Thursday, February 26, 2009

What a game!

Incredible! I don't know what other word to use to describe the Argonia Lady Raiders' 86-46 win over the Norwich Lady Eagles tonight. Absolutely incredible. From the first whistle to the final buzzer, the Lady Raiders dominated every measurable stat - rebounds, assists, points, fouls! (Had to throw that last one in. They do love to bang the other team up a bit.)

At the end of the first quarter they were ahead by more than a dozen points. (It's the only quarter I don't have a "for sure" score for.) At halftime, their lead was 31 points.

What happened in the next two quarters was nothing short of a basketball clinic. The JV players started coming in about half way through the third quarter and the point total still climbed. But the coup de grâce was the 25 points (I think I got that right) the JV players put up in the 4th. 25 points from JV players in a single quarter. Unthinkable! The crowd was wild with joy as players who had scored little all year buried threes from four feet beyond the arc and banked in twos inside.

You should've been there. Can't wait to see what lies beyond Regionals!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thank God for asparagus...

Today, because many of us are spoiled with the availability of a great abundance and variety of foods, we tend to be sympathetic with [the Israelites as they complain about a lack of meat to eat in Numbers 11.] We ourselves would not want to eat only manna every day. However, we must remember that in the Bible's perspective God provides "our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11); therefore any serious complaints about food, even if it is "only manna," are against God and must be understood to be both ingratitude and sin.

The psalmist captured this when he said, "In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test." (Psalm 106:14)

Discontent about food was part of the disobedience of our first parents. Adam and Eve had been placed in a garden teeming with all kinds of food (Genesis 2), but they rebelled against God because of the one food they were not allowed to eat and were expelled as a result (Genesis 3).

We should be thankful for our food always. That is why offering prayers of thanksgiving before (and in some traditions after) meals is not a useless religious custom with small significance but a right response of a heart properly in tune with God's abounding grace.

(Life of Moses, BSF Lesson 22 notes, p. 2)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Be still...

My brother posted the following thoughts on his blog yesterday...

A scripture verse that is often quoted in support of contemplative or centering prayer is Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God". But, is that passage really about prayer? Should we use it in support of prayer?

My short answer is: "no". That doesn't mean we shouldn't listen for God or the Holy Spirit's leading to answer our prayers, but never in contrast to God's revealed Word in scripture. Let's look at the use of that phrase, "be still", in this scripture passage and others throughout the Bible.

Psalm 46 is a short chapter, you should read the whole chapter to understand the context of that one phrase. It starts with verse 1 to set the overall context, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." It talks mostly of the nations in uproar, about wars, the mountains quake, etc... These are all physical things, and the message is that God is our fortress, we should be still (i.e. rest) in the comfort that God is all powerful and will be our help and fortress, we shouldn't worry or try to take things into our own hands.

This phrase, "be still" is found in six other passages throughout the Bible:
  • Exodus 14:14, "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."
  • Nehemiah 8:11, "The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."" (they had been weeping and grieving as they hear the law read, they were told to enjoy food and drink, for the joy of the Lord is their strength)
  • Psalm 37:7, "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." (again, don't worry, rest in God, everything is in His hands)
  • Jeremiah 47:6, "'Ah, sword of the LORD,' you cry, 'how long till you rest? Return to your scabbard; cease and be still.'" (the first verse sets the context, "This is the word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines before Pharaoh attacked Gaza")
  • Zechariah 2:13, "Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling." (prophecy)
  • Mark 4:39, "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."

If we use this passage in relation to prayer, or as an example of prayer we are practicing eisigesis (reading our own ideas into the text), rather than exegesis (shaping our ideas based on the text) of scripture. When we read our own ideas into scriptue, we can make it say anything we want, thus it becomes meaningless text and useless to us.

It should be as God tells us in Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." If we read our own ideas into it, how can it judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart?

Guest Blogger, Jon

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Made it to State...

State Piano Contest is amazing. It's really hard to qualify, but "daughter #1" made it and did wonderfully. She ended up with a 'II' rating because of some minor mistakes and a few second memory lapse, but she was awesome. Her piano teacher thought she should’ve received a 1. I’ve posted the video of her solo so the world can hear the beautiful music she put out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Praying for you...

I got a letter from David Norman, pastor at the Wesleyan Church here in Argonia, today. It began with these words…

“As a part of our congregation’s worship service, we regularly pray for various leaders within our community and around the world. This week, we are praying for you and your church. Specifically, we are praying that God will grant you wisdom for your day-to-day decisions, peace in the midst of stress, joy in your labor, and that he will prosper you and your church.”

I was so encouraged by David’s words. It is good to know that my church is being lifted up to God’s throne by others who know and love Jesus, by friends who are seeking, along with the people at Argonia Friends Church, to bless this town we call home.

Thanks Dave!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Overcome evil with good...

“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:29-30, NIV)

If someone ever set out to suggest doing things that were completely unnatural for humans, they couldn’t come up with any worse list than this one.

What do you do if someone strikes you on one cheek? You sue them. How about if they take your cloak? Hire a lawyer. When they ask you for something? Question whether or not they deserve it. If they take what belongs to you? Call the cops.

Jesus says, “No!” to all those things. They may be very natural. They may be very American. They are not very godly.

Let’s be plain here. Revenge and greed and materialism are what Jesus is combating here. So listen up!

