Saturday, March 31, 2007

Random Thought From John Donne

When all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence; sayes the Apostle, it is a fearefull thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Yet there was a case, in which David found an ease, to fall into the hands of God, to scape the hands of men: When God's hand is bent to strike, it is a fearefull thing, to fall into the hands of the living God; but to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination.
... John Donne (1573-1631), LXXX Sermons [1640]

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    Blessed Are The Persecuted...

    WASHINGTON, Mar. 29 /Christian Newswire/

    The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned that an Ethiopian evangelist named Tedase was beaten to death by militant Muslims on Monday, March 26th, as he and two young women were on a street evangelism assignment in Jimma, Ethiopia. This marks the second time in six months that Christians residing in Southeast Ethiopia have been attacked and killed by extremist (Wahabbi) Muslims.

    On Monday afternoon Tedase and two female coworkers were conducting street evangelism on Merkato Street in Jimma, Southern Ethiopia. Merkato Street runs by a Wahabbi Mosque. As the team was walking by the Mosque, a group of Muslims exited the Mosque and began to run after them to confront them. Tedase's female coworkers ran away from the mob but Tedase continued on. The Muslims caught up with Tedase, pulled him into the mosque, and savagely beat him to death. Sources from Jimma reported that Tedase was beaten with a calculated intention to kill him. This was no accident or case of mob frenzy getting out of control. His body was later taken to the hospital for an autopsy and he was buried Tuesday, March 27.

    Our sources also reveal that Jimma Christians were conducting an evangelism campaign, and news of the outreach was spreading among Jimma residents as well as militant Muslim groups in the area. The Muslims that belonged to the Wahabbi sect purposefully beat Tedase to death as a message to Christians that they are ready to combat evangelism.

    "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
    (Matthew 5:10-12)

    More information can be found at the Voice of the Martyrs.

      Sunday, March 25, 2007

      1 Thing 2 Remember

      What would you do if you had 1 year to live? 1 month? 1 day? 1 hour? This final message in the "One Thing" passages of Scriptures brings us to 2 Peter 3:8-11 where Peter asks us how ought we to live in light of the imminent return of Jesus.

      MP3 File

        Sunday Spurgeon

        Our Lord means, to sum up the whole, that Believers should exercise a universality of supplication—we ought to pray at all times. There are no canonical hours in the Christian’s day or week. We should pray from cockcrowing to midnight, at such times as the Spirit moves us. We should pray in all circumstances—in our poverty and in our wealth, in our health and in our sickness, in the bright days of festival and in the dark nights of lamentation. We should pray at the birth and pray at the funeral. We should pray when our soul is glad within us by reason of abundant mercy and we should pray when our soul draws near unto the gates of death by reason of heaviness. We should pray in all transactions, whether secular or religious. Prayer should sanctify everything.

        The Word of God and prayer should come in over and above the common things of daily life. Pray over a bargain. Pray over going into the shop and coming out again. Remember in the days of Joshua how the Gibeonites deceived Israel because Israel enquired not of the Lord. Be you not deceived by a specious temptation, as you may well be if you do not daily come to the Lord and say, “Guide me! Make straight a plain path for my feet and lead me in the way everlasting.” You shall never err by praying too much! You shall never make a mistake by asking God’s guidance too often! But you shall find this to be the gracious illumination of your eyes, if in the turning of the road where two paths meet which seem to be equally right, you shall stay a moment and cry unto God, “Guide me, O great Jehovah.” “Men ought always to pray.”

        Friday, March 23, 2007

        TIME For The Bible To Go Back To School?

        The cover story for the April 2 edition of Time magazine offers a surprising YES to the question of "Should We Teach The Bible In Public School?" The following is an excerpt from that article:

        According to Religious Literacy, polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the Bible holds the answers to "all or most of life's basic questions," but pollster George Gallup has dubbed us "a nation of biblical illiterates." Only half of U.S. adults know the title of even one Gospel. Most can't name the Bible's first book. The trend extends even to Evangelicals, only 44% of whose teens could identify a particular quote as coming from the Sermon on the Mount.

        So what? I'm not a very religious person

        SIMPLY PUT, THE BIBLE IS THE MOST influential book ever written. Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it is the best-selling book of the year every year. In a 1992 survey of English teachers to determine the top-10 required "book-length works" in high school English classes, plays by Shakespeare occupied three spots and the Bible none. And yet, let's compare the two: Beauty of language: Shakespeare, by a nose. Depth of subject matter: toss-up. Breadth of subject matter: the Bible. Numbers published, translated etc: Bible. Number of people martyred for: Bible. Number of wars attributed to: Bible. Solace and hope provided to billions: you guessed it. And Shakespeare would almost surely have agreed. According to one estimate, he alludes to Scripture some 1,300 times. As for the rest of literature, when your seventh-grader reads The Old Man and the Sea, a teacher could tick off the references to Christ's Passion--the bleeding of the old man's palms, his stumbles while carrying his mast over his shoulder, his hat cutting his head--but wouldn't the thrill of recognition have been more satisfying on their/own?

