Saturday, July 25, 2009

Did You Hear That That Muslim Obama Really Didn’t Walk on the Moon? (Part 2)


Yesterday, we looked at the example of the controversy over Pres. Obama’s birth certificate and began to ask the question: is how this has been handled, instructive for us in the church when we deal with controversies, rumors and the like in the church. 

Most churches go through times of rumor or controversy.  Those who are public positions need to have thought through how they would handle these types of situations. 

According to the model proposed by Dr. Sam Wang (Assoc. Prof of Molecular Biology & Neuroscience at Princeton) was this: 

  1. 1. It is a reasonable policy for those involved in the rumor or controversy not address it as long as you can.
  2. 2. State the facts concisely without reinforcing the falsehood (if you remember from yesterday, simply repeating a rumor or falsehood can cause us to remember it and later believe that it has merit, because we forget the context in which we first heard it.)
  3. Bring it back to the storyline (on what do you want the church to be focusing?)
  4. Use images-they strike a visceral cord (as does the women with the American flag in yesterday’s post).  Repeatedly showing Obama’s certificate of live birth was recommended. Perhaps even having an Aug 4-birthday party for for Obama in Hawaii and letting the media cover it!
  5. Question the sources & their credibility.
  6. Get a third party to look at the evidence.

I am not suggesting that we should necessarily adopt principles that the government or secular entities use.  But with the comments from Dr. Wang about how the brain functions, is this a helpful way to react to rumor and controversy?  Are there biblical principles that weigh in here?  Talk back to me…help me think this through. What do YOU think?

Posting Comments on My Blog Site

I have had several people comment on my FB page about posts that I have posted here.  Often they say, “I didn’t know how to comment on a blog.”  It is not that hard. 

For future reference, to comment on a post:

  1. At the end of the post, there will be a note: either "Comments" or (on mine) "# Comments" (like "0 Comments")
  2. You click that word (“Comments”) and it takes you to a page that says (on the right hand side), "Leave Your Comment" with a text box. You type your comment in there.
  3. When you are done, you "Choose an identity."
    1. The best way is to click "Name/URL." That gives you a place to type your name.
    2. For better or for worse most people pick "Anonymous"--that's the easiest. If you do pick "anonymous" it is polite still to sign your post at the end with your name.
    3. If you have a Google account or an OpenID you can use those.
  4. Below that you click the orange box "Publish Your Comment."
  5. Sometimes, it asks you to type in a couple of words to make sure you're not a spamming computer.

But that is it. It really couldn't be much easier. At least, that’s how you do it on Blogger, the blogging platform I use.  It is very similar with other blogging platforms like Wordpress.  Chime in any time!!

I actually prefer for you to chime in here rather than on my Facebook account. The reason: more people can see your comments here and can comment on your comments and we actually get conversation going.  Second, when you comment, it is noted by Google and it raises my visibility in the Google search engine—more people can find this blog!

Friday, July 24, 2009

“Did You Hear That That Kenyan-born Muslim Obama Guy Really Didn’t Walk on the Moon?”

imageHow do you address controversial rumors in a sermon?  Whether it is a biblical controversy, a congregational rumor or a political controversy, what is the best way to handle it?

Those questions came to my mind Tuesday as I listened to “Talk of the Nation” on NPR.  The piece, entitled “Ground Up in the Rumor Mill” (audio here)  was in anticipation of Pres. Obama’s press conference Tuesday night and in response to the continuing agitation by a fringe group called “The Birthers,” who hold out that Pres. Obama is a not United States citizen. They say he was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and is lying about his citizenship. The issue was taken all the way to the Supreme Court during the campaign, who ruled that his birth papers were all in order.  Another precipitating event was a recent town hall meeting featuring Rep. Mike Castle (DL) where a lady carrying an American flag & copy of her own birth certificate hysterically demanded to know why Congress was ignoring this “obvious breach” of our constitution.”

The two sections of the NPR piece were first an interview with Dee Dee Myers (former press secretary to Pres. Clinton) who spoke on the anticipated press conference, and with Dr. Sam Wang (Assoc. Prof of Molecular Biology & Neuroscience at Princeton) who spoke about how brain functioning explains the persistent hold that rumors like these continue to have.

