Sunday, December 31, 2006

I find it interesting that you call The Weekly World News "the paper."

Whew lots and lots of news this year related to religious slooge. For your edification, entertainment, and enlightenment ...

Top 10 religion stories of the year

The online poll of Religious Newswriters Association members was conducted December 8th to 12th. A total of 149 people voted for a response rate of 35 percent. RNA has conducted the poll since the 1970s.

This year's results appear below.

1. Muslims in a number of countries react violently to publication of Muhammad cartoons in Denmark and other European nations. Scores of both Christians and Muslims are killed in riots in Nigeria.

2. Pope Benedict XVI angers Muslims by including in a speech a centuries-old quote linking Islam and violence. He apologizes and later smooths the waters on a trip to Turkey. Earlier, he begins to downsize the curia and emphasizes God's love in his first encyclical.

3. The Episcopal Church riles conservatives when the General Convention elects a presiding bishop who supported the consecration of a U.S. gay bishop, which conservatives oppose as unbiblical. Seven Episcopal dioceses refuse to recognize the leadership of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is also the first woman elected to the top post. Later, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin becomes the first diocese to adopt measures that set the stage for it to secede from the denomination.

4. Charismatic leader Ted Haggard resigns as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and is dismissed as pastor of the huge New Life Church in Colorado Springs after allegations surface of gay sex and methamphetamine use.

5. Candidates backed by the Religious Right suffer a series of defeats in the fall elections, with many voters citing morality as one of the strongest motivators in the way they cast their ballot.

6. Religious voices grow louder for peace in Iraq, but by year's end experts fear the spread of sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East. Conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims increase, and the Israeli incursion in Lebanon aimed at curbing attacks by Hezbollah touches off major strife within Lebanon. Christian churches also reconsider efforts to pressure Israel on the Palestinian question.

7. The schoolhouse shooting deaths of five Amish girls in Bart Township, Pa., draws international attention on the Amish community's ethic of forgiveness after some Amish attend the killer's funeral.

8. (tie) The release of the film "The Da Vinci Code" adds to the previous buzz about Dan Brown's novel. Religious critics, who say the book portrays traditional Christianity as a fraud, are divided over whether to boycott the film or hold discussion groups. Controversial plot lines include Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and conceiving a child.

8. (tie) Same sex marriage bans pass in seven of eight states that hold referendums on the issue during mid-term elections; Arizona becomes the first state in which voters defeat a same-sex marriage ban. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits as married couples.

10. President Bush casts his first veto to defeat a bill calling for expanded stem-cell research, to the delight of religious conservatives and the disappointment of more liberal ones. The issue is later credited with playing a deciding role in the key Missouri Senate race. Meanwhile, progress is reported in efforts to create stem-cell lines without destroying embryos.

Missing the cut this year are these stories:

11. A group of evangelical leaders calls for a stronger response to environmental concerns, especially global warming. Another group of evangelicals downplays the threat.

12. The genocide in Darfur, which is based more on nationality than religion, draws increasing attention from religious groups, but a solution seems unattainable.

13. Samuel A. Alito Jr., a Roman Catholic, is confirmed as justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, giving the high court its first Catholic majority in history.

14. Hollywood makes major plays for religious audiences, some more successful than others. "The Nativity Story," a major studio release that retells the Christmas story, appears poised to do well as a December release. “One Night with the King” told the biblical story of the Jewish Queen Esther. Earlier in the year "Book of Daniel," a TV show about a dysfunctional clergy household, offended some Christian viewers and was cancelled.

15. Roman Catholic dioceses continue to make payouts in the sexual-abuse scandals, capped by Los Angeles' decision to settle 45 lawsuits for $60 million, the fourth largest amount in the nation since the scandal erupted in 2002. Earlier, Davenport, Iowa, becomes the fourth U.S. diocese to seek bankruptcy protection.

16. Pentecostalism marks its 100th birthday, dating to the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in April 1906, and celebrates its distinction as the fastest-growing Christian body.

17. Southern Baptists elect their first dark-horse president in decades, Frank Page of South Carolina, in what some see as discontent with the prevailing style of leadership. Earlier, two SBC mission boards work through internal conflict.

18. The Food and Drug Administration approves Plan B (the morning-after pill) for non-prescription sales, angering religious conservatives. Earlier, some pharmacists lose their jobs for refusing to fill Plan B prescriptions because of their religious convictions.

