Monday, March 30, 2009

Don't shut down Gitmo...

I heard a extemporaneous speech at high school forensics meet recently that tickled my funny bone. A young gentleman, a likable kid from some small town in the area, told me that shutting down Guantanamo Bay was about the dumbest thing Obama could do. Why? Because "shutting down such a vital port, not allowing ships to pass through it, would ruin our economy. Isn't Obama trying to help build up the economy?" he asked. "And aren't we supposed to be more green, not less green? Shutting down Guantanamo would be bad for the environment."

His presentation was great. He had great voice quality and his eye contact was good. He spoke with authority and confidence, but his grasp of the facts was a bit questionable. Hope he gives it another try. He'll do great when he learns the ins and outs of extemp.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Philosophical bias...

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supenatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories because we have a prior commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how conterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door."

(Richared Lewontin, "Billions and Billions of Demons," The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, 31.)


Icy rain and sleet fell from the sky over our town for nearly 24 hours. Snow fell on top of the messy mix. I don't know what I was thinking when I decided it would be fun to go out and see how bad the roads were. Everyone else thought it was a great idea too. Two children jumped in with me. We got stuck just after pulling out of our driveway. We got stuck at the highway. We got stuck in the driveway upon our return. The Pierces and Dickersons helped me get unstuck the last time. (Thanks!) I parked in the parking lot next door until later in the day when things warmed up a bit. I'm not going anywhere until Sunday afternoon when it all melts away. (Only one church meeting today and it isn't ours.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tiller found not guilty...

Disappointing news...

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) - Jurors have found one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers not guilty of violating Kansas law requiring an independent, second opinion for the procedure.

Dr. George Tiller was acquitted Friday of 19 misdemeanor charges stemming from some abortions he performed at his Wichita clinic in 2003. Jurors found that he did not break a state law requiring that two Kansas physicians without legal or financial ties sign off on any abortion once a fetus can survive outside the womb.

If convicted, Tiller had faced a year in jail or a fine of $2,500 for each misdemeanor charge.

Stormy weather...

This is the radar image I was greeted by when I checked in around 3:25pm. As you can see by the red circle around Argonia, we're smack dab in the middle of a wintry mess. Freezing rain and sleet has been falling almost continually since around 10:00am. School kids were sent home at 11:00am since roads were getting a bit treacherous. Every news channel in the area is predicting 12-15" of snow for areas south of Wichita before the sun sets tomorrow. (That would be us.) We haven't seen many flakes yet. It will have to start soon to measure up to any meteorologist's prophetic words.

Poor Levi...

Poor Levi Leipheimer. All the guy does is win the crucial time trial stage at Castilla y Leon ahead of his Astana teammate Alberto Contador, defend the race lead over two mountain stages and take the overall title for his first European stage race win since the 2006 Dauphine Libere, and no one in America even notices because we're all Twitting about Armstrong's collarbone. Dave Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream came in third overall.

From The Boulder Report

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Does Satan exist?

Check out the debate between Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and Deepak Chopra, Annie Lobert and Bishop Pearson, on ABC's Nightline Face-Off. (Don't know if this will be a permanent link. There wasn't an embed option on the site.)

Worse than expected...

What was initially thought to be a simple collarbone fracture for Lance Armstrong turned out to be anything but, throwing a serious kink in his plans to race the Giro d'Italia.

Under a second examination by Austin, Texas surgeon Doug Elenz, Armstrong's initial diagnosis was found to be "not correct," said Elenz in a press release from Armstrong's Astana team. The bone was "not in two pieces, but four." Instead of the relatively small plate and screws typically used in clavicle surgery, Armstrong got a five-inch piece of metal over the bone and 12 screws to hold it in place. Elenz characterized it as a complex surgery, an eight on a scale of 1-10, and it took close to three hours.

While Astana manager Johan Bruyneel said yesterday that it was still likely that Armstrong could race the Giro, the extensive surgery means a longer recovery time, casting some doubt on those initial sentiments. (Read more...)

Guest Blogger, Joe

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The "rundown" shack...

I picked up the following article, written by free-lance writer, John Lanagan, on the Lighthouse Trails website. Lanagan wrote it after attending a church meeting at which The Shack author, Paul Young, spoke. The article is a warning to believers. The Shack is full of universalistic theology. Because it has been marketed and presented as a Christian book, I felt it wise to join John and Lighthouse in issuing a warning.

"For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted--you may well put up with it!" (2 Corinthians 11:4)

This "different spirit" was welcomed during a recent church service in Gresham, Oregon. Paul Young, author of The Shack, spoke to the East Hill congregation during the opening night of a five weekend series called, appropriately enough, The Shack. Sometimes on the verge of tears, and possessing great rapport with the crowd, Young was given a standing ovation.

Before the author spoke, a father stood before the congregation with his young child. His prayer was his child would love what the Lord loves, and hate the things the Lord hates. On that same altar stood a constructed replica of "the shack," a stage prop for the evening's festivities. The question must be asked, does the Lord love what is happening through The Shack?

In an interview with Pastor Kendall Adams of KAYP Radio, Paul Young denied the substitutionary Atonement of Christ. [1] (for transcript, click here) In other words, the author of this bestselling book does not believe Christ was punished on the Cross by the Father for our sins. This is a central doctrine of our faith - that Jesus willingly took our place of punishment and that through His sacrifice we can have eternal life. Increasingly, The Shack is being accepted by "Bible-believing" churches. Although East Hill Church is not the first to do so, its promotion and use of the novel as a teaching tool guarantees more open doors for the author.

Does the book's theology concern East Hill leadership? The Shack has "theological gaps," agreed Senior Pastor Jason Albelo, but the five part series will proceed as planned. Albelo, who had not heard the author's denial of substitutionary Atonement, emphasized he was not "arguing the theology of The Shack," but, rather, "I'm using its theology of healing."

Yes, but why? The Bible is replete with those who have been saved, sanctified, delivered, defended, and cherished. This "theology of healing," on the other hand, is not based on Christ or His Word. For many in the audience that night, this may not have been understood - or may not have mattered.

With all due respect to Pastor Albelo, who courteously fielded my post-service questions, East Hill leadership cannot choose to disassociate from anti-biblical aspects of the book if they are promoting a five weekend series based on it. "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3)

According to East Hill's Small Group study guide for The Shack, "Practice reading/thinking in light of God's Word. As you read, or re-read, The Shack, highlight any truths about God and relationships. Take time to do some Bible exploring, and make notes of scriptures on which those truths are based." [2]

Perhaps the "reading/thinking in light of God's Word" could also be applied to those "theological gaps" Pastor Albelo mentioned. For example (and there are many), the god of The Shack, unlike the God of the Bible, does not mete out eternal punishment. The novel's "god" says, "I don't need to punish sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it, it's my joy to cure it." [3] Everyone who has read The Shack has been exposed to this teaching - and make no mistake, it is a teaching.