I’m not going to go into what Myers said, because it was mostly political advice for a president at a press conference. But Dr. Wang had some fascinating information. 

Statistics were noted such as:

  • 18% of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth (the “Copernicus Conspiracy”)-that’s a lot of people—over 55 million Americans!
  • 10% believe Obama is a Muslim  (that’s over 30 million Americans!)
  • A certain percentage still believe that man did not land on the moon 40 years ago, but instead it was staged in a warehouse somewhere. 

Wang, the co-author of: Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys, But Never Forget How to Drive—and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life) stated that there are three quirks of memory that acerbate the squelching of rumors like this.  Our brain is not like a computer memory where information is put down and is immediately and forever available to us. 

The three quirks are:

  • Source amnesia- We don’t remember where we first heard things (we probably don’t remember when we first heard that Washington D.C. is the capitol of our country.) That is because memory gets rewritten. We separate a fact from the context of where we originally heard it.

Because of source amnesia, repetition does a diabolical thing.  We remember that we heard it, but don’t remember the context, including, sometimes, the context that the rumor was said to be false! By repeating a falsehood & talking about the rumors that go against the fact that Obama was born in Aug. 1961 they call attention to it, and it is inevitable that someone will say: “You know I don’t remember the details, but I remember a controversy around the place where Barak Obama was born.”

  • Biased assimilation-we tend to accept/remember ideas that fit in with our prior beliefs. We tend to be more critical of /reject /question ideas that DON’T image fit with our prior beliefs. Wang shared the results of a study at Stanford University that used two groups of students: one group who believed there was a deterrent quality to capital punishment and the other group who did not.  Both groups were presented with mixed evidence.  The results found that each group tended to believe the evidence that fit with their prior beliefs.  We live in a mixed media landscape & we can easily find people who reaffirm our prior beliefs.

Wang noted that people like the “birthers” feel a strong sense of identity with one another. They look at Obama & they see a black guy who doesn’t “look” like them. His story doesn’t sound very familiar. It doesn’t sound like “our” story.  This is especially complicated when Obama doesn’t share one’s political beliefs.  They are predisposed to believe that he is not an American citizen.  Then, if we get an e-mail in our inbox questioning it, the rumor finds fertile ground: we are predisposed to not believing that he is an American citizen.

  • If something strikes us emotionally, we tend to remember it (like the citizenship of the President). The woman in the video is holding an American flag along with her birth certificate.  She talks about her father fighting in WWII.  She yells, “I love this flag!  I don’t want it to be changed!”  She finally demands that everyone in the room stand up and say the pledge of allegiance to the flag.   Rep. Castle stands up at the lectern in disbelief at the antics of this woman. 

Tomorrow let me address how Wang suggests that we handle rumors and make application to our preaching and church leadership.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

“And in Conclusion…on Conclusions”


Yesterday, I began a two-part series on sermon conclusions, based on a pretty rough landing I had last Sunday when I was guest preacher for a church in Beaverton. 

Using the picture of flying a plane, we looked at three principles of conclusions:

1. Know where and how you are going to land before you take off.

2. Come in to land earlier rather than later. 

3. Don’t give false signals.

The list continues (and concludes) today:

4. Don’t confuse landing with take off.  Don’t use the conclusion to introduce a new point or a new element of teaching.

5. Making your landing as quick as you can. “Some conclusions are so long and drawn out as the message itself….. Some sermons touch down and then take forever to taxi to a standstill.  Avoid that tendency.”

6. Only land once. Keep your conclusion simple, to the point and not multi=layered or multi pointed.  Don’t appear to land and then take off again only to land and take off again and so on.  You will leave your listeners very confused and very uncomfortable.

The unknown author of these notes in my files concludes with a quote from Richard Ramesh in Preparing Expository Sermons:

“The conclusion is the final movement of the sermon, so it crescendos to a climax.  The preacher repeats or restates the central proposition (the main theme) to refocus the thoughts of the audience on what God expects of them.  The conclusion will evidence two features, cohesion and resolution.  Cohesion: The audience now hears in concise statements all the important points of the sermon.  Resolution: The audience now has the feeling that the destination set out in the purpose during the introduction has been reached.” (p. 217)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crash Landing on Hwy 26


image Last Sunday was the second of four Sundays that I am having fun filling in the pulpit for my brother Jim Kropilak up at Somerset Christian Church near Bethany (north of Beaverton). The church overlooks the major arterial highway between Portland and the Oregon coast, Hwy 26 (Sunset Highway).   The first week went fine, although they were noticeably friendlier the second week when they knew who I was and I had my wife with me.