19. Warren S. Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a polygamist breakaway sect, is arrested in Nevada, after three months on the FBI's Most Wanted List, on sexual-misconduct charges stemming from allegedly arranging multiple marriages between underage girls and older men.

20. Election of conservative Christian Stephen Harper as prime minister of Canada leads to the expectation of an eventual larger role for faith-based social conservatism there.

Top newsmaker of the year

The winner is: Amish folk who modeled forgiveness after the schoolhouse murders.

Those who did not win top newsmaker this year are:

• Pope Benedict XVI, who quieted Muslims after unintentionally angering them.
• Dan Brown and Ron Howard, author and director of the controversial "The Da Vinci Code."
• Ted Haggard, Evangelical leader who admitted to sexual immorality.
• Frank Page, surprise winner of the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
• Katharine Jefferts Schori, first woman presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Friday, December 29, 2006

It's called reading. Top to bottom, left to right ... a group of words together is called a sentence.

I've been asked before for a good reading list. What is a good list of things for a Christian to read? In what order?

Let me offer a list of things you might want to add to your reading as you look to 2007. As well, I'd be interested in any you'd suggest.

Of course, at the top of the list for 2007 must be the Bible, God's holy book. Our sanctification depends on it. Jesus prayed that the Father would sanctify us by His truth; His Word is truth (John 17:17).

These texts are supplemental, not to in any way replace or eclipse your Bible reading. But they can be of great assistance as you learn from those in the faith who have gone before us. God has blessed us with brothers and sisters in the faith from which we can learn, but we must do so by being diligent with their thoughts on the printed page.

The following are books I would recommend a Christian read at some point in his/her spiritual development. Note, I did not say I would recommend to have them on your shelf. Life's too short and money's too tight just to have them on the shelf. Good books only do you good if you read them.

McDowell, Josh. More Than a Carpenter

Harris, Joshua. Stop Dating the Church!

Anders, Max. 30 Days to Understanding the Bible

Sproul, R. C. Holiness of God

Hendricks, Howard. Living by the Book

Roberts, Vaughan. God's Big Picture

Hannah, John. The Kregel Pictorial Guide to Church History

Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters

Dever, Mark. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made

Dever, Mark. The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

Thomas, Gary. Sacred Marriage: What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?

Foxe, John. Book of Martyrs

Horton, Michael S. Putting Amazing Back into Grace

Piper, John. Desiring God

Farrar, Steve. Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family

Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad!

Peart, Norman Anthony. Separate No More: Understanding and Developing Racial Reconciliation in Your Church

Elliot, Elisabeth. Shadow of the Almighty

Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child's Heart

Bunyan, John. Pilgrim's Progress

Sproul, R. C. Chosen By God

Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines

Sanders, Oswald. Spiritual Leadership

Chantry, Walter. Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?

Packer, J. I. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity (2 vols.)

Piper, John. Pleasures of God

Phillips, J. B. Your God is too Small

Tozer, A. W. The Knowledge of the Holy

Spurgeon, C. H. The Soul Winner

Ryle, J. C. Holiness

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity

Packer, J. I. Knowing God

Bunyan, John. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will

Charnock, Stephen. The Existence and Attributes of God

Sproul, R. C. Grace Unknown

Horton, Michael, ed. Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation

Edwards, Jonathan. Religious Affections

Carson, D. A. Exegetical Fallacies

Thomas Ascol, ed. Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches

Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion

MacArthur, John. Vanishing Conscience

Boice, James Montgomery. Foundations of the Christian Faith

Edwards, Jonathan. End for which God Created the World

Pink, A.W. The Sovereignty of God

Hannah, John. Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine

Augustine. Confessions

Owen, John. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

Edwards, Jonathan. The Freedom of the Will

It's called reading. Top to bottom, left to right ... a group of words together is called a sentence. Take Tylenol for any headaches, Midol for any cramps.

P.S. If you'd like to lavish love on me in the area of books, here's my wishlist:
My Wish List

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

His momma named him CLAY; I'm gonna call him CLAY.

Today is Boxing Day, a holiday in countries like England and Canada whereby one boxes up gifts to take to friends (as opposed to the family members).

Plus, Rocky Balboa started recently in theaters.

