Friday, August 31, 2012

Sabbath Series 1: Quantum Sabbath

Quantum physics is rocking the scientific world.  At first, people thought that quantum physics describes what happens on the subatomic level - how our world works in its teeny, tiniest parts.  The sheer exploration of electrons and protons was shocking enough, but in the past decade, physicists have been discovering “that quantum behavior persists on a macroscopic scale.”  
I don’t really understand most of what is going on in quantum physics, but there is one point that makes a lot of sense to me: entanglement.  This is when two or more objects are mysteriously tangled together.  According to our normal reasoning, they shouldn’t effect each other, but they do.  “Even when the entangled particles are far apart, they still behave as a single entity, leading to what Einstein famously called ‘spooky action at a distance.’”  Sometimes, things are connected even when it looks like they aren’t.  
This doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to us when we’re talking about the super-microscopic level of what happens inside atoms.  Most of us don’t understand and don’t care about that.  But what physicists are discovering is that quantum physics are everywhere in our world - working even with larger objects.  There is “spooky action” all over the place.  Things are connected even when it looks like they aren’t.
Quantum behavior is counter-intuitive.  It “eludes visualization [in graphs and charts] and common sense.  It forces us to rethink how we look at the universe and accept a new and unfamiliar picture of our world.” (Vlatko Vedral, “Living in a Quantum World,” Scientific American, June 2011)

Social scientists are beginning to apply this quantum entanglement theory to family systems, organizations, and cultures.  Psychologists are applying entanglement theory to the inner workings of our minds and hearts.  Astronomers are exploring the possibility of quantum relationships in the largest parts of our universe.  We are quantum people in a quantum world.  Things are connected even when it looks like they aren’t.  
This forces us to rethink how we look at our universe and to develop a new picture for how our lives work in the world.  Sometimes we call this quantum phenomena irony.  How many of you have heard your mom or aunt say to some single woman, “You’ll meet Mr. Right just about the time you stop looking for him”?  There is some kind of quantum connection there between finding and not looking.  
Today, we begin our series on the Sabbath, with the basic premise that there is a quantum connection between our practice of Sabbath and the rest of our week.  Even our calendars experience quantum entanglement.  Good Sabbath practice leads to good weeks and good years.  Bad Sabbath practice has a “spooky action from a distance” that drags down our moods, our health, our spirituality, and our performance in school and work.  Some things are connected even when it looks like they aren’t.  

Are there “Nutrition and Food Security Programs” run by the Church of the Nazarene in Kenya?

Nazarene Compassionate Ministries slightly different programs in each country, but the Church of the Nazarene is huge in Africa.  Roughly 25% of all Nazarenes are African.  There are more than 20,000 Nazarenes in Kenya, and they are very active in serving those in need around them.  Let’s highlight a few key ministries:
  • Famine Relief: “The Horn of Africa” is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years.  Large, overcrowded refugee camps are forming in Kenya and Ethiopia.  The Church of the Nazarene is working in these camps to address “malnutrition, hunger, shelter, sanitation and other basic necessities.”  For more info go to:
  • Orphans and Vulnerable Children Program:  Because of AIDS, Africa has far too many orphans to build orphanages or special villages for them.  Instead, Nazarenes are working with local communities to identify and to support vulnerable children in their midst.  We provide livestock, seeds, garden tools, and basic life lessons to help local churches empower more than 10,000 kids first to survive and then to thrive.
  • Farming and Food Security Program:  Local people provide some barren land.  NCM provides the tools and training to irrigate it and to turn it into a fertile farm feeding 200 families and stocking a food bank for times of crisis.  After irrigation, the land becomes 10 times more fertile than before!
Find out more about the Church of the Nazarene in Africa at:  Check out for more examples of how Nazarenes are living as a loving community that changes our world.  If you see a program you like, you can give online or through your offerings in our church.  (Either way, be sure to mark your gift with the program code that looks something like this: ACM1796.)

[This question comes from a "talk back" card in our church bulletin.]


Trouble. Transition.  Death.  Moving away.  Illness.  Conflict.  New job.  New stuff to do in your old job.  Sometimes life is hard.  
In times like this, one little thing Jesus said really helps me: “In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  
There is no way to get out of the trouble in this world.  Trouble is part of the fabric of this broken world.  
But Jesus has overcome the world and its troubles.  Jesus connects us with the world beyond.  Jesus gives us a peace that comes from outside this world.  He is our life-line, and we connect with Jesus as we open our hearts to him and to each other.  Like a thousand bricks supporting each other and sharing the weight, we strengthen one another.  As we stick together, we stick to Christ.  
As we experience trouble and transition in various shapes and sizes, let’s go deeper together.  Life is uncertain, so don’t live it alone.  Open up to each other.  Pray together.  Take heart - together.  This is what makes us the body of Christ.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rescue, Refuge, Rehab, Reassignment (2 Samuel 22)

This is our last passage in our series in 1 and 2 Samuel.  Most of this chapter is actually the same as Psalm 18, but it is included here as part of David’s story.  It is kind of a summary of how God helped him throughout his life.  We’re only going to read a few parts of the psalm because it’s really long, but listen for four basic themes: rescue, refuge, rehabilitation, and reassignment.
First there is an introduction section:
1 David sang this song to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul.  2 He sang:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior.
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

Next is the rescue section:
5 The waves of death overwhelmed me;
floods of destruction swept over me.
6 The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.
7 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD;
yes, I cried to my God for help. ...
17 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; 
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, 
from those who hated me and were too strong for me. ...

