Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Absolute surety about absolutes:

I remember decades ago being at a meeting that was set up as a interface for counselors--not only of the Christian variety--and clergy.
Ironically, I was in the city where the one-day meeting was being held because I was visiting a church member who was in a psychiatric hospital, receiving care that I could not in good conscience all-together endorse.
One of the participants in the meeting said something that has stayed with me: "You need to be absolutely sure, that you absolutely sure about your absolutes."

On another occasion I shared with a friend what is, for me, somewhat of a credo:
  • An absolute commitment to the absolutes of God.
  • A commitment to meet the needs of others.
  • Everything else is negotiable.

My friend replied, "Yes, but some of what you regard as negotiable I regard as absolute."

Which puts us back to the first comment.

If there is no external, objective standard then we are simply left with dueling opinions.

Today, one can hardly read or listen to the news without the word "bipartisan" jumping out all over the place. That word has a wide range of meaning, however, depending on what one regards as absolutes, and what one is willing to negotiate. I can be very bipartisan about the use of my wheelbarrow. I regard who is allowed to kiss my wife in a highly partisan manner--Me and not you! In our world those who refuse to participate in bipartisan endeavors are frequently labeled as obstructionist, stubborn, or as those who place personal agenda above greater good.

I am of the opinion that absolutes ought to be as few in number as possible (Make sure you understand that word "possible" before you jump on me for that statement.) How about weighing-in on what Bible believers ought to regard as absolute. Feel free, in good taste, of course, to challenge any entry. We might help one another to identify those principles about which we must be "mono-partisan."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Culture of Life:

For longer than most of you who read this have been alive--36 years--Roe v Wade has been the law of our land. There are some technicalities to the law, but essentially--after courts give their very liberal interpretation to "health of the mother"--Roe v Wade provides for abortion on demand at any point in the pregnancy. That is confirmed by observing the opposition by pro-choicers to laws limiting late--as in immediately before birth--term abortions.
I was surprised to read recently, in World Magazine that abortion is not a new issue. The later half of the 19th Century, in America, was marked by a very high rate of abortions. 2,000 years ago the Romans practiced infanticide, leaving newborns out to die. The early Christians rightly opposed that practice and rescued many of these little ones. Today, we Christians ought to act with equal compassion and dedication to what is right.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, something that ought to be a discussion about life has become a point of political strategy. Ted Kennedy, George H. W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Al Gore, all switched their position on the question of protecting the life of the unborn. The case can be made that all the changes were politically driven, rather than being based on matters of conscience. This is one reason that the church needs to continue to speak to this issue. I intend to do so this Sunday, 1/25.
We ought to speak with such clarity on this matter that no politician would be able to say that answering the question as to when life begins is above her/his pay-grade. There was a time when it would have been politically expedient to dodge answering the question concerning the full humanity of people from Africa. Obviously, to do so now, would show that a person is either a bigot or an idiot, clearly not qualified for public office. Our goal ought to be to change the hearts of people, so that everyone knows that babies are worthy of society's protection, whether born or yet unborn.

Speaking of changed hearts, here is an article about God's power to transform. It is the story of "Roe," as in Roe v Wade.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

They done good. Amen:

I have attempted to join the voices of fellow Christian leaders who have emphasized the Biblical mandate to pray for our new president. I am pleased that several of my colleagues are leading us in this regard. Often at a church service or other public event someone will be called on to lead in prayer. Just reading a prayer, or listening to one, is not praying. If I allow the words of another to lead me in praying from my own heart then I am praying. Though it is often maligned as a practice of back-woods Fundamentalists or Pentacostal enthusiasts, the practice of saying, "Amen!" when another is leading in prayer is something we ought to think about--in more ways than one.
Granted, often, words like "Amen," "Praise the Lord," or "Right on," are just rhythmic responses to a prayer or message, not unlike a drum-beat. If thoughtfully spoken, however, these words can express this prayer from the heart of the one who is being led in prayer. Amen is a word of agreement--it is like saying to the Lord, "Lord you heard what that lady just prayed. I am praying that too. That's two of us on that one, Lord." It doesn't necessarily need to be done out loud, we, the led, need to be mentally and spiritually active when others are leading us in prayer.

Here are three of my fellow servants of our great God who are leading us in prayer. I encourage you to let them lead you. And, I added a brief prayer of my own.