Does the Bible teach that the Lord does not punish? Well, no. According to the Word of God, "[W]hen the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

This is the good news of the gospel - that we who repent of our sin and make Jesus our Lord do not have to suffer everlasting destruction. But to pretend that eternal hell does not await those who reject Christ is to deny the authority of the Bible. And maybe that is the point.

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:17-18)

A hard Truth? Yes. But a gentle Savior. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin. Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

When The Shack was originally written and submitted to publishers, it proclaimed ultimate reconciliation - "Christian" universalism - which is the belief that through Jesus all people go to heaven - Satanists, Mormons, Hindus, and every Christ-rejecting person that has ever lived. While the editors of The Shack have stated they removed UR from the book [4], the novel nevertheless seems to subtly and frequently promote universalism.

For the author, the hope for UR apparently has never changed. He told Pastor Kendall Adams, "Even if there was ultimate reconciliation, which I don't know, but even if there were, that doesn't diminish the damage of sin at all." [5] It doesn't? UR totally contradicts the gospel message of Jesus Christ. The Bible, the Lord's love letter, is our road map through life and into eternity.

"Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me your statutes." (Psalm 119:11-12)

At East Hill, the author spoke of his tortured past, and of the love of God. At one point, speaking of the years spent trying to overcome his pain, he said, "Praying didn't work, fasting didn't work, reading Scripture didn't help..."

Those words drifted out there like poison balloons. When I mentioned this to Pastor Albelo, he said, "Come on, you know that is out of context." My own Pastor, in attendance that night, said later, "Think of all the unbelievers and new believers who heard Paul Young say that."

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves." (2 Peter 2:1)

East Hill is not the first mega-church to promote The Shack, and will certainly not be the last. The apostate church is rising, and The Shack has successfully introduced the beginnings of goddess worship, a false Christ, and a denial of the purpose of the cross.

Please understand I am not calling East Hill apostate. All churches need to be careful that books and movies don't supersede God's Word as our means of teaching Truth. Many people cheering for The Shack are looking for God. Some don't understand He primarily reveals Himself through Scripture. Some do not understand repentance. Others, however, simply don't want the God of the Bible. The Shack has given them a glossy substitute. The apostate church will consist of those who truly believe they are worshiping Christ.

I very much appreciate Pastor Albelo's patience while listening to my concerns. As we spoke, with that makeshift "shack" on the altar behind us, he noted he couldn't "police every book."

"No," I said, "but you don't have to promote them, either."

Guest Blogger, John
Free-lance writer

2. Understanding The Shack (Part 1) Jason Albelo 3/14-15/09
3. William P. Young, The Shack, pg. 120
4. Wayne Jacobsen, "Is The Shack Heresy?"
5. http://rock-lifecom.files/shakcomp.mp3

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Consider these facts about the earth...
  1. If the centrifugal force of planetary movements did not precisely balance the gravitational forces, nothing could be held in orbit around the sun.
  2. If the universe had expanded at a rate one millionth more slowly than it did, expansion would have stopped, and the universe would have collapsed on itself before any stars had formed. If it had expanded faster, then no galaxies would have formed.
  3. Any of the laws of physics can be described as a function of the velocity of light (now defined to be 299,792,458 meters per second). Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth.
  4. If water vapor levels in the atmosphere were greater than they are now, a runaway greenhouse effect would cause temperatures to rise too high for human life; if they were less, an insufficient greenhouse effect would make the earth too cold to support human life.
  5. If Jupiter were not in its current orbit, the earth would be bombarded with space material. Jupiter's gravitational field acts as a cosmic vacuum cleaner, attracting asteroids and comets that might otherwise strike earth.
  6. If the thinkness of the earth's crust were greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support life. If it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life impossible.
  7. If the rotation of the earth took longer than twenty-four hours, temperature differences would be too great between night and day. If the rotation period were shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would be too great.
  8. The 23-degree axil tilt of the earth is just right. If the tilt were altered slightly, surface temperatures would be too extreme on earth.
  9. If the atmospheric discharge (lightning) rate were greater, there would be too much fire destruction; if it were less, there would be too little nitrogen fixing in the soil.
  10. If there were more seismic activity, much more life would be lost; if there was less, nutrients on the ocean floors and in river runoff would not be cycled back to the continents through tectonic uplift. (Yes, even earthquakes are necessary to sustain life as we know it!)

Is there evidence of divine design in creation?

From I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, p 105-106.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I joined Twitter today. I did it to keep up with a friend who's always running around the world visiting mission fields that I care about. I'm slowly figuring things out. If you want to follow me, look up openmikey. I'd love to be your Tweet. (I think that's the word.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Extremely madeover...

My family and I and a few others from Argonia, just got back from a week at Camp Quaker Haven south of Arkansas City, Kansas. The whole lot of us spent a week with 80-some others at EFC-MA's Extreme Camp Makeover - a week of hard labor for the Lord. It was amazing how much work we got done in just seven days. Trails were cleared. All eight cabins got new windows and siding and a coat of fresh paint. Their interior walls and ceilings were painted too. Two amazing views to the Arkansas River which the camp overlooks were cleared out. The pool house got a face lift. (And much, much more was done!)

My wife and daughters, along with two others from our church, spent most of their week painting. They helped with demolition work on Monday and trail repair on Friday, but the rest of the week was spent with brush and roller in hand. They had fun most of the time and their paint-splattered clothes spoke of their dedication and exuberance for their assigned duties.

I spent the week with Doug and a parade of others. The reason for the parade? We wore out our help! Two teen boys from our church began the week with us. While Doug worked on wiring attic fans in each of six cabins, Jasper and Fitch and I hung and wired ten 8-foot florescent light fixtures. We were pretty slow at first, requiring numerous refresher courses from Doug, but picked up momentum as we gained experience. The last fixtures went in quickly.

The best part of the two days of wiring came on Tuesday afternoon. While we worked on fixtures below, Doug fell asleep in the attic. We discovered this after hanging the first light. We needed to switch breakers so we could work on the other side, so I yelled at Doug through the attic access. "Are you done yet, Doug? We need to switch sides." His response was classic. "I'll be done in just a second. I fell asleep." We ended the day Tuesday hauling scrap lumber and trash for some of the other groups.

