Thursday, December 23, 2010

Throw Out the Bath Water and Keep the Baby

There are those who talk about the intellectual state of being "pre-critical." Without trying to oversimplify things, someone who is in the pre-critical stage in their thinking tends to accept things at face value based on the recommendation of a respected authority, family member, etc. They have not asked the hard questions or entertained contrary ideas and, in fact, may not even be aware of opposing ideas. The term a priori is reserved for the knid of knowledge received and accepted without question or investigation; knowledge that is assumed to be true.

Critical reflection is a particular way of approaching information which investigates all claims, accepting those that bear up under scrutiny, and rejecting or tabling those that don't.

An example of critical reflection could be the following: you read a book written by someone claiming to actually believe in Santa Clause. You throw out that claim, dismissing it as untenable and preposterous. However, in the book, the person makes the case that Vitamin C will boost your immune system. After investigation, you find corroberating evidence from experts who all support the claim, so, you decide to retain that knowledge, but you remain unconvinced about Old Saint Nick.

Now, sometimes people will throw the baby out with the bath water, deciding that an adult who believes in the existence of Santa Clause couldn't possibly have anything to teach us about other things. But critical reflection allows you to keep the knowledge that is good and dispense with the information that is false, etc. It is about the knowledge itself more than about the teacher (although knowing the teacher helps when processig the knowledge, and, frequently, if the teacher is off, so is the knowledge. But, with critical reflection, I do not have to make those assumptions, but can, rather, take the knowledge piece by piece. Later, if necessary, I can formulate an assessment of the teacher.)

It is a dangerous thing to give rise to critical thinking if you are not prepared for it. It can cause you to question bedrock principles and truths that are valid but not "provable" by scientific method, such as Christian faith. It can bring you into contact with those who clearly do not have faith but only questions.

For example, a Christian who has not been exposed to much background information about the greek New Testament and the process of textual transmission, etc., may consider it blasphemous that the New International Version of the Bible does not include the word fasting in Mark 9:29. I understand that the reason for the exclusion is that the oldest manuscripts don't include it, which is an arguement that perhaps the word was added to the text at a later date, which experts call a gloss. My faith is not shaken, nor do I fear that fasting as a spiritual practice has been threatened, because I know that Scripture is clear in many other places concerning the importance and power of fasting. So, whether I agree or disagree with the editors of the NIV, I can navigate my way through an issue that could otherwise potentially assault my faith or discourage me.

What does knowledge of critical reflection do for me? Well, it helps me to keep things in proper perspective when I might be tempted, as Robert Frost said, "to carry praise or blame too far." That is, it helps me to retain balance when dealing with people, not going too far to elevate or villify those around me.

For example, I was thinking how thankful I am for the Fox News Network and their fearless display of Scripture and Christian values during the holiday season. They actually take that approach all year long. Now, I am not foolish enough to assume that everyone at Fox is a practicing Christian. But I can be thankful that, in these times when Christian and American values are under such attack, there are those who are using their influence to promote them.

Finally, we cannot completely separate ourselves from facing the truth about the character of those around us, but we can learn from almost anyone, even when they differ from us on important issues. Critical reflection allows me to throw out the bath water and keep the baby.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Harold Camping's "Bitter-Sweet" Rapture of 2011

You may or may not know that Harold Camping, a fringe "prophet" found promoting a curious brand of the gospel at 88.9 on your radio dial here on Long Island, has predicted that the Rapture of the Church will take place on May 21, 2011.

They say he has done this before. I would not know because, until I moved to New York four years ago, I had never heard of him. (Just as a matter of trivia, he IS NOT the guy who wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988. That was Edgar C. Whisenant who died in 2001 if Wikipedia knows anything.)

Are people taking Camping's prediction seriously? Well, I walked into Kohl's or Target or some place and I saw a big black pick-up truck in the parking lot and on the back window was a huge decal that read: "The Rapture Will Take Place on May 21, 2011" or something like that.

I also notice, by my estimation, that they are talking about it more than usual on their broadcasts. In fact I happened upon one of their programs in which the speaker, not Harold Camping, was explaining in great detail all of the mathmatical calculations that have led them to their claim. Who knew you had to be a math scholar to get to heaven?

So, it dawned on me the other day what a bitter-sweet experience it would be if the Rapture really did take place on May 21, 2011. Normally, as Christians, we declare that we are ready and waiting in great anticipation for the Rapture. I grew up in a church that wholeheartedly sang the old hymn, Our Lord's Return to Earth that said:


I am watching for the coming of the glad millennial day,
When our bless├Ęd Lord shall come and catch His waiting bride away.
Oh! my heart is filled with rapture as I labor, watch, and pray,
For our Lord is coming back to earth again.



But last week it dawned on me that, if the Rapture were to take place on May 21, 2011, the first reality we would have to deal with in heaven would be the truth that Harold Camping was right! Imagine that on your first day in heaven!

Now, just in case you thought Harold was just a regular gospel preacher--think again! His view of salvation is heretical. Paraphrasing his doctrine of salvation:

Believing is a work. Since we cannot save ourselves by our works, belieiving will not help. All we can do then is hope, hope, hope that God, in His mercy, will save us.


So, what will Harold tell us on May 22, 2011 if the Rapture does not take place? I predict that he will claim revelation from God that the time was extended due to His mercy, or maybe the 2nd function button was stuck on their calculator the day they were figuring out their theory.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sometimes it helps to say it out loud!

As Christians, I think we have lived with the gospel story for so long that even we fail to grasp the astonishing claims of our faith. So, here is an attempt at putting it into plain english.

At a certain, specific moment in time, the Second Person of the Godhead, came down to earth and took on a human form and identity in order to reach the human race that had been lost due to sin. He did not “heist” a human body, but rather was born just like everyone else with at least one colossal exception: He had an earthly mother but no earthly Father, since His father was God.

At birth, He was given the name Jesus. After living a sinless life, during which He performed many mighty miracles—the accounts of which, if written down, the world would not be big enough to contain according to John 21:25—He was crucified on a cross. His death was planned and prophesied: the ransom necessary to redeem all of mankind.

After being in the tomb for three days, His body took on life again and resurrected. He is alive now and sitting at the right hand of God the Father (having ascended in plain sight of His disciples ten days before Pentecost Sunday). He hears our prayers and He prays for us.

We expect to see Him for ourselves someday. Of course, in death we expect to immediately leave this body and be in His presence, but, we also expect to see Him return in the air to rapture, or catch away, His church, and again to bring about judgment upon the earth at which time He will insert Himself into history—the term “insert” used here only to help us grasp the concept since history is actually His-story, something He has always been a part of and actively involved in— this time to remain.

Ultimately, all creatures that have ever existed will acknowledge Him as Lord and will bow down before Him! It is estimated that 96 billion people have thus far existed on the earth—56 billion if you throw out evolutionary hallucinations— and Christians believe that none of them will go to heaven unless they have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The American Experiment: Not meant to be a hostile takeover!

