Pulpit Teleprompters

As I was reflecting on my Obama teleprompter post I had a thought about how Billy Graham memorized his sermons and how similar that is to using a teleprompter.. and I started wondering how most pastors, priests or rabbis deliver their messages.

I am not a great speaker.. when I do speak (occasionally these days at our local jail) I use an outline and generally speak extemporaneously from notes in my outline.. I spend quite a bit of time preparing but leave room for a bit of inspiration as I speak. Tuesday I am using a few songs to help communicate my thoughts about Jesus healing broken hearts. I also like to use an over head projector to help narrate my message.. check out my delivery style here.

I have seen folks deliver teachings via memorization, outline and pure unprepared extemporanious speech. I generally prefer folks who are neither too rigid (aka teleprompter) nor too loose (aka unprepared). How does your minister deliver their message? Do they weave technologies like overhead projection, music and video into their presentation? What is your preference?

Interactive Living

Often in my life God has interrupted me when I am praying (or sometimes just meditating) with questions that cause me to think and get a bit outside of my spiritual box.. it sometimes creates a bit of discomfort but usually bring me to a place of clarity. Let me give you a few examples.

In 1998 I had an opportunity to take a voluntary retirement package. Early on I dismissed the idea because I was only 49 years old and thought myself too young to retire.. interesting how these kind of paradigms put one in a box. A few months went by and the deadline for retiring approached. One day as I was praying this question came in out of the blue:
"Is it riskier to stay or riskier to leave?"
The question shook me.. within a few minutes I was convinced that it was riskier to stay and (after days of conversation with Ann) I put my retirement papers in. In the next few years it became evident that it was riskier to stay as a lot of the work was outsourced and many folks got laid off. I was so glad that I retired early.

A few years after that I was heading to a job interview (I still needed to work.. retirement is a somewhat relative concept) and I was praying about the interview.. I did not have the best of attitudes at the time and was complaining about working.. and I got this question in response to my complaints:
"Why does it always have to be about you Bob.. and about meeting your needs? Why can't it be about me sending you on an assignment?"
I knew I was busted.. 10 minutes into the interview the guy asked me if I could start the following Monday.. which I did.. it took me almost a year to understand the purpose of the assignment.

Less than a year later, over coffee, a good friend asked me a simple question that really clarified my work life and help me come to grips with what I really wanted to do.. and I eventually changed jobs. I felt that the Lord had given him that question.. it was such a simple question.. yet such a deep one.

Guess what I am trying to say is that I think God involves us in the process of His will for our lives.. he engages us in different ways.. he asks us questions.. he seems to have ways of getting our attention and getting us out of our small boxes.. and I am thankful that he does.

How about you? What are the ways that God uses to get you out of your box? How has a relationship with Him changed your life?

Love That Costs

I have been thinking lately about how love always seems to be stretched and tested. I have been pondering this verse and think that it has a double meaning.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 ESV)
The obviously meaning of this verse is the one that points to the cross that Jesus bled and died on. I think that the second meaning points to that cross that we are asked to bear. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 16:
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
I think that Jesus is speaking to the idea of love having two parts:
  1. Denial of Self: Real love always involves cost.. it involves giving away a part of us. King David said:
    "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." (2Samual 24:24 ESV)
    The idea that love does not cost is simply a definition of fleshly love. God calls us to a love that costs.

  2. Giving of Self: Love is simply not passive. When Jesus commands us to pick up our cross he is calling us to action. He tells us how to love when He says "pick up your cross".. He communicates a definition of love that is somewhat alien to the meaning that many apply to the word.
Living a life of love will always involve cost and giving. I think of the definition of love in 1Corinthians 13 and I know that love will:
  • cause us to be kind.When we are tempted to be mean-spirited;
  • make us patient with a child when we are in a hurry;
  • deny us vengeance and cause us to forgive;
  • cause us to walk in humility.. to trust.. and to hope;
  • bring a life of perseverance even when we so want to give up.
Easter is a time when we remember that love cost Jesus His life and of how His gift of love gave us a chance to be born again into new life.. a life of living out His command to love the way He loves us.

Hell: Fashioned by Created Beings

HT to Sarah for this great three minute clip from Anglican Bishop NT Wright on the topic of Hell. Here is an interesting excerpt from what he said in the video:
Its a matter of deep down somewhere, there is a rejection of the good creator God, then that is the choice humans make. In other words, I think the human choices in this life really matter. Were not just playing a game of chess, where tomorrow morning God will put the pieces back on the board and say, Okay that was just a game. Now we're doing something different. The choices we make here really do matter.
Over the past several years I have had many conversations with blog friends about whether Hell exists or not. I have learned a lot through these discussions. One false image that I have had to redefine for some is the idea that God inflicts suffering and torment on people.

Many have picked up what I believe to be a false teaching that paints God as an angry entity that "sends people to hell".. often sincere believers reject this image of God and embrace an ultimate reconciliation view because of it. What I usually say is that suffering and torment come from within creation before one dies.. God does not inflict suffering and torment.. and I see nothing to indicate that it will also be that way after death. In a sense Hell is a place fashioned by created beings.

I agree with Bishop Wright.. choices in this life really matter.. life is not a game.. I think that the road to hell is taken one choice at a time. Okay if you disagree.. I will enjoy the dialog and hope to learn from it.