Lord, bless our new president with wisdom and courage. May he lead us in the right way. May those of us who proclaim Your word speak with such clarity, power, and compassion, that the word will reach His ears. As he reads Your word, Lord, and hears the truth coming from voices that truly honor You, may President Obama respond with obedience.
Protect his family.
Keep our nation great.
In Jesus name,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A good description of today's youth:

I just read an article--see the links to the right, Why Today's Youth Don't Get It--about young people today.
I have worked with and loved teens for my whole career as a pastor. Even though I have gray hair and stiff knees, I'm still trying to make a difference with the up-and-coming generation.
I encourage you to read the article.
I'd appreciate hearing your comments.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

To any wives who might be listening, if you are such a wife that appreciates such a statement, in a way that will offend no one else, I love you:

To any wives who might be listening, if you are such a wife that appreciates such a statement, in a way that will offend no one else, I love you:

Try offering that to the lady who shares your home and life. Now, there is a sure route to a night on the couch, a cold supper, frigid shoulder, and a hot stare.

Yet, this is essentially how Christian leaders are being asked to pray in public.
Listen to what a supposedly Christian clergyman had to say on the subject. I take this quote from Al Mohler's blog, January 14:

Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”
“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that. The texts that I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.” (Bishop Robinson is a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, which claims to be Christian.)

Can a prayer addressed to a maybe God--I want to be unoffensive, so even if I do believe, I'll act like I don't--truly be called a prayer at all?
I had mentioned this a couple of posts ago in relation to a controversy that is ongoing in a neighboring municiplaity, and thanks to the aid of the ACLU, threatens even governmental meetings in areas as small as mine. This is pluralism gone amuk. Public respect, and politeness ought not to mean that one never says or prays anything that could potentially be offensive to anyone. Maybe some hypotheticals will help make the point:

  • When a Rabbi prays I know that he/she does not think that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. In fact that prayer may be offered with the thought behind it that for many centuries, many who called themselves Christians have done horrible things to Jews. I need to respect that prayer. I ought to behave in a respectful way when it is offered. If I find it offensive I ought to examine my heart and see if I am among the guilty. If so I need to repent. Since the prayer is coming from a Theological viewpoint that I believe is flawed I ought not to expect that it will be in full agreement with me. To the extent that I find agreement with the requests offered in the prayer, I am likely to silently add, "I ask this in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen"
  • If a Muslim prays and asks for peace to come in the Middle-East, I can offer a qualified "Amen." Meaning that I am taking a prayer that is theologically flawed, from my viewpoint, and translating it into a prayer--from my heart, offered to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God Who eternally exists in the three persons of the Trinity--for peace in that war torn part of the world. The fact that likely we disagree radically about what a just settlement of that conflict looks like, does not prevent me from being prompted to pray. My prayer interests overlap with the Immam's so I can in that sense be led in prayer by him.
  • If an atheist stands up at the beginning of a council meeting and says, "Friends, there is no one here other than we people. I take this moment to remind us to do the best we can--to let the best of our humanity shine forth . . ."
    I will, in the privacy of my heart, smile at his/her ignorance of the true God (or perhaps weep), and the true nature of people. I will acknowledge that we ought to do our best, but that without God's help, I know we won't. I will ask God to help us to do so. . . .
  • If the chairman of the Can't-we-all-just-get-along, vegan, recycling-is-the-way-to-save-the-world, hug-a-tree, and be-nice-both-your-mothers--the one who gave birth to you, and mother earth (maybe even Mother Goose) society calls for a moment of silence and then interupts the quiet with an "OOOMMM," I won't join the chant, but I won't picket the meeting either. I will redeem that moment of quiet as an opportunity to talk to my Father, the creator and sustainer of the world. I will commit to be a good steward of the resurces that God has placed at my disposal . . .

I won't be offended. I see no reason for others to be offended when I pray in Jesus name.

A civil society requires not only that we not be needlessly offensive, but that we not be excessively offended.

There is a sweet term that is used by folk who still have some Southern genteelity about them. "Don't be ugly." When called on to pray in a public forum, we ought not to be ugly. Some of my colleagues, Christian and otherwise, have not heeded that advice. But to ask me to pray like I don't really believe in the God to Whom I am praying is idiotic.