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21, NIV)

God’s way is plain. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. No revenge. No greedy hoarding. No holding back good from those in need.

In Paul’s words: “…overcome evil with good.” In Jesus’ – this is Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

That’s how you love. How you love those who love you. How you love those who hate you. Same kind of love for everyone. Go and do likewise.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Get rid of the dirty diapers...

A friend emailed this message to me late last week. I finally had time to read it this morning. It's good! I hope it will challenge you. If you have the time, listen to the sermon. The link is at the end of the printed message...

"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled."
- Hebrews 12:15

When my kids were babies, one of the worst jobs for me was to change their diapers. I have a weak stomach and a keen sense of smell, not a good combination when it comes to changing diapers. The only way I could do the job was to wrap a towel around my nose and work as fast as possible. I could not wait to get my girls cleaned up and the diaper out of the house.

Now imagine with me for a moment someone carrying around dirty diapers in his/her pocket or purse for days, weeks, months or years? Wow! How gross! Surely no one in his right mind would EVER do that, right?

Did you know that people do that very thing when it comes to the hurts of the past? So many people hold on to the filth and pain of days gone by. So many people carry a grudge and a bitter spirit toward someone who wronged them months, years or even decades ago. These bitter folks feel justified in disliking this hurtful person. They feel entitled to feel bitter. What they fail to realize is that bitterness is a cancer that eats away at their own soul. Bitterness does not saddle the offending party with a dirty diaper; it saddles you, the offended, with it. As one man so aptly surmised, "Bitterness is drinking the poison hoping the other person will die."


I am convinced that one of the biggest sins in the church today is bitterness. Multitudes of people who call themselves Christians will not let go of a wrong suffered. Newsflash: EVERYONE HAS BEEN HURT IN LIFE. EVERYONE HAS SOME DIRTY DIAPERS THAT THEY HAVE TO FACE. You have a choice with the dirty diapers of life: hold on to them. or let them go. If you choose to hold on, the following will take place in your life:

Your peace and joy with God will come to a grinding halt. Jesus said that if you do not forgive men their transgressions, God will not forgive you (Matt. 6:14-15). If you choose to hold on to the hurts and not forgive, then there is no forgiveness for you either. Pity the man who burns down the bridge that he himself must cross.

Your bitterness will spread to others. The Bible tells us when bitterness springs up many are defiled (Heb. 12:15). Do you really want to defile your kids, your spouse and your friends with your bitterness toward another?

Your bitterness will leave you isolated. Human beings don't like to eat bitter things. We like to eat sweet things. Bitter people leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. People will start to avoid you if you are bitter. You see, we just do not like to be around a dirty diaper.

So what is the solution? Let it go!! Take that dirty diaper of hurt and pain and unfulfilled expectations that you have been carrying around for all this time and put it in the trash can of God's grace and love. The sooner you get it out of your heart, the better you will start feeling.

What to pray? God, I want to talk with you about this situation. _____________ (name the person) hurt me so badly, and I have been holding on to this pain all this time. I see it now as a dirty diaper, a cancer of the soul that is destroying me and my ability to enjoy You and connect with You. Lord, by faith I choose to let it go. I CHOOSE to forgive this person who hurt me. I also choose to let go of any bitterness I have toward you, God. You are good all the time, even when bad things happen. Forgive me Lord for being so stubborn and self-centered. Forgive me for refusing to forgive others. I choose your will and ways this day. Change me, my God. In Jesus' mighty name, Amen.

To find out more about how you can break free from bitterness, please click here to listen to the sermon "IN THE TORTURE CHAMBER?" I trust this message will be a great help to those struggling with forgiving and getting past the past.

Guest Blogger, Jeff

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pray for your enemies...

Grab your Bible and turn to Luke 6.

There you will meet Jesus on a level plain at the base of a mountain. Your Master has just come down the hill after appointing twelve men to be his disciples and you’re standing a few feet back in a large crowd of Jesus-followers. It’s quiet, sort of. There is the normal background noise. A child’s voice here. A cough there Nothing terribly distracting.

Looking out at you and the rest, Jesus speaks. He talks first of blessings for those who are poor and hungry and grieving. He says we should be happy when people hate us and exclude us and insult us because of him. Says we should rejoice, leap for joy because our reward will be great in Heaven. Then he warns those who are rich and well fed and full of laughter. You are sobered. Can he be serious?

Then he says this...

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
(Luke 6:27-36, NIV)

Love your enemies. You didn’t see that coming did you? Neither did the people gathered around Jesus when he first spoke this radical message. They were shocked.

“Did he just say, ‘Love your enemies’?”

“Nah. Couldn’t have. Must’ve been, ‘Look sea anemones!’”

“Yeah, that makes more sense.”

Deny it with them if you like, but Jesus really did say, “Love your enemies.” And then he told us how. Gave specific directions, commands that are the exact opposite of what we want to do to or with our foes.

“Do good to those who hate you.” Notice the action verb here. Do! Do good! Jesus does not call us to passivity when people hate us. He does not say, “Quietly endure hatred. Just ignore it and it will go away.” He calls us to action. “Do good to those who hate you.”

What does that mean in practical terms? Jesus tells us.

Practically speaking, loving your enemies means that you bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you.

Have you done either of those things recently?

