Wednesday, June 30, 2004

MORE FROM JOHN STOTT. The doctrine of election, far from making evangelism unnecessary, makes it indispensable. For it is only through the preaching and receiving of the gospel that God's secret purpose comes to be revealed and known. From "The Message of Thessalonians" (The Bible Speaks Today series: Leicester: IVP, 1991), p. 31.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

SENATOR CLINTON IN SAN FRANCISCO. "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

SUPPORT FOR KERRY. I received this letter by e-mail today.

Since President Bush took office, I have watched my entire life change for the worse.

I lost my job.
I lost my two sons in that terrible Iraqi War.
I lost my home.
I lost my health insurance.

As a matter of fact, I lost virtually everything and became homeless. Adding insult to injury, when the authorities found me living like an animal, instead of helping me, they arrested me.

I will do anything to insure President Bush's defeat in the next election. I will do anything that Senator Kerry wants to insure that a Democrat is back in the White House come next year.

Bush has to go.

I just thought you and your readers would like to know how one senior citizen views the Bush Administration.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.

Sadaam Hussein

Actually sent to me by my good friend Mike, who said he got it from Ken. We don't know where Ken got it from.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Here is an interesting Christian blog by Bob Thune.

If I ever learn how to do a blog roll, I can add him to it. His article "Does Theology Matter" is good also. Check the articles on the side column.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

MORE FROM JOHN STOTT. "Evangelistic preaching has too often consisted of a prolonged appeal for decision when the congregation have been given no substance upon which the decision is to be made.

But the gospel is not fundamentally an invitation to
men to do anything. It is a declaration of what God has
done in Christ on the cross for their salvation.

The invitation cannot properly be given before the declaration
has been made. Men must grasp the truth before they are
asked to respond to it.

--From "The Preacher's Portrait" (London: Tyndale Press,
1961), p. 48.

GREAT NAME FOR A BLOG. "Dead Man Blogging" is a title based on Galatians 2:20. What a great title for a Christian blogger.
ARMINIAN GRACE. Chad's Thoughts & Images featured this rewrite of Amazing Grace.

Arminian grace! How strange the sound
Salvation hinged on ME
I once was lost then turned around
Was blind then chose to see

What "grace" is it that calls for choice
Out of some good within?
The part that willed to heed God's voice
Proved stronger than my sin

Through many ardent gospel pleas
I sat with heart of stone
But then some hidden good in me
Propelled me toward my home

When we've been there ten thousand years
Because of what we've done
We've no less days to sing our praise
Than when we first begun

- Dennis Walter Cochran

Monday, June 21, 2004

ISRAEL AN THE U.N. Anne Bayefsky spoke today to a United Nations conference on anti-semitism. You can read the text of her speech here. The money quote: "The U. N. has become the leading global purveyor of anti-Semitism." It's a wonder she got out of there alive.

Israel has the distinct disadvantage at the U.N. of being the only Jewish nation in a body with a dozen or so Arab nations plus others with anti-Semite leanings.

The Israel\Palestine problem is also one of those incredible messes that no one can figure out how to solve. Great Britain deserves a lot of blame here as they pushed for both the re-constitution of the nation of Israel and the creation of Jordan as the Palestinian home, but did nothing to enforce them. Similarly, the United Nations created Israel by its decree in the face of Arab opposition and did nothing to enforce the decree, protect Israel, or address Arab concerns.

Some have suggested fencing off the area and letting the combatants fight to the death. That suggestion reminds me of a science fiction story I read long ago where men were put in a huge walled compound and fought to the death. Only the winner got to leave the compound. I guess we could put a pay phone on the fence, and the last nation standing could call out to the U.N. with the results and be recognized as the nation of the area.

But, wouldn't you think the United Nations could have come up with a plan now to help? Why have they not? Is it because, as Ms. Bayefsky believes, the U. N. really endorses the belief of Palestine, Syria and others that Israel must be destroyed and cannot exist as a nation? Or, is it just lack of will or incompetence?

Whatever the reason, the problem remains and seems worse than ever. You would think, as great a problem as it is, the great minds of the world could come together and fashion a solution. And enforce it.

I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

55:1 (Come To God)

After giving us chapter 53, where Isaiah prophesies about the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and giving us chapter 54 about the growth of the kingdom and it eternal perseverance, he gives us an invitation to come to God.

He first uses the image of water. Water is essential to survival. It is especially valuable in arid climates like the Middle East, where it can be hard to find. Therefore, it makes a good metaphor for life. Jesus used it when speaking to the woman at the well at Sychar. The story is recorded in John 4. In verse 10, Jesus told her “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Then, in verse 13, he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus used water as an image for eternal life. Maybe he even wanted the woman to think about this passage in Isaiah.