I'm not asking people of other faiths to pray that way, so I ask that people of other faiths not ask me to pray that way.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Through the Bible in 2009, and a comment:

Just a quickie:

I'm behind on my reading, but making good progress and enjoying it none-the-less.
I just finished Exodus 20. I think the last time I posted was back in Genesis.
I was encouraged with the story of God's soveriegnty in Joseph's life.
The people in the wilderness were like a bunch of kids griping and whining. Yet God continued gracious.
What majestic words, those 10 Commandments.

Because of the situation of some loved-ones, I'm impressed with life's brevity and fraility.
Help me to stay close to You Lord.

I liked Franklin Graham's comment about Rick Warren praying at the inaugural next week. "If you don't want somebody praying in Jesus Name, don't ask an Evangelical to pray." : )

Live for Jesus!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"In Jesus name, Amen."

Our larger neighbor (I live in Covington VA, for those of you who only know me by my cyber-presence.) is having a common problem. See the article at:
In a recent message I stated that I couldn't, off the top of my head, think of anyone who had ever refused an offer of prayer. I know some think it is an exercise in futility, but when I ask, "Can I pray for you?" They say, "Yes." While people won't turn me down when I offer to pray, there are those who tell me I can't pray--or that I have to pray in such an anemic way that it amounts to not praying--at a governmental gathering.
The critics see it right, in one sense, at least. They specifically object to the mention of Jesus. Indeed, He is the one that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.
Yet, when a minister of Jesus Christ is asked to pray, how can he do other than to pray in Jesus name?
My little community is quite homogeneous. A while back a city council member searched for people of "other faiths" to offer invocations at the council meetings. His search yielded little if any fruit.
When I am asked to pray at such a gathering:
  • I figure that I am being asked to appear as who I am. I pastor a Christian church. My book is the Bible, a book that tells about Jesus. I do not avoid mentioning Christ or Jesus in my prayer.
  • I try to remember the words of Bill Moyers (at the time he was on President Johnson's staff) when Lyndon Johnson complained that he could not hear the prayer that Moyers was offering at the table: "I wasn't talking to you, sir."
  • Yet I am aware that Jesus sometimes prayed knowing that those, other than His Father, needed to hear a particular truth. (John 11:41-42)
  • I figure I ought to pray about issues relevant to what is going on. If there is a conflict going on, why should I ignore that in my praying? I don't pray that side X will win. I figure that God knows the correct side, so I pray that God will provide wisdom so that what is right can be done. I also pray for civility among the council members and the citizens gathered for the meeting.
  • Some forms of prayer are clearly, in my humble opinion, out of line. The most notable example of this kind of praying is that I am aware of is a prayer offered some years ago at Bob Jones University, in which, if the report was correct, God was asked to strike a public official "hip and thigh." For you folk who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament--especially the King James variety--trust me. You don't want to be struck hip and thigh. It is often fatal. If I am asked to take part in a civil proceeding I need to act civilly.
So what if my friend succeeds in finding a Muslim or a Buddhist to offer the invocation? If I am at the meeting, I will bow my head or in some other way show respect. I will not indicate agreement, but I will clearly defend the right of this leader of another faith to be there. I will not protest if I hear the name Allah, or some other designation of Deity that I personally regard as false. (Having said that, let me quickly add that I'm not spouting the "true for me--true for you" nonsense. If my friend prays to Allah, claiming Mohamed as his chief prophet, I will know that what he/she is praying is false. In the appropriate setting I will says so. In a discussion with that person I will vigorously argue for the supremacy of Christ. But at that public forum I will show respect. To do so is not compromise. Logically, if I want to pray in Jesus Name, I ought not get bent out of shape when she/he prays in a way appropriate to her/his faith. If that person prays for me to be stricken "hip and thigh" or "shoulder and arm," I'll smile, knowing that such a prayer is going no further than the ceiling.
You see, I believe in the true God. He is not threatened by one who wrongly prays in the name of a false god. I am confident that such a prayer does me no harm.
It makes me wonder what the problem of the ACLU-types really is.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Through the Bible in 2009, #3, Genesis 13-27

I haven't done my reading for today yet, but thought I would put up a post about my progress.

This section of scripture is marked by God's promise.

Introduced at the beginning of 12.

