Sunday, May 31, 2009
Monday, a 51-year-old Johnson County man could be charged with murder and aggravated assault in the shooting of Tiller, who had been shot before by an anti-abortion foe.
The crime has drawn condemnation and outrage from the president and stirred strong emotions across the nation.
Tiller, 67, was shot once just after 10 a.m. Sunday as he stood in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church, 7601 E. 13th St., where he was serving as an usher. The gunman threatened to shoot two men who tried to apprehend him.
Wichita police said that the suspect was arrested without incident on I-35 in Johnson County about three hours after the shooting, following a statewide broadcast describing the suspect and his car.
Although Wichita police would not name the suspect, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office identified him as Scott P. Roeder, according to the Associated Press.
Wichita police said it appeared the suspect had acted alone but that they are investigating whether he had any connection to anti-abortion groups.
Police on Sunday said they expected the man to be charged with murder and two counts of aggravated battery.
In a news conference at Wichita City Hall, Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said police will "investigate this suspect to the Nth degree, his history, his family, his associates, and we're just in the beginning stages of that."
Tiller had long been a focal point of protests by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5107 E. Kellogg, is one of a few in the country where late-term abortions are performed.
He was shot and wounded in both arms at his clinic in 1993.
Sunday's shooting stoked emotional debate on the Internet between supporters of abortion rights and abortion opponents.
Without elaborating, Stolz said investigators will look into the Internet comments because the discussion could bear on public safety.
Tiller's family issued a statement through Wichita lawyers Dan Monnat and Lee Thompson:
"Today we mourn the loss of our husband, father and grandfather. Today's event is an unspeakable tragedy for all of us and for George's friends and patients.
"This is particularly heart wrenching because George was shot down in his house of worship, a place of peace."
Police and other sources described what happened in the church.
For the 10 a.m. service, Tiller was serving as an usher, one of six ushers listed in the church bulletin. He was handing out bulletins to people going into the sanctuary minutes before being shot.
At 10:03, Tiller was one of six to 12 people in the foyer, outside the sanctuary. His wife, Jeanne, was at the church.
A man armed with a handgun shot Tiller once, according to the preliminary investigation. Three to four people saw the shooting.
Two men confronted the suspect and exchanged words with him, but police would not say what was said.
"They were both threatened, and the gun was pointed at them," Stolz said.
That is why the suspect could face the aggravated assault charges, Stolz said.
Within minutes, paramedics arrived and pronounced Tiller dead at the scene.
Officers arrived and immediately started interviewing witnesses.
Police obtained the suspect's description and vehicle description -- a powder-blue 1993 Ford Taurus -- from witnesses at the church and broadcast it and the tag number to law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The car was registered to Scott Roeder of Merriam, in Johnson County.
Police also obtained a photo of the suspect, who had a prior conviction for criminal use of explosives, which was overturned on appeal, according to court records.
Officers began checking motels and other places for the suspect.
Before the shooting, the church was packed, said Shirley King, one of the parishioners. New members were joining. A baptism was on the agenda.
When King heard a "pop" sound, she thought it was special effects from the percussionist. Some people glanced toward the rear of the church, curious.
Tiller's wife, Jeanne, was sitting with the choir downstairs, King said. An usher came, and motioned for Jeanne Tiller to come with him.
"The rest of us were listening to the prelude, but then came the piercing screams of a woman who obviously had witnessed a horrible sight," King wrote in an e-mail.
"A few people immediately jumped up, but quickly one of our church leaders said, 'Everyone please be seated. Please remain calm. We have had an incident and we are taking care of it. Remain in your seat.' "
Adam Watkins, 20, who said he has attended the church his entire life, said he was sitting in the middle of the congregation when he heard the "pop."
"We just thought a child had come in with a balloon and it... had gone up and hit the ceiling and popped," Watkins said.
Once they learned of the shooting, Watkins said:
"We were just really shocked. We were kind of dumbfounded. We couldn't really believe it had happened."
The suspect's car was spotted shortly before 2 p.m. just south of Gardner by two Johnson County sheriff's deputies -- Andy Lento and Tyson Kilbey. The Sheriff's Office had suspected that the man would be coming back on I-35 to his home, and Kilbey and Lento waited for him.
As the car went north, Lento and Kilbey followed and were joined by three other sheriff's patrol cars.
Lt. Mike Pfannenstiel of the Sheriff's Office said officers pulled the car over just south of the main Gardner exit and got out with guns drawn. The man got out of his car with his hands up.
"We took him down without incident," Pfannenstiel said, adding that the man appeared to be driving the speed limit and made no attempt to elude the deputies.
At the 4 p.m. news conference, Stolz said authorities were bringing the suspect to Wichita.
He said that police expect to present the case to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office today.
At 7 p.m., a private vigil service was held at Reformation. Tiller's wife, his children and grandchildren attended. Two police officers stood in the back of the sanctuary.
The Rev. Lowell Michelson, senior pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church, said that part of the message of the vigil focused on the message that "love is stronger than hate."
That was clear, he said, in the congregation's response to one another.
"I think the way that folks gathered around Jeanne tonight in large numbers speaks volumes not only about the support and encouragement we get from Jesus Christ," he said, "but also the way the Holy Spirit works."
Reaction to shooting
President Obama released a statement on the shooting.
"I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence."
Mickey Cohlmia, a member of the neighboring St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, said:
"It is absolutely disheartening.... I think it shows where our world is today.... There is no safe place."
The anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, in a statement on its Web site, said:
"We are shocked at (Sunday) morning's disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller's family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ."
Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, who conducted an investigation into Tiller, said in a statement he was "stunned by this lawless and violent act which must be condemned and should be met with the full force of law. We join in lifting prayer that God's grace and presence rest with Dr. Tiller's family and friends."
Warren Hern, a Colorado physician and close friend of Tiller's -- who described himself now as "the only doctor in the world" who performs very late-term abortions -- said Tiller's death was predictable.
"I think it's the inevitable consequence of more than 35 years of constant anti-abortion terrorism, harassment and violence," he said.
When Obama was elected last fall, Hern predicted that anti-abortion violence would increase, he said. Because Obama supports legalized abortion, Hern said, its foes "have lost ground.... They want the doctors dead, and they invite people to assassinate us. No wonder that this happens.
"I am next on the list."
Tiller and his clinic have faced continuous threats and legal action.
A Wichita jury ruled in March that he was not guilty of illegal abortion on 19 criminal charges he faced for allegedly violating a state law requiring an "independent" second physician's concurring opinion before performing late-term abortions.
Immediately following the ruling in this criminal case, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts made public a similar complaint against Tiller that was originally filed in December 2008.
Protesters blockaded Tiller's clinic during Operation Rescue's "Summer of Mercy" protests during the summer of 1991, and Tiller was shot by Rachelle Shannon at his clinic in 1993. Tiller was wounded in both arms. Shannon remains in prison.
The clinic was bombed in June 1986 and was severely vandalized in May. His lawyer said wires to security cameras and outdoor lights were cut and that the vandals also cut through the roof and plugged the buildings' downspouts. Rain poured through the roof and caused thousands of dollars of damage in the clinic. Tiller reportedly asked the FBI to investigate the incident.
From the Wichita Eagle's kansas.com
Contributing: Kevin McGrath, Conor Shine and Stephanie Barnard of The Eagle; Kansas City Star; Associated Press; Los Angeles Times
Thursday, May 28, 2009
This is not the usual kind of verse that inspires worship or brings encouragement, but this morning the Holy Spirit used it in my life to bless. Since I'm slightly over forty, forty-two to be exact, I stopped and thought about what it would be like to just now be able to walk. What if my whole life to this point had been filled with immobility? What if my only option, like this man's, was to sit an beg for money and food? What kind of joy would flood my heart? You can bet I'd be leaping and dancing and praising God just like this guy did. (That was in Acts 3.)
As I was pondering these questions, I realized that I know what it's like to find freedom after years of lameness. I struggled in bondage for nearly a decade because of what one man did to me in junior high and high school. I was tied up in knots of anger and resentment and hatred and shame because I couldn't forgive him for hurting me. Then one day I made a choice. I decided I could forgive - not because I wanted to, but because Jesus wanted me to. So I let the past sins against me go.
The transformation that came over my heart in the next few years was miraculous. The old pain disappeared and joy returned to my heart. My relationships grew stronger as I learned to trust again. I no longer had to fear closeness with others.
Today I once again choose Jesus. I choose his ways. I choose forgiveness. I choose to "walk" in freedom!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
General classification after stage 16
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank - 70.06.30
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini (-0.39)
3 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test Team (-2.19)
4 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas (-3.08)
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas - (-3.19)
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana (-3.21)
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad (-5.54)
8 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone - Caffe Mokambo (-8.24)
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Hopefully soon, I'll be able to get my numbers even higher. Can't wait!
When I got home from dropping her off, I took our next oldest to our EMS CPR class. I wasn't sure if she would be certified or not, but thought the information would be valuable to her. She listened intently to everything our instructor said and jumped in when it was time to practice. At the end of the class, she passed her exam with flying colors - 100% - and was certified. She ran in and posted her "just certified" status on Facebook the second we returned home.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The 2007 winner said aggressive tactics can still win the Giro, but just as quickly added that he didn’t expect to see that from Levi Leipheimer.
“I’ve never seen Leipheimer attack,” Di Luca said on RAI television. “He’s going to have to now if he wants to win this Giro.”
Leipheimer – who finished safely in the pack in Friday’s stage to remain third overall at 40 seconds back – might be ready to surprise the Italians.
The Astana captain said when the time is right, he will be the one charging up the road. And this time he won’t be waiting for anyone else.
“If I feel good enough, I will attack, I promise you that,” Leipheimer said before Friday’s stage. “We have to take it day-by-day. It’s a long, hard race. Tomorrow is a day for Di Luca. I will try not to lose time to him because the stage is tailor-made for Di Luca.”
The 35-year-old Leipheimer was hoping to take control of the Giro in Thursday’s decisive Cinque Terre time trial, but Denis Menchov got in the way.
When the sphinx-like Russian pulled the double, winning the stage and snatching away the pink jersey, it undermined Astana’s strategy for this Giro.
Leipheimer is renowned for his tremendous grit and staying power in the high mountain climbs and his stubborn ability to stay with the leanest of climbers and then nail it in the decisive time trials.
That successful strategy has served him well and delivered him three victories in the first three races he’s started in 2009.
His wins at the Tour of California, the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Tour of the Gila were paved with dominant victories in each event’s time trials.
With that strategy off the rails, the team will now have to modify its tactics if the squad hopes to crown Leipheimer as just the second American to win the Giro when the race ends May 31 in Rome.
“Obvious, it would be better to be 40 ahead than 40 behind, but there are still a lot of hard stages to come,” said Astana manager Johan Bruyneel. “We’ll just have to see and maybe take advantage of a bad moment of Menchov or one of the other favorites to attack and gain some time.”
