They Are At It Again!

This falls under the category of scam artist at work.

Ann posted some items to sale on Craig’s List the other day (if you are interested in what they were, please contact us) and actually got a response with an offer to buy one of the items. Then the fun began!

She got one e-mail expressing interest followed by two e-mails asking for forgiveness in not quickly sending the payment. Today she got the check, delivered Priority Mail Express no less, and a fourth e-mail explaining that there had been a mix-up with the banker and that we needed to cash the check and keep the sale price plus a little something for our trouble. We were then to get a Western Union money order and send the rest back to the buyer. If we had done this, the buyer would have received something on the order of four figures.

Now, each of the e-mails that we received were very poorly written and this was the first of many alarms to go off. The fourth e-mail contained an address not related to the sender of the e-mails or the address on the check. At this point, can you say Nigeria?

Okay, now this check looks real. I mentioned because this isn’t the first time we have received such checks (the first time, it was even a good copy). As it happens, the bank and the company on which the check we received today are real companies but the check is hacked. When I called the company on whose account it was drawn and mentioned what we had, the company representative knew immediately what had happened and told me that whoever sent us this check had stolen the routing number and account number.

In speaking with the company representative, she noted that ours was not the first attempt to perpetrate this fraud. You could her in her voice a certain degree of sadness as to the number of people who have lost money because they were victims.

It is an old, old saying that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. And in this case, that is certainly the case.

Let’s just say that from the beginning of this little episode, Ann and I were expecting a fraud. When you send an e-mail that is poorly constructed, that’s the first tip-off. And then when you get an amount of money that is way out of line, that’s the winner.

The moral of this story, to borrow from a second cliché, is seller beware.

For other scams, look at “Couldn’t They Have Been A Bit More Subtle?” and “There’s A Sermon In Here Somewhere But First A Warning!”

And addendum – We contacted the company whose address was on the return label and were told that they had several of these letters.  It isn’t just a scam but postal fraud now.

What I Believe

First, I believe that there is a God and that He created the universe and all that is in it. I believe that we have been created in His image and given the ability to think and create as a result.

Granted, the way we think at times can be questioned and what we have created has sometimes done more harm than good. But even in times when our thoughts and creative acts have been directed towards evil and destruction, we still retain the ability to do good and create rather than destroy.

The history of society’s development, I think, can be traced to its ability to think and create, to ask questions and seek answers, to go beyond the horizon into unknown territories. While some may fear the unknown and not wish to see what is beyond the next corner, we understand that we cannot grow as people and a society if we do not venture to that new place.

Second, I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and that He was the Son of God and that He came to this world to save me from my sins.

I also believe that each person has their own understanding of who God is and may express that belief in a different way.

I do not believe that I have the right to tell you what to believe or how to believe. Rather, it is through my words, deeds, and actions that I can offer others a new way, a new life and a way to peace.

In accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I have also accepted the task of showing the world who He is. This requires that I use the ability that I was given when I was formed in the image of God to think and create.

In thinking, I ask questions, sometimes about my faith, sometimes about the world around me. The answers that I get may cause me to question my faith; they may also cause me to question the way the world around me works. But in answering my questions, my faith will grow and I will work to improve the world around me.

Transfiguration Sunday or Evolution Weekend?

Transfiguration Sunday or Evolution Weekend?

This was supposed to have been posted on Sunday February 15th, but things sort of got in the way.

On the church liturgical calendar, this Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. On the secular calendar, this is Evolution Weekend. Before I get into my thoughts about the nature and significance of this day, let me first identify three organizations that focus on the interaction of faith and science (I have put a link to each group on the side of my blog)

  • WesleyNexus
  • BioLogos
  • Clergy Letter project

While the title of this piece suggests that one has to make a choice about what to write about (or perhaps preach), for me, it really isn’t that way. As I hope to lay out before you, both are equally important for me.

Transfiguration Sunday focus on the change that Peter, James, and John saw in Jesus that speaks to the true nature of Jesus as the Messiah and the Christ.

Evolution Weekend focuses on the fact that February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday; it is an event that has taken place for the past ten years or so and looks at the relationship between science and faith (or at least it does for me).

From that viewpoint, these are mutually exclusive events. But I see a common thread in the two events.

In the Scripture readings for this Sunday, Jesus is seen by Peter, James, and John to have been transfigured or transformed, covered with a bright line and seen by the three disciples to be accompanied by Moses and Elijah. Perhaps the meaning of this is to let Peter, James, and John know that Jesus is really the Messiah and things are going to be changing in the next few days.

This moment, first experienced some two thousand years ago by three men, is a moment that we all have in some form or another when we accept Christ as our personal Savior. It is a moment when we truly understand what Jesus did for us two thousand years ago and what He does for us even today.

