Saturday, August 30, 2008

Too late to back out...

What a privilege to attend a family wedding today. The whole service was a great reminder of Christ's love for his church (and Heather's for Rob and visa versa). With apologies to the A-Team (a very unromantic TV show) and to the newlyweds: "I love it when a plan comes together."

My youngest daughter has been dying to call Heather "Aunt Heather" for weeks. The wait ended today. Following the ceremony, I gave the go ahead, "You can call her Aunt Heather now."

As for Heather, she has no idea what a crazy clan she's gotten herself mixed up with. We will soon reveal our true nature. It's too late now. She's one of us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fulfilling your life's calling...

Here are Bob Reccord and Randy Singer's 8 principles for fulfilling your life's calling from their book, Live Your Passion, Tell Your Story, Change Your World...

1. God has been preparing a unique plan and calling for your life since before you were born.

2. God calls you to a life-changing relationship with him through Jesus Christ.

3. God calls you to partner with him in a life-changing mission that is bigger than you are.

4. God repeatedly will bring you to crossroads of choice as he forges and equips you for his mission.

5. God calls you to be on mission with him right where you are - starting now.

6. God reveals his mission through his Word, his Spirit, wise counsel, and his work in circumstances around you.

7. God guides you and provides for you to carry out your mission one step at a time.

8. When you answer God's call and fulfill his mission, you will experience his pleasure and inevitably change your world.


(Copyright 2004)

Conflict happens (Part 2)

Conflict happens! I think I mentioned that earlier. It still does.

Take the the circumcision-uncircumcision debate in the early church. The record of this debate is found in Acts 15.

Peter has taken the good news right into a Gentile’s house in chapter 10. He’s explained himself to the church in chapter 11. Paul and Barnabas have preached the same good news on Cyprus, in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. They return to their home church in Antioch with awesome stories of God’s work among the non-Jews.

Then some n’er do wells come and spoil the party. “Unless you are circumcised,” they shout, “you cannot be saved.”

Their words brought them into sharp dispute with Paul and Barnabas. So the missionary duo and some others from the church were appointed to go to Jerusalem and confer with the apostles and elders in the church there.

When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church. Paul and Barnabas reported everything God had done through them. Then some believers of the party of the Pharisees spoke up. “The Gentiles must be circumcised,” they insisted. [They must be] required to obey the law of Moses.” (v. 5)

So the apostles and elders met to consider this issue. Peter spoke. Paul and Barnabas spoke. The three of them showed through story after story that God had chosen the Gentiles while uncircumcised. If God had seen no need for the ritual, who were they to require it? They rested their case.

Then James spoke. “It is my judgment,” he said, “that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (v. 19-20)

And that’s what the church did. They wrote a letter to the Gentile believers. When the church read the gracious words, they were encouraged. The fight was over. Peace reigned.

Let’s talk about that letter for a moment. In it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest statements in the whole New Testament. This phrase shows us the way to resolving disagreements, at least among brothers and sisters in Christ. The phrase is smack dab in the middle of the elders’ letter in verse 28.

Here’s what they wrote: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements…” (v. 28)

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

When we’re in the midst of conflict, great or small, God is with us. He is there to guide us toward reconciliation. That’s what he desires. If we will go to him, he will show us the way out.

The leaders in Jerusalem First Church knew that. They talked together, but listened to more than just the voices of men. They listened to the voice of God behind what Peter and Paul and Barnabas said. That’s how they came to agreement so quickly. It’s why their solution was so readily welcomed by the church.

When our church meets together, whether it’s on a Sunday morning for worship or on a weeknight for a committee meeting or after evening worship for a business meeting, we pray before we do anything. We bring God into our conversations that way. We bring him into our worship times. We include him in our business.

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in the Scriptures. That’s not just a made up name. That’s who he is. He is the ultimate peacemaker. As such, he is able to do amazing things when his children make him a part of every interaction they have with each other.

Let’s read some Jesus’ words about dealing with conflict.

“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.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:15-20, NIV)

I think it’s a big deal, don’t you, that Jesus himself is involved in our conflicts? From the very beginning when we go to our brother privately to the very end when the church gets involved, Jesus is there, working in each believer’s heart to bring peace.

“…where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them,” is his promise for those in difficulty. So when you find yourself at odds with a brother, pray. Pray and talk with him. Bring the Holy Spirit into your problem and see what miracle he performs.

When all is said and done and peace has returned, you may find yourself saying, along with the brother you love, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to…” God will fill in the blank with something you could not have imagined when the argument broke out.

May the peace of God reign in your hearts today. (Can't wait to share more on this topic with you next week.


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Sue Lani...

I happened upon this video while reading through a recent issue of EMS1.com's newsletter. It's a great story and reminds me why I serve as an EMT in a small town. God bless Sue Lani and every rural EMT that serves their friends, relatives and neighbors.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Conflict happens (Part 1)

Conflict happens! It is a part of our life, like it or not. At work we get into it with our supervisor. At home we’re at odds with our kids. At church we don’t see eye to eye on what God’s will is concerning just about anything.

What are we to do? Is there a way out?

There is and the first step toward freedom is taking the humble position and attitude of a servant.

I’m serious. Think about it. Servants have the good of others and the good of their master in mind as they walk through each day. They aren’t selfish or proud. They know who’s in control and they obey Him. It’s his reputation they care most about. They have no fear for their own needs. They don’t have to push and shove to get what they want. Their Master will provide plenty for their enjoyment.

What does the Scripture say?

Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)

We have a good master, folks. We can trust him to care for us.