Leipheimer said the Petrano mountain stage on Monday would be his best chance to make a mark.
“I think Monte Petrano is the biggest day we have between now and the finish,” he told reporters Friday morning. “And there’s two uphill finishes with Blockhaus and Vesuvio, but Petrano is a long day and it’s probably going to be hot. Some guys can just crack.”
Menchov’s aggressive rider is winning over many within the peloton. Most insiders predict that the Russian will be able to fend off any attacks that may come from Leipheimer, Di Luca or the Liquigas tandem of Ivan Basso and Franco Pellizotti.
“I was picking Levi to win before the Giro started, but with what we’ve seen from Menchov, he’s impressive,” said Saxo Bank sport director Lars Michaelsen. “I like the way (Menchov) won on Alpe di Suisi with that show of aggression. I’d rather see a GC rider go and earn his victory like that, rather for them to follow the wheel and just wait for the elimination. It’s nice if you win, but it’s more spectacular if you take that victory and make it your own rather than just win by elimination.”
Others said the experience and depth of the Astana team, however, could tip the favor toward Leipheimer.
Despite losing Chris Horner to injury, Astana still has the strongest team of the top-three contenders. The presence of an improving Lance Armstrong will complement the spindly legs of Janez Brajkovic, Chechu Rubiera, Dani Navarro and Yaroslav Popovych.
“This Giro doesn’t have the big, hard mountains in the final week like we normally do in the Giro, so without the Dolomites or the Alps, tactics and a strong team will become fundamental,” said Silence-Lotto sport director Roberto Damiano. “The big mountains are better if you’re strong, because it’s a process of elimination. But with these short, explosive climbs, teammates are essential. Astana is very strong and that will be a tremendous advantage for Leipheimer.”
Leipheimer said the presence of Armstrong and Bruyneel will bolster his confidence heading toward the final, decisive week.
“We definitely miss Horner, but as you can see, Lance has gotten a lot better,” Leipheimer said after the time trial. “The entire team is very impressive, all the way to the young (Andrey) Zeits has very much impressed me this week, so I’m confident in the team.”
- From VeloNews
Thursday, May 21, 2009
General classification of the Giro after stage 12
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank (50.27.17)
2 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini (-0.34)
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana (-0.40)
Following Levi on Twitter and Facebook!
(Oh...and other Astana news. The team took over the team classification today from Team Columbia-Highroad which slipped to third. Lance Armstrong moved up from 16th place overall to 12th. Yaroslav Popovych is in 14th.)
(Photo above from 2008 Giro NOT 2009.)
I've been to 3% of the world according to 'Where I've Been' on Facebook. 3% isn't much, but it's up from a few years back. I've been to Africa, with layovers in Europe, to visit my wife's 'growing up years' home. (She's the daughter of missionaries.) I've added a few states too. I hope to visit my brother in Israel sometime in the near future. We'll see if that happens. (Map key: Red = Where I've lived; Blue = Where I've been; Green = Where I'd like to visit)
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
So the abortion debate is simple, and the only item in question is, what’s a human being? Because if the gestating zygote, fetus, or whatever is a human being, then the moral calculus is pretty clear; we don’t do certain drastic things to other human beings unless they genuinely deserve it.
Words mean things, so unless somebody wants to suggest that the words “human” and “being” are being used metaphorically or figuratively, we should be able to settle the question by reading the dictionary.
“Human” simply designates species. Any attempt to base humanness on value, maturity, cognitive ability, or any other characteristic is simply obfuscation; “human” denotes only species. Whether an object deserves the adjective “human” or not can be determined by testing DNA. Does the cell contain human DNA, as opposed to, say, canine, or bovine? If so, then it is a human cell. Is the ear comprised of cells that all contain human DNA? Then it’s a human ear. Is the infant comprised of cells that all contain human DNA? Then it’s a human infant. And so forth. Very simple, very unambiguous.
“Being” is a bit tougher, because it’s imprecise and general by design, like the word “thing.” “Being” is a general word denoting existence (based on the verb, “to be”), only in this instance it implies life; normal English usage in America would not ordinarily call something a “being” unless it were alive. So let’s assert that in this instance, it means “a living thing,” or to be more precise than “thing,” “a living organism.” If anyone thinks “being” in the phrase “human being” denotes something other than “a living thing,” you’ll need to state your reasons very clearly.
So, any object that (a) can properly be called a living organism, and (b) is comprised of cells that contain human DNA, is, by simple definition, a human being.
Now if you go to a site frequented by science-minded atheists, like PZ Myers’ Pharyngula, you will find biologists who are partisans with dogs in the hunt when it comes to the abortion debate. However, even there where they’re inclined to argue that a recently fertilized zygote in a human mother is not truly a human being, the definitions of the individual word “human” and of the phrase “living organism” are not particularly controversial. Granted, the precise point at which a being ceases to be “a sperm cell from one organism, and an egg cell from another organism of similar species” and becomes properly “an organism of particular species” in its own right, is arbitrary within about a 6-hour period; it’s a process, not a singularity. However, I don’t think even the partisans at Pharyngula would dispute that at the end of that process, what remains is, in fact, a living organism; it’s a collection of cells in a single, interactive system, that share common DNA, grow, and produce negative entropy from outside themselves (e.g., they eat). That’s a matter that’s got general agreement among biologists. And of course, since all the cells in that “collection of cells” are provably human cells, and since the collection of cells meets the common biological definition of life, then scientifically and provably it’s a human organism — or, in plain English, a human being.