O, what to say, what to say, what to say?!

The United States of America is a nation under siege. But, just as the crew of the Titanic thought the sudden appearance of ice was part of the ships recreational program, our leaders would have us believe that it is un-American to be alarmed about Islam. They say, “It’s a peaceful religion!” (Would someone please show me how Islam has brokered peace in this world? Don’t give me anecdotal evidence that is only the exception to the rule. Show me how, on balance, Islam has the reputation of being an honest broker of peace in the world.) Our leaders and media commentators, and mainline denominations, and liberal humanists would have us believe that our freedoms demand that we succumb to every demand of Islam, peaceful or otherwise.

Nine years ago, our nation endured an attack on its soil when two planes were flown into the World Trade Center’s twin towers, one into the Pentagon, and if not for the valiant passengers on flight 93, another plane would have made it to our nation’s capital. Instead, it crashed prematurely in an open field near Shanksville, PA.

Now, nine years later, we find ourselves in a peculiar position. Last week on CNN, Mr. Rauf, the Imam leading the way to a Ground Zero mosque, said that “our national security now hinges on how we negotiate this, how we speak about it. The battlefront is between moderates of all sides… and the radicals on all sides.” We are being told that if we do not allow the ground zero mosque it will be tantamount to a declaration of war with Islam.

Interesting to me, this new balance of power we have. We have a new face sitting at America’s domestic table of political and social power, telling us that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero or else there will be war, and that an American will die for every letter in the Quran if it is burned as was proposed last week.

I’m sorry, did I miss something? Had there been a truce up to this point? Have the terrorists been holding back? Had we made it off the naughty list recently? Aren’t they already trying to hurt us in every way possible? Aren’t they already trying to kill Americans? You mean they have the power to attack us right now but they are just holding back because they like us?

All that remains to be seen in this new configuration of power is the funny looking letter with words cut from different magazines and pasted into a collage that spells out the demands: “Do what we say or else.” Suddenly, we are being held hostage (which is what radical Islam does best when it’s not blowing up innocent people or threatening disaster). Suddenly, we have to be careful what we build or don’t build ON OUR SOIL! Suddenly, our citizens, crazy or not, are not protected under our Bill of Rights. Suddenly, the tail is wagging the dog more than usual (let me see: violate the Quran and Americans die; violate Ground Zero and that’s okay). Suddenly, as one writer from the UK puts it, our President is the middleman between the United States and radical Islamic states, as though he were uniquely qualified to bring us together (they seem to like him; they seem to listen to him.)

So, what will happen next? If seventy percent of Americans don’t have enough clout with our leaders and politicians to stop a mosque from being built in the heart of one of the most cherished parcels of ground in America, then we have surely turned the corner into an era in which we will cease to be an America that our fathers would recognize.

The sole attention of Ground Zero should be directed to the memorial being built there in honor of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. As it stands now, every time we revisit 9/11 on the calendar, Americans will remember those who died and those who rushed into harm’s way to serve. We will remember that we were attacked and that we rallied together. Muslims the world over, however, will point to the opulent thirteen story Ground Zero “victory” mosque, and say, “See! There stands the holy site erected in honor of our great victory over America, and thus, over the world!”

This is not just about Ground Zero anymore. This is about our inability to see a devious enemy worming its way into our national psyche. It is about an assault on our nation that continues to reveal that we have lost our understanding of freedom. Freedom does not mean allowing the wholesale replacement of our national fabric and heritage by an ideology hostile to it simply because its adherents are showing up in large numbers. The American experiment does not include allowing a hostile takeover.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who's Funding the Opposition to the Ground Zero "Victory" Mosque?

Yesterday morning before going to the office I was stopped in my tracks by a news report on Fox News saying that Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, wants an investigation of those who are funding the opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. Crazy, I know. It's like a tricky double-negative sentence, or a word problem in Algebra. I thought maybe the news anchor had gotten it wrong. But, no, it has been widely reported,(New York Daily News, Washington Times, Fox News, Politico, etc.)

Now, in recent weeks I have heard calls for an investigation into who will be funding the Mosque's construction. People want to know if organizations that support terrorists are funneling money into this project. But, for her first public weigh-in on the Ground Zero "Victory" Mosque, the speaker of the house decides to call for an investigation of who might be funding the opposition to the mosque! (It helps to say it out loud.)

My first thought is, "I am opposed to the mosque but I did not know funding was available!"

My second thought is, "Why would Nancy Pelosi choose to make such a statement, right before the November elections and with 64 percent of Americans against the mosque?" If democrats want to retire this fall, why don't they just do it instead of imploding in such a public fashion?

My third and fourth thoughts are, "Is funding available?"

My fifth thought is that I appreciate the interjection of something humorous into a situation that I am actually quite alarmed about. I believe this controversy to be a referendum on what Americans are going to do in the future concerning those who do not properly respect our ideals. (This is the point in the argument where the other 33 percent who support the mosque cry out about freedom of religion. As far as I know, no one is calling for a ban on building mosques in general. This is about respecting the memories of those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and recognizing that, while possibly those who are leading the Cordoba Initiative have only peaceful intentions, those who are our enemies will see this as a holy site, built to commemorate some perceived radical Islamic victory over America and the world.)

My sixth thought is that those who are pushing this mosque project are not politically savvy. If they wanted to gain the respect of the majority of Americans, they would publicly cancel their plans in the name of peace and harmony, and choose to build elsewhere.

My seventh thought is really a question: "Why does the left always think it is a right wing conspiracy when the majority of the people oppose one of their views (think Hillary Clinton)?" To ask who is funding the opposition, in this case, is to forget that everyday Americans are capable of agreeing together on something so obvious.

My eighth thought is borrowed from my friend Rob but worth repeating here. He asks, "Who is funding Nancy Pelosi? They should be forced to wear large red N's on their shirts."

My ninth thought is, "No, really, is funding available?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Show Me Peaceful Islam

The uproar over the Ground Zero “victory” Mosque— which, thankfully, is gaining momentum—is not a test of our commitment to the freedom of religion, but rather a test of our ability to discern threats to every freedom that we enjoy. I am thankful to see that almost 70 percent of Americans are against the Mosque (64 percent in the latest fox poll. CNN found the same).

Saying that 64 percent of Americans are against the Mosque does not mean that 64 percent of Americans are against freedom of religion. It just means that they have enough insight and sensitivity to realize that the Ground Zero Mosque is a bad idea.

But, the argument continues to center around freedom of religion. So, this is my statement concerning freedom of religion in America:

Any individual or group can worship anything or anyone it wants to so long as that worship does not interfere with another person’s choice of worship so long as that group’s values do not threaten the freedom that others enjoy.

Now, that is a simplistic statement that would need mean caveats if it were to be seriously discussed. But it gets to the issue at hand.