So, who is your favorite boxer of the Rocky genre? Favorite Rocky foil?
  • Rocky "the Italian Stallion" Balboa
  • Spider Rico
  • Apollo "the Count of Monte Fisto" Creed
  • Thunder Lips
  • Clubber Lang
  • Ivan Drago
  • Tommy "the Machine" Gunn

Boxing is one of the dirtiest rackets in operation, particularly under the realm of that which may be regarded as sport. It has also had some of the shadiest characters in the world intricately involved (e.g., Don King, more than the hair to avoid).

But I still have a passing interest, particularly in its history. I thought to myself, "Self, who's your favorite boxer?"

Joe Louis - the "Brown Bomber" was outstanding and head and shoulders above the competition (a 69-3 record). During the years leading up to World War two the nation got behind Louis who had defeated Germans Max Baer and Max Schmeling, the latter of which had handed him his first loss in 1936.

Louis was a popular figure, which was seen by the love shown him when he had financial difficulties. Frank Sinatra paid for an expensive surgery. Max Schmeling, a German competitor with whom he had split victories, paid for his 1981 funeral. The only character flaw of which I am aware is that he was a liar. He always lied about his age.

Every time we talk about boxing some white boy gotta pull out Rocky Marciano. Rocky Marciano was great AND he beat Joe Louis. Now, Joe Louis was allegedly 137 years old when they fought, but it was still a win.

Cassius Clay proclaimed, "I am the greatest," and he was ... at least in his era. He was stripped of the title for failure participate in the Vietnam War. He had tried to change his name to Muhammed Ali, but his momma named him CLAY; I'm gonna call him CLAY.

He won the Heavyweight title 3 times and really helped put boxing on the map for a lot of people. He did float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. That wasn't just talk. Try to catch some of his fights on ESPN Classic.

Incidentally, Clay's 1975 fight with Chuck Wepner was the inspiration for Stallone to write the screenplay for the movie Rocky.

George Foreman - This father of George Foreman II-VI is a great personality and I love his grill, which is great for cooking bacon. He was a great champ back in Ali's day, but shocked the world in 1994 when he won the title at age 45. (I was blessed to get to meet him.)

Evander Holyfield - I fell in love with the Real Deal in college and he's the boxer I have watched perform as his career unfolded. He exposed Mike Tyson and was a great champion and professes to be a believer in Jesus. He is the only man to win the heavyweight title four times. Holyfield had been a Cruiserweight champion, and was an Olympian in that division. In 1984 he took the bronze medal in the Olympics, even though he could/should have won the gold. He lost in the semi-finals by disqualification for connecting with a vicious left hand after the referee called for a break.

He beat Buster Douglas to win the Heavyweight title, the man who had just won it from the overrated Tyson. Holyfield was set to defend the title against Tyson, but Tyson had a rape to pay for instead. He later beat Tyson twice, the second due to Tyson being disqualified due to biting off a piece of Evander's ear.

Jack Dempsey - I like the history of sport and going back into the annals my favorite boxer predates me by generations.

William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey (June 24, 1895 – May 31, 1983) held the world heavyweight title between 1919 and 1926, is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. Twenty-six of his opponents were knocked out in round one.

"The Manassa Mauler" lost (on points) to Gene Tunney in 1926. The attendance for this fight was a record 120,557, the largest attendance ever for a sporting event. It was reported that when he returned to his dressing room, Dempsey explained the defeat to wife Estelle Taylor by saying,"Honey, I forgot to duck."

Clearly, Dempsey could/should have won in a rematch, but was on the business end of "the long count."

Dempsey was losing the fight on points when he knocked Tunney down with a left hook to the chin in the seventh round. A new rule for boxing at the time mandated that when a fighter knocks down an opponent, he must immediately go to a neutral corner, but Dempsey seemed to have forgotten that rule and refused to immediately move to the neutral corner when instructed by the referee. The referee had to escort Dempsey to the neutral corner, which bought Tunney at least an extra five seconds to recover.