Isaiah gives this invitation to people who need salvation and cannot attain it on their own. He invites those who are thirsty. This would be those recognize their spiritual need. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Isaiah also invited those who have no money, or means to obtain what they need. He invited them to buy without money and tells them the wine and milk were without cost. The fact is, we have nothing to offer God that will win our salvation. David recognized this in Psalm 14:1-3. Isaiah said it in 53:6: “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way”, and in 64:6 he said “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” The ones who know this truth are invited to come.

55:2 (Only God Satisfies)

Why seek things that do not satisfy? It is a pathetic part of human nature that, despite the fact that we hear all the time from people who are rich, or famous, or talented, that it was not enough and they felt empty and meaningless and lost, yet we still seek those things. See Luke 12:13-21.

Remember the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?”

I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire.
I'll never forget the look on my father's face as he gathered me up
in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement.
I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames.
And when it was all over I said to myself, "Is that all there is to a fire"

And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth.
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears.
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.
And so I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle.
I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don't know what, but when it was over,
I said to myself, "is that all there is to a circus?

Then I fell in love, head over heels in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes.
We were so very much in love.
Then one day he went away and I thought I'd die, but I didn't,
and when I didn't I said to myself, "is that all there is to love?"

I know what you must be saying to yourselves,
if that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no, not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment,
for I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

Instead, Isaiah said to seek what is good, meaning salvation and a relationship with the Lord, and our souls would delight in the richest of fare. Isn’t that a great phrase? Do you see your relationship with the Lord as “the richest of fare” and find your soul delighting in it?

55:3 (Hear and Live)

Again in this first he issues an invitation. This time he tells them to hear, or to pay attention to the message, so they will live. Life is wrapped up in God. Although the lost continue to exist in eternity, they do it in torment that is called in Revelation “the second death”.

God then refers to the everlasting covenant he made to David. See 2 Samuel 7:12. I think this refers to his promise to continue David’s royal line and was fulfilled in Christ, who will reign forever. Hebrews 1:8 quotes Psalm 45:6-7 and applies it to Christ, saying “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, our God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

Peter also preached this truth in his first sermon in Acts 2:25-36.

55:4-5 (A Witness)

God made David a witness to the peoples, as he was a great king and military leader of his time. He brought glory to God with his reliance on Him and his faithfulness. But, look how verse 5 puts it in the future tense, saying “you will summon nations”. Here I think David is a symbol or type of Christ, looking forward to the time when people from all over the world will come to Christ.

Christ will be a leader and commander of the peoples, he will reign over all.

55:6-7 (Seek The Lord)

He continues with the invitation. First, he said for us to seek him and call on him and not to wait.

In verse 7, he calls for repentance. He says to forsake the wicked way and the evil thoughts. He said to turn from them to the Lord. These are all pictures of repentance, which is turning from the direction you are going and changing direction to follow the Lord.

What happens when we repent and turn to the Lord? He has mercy on us. He pardons our sin. Peter preaching in Acts 3:19 said to “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” 1 John 1:8-9 says that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 32:5 says “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Proverbs 28:13 says “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

The hymn says “mercy there was great and grace was free,
Pardon there was multiplied for me
There my burdened soul found liberty,
At Calvary.”

55:8-9 (God’s Higher Thoughts)

God tells us here that we do not think or act like Him. First of all, God is above all and we cannot hope to fully comprehend him. Second, the effect of sin upon mankind has reduced our ability to think and act like God wants us to.

This verse is why I think we have to make sure to understand God by his word and not by human logic or philosophy. Much of the history of the church includes trying to impose philosophical constructs on God. Much of what people call doctrine is not a study of God’s word, but extrapolations based on their personal philosophy. See Luke 16:15.

We cannot understand and experience God through philosophy. 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 explains this to us.

So, how do we understand and relate to God? First, through a relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 1:1-2. Jesus leads us to the Father both in reconciliation through his death, and in his words, his teaching on earth, that tells us of the Father. He said, in John 12:49-50, “for I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” He also said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is John 8:31-32.

That is why it is imperative that preachers preach the Word, and teachers teach it. Jesus gave this Word to his apostles and disciples. The apostles passed it on and entrusted it to faithful men to preach and teach it, as Paul did with Timothy. Those men continued to pass it on to other faithful men down through the ages, through times of spiritual renewal and spiritual darkness, through times of encouragement and times of persecution, until this very day. People argue today about apostolic succession as a matter of who has authority. But, I am worried about the succession of those who treasure, protect, and preach God’s word.

Second, the Holy Spirit, given to believers, teaches us. Jesus said in John 14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

55:10-11 (The Effective Word)

God tells us here that his word will be effective. He compares it to rain, that makes a seed turns into a stalk of wheat. Even more so will his word will come and flourish. He said it will not return to him empty, but will accomplish his purpose. This is yet another way he tells us that he will bring his will to fruition.

God did not give us his word to be abstract, or intellectual, or a curiosity. His word has the power of his will. He gives it to accomplish his purposes, and it will.

55:12-13 (Joy And Peace)

What is the result of all this, this repentance and salvation? The result is joy and peace. We experience it now in part, but in eternity, we will experience complete and unblemished joy and peace in the perfect world of the Lord.

