Friday, January 30, 2009

Ack! Yet again....

Word has come through people who watch for religious liberty in the world that Saudi Arabia has arrested a Christian for his faith. Well, they arrested him for telling the world that he has changed from Islam to Christianity. Now, I know over the years, Christians have done some lousy things and claimed to be doing them for God. I also would stand by my statement that God is the original sufferer of identity theft. Just like 26 million Americans have loans and debts in their names that they didn't take out, so millions of people have done things in God's name that He neither requested nor approved. But, this idea of locking up and executing people for changing their religion is patently evil no matter who does it. And especially for a country that claims to be tolerant, and a religion that wants to be considered tolerant. Anyway, read the whole story here.

Now, what really bugs me about this is google. Now, I use a lot of free stuff from google. And I'm glad they have lots of free stuff to give. But, if you try to access this person's blog, written on blogger, the same program I'm using now, you can't get it. Google has blocked the man's efforts to tell about his faith, and the persecution from it. Try christforsaudi.blogspot.com. If it tells you anything other than 'blocked' put that in the comments. As of 3pm central time, January 29th, it's blocked.

Why is google doing this? This man is writing about his own life. What did he say that offended google or violated the terms of service? People that deny the holocaust have blogs. Racists have blogs. Radical right-wing Christian fundamentalists have blogs (at least, if you're reading this, we do).

Muzzling his speech is not the right thing to do. The only potential motive is profit. I understand that Google is a business. But imagine if someone had blogged about leaving Christianity for Atheism. Would that be blocked? Ah, no that blog is still there...Satanism blog? yep. Pro-Islam blog? Yep.

Come on, google. Religious freedom and freedom of speech have to be allowed to viewpoints you don't like as much as viewpoints you do. And don't claim that since he's a criminal, he doesn't get those rights. It is wrong for his religious viewpoints to be a crime. And it's wrong for an American company to side with an intolerant government to abuse its own citizens. It was wrong the last 8 years, it's still wrong.

Sorry, I had some other posting to do. But this had to come out. If google kicks me out as well, find my blog at www.calvarymonticello.com.

Book Review: Financial Armageddon

A church member loaned me Financial Armageddon by John Hagee. Some of you know who John Hagee is, some may not. John Hagee is pastor and founder of Cornerstone Christian Church in San Antonio.

Now, a full critique and discussion of Pastor Hagee's teaching is best left for other times. I would explain, but there is no time. Instead, let me sum up: Pastor Hagee is a Biblical literalist in his preaching. He holds to certain parts of the charismatic movement, such as a strong likelihood of a believer speaking in tongues, as well as holding to a strong pro-Israel stance. Pastor Hagee and I would agree on several things, including the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ's impending return. Also, we would agree on the truth of the Bible.

We would also not agree on some points of interpretation of that Bible.

However, I tried to read Financial Armageddon with an open mind. I was somewhat dismayed with his reading of the Old Testament prophets into the current financial mess. Not that they may not have said something about this, but because I think he's over-reaching Scripture to get to his point. He is a firm believer that the modern nation of Israel is the fulfillment of God restoring the Jews to their homeland as promised in Scripture. As such, anything that is a threat to Israel is a threat that Christians must help defeat. He wants to see America make sure no one messes with Israel. I'm not specifically against that, and I know that Iran is a nation ruled by people bent on world domination and evil. Not that my opinion will cause Pres. Ahmadinejad to lose any sleep, although my blog was read once in Iran. However, over the centuries there have been various threats to God's people, and I'm not convinced Iran will truly sustain as the ultimate threat.

Also, Pastor Hagee uses various forms of prophetic interpretation, and here's where this bogs down. He holds to a literal approach to interpretation, unless the prophecy needs to be symbolic to make his points. Case in point: Ezekiel 38 speaks of God 'putting hooks' into the jaws of Israel's enemies to drag them out to war, which Pastor Hagee determines is symbolic of oil dragging them into combat. Then, the results of the war leave so many dead that the same passage speaks of it taking 7 months to burn the bodies and weapons, which is interpreted literally as how Israel will spend 210 days. The difficulty grows when one asks how Russia is connected to this, and the answer is that the mysterious 'Gog and Magog' are symbolic of Russia.

So, some of his prophetic interpretations are, in my mind, questionable. However, the overall conclusions in his book about what we Christians should do are spot on. To summarize, he states that believers in Christ should: 1.) Tithe; 2.)Get out of debt and stay out; 3.) Be generous to those in need, especially within the family of God; 4.) Not expect something for nothing. He also puts forth that the US, if we are to survive as a nation, must break our dependence on foreign oil. This is certainly something I agree with. Personally, in my lifetime, I have seen the US sell our national soul to radical factions in the Mid-East for oil, and to atheistic communism in China for cheap stuff at Wal-mart. We normalized relations with Vietnam without the long demanded accounting for where our people are, so that Vietnamese laborers could make us cheap clothes.

Folks, we cannot be economically enslaved to ideologies that differ from ours. There is not one true free republic in OPEC. (correction to generalization: Ecuador seems to be. Sorry to the offended Ecuadorians). China doesn't allow people the freedom to determine their own family size, much less anything else. Yet America is utterly dependent on these nations. How long will our freedom endure if we continue in this manner?

All-in-all, John Hagee has put forth some good, some not-so-good in his book Financial Armageddon. I wouldn't recommend this one as your primary financial guidebook, though. There's too much of questionable validity in his handling of Scripture. Better recommendation would be Crown Financial or to read your own Bible. The nuggets of truth mixed in Financial Armageddon are refined clearly in Proverbs, James, and the rest of Scripture.


Doug

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More bailout

I'm wondering why we are upset that Merrill Lynch/Bank of America spent 1.2 million on an office refurbishment during a recession? Where do you think that money went? It went to pay contractors, who needed work. It bought furniture, carpet, supplies. It paid salaries, which paid bills, bought lunches, groceries. Isn't the point to get the industries of America moving? Spending again?

And why are we wanting Citibank to not take delivery of their corporate jet? and sell off some the ones they have? Used planes are problematic, just like used cars, used books, used CDs...nobody makes money producing them, unless the seller buys a new one! Are we wanting jobs for anyone except for the people who make airplanes? When I was a teenager, my Scoutmaster worked for a company that did some of the corporate modifications on jets. Does he not deserve a job? What about carpenters, electricians on the above remodeling? These aren't wasted dollars. They are dollars being spent. True, they are not going to eliminate the children Nancy Pelosi doesn't want born.