The official timekeeper for the fight counted the time Tunney stayed down as 17 seconds. But, after Dempsey finally went to a neutral corner, the referee started his count, and Tunney got up at the referee's count of nine. Dempsey tried to finish Tunney off before the round ended, but failed to do so. A fully recovered Tunney dropped Dempsey for a count of one in round eight, easily won the final two rounds of the fight, and retained the title on a unanimous decision. Ironically the new rule (which was not yet universal) was requested during negotiations by members of the Dempsey camp. Because of the controversial nature of the fight, it remains known in history as the fight of "The Long Count."
Dempsey's career encompassed 83 fights, 62 wins, 50 KOs, 6 losses, 9 draws, 6 No Contests. After boxing this popular figure fought a few exhibition fights before becoming a restauranteer.

So, who's your favorite boxer? and/or ... Who do you say is the greatest of all time?

Monday, December 25, 2006

What do you want? want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.

What did you want for Christmas?

What did you get? Have you been good?

By God's grace, I got my Christmas gifts early.

My greatest Christmas gift of 2006 I received in late October, a Cardinals World Series victory.

The greatest Christmas gift of all time I received years ago, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“God hath long contended with a stubborn world, and thrown down many a blessing upon them; and when all his other gifts could not prevail, he at last made a gift of himself.”
-Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man
What do you want? You want the moon?

How about a relationship with the One who created the moon and stars, being justified through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ?
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
-Romans 5:8 (ESV)
How's that for a Merry Christmas?!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.

Wow, I didn't see this coming, but congratulations on a great season. Prior to 2006, they had never won a playoff football game, but ...

Don't look now ... my alma mater, Cedar Hill High School (16-0) just won the 5A Division II State Championship with a convincing win over Cypress Falls Eagles (51-17).

This is likely the only time you'll ever be able to hear me congratulate the Longhorns.

Okay, I'll admit it ... I'm a sports fan, especially football. Some think that for a grown man to be so invested that it's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.

Friday, December 22, 2006

If you're really Santa Claus, you can get it for me. And if you can't you're only a nice man with a white beard like Mother said.

As I'm about to head off to the mall to endure the beating that is Christmas shopping ...

I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and to remind us all that Jesus is the reason for the season. That's actually pretty easy to forget.

But as well I wanted to remind us that Christ is more than just a baby in a manger or a cosmic Santa Claus that give us what we want.

Our need is not for more stuff, but for salvation, which is only through Christ (John 14:6).
Our Greatest Need
If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
so God sent us a Savior.

He is our Savior, but He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (glory, Hallelujah!).
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. -Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)

Remember, He took on humanity that we might honor God through our redemption as we glorify His grace (Eph 1:11-12).

The Maker of man became man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die. – Saint Augustine

With regard to Santa, I'm not a hater, but I never want him to be an eclipser either.

Subordinate your extracurricular slooge so that Jesus Christ is not eclipsed by a holiday commercialized to the point of potentially having little relationship with the Savior.

Hey, Santa Claus really is only a nice man with a white beard. But Jesus Christ is our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Master, and Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's like, how much more black could this be?

I thought this was funny. Just before I turned off the television kids program my little ones had been watching a commercial came on. Kids songs for kids sung by kids.

Nothing noteworthy, except the tagline.

This is apparently the eleventh in the series, so they kept saying, "This one goes to eleven!"

Many of us recognize the greatness of that allusion, but I'm relatively certain that the viewing audience has no clue.

Nothing new I guess, because as I watch cartoons now I realize just how much of the humor and character references are geared toward adults.

I first noticed this with the Flintstones, where the movie star was Rock Quarry (instead of Rock Hudson). The Jetsons were proficient at this as well. But the head of the class was WB's Looney Tunes, my favorite of which was The Scarlet Pumpernickel.

I realize now the layered meaning of cartoons, some of which I may still yet to catch. The funny was one thing when I was five, but another at thirty-five. I now pick up on the cultural references that were current to the adult audience.

For the kids, they're left in the dark. They look around in the blackness and ask, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Did you live under power lines as a kid, or something?

I had lunch with my girls at their elementary school today.

2nd grade lunch was rather non-eventful as we sat off by ourselves, somewhat away from the general population.

However, kindergarten was more interesting.

So ... what I learned today in kindergarten:

First, the lunch bringers are not allowed to begin eating until the lunch buyers have returned with their feed. The kids don't get a great deal of time for chow, so I found it odd that kids had to sit there with their respective lunch boxes awaiting the kids in the queue. Rachel said that was to make it fair for everybody.