Solomon said a thing or two about pride. One of his proverbs connects arrogance to fighting. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (NIV)

James wrote concerning the connection between self-interest and strife. James 4:1 begins with two straight-to-the-point questions. “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” is the first. The second drives the dagger deep. “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

James then goes on to describe selfishness with great insight in the first sentences of verse 2. “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.

The final sentence of verse 2 and the whole of verse 3 wrap up the selfishness-and-peace-don’t-mix argument. “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (All NIV)

What did we just read?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4, NIV)

No need to knock others out of the way to get what you need. “…seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness…” That’s what Jesus advised. And he promised in return that “all these things” – our needs – “will be given to you as well.”

Pride breeds quarrels. Selfishness causes fights. So listen to God’s word. James 4:6-7 tells us the truth.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (NIV)

And verse 10 adds this command with a promise: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10, NIV)

You don’t have to claw and grab to get what matters. Trust God. Look to his interests and he will take care of you. Humbly serve others and reasons to fight will be few. Strife can be avoided when all take the low position of servant.

Expect more on conflict over the next couple of weeks. I'm still writing on the subject.


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The family that reads together...

Last night was this year's first Family Reading Night at the grade school. My daughter and I took Mrs. Lawrence up on her offer of free food and hung out in the hallway for an hour devouring excellent literature. When the end drew near, we headed to the lunch room for hot dogs, chips and pop. Healthy! Mom joined us for that after working on sub plans in her Kindergarten classroom for most of the time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Our wedding day approaches...

It happened again last weekend. I was attending the wedding of friends and my heart was blessed as a sense of passion for my Lord welled up within me.

I don’t know what it is, maybe I’m getting old, but every wedding I’ve been to over the past year or two has stirred up great joy in my soul as I think about the ultimate wedding, the only wedding at which I will be the bride. I will someday in the not too distant future, along with the rest of the church, be united with Christ in marriage. I don’t know all that means, but I know that the same sense of anticipate and happiness that accompanied my wedding day twenty-one plus years ago is mine whenever I think on this matter. I was eager to be united to my wife then. I am more eager to be united to my Savior now. I can’t imagine anything better than the marital bliss, untainted by pride and pettiness, that the saints and Jesus will enjoy forever.

May God give you a sense of expectation as you await the wedding of the Lamb.

(I’m going to another wedding this weekend. Yippee! Pray God’s blessing on my brother-in-law and his fiancĂ© as they become man and wife Saturday.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

1000 miles...

Finally! I passed the 1000 mile mark on my bike today. I should be well over 2000, but that was not to be. I have not had the time to ride that I have had in the past. Being on call for EMS and trying not to take family time have limited days free to ride.

Still, I'm riding well (for me). This week was a great one. In six days, I rode 101 miles at 18.4mph. I had one day at 19.0mph. Every day I averaged 18.0mph or more.

The 22 miles at 18.1mph I managed today was hard work. I left home under a clear sky. The breeze out of the east was light. It was 70 degrees. Beautiful! Over the first four miles the sky began to darken and by six miles the wind had picked up considerably. I turned around at 7 miles to see if I could get back to the breeze before the front passed through town. I rode back eight, passing through town, then turned to run back four to reach my 22 mile goal. (I needed 22 to make 100 for the week.) The four miles into the wind saw my average drop 0.5mph. When I turned for the final three miles, I knew I would have my work cut out for me working back up to 18.0mph. Turned out the wind made it fairly easy. I had more than a mile to go when I snuck back up to my goal speed and then about 0.75 miles out I got the bonus tenth per hour.

Fun! Can't wait for next Friday. My brother-in-law, my nephew and I plan to ride our annual century.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bike lanes could cause greater pollution?

The Wall Street Journal ran this column on a truly nutty event...

SAN FRANCISCO Ponders: Could Bike Lanes Cause Pollution?

New York is wooing cyclists with chartreuse bike lanes. Chicago is spending nearly $1 million for double-decker bicycle parking.

San Francisco can't even install new bike racks.

Blame Rob Anderson. At a time when most other cities are encouraging biking as green transport, the 65-year-old local gadfly has stymied cycling-support efforts here by arguing that urban bicycle boosting could actually be bad for the environment. That's put the brakes on everything from new bike lanes to bike racks while the city works on an environmental-impact report.

Cyclists say the irony is killing them -- literally. At least four bikers have died and hundreds more have been injured in San Francisco since mid-2006, when Mr. Anderson helped convince a judge to halt implementation of a massive pro-bike plan. (It's unclear whether the plan's execution could have prevented the accidents.) In the past year, bike advocates have demonstrated outside City Hall, pushed the city to challenge the plan's freeze in court and proposed putting the whole mess to local voters. Nothing worked.

"We're the ones keeping emissions from the air!" shouted Leah Shahum, executive director of the 10,000-strong San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, at a July 21 protest.

WSJ's Phred Dvorak reports from a Critical Mass event in San Francisco, a monthly bike ride that draws hundreds of cyclists. She talks with bikers as well as disgruntled drivers.

Mr. Anderson disagrees. Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes, he reasons, so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution. Mr. Anderson says the city has been blinded by political correctness. It's an "attempt by the anti-car fanatics to screw up our traffic on behalf of the bicycle fantasy," he wrote in his blog this month.
Mr. Anderson's fight underscores the tensions that can circulate as urban cycling, bolstered by environmental awareness and high gasoline prices, takes off across the U.S. New York City, where the number of commuter cyclists is estimated to have jumped 77% between 2000 and 2007, is adding new bike lanes despite some motorist backlash. Chicago recently elected to kick cars off stretches of big roads on two Sundays this year.