Think of someone who has expressed disgust with you, hatred toward you recently. I hope there aren’t many incidences of such behavior coming your way, but there may be one or two. Maybe you have to go back a ways – a week, a month, a year or so. Can you think of someone who has cursed you either to your face or behind your back? Gossip, slander, malicious talk are basically cursing. Destroying your reputation. Wounding your spirit. Hurting your feelings.

Got someone in mind? Have you prayed for that person? I’m not talking about continual prayer even. That would be good. Commendable. But I’m not asking that. Have you asked God even once to work for good in their life?

“Lord, bless this guy who’s driving me nuts. I know that you want him, and me, to become more and more like Jesus. Please do, in him, all that you want to do. Help us both to learn to live at peace in the near future.”

I have had moments of conflict with people. There have been times when a brother and I have not seen eye to eye. When I have been at odds with another, after the initial shock has worn off, God has prompted me, at least once, to pray for my “enemy” and I have obeyed. And when I have obeyed, God has changed my heart. They have ceased to be my enemy. Not that they ever really were in the first place. They were just someone who disagreed with me or who hurt me. My enemy is the devil. Yours too.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

Understanding that, stop and pray right now. Pray for your enemy. The person who has hurt you most. The person who has damaged your reputation. The person who has spoken hatefully. Love your enemy in the most practical of ways. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. It may not be fun, but it is the right thing to do. It is pleasing to God. You will be blessed because you obeyed him.

Pray now and keep praying in the days to come. Pray every time hatred is directed at you.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love and respect...

I love my wife. I hope that doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you. I mean for my actions toward Susan to speak that truth loudly to all who observe my life. I try to make my passion for her obvious to her and to everyone else. I want the world – that includes all of you – to know that I am completely satisfied with Susan Lynell Neifert. I have her and she has me and that is enough. I am absolutely content. There is a ‘Do not disturb’ sign hanging on my heart. I am not interested at all in any other woman’s affections. Adultery, neither physical nor emotional, is in the least bit appealing to me. I am loved and respected by the only woman whose love and respect matter to me.

Love and respect from your husband, from your wife. Those two things are important aren’t they? Love and respect create harmony, banish fear, promote peace, build trust, fuel desire, bond hearts. No marriage can flourish without love. No relationship can thrive without respect.

I’m not saying that survival isn’t possible. But survival, especially the grinding, I’m-stuck-with-this-guy-or-gal-till-death-do-us-part hanging on, is not all we want or need.

We want joy. We need shared burdens. We want intimacy. We need companionship. We want laughter. We need security.

Sadly, where love and respect are lacking, those wants and needs are seldom met. The resulting starvation weakens the resolve of the strongest man to work things out, withers the desire of the godliest of women to please her mate. Some wedding vows are broken because, in the days and months and years following the ‘I dos,’ love dies, respect vanishes. Some of you have experienced that breaking apart. I grieve with you. I wish things could have been different for you.

Can I go back to my relationship with Susan for a second? I believe that if my wife suddenly changed, if she stopped loving me, started disrespecting me, made my life miserable I would have the courage and strength to stick it out. In my heart, I am committed to her. My will is set on loving her no matter what. Though we did not use traditional vows in our wedding, I plan to hang with her in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer. But without love, without respect, my resolve would be, I’m sure, tested. God would have to help me. I could not do it on my own. May he grant me all that I need to love Susan for a lifetime. May he grant you all you need for your marriage too.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Who knew?

I ran across this on CNN's website today...

Retirement hasn't been full of lazy days, rounds of golf and luxury vacations for Gary Terry. When this former telecommunications executive called it quits after a 32-year career, he took up an equally time-consuming volunteer job as chairman of the American Heart Association's Texas chapter.

"I believe the Lord chose me to lead that group," said Terry, who lives in Hurst, Texas. But his "sign from the Lord" came, not in the form of a dream or a mysterious figure in his morning toast. Instead, it came in the form of a cardiac arrest by the security checkpoint at the Austin airport.

"I was trying to get back to the metroplex because I had a meeting the next morning. I reached down to pick up my briefcase, and I kept going."

Here's where the story takes an ironic twist: Gary Terry collapsed just 18 feet from an automated external defibrillator AED that he and his group -- the American Heart Association -- helped to install just eight months earlier.

"A lot of people say there's a lot of circumstances in your situation that really are unique," said Terry, "and I say no, they're not unique circumstances -- they're divine intervention. And I truly believe that."

But the circumstances of Terry's experience are unique, because there was a defibrillator nearby, and somebody knew how to use it.

"When somebody stops breathing and they hit the ground, for all intents and purposes, they're dead," says Dr. Art Kellermann, noted defibrillator advocate and professor of emergency medicine at Emory University. "There are a few minutes where you can reach through the door and pull them back from death if you act decisively."

And acting decisively, says Kellermann, means following the four links in the "chain of survival."

The first link, according to the American Heart Association, is to recognize there's a problem, and call 911. Next, begin doing CPR, employ the use of a defibrillator and get the victim into the hands of capable medical professionals like the paramedics.

"Research has shown time and time again that you win or lose in a cardiac arrest on the scene," says Dr. Kellermann. "If you don't get [the victim] started before you start transport, the likelihood they'll survive to leave the hospital is less than one-half of 1 percent."