Then comes refuge:
20 He led me to a place of safety;
He rescued me because he delights in me. ...
31 He is a shield of for all who look to him for protection.
32 For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
33 God is my strong fortress ...

Next is something we might not expect: rehabilitation.
34 He makes me as surefooted as a deer, 
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
36 You have given me your shield of victory;
your help has made me great ...

The final move may be even more surprising and uncomfortable: reassignment.
38 I chased my enemies and destroyed them;
I did not stop until they were conquered ...
40 You have armed me with strength for the battle;
you have subdued my enemies under my feet.
41 You placed my foot on their necks. ...

David finishes with a conclusion of praise.
47 The LORD lives!  Praise to my Rock!
May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!

Over the past two weeks, we had the great privilege to see this psalm lived out in Bangladesh.  Bijoli was an orphan as a child.  She faced staggeringly bad options: near-slavery as a worker in a house or sweatshop, homelessness, or prostitution.  However, she was rescued, and given refuge in an orphanage sponsored by the Church of Bangladesh.  Over the next decade or so, she experienced a beautiful rehabilitation.  Despite her difficult beginnings, she learned about God’s love and developed a beautiful personality of joy and peace.  She studied well and showed great potential for ministry.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Retro Poem #11: Nothing Comes Out

Do you know 
   that when you cry
   I feel it?
Do you know
   that when you hold it back
   I feel that too?
Sometimes I feel you
   hold down a great big sob
   but nothing comes out.
Sometimes the tears are there,
   but the fears are there too,
   and nothing comes out.
Sometimes you’ve long since 
   stopped the tears
   and I hug you
   and everything wants to start again
   but nothing comes out.
A great big cry
   bundled up with pain and fear
   and whatever else - I don’t know -
   surges toward the surface
   and slams into the wall 
   of your determination.
I am not sure exactly 
   what you are determined to do
   except to hold that bundle down
   and nothing comes out.
Your will is strong;
   you can do almost anything you want.
But sometimes I wish 
   that you would not master your emotions.
I wish they were free to be released
   good, bad
   strong, weak
   attractive, or not
   I wish they came out.
When a sob surges
   it needs to be released.
Emancipate the prisoners,
   and emancipate yourself.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Retro Poem #10: Smart and Lucky

I am the smartest man alive.
Out of all the women in this world,
I chose you.

I am the luckiest man alive.
Out of all the men in this world,
You chose me.

[This is one of my favorites - maybe because I can easily remember it and recite it to Sarah when I want her to feel all warm and mushy.]

Friday, August 17, 2012

Leadership Tip: Choose the Right Form of Communication.

Should you write, email, text, IM, Facebook message, call, or go in person?  It all depends.  Who are you trying to reach?  How well do you know them?  How urgent is it?  What have you tried so far?  What is that person's preferred mode of communication?

Email is great - except when it isn't.  One of the regular complaints I get from beginning leaders is that they tried to gather a meeting or to recruit volunteers, but no one responded to their emails.  Some people are great email responders, and some just read everything and reply to almost nothing - especially if a reply requires thought or commitment.
One way to increase the effectiveness of an email is to combine it with a text message.  This reminds people to check their email.  (Some just don't check very often.)  Also, it is a small flag noting the urgency of the issue.  However, if the reply can be done with a text message, you might consider skipping the email altogether.    One nice thing about text messages is that people can still receive them while in meetings when they can't answer the phone.  Also, they can save them up and respond to you later when they are on a break.
Another option for email is to start with a mass email to get the easy responders.  Then, move to text message to get the next set of responses.  Finally, close out the slow responders with direct phone calls.

For people in your email contact list, a five minute Instant Message conversation with Google Chat or something similar can be the most effective way to touch base with a short Q and A session.  This avoids the annoying relay of emails with one short question after another.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Retro Poem #9: Owners of the Floor

Boldly dancing
with ease and grace,
their age melded with youth
to sing an aromatic duet
which evanesced through the room.
Though they seemed oblivious to all,
none could help but notice them.

[At the same jazz club (see below), one older couple danced with such grace and obvious affection that they stole my heart.  I copied this down on another napkin and gave them a copy.]

