Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Evangelism, Apologetics, and Assimilation Resources

I thought it might be useful to put my things concerning evangelism and assimilation in one post for easy access.  Just click on a post below and off you go.

Evangelism

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part I, Obstacles

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part II, Advantages

Evangelism in the Rural Setting: Part III, Getting Started

Apologetics


Prepared: Ready to Witness in Rural and Small Town Areas (webinar)

Assimilation

Assimilation in Rural and Small Town Congregations (webinar)
Something I forgot to mention that I should have, is simply doing a time and talent survey that involves everyone in the congregation (especially new members) and then following up by making use of the information.

A Welcoming Congregation (a Bible Study I put together for my congregation).

A book I found particularly helpful in thinking about assimilation is "Inviting Community" which is edited by Kolb and Hopkins.  Each chapter was written by a seminary professor. I cannot overstate how helpful this book was to me. 

You are free to adapt and use any of the material here for in your congregation and need not attribute any of it to me. If any of this is useful to you, please use it in the name of the Lord and for the good of His kingdom.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Football Video Games of My Youth

In my last post I covered some of the classic baseball games I loved to play when I was a kid.  Here's a follow up on some of my favorite football games.

1. Realsports Football 

The Atari was not a great system for sports games, but this game was my introduction to playing a football video game.  My older brother Seth and I played this quite a bit.  It was primitive, but it was the best game going at the time.













2. John Elway's Quarterback

This was far from the most sophisticated game, but it stands out to me for two reasons.  First, growing up in western Colorado, John Elway was the man. Colorado is Broncos crazy, so it was cool that the Broncos QB had a game.  Second, if you used "reverse play" or "normal play" and throw a bomb to a receiver, the receiver would become crazy fast and you could literally run around the field and use up the entire quarter, scoring with no time left on the clock.

Not a great game, but it was fun.



3. Tecmo Super Bowl

This is the best game ever made.  It takes the original Tecmo Bowl and improves on it greatly.  It is simple, yet sophisticated.  It is everything video games should be.
Some of the things that stand out about Tecmo Super Bowl are...
  1. This was the first game I remember keeping stats for each game and for an entire season.
  2. This was the first game that allowed you to change your playbook.
  3. Player health was taken into account in how they played.
  4. Lawrence Taylor was absolutely unstoppable and could block every extra point and FG attempt.
  5. The 49ers were so good that it was considered cheating to use them.
  6. If Bo Jackson was healthy, there was no stopping him. 
  7. There was a flaw that allowed the nose tackle to dive and sack the QB pretty much every time.  No self respecting player would lower himself to use this move in a game against another player because it was acknowledge to be cheating. 
I could go on.  As stated above, this is the best game ever made. 

4. Bill Walsh College Football
(and the EA Sports college football games that followed)

I remember walking into KB Toys and seeing this on display.  I had to have it.  I saved my money from mowing lawns and plunked down what was an enormous amount of money for me at the time.  I was not disappointed.

This was the first football game to have real college teams.  It tried to mimic what each team did well.  In the original game, each team had the same playbook, but over time they tailored the playbook to be more team specific.  While many guys my age were in love with the Madden games, I always loved the college versions. 

A few things that stood out...

  1. This was the first game to allow the option play.
  2. The numbers matched real players.
  3. There were historic teams included. 
  4. This game laid the groundwork for the NCAA College Football games by EA Sports that I wasted a lot of hours playing during my college days.

5. Mattel Football

This was the first handheld game I ever played.  It was simple, just dashes that moved up, down, left or right, but it was fun.

So there you have it.  That's my list. I'd love to hear what your favorites were too. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Baseball Video Games of My Youth

I rarely blog about things not related to my call as pastor.  Usually I write for Christians about things that are of eternal importance.

This post is not at all like that.  This is just me reminiscing.

Recently I've been introducing my kids to some of the video games I grew up playing. I played a lot of different types of video games, but sports have always been my favorite genre.  So, without any further introduction, here is my list of top baseball video games from my childhood.

1. Atari Baseball

This was a terrible game.  Truly awful.  But it was the first baseball video game I ever played and for that reason it deserves to be mentioned.









2.  RBI Baseball

This was the first game I remember using real baseball players.  It was a blast to play, but it had a major weakness in that the starting pitchers would fatigue quickly and there were only 4 pitchers per team. You reasonably needed to use all 4 pitchers to get through a game, but if you played a season, your starting pitchers would both be tired for the next game.  So this was a great game to play against another person, but lousy for playing a season.