After two days of electrical work, we lost Jasper to the welding crew on Wednesday. Fitch, Doug and I spent the day on various and sundry tasks. (Just had to throw 'sundry' in there even though I seldom use the word. It popped into my head and begged to be used.) We did concrete work, cut off old volleyball poles in the middle of the basketball court, carried sheetrock for the pool house crew and tore down the rickety climbing wall. The destruction of the wall was by far my favorite activity of the day. I got to swing a sledge hammer. Yippee!

Wednesday night was interesting in and of itself. I awoke sometime in the wee hours of the morning to a scritch-scratching noise. I opened my cell phone to shed light on the room, but couldn't see anything. So I hopped out of bed and went to investigate. I finally located the source of the sound. A mouse had been caught by its hind legs in one of the two mousetraps near the door. I swept him outside and went back to bed. A minute or two later I heard the destinctiv snap of the other trap. A quick look revealed a very dead mouse. Two in one night! Who'd have thought it?

The next morning - Thursday - Doug, Samuel and I and our next teenaged helper - not sure which poor soul we suckered into helping us that day - spent the day putting in undergound power lines. We also put up light poles for the basketball and sand volleyball courts. That evening I helped my family paint the ceiling in one of the cabins.

Friday we spent with shovels in hand. We trenched in several hundred feet of water line, digging portions that the Ditch Witch couldn't by hand. When that task was finished up, we helped weld a stabilizing pipe to the sand volleyball poles so they wouldn't sag in the future. We finished the day's work cutting lumber for one of the carpenters and clearing a trail entrance of limbs. Chapel that night was a celebration of all that 80+ people did in five days. Great time!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Deja vu...

It seems like just yesterday that daughter #1 began driving. Now daughter #2 is the beginner. I spent an hour this afternoon driving up and down back roads with her. Fun...but a bit scary. She got used to staying in the middle of the lane most of the time. Did a pretty decent job of paying attention. Only overcorrected the steering wheel a few times. Screaming at the top of my lungs fixed most errors. (I'm kidding...sort of.) So now I'll have to slam on that imaginary brake pedal on my side for another 10 hours or so and then she'll have the basics down. Shouldn't be doing too badly by the time driver's ed rolls around. I hope.

A new breed of youth minister...

I enjoyed this satirical jab at youth ministry that ignores God's word. Hope you will too. I hope further that those involved in youth ministry will take the message to heart and continue to faithfully pass on the faith handed down to us by our Lord Jesus through the partriarchs, the prophets and the apostles. God bless those who are obedient!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Churches, big and small, advised to adopt security plans...

A friend sent me a link to this article on church security after I posted 'Church security training' Tuesday...

Megachurches with large audiences have long planned for emergencies, but smaller churches often aren't ready for a crisis, experts say.

First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., where the Rev. Fred Winters was shot and killed during a sermon Sunday was an exception. It initiated a security and emergency plan six months ago, but church officials would not say what it entailed.

The plan did not prevent an attack. Terry J. Sedlacek, 27, was charged Monday with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the assault that killed Winters and left Sedlacek and two congregants who tackled him with stab wounds.

Still, emergency plans are important, said First Baptist associate pastor Mark Jones.

"I hate to say this, but unfortunately I believe other churches need to follow that example,'' he said. "We need to be ready, we need to be prepared, but at the same time, we're not going to live in a state of fear.''

Televangelist churches and most megachurches with up to 5,000 congregants have coordinated security plans and undercover guards for high-profile ministers and assistants, said Dave Travis, managing director with the Leadership Network, a nonprofit that fosters church innovation nationwide.

First Baptist, with 1,200 congregants, and even smaller churches are among the most vulnerable, he said.

"They tend to be fairly well known in the community, but not quite large enough to have thought through security issues,'' he said.

His firm advises clients that every church needs a written security plan and an open discussion of the church's vulnerabilities.

Churches are "soft targets'' - easily accessible places with little or no security, said Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network.

After a church shooting last year in Knoxville, Tenn., a survey of Christian churches found 75 percent had no security or emergency plans, Hawkins said. The network's own poll of 250 U.S. churches showed a third had a security incident of some kind in the past year.

The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist in Knoxville did not have a security plan in place last July when an out-of-work truck driver went on a shooting spree, killing two people and wounding six. After consulting with police and crime experts, the church developed a plan that includes hiring sextons, not armed security guards, to watch for suspicious behavior.

"We want to be welcoming, we responded with love,'' said church board member Jayne Raparelli. "We kept our doors open. We don't make people go through metal detectors.''

Raparelli could not say whether having a security plan would have stopped the shooter from executing killings he "had planned'' and "wanted to do.''

For decades, security has been a major focus for Jewish organizations because of terror attacks in Israel and on Jews elsewhere.

The Anti-Defamation League distributes a security manual that covers topics from armed intruders to bomb threats. National Jewish groups recently formed the Secure Community Network to oversee safety for Jewish groups nationwide.

Boosting security can be contrary to the mission of houses of worship, said the Network's national director, Paul Goldenberg.

"On the one hand, you want to be accommodating,'' he said. "On the other hand, the world has changed.

"You don't want iron gates and armed guards, but houses of worship do need to train staff, congregants and ushers to identify and respond to such threats as an emotionally disturbed person,'' Goldenberg said.

After a man in Colorado went on a shooting spree at two religious facilities in 2007, the Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Ark., established a group of ushers trained in security measures but designed to uphold the church's image as a sacred place - not an armed church.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group based in Washington, has published security guidelines and safety tips for mosques in response to assaults on mosques and American Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Christian Security Network recommends churches assess their risk for everything from fire and tornadoes to vandalism, burglary, sexual molestation and shootings, then build a plan.

So far this year, churches in 39 states have reported 141 incidents, including burglaries and bomb threats.

The biggest hurdle is overcoming the mentality that such incidents "can't happen here,'' Hawkins said.

"If you don't think it could happen to you, you won't be mentally prepared,'' he said. "You won't take it to heart.''

By Cheryl Wittenauer
March 11, 2009

God is NOT holding out on you...

Satan spoke this half-truth to Adam and Eve: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5, NIV)

The implication? God is not good. He’s holding out on you.

The solution Satan offers? Grab control. Be your own god.

I watched a fascinating two-hour plus
debate between a Christian apologist, Frank Turek, and an avowed atheist, Christopher Hitchens, recently. The most stunning moment for me came when Hitchens was asked by a member of the audience: “What is the purpose of life?”