The situation for the preaching was a bit different than I am used to.  The presiding said they didn’t want an invitation.  They don’t have a closing song.  The first week he said, “I’ll just come up and summarize your sermon and close in prayer and we will be dismissed.”  (A bit odd, but hey, it’s their church!)

And that is how it went…the first week. Then last week Dick said, “You don’t need me to close.  When you are done, if you want to summarize what you’ve said and pray, fine.  Just dismiss the people.  This is feeling odder by the minute.  So I preached a sermon on I Cor. 3:16 and 6:19.  (We are the temple of God both corporately and individually). 

I closed with a favorite illustration of mine: the Taj Mahal.  (The builder grew so enraptured in building this beautiful monument as a crypt for his wife, that he accidentally threw out her casket in the process.)  And I then closed with something to the effect: “We may focus on self-improvement or body building, or making up the fa├žade. But unless we remember the purpose of our body—to be a dwelling place of God that God is making to be a fit place for him to live—we will have lost the purpose for which we have these bodies.” 

OK so, no invitation, no closing song.  I said “Let’s pray,” and I did and then with the Amen it was “You’re dismissed.”

It obviously was not what they were used to.  They looked at one another, shrugged, fidgeted and then began to leave.   It felt like I had been a hang glider flying over Beaverton sailing to heights never imagined (OK, hyperbole) and then had crash landed on Hwy 26.  All my wife had to say afterwards was, “Well, THAT was awkward!

Part of that happened because I broke the #1 rule of sermon conclusions: Know where and how you are going to land before you take off. I knew what the rules of the game were before I began.  But I thought I could just end the sermon.  Wrong.  There needed to be some buffer between the end of the sermon and the dismissal.  Next week, I need to think out more clearly how and where I will land.

In my files there a a list of suggestions for conclusions.   It is, unfortunately, untitled.  I may have gotten it from Colin Adam’s excellent blog Unashamed Workman.  And it MAY have come from John D. Brand or Geoff Grogan. But then again, maybe not. (Colin, if you see this, you might clue me in if you know).

But let me share three of the points on conclusions today and three more tomorrow.

1. The first is the one I have already mentioned;  Know where and how you are going to land before you take off. “Have your conclusion clearly fixed in your preparation notes, and ideally in your mind, and don’t leave it to “how you feel led” at the end of your talk.  It’s not difficult—or pleasant—to discern when a preaching is trying to conclude his message but doesn’t know how.

2. Come in to land earlier rather than later.  “Leave your listeners wanting more and not wishing you would hurry up and finish.”

3. Don’t give false signals.  “Don’t be like the preacher who says “lastly,” and then lasts.

(More tomorrow)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How Can I Pray for My Pastor’s Preaching?

imageI cannot tell you the number of times through the years that people have said they were praying for my preaching. I wanted that and solicited that.  But I don’t  think I ever got very specific about what it was for which I wanted them to pray. 

Colin Adams in Unashamed Workman has put together what is both a helpful and biblical list.  How great to be able to hand this to people to give them some direction for their prayers!!

  1. For _________ to love God’s Word and have a desire to meditate on it continually (Psalm 119: 97)
  2. For _________ to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2)
  3. For _________to proclaim God’s Word with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor. 2:4-5)
  4. For _________ to comprehend the realities of God’s presence; the appearing and judgment of Christ Jesus, and in that light ‘preach the Word.’ (2 Tim 4:1-1)
  5. For _________ to patiently and carefully correct, rebuke and encourage via the instrument of the Word of God, whatever the hostile climate to sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:2-3)
  6. For _________ to boldly proclaim the gospel (Eph 6:19-20)
  7. For _________ to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18 )
  8. For _________ to be clear in his proclamation (Col. 4:3-4).
  9. For _________ to prepare God’s people for works of service through the teaching of the Scriptures (Eph 4:11ff)
  10. For_________ to see some fruit for their preaching and teaching: some becoming wise unto salvation by the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:15), others being sanctified by the truth (John 17:17)

