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Jan 30 2009

Consideration for others

Jamie Barrows

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I was driving to work this morning and something happened that just struck me. It was an act of thoughtfulness and consideration from someone who had no need to do so and gained nothing tangible from doing it.

My drive is kind of long (about an hour) and I end up taking some back roads along the way. The speed limits (with the exception of one small town) are pretty high. So traffic usually moves along at a good speed. But every once in a while I will hit the road at just the wrong time and get stuck behind a school bus.

Now I don’t know how it is in other nations, but here in the US we have some specific traffic rules that apply to school buses. When a school bus stops to pick up a child, all traffic on the road going both directions must stop. The reasoning being that the child will be entering, and possibly crossing, the road to board the bus. So traffic should stop to ensure the safety of the child. And it really is a good rule.

The problem is that if you get stuck behind one of these school buses on your way to work, or wherever you are going, you will be stopping every few minutes until either you or the bus turns off the road. So it can get very annoying. And I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it was going to take me a lot longer to get to work than I had planned.

But then something happened. The school bus turned off the road. Which at first I didn’t think anything of. That is nothing other than relief that I was not going to have to spend the next 45 minutes to an hour behind it. But then I noticed that the bus had turned off, only to get back on. That is, the bus driver had deliberately turned off the road to allow the cars that were backed up behind it to get past. The driver had realized that there was a long line of cars behind the bus and was going out of his way to let that line past.

And he didn’t have to let us past. He was perfectly within his rights to simply continue along his route and let the line back up. The driver only did it out of consideration for those of us behind him.
Which really made me think about how often I could have been more considerate of others around me. How often have I blissfully continued along with whatever I was doing and gave no thought to others around me?


Jan 27 2009

Sermon Critiques

Jamie Barrows

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I read a rather interesting article on the blog, Stuff Christians Like. It was kind of tongue in cheek, but also serious at the the same time.

How often are we just listening to a sermon so that we can find ways to critique it? So that we can find “Spiritual” things to say about the sermon to our friends later?

The article listed a bunch of common phrases people use to criticize a sermon, along with a rather sarcastic definition of what the phrase means.

  1. I’m just not being fed.
    What a fantastic way to look as if you’re more spiritual than the pastor himself.
  2. That message was not meant for me.
    You are so generous to have sat there patiently while someone else that needed that sermon was able to receive it. What kindness.
  3. That didn’t feel like church.
    What a perfect smokescreen of vagueness. How can anyone argue with your feeling? What does that even mean? More organ? Less organ? Better lasers? No lasers?
  4. There wasn’t enough Bible in that for me. That felt like a business leadership book.
    What’s enough? No one knows, which is why this is such a gem.
  5. I’m not sure that sermon works in a postmodern world.
    I’m not even sure I know what the word “postmodern” means, but it’s fun to say. Few things make you look smarter than repeating this word. Repeatedly.

From the article: Critiquing the sermon at lunch.
by Prodigal John

The truth is that I’ve heard almost all of these phrases before, and sadly I think I may have even used one or two. Which made me think about how often I’ve criticized a sermon for no real reason other than that it made me sound more knowledgeable or more spiritual.

There is always a need for examining what is said and studying it for yourself. And you should never just assume that because the pastor said it, it has to be true. But if you are just critiquing and criticizing so that you can avoid having to deal with your own issues, or so that you can appear more spiritual than others, you need to get a handle on why you are in church in the first place.

We don’t go to church to look good, or to make ourselves feel good. We go to church to worship God and to learn about Him what He would have us do.


Jan 20 2009

No Internet!

Jamie Barrows

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Jan 19 2009

When is too much information, too much information?

Jamie Barrows

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I read an interesting rant over the weekend. It’s titled "Is this the better world you were talking about?" And the main theme seemed to be the information glut that we are daily exposed to. And the point seemed to be that the information glut is causing more harm than good.

I’ve written about information overload in one of my posts before. But other than claiming I need to be better at dealing with it, I am pretty strongly of the opinion that more information is better than less.

The author of the article makes the point that a huge amount of the information out there these days is exaggerated or overreported. And he’s right. A lot of it is just exaggerated opinions and fearmongering. Bias and sensationalism is rampant in our news media. But is that really a difference from the past or a problem that needs to be fixed? As I posted in one of my posts over a year ago, I don’t see that as an issue. ALL NEWS is biased by the opinions and beliefs of the reporter. That holds true no matter what the medium (TV, Newspaper, Radio, Internet, etc.) is. As long as you can identify the bias of the reporter and know that it is there, you should be able to get the facts out of the story.

And as for being overwhelmed by the information, it isn’t all that hard to just turn off the TV, or not read the article. If the weather channel is giving you too much information, just don’t watch it. If you are constantly getting sucked into the conspiracy theories of fringe groups, stop listening to them.

The way I see it, it’s just a question of developing proper filters. People need to learn how to filter out the fringe extremist groups and make sure they get their news from multiple sources to recognize and counteract the bias present in any one source. They need to be disciplined enough to turn off the news feed if it is taking over their lives or becoming an obsession.

There will always be those people who can’t or won’t develop decent critical filters, but that doesn’t mean the world would be better off with less information. If you look at history, you will see that in almost every repressive society, much of that repression was accomplished by a strict control of information and the means of communication. That kind of control, in our information rich and information overloaded society,  is no longer possible.

These days we have true freedom to express our knowledge and opinions. And the luxury of being able to choose our sources of information and control the quantity of the information we receive. I don’t think I would want to give that freedom up or go back to the days of limited information.