And statistics also show that if the chain of survival is initiated within 4 minutes, the chances of survival can be as high as 60 percent.

The good news is, CPR is easy to learn and the automated external defibrillator is remarkably simple to use, even without significant training. According to several device manufacturers, you simply place the pads on a victim's chest, and turn the unit on. Complex algorithms inside the unit's computer determine whether a shock from the machine will help restart a victim's heart. Once the machine determines that a shock should in fact be delivered, it tells the user to clear their hands from the patient's body, and press the "shock" button.

It's far less complicated than your average VCR, and almost impossible to screw up.
It's for these reasons, and the relatively low cost of a defibrillator that Gary Terry continues his crusade.

"I think this is part of the plan, and I think he wants me to keep telling people what a great piece of equipment the AED is."

And Terry says he won't stop until the defibrillator is as ubiquitous in public places as a sprinkler system.

"I'm gonna try to put AEDs in every building and in every house, and then I'm gonna hang them on trees."

By Matt Sloane
CNN Medical Producer

Friday, February 13, 2009

Size is nothing...

This devotional is from Our Daily Bread for January 24, 2009. I thought it might serve as a source of encouragement for those serving in small towns, small churches, small ministries, small whatever it is you do for God...

"Who has despised the day of small things?" - Zechariah 4:10

Just the other day someone said of a friend, “This man is destined for a great ministry,” by which he meant he was headed for the big time—a high-profile church with a big budget.

It made me wonder: Why do we think that God’s call is necessarily upwardly mobile? Why wouldn’t He send His best workers to labor for a lifetime in some small place? Aren’t there people in obscure places who need to be evangelized and taught? God is not willing that any perish.

Jesus cared about the individual as well as the masses. He taught large crowds if they appeared, but it never bothered Him that His audience grew smaller every day. Many left Him, John said (John 6:66), a fickle attrition that would have thrown most of us into high panic. Yet Jesus pressed on with those the Father gave Him.

We live in a culture where bigger is better, where size is the measure of success. It takes a strong person to resist that trend, especially if he or she is laboring in a small place.

But size is nothing; substance is everything. Whether you’re pastoring a small church or leading a small Bible study or Sunday school class, serve them with all your heart. Pray, love, teach by word and example. Your little place is not a steppingstone to greatness. It is greatness.

Guest Blogger, David

God detests the stirring up of dissension...

God detests a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (See Proverbs 6:16-19.)

I came up with a crazy visual way to remember this truth a few years back.

Someone had come to me and spoken hatefully about someone in town I barely knew. I was disturbed by the things that were said to me. I started thinking the person spoken against was an awfully ungodly guy.

Then I realized I had no reason to feel this way at all. The person I was mad at had never done me any harm. They’d always been only kind to me.

I confronted the guy who had, with a few words of gossip, stirred up dissension between us. I used this word picture: “Joe had a clean slate with me until you came along and scribbled this junk on my chalkboard.”

I said a few more things about rumor-mongering which didn’t sit too well with my brother and we parted ways. He later apologized, admitted his wrongdoing. Acknowledged his sin.

It is not a trivial thing to cause ill-will between men who are at peace with each other. When you complain about a brother to his enemy, you, in effect, cause a widening of the gap between the two. You reinforce the negative feelings your brother has. You stir up anger and strife. When you listen to a brother complain about his enemy, nodding your understanding, you contribute to their conflict. You allow him to feel justified in his sin. You muffle the Holy Spirit’s convicting voice.

Do your words often stir up trouble in the workplace? Have you caused tension in your family? Would your classmates label you a fight waiting to happen? Are your words causing division in the church?

God detests your rift-creating ways. Stirring up strife is sin. So stop it. Make peace instead. Pray for your brothers who are at odds with each other. Look for ways to bring about reconciliation between warring sisters. Encourage the unity of the Body.

Jesus, in his prayer to the Father just before his arrest in the Garden, asked repeatedly for unity in the church. Praying for his closest friends, the twelve, Jesus pled: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11b, NIV)

Then praying for us he continued: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23, NIV)

That should be our prayer as well. Our prayer and our guideline for action and for word.

Will what I’m going to do promote unity? If not, I won’t do it. Will what I’m going to say insure peace? If so, I will speak. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Act in a way that ends fights. Speak in a way that heals wounds.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

God detests feet that rush into sin...

God detests a heart that devises wicked schemes and feet that are quick to rush into evil. (See Proverbs 6:16-19.)

I guess this one covers those who don’t think through their wickedness, those who just do it.

Do your feet keep taking you to places where evil is done? Do they keep straying from God’s straight and narrow? Quickness implies a lack of restraint, an eagerness to do wrong. Folks who are quick to rush into evil have no conscience to catch them up short. They sin shamelessly, without the slightest compunction.

I hope this doesn’t describe any of you. If you are a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit within is saying, “NO!” when you’re tempted to sin. Hearing his voice ought to cause you to rein in your rush to evil. His inspired word, that’s the Bible, will guide you into right choices and right actions rather than wrong if you’ll read it. Far too many people who claim Christ’s name dishonor him by ignoring his word, by running pell mell into sin. They ignore the “oughts” given them in God’s word. They follow the world’s “oughts” instead. They choose the false freedom of doing whatever they please over the true freedom of doing the good that pleases God. They choose slavery to sin over slavery to Christ and they suffer cruelly under their taskmaster’s whip.