Famously progressive, San Francisco is known for being one of the most pro-bike cities in the U.S., offering more than 200 miles of lanes and requiring that big garages offer bike parking. It is also known for characters like Mr. Anderson.

A tall, serious man with a grizzled gray beard, Mr. Anderson spent 13 months in a California federal prison for resisting the draft during the Vietnam War. He later penned pieces for the Anderson Valley Advertiser, a muckraking Northern California weekly owned by his brother that's known for its savage prose and pranks.

Running for Office

In 1995, Mr. Anderson moved to San Francisco. Working odd jobs, he twice ran for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, pledging to tackle homelessness and the city's "tacit PC ideology." He got 332 of 34,955 votes in 2004, his second and best try.

That year Mr. Anderson, who mostly lives off a small government stipend he receives for caring for his 92-year-old mother, also started a blog, digging into local politics with gusto. One of his first targets: the city's most ambitious bike plan to date.

Unveiled in 2004, the 527-page document was filled with maps, traffic analyses and a list of roughly 240 locations where the city hoped to make cycling easier. The plan called for more bike lanes, better bike parking and a boost in cycling to 10% of the city's total trips by 2010.

The plan irked Mr. Anderson. Having not owned a car in 20 years, he says he has had several near misses with bikers roaring through crosswalks and red lights, and sees bicycles as dangerous and impractical for car-centric American cities. Mr. Anderson was also bugged by what he describes as the holier-than-thou attitude typified by Critical Mass, a monthly gathering of bikers who coast through the city, snarling traffic for hours. "The behavior of the bike people on city streets is always annoying," he says. "This 'Get out of my way, I'm not burning fossil fuels.' "

Going to Court

In February 2005, Mr. Anderson showed up at a planning commission meeting. If San Francisco was going to take away parking spaces and car lanes, he argued, it had better do an environmental-impact review first. When the Board of Supervisors voted to skip the review, Mr. Anderson sued in state court, enlisting his friend Mary Miles, a former postal worker, cartoonist and Anderson Valley Advertiser colleague.

Ms. Miles, who was admitted to the California bar in 2004 at age 57, proved a pugnacious litigator. She sought to kill the initial brief from San Francisco's lawyers after it exceeded the accepted length by a page. She objected when the city attorney described Mr. Anderson's advocacy group, the Coalition for Adequate Review, as CAR in their documents. (It's C-FAR.) She also convinced the court to review key planning documents over the city's objections.

Slow Pedaling

In November 2006, a California Superior Court judge rejected San Francisco's contention that it didn't need an environmental review and ordered San Francisco to stop all bike-plan activity until it completed the review.

Since then, San Francisco has pedaled very slowly. City planners say they're being extra careful with their environmental study, in hopes that Mr. Anderson and Ms. Miles won't challenge it. Planners don't expect the study will be done for another year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Miles have teamed up to oppose a plan to put high-rises and additional housing in a nearby neighborhood. He continues to blog from his apartment in an old Victorian home. "Regardless of the obvious dangers, some people will ride bikes in San Francisco for the same reason Islamic fanatics will engage in suicide bombings - because they are politically motivated to do so," he wrote in a May 21 post.

"In case anyone doubted that you were a wingnut, this statement pretty much sums things up!" one commenter retorted.

Mr. Anderson is running for supervisor again this November - around the time the city will unveil the first draft of its bike-plan environmental review. He's already pondering a challenge of the review.

By PHRED DVORAK (August 20, 2008; Page A1)

Encourage...

One of the most important parts of following Jesus is gathering with fellow followers on a regular basis. It is in the company of the saints that we find God’s love expressed most fully. When believers gather, the purpose is encouragement. That’s what the Bible says.

Hebrews 10:19-25, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV)

Following God is not easy. The Holy Spirit within us has plenty of power to help us in resisting temptation and doing what’s right, but sometimes we falter despite his aid. We need others filled with the same loving God to lift us up and give us courage to carry on.

Have you been a courage giver recently? If not, there’s no better time than the present to start. Think of your friends at church, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Has any of them been through a difficult time in the past week or two? Find them next Sunday and pray with them. Do you know of someone who has a terrible work situation? Share with them the comfort God gave you in a similar situation years back.

This kind of activity is so beneficial, but it doesn’t happen without effort. So make the decision. “I’m going to be an encourager!” Then do it…NOW!

God bless you as you love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and as you love your neighbor as yourself!


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

God's word or manmade book...

Let’s talk about the Bible.

I was surprised that George Lakoff brought up the Bible at all in his book, Whose Freedom?. Even more shocked that he spoke of it positively from time to time, suggesting that it should guide our lives. Lakoff talked about some of the great teachings of Jesus which, he argued, should be followed by all.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

“Judge not.”

Who could argue with those statements? Sounds like Lakoff is on the right track. But the devil is in the details of what the professor from U. C. Berkeley believes about the book that informs the Christian’s faith and practice. Listening carefully to all that he says about the Bible I found him undermining the authority and timelessness of God’s standards as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and recorded by men of faith.

This book we call the Bible, he asserts, is full of made up mythological and metaphorical stories. It is a book written by the men who made moral decisions for their day. Their work, then, gives us guidance as we seek to define ethics in our own.

(I hope I have come close to a fair representation of Mr. Lakoff’s view on the Bible. It was a bit confusing at times, but I think I’ve got it right. I’m sure at least I’m close.)

