A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-29-2022

Yesterday I went for a bike ride.  Waiting to cross Spanish River on the El Rio Trail, a motorist yelled at me to use the flashing crossing lights.  “Use the crossing lights, in God’s name” he yelled at me as he stopped for me.  The thing was, I didn’t intend for him to stop.  I was waiting for traffic to go by, but he insisted on stopping for me.  And to get angry.  And to yell at me.

I just looked at him.  What has gotten into us as a society that we feel like (one) people need to cross when we think they should, but more importantly, that we have the obligation, the right, the need, whatever, to yell our angry opinions at them?

Continuing riding, I approached the TriRail station – who knew you could bike ride to the TriRail?! – I pondered the angry motorist incident.  It seems like it’s the norm now to speak our minds, to “make our voices heard,” to complain in loud voice about whatever we happen to be thinking about at the time.

I thought about how this anger and voicing gets worked out in our culture.  Demonstrations, with their accompanying fiery speeches, have become much more prolific in the last couple of years.  Clashes of contrasting points of view get worked out on the streets.  And figuring out who the provocateur is and who the reactionaries are is the folly of figuring out which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Then, when I got home, the news flashed that an 18-year-old boy had shot and killed 19 children in Texas.  Another Parkland.  Another Sandy Hook.  Suddenly we were all traumatized by the worst of horrors, innocent children being slaughtered in the very place we intend for them to be safe in.  Like all of us, I just shrunk in horror and grief.  I lamented the senselessness of it all, and I grieved for the parents. They experienced something that I have been spared from and can’t imagine.

And then the bike ride thoughts came back.  Are these young men, are any of the perpetrators of mass shootings, not acting out their anger in the same vain as the motorist on Spanish River?  Now, there’s some scale that needs to be considered.  I get that – it’s much better for somebody to yell at you than to shoot you.  But are there some parallels that are happening across the board?  Are the shootings not extreme expressions of analogous thought patterns prevalent in our culture today?  Maybe the two incidents of that day are connected.  If so, what do we do about it?

Some politicians will argue that we should have gun control, some will argue for mental health resources.  Personally, I don’t think the politicians have the answers.  I think the answer is a spiritual one.

In the book of James, the apostle says: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  Very good counsel.  It’s hard to do that on your own though.  On our own we justify our own resentments.  On our own we connect our angry thoughts with malevolent actions.  It’s not easy to listen and not react.  A little later on in James he says: “pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.”  With God’s help, we can change things!

I really think the solution to our country’s problems emanate from Scripture and have to start with us.  We need to be the first to listen.  We need to be slow to speak.  And we need to be the first in modeling how our disagreements do not need to yield to anger.  Never mind shooting somebody.

How does the hymn go?  “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”  Let’s fill our hearts and minds with that which produces peace.

Praying for us all,

Craig

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-22-2022

Far be it from me to argue with an astrophysicist, but…. last week I read an article by Marcelo Gleiser, who teaches astrology and physics at Dartmouth College.  He’s won the Templeton award for physics and whatnot.  Suffice it to say, he’s an accomplished smart guy in his field. He said that there is no way that there can be any other lifeform out there in the known universe (he underscores “known”).  From what this preacher gathered from the article, too many coincidences have happened over way too much time to allow for a lifeform to have history like ours, such as to sustain life as we know it.

OK.

Then today I read in the news that a lot of previously classified material under what we used to call UFOs has been declassified (if highly redacted).  In that material the government recognizes hundreds of (what they now call) “Unexplained Aerial Phenomena” – tomãto/tomâto.

In this article, they talked about objects that could whisk off in different directions and speeds that defy our ability to bend the laws of physics. They don’t know if they are distortions on radar, enemy equipment, or, wait for this, aliens. The government is open to the idea of aliens.  Maybe because the rest of us are open to that idea, or at least can be transfixed by the thought of what that would mean.

So, I don’t have a defined theory on aliens.  I am equally curious about the possibility, and very skeptical about any claims that they exist.  I loved the movie “Aliens” and fully understood it to be forever fiction. I don’t doubt that God could create all the creatures conjured in the Star Wars movies, but don’t expect to find such a federation.

What struck me, after reading the very scholarly presentation by the astrophysicist and then the colloquial article about UFOs, I mean, UAPs, is that the Internet, the media, whatever, presents us with contrasting claims to truth day in and day out. Is there life out there or not?  Well, the answer to that question depends on who you talk to.

But the truth is not that bifurcated. The truth is one or the other. We don’t know for sure right now, so Marcelo has his theory, and the X-Files another.  But, as they said on that great show: The Truth is Out There.