If you are a believer, listen up.

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:11-14, NIV)

Do not be quick to rush into sin. That’s the world’s way. It is not the way of God’s children. The world gets angry and fights. God’s children patiently pursue peace. The world feels pressure and caves in. God’s children courageously stand up against temptation. The world sees evil and dives in. God’s children “flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…” (2 Timothy 2:22, NIV)

Who are you following – the world or Jesus? The speed with which your feet head for evil is a good indicator of the truth. Slow down your headlong rush into sin.

“Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NIV)

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


You've got to love philosophers. They argue points with such detail that the reader is lost and the point missed.

Take, for example, this passage from William Hasker's, The Triumph of God Over Evil. Hasker has been arguing (on paper) with D.Z. Phillips, another philosopher with an opposing point of view, over the effects of a person's belief that God sometimes allows evil to build character. Phillips says that if a person has this view, it will corrupt their morals and effect the way they act or respond to evil. (Or something like that.)

Got it?

Here's what Hasker says in response...

Suppose some acquaintance of mine is suffering and is in severe financial need, a need which if not supplied will have serious negative consequences for his future life. I have the resources to meet the need, but doing so will require considerable sacrifice on my own part. So far as I can tell, if I do not meet the need no one else is likely to do so. Finally, we add the following fact: Part of God's reason for allowing this situation to develop is precisely to shake me out of my usual moral lethargy and spur me to an unaccustomed exercise of the virtue of generosity.

Now, suppose also that I accept a theodicy according to which some evils are permitted by God in order to provide people with opportunities for moral development. Will this have a negative effect on my motivation in this situation? I see no reason why it should. First, I may be quite unaware that this was God's reason for allowing the situation to develop. (My theodicy tells me that in general God sometimes acts for such a reason; it does not specify God's reasons in particular cases.) But suppose I do come to believe that God has allowed this situation to develop in part for the purpose of challenging me to act generously. Will this undermine or corrupt my motivation? It is hard to see why it should. I am still confronted by my acquaintance in this state of severe financial need; it is still the case that he will suffer greatly if the need is not med, as it apparently will not be unless I step forward to help. But now I have come to believe that God specifically intended this situation as one in which I should exercise an unaccustomed generosity. This belief should, if anything, encourage and reinforce my inclination to provide the needed assistance; I may indeed come to see this as part of my moral "vocation." The corrupting effect feared by Phillips seems entirely absent. (p. 49-50, 2008 IVP)

Why not say, "Help the guy! God wants you to do it. Phillips' moral dilemma be damned!"

I'm not much of a philosopher.

God detests wicked scheming...

God detests a heart that devises wicked schemes. (See Proverbs 6:16-19.)

I immediately thought of the fictional heist in Ocean’s Eleven. Danny Ocean, a just-out-of-prison con man, gathers a gang of eleven together to rob three giant Vegas casinos. These crooks plan to steal $150 million dollars from underground vaults on the night of a huge boxing match. A wicked scheme to be sure, one God would detest were it real.

And we’re encouraged to cheer on these bad guys as they rob worse guys. Our heroes are no longer heroes in any real sense. Convicts are our role models. God help us.

I also thought of Mr. Madoff’s non-fictional bilking of thousands of investors. His Ponzi scheme diverted tens of billions of dollars entrusted to him by non-profits and individuals to his own accounts.

“Mr. Madoff was,” according to a New York Times article, “a charlatan of epic proportions, a greedy manipulator so hungry to accumulate wealth that he did not care whom he hurt to get what he wanted.”

His was a wicked scheme devised in the heart. At least Madoff isn’t being hailed as a hero. That would be too much. His actions and attitude are detestable to God.

Mordecai, Queen Esther’s honorable cousin, responded correctly when he became privy to a plot to assassinate the king. He did not ignore it or cover it up. He could have. Some would’ve said he should have. Xerxes was a foreigner. The Jews were his captives. A coup would serve him right. But Mordecai knew hiding evil schemes wasn’t right. He reported the evil plans immediately to the authorities and the conspirators were thwarted. Their detestable plans were not carried out. Mordecai wasn’t rewarded immediately, but his praise-worthy actions served him well later on in life.

Look into your own heart. I know pointing fingers at others is more fun, but what good does that do really? Nothing changes for good if you never examine your own heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” the Bible says. “Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Your heart will trick you unless you examine it, unless you test your motives and plans against God’s word. Everything changes when you see your heart as God sees it. So ask him to show you the truth. Pray with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)

What wicked schemes has your heart devised? Some people scheme to shun a classmate and leave them lonely. An individual might plot to grab a promotion by spreading lies about a coworker. Teens have been known to plan together to get a friend drunk against his will. A few people scheme to destroy or damage the property of an enemy who’s done them wrong. Boys sometimes conspire to steal a girl’s virginity with sweet talk and lies. Some employers scheme to keep important information from their employees and sometimes employees do the same to employers.

If wickedness can be done, it can be planned in the heart. If you’ve been plotting evil, stop. Repent of your sin. Leave your detestable ploys and plan good instead. Conspire to kindness, goodness, generosity.

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"Psychic" hip...

I was startled out of sleep this morning by a muscle spasm in my left hip that felt exactly like my EMS pager going off when it's on vibrate. Weird, right?