Examples of the freedom of worship in this country and how the line can be crossed resulting in a loss of freedom:

The Ku Klux Klan—Espouse their hideous doctrines if you want to. Even meet together to say stupid things. But when you put a burning cross in a black person’s yard or threaten bodily harm, you become a terrorist and you have to go.

Christianity—We are free to espouse the teachings of Jesus and rejoice over the founder’s faith, etc. We are free to say out loud that we believe abortion is wrong and that homosexuality is a sin. But the second we blow up an abortion clinic or bring bodily harm to homosexuals or lesbians, we have broken the law and become terrorists. (A more radical view may say that violence against abortion clinics and doctors who perform them is more like declaring war on behalf of unborn children, but the fact is, it is legal in this country to have abortions so we must use peaceful means. Those who do not are outside the pale of true Christianity and must be dealt with.)

Islam—Believe in Allah, pray five times a day, wear whatever you want to wear (unless it causes a security breach). But when your beliefs espouse a plan to kill all who do not believe as you do, then you become a terrorist and you do not have the freedom to worship in that way.

Peaceful Islam. Really?

Now we keep hearing about a peaceful Islam. Unless there are two Quran’s, I don’t know how peaceful Islam is possible unless Muslims are admonished to only obey the parts of the Quran that they choose (unlikely). But let’s imagine it is possible. When I look around at Islamic states in the world, I don’t see peace, nor do I hear freedom ring. If there are Islamic states that allow the joyful freedom of worship to all people regardless of their religious persuasion, I am not aware of it. But if it exists, I would wager that there is much turmoil and fear. If none of these things are problems in these peaceful Islamic states, then please elevate them so that we can use their example.

So, here are my current questions:

Could someone please (and I am asking honestly) show me peaceful Islam based on the Quran? I’m not talking about some American experiment trying to create something that does not exist. I mean show me in the Quran where Muslims are allowed to peacefully coexist with other people who do not worship Allah.

Second, if this rare bird of peaceful Islam exists, does it exist in the context of radical Islam? I mean, can it hold its own? When radical Islam comes knocking does peaceful Islam fold the tent and say, “Yes, Master. Whatever you want.”?

Of course peaceful Islam exists in America where it has to exist, but when the competition is defeated and it’s only the family, show me peaceful Islam.

Islam is growing in European countries and with it is coming much turmoil.

Here is a final thought. In America we have had to endure those who burn flags. We don’t agree with it but they have been protected. We have seen seasons of protest. What do you think will happen in America when someone burns a copy of the Quran some day? Cartoons of Muhammad in Denmark brought utter wrath! But that could never happen in America because our love of freedom will protect us.

God save, God help America!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Questions and Answers Concerning the Ground Zero "Victory" Mosque

Is this whole Ground Zero mosque business just press spin?

I don’t think so. We are never free of partisan spin and I expect I expect where it exists it falls along the general lines we always see. But, all in all, I don’t think it is covered enough in the press, though I am hearing about it more and more. No matter how you spin it, at the vortex is a proposed 13 story mosque at the site of the 9/11 bombings (two blocks away), built by the Cordoba Group (Cordoba having an aggressive meaning for Islam [just Google it]). It smacks of a holy site built on the grounds of a perceived victory over America. Even IF the builders don't see it that way it will still serve that purpose for the radicals.

Isn’t freedom of religion at stake here?

All things being equal, freedom of religion is strong argument right up to the point where a radical religious movement blows up the twin towers and plunges the globe into open conflict. Then, things get a little dicey. If Christians had flown planes into the towers in the name of the evangelical church, guess who would be under extreme scrutiny today by EVERYONE? In fact, if a strongly conservative Christian religious church wanted to build near the site it probably would be opposed! Christians have freedom of religion but I was part of a group of Christians who were not allowed to sing a Christian song at the Lincoln memorial. On the news this morning was a report of a group who were asked to stop singing the national anthem at the Lincoln Memorial.

Perhaps this is more about property rights than it is religious freedom.

Perhaps. However, if the Muslims sponsoring this project really want to bring people together and foster peace, let them do it a few blocks further away to prove their motives.

Is this really a monument to an Islamic victory; a holy site?

If this is not a monument to Islam, then why be adamant about building it there? If it is just another mosque going up, then that in itself is an even stronger reason to stop it because the site does mean something to Americans. Not only that, but the proposed 9/11/2011 groundbreaking is conspicuous.

I think every place in the city where the debris fell should be considered a protected area. This would not keep normal building from happening but it could stop projects that keep the conflict going. Carl Paladino, Republican candidate for governor of New York said, “As Governor I will use the power of eminent domain to stop this Mosque and make the site a war memorial instead of a monument to those who attacked our country.” Thank you!

Shouldn’t we be tolerant?

Do you think the Islamic nations are going to welcome Christians now? Has anybody seen signs of an Islamic/Christian love fest going on anywhere in an Islamic state? So, if every now and then, Americans want to pause and say to the other nations of the world, “Slow down, we’d like to retain our identity please.” I think they could cut us some slack!

Why do you say that Islam is a Trojan horse?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, there are statistics that tell us what happens as the Muslim population increases in a non-Muslim country such as the U.S.

At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs.

From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply. At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam , with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam.

Now, I heard an interesting statistic a couple of weeks ago: that there are one million Muslims in the New York Metro area. Now, my understanding is that there are eight million people in NYC, but 19 million in the larger area. My question is how many Muslims are there in New York City? I wonder what the percentage is to the population as a whole. Further, I wonder if we will see some of the behavior that happens at the 5-10% level sooner here in our own back yard.

Some encouraging news: Construction workers and others are boycotting the plan and Republican gubernatorial candidate Paladino is speaking up, and Bill Reilly predicts that the Mosque will not be built because no construction company in the city will take it.

In many ways, this is a test of nationalism. Can a nation still rise up and do what is best for its own safety, security, and patriotism, or is it forced to bow to global pressure?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Islamic Trojan Horse

I believe the Cordoba House mosque to be built at Ground Zero is nothing less than a proposed Muslim shrine; a holy site commemorating their presumed victory over America on 9/11. It is a grave mistake to allow it and shows that for all our championing of freedom, we naively do not understand how to protect our freedom.

In his book, Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat, Dr. Peter Hammond shares what happens in a nation as the Islamic percentage of the population increases. Here is a summary of those findings as reported by Michael Haltman in the Homeland Security Examiner, June 23 title, As Muslim population grows, what can happen to a society? June 23, 11:05 AM Homeland Security Examiner Michael Haltman.

At 2% or less, Islam can be seen as peace-loving.

At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs.

From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply. At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world. [Banks are already offering Sharia compliant financing.]

When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam, with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam. [The director of the movie 2012 chose not to depict the destruction of Muslim holy sites for fear of reprisal].

After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.

At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare.

From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and ***ya, the tax placed on infidels.

After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim.

100% will usher in the peace of 'Dar-es-Salaam' -- the Islamic House of Peace. Here there's supposed to be peace, because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and the Koran is the only word.

Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.


