks 99.9% of all the Christians she meets are worthy of her disdain. We are working on it.
When the youngest daughter came in last night and announced she had discovered a group filled with humble hearts, seeking God, changing lives, and showing the way to Christ I was honestly surprised! Far more common would be here coming home saying, “You will not believe what I just experienced, and they call it a church!” Last night she was energized in prayer, rejoicing over changed lives, humbled by broken spirits, and warmed by love of others in this group and their love of a living God who is active in their lives.
Last night my daughter attended on open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
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The impact of the morning of 9/11/01 was emotional and disturbing. I was out in the yard on a beautiful day smacking golf balls for the dog. [ I do not golf , I smack balls for the dog, he brings them back. I fear for his life if he ever learns that we live next to a golf course, such behavior is not universally appreciated. ] It was a great blue sky day. We were going into work a bit late that day as we had evening appointments . there was no big hurry,no rush, life was fine. My wife, who was at the time a Fox news junkie, came out and said,” Will, you’ve got to see this , a plane hit the Twin Towers.” My first thought was that a Timothy McVeigh wanna be in a Piper Cub made a statement, and that Christians would be demonized. I came in to watch and saw the second plane hit, ” live and in action”.
It is an amazing age we live in. I saw The Challenger disaster ‘live, I saw the Twin Towers attack, live. I fear what else I see in the future. I wonder how the ancestors of the Faith interpreted Rev. 11.
9Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.”
As a modern Christian, I see a ‘live feed’ of the bodies laying in place broadcast around the world. Billions will see them arise at the Call of God. ‘Live and in color’.
As horrible as the impact of the hijacked jets was, the collapse of the towers was the emotional ‘coup de gras’. I looked at my wife and said, “I just lost a couple hundred brothers.” I was off by a bit, in mere moments we had lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics, 23 NYPD, and 37 PA cops. I know the estimated death toll was 6000, a horror for each family, but I relate to the emergency responders on a different level. We are family.
We never did go to work that day, we watched Fox and MSNBC , searching for information, prayed for Firefighters and their families, and were generally stunned. It was a day of sadness and defeat. Somehow however, it was all two and a half hours away, [that is how we measure distance around here, in drive time] and was slightly unreal, as if you could go to bed that night, and wake up to a new reality, finding it all just a nightmare.
It came home, and touched me where I live,that night. There is a lovely night sky at stately Willohroots manor, with just a hint of light pollution to cloud the sky in the East from the city of Scranton, the darkness of the night sky above Appalachian chain here in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, at an altitude of 1500 ft. provides a wonderful observation deck for the canopy of stars and planets above us. some people have a prayer closet, and if that works for them fine, but I have found I need as little material separating me from God as possible. I have a prayer yard. Looking up at the wonders of the heaven, knowing it was all created by God, and that He knows the stars by name and put each in the right place and that the light from some of them have been on the way to my eyes for millenia, and yet God is no older now than when He created them, well, it all combines to quell even my giant ego and put me in the proper mood to pray. I was in need of prayer that night, fearful of our future as a nation, of reprisals, frustrated that I had nothing to offer to help my fallen brothers, emotionally drained and looking forward to the embrace of my God.
As i looked up into the clear sky, something struck me as very wrong. It took a few minutes to process, but there were no aircraft. I live under a fly zone, a highway in the sky. Wilkes-Barre Scranton Airport is used as a radio beacon for fly over traffic, and is relatively busy on it’s own. That night , and for a few nights after, for the first time in my life, there was no air traffic. I looked up at the sky as did Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. I looked at a sky devoid of modern travel, I looked at the sky as Jesus and the Apostles did, nothing up there of man, only what God hath wrought.
So every night, as I take the dogs out and look up, I count two to five aircraft, most way to high or distant to hear, and I remember 9/11/01. Each evening is a reminder that it will take very little to wipe the tracks of man from the world, very little to change our way of life permanently. Every night I think of the war radical Islam is bringing against us, the horrible casualties thereof, and the uncertain future of my children.
I know God is everywhere, but above the circle of the earth, above the atmosphere we use for life and air travel, outward of the globe of strife and conflict where Satan is, for a time, allowed to act as a rogue Prince, is a universe, imagined, designed, built, and maintained by a God of Mercy and Order. It is so good to know that He will eventually , in His good time, bring Order and Justice to reign in peace here, on our little dot spinning round at the edge of the Milky Way.
Every time I look up now at the night sky I say, ” Come quickly Lord!”. Until then, I hope that my children will see planes when they look up at the night sky. May they fly in peace untill He comes.
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While in the deepest, most rural regions of Virginia, we came across a species of bird new to us. Some sort of turkey on steroids, it is called a Hokie bird. Beloved by the natives, it is cheered on by the local populace, and it’s war cry is imitated by thousands. I hear there is a place in it’s nest for a trophy.
This is an example of one we found in Blacksburg. [ the one on the left is a Hokie, the one on the right I am still figuring out after 21 years] There must be some sort of infectious nature to it all, as I find myself cheering for a guy named Tyrod, respecting a fellow named Beamer, and saying “Go Hokies!” I have yet to gobble, but as the condition advances it may become irresistible.