Weirder still was feeling the real thing less than two hours later. I was about to unlock my office when an EMS call came in. I turned around, jumped in my car and headed for the ambulance station.

Hope this muscle-spasm "psychic" awareness thing doesn't happen often. Too bizarre for me. Freaky!


I ran across this post and thought it worth a read. If you want to more than this small excerpt, click on the link to the author below...

For many people, economic recovery means "getting back to where we were a few months or years ago." That means recovering our consumptive, greedy, unrestrained, undisciplined, irresponsible, and ecologically and socially unsustainable way of life.

I'd like to suggest another kind of recovery...drawing from the world of addiction. When an addict gets into recovery, he doesn't want to go back and recover the "high" he had before, or even to recover the conditions he had before he began using drugs and alcohol. Instead, he wants to move forward to a new way of life - a wiser way of life that takes into account his experience of addiction. He realizes that his addiction to drugs was a symptom of other deeper issues and diseases in his life...unresolved pain or anger, the need to anesthetize painful emotions, lack of creativity in finding ways to feel happy and alive, unaddressed relational and spiritual deficits, lack of self-awareness, and so on.

Similarly, I'd like to suggest whenever we hear the word "recovery," we as a nation see it not as a call to get back our old addictive high, but rather as a call to face our corporate and personal addictions...maybe we can sabotage our addictive tendencies by letting the word "recovery" have a meaning that wakes us up rather than drugs us into the comfortable, dreamy, half-awareness in which we have lived for too long. That's my hope and prayer.

Guest Blogger, Brian

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Medical testimony on life's beginning...

In 1981, a United States Senate judiciary subcommittee received the following testimony from a collection of medical experts (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981):

"It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive...It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception."

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth
Harvard University Medical School

"I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception."

Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni
Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania

"After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception."

Dr. Jerome LeJeune
Professor of Genetics, University of Descartes

"By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception."

Professor Hymie Gordon
Mayo Clinic

"The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception."

Dr. Watson A. Bowes
University of Colorado Medical School

When life begins...

When does life begin? Pro-abortion (pro-death really) folks claim life begins at birth or, in the case of the really radical among them, at the point of self-awareness. (Yes, there are those who believe infanticide is morally acceptable for months after a baby is born.) But when does it begin? The medical community knows. It begins at conception, at fertilization. Watch the video. Hear the truth.

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Hate the sin; love the sinner...

“Hate the sin; love the sinner.”

I’ve heard that phrase a dozen or more times in my life. I’ve said it a few times too. It’s kind of catchy – an easy way to remember an important truth. It says, loud and clear, in our denouncing of sin, we need to remain gracious. We need to show compassion toward fellow human beings caught in sin’s trap.

What we need to do is not always what we do.

Hating sin. We do that well enough. Hating sin is easy. Sin damages things. It causes problems for us and our friends. What’s not to hate?

Loving sinners. That’s another story. I love people who are nice to me, who treat me kindly. I’m not so sure about those who cause problems for me. Those who sin against me. What’s to love?

A lot evidently – at least as far as God is concerned.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18, NIV)

God loved all us sinners enough to send Jesus to die in our place. He sent Jesus so that we could escape condemnation. All he asks of us in return is belief in his Son. If you believe, you won’t die. If I believe, I’ll have eternal life.

God hates sin, but loves the sinner. He does both perfectly. Completely detesting sin. Wholeheartedly loving sinner.

Aren’t you glad he’s so good at both? His holiness without grace would be unbearable. We’d be without hope. Life would end damned if we do, damned if we don’t. His love without his holiness would be less amazing. We’d be without restraint. Life would be filled entirely with pain and sorrow.

I am grateful that God hates my sin, but loves me. I am grateful that he corrects me when I stray. I am grateful that he rebukes me so I can repent. I’m grateful that he calls me his own despite my many failures. I’m grateful for that now. I will be grateful for that forever.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Chaplain Mike?

I checked my email early this morning. (I'm a bit of an addict. Had to get my fix.) Among the nine new messages to hit my inbox, were two that caught me off guard. Both said basically the same thing: "Jeff made you an administrator of the group Badges that Care," and "Jeff named you "Chaplain" in the group Badges that Care."

I was blown away. I never would've expected such an honor, a privilege to be given to me. Thanks for your confidence, Jeff. (He's the founder of BtC and a good friend.) I will do my best to serve this group as chaplain along with my fellow chaplains - CJ Caufield, Hap Carlton, Nathaniel Smith and Robert Crutchfield. (God bless you guys!)

(For those who are wondering, Badges that Care is, according its Facebook home page, a "group of Christ-centered police officers, firefighters, EMS responders, nurses and medical personnel, dispatchers, correctional officers, homeland security providers, emergency management specialists, private security officers, public safety family members, and citizens. We exist to encourage, equip, empower, and connect our fellow responders and their families as they love Him and love and serve His people with respect and compassion.")

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sin! Here's how...

I just updated my Visual Bookshelf on Facebook since I finished the excellent, The Death of the Grown Up, and started reading The Shack. Looking for The Shack I stumbled upon a book I never thought I'd see the likes of: Shacking Up: The Smart Girl's Guide to Living in Sin Without Getting Burned.

