Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless: Verse 44

Bible translations come and go, however, organization by chapter and verse remain a mainstay of Bible use even in these ever so modern times. Chapter and verse has not always been so. The Hebrew version and later Greek and Latin translations contained no chapter and verse organization.

Credit for organizing the Bible into a translation that included chapter and verse goes to Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1227 A.D. The picture I’ve placed here for my wordless entry is the Stephen Langton Inn found on Friday Street in Surrey, England. Apparently Stephen Langton lived on Friday Street as a child.

It is also interesting to note that Stephen Langton was a most central figure in a dispute between King John and Pope Innocent III. This dispute eventually resulted in the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

More information about Langton and his time period can be found here and here including mentions of Robin Hood (yes, that Robin Hood).

You can see my past wordless images here, and you can view the images of others by visiting
the Wordless Wednesday hub.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Letter from Heaven

The following is one of those emails you get that have already made themselves around the world a hundred times by the time you get it. What is so important about this particular email is the timing…..It was sent on Friday, April 25th. It was sent by my sister. It was sent on the very day I was in the mountains dealing with spiritual issues. It was the very day I faced down, owned up to, and let go of my anger at myself and God for my mother’s death from cancer.

My sister didn’t know I was gone. She didn’t know I was at a retreat. She didn’t know I had had a hard time dealing with my mother’s death a year and half ago. She certainly didn’t know I was mad at God for the way my mother was taken.

Who wants to tell someone they are mad at God!?!

Well, the anger is gone. Time to move on and be about His business….but He does move in wonderous ways. My sister sent this to me on the very day I also realized what the mother in this story realized about the death of her son. I've bolded the parts that spoke to me the most.

She jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room. She said: 'How is my little boy? Is he going to be all right? When can I see him?'

The surgeon said, 'I'm sorry. We did all we could, but your boy didn't make it.'

Sally said, 'Why do little children get cancer? Doesn't God care any more? Where were you, God, when my son needed you?'

The surgeon asked, 'Would you like some time alone with your son? One of the nurses will be out in a few minutes, before he's transported to the university.'

Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said good bye to son. She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair. 'Would you like a lock of his hair?' the nurse asked. Sally nodded yes. The nurse cut a lock of the boy's hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally.

The mother said, 'It was Jimmy's idea to donate his body to the University for Study. He said it might help somebody else. 'I said no at first, but Jimmy said, 'Mom, I won't be using it after I die. Maybe it will help some other little boy spend one more day with his Mom.' She went on, 'My Jimmy had a heart of gold. Always thinking of someone else. Always wanting to help others if he could.'

Sally walked out of Children's Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there. She put the bag with Jimmy's belongings on the seat beside her in the car.

The drive home was difficult. It was even harder to enter the empty house. She carried Jimmy's belongings, and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair to her son's room.

She started placing the model cars and other personal things back in his room exactly where he had always kept them. She lay down across his bed and, hugging his pillow, cried herself to sleep.

It was around midnight when Sally awoke. Lying beside her on the bed was a folded letter. The letter said :

'Dear Mom,

I know you're going to miss me; but don't think that I will ever forget you, or stop loving you, just 'cause I'm not around to say 'I Love You' . I will always love you, Mom, even more with each day. Someday we will see each other again. Until then, if you want to adopt a little boy so you won't be so lonely, that's okay with me. He can have my room and old stuff to play with. But, if you decide to get a girl instead, she probably wouldn't lik e the same things us boys do. You'll have to buy her dolls and stuff girls like, you know.

Don't be sad thinking about me. This really is a neat place. Grandma and Grandpa met me as soon as I got here and showed me around some, but it will take a long time to see everything. The angels are so cool. I love to watch them fly. And, you know what? Jesus doesn't look like any of his pictures. Yet, when I saw Him, I knew it was Him. Jesus himself took me to see GOD! And guess what, Mom? I got to sit on God's knee and talk to Him, like I was somebody important. That's when I told Him that I wanted to write you a letter, to tell you good bye and everything. But I already knew that wasn't allowed. Well, you know what Mom? God handed me some paper and His own personal pen to write you this letter I think Gabriel is the name of the angel who is going to drop this letter off to you. God said for me to give you the answer to one of the questions you asked Him where was He when I needed him?' 'God said He was in the same place with me, as when His son Jesus was on the cross. He was right there, as He always is with all His children.

Oh, by the way, Mom, no one else can see what I've written except you. To everyone else this is just a blank piece of paper. Isn't that cool? I have to give God His pen back now He needs it to write some more names in the Book of Life. Tonight I get to sit at the table with Jesus for supper. I'm sure the food will be great.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I don't hurt anymore the cancer is all gone.. I'm glad because I couldn't stand that pain anymore and God couldn't stand to see me hurt so much, either. That's when He sent The Angel of Mercy to come get me. The Angel said I was a Special Delivery! How about that?

Signed with Love from God, Jesus & Me.

You'll be happy to know that my sister and I are having lunch next week, and no more holding back. We are big girls and with God's love and grace we can face anything, and so can YOU! :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

13 Things About the Hittites

Ever wonder about all of the different types of people mentioned in the Bible? Here are 13 things about one of the groups---the Hittites.

1. The Hittites were and ancient people who lived in Anatolia, an area with the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, the Aegean Sea, and Asia as boundaries. The word Anatolia has its roots in the Greek language and means literally “land of the sun rise” or simply “the east”.

2. The word Hittite taken from the Hebrew Bible means “children of Heth”. This is the same Heth identified as the son of Canaan.

3. The Hittites referred to their land as the ‘land of Hatti”

4. Their religion and mythology was influenced by Mesopotamian mythology.

5. They are thought to have had the first constitutional monarchy, and the Hittites produced the Hittite laws which rarely used death as a punishment. Many sources state the Hittites were the first group of people in the area to smelt iron ore successfully.

