Thursday, June 3, 2010

Precious Stones for the Road

This is a transition and a rough one at that. I've talked a little about politics and a little about what I use for an operating system (I just recently upgraded to Fedora 13 and am blogging on Blogilo), and now it is time to add another tier to my blog. This tier is one that is truly dear to my heart and has been since I was 18 years old. The tier of Bible teaching.

I have been a teacher of the Bible as a lay person since I was 18 years old. I have received formal and informal training. Over the years I have developed a practical approach to teaching that helps me get right into the text to discover the "big idea" of the verse, the passage, the chapter, the book, the Old or New Testament, and ultimately, the whole Bible. This approach is not my own as I have adapted it from Haddon W. Robinson's homiletic book called Biblical Preaching. In this book, he explains the method of communicating one "big idea" while preaching. I adapted this method in Bible study and teaching.

When I read a passage, I read until I get a completed thought and then I teach the passage based on that. The thought cannot be my own, but it must belong to the author. I ask myself "What is the 'big idea" the author is trying to get across to his readers?" Sometimes the "big idea" is easy to decipher and sometimes the deciphering requires digging deep into the the history of the text and the original language and culture surrounding the text.

One case in point would be I Corinthians Chapter 3. A first read of this text tells me Paul added this section of his letter to the Corinthians to address a situation that arose due to a dispute the recipients were having amongst themselves that had it's roots in who was the teacher they should follow. Was it Paul or was it to be Apollos? Paul comes into the dispute saying that he laid the foundation and Apollos built on it. It does not matter who adds the building as long as the materials used in the building are quality materials that would even stand up to the fire tests of Judgement Day.

Paul says if a builder comes and builds on his foundation with quality materials, it doesn't matter who does the building, it is God who brings the increase. But if the builder builds with poor material, they will not last. (I'm thinking they will not even last until Judgement Day, but who knows?)

Now, I have summarized the passage following the "big idea". So many times , with this passage, folks get hung up on the building materials and forget the main theme (or "big idea") of the passage. Paul was a church planter and realized that he was not going to be around forever, And, actually, Paul was writing this information in a letter which proves my point that he was not going to be around. A church planter starts and establishes churches. Once established, he moves on to the next. The people who follow him build on what has already been established. If they build wisely, they will see the church thrive. If they build foolishly, the outsiders watching the church will see the demise of the church (quite possible, in their lifetime).

So, one "big idea" Paul is trying to get across in this passage is the idea that "Quality Pastors build the Church with Quality Stuff". There is another "big idea" in this passage as well, "Quality Church Planters Build with Quality Stuff". What is this stuff that Paul built with any way? Whenever Paul went to a city, he would always start with preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a public place. From that series of sermons, he would glean his first disciples and begin establishing the local church of that town or metropolis. So, his foundation was always preaching and teaching the history of Jesus Christ and how his listeners could relate to the life and mission of Jesus Christ. Many times, Paul would give his own testimony.

So, now, once Paul got his first disciples, he would baptize the new believers and begin teaching them all about Jesus Christ and His role in history and the future. Out of this group, he would select leaders, and especially a pastor, to continue the church after he was gone. It is these leaders Paul is talking about in Chapter 3 of First Corinthians. These leaders must continue building the local church with proper teaching and personal instruction. They must evangelize, baptize, teach, instruct, and train people in the Way of Jesus Christ. These teachings are the costly jewels and stones Paul was talking about.

The worthless stuff Paul was talking about was teachings that did not continue the quality foundation Paul laid, but went off on tangents of weirdness not related to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, whether we are starting new churches or simply teaching in a church that has already been established, if we want our church to last even through the fire of Judgement Day, we will teach quality Gospel. We will teach with quality in Sunday School, in Vacation Bible School, from the Pulpit, and in our Small Groups. Teaching the Gospel is not complicated. But sticking to the Gospel is many times quite difficult as there are so many things in the 21 century that bog us down as we are preparing. 