        If literature doesn't interest you, you also need the Bible to make sense of the ideas and rhetoric that have helped drive U.S. history. "The shining city on the hill"? That's Puritan leader John Winthrop quoting Matthew to describe his settlement's convenantal standing with God. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln noted sadly that both sides in the Civil War "read the same Bible" to bolster their opposing claims. When Martin Luther King Jr. talked of "Justice rolling down like waters" in his "I Have a Dream" speech, he was consciously enlisting the Old Testament prophet Amos, who first spoke those words. The Bible provided the argot--and theological underpinnings--of women's suffrage and prison-reform movements.

        And then there is today's political rhetoric. For a while, secular liberals complained that when George W. Bush went all biblical, he was speaking in code. Recently, the Democratic Party seems to have come around to the realization that a lot of grass-roots Democrats welcome such use. Without the Bible and a few imposing secular sources, we face a numbing horizontality in our culture--blogs, political announcements, ads. The world is flat, sure. But Scripture is among our few means to make it deep.
        While certain to upset dogmatic individuals on both sides of the issue, we cannot but be hopeful that such an exercise will at least allow us to have a common language for our debate. I for one welcome an opportunity to expose our future leaders once again to the tool that helped shaped much of what we love about this nation.

        You can read the whole article here.

          Thursday, March 22, 2007

          Czech Mate - Exposing the Global Warming Agenda

          Al Gore wasn't the only one to offer an opinion to the House of Representatives on the question of Global Warming. Here is part of the response from Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic. I consider this more legitimate than the hyped hot air of Gore and the environmental alarmists.

          Concerning mankind’s contribution to climate change and in keeping with obligations towards the welfare of our citizens: what, in your view, should policymakers consider when addressing climate change?

          The – so called – climate change and especially man-made climate change has become one of the most dangerous arguments aimed at distorting human efforts and public policies in the whole world.

          My ambition is not to bring additional arguments to the scientific climatological debate about this phenomenon. I am convinced, however, that up to now this scientific debate has not been deep and serious enough and has not provided sufficient basis for thepolicymakers’ reaction. What I am really concerned about is the way the environmental topics have been misused by certain political pressure groups to attack fundamental principles underlying free society. It becomes evident that while discussing climate we are not witnessing a clash of views about the environment but a clash of views about human freedom.

          As someone who lived under communism for most of my life I feel obliged to say that the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at the beginning of the 21st century is not communism or its various softer variants. Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism. This ideology preaches earth and nature and under the slogans of their protection – similarly to the old Marxists – wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning of the whole world.

          The environmentalists consider their ideas and arguments to be an indisputable truth and use sophisticated methods of media manipulation and PR campaigns to exert pressure on policymakers to achieve their goals. Their argumentation is based on the spreading of fear and panic by declaring the future of the world to be under serious threat. In such an atmosphere they continue pushing policymakers to adopt illiberal measures, impose arbitrary limits, regulations, prohibitions, and restrictions on everyday human activities and make people subject to omnipotent bureaucratic decision-making. To use the words of Friedrich Hayek, they try to stop free, spontaneous human action and replace it by their own, very doubtful human design.

          The environmentalist paradigm of thinking is absolutely static. They neglect the fact that both nature and human society are in a process of permanent change, that there is and has been no ideal state of the world as regards natural conditions, climate, distribution of species on earth, etc. They neglect the fact that the climate has been changing fundamentally throughout the existence of our planet and that there are proofs of substantial climate fluctuations even in known and documented history. Their reasoning is based on historically short and incomplete observations and data series which cannot justify the catastrophic conclusions they draw. They neglect the complexity of factors that determine the evolution of the climate and blame contemporary mankind and the whole industrial civilization for being the decisive factors responsible for climate change and other environmental risks.

          By concentrating on the human contribution to the climate change the environmentalists ask for immediate political action based on limiting economic growth, consumption, or human behavior they consider hazardous. They do not believe in the future economic expansion of the society, they ignore the technological progress the future generations will enjoy, and they ignore the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society is, the higher is the quality of the environment.

          The policymakers are pushed to follow this media-driven hysteria based on speculative and hard evidence lacking theories, and to adopt enormously costly programs which would waste scarce resources in order to stop the probably unstoppable climate changes, caused not by human behavior but by various exogenous and endogenous natural processes (such as fluctuating solar activity).