Threatened by Lot and then Sarah's childlessness. Abrham and Sarah foolishly try to take over for God. The result is Hagar and Ishmael.

It is no wonder when the boy was born to 90 year-old Sarah and Abraham at 100 that they named him Isaac, "Laughter."

I marvel at Abraham's faith, Isaac's--by now a big teen--compliance, and God's provision in Chapter 22.

Isaac becomes the center of the story. I was reminded of heritage, as I see him repeat his dad's sin in chap. 26. Likewise chap. 25 & 27 give much information for dealing with family woes.

They're not from Siberia & it's not an orchestra:

As a Christmas present my son and daughter-in-law took us to the final performance (this year) of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I come from a small town, and don't get out much, so to speak, so it probably won't surprise you to hear me say that I had never seen anything like this in my life.

The following is not a review or an analysis, but merely a few observations. If it begins a profitable conversation, so be it.

The program is an intriguing--maybe wierd would be a better description--combination of classical, traditional, and rock music. When I say "rock" I'm talking about old hard rock. The guitar solos sounded like the little bit of Jimmy Hendricks that I remember. I could see a friend of mine, back in his hard-rocking days playing the stuff.

The musicians and singers are all incredibly talented. One operatic type piece in particular showed off the voice of one of the sopranos. The two pianists--and they preferred this title, though they played electronic keyboards--were superb. My pianist wife was very impressed. I have no doubt that my grandson would have loved the drummer. I am less able to judge the expertise of the other performers, except one I'll mention in a moment, so I'll simply say, I was impressed.

As a preacher, I very much appreciate the skillful use of the spoken word. The narrator for the evening was superb. I only wish that that music would have been less loud when he was speaking so that I would be able to hear him better.

As I said earlier, I don't go to many concerts, and I've never been to anything like this, but I can't imagine how anyone could put on a greater laser, light, smoke, and fire show than what went on with this concert. Just watching the various apparatus was entertaining in itself.
Maybe one of you will do the research, but I can't begin to guess how many millions of dollars worth of stuff there was in the huge U.T. arena.
I found the effect that it all had on me somewhat like when I entered the Cathedral in Ulm, Germany--sensory overload.
The first half of the program told a story, On our way back to the car the four of us discussed what it meant. I suspect that asking that question showed I didn't quite get it; I figure it was something more to be felt than analyzed. My son observed that the story of Christmas--Jesus coming to earth--is so compelling that it cannot be ignored. The building blocks of this part of the program, were God, angels, the Biblical story of Christ's birth, man's need for love and belonging, and the desire for something that transcends this war-torn scarred world in which we live. Classic Christmas music was the thread used to weave the musical tapestry of the program.
While I enjoyed the tale, in the same way that one enjoys a well-told Fairy-tale--in this case a Fairy-tale on steroids--I found it somewhat sad. Leaving aside the hard-rock and the glitzy special effects for a moment, the program perfectly captured the mood of Christmas and totally missed the substance. I see thousands of much less inexpensive productions that have exactly the same shortcoming.
This part of the program was filled with concepts and words that had to do with enchantment, magic, hoping, and dreaming. The voice of the narrator did a great job of capturing an "aching-ness," a desire for something that would feed one's soul. In the same way that most of the thousands of people in the arena were seeking to fill a void in their lives with one more evening of entertainment, the program offered up solutions as illusive as the fog from the dry-ice, and as temporary as a pulse of light from one of the strobes. The impression was that reality is made up of little girls who don't come home, whiskey, hard-boiled bartenders, and nations at war. We can't stand that. So:
"If our kindness This day is just pretending ,
If we pretend long enough,
Never giving up,
It just might be who we are." (Promises to Keep,
Like much in our world today, the program pointed to what was missing, but was left with nothing but wishing to fill the aching void. The first half of the program was like a production of Ecclesiastes, worthy of Solomon, but missing the crucial "Conclusion of the whole matter." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
With the exception of some mega-churches with a staff dedicated to the production of mega-programs we cannot compete in creating the mood. We have the real story, though. We need to explore ways get that real story out.
In case you are wondering the second half of the program was just a collection of songs. Most had to do with Christmas, but is about all the connection I noticed.
Anyhow, thanks Chris and Nancy for a great evening. I'll continue to think about it for a good while.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pictures and report from Texas:

We are enjoying the warm weather Texas weather with Silas & Kira. Here we are at one of the local parks.

