What a cool Kingdom use of Google+ Hangouts!

I am LOVING Google+. When I blogged about Google+ for nonprofits, I mentioned how much potential I see in the Hangout feature.

I’ve already used it for staff meetings and meeting new friends. But I hadn’t thought of using it for a bible study!

Until now (click on the image to see it more clearly):

Bible Study on Google+ - click to see larger image

Love it!

The end of the world as we know it

By now you’ve heard of the guy who’s “proven” that the end of the world is happening tomorrow. I’d link to the website but I really don’t want to glorify them anymore.

Announcements like this awaken the sarcastic and (I think) witty person in me. I want to laugh and chide and share in the general mockery.

I could even use Scripture to mock these people. After all, Jesus clearly said no one would know when the return would happen (Matthew 24:36).

But I can’t. Like the restraining bolt on R2-D2, something is holding me back. Here’s are some thoughts on what that might be.

  • People will be really hurt on Sunday

    When I was in college, some folks went to a church that “knew” Jesus’ return was going to be on a certain date. They earnestly believed it. Their whole faith in Jesus was invested in it.

    And it didn’t happen. I’m not sure these people ever got over it.

    I hate seeing people taken out like this. Jesus gets blamed for someone else’s…what do you call it? A lie? A misguided teaching? A heresy? Whatever it is, good, sincere people get hurt deeply.

  • Crack pot announcements like this discredit the Gospel for years afterward

    As a follower of Jesus, I would that all would encounter Him. As I’ve grown in my faith, I have moved away from the “I have all the answers to the questions you’re not asking.” Instead, I want my life, actions, words, and deeds to be so different that is screams “This guy knows Jesus.” I think it’s St. Francis who’s credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

    We Christians already do enough to give Jesus a bad name. Crazy stuff like this is like proclaiming that bad PR through loudspeakers.

    Sometimes I think it would be better if we were taken out of the way so people could experience Jesus without having to go through us! But for some reason God keeps us here and still chooses to work

  • There really will be an end…at some point

    Hebrew and Christian Scriptures both point to an end. A Day of Reckoning. The end of the world. “That Day.” Jesus even talks about it in the chapter I referred to above, Matthew 24. As a follower of Jesus, I believe this to be true.

    So, in theory, the world could end tomorrow. Or today. Or Monday. There’s just as much chance of it ending before I finish typing this sentence as it ending in another 1000 years.

    Having people publicly proclaim the end, however misguided, reminds me of one of the strong teachings of my faith. And that, like so much in Scripture, makes me a bit uncomfortable.

    It gets me thinking about my life, how I’ve lived it, if I’m doing all I can for God, loving Him with all that I am. Or not. Bracing stuff.

So I do snicker when I see signs like the one above on the streets of Portland. But not whole heartedly.

Perhaps I’ll play R.E.M.’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it” and pray for God to use even this for His glory.

A digital flash mob for the KJV

#kjv400 YouVersions celebration of the KJVThe King James Version of the Bible turns 400 today.

Normally that wouldn’t have mattered to me. I don’t read the KJV. I associate it with the type of Christians that use lots of other adjectives on their church signs like “fundamentalist” and “blood bought” and (ironically) “independent.” I prefer a more immediately accessible translation like the TNIV.

But last month I heard a great story on the creation of the KJV translation on NPR. I hadn’t realized how much this translation had impacted our language and culture. The NPR story helped give me new appreciation for the KJV.

So I took notice when I learned that the folks at YouVersion, my favorite geeky Bible site and app, were planning a celebration. Their goal? To read the entire KJV of the Bible in 400 seconds!

They did this by dividing up the text among anyone who would sign up to read at the appointed time. They called it a sort of “digital flash mob.”

And sign up they did! According to the YouVersion folks, there were enough people to read the entire KJV eight times in 400 seconds! Here’s a map on where readers came from:
#kjv400 YouVersion's KJV map

I was assigned Isaiah 64. Not only was it oddly fun to read the now archaic language oddly compelling, I even rediscovered the Hebraic roots of one of my favorite biblical passages like 1 Corinthians 2:9:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (NIV)

Rather than just reading it, I chose to live stream it from my office using Bambuser. You can see my 2 minutes of reading here:

A fun way to spend part of my lunch hour. 🙂

If you want to learn more on the KJV, check out the story NPR did or click on this terrific infographic prepared by YouVersion (click on it to expand it):
#kjv400 YouVersion KJV infographic

Or you could just start reading it. Why not try reading Isaiah 64?

For crying out loud, He loves us!

Picture of a clip board with the reminder "P.S. He Loves You!"I’m so saddened by people saying God’s mad with them. And by churches telling people only about God’s anger.

