Monday, October 29, 2012

The Methodist Church Is Exploding!

... in Cuba:
Here is what has been happening in the Methodist Church in Cuba:

>Since 1999, the Methodist Church has grown from 8,000 to 36,000 members.

>The median age of the average Methodist parishioner ranges from the mid thirties to mid forties.

>The average age of pastors is 30 years old. All clergy have started at least one new church.

>Bishop Ricardo Pereira says that the Methodist seminary in Cuba intentionally trains its pastors theologically that he describes as "eminently Methodist and Wesleyan."

>Many congregations worship in house churches where they practice "lively worship, contemplative prayer, theological formation, and Bible study."

>The Methodist Church also excels at a Wesleyan understanding of the gospel that is one and the same time evangelistic and social in character. Every Methodist is encouraged and taught to share their faith verbally and in living it out daily. The Methodist Church has outreach missions to seniors and vulnerable families and single mothers, among other ministries.

Bishop Pereira states, "In the 1970s we tried every program that came along, but the church continued to grow older and decline. We had no other option but to pray and fast with all our power."

"Methodists are called to have that burning heart. ... We can't sit still. … If your heart does not burn, no program is going to fix it."
Read those last quotes again slowly: ",,, we tried every program that came along, but the church continued to grow older and decline. We had no other option but to pray and fast with all our power."

"Methodists are called to have that burning heart. ... We can't sit still. … If your heart does not burn, no program is going to fix it."

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life in the Socialist Paradise

Below is an embed of an excellent photo essay of what life was really like for millions of people in the old Soviet Union.

The embed below is only an intro; read the whole thing. This section reminded me of a joke a former member of the Czech politburo told me in the early 1990s:

The joke: A Russian laborer named Vasily saved and scrimped and black marketed for 20 years to buy a new Volga car. Finally, he had enough for a down payment.

So in March 1976 he went to the Volga order taker (there were no showrooms) and, beaming,  placed his order.

 Taking his money, the clerk consulted a small book and told him, "Very well, Comrade Vasily, your car will be delivered to you on ... June 16, 1987."

 Vasily mulled this over a moment, then said, "Morning or afternoon?"

Surprised, the clerk blurted, "What difference does it make?"

"I have a plumber coming by that afternoon."


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Monday, October 22, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A physicist speaks on God

Research On Religion | Stephen Barr on Quantum Physics, Religion, & the God Particle.:

This is a link to a podcast by  Prof. Stephen M. Barr, professor of physics at the University of Delaware, on the relation of quantum physics to religious faith. A text article on the subject by Prof. Barr is here. Excerpts from the linked page's summary:
The discussion is highly accessible to anybody with a high school science background.  ... 
Prof. Barr helps us to understand that the “beginning” of the universe is not the same as the “origins” of the universe.  ... And what does quantum physics have to say about that and whether or not God exists?  In short, quantum mechanics cannot prove the existence of God, but it makes it more difficult to subscribe to a philosophy of materialism, which opens the door to the possibility of something beyond the material world, such as an “ultimate mind.”  Prof. Barr cites a number of other physicists who share this notion.  The final portion of our interview brings up the question of whether or not science can play a role in informing our faith, and Steve notes that many, many of the great scientists of the past and present have been ardently religious individuals.  The notion of a war between religion and science, often championed by the likes of Richard Dawkins, is once again the type of media hype that gave us the term “God particle.”  Prof. Barr then reflects on his own background and what it has been like to be a faithful Catholic in the world of academia, providing advice at the end to any religious individual thinking of making a career in science profession.  Recorded: October 10, 2012.

10 Things First-Time Church Visitors Don't Want to Hear

10 Things First-Time Church Visitors Don't Want to Hear:

Heh! I don't think we have a problem with these no-no's.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Six reasons why people reject Christianity

Six reasons why people reject Christianity « Wintery Knight:
Here’s a post on practical evangelism by Christian scholar Don Johnson.
His list of reasons why people often reject Christianity:
  1. Christians behaving badly
  2. Disappointment with God
  3. Weak or absent father
  4. Social pressure
  5. Cost of discipleship
  6. Immorality (especially sexual immorality)
And here’s the detail on #6:
Of all the motivations and reasons for skepticism that I encounter, immorality is easily the most common. In particular, sexual sin seems to be the largest single factor driving disbelief in our culture. Brant Hanson calls sex “The Big But” because he so often hears this from unbelievers: “’I like Jesus, BUT…’ and the ‘but’ is usually followed, one way or the other, with an objection about the Bible and… sex. People think something’s deeply messed-up with a belief system that says two consenting, unmarried adults should refrain from sex.” In other words, people simply do not want to follow the Christian teaching that sexual intercourse should take place only between and man and woman who are married, so they throw the whole religion out.
Read the whole thing.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Baumgartner supersonic jump helmet video

A camera mounted on supersonic parachutist Felix Baumgartner's helmet shows what happened when, tens of thousands of feet above the earth, he went into an uncontrolled spin.