          Other dissenting voices can be found here.

          More on the science that shows solar activity as the main culprit in global warming here and here.

          Please don't misunderstand me. I am firmly convinced that Scripture calls us to be stewards of God's good creation, but I think we are going overboard by identifying Global Warming as the greatest crisis we have ever faced. And taken to its illogical conclusion, the agenda pushed by Gore and others will do more harm than good to the planet and its people.

          Monday, March 19, 2007

          "The Secret" Scriptures of the Church of Oprah

          "It's important to start taking a look at Oprah because her philosophy has in many ways become the dominant one in our culture, even for people who would never consider themselves disciples."

          I whole-heartedly agree with this insight from Peter Birkenhead's article: Oprah's Ugly Secret from Salon Life that takes aim at the Church of Oprah and its sacred scripture "The Secret."

          Birkhead hits it out of the park when he writes:

          The main idea of "The Secret" is that people need only visualize what they want in order to get it -- and the book certainly has created instant wealth, at least for Rhonda Byrne and her partners-in-con. And the marketing idea behind it -- the enlisting of that dream team, in what is essentially a massive, cross-promotional pyramid scheme -- is brilliant. But what really makes "The Secret" more than a variation on an old theme is the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn't just endorsed "The Secret"; she's championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame.

          Why "venality"? Because, with survivors of Auschwitz still alive, Oprah writes this about "The Secret" on her Web site, "the energy you put into the world -- both good and bad -- is exactly what comes back to you. This means you create the circumstances of your life with the choices you make every day." "Venality," because Oprah, in the age of AIDS, is advertising a book that says, "You cannot 'catch' anything unless you think you can, and thinking you can is inviting it to you with your thought." "Venality," because Oprah, from a studio within walking distance of Chicago's notorious Cabrini Green Projects, pitches a book that says, "The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts."

          Worse than "The Secret's" blame-the-victim idiocy is its baldfaced bullsh**tting. The titular "secret" of the book is something the authors call the Law of Attraction. They maintain that the universe is governed by the principle that "like attracts like" and that our thoughts are like magnets: Positive thoughts attract positive events and negative thoughts attract negative events. Of course, magnets do exactly the opposite -- positively charged magnets attract negatively charged particles -- and the rest of "The Secret" has a similar relationship to the truth. Here it is on biblical history: "Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were not only prosperity teachers, but also millionaires themselves, with more affluent lifestyles than many present-day millionaires could conceive of." And worse than the idiocy and the bullsh**tting is its anti-intellectualism, because that's at the root of the other two. Here's "The Secret" on reading and, um, electricity: "When I discovered 'The Secret' I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good," and, "How does it work? Nobody knows. Just like nobody knows how electricity works. I don't, do you?" And worst of all is the craven consumerist worldview at the heart of "The Secret," because it's why the book exists: "[The Secret] is like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, 'I'd like to have this experience and I'd like to have that product and I'd like to have a person like that.' It is you placing your order with the Universe. It's really that easy."

          Read the whole article here.

          Sunday, March 18, 2007

          1 Thing 2 Do

          Someone has described our lives as a dash between the dates - the day we are born and the day we die. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Philippians 3:13-14 to do one thing with the life we are given: Run hard to win the prize.

          MP3 File

            Sunday Spurgeon

            Years ago you and I knew nothing of the value of our own souls, and were not likely to care for those of others. But now the souls of men are precious in our sight. We believe them to be immortal. We know that they are to live forever in misery or forever in bliss. And therefore, let others say what they will, we can never think of the human soul but as a very precious and priceless thing.

            And now, if that is the case, how honorable all men become as objects of our zeal! “Honor all men,” says the Apostle—a text I do not hear quoted half so often as that other, “Honor the king.” Do not forget the last, but take equal care of the first. There is, because of its spiritual and immortal nature, a dignity about the soul of the meanest man—which no degree of poverty or degradation can altogether take away. The harlot in the streets—how few will care for her! But, O you tender hearts,as you look on the poor fallen one, say, “Since your soul was precious in my sight as an immortal spirit, you have been no longer despised and trampled on, but I have loved you as my Savior loved you, and for His sake I esteem your soul as an honorable, priceless thing.”

            Do not think of the thousands in prison today as though they were just so much filth to be gotten rid of. Do not think, above all, of the great mass of the needy and destitute classes of society as though they were a mere encumbrance of the common man, the mere rubbish to be swept away and laid in heaps in the workhouse or on foreign shores. No, they are precious. As precious is their soul as yours. Think of them in that respect—and honor the immortal spark that is in them—the manhood that God has been pleased to create. Honor that, and as you honor it, love it—and prove your love by praying that God will save it, by using every instrument within your power to recover it from its ruin—and to bring it back to the great God to whom it belongs.

