Christians and “Coincidences” or Is There a Hex in the Patternicity?

This article has many images and footnotes; I encourage the reader to download it as a pdf here: Shogren_Christians and Coincidences

It happened just the other day: I had been thinking about James Bond, and later when I pulled out a form of identification for the bank teller, I noticed that my ID number began with 007! Was I a secret agent? Perhaps one suffering from amnesia?

Or, let’s say a man “has a system” for beating the Vegas roulette table. He has noticed that black has come up eight times in a row. So he bets everything on black, because “there’s clearly a pattern to the wheel tonight.” Meanwhile, a man across from him is thinking to himself, “I’d better put everything on red, since it looks like it’s due to come up.”

A child and her companion lie on their backs, looking up at the clouds. “That one looks like a giraffe!” she says. “And that one a camel!” “No, not a camel, look at it upside-down, it looks just like an octopus.” One child says, “An angel!”; another says, “Actually, it looks quite like Charles Darwin!”

We have all played this game without realizing that we were doing pattern recognition. As Paul Simon wrote many years back, in the song “Patterns”:

The night sets softly
With the hush of falling leaves,
Casting shivering shadows
On the houses through the trees,
And the light from a street lamp
Paints a pattern on my wall,
Like the pieces of a puzzle
Or a child’s uneven scrawl.

Leaves, shadows, trees, indecipherable scrawling – these can all seem like messages because of our human tendency for patternicity. So can tortillas and numbers and corporate logos, as we shall see.

This is why astronomers speak of the Horsehead Nebula, which was not modeled after a terrestrial animal, but just sort of looks like a horse!

From ages past, people have imagined patterns in the stars and constructed “constellations” of animals, gods, heroes. And we can get a cross-check on patternicity by seeing how different cultures “read” the same stars –  it’s Orion in European legend, but the same stars are a hunter and his dogs chasing a deer in India. Mr. Rorschach invented his famous ink blots on the basis of human pattern recognition (“Ummm…is it, maybe, two ducks kissing?” “Okay, Mr. Anderson, we’d better make it three sessions per week!”)

We are wired to quickly detect patterns in the data we see and hear. This is a huge help to get us through the day: when our alarm clock goes off, we don’t have to puzzle over, “Now, what could that buzzer possibly mean?”

But for some people, that recognition faculty goes beyond what is useful (more…)

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Your Body, God’s Temple

The devil has a Weapon of Mass Destruction, and it is called online pornography. Of help is the following article is by Jason DeRouchie of Bethlehem Bible College and Seminary. It is one of the best explorations of the topics of masturbation and sexual fantasy that I have read, and I repost it, knowing I could not write one this good.

Blessings!

“If Your Right Hand Causes You to Sin,” by Jason DeRouchie

“Children of the Light” 1 Thess 5:4-11 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 14]

Note: These are sermon outlines, not full messages.

Let’s begin with a “tip” for Bible reading – it’s a good idea to look for repetition, repeated words or ideas. This certainly helps in the case of this passage. I would like you to look for pronouns: we, our, us; you; they, them, those

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

INTRO

If you asked a Greek person of Paul’s day, how might we divide people into groups, one answer is: Greeks and barbarians; someone else might offer, men and women; someone else, slave and free person

If you asked a Jewish rabbi in Paul’s day, how can we divide people into groups, the typical answer would be, Easy – Jews and non-Jews (or Gentiles, or Greeks)

What Paul is saying is that there are two groups of people in the world: people in Christ, who also walk in the light; the rest

Col 3:9b-11 – “you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

Gal 3:28 – in Christ “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This is what he says here in 1 Thess 5 – you are in darkness or in light; you are drunk or sober; you are dozing or you are alert (more…)

Published in: on September 23, 2015 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sure, like, why not?

Looked at from one angle, my life may be divided into two halves.

The first half was labeled: No thanks.

The second half: Yes, lets!

stock-footage-newport-rhode-island-circa-september-sailboat-moving-fast-in-narragansett-bayActual Examples of “No Thanks”: Gary, you want to go sailing in the bay with us? No thanks. How about playing some hoops? Don’t feel like it. You want to go and hear this messianic group, “The Liberated Wailing Wall”? Thank you, no. You’ve gotta come to our clam bake! Thanks anyway.

What made me change directions? Probably just growing up some, but two events made me rethink things.

First: a College Retreat. I almost never went to any social or sport event in high school or college. I’m just not interested, I thought. I have things to do. Then my fiancée Karen and I decided to go on our senior class retreat. And I had an excellent time. I became friendly with people whom I knew mainly as backs of heads from class. So, I asked, why hadn’t I done this before?

PCB senior retreat 1980

PCB senior retreat 1980

Second: My college roommate Sam just would not stop pestering me to go to this Christian concert with him. You’ll love it, he said. He’s not Larry Norman, he said – guess where my head was at! – but he’s amazing. Naw, I replied. I’d better not; I have stuff to do, I retorted. C’mon, man! No. It turns out that was my last opportunity to hear Keith Green perform before he died in that plane crash. I became a big fan of his – but posthumously.

I hear there’s a Jim Carrey movie called “Yes Man”. “Carl Allen is at a standstill. No future…Until the day he enrolls into a personal development program based on a very simple idea: say yes to everything!” Lessons are learned, perils are avoided, the boy gets the girl (Zooey Deschanel!), etc.

I joke around with my kids that they ought to be “Yes let’s! Guys and Gal”, to go to a game or get ice cream or see a show, just because someone suggests it. I try to make my rapid response, “Absolutely, let’s do it!”

One way of viewing the Christian life is that it is a long list of things Not To Do. And certainly, there is some truth here, and we see Christians doing plenty of bad stuff. Just say no.

But at the heart of the matter is a ringing Yes: ‘All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory’ (2 Cor 1:20 NLT). God designed our new life in Christ to be positive, open, vital, growing. The new life is meant to be lived, not locked away. Like the parent who scatters Easter eggs [1] for the little ones to discover, our loving Father delights for us to find new blessings, learn new truths, share our joy with others. May we live firmly in God’s truth, in his own armor, but unintimidated by life.

NOTES:

[1] And yes, I know all about the origins of Easter eggs. It’s an illustration.

“Sure, like, why not?” by Gary Shogren, Professor of New Testament at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

JETS review of my Thessalonians commentary

JETS review of Shogren ZECNT

Is the devil out to get you?

A friend from Costa Rica writes in: I seem to be everywhere running into people who are debating different aspects of spiritual warfare. I have a friend whom I respect very much; nevertheless he sees Satan even in different foods or in commercial products. It’s as if there is a spirit everywhere. If anybody doubts, then it’s a spirit of unbelief. Someone says he’s hungry, and it’s the spirit of greed. The last time I saw him he was saying “you’ve got to step on the Devils tail.” I asked myself, What is this? I know the spiritual beings exist, I know that the fight is not against flesh and blood. But I read in Paul where he says to resist the devil, not to attack him.

Gary: you have every reason to be concerned. (more…)