Immediately, I can hear the howls, but honestly, folks, it really is that simple. The howls all speak of “meaning” which, frankly, is an imposition from whatever philosophical system you’re articulating. If you want to make this into a philosophical question, fine, but please admit that that’s what you’re doing. The scientific and biological question is easily resolved. It’s a “human being” when it can properly be called “human” (denoting species) and “being” (denoting that it’s a living organism.) That’s how language works.
To escape the common moral obligation to refrain from arbitrarily killing human beings, somebody will have to produce a logically valid syllogism proving that to treat a human being brutally who has X characteristic is morally wrong, but to treat a human being brutally who lacks X characteristic is not morally wrong. Then they’d have to show, logically or scientifically, when it is that a human being acquires X characteristic; and at that point, they’d have logically produced an argument that makes abortion defensible before a particular point in time.
I’ve heard that done plausibly with brain waves (though I don’t agree). I’ve heard people try “consciousness,” but that would mean — logically — that it’s morally acceptable to murder an unconscious human, and that’s absurd. I’ve heard people try “intelligence,” but that would mean — logically — that it’s morally acceptable to murder unintelligent people, and that’s heinous; the Nazis went down that road, and the rest of humanity shouted “No!”
I’m asking folks to shed their emotions, and deal with the simple facts. “Human being” is rather easy, if we shed the emotions. The remaining questions are just questions of logical consistency: if we consider a criterion sufficient to change the moral equation, does it work in all cases, or does it produce absurd or objectionable exceptions?
Defenders of abortion rights like to pretend that opponents of those rights stand only on religious grounds, but the truth is that opponents of legal abortion stand mostly on simple, consistent, and generally-accepted definitions of common words. It’s the proponents of legal abortion who insist on inserting problematic theories of “meaning,” which impose their particular philosophy on the rest of us, and especially on some 50 million human beings who will never see the light of day.
Guest Blogger, Phil
Lance -- powered by http://www.livestrong.com
Lance Armstrong is starting to look stronger in the Giro d'Itialia. He led the pursuit of the leaders up a very steep incline today and came in just 29 seconds behind the leader. His teammate, Levi Leipheimer, is in fourth place overall, just under 2 minutes behind DiLuca. Leipheimer hopes to take over the race lead with a first place finish in the time trial.
This video is a conversation Lance and Levi had before stage 10.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thierry made this image using a solar-filtered Takahashi 5-inch refracting telescope and a Canon 5D Mark II digital camera. Photo Credit: (NASA/Thierry Legault)
You can see more of Thierry's fine work at: www.astrophoto.fr/
SCOURGE OF THE EARTH or compassionate lovers of human kind? Depending on where you live and what your experience is, Christians may be identified as either one, and, much to the chagrin of those who use the label to describe themselves, legitimately so. It all boils down to what you mean by the label ‘Christian.’Regardless of what we think any particular word should mean, it actually means what society interprets it to mean. Linguistics 101. Like the word gay. I’ve been quoted as saying that I could have once properly been branded the gay author because, although I have always been heterosexual, I once was… well, gay. Twenty years ago the word meant happy. Today it refers to sexual orientation. So although I was once gay, I am no longer gay, not because I’ve changed, but because the understanding of the word in society has changed and it no longer describes what I am.So it is with the word ‘Christian.’
Jesus summed up his message as follows: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Armed with this simple mandate of love, millions of his followers have forsaken the relative safety and affluence of a comfortable life to extend love and hope to the downtrodden over the centuries. Much could be said to explain how and why Christianity has embodied compassion in a world torn by war, terror, and heartache. It’s all about love, my friend. They may hate you for your love because to the guilty love sometimes feels like salt in a wound, but they will still know that you are Christian by your love.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of many, Christianity is now far better known for much more and much less than love. Not all of the associations are bad, mind you, but they are a far cry from the message of love that ultimately cost Jesus his life. Ask any pedestrian and, depending on where they live, they will tell you who Christians are.Ask the question in the Middle East and you might be told that Christians are killers whose bombs have killed thousands of innocent bystanders in Iraq; murderers who have brutally killed thousands of Muslims in Lebanon. Christian militia entered the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut in September 1982 where they raped, pillaged and murdered with impunity for three days during what became known as the Shatila massacre. The first suicide bomber in Lebanon was a Christian, blowing up Muslims. The scourge of the Crusaders is still alive in the Middle East. This is what ‘Christian’ means to many in that part of the world.
My father just returned from a town in India where Hindus have killed many Christians over the last 12 months. When he asked the pastors if it was because Christians followed Jesus, they surprised him by say no, it was because Christians means ‘Western values’ to the Hindus. “So then,” my father said, “if you are dying for a term that doesn’t describe you, are you not dying in vain? If Christian means western to them, not follower of Christ, then to call yourself Christian to them is deceitful, is it not? To the Romans, become Roman, the apostle Paul says. Speak their language.”
If you ask a pedestrian in Seattle who Christians are, they will likely tell you that Christians are judgmental, insensitive, hypocrites who are out of touch with reality. Or worse, angry right-wing bigots willing to resort to hate speech and violence to protect their narrow way of life. That they are a political group committed to a particular platform, willing to take up the sword or home-made bombs to enforce that platform.
The last thing that will come to their mind is the concept of sacrificial love or Jesus who showed us that love. Just like the word ‘Gay’ the meaning has changed, like it or not. And it’s not just Lebanon or Seattle. According to a Barna Group poll, only 9% of those outside the church think Christians in America are nice, loving people. What every happened to you shall know them by their love?