The percentage of the population in the U.S. that is Muslim is .06 at this point. Still, as I read this list, it seems to me that the United States is on an accelerated path to experience these things, and that we are seeing activity around the 5% level. Why? Because we have the wrong idea about freedom, we let liberal voices carry the day, and we are ripe for a Trojan horse.

So, the Cordoba House is already underway. The Fox news video I saw said the proposed groundbreaking will be on 9/11 2011 (if you can stomach a little more Islamic presumption), Americans are still crippling themselves with a false understanding of freedom and their fear of angering Muslims.

I confess that I do not buy into the idea of a peaceful Islam. There are not two Korans. Both radical and so called peaceful read the same. I further believe that peaceful gives way to radical in this case. Am I missing the peaceful voice of Muslims decrying the violence of radical Islam? If those voices are out there they are not loud enough.

(For links to the sources of this blog just log onto my website [the link is in the upper corner of this page] and click on the link Cordoba House Links )

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Judge a Christian Book By Its Cover

The old saying says, "You can't judge a book by its cover." That axiom will serve you well in many arenas, but when it comes to books, newpaper articles, even Christian materials you must develop skills to do just that. So, below are some of the conscious things I do to categorize a book before I decide whether or not to invest my time into it.

First, assuming the title appeals to me, I pick up the book and read either the inside flap of the dustcover or the back cover to get a synopsis of what the book is about.

Then, I look at the publisher to see if it is one that is familiar, or noted for being conservative, liberal, Calvinist or Armenian, Pentecostal or non, Evangelical, etc.

Then, I will investigate the author to see if I recognize him or her, and in order to discover what school of thought he or she may represent. In particular, I want to know whether the author is reformed or not (Calvinist or Armenian); Pentecostal or not (if not Pentecostal, are they hostile to Pentecostalism?); Emerging church or traditional; evangelical or mainline; what is his or her denominational affiliation, what schools did he or she graduated from, his or her age, etc.).

The date of a publication can be important as well. If a book speaks to our culture or current events, but was written prior to 9/11, I will not likely be interested. The world has changed drastically since that time and I want to know that the author is aware of those things.

After all of the above, if still interested in the book, I will look at the Table of Contents to see if I can discern anything more about the writer's bias's, but, of course, also to see if the book is going to be very interesting.

You may ask, "Why go to such trouble? Are you being judgmental?" It's not about being judgmental, it's about choosing who gets to influence my thinking. The above criterion may not necessarily rule out the book, but it will help me to process the information.

For example, if an author is non-Pentecostal, perhaps even hostile to Pentecostalism, I will think twice about hearing what he or she has to say about spiritual gifts knowing that the author probably believes that many of the so called "sign gifts" of 1 Corinthians 12 are no longer available. I also won't be too interested in what a non-Pentecostal will tell me about worship because, by and large, a non-Pentecostal is not open to the interruption and redirection of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a worship service. If the writer is not open to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, in my assessment, he or she has missed a significant aspect of spiritual maturity, depth, and insight. There, I said it.

This approach to a source of information is consistent with the concept of critical reflection. Critical reflection takes an honest look at information and those providing it and ultimately makes a decision about which part of the information to keep and which part to disregard. But BEWARE! Critical reflection can be a dangerous business unless one is equipped to process challenges to what he or she believes. All the more reason to "pick your battles" as they say, and be particular about opening up your faith, knowledge, or beliefs to question or assault.

One final word: Just because you hear someone preach a sermon on the radio or television or Youtube, or just because someone writes a book, does not mean it is gospel truth. EVERYTHING must be tested through the filter of Scripture.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bonhoeffer's Answer to the "Bless and Slam" Routine

I really appreciate this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is excellent commentary on the "bless and slam" routine (see my previous blog on the subject).

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pages 35-37

Jesus Christ stands between the lover and the others he loves. . . . What love is, only Christ tells in his Word. . . . Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love. Because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother. It originates neither in the brother nor in the enemy but in Christ and his Word. Human love can never understand spiritual love, for spiritual love is from above; it is something completely strange, new, and incomprehensible to all earthly love.

Because Christ stands between me and others, I dare not desire direct fellowship with them. As only Christ can speak to me in such a way that I may be saved, so others, too, can be saved only by Christ himself. This means that I must release the other person from every attempt of mine to regulate, coerce, and dominate him with my love. The other person needs to retain his independence of me; to be loved for what he is, as one for whom Christ became man, died, and rose again, for whom Christ bought forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s; I must meet him only as the person that he already is in Christ’s eyes. This is the meaning of the proposition that we can meet others only through the mediation of Christ. Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become. It takes the life of the other person into its own hands. Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person which he has received from Jesus Christ; the image that Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all men.

Therefore, spiritual love proves itself in that everything it says and does commends Christ. It will not seek to move others by all too personal, direct influence, by impure interference in the life of another. It will not take pleasure in pious, human fervor and excitement. It will rather meet the other person with the clear Word of God and be ready to leave him alone with this Word for a long time, willing to release him again in order that Christ may deal with him. It will respect the line that has been drawn between him and us by Christ, and it will find full fellowship with him in the Christ who alone binds us together. Thus this spiritual love will speak to Christ about a brother more than to a brother about Christ. It knows that the most direct way to others is always through prayer to Christ and that love of others is wholly dependent upon the truth in Christ.

Embarrassing Little Chestnut

One definition of subtle is something that is "so slight as to be difficult to detect or describe (American Heritage)." So, with that in mind consider the details of the following very short story:

I was in the city the other day and I got on the elevator. There was a really tall African American standing there. He kindly asked me what floor, so I told him, and he pushed the button for me. Well, I got off on my floor and wouldn't you guess, I had left my glasses in the car in the parking garage. Well you know I can't see anything without my glasses, so I had to go all the way back down to the parking garage, get my glasses, go back up to the 8th floor. What a day!

So, this is not a riveting story by any stretch of the imagination. But it does contain something that I seem to be sensitive to. For lack of a better term, let's just call it subtle racism.

In the story, there is absolutely no reason to mention that the man on the elevator was African American. It has no bearing on the story.

So, you might say, "The reference was completely innocent." Possibly, but how many times have you heard someone make reference to the white guy on the elevator? Perhaps this same article could apply to African Americans who would do just that. I couldn't say.

But I know that, when you sharpen your eyes and ears you will discover nestled deep within the details of many stories and actions is this little chestnut called subtle racism.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The "Bless and Slam" Routine: It's Grandma-Gittin'-Out-the-Tub Ugly! (Sorry Grandma!)

I knew a lady in Tennessee several years ago who was like the character named Rachel Lynde in the Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea movies. Rachel Lynde beamed with pride that "she was known around these parts as a woman who speaks her mind." (A person like that is usually known!) The woman in Tennessee was just the same. She told me early on in our church relationship (I was a youth pastor and she an elderly woman in the church) that I should not worry about what she said because she was a straight talker who "likes to tell it like it is" or some other synonym for opinionated venting; verbal voiding.

