Here at Connections, we measure everything we do against the Bible. From how our leadership is organized to the way we allocate our money, from the songs that we sing to our VBS celebrations, everything is checked against the Bible. That doesn’t mean that we are restricted to only what is in there. Romans doesn’t mention inflatable bouncy houses, and James doesn’t include snow cones. But those things are tied to evangelism, and a snow cone isn’t too far from a cup of cold water.

The songs we sing are biblical, too, whether they include scripture or only include scriptural ideas. The hymn I’m going to read to you, “When I survey the wondrous cross”, was one of the first ones to have a biblical outlook without using only Bible verses. It doesn’t directly use Bible verses, but it is undeniably biblical. And it is true.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Let’s pray. Father God, we are remembering the sacrifice of Your only begotten Son Jesus. We are commemorating His death on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins. His perfect and sinless blood – as the song says, “Sorrow and love flow mingled down” – does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. As we take the wafer and the juice, representing Jesus’ body and blood, help us to remember, constantly and continually. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.

 

Offering meditation

That song has another verse, one that is still biblical without using Bible verses. And it is appropriate for the time when we collect the offering. The thing is, though, that it isn’t just about dropping money into a plate. It’s about a mindset, about how you live and how you see the world. The offering plate is a part of it, but it goes so much farther.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Again, there isn’t a Bible verse in there, but that is so biblical in its ideas and implications that there is support for it throughout the whole Bible.

Let’s pray. Lord God, we don’t own the world. You have made us stewards, caretakers, of some little part of it. And no matter how fat our wallet is, how many entries in our bank account, it isn’t our money that You want – it’s us, wholly and completely. And when we have given ourselves to You, what we put in the plate is a reflection of that amazing love Jesus has for us. Bless this offering, I pray, the envelopes, the givers, and the donation of lives to You.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

From my news feed:

So “Let’s go racin’, boys!”.

Looking at the lights on the corner of the front porch (from inside). Cold, windy, and chill-inducing. Even just seeing the picture.

I was reading about a criminal in England who was thought to be “on the autism spectrum”.

I’m no rocket surgeon, but doesn’t the idea of “spectrum” run from roughly zero to 100%?  Measure it in colors, measure it in furlongs per fortnight, I don’t really care – there has to be some min and max for the population, even if those get changed occasionally (like the hottest and coldest places on earth).

I found this comic book which explains that it isn’t a single dimension, but rather a color wheel of different parameters. Fine.  My argument remains the same – the center is zero and the outside is 100%, no matter where you are measuring.

If the argument arises that even if someone measures 0% on all areas, that they are merely high-functioning autistic, my counter-argument is that the scope isn’t big enough.  Make it go up to 11, or 200%, or down into negative numbers, or whatever.

Just doesn’t make sense to say that some people simply aren’t on the autism spectrum.  There has to be some justification for including people on the list.  I say put everybody on the list, and then draw a line (somewhere, somehow) to say “this is autism”.  Otherwise, if everybody on the autism spectrum, say “they are autistic, and here is how”.

This picture, from the DSM, shows my thought.  There are different areas of concern – intense focus, repetition, etc. – and the impairment increases from the center of the circle.  There are examples of different individuals. Person A has impairments in all areas.  Person B has no impairments in the area of “intense focus”.  Person C has no impairments in the area of “sensitivities”.

I would like to propose Person D, who has no impairments in any of the five areas – they would be a black circle with the letter D in it – and they would still be on the spectrum!  The DSM has shown that individuals with measurements of zero are still in the spectrum.  That would seem to indicate that someone with zero in all measurements is still on the spectrum.

Another perspective: I don’t have diabetes – I’m on the diabetes spectrum. I’m not overweight – I’m on the fat spectrum.  I’m not employed – I’m on the job spectrum.  I wasn’t speeding – I’m on the velocity spectrum.

I dunno – maybe I’m obsessing.

Seen as I was clearing out my Hotmail spam.

doctor doctor

A couple of funnies. Not mine, but no attributions.

Human: What do we want!?
Computer: Natural language processing!
Human: When do we want it!?
Computer: When do we want what?

This won’t last long, but a local TV station is forecasting a very hot night.

2018-12-31 17_23_37-Clipboard

Glad it’s cooling down for New Year’s Day.

From https://www.wcpo.com/weather/your-latest-forecast

I was thinking to myself that it’s been too long since we had a communion meditation about architecture. This is going to change that.

Churches now can look like anything and be anywhere. Going way back in time, churches in the middle ages were cathedrals, lofty and soaring, inspiring people to look up to God in Heaven. Our church has some of that – the peak arching up to the skies – and that is good.