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Retro Poem #8: Jazz Club

"The Jazz Club" by Phillip Maxwell
music lubricates my mind
the rhythm rolls my head
and my pen

music talks in mysteries
unmatched by words

(I wrote this one on another napkin at the same jazz club I visited with my sister in 2000.  I don't feel like it really finishes its thought, but I love the way the words roll, so I figured it is worth a post.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Retro Poem #7: A Coy Smile and a Glow

The look in her eyes tells a story
   when she turns and waits for him
   to join her on the floor
She only wants to be with him
Style, stature, skill, and appearance
 -- all irrelevant to her.
He his her man,
and she only wants to dance with him.

(I wrote this on the back of a napkin at a jazz club in Houston in 2000.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why did David wait 20 years to help Mephibosheth? (Talk Back Question 3)

After David became king of Judah (in the south), there was a long civil war with most of the tribes of Israel following Ishbosheth (Saul’s son and Mephibosheth’s uncle) in the north.  After the David’s side one, he became king of the united Israel.  Next David dealt with Israel’s external enemies - either winning wars or making peace treaties.  After David’s kingdom was solidly established and Israel had a period of peace, David seems to have taken time to reflect on his promise to look after Jonathan’s descendants.  

So basically, David seems to have forgotten about his promise (or to have been to busy to fulfill it) until there was peace.  But then he did right by Mephibosheth.  Even though it was late in coming, it was still a pretty courageous act, considering that David had fought a civil war against Ishbosheth.

Who killed King Saul and Crown Prince Jonathan? (Talk Back Question 2)

The Israelites were at war with the Philistines in the Jezreel Valley, and the Philistines attacked on the slopes of Mount Gilboa.  They killed three of Saul’s sons - including Jonathan.  A Philistine archer severely wounded Saul.  Seeing that he would be captured, Saul killed himself by falling on his sword.  This ceremonial suicide was an ancient way to preserve honor in defeat.
By the way, since he was on the outs with Saul at this time, David was not involved in this battle.  (See 1 Samuel 31.) 
Also, cool ... check out this fascinating painting of this scene by Pieter Bruegel the Elder 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ending the Cover-Ups (2 Samuel 11)

Read 2 Samuel 11.

I wanted to preach a nice, fairly traditional sermon on temptation and how to avoid it.  That is a fair and relatively easy application of this text.  But I couldn’t do it.  I sat down at my computer to write, and I ended up just surfing the web or playing games.  For two days, I tried to write the nice sermon about avoiding temptation - the expected sermon when dealing with this passage, but I just couldn’t get the words to come out.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, I started digging into the passage again.  I went online and read every sermon or article I could find on this passage.  Danielle Shroyer, a pastor from Texas, knew the way to my heart when she asked: “Anybody brave enough to preach this one squarely?”
  What?  A controversial sermon on a difficult topic?  I never do those. OK, I’m in.
The David and Bathsheba story is famous because it deals with the big three: money, sex, and power.  It’s famous because it describes the messy fall of a hero.  It reads like a soap opera, and that’s why we like it.    
But this story isn’t just about the massive failure of one man and its many consequences - although that is the outline of the story.  If David and Bathsheba were simply about adultery, then - as Tim Elliot said at lunch on Thursday - this sermon could have one simple point: “Don’t do it.”  
This story is more complex and more painful than that.  We are not allowed to stand at a distance as people not concerned with this story - not when we really hear it.  This story is about the misconduct of a leader and the cover-up that followed.  And that, unfortunately, is something we know a lot about.  Just consider this very brief inventory of high profile abuse and cover-up in the past few years.

Why Did Saul Want to Kill David? Out of Jealousy? (Talk Back Question 1)

[This is the first in a new series.  Each week we're giving people at church the opportunity to ask questions about the sermon, about the Bible, or about life in general.  We'll answer some of the questions once a month, and we'll try to answer all of the questions here.  If you're a blog reader, feel free to post your question in the comments section.]

Basically, yes.  Saul was jealous of David - insanely jealous - as in he was literally crazy at times.  Because of Saul’s disobedience, God withdrew his blessing from Saul and put his blessing on David.  David began to succeed more and more, and Saul became weaker and weaker.  Apparently the event when Samuel anointed David as king was still mostly a secret, but everyone in Israel could see that David was becoming the national hero instead of Saul.  Saul became increasingly jealous and afraid.
The really difficult part of this story is that multiple times 1 Samuel says God sent “a tormenting spirit” upon Saul, which sometimes sent Saul into depression and sometimes made him “rave like a madman.”  Several times when this happened, Saul threw a spear at David - always just missing.    
In chapter 19, the story takes a turn for the worse, and Saul began to pursue David with the army.  That started a long drama of David running from Saul, yet remaining faithful and loyal to Saul all the while.  Twice David could have killed Saul but didn’t.  David only made a move to be king after Saul and Jonathan were dead.  (See 1 Samuel 16-26.)