This is what he said. (Perhaps, it was all a joke. I hope so.)

“Well, I can only answer for myself,” he began. “What cheers me up? I suppose mainly gloating over the misfortunes of others…crowing over [their] miseries…And then there’s irony…”

Then, after a brief pause, he said this: “Sex can have diminishing returns, but it’s amazing.”

That played well with the college crowd to whom he was speaking. They laughed and applauded. When the ovation died down, he said, “…that’s pretty much it. Then it’s a clear run to the grave.”

Another joke? Hardly. At the end of the debate, about forty minutes later, Turek quotes from Hitchens’ book, god is not Great. On the last page of his book, Turek reports, Hitchens says this. “Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, the sexual life and disease and the sexual life and tyranny can now, at last, be attempted on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse.” (As taken from

Hitchens, it seems, wants to be his own god so he can have sex as often as he likes with whomever he likes in whatever way he likes. Ironically, he hates the God whom he believes to be nonexistent, because that God restricts his fleshly appetites. Stunning!

What is the purpose of life? For this atheist, sex is the answer and since religion restricts sex.

Do you hear the liar behind his words? God is not good. Or has Hitchens titled his book, god is not Great. God is holding out on you. Grab control. Be your own god.

Friends, I have to tell you. God is not holding out on you or me. He has given us boundaries to keep us from harm. You know that if you think about it. Sin damages. Sin hurts. Sin shames. Obedience is difficult, but it does not wound. It does no harm. It brings no condemnation. The boundaries God has set are good. They fall, Psalm 16 says, “in pleasant places.” (NIV)

God is not a giant killjoy. He is an amazing joy giver. Obeying him is good and right and has its rewards. One of the benefits is joy. I’m not talking about happiness. That’s passing. I’m talking about joy – a despite-the-circumstances pleasure.

Can I say it again? God is not holding out on us when he says, “Don’t!” concerning any sin. He is protecting us. He is showing the way to joy, to peace, to life!

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Opportunity knocks...

My brother is working with Cross Media Productions in Israel to produce videos that will go out to the Muslim world. He recently attended a two-week film school and produced this video. He and his family star in the film along with friends.

Sin has consequences...

“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’

“‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”
(Genesis 3:2-5, NIV)

“You will not surely die.”

Satan is calling into question or minimizing what God has said about the consequences of sin. Notice, he doesn’t even try to convince Eve that God didn’t say, “Don’t eat the fruit.” He ignores the facts and goes for the heart.

In our day Satan does the same. He argues from emotion.

“A loving God wouldn’t send anyone to hell,” he says. “You’re a pretty decent guy. He’ll let you in to Heaven if there is such a place. If there is a hell, it’s for Hitler or Stalin or really bad folks.”

Alternatively, he’ll say, “Give in just this once. Who’s going to know? And anyway no one’s going to get hurt. It’s harmless fun.”

And, like sheep, thousands wander off the beaten path and are lost or, following the wrong leader, are led astray.

You know how it works. You begin sinning and can’t quit. You become addicted to what was going to be just once. And “just once” becomes a habit pretty fast and when sin becomes habitual the consequences God warns about in the Bible are going to come.

You will die! There is a real place called hell where the devil and those who do not reject his lies and believe on Jesus will spend eternity. But before that, there are here-and-now consequences for most if not all sins. Suffering. Pain. Misery. Guilt. Shame. Brokenness.

You know I’m right. You’ve seen these things in your friends’ lives. You’ve experienced them yourselves.

Here’s the truth of the matter: Even when repented of, sin has consequences. The rapist who repents does not erase his actions and their effects on the woman he violated. The gossip who repents cannot retrieve her words or repair her victim’s sullied reputation in minutes. The false witness who repents cannot give back the years the innocent man he put behind bars lost. The adulteress who repents does not regain the trust of her husband immediately. The thief who repents won’t likely be able to return the stuff he pawned to its rightful owner. The murderer who repents cannot bring back the precious life he snuffed out.

Forgiveness is received immediately when we cry out to God concerning our sin. Healing of heart and mind – and sometimes body – is often longer in coming. Not that God withholds his love and compassion, grace and help. It’s just that when others are involved, there are relationships to restore. It takes time for that to happen – wounds, especially deep and painful ones don’t heal overnight.

Sin has consequences. Don’t lose heart though. When healing comes, you will be better able to follow Jesus and love others.

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shack warning...

Calvary Distribution (the resource and book venue for the Calvary Chapel movement) has issued an "Official Statement" regarding The Shack. Calvary Distribution's book reviewer, Keyan Soltani, calls The Shack "a dangerous book."

The Official Statement reads:

Due to the popularity of this book and the positive endorsements it has received from the Christian community, we felt that it would be prudent to explain why, as those who hold fast to the word/nature of God as inerrant, we will not be endorsing this book. Some of our concerns include:
  • The minimizing of the word of God: The Shack errs in the presumption that God desires to be freed from His word as expressed by the characters, yet, the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 138:2 "For You have magnified Your word above all Your name."
  • The redefining of the nature of God: the book implies a theology of modalism which is defined as the non Trinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself.
  • The book's conversational tone is intended to catch the reader off guard with overt casualness. There is a personalized-trademarked version of God that requires the least bit of commitment; seeker-friendly experience over truth; an air of anti-authority for the spiritually lazy consumer.
  • The double-speak and theology that is embedded in this book with its underlying condescension, protesting agenda, and liberal theology are genetic markers of the emergent church.
We recognize the enormous popularity of The Shack but are wary of the overlying theological implications and the presentation of the person of God within this book.

Church security training...

I received an email today from the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, an organization I've never heard of in my life. The email somehow slipped through the filter on a listserv that I moderate, which disturbed me a bit, but what I read was unbelievable.

The email was an invitation to a seminar designed to give church leaders and members guidance for surviving an active shooter incident - a gunman at large in the sanctuary. (Kind of strange that this came just days after the incident in Maryville.)

Here's what they said about the seminar...

The Center for Personal Protection and Safety will be conducting a one day Church Security Training Seminar on March 24th at Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Avenue, Leawood, Kansas.

Topics covered include:

  • Seminar geared to a train-the-trainer environment
  • Shots Fired: Guidance to Surviving an Active Shooter Incident
  • Pros & cons of outsourced security guards supporting ministry organizations
  • Keys to creating a healthy and safe workplace environment within your Church or Ministry
  • Keys to recognizing signs of a potential crisis before it occurs
  • Strategies for handling a difficult person in a public environment
  • How to develop a Crisis Management Plan for your Church or Ministry
  • How to train church leaders and congregation members to travel safely
  • Interactive Session - Lets talk about your specific issues

The cost? Just $250 per attendee. (I told a friend about it and he wondered if that included a Kevlar jacket.)