Find Colin’s original post here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spurgeon Fellowship Upcoming Dates


If you are in/near the Portland area and at all interested in preaching, you should mark your calendar for the following dates.  This is the calendar for the next  year’s Spurgeon Fellowship.  All of these are at Western Seminary over on SE Hawthorne Blvd. on the east side of Portland.  Reservations ARE required and there is usually something like a $20 cost (which includes lunch).  The facility only holds maybe 300-400 people and so it is almost always sold out. You could call Art Azurdia’s office (he is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology/Director of Pastoral Mentoring at Western) for more information on making reservations.  (503-517-1873 or 877-517-1800 x1873 (toll-free))

(Tuesday) September 15, 2009

“Successful Or Faithful:  Shattering The Dichotomy”

Dr. Art Azurdia

(Tuesday) November 3, 2009

“Preaching And The Purpose Of The Church”

Dr. Alex Montoya

(Tuesday) January 12, 2010

“The Weapons Of Our Warfare”

Dr. Mike Jones

(Tuesday) March 16, 2010

“The Need To Preach Ecclesiastes In An Age Of Folly”

Dr. John Johnson

“Doctrine That Dances”

Dr. Robert Smith

I’m not sure whether Dr. Robert Smith’s presentation on”Doctrine that Dances” is the same day as that of John Johnson, or if the date was left out.  When I find out, I’ll let you know.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why I Want a Gender Neutral Bible Translation

image A friend of mine in Missouri responded to my post of this morning with what is a very pertinent question. Since he asked it on Facebook & not here let me duplicate it here:

I guess I always looked at "gender neutral" as an effort to be politically correct. Have I missed something? And while I am sure Jesus loved and loves men and women equally, did he really use "gender neutral" terms? I'm open to your input.


Here is my quick & imperfect reply to him:

Let me give it a shot:
There are two types of gender neutral translation efforts. The first was the one practiced in the 70's & 80's that made God our "Father/Mother" or “parent” and Jesus only the "child of God." That method is not only silly but biblically inaccurate. I have an “Inclusive Language Lectionary” on my shelves and it is ridiculous. Jesus was a male. There are times when God is called “Father” that it carries specific theological significance, just as the times (more times than people usually think) that God is called “mother”, or motherly characteristics are used of God, there is usually specific theological significance.

The second type of gender neutrality (used by NLT, CEV, NRSV, TNIV as well as others) takes the places whether either no gender specific noun is given, or (sometimes) even if a male pronoun is used, but the sense is obviously either men or women, to translate it neutrally. The judicious use of footnotes is important or helpful here. And if it is done artfully, most readers don’t even notice that “anyone” (or whatever) has been used for “man.” image

The reason for this is twofold: We live in a culture where language is changing/has changed. In no other field can you indiscriminately use "man" for "humanity'. I don't get into the he/she or s/he silliness, but modern day people who are accustomed to hearing gender neutral language find it jarring (they say) to hear “man” when the obvious intent is either male or female.

John Kohlenberger (see below) notes that "If you went into any church today and said, 'I'd like all the men to stand up,' most, if not all, of the women would stay seated. The adult males would stand up, and all of the teenage males would wonder, "Am I old enough? Do I get to stand up?" Most people today hear the word man as an adult male, not as referring to any person."

The second reason deals with translation theory. A good translation attempts to take the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible and put them into the same meaning in English (or whatever language is the target language). It is dishonest to say that any translation does that without applying any interpretation of what the text “means.” That is a necessary part of translating from one language to another.

There is traditionally a spectrum discussed when talking about how to do that. Some Bibles (NASB is the classic example) translate word for word on the one hand. On the other hand you have paraphrases such as the (old) Living Bible and The Message. Many would claim that the word for word translations are more “literal,” but even the act of translating one English word for one Greek words involves a level of interpretation

In my estimation, a good balance is needed: one must ask “What did the words—individually and in context—mean to the original hearers?” and then “How do we express that in language that people will understand today?”