Throughout most of the world Christianity is simply no longer associated with the core beliefs of sacrificial love that birthed our faith. It has become like a large vessel of dirty bathwater, full of nasty associations and improper human behavior. Newsweek’s April 7th cover story cited the dramatic decline of Christianity in the United States. We live in a post Christian world, many would say. They might be right. And who’s to blame them? No one wants to swim around in dirty bathwater.
But wait a minute. There is more than dirty bathwater in this vessel. There is something precious and live-giving! And there is a rising generation of thinkers who are as eager to protect and cherish that life as they are to throw out the dirty bathwater. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, we say.
It’s interesting that Jesus’ first recorded miracle was turning dirty bathwater (in this case water used to wash dusty feet) into precious wine, a beautiful portrayal of purification. My generation wants that wine back and many are willing—check that, eager—to rid the vessel of the bathwater and replace it with that wine, that truth, that core message of love that Jesus gave his life for.
If Christian means judgmental or bigot to most or even many, than to them we are not Christian. We are neither bigots nor hate-mongers nor killers nor whatever else you might think a Christian might be, we are passionate believers in a person who came with a message of love, and his name was Jesus.
Our identity is not stamped with any specific political party or ideology however good or bad it is, but to the man who avoided being identified by any political ideology whenever possible and offered only the sage advice to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
We are not defined by any specific social agenda, however necessary or good, but by the love that embraces the downcast in need of a helping hand. We do not follow any moral creed invented by man however honorable, nor spit in the faces of those who struggle to put others before themselves however deserving, but we carry the burden of forgiveness and step aside so that he without sin may throw the first stone, if indeed such a man lives.
Our stories are not about pot-lucks and Sunday school playground squabbles, but about that monster called hate and his futile attempts to dash the hopes of the Great Lover.
Perhaps you could call us post-Christian Believers, defined solely by the man we follow, not the institution that bears his name. We believe that our first calling is to love God with all of our hearts and that our second calling is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and for us that is a difficult enough task to waste the rest of our lives on.
We are not partial Christians, not red-letter Christians, not a new kind of Christian, not non-Christian; we are far more and far less than Christian, children of an unfortunate but very real phenomenon that has dirtied our bathwater so now we want out, but out with the baby, please. The baby the whole baby, nothing but the baby, so help us God.
We are many, very many, millions of many. This is the way we roll and we are on the rise.
Guest Blogger, Ted
Thursday, May 14, 2009
In his book The Other Side of the River, Kevin Reeves, a former worship team leader, explains that, "It was said regularly that believers coming into the service were either inner court, outer court, or holy of holies Christians, each one needing a certain period of time to come into the manifest presence of God." It became his and the worship team's responsibility, in an act he descibes as "charismatic ritualism" (I would call it, "mystic ritualism."), to help people enter into the divine presence.
During the Old Testament era, entry into God's presence was restricted to the High Priest one day per year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). For reason of the holiness of Yahweh, and to enter into the divine presence, the High Priest needed to pay attention to the required protocol, or face divine judgment, even death. The Lord would accept no offering of "strange fire" like that offered by the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu. For their offering of "strange fire . . . in the presence of the Lord," the two sons of Aaron died. In explaining to Aaron why they died, the Lord said through Moses, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored" (See Leviticus 10:1-3.).
That's why the presumptuous way in which some musicians and singers advertise themselves is troubling. One worship leader's CD contains the following promo. It advertises her as, "Fresh, energetic and anointed . . ." The CD jacket goes on to state that she is "an accomplished singer/songwriter, keyboardist and speaker." The promo concludes by stating that the recording, her second musical project, will take "you through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God." Note the words of the blurb: her music will take "you through the door of worship, right into the heart and presence of God." It's as if, through her music, she will usher people into the Holy of Holies.
Another musical group makes a claim to do the same. As their advertisement reads, they possess "one common denominator: a passion for worship. Each conference weekend, the Worship Team leads thousands . . . into the freedom of God's presence." Again, according to their passion, whatever that is, the team promises to lead thousands of participants "into the freedom of God's presence." For New Covenant believers, these advertisements raise issues about where God is, about whose place it is to lead believers to Him, about what it would really be like for us to enter His divine presence, and about the presence of God who, in Christ, already resides in believers.
First, the Bible states that God is everywhere present. He's omnipresent. The Psalmist asks, "Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?" (Psalm 139:7; See 139:8-12.). Of course, the answer to the question is, "Nowhere!" Again, Jeremiah the prophet asks, "'Can a man hide himself in hiding places, So I do not see him?' declares the Lord. 'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the Lord'" (Jeremiah 23:24). So how can any human usher any other human into the presence of the Holy God who is everywhere anyway? Does God depend upon worship teams to take people into His presence? Hardly . . .
Second, if we Christians were to enter into God's presence (The ultimate place of His abode is, we believe, heaven.), who would be qualified to take us there? The Bible affirms that believers need a mediator between themselves and God. In the Old Testament, the divinely appointed High Priest and Levites served that function. In this era, our "go-between" is Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . ." (1 Timothy 2:5; See Hebrews 8:6; 9:15.). If people wish to enter God's presence, they will need to be ushered into it by Christ. It would be wise to remember that musicians, no matter how passionate and sincere they might be, are not qualified to do that. Our drawing near to God can be facilitated only by Christ and His Spirit. He is our Concierge!