For those unable to attend the seminar, a video training program - Shots Fired: Guidance to Surviving an Active Shooter Situation - available online at'll need a user name and password for that. They provided that in the email.

User: ministry
PW: shotsfired

I'm still shaking my head. How to survive an active shooter incident in your church. What's next?

Who goes first?

You know me. I get on a kick and can't get off of it. Love and Respect is so good I had to share another bit from the chapter, She Fears Being a Doormat.

As we think about stopping the Crazy Cycle, who makes the first move? As a wife, whatever you do, don't say, "Emerson is right. I need your love, so start loving me and I'll show you respect." That simply won't work because that attitude is in itself disrespectful, and it triggers an unloving reaction. You are making your husband responsible for both the love and respect in the marriage. He will simply shut down.

On the other side, as a husband, never say, "Emerson is right. If you respect me, all will be well and I will be more loving." That won't work either because that attitude is in itself unloving, and it triggers a disrespectful reaction. You are making your wife responsible for both the love and respect in the marriage. She will simply shut down.

So who should make the first move? In our marriage conferences, I explain that I prayed about this, and here is the answer God gave me: the one who sees himself or herself as the most mature. You see you can't wait for your spouse to go first, even though it's preferable. All of us want our spouse to be the first to start doing the respecting or the loving. But can you afford to wait passively for this to happen, like some kind of neutral bystander? Can a husband wait for his wife to respect him before he becomes more loving? Can a wife wait for a husband to really love her so she will then show him respect?

The fear, of course, is that you will show love or respect to your spouse, as the case may be, and bet a bad response. So you tend to pull back, waiting for the other person to move first. But what are your options? Holding back your love or respect will just keep the Crazy Cycle spinning away, but being mature and making the first move could slow it down.

(p. 74-75)

Are love and respect the same thing?

I thought I'd give you a little snippet from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' book, Love and Respect, so you'll get an idea of how good it is. This is from the chapter, What Men Fear Most.

There are many wives who tell me, "Respect and love are the same thing." I respond, "No, they aren't, and you know they aren't. For instance, you respect your boss. You don't love your boss." I have been in counseling sessions with couples, and with her mate sitting there listening, the wife will readily say, "I love my husband but don't feel any respect for him." But when I turn this around and ask wives how they would feel if they would hear their husbands say, "I respect you bot don't love you," they are horrified. They exclaim, "I would be devastated."

I asked one wife, "How long would it take you to get over that?" She quickly answered, "Forever."

The typical wife would be up in arms if she heard, "I respect you but don't love you." That is taboo! She would view her husband as a very unloving human being. Yet this same wife feels she can readily say to him, "I love you but don't respect you." What she doesn't understand is that her husband is equally devastated by her comment and it also takes him "forever" to "get over it." The bottom line is that husbands and wives have needs that are truly equal. She needs unconditional love, and he needs unconditional respect.

(Love and Respect, p. 68-69)

Revolutionize your marriage...

I'm reading Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs right now. I am amazed at his insights into the cause behind so much marital conflict.

In a nutshell, he says a woman doesn't feel loved, something she desperately wants to feel, so she reacts by acting disrespectfully toward her husband. He in turn, feeling disrespected, something he desperately wants to feel, reacts unlovingly toward his dear wife. And on and on it goes ad infinitum. Eggerichs calls it the 'Crazy Cycle'. An apt moniker!

What he asks women to do is give unconditional respect to their husbands and husbands to give unconditional love to their wives. Men have been told their part for a long time. Women have seldom if ever been instructed to fulfill their responsibility.

Ephesians 5:33 says to the husband: "...each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself..." The same verse then speaks to the wife: "...and the wife must respect her husband." Notice the word must in both sections of the verse. These are imperatives. Why? Because what the woman needs most is love. What the man needs most is respect.

Foreign sounding, isn't it? You never hear this message. It's always love, love, love wherever you turn. But if the 'Crazy Cycle' is to be broken the rest of the message - respect, respect, respect - must be heard and obeyed.

Women, what do you want to hear from your husband? Three simple words: "I love you." Do you know the three words he wants to hear most from you? They aren't the same three. They are: "I respect you." Try saying those words and see if your husband's love for you doesn't grow seemingly overnight.

Ok...I can't summarize the whole book. (I'm not done with it yet.) So go pick it up. Read it. Pay attention to the stuff that makes no sense to you. Try it. See if respect doesn't win your husband's love. See if love doesn't win her respect.

25 things I hate about Facebook...

I love Facebook - connecting with friends from high school, learning what friends are up to, checking out photos of people I love flipping off a camera. Even so, I can relate to this guy's "25 things I hate about Facebook" video rant. It's pretty fun. Hope you enjoy. If you don't like it, let me know on Facebook. I posted it there too.

Did God really say?

Let’s head for the Garden of Eden today. It’s there that Satan is introduced. He’s disguised as a serpent. He’s crafty and wily and, good for us today, he speaks.

Listen to what he says.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’” (Genesis 3:1, NIV)

Did God really say?

Have you ever heard that question or some variation on the theme when you were trying to decide if something was right or wrong? I have. I remember thinking once or twice in my younger years that the Ten Commandments don’t really prohibit lying. The command reads, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16, NIV)

That’s about testifying in court, I reasoned. It’s not about telling the truth in other circumstances. God did not really say, “Thou shalt not lie.”

Subtle argument, isn’t it? Rests on a single sentence out of the tens of thousands given to us in God’s Word. If I could ignore the rest, I could make my case. I can’t ignore the rest.

You can’t ignore the total message of the Bible. There are dozens of passages that prohibit the garden variety lies – the kind I was trying to justify.

A few weeks ago I talked about one of them. Remember the list of things God hates that we found in Proverbs 6:16 and 17? We didn’t even get into verse 17 before we heard the truth that defeats my silly logic.

“There are six things the LORD hates,” Solomon writes, “seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…” (Proverbs 6:16, NIV)

That’s what God really says. What the devil contested in my young, and I might add, foolish mind, the Lord confounds in Proverbs and in numerous other places. Lying is wrong. God says so. GOD says so.

What about you? Have you heard the devil’s luring question? In what area has he tempted you to ignore God’s Word? Has he successfully led you into sin?