Now, THAT, I believe.  I believe the truth is out there. On any subject. We may have different perspectives on things, and the Theories of Special Relativity expound on this.  But the truth is out there.  And just as the astrophysicist suggests, the laws of physics and chemistry apply here as well as anywhere in the universe. The truth is the truth here, and anywhere.  Psalm 119:160 says “The entirety of Your word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever.”  What God has said we can trust as true, and true forever.  When Proverbs 15:1 (for example) reminds us that: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” that was true 3000 years ago, and it is still true today.

Now, you gotta read it to know it, and study it sometimes to know how to live it. The Scriptures may not be immediately evident or clear, but they are true all the same.  The Scripture’s truth doesn’t change, and neither does truth, period.  The parameters that made one thing true at one point can change, and the conclusions change, but not the truth.

So, what is it?  Can there be life out there?  The professor says no and the government says maybe.  What I know is that all that is out there was created by God.  And whether it’s organic or inorganic, it reflects its Creator.  And I’m good with that.

Staring into the night’s sky,

Craig

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  Psalm 19:1,2

A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-15-2022

On the north side of our church property you will find a wall. I don’t really understand the wall – it doesn’t span our whole northern property line, it doesn’t even fully span the office building that I assume built it. And it has a break in it to allow people to walk through.  Maybe one of you all can explain it to me.

Currently, you can’t even see the wall. We have a company renting parking spaces that is doing infrastructure work for the city, and they have fenced it all off. But you can walk back there if you insist on verifying what I’m sharing here.

From our side of the wall, we have a very nicely landscaped parking lot. Lots of trees and bushes make the parking area look like a park. On the other side of the wall on the other hand, is a dumpster, the end of their parking deck, and the little walkway to get to our property. It’s not junky necessarily, but just a non-descript, least picturesque piece of their property. Nobody really goes there.

Which is why it struck me as odd yesterday when I walked through there, just to find a lovely, blooming
orchid. With four flowers in full bloom lined up sequentially, this purple hanging plant blared with contrast the beauty of these bright flowers against the backdrop of a dumpster and a bunch of concrete. Who put it there? And why?  Why waste such a beautiful flower where no one sees it?

That happens you know. There is a lot of beauty that goes unappreciated. Or at least apparently so. I think of the Washington Monument, where it says “Laus Deo” on the famous aluminum cap. Can anybody see it? To whom does it proclaim “Praise be to God?”  Well…

In Costa Rica there is a very boring, slow ride through the canopy of the rain forest. You imagine yourself riding up with the toucans and hovering over monkeys and wild cats.  But you know what?  They all hightail it out of there when they hear the whir of the cables (and the loud tourists).  But occasionally, way up there, you might see a magnificent beautiful flower, sunning itself at the very top of the tree line.  What a waste of a beautiful flower!  Who will see it?  Who will appreciate its beauty?  Well…

Every day there’s a nondescript woman who leaves a little food for the homeless. And a guy who picks up trash around the places where the homeless hang out.  Who sees them? Who appreciates their small acts of kindness?  Well…

That kind thing you did yesterday for somebody?  Nobody saw you, nobody thanked you.  Why did you do it?  Who noticed? Well…

God did. And God finds pleasure and delight in the random acts of kindness. He finds himself smiling at the flower of His own creation reaching out from the top of the trees. He is perpetually praised by an inscription on a famous monument that only He can read.

And me? I had the blessing of appreciating the beauty of an orchid, stuck in an ugly corner of a parking lot, a place where God can see it, and you too if you take a minute to find it. Beauty is that way.

Back to work,

Craig

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.  Revelation 4:11 KJV

A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-8-2022

Dealing with the upgrades in our sound system has taken an inordinate amount of my time for the last month or so.  And we’re not done.  But things are improving!  It really seems like the saying “if it ain’t one thing, it’s another” is true.

This week, I installed a new wireless microphone for Pastor Madeline (I can do simple things!).  It worked just fine, but if the receiver (the box in the back) was on, and you turned the transmitter (the little pack that you wear) off, you heard this horrendous static sound.  It was horrible.  And while none of you heard it on Sunday, if Madeline had turned her pack off, you all would have jumped through the roof (this was only in the Sanctuary – I couldn’t figure that out either!).

So, I got some long cables and separated the receivers back in the balcony.  I thought they might be interfering with one another.  Then I changed the little antennas on them, wondering if that was it.  I plugged the thing into a different outlet.  What could it be!?