So what does the Bible say for itself? It is the testimony of this book that it is actually God’s word. Its purposes are clear. It is written to inform our morality by revealing God’s decisions about what is right and wrong. It is given to us to show sinners – which includes all men, we’ve all fallen short of God’s standards – the way to salvation through faith in Jesus.

“All Scripture is God-breathed,” Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy. “[It is] God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV)

So this is not a man-invented book, but a God-inspired one. It is the inspired record of God’s dealings with man from the very beginning of time. It is the inspired record of God’s revelation of himself and his unchanging standards of morality. It is the inspired record of God’s work to save the damned, folks like you and me, through his son Jesus.

If this book is not what it claims to be, if it is only the inventions of man, if its morality is not steady, but changing, then this book is nothing really. It is not a moral guide. Who says we have to follow any part of it? Not God. He doesn’t even exist. He’s a part of the myth man made up until he grew up, until he knew better than God. We can do as we please, God be damned. The church be damned. Morals be damned.

Lakoff would, I imagine, object to the last of those three statements. He isn’t, in his own mind, rejecting morality. He isn’t even rejecting the Bible. He embraces the Bible’s overarching principles. What are the ultimate biblical principles, the ideas that guide progressive Christians as they make decisions? Empathy and responsibility – that’s what the Bible is really all about. Empathy and responsibility are the twin informers of ethical decisions for man in each era of his existence. Empathy and responsibility can help anyone know what is right for them at any given time in any given situation.

So let’s take a situation and apply the left’s principles of empathy and responsibility to them.

A woman gets pregnant. She does not want to be pregnant. She has been married to her husband for fifteen years and they already have two children. The two are in school now and she wants to advance in her career. She’s just applied to and been accepted into a prestigious university’s graduate school. Having a child will be a terrible inconvenience to her. A baby will limit her freedom to pursue her dreams.

The liberal feels with this woman. She is in such a difficult position. What she wants is being denied her by a growing fetus in her womb. Poor woman. She must be so frustrated. All that striving for admission to XYZ U will come to nothing. What’s she going to do?

The kind-hearted liberal really feels this woman’s anguish with her, feels it in his gut. It’s visceral. Real. Painful.

And so his empathy leads him to do the responsible thing: make sure this woman can end her suffering by terminating her unwanted pregnancy. That’s why abortion must remain legal in all cases. It’s a moral imperative. Empathy and responsibility which the Bible demands of all moral people insists that action be taken by all men to keep abortion legal, to make it available free-of-charge so all can have access to this option, to insure that it is as safe as any other “medical” procedure.

A woman’s freedom is at stake, for crying out loud! Feel her pain. Help her.

Knowing they will evoke empathy from the crowd every smart liberal asks the hard questions when debating a conservative. What about rape? What about incest? What if the mother’s life is endangered?

They do so in order to keep folks from discovering the truth: liberals, at least those who consistently apply their worldview to all of life, are for keeping all abortions for any and every reason at any point in the progression of a pregnancy legal. They believe anything less is immoral. Impinging on a woman’s freedom in anyway is a step backwards, a return to the time with the Bible was used to keep women down. We’re more moral now. We must maintain freedom for woman by insuring their right to abortion.

How different from what the Bible actually teaches. I will grant Lakoff this one point: empathy does require responsible action. God does require us to be compassionate toward others. The Bible teaches this clearly.

James 2:15-17, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)

In some ways, conservatives have failed to act compassionately in God-commanded ways. Our leaders’ (and sometimes our own) disdain for the poor does not reflect God’s character. We have room to grow.

But that does not change the fact that the Bible does not teach man to act immorally toward another in order to benefit the person for whom you feel sympathy. In other words, my feelings of compassion for a mother who does not want to be pregnant cannot justify the murdering of her infant in utero. God’s moral prohibition of murder trumps the desire to end an unwanted pregnancy. Killing the baby is not, according to God’s original design, natural. It is against our nature as human beings to kill another human being made in the image of God for convenience sake.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

If the standards of right and wrong change as man’s understanding of ethics evolves this cannot be true. There can be no basis for rebuke or correction if there is no firm and eternal truth. Without truth that is truth for all time anything and everything is permissible. There is no basis whatsoever for prohibiting anything. Today’s prohibition against that which harms another is subject to the same rules of relativity. Why should anyone let hurting another keep him from reaching his goals?

“That’s life, baby. Survival of the fittest. Praise Darwin and pass the ammunition!”

Craziness!


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Monday, August 18, 2008

On man's nature...

You are likely on any given day to run into a man or woman with leanings to the left. In a nation that’s divided as evenly as the U.S. is between so called red states and blue states, you’re going to encounter a liberal or two or three or more as you go about your business.

So wouldn’t it be good to understand where they’re coming from, why they think as they do? It is, after all, easier to discuss how what you believe differs from what your friend believes when you know what your friend believes. So I want to talk to you about what your thinking liberal friend believes.

I do want to make a clear distinction here. There are people who think through their position on issues and there are robotic followers. The former have logical reasoning, at least to them, behind their ideas. The latter just repeat the mantras of their cause, shouting slogans and waving signs. There are thinkers and non-thinkers on the left. There are thinkers and non-thinkers on the right.

What I’m addressing in this message, then, are the views of those in the “progressive” camp who have actually reasoned through each truth they hold to be self-evident. I consider George Lakoff, author of Whose Freedom?, to be in this thinkers group, so I will refer to his views as we proceed this morning. (With apologies to Mr. Lakoff, I will not be able to quote him directly. Since I’m listening to his book as I drive down the road, I’m unable to take notes or highlight passages or underline or bookmark or flip back and forth to find what I’m looking for. If I misrepresent him in any way, it is done so unintentionally. He can take me to task if we ever meet up.

