Monday, October 29, 2007

"The Golden Compass" points in a dangerous direction



In December, New Line Cinema will release a movie called “The Golden Compass.” It's a thinly-veiled attack on God and the church (known as the Magisterium in the movie).

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, many of the cyber-claims about attacks on Christians and Christianity are unfounded, but this isn’t a false alarm. It’s real. You can verify this information by clicking on the snopes link I’ve added at the end of this blog.

“The Golden Compass” is a children’s fantasy film starring Nicole Kidman which features a little girl on a quest to kill God. The movie is adapted from the first novel in Philip Pullman’s trilogy called “His Dark Materials.” Pullman, a British writer, is an outspoken atheist. His trilogy is an obvious rebuttal to C.S. Lewis trilogy, the Tales of Narnia. Like Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pullman’s story begins with a young girl named Lyra who discovers an alternative world from inside a dark closet.

New Line Cinema has attempted to minimize the Christian backlash by removing the more obvious religious themes in the movie. Atheistic fans of the trilogy have been complaining loudly that the movie has stripped the book of its overt down-with-religion themes.

While the first installment is rather innocuous, the anti-God themes grow progressively more evident with the next two books, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass.” In the final installment, the characters succeed in killing a character called God (who is identified as YAHWEH) – who turns out to be a phony, and not God after all.

Pullman has not been shy in the past about verbalizing his beliefs — or, some might say, nonbeliefs — and his intentions in writing the "Dark Materials" novels. The novelist himself has admitted that they are in response to C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia.”

"I loathe the 'Narnia' books," Pullman has said in previous press interviews. "I hate them with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away." He has called the series "one of the most ugly and poisonous things" he's ever read.

When asked about his beliefs, Pullman has said, “I don’t profess any religion. I don’t think it’s possible that there is a God. I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words ‘spiritual’ or ‘spirituality.’” In a 2003 interview, Pullman said, “My books are about killing God.”

It’s interesting to me that while concerned parents have been yelling about the witches and magic in the Harry Potter series, “His Dark Materials” have been largely ignored. They are MUCH more dangerous than the Harry Potter series!

I’m not planning on boycotting the theatres in Tyler that show it. But I’m encouraging parents to spread the word about the dangerous message communicated in this movie. The movie cost over $200 Million to produce, so the best thing that could happen for concerned Christians is for it to be a total flop at the box office.

Here’s the link to the snopes verification of the anti-God theme of The Golden Compass:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

LIVING IN-TENTS LIVES ... now


As I am preparing to share God’s Word this next Sunday, I have the incredible joy of teaching from one of the most precious passages in all the Bible. In 2Cor 5:1-5 we read:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but to clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal shall be swallowed up by life.”

I have too much material to be limited to a 30 minute message, so I want to share with you an imaginary correspondence between a TENTOWNER (that’s us) and the TENTMAKER (that’s God). (from Do Not Lose Heart, by Dave Dravecky).

O Mr. Tentmaker,
It was nice living in this tent when it was strong and secure and the sun was shining and the air warm. But Mr. Tentmaker, it’s scary now. You see, my tent is acting like it is not going to hold together; the poles seem weak and they shift with the wind. A couple of stakes have wiggled loose from the sand; and worst of all, the canvas has a rip. It no longer protects me from beating rain or stinging fly. It’s scary in here, Mr. Tentmaker.Last week I went to the repair shop and some repairman tried to patch the rip in my canvas. It didn’t help much, though, because the patch pulled away from the edges and now the tear is worse. What troubled me most, Mr. Tentmaker, is that the repairman didn’t seem to notice I was still in the tent; he just worked on the canvas while I shivered inside. I cried out once, but no one heard me. I guess my first real question is: Why did you give me such a flimsy tent? I can see by looking around the campground that some of the tents are much stronger and more stable than mine. Why, Mr. Tentmaker, did you pick a tent of such poor quality for me? And even more important, what do you intend to do about it?

In his reply, the Tentmaker writes:
O little tent dweller, as the Creator and Provider of tents, I know all about you and your tent, and I love you both. I made a tent for Myself once, and lived in it in your campground. My tent was vulnerable, too, and some vicious attackers ripped it to pieces while I was still in it…on a cross. It was a terrible experience, but you will be glad to know they couldn’t hurt me. In fact, the whole experience was a tremendous advantage because it is this very victory over my enemy that frees me to be a present help to you.O little tent dweller, I am now prepared to come and live in your tent with you, if you’ll invite me. You’ll learn as we dwell together that real security comes from My being in your tent with you. When the storms come, you can huddle in my arms and I’ll hold you. When the canvas rips, we’ll go to the repair shop together.Some day, little tent dweller, some day your tent is going to collapse. You see, I’ve designed it only for temporary use. But when it does you and I are going to leave together. I promise not to leave before you do. And then, free of all that would hinder or restrict, we will move to our permanent home and together, forever, we will rejoice and be glad.



I pray that after you’ve read this, you’ll rejoice to know that our Heavenly Tent-maker has something so much better for you that it is beyond anything you can ever dream or imagine. So when life gets too INTENSE just remember that this IN-TENTS time is only temporary!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

MIKE HUCKABEE IS MY CHOICE...for now


The 2008 Presidential election is 383 days away. I’ve been polling opinions and listening to the candidates, and I’m ready to declare my support for Mike Huckabee.

In this election, it’s interesting to note that four of the strongest candidates are either current and/or former senators, and another candidate is the former mayor of the largest city in America. So, if you are a conservative, you may be looking for a strong, socially conservative governor among the lot that can stand up for values and be a serious contender to win the election. For those of you who, like me, vote mostly on issues of social concern, Mike Huckabee may need to be on your radar.