              Saturday, March 17, 2007

              Prayer For The Faithful - by St. Patrick

              May the Strength of God guide us.
              May the Power of God preserve us.
              May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
              May the Hand of God protect us.
              May the Way of God direct us.
              May the Shield of God defend us.
              May the Angels of God guard us.
              - Against the snares of the evil one.

              May Christ be with us!
              May Christ be before us!
              May Christ be in us,
              Christ be over all!

              May Thy Grace, Lord,
              Always be ours,
              This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

                Thursday, March 15, 2007

                A Bibliophiles' Justification

                The following insight from Justin Taylor over at Between Two Worlds is just what I needed to hear as I sit with a Barnes and Noble gift card burning a hole in my wallet:

                I'm not bothered by owning a lot more books than I've read, nor am I moved by people saying that they're not going to buy any more books till they've read the ones already on their shelves. Years ago Iain Murray drew a connection between God's providence and the timing of reading books. He pointed out that if he had read Jonathan Edwards's Religious Affections as a younger man it would have meant little to him at that stage in his life, but years later - in God's timing - it was revolutionary. I've also been helped by my friend Rick Gamache's comparison of books to "tools in a toolbox." Years may go by without using a certain tool, but when a project comes along where you need it, you're very glad it's in the toolbox.

                  Emergent Demotivation

                  Wednesday, March 14, 2007

                  Why The Church Lacks Power Today...

                  "We have efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies."

                  - Dorothy Sayers

                    Monday, March 12, 2007

                    1 Thing U Need

                    Can you do too much for the Lord? The story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42 considers what our #1 priority ought to be.

                    MP3 File

                    Friday, March 09, 2007

                    I'm Not Homophobic...I'm A Homodesageer

                    The following commentary by Mike Metzger comes from The Clapham Institute and makes a very valid point about the use of language in the homosexual debate.

                    Character assassination.

                    Ex-NBA journeyman John Amaechi recently announced he is homosexual. The media was quick to pick up the story, fishing for those who agree with Amaechi and ferreting out those who oppose homosexuality. As we all know, it’s pretty much a minefield if someone tries to put forth reasonable arguments against homosexuality. They are immediately deemed intolerant and denounced as “homophobic.” Yet character assassination – and that’s what labeling someone “homophobic” usually is – means we’re approaching a dead end in the road. If we’re going to further our historic understanding of “civilization,” we need to reframe a more respectful conversation between opposing views. Many who oppose homosexuality are better described as “homodesageer.” Here’s why.

                    For a long time, the medical and scientific community defined “homosexuality” as a psychiatric disorder. In the last several decades, however, it has been removed from the diagnostic manual of disorders and research has shifted to the study of the negative, sometimes pathological, reactions to homosexuals by heterosexuals. No doubt about it, some people hate homosexuals and that’s ugly and indefensible. Since the early 1980s, however, “homophobia” has gained currency as a one-word summary of everyone who opposes homosexuality.

                    This label exposes our moral divide and distance from our cultural roots. It is true that Americans and Europeans share many common “values,” but we also, as Michael Novak prefers to say, share “many common arguments.” Resolving those arguments used to mean referring to our shared cultural roots, roots quite different from those of other civilizations.

                    Western civilization was shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition. It viewed civilization, as Thomas Aquinas once wrote, as constituted by conversation; that is, by argument. Civilized people, treating each other as reasonable, argue with one another. Barbarians club one another, as if values are mere “preferences,” and reason has nothing to do with them. For barbarians, nothing matters but power.¹ Labeling someone “homophobic” is a barbaric form of character assassination. It’s what brutes do – not civilized people. (It’s not even diplomatic. “Diplomacy,” wrote Will Rogers, “is the art of saying nice doggie until you can find a rock.”)

                    “Phobic” come from the Greek phobia – fear. Hundreds of millions of heterosexual women and men do not fear homosexuals. They are, however, homodesageer. The French word desageer, which first appeared in 1473, is where we get our word “disagree.” Good men and women can disagree. Respectfully. A homodesageer simply, and perhaps profoundly, disagrees with the homosexual perspective. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re hateful nor do they merit being clubbed. A homodesageer is not, I repeat not, someone like Tim Hardaway. There is no place for the kind of toxic filth that spewed from his foul mouth. Homodesageers never defend the indefensible.