But they will go to support jobs, wage earners, people with families, people who have insurance premiums to pay, tuition, bills, food to buy. Rather than bogging down into red tape. Isn't that what needs to happen? Not more money into government programs that allows it to be lost. If that's where it's going, then the bailout should include buying one of these for everyone.

Well, time to get back to work. I've got to try and save money to pass on to my kids, since they'll inherit the most indebted nation ever on earth. Hopefully they'll pay it off before it crushes America.

Doug

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What are we bailing out?

Ok, just to add my voice to this, what are we bailing out? The news stories are getting filled with lots of weird things added to this bailout package. I'm thinking we've got 100 billion worth of bailout, and the rest is fluff. This is time for a short to medium (3months-3years) government intervention. This is not the opportunity to go so far into debt as a nation that we'll never get out. Unless we already are.

On that note, I'm all for tax cuts. Believe me. Once upon a time, Ray Stevens sang a song "If 10 percent is good enough for Jesus, it ought to be enough for Uncle Sam." I'm with Ray. Want to give the poor a break? Sure, exempt the first $40,000 from it. Then, everybody pays 10%, all income. No deductions, no exclusions. Make less than 40k? No taxes, no tax refunds. Period.
What would this mean? I'm not an economic expert, so I don't know if that's enough income for all the Federal government does. It's enough for all they should do. Let the States handle the rest.

Back on task, why the rail on tax cuts? If you don't pay any taxes, you don't need a tax cut!!!! I, for example, am at an income/kid combination that I pay no income tax, thanks to the various tax cuts and quirks of tax law. And I can't imagine how much less I would pay if I had an accountant/tax attorney to help me find more loopholes. So, much as I might love the $1000 refundable credit/tax cut in the stimulus package, wouldn't it make more sense to actually cut somebody else's taxes? Like the folks in church who are trying to put kids through college, but couldn't get need-based aid, not because of income, but because of assets, since they don't have a mortgage, but do have a house? Not a lot of income, not too little, but a little tough to pay for 2 kids in school? Maybe they could take that $1000? How about some retirees who have paid taxes for a long time? Maybe so?

Anyway, I don't think all this government intervention is good. I am also not an economic expert, but the 'economic experts' that are crafting these bailout plans are some of the same leadership folks that got us into it? Including our new Treasury Secretary, who couldn't even figure out the Income Tax code?

Where have I been?

That's a great question. Well, last week was, somehow, lost in the muddle.

Probably watching a country in economic distress spend over $100 million on the inauguration was a little frustrating. (for the record, I didn't think we should have spent whatever we spent on the last several inaugurations. It's not a beef specific to President Obama.) After all, think about the number of foreclosures that could have been averted had outgoing President and incoming President met in the Oval Office, shook hands, and had CNN bring live video everywhere. It would have given an impression to everyone that he does understand problems. Then, throw him a $100 million party when the recession is over.

Anyway, then there were some other things that had to get done, and now I'm back to blogging.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to the Greek Reading posts. Well, I realized something. After 10 years, I don't read Greek anymore. I look at Greek words, recognize 2 of them, dredge up the rest of the passage from memory. So, my new plan is to read through the New Testament in Greek in 6 months. I'm working on organizing my day to have time to review Greek and learn Polish. Why? Because, the NT is in Greek, and people in Poland speak Polish. And I want to go to Poland and work with some of the IMB's missionaries there. No offense intended to the rest of the world, but that's where I want to go, so I might as well learn the language!

What else? I deleted the Haiku blog. After being forced to change the name, and having it treated like it was something huge and important, rather than just something fun, I lost interest. It wasn't fun, and I can't bring myself to make short poetry important. I changed the politics blog to 'politicallyagitated.blogspot.com' because I'm not really running for President, and wanted the freedom to say things about all levels of politics.

This week started ok, Monday morning was fine, then things just got a little nutsy around here. Now, I think we're past most of that. I've got some book reviews to post, some other things to get out into the electrons. So, if you're a faithful reader, thanks for the break! I'm back, and ready to rumble.

Doug

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obediency

Ok, they won the Super Bowl. But this quote from Troy Polamalu took the cake for me. "Obediency?" That's the problem with other teams. They aren't reading the dictionary to discover hardly used words of the English language! I was actually looking it up to mock him for making up a word. And it really is one. So, props to Polamalu and the Steelers. For off-season homework, I recommend that the Cowboys start with a dictionary. And soon....

And, just as a thought, all of us bloggers, from low ones like me, to great ones, check your sources and your facts. I would have been embarassed.

Doug


All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu credits that mind-set to self-imposed discipline, something the older Steelers players make certain every new teammate accepts.

"The leaders on our team — James Farrior, Deshea Townsend, Hines Ward — they understand what it takes to be successful. What it takes is obediency," Polamalu said. "We're a very obedient team. You could tell us to do anything (and) we'll do it, if our head coach tells us to do it — whether it's good or not. That obediency allows us to be closer together."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Getting your money's worth...

I just thought was interesting. Makes me wonder just how disposable we've allowed our society to become these days. I doubt any of us expect stuff to last 40 years. And we've spread that mentality to other things...

Microwave oven working after 40 years - UPI.com
LONDON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- A 78-year-old man in England says his microwave oven is going strong after 40 years and an estimated 150,000 meals.

Frederick Stephens of Cheltenham says he's used his Panasonic microwave several times daily since buying it for about $345 and has only had to replace a light bulb in all those years, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

"It was a real novelty when we bought it as there weren't many around in those days," said Stephens, calling the microwave "life-changing."

Stephens said the microwave survived the raising of two children and has been a great help in heating up his meals and nightly hot milks since he was widowed in 2005.

The world's first microwave oven was built in the United States in 1947, stood 6 feet tall and cost $5,000, the Telegraph reported.

From Dr. Turner at the ABSC

| Arkansas Baptist State Convention
C’mon, Give the Lord a Praise Offering, Amen?
Posted on Friday, January 23, 2009
< go back

Did you notice my new haircut? Do you like it? What do you like about it? Why haven’t you said anything about it? Don’t you care that I look nice?


