Thursday, October 26, 2023

Apostles' Algorithms Are Absolutely Applicable


In order to get a springboard in creating a response to a friend's Facebook post, I went to ChatGPT and typed "Apply Acts 4:1-22 to living in current North American society."

What follows are the exact words this piece of artificial intelligence spewed out in a matter of seconds...and I'm speechless.

Image generated by LimeWire

Acts 4:1-22 in the Bible tells the story of Peter and John being brought before the religious authorities in Jerusalem after healing a man and preaching about Jesus. The authorities questioned their actions and teachings, and Peter and John boldly proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ. Here are some ways you can apply the principles from this passage to living in current North American society:

Boldly Share Your Faith: In Acts 4, Peter and John didn't back down from sharing their faith in Jesus, even when faced with opposition. Similarly, in North American society, it's important to be bold in sharing your faith with others, while respecting the rights and beliefs of those who may not share your faith. Be willing to have open and respectful conversations about your beliefs.

Stand Firm in Your Convictions: Peter and John refused to be silenced or compromise their beliefs. In a diverse society like North America, it's important to stand firm in your convictions while also being willing to listen to and engage with different perspectives. This doesn't mean you have to abandon your faith, but it does require a willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Trust in God's Power: The healing performed by Peter and John in Acts 4 was attributed to the power of God. In North American society, trust in God's power can provide a source of hope and strength. It can also inspire you to engage in acts of compassion and service to others, just as Peter and John did through the healing.

Seek Unity: While Peter and John stood firm in their faith, they also sought unity among believers. In North American society, where there is a wide range of religious beliefs and backgrounds, it's important to find common ground and work towards unity in the broader community. This can be done through interfaith dialogue and cooperation on social and ethical issues.

Be Prepared for Opposition: Peter and John faced opposition from religious authorities, but they were prepared to give an account of their beliefs. In North America, there may be times when your faith is challenged or opposed. Being prepared to articulate your beliefs and values in a respectful and thoughtful manner is essential.

Embrace the Opportunity to Witness: Acts 4 shows that opposition can provide an opportunity to bear witness to your faith. When faced with challenges or questions about your faith in North American society, see it as a chance to share the hope and love that comes from your beliefs in a way that can inspire others.

Pray for Boldness: In Acts 4:29, the early Christians prayed for boldness in their witness. In North America, you can also pray for the courage and wisdom to live out your faith effectively and to be a positive influence in your community.

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Truth is...I can't improve on these points nor on this summary: Overall, Acts 4:1-22 encourages Christians to be bold, stand firm in their faith, seek unity, and engage with the diverse society of North America in a way that reflects their beliefs while respecting others. It's a call to be both faithful and respectful ambassadors of Christ in a pluralistic society.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Is This the End?


The Saturday morning of the most recent outbreak of violence against Israel, a co-worker asked, "Are you ready for World War III?"

My response was a little more dismissive than it should have been, but I stand by its basic premise:

"You will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come." -Matthew 24:6-8

Global War

Since my spiritual awakening in the 1970s, every time something drastic happened in the Middle East, a new load of books would be released talking about how the end was near and how such-and-such ruler or such-and-such military campaign was the fulfillment of certain verses in Daniel or Revelation. And then things would die down and people stopped buying the books until their new editions were released a few years down the road at the next outbreak of violence.

It didn't take long for me to stop getting anxious about "wars and threats of war" in the Middle East.

Adding to my lack of anxiety was a book I read as part of my college class on eschatology. It was titled The Meaning of the Millenium and was authored by four people who held four different convictions about how the world is going to end. They each wrote a short paper supporting their view with Scripture references and charts, and then the other three would write rebuttals "proving" the view false.

There they were, four guys who were way smarter than me, each dedicated to the Bible as the inspired word of God, and each coming to a conclusion directly opposed to the other three. It taught me the depth of the truth of Jesus' words in Matthew 24:36  -  "No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself."

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Truth is...None of this is meant to say that this latest conflict couldn't possibly be the beginning of the end. It certainly could be. But you know what? I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to boldly join the Apostle John, praying with his words from Revelation 22:20, "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

Thursday, October 12, 2023

A Partial Poem for Pastors


On Monday, February 12, 1990, I began writing a poem that was a whining sigh into the dark night sky. It was a start at pouring out my fatigue and lack of inspiration with the youth ministry I was involved with at the time.

The Bard Begins

And now, in the midst of Pastor Appreciation Month 2023, may it serve to tell all the pastors in our lives that they are not alone, there are people who understand, and it's okay to step back and rest every once in a while.

Can anyone keep just pouring it on?
Creating magic and doing no wrong?
Moving the masses, inspiring men
Surprising, impressing, again and again?
What works for awhile won't work all the time
The clock loses meter, the poet, his rhyme

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Truth is...This poem needs to be completed with some couplets of compassion and encouragement, just as your pastor needs your words and gestures of affirmation and love.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Working Hard or Hardly Working


I'm still quoting from James Martin's book, Between Heaven and Mirth, but this time, HE'S quoting a book from Anthony de Mello titled The Song of the Bird:

Lazy Man in Hammock

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

"Why aren't you out fishing?" said the industrialist.

"Because I have caught enough fish for the day," said the fisherman.

"Why don't you catch some more?"

"What would I do with them?"

"You could earn more money," was the industrialist's reply. "With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat...and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to buy two boats...maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me."

"What would I do then?" asked the fisherman.

"Then you could really enjoy life."

"What do you think I am doing right now?"

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Truth is...Paul said it in Philippians 4:12-13. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."