This has long been a pet peeve of mine, the whole public (school) mentality of striving to create fairness, whatever that really is (e.g., everybody gets a medal, there are no losers ... ergo, no winners, everyone gets the same regardless of behavior, etc.). I may be reading too much into it, but it brought back to my mind the rut that public schools can fall into whereby they reward mediocrity.

I wondered ... is it fair that kids have to sit and wait through no fault of their own? Is it fair that they won't have time to finish their meals either? In my mind, it's just a benefit of being a bringer ... you get to start eating when you have the culinary ability.

Of course, it was the time of waiting where I saw kids getting in the most trouble. Without the option of eating, shenanigans rose to the top of the list of things to do.

I don't know. It just seems to me that they are there to eat and they should maximize the time they are there so they can minimize food thrown away.

Second, the kids are being taught the difference between organic and inorganic trash. The big person puts a plastic bin on the table and we "put our organic in there." On the one hand, that seems like a good idea as they put paper products and food in a different container, assuming it's destination is different.

But, the kids really enjoy having fun with pouring their food in there, etc. They realize they're not going to have time to eat all their chow, so they head to the tater tots (instead of saving them for later, as Napoleon might) and throw the other food in the bucket. It seemed to me that the game of organic disposal actually derailed the eating process.

Third, little girls are really cute; little boy are mutants. It's not their fault really, but that's just the way it is. That's the way I see it; that's the way it's gonna be.

I can't tell you how many times these boys would walk by and say, "Hi, Rachel" or "Hi, Sarah" and I'd have to say, "Go eat your lunch, sloogey boy, and quit talking to Rachel/Sarah."

Rachel would say, "His name is X, but you can call him, 'Sloogey Boy.'" Yeah, like anything else ever entered my mind. There's just no reason they need to be conversing with my daughters ... Amen?

Anyway, I see these kids in the lunchroom and I'm wanting to ask each of them, "Did you live under power lines as a kid, or something?"

Monday, December 18, 2006

That was an especially nice touch, Clarice.

While out tonight I caught a few minutes of the news tonight. The "hot story" they kept promoting dealt with Miss USA. Today is her 21st birthday, but instead of being happy she might have to give back her crown.

After two segments of anticipation she may lose her crown due to allegations of underage drinking, cocaine, and sexual shenanigans. The last of which included "lustify kissing" Miss Teen USA and sneaking men into their hotel room.

I found myself thinking ... C'mon! Nobody cares.

Can you believe in 2006 we even still have such tomfoolery as beauty pagents and so forth? What with the objectification of women and the disdain for shallowness where feminity are concerned?

What a beating that the legitimate news has to give us this "shocking" Inside Edition Hollywood Access National Enquirer slooge!

The worst was Clarice Tinsley had to embarrass herself by asking enthusiastically of the field reporter, "And when will we know the outcome?!"

I thought that was an especially nice touch, Clarice. However, her FEBA* was not convincing.

I hadn't seen the local news in quite a few years. I hadn't missed much.

*FEBA = False Enthusiasm, Bogus Attitude

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm Sorry I'm late, I had to attend the reading of a will. I had to stay till the very end and I found out I received nothing.

Recently I spoke with a couple soon to be married about various (pre)marital issues, including the importance of a will. As you can imagine, a couple anticipating their lives before them are not thinking about death. They're not alone in that regard.

An exception was my great grandmother, Granny. I remember reading her will and being impressed with the meticulous detail. For example, she was not a fan of a spouse of one of her descendants and made sure nobody could accuse her of having forgotten him in the will. We'll call him, "Spare." She wrote, Spare gets nothing. Spare certainly does not get the tools in the basement, particularly the table saw that he's had his eye on."

But, she was consistent in judging based on merit (as she saw it). In fact, one of her siblings got the short end of the stick. "To my sister I leave the total sum of one dollar." I anticipate having some fun with my will when I write it, incorporating some of Granny's good humor.

Yet, even I will admit death is not something I think of often.

Death is something we are not keen to discuss, but it and taxes are two things in life you can count on. Yet, attorneys note that the vast majority of Americans die without a will. Hopefully, you won’t fall into this category. Maybe you’ve provided a will as an expression of love and concern for your heirs, making the transition easier on them as they mourn your loss. I’m sure many of you have even specified particular beneficiaries for particular items of worth. You have probably designated close friends and/or family to inherit those things you hold dear.

But, have you ever thought about a spiritual will?