3. Bases Loaded

Now this was the game of my childhood.  I easily spent more hours playing this than any other baseball game.  I knew the rosters through and through, including bench players.  My brothers and I had specific teams we liked to use (though we did use all of the teams).  Seth used Boston, Matt used Utah, and I favored DC.

This game stands out for several reasons.

  1. This was the first game on which I could actually play a full season in a somewhat realistic way.
  2. This was the first game in which a player could get ejected (one player on each team could be ejected if you hit him when he came to bat after his first plate appearance. 
  3. The players looked somewhat realistic, unlike RBI Baseball or Atari. 
  4. When you changed pitchers, the new pitcher was brought out in a baseball shaped golf cart. 
  5. There was a glitch that allowed the first baseman to throw the ball away (down the right field line) after getting an out at first base.  Done right, you would be charged with an error (even though no runners were on base).  So collecting the most errors in this way became a game within the game.
  6. There was a glitch (I think it only happened if you struck out with the bases loaded) where the ump would say, "You bum! Out!" 
I spent a lot of hours playing this game against my brothers and still love to play it, even though it is quite simple.

4.  Bases Loaded II

I loved Bases Loaded and so was thrilled when this game came out.  The game play is a little more challenging, but not terribly difficult.

Some of the things that stood out about this game were...

  1. It was the first to have players vary in their performance.  It used "biorhythyms" to show if a player was feeling well or poorly, which would effect their play. 
  2. It had clearly defined roles for pitchers (starters, middle relief, and closers).
  3. Players were more realistic than in the original Bases Loaded.
  4. There were several different pitching styles.
This was probably my favorite baseball video game to play because it was quite realistic for the time. Unfortunately this was the last quality game in the Bases Loaded series. 
Bases Loaded III was an abomination and I don't think I've ever seen a copy of Bases Loaded IV.


5. Baseball Stars

This game was revolutionary.  The game play wasn't all that realistic and the players looked like cartoons, but this game changed everything. 
  1. This was the first game where money comes into play.
  2. There were female players (and even full teams of females).
  3. You could create a player and improve him little by little.
  4. You could create a team, choose its uniforms, and run it in a similar way to running a real baseball team.
  5. You could trade players.
  6. There was a 10 run mercy rule. 
  7. There were historic players included.
This wasn't my favorite as far as game play, but it stood out for the reasons listed above.



There were other games along the way and that came after these, but these were the ones I'll always remember (and am going to collect again to share with my kids)!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Some Biblical Wisdom for an Election Year

Hey, in case you didn't know, 2016 is a presidential election year (of course you knew that).
This means that you need to be prepared for...
  • commercial breaks dominated by political ads (use your DVR and skip commercials and listen to your mp3 player or CD's if at all possible to avoid the ads).
  • politicians appearing on every platform possible (comedy shows, sporting events, making a Christmas album...okay let's hope they don't make a Christmas album).
  • bumper stickers and bumper sticker style politics, which is among the lowest forms of political discourse. 
  • disagreeing with friends and fellow Christians concerning political issues.
That last one is a biggie, because when it comes to politics, Christians have often been as bad as non-Christians when it comes to attacking others.

So here is some Biblical wisdom to apply in this election year.

  1. Don't take offense at what others post on Facebook or say about a candidate or issue.
    The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.
    (Pro 12:16)

    It's okay to disagree with them and it's okay to have a civil discussion about things, but if you're taking offense, you probably need to drop it and go do other things.
  2. Don't insult others.
    There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
    (Proverbs 12:18)

    "This is stupid."
    "Only an idiot would believe that."
    "You support that moron?"

    Just a few of the choice words I've seen posted on Facebook concerning politics, politicians, and issues.  Such words are inexcusable for a Christian...especially for a Christian who is actively serving in ministry.

    Peter tells Christians to always be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."  (1 Peter 3:15-16)  If, in the defense of our faith, we are to treat others with gentleness and respect, how much more when it comes to other (less important) issues?  Insulting others, whether or not you intend to do so, hurts your Christian witness and damages the likelihood that others will listen to what you have to say about matters of faith.

    Those who are in ministry must understand that often it is better to sacrifice your "right to speak" on a given topic so that the message of Christ can be heard more clearly.

  3. Seek to understand the perspective and opinion of others.
    A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
    (Proverbs 18:2)

    This means that you need to listen more than speak.  This means that you need to read articles written by people with whom you disagree.  If you normally watch Fox News, watch some CNN (or vice versa).  If you normally listen to NPR, tune in to conservative talk radio a little bit.  You get the picture.