That is why I like "big idea" Bible study and teaching. I can focus on the passage with the ultimate goal of figuring out what the author is saying. Once I have discovered this, then I take that idea and wrap some illustrations around it to drive it home to my audience. 

Notice that I said "I wrap some illustrations around it"? I don't wrap the biblical idea around illustrations as that would corrupt the gospel and turn my teaching into foolish building material.

So, there you have it. My first official blog on Bible Teaching. Stay tune for more. (This will be reviewed and updated for references. Comments are welcome)
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Break Time: My Switch to Fedora

As many of you know, I have switched my computer over from Windows XP Professional to Windows 7 RC. But wait! The Release Candidate of W7 was set to expire on March 1, 2010. Never fear Linux is here. In February, I switched my computer over to the Linux distribution of Fedora 12, 64 bit. Why would I want to do this? OK, if you must know, my business of 11 years is no more. And, because I no longer had the business capitol to upgrade to a newer Windows operating system, I switched to Fedora 12.

In Fedora 12, I set the system up to run RAID 5. I can browse the internet, check e-mail, do complex multitasking, digital animation, and much more. Actually, right now, I am using a program called "Blogilo" which is a blogging client. I just discovered this as being already installed on my system. It's cool in that I can type blog drafts and save them locally where I know they are safe. I can click on them later, edit, and then submit them to my blog. "Blogilo" also works with Wordpress. I can even sync with my existing blog entries, click on them, edit, and then resubmit.

Another neat thing that has been made available to Fedora and other Linux distributions is Skype. I installed this just a few days ago for free. I can now video chat with friends anywhere. I can also make Skype phone calls for a fragment of the cost of a regular land line. Makes me just want to get rid of my land line. Yes, I know. You can also get Skype for Windows. That's not the point. The point is, making a switch to Linux is much easier because there are a ton of applications being designed to run with Linux that Windows users cannot get.

In Fedora, I have flash video and am able to watch DVD video. I can also make my own DVD videos using a number of different applications specifically designed to be use with Linux.
But can Fedora play games? Well, yes and no. I'm really not a gamer. You know all the free games that come with Windows? Well, Fedora comes with similar games and then multiplies the free games by about 100 times. Then if you want to play things like WoW, Sims, and others, you can install and play them with an application called Wine. Linux was never originally designed to be a gaming platform, but that is quickly changing, however, most all game studios are focusing on the Windows based machines and lately have also been porting certain games to Mac. There's not a lot of Linux Platform games.

So, what kind of programs do I use all the time? Well, I use Firefox for web browsing and watching Flash video on sites like YouTube and Hulu. I use a program called Digikam to sync with my digital camera. Digikam has a plugin that I use to upload my pics to directly to Facebook. And yes, if I want to, I can use Facebook to search files for pictures. The Facebook method is faster. I use Kontact which is simlar to MS Office Outlook, but even better. With Kontact, I can get e-mail from multiple servers, run a calendar and a schedule, get RSS feeds, review my sticky notes, manage an intricate contact list, it has a journel and a time tracker.

For my multimedia stuff, Fedora offers a number of things. I use Amarok which a fancy digital music player that also has the ability to play internet radio stations that broadcast from all over the world. I use K3b which for burning CDs and DVDs. Fedora has ripper software as well as several media platforms to choose from for DVD playback. For video production, there is several to choose from. I have been using a product that is called Open Shot. It is very similar to the Windows Movie Editor but more powerful. I use Blender for digital animation. This is just what I have on my computer. There are a lot more programs available for multimedia design and editing and all are usually free.

For my office production I'm mainly using the KOffice Suite which has a word processor, spread sheet, a slide presentation program and more. I can also install Open Office but I haven't because Koffice is fine for what I do. I installed a set of MS fonts so I feel a little more at home. I already mentioned Blogilo.