6. Historians and Archeologists aren’t really sure how the Hittites came to live in Anatolia, but they are fairly certain they adopted the laws, religion, and the literature of the Old Babylonians thus continuing the long heritage of Sumerian culture.

7. Yesterday I posted an image of the Kadesh Treaty, and early agreement between the Hittites and the Ancient Egyptians. Pharoh Ramses II referred to the Hittites as barbarians and used the Egyptian word humty to describe them which meant “women-soldiers.” This was due to the fact that the Hittite men grew their hair very long.

8. There are not many instances of the recorded history of the Hittites so it is very hard to truly know their culture, however, they had a rather large empire and their primary activity was commerce since they traded with all the civilizations and peoples of the Mediterranean. Some scholars believe the Hittites were primarily responsible for the movement of Mesopotamian thought, law, political structure, economic structure, and ideas around the Mediterranean, from Egypt to Greece.

9. When the Hebrews, led by Moses, migrated to Canaan they found a people there who were largely Mesopotamian…This was due to the Hittite influence.

10. Women played a prominent role in Hittite society. The wife of Hattusilis III, Pudupepa, carried on correspondence with foreign kings and queens and participated in treaty negotiations.

11. The Hebrew Bible refers to the Hittites in several passages from Genesis, Ezra, and Nehemiah. They are mentioned in Genesis 10 in the Table of Nations where they are linked to Heth, a descendant of Ham through his son Canaan.

12. King David had certain Hittites serving as high military officers in his army. Many times the Hittites are seens as living among the Israelites. Abraham purchased the Patriarchal burial-plot of Machpelah from Hittites in the area. There is, however, a scholarly debate regarding whether the Hittites of the Bible included the original Hittites of ‘Hatti’ or a group of conqueors of Anatolia that took and retained the name “Hatti”. Some believe the Canannite group may or may not have been related to the Anatolian groups.

13. The Hittites were eventually conquered by the Assyrians and others around 717 B.C.

There are many online sources to discover more about the Hittites including this site.

Read my other 13 lists here.

Find other sites participating in Thursday Thirteen here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wordless: Verse 43

This image is the Kadesh Treaty. It is the earliest known documented treaty found in the world to date. The treaty explains the terms of a trade agreement between Ancient Egypt and the Hittite Empire.

This treaty is important to Christians and to Bible believers because early skeptics used the Hittites as proof that the Bible had inconsistencies because there was no proof the Hittites existed. This treaty shows otherwise.

The Hittites are mentioned in Genesis chapters 10, 15, 23, and 25.

View my other wordless images here.

Visit the Wordless Wednesday hub to locate other participating blogs.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Culture War...Charlton Heston Style

The following is a speech given by the late Charlton Heston when he addressed the Harvard Law School Forum on February 16, 1999. He was serving as the president of the National Rifle Association. My source is this Newsmax article. I’ve reproduced the entire article here for you and for me so I can retain it for the future. Word of warning---it's rather long. Some of the things Mr. Heston says in this article bother me while other things are spot on. The parts that speak to me the most have been placed in ALL CAPS.

This speech is nearly ten years old… doesn’t seem like anyone listened to him at all…it seems the cultural war has gotten worse and it reminds me of the verse from 2 Timothy 3: 1-9: But know this: difficult times will come in the last days for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers without self-control, brutal without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power. Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs was also.

Here’s the speech:

I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living. “My Daddy,” he said, “pretends to be people.”

There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling repainted I’ll do my best. There always seems to be a lot of different fellows up here. I’m never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I’m the guy.

As I pondered our visit tonight, it struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with your own sense of liberty…your own compass for what is right.

Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, “We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

Those words are true again. I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, A CULTURAL WAR THAT’S ABOUT TO HIJACK YOUR BIRTHRIGHT TO THINK AND SAY WHAT RESIDES IN YOUR HEART. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you…the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.

Let me back up. About a year ago I became the president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve…I serve as a moving target for the media who’ve called me everything from “ridiculous” and “duped” to a “brain-injured senile, crazy old man.” I know…I’m pretty old…but I sure Lord ain’t senile.

As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I’ve realized that firearms are not the only issue. No, it’s much more bigger than that. I’ve come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 – long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else’s pride, the called me a racist.

I’ve worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.

I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.

Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they’re essentially saying, “Chuck, how dare you speak your mind. You are using language not authorized for public consumption!”

But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we’d still be King George’s boys – subjects bound to the British crown.

In his book, “The End of Sanity,” Martin Gross writes that “blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction.

Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don’t like it.”

Let me read a few examples.

*At Antioch College in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation…all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.

*In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDS, the state commissioner announced that health providers who are HIV-postitive need not…need not…tell their patients that they are infected.

*At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team “The Tribe” because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs truly liked the name.

*In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing a sex change surgery.

*In New York City, kids who don’t speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes tolearn their three R’s in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic.

*At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettsburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up a segregated dormitory space for black students.

Yeah, I know…that’s out of bounds now. Dr. King said “Negroes.” Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said “black.” But it’s a no-no now.

For me, hyphenated identities are awkward…particularly “Native American.” I’m a Native American, for God’s sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife’s side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American…with a capital letter on “American.”

Finally, just last month…David Howard, head of the Washington, D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word “niggardly” while talking to colleages about budgetary matters. Of course, “niggardly” means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign.

As columnist Tony Snow wrote, “David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn’t know the meaning of niggardly, (b) didn’t know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance.”


Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America’s campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who’re supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression?

Let’s be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe? It scares me to death and should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason.

You are the best and brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that…and abide in it…you are – by your grandfather’s standards – cowards.

