Thursday, May 31, 2012

Skewer Your Ideas With Humor

Do you ever stumble into nostalgia that forces your face into an unexpected smile?  The other day, I was rummaging through old files and uncovered old seminary publications.  The finding filled me with a chuckle that grew as I scanned each word.

Back in my seminary days, partly out of boredom, and partly our of contentionsness, myself and two other friends (who will remain nameless) created a fake newsletter patterned after the official Seminary publication--the Towers.  We entitled ours the Faulty Towers.

At most we only published 4 issues, and because of cost we didn't even print enough for all the students.  We printed just enough to cause a stir and then effectively distributed them into the right hands to create controversy.  We found a mole working inside the post office who would distribute them into the boxes of random students and select professors.

The seminary had recently escaped a liberal phase via a conservative takeover, and was slowly embracing the theology of John Calvin.

Not enamored with Calvin myself, I joined these two other kindred spirits to poke fun at the Calvin hysteria that 15 years later has become the dominant theological persuasion at the institution.

(For my non-theological readers, Calvinism is an early Protestant reaction to another Protestant theology referred to as Arminianism.  Calvinism essentially emphasizes the Sovereignty of God above all else, squeezing out much real freedom on the part of humanity.)

In a brief window of time, a good bit of dialogue was created and serious discussions ensued, but I am don't think it had any lasting impact.  However, it taught be a couple truths:

1.  It's ok to laugh at yourself and your ideas, if nothing else it keeps you humbles.
2.  Humor has a way of removing emotion from passionate controversies.
3.  Humor can be effective, if ideas not people are the target.

I am sure there are other points that can be gleaned from this story.  Today one of my favorite bloggers, who uses humor that pops the balloon of my pride is Pithless Thoughts.

Oh, and by the way, email me and I would be glad to send you those two long lost issues.

Keep smiling.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

4 Ways Memory Makes You a Better Person

This past weekend my sons and I joined our Boy Scout troop on a trip to our local federal cemetery to install flags at the graves of all the veterans.  The ceremony surrounding our effort was short but sober honoring the sacrifice of the men and women who in many cases gave their lives for us.  

It was an important event for my boys, if nothing else than to remind them that Memorial Day is not merely the unofficial start to summer and the occasion for outdoor grilling, but an important part of whom they are and will become. 

It is a time of memory, a memory of those gone before whether they are military dead or departed family.  These people shaped our lives, and to forget is to cut off their person from our own lives.  

Memory is a significant part of humanity and has the ability to change us as we participate in something bigger than ourselves.  Here are four ways memory impact our daily life.

1.  Memory is an essential component of the image of God in our lives.  Humans are unique in that throughout time we memorialize events and people.  We set up structures and monuments and create rituals and events to perpetuate what is valuable beyond one generation. 
 2.  Memory allows us to make present past events.  An act of memory does not make past reality again, or even bring it to our minds in a historical sense, but it imparts the significance and meaning the past has for our lives.  Through this memorial we re-enter the past not playing the role of journalist, but experiencing the importance of the past for our present.   
Throughout Scripture, men initiated memorials and God Himself commanded them as signposts of the work of God’s hand and light for future action.  
 3.  Our memory is a shadow of the eternal memory of God.  Our existence and that of the whole world is held by the memory of God.  We only live because He holds us in His eternal memory.  
 4.  Memory lets us enter into communion with those gone before us.  The love we hold for the living does not stop when they depart, and when we recall their lives in our hearts we commune with their lives.  And as our mind’s eye gazes upon their time here on earth, we can be changed into the goodness they imparted to us.  
Holidays such as Memorial Day are not antiquated relics but provide us the ability to perpetuate what we value and to transform us into better men. 

What role does memory play in your life?

Theron Mathis

Monday, May 21, 2012

Do We Really Believe in Communion?

Here's my last post on the OCN's The Sounding Blog:

Do We Really Believe in Communion?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Reality is Communal

Reality is communal.  The fabric of creation, the heart of everything, the meaning and purpose of life, the path to transformation, the very code of our DNA is communal.

If you are a Christian, you believe this.

God is communal.  He is three in one, eternally, never alone.

Because we are God's image we can not escape this need for communion and the effect it has on our lives.

Our molding as persons is linked with who we enter into communion with.

I wonder why I behave the way I do, when I am in communion with those who behave the same.

I wonder why I don't act like Christ, when I neglect communion with Him.

What is communion?  How does it affect your daily life?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Pearl 7:1 Sharing the Faith of Abraham

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 7:1

As in a race saw I the disputers,
The children of strife,
To taste fire,
To see the air,
To handle the light:
They were troubled at the gleaming,
And struggled to make divisions.