Christians, of which I am one, are fond of "speaking the truth in love." Sometimes, however, we use that as code for the old "bless and slam" routine. Back in Texas, the way it works is you say, "Bless his [or her]heart . . ." and then slam the person any way you want to. The "bless his [or her] heart . . ." qualifier allows you to go on record as "loving" the person you are about to slam, but declares that what you are about to say is the truth and needs to be said, though at the expense of the person so dearly loved.

Jesus said, ". . . wisdom is proved right by all her children (Luke 7:35)." The same could be said about love. It is easy for us to say, "I love you." It is interesting when you stumble upon a person who still thinks that if you say magic words like "I love you," they cancel out all bad behavior and the recipient of the words is obligated to accept them without question.

But just saying the words doesn't make it so. When you truly love a person it will guide your actions where that person is concerned. That's why Paul can say that love is the fulfillment of the Law: "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law(Romans 13:10)."

If someone really loves me--the relationship is real, trustworthy, tried and true--that person can say things to me that may cause pain, but I can recover and will benefit from them because they flow out of genuine love. The pain felt will be due to the reality of the words said, not the shock at being betrayed or something worse.

So, the question is, this person that you are going to confront: do you genuinely love them? Have you shown that in real deeds? If so, pray and then let love dictate your words. If not, brace yourself Effie! It's going to get ugly--Grandma-gittin'-out-the-tub ugly! (Sorry Grandma!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Father's Letter . . .

The following is a letter I read at my son's graduation for part of the commencement speech. Many requested it so here it is. My hope is that parents and their graduates alike will be able to identify with its sentiments.


A Father’s Letter . . .

Dear Son,

Where to begin? All the years come suddenly to this moment and I am proud, I am thankful, I am emotional, I am nostalgic. And there is in me the dawning realization that every step you take from this day forward will be pregnant with the possibility that your path could take you further away from me than I am comfortable with.

For the better part of two decades, I have engrossed myself in your life. Much of my effort has been simply to keep you alive and healthy. I have sung songs, and played games, and answered questions, but more than that, I have loved you at depths that even now you are not able to understand and won’t be until you have a child of your own. Though at times I have tried to express and explain that love to you, I realize that, for now, I’ll have to be content with knowing its depths on my own. Part of a parent’s lot I suppose.

Early on I saw that from time to time you went through changes as you grew and matured and I realized that, if I were to continue to be close to you, I would have to adjust to the changes. As your interests changed, I adjusted mine so that I could continue to relate to you.

Starting out, I had clear goals. I always hoped that by the time you reached adulthood you would still love me as you did when you were just a little one. While that has been my hope, and still is, I have many times had to choose fatherhood over friendship in order to pursue another goal I had which was to give you direction and leadership. Sometimes choosing that road was hard and it left me feeling lonely, but my commitment was firm. And if given the opportunity to do it all again I would do it without hesitation.

The teenage years have been particularly unique in their challenges. Life goes along undisturbed, communication with your child is clear and good, and then it happens: adolescence! It’s a lot like losing radio contact. There is communication, then static, then the connection seems lost. But pretty soon, connection gets established again as long you try which we both did.

For a long time now, you have demonstrated a growing desire to be independent. At first, I took that personally. Then I realized, with help, that your need for independence is the normal response of a child who has been nurtured, taught, respected, and appreciated. In the end, I have to admit that what I want is for you to be able to go out on your own and be OK.

There were countless lessons I tried to teach you that I hope have stayed with you. They were all important, but some of them rise to the top and are worth repeating in this letter.

Like the fact that it is mathematically impossible for anyone to be right all the time and that sometimes, you have to say you’re sorry; that if you are going to stay close to those you love, you have to work at it; and that you should live everyday as though it were your last. I taught you that while we trust in God for the future, we have no promise of tomorrow, so you have to live today as though there were no tomorrow. Take time to look around and appreciate the blessings in your life today, especially the people. I taught you that THESE ARE the good old days! They certainly have been for me.

I also taught you about Jesus. That He is the only way to heaven, that He is coming back soon, and that He loves you and cares about you. That He expects us to live right and that He has given us the power to do so, not in order to earn salvation (which we cannot do) but in order to live up to what He has done for us (which, admittedly, we can’t do either but we should try). I taught you to call on Him, and that, no matter the situation, prayer will work. That advice will always serve you well.

I tried my best to instill in you a confidence that there is nothing you can’t do if you try. I have believed in you your whole life and I believe in you now! I taught you that you can do anything through Christ and that nothing is too hard for the Lord, but that most of all it was important to find out what HE WANTS YOU TO DO!

You should know that I still feel the sting of failures I made while you were growing up: Misspoken words, times when I was too busy or impatient. Times when I was slow to understand what you needed or just misunderstood things altogether. Thank you for loving me anyway. Just as I learned from my father’s mistakes, you have learned from mine and your children will learn from yours. That’s how it works.

It is my indescribable pleasure to be your father. But, for now, I am beginning to let you go. Not entirely; never entirely. As long as I am alive I will do everything I can to be here for you and be a blessing to you, just as I always have. My door will always be open to you. Wherever I am, you will always be welcome. And as long as I am on this earth I will be here for you. And if you ever look up and I am gone, just know that I am with Him. So, walk in faith and we will be together again. But for now I am here and for now it is time for you to spread your wings and begin to fly. No too far at first, but over time farther and farther, ever so certainly, until you find your place in this world.

With more love than I know how to express,

Your Father

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reality and Ideal

The existence of the ideal is evidence of its possibility.

Ever been inspired by a movie because of the values it portrayed? The story was challenging and beautiful, moving and uplifting. Then you come back to "reality" and realize that the players are just actors, the movie is based on a novel, and you realize that it is just a story. This "balance" between idealism and reality is aided by our own exposure to shattered dreams, burst bubbles, and unmet expectations.

We face this type of exposure to reality all the time. In fact, it begins to seem that everything and everyone has a seemy underside; a corrupt core predisposed to dishonesty and fraud. We learn to protect ourselves from getting hurt again. We adjust our expectations of people when we hear that a pastor has committed adultery, or a friend has been busted in an internet scam, or we observe everyday, garden variety hypocracy when people we know don't operate with integrity. By the time we "grow up" we have been conditioned to temper idealism with "reality." But, I am not ready to be done with idealism.

I have a book (though I never read it) titled The Way We Never Were. The premise of the book is that nostalgic reminiscenses of, say, the 1950s are unrealistic. There were no Leave it to Beaver households. It was all Hollywood hype.

I wasn't alive in the 50s so I don't know, but I want to argue the following point: If I can imagine a story with values in which all the characters operate with integrity and depth and idealism, isn't the fact that I can imagine such a thing proof, to some degree, that it is possible?

Now, if you choose to, you could let your mind run away with all of the examples of things that you could imagine that would be unlikely to happen (I will leave the examples to you). But don't do that. Instead, recognize that, nestled in this rant, is a call to live idealistically. Some people say it can't be done but I say the fact that you can be moved by the dramitization of such values is the evidence that you can be inspired to imitate such idealism.