Now try this: I have a new haircut, amen? Praise God for this haircut, amen? Aren’t you glad God gave us haircuts, amen?


There is something unseemly about begging for positive affirmation regardless of our need for it. And usually, when we are required to ask for a positive response, it is because none would be forthcoming otherwise. We place those who hear us in the position of affirming something they would have simply observed had we not forced their affirmation. Furthermore, when we elicit “amen’s” repeatedly, we trivialize the heartfelt, spontaneous “amen”. But for those of us in ministry, the real tragedy here is that we substitute a response to our prompting for a real response to God. If a congregant says “amen” that is a good thing. It is a better thing if he repents of sin, or gives, or submits to God’s call on his life. These things may or may not be marked by a vocal response to the ministry God uses to stir his heart.


Ministers of Music who call on congregations to “give the Lord a praise offering” usually are asking that we applaud. Applause, like “amen” is a good thing. And when it is spontaneous, it indicates that something significant has occurred and that those present are affirming it. On the rare occasions when something I have said has met with applause, I have been extremely gratified. But had I been forced to ask for applause, my wife and sons would have been embarrassed for me. Some would suggest that the MM is actually asking us to applaud God, just as the Psalmist told us to “praise the Lord”. Well, He certainly is worthy, but I note that I am only asked to applaud Him after a song or musical presentation. And when someone suggests that we applaud God, who can refuse?


The comparison of the elicited response to the spontaneous response is the comparison of the shadow to object that casts it.


Years ago I attended the Grand Ole Opry (before it moved to Opryland). I loved it. But an announcer made sure that the audience applauded, shouted or verbally affirmed every announcement, the Martha White commercials, every song, every corny joke, and even every yodel. It was a good show, but because of the prompting, we applauded corny jokes with the same enthusiasm as we applauded Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line”. Too bad.


And all God’s people said…?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Birthdays

My birthday was this past week. Many people sent me wishes of a happy birthday, hoped that I had a good birthday, and things like that.

Well, the truth is, I didn't have a great birthday. Why? Well, for one, I worked all day, and had a business meeting that night. If you're not in a traditional Southern Baptist Church, you don't know why that's a problem. It's not that bad things happen, at least not all the time. It's just that a business meeting is either as exciting as straining peas, or is filled with people that claim to be Christian enough to handle the business of running a church, but can't speak civilly to each other or won't show up except to make trouble. Business meetings are like that lovely field you see the soldiers walking into in World War II movies. I was watching Band of Brothers on the History Channel, and could swear that field was a minefield in Saving Private Ryan. But it wasn't. Field really looked the same, though...that's a business meeting, it's like that open field. Often times you just walk right through, and if you're blissfully ignorant, you enjoy the walk. But, after you have seen someone discover a minefield, to the detriment of themselves and others, you dread the open field. And knowing that, even if this one's clear, there is another one just a month away...

The other thing is that, since we moved, and, well, since 75% of our friends moved in the last 3 years, we don't have people that we're really close to, people that we can celebrate things peacefully with. It's a slow process building new relationships, and harder in a small town, where everybody already has friends, thank you...So, while Ann and the girls did their best, I felt, somewhat acutely, the distance from friends like Aaron and Joanna, Jason and Charlene, Conor, Dawn, and a few others. I don't want the big 'party' atmosphere. The close, quiet chance to sit down, and spend time with people who really know me would have been nice. Of course, Conor and Dawn are at UPS in Memphis (4 hours), Jason and Charlene in Atlanta (probably 10 hours), Aaron and Joanna are in Honiara, Solomon Islands (which will be a bit of a swim), so those folks weren't available. Meanwhile, other friends from now and ages past are as close as the internet, and as far as the internet. It's nice, but it's not real communication. So, I felt strongly the burden that Ann gets, being the one person around here I really like to talk to. (so far. I do have some growing relationships with other ministers, but they've got their own issues.)

The last thing that was difficult is the lack of change for me. Lack of change? Last year, Doug, you were working at UPS in Memphis, pastoring in Joiner, Arkansas, and living in a house you owned. This year, you live in Monticello, Arkansas, pastor in Monticello, Arkansas, and rent a house someone else owns while you rent out the house you own, in hopes that someone will buy your house so you can buy one! If that's not change, what is? The change is efforts toward life goals. Another year finds me still not making progress on my Master's degree, still in debt from previous attempts, still struggling to take care of the family because of the lingering debts from trying to follow my dreams. I'm still very far from where I should grow spiritually, and very far grown from where I should be physically. Last year I was blessed to buy new suits, that now I almost can't wear, my knees hurt, my asthma kicks up, all because there's more Doug than ever before. So, on the introspective side, the day wasn't a real winner. Add to that the only one I can blame for those things is me, and frustration blends over with guilt.

So, my hope and plan, my actions are going to try and make a difference on some of those things this year. I can't really attack the education without getting rid of the debt, but we're making progress. The end of one round of student loans is in sight, the end of car payments, in sight. When that happens, out-go and income should actually match up! If insurance hadn't gone up, we'd actually make progress. We're prayerfully optimistic that our renters will be able to get a mortgage and buy the house (hey, banks make money off interest, eventually they've got to get back to lending so they can make a profit. ), when they do, whatever equity exists will help us deal with a little more debt.

And, someday, the $250 worth of UPS stock I bought when I worked there, that's now worth $180, will be past its hold time, and I can sell it. If anybody wants it....

Friday, January 16, 2009

2 Posts in one night?

Yes, two posts in one night! Why? because I haven't posted a lot this week, so I have some stuff to say...

Yogi Berra, great American that he was, is attributed as saying 'If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up somewhere else."

Which is great fodder for contemplation: Where are you going? All of us are going from here to somewhere. Every person is walking a path that eventually ends with our bodies in a grave (or, various other disposal location.) So, is that the end? If that's how it all ends, if that's the only place you're going, then you have precious few days. I suggest you try to put more meaning into them.

However, I don't think that's the end. There is something inside most people that leads them to believe that there is more than the human life. So, where does it go? You can travel the whole world, and get lots of religious type answers. What's remarkable is their similarity. Many of the world's religions are based on people who claim God showed them something. Most of the rest are based on a belief that God, or some gods, are present in all of us, and some people just have a better grasp of that divine in all of us.