Here’s another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they’ll loose their jobs. Why? Because their research findings would undermine big – city mayors…pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers.

I don’t care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, “Don’t shoot me.”

If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you a sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don’t celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe.

Don’t let America’s universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism.

But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation?

The answer’s been here all along.

I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people.

You simply…disobey.

Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely.

But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don’t. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom.

I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King…who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might.

Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea in to Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Viet Nam.

In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous law that weakens personal freedom.

But be careful…it hurts.

Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies.

You must be willing to be humiliated…to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma.

You must be willing to experience discomfort. I’m not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have taken their toll on me. Let me tell you a story.

A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called “Cop Killer” celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were outraged. Rightfully so – at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black.

I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time and decided to attend.

What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of “Cop Killer” – every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.

I got my 12 gauge sawed off
I got my headlights turned off
I’m about to bust some shots off
I’m about to dust some cops off…

It got worse, a lot worse. I won’t read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that.

Then I delivered another volley of sick lyrics brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore.

She pushed her butt against my…

Well, I won’t do to you here what did to them. Let’s just say I left the room in echoing
silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said, “We can’t print that.” “I know,” I replied, “but Time/Warner’s selling it.”

Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T’s contract. I’ll never be offered another film by Warner, or get a good review in Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk.

When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself…jam the switchboard of the district attorney’s office.

When your university is pressured to lower standards until 80% of the students graduate with honors…choke the halls of the board of regents.

When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl’s cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment…march on that school and block its doorways.

When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you…petition them, oust them, banish them.

When Time magazine’s cover (seen here with this post) portrays millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month…boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.

So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the
great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God’s grace, built this country.

If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

God Is Like.....

There are many versions of how this came to be that circulates in emails around the world. No matter the makes you think.

1. God is like Bayer aspirin. He works miracles.

2. God is a Ford. He’s got a better idea.

3. God is like Coke. He’s the real thing.

4. God is like Hallmark cards. He cares enough to send the very best.

5. God is like Tide. He gets the stains out others leave behind.

6. God is like General Electric. He brings good things to life.

7. God is like Sears. He has everything.

8. God is like Alka-Seltzer. Try him. You’ll like him.

9. God is like Scotch-tape. You can’t see him, but you know he’s there.

10. God is like Delta. He’s ready when you are.

11. God is like Allstate. You are in good hands with Him.

12. God is like VO-5 hairspray. He holds through all kinds of weather.

13. God is like Dial Soap. Aren’t you glad you have Him? Don’t you wish everybody did?

…and a few extras….

14. God is like the U.S. Post Office. Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor ice will keep Him from His appointed rounds.

15. God is like Chevrolet…the heartbeat of America.

16. God is like Maxwell House….Good to the last drop

17. God is like Bounty. He’s the quicker-picker-upper…can handle the tough jobs….and He won’t fall apart on you.

Have a great Thursday. View other 13s here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wordless 42

This is an image of a ziggurat….Many history and Biblical scholars believe the Tower of Babel mentioned in Genesis 11 was a ziggurat. This is the first mention in the Bible regarding organized religion. Up to that point the Bible shares individual sacrifices. The main purpose to glean from Genesis 11 is man cannot reach Heaven on his own. While we often only focus on the the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, man also fell at the time of the flood, and through the events regarding the Tower of Babel.

You can learn more about ziggurats here. Many people believe that the Etemenanki site is the actual site of the Tower of Babel. There is a diagram at the link to show what the tower many have looked like. While the link I’ve given does call the Biblical account a legend, I believe the Bible to be accurate in its account of the events.

Many other bloggers participate in Wordless Wednesday. You can find their images here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What is Past IS Prologue

Along with this post I’ve included a picture of a statue, which is located outside of the National Archives Building in Washington D.C. The statue is carved from a single block of limestone, and at the base are the words, “What is past is prologue” a paraphrase taken from William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. This statue and its quotation is often referred to as people begin a speech or to make a point. There are many versions of the story, but the one I’m most familiar with involves one that has been attributed to former North Carolina Senator Jessie Helms.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any proof to back up the attribution, but even this very day I heard a talk radio personality here in Atlanta refer to it. The Helms version of the story involves a tourist visiting the National Archives and upon viewing the statue she reads the quotation, “What is past is prologue,” and asks a cab driver about the meaning of the quotation.

The cab driver responds, “It means….it means you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

What is past is prologue. You "haven't" seen “anything” yet. Take your pick of the two as you will, but I like them both. Both convey my thoughts today as I’m finishing up a series of four posts that I began here. As I begin to share my postings with a few church friends of mine I might make them angry, I might find they share many of my same feelings, I might be opening a door I might regret, but one thing I know as an educator…..if in my journey to sort through my own beliefs, I cause just one person to confront their own beliefs, to express their own thoughts to others, or to chart their own course….then I have achieved something.

In my classroom I often begin a lesson with students by telling them a story from my past, or from our country’s past, and asking questions in order to dust off the flywheels of their brains and shake sleepyheads awake. Not that I’m trying to teach in this instance because I feel woefully ill equipped regarding religious matters, but in order to bring you along with me as I sort out my thoughts, I’ll press on.

I learned an important lesson at the age of 15 under the guiding hands of my mother and my pastor, Rev. Larry Stewart. Beginning around the age of 12 I simply dreaded the final part of our worship service every Sunday. The congregation would begin singing the hymn of invitation. Rev. Stewart would give his heartfelt invitation to proceed to the alter, admit to being a sinner, ask for forgiveness, and of course to join the church through profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and by rite of baptism.