Now, cut to Scripture as our example of idealistic living. The Bible is full of high ideals that God clearly expects us to pursue. I have met people who feel that even the call to live according to Scripture is unreasonable! To think this way is to completely miss the power of God's grace. It is possible to do right. It is possible to think clean thoughts. It is possible to envision people who interact with integrity and honor. It is possible to be a person who interacts with others with integrity and honor.

Such living demands that we focus not on the evil inclinations that bombard us but on the example of Jesus "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2b)." That is, instead of focusing on the seemy underside of things and giving place to our own propensity to imagine evil, we instead pursue the right path. But how? This is the point of grace. We have been given the power to live differently; on a higher plane!

Paul said, "Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24b-25a)!" We have been rescued from a worldy reality and called to higher things!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beware of Radical Judaizers with a Messianic Afterthought

This week on Facebook, I fell into a den of radical Messianic Judaizers. OK. Let me first say who I am not talking about. I'm not talking about Jewish people who discover Jesus and exhibit the joy of being what some have called "completed Jews." Those people normally are a blessing to encounter. That's not who I ran into.

It would take too much space to tell you all about my encounter. But suffice it to say that these people were the most divisive, legalistic "believers" in Jesus that I have ever encountered. Now, I know there are some bad examples of Christianity out there (think Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kansas protesting at funerals, but I digress . . .)

These so called believers in Yeshua rant and rave about the church being pagan, and Pentecostals being demonic, and Christians not keeping Sabbath and following the Torah. The don't want to be called Christians, they don't believe in our Jesus (Their words, not mine). One of the women responded and said, "I am not a Christian and I don't follow your Jesus, I follow my Yeshua . . .)" Is this the unity Jesus prayed about in John 17?

Alright, I understand the drive of Jews who find Jesus to hang onto Jewish practices to some degree. But guess what: most of the people I encountered this week,if not all of them, were Gentiles.

Now, I have known people over the years that pursued Jewish traditions as a way of practicing what I can only assume they felt was a more authentic approach to Christianity. Obviously there is a lot to be gained by understanding Jesus through the eyes of messianic Judaism. The Sedar, the feasts, etc. all can be a blessing. But going back into the Law is not what Jesus intended.

The Apostle Paul was a "Hebrew among Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5). In other words, he was more authenticly Jewish than any of the people I met this week. In the book of Galatians, we see that Paul was concerned about a group of people who were attempting to pull the Galatian Christians back into legalism and the Law. These people were Judaizers. In Galatians 1:6-10, Paul said:

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

It's amazing to me how that these modern day Judaizers feel qualified to question the New testament and act superior to the Apostle Paul! In one place Paul says, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice (Philippians 4)." That's good enough for me.

Bottom line: this thing is about grace, not going back under the Law. If Paul came out from under the Law, who do we think we are to go back under it? Paul said to the Galatians:

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort (Galatians 3:1-3)?

Beware of those people who think you have to go back under the Law to find a deeper place in Christ. Let's not replace the Presence of God with ritual and ceremony. It's not what He wants.

LAST WORD: Nowhere in the New Testament does anyone say, "Want to be a better Christian? Become a Jew. Observe Old Testament laws." Not Paul (Hebrew of Hebrews), not the Apostles in Acts 15, not the Apostles to Paul in Galatians 2. And what about the vision Peter had just before Cornelius visited (Acts 10)?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

666 The Number of a Man: Dress Rehearsal Part II

If you didn't read my last entry on the subject of RFID technology you might want to do that before reading this one.

OK, so the technology exists, through Radio Frequency Identification to implant a chip about the size of the now proverbial grain of rice into human bodies for the purpose of security, the retrieval of personal records, buying and selling, etc.

Some people have missed the point, either of the videos (included below) or of my last blog. The point is not to say that this IS the mark of the beast or that this is exactly how it is going to be done. The point is to recognize the dress rehearsal. That is, to recognize that pieces are falling into place that let us know the times we are living in as they are related to biblical prophecy. So what "actors" are on the stage for this rehearsal?

The most obvious is THE SLOW BUT SURE EXCHANGE OF NATIONALISM FOR GLOBALISM. There is an increased identification across the globe of our shared concerns. A bad economy that the world has experienced at the same time. The threat of terrorism that is happening across the world. These two issues alone cause the whole world to begin to ask the same questions and say the same things and need the same answers. The day will come when global concerns will trump national ones. We have leaders in Washington right now who already sing this song.

It is not hard to see how the rise of global consciousness will demand increased global coordination. Ultimately this will lead to the need for specific global leadership. A leader will be needed who can point the way, shoulder the burdens, offer the answers, call down fire . . . . This is the climate that will give rise to the antichrist.

But, back to the chip. The Perry Stone video below claims that the government is going to require that all Americans have the chip by 2012 (there's that date again. Poor Harold Camping just can't seem to get any respect for his prediction of a 2011 Rapture). This sounds like one of those Christian rumors that we love to spread and it probably is. However, a student in one of my classes asked her brother who is apparently high up in our national security departments. He said there is no way that could happen. SO HERE'S THE THING: When we are looking at end time prophecy and extreme events we can't look at them through current reasoning. That is, you can't say something is impossible in 2012 when you don't know the pressure that will be brought to bare by that time (I am making no claim concerning 2012). I can tell you this: let a nuclear threat be made good in America and let politicians tell us that the answer is security that could only be brought on by this chip and suddenly the impossible becomes possible! Let the economy take an even worse hit due to massive identity theft that could supposedly be solved through a chip and and the immortal words of Bill Clinton will once more ring out from the "mighty mountains of New York to the curvaceous slopes of California": "IT'S THE ECONOMY STUPID!" Americans will do practically anything for the economy.

One more interesting tidbit concerning this RFID technology. My impression was always that the chip itself would contain massive amounts of one's personal information and itself be their identity carrier but an article from 2004 says that the chip itself does not hold all the information but rather a barcode or number that would then be the access code into the bank of information held on a computer. So the chip would indeed begin to look like the Revelation 13 prophecy that calls it the "number of a man." Extending this globally every person would be assigned a number. Rev. 13 seems to suggest that the antichrist's number will be 666 (just one way to read it).

Well, little children, what do you think? I would love to hear your questions, comments, and insights.
So, the RFID chip is a reality. (If you didn't read my last entry on this subject

Monday, May 24, 2010

What to do when you get offended . . .

An unfortunate position to be in is having someone wrongfully offend or abuse you. (I think I heard someone say, “No duh!”). Of course it’s not good when someone wrongfully hurts or abuses you. But I’m talking about the difficulty in dealing with the relationship afterwards.

Think about this scenario: Someone takes advantage of you, does you wrong, etc. If you operate according to Scripture you have to forgive that person. You also have to make efforts to deal with the anger and frustration in order to avoid bitterness.