OK, now they are wearing me out. It turns out the folk music thing is a fund raiser for public television. So the guys sing two songs, then they go to Tom and Dick Smothers plugging public television. For $350, you get a collection of folk music. Except the guy plugging it keeps calling it "folk-rock" music. But there is no rock here, it really is folk music. I mean, "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley" has no rock in it. Not any.
WHAT'S IN A NAME. I have written before about the grandiose names used by the U. N. in naming their sub-organizations and the people than run them. This is somewhat to be expected because most of them come from powerless third world countries desperate for a little attention and status.

Another organization with some truly great names is the Orthodox Church. For example, the "Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constaninople". That sounds a lot more important than the Tarrant Baptist Association, doesn't it?

Here is another: "His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas." This is the title of the head guy in Damascus. He is also known as the "Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church". I mean, wow. All we have is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I guess we need to get with it. I'm thinking of having a naming contest for the denomination. Even the Shriners have better names than us. Of course, being Baptists, we'll have to appoint a committee.

But the committee needs to have a really great name to start the thing off. When Baptists want you to think the group is a really big deal, we call it a commission. I'll try to think of something while I listen to folk music on public tv. We just had the Brothers Four, or rather the High and Exalted Four Brothers of the Inspired and Historical Music of the People. Or something.
Public television right now this minute has a great show (if you are over 50) going with old folk music groups singing. The Kingston Trio just did "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" and The Highwaymen sang "Michael Row The Boat Ashore". What nostalgia.
JEWS LEAVING FRANCE. The Moderate Voice has a good post about Jews leaving France as anti-semitism grows there. Thanks to Instapundit for the link. The upshot is that France now has anywhere from 5 to 10 million Muslims, as much as 10 percent of their total population. The short story is Muslim hate Jews, Muslims move to France, Jews must leave or face harassment and danger. Ultimately, of course, all non-Muslims will face harassment and danger as the Muslim population grows there. You cannot be neutral in this battle. They will not let you. They hate everyone, sometimes even themselves, as you see in Iraq and Pakistan where one sect or tribe kills the other routinely, sometimes even invading them at worship to kill them.

The question is, will France fight for their right to exist, or will they again surrender with a whimper not a bang.

The lesson for America is there, also.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

CALL ME ISHMAEL. The French government has fined Brigitte Bardot $6,000 for comments she made in her book! We take freedom of speech for granted here in the U.S.A., but even in a supposed democracy like France, criticism of the government can land you in hot water. No wonder they oppose democracy in Iraq. The do not believe in it at home.

Bardot's books is called "Un cri dans le silence". That means "A Cry in the Silence". Bardot criticizes the "Islamization" of France. France has about 5 million Muslims and is having real trouble with them.

The book is also critical of the homosexual rights movement, a scared cow of all liberal people.

Let's go buy the book. It already reached the top of bestseller list in France. It sold over 300,000 copies. The controversy will probably make it sell more, unless the government censors it.

This is exactly the kind of behavior one expects from a Muslim country.

CALL ME A CAB. Glen Campbell has been sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years probation for driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident. He plead guilty and told the judge he would not drink again.

The sentence is not very tough, actually, as he is on work furlough from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so he can rehearse. He'll get to sleep on a county bunk, but not eat the jail food.

Campbell's attorney made an interesting statement. He said this occurred during a time when "alcohol ruled Campbell's life". This is a shame, as Campbell has been all over Christian television and recording Christian songs. It is always a bad witness when a prominent Christian has a big fall. It also increases skepticism when it is someone like an entertainer who has converted late in life.

Isaiah told us "all we like sheep have gone astray". The nature of men and women is corrupted and subject to sin. When we see someone fall, we should always realize it could be us. None of us is immune. That is not an excuse. It is rather a caution to say examine yourself and insure you do not fall in the same manner.

CALL ME ESTHER. Madonna is confused. A Catholic girl who changed her name to be a take off of the Blessed Virgin (if you are Catholic, anyway), she now embraces the Kabbala. That is a mystic Jewish book. In her concert, she announced she is Esther, her Hebrew name. So, you have this Christian\Jewish religious conflict going on.

Then, she plays the song "Imagine", which is John Lennon's ode to atheism. You remember, imagine there is no hell below us, above us only sky, and no religion, too. She played that in Madison Square Garden to a video showing children starving and dying. I guess that is a statement that she blames religion for starvation and death. So now you have a Catholic\Mystic Jewish\Atheist thing going on.

Now, I know musicians often just go for effect and emotion and you cannot expect a message that really makes sense, but this is too contradictory for me. That did not keep reviewers from gushing over the show.

I have to say, though, that, if I liked Madonna enough to go see her and pay for it, I would be bummed out by a video of starving and dying children. Surely people go see her for the skimpy outfits and erotic dancing, and maybe for the singing although I doubt it, and not for dying children.