The knot would begin to form in the pit of my stomach and would then rise to my throat where it would lodge. No matter what I tried I couldn’t make it go up or down. It felt like my throat was closing in on me. Close to tears I would try to think of anything else other than walking down that aisle. I thought about what we would eat for lunch, a school assignment, multiplication facts…….anything that would get my mind off that hymn of invitation and Rev. Stewart up their waiting for me. I’d say a silent prayer of thanks as the song would end, the invitation would close, and I was safe for another week.

The reasons for my hesitancy were varied…..I didn’t want to be the center of attention, I was afraid I’d cry, I was afraid my mother would cry, and so on. I knew this was THE major event in my life, and I wanted to get it right. This was more important than choosing a vocation, a college, a spouse, or making a decision to have children. For some reason I thought I should be experiencing something more than just a decision to go up during an invitation. I thought I should see angels, I thought God would actually speak aloud to me, and I was simply waiting……..God would provide, God would show me something, God would make it happen when HE was ready. God would handle it.

I didn’t realize He was already handling it.

Finally, my mother took things into her own hands and on the sly told the pastor that she was pretty sure I had been ready for sometime, but I needed some motivation. It was the custom in our church to go forward following the service to greet any new members and shake the pastor’s hand. The next Sunday following mother’s private conversation with the pastor, I went up with her to go through the line in order to shake hands. Rev. Stewart was a big bear of a man….tall, imposing, massive hands that could get your attention by pounding on the pulpit as he gave his sermons, yet so very meek and gentle as well. As the person in front of me moved on Pastor Stewart grabbed me, and put his arm around me in a very strong side hug. With his other hand he rapped his knuckles on top of head and said, “Little lady, what are YOU waiting for…..lightning to strike? I looked up and met his eyes as he said, “I expect to see you up here soon, ok?”

I took that very important walk up the aisle the very next Sunday morning, and that lump in my throat has never, NEVER returned.

Sometimes God moves through other people. Sometimes God’s plan isn’t what we want or expect. God plan moves ahead when you do something, when others do something, or when a group moves together in one accord. There has to be an act on your part, or as I’ve told my fourth graders as we wrestle over identifying the verb in a sentence……”It’s the doin’. What is the somebody doin’?” Sometimes YOU and your actions are the special secret ingredients in order to move God’s plan along.

Sometimes a church like my own finds itself undergoing an interim period…a time without a pastor. From my experiences and research regarding the matter an interim period is not an easy passage, but they are to be expected. We even see in the Bible that ministry is a transitional thing. Mose leadership did not continue forever even during a time period when it seemed people lived for hundreds of years. There wasn’t just one Judge in Hebrew history, but many. Jesus had no permanent place to lay his head, and the Apostle Paul was never in one church very long.

One thing that has lain heavy on my heart is the notion that if a church is in a period of “inbetween”, they should also be in a period of “sit and wait.” While I agree that I am part of the impatient world demanding my fast food, fast, life, and fast information I understand that God has His own time. I know in my heart God has already chosen a minister to enter our front door….We do have to be patient in that situation….

……BUT does this mean we do nothing but wait patiently?

I say no, and here are the reasons why….

Flipping through some of the historical archives in my church I found a church bulletin dated Sunday, August 1, 1948. Underlined in the middle of the cover page the following is typed: If you love God with heart and soul, you cannot fail to reach the goal.

Underneath the pastor’s name I saw these words as well: The church where everybody is counted for something.

…..where everybody is counted for something. How true!

Ephesians 4: 11-13 and Acts 2: 17-18 are just two passages that can be used to explain every believer is a minister. A very wonderful interim minister stated in my very presence this past Sunday, “If you are Christian, you are a minister.” The next comment made really hit home with me…” In fact, members of the Body of Christ actually have more day to day opportunities to profess our faith than a vocational preacher (paraphrased).”

Wow, with this realization how can we sit and do nothing and say nothing wandering aimlessly about merely waiting?

An interim period should not be a period of “sit and wait”. It should not be a period of “we can’t”. It should never be a period of “we won’t.” It certainly cannot be a period of of purposely having no purpose or direction. The Great Commission and the Great Commandment supercede any of those notions.

It should be a time of work, a time of review, a time of communication, and a time of redirection and change as necessary. An interim period is not the end of something. It is the beginning.

What is past is prologue. One definition of prologue is an introductory scene….the beginning. A time period where “the tone” or vision is set. An interim period should be a time where the body of the church works together to create a great beginning for the new pastor that has already been chosen and will be revealed in His time.

Think for a minute about how you would like to be received by people you are expected to shepherd, and they meet you with the following comments: Well, it’s about time you were here. Give us some directions. Show us the way. We were waiting on you. Who wants to be overwhelmed with a greeting like that?

Getting back to my own personal salvation story….What if my mother and my pastor had suspected my conviction, but had not acted leaving me alone in my inaction?

What if a group of believers had not acted in 1946 to come together and form a church out of nothing? What if after building their church they had given up after a tragic fire in October, 1949 that destroyed that very building six days after it was dedicated?

What if during an interim period a group of believers merely waited with no direction?

God is in control. He is handling our situation…whatever it may be, but we must still act. We still have to do something.

That same church bulletin I referred to above was printed two years after the idea for a church had been born. Printed inside the front cover I found the following comment, “Our Sunday School attendance is good [113], but there are still many people in our community who are unchurched. Let’s keep visiting, and inviting everyone we see to come to church.” Just following that sentence is the quotation, “Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistence.”

I wonder what the topic of the sermon was that day in 1948 because someone made a few notes in pencil inside the front cover. At the top are three words….organize, planned, directed. Underneath that is another list…..7 duties….All people in all of (two words I can’t make out)….1. Reach all people 2. Hold all people 3. Teach all people 4. Train all people 5. Enlist all people 6. Use all people and 7.…..7. is left off.

Perhaps it is up to us today to fill in 7.