Let’s start at the beginning – the very beginning.

The very first time I yelled at Mr. Lakoff – I had quietly grumbled a few times before this – was when he made a statement concerning our nature as human beings. Here’s the gist of what he said: Since we are animals by nature, like any other animal, we should be free to do whatever is natural to us. No government, no religion should be allowed to restrict any human action that is harmless to others.

I pointed at my CD player when he said that and shouted, “That’s exactly what divides us!”

This belief that we are just animals evolved from muck doing what animals evolved from muck do is the one belief that leads to nearly every other erroneous assumption made by “broadminded” liberals. It is this view more than any other – I’m inserting my opinion here – that leads millions into sin.

How different this idea is from what God has revealed about our nature and the nature of all things in the Bible.

“In the beginning,” the good book says, “God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1, NIV) God is immediately established as the maker of all things. In this role as maker, God determines throughout the first week of this world’s existence the nature of everything that we see, all that we know. On day six, he made man and determined man’s nature.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV)

We are made, created, formed in God’s image. We are not animals in the same sense that a cow is an animal. Cows are creatures, to be sure, made by God, but we are special creatures. We were made after everything else and fashioned in God’s image. We have been given a moral sense, a conscious. We have the capacity to think and reason. We can make decisions and act on them. We have the ability to give love and receive it. And those are just a few of the things that reflect God’s likeness in us.

So God is Creator and as such he has a perfect perspective on the matter of which actions are actually natural and which are not. Where the liberal looks at what is now natural, our Maker looks back to what was determined to be natural at the beginning, before man’s fall into sin.

Throughout God’s word, you find God defining what is natural and good. He does so both positively and negatively. He says positively, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He states negatively, “You shall not murder.” Doing the “love your neighbor” thing is natural and good. Not doing the “murder” thing is natural and good. That’s what God is saying. He is referring back to his original plan and showing us the way to live. He does this for us because we don’t know what is natural anymore. We lost that knowledge when Adam and Eve chose rebellion against God. What we do by nature today, because of sin, is not what is actually natural for human beings.

Thinking liberals say you and I, when we go against what the Bible says is wrong, are just animals doing by nature what animals do. God says we are his special creation doing what we were never meant to do. We’re falling short. We’re messing up.

Who’s right? Both can’t be.

God, if he exists, is always right. He is the Creator. It is his opinion on every matter that matters. “Truth” about mankind that contradicts the Creator’s truth about mankind is not truth about mankind at all. It is delusion. It is rebellion. It is wrong.

God made a very good world. He knows how things were meant to be. He alone knows just how much different we are from what he made us to be.

In practical terms, these two opposing views of man lead to very different moral standards. If you believe God is your maker, you seek to, with his help, live by his standards. You acknowledge his right to command goodness and restrict badness. It is his place to set the rules. You humbly submit to his authority even when what he restricts looks awfully tempting. You obey because you know that he loves you and that he wants and knows what’s best for you.

If you believe we are animals, you must also believe that we set the rules for ourselves, we determine what is moral. It is this “truth” that leads the left to embrace all sexual behavior, no matter how degrading or deviant, as moral. Yes, you heard me right. I said moral. If it doesn’t harm anyone, if it’s consensual, go for it, is the liberal’s view. Consequently, much that God says is abhorrent, the “progressive” says is natural and as such worth defending against restriction.

Homosexuality is moral. “It happens in nature. It doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s okay.”

Having multiple sex partners is ethical. “It happens in nature. It doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s okay.”

Teens having sex. “It happens in nature. It doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s okay.”

And how do Lakoff and the like respond when anyone challenges their made up moral standards or proposes laws to restrict what they deem natural? They shout.

“Separation of church and state!”

“You can’t legislate morality!”

“Keep your religion to yourself!”

And then they force the public to adopt their moral views or be labeled intolerant. They legislate their standards whenever and wherever they can. Go figure.

More tomorrow…or the next day.


To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to webmessage-subscribe@associate.com. Past messages are available at freegroups.net/groups/webmessage.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mark Spitz on Michael Phelps...

"What you did tonight was epic. I never thought you were out of that race. That is a tribute to your greatness. We're so proud of you. I am happy to keep company with you."

- Mark Spitz to Michael Phelps

Thoughts on atheism...

Theists are in a good position to offer a reasonable case for theism. A reasonable argument doesn’t require certain, only good grounds. So atheists can’t claim the rational higher ground, which is a large category of arguments they offer against theism.

The new atheists rely on science, but their claims display scientism – the idea that only claims or facts verified by science are true. Truth is limited to what can be scientifically verifiable. Scientism is self-refuting because the statements of science themselves can’t be verified by the tests of science. These are philosophical and ethical statements.

Science isn’t on the side of the atheists because science has natural limitations, just like any field of study, to make final claims about things beyond it’s ability to test. Science, by nature, studies physical things and their causes and effects, therefore it cannot in principle make final claims about thing outside of the natural world. Science does offer input and observations to supplement our reasoning, but it cannot foreclose on the possibility of the supernatural.

There are two definitions of science that help reveal a shell game played by the new atheists. First is the methodological definition, which is the rules and practices of science that help to lead to good conclusions. When someone claims something isn’t scientific, it can mean the method was wrong. But a second definition is philosophical, which is the metaphysical view of the world called physicalism or naturalism.

Many claims that something isn’t scientific are philosophical claims, but this is a limitation on the kinds of answers that are allowed. When something is said not to be scientific, it’s important to distinguish which definition is being used. These two definitions can be at odds with each other because usually the philosophy drives the answer, not the methodology. The philosophy is often driven by presuppositions, not conclusions.