What values and character traits would you like to leave behind? Who will inherit your spiritual legacy? Have you given much thought to particular beneficiaries for particular things you hold dear?

What character traits will you pass on to your children?

Will you leave them integrity, humility, love, and purity? What values will your loved ones receive? Will you leave them with a knowledge of the importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ and a love for Him and His Word? Will you leave them with the values of hard work and honesty?

Take a few minutes and write down a few beneficiaries and what values and traits you would like to leave them.

Many parents want to leave wealth for their children, but it takes hard work to acquire such a legacy. In the same way, many of those things in your spiritual will require great effort to procure. For each of the beneficiaries you listed, identify the steps necessary to ensure that you can leave such a legacy.

For example, “I, _____________, being of sound mind and realizing the brevity of life, do hereby bequeath to _______________ the following: ____________. In order to ensure this transaction, I will do the following: ______________.”

May God richly bless you in order that you can leave a wealthy spiritual legacy.

What are you doing today that will provide for their spiritual well-being tomorrow?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

When in Rome ...

I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of the following, but I can confirm the humor therein.

"Apparently, every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the U.S. Here are last year's winners."

  1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
  4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
  8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.
  9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
  10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
  12. Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
  13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
  14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
  15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.
  16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.
  18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
  19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
  25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.

You've probably seen those Mac vs. PC commercials on television. They're cute.

This was put out by Community Christian Church (one church, multiple locations).

While I think this is a bit of a false dichotomy, it's still funny so I enjoyed it. I think you might as well. (Thanks to Doc Mistero for posting it.)

Plus, there's an element of truth because folks tend to project a persona that is fake to appear to be somebody rather than realizing that really we're all nobodies and only Christ is a somebody. Hey, it's all who you know!

Is it better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody? No.

It's only through the realization of our own lack of significance that we can realize our need for the Significant One whose meritorious life & death can make us somebody ... for real, for through faith in the Lord Jesus we are children of God (John 1:12-13).

Friday, December 08, 2006

The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!

Beyond the Aggies I'm not really an avid fan of college football.

I may watch the occasional "big" game, but that's about it. I like the energy & tradition, but I only have so much sports watching time and it's consumed with Aggies, Cowboys, Cardinals, Stars, the Mighty Lakers, the Little Mavericks, etc.

But, let me sound off on this college football meltdown known as the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) real quick. I'm really getting whipped about hearing of how it has failed (again) to pit the top two teams in the championship game.

Hey, there's so much cagged with college football. Let me count the ways.

First, what's up with big schools being able to schedule cream puffs the first three games of the season to increase the win total to be bowl eligible?

Second, the whole conference thing is curious. Some teams are in one; some are not. Some have a championship game; some don't. That means an extra game at the end of the season whereby they actually have to play a good opponent just to win the conference.

Third, there's rampant cheating in the programs. How? By boosters either (a) giving a player money under the table or (b) providing perks that don't show up on W-2 forms for a player and/or his family members.

My solution, pay the players as though football was their part-time job. They put in a ton of hours ... in a job ... that makes the school thousands, consequently millions. Stick it to the man and share the love. Sure, there will still be some behavior to police, but one might be less tempted if he's at least getting some blow money for the weekends or money to save up or send home or whatever. As it is, they cannot work and have no income whatsoever ... legitimate, that is.

Fourth, the whole poll thing is odd. There are two polls, one voted by the coaches and the other the AP, written by sports writers. The former seems absurd because the average fan watches so much more football than does the coach, who tends to only watch his game film and scout upcoming opponents. Joe Paterno is not watching A&M at Tech or other such action that could impact rankings. Plus, don't you think a coach's sitz im Leben impacts his rankings. What's to stop him from ranking his opposition very low so their BCS rankings are impacted negatively? What's to prevent him from ranking the opponents he's beaten higher than deserved to make his strength of schedule appear better?

The sports writers tend to be consumed with regional teams and also are under-informed, so I question their poll. But I do prefer it due to less conflict of interest.

Incidentally, what's up with a preseason ranking? A new team with new players, but clearly not a clean slate to start the season. Before any games have been played a team could be way down the food chain so that an undefeated season won't get them in the top 5, let alone in the championship game.

They need a playoff system, if the goal really is an undisputed champion. If it's just money, then keep your current bowl system where any spare team with a pulse can get a bid to at least the Bowl.