However, there is one other option: There once was a man who claimed, not to have something revealed by God, but to be God. And not to be God the same way anyone else ever was, but to be the One and Only, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That one was Jesus Christ. What's significant? He, as God, knew where He had come from, and where He was going. He has not only moved toward the horizon, but has been beyond it. He came from that side, and testified to us about that life. I've been reading 1 John, how the fullness of everything we need to know about God is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew where He was going, knew it would pause at a cross, and end with His resurrection.

I think, that as Believers in Jesus Christ, we need to regrasp our sense of where we are going. We aren't going to success, to possessions, to fame, fortune or ease. We may not be going to struggle or famine. All who are believers in Christ are going to heaven, to spend an eternity with Him. So, in truth, it's time to focus on the destination. And let's work to jettison all the stuff that slows us down, all the things we think are great right now, but have no use at all when we get there! (see joke linked here)
Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

Phone etiquette...

This is not a rant about people being on their cell phones in wrong places. By now, if you don't get that church, movie theaters, hospitals, and libraries aren't places for you to hold extended conversations or blow out your thumb texting, there's no point. Also, if you still don't get that when you are interacting with someone, stay off the phone! And that the checker at Wal-Mart, the person behind the counter at the Post Office, the person trapped in the drive-thru at McD---they are people! That's a whole different rant, which will come soon....

This is about what you say when you make a phone call. I do not care who you thought you called. You called me. At the very least, when I say 'hello' have the common decency to say 'hello.' Unless you are Australian, at which point "G'day mate!" would be acceptable. Also, "Dzien dobry!" works for me as well. Not "Who is this?" Not an immediate demand to talk to someone. Not a direct launch into the problems of your day. A simple "Hello." Perhaps a 'how are you?' even, to be nice. But that's optional. Then, you can ask to talk to someone, wonder where you actually called, and discover that, perhaps, you have reached a wrong connection.

At this point, it is NOT my fault you dialed the wrong number. And, in fact, as goofed-up as they are, it's not AT&T's fault. (and it really won't be once my cell contract is up, and I go somewhere else. Then you can blame Skype and Verizon. But it won't be their fault either) You pushed the wrong button on the phone. You either hit the wrong speed dial, miskeyed a number, or were thinking you were calling someone else, but called me instead. You know what? That's okay. We all make mistakes. Some of them are minor, some are classic blunders. But, dialing a wrong number is not akin to going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. It's more like realizing that you meant to mow the back yard first, and mowed the front instead. It's not the end of the world, it's not even a bad day. I'm not mad, unless you drunk-dialed me at 2 AM. However, now that I have caller ID, I frequently let those go to voice-mail (and yes, they do happen. I even took a 3AM drug counseling call once. I'm a pastor, you do what you need to. If you call me, leave a voice-mail, give me 2 minutes to get coherent and address biology, and I'll call you straight back.)

Anyway, don't yell at me that you called the wrong number. And don't ask if I'm sure Billy, Lucas, Spielberg or Angelina Jolie aren't there. I keep a fairly accurate count of who is in my house. 5 of us live here, 2 cats tolerate us. If I don't know you are a welcome guest, my phone dials 911 while Mr. Smith consults about what to do with you. So, if I say they're not here, guess what, I'm not lying! I do not lie to cover for folks. I'll tell you: Angelina is here, but she's in the back, refusing to come out, and won't take your call, Jennifer. Sorry. The point is this: you called, it's the wrong number. Say "sorry to bother you, must have the wrong number." I'll say something like "no problem, have a great night." You go on, I go on. No problem. I have a decently large number of minutes, even after ATT screwed up my contract on relocation, and took away my 2000 rollover minutes. And my skype is limited to 10,000 minutes a month. (That's all I get for my $60/year. 10,000 minutes a month, incoming from anywhere, outgoing to US & Canada. What did you pay the phone company last month?) So, you haven't really killed me with that last minute. Go on, enjoy life, try again. Just don't hit redial. Guess what champ? It was the wrong number 2 minutes ago, Angelina wasn't here. She still hasn't made it.

And also, when you call me, and don't want to talk to me or don't even know me, do NOT demand from me my personal information. You are not entitled to know my name (I don't have yours, do I?) nor am I required to repeat my phone number for you. Don't know what it is? Look at your screen, see what you dialed!

Finishing this up: I don't really know who you call for what you used to call this number for. Apparently, the game warden/pizza delivery/funeral parlor/chef/hairdresser/supermodel/ex-girlfriend that once had this number doesn't have it anymore. If they wanted to talk to you, they would have given you the number. Or done something insane, like had the phone company list them in the PHONE BOOK! Yes, the one made of paper. It's a great read: nice, short stories. Mostly about people, though a whole section is about business...if you haven't called in 2 or 3 years, look up the blasted number. And don't ask me for it. I don't have it. I've never met who this number before me, just like the poor guy who now has my old Memphis number doesn't know me. (Leave him alone too.)

Please?

Why are you here?

Let's ask that question:

"Why are you here?"

Now, how you answer that question depends on a lot of things. Some of you will answer it, "because I was blog-surfing, dude." Others will see something deeper, a philosophical musing on life.

So, "Why are you here?" Put your answer in the comments...
Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

Monday, January 12, 2009

Evening from Spurgeon

My effort to avoid copy-paste blogging is not going well, because I read stuff that I just think needs sharing. This is from January 12, Evening in Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. I won't say I hope you enjoy this, but rather hope that you are challenged by it.