    You might not change your mind, but you will be better informed and have better understanding than if you remain in the echo-chamber.
  4. Don't share/say/post things that you don't know to be true.
    A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.
    (Proverbs 14:5)

    It happens far too often.  An article that happens to support your view gets shared and without fact checking, you share it too.  This again hurts our credibility as Christians and is a violation of the 8th Commandment.  Check the credibility of information before sharing it.  Be leery of articles from websites you haven't heard of before.
  5. Correct fellow Christians when they share false information, but do so in a loving way.
    A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
    (Proverbs 15:1)

    So you've noticed that someone shared an article with false information, biased information, or dated information.  You have a choice.  You can...
  • put up a passive aggressive post about said article.
  • post a rant about the article.
  • comment on the article posted by your friend/fellow Christian in such a way as to shame them.
  • privately call or message them to inform them of the false information so that they can take down the post or update what they have written about it to reflect the facts.

    Yeah...as Christians we really need to do the last one whenever possible. 
     6.  Recognize that people of good will can disagree on many issues.
         "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
(James 4:6b)

  • There are issues (abortion, assisted suicide) on which God has spoken clearly in His Word and we are to abide by His teaching.
  • There are other areas where God has spoken (care of the poor), but since God hasn't specified the role of government in said areas there can be many approaches that can still be faithful to God's Word and our call as Christians.  
  • There are other areas (gun control, immigration laws, tax rates) on which God is essentially silent in His Word and in these areas Christians are free to hold a wide range of beliefs and still remain faithful to God's Word.

    What we are not free to do however, is belittle those with whom we disagree on these issues. Be humble enough to admit that while you think you have a better way, you could be wrong. 

This is far from a complete list, but the ideas here are important, so please keep them in mind as you engage in political discourse over the coming year (and beyond).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas through the eyes of Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" 
(Luke 2:8-14)

As a child and in my years as a pastor, I have always heard this account through the lens of the shepherds.  Probably because I can readily relate to the shepherds as one in need of a savior and who rejoices as the announcement of the angels that God has given us the Savior we needed in the person of Jesus.

But it wasn't until a few weeks back that I first considered this account from the perspective of the angels.

Angels are created beings, but they also are immortal beings.  So consider this...

The angels were there to see the perfection of Eden.  They saw the world God had created and declared to be very good (טוב  מאד).  They witnessed the perfection of God's creation before it was shattered and warped by sin.  The angels knew just how good things were for Adam and Eve, because they had witnessed it.  They were witness to a world in which man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. God, and man vs. himself was non-existent. Death and pain were unknown in this perfect creation.

The angels had seen this perfection and how good it was for man.

The angels had also seen how badly sin had wrecked everything.

The angels were there to witness how difficult and dangerous farming and childbearing would be because of sin.  They saw how sin resulted in in death.  But they had also been there to hear the promise from God that He would send one who would make things right again. 

They were there when Cain murdered his brother Abel.  They saw the rise in wickedness in the world as people turned away from God and how even after God sent a flood, mankind returned to wickedness in no time flat.  

The angels had seen God raise up a runt of the litter shepherd boy to king of Israel, establishing a strong kingdom.  They had also seen how the descendants of David had bungled things so badly that the kingdom receded so greatly that it was unrecognizable.  Yet they were also there to hear God's promise that He would give David a descendant who would rule eternally. 

The angels existed when the prophets first spoke as they were carried by the Holy Spirit and foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of mankind.

Considering all of this, I don't doubt that the joy of the angels was greater even than that joy of the shepherds to whom they brought the message.  For the angels knew far better than the shepherds just how much the birth of Jesus meant for mankind.

You can imagine the great joy of the angel who got to tell the shepherds the good news as he did what he was created to do (angel means "messenger").  And you can imagine the great joy of the angel army who couldn't wait to glorify God as soon as the good news was announced.

I picture the angels, who knew Eden and knew that Jesus had come to restore Eden for mankind, bubbling with joy and excitement as they glorified God saying "Glory to God in the highest!" and rejoiced for mankind at the good news of great joy that Jesus was born. 

This Christmas, as you hear that familiar account from Luke 2 again, consider the joy of the angels.  Then joyously join them in singing "Glory to God in the highest!"

Here is a link to the message this post is based upon.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Baby Joel, Miscarriage, and the Love of God

Below is what I wrote for the church newsletter some 6 years ago after we lost a child, Joel, to miscarriage. Maybe it can be of some comfort to others who are enduring or have endured such a tragedy. “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)


What a blessing the people of God are!  We have been surrounded with love and support, lifted up in prayer, and embraced with loving arms during this difficult time.  You are likely aware by now that while on vacation, Christine and I lost our unborn baby.  While the tragedy of a miscarriage is terribly difficult, we give thanks to God for the loving, supportive, and prayerful people of God during this time.  We truly appreciate the cards, phone calls, hugs, tears, meals, and everything else that you have given to us during this time.