The bottom line is I have not really missed Microsoft Windows. There's so much I can do with Fedora that I don't really have time to miss it. And, to top it all off, if I have problems, I am just a mouse click away from a network of people who can answer my questions and get me up and running pretty fast.

So, if you cannot afford to upgrade to the new operating system, try Linux. You will be happy with the results. All the software I have mentioned is free.
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Constitutional Reading

Originally, I set out to write about the Second Amendment and got totally side-tracked with a particular website. In this website, not only did I find the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I also found thousands of articles explaining the original intent of the authors of the sacred documents. In this country, our kids do not even study the Constitution. Many have not even read it. All claim it's authority, but have really not ever read it. In law school, the students study case law, not the Constitution.

Today, the Constitution is said to be a living, breathing document. Well, if that is truly the case, then why do people still refer to the original as authoritative if it is all relative to the subjective interpretations of 21st century "experts"? No, to understand what ancient documents mean, the literary researcher must go back in time and read documents and letters that were contemporary to the document in question. In this case, the researcher must look for the writings of the signers of the Constitution. Look for the writings of Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the others. Look for letters from the leaders of the colonies. Look at early state constitutions. Another interesting read would be the writings of Benjamin Rush. What was he all about?

The Constitution was written by men who were very well educated, and in several cases, were themselves educators. Many of these men began pursuing adult-like occupations when they were merely 14 years old. These guys' education far exceeded that of modern lawyers. They all were at least bilingual and fluent in the laws of at least 2 other countries in addition to the one they were just birthing. They were also all fluent in the Bible which is taboo amongst today's educated elite.

So, for our schools to ignore the Constitution, and it's contemporary writings in the favor of the trivialities of history, is really hurting the future of our nation. But, we are all still free men. This means we can educate ourselves on matters of the constitution and matters of government. Our nation is truly dependent upon her people to educate themselves. Our schools are not doing their jobs. I'm really not sure what kids are learning in school, but a high majority of them are graduating without the knowledge the historical roots of this nation. Many are graduating without even being able to read. Being illiterate is a terrible handicap because, unless they learn how to read, how will they know their roots? Many slave owners refused to allow their slaves to be literate because their education would ultimately result in their freedom. Our freedom is being infringed upon by the public schools because they are failing to teach our kids how to read.

But I digress. Take a look at this website: http://www.constitution.org/

Actually, one little look and you will be hooked. Enjoy your history.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Christians as Citizens of the U.S.A.

I've bumped into several Christians on the net and in person who are thoroughly convinced that their role in the U.S.A. and the world is that of an "alien". They believe Christians should have a Star Trek mentality when it comes to interacting with society. A thing called "The Prime Directive" which is basically no contact beyond what is necessary to achieve the specific mission. Christians have a mission to seek out and to save the "lost". Another mission, however similar, is to the Great Commission...to go out into all the world and make disciples...baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

When the Church becomes recognized to the point of offending people, the Christians must endure their persecution without fight back or any kind of retaliation. This turn-the-other-cheek approach to Christianity is common and fitting for missionaries in most all nations of the world as those societies have no provision recognizing the freedoms of man to practice any religion as they see fit.

In the United States of America, we have The Bill of Rights which list, not exhaustively, recognized freedoms of mankind. This list protects, in writing, man's right to be Christians in public. Because this freedom in particular is recognized, one might be lead to believe that this freedom should also be freely defended for there would be those who would desire and make attempts to revoke such freedom.

The Bible was written to a people who were dominated by monarchies and dictatorships. During New Testament times, Rome was the dominating force throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Egypt (as well as other parts of Africa). If you were not a natural born Roman Citizen or at least one who purchased his citizenship, you had no freedom of religion other than that authorized by the Roman Government. Christians who lived public lives would also be persecuted, tortured, and killed publicly. We cannot compare U.S.A. citizenship with that of Rome. The Constitution recognizes that all men are created equal in the site of God.