Third, if persons where to enter into God's presence, what would that experience be like? To answer this question, we must glean from those who encountered God in the Bible. Moses found himself in God's presence. The Lord told him, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." (Exodus 3:5). Of his reaction to being in God's presence, the Scripture records, "Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God." (Exodus 3:5-6). God manifested His presence to Elijah through an intimidating tornado, an earthquake, a fiery inferno, and then a gentle voice. Elijah responded to the Presence by wrapping "his face in his mantle" (1 Kings 19:11-13). Isaiah entered into God's presence, and immediately became convicted of his sin, that he was a man with a dirty mouth who dwelt among a people with dirty mouths. For that reason, he cried out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined!" (Isaiah 6:5). Upon encountering God, the prophet pronounced a curse upon himself. Jesus helped Peter to catch a mass of fish on what otherwise had been a bad fishing day. The miracle stimulated Peter to know he was in the Lord's presence, and falling down at Jesus' knees, he cried out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8). In the Bible, those who encountered God did not celebrate the experience. To the contrary, they became unnerved and convicted of their sin. Is this happening to people supposedly led into the mystical presence of God by contemporary worship teams? It neither sounds or looks like it.
And fourth, the Scriptures teach that Christ is present with and in believers. Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23). Before His ascension, the Lord promised the disciples, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20). Paul wrote that the mystery of God among believers is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 2:27). If Christ is God (John 1:1; 10:30; Philippians 2:6; etc.), and His Spirit resides with and in every believer (Romans 8:9-11), then the only thing believers need to do is appropriate their knowledge of God's presence by faith in the Word. For that, no worship team is needed.
Christ's presence cannot be "drummed up." As Christ is "in" us, He is also "with" us, and in light of His divine presence, can any team of singers and musicians lead believers to be closer to God than they already are "in Christ"? We appropriate the presence of God in our lives through faith in the promise of Christ, by His Spirit, through Bible reading, by prayer, and in relationships cultivated with other believers (i.e., attending church, partaking in the Lord's Table together, and singing spiritual songs to one another). The whole business of bringing people into God's presence appears to be Old Covenant, and therefore denotes law, not grace. Because the Spirit of Christ resides in believers, God is present with them 24/7. Christ is already at home in our hearts. Question: For reason of His presence with us and in us, why are muscians and/or worship teams needed to usher New Covenant believers into a divine presence? Answer: They aren't.
Some of today's worship leaders claim to be able to mediate God's presence to Christians, but this they do by usurping the mediatorial authority of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And this they do without having to meet the spiritual and moral qualifications for spiritual leadership (See 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9.). And this they do without the mention of any such ministry in the New Testament.
Sometimes, we assume that, by a corporate "working-up" of human emotion, we can mystically "get into God." Too, we treat this whole business of entering into the Lord's presence too casually, especially when the Scriptures teach that, for those who directly entered it, God's presence was an awesome, if not unsettling and convicting, experience (See John 16:8-11.). If we are to sense God's presence within us before death, then the Spirit of Christ will lead us, and that is something no musical-mystical high priest possesses either the authority or power to do.
Guest Blogger, Larry
I have a dream that Jesus Christ will one day be Head of His church again. Not in pious rhetoric, but in reality.
I have a dream that groups of Christians everywhere will begin to flesh out the New Testament reality that the church is a living organism and not an institutional organization.
I have a dream that the clergy/laity divide will someday be an antique of church history, and the Lord Jesus Himself will replace the moss-laden system of human hierarchy that has usurped His authority among His people.
I have a dream that multitudes of God's people will no longer tolerate those man-made systems that have put them in religious bondage and under a pile of guilt, duty, condemnation, making them slaves to authoritarian systems and leaders.
I have a dream that the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ will be the focus, the mainstay, and the pursuit of every Christian and every church. And that God's dear people will no longer be obsessed with spiritual and religious things to the point of division. But that their obsession and pursuit would be a person - the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have a dream that countless churches will be transformed from high-powered business organizations into spiritual families - authentic Christ-centered communities - where the members know one another intimately; love one another unconditionally, bleed for one another deeply, and rejoice with one another unfailingly.
I have a dream today....
- Adapted by Frank Viola in Reimagining Church (p. 27-28) from Martlin Luther King Jr's famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963,
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
There are few things in religious circles held in greater esteem than eloquence. Yet there are few things of less actual value or that bring with them greater temptation or more harm.
One qualification everyone expects a preacher to have is the ability to discourse fluently on almost any religious or moral subject. Yet such ability is at best a doubtful asset and unless brought to Christ for cleansing may easily turn out to be the greatest enemy the preacher faces here below. The man who finds that he is able to preach on a moment’s notice should accept his ability as an obstacle over which he must try to get victory before he is at his best for God and His kingdom.
“Lord, keep us mindful of our need for humble reliance on the Holy Spirit to accomplish the awesome task to which You have called us. Amen.”
-A.W. Tozer, Tozer on Christian Leadership, May 12)
He replied: ‘My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.’
- Recalled by A.N. Wilson (originally posted by Wintery Knight)
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
In the Kingdom of God things are not too different. God had always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown, the decline in the spiritual health of the nation or the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke, and exhort in the name of God and righteousness.
A thousand or ten thousand ordinary Old Testament priests or New Testament pastors and teachers could labor quietly on almost unnoticed while the spiritual life of Israel or the Church was normal. But let the people of God go astray from the paths of truth and immediately the specialist appeared almost out of nowhere. His instinct for trouble brought him to the help of the Lord and of Israel.
Such a man was likely to be drastic, radical, possibly at times violent, and the curious crowd that gathered to watch him work soon branded him as extreme, fanatical, negative. And in a sense they were right. He was single-minded, severe, fearless, and these were the qualities the circumstances demanded. He shocked some, frightened others and alienated not a few, but he knew Who had called him and what he was sent to do. His ministry was geared to the emergency, and that fact marked him out as different, a man apart.
