Friday, May 27, 2005

acting as an atheist

"Fathers! Your children are immortal beings! The stamp of eternity is upon them! Everlasting ages are before them! They are like the rest of the human race--depraved, guilty, and condemned creatures; and consequently in danger of eternal misery! Yet they are, through the mercy of God, creatures capable of attaining to glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life.

Looking upon them in this light, what should be your chief concern for them--and what should be your conduct towards them?

Fathers! Your children are hastening to either eternal happiness--or eternal torment!The man who does not make the eternal welfare of his children, the supreme end of all his conduct towards them, may profess to believe as a Christian--but he certainly acts as an Atheist!

Once more let it be stated, and stated with all possible emphasis--that the chief design of this work is to form the pious character of its readers, and to implant those virtues which shall live, and flourish, and dignify, and delight--infinite ages after every object that is dear . . . to avarice or pride, to learning or science, to taste or ambition, shall have perished in the conflagration of the universe!

It is in the highest degree inconsistent, absurd, cruel, and wicked--for a Christian parent not to be supremely desirous of the everlasting welfare of his children! Let a supreme concern for their immortal interests be at the bottom of all your conduct, and be interwoven with all your parental habits!"

From THE CHRISTIAN FATHER'S PRESENT TO HIS CHILDREN
by John Angell James, 1825

**************
One of my children is one month from being 18. Another's voice is changing and is joining the ranks of those tall enough to look me in the eye. Conversations are less childish and more mature. "Responsiblity" and "trust" are common topics around the house. Time is slipping away . . . The Bible needs to be open more in my house, because therein lies under the power of the Holy Spirit all we need for change and growth in conformity to the image of Christ.

Friday, May 20, 2005

did you know . . .

In the latest census in Great Britain, 390,000 people reported their religion as"Jedi." The "Star Wars Religion" now ranks 4th overall behind Christians,Muslims, and Hindus and actually ahead of Jews and Atheists.

Read more here

*********

That's no space station! That's a moon!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Read more about this wonder of God's creation here

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What Is A Purpose-Driven Life to Americans?

May 17, 2005

(Ventura, CA) – Religious books have become a publishing phenomenon in the past decade, and no religious book (other than the Bible) has generated more attention – or sales – than Rick Warren’s bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. More than 20 million copies of the book have been sold, and millions of people have been exposed to Purpose-Driven church programs, classes and resources. After all the reading, teaching, and conversation on the topic, exactly what do Americans perceive their purpose in life to be?

That was the question posed to a random national sample of 1003 adults surveyed by The Barna Group. One particular response was provided by nearly half of the population, and only two other options were mentioned by at least one out of every ten people.

Read the rest of the article here.

My response:

First, Barna’s group should do a little more research. “Pilgrim’s Progress” has been the most read book in the world after the Bible since 1678.

Second, the article should have been titled, “The American-Driven Life.” One could not help but notice in reading the above-mentioned article that of all the responses given by those polled, not a single one of Warren’s suggested “purposes” are mentioned by Americans. One wonders how the poll was constructed based on the answers . . . were Warren’s “purposes” even on the list?

The responses tell me that people are still pursuing the “American Dream”, to be healthy, wealthy, have a family, to live in peace and occasionally do the American thing: go to church. Assuming the poll actually included any one of Warren’s “purposes”, the responses also tell me that of those polled, few must have read the book or actually paid any attention to what it said. This is obvious because the responses given in the poll would logically not have been any different if they were asked what their perceived purpose would be if every child had a little red wagon.

What I saw in the poll was both a relief and a two distresses.

The relief came when I deduced that not many of those polled (assumingly) remember (by now) anything about reading Rick Warren or their church having followed the 40 days of Purpose. Case in point: raise your hand if you remember David and Karen Mains and their 40 Day Adventures from the 1980’s? Of course I am arguing from silence.

My distress is based on a confusion of terminology:
The dictionary defines “priority” thusly:

1. a. (1) : the quality or state of being prior; (2) : precedence in date or position of publication
1. b. (1) : superiority in rank, position, or privilege; (2) : legal precedence in exercise of rights over the same subject matter
2 : a preferential rating; especially : one that allocates rights to goods and services usually in limited supply; “that project has top priority.”
3 : something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives

That which has “priority” is the same which comes first, is that which precedes all others in time, order and importance as the highest or most prominent part, before and in preference of something else, etc.

The same dictionary also renders “foremost” as a noun and an adverb:
(noun)
1 : first in a series or progression
2 : of first rank or position : PREEMINENT
(adverb)
1 : in the first place
2 : most importantly “first and foremost”

The poll results say “Family first, faith foremost.” How can that be? Which is it? There are two options: 1) the poll writers and reporters need to open the dictionary; and/or 2) Americans don’t know what is first in their lives. Is it "faith" or "family"?