It seems like we could learn a little something from the past to act as our guide.

The past is our beginning....our prologue.

Related Posts:
From Attitude Drift to Attitude Shift
13 Reasons Why Members Leave and Visitors Run

Monday, April 14, 2008

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

It's after dinnertime, but it is still Monday, so I'm posting my regular Monday music. This week I'm sharing four contemporary versions of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Even though it is presented differently each time the message remains the same. The artist is listed above each video.

Which version do you like the most?

Jadon Lavik

Sufjan Stevens

David Crowder Band

Jars of Clay

Thanks for visiting….You can find my current postings here

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Though I was in the fourth grade in 1972 I remember vividly the song Changes performed by David Bowie being played on Atlanta radio stations over and over…..I believe my sister and I had the single, and even today it’s still played on various classic rock stations. If you need a refresher you can see a music video here or view the lyrics here.

Believe it or not Changes is one of David Bowie’s best known songs, but it failed to make the Top 40. In the book Strange Fascination-David Bowie: The Definitive Story, David Buckley reports the lyrics are often seen as a manifesto for his chameleonic personality throughout the 1970s. I can understand this as it seemed Bowie remade himself everytime you saw him during the 70s and 80s, but John Mendelsohn wrote in a Rolling Stone article from 1972 that the song could be construed as a young man’s attempt to reckon how he’ll react when it’s his time to be on the maligned side of the generation.

Well, Bowie’s certainly there by now, isn’t he? Born in 1947 he’s not exactly the younger generation anymore. He’s still producing music though and still changing with the times. He’s the same David Bowie….he’s just merely presenting himself using modern methods.

Bowie has branched out as an actor over the years most recently playing the role of Nikola Tesla in The Prestige released in 2006. If you are a SpongeBob Squarepants fan you heard Bowie’s voice used for the role of “Lord Royal Highness” in the episode titled SpongeBob’s Atlantis SquarePantis. Many of my students came to school talking about the soundtrack to Shrek2 in 2004. They told me all about a great song titled Changes, a duet by Butterfly Boucher and SOME OLD GUY. They’d sing it over and over on the playground. They were amazed when I told them about “the old guy” and that I listened to the same song in 1972 or as one child remarked, “Oh, in the olden days.”

Changes….sometimes we do have to turn and face the strange.

Ecclesiastes 3, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. Perhaps it ranks right up at the top of meaningful text because it involves the concept of time…a concept which is always near and dear to the heart of any history teacher such as myself.

The passage reminds us everything has its own time during the span of our lives. Sadness, happiness, death, new life, planting and harvesting, love and hate, war and peace----they all have a place at one time or another in our lives since Scripture tells us God created those things to be appropriate in their time and for His purpose.

In order to experience these things we have to also experience change. You can’t get from death to healing without change. You can’t get from throwing stones to gathering stones without change. You can’t get from tearing down something to building something up without change. None of it will happen without change. Life can’t exist without change.

Even so, many of us spend a large amount of our time here on earth resisting change, including myself.

I actually hate change. Change is the unknown. Change is scary. Change is uncomfortable, but the Bible shows us that change is necessary, and my own life experiences have shown me this is true. You can probably think back on great and not so great changes in your own life and see that while there were negatives with the change there were also postive things as well even though it might take some time for those results to be seen.

Last Sunday’s Bible Study lesson involved Abram and changes he made in his life. It was titled “Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone”. Using Scripture from Genesis 12 and 13 the lesson reminds us about God’s call to Abram to leave his homeland and his people in order to follow a promise God has made to him.

Genesis 12:4 explains Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.

Between verses one and four of Genesis 12 we see the Lord commands and Abram goes. He doesn’t question, he doesn’t do any research, he doesn’t argue, he doesn’t discuss God’s command with a focus group, and most importantly he doesn’t ignore God’s command. God said go, and Abram went.

We see that Lot goes with Abram with no reservations as well. This amazes me. How many of us would pack our things and move simply based on the fact a relative told us God had spoken to him and promised he would become the father of many nations?

The most interesting thing is the last part of verse four……Abram was 75 years old. This isn’t exactly a time in someone’s life when change is easy. Now I’ve never been 75. I hope I get to 75 and beyond, but one thing I know from being around many who are 75, 85, 95, and even one important lady in my life who made it to 102, change isn’t easy for these folks even though they have the most wisdom to provide regarding life.

Yet we see Abram at at 75 setting out on a journey that our lesson compared to what we know about Columbus and his journey to the New World. I’m not sure I really know what I would do if the Lord spoke to me today, and told me to tell my family to pack up because we have to go on journey.

How many of us truly like getting outside of our comfort zone?

As an educator I have survived a firestorm of change in the last ten years. American History is still American History, but due to needed reforms I go about teaching it differently than the teachers who taught me. Instead of just reading a textbook or “sit and get” type lessons where students listen to me, I provide guided situations where students uncover content on their own. I provide opportunities for students to be motivated and involved in the learning process through various strategies that hit on multiple intelligences and learning styles. I don’t demand that students meet me at my level…I hunker down and meet them where they are even if that means providing content five different ways.

Now, don’t for one minute think that I and my colleages accepted these types of changes willingly. Believe me when I tell you there was much gnashing of teeth, snarling, and to and froing. I’ve stamped my foot and kicked my fair share of door jams over the last few years because I hung onto the notion that patience was the watchword. At some point and time I would receive that group of students that would be successful simply because they did it my way. I didn’t want to change, but I’m awfully glad I did because the benefits were amazing.

Reasons for the changes weren’t merely because legislators and educrats up on high told me to. It wasn’t really due to the latest research or fad. The changes were necessary because our clientele---our students---had changed. You cannot use early twentieth century methods with early twenty-first century students. Folks today aren’t just merely the television generation. They are the instant and constant information generation via their cell phone, their Ipod, their video games, their Internet, and any other type of technology I could list.