This one needs no introduction. The statue is at a restaurant where we ate.

Before we left for Texas Chad and his family visited with us in Covington.

Madeline, Carrington, and Kendal, with help from Chad's wife, Tanisha, made a gingerbread house.

I don't want to hurt the girls' feelings, but it looks better than it tasted.

: )

I took this picture for a friend of mine.

: )

Mom used to live, a stones throw from
the Crocket farm in Tennessee.

Here she is with Kathy and me, and mom's granddaughter Leslie at the Alamo.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Through the Bible 2009, #2, Gen 7-12:

Just so you know:

My plan is to identify the blog entries that have to do with my Bible reading as "Through the Bible. . . . The other entries will have my usual witty and insightful titles. I could set up a separate blog for the Bible reading, but getting this old gray-haired guy to do one blog is enough, so, at least for now, I'll use this mechanism.

It's January 2. I just finished reading Genesis 12.

The beginning of Gen 12 clearly marks a new phase in the unfolding of God's revelation. The Bible begins to focus on the family of Abraham. His grandson, Jacob, will be renamed Israel, and the rest is history.

The final of the big events that tells us why the world is the way that it is found in chap. 11. As I type this I am at my son's house. He is the Global Outrach Pastor at Hill Country Bible Church Northwest. He, and many of the rest of us labor to reach across the barriers that find their roots in this Biblical event. It is a reality of life.

Just for review the big events are:

  1. Creation

  2. Fall (entrance of sin)

  3. Flood

  4. Tower of Babel

These events provide the asnswer to the question, "Why is this world the way it is?"

In the section that I read today it is interesting that there is both the true answer to a major problem of our day, and a horrible distortion.
Genesis 11 provides the answer to the origin of the various races (so called) among people. As various families became isolated from other families, particular genetic variations began to dominate in one group as compared to another. An iteresting and informative article on this subject:
Unfortunately, throughout history, and a quick search of the web confirms that still today, many people have seized on a distortion of Noah's curse made against Canaan, Gen. 9:25, as a justification for prejudice.

The clear teaching of the Bible is that all of us are decended from Adam and Eve, through Noah.

We are sisters and brothers.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Through the Bible 2009 #1

As the New Year came in last night I was getting started on my Bible reading for the year.

It is amazing how much of life there is in the first 6 chapters of Genesis.

I am only a few hundred or thousand generations removed from the creative hand of God that fashioned Adam and Eve. The breath that He breathed into them still animates me and makes me a living soul. Psalm 139 makes clear that God is involved in the formation of each of us.

I'll leave the debate-speculation-argument-philosophizing about the entrance of sin for another time--a time when I can talk & don't have to type--hopefully a time when I can listen to someone wiser than me, : ) For now, I am reminded that the sin of Adam infect all my race. It affects me. Dare I say it? I even see that Adamic heritage in my grandchildren. Here on vacation I read some hometown news: high wind damage, fiery car crash. My typing was interrupted by a phone conversation about the health problems of a loved one. We don't live in Eden any more.

It is a wonder that God puts up with us. That's where I ended, at the end of chapter 6.

From the beginning God's book is a journal that deals with us the way we are, as who we are. I hope you will get involved with the book, as well.

Happy New Year!

My New Year is off to a great start. I'm visiting with 2 of my lovely grandkids.

Maybe I'll post some pictures tomorrow.

I have encouraged you folk who are part of the CBC family, and anyone else who will listen, to read through the Bible this year. I shared with the folk at CBC last Sunday that it only takes about 71 hours to read through the Bible at a "pulpit rate." ( So in less than 20 minutes a day most folk can read through the Bible in 2009.

My plan is to read the Bible through 2x. For the first time through, I'm simply planning to read at least 6 chapters a day. Whenever possible I'll round that up so that I'm reading a whole book at one sitting. I'm simply going to read the books in the order that they are laid out in our English Bibles. I want to be reminded of the purpose and general flow of each book of the Bible.

I have put links to some other reading plans on our church's website, You may find them helpful.

I plan to, at least from time to time, give a progress report on my Bible journey. I welcome your interaction.

For many of you this is a day off. Whether you are working, at home with family, and/or visiting with family and friends I hope you have a great day.

Live for Jesus,