But I fear that too many people don’t truly understand what this moment means. They fail to take advantage of this opportunity. They lived their lives totally unchanged, continue to believe and live as they did before Christ came into their lives. They may acknowledge that Christ is the Savior but they do not offer the proof. They still see things as they were and not has they might or will be (thinking of the G. B. Shaw quote that Robert Kennedy so often used).

Look at Peter’s initial response to build three monuments; this represented the traditional thinking of the time. Every encounter with God up until that moment is fixed in time and place by some sort of stone monument. This is not what Jesus wants His disciples to do; rather, I think that He wanted them to see their lives in a new way.

Our encounter with Christ and its life changing quality need not be like Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus (though there are many who would say that is the only type of valid encounter). But, however we encounter and acknowledge Christ, we have to understand that our lives change, as Saul’s did when he became Paul. If our lives do not change, the encounter with Christ may prove to be limited in its effect.

Early on in my teaching career, I discovered the work of Jean Piaget and its application to the learning of chemistry. Later I would discover research describing the “AHA Moment”. This moment is that singular moment in one’s life where a seemingly difficult item becomes easily understood. In Piagetian terms, it is that transition from one learning level to the next highest one (in chemistry, often times it is the transition from concrete, fixed thinking to a more abstract thinking process). You go from merely solving problems by rote memorization and application of previous solutions to actually creating new solutions.

For some, this never occurs. They are quite successful in their education experiences but they are lacking when it comes to creating new ideas. I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily a bad thing in itself but when it becomes the norm (as I fear that it is becoming in society today), then problems will arise. You simply cannot advance the nature of society if all you know are the same old solutions; they will not work with new problems.

For me, science is critical to one’s life simply because it pushes you to understand the world around you. Too many people of faith fear science for that very reason; it pushes people to seek better answers to their questions of faith. And yet, one’s faith cannot grow if it is not challenged.

Similarly, one’s secular life also cannot grow if you are not willing to look beyond the limits of your normal vision, if you are not pushed to (and excuse the cliché) think outside the envelope.

We live in dangerous times and our responses cannot be the traditional responses. There are too many challenges taking place that call on us to push our faith and our thinking skills together beyond the limits others have established.

Jesus began to push the boundaries of ministry outside the Temple walls and He encouraged His disciples and other followers to do the same. Charles Darwin pushed the boundaries of science beyond the traditional thinking mode and challenged people to see the world a little differently.

If we are to be transformed by Christ, our world has to change. And that means that we must see the world differently, through the eyes of Christ and with a better knowledge of what we do see. So that is why I see Transfiguration Sunday and Evolution Weekend as together and not apart.

Thoughts On Various Topics – Vaccinations

I have not been posting much these past few months, primarily because I have had to deal and still am dealing with some personal issues. But we are getting through those problems (though I humbly ask that you pray for a reasonable resolution of the health, emotional, and financial problems we are currently facing).

One of the ways that I think I do need to do is begin writing again, perhaps not so much on theological or lectionary topics (I have pretty much retired as a lay speaker) but more in the area of science, its interactions with faith and society. This should help me focus on a task that I definitely need to complete.

There are a couple of topics that jump to mind right now in the area of science and its interaction with society. The first is that of vaccinations; the second is the issue of “fracking”; and the third is climate change. I will post something on the last two topics in a few days. But let us turn our attention to that first topic.

As one who espouses libertarian ideas, I believe you have the right to make your own choices. If you, as a parent, do not wish to vaccinate your children, that is your right. However, I also believe that you do not have the right to make a choice which impacts my life. If you do not vaccinate your children because you fear what might happen with the vaccines, you threaten the health of not only your children but my children and grandchildren.

The problem, as I understand it, is not in the vaccine itself but rather in what is used to preserve the vaccines. Instead of not vaccinating your children because you fear the consequences, you need to be working to make sure that whatever is added to the vaccines is safe. This is an entirely different problem.

I also question the claims of many opposed to vaccinations because it comes from the same type of thinking that espouses thoughts that we never landed on the moon or other equally ridiculous conspiracy theories.

As with so many other ideas prevalent in society today, people are willing the claims of offers which have no validity. It is time that we, as a society, work for a more thoughtful approach to life.

The Methodist way of preaching


This is a fascinating piece and brings to question what each of us does when asked to present the message.

Originally posted on John Meunier:

By 1751, John Wesley had become concerned about a new kind of preaching that was taking hold in some Methodist societies. The men who were preaching this new way called themselves “gospel” preachers. The preached only the promises of Christ and none of the law. In Wesley’s account, indeed, they even mocked the original style of Methodist preaching that was careful to preach both law and gospel as warranted by the state of the hearers.

In his “Letter on Preaching Christ,” Wesley describes both the methods by which law and gospel were to be preached and decries the damaging effects of the gospel preaching. He points out that in several cities that once had thriving societies, the numbers had been seriously eroded by the gospel preachers. Without the starch of the law, Methodist zeal and discipline waned.

In contrast, Wesley highlighted the contrary example of a society in Yorkshire, which…

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