My suggestion: Take the top 8 teams in the AP poll and put them in a single elimination tournament, where the (1) seed hosts the (8) and so forth. Or move the games around to some of the bowl locations.

Teams (9) through (93) can play in the other bowl games just like usual, with the semi-finals of the bracket the weekend before the bowls and the championship game the Sunday night that follows.

Sure, there's still some question about which team should be (8) and which should be (9), but at least then you have 8 teams with a chance to win the title, instead of just two. Plus, you're pretty well guaranteed to have those perceived to be the top two with at least a chance, which many argue didn't happen this year (e.g., USC or Michigan are seen as better than Florida).

Arguments against the playoff include disturbing finals for the students. To that I respond that (1) Division Two teams have a playoff and it's fine.

Iincidentally, what title DOESN'T have a playoff system? NHL? NBA? College Basketball? NFL? MLB? The only other thing I can think of in the genre of college football is ... Boxing and we know how wheels off that is!

(2) You could shorten the college football season to 10 games for all, eliminating a cream puff or two at the beginning. Then start up right after Thanksgiving, spreading out the three rounds of the tournament to do the first two before finals and the championship game around New Year's Eve/Day.

So, I realize folks are miffed that Florida jumped Michigan in the BCS standings due to human decision because they didn't want a rematch or whatnot. But college football has been so heinous about this stuff for so long it doesn't even register on my radar screen.

If I watch non-Aggie football it's typically the SEC championship game or the Big XII championship game, determined by record and not subjective opinion.

Without a playoff system, I'm afraid college football will continue to beat down the fan who wants it to make sense.

Trying to figure out the rhyme or reason to college football is borderline maddening. In fact, the sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, a Day of Infamy (December 7, 1941). That was the day that pulls us into World War II. Some historical perspective on this day (Danke to Ltc. Hartman for the info, including some original Pearl Harbor photos from one aboard the USS Quapaw ATF-110):

By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port. Providentially, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not in port. (The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island , where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexingtonwas ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States).

In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft.

At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.

At 0753 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 "Val" dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor. Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.

When it was over, the U.S.losses were:
USA : 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
USN: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
USMC: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.

TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.


USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-44) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco (CA-38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage.

USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD-372) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.

USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.

Seaplane Tender
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.

Repair Ship
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.

Harbor Tug
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.

188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)

It wasn't over, but just the beginning. In fact, it wasn't over until Japan surrended after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki in August of 1945.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one. That's good. Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength.

I've often prayed that God would help us to see sin as He sees it, particularly our own sin. If so, we would hate it as we should, and cling to that which is good.

Indeed, we are to "hate evil, and love good" (Amos 5:15; cf. Rom 12:9). That's easier said than done.

We sin because we think we'll find joy there. We sin because we don't really trust God when He says sin is bad for us and obedience is not only to His glory, but our own good.

As such, we fight a half-hearted war against sin, but that should not be. I refer to our elder brother and English Puritan John Owen (1616-83), who wrote ...
“Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.”

We don't typically think of hate as a good thing, but it is, provided the object of that hate is appropriate.

Love God. Hate sin. You have to hate it, if you're going to stand a chance fighting it.

Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Do you guys really want to know what love is?

I'm firmly convinced that we were created to glorify God, but how do we glorify God? To ask it another way, what is it in us that glorifies God?

What does God see in us that pleases Him?

The only thing God could perceive as intrinsicly lovely is God Himself. Thus, God is glorified when He sees Himself in us. God is glorified when the Fruit of the Spirit is manifest in our lives.

In contrast to the preceding bad stuff that believers should avoid (Gal 5:19-21), the Spirit working in and through a believer brings forth effects known as the Fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
-Galatians 5:22-23
I'd like to examine each aspect of the Fruit (singular) of the Spirit. First, we'll look at love.

Lily Tomlin said, "If love is the answer, Could you rephrase the question?"

Love may be a "many-splendored thing," but it's often confusing, misunderstood, and that which makes cynics when it goes bad.

Just ask Mr. J. Geils:
I've had the blues, the reds and the pinks. One thing's for sure ... love stinks.
Before you chime in with "yeah, yeah," we must first make sure we have an appropriate understanding of what love is ... biblically speaking, that is.

Do you guys really want to know what love is?