I could give them dying children pictures much cheaper. But, I won't wear the bustier.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

QUOTE OF THE DAY II. "It's been written that the most sublime figure in American history was George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. He personified a people who knew that it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness, that they must seek help from God – their Father and Preserver.

Where did we begin to lose sight of that noble beginning, of our convictions that standards of right and wrong do exist and must be lived up to?

Do we really think that we can have it both ways, that God will protect us in a time of crisis even as we turn away from Him in our day-to-day life?

Ronald Reagan, February 4, 1982, speech to the National Religious Broadcasters convention.
QUOTE OF THE DAY. On a personal level, as a Christian, it will not be Barbra Streisand I’m standing in front of when I have to make an accounting of my life.” - Patricia Heaton.
MORE FROM JOHN STOTT. It is grievously mistaken to suggest that the purpose of evangelism is to cajole sinners into doing what they can perfectly well do if only they put their minds to it and pull themselves together. This the Bible emphatically denies.

Consider these two statements: 'No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Cor. 12:3). 'No one can come to me unless the Father ... draws him' (Jn. 6:44).

We need to hear much more in the church of this 'no-one can', this natural inability of men to believe in Christ or to come to Christ. Only the Spirit can reveal Christ to men; only the Father can draw men to Christ. And without this double work of the Father and the Spirit no one can reach the Son.

It is quite true that Jesus also said 'you are not willing to come to me that you may have life' (Jn. 5:40, lit.), and that the human mind finds it impossible neatly to resolve the tension between this 'cannot' and this 'will not'. But both are true, and man's refusal to come does not cancel out his inability without grace to do so.

From "Our Guilty Silence" (London: Hodder and Stoughton,
1967), p. 113.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

NICOLE KIDMAN: CHILD MOLESTER? Nicole Kidman has made a movie about a woman who falls in love with a 10 year old boy. I guess what keeps this from being hard core porn in the producers eyes is that she believes the boy is the reincarnation of her husband. That is reason 234 not to believe in reincarnation.

The movie includes a scene with Nicole in the tub naked with the kid. You can go to jail for that where I live.

Rumor has it the movie will not be distributed. I would think it would be hard to rate it where anyone could see it on the nice side of town.

I guess Nicole must somehow have figured she did not embarass herself enough doing a remake of the cheesy Stepford Wives.

Maybe Nicole should get together with Roman Polanski. They may have something in common.
JUST KIDDING. Yes, I was kidding about killing all the lawyers. You know, of course, the quote is from Shakespeare, and was a line delivered by crooks who wanted to take over. I WOULD like for lawyers to think about the ramifications of the suits they file.

Really, some of my best friends are lawyers.
I HAVE DISCOVERED THE ANTICHRIST. Back on March 23rd, a ceremony was held in the I kid you not Dirkson Senate Building to honor Sun Myung Moon. Reverend Moon is the founder of the Unification Church, affectionately called "Moonies". This ceremony was attended by 81 of your elected congressmen. It was also attended by 26 ambassadors from various countries and 450 other honored guests.

Moon was given crowns and a robe. (Have a familiar ring?) He was given an award for peace.

Moon spoke to the crowd. Here are some tidbits. (Warning: you might need duct tape!)

Moon said "I am God's ambassador, sent to earth with his full authority. I am sent to accomplish his command to save the world's six billion people, restoring them to heaven with the original goodness in which they were created."

Moon also said "Open your hearts and receive the secrets that heaven is disclosing in this age through me." I know he has secrets, but I might disagree about the source. He might have gotten turned around.

This scary event happened in a government building in the Capitol. I haven't heard a word from the ACLU.

Moon, by the way, wants to revamp the UN into a faith based organization to bring peace to the world. Guess which faith.

If all this has not scared you enough, look at the other participants in the ceremony.

Presiding was Walter E. Fauntleroy, who is a Baptist minister of some sort. Moon was introduced by a Rabbi blowing a shofar, the Jewish ceremonial horn. A former Catholic Archbishop named Stallings said that Moon stood in the spirit of Jesus the Christ.

The Rabbi went on to announce Moon as the Jewish messiah. Does this all sound like a Tim LeHaye book to you? It does to me, and I am not even a dispensationalist.

One reassuring note: Moon revealed that Hitler and Stalin had reformed in "the spirit world" and had been reborn.

The announcer summarized by saying that Moon is the "King of Peace" and had begun an ideal kingdom, uniting heaven and earth. He called for global governance centered on God with guess who as the leader. You guessed it.

Credit for breaking this story goes to John Gorenfeld. You can read his blog at here.

Monday, June 14, 2004

MAYBE WE SHOULD KILL ALL THE LAWYERS. A physician in South Carolina assaulted her son and attempted suicide. She was taking prescription for Effexor, an anti-depressant. She sued the pharmacy that filled her prescription, even though it was correctly filled. Her legal theory was that the pharmacy should be held strictly liable for properly filling the prescription, because the drug had an ill effect on her. The drug is approved by the FDA for this use, by the way. The court dismissed her case.