If it weren't such a sad commentary on our culture's love affair (pun intended) with immaturity and non-committal relationships, I would've laughed at the title. At least it tells the truth: shacking up is sin. Sex was designed by God for marriage - a lifelong commitment made by a man to a woman and visa versa. It is not meant as a casual pasttime.

Ok. Let me get off my soapbox and let you read the synopsis of the book.

"The must-have guide for any woman who’s ever thought about saying “yes” to the other big question: Will you move in with me?

"More and more couples are choosing to live together before tying the knot—for convenience, to save money and, most importantly, to see if they’re compatible. While living together can be an exciting way to take your relationship to the next level, it can also present a host of new questions and challenges.

"With its fresh, girlfriend-to-girlfriend manner, Shacking Up walks you through every step of the cohabitation process, from making the initial decision to breaking up or getting married. Beginning with a readiness quiz to help you decide if you and your honey are prepared to take the plunge, authors Stacy and Wynne Whitman provide a wealth of hands-on advice from lawyers, psychologists and financial planners as well as entertaining, true-life stories from couples with shacking up experience.

"Topics include: breaking the news to your family; managing and merging your finances; protecting yourself legally; real-estate decisions; and day-to-day dilemmas such as chores, privacy, and keeping the spark alive. Whether you opt for wedding bells or decide he’s not the one for you, Shacking Up is a stylish, empowering handbook for staying smart, savvy, and true to yourself along the road to happily ever after."

How to Sin 101. I'm still shaking my head.

Friday, February 6, 2009


There's a new source of info on Quakerdom available on the web. Quakerpedia, a new 'wiki' style site, is your one-stop shop for all things Friendly.

I am, I must admit, a little nervous about promoting this repository of Quaker knowledge. I am quite confident that it will be full of anti-Christian claptrap in no time at all since liberal Quakers, those who do not love Jesus, are usually the quickest to latch onto such projects. We shall see.

Perhaps an Evangelical Friend or two, a man or a woman, will show up and speak the truth in love.

Anyway...enjoy, analyze, evaluate, seek the Light.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Time to quit...

My grandma's second (or third) husband drowned after falling out of his fishing boat drunk. One of my high school friends, Andy, died when a drunken buddy drove the car they were in at high speeds into a bridge abutment. My cousin was killed when a 4th-of-July drunk driver hit his car on the highway. Jeff saved his family by turning to take the impact. The drunk was burned alive when his car burst into flames.

If you drink heavily, hope these things sober you up a bit. It's time to quit before you hurt yourself or someone else. Wake up!

Pet ba-rock...

Can't believe it! You can get a pet rock with our new president's mug on it. Really! Just click on over to and order yours today.

"My Pet Barock," the site claims, "makes a great gift for anyone who wants to celebrate the Historical Inauguration of Our 44th President, Barack Obama!

"Each souvenir rock is hand selected for it’s individual beauty and unique markings. Every rock is different, so that no two are alike, making certain that you will have a one-of a kind My Pet Barock!"

I'm shaking my head.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Countercultural revolution...

Where are the young counter cultural revolutionaries of our day - the young men and young women who abstain from sex before marriage, who refuse to use vulgar language, who respect authority, whose music does not glorify illegal drug use? All these things are boring, commonplace, mainstream. We need some rebels willing to go against the flow and live decent, god-honoring, pure lives.

I was, as a high schooler, one who rejected the world's mold. Too blasé for me. Living for God was much more challenging and exciting. (Still is.)

Try living for God. You'll see how hard it is. You'll need the Holy Spirit's help. You will be rejected for your Savior's sake. At the same time, you will show the way to holiness to your damned and dying peers.

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (2 Timothy 4:12)

God hates the shedding of innocent blood...

God hates hands that shed innocent blood. (See Proverbs 6:16-19.)

God hates what abortionists do. They will not be held guiltless unless they repent and sin no more. God hates what murderers do. They will not enter the kingdom of Heaven unless they believe on Jesus.

If you have had an abortion or murdered someone, you are guilty before God. He hates what you have done. But he loves you. Loves you more than you can imagine and wants you to be free. He calls you to repentance. Confess your sin to him. Admit your wrongdoing and be done with it. Hear him speak forgiveness above the hate-filled words of some who claim to be his followers.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11, NIV)

Friends, I hate abortion. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear over the years. I believe our nation’s moral decay and perhaps our current economic situation is a direct result of our decision to kill babies. God is judging us. He detests the killing of the innocents. And we have blood on our hands. It doesn’t matter what we say, we are guilty.

God forgive us. God end our violent intrusions into the womb.

Now a word of grace. If you are a believer who has had an abortion or pressured someone to have an abortion, you are not condemned. Your repentance has freed you from God’s wrath. He does not hate you. Your sin is forgiven.

“…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1, NIV)

God does not hate you. He hates the shedding of innocent blood, but he loves the shedder of blood and forgives all murderers who turn to him in faith, washes their hands clean.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

God hates a lying tongue...

God hates a lying tongue. In fact, falsehood makes his “despised seven” list twice. (See Proverbs 6:16-19.) God hates a lying tongue in general – verse 17 – and, more specifically, a false witness who pours out lies – verse 19.

That’s a bit scary, isn’t it? We’ve all lied. To keep a sinful friend out of trouble. To hide from the painful truth. To cover our own backside. To get back at someone who hurt us. To score points with that girl we like. To buy time.