No matter how you decide to handle it you are in a difficult situation, at least in most cases. If you DON’T go to the person, confront them and work toward reconciliation, you run the risk of becoming bitter and holding a grudge. If you DO go to that person, there is a very good chance that the person will resent you, talk bad about you, etc. Then the relationship is even worse. As New Yorkers are fond of saying, “What are ya gonna do?”

Well, let’s be clear about the demands of Scripture in these circumstances. Matthew 5:23 says:

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

It is clear from this Scripture that the offending person should seek out the person who was offended and seek reconciliation. Now, consider Matthew 18:15-17:

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

It is clear from this passage that the offended person is to seek out the offender and attempt to be reconciled. When taken together, these two passages make it clear that, when offenses come, both sides are to actively seek reconciliation.

In a perfect world, everyone would operate according to these two Scriptures and we would live in reconciliation. Sadly, this is not the case. Unfortunately, things can be made "worse" by doing what is right. So, what is the answer?

Well, of course we should do right and live according to Scripture. However, there is another verse that can work as a preventative approach. In 1 Corinthians 6:7, Paul says:

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

In a nutshell, Paul is advocating that, instead of going to the secular courts for arbitration between two Christians in order to settle offenses, go instead to the church. OK. That’s a point well taken. But then he says, “Why not rather be wronged?” Essentially he is saying, “Why go to anyone? Just be wronged.”

Now that’s interesting. Instead of being offended and taking that offense to the church or even to the person, just don’t be offended.

Now there is more to say about this, but I’m going to let it simmer for a bit.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Letting Jesus Wash Your Feet

When you walk a dusty road you get dust on your feet. The solution? Wash your feet. When you live in a fallen world, you can’t help but come into contact with the dust of the world. The solution? Enter into the Presence of the Lord and be washed.

Entering into the Presence of God can take time: Time to allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate the hard shell that forms over our hearts as the result of living in this fallen world; time to allow the Spirit of God to adjust our thinking and transform us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12).

That’s the reason the worship service needs to be open-ended. That is, when we come before the Lord in worship, the Holy Spirit must be allowed to take us where He wants us to go without being limited by our time constraints. That’s why, at least in the tradition I came up in, we sing a song until we are done, or until the Holy Spirit is done. We repeat the chorus; we focus on a particular phrase and sing it over and over again as the Spirit of God leads us; we stop for awhile and respond from our hearts and then sing it again; WE PRESS IN UNTIL WE PRESS THROUGH! We allow Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to wash our feet. This is the value of taking our time in worship.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This is how it's going to happen . . .

In deliberations at the U.N. today, the Security Council voted unanimously to urge member countries to replace or at least de-emphasize national pride, and the flying of individual national flags, in favor of the new global flag . . .

Sound far-fethced? I don't think so. I'll tell you how I arrived at such a thought.

Last Saturday evening, I was coming back from Manhattan on a train and, as we drove through one of the stops, I noticed an American Flag. My immediate reaction was to be surprized. I don't know why. It's not like I don't see flags. In fact, New Yorkers seem to me to be very patriotic and prone to proudly displaying the flag.

I have a tendency to try and anticipate how other people will react to things, so as I looked at this common, yet profound act of patriotism, it dawned on me that flying the flag is a flagrant, "in-your-face" act of national pride. Suddenly I realized that one of the next things we will see (if it isn't already in the works) is an effort to move nations to forego national pride in favor of global pride. What better way to do that than to fly a common flag.

I researched it a little and found the following statement at http://www.powerofpeace.com/initiatives/global-flag-contest


Never before has the world had a flag that stands for global patriotism, hope without borders and respect for diversity.

National flags, while a symbol of a nation or country, divide us as citizens of the world. Participating as part of a worldwide democracy changes your perspective from thinking locally to acting globally.

Having a flag that unites the world, joins continents and is a symbol of peace empowers us to connect, act and change the current status quo
.


These are the times we are living in. The idea that flying our nation's flag would be offensive is crazy, I know. But this is where we are headed. We are living at a time in history when foundations that we thought were sure are ready to fail. THERE'S NEVER BEEN A MORE IMPORTANT TIME TO STAND AND BE COUNTED ON BEHALF OF THE THINGS THAT ARE RIGHT!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Calvin's TULIP: Not My Favorite Flower

So, I may regret opening this can of worms but I can’t resist. Let’s talk about a very well known flower: Calvin’s T.U.L.I.P. If you are unfamiliar with this I will give a little definition, at least of the acronym.

T.U.L.I.P. means:

T= TOTAL DEPRAVITY
U= UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
L= LIMITED ATONEMENT
I= IRRESISTABLE GRACE
P= PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

So, for now, let’s talk about Total Depravity. I will use some material by Matthew J. Slick, apparently a Calvinist, and respond to his words http://www.calvinist corner.com/tulip.htm

First, Matthew says:

SIN HAS AFFECTED ALL PARTS OF MAN. THE HEART, EMOTIONS, WILL, MIND, AND BODY ARE ALL AFFECTED BY SIN. WE ARE COMPLETELY SINFUL. WE ARE NOT AS SINFUL AS WE COULD BE, BUT WE ARE COMPLETELY AFFECTED BY SIN.

Well, first of all it’s hard to reconcile the idea that we are completely sinful and yet not as sinful as we could be, but let’s plant a little peace. I understand what he’s saying. Romans 3:10: No one is righteous.

Matthew goes on to say that MAN’S HEART IS EVIL AND SICK. HE’S A SLAVE OF SIN, DOES NOT SEEK FOR GOD, CAN’T UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL THINGS, IS AT ENMITY WITH GOD, AND BY NATURE A CHILD OF WRATH.

OK, Matthew. I don’t know Matthew, so let’s not make this personal. He is expressing Calvinism, and as far as I can tell, doing it adequately. Anyway, I am in agreement so far. But here’s where, as was wont to be said in Abraham Lincoln’s time, “the bottom falls out of the tub.”

Mike says: THE CALVINIST ASKS THE QUESTION, "IN LIGHT OF THE SCRIPTURES THAT DECLARE MAN’S TRUE NATURE AS BEING UTTERLY LOST AND INCAPABLE, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR ANYONE TO CHOOSE OR DESIRE GOD?" THE ANSWER IS, "HE CANNOT. THEREFORE GOD MUST PREDESTINE."

So, since man is evil, the only way God could ever get us to accept Him was to program us to accept Him, bypassing any ability to choose on our part. That’s interesting, but of course I completely disagree.

The whole point behind the inspired Word of God is that it is powerful. Powerful enough to break through our sinful nature. To say otherwise is to denigrate the Word of God.

“The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).”

Further, God wants REAL relationship: not robotic acceptance that cannot be resisted. The call of God in the prophets is "Return to me and I will return to you."

Now, the Calvinist will read my words and say that I am claiming that we have some part in saving ourselves. I have not said that at all. I am saying that the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is powerful to save. Paul wrote:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).”