This is an example of suing in hopes to gain money when the resulting policy would be harmful. If a pharmacist is to be liable for a properly filled prescription, your pharmacist will not fill any prescription for you that has any risky side effects. The result would be that you could not get the drugs you needed for treatment because the pharmacist would protect himself.

This is an example of lawyers, and clients, willing to file a suit in hopes of making money even if the result is bad for everyone. Making money by making the rest of us miserable is a bad way to make money.
STILL ONE NATION UNDER GOD. The Supreme Court tossed the pledge case back into the lap of Michael Newdow today, holding that he did not have standing. I predicted this when the case started, only I thought the 9th Circuit would be smart enough to do it and avoid being reversed. I was wrong about them. They were wrong about the case.

The Supreme Court, in a rare cute moment, issued the opinion today, Flag Day. Flag Day celebrates the original flag resolution in 1777. Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Thomas flatly stated their belief that the pledge is not unconstitutional. Scalia recused himself.

I think we will see futher challenges to the flag, designed to avoid the standing issue. Heaven forbid we should pledge to be under God.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

BELIEVE IT OR NOT! According to the Pew Research Center, only 32% of people say they believe all or most of what they see on CNN. This lead CNN to crow about being the most trusted news organization. Friends, you cannot brag about your reputation if less than one third of people believe what you say. You cannot win a jury trial that way for sure. CNN's reputation suffered when it was revealed it had not reported on known torture stories in order to get inside position with the Iraqi government. When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. I quit watching CNN when I heard that. So, I cannot rate them, as I cannot believe anything they say.

You just cannot trust what you see. People in Missouri found this out this week as their 23 acre lake disappeared. Yes, it really disappeared. An expert says the limestone underneath was eaten away by the water, causing a sink hole that drained the water. The lake looked great on the top and it had been there, semmingly stable, for years. But, all along, the corruption you could not see was destroying it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

UNBEAUTIFUL SAVIOR. Isaiah 53:2 says: "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (NIV) This was written well before the appearance of Jesus as Savior. Yet, it tells us that his physical appearance would be ordinary. He would not be tall and handsome. He would look like an ordinary first century Jewish man. He was probably fairly short, dark, and plain.

God has a message to bring and a work to do. He did not want it confused with physical beauty. If Jesus had been beautiful, people would have followed him for that. A recent survey showed that most women went to see the movie "Troy" because they wanted to see Brad Pitt, not because they liked Greek literature.

The message is still beautiful. Grace should thrill your heart. Forgiveness should give you joy. Eternal life puts a lift in your step. But, we want to make the messenger beautiful. We want to dress up the church with cool music and technological gimmicks that will attract people.

If God was intent on placing the focus on his message and not his messenger's physical appearance, maybe we should do the same. Then at least we would know that when people joined us, it would be only because they believed the message, not because they enjoyed the show.
HEARD AT A MEETING TODAY: Nirvana is a relative term. I have no idea what that means.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

SAUDI VANDALISM. Here is an interesting article about Saudi Muslims destroying historical and significant religious sites. This article by Stephen Schwartz reports that Wahhabis have a long history of vandalizing and destroying monuments. This includes gravestones! They have destroyed houses, gravestones, cemeteries, Muslim shrines, and even mosques. They believe these are idols. They have even done this in other countries, destroying graveyards in Kosovo and tombs in Kurdistan. Read the whole article. It shows how extreme Wahhabism is and how dangerous it is, since it is backed by the Saud family fortune and the government of Saudi Arabia.
TRAVERSING THE SUN. Fox News reports that lots of people turned out to watch Venus traverse the Sun. They were mostly foreigners and Democrats, as all the Republicans were going to pay last respects to Ronald Reagan or watching it on television. This goes to show that there really is a lot of leisure time available in the world. For every sweat shop in the world, there are ten people lined up at telescopes to see this black fleck go across the Sun. It is somewhat like getting a fly on your big screen television.

These events affect people differently. Some react scientifically. You know, Like the King Of Siam in the movie saying “It’s scientific!” For example, two American experts observed the event in Greece because they want to solve the mystery of “the black drop effect". That makes Venus look teardrop shaped instead of circular when it gets to edge of the sun. In reality, it is a sweat drop shape, because it is so hot there.

Some people find great personal pleasure and satisfaction from attending these events. Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts, said it was like a fine French wine for the people who know about it and enjoy it. The only difference is you don’t have to feel guilty because no one French benefits from it.

Some people, of course, don’t get it. Dorcas Tam, age 7, in Hong Kong said "How come the sun had a black dot in it?" Her mom replied “because I said so, that’s why”.

All over the world, wives said to their husbands “Honey do you know Venus is crossing the sun?” and received the same reply from behind the newspaper “Huh”.