Listen carefully to the voices in your head. If one asks, “Did God really say?” concerning any matter, it’s a dead give away. Serpent talk!

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Sad news...

Please pray for this pastor's family and church...

Police are still searching for a motive in a shooting during a morning church service outside St. Louis that left one person dead - the church's pastor - and several others wounded.

The Rev. Fred Winters was at the pulpit at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., at 8:15 a.m. local time when a man wearing dark clothing approached the pulpit, exchanged words with the pastor and then fired four shots, Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent said at a news conference late today.

"It was something spoken, but the people closest to them at the time couldn't say what that was," Trent said. "The pastor may have recognized him ... but we're not sure about that at all."

The first shot hit the pastor's Bible.

"It hit the very top of the Bible and exploded on top of the Bible and turned into what many thought was confetti," Trent said. "In fact, some thought it was some type of skit or some type of program at the time."

One of the shots from the gunman's .45 caliber pistol hit Winters in the chest, killing him, before his gun jammed, said Trooper Ralph Timmins of the Illinois State Police, which is handling the investigation.

After his gun jammed, the shooter injured himself with a knife and subsequently was restrained by parishioners, Timmins said in a "preliminary release" left on his office voicemail recording. Approximately 150 people were in the church at the time, and Trent said video recordings of the service may provide clues as to what triggered the shooting.

Two parishioners who "tackled" the shooter received "non-life-threatening" injuries from the knife, Timmins said.

Winters was "pronounced [dead] at the hospital for a single gunshot wound to the chest," Timmins said.

Jeremy Kohler, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told ABC News Radio that there's "a lot of sadness and disbelief out there" - and members of the community are trying to figure out how it could have happened.

"No one can even fathom a motive for the shooting," Kohler said. "No one really seems to recognize [the shooter] as being a member of the church."

( - 'No One Can Fathom a Motive': Pastor Shot During Service, By KATIE ESCHERICH - March 8, 2009 )

What next?

The Illinois High School Association has ordered that any Christian high school hosting a sports event may not have prayers over the public address system. Looks like Christians no longer have free speech rights even on their own property. Hopefully, the unconstitutional nature of this will be pointed out and the IHSA will have to back down from their outrageous new policy.

(Original info source: Alliance Defense Fund. Report synopsis on Slice of Laodicea blog.)

Test the voices...

The phone rings in my office and at my home quite often. I pick up the phone and usually I know who the person is on the other end before they say their name. Usually, if I’m at home, it’s one of my kids’ friends. If I’m at the church, it’s someone from my congregation. After 10½ years here, I recognize most members by voice. Occasionally, I’ll guess wrong, but not very often.

Works the same way when I call someone. I usually know which family member has answered. I usually don’t miss the ID, but occasionally I’m stumped. On more than one occasion I’ve started talking with a teenage son thinking I had the dad. There’s always an awkward pause when I stop talking and then the boy says, “Um, I think you want my dad.” Oops! And I have numerous times asked, “Is your mom there?” only to find out I had mom on the line. That works out all right though. Makes the woman feel younger when I mistake her for her daughter. Brownie points are awarded for that, you know?

Anyway, all that to say this: Individuals are recognizable by their voice even when you can’t see them. You know it’s true. When your friends call, you know who they are the second they say, “Hello!” When your youngest yells a question from the other side of the house, you yell back at the right person most of the time, don’t you? Individuals are recognizable by their voice even when they’re not visually available. If nothing else gives a person away in the dark or across the miles, their voice will. Am I right?

Have any of you ever seen God? I haven’t. I’m guessing the same is true for you. You haven’t even seen his back. That’s all Moses was permitted to view. You haven’t seen God, but you recognize his voice sometimes, don’t you?

We recognize God mostly by the content of what he says to our hearts. We know him because he corrects us when we sin. He rebukes us and teaches and trains us in righteousness. He encourages us and loves us and comforts us in times of trouble and stress. And he does all those things without contradicting anything he’s already revealed in the Bible. That’s been my usual experience. I’m assuming, if you're a believer, that’s been your experience too. You recognize God, normally, by the substance of the good and right things he says to your heart.

Have you ever seen Satan? I haven’t. I’m guessing the same is true of you.

Adam and Eve saw him, sort of. He was disguised as a serpent, the craftiest of the critters roaming the garden, when he came to them. They figured out who he was a little too late. John saw him represented as a dragon in his Revelation. There are few sightings between the beginning and the end though.

Jesus was tempted by him, but it isn’t clear that he saw him. As Son of God, I suppose he could see spirits or at least recognize their presence, but the Bible doesn’t say he did. At a later date – it’s recorded in Luke 10:18 – Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (NIV)

Outside of these incidents, there are miscellaneous mentions of our enemy in the Old Testament – in 1 Chronicles, Job and Zechariah, one of the prophetic books – but no sightings. Only his voice is heard in most passages. His lies are recorded. I think that’s an important fact to note. God made sure some of Satan’s words were recorded in the Scriptures so that we can recognize his voice.

The devil and his underling demons – they’re more likely the ones bothering you in most cases – are trying to disguise their voice. Satan doesn’t want you to know it’s him. He wants you, on occasion, to think you’re hearing from God. At other times, he intends for you to think his voice is yours. If you knew it was him speaking, you’d tune him out. So he subtly weaves his lies and you mistake them for "truth" from God or "wisdom" from your own mind.

Jesus, describing the devil in John 8:44, said this: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (NIV)

Funny thing about the voices in our heads – and I’m not talking the funny voices that psychotic people hear – they all sound the same. They sound like us. God’s voice, though we recognize it as His by its content, sounds the same as our normal thinking voice. Satan’s voice has the same quality about it. Content’s different – as different as night and day – but the timber and pitch, I don’t know what else to call it, is the same. The thoughts that come to my mind sound like me. Don’t yours sound like you?

Puzzling at times, isn’t it? Is that my thought? Is that God voice? Is that a devil’s lie?

We’re left with no choice. We must discern the source of the thoughts we’re thinking, the voices we’re hearing, by testing them.

What does 1 John 4:1 say? “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (NIV)

Do not believe every voice in your head. Test every thought. Examine carefully every idea the pops into your head. Ask questions! Does the voice you’re hearing match what you know of God’s character? Are the things you’re being prompted to do or say or think true, noble, right, pure? Are they lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy thoughts? Or are the thoughts you’re thinking more devilish in character?

Paul told the church in Corinth that he did not want them to be ignorant of the devil’s schemes. And he educated them so they wouldn’t be outwitted. I want to do the same thing for you over the next few days. I don’t want you to be outwitted. I want you to be aware of the devil’s schemes so you can escape his traps, so you can avoid sin.