Those who know Leonard Ravenhill will recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God not to carry on the conventional work of the Church, but to beard the priests of Baal on their own mountaintop, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet and warn the people who are being led astray by him.
Such a man as this is not an easy companion. The professional evangelist who leaves the wrought-up meeting as soon as it ends to hurry over to the most expensive restaurant to feast and crack jokes with his sponsors will find this man something of an embarrassment, for he cannot turn off the burden of the Holy Ghost as one would turn off a faucet. He insists upon being a Christian all the time, everywhere; and again, that marks him out as different.
- From A.W. Tozer's foreword to Leonard Ravenhill's Why Revival Tarries
It is hard to believe, but some Christians actually think Obama is advancing policies that will reduce abortions. I am not making this up. One “Christian” blogger even wrote this gem:
"Paying for safe abortions helps make abortions rare."
Uh, sure, and while we’re at it let’s provide free drugs, cigarettes, pornography, guns and more! That would reduce all sorts of societal ills, eh? Businesses give away things for free so that people will ultimately buy less of them, right?
And of course, abortions are never safe for one of the human beings involved and not that safe for the woman, either - physically or mentally.
Interestingly, these folks are the first to rationalize away scientific facts such as that a new human life begins at conception and they oppose all or virtually all restrictions on abortion. They claim that abortions are safe, so why reduce them? They would be a cost effective method of birth control.
So at the same time they deny that abortion kills an innocent human being and protect unrestricted access to abortions, they claim to want to reduce them.
They also often claim that if our policies are enacted then there will be more children on welfare (that’s their “better dead than in foster care” mantra), yet they don’t see how that contradicts their claim that outlawing abortions won’t reduce abortions.
So let’s consider how Obama’s plans - some enacted, some to come - “reduce” abortions:
- Funding for abortions domestically and internationally. Yeah, paying for more of something and giving it away for free will sure reduce it. Taxpayers have no “choice” in the matter. You must fund abortions whether you like it or not. That example alone should put to rest the lie that he really wants to reduce abortions.
- Eliminating parental consent laws so public schools can help your kids have serious medical procedures that will destroy your grandchildren, all without your knowledge. They can do this without your consent and your awareness. But if you want your child to take an Advil at school for orthodontic pain, be prepared to go to the school with the original bottle and sign some forms.
- Eliminating the conscience clause, so medical personnel will have to either perform abortions or refer them to where they can be performed. This proposal is so reprehensible it is hard to believe it is even being discussed. Again, what happened to “pro-choice?” It was a myth all along: They are pro-abortion.
- Eliminating partial-birth abortion restrictions.
- Eliminating informed consent and requirements to allow women to see ultrasounds of what they are about to have destroyed. Pro-abortionists don’t trust women to make fully informed decisions, you see.
- And more!
Obama & Co. want to reduce abortions about as much as McDonald’s wants to reduce hamburger sales. To state otherwise is to be deceived and/or a deceiver. Anyone who perpetuate the lies should be ashamed, especially if they claim to follow Christ.
Guest Blogger, Neil
Ruth was a noble woman though she was from the pagan nation of Moab. She married a Jewish man while his family was in her country during a period of famine in Israel. Must've fallen deeply in love with this God-fearing family because after her husband died, she remained faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi. When word that the famine was over in Israel, Ruth went with Naomi back to the Promised Land, refusing to be turned back. You've likely heard her words of uncompromising commitment to Naomi before. They’re often read at weddings.
"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." (Ruth 1:16, NIV)
If we knew nothing more about Ruth, these words would be enough to commend her to us. But we know more, much more.
Ruth and Naomi arrive in Israel about the time of the barley harvest. They are destitute - two women alone without anyone to support them - so Ruth offers her service to the older woman. "Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor." (Ruth 2:2, NIV)
She "happens" to find favor in the eyes of a man from the clan of Elimelech named Boaz. I say "happens" because I believe it was the hand of God putting her in the right place at the right time. Elimelech was Naomi's husband! Ruth is gleaning in the fields of a close relative. Important information for what happens in a little bit.
Ruth works hard and is treated kindly by Boaz. He gives her grain from what his harvesters have taken in. He urges her to stay in his fields and instructs his workers not to harm her or stop her from gathering even among the sheaves.
When Ruth reports all this to Naomi, the older woman shouts out her praise for the man. She tells Ruth about his connection to the family. She urges Ruth to continue gleaning in his fields.
Days later, a light comes on in Naomi’s mind. Boaz is the perfect man to redeem the family ground. He is kind. He is generous. He is taken with Ruth. (The text doesn't say that, but Naomi's pretty discerning. She reads between the lines.) So Naomi tells Ruth to go to Boaz's place after dark and lay down at his feet. Ruth obeys and sometime in the night, the man awakens and finds her sleeping there.
"Who are you?" he asks.
"I am your servant Ruth," she answers. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are my kinsman-redeemer." (Ruth 3:9, NIV)
Boaz is honored by this young woman’s respect and her noble request. Ruth is proposing he redeem Naomi's land and bear children through her to continue Elimelech's line. (A strange tradition to us, but an important thing in that day in Israel. It was the way of God's people. A man had to have an heir. His name had to survive.)
Boaz agrees to do as she asks. He sends Ruth home early in the morning before any of his men knows a woman has been among them. Ruth goes. She tells Naomi all. Her mother-in-law, giddy with delight, assures the younger woman that her redeemer won't rest until the matter is settled - that day!