Bottom line: those polled reveal they don’t know what their purpose is! There is no such thing as “priorities.” By definition, there can be no more than one priority in anyone’s life!

The Second distress: no hearts where changed by Rick Warren’s ministry because people are still thinking about themselves and what they want for their own happiness. Where is the Christ? Where are the changed lives of those who have forsaken everything for the cross? Where is the hope of the resurrection and the expectation of the coming of the LORD?

I would say that the polls reveal the Purpose Driven life did'nt work--at least to those polls. The people obviously did not learn anything. Just another proof that man's way cannot replace God's ways.

Isaiah chapter 1.

Friday, May 13, 2005

theology of two spinach eaters

Last night the kids were watching cartoons and an old Popeye cartoon came on, I beleive the date of this one was 1938 ("Don't Spanks the Baby"). I was'nt paying full attention, but for some reason Sweet Pea got a spanking for breaking something Popeye had sent him to his room, crying. After the door was closed (and the crying continued) an angellic sailor appeared over his shoulder and in sweet voice said in his ear, "now look at what you did! You made that baby cry--you should be ashamed of yourself." As Popeye began to slide into depression, a horned figure appeared and said, "What? You did'nt do nothing wrong. You got's nothing to be ashamed of. He deserved it."

My ten year old daughter (the other spinach-eater in this tale) looks up at me and says, "Is that right? Isn't that backward? I don't like what that angel said at all--he is really acting like a devil. I think he lied to Popeye."

I had to snap out of whateveritwasiwasdoing to review what I had heard and think about her comment--they did have it backward and my daughter caught the error!

Then another Popeye cartoon came on with similar theme. Popeye was with his three nephews (I wonder who is brother or sister was?) who refused to eat their spinach for dinner. After a display of all the benefits available to one who eats spinach (including the performance of a flawless Tchaichovski on the piano), Popeye was reduced to his final measure--he had to spank the boys for refusing to obey.

As the cartoon progressed, the boys get their revenge by not only eating their spinach, but also give Popeye the thrashing of his life, including a very powerful spanking of his own.

You should have seen how my daughter's face screwed up. They got it backwards again!

As we talked about the world's view of "things" (we have no small conversations), I was reminded how this unregenerate world is: parents are divorced by their kids; psychologists write books on how parents should learn everything they need to know about parenting from their kids; TV shows portray parents as utter block-heads (Homer Simpson, Jimmy Neutron's dad, the dad in "Fairly Odd Parents" are the worse).

I thank God for my daughter and for working in her life--and for the affirmation I am doing something right.

*************
"How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If Jehovah is God, follow Him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!" 1 Kings 18:21

There are other Baals in this age, in all the various forms under which they are objects of human idolatry.

It is true you are not called, invited or disposed, to bow the knee to idols of wood, stone, or metal.
These, however, are not the only way in which idolatry may be practiced. Everyone has a god, and if man does not love and worship Jehovah, he will make a deity of his own image. Survey, young men, the idols which you are called upon to worship!

Among them, sustaining a high place, is the idol of SENSUALITY. This goddess is decked out with all that can pollute the imagination, inflame the passions, or excite the evil propensities of a youthful heart. Before this image, multitudes of devotees of both sexes bow the knee and offer the most costly sacrifices of property, health, principle, and reputation!

Near her is the bewitching and smiling image of WORLDLY PLEASURE, with the sound of music, the song, and the dance--alluring the giddy and thoughtless to its orgies; and throwing the spell of its fascinations over the imagination of multitudes who go merrily to their ruin!

MAMMON, the despicable deity of wealth, is there, glittering with gold, and offering riches to his eager followers as the reward of their diligent and faithful adherence. His liturgy is the cry of "Money! Money! Money!" His sacrifices are the time, the bodies, the comfort, and the souls of his worshipers!

Near this is the shrine of HUMAN KNOWLEDGE. This idol is only evil, when raised above the place of faith, piety, and virtue. When thus exalted above Scripture, it is a deceiving, corrupting idol--the false goddess of a Pantheon of Vices.

Nor must we leave out the idols of FALSE RELIGION, the chief of which is Popery--the anti-Christ of the Apocalypse, "the Man of Sin sitting in the temple of God, exalting itself above all that is called God." This idol, taking the name of Christ as its designation, assuming the cross as its symbol, and boasting of an apostle as its first pope; enriched by wealth; venerable for antiquity; dignified by learning; decorated by sculpture, architecture, and painting; and adding the abysmal policies, and most serpentine craft to all these other dangerous qualities, has fascinated countless millions! And, notwithstanding the monstrous absurdity of its doctrines, the blood-stained page of its history, and its hostility to the liberties of mankind--is now putting forth the most arrogant claims, and making the most audacious attempts for the conquest of our country!