So, if the folks outside the school walls are looking for something particular does it make sense for me to say leave technology out and forgo various teaching methods because I’m not comfortable with them. Instead of merely leaving a child behind it’s more like I would be tuning the student out and off.

With that in mind do we tune people out and off due to a resistence in the church regarding change?

I think we do.

Over the last two thousand years there have been great upheavals and change in the church, and yet it’s still here. It’s not going away. Those changes were necessary to allow God’s plan to come to fruition.

Where would the Christian church be today if we still ignored Paul’s encouragement for congregational singing (Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19) and only opted for liturgical hymns sung by the special few who could sing in Latin?

Where would the church be today without the struggle that was created with the Protestant Reformation? Back then the slogan was “the reformed church, always being reformed by the church of God.”……always being changed by the church of God…..

Where would we be if Martin Luther had not prepared a Mass in German, so that ALL of the congregation could recite and sing the texts?

Where would we be without Charles Wesley’s hymns that actually provided a new focus….one that expressed personal feelings in the relationship with God as well as simple worship seen in much older church music?

Where would we be without Wesley’s new style of hymn and a period of history in America known as the Great Awakening which led to another distinct style of church music we know as gospel?

Thomas Aquinas said, “If the primary aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” Applying this idea to the church how sad it would be if in our zeal to not bend to the needs of congregants we run the ship aground.

In his book, A Church for the 21st Century, Leith Anderson questions the goal of a church. If the goal is to preserve everything in pristene condition then it will be “defensively protected.” However, if the goal is to go out and do something those involved will be willing to take the risk.

Change, of course, does not mean turning your back on the foundation of Christianity. There are certain things that cannot be denied or ignored. Much like my subject matter of American History…..I can’t change the events, but I can change the methods I use to convey the foundational doctrine (John 3:16). The New Testament provides for us two things Jesus told us were the true purposes of the church. Those are the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) These two things are paramount until Christ returns. Over the years God’s people have stayed true to these purposes through ever changing styles and methods, but their eyes were always on the same common mission.

It’s clear to me from reading Acts 2 and listening to Bible scholars teach the text the church membership must be of one mind as the desciples were …..all together in one place. This is reemphasized at the end of the passage…..all the believers were together and had everything in common.

As believers we are all given the Holy Spirit, our guide to help us lead a Christian life. The Holy Spirit strengthens us, and it can be used to do things we have never done before. I’m just thinking that in order for the Holy Spirit to move within us we have to be open and willing for change to take place.

Are we, no matter our generational experiences, willing for that to happen?

Related Posts: From Attitude Drift to Attitude Shift
13 Reasons Why Members Leave and Visitors Run
What is Past IS Prologue

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

13 Reasons Why Members Leave and Visitors Run

I’ve been hanging out around a few Christian message boards/forums for the last few weeks just seeing what some post and how some respond. I’ve also been thinking and praying about what it is about a church that turns someone away whether they are a member or simply a visitor looking for a new church home.

This list is a compilation of various reasons why people leave a church and while certain points might be evident at a church you attend. I have no specific church in mind. Feel free to comment or email me privately if you think I’ve left something out. Specific reasons are in bold text.

Here is what I found:

1a. The church does not teach Biblical doctrine. Yes, I believe I’d run from a place like that as well. We can only know Him through the revelation of His Word. A study of the Bible is paramount. The main job of the senior pastor is to teach the Bible to God’s people as Jesus said, “feed my sheep.”

1b. Prayer seems forced, and it is not reinforced. I can’t even imagine being in a church where prayer is not a constant activity.

2. The church offers a rigid form of Sunday school organized around the ages of the adults much like elementary school. One forum commmentor stated, “I was invited to a Sunday school class based on age and marital status---not based on what the class was studying, or if I knew anyone in the class. This meant I was not a candidate for some classes. When I attempted to visit a class I thought might fit me better I was told I was in the wrong place and promptly shown the way to the class for my age group.”

3. 90% of the church leadership is over 50. Several younger people (20s,30s,40s) commented they prefer to see diverse leadership (ministers, deacons, elders, committee chairs, etc).

4. The community outside the church walls doesn’t match what is found inside the church. This matches somethings I read here that said….”Change is the only constant thing. Healthy churches adapt! How well church leaders moderate change and a church adapts to necessary changes is a sign of a church’s health.

5. The church has a rigid music and worship style. While many say no to a rock concert type atmosphere several state they would leave a church if the music was of poor quality or focused entirely on hymns from the 1800s. The same webpage referred to in item four states, “People brought up with TV (babyboomers and younger) will not stay around in a church that does not include Christian music [they hear online, on their Ipods, or from their CD collections.]

6. Bible study is stuck to one particular curriculum series-----there were no specialized classes on Sunday mornings for particular studies such as a Beth Moore study or topics like the history of the particular denomination, Christian history as it relates to the Bible, etc. The commentor that mentioned this stated some Bible studies were only offered on Sunday nights not during the morning Bible study time when more people attend..

7. The church has many members that aren’t attending for the right reasons. They are “posers” using a respectable church as an outlet for career and business contacts where friends can be made with the “right” people, children can play with the “right” kids, and donations will be made to the “right”causes.

8. Relationships among members seem fake and don’t seem to be based on the love of Christ. There are several cliques. A commenter said, “Authentic relationships----loving each other as yourself---can’t be faked.”

9. Bible study groups that have been together for years aren’t very inclusive. Visitors found that the groups did have authentic relationships, however, they weren’t very inclusive when it came to adding new people. I saw comments from long time members of certain churches that were discouraged from inviting people to attend their church because they were embarassed regarding how the visitor would be treated. Long term member or not….if your fellow members are an embarrassment would you be encouraged to stay yourself? Churches need to suffer from Xenophilia, a love of strangers.