                    The early church opposed homosexuality, yet was never castigated as “homophobic.” They respectfully disagreed because homosexual or bisexual unions fundamentally misrepresent the “four-chapter” gospel. The early church understood marriage as a heterosexual union, as Paul wrote: “And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become one flesh.”2

                    Unfortunately, many of today’s churches have forgotten that marriage was designed to reflect the “four-chapter” gospel. Or they have forgotten the “four-chapter” gospel altogether. With this came the loss of a “life script” for sexuality. Nature abhors a vacuum so “personal preferences” came rushing in. The result is that many today imagine God as a big-shot lifeguard blowing his whistle and arbitrarily announcing: “OK, all homosexuals and bisexuals – out of the pool!!!

                    Civilized people abhor name-calling and ugly slurs. If the shoe were on the other foot, clubbing homosexuals by deriding them as “heterophobic” would not be tolerated. If it’s sauce for the goose, it’s sauce for the gander. Let’s fight fair. Let’s describe those who respectfully oppose homosexuality as “homodesageers.” It’s one way to stop a barbaric practice.

                    1 These comments are drawn from “North Atlantic Community, European Community: Divergent paths and common values in Old Europe and the United States,” a speech delivered by Michael Novak for the F.A. Hayek Foundation in Bratislava, Slovakia on July 3, 2003.
                    2 Ephesians 5:31-33 (The Message)

                      A Random Thought From John Owen

                      If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be better than they are in the world: at least, we should be better enabled to bear them.

                      ... John Owen (1616-1683)

                      Tuesday, March 06, 2007

                      Just In Time For Lent...

                      LINDEN, Calif. -- A Stockton-area businessman is peddling blessed bottled water.

                      The half-liter bottles of Holy Drinking Water distributed by Wayne Enterprises Inc., of Linden, only carry the blessings of Catholic and Anglican priests, but company president Brian Germann said he plans to expand to other faiths.

                      He said he thought of the concept on June 6, 2006, or "666," and has sold about 3,000 bottles since January at a Linden market and on the Internet.

                      The bottles, filled with plain, purified water, carry a label that warns sinners who drink the water that they may experience burning, intense heat, sweating and skin irritations.

                      "This has some potential and is a lot of fun," said the Rev. Mark Smith, who blessed a batch in February. "Most people will pass it off. But some may have a moment."

                      Holy Drinking Water has led to positive conversations about religion and what it means to be a sinner, but it should not be used as a substitute for attending church, Germann said.

                      Story from the Associated Press.

                      Sunday, March 04, 2007

                      1 Thing 2 Ask

                      If you could ask God for 1 thing what would it be? Health, wealth, power, possessions? Would you ask for yourself or for another? Psalm 27 provides David's answer when we read: "One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of me life." The one thing David asked for was a God encounter in the Tabernacle. He wanted to catch a glimpse of God's grace, gain a sense of security and find confidence in the conflicts of life. What about you? Do you need a God encounter today?

                      MP3 File

                      Sunday Spurgeon

                      “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a Man over against him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went unto Him, and said unto Him, Are You for us, or for our adversaries? And He said, No, but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto Him, What says my Lord unto His servant? And the Captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose your shoe from off your foot; for the place whereon you stand is holy. And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:13-15.

                      "...dear Friends, I want you to imitate Joshua in the third things, namely, take off your shoes from your feet. Joshua, perhaps, had not felt what a solemn thing it was to fight for God, to fight as God’s executioner against condemned men. Therefore he must take his shoes off. We never can expect a blessing if we go about God’s work flippantly. I shudder when I see any sitting at the Lord’s Table who can indulge in light remarks or in wandering thoughts on so solemn an occasion. What have you to do here, not having on a wedding garment? There are some of us whose besetting sin is levity of spirit. Cheerfulness we are to cultivate, but we must beware lest levity become a cankerworm to our Graces.

                      Brethren, this next month must be a holy month unto us. I ask our young and our old friends, alike, to seek a quiet and sober spirit. To seek to save souls from going down to the pit is no pastime. To talk of Jesus is no trifle. We do not meet to pray in sport. We do not gather together in supplication as a mere matter of form. Angels are in our midst observing us. The King Himself is here! How would you behave if you actually saw Jesus with your eyes? If I were to vacate this pulpit and the Crucified One stood here, stretching out His pierced hands and looking down upon you with the mild radiance of His sovereign love—how would you feel?

                      Ask to feel just so, for He is here. Faith can perceive Him. Ask to feel just so at this present moment, and so to go out to your work this afternoon and all the remaining days of your life, as a servant of God who is standing in the Presence of his Lord upon holy ground, and cannot, therefore, afford to trifle since he has solemn work to do and means to do it in his Master’s name."