The shell game determines the kinds of answers. Rationality is defined as scientific and only certain kinds of answers are considered scientific. Therefore, religion is rules irrational at the outset, not as a result of a reasoned argument.

The new atheists, particularly Christopher Hitchens, raises the problem of evil as an objection to Christianity. The problem is that this objection requires objective morality to be real, which has no grounding in a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism only allows preference claims, and then there is nothing to object to other than “I don’t like what I consider evil.”

Moral obligations are held between persons, and the person who obligates us has to be in a position to make the demand. We’re not obliged to obey any demands that aren’t made by an appropriate authority, and nature has not moral authority. The kind of being to make such demands must be transcendent and morally superior.

Atheism can’t make sense of morality with any kind of authoritative claims.

- Guest Blogger, Greg

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Liberal thinker strengthens my faith...

I’m just about done reading – if you call it that when a book is on CD – George Lakoff’s, Whose Freedom?, which I received as a birthday gift from my in-laws last month. Early on I realized that this was a book like few others I’d read. With the single exception of Jimmy Carter’s, Our Endangered Values, given to me by a friend a few years back, I have read none of the left’s thinkers’ ideas concerning politics or religion in their own words. My ideas of what the left-wing wackos thought came through the rantings and ravings of conservative talking heads – right-wing wackos if you will.

My apologies to all the “ditto heads” out there. I did call Rush a wacko. I do so with utmost respect for him and his views on most political matters. But Limbaugh is, you’ve got to admit, just a bit crazy. He’s an entertainer, for crying out loud. He aims to draw a crowd and nothing pulls people in and holds them better than a bit of nuttiness.

So I’m admitting, rather sheepishly, that I read the former president’s words with a fairly closed mind and thus remember little of what he said. I recall what seemed to me to be a good deal of disdain on his part for views on biblical morals that I hold dear, though for the life of me, I can’t bring to mind the specific issues in question. I also recollect yelling at the man several times as I turned the pages one by one. “You’re wrong! That’s crazy! That’s not what Jesus meant!”

I’m not sure, but I don’t think I made it through to the last page. Carter’s wrong-headed ideas were too much for me to stomach.

“Silly liberal!” I said and shrugged off his appeal to think.

Perhaps it was because I did not at first know I was hearing from a freethinker as Lakoff laid out his defense of the “progressive” ideal that I got more out of his book. I still found myself disagreeing with the man’s conclusions, and shouting occasionally, but I was able to hear Lakoff out and understand better his and his left-leaning brethren’s point of view. His book was thoroughly engaging, interesting beyond what I would’ve imagined and helpful. Yes, I said helpful. His words showed me the shortcomings of some of my right-wing views and opened my eyes to the failings of my own interpretation of the Christian faith. For that contribution to my life, I am grateful to this author. He sharpened my faith in Jesus in a way that someone with whom I agree on most issues could not. If you never hear opposing views, you never think. If you never think, you become blind to your own biased readings of the Bible. If you are biblically blind, you cannot lead anyone to the truth.


That said, don’t expect me to run out and grab any more leftist titles any time soon. I’ve got enough “progressive” thinking to sort through after this one book to keep me busy for awhile. And, honestly, I think it’s best to fill your mind mostly with the truth rather than with falsehood. Well-reasoned arguments for the Christian faith are more helpful to you as a believer than well-thought-out-but-wrong arguments against traditional orthodoxy. I’d rather you read stuff by Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel or just about anyone who respects the original text and intent of the Bible than anything Lakoff or those he agrees with has written or will someday write.

(More on this matter.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is the Bible true?

Ran across this incredibly well thought out post on Neil's blog. It's too long to post in it's entirety, but here's a snippet...

Why do I believe the Bible is the true word of God...and that other holy books are not?

This was the first question posed to me by my friend Nicholas during our conversation about Christianity. He posted it at his blog last week. I’m posting it here for archival purposes. Here is my response:

First, let me thank you for this unique opportunity. In our world of sound bites and bumper sticker arguments it is so refreshing to be able to just lay out a set of beliefs in the marketplace of ideas and have a serious and respectful dialogue. I have learned a lot from you about how to have graceful and charitable conversations. I know you’ve studied the Bible before, but I’ll try to address your questions as if responding to someone who hasn’t.

First, a little background: I grew up with a terrific set of Christian parents who have always lived out their faith in teaching and in service to others. Other than my college years, I have always gone to church...but let’s just say I wasn’t paying real close attention for the first 28 years or so. I was quite the skeptic. I think it is important to note this because I and many others didn’t come to faith through brainwashing from parents, schools or churches. We did so after initially rejecting and rebelling and later examining the evidence for ourselves. That doesn’t make us right, and that isn’t the only way people become followers of Christ. But it does counter the pervasive myth that we always believed these things or that we accepted them blindly. I didn’t become a believer overnight; it was something I wrestled with for a long time.

You asked a profoundly important question. The Bible claims that Jesus is God and that He is the only way to forgiveness of your sins and to eternal life. The Bible claims to speak for God over 2,000 times, so if it isn’t his Word then it has a staggering amount of lies and wouldn’t be worth picking up. That doesn’t mean it is true, just that it matters a great deal if it is true or not.

On to your questions. Here’s the short version: When I examined the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and for the authority of the Bible I found it to be extremely compelling. The Bible has credible authors with eyewitness accounts, claims that were falsifiable, accurate prophecies, complete support from archeological finds, robust copying processes that ensured we know what the originals said and plenty of accurate one-time translations from the original languages to our language. I found solid answers to every difficult passage I cared to investigate. I also noted the positive, dramatic transformations the Bible has had on people and cultures who take it seriously, as well as the tremendous impact it has had in my life.