Doug


Evening Verse

"I have yet to speak on God's behalf." Job 36:2

We ought not to court publicity for our virtue, or notoriety for our zeal; but, at the same time, it is a sin to be always seeking to hide that which God has bestowed upon us for the good of others. A Christian is not to be a village in a valley, but "a city set upon a hill;" he is not to be a candle under a bushel, but a candle in a candlestick, giving light to all. Retirement may be lovely in its season, and to hide one's self is doubtless modest, but the hiding of Christ in us can never be justified, and the keeping back of truth which is precious to ourselves is a sin against others and an offence against God. If you are of a nervous temperament and of retiring disposition, take care that you do not too much indulge this trembling propensity, lest you should be useless to the church. Seek in the name of Him who was not ashamed of you to do some little violence to your feelings, and tell to others what Christ has told to you. If thou canst not speak with trumpet tongue, use the still small voice. If the pulpit must not be thy tribune, if the press may not carry on its wings thy words, yet say with Peter and John, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee." By Sychar's well talk to the Samaritan woman, if thou canst not on the mountain preach a sermon; utter the praises of Jesus in the house, if not in the temple; in the field, if not upon the exchange; in the midst of thine own household, if thou canst not in the midst of the great family of man. From the hidden springs within let sweetly flowing rivulets of testimony flow forth, giving drink to every passer-by. Hide not thy talent; trade with it; and thou shalt bring in good interest to thy Lord and Master. To speak for God will be refreshing to ourselves, cheering to saints, useful to sinners, and honouring to the Saviour. Dumb children are an affliction to their parents. Lord, unloose all Thy children's tongue.

—Morning and Evening

Book Review: Ted Dekker/Erin Healy Kiss

I must admit that I signed on to review Ted Dekker and Erin Healy's novel Kiss simply because I wanted a new novel to tackle, and didn't want to buy one. So, I figured I'd take a free one. Now, some of this will get trimmed in an actual review of this book, but Christian fiction takes a bad rap. People tend to mock Christian fiction books because the characters seem cookie cutter, the plots formulaic, and the spiritual context too blatant. To those who mock Christian-written fiction for these things, I say: read some Clive Cussler. Any one of his books. They have nothing to do with anything Christian, and, based on general conclusion jumping, Cussler has no desire to communicate anything Christian. But his characters are cookie-cutter, the plots formulaic, and the worldly lifestyle is entirely blatant. As is the case with much 'mainstream' fiction. I think that we are too often expecting every author of fiction to turn out world-changing novels. You know what? I like a good world-changing novel every now and then. Other times, I like nice, mid-level entertainment. Just like not every TV show I watch is a moving drama or deeply educational, not every book has to be deeply moving. Nice, semi-predictable plot, characters who are as bland as most people I know, makes for a nice book to read, pass on, or shelve and read again later. That type of book is ok.

Then you have Dekker and Healy's book Kiss. This is not a book with a predictable plot. Did I suspect some of the plot twists before they were revealed? Yes, but suspicion makes me turn pages until I know. That's what Kiss did for me. I kept turning pages, and trying to figure out what was coming next. I will say that this collaboration has done well to provide some romance, some action, and plenty of suspense. It's not a book that will keep you up at night worried, but it will get you to delay bedtime by 15 minutes, oh, maybe 30, to finish, well just one more chapter.

Characters? Fairly well-written. Certain characters rely more on the reader to figure them out then is revealed. The Senator is one of these. Not a lot of his character is revealed, at least through the first 3/4 of the book, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks based on what we know of Senators. It's a good way for us to dislike him. Our own experience with politicians is more disturbing than anyone could write. The romantic elements are well interwoven, with people not quite always in love with who they should be, very much like reality. Also, the closing of the book leaves enough unsaid that you realize the story continues, but it is not a sequel set-up. Which is good, because it's generally annoying when a book does that (movies too). Finish up the story, don't assume I'll buy another of your books.

One thing that may draw Kiss some criticism is the faith component. Certain of the characters are certainly driven to say and do things because of a faith in God. However, nobody preaches, and I wouldn't call the book a slam-dunk of evangelism. What is it? It's a good, suspenseful read that I enjoyed, didn't require a language filter, and that I would be comfortable with on my shelf. When my kids are ready for suspense novels, I'll gladly hand this one over. At the same time, there should be no concern with stocking this one in a public library, mixed in with other fiction offerings, or even allowing it as a school reading option.

I only put stars on these reviews when I paste them into bookseller websites, and am thinking about automatically giving everything 1-star, since those are usually the reviews I read. You can often learn a lot more from the negative comments than the positive. So, I won't star Kiss here. I will say this: If I have some money in the book budget or an Amazon gift certificate, I'll pick up the next work that Dekker and Healy put out. It will be worth the spend and the later bedtimes...

http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/custom/top_titles/Kiss_Ted_Dekker_Erin_Healy.asp

Book Review: Max Lucado's For the Tough Times

I once had a pastor tell me that he had read some of Max Lucado's books, but found the writing to be 'simplistic' and therefore of little value. Well, this weekend I read Lucado's book For the Tough Times. That's right, it's a nice little book that took just about an hour to read. And I would agree with a portion of that pastor's assessment. This book is definitely simplistic. Pastor Lucado tackles the problem of suffering and the seeming silence of God, and does so 79 pages that are 4 inches wide and a little over 6 inches tall. Not a lot of words.

Yet those words are effective. Taking Biblical examples from the narratives of Old and New Testament, empathizing with the anguish of the Psalmists, and seeing the answer of God in the prophets and ultimately the life of Christ, this is a short, guided walk along side markers of the suffering, chaotic world with the reminder that God has never, and never will abandon His own. The length is actually quite comforting, as it does not take days of reading to find out what Lucado thinks God has to say about the issue.

The answer is, in fact, quite simple. But for a people called to believe with faith like a child, isn't simple closer to true? Do we really need massive theological constructs to understand the world? Or, perhaps, should we learn to accept that "God is in control" is not just an answer to consider, but the answer to hope in?

As far as the broader scope of Max Lucado writing 'simplistic' books, I should know...I have nine on my shelf, one I wish I could find again, and they are ever present helps, drawing me back to the simple nature of faith, remembering that God is my help. Sometimes, simple isn't just better. It's right.

January 12

Matthew chapter 6.

I was struggling through Matthew 6 this morning, because it's been too long since I've used Greek. I've been listening to Tony Adams and David Kellum detail some of the issues they have with one of their logging machines, and it's one they only use in really wet weather, basically just a couple of months a year. And apparently the thing causes some trouble each time, but it's not the most efficient equipment to run all year, but there are times when it's the only thing they can use to get work done.

Greek for me is the same way. It's not the most efficient way to read through the Bible. In fact, I could read all of Matthew by the time I get through chapter 6. But there are things I see better in Greek, although they would also come out if you translated the Bible into proper English, and used "y'all."