These idolaters have chosen their god, and are the determined and devoted worshipers of their Baals!

They have hardened their hearts, and seared their consciences, except it be an occasional qualm in the season of death or sickness.

They congratulate themselves upon their having thrown off all the weaknesses and fears of Christianity, and upon their being now enabled to pursue their downward
course unchecked by the restraint of conscience. Unhappy men, blind, and glorying in their blindness; benumbed in all their moral faculties, and exulting in their stupidity! With every tie cut, which held them to piety and truth, they account it a privilege that they are drifting unobstructed to destruction--determined to be lost, and rejoicing that nothing bars their path to the bottomless pit!

"These men have set up idols in their hearts!" Ezekiel 14:3

"Their hearts were devoted to their idols!" Ezekiel 20:16

J. A. James (1785—1859), "The Young Man's Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The fools of whom Solomon speaks

"Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; but the companion of fools shall be destroyed!" Pr. 13:20

Young men! There are evil companions to be avoided!

The workhouse, the lunatic asylum, the prison, the gallows, the bottomless pit, all, all, attest the truth of this, by the millions they have swallowed up in their jaws of destruction!

Evil companionship has ruined . . . more characters, more fortunes, more bodies, and more souls, than almost anything else that could be named.

Young men! Evil companionship is one of your first and most pressing dangers. Character assimilates to that which surrounds it. You must take your character,
to a certain extent, from your companions.

Do not have bad companions! Men . . . who scoff at Christianity, who ridicule the godly, who make light of sin and laugh at conscience, who are lewd in their actions, or obscene in their talk, who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, who are extravagant in their habits, who are loose in their moral principles, these are the fools of whom Solomon speaks, --who will bring their own destruction upon you,
if you do not avoid them!

With much the same emphasis do I warn you against bad BOOKS. There are books that inflame the imagination and corrupt the taste--that by their excitement unfit the mind for the sober realities of life--or by continuous light entertainment, indispose the mind for what is serious and holy. These are all to be avoided.

In some respects bad books are more mischievous than bad companions, since they are more accessible, and more constantly with us. They can be more secretly consulted, and lodge their poison more abidingly in . . . the imagination, the intellect, and
the heart!

A bad book is a bad companion of the worst kind, and prepares for bad companions of all other kinds!

"Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; but the companion of fools shall be destroyed!" Pr. 13:20

J. A. James (1785—1859), "The Young Man's Friend and Guide Through Life to Immortality"

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

grace-game

I do not play many board games, but there are a few classics in which I may occasionally engage. One game I occasionally play is checkers. My grandfather taught me to play and I would rarely play anyone else. He showed me many things relating to people, thinking, and the difference between fun and all-out warfare. He taught me that for many, the game is no longer a game.

The movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” will gives one a glimpse of intensity and extremes people will find within a little game of chess. One stares at the board and the mind plays out move after move after move, anticipating “if I do “this”, he will do “that” or “that”.” Very Aristotalian. Minds become locked into playing the game as much or more in the head than on the board. Then the opponent reaches out his hand, touching that piece, sliding it over . . . wait . . . wait . . . then he second-guesses his move, starting to lift his hand from the piece. One sits on pins and needles, breath held, eyes wide, a small smile forming on the face as he is about to seal his doom . . . waiting . . . waiting for that finger to just . . . let . . . go . . . . And as he does, he looks, sees his mistake, then, “HA”! NO BACK MOVES! The game is to your advantage, to win, to victory! You can only pray you don’t make the same, stupid mistake . . .

Thomas Huxley wrote, “The unseen opponent in the great game of life, while scrupulously fair, will allow no back moves, and makes us pay in full for every blunder.”

This has led the so-called "pessimist" to reason: “Life, as we know it, does not exist.”

Life is an entangled, compromised mess of successes and failures that, unless one is promised something of a back move, the most anyone can hope for is an incomprehensibly small, half-hearted, and insincere promise for something better.

The grandson of H.G. Wells modernized the classic “The Time Machine” with a new release of another movie version of said story. In one segment the Time Traveler looses his fiancĂ© to death due to a park mugger. He races back to his machine and attempts to avert the situation by going back in time, only to fail. He tries again. And again. No matter what he does, she is doomed to die in one way or another.

How's that for a Groundhog Day?