Some people are just really eager to participate in what they feel is an important event. They want to say they were there. They want to write it in their journals, like “Today, I witnessed a seminal event. I saw Venus actually go across the face of the sun. Like a mobile pimple. It was awesome. It changed my life. Somehow I am different. I feel it.” It just sounds better than writing “today I had to wear the same jockey shorts for the third day in a row because I forgot to do laundry.”

The extreme example of this was in Hong Kong. Rain and clouds obscured the event, but 100 people or so showed up at the Hong Kong Space Museum. I bet they didn’t put that in their journal. Except maybe the depressed ones, who wrote: “Today I went to the museum to see Venus cross the sun. It was cloudy. I want to die.”

Australia promoted the event as especially relevant to them. Australia’s east coast was discovered by British explorer James Cook on his way home from viewing the 1769 transit in Tahiti. He was looking for a Starbucks. Those people really got around back then didn’t they? I wouldn’t go as far as Dallas to see this. Of course, he did not have television.

Evidently, most Australians were not too impressed, either. Only 40 people showed up to look. And they all thought there was free beer.

Other people have religious experiences. For example, Nemr Ramzi, a ten year old from Palestine said "This is so educational. It teaches you about the universe and God Almighty's wonders."

Nemr is a little challenged in the area of physics, however. He also said "One day, I want to be a pilot and reach up there." I hope someone tells him to only go at night.

Here is another one. "Spectacles such this reinforce my belief that there is a Creator, and we are just tiny specks within this universe," said Zulkarnain Hassan, 26 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We’ll probably have this on the video screens in church Sunday while we sing.

Monday, June 07, 2004

WHERE'S WALDO? IN MY CHURCH. A little while into the church service Sunday, I realized something. I am afraid of the new video screens. I am screenophobic!

A little background may be in order. Our church is renovating the sanctuary. We have new cushions, a new sound system, and video screens.

I expected them to show the words to songs. I can handle that. I do not know why people think other people will sing more if they can see the words to the songs on a video screen instead of a piece of paper, but can handle it.

I expected the pastors sermon outline, or bullet points. Although I do not need it, I realize the trendy thing right now is to make your sermon like a power point presentation for a business meeting, complete with bullets, and pictures, and visual effects, such as the Bible verse fading away and the next bullet point rising from its pixel ashes to display itself before our wondering eyes.

I do not need this, either, but I can tolerate it. It is a little funny to see the people in the congregation looking, not at the pastor who is speaking, but the screen on the wall, but, if that is what he wants, I can tolerate it.

But then something else happened. We broke into singing a great old hymn. The video screen lit up with the words. But, not just the words; it also began to cycle nature pictures. It showed pretty waterfalls, scenic sunsets, restful meadows. Then, it happened. I realized I was not thinking about God at all. I was thinking "that is a cool waterfall, I want to go there. I wonder where that is? I wonder if I found the package that video came in, would it tell where that is? What kind of video is it? Is it a DVD? Oooh, look at that sunset."

Then I stopped and realized that would not do. I picked up my "bulletin" and sang the words from the paper. I thought about the words and restored my worship.

Why do we need pictures of nature during the songs? I am afraid we will forget the words of the great songs and look at the pretty pictures. I am afraid we might think looking at and appreciating nature is worship of God. (Yes, before you get started on that comment, I know you can look at the stars and be impressed with God's creation. But, looking at a nature picture and thinking it is pretty falls short of worship of the Creator.)

There were people in America that practically worshipped nature, and certainly believed you could know God through nature. They were called Transendentalists. You read them in high school, notably Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here is a rule I have: never learn theology from a guy named Waldo. Trust me, it works every time.

Old Ralph said: Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

I like nature with a lower case "n", not an upper case "N". I do not want to worship nature.

My name is Larry, and I am afraid of the video screens.
KOMPLIMENTING KERRY. Since I criticize him periodically, I think I need to compliment Mr. Kerry today. He is taking a week off of campaigning to honor President Reagan, who died this week. You could make cynical suggestions about ulterior motives, but I see it as a gesture of decency and respect, too often lacking in the political world.

I also saw one of the most poignant moments on the news tonight, as Mrs. Reagan lay her head on her husband's flag draped casket. The genuine affection these two had was always a marvel. Despite 10 years of disease, he remained the object of her affection. I can only imagine how empty her house must feel. Godspeed, Nancy.

Friday, June 04, 2004

POWERLESS. There are about 300,000 people in Fort Worth without power after two days. No, I do not mean political power, or economic power, or a person sense of empowerment, but electric juice running through the lines. We take it for granted, don't we. We assume the lights will always come on, the phone will work, the water will run, the toilets will flush, and the streets safe. When they are not, we feel inconvenienced, and even mad, but we assume also that it will come back on soon. That does not happen everywhere and we are blessed to live this way. One thing many of us overlook while complaining about politics and economics is, we live better than anyone else. I'm grateful. And I don't want to move.
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO. You have to smile at the effort of the Pope to school the President on morality. I know he sees it as his job, but isn't there an element of, as my daddy used to say, the "pot calling the kettle black"? This guys's minions have sexually abused hundreds of children in the last few years. These were not enemy soldiers exposed to humiliation, but youngsters in their care and under their supposed protection. I wonder if he said it with a straight face.