Baumgartner later related that he knew he was in trouble. The spinning could have pushed too much blood into his cranium, causing a blackout or possibly rupturing vessels in the brain. He considered deploying his drogue chute to stabilize but he knew that if he did, the attempt for a supersonic record would be gone forever.

With only seconds to decide, Baumgartner got his fall sorted out, probably aided by entering denser air that enabled greater control from his arms and legs. He did keep accelerating, though, and went on to hit Mach 1.24 before landing safely.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

No More Blind Faith: 10 Quotes on Christian Apologetics

No More Blind Faith: 10 Quotes on Christian Apologetics:

This is key to know:
Apologetics QuotesThe “blind faith” concept is actually not biblical. Pistis, the Greek word translated as “faith” actually is defined as a conviction based on the facts. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6a) It would be impossible to please God unless our minds can accurately discern the facts.
Not only does Christianity have plenty of room for people to use their mind, but the Bible even commands us to. "Test everything. Hold on to the good." (1 Thes 5:21). Its really cool that God invites us to test Him and what He has said. There is nothing wrong with asking questions or looking for reasonable answers.
As Christians we should never be afraid to ask questions, and we should also never discourage unbelievers from asking questions. Answering the tough questions is one of the ways to "...go and make disciples of all nations..."
Apologetics is extremely important, but never the first step in leading someone to Christ. In fact, if someone does not have intellectual stumbling blocks, I don't wish to create them. Apologetics should only be used if and when I first identify that there is an intellectual stumbling block standing between the person and their belief in, trust in, and commitment to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. – Luke Nix (from Why Apologetics?)
Read the whole thing.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Argo is the best movie of 2012

My daughter is home for fall break from Tennessee Tech, where she is studying chemical engineering. So my wife and daughter and I went to see Argo, the Ben Affleck-directed flick about an amazing exfiltration of six American diplomatic staff from Tehran. When terrorists seized the US embassy there in 1979, the six staffers escaped and were taken by the Canadian ambassador into his home.

Argo is the best movie I have seen this year. Period. There is not a wasted line or throwaway scene in the whole thing. Affleck's direction is simply brilliant and his starring role as CIA exfiltrator Tony Mendez is extremely well played. And what a treat to see a movie that didn't start as a comic book.

The story is true, of course, and I cannot help but compare it very favorably to 1995's Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks, which told the true story of the space mission of the same name and its near catastrophe en route to the moon. Like the latter movie, you know how Argo ends, but the tension is real.

Argo is one of the very few movies I have seen in which the audience (of about 400) actually applauded when the climactic scene was resolved. Another telling observation: When the end credits music started, only about three people in front of me arose, then they froze, and then they sat back down. No one moved a muscle. We sat silently, reading the credits for several minutes. I won't say why, that would be an unfair spoiler. But you will, too.

I give Argo nine out 10 CIA Intelligence Stars.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

America no longer majority Protestant

As Protestants decline, those with no religion gain:

Persons who identify themselves as Protestant in religious affiliation now comprise only 48 percent of the country's population.

Just under 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious denominational affiliation at all, a larger number than belong to any Protestant denomination. Among people under age 30, a third disdain any such affiliation.

See my 2010 essay, "Why 'Spirituality' Rather Than Religion?"

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top brain surgeon says afterlife is real

Afterlife exists says top brain surgeon - Telegraph:
Afterlife exists says top brain surgeon
A prominent scientist who had previously dismissed the possibility of the afterlife says he has reconsidered his belief after experiencing an out of body experience which has convinced him that heaven exists. ...
"I've spent decades as a neurosurgeon at some of the most prestigous medical institutions in our country. I know that many of my peers hold as I myself did to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex, generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God and the universe have toward us. 
"But that belief, that theory, now lies broken at our feet. What happened to me destroyed it."
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is Misfortune God's Doing?

Is Misfortune God's Doing? An Excerpt From Harold Kushner's New Look at 'The Book of Job.' – Tablet Magazine:

There is one place in the Bible where serious theological conversation about the nature and thought process of God does take place, prompted by the conflict between the human wish to see the world as a moral sphere where people get what they deserve, where everything happens for a reason, and the inescapable reality that ours is a world where good people suffer for no apparent reason. The book of Job is a full-length argument about whether the misfortunes that befall ostensibly good people come to them from the hand of God. If we want to believe that ours is a moral world, the scene of justice and fairness, we need to confront the arguments presented in what is probably the most challenging book in the entire Bible: the book of Job. ...
The first thing you need to know about the biblical book of Job is that there are two of them. There is the Fable of Job, a very old, simple folktale of faith maintained and rewarded, found in chapters 1, 2, and 42 of the biblical book. And then there is the Poem of Job, a much later, more complicated work comprising the large middle section of the book. A lot of people reading the Bible don’t realize that. They assume it is a single work, a theological sandwich composed of two slices of pious theology wrapped around a dense filling of hard-to-follow religious poetry.

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Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...