Would you? Is there such a thing as too much information?


Jan 13 2009

Church Family

Jamie Barrows

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I believe strongly that church attendance is an important and necessary part of being a Christian. Without the accountability and family relationships that come with your church family, you are alone and can easily fall into sin. Furthermore, you will never develop and mature as a Christian without the support and encouragement of your fellow church members. That isn’t to say that I think missing church occasionally is a sin. Rather that being a member of a church family and getting involved with that church family is extremely important to your growth as a Christian.

So anyway, I was having a discussion with someone the other day who was displeased with the church he was in. He made the point that, in his church, the legalism and obsession with outward appearances meant that no one in the church really knew each other or even liked each other. Everyone constantly wore a mask to keep from being judged. Any slips or cracks in that mask simply exposed that church member to the disdain and criticism of those around him. Which in effect mean that most of the members of the church never did anything together outside of church that wasn’t directly church related.

Now, I’m familiar with the church he was referring to and could definitely sympathize. The church he attends is exactly that way. Which is one (aside from it being in a different city) of the reasons I would never attend there.

So I told him I thought he should try another church rather than keep staying at a church that doesn’t like him and that he doesn’t like either. His answer was that there were no other good churches in the area. My response to that was to point to some that I had visited in the past. He said none of those churches were acceptable and listed each the of minor belief or tradition differences that were his reason why they weren’t acceptable.

At this point, not wanting to offend him I left the subject alone. Clearly the minor doctrinal points and traditions were more important in his eyes than having a real church family. But it got me thinking.

What weight should we assign the church family aspect when we are evaluating a church? The New Testament is full of references to the importance of fellowship and communion with believers, and yet I think most of us don’t even consider that when we are trying to choose a church.  When did what hymns the church sings and what fellow church members wear become the main criteria when evaluating a church?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look for churches that believe what we believe. Or that finding one that worships in the manner we are most comfortable in isn’t important. It absolutely is! But we need to realize that having a church family is at least as important as finding a church who’s traditions we feel comfortable with. Because without placing an importance on the church family, we are likely to get stuck attending places like my friend’s church.

My friend’s church may believe all the right things, but it provides him no true accountability and no real fellowship. There is no family to support him in his personal growth or to help him through his struggles. Because for him to admit to having those struggles exposes him to being judged and ostracized. For him, church becomes just a place he attends every Sunday to hear preaching. And that isn’t a real church.


Jan 12 2009

Israel and Palestine

Jamie Barrows

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There has been a lot of news lately about the current war in Israel. And most of what I’m hearing is that Israel is being too aggressive against the Palestinians and Hamas. I constantly hear the term "disproportionate response." And I see on the TV and in the news, images of the devastation in Gaza. Images that show children living in bombed out homes and shelters.

The images are heartrending. And I feel real sorrow for the people whose homes, businesses, schools, and marketplaces have been destroyed. It’s a terrible thing to have your livelihood and homes destroyed. War is horrible and without fail it causes suffering among innocents who have no part in it.

The consensus of most of the world, seems to be that Israel should respond to the rocket attacks proportionately. But what does that mean? Has anyone who is saying this really thought it through. Are people really advocating that Israel should lob a rocket at a Palestinian neighborhood every time Hamas sends one at Israel? That Israel should deliberately target civilians with rocket attacks the way Hamas does?

I’m not one of those people who thinks Israel can do no wrong. They often take a very heavy handed approach to their security and many of the things they have done in the past have not been good. But in this case I’m not sure that we can totally fault Israel for the devastation.

Yes, it is Israeli missiles, bombs, and tanks that have destroyed the homes and infrastructure of the Gaza strip, but I don’t see that Israel has a choice here. Hamas deliberately positions their rocket launchers in residential neighborhoods and in critical infrastructure installations. So if Israel is going to take out the rocket launchers, there will be civilian casualties. And neighborhoods will be destroyed.

Is Israel totally blameless for the sense of hopelessness and poverty that most Palestinian’s live in? A situation that creates great recruitment fodder for extremist groups like Hamas. Of course Israel isn’t blameless. But then neither are the Palestinians who have been given many chances to improve their lives and yet keep handing the reigns of power over to groups like Hamas. There is plenty of blame to go around, but as I said before, I don’t see that Israel has much choice in it’s response here.

It’s great to talk about proportionate responses when we are talking a trade dispute or increased tarrifs. But when it comes to bombs and rockets, I’m not sure it applies. Especially when those rockets are dropping on your neighborhood. The place where your kids and loved ones live! In that case, you want it to stop. And that is what Israel is doing here. They are trying to make it stop.

Try to imagine yourself in a typical Israeli’s situation. What would you do if the country next door to your own was so lawless that militant groups were able to constantly shoot rockets at your home and workplace? What would you do if the official government of that nation either could not or would not attempt to stop these attacks? Would you be able to sit by and just hope that the next rocket attack didn’t kill you or one of your loved ones?

Don’t let the rights and wrongs of Israel being there in the first place, or Israel’s past treatment of the Palestinians, sidetrack you from looking at it from the perspective of a normal working person. Just put yourself in the place of a typical person and ask what you would do in this situation. Would you demand action against the people who were attacking your neighborhood?

I know I would be calling on my government (the job of which is to protect me) to make it stop. Even if that meant my nation had to invade, bomb, and occupy the other nation. Because the safety of my family and loved ones is more important to me than whether the people shooting at me are justified in their anger against my nation.