Of course, the Calvinist will say that the word “everyone” doesn’t really mean everyone. We’ll discuss that chestnut some other time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Help Me! I Can't Feel God!

Over the years, I have had numerous conversations with people deeply concerned that they had drifted away from God, or that they couldn’t feel God like they should. This kind of thought usually manifests itself with thoughts that say, “I can’t feel God anymore therefore, He must have left me!”

There is actually good news for those who are concerned about these things, and it isn’t simply advice that says, “Do better and He will come back to you.” Perhaps there are times when that is the best advice. It’s also good to remember that our feelings are not always reliable indicators of our spiritual condition.

I used to get hurt and frustrated when I would hear preachers say from the pulpit, “If you don’t feel God in this place tonight something must be wrong!” (I grew up in a classical Pentecostal denomination in Texas where Pentecostals are a lot more expressive.) As a young Christian, that kind of statement would send me reeling, questioning my salvation because I didn’t “feel” what I should feel. But as I matured in the Lord, I learned some things about the Christian walk, and some things about myself. I learned that it isn’t about our feelings. I learned that feelings can be greatly affected by the kind of week we have had or the argument we had on the way to church. I also learned that if you are an analytical person, you can over-think everything and become so distraught that it becomes difficult to feel anything but worry!

The painful reality is that we can drift away from God. We can put distance between ourselves and God. But the good news is that, if you are concerned about these things, guess what: It’s the Holy Spirit who is calling you and drawing you back to Himself! And if you can still hear the Holy Spirit and sense the alarm that comes when we drift too far away from God, then you are not as far away as you think!

So, what should you do if you are concerned that you are not where you should be with God? One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from Hebrews 3:12-15:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."

The fact that you are concerned is the reality that the Holy Spirit is drawing you, therefore you can still hear His voice so: RESPOND TO HIM! Right where you are just respond to Him! Ask Him for His help. Do something to move closer to him. Acts 17:24-27 says,

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

If Paul could tell pagan idol worshippers that God is not very far from them, how much more is this true for those who are already His children?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nine Tips to Finding Things that are Lost

I am a world class finder if I do say so myself. That is, when it comes to finding things that are lost I am the go-to guy. I pride myself on being able to find it if it is lost. In fact, I can’t not want to try and find it (I’m aware of the bad grammar). It becomes a challenge.

1. It’s got to be somewhere. Everything is somewhere unless the earth has swallowed it up in some biblical fashion. Barring that, it has to be somewhere. In fact it is probably right where you (or someone else) left it. I say probably because sometimes strange things happen.

A few weeks ago, we lost our keys. There are only a few places where we put our keys and it made no sense that we could not find them. After a long search, I looked behind the shelf (again) on which we frequently place our keys and noticed that somehow they had been pushed off the shelf but had never reached the floor. Instead, they were caught in the phone wires and dangling in the air. Alas, sometimes we don’t find what we have lost. I lost some important keys a few years ago in our home and never found them. I suspect they accidentally fell in the trash or something. But, rest assured, in most cases, that which is lost has got to be somewhere.

2. Don’t panic! Panic makes you hurry. It causes us not to look thoroughly in each possible place. Then, later, when we haven’t found it, we feel like we have exhausted every possibility. In truth, we haven’t really searched properly and have to do it all again. We usually find things in places where we thought we had already looked.

I have a lot of books. They are not organized and so I am frequently searching the shelves for that book I know I have. Somehow, we can look right past the very thing we are looking for, especially when it is one lost thing among many things that we are not looking for. On top of that, panic doesn’t help. It has to be somewhere so slow down, and don’t panic.

3. If it isn’t in the likely places it must be in an unlikely place. This is simple yet profound (if profundity is allowed in such a banal discussion). So, if your keys, or whatever, aren’t where they are supposed to be, check the refrigerator.

4. If it is a pair of things and you have found one, the other is probably not too far away. Think about it: you can’t find your other shoe. Unless you have a habit of taking off one shoe downstairs, walking awhile with the other shoe still on and then taking it off upstairs, then probably you did what you always do. Search in the same proximity as the shoe you found.

5. Don’t automatically blame someone else. It will be egg on your face when you find it and realize that it was your fault or no one’s.

6. Don’t give up, don’t get discouraged. If you have looked every place you can think of with still no findy-find, take a break and try again a little later. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Two sets of eyes are better than one.

That brings us to one last option that has proven to be a real help many times: Ask God to help you. I know there may be a number of reasons why you might not do that: you don’t want to bother him with small things, etc. But, the fact is that He cares about you and will get involved with you even in the mundane things. Besides, sometimes it’s not mundane. Just a few weeks ago, one thing led to another and I lost my eight gig thumb drive. Some very important things were on that drive. I looked everywhere (I thought) but could not find it. I prayed about it and it dawned on me to check a place where I had not considered and I found it! In time to keep it from going through the washing machine.

How about you? Do you have a process that helps you find things or a story about something lost that was finally found?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What do you believe about the Rapture of the Church?

I have known about the Rapture of the church for my whole life it seems. I can remember coming into the house when I was just a little kid (7 or 8) and being afraid that I had missed the Rapture because I couldn't find my mother right away.

Oddly enough, I somehow pictured the rapture to be a square platform with a cable attached to each corner and then each cable on the other end gathered together. Odd I know.

I have a question: If the enormous crowd in Revelation chapter 7 is a multitude of people rescued from the great tribulation, presumably for not taking the mark of the beast (which is typically what most Evangelicals believe and which is not depicted until Rev. 13), then who is the group mentioned in Revelation 15:2 who are specifically noted as the ones who were victorious over the beast, his image, and the number of his name? Are we really expecting a crowd that can't be counted to come out of the great tribulation as we have traditionally defined it (i.e., those who are beheaded for not taking the mark)?

Another interesting thought about traditional evangelical prophecy interpretation and what the Bible seems to say literally is the term "great tribulation." Normally, pre-trib preachers and teachers group the entire seven year period under the rubric of the great tribulation, when in fact, the great tribulation is a time of great distress that will come upon the world at the time of the abomination of desolation (3 1/2 years into the seven year "tribulation" period).

Anybody still with me?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Moving Experience

Went to see The Screwtape Letters in Manhattan last evening. I enjoyed it very much. I almost didn't make it though.

I have been having motion sickness lately. I had a life-changing encounter with it two weeks ago coming back from New Jersey. I thought I was going to die. I didn't. Death would have been a sweet release from the horrible sensation.

People say, "Does it help for you to be in the front seat?" I was driving!! Yesterday, I wound up taking the train into Manhattan just to avoid the car trip. I took Dramamine and all was going pretty well until I got into a taxi. The short taxi ride threatened to pierce through the Dramamine haze I was clinging to.

Bottom line? Go see The Screwtape Letters at the WESTSIDE THEATRE 407 W 43rd St. Take the train. Take Dramamine. Pray then take the taxi. Enjoy the program. Take more Dramamine. Arrive at home. Thank God.