Let’s look at some practical architecture. Behind me is a brick wall. When it was built, a few decades ago, the wall was bare brick. We added the light-colored structure a few years ago, while adding a baptistry. It’s functional, holding the monitors and helping us focus on the baptistry, which was used just last week.

But it isn’t just functional, it’s reminiscent – it looks like something else. To me, it has the appearance of the altar of sacrifice from the Old Testament. Leviticus chapter 16 talks about how the high priest would enter the holy of holies one day a year, first sacrificing a sin offering for himself and then sacrificing for all the people. I don’t know that it was intentional for this bulkhead to look like an altar, and I’m always open to correction.

The other thing that this new piece of architecture did, is to move our song lyrics from the center projector screen out to the side monitors. That *was* intentional, in order to make sure that the cross was always visible.

The use of the sacrificial altar from the Old Testament did cleanse from sins, but it wasn’t permanent. It had to be repeated every year. The sacrifice offered on the cross, Jesus’s sinless sacrifice, is permanent. Hebrews 10:14 says “by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”. That’s us. That sacrifice was and is offered to all, freely given, paid for with His body and blood. That is what we celebrate now in taking communion. Let’s pray.

Father God, from before the start of time, Your perfect plan was for Your perfect, sinless Son Jesus to die on a cross for imperfect us, imperfect me. Help us to remember, always. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I was going to call this one “It’s not fair” – except that it is.

The next working title was “It’s not right” – except that God is sovereign and good.

A friend of mine died Monday. Karen Tracy was about my age. I met her at Hands Against Hunger, and never saw her outside of that context, but we were friends.

She was in good health. She had volunteered at HAH on Thanksgiving morning, and helped decorate Christmas trees at her church on Sunday.

Monday morning, her brother found her body sitting in a chair in her apartment. No idea why she died, and it doesn’t matter.

I’m not arguing that God didn’t have the right to do anything He wanted with this part of His creation. He’s God. He owns everything, and He gets to do that. Six years ago, I died – no heartbeat, no respiration, no consciousness – and God brought me back to life. I appreciate it daily, but I didn’t have anything to do with it. All God.

It’s the case here, too. Karen is in Heaven. I don’t know if people in Heaven know about earth. I would imagine that all of our focus is going to be on worshipping God.

Holy, holy, holy

Is the Lord almighty

Who was, and is, and is to come

Second verse, same as the first. For eternity.

Intellectually, I get it, and I agree. Emotionally, I’m still struggling.

Job 13:15 says

Even though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him

Karen said that, in person, on Monday, and she believed it the day before. And it’s true.

So why do I feel bad? I’m mourning her loss, yes. She had a great attitude, a ready laugh, and a smile all the time. I’ll miss her presence.

I may be mourning my own impending death. “It is appointed unto man once to die” – that day is coming. No idea when, but both of my parents are still living, so possibly later rather than sooner.

And I think I’m mourning the loss of innocence that we had in the garden of Eden. No death there. Unsure if Adam and Eve would have had children, but if we were still there, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

Bottom line is that there is no bottom line. Not in a nihilistic way, but we aren’t promised all the answers here on earth. And I suspect that we won’t care in Heaven.

And God is good.

This is a little talk about economics. But it’s OK.

We had lunch here at the church a week ago. It was a free lunch – for us. But the pizza didn’t just appear like manna – the church paid the pizza company. And where did the church get its money? From us. And where did we get our money? From working. And where did our employers get their money? By selling things, to people who got their money from working.

If you trace it far enough back, you run out of money and get into barter – buying stuff with things or your time instead of cash. You can trace through the process of getting things and having time, and if you follow it all the way back, both things and time come from God. They were a gift to Adam and Eve, and on down to all of us. All the stuff you see – everything you can touch or sense – is a gift from God.

And then we switch over from the physical world to the spiritual world (although they aren’t really separate) and you see that our salvation is a gift from God, in the form of Jesus, who paid the price for our sins. He didn’t need to die for His own sins – He had none. And He didn’t need to die for our sins – my sins, your sins – there was no obligation there. But there was love, from God the Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. And that love drove Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, loving us to His death on the cross.

That is what we are remembering now, with the wafer representing His body and the juice His blood. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Let’s pray.

Lord, the physical things we see around us – cars, houses, even our bodies – are all transitory. They won’t survive being ours beyond our death. But the spiritual gifts You have given us – salvation and the hope for a future – are eternal, and were bought with the precious blood of Christ. Thank You for that unimaginable sacrifice, bought with Jesus’ body and blood and anguish. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.