A Message from Pastor Craig: 12-26-2021

As I was out for a walk the other evening, I arrived at the FAU stadium, or should I say the Howard Schnellenberger Field Stadium. As I kept walking, I encountered  the Marlene and Harold Forkas Ticket Center and the Martin and Jane Greenberg Foundation Tower. I also noticed the Debbie Lindstrom and Bob Sheetz Owls Perch before I crossed the street.

I noticed the Peter and Nona Gordon Library on the walk up to the stadium. And the Dorothy Schmidt
College of Arts and Letters. And the Louis and Ann Green Memory and Wellness Center. And the Sean Stein Pavilion, and the… There seemed to be a pattern at this school! I don’t think I’ve given enough money to my Alma Mater to have a bathroom named after me, but wow!  Everything that doesn’t move seemed to get a name attached to it at FAU.

I then walked by the “Recreational Sports Center.” I looked for a name, twice I looked. It must have been the only building on campus that was not named. Then I walked down this long, covered walkway, wider than it is tall and painted in what could be Desert Southwest colors (the sun had set at this point); it was reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright design. I say that because Frank Lloyd Wright designed several things at Florida Southern University in Lakeland and the covered walkways were one of them. The thought didn’t dissipate as I walked and walked, down that long corridor past (named) classrooms and food courts and offices and finally, dorms on the south side of the campus.

For the last several years, our church has had a small campus ministry at FAU in conjunction with the Annual Conference. Ryan DeLaune led that ministry for several years for us and in his absence, Rev. David Schmidt, who pastors at Cason UMC, has led it. That chapter is closing for us and I am praying for God’s direction in this area. I invite you to join me.

Walking down that long Frank Lloyd Wright-looking corridor I passed the Hillel Jewish Center. I suppose you could call that building named after someone, but Hillel was a Rabbi that lived right up to the time of Jesus’ birth.  So, he didn’t donate money to FAU, or any Jewish student center, although they are all named after him.  That resource to the students of FAU made me ponder anew what resources we provide them and what responsibility we might carry for that most prominent of institutions in Boca Raton.

This is just one of the ministry questions that pose themselves for us as we enter the New Year. I am
grateful to have been brought here this last year. I am looking forward to what God has in store as we ready ourselves for 2022. Discerning God’s will for us, whether related to student ministry or children’s ministry or any other is central to what we will do in 2022. Our denomination will be doing that too, and we will prayerfully follow those events with interest. As 2021 comes to an end, and variations on the pandemic continue with us as 2022 starts, let us bathe this new year with prayer, knowing that because God has been faithful to us throughout the years past, He will be faithful in this new year as well.

I am grateful for my appointment to FUMC Boca Raton.  I am looking forward to living out my calling with you all in the next year. Let us find together God’s good and perfect will for our lives personally and in the
community.

Happy New Year!

Craig

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

A Message from Pastor Craig: 12-19-2021

The Atlantic magazine produced two articles that I read in reverse order about the “death” of free will. The first one was written in 2016, the second in 2019. As a Christian pastor, the conclusion arrived at by a secular rag intrigued me. “What do they mean, and what do they care?” I thought. In my mind the paradox of free will versus predestination belongs to the realm of religion, not science. It’s a discussion about the omniscience of God in my mind, but why neuroscience?

The second article I read (just Google “free will Atlantic” and you can find these articles) explained where the idea came from. Apparently, in 1964 a couple of German scientists concocted an experiment to find where in the brain signals come from to cause an action, in this case tapping your finger. People would go in and have all these electrodes hooked up to their scalps, and then tap their fingers X number of times in a certain time frame. My question was, in 1964 would you let ANY German scientist hook electrodes up to you?

Anyway, they found the source, and found that an electronic spike showed immediately before an action was taken. I don’t understand why, but neuroscientists started to believe that those signals preceded your actual will to do something, and then you did it. They then arrived at the conclusion that everything in our bodies is predetermined by whatever evolutionary forces have allowed us to do any given action.

The first article I read cited this study as the reason why free will was dead. It then explored all the people who have studied how important self determination is to performance – either in work or study or socially. When people lacked a sense of free will, they got discouraged, or less engaged, and then just did less.

They went on to discuss the implications in philosophy. They quoted philosophers who said it’s very dangerous to let people know that there is no free will. They will stop doing altruistic things, hard things, anything unpleasant, because, well, who cares? “It’s not my fault and I have nothing to do with it anyway,” was the philosopher’s thought. They felt dealing with the reality of the illusion of free will is a most depressing way of thought, and don’t encourage anybody pursuing that truth.

The thing is, turning back to the article I first mentioned, it turns out that in 2012 some neuroscientists debunked the German electrode guy’s conclusions. They determined (pun intended) that the implications of that study were wrong. And in an instant, neuroscience (but not the rest of inteligencia) dismissed the idea that free will was disproven by that study. Go figure!

So what does this have to do with Christmas? Or anything for that matter!  Well, I don’t care how
Calvinistic you are, you have to respond to God’s invitation by your own will (which is, by the way, a grace from God). The stories you hear in Church, this year read from the book of Luke, are just stories until you accept them by faith. You have to truly believe that God decided to visit this one little planet in a vast universe to then accept the gift of redemption that the birth of the Christ ushered in. You can’t claim some primordial evolutionary predetermined action for salvation, no, it’s an acceptance by a free will that saves you.

The story of Jesus’ birth has been fun to recount this Advent. I hope you will read or listen to it Christmas Eve with new ears, fresh imagination, and a robust faith, a faith brought on by God’s gift to you to choose to love, to hope to have joy.

Merry Christmas!