Maybe there should be an investigation about how much the Pope knew about the abuse and the cover up. As we have a panel investigating how much the President, and past presidents, knew about the terror threat, I wish someone would investigate how much the Pope knew of the abuse and the reassignment of errant priests.

This is reason number 1,236 why I could never be president.

I would have asked.
ABORTION RISKS UNDERSTATED. Dr. Gunta Lazdane is the European Regional Advisor to the World Health Organization, which is part of the United Nations. Dr. Lazdane has recently stated that WHO and other organizations under state the risk of abortion. Dr. Lazdane stated that up to 20% of maternal deaths were due to abortion. This is a big admission by anyone tied to WHO, which aggressively promotes abortion world wide.
PAPAL DRESS CODE. The President meets the Pope. The Press Corps attends, despite their disdain for religion, because it purports to be news. The Vatican, ahem, has a dress code, boys and girls. I guess those sharply dressed cardinals have seen the average reporter. I know, around here, no matter how business like the dress of the participants, you are lucky if the reporter has on clothes that look like he only slept in them this week.

Men must wear dark suits and dark shoes. I gues it would be irreverent to wear a tan suit. I'm not sure why, as the Pope will no doubt be in his summer (and winter)whites. He will have on a sash, and the skull cap, and the big cross. He may even sit on the big chair with the upside down cross on it.

Speaking of which, I notice that the upside down cross sets the conspiracy theorists into high gear. There is much writing on the Internet to the effect it is a satanic symbol. I'm not Catholic, but the obvious explanation would seem to me to be that it is the "chair of Peter" and Peter asked to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to emulate Christ in death. If you are Catholic, or know about this, let me know.

Women must wear longer dresses and closed toed shoes. Exposed toes could set off all kinds of bad behavior at the Vatican.

It would be funny if the President responded with a dress code saying the Pope must wear a dark suit and shoes, no robes. And skull caps may not be worn indoors. But he won't, because he is more humble than the other guy.

The real kicker is: women reporters must wear veils in the Pope's presence. Wow. Veils. Like the Muslims. Hmm.
PAPAL DRESS CODE. The President meets the Pope. The Press Corps attends, despite their disdain for religion, because it purports to be news. The Vatican, ahem, has a dress code, boys and girls. I guess those sharply dressed cardinals have seen the average reporter. I know, around here, no matter how business like the dress of the participants, you are lucky if the reporter has on clothes that look like he only slept in them this week.

Men must wear dark suits and dark shoes. I gues it would be irreverent to wear a tan suit. I'm not sure why, as the Pope will no doubt be in his summer (and winter)whites. He will have on a sash, and the skull cap, and the big cross. He may even sit on the big chair with the upside down cross on it.

Speaking of which, I notice that the upside down cross sets the conspiracy theorists into high gear. There is much writing on the Internet to the effect it is a satanic symbol. I'm not Catholic, but the obvious explanation would seem to me to be that it is the "chair of Peter" and Peter asked to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to emulate Christ in death. If you are Catholic, or know about this, let me know.

Women must wear longer dresses and closed toed shoes. Exposed toes could set off all kinds of bad behavior at the Vatican.

It would be funny if the President responded with a dress code saying the Pope must wear a dark suit and shoes, no robes. And skull caps may not be worn indoors. But he won't, because he is more humble than the other guy.

The real kicker is: women reporters must wear veils in the Pope's presence. Wow. Veils. Like the Muslims. Hmm.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Harvard University was chartered in 1636. Consider this entry in the original Harvard Student Handbook. "Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies, is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3;and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation for our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments."

Those founders took seriously the instruction of Paul to Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:16 NKJV) They believed the Bible to be the word of truth. They believed the educated person would use his learning to study, understand, and teach the truth of the Bible.

Harvard may well have lost this vision. It is really easy to do. Even in Baptist life, we often to not rightly divide the word of truth, but rely on tradition, or generalities, or a hodge podge of beliefs garnered from many sources. Most Baptist writing is devotional rather than theological.

Visit any Baptist Book Store, now known as Lifeway, today, and see books by people of wildly differing theologies. A book by a Church of Christ minister is next to one by a Presbyterian, that is next to one by a church growth specialist. How do the lay people know what is truth? Many do not, and combine the parts they like into their own theology. Then, we complain that our people do not believe in absolute truth.

We should study the Bible in detail and divide the word of truth. Read it all and try to figure out what it means. Many times I have read a passage and asked a pastor or professor about its meaning, especially in light of some other passage. As often as not, I am treated to a shrug. Does anyone know the answers? Are the answers reserved for seminary?