When the Lord Jesus Christ teaches the people to pray, using the Lord's Prayer, in English you see the expression: this then, is how you should pray. Now, some teach that the only prayer a believer needs to ever use is that exact prayer. But, if you translate it into good English, you get this then, is how y'all should pray. You see, English doesn't translate plural "you" which exists in most languages. There's "you" when there is one person, and "you" when there's more than one person. (side note: We Southerners are more 'international' with our language: we have a plural and a singular you.) And now, you begin to see it as an instruction to the group. I see here that He is giving guidelines for prayer together, that we should be direct, to the point, and very trusting in our public prayer. And also, not repetitious or flowery in our language.

There are Biblical guidelines for personal prayer. The Lord uses the singular 'you' in verse 6, when He tells us to go into our closet to pray. I think what we should learn is that when we pray in public, we pray on behalf of everyone there, and focus the attention on God. In our closet, that's where we pour out our hearts.

Whose are you?

The following is directly pasted from Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. Mine's an electronic version in Bible Explorer software. I'm trying to cut down on cut/paste blogging, but this is too good to pass up, and most of you don't have a copy of Morning and Evening. This is January 12, Morning.


"Ye are Christ's." 1Corinthians 3:23

Ye are Christ's." You are His by donation, for the Father gave you to the Son; His by His bloody purchase, for He counted down the price for your redemption; His by dedication, for you have consecrated yourself to Him; His by relation, for you are named by his name, and made one of His brethren and joint-heirs. Labour practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus. When tempted to sin, reply, "I cannot do this great wickedness, for I am Christ's." Immortal principles forbid the friend of Christ to sin. When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say that you are Christ's, and touch it not. Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ's. Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, "No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ's. If I were not purchased by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am Christ's, and cannot loiter." When the siren song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, "Thy music cannot charm me; I am Christ's." When the cause of God invites thee, give thy goods and thyself away, for thou art Christ's. Never belie thy profession. Be thou ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like the Nazarene, whose conduct and conversation are so redolent of heaven, that all who see you may know that you are the Saviour's, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness. "I am a Roman!" was of old a reason for integrity; far more, then, let it be your argument for holiness, "I am Christ's!"

—Morning and Evening
Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reality

My day-planner has 'leadership' quotes for every day.  I thought this one was worth sharing:

"Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties.  The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself."  Berenice Abbott 

I'll be honest.  I don't know who Berenice Abbott is. Or was.  (okay, just looked her up.  She was a photographer, and an exceptional one at that.)

She makes an astute observation here, and it has a spiritual application.  As Christians, we claim that behind, above, and through all things the handiwork of God, the Creator is visible.  We hold that the ultimate of reality is not what we see, but who God is.  Yet, we so often want to take Him, and draw Him down to earthliness.  We want a god that we can fully comprehend, not realizing that reality in Him is truly unparalleled, truly beautiful.

As such, so are his people.  No time we are more beautiful, more wonderful than when we are serving Him to the fullest of our created abilities.  Never do we approach what we are, than when we obey.  The world as we see it is not worthy of us trying to match.  Reality is.

Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spurgeon on discernment

“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” -Charles Spurgeon


This is where our problems come from in the church. It's the Scripture twisting, minor shading that has gotten us to the point of irrelevancy. We allow people to take portions of Scripture, and exalt them to the expense of others. God is love, but God is also just, God is vengeful, but also merciful. Jesus was not just a community helper, but the Son of God, who got angry, demanded righteousness, and helped the poor.

We need the whole of Scripture to strengthen our discernment. May we have it this year!


Jan 8th--in remembrance


Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

David Wells quote #1

"The key to the future is not the capitulation that we see in both the marketers and the emergents. It is courage. The courage to be faithful to what Christianity in its biblical forms has always stood for across the ages" (p. 21).

This David Wells quote stands on its own. What we need is courage. May I have it!
Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Blog to check out, a giveaway to enter...

For those of you who are theologically curious, check out the Desiring God Blog, and if you want to enter a giveaway they are doing, go here.

David Wells Quote #4

"We have enough Bibles for every household in America a couple of times
over. We have churches galore; religious organizations;
educational institutions; religious presses that never stop pouring
forth books, Sunday school materials, and religious curricula; and
unparalleled financial resources. What don't we have? All
too often we don't have what the Old Testament people didn't
have. A due and weighty sense of the greatness and holiness of
God, a sense that will reach into our lives, wrench them around, lift
our vision, fill our hearts, make us courageous for what is right, and
over time leave behind its beautiful residue of Christlike character"
(pp. 132-3).

This is another quote of David Wells, from his book The Courage to be Protestant. He's right, we have more material resources to be Christians in America than anyone has ever had. Why are we not changing the world for Christ? It's our heart beliefs, and our internal resistance to a Christ-like life. We are, as Pastor Stan May once said, "Functional Atheists" that claim God, but don't act like He matters.

January 7th

That's right. No January 6th. But there were 2 on the 5th!

I was reading today in Matthew 5, which is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. What struck me, partially because it took so long to read that only got through the Beatitudes, were some things in the Beatitudes. First of all, there's a lot fewer words than in English, because to say 'they shall be filled' takes only 1 word in Greek. True, it's a long word, but it's just one. Makes me wonder about how we manage to use so many words and say so little. It's a question I often ask myself about my writing and my preaching. Do I really need to use so many words to say what needs said? I'm often perplexed when I read the texts of great sermons of the past, and realize I could read that, out loud, in about 15 minutes. And this is a sermon that impacted more people than I ever have...

What I saw in Matthew 5 was that the Beatitudes start and end with the same promise, that for a group of people 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' We often go through the Beatitudes as if they are individual groups. For example, the poor in spirit get this, the meek get that, the mourners this, and so on.