(Graphic from Brent MacDonald:

There has always been some gender neutrality in Bible translation. Even if one goes back to the KJV, there is some gender neutrality. If you look at Ex. 18:16 in the KJV it says: “When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. “ The English translation "one and another" is literally "a man and his neighbor" in Hebrew.

1 Peter 3:1-6 (KJV) commands wives to concern themselves not so much with their outward adornment as with "the hidden man of the heart." Now I don't want Loretta to have a "hidden man of the heart"! Even literal translations like the RSV, the NKJV and the NASB talk about "the hidden person of the heart." In the NIV and the NRSV, it is translated as "the inner self."

One person noted that “The KJV translated the Hebrew word ben/banim as "son" or "sons" 2,893 times. But it translates it as "child" or "children" 1,570 times. Does that mean that 35% of the KJV is inaccurate?”

The charge is made that gender-neutral Bibles “change” the Bible. Actually, they don’t. They are seeking to maintain what the Bible says. The non-gender neutral Bibles change the meaning of the Bible. We want modern day hearers to “hear” what the original hearers heard. In our culture using “man” when both men & women are intended actually changes what the Bible is saying.

I could go on, but this is getting long. I might write a more extensive article about it someday (& perhaps I should). But in the meantime an excellent article addressing these matters is one written by the very respected Bible scholar John Kohlenberger III entitled “Inclusive Language in Bible Translation” found at

Hope that clears up & not muddies the water.

Any Experience With the ESV Study Bible?


After grumbling about it for a while I finally broke down and bought an ESV [English Standard Version] Study Bible.(Used up a Barnes & Noble gift card). Going to switch my Bible reading to that for a while and check out the notes (if it doesn't give me a hernia first--check out its size if you don't know what I'm talking about). I'm not going into it with a great attitude, however, because I believe it is not gender neutral and that will sink it for me as a usable translation.

Have you had any good/bad/notable experiences in using either the English Standard Version, or the ESV Study Bible? Have you noticed a difference in your arm muscles? ;-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are We All “Children of God”


I am preaching for the next month at Somerset Church off of the Sunset Highway (US-26) here in Portland. I am REALLY looking forward to it.  

I am preaching on John 1:12 and part of the verse which says, “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.”

My point will be that we as humans are not ALL children of God.  We may all have been created by God, but we are not all children of God.   Son-ship (child-ship in the gender neutral world) comes with legal rights and responsibilities.   And this verse says that those who are God’s children are those who have received/believed in the name of the one who is described in that chapter as “the Word.”  The very next verses (v. 14-17) identify the Word as Jesus Christ.

In thinking that through, I was reminded of the Michael Jackson song “We are the World” that was sung at his memorial service at Staples Center this week.  It was a touching rendition of a touching song. 

But did anyone else notice the symbols which were being flashed on the back screen as the song was sung?  (They are pictured above).  They have taken the symbols of world religions and fashioned them (along with a couple of others) to form the word “Co-exist.”   The message (of Jehovah Witness turned Muslim Michael Jackson) is that all religions are on an equal plane and in the words of the song: 

We are all a part of
God's great big family
And the truth, you know love is all we need
We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day

Unfortunately, it ain’t so. That is not the message that our world likes to hear, but it is the truthful reality we hold forth.  At least it’s not part of the message I will bring on Sunday.


Side note: 

You haven’t seen many posts from me over the past few weeks, partly because I had a children’s fiction work to finish up, and partly because of the health crises going on in our family right now. But mostly it has been really hard to write a preaching blog when I haven’t preached for 5 months. It feels like I am a fake, a put-on: writing about something that I love and believe in, but people say I shouldn’t do anymore.  We’ll see where this goes.

Wherever it goes,thanks for hanging in there with me. 

Now a proud “Opa”

Wrapped up

I am proud to announce that we have our first grandchild. As a proud German, I am now an “Opa”. Heidi Rose Habig was born last night around 8:00 Pacific time (in the US). She was 5 weeks early,but seems totally healthy. I haven’t been up to Seattle yet and since she was early, Loretta is in Kansas City with the health crisis of her dad’s brain tumor. But it is a proud moment for us. Michelle and Heidi (and our son Ryan) are all doing great.

Visits Since Dec. 11, 2007