So I read books. I read the Bible. And try to divide the word of truth. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, as I disagree with the way some things are done, based on scripture. But, I guess it puts me in good company. Men have been getting into trouble trying to read, learn, and apply the scripture to life for centuries. Fortunately, Baptists don't martyr those who do this, they just give them that funny look. You know what I mean.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

TOXIC. I know you've been waiting to hear this: Britney Spears is fat. Rumor has it she is eating out of depression. It is a good cure. It always works for me. And why shouldn't she be depressed? She is rich, good looking, successful, and got to kiss Madonna. Ok I said that last part to gross you out, I admit. I always get depressed when I am making millions of dollars.

Reportedly, BS was to pose for Playboy, but has postponed it until she loses some weight. Posing for Playboy is a bad sign for a female entertainer, because it means she thinks her career is sagging. Britney is in a tough market. Christina is sluttier, Jessica is both prettier and dumber, and worst of all, Jessica may have beaten her out for the slutty role of the year, wearing those Daisy Dukes for the Dukes of Hazzard movie.

So, what's a girl to do? Here are my suggestions. (I have advice for everyone don't I? First the Pope, now Britney. What do they have in common? I don't like the way either one of them dress.) Here are my ideas, Brit.

First, lose weight and write a book about it. Then, make a video and do infomercials. You need a new exercise, though, as Pilates and those machines have all been used. But, please, really look thin and trim first. Have you seen Suzanne Somers using that thigh thing? She has big thighs? What is that about?

Second, get religion and go on television. You could be on TBN with Jan Crouch, she of the pink wig and industrial make up and lace dresses. You could tease your hair up big, wear a long but tight dress, and give your testimony. That would generate lots of further appearances on other religious tv shows, a book, and maybe you could star in the next Left Behind movie.

SPOILED. In what passes for my personal life, I finished my first day flying solo as chief counsel today. My transition period is over and the buck stops here. I have already been involved in a project where a guy got fired, appropriated some better furniture, and covered my desk with contracts to review. I went to 3 meetings today, and one more was canceled. Plus, I got an e-mail and a phone call from the old job asking how to handle situations there. Tomorrow, I have to find a way to do all the work generated by the meetings today.

All in all, a pretty fun day.

The Little Woman has a few adjustments to make, and she does not like change. My contract calls for me to be in the office by 7:30. This means, when she works nights, we will not see each other until the next night, because I will leave before she returns.

Most people think this is silly, but we are the couple that, today for instance, could only meet if I drove over to her workplace garage, caught her on the way in, and gave her a hug. So, of course, I did. Yes, I know she is a little spoiled, but I love her and don't really have any other hobbies.

The Daughters picked up on this early in life and decided it applied to them also. So, they are all a bit spoiled also. These four women are really my luxuries. Other guys have golf, or airplanes, I have a wife and three daughters.

At one of the meetings today, they asked if I could play golf to fill in a foursome at a charity tournament. I told them, sadly no, but if anyone needed spoiling there, I was their man.
It looks like we are out of the woods for tonight's weather. Bad news is, they are expecting it tomorrow night.
GET GORED. The Associated Press reports that "Former Vice President Al Gore called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet, and national security adviser Condoleeza Rice on Wednesday in a fiery denunciation of Bush administration policies."

Well, I call for Al Gore to resign! Oh wait, I forgot, Al is unemployed. He just tours around talking for money. Or screaming for money, if you count last weeks Mad Dog Dean imitation. Al said Iraq is out of control, but I think it is Al that is out of control.

I kind of wish he would grow that beard again, because he looks a little like a terrorist. If he messed up his hair and wore casual clothes, he could never get on a plane. But, he would have to get a second name. Then stories would read "Al Gore, also known as Ali Al-Gori, today foamed at the mouth when speaking to the American Socialist Party rally. As he was dragged from the stage, he was heard yelling "I won the popular vote! I won the popular vote! Down with the electoral college."
HOW CAN THIS BE LEGAL? George Soros says he has donated $16 million for the campaign against President Bush.
The Little Woman just called. She is working at the hospital tonight. They are moving the patients into the hallways.
I HEAR THE ROLLING THUNDER. We are really having a severe thunderstorm. The storm sirens are blaring, hail is falling, the wind is blowing, the power if flickering. The radar is showing rotation in several places. A tornado has been spotted a few miles east of here. I made the Baby clear out space in the front closet and we are holding flashlights. The power went out once, but came back on. Hold on Dallas, it is coming your way.
NOW THAT IS PROPHETIC! "About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies and insist upon their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamor and opposition." Sir Isaac Newton 1642-1727.
FRANCIS WHO? I just read this book review where a guy said "Saint" Francis of Assisi was one of the most influencial people of history. That puzzled me, as I cannot remember thinking of old Francis at all in, say, the last year. I remember that a blessing he wrote and that he stripped in public once to show he had no possessions (or tattoos).

So, here is my question. I want to know if I am out of the loop. If Francis of Assisi affects your life in an important way, please let me know in the comments. Thanks and be careful out there.