I don't think that's right. I was seeing today that list as all inclusive: starting with 'poor in spirit' and ending with 'persecuted for righteousness.' Jesus says of both of these 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' All of the rest of the types of people are components of being poor in spirit, and the natural consequence of all of this is being persecuted for righteousness. Folks, we cannot escape the sheer reality that if we obey Christ, we will hunger and thirst for righteousness, which can be a spiritual hunger, but can also mean that we lack food and water, we will mourn, we will be merciful, we will be pure in heart, and because of doing these things, we will be persecuted. It is time for we, as American Christians, to stop thinking that the Christian life is intended to be easy. It's not. You notice that in verse 12, the Lord Himself simply states that 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

Matt 5:11 (NASB)

Which is not followed with a passive 'you will be' but instead with this command:

12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matt 5:12 (NASB)

At some point, righteousness leads to persecution by the people around us who are not the people of God! This is not about our best life now, or health, wealth, prosperity or success. It's about righteousness and reward in heaven. The Christian life contains few guarantees for this earth, except that God is with us, and that people will hate us for loving Him.


So, let's get ready for it, and stop clinging to worldly approval.


Doug

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Who reads the blogs I write?

I use a program called StatCounter to track the visitor counts on all of my blog projects. Why? Because it's interesting to see how many people are looking at the info, and I didn't know about Google Analytics when I started blogging.

I like Statcounter for a variety of reasons. Here they are:
1. It's free. They have professional products that they charge for, and I am sure those products are worth the money, but I'm not a professional. So, I use the free tools.
2. It's simple to use. Which is one of the reasons I'm on blogger. Are there things I can't do with Statcounter and with blogger? Probably. But I don't know what they are.
3. It's the first thing I used, and don't want to change. Another reason I'm on blogger.
4. Statcounter can be used with any blog/website that allows you to put in html code. Which is most any of them. So, if I ever add a non-blogger project, I can still track it on the same main page.

5. This one is the most relevant to this blog post: They track not just stats, but source urls. In other words, I can see where in the world my blogs are being read from. Which is mostly useless information, but is a lot of fun.

So what do I know about my readers? Here's some of the more memorable hits:

On this blog, I copied and pasted a story about Muslims persecuting Christians in Egypt. It's a very familiar story, I'm afraid, of how the Muslim world treats Christians. Flame away, but it's true. Well, that post was specifically read by a computer that tracked to Iran, Islamic Republic Of. Which I thought was interesting. Hopefully while they were here, they read some of the advent posts and learned of the God who loves unconditionally, who does not seek martyrs but faithful followers who will live for Him and share His love. I just thought it was interesting...

I made a post about politics right before the election, which was read by a computer that tracked US House of Representatives, and another politics post tracked to the Sergeant-at-Arms of the US Senate. Hopefully those readers were challenged to pull their dusty copies of the Constitution out, read it, and make some changes. We'll see.

I get a lot of hits from University of Arkansas at Monticello, AT&T, and State of Arkansas servers. Probably because that's most of where my Monticello church-folks get on the 'net.

Our church's prayer list has been read in over 30 countries at various times. When Lacey was in her accident, and we spread that word around town to pray for her, we also put it online. She was prayed for, assuming everybody that read it prayed, in 10 countries and 12 states.

The Ask a Pastor website answered questions from Israel and Kentucky, as well as Arkansas.

Doug for President gets read by very few people, but has been read in England, and was just hit this past weekend from Gov. Sarah Palin's hometown!

Please note that I can't track to individual computers, but the info just goes to the server used. So I don't know whose house is logged on, but can see, for example 'Philadelphia.'

Just thought you'd find that interesting.

Questions for the new year!

This information comes from Donald S. Whitney. Copyright info at the bottom, click the "Ten Questions for the New Year" link to get his website.

This is a great set of questions to ask yourself as you set goals for this year! And here's a challenge: Answer these in a comment for me, I'd like to know what you think!


Ten Questions for the New Year
Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?


Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney.


Copyright Disclaimer:
All the information contained on the Center for Biblical Spirituality
website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy
this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing
with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all
copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold,
distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or
commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald
S. Whitney



A borrowed post

This information comes from Donald S. Whitney. Copyright info at the bottom, click the "Ten Questions for the New Year" link to get his website.

This is a great set of questions to ask yourself as you set goals for this year! And here's a challenge: Answer these in a comment for me, I'd like to know what you think!


Ten Questions for the New Year
Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?


Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney.


Copyright Disclaimer:
All the information contained on the Center for Biblical Spirituality
website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy
this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing
with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all
copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold,
distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or
commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald
S. Whitney



Monday, January 5, 2009

January 5th-Again

Okay, tonight I read Matthew 4, well, hacked through it in Greek, anyway. What stood out to me was verse 10. This passage is the retelling of what happened when Jesus went out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The final temptation in the wilderness was when Satan offered Jesus the whole world if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Well, here it is in English:
8 Again, the devil took* Him to a very high mountain and showed* Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus said* to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.' "

Matt 4:8-10 (NASB)

The all caps, which I think is appropriate because we use all caps online to give emphasis, yea, even to scream, and I think Jesus might just have been very emphatic with Satan at this point: I'm tired of this, and done with you, is a reference to Deuteronomy 6, where this is written:

13 "You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name

Deut 6:13 (NASB)

But in Greek, Matthew records that Jesus put in an extra only. To make sure that it is quite clear to whom worship and service belongs. These actions belong only to God, not to anything or anyone else!

So, I'm challenged in my life to remember that there is only one God, only one who I worship, only one who is worthy.

And I need to focus on Him.


Doug

Share it!

Today's thought:

God has not blessed you with what you have so that you can sit on it. SHARE IT!

Has He blessed you with stuff? More than you need? SHARE IT!

Has He blessed you with the Gospel? SHARE IT!

Has He blessed you with knowledge, understanding, or wisdom? SHARE IT!

Don't just soak it up, but pour it out! SHARE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU!


Moving toward the Horizon,
Doug

SEAT SENATOR BURRIS!!!

The Doug for President campaign, while small and unnoticed, wants to add its voice to those calling for the US Senate to SEAT SENATOR BURRIS!

Why? Because:
1. The US Constitution stipulates requirements for Senators. Those are as follows: No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
2.That's it. There are no other national requirements for serving in the US Senate.
3. The Constitution gives the States the responsibility for filling vacant seats. And the Governor has the authority.
4. Senator Burris has not done anything demonstrably illegal. Nor is he accused.

Whether or not the members of the US Senate like Gov. Blagojevich is irrelevant. If we allow Senators to ignore the Constitution, we cease to be a nation ruled by law, but ruled by people. So often we have made the error that the US is run by its people. We are not, as a nation, governed by the people. We are governed by our laws, which are made by people, and changeable by people, but all of us are responsible to those laws.