10. Too many programs, but no real substance. One comment said it the best, “Any church can run a “program.” They go through the motions and do what is needed. Celebrate----yay, for us we did the program. Glad that is done! Cross that off the list, and pat ourselves on the back.”

11.The church has a wonderful campus….lots of space and various facilities yet members are very territorial about “their” area. “Don’t use our coffee maker….this is only for this group…..don’t move our chairs.” Being territorial leads to bickering which leads to….well, you know….missing members and no visitors.

12. There aren’t many children or youth for my kids to worship with. The person who mentioned this stated they were forced to leave the church where they had been members for sometime because without a base of young people the church didn’t seem to have a future.

13. Finally, many people leave a church or visit and don’t return because there doesn’t seem to be any real growth. Adding members is NOT the goal, but when a church is filled with people who love God so much that they want to share that love they are then more apt to get involved with evangelism, outreach, missions, and social ministry. One blogger I read regularly said it this way, “A healthy church is filled with people who tell other people about Jesus---not about the church---no one is attracted to an institution, but about Jesus. Everyone needs Him---not our programs---Him!” AMEN!

What do YOU think? Am I off the mark? Did I leave something out?

If you would like to visit other bloggers who participate in Thursday 13 visit their main page

Related Post: From Attitude Drift to Attitude Shift
What is Past IS Prologue

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wordless: Verse 41

I'm gathering information this week. Leave me information regarding the type of music you have during your church services...contemporary, blended, or traditional. What do you prefer?

Find others participating in Wordless Wednesday here

From Attitude Drift to Attitude Shift

Since I began posting my thoughts and feelings online over at History Is Elementary in January, 2006, and a year later here at this site, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a time where I have been more conflicted and more driven regarding a particular situation or topic than over the last several days. Perhaps it’s because I’ve had some time on my hands that has provided me the opportunity to be quiet and listen not only to those around me, but to the Holy Spirit as well.

Lately several things have occurred that validate something’s up. Trivial everyday things such as finding an old forgotten church bulletin in my mother’s things, picking up on veiled sidebar type comments made in passing by people at church, a title for a Bible study lesson that speaks volumes, an honest and open email conversation with a Christian couple, a pastor’s sermon that smacked me in the face, and a growing realization that a cure is needed, and it would seem the cure is change.

Due to these things converging all at once I even asked someone if I was merely being sensitive to the issue of change, or could it actually be the Holy Spirit speaking…er….yelling at me. I firmly believe coincidence is a method God uses to move His plan along, so it looks like I really have no other choice but to put all of this on digital paper…..perhaps I will be able to sleep, at least. :)

The following is a very short video that was shown in the worship service I attended this past Sunday morning. Please watch it and then read on….

See, I was right about the video. It was painless, and it was short, but it was also very effective in its message. While you might have gotten a different message from the video I saw a man who only saw the negative in people. True, it did seem others were taking advantage of him taking his parking place, breaking in line, and just generally getting in his way, but it’s all in how we look at things. Our character is shaped by our attitude. Changing our attitude helps us to change our perception of our world.

So, is the video telling us to go out and discover everyone’s special need and then meet it? No, I don’t think so. However, just knowing that everyone has needs helps us to look at people in a different way. Look back at the actions of the man after he received the glasses. He didn’t stop and help every person he came in contact with, but he did make an effort to help someone by attempting to meet their needs, and his overall attitude had gone from drift to shift just by knowing that everyone has specific needs.

As I began to try and put my ideas on paper I found that I was swirling off into all sorts of areas, and what I need to express would have to done in more than one post. So, while it is true I use this site to post about the history, geography, and the text of the Bible I’m going to spend this week concentrating more on current times and specifically on current trends in worship.

The focal points for my current thoughts and feelings has to do with change. To be more specific....How are we changing our attitudes and our efforts to meet the needs of others as they regularly attend church or walk in the door as a visitor?

I hope you stop back by as I continue with my thoughts regarding change. Comments are welcome and so are private emails if you feel the need. The email address is in the right sidebar.

Related Post: 13 Reasons Why Members Leave and Visitors Run
What is Past IS Prologue

Monday, April 7, 2008

How Great Thou Art

Our choir sang this song yesterday during our morning worship service. Regardless of the arrangement it has always been a favorite of mine. It was a favorite of my mother’s as well. She loved to watch Billy Graham, and of course, one of the highlights was hearing George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows sing How Great Thou Art. The song has been sung by many contemporary artists including Elvis Presley who won a Grammy with the song for Best Sacred Performance in 1967.

The song was written by Carl Gustav Bobert, a Swed, in 1885. It was later translated into English by Stuart K. Hine. An interesting coincidence is that Bobert was the son of a carpenter. Later he was a poet, writer, and legislator.

The song actually has nine verses and was created during a walk home from church as Bobert was listening to the church bells.A sudden storm took Bobert’s attention from the bells, and he was inpired by the sudden rush and power of the storm as well as the storms’s quick exit.

In a 2001 survey Christianity Today reported How Great Thou Art ranked number two in all-time popular hymns only behind Amazing Grace.

There are certain hymns from the 16th and 17th centuries that certainly have a place in today’s world, and How Great Thou Art is one of them.

Sidebar note: I remember hearing church bells on Sunday morning at other times during the week as we traveled about our community. The church bells rang for several minutes at the beginning of my wedding in 1984. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the bells at my church, and I’m not sure if we even have any.

I think there should be bells……Why aren't there bells anymore?

Here are lyrics to How Great Thou Art if you would like to sing along with the video.

Verse 1:
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power through-out the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

Verse 2:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
(Repeat Refrain.)