We have lost a member of our family.  Though unborn, our baby was truly already part of our family.  We loved him and cared for him very deeply.  Those of you who have gone through a miscarriage can understand the deep sense of loss and grief that we have been going through.  When things like this happen, we often ask “why?”  Why did this happen?  Did I do something wrong? Could I have done something differently?


Often, there are no answers to these questions.  God doesn’t explain why some things happen.  We know that because of the fall into sin, because we are sinful, bad things happen.  But why this tragedy at this time?  Why did God allow this?  We don’t know.


What we can say is this; “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”  Ultimately our children are not our own, they are God’s.  We are entrusted with raising them, caring for them, and bringing them up in the Christian faith, but they are God’s children.  The Lord gave to us a child and the Lord took that child, but we praise His name.  It is difficult to do when tragedy strikes, but by faith we can say “blessed be the name of the LORD.”


What we can say is this; “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)  


We have a Savior who said, “"Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."


We have a heavenly Father who “so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” to die for us and be our savior.


We rest in the hands of our loving God.


Christine decided to name our baby Joel.  This name is fitting as it means, “The Lord is God.”  Truly, the Lord is God and though we cannot understand His ways at times, we confess that “The Lord is God.”  He is in control at all times.  And this is comforting because we know the kind of God we have; slow to anger, abounding in love, welcoming of children, and loving enough to die for us.


The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, even through tears and sorrow we say, blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Pastor Meyer

Monday, August 24, 2015

Married to an Unbeliever?

The image of a family, nicely (and conservatively) dressed, going to church together is a nice one, though this 1950's image certainly isn't typical even for many active Christians today (and that's okay).  Notice that the man in the image has full head of hair, the wife is a size 0, and the children are all smiling perfectly.  How realistic is that?

But there are also men and women who don't fit this picture because their spouse simply won't come to church with them because they are married to a non-Christian.

It can be incredibly difficult to be a Christian who is married to a non-Christian.

Such Christians face the following...

  • Instead of receiving help from your spouse in your Christian walk, your spouse is indifferent to the things of God (at best) or hostile to them.
  • Your spouse isn't going to pray with you or do devotions with you.
  • Holidays are challenging because Christmas and Easter are Christian festivals, but for the unbelieving spouse they are something far different.
The list could go on...

However, one of the true challenges faced by those married to an unbelieving spouse is faced each Sunday morning in simply going to church.
  • Your spouse isn't going to help you get out of bed, which makes it even harder because Satan is already tempting you to sleep in.
  • Your spouse isn't going to sit by you in church and you might think that people are whispering about you, wondering where he/she is.
  • For those with children, you don't have the extra help in dealing with the kids.
Now, you might wonder if the Bible says anything about being married to an unbelieving spouse; Yes, yes it does.

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.      (1 Corinthians 7:13-17)
 In short...

  • If you're married to an unbeliever and your spouse isn't leaving you, you shouldn't leave them either.  Don't seek a divorce. 
  • If the unbelieving spouse leaves you, you aren't enslaved to that marriage. 
  • The believer has a great chance to be a witness to the unbelieving spouse.
So the believing spouse shouldn't allow his or her unbelieving spouse to be an excuse for breaking the First Commandment (that God should be first in all things).  Attending Church on Sunday is something that should happen, because God wills it (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Regular prayer isn't optional, but necessary to a Christian.  Time in God's Word is vital and shouldn't be shunned because it might offend the unbelieving spouse.

And by these actions, the believing spouse is an ongoing witness to the unbelieving spouse.

But such a Christian need not feel alone, because he or she is part of a church family!
So, what can we in the church do for those who are in such a situation?
If you know a Christian who is married to an unbeliever...
  • pray for them regularly
  • encourage them in their faith (remember they don't get that encouragement at home)
  • offer to sit with them at church (this might be more important that you realize)
  • seek out chances to engage, encourage, and mentor their children
  • love them
The church isn't made up only of nice looking families with perfectly groomed and well behaved children.  The church is the assembly of believers, including the young baby who was just baptized and the 100 year old who lives at the nursing home.  It includes the single mom and the and single man who has never married and has led a chaste life.  It includes those whose family members are all Christians and those who are the only Christian in their immediate and extended family.

And that's just the way God designed it.  Repentant believers, from all walks of life, gathered together in Christ.