I suppose churches do that because fear makes it easier to control people. But it’s not just the churches’ fault. When I pastored a church, I actually had people complain that I didn’t tell them how bad they were. They seriously complained.

God’s anger is a real part of the story. But for crying out loud, so is God’s love and mercy!

That’s what Easter is all about!

God is angry

I think of God’s anger at some level as being similar to the anger I feel as a parent when my kid’s disobey. I set rules for their own protection and well being. When they disobey, I need to punish them. But I don’t enjoy it.

So to with God…or so I imagine. God too set up rules. We broke them. In a big way. Our disobedience let in things like pain and sickness. Our disobedience let the works of the Enemy into this part of God’s creation. According to the story in the first chapters of Genesis, we even gave the Enemy some level of authority here.

God’s anger isn’t so much with us. It’s with the one who tricked us. Don’t hear me wrong. We are still culpable and our debt still needed to be paid. So in His love, He became one of us to pay the debt and free us for life again. Jesus said, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

God’s not out to “get” us

If you needed any more proof that God isn’t out to “stick it to you,” check out John 21. If anyone let Jesus down, it was Peter. He denied Jesus three times, right at the hour of his deepest need.

In this chapter, Peter’s back at the fishing. I’d imagine he knew he’d blown it. He had every reason to believe that there was no way Jesus could use him after what he’d done.

But Jesus doesn’t blast him. Jesus restores him. Like drawing the venom out of a wound, Jesus draws Peter back to Himself.

Never beyond His reach

So enough with wallowing in self pity. Don’t let people put you down with threats of his anger. If you’re guilty of something, confess it. Let Jesus restore you. The Good News is He loves us. Extravagantly.

There’s a song by John Mark McMillan that says it so well. Here are some of the lyrics:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me…

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And the heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

That He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves…

You can get the song for yourself on Amazon at: “How He Loves” [amazon affiliate link]. It’s an amazing reminder. A reminder of Truth.

Holy Week at Pleasant Street United Methodist Church

Pleasant Street United Methodist Church, Waterville, Maine
Looking for a church to join in Holy Week services? Here is our schedule at Pleasant St. United Methodist Church. We’d love to have you join us!

Maundy Thursday, April 21

5:30 – 8:00 pm – Visit the interactive labyrinth.
A mixture of visuals, rituals, contemplative words and music will help guide personal reflection. You may also drop in to the sanctuary to view a PowerPoint presentation of Maundy Thursday related art.

Good Friday, April 22

7:00 pm – Good Friday Cantata in the sanctuary
The story of the last days of Jesus’ life as recorded in the Scriptures will be told through narration and anthems by the Youth and Senior Choirs.

Holy Saturday, April 23

9:00 am – Taize contemplative service in chapel
Through simple and repeated chant, scripture, and quiet contemplation, we create a community of shared silence, and rest into God’s reassuring love.

Easter Sunday, April 24

6:00 am – Ecumenical Sunrise Service on the steps of Colby College Library

Easter Sunday worship at 8:30 and 10:30 in the sanctuary
No Sunday school classes. Child-care will be provided at the 10:30 am service for children through 5 years old.

It’s dark, but you don’t see the whole picture

Public Doman: NASA 2003Today is the winter solstice here in Maine. The shortest day of the year.

For those not inclined to see the glass half-full, it’s also the darkest day of the year.

But in the Southern Hemisphere, in places like New Zealand, today is the longest day of the year. The day with the most sunlight.

I love that! It helps me remember that even if things look really dark for me, I’m simply not seeing the whole picture.

And as my wife reminded me, the winter solstice has always been celebrating that the light does return. The darkness doesn’t triumph.

No wonder the Church chose to celebrate Christmas on the winter solstice. The Light will return to triumph over darkness.

May you experience that Light this Christmas. And may you have a hope-filled 2011.

Rob Bell and putting flesh and blood on the Gospel

I was listening to Rob Bell before his book, Velvet Elvis. He’s an amazing communicator of the faith I believe.

Check out this video:

Here’s a quote from near the end of the video:

This group of people who, by their compassion, their generousity, the grace that they extend to others, you find yourself believing, when you’re around them, that God hasn’t given up on the world.

That’s the Gospel.

That’s it.

The Gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty, and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway. And that you and I can be part of it.

For followers of Jesus, this is a season called “Lent,” a special time of preparation before Easter. If you’re a follower of Jesus, I challenge you to examine whether this is true of you. And of the community of faith you belong to. If it’s not, invite God to show you what you can do to make it so. Or where else He might have you go.

If you don’t consider yourself a follower of Jesus, I hope and pray that you’ll have the opportunity to bump into people like Rob describes. It can be refreshing. It can even be life-changing.

Hat-tip to my pastor, Arlene Tully, for posting this to her blog!