How many times have we been that player who took his finger off the piece knowing our opponent would not give grace? Remember that time when a wrong decision was made and you wished for a time machine so you could go back and fix that situation so that it never happened? We have embarrassed, even shamed ourselves at some point. Have you ever been told by law enforcement to leave town never to return because of your foolishness? I have. Are you bearing some guilt and pain from the past, from something you said, someplace you went, something you did and would still give anything for a chance to go back and not say what you said or not go to that place or not do what you did?

Take a walk down a jail block and listen as people ask “is it really possible for me to begin again?” I have talked to drunks who had no doubt that God was willing and could forgive them of their sin. I have been one of those countless addicts who actually believed that God could deliver from addiction! What about the results of one’s actions? Isn’t it true that you reap what you sow? What about the families (if any), the spouse (if any), the children (if any) that have seen and been the victims of drunk, wasted tirades? What can we say, how can we minister to these talking about a new leaf, a clean sheet, a do-over, a back move? If we do not, he is lost!

When we talk to men and women, don’t we tell them that their sins can be blotted out and removed? Don’t we tell them that their sins can be erased? Don’t we tell them they can be saved, pardoned, justified and sanctified? When we share the gospel, we tell them that sin is forgiven; cast as far as the east is from the west, dropped in the sea of forgetfulness and remembered no more! We tell them that salvation itself is a great back-move! Jesus said, “Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again!”

But is it all really that simple? When we minister to the thief in jail and he accepts what Christ has done for him on Calvary, what happens upon his release? He gets a job, lives in his community, is well respected, trusted and conducts life as if nothing ever happened! When we share the good news of the gospel with a sex addict, a drug addict, a sports addict, he is able to go out to flit and frolic in the same crowd as ever! Tell me who is here today that does not still face an occasional memory of our own lives that is everything horrid. Who is it that faces temptations for “just one more then no more?” What about the cravings that are still there?

A man once cried out, “The scars remain! Scars never to be eradicated, never to be removed from this life. I have been plucked like a brand from the burning; but the scar of the fire is on me!”

Once as a young man, I became quite skillful with firearms. I maintained my eye with a high-powered BB gun that I used in the back yard. But targets get boring, so the shooter gets creative. I got to where I could almost split a card turned on edge. We set up a clothespin on a wire that, when shot, it would spin—you had to keep it spinning. Have you tried to light a kitchen match with a BB? I could a time or two.

Then there were the lizards on the fence across the yard. They weren’t doing anything—just climbing, sunning and looking for food. There he would be, minding his own business, when all of a sudden, he was pinned to the fence by a brass ball, taking his last few breaths . . . you can’t get something like that out of your head. And you can’t bring them back, either.

What do you say to the boy who you once sat on and made eat grass just because you thought he needed to? Can he forgive you? What other unhappy wreckages do we have and what can we do to live a life of Victory? How can we get deliverance from our past? What do we tell the felon as he sits on the block asking about getting a back move?

Jeremiah 18:3-4. “I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” What a back-move!

Joel lived through a very tough time as the land was literally devoured. What gnawing locusts did not eat, the swarming locust ate. What the swarming locust did not eat, the creeping locust ate. What the creeping locust did not eat the stripping locust ate. Everything was laid to waste, stripped bare, dried up. The seeds shriveled, the barn fell, the grain dried up, the beasts were groaning and fire burned all that was left. But then he had this prophecy: “Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the LORD has done great things.” Read Joel 2:21-27.
How was this promise fulfilled? How was there a return of what the locusts took? Look at the next years, when the fields began to grow again. The people were given crops that compensated for the losses of the previous season!

Now, lets go to the jail cell with THAT message! Let us preach THAT message with fervor! Let us hear and believe THAT message for us! This is a whole barrel of back-moves! Life takes on a whole new perspective! What kind of life is it that has no sweetness and goodness that comes as a direct result of suffering?
We cannot turn back the clock—but look at what God has given us that we may press on!

"But the bird with the broken pinion
Never soared so high again."

This is our sad predicament. But, as you know, there is “the rest of the story.”

"But the bird with the broken pinion
Kept another from the snare,
And the life that sin had stricken
Raised another from despair.
Each loss has its compensations,
There is healing for every pain;
Though the bird with the broken pinion
Never soared so sigh again."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

my sentiments, exactly

In the Classroom: Three Stories, Othello and A Christian Approach To Literature
Category: Parable, Metaphor and Illustration

Posted by Michael Spencer on April 18, 2005 08:54 PM


In my AP English IV class, one of my most difficult tasks is teaching students how to read, think and analyze literature as Christians. There are several reasons for the resistance. Laziness. A feeling that the classics are irrelevant. Senioritis. (A very real disease) And one that concerns me most of all: the belief that classical, secular literature is inappropriate for Christians in the first place.

(read the rest of this blog here)

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