Today’s lesson: pay attention to the content of the messages you’re hearing in your head. (More to come.)

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sub-State Champs!

The Argonia Lady Raiders won the El Dorado Sub-State Championship by three points, 45-42! St. Paul was a tough team to knock out. Argonia's girls got up by twelve points once, but St. Paul played one of the best end games the Lady Raiders have seen all year and ended just short of an upset. If they'd had another time out left...But we WON!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One down...

Tensions were high as the Argonia Lady Raiders took the court in the first round of Sub State tonight. This was the game they lost last year. They did NOT repeat! They beat Little River handily never giving up their early lead. Next game is Saturday night at 6:00pm at Butler Community College in El Dorado, KS.

Warm and breezy...

It was 72 degrees with a strong southwesterly wind when I left the house at noon on my bike. (Sustained 15-17mph winds with gusts to 20mph is called breezy here. I'm not joking. The guy on KSN this morning said it would be breezy in one sentence and mentioned 50mph gusts possible in the next.)

Anyway, my first-of-the-year bike-shorts-and-short-sleeved-jersey-only ride was wonderful! (Takes a lot less time to get ready and out the door.) I accelerated through the crowd of junior high and senior high students going to and coming back from lunch with only one minor incident. I had to brake a bit to avoid hitting a smart aleck who jumped at me. (Fitch! Don't do that again!) I rounded the corner to head out on the highway and found the wind not too bad. I dropped the hammer as they say in the biking world and in four miles had my average up to 17mph.

About four miles out is where my shelter - a few trees and such - ends. In the first mile past 4, I dropped eight tenths of a mile per hour to 16.2mph. I dropped another eight tenths in the next two miles and managed to bleed off only three tenths before I turned around. (I'm at 15.1mph now. Didn't want you to strain your brain on the math.) That's when things got interesting.

In the first mile back toward town, I gained back six of the tenths I had lost. In the next two miles I gained back an entire mile per hour. By the time I returned to four miles out I was at 17.3mph. I was at 17.5mph when I returned to the "shelter" from which I had emerged.

My ending speed? 18.0mph! My max speed was 37.5mph coming down the eastern slope of L'Alpe d'Danville. What fun! Now all I need is someone to come ride with me. Any takers?

Blogroll please...

My blogroll is growing. I am finding more great Christian apologists as I click from blog to blog. I have posted a few of the best under, "Mikey's Favorite Blogs," so you can find them easily. I've added four this week - CrossExamined, Atheism is Dead, Slice of Laodicea and Uncommon Descent.

If Galatians was published today...

Letters to the editor often reprove magazines for publishing material they deem inappropriate. What if Paul's letter to the church in Galatia was published in Christian Today magazine next month? The responses might be something like this...

Dear Christianity Today:
In response to Paul D. Apostle’s article about the Galatian church in your January issue, I have to say how appalled I am by the unchristian tone of this hit piece. Why the negativity? Has he been to the Galatian church recently? I happen to know some of the people at that church, and they are the most loving, caring people I’ve ever met.
Phyllis Snodgrass; Ann Arbor, MI


Dear Editor:
How arrogant of Mr. Apostle to think he has the right to judge these people and label them accursed. Isn’t that God’s job? Regardless of this circumcision issue, these Galatians believe in Jesus just as much as he does, and it is very Pharisaical to condemn them just because they differ on such a secondary issue. Personally, I don’t want a sharp instrument anywhere near my zipper, but that doesn’t give me the right to judge how someone else follows Christ. Can’t we just focus on our common commitment to Christ and furthering His kingdom, instead of tearing down fellow believers over petty doctrinal matters?
Ed Bilgeway; Tonganoxie, KS


Dear CT:
I’ve seen other dubious articles by Paul Apostle in the past, and frankly I’m surprised you felt that his recurrent criticisms of the Church deserved to be printed in your magazine. Mr. Apostle for many years now has had a penchant for thinking he has a right to “mark” certain Christian teachers who don’t agree with his biblical position. Certainly I commend him for desiring to stay faithful to God’s word, but I think he errs in being so dogmatic about his views to the point where he feels free to openly attack his brethren. His attitude makes it difficult to fully unify the Church, and gives credence to the opposition’s view that Christians are judgmental, arrogant people who never show God’s love.
Ken Groener; San Diego, CA


To the Editors:
Paul Apostle says that he hopes the Galatian teachers will cut off their own privates? What kind of Christian attitude is that? Shame on him!
Martha Bobbitt; Boulder, CO


Dear Christianity Today:
The fact that Paul Apostle brags about his public run-in with Peter Cephas, a well-respected leader and brother in Christ, exposes Mr. Apostle for the divisive figure that he has become in the Church today. His diatribe against the Galatian church is just more of the same misguided focus on an antiquated reliance on doctrine instead of love and tolerance. Just look how his hypercritical attitude has cast aspersions on homosexual believers and women elders! The real problem within the Church today is not the lack of doctrinal devotion, as Apostle seems to believe, but in our inability to be transformed by our individual journeys in the Spirit. Evidently, Apostle has failed to detach himself from his legalistic background as a Pharisee, and is unable to let go and experience the genuine love for Christ that is coming from the Galatians who strive to worship God in their own special way.
William Zenby; Richmond, VA


Kind Editors:
I happen to be a member of First Christian Church of Galatia, and I take issue with Mr. Apostle’s article. How can he criticize a ministry that has been so blessed by God? Our church has baptized many new members and has made huge in-roads in the Jewish community with our pragmatic view on circumcision. Such a “seeker-sensitive” approach has given the Jews the respect they deserve for being God’s chosen people for thousands of years. In addition, every Gentile in our midst has felt honored to engage in the many edifying rituals of the Hebrew heritage, including circumcision, without losing their passion for Jesus. My advice to Mr. Apostle is to stick to spreading the gospel message of Christ’s unconditional love, and quit criticizing what God is clearly blessing in other churches.
Miriam “Betty” Ben-Hur; Galatia, Turkey


EDITOR’S NOTE: Christianity Today apologizes for our rash decision in publishing Paul Apostle’s exposé of the Galatian church. Had we known the extent in which our readership and advertisers would withdraw their financial support, we never would have printed such unpopular biblical truth. We regret any damage we may have caused in propagating the doctrines of Christ.

Original post at!

Specks and planks...