God hates all that. He detests a lying tongue. He reviles a false witness.

Why? Because falsehood damages the reputation of godly men. Because lying destroys trust. Because perjury condemns the innocent and sets the guilty free. Because hiding from the truth doesn’t lead to repentance. Because dishonesty corrupts the political process. Because deception cheats the customer out of his hard-earned cash.

Any questions?

We all understand that lying is wrong. There’s a natural revulsion for falseness in all of us. Even those who don’t love Jesus hate lying. Lie to them and they’ll come unglued.

But as much as we or they hate it in the other guy, we’re still tempted to lie. The desire to fudge a bit when the pressure’s on can be overwhelming, seemingly irresistible.

“You’ll lose your friends if you tell them the ugly truth,” Satan whispers. “Besides, it’s not really a lie. It’s just the withholding of a bit of information. No one will know.”

Only those relying entirely on God’s Spirit in them can successfully ignore the enemy’s appeal to stretch the truth.

You want to keep from lying? Here’s what you do.

“Submit yourselves…to God.” Ask for his hatred of lying. Ask for his strength to say no. Then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NIV) Thumb your nose at the spirit who hates you more than you can imagine, the guy who wants to kill you, steal from you and destroy you. Speak the truth courageously to spite him.

It’s fear inspired by him that tests your resolve. Reject fear. It’s a ruse. Fear has to do with judgment and you have nothing to fear if you are God’s child – forgiven, set free, made whole.

Submit yourself to God. Resist the devil. There is no other way to win over the temptation to lie.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Unnecessary crudeness...

Just finished watching Super Bowl XLIII. Great game! One of the best I've ever seen. Loved the 100-yard interception runback. Loved the wild back and forth scoring in the fourth quarter. The penalties that changed the game so drastically on more than one occasion kept me on the edge of my seat. I would've loved to see Kurt Warner win another one before he retired, but it didn't happen. Congrats to the Steelers! Winningest franchise in Super Bowl history. I have to appreciate that.

What I do NOT have to appreciate is the unnecessary crudeness in so many of the commercials. I'm watching this game with my kids and Doritos throws images of a woman being disrobed by a bite out of a chip. She's wearing slinky lingerie with garters underneath. What a woman wears under her dress is her business, but showing us has no place in prime time. Shame on you Doritos for airing such trash. I have NBC showing more women in lingerie crawling into bed with some guy as they promote their filthy line up. I had to change the channel almost every time the network promoted itself. I don't even know what to say. They've been sleazy from day one. They haven't improved.

Who thinks of these things? Who says, "Great idea!"? Who okays such junk for broadcast? Certainly not any grown ups! We are a nation of 50-year-old adolescents. Rebelling forever against all that is decent. Disgusting!

God hates haughty eyes...

Did you know that there’s a list of things God hates in the Bible? There is. I kid you not. God comes right and says, “These are the things I hate.”

As friends of his, as his child, I think that’s kind of nice. He doesn’t hide his dislikes from me. Comes right out and says what he thinks so I can change.

I ran across his list this past week. It’s found in that collection of wise sayings we call Proverbs. It’s a short list – six, seven things. I guess we can be thankful for that. It’d be pretty bad if there were 100 or so. We’d be constantly on God’s nerves. At least I would be.

So what’s on the list?

Glad you asked. God says, through the writer of Proverbs, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV)

There you have it. The things God dislikes most.

Any surprises?

There was one for me the first time I read this list. Item #1, haughty eyes, blew me away not too many years ago. I was an arrogant college student. (Ok. It’s been awhile.) Thought I was better than everyone else. Looked down my nose at those who struggled in class. Criticized those who didn’t live a godly life. Mocked those slower than me on the track.

God grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and humbled me as I read Proverbs 6:17’s first two words. He knocked some sense into my thick skull as I read, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes,” and stopped. I felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction. My pride was sin – sin that God hated, that he found detestable. I fell to my knees under the weight of my guilt. This was real guilt, you understand. I had haughty eyes. I was sinning against God and others. I was a judgmental fool.

I repented. With tears of sorrow streaming down my cheeks, I rejected pride.

2 Corinthians 7:10-11 describes well what happened to me that day. “Godly sorrow,” Paul writes, “brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done…” (NIV)

When my repenting was done and I was assured of God’s forgiveness, my sorrow over my sin turned to hatred of it. God gave his hatred of haughty eyes to me that day. I detested it in myself. Every time I was tempted to pride after that, I rejected it. I was not going back to my old ways. And I hated it in others. Hated what it did to the proud person, destroying their heart. Hated what it did to the poor people the proud snubbed, ruining their sense of worth.

Let me be 100% honest with you today. Because I lived in sin for so many years, it became a hard-to-shake habit. Pride still tempts me. Grandiose thoughts pop into my head unbidden. Judgment comes to mind quickly. I have to be constantly on guard or critical thoughts become damaging words.

I’m deeply grateful to God that His Spirit gives me the power to say no. Without him, I couldn’t do it. No way I could on my own.

Do you struggle with the sin of pride? There is a way out. Repent of your sin. Confess it to God and be freed from your bondage to this awful task master.

You cannot conquer pride on your own. Ask for forgiveness. God will grant your request. Ask for help. God will give strength every time the temptation to snub others or criticize or judge arises.

God hates haughty eyes.

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