Sunday night I decided to google the problem. And there I found various people had the same problem, and they suggested that the problem was with the “Squelch.”  Now, some of you who went through the CB radio craze of the 70’s and 80’s may remember the “Squelch” dial.  I don’t know what it did, but you had to play with it so that the radio wouldn’t produce that horrible hissing.

After reading the manual (uh huh, I actually read it), I adjusted the squelch and voila! The noise was gone.  I was so happy!  This Sunday, Madeline can safely walk in and out of the Sanctuary and we will all be OK!

What did I learn from this?  One, happiness is based on circumstantial events in our lives.  I was happy for the rest of the day because of that solution.  Joy, on the other hand, is a delight in life that comes because of the eternal redemption we have in Jesus Christ.  Joy makes me a content person, regardless of the circumstances—regardless of what the microphones, or the rest of the sound system is doing.

Second, I engaged in a lot of superstitious activity when I didn’t know what the problem was.  Left to my own devises, I tried any number of silly solutions to the problem.  I didn’t even have a name for my problem.  It took other “witnesses” to let me know what had to be fixed.  And the way to fix it was in the manual.  I think in life we can try to fix spiritual problems with all kinds of superstitious things – drinking, hanging out with different people, reading self-help books on this that and the other.  But the real answer lies in somebody sharing their testimony of what God has done in their lives.  Those people have experienced similar problems to ours and have found the Solution.  And where is the Solution?  Well, it’s in a person (“I am the Way” said Jesus in John 14), and we learn about Him and His ways in the
manual, I mean, the Bible.

I had called Technical Assistance in the midst of all of this.  I was on hold so long that I gave up and resorted to google.  Having somebody to talk to is really helpful when you have problems.  On the one hand, God doesn’t have a call center!  God picks up Himself.  But it occurred to me also that sometimes we need to be available to others, to give our witness and testimony to somebody who has questions.  Let’s make ourselves available to that, and not make people wait so long that they give up, or have to subject their souls to the Internet.

God wants the best for all of us.  God wants us to be spiritually healthy.  And God needs us all to support one another, to love one another, to be helpful.

Striving towards that goal,

Craig

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.  Colossians 2:8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 5-1-2022

The good news is, the scoundrels cannot lease dogs in Massachusetts anymore. The bad news is, wait, what!?  You can lease dogs?!

I read a news article this week about the State of Massachusetts settling with a lending company from
California that was illegally leasing dogs in Massachusetts. The settlement included the firm canceling almost $700,000 debt involving 211 outstanding leases, transferring full ownership of the dogs to the Massachusetts residents, paying $175,000 in restitution to consumers for lease payments the firm collected but legally couldn’t, and paying a $50,000 fine to the state. That’s an average lease of over $3,000 per dog. I live in this country and lead a fairly normal life in it, but I don’t understand it.

This also means that 211 people in Massachusetts were leasing dogs. Now, if you are currently leasing a dog, I apologize but, I just have to say that this seems crazy to me. I don’t belong to PETA, I am not an over-the-top dog owner, but first off, you lease cars or houses,  inanimate objects not dogs. Dogs aren’t people – I know that – but they are alive. How do you terminate a lease with a dog?  Last Sunday I preached on Genesis 1 and marveled at the creation.  How do you lease a fellow creature?

The second moral issue has to do with the lending practices of these financial institutions. It’s one thing to use credit to make a purchase (and you do purchase pets) but a lease implies ownership being retained by the lender. They can repossess Fido. They will keep billing you if the dog dies. They will charge you for depreciation at the end of the lease (what could go wrong there!?). Predatory lending happens when people can’t afford their purchases. Shame on those institutions who practice
usury.

But in this case, it’s the consumer who is driving these schemes. You shouldn’t purchase a pet if you can’t properly care for them, and if you have to lease it to get that full-bred, high-end dog—don’t do it!

I think this is one of the largest temptations that we have living in this land of plenty. We end up wanting more and more – we covet the cars or houses, or DOGS, that other people have, and we end up going to crazy lengths to get them. Getting things that we can’t afford  including, apparently, leasing dogs. 

In Hebrews 13, Paul says: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  If we truly believe that God is with us, and will never leave us, then we can be content with what we have. That contentment is a direct reflection on my trust in God. If I can’t be content with my Puerto Rican street dog rescue, and need some purebred dog to satisfy my longings, I am not only dissing my dog Hunter, but I am telling God I don’t trust Him. 

So it’s not just about dogs – crazy as this story may be.  It has to do with what I do with my money, and what that says about my relationship with the Lord.

Petting my dog,

Craig

Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.  Proverbs 16:8