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV)

Jesus points you and me in the direction of self-examination here. With this simple illustration is Jesus says, "Judge yourself. Examine your heart. Check your motives. See if your actions are godly."

How do you judge yourself? You do so by digging into God’s Word regularly. You do so by reading and studying. You do so by meditating and memorizing.

"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." (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

"...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." (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

When you've done a self-diagnostic, listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit within you as you examine the Scriptures each day, you’re in a much better position to help a fellow struggler. You're humble. You know your own tendency to sin. You are more ready to give mercy because you've seen your own need for mercy. You have no desire to point fingers or condemn only to help.

James has something to say to us at this point. "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom," he writes, "because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (James 2:12-13, NIV)

What is that law that gives freedom? Jesus named it as the second greatest commandment after loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The law James speaks of is: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39, NIV)

Do you like being judged harshly? Do you like having your motives impugned? Of course not! Then love your neighbor as yourself. Do not judge him harshly. Do not assume impure motives when he acts.

Before you start poking around in your brother's eye, dig out that plank in your own.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Does God exist?

I had the opportunity to watch this incredibly interesting debate between Frank Turek and Christopher Hitchens because a friend posted a link on Facebook. I hope you will view it and be convinced by Turek that God does exist and that Hitchens' opposition to the idea of God is based soley on his dislike of the truths and morals presented in the Bible. I don't believe Hitchens adequately answers any of Turek's evidences or questions. Listen in and see what you think.

When you're done watching (or before if you prefer), check out the CrossExamined Blog which Turek and others contribute to. I've added it to my blog list as well.

Prosperity gospel is false...

In the twenty-first century a host of prosperity preachers ranging from Paula White to T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer have created a crisis in Christianity and the culture that I could scarcely have imagined two decades ago.

And that is precisely why I have decided to launch a major new release titled Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century.

Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century unmasks the fatal flaws of a cultic movement within Christianity that threatens to undermine the very foundation of “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

It provides comprehensive information as well as biblical evaluation of the newest luminaries in the Faith constellation—virtual rock stars who command the attention of Presidential candidates and media moguls.

It exposes a cast of characters who uniformly traffic in make-believe miracles, urban legends, counterfeit Christs, and twisted theological pretexts including:

“God cannot do anything in this earth realm unless we give Him permission.”

“Keep saying it—‘I have equality with God’—talk yourself into it.”

“Being poor is a sin.”

“There is no sickness for the saint of God…not even a headache, sinus problem, not even a toothache—nothing!”

Televangelist John Hagee goes so far as to shamelessly promote the pretext of a prosperous Jesus—who lives in a “big house” and wears “designer” clothes—and brazenly depicts a sectarian Christ who “refused to be Messiah to the Jews.”

The progression from bad to worse continues with the pretexts of prosperity preachers ranging from Benny Hinn to Creflo Dollar.

This modern-day crisis continues to deepen as an ever-increasing number of such prosperity preachers convince devotees that what happens in their lives—whether good or bad—is a direct result of what they say. If you, like they, are healthy and prosperous, words created your reality. Conversely, if your baby dies or your wife contracts cancer, you are the prime suspect.

Says Joel Osteen, “The moment you speak something out, you give birth to it. This is a spiritual principle, and it works whether what you are saying is good or bad, positive or negative.”

Osteen’s words are eerily reminiscent of those of New Thought practitioner Joe Vitale—contributor to Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. When asked by Larry King whether a nine-year old Florida girl who was brutally raped and murdered attracted this horror to herself, Vitale responded, “We are attracting everything to ourselves and there is no exception.”

While Osteen and Vitale have noteworthy differences, they are united in the belief that the force of faith is so powerful that even God (however you define him) is bound by its irrevocable reality.

My heart aches for the parent who put his dead baby on ice and in the midst of tears and desperation drove three hundred and fifty miles to a counterfeit revival center because he trusted the testimonies of Faith preachers who were touting resurrections from the dead.

I equally grieve the millions who have left Faith churches in the midst of failed faith formulas. Some conclude that God must not love them; others question the integrity of the whole Christian enterprise.

The tragedy is that all too often they have been deluded into looking for God in all the wrong places. The real experience is not found in counterfeit formulas but in Christian fundamentals.
Guest Blogger, Hank

After the dentist...

This is a crack up! Drugged kids are funny! Gotta get me some of what this kid got!

Do not judge...

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV)

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37, NIV)

Are these words a prohibition against teaching the truth of God's Word? Are they designed to silence a believing man when he sees a believing friend walking in sin? Are these verses the duct tape over the mouth of a converted woman who seeks only the good of another confessing woman headed in the wrong direction?

They are not. When Jesus says, "Judge not," he is not telling his children to be silent about sin. He is not suggesting that you and I look the other way when our fellow Jesus-followers violate his commands as laid out in the Bible, his revelation of himself and his standards. He is not telling us we have no business whatsoever correcting the errors of others in his church. The Bible clearly teaches that correction, even judgment, in the church is good and right.

In 1 Corinthians 5, after talking about a man in the church who was in a sexual relationship with his father’s wife, Paul calls the church into action. He tells the believers in Corinth to "hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of God." (v. 5, NIV)

A few verses later, he has this to say: "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you.'"(v. 9-13, NIV)

That sounds like judgment doesn't it? It is. It is good and right judgment of a sinful man who claims Christ based on a correct reading of God’s word. That is what I do every time I preach about sin. It is not what Jesus is condemning in Matthew 7 and Luke 6.

What Jesus is calling us to refrain from in these passages is harsh criticism of others - criticism that offers no hope, criticism that offers no helping hand, criticism that flows from a haughty heart. That he will not tolerate. It is out-of-bounds for every disciple of Jesus. We have been given grace by God. Grace we must give to others. We have been forgiven. Forgive we must.

God inspired Solomon to pen these wise words: "A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." (Proverbs 19:11, NIV)

Overlooking offenses, showing patience toward others - that is what Jesus is calling us to. Our knee-jerk reaction when we're annoyed or offended or wounded is to assume the guy meant us harm. But we cannot see his heart. Only God can. We do not know his motivation. We dare not presume ill intent. We dare not judge him.

Think about it. The man whose words have raised your hackles may have been directed by God to correct you. If his words match up with the Bible, you would do well to pay attention and mend your ways. He may be rescuing you from a devil-trap you didn’t know you were in.

If he is not well-intentioned, if he is harshly judging you, let God take care of it. "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." (Romans 12:18, NIV)

You gain nothing by retaliating with your own harsh judgment. "Do not repay anyone evil for evil." (Romans 12:17, NIV)

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