Including the US Senate.

SEAT SENATOR BURRIS! Or find legal, Constitutional grounds to deny him. Not just 'Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.' Elections and Qualifications are spelled out. The Senate can decide if Senator Burris meets those qualifications. Has he lived in Illinois for 9 years? Is he a US Citizen? Has he been placed in the position by appropriate means? Yes.

SEAT SENATOR BURRIS!

And I say this, knowing he will probably vote against everything I want voted for, both as an individual and if I win in 2012....

Ministries I support

Here are links to some of the ministries/missions that I think are worth your time. Ann and I have, at some point, either participated in, contributed to, or know someone who is working with these groups.

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention: This is the arm of the SBC that supports over 5,000 missionaries around the world. Not perfect, but still an excellent method of missions support.

The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention: This is the part of the SBC that reaches out to unchurched parts of the USA and Canada. Good stuff. Partners with state conventions and churches.

Wycliffe Bible Translators: Named after one of the first to translate the Bible into English, Wycliffe goes to places and people groups that do not have the Bible in their heart language, and translates it. Sometimes this is a short 5-10 year task, sometimes it's a 30 year task. Some of the languages are oral languages until Wycliffe missionaries develop a written form, then begin to do the translation work. Our friends the Choates do this.

Rivers of the World
: They do lots of social ministry combined with evangelism. And other great stuff.

Shevet Achim: These are Christians who work in the Middle East, bringing Muslim children to Jewish cardiologists for life-saving heart surgery. And you thought you had a hard job! Their story is amazing, and well worth reading and keeping up with!

Reach Orphans with Hope: This is a group dedicated to caring for orphans in the Ukraine. This one, I haven't had any personal involvement with. Yet.

Shaohannah’s Hope
: An adoption-enabling group. Again, my personal involvement hasn't really hit this one either. Yet.

World Crafts Village: This is an economic project of the WMU, that helps provide jobs and opportunities for sharing the love of Christ. If you are one of the deacons at Calvary Baptist Church, or are Spencer or Marilyn, your Christmas present came from here. And a good friend of our family works with this.

A lot of good things are accomplished through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program. Education, hunger relief, disaster relief, medical needs, social issues, and even a modicum of political meddling are all a part of these programs, which are great!

January 5th

This morning I read the first part of Matthew 3, and was struck by John's rebuke of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

You may remember the situation. John is baptizing people, preaching about the coming of Jesus, and out come some of the religious leaders from Jerusalem. John asks them 'who warned them to avoid the wrath to come?' which, I think, indicates that he knew the Lord Jesus Christ would be displeased with the emptiness of some of their hearts. John then points out that their parentage wasn't enough, telling them "Do not say we have Abraham for our father." He points out that "God is able out of stones to raise children of Abraham." What struck, which is probably more about type setting than Greek, because it's all one sentence, but just the phrase "dunatai ho theos." Why might it be about typesetting? My Greek New Testament has that phrase right at the end of a line.

What does that phrase mean? "God is able" or "God is capable" would be normal translations, also "God has the capacity to...."

I saw that phrase, and then the next line, 'to raise up children for Abraham from stones,' which gives John's full sentence, and shows what he was talking about. But I'm still hung up on "God is able...." "God is capable...." "God has the capacity to...." as an open-ended statement. Whatever it is, God is the one capable.

A side note: the word 'dunatai' is related to the word 'dunamis,' and both words typically come into English script with y instead of u so they look like dynatai and dynamis. Dynamis means, generally, power or ability. We get such words as "dynamo" and "dynamite" from this Greek word. But don't read dynamite back onto Scripture. They didn't use dynamite, because it wasn't invented. And besides, dynamite is the power to do one thing: destroy stuff. True, it may be to destroy something that needs it, like excavating a tunnel or removing a building, but it's a one-sided power. When dynamis is found in Scripture, it's frequently refering to the power of God or the power of the Gospel, which are typically powers to heal, strengthen, or build. The Gospel isn't dynamite, the Gospel is the power of God to heal a relationship.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

One more thing from Goshen College

I wanted to go ahead and post one more the Advent Devotionals from Goshen College. I'll stop parroting their stuff now, but this has some thoughts about Christmas that are not only worth sharing, but worth doing!



Today's devotion from Goshen College:

JAN. 1 - GATHERING UP ALL THINGS

By Becky Horst, associate registrar and grants coordinator

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 1:3-14 (NRSV)

Scroll down for complete Scripture.

----------

DEVOTIONAL:

Today's Scripture passage is a single very, very long sentence in the original Greek. It is a glorious tangle of clauses and phrases that defy the attempts of theologians to comb them into neat strands. But there is much truth here -- much to turn our mourning into joy.

At our college Christmas party on Dec. 8, a student from India reflected on the difference between Christmas in her country and Christmas in the United States. Instead of focusing on gifts and feasting, Christians in India view the time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day as a time of repentance and renewal. Christ's coming to us is a "spiritual blessing" so great that the only appropriate response is to mourn our sins and ask to be reborn into "holy and blameless" lives in the new year.

On this first day of 2009, take some time to reflect on the glorious tangle of your own life. Acknowledge the rich blessings that God has lavished on you. Ponder the good news that the mystery of God’s will is "to gather up all thing"

in Christ, "things in heaven and things on earth." As God’s adopted children, marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, we have inherited a place in that joyful "gathering" work.

In your workplace? How are you being called and empowered to join in the "gathering?"

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SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 1:3-14 (NRSV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.

View all of this season's devotions at http://www.goshen.edu/devotions

Goshen College

http://www.goshen.edu

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The views and beliefs expressed in the devotional piece prepared by each individual reflect their own spiritual growth journey and thoughts, and while created in a campus environment that encourages thoughtful questions and reflection on biblical Scripture and contemporary Christian themes, do not necessarily represent the official institutional positions of Goshen College or Mennonite Church USA.

We welcome students who desire a Christ-centered education shaped around

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* global citizenship

* servant leadership and

* compassionate peacemaking.

Do you know someone who would be a good fit at Goshen College?

Find out more at http://www.goshen.edu/dev/admission .

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Worship Services Recap for July 12

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