The Son, Who is too subtle for the mind,
Did they seek to feel:
And the Holy Ghost
Who cannot be explored,
They sought to explore with their questionings.
The Father, Who never at any time was searched out,
Have they explained and disputed of.

The sound form of our faith is from Abraham,
And our repentance is from Nineveh and the house of Rahab,
And ours are the expectations of the Prophets,
Ours of the Apostles.

Comment:  It sounds like those who try to delve into the intricacies of theology through an attitude of questioning run the risk of becoming heretics.  
The model of true faith is not these "disputers", but Abraham.  What does St. Ephrem mean by that?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why Stuff Matters?

Stuff matters.  Why?

It is part of our salvation, not meant to be sloughed off like an old snake skin, not a prison to escape, not a weight holding you to the earth.  It is a path to salvation and groans for redemption. 

It was created by God and called good, provided as a conduit for man to commune with God. 

God became stuff, and uses stuff to save:  mud to make blind see, handkerchiefs to heal, bones to resurrect, hems of garment to restore, water to wash away leprosy, bronze statues to deliver, rods of wood to bring water from rock, food to sustain, fiber to clothe.

It is infused with the grace of God for our salvation. 

What happens if stuff does not matter?

We neglect and abuse our bodies.  We see others as objects to be used and thrown away.  The earth is exploited because one day it will burn with the rest of the stuff that doesn’t matter. 

One purpose of man is the redemption of this fallen mess.  

We must bless all the stuff of this life, for everything matters and can be infused with the grace of God, leading to our salvation and the salvation of our neighbor.  

Thursday, May 03, 2012

You Are a Writer (a review)

I've been following Jeff Goins online for some time now, and I have learned a lot.  

I love to write, and even though I am a published author and blogger I have never thought of myself as a writer--until I read Jeff.  

I was fortunate enough to review Jeff's new book You Are a Writer, and am thankful.  It is full of inspirational gems and practical advice.  As a blogger, who has been frustrated by lack of traction and readership, and an author looking for greater visibility and promotion for material that I believe is truly life changing; I can't wait to put into practice Jeff's advice.  

Here are some inspirational gems, I found laying on the surface of the page:

"Everything is practice" 
"The secret to mastering any discipline: As you conquer one, you'll find it easier to tackle another." 
"Multi-tasking is a myth.  You can either create or react.  But you can't do both.  Choose wisely." 
"..dangerous territory, when your creativity hijacks your productivity." 
"The fear of something is always scarier than the thing itself."

Good stuff!  

And this isn't just some inspirational piece designed to fill with temporary motivation; there is real practical, gritty, get-your-hands-dirty advice designed to use before you turn the next page.  

Thank you Jeff.

To get a copy of this book, check out the link above to Jeff's site or click here for the Amazon link: 

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Can I Think My Way to Heaven?

Can I think my way to heaven?  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Yet this question sums up a popular approach to salvation. 

This question represents a knowledge-based salvation.  The path of salvation is through the mind, and reason becomes the highest form of spiritual attainment.  Apologetics is king in this world.  Logical, reasoned arguments for God’s existence trump all else. 

The fervent believer confronts science and philosophy and worldly wisdom with a point by point logical, scientific rational defense of God, the Resurrection, Creation, the Virgin Birth, the problem of evil, etc.  Ideas are consumed with consent and commitment, but nothing substantial happens to the believer, yet facts are provided providing a system to make good decisions and give an appearance of holiness. 

Understanding’s competitor is Union. 

This is salvation by communion, connection, dipping into the currents of grace so the residue of death is sheared away replaced by a renewed man.  Union is a relationship threatening yourself & existence, compelling you to lie upon an altar expecting death, but trusting for resurrection. 

Stand these two paths side by side, and the differences become clear. 

Understanding:     Facts are Important
Union:                  Action is important

Understanding:    The Bible is a sourcebook for information
Union:                  The Bible is a touchstone uniting man with Christ

Understanding:     Theology is an analytical knowledge of God and the way 
                             He works in the world.
Union:                  Theology is uniting with God in prayer.

Understanding:     Church is a gathering of like minded believers for 
                              encouragement to learn, teach, and understand
Union:                  Church is a vehicle drawing you into a deeper communion 
                             with God

Understanding:     The Lord’s Supper is designed to remember the facts and 
                              consequences of Christ’s sacrifice.
Union:                  The Lord’s Supper is partaking of the life of God and the 
                             action of the Cross into your being. 

Understanding:     Baptism is an announcement of a person’s commitment 
                             to certain beliefs about Christ.
Union:                  Baptism is becoming submerged into the life of Christ. 

Understanding:     Evangelism is the persuasion of others to believe a set of facts.
Union:                  Evangelism is the persuasion of others to join with the God 
                            of the universe to be transformed.

We live in a knowledge based world crying, "Knowledge is power", but communion is where real transformation lies.  

Theron Mathis


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