I found other holy books to be lacking in some way, such as historical mistakes or clear contradictions to what we know to be true. I also found their accumulation processes to be less reliable (i.e., allegedly transmitted to one person over a short period of time). They also contain major differences that can’t be reconciled with the Bible.

To those who haven’t read the Bible, my suggestion is to just dive in. The Gospel of John is a good place to start. Find someone to read it with or join a Bible study. Get a “study Bible” that has explanatory footnotes. Keep asking tough questions. I read it all the way through 10 years ago and it was life changing. At a minimum you will have read the most popular book of all time and will have a better understanding of Christianity.

Want to read more? Follow this link...

http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/exploring-christianity-part-1-the-bible/#more-1289

Monday, August 11, 2008

Yes!

I don't usually stay up until 11:00, but I had to last night. The USA men's 4x100m relay team was about to race. Michael Phelps' record 8 golds was on the line. The French were favored. For once a race lived up to the hype. It was so close. The USA men were so far behind going into the last turn. I was sure there was no way it was going to happen. Silver again. But NO!!!! Gold! It was awesome. My girls yelled and screamed! I nearly jumped out of my seat. What an incredible race! Go USA!!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Even a bottle of water in my name...

Buy a case of water if you don't have some already.

Give water to the sanitation folks picking up your garbage. You will know the day and hear the trucks, if you don't already know the time.

If you're on a bus line, step out and give some to the driver.

Take a bottle out to your neighbor cutting their lawn. Or the landscaping guy. Or the guys painting next door. The list is endless and limited only by your own imagination.

I've done this a few times and it's amazing. Every person I ran into were about 2 minutes from finishing the water they had. We change the world one person at a time.

Refrige some water and then throw some water in the freezer so half of the water in the bottle is frozen. Put the refrigerated water and the bottle of half-frozen in a Wal-Mart bag and give one bag to each member of the crews.

The case of water will costs you about $3.88 at Wal-Mart but the smiles and appreciation you will receive as part of the blessing of giving and serving others will be worth a thousand times over. It's easy for me to type about that but it's not something I can explain to you completely. You just have to experience it for yourself.

Find someone else to bless.... and you will be incredibly blessed.

-Guest Blogger, Jeff

Newbies on call...

I've been keenly aware of the pager on my left hip today. Not that I'm not regularly aware of it. EMTs with rural services go for days on end with nothing and then our beltline companion shrieks and we jump into action. Makes us kind of jumpy. City guys who get called out every hour on the hour have no idea what it's like.

Today is different. I am one of only three people in town wearing an EMS pager. Not only that, but all three of us are newbies - classmates through the middle of March and recently certified.

I spent most of the past week worrying about the twelve hours of this day I'd be one of three. I didn't sleep all that well last night.

About noon today - maybe it was after lunch - I found peace. I remembered that God is in charge of this situation and that, with his help, we can handle whatever - if anything - comes our way. I wish I was quicker to recall such good news.

Grieving with hope...

Watch this Good Morning America interview with Stephen Curtis Chapman and his family and find hope and faith for carrying on when life gets hard. I am so blessed to call the Chapmans family. We are all children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. God bless them as they grieve the loss of their daughter and find hope in Jesus.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Run for missions...

Adam Monaghan (Crossroads Friends Church Youth Pastor, Wichita, KS, at right in photo) and Allen Smelser (Stanwood Friends Church, McLouth, KS, at left) will run 100 miles, from Wichita to Haviland, Kansas, on November 7th to raise, they hope, at least $10,000 to support EFC-MAYM's missions scholarship fund through $1/mile contributions from one hundred individuals - $100 x 100 people = $10,000.

EFC-MAYM offers scholarships to missions students who are responding to a “call” to missions and who intend to serve in the context of the Evangelical Friends Church through Evangelical Friends Mission. The Scholarship fund first began in 2005 and is supervised and granted by the EFM-Mid America Missions Mobilizers Team.

If you'd like to be one of the 100 supporters to give $100 dollars, you can make your tax-deductible donation by writing a check to “EFC-MAYM”, memo: “Run for Missions” and send it to the Friends Ministry Center, 2018 Maple, Wichita, KS 67213 by November 15th.

The run will begin on Friday morning, November 7th, 2008 at 6:00 am. Smelser and Monaghan hope to make it to Haviland by very early Saturday morning, running country roads from the Friends Ministry Center in Wichita to the Barclay College campus in Haviland. More details will be announced later, including details on how other runners can join this duo out on the road for a few miles!

As of August 1st, 54 names have pledged a total of $5,400. Will you please consider giving to “Run for Missions”? Please contact Adam Monaghan at the Friends Ministry Center 316-267-0391 or by email at adam@efcmaym.org.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Keep looking up...

Read Matthew 14:25-33 then read on.

Jesus said, "I have come in order that you might have live - life in all its fullness." (John 10:10 TEV)

I am a bicycle rider. I love the freedom, peace and contentment I feel when I'm riding my bicycle. Sometimes I ride on busy roads. At those times, I often ride the white stripe on the side of the road to leave as much room as possible between the passing cars and my bike. I find that I can easily stay on that stripe if I keep my focus well ahead of my front wheel. It is when I look down at the stripe just below me that I become wobbly and find myself in danger of falling into harm's way.