I think I heard you say, "I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me." In that case, I will.

Let's try to ask and answer two questions:
1. What is love?
2. What does love look like as Fruit of the Spirit?

1. What is love? (baby, don't hurt me)

It is my contention that there is great confusion in our culture about what love really is.

Is love a second-hand emotion?
Oh, what's love got to do with it?
What's love but a second-hand emotion?
What's love got to do with it?
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? -Tina Turner
Is love something you cook up in the oven?!
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.
-Dean Martin

The word love tends to bring to mind the notion of romantic love, but for many that's just another form of selfishness.

In other words, love is the way you make me feel. This is the notion of "being in love" with someone. When that feeling goes away, so does the love.

Even in love most people tend to operate according to the Law of WIIFM (What's In It For Me?).

Someday one of my daughters will try to convince me that I should accept some spare guy who she’s interested in because she loves him and he loves her. I'm no dummy. He’s not interested in her, but in himself. He wants her for what she can do for him or for how he feels when he’s with her. Because he loves himself, he wants her.

At least Meatloaf was honest when he sang, “I want you. I need you. But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you. But don’t feel sad, ‘cause two out of three ain’t bad.”
Genuine love is other-centered, a willingness to sacrifice for another (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-7).
You can give without loving,
But you cannot love without giving.
-Amy Carmichael
True love goes beyond "being in love" and true romantic love is intimacy (cf. parallel of God & His people in Eph 5:25-32). Aristotle said, "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. " There is a union that transcends someone's heart going pitty-pat.

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote:
“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. ... In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last. ... But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love ... is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God. ... They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep their promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
2. What does love look like as Fruit of the Spirit? How is God glorified by a Christian exhibiting love of the fruit of the Spirit variety?

First, we glorify God as the Fruit of the Spirit by loving differently than the heathen do. That means that we have love for people of different races. It also means that we exhibit unexpected love. In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we see both of these aspects as what Jesus expects for those endeavoring to love their neighbor.

The Samaritan winds up being the hero of the story, contrary to the expectation of the audience where he would not have been expected to help the Jewish traveler, for a Jewish traveler certainly would not have helped one of his race. Instead of the priest or the Levite getting to be the hero, they did not demonstrate love, which would have been expected, but the half-breed outcast did. Why? Because his love for another was genuine as he loved contrary to the manner of the non-believers. His love was unexpected and crossed racial boundaries.

To love differently than the world also means that you have love for those who hate you, your enemies. It's easy to love those who love you, even the non-Christians do that. Jesus raises the bar for the behavior of His followers by insisting on loving the unlovable (Matt 5:46-47), just as was done for us (Rom 5:8).

Second, we glorify God as the Fruit of the Spirit when our lives as individuals and as a church are characterized by love. In fact, if we don't have love even those deeds which look good profit us nothing (1 Cor 13:1-13).

What is it that should characterize a church? What quality chiefly characterizes us as Christian? (John 13:34-35) What one word sums up the Christian life, experience, obligation, etc.?

LOVE! Love for God. Love for others. (Matt 22:36-40)

The implication? Glorify God with your love.

Love differently than the heathen do.
By nature we choose our friends, a church, a spouse, etc. for what we can get out of it.

But glorify God with your love means to love even when you won’t get anything in return. Glorifying God with your love means to love by faith, for the Christian life is faith expressing itself through love (Gal 5:6). Glorify God when you worship as you sing of your affection for Him.

Love as God loved you. (1 John 4:7-12)
Mother Teresa said, "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."

People yearn to be loved, just as was the case with us. He loved us when we didn't deserve it. Love others who also don't deserve it, if you want to glorify God with your love.

My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s prayer for the Philippians (Phil 1:9-11):
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
If we are to glorify God, we must ask how is that done. We glorify Him by obedience as our deeds reflect His character (Matt 5:16). What's the motivation to obedience? Our love fuels our obedience, for the one who obeys Christ is the one who loves Him (John 14:21). How does one come to love Christ? He who is forgiven much, will love much (Luke 7:47).

As a pastor, I see it as my job to coach my flock to better glorify God. It seems to me that key in that equation is to help them understand their forgiveness that their love my grow into obedience that people see that moves them to glorify God.

Do you guys really want to know what love is?
Look to the cross, for there's no greater demonstration.

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