Verse 3:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
(Repeat Refrain.)

Verse 4:
When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
(Repeat Refrain.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Christian Carnival

The latest edition of the Christian Carnival can be found over at Kiwi and Emu. Head on over and read several selections from the Christian blogosphere.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Real Meaning Behind the Christian Label

Nothing gets my ire up more than the current culture this world has of using the word Christian as if it is a dirty word, a group of hate, a group of kool aide get the picture, so I won't beat a dead horse, but it's very clear many of us including Christians and non-Christians don't have a true understanding regarding what a Christian is. I found this somewhere….I can’t remember. I don't have a title, an author, or source. I saved it to Word and forgot about until I was doing a bit of computer spring cleaning...

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I am saved.”
I’m whispering “I get lost!”
“That is why I chose this way.”

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
And need someone to be my guide.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
And pray for strength to carry on.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
And cannot ever pay the debt.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are too visible
But God believes I’m worth it.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartaches
Which is why I seek His name.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge.
I have no authority.
I only know I’m loved.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What Does the Bible Say Concerning Faith...13 Verses are 13 verses from the Bible.

1. “Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17: 20

2. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. Matthew 18: 18-19

3. Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. Matthew 21:21

4. Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. I assure you: If, anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for---believe that you have received them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrongdoing. Mark 11: 22-26

5. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1:17

6. But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed---attestedf by the Law and the Prophets---that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is the boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Romans 3: 21-28

7. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed, But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares righteous the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness. Romans 4: 3-5

8. Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5: 1-2

9. On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame……So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. Romans 10: 8-11, 17

10. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift---not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9

11. Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual foes of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Ephesians 6: 10-17

12. Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors were approved. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible. By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain. By this he was approved as a righeous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through this. By faith, Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his transformation he was approved, having pleased God. Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11: 1-6

13. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2

There are more verses regarding faith at 1 Peter 1: 6-9 and 1 John 5:4.

Find more 13s to read here

Wordless: Verse 40

This is the cave of Banias showing god niches. “Banias” is a derivation from the word “Pan”, the Greek god of woods and fields, sheep, and shepherds. Pan, whose name means “all”, came to represent all of the gods of paganism. Here in this place of pagan gods Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

You can see more pictures of Banias here

Find out more about Wordless Wednesday here

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Free Willing

Recently I posted a link in my sidebar to a post regarding how to become a Christian. A sometime visitor to this site, Nicholas, left me a comment with that post. He said:

If God created us, then he created us with curiosity and strong will. And then he punishes us for being true to our nature. That is a truly evil thing to do. No wonder I find religion to be life hating and degrading.

Here is my response to Nicholas:

Perhaps you find religion to be “life hating and degrading” because you are still perplexed about how we were created since you began your comment with the phrase “If God created us…” For me there is is no “if”. We are all part of God’s creation. I believe this just as firmly today as I did when I first was taught this in Sunday school and by my parents so many years ago. With all of our understanding of history today and with all of our scientific discoveries there has been nothing presented to date which proves God doesn’t exist.

Greek mythology often portrays the gods as looking down on us from Mt. Olympus where they move games pieces around on a chess-like board manipulating man for their own amusement. While your comment didn’t specifically describe a scenario like that it made me think of it. We were not created to serve as some sort of diversion for God to play with when He’s bored.

Nicolas, the way you explain it God is playing some cruel joke on us by giving us certain characteristics such as curiosity and strong will, and when we investigate something or we make certain life choices we are then punished. I really wish you had given me some examples to work with because I’m not getting the “punished for curiosity” idea unless you are talking about being curious with drug use or something like that. We need to remember that when we choose to do drugs, steal, or speed in our cars we are utlizing our curiosity through our strong will, or as I would rather refer to it…..our free will. These choices can result in bad things happening. We are at fault.

Wouldn’t it be so much simplier if we had no free will…if we had no choices to make? Fortunately we were given free will. The same freedom of choice Adam and Eve had. Without it we would be puppets, and what good would that be to us or to God. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to follow me because they had to. I would want them to follow me because it was their choice.

You relate that because bad things happen in this world God is evil. Nicholas, God is anything but evil. While there is an evil one, it is not God. Look at this post if you want to know what God is like. God is often referred to as our Father. I believe that He is.

We know that God does permit bad things to happen. We only need to look at Job 1: 6-19 to see this. One of the main points concerning what happened to Job is God is sovereign. He is in control. It’s important to remember even though He is in control it doesn’t mean He’s responsible. We are responsible for the choices we make, and God has the right to work out his own purposes in our lives.

When bad things happen we are very quick to judge God in our limited nature. We decide things are fair or unfair….we judge God. Think about the story of Joseph. In our limited way of thinking God allowed Joseph to be sold in to slavery. When Joseph was reunited with his family he was questioned about punishing his brothers. Joseph’s reply is found at Genesis 50: 19-20…"But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” If Joseph had not been sold into slavery he would not have become the powerful man we see in Egypt. He would not have had the power to feed starving people from his homeland.

Perhaps your comment regarding religion being “life hating and degrading” comes from the fact that if the Bible is followed there are absolute standards that should be followed. In our limited understanding these standards can be interpreted as limitations on our free will. But I argue that everyone has to make a choice sooner or later regarding a standard to follow. The decision is made based on the values you have. You submit to a set of values in life that either follow God or you don’t based on Romans 6. Either way you have a standard. Either way…bad things are going to happen when you make poor choices.

Christians choose standards that are well proven over and over in the Bible. They decide to model their behavior after the behavior of Christ mainly because when you get down to the nitty gritty He had the most free will and power of anyone who has ever walked this Earth yet He followed His Father.

He made that decision of his own free will….free will His Father provided...the same free will you and I have.
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