I see the same importance of focus in the Bible story about Peter. When Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus, he was able to stay on top of the water as long as he kept his focus out ahead - on Jesus. But when he looked down at hte waves below his feet, be began to sink.

In life, we have a daily - sometimes even minute-by-minute - choice. When troubles come our way or life's cares begin to overwhelm us and rob us of the abundant life God intends, we can either keep our focus on Christ, with whom all things are possible (Luke 1:37), or look at our fears and begin to wobble. Keeping our focus on Christ frees us to keep our minds and hearts open to receive the abundant life God offers and to be a channel of God's love to others.

Prayer: O God, help us to keep the eyes of our hearts firmly focused on Christ, that we may live the abundant life you freely offer. Amen.

Thought for the Day: We choose whether to look at the waves or at God.

- Guest Blogger, Cathy Fooshee (found in The Upper Room devotional)

Until all is very good again...

Let’s go back to the Garden. God has created all things. Day by day he’s added more and more beauty and wonder to his new invention. Time comes into being. Darkness, light, water, sky, sun, moon, stars, dry ground, fruits and vegetables. Fish, frogs, lions, chickens, lizards, camels, platypuses, sheep and gerbils. And man – one male, one female. God looks at all he’s made and he says what? It’s good. It’s all good. It’s very good! That’s what God says about what he’s made, all that he’s spoken into existence.

And don’t you agree? I think he did a bang up job on creation. What I see when I stop and look around is stunning, magnificent, gorgeous, attractive, good!

So our Creator is done with his work. What does he do next? He gives his highest creations, his image bearers, things to do. He commands the man and the woman to be fruitful, to increase in number, to fill the earth and subdue it. He instructs the man to name the animals, to rule over them all, to tend the garden.

Reproduction – and by implication, marriage between one man and one woman – was part of God’s original plan, his good plan. Caring for the earth and working it was too. Domesticating animals. Watching over them.

And while God has given Adam and Eve all these things to do, I don’t want you to think of him as a cruel task master. The work he gave them to do was enjoyable. It wasn’t burdensome or hard. They didn’t even break a sweat. They didn’t have weeds to deal with. Work in the early days of the earth was pleasurable, good.

Life with God was good too. God liked hanging out in Eden with the man and the woman. He walked with them. He talked with them. Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God. It was wonderful in every way. No guilt or shame to separate them from him. No fear or doubt to cloud their conversations.

Friends, we lost a lot when the original pair sinned. Listen to God’s words to them following their fall.

Genesis 3:16-19, “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’

“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’” (NIV)

Not much fun in reading those words. They’re full of pain and dominance and toil and death. All that was good was damaged by the fall. Do you hear me? Everything changed when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. All that was good was damaged, bent, distorted, cursed. Man’s soul was not the only thing to die.

Childbirth, part of the “be fruitful and increase” command, was no longer all joy. Yeah, the end result is still fun – a baby – but the getting there’s not so great. Am I right, women?

Marriage, which God had created for harmony and helpfulness, was harmed. Women, you can thank Eve for the argument you had with your husband Monday. Men, you can thank Adam for that misunderstanding you had with your wife Thursday.

And let me add something here. All human relationships were damaged in man’s fall into disobedience. It’s not just marriage that’s in desperate need of repair. Friendships are not as close and intimate as they were designed to be. Your boss and you don’t get along as well as God intended you to. Parent-child interactions are more volatile than they would be. There’s less trust between you and me than there would be if we weren’t part of a fallen race.

Work, part of the good God had given to man, was stripped of its pleasure. How many of you love your job? Anyone? How many of you love everything about your job? No one, right? There are things I find not so enjoyable about my work. Surprised? Don’t be. I have to deal with the results of the curse same as anyone, same as all of you.

The physical world, over which God had appointed man as ruler, was affected. All the beauty that we see isn’t as beautiful as it once was. That rose in your garden isn’t really all that pretty compared to what it was supposed to be. That lion you see on Animal Planet isn’t as majestic as his first relative was. All around us created things are breaking and rotting. Everything we see is failing, dying. It’s all cursed. We don’t know what beauty is. Not really. We’ve never seen the real thing.

But we will. That’s what I want you to hear today.

Jesus, on the cross, became a curse for us. That’s what the Bible says. Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (NIV)

So we who are believers are free from the spiritual effects of the curse right now. We have a restored relationship with God. We can have better relationships with others. We have work to do for God.

We are free from the spiritual effects of sin and will someday soon be free from the physical effects as well. We will be raised from the dead. We will have bodies, physical bodies that will never die or age or get sick or be in pain or be injured. Yes, our bodies will be different, but at the same time, they’ll be much the same. Our friends will recognize us and we’ll recognize them when we meet up on the New Earth.

The New Earth! Jesus blood on the cross broke the power of the curse over all things – ALL things! All that was very good in the beginning will be very good once again. Relationships will be very good. Animals will be very good. Plants will be very good. Dirt will be very good. Stars will be very good. Pepsi will be very good. (Ok, I may be wrong about that one. The water of life flowing from the throne of God will likely be my new favorite drink. But about the rest, I’m sure all those things will be very good. They’ll be very good for eternity.)

If all this is not true, then Satan wins. His victory is great if God cannot restore and renew to a good state all he fashioned and formed in the beginning. The curse is eternal if man and animals and relationships and work cannot return to God’s ideal.

The effects of the fall are already reversing. You and I can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Our spirits which were dead because of sin are now alive in our Savior. Someday soon the rest of the curse will be dealt a fatal blow.

Until then, we eagerly await the Lord’s coming and final victory over Satan and sin and death. We love each other. We care for the earth. We worship God.


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