So, to deny Christians an active and open public life is to deny what is recognized and written in the Constitution. It is also denying the public life of the Nation's early leaders. Many were pastors. Others were doctors, school teachers, lawyers and such. Most all of these early leaders were Christian in their religious practice and everyday behavior. To deny the Christian heritage of this country is to deny and actually bring dishonor to the many men and their families who gave everything to make this nation what it is today.

My next entry will deal with Bible passages that define the Christian's role in this world and especially his rights as spelled out in the Constitution. I will quote directly from scripture and from some of the founding fathers of this Nation.
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Run for Office

How come regular folks like us don't run for local office? Are Christians content to believe the status quot? You know, "Christians should stay home and go to church, make babies, and work their fields and stay out of politics". Have you ever heard that before? You guys are adults now and you are still believing the propaganda from the 50's. Shall we let them just have the country and squander it all to the Chinese or whoever the pink-slip holder might be?

The Chinese don't want our country or they would have taken it by now. How are we going to take it back, pay off our debts, a repent to God for past blatant sins? It starts on the local level. There is not a country on the face of this planet that has ever survived once headed down the path we are on. But we are different.

We are still a Free People can can cry out to God in repentance and ask forgiveness. We can still challenge all liberals for local, county, state and federal offices.

I believe our country's Christians have been brainwashed into believing that Christians should stay out of politics. Every day since 1776, Christians have been forced to compromise ground. The school system was once founded by a Christian and ran by Christians or at least God fearing people. Now Christians have been forced to compromise that ground. Why? That are afraid of the fight. They believe Christians are to love one another and never pick up the sword and should never ever argue for mere property. Who told them that?

Well, it was not the founding fathers, many of whom were Godly men with Godly women and children at home. These men sacrificed everything to make sure this country got off to the right start. What are we going to do to honor these families who gave their all?

Ah, just go back to your video games, movies, and jobs (if you have one) and leave the politics to someone who is experienced. NOT!! The experienced ones are those that have sold us out to the Chinese, have refused to pay off our debts, are forcing us into Socialism, who threaten our very freedoms and who have been striving to do this since 1776.

Let's stop giving them our ground because the last stronghold is our freedom. You name it: Freedom of Religion (Christianity not cults), Right to keep and bear arms, freedom of speech, and the freedom to move about the country, innocent until proven guilty, right to bear children and train them up the way we see fit...I can go on but you get the picture. The last stronghold is our freedom.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Christians in Politics

The forms of government in the Bible are dictatorships or monarchies or a combination of both. The United States Government was designed to be nothing like any other county in the world. If I lived in any other country in the world, I would not worry about stuff, I would just submit. In this country, I have a responsibility as a citizen to be involved. The founders of this nation set up the people as the governing body with individual representatives that would meet on our behalf. These representatives would also be our ambassadors to foreign nations. These representatives have certain rules they are supposed to follow. If they break the rules, we have a system in place to address the unruly. The bottom line is, when things get really bad and our representatives are actually misrepresenting us, we are under obligation to put a stop to it. It is in our Constitution.

Our representatives really should know their place in our form of government. Currently they are ignoring the masses of peaceful protesters by closing their doors, shutting out the media, ignoring their phones and e-mail. Instead, they are pushing their own agenda which is contrary to our form of government. In short, our representatives are breaking the foundational laws of this country.

There is nothing wrong with Christians running for office. Most of our founding fathers were Christians. All were at least God fearing. The public school system was started by a Christian. All the Ivy League Colleges used to be leading seminaries. Many of the leaders of the Revolutionary War were pastors. So, to say that Christians have no place in the politics of this country is just pure silliness. ... See More

If God fearing men and women refuse to engage in the public sphere, the influence of Christ in this country will diminish to nothing and Christians will begin to be persecuted here just like they are in most every other country of the world. If Christians refuse to be Cops, councilmen, mayors, state and federal representatives and senators, Christians will begin to be persecuted in this country for sure. Christ influences governments through the Sons of the Kingdom.