Craig

Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see. This is why the ancients were commended.  Hebrews 11:1,2

A Message from Pastor Craig: 12-12-2021

Have you been to the Downtown City Library?  Here in Boca it’s a really nice place.  Architecturally it’s most inviting.  Even though it’s a very modern building, it sports some attractive classical features.  Airy and bright it begs you to come in and read.

Now, it doesn’t stock the most classical literature.  Stacks and stacks go by full of videos.  And music is featured prominently.  And the periodical section isn’t bad for a city our size.  But truthfully, I tend to rate a library based on the theology sections, and going to the, well, the call letters for that section are not best put in this context, but suffice it to say, I didn’t find a whole lot of Biblical commentaries there.  That’s OK – it does not purport to be a theological library.  A European literature student would be equally disappointed.

But I did find an encyclopedia there that I had not seen before.  Simply titled the Encyclopedia of Religion, it took a full section in a rack, reminiscent of the Encyclopedia Britannica of ages past.  What was lacking in the stacks elsewhere was made up by the size of this one work, I guess.

I wondered who wrote the articles.  And so I pulled one out, and found that each article credited the authorship at the end.  So I looked up a couple and, well, the people seemed to be modern authorities on the subject.  (OK, so I just looked up two, and both had died recently, but still…).

This Wikipedia on paper begged the question about authorship because when it comes to reading anything about theology and about God, the source matters.  Who is telling you the answer affects the way you take the information in.  I learned this in Seminary.  I took a class on the book of Romans from an atheist.  Now, I loved Dr. Boers.  But I could not trust him in his teaching.  Because of that we had great discussions, however!  I eventually even took an Honors class with him.  But I still always had to balance what he said with his disbelief of the subject matter.  When, on the other hand, you take a class on the Life of Jesus from somebody who is sold out for Jesus, you relax in the lessons.

This matters in encyclopedias, in schools of theology, and on Sunday mornings.  As a pastor I need to make sure that my life, not just my personal faith, lines up with what I am preaching.  You need to know that I love Jesus, believe the Bible, and have dedicated my life to being a disciple of Jesus.  Then you can decide how to interpret what comes from the pulpit.

OK.  So it matters in encyclopedias, seminaries and the pulpit.  It also matters with each one of us.  We can’t come to Christmas Eve services and shake our heads when we hear about the virgin birth.  We can’t come to Easter and, as the Gnostics did, not believe that He physically died.  (Just for the record, both of these things are in the Apostle’s Creed – a defining piece of theological articulation for us).  When we believe it personally, our lives will reflect it, and then we will look more and like the Savior who came to redeem us.

Christmas is almost here!  Listen to the story.  Take it in, celebrate it, and live in to it.  And consider the sources.  Considering yourself a source as well!

And visit the library.  It has good stuff in it.

Looking forward to Christmas,

Craig

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.  Mark 4:24

A Message from Pastor Craig: 12-5-2021

         So, we recently got a puppy.  His name is Hunter, and he’s a stray rescue from Puerto Rico (he ignores us in both languages).  Until this last week, he’s been a very quiet dog – we’re working on that, but generally is well behaved and is as mellow as a 6 month old puppy can be.  We love Hunter.

         We have not allowed our dogs up on our furniture in the past.  We have provided, and particularly for this dog, pretty comfy pads to sit on, just not on the furniture.  This time around though, Janice has allowed me to pull the dog up on my lap in just one recliner – it’s kind of dedicated to that.

Now, Hunter has grown in these months that we’ve had him.  He was a puppy that I could easily pick up and put in my lap.  Now, he’s bigger and heavier, and it takes a little more work, but he likes it enough that he puts up with the momentary uncomfortableness.  He puts up with it because for a little bit, he enjoys my undivided attention, and he gets petted.  Whether sitting straight up like he’s surveying his domain, or laid out pretending to sleep, he revels in the attention.

I enjoy the ritual as much as he does.  I really do.  But after a while, I just want to sit there, not having to physically pet him all the time.  As soon as I stop, though, he complains.  He motions with his nose for me to get back on task, or will pursue my hand until I resume the massage.  And when I insist that I’m taking a break, you know what the little ingrate does?  He snorts!  Then he waits for a second or two to see if I’ll change my mind, then he jumps off my lap.  Really?!  He loves me as long as I’m petting him, then nyeh! he’s off to something else.

I think Hunter represents all of us in our relationship to God.  If God is blessing us, if God is lavishing attention on us, we’re all in.  We can pride ourselves, not unlike Hunter sitting straight up on my lap, in God’s presence and blessing.  But if God stops the positive strokes, we quickly are on to other things.  We get
distracted by whatever else lies out there.

When God’s positive strokes are not immediately felt, that does not mean that God has quit caring.  It does not mean that He means ill.  Sometimes He just stops.  Kind of like me wanting to just enjoy the presence of Hunter without having to do anything to keep it.  We can quickly decide God doesn’t care for us, that God is too busy with more important people than us, or even get mad that God is mean, when maybe, just maybe, all God wants is to have us just relax and be.  Without the strokes.

I’m really hesitant to make too many comparisons between my relationship with God compared to Hunter’s relationship with me.  It makes me out to the be the dog at some point!  But I truly believe that God cares for us more than we can ever care for a dog.  And I do seem to recollect myself snorting a time or two when pedantically feeling uncared for by God.  Anyway, I just know that the One who created us loves us.  And provides.  At Christmas we can get to thinking that God provides like Santa Clause.  No.  God’s provision is from an all-powerful, unconditionally loving Creator caring for all that is His.  And for some odd reason, He just likes for us to relax and enjoy His presence for what it is.  Let’s take some time to do that, even in the business of this season.

Merry Christmas all!

Craig

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Matthew 6:25,26