Sure enough, early in the morning Boaz seeks out the man more closely related to Naomi's husband than he. He wants to know if he will accept his responsibility to redeem the land and have children for Elimelech or if he will defer to Boaz. When Boaz speaks of the land, the man is eager to redeem it, but when he learns of the woman, he balks. He says no to Ruth and so Boaz, rejoicing, takes this woman of noble character as his wife. They are married and have a son. Obed is his name. When Obed grows up, he has a son named Jesse and Jesse when full-grown has many sons, the youngest he gives the name David. David, the king God says is a man after his own heart, a man who obeys in everything.
Ruth and Boaz's story is a great love story. A woman in desperate need of help calls on a man to do the honorable thing. Her respect for him emboldens him to risk it all and take this recently converted God-follower as his wife. All who hear of it praise both the man and his wife. And to top it all off, the couple pass on their faith to the next generation and the next and the next. Their relationship has an impact on the nation of Israel for many generations. Their family has an even greater impact on the world. Jesus, our Savior, is born of their line.
All this took place because a noble woman showed great respect to a godly man, trusting him to do the right thing.
Women, I believe you can have a similar impact on your children and grandchildren and possibly even your great-grandchildren if you will show the same kind of respect and honor toward your husband as he seeks to lead your family in God's ways.
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord...[you] must respect her husband." (Ephesians 5:22; 33, NIV)
Why is respect your God-given task in the family? I'm convinced, in part, it is your job because your demeanor in your marriage relationship teaches your children how to submit to God. It teaches your children to respect those whom God has placed over them. It validates their father's words of wisdom and godly instruction. (That's his job.) It facilitates the passing on of faith in Jesus Christ in a way far more powerful way than you can imagine.
We saw it in Ruth's life. Her respect for Boaz had to impact her family. As a godly grandmother, she powerfully influenced her grandson Jesse. And David, her great-grandson, followed the Lord faithfully and blessed many.
Pretty impressive what God can do through a godly woman who chooses to submit to God by submitting to her husband, by honoring him, by respecting him.
On this day, Mother's Day, will you impact future generations? Will you respect your husband as God has commanded you. Respect is a husband's due in the same way love is yours. Respect your husband even in those moments when he fails and acts in unloving ways toward you. He will make mistakes. He is human after all. He cannot be faultless. Trust his heart and respect him anyway. His heart is good. He loves you. He is willing to die for you. He is willing to serve you. Submit to him as to the Lord. Respect your husband and bless your kids.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I linked to these abortion images in a comment at the blog of pro-abortion Christian who insists that he loves science but repeatedly denies the scientific fact that a new human life begins at conception. He had told me to “think compassioniately,” so I pointed him to that excellent pro-life site and questioned his compassion.
That’s pretty disgusting Neil. Really.
My response back to him:
Why is it disgusting? I mean, I think it is disgusting viewing the remains of crushed and dismembered human beings. But for those who insist that it wasn’t a human being who was destroyed, it isn’t any more gross than your random episode of House.
We should use caution when showing images, but there is no reason they should not be part of the debate. After all, what could be more relevant than an image of what is being discussed?
People have been in denial far too long about what abortion really does.
So which is more disgusting: Images of abortions or the abortions themselves?
The other blogger thinks it is the images. I think it is the abortions.
Guest Blogger, Neil
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
The U12 team I help coach played extremely well. They won their first game 3-0 against host team Caldwell. There were a few excellent passes that led to easy shots on goal. I was so proud of "my" kids. They lost their second game 1-2...a real heart breaker. They played as well as any time, but got beat on a beautiful arching shot that dipped into the top of the net just out of the reach of our goalie. He felt bad, I think, but he played that shot as well as anyone could've. It was as good an end to a season as anyone could ask for short of a championship trophy.
I wish I could stop there and call the day great, but there was some really ugly stuff during the day too. I saw grown men and women act less maturely than the young players on the field. Twice I saw coaches, men who should have known better, charge onto the field of play to confront players on the opposite team. It happened once in a game I was refereeing. The guy doesn't know how close he was to going home. If I really thought he was intending to harm a player, he would've been history. (Probably shoud've thrown him out, but I assumed he was reasonable and not given to stupidity. He apologized for his actions later.) I saw women, who I'm sure in other settings were as genteel as any, scream in the face of an official following what I thought was a fairly well-called game. They were sure he was biased against them because their team beat the team he was playing earlier. Oh, and did I mention there were coaches and parents yelling at each other across the field and coaches yelling at referees. Not unusual you say to the last one. Granted, but how many times have you heard a coach asking a ref what referee school they went to? (It's unfortunate that the referee, a high school foreign exchange student from Denmark where soccer is much more popular and better understood, had to endure that. Wonder what he thinks of Americans.)
ADULTS! I'm hoping that in the future you'll show your kids how to enjoy a game and act in a sportsman like way. See you next year...I hope.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Check out D'Antuono's other artwork. He's an excellent painter.
According to Worldnetdaily, "Artist Michael D'Antuono's painting 'The Truth' – featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head – will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square's South Plaza. According to a statement released about the portrait, "The 30" x 54" acrylic painting on canvas depicts President Obama appearing much like Jesus Christ on the Cross: atop his head, a crown of thorns; behind him, the dark veil lifted (or lowered) on the Presidential Seal."
This painting is to honor the first 100 days of Obama in the White House. The artist hopes to stir intelligent conversation with this painting that will invite individual interpretations to be talked about. He believes his painting called "The Truth" to be a politically, religiously, and socially charged statement about Obama and the American people right now. The artist claimed that he does not think Obama is the Messiah.
(Original Post-Chronicle Article)