You probably already know that Huckabee, 51, served as the 44th Governor of Arkansas. What you may not know is that he was also a former pastor and enjoys playing bass guitar in his rock-n-roll band, Capitol Offense. (They must be pretty good because they’ve opened for artists such as Willie Nelson and the Charlie Daniels Band!) A significant part of Huckabee’s adult life was spent as a pastor and denominational leader. He became the youngest president ever of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the largest denomination in Arkansas. Huckabee led congregations in Pine Bluff and Texarkana. According to his website, those experiences gave him a deep sense of the problems faced by individuals and families.If you haven’t already heard what he had to say in a Republican debate about his views on Creation, you need to hear it. I believe every concerned Christian should hear not only what he says, but HOW he says it.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-BFEhkIujA

If you weren’t able to see the video, then go to http://www.youtube.com/ and put “huckabee” “evolution” in the search line.

Huckabee is on record saying that he has no problem with teaching evolution as a theory in the public schools and he doesn't expect schools to teach creationism. "We shouldn't indoctrinate kids in school," he said. "I wouldn't want them teaching creationism as if it's the only thing that they should teach.” Also, students should be given credit for having the intelligence to think through various theories for themselves and come to their own conclusions, he said. He said it was his responsibility to teach his children his beliefs though he could accept that others believe in evolution. "I believe that there is a God and that he put the process in motion," Huckabee said.

According to the National Center for Science Education, Gov. Huckabee is also on the record as saying, “I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it…I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism…I think it’s something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I’m afraid that somebody might find out what it is…”

I believe Huckabee wisely handled the question of evolution and turned his focus to the broader issue: how we determine what should be taught in our public schools. Republicans who believe in evolution and those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Genesis account share one important belief in common. That is the conviction that Washington should not determine curriculum in our local schools. That responsibility and right lies squarely on the shoulders of local governments and local people.

Let me hear your comments on Huckabee’s remarks!

Friday, October 12, 2007

WHAT IS YOUR TOLERANCE LEVEL?


Almost 17 years ago, when I attended one of the first meetings of the “ministerial alliance” here in Tyler, I was asked to pray. But the leader specifically requested that I NOT pray in the name of Jesus. I politely declined to pray, and quietly never returned. I like all the guys, but it’s just not for me. I know some people label me as one of those “narrow-minded religious bigots.” And I’ve been called “intolerant” as well. What does it mean to be tolerant?

Last Friday, President Bush gave an interview with Al Arabiya reporter Elie Nakouzi. (Al Arabiya is Al Jazeerah’s top competitor in the Middle East.)

In the interview, President Bush said, “I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace.”
I love and pray for our President, but let’s remember that while he is Commander-in-Chief, he isn’t Theologian-in-Chief. I unapologetically affirm that the only true God is Yahweh (Jehovah) and Jesus Christ is His unique Son and the only way to heaven.

Yet, I agree with what President Bush said later in the interview. He said, “I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you’re a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you’re equally American. … it’s your choice to make. It’s not the state’s choice. And that’s a right I jealously guard.”

The first quote was a statement of religious syncretism, which is dangerous. But the second quote is about true tolerance.
“Tolerance” became a new buzzword at the turn of the century and its meaning continues to evolve today. What can we say and not say when someone’s beliefs differ from our own? If I voice my disagreement, I risk being labeled as “intolerant”—which, according to the media, is a fate worse than death.

Not long ago, the word “tolerant” carried a dictionary definition that read something like this: “the allowance or sufferance of conduct with which one is not in accord” or “allowing the right of something that one does not approve.” The same constitutional laws that give me the right to freely preach the Gospel at Green Acres also grant others the same right to personally proclaim their own different beliefs. That’s what tolerance means—to allow two contrasting beliefs to co-exist side by side, protected by the same laws and rights of religious freedom. While I do not agree with the tenets of the Muslim faith, for example, I respect every person’s right to practice Islam or any religion of their choice. Destroying another person’s religion and/or his religious freedom is true intolerance. History is full of examples of religious intolerance that resulted in defamation and death.

However, in today’s society, we’re seeing a not-so-subtle shift in the meaning of intolerance. It’s no longer enough that I tolerate another person’s belief system…I must actually EMBRACE it and accept it as EQUAL to my own or any other belief, lest I offend someone by my own convictions. The result is a society where truth is relative and “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.”

Listen to what Chuck Colson says about this new form of tolerance (from Christianity Today, The Ugly Side of Tolerance): “Our founders, many influenced by Mill and Locke, were seized by the great liberal vision of a society in which ideas arising from a plurality of interests would be freely exchanged. From this dialogue, truth could be rationally discovered. But in today's relativistic environment, pluralism no longer means tolerating competing ideas, but rather forced neutrality: no one should express any idea that could offend another.”

It is increasingly difficult to speak the truth today in an ultra-sensitive society. However, Jesus said that the truth would set people free. Josh McDowell, in an interview with Focus on the Family, said: “Pursuing truth in this context means countering the new doctrine of tolerance. It means teaching our children to embrace all people, but not all beliefs. It means showing them how to listen to and learn from all people without necessarily agreeing with them. It means helping them courageously but humbly speak the truth, even if it makes them the object of scorn or hatred.”

So call me intolerant if you wish, but I still don’t accept the teachings of the Muslims who live and worship here in East Texas. I don’t believe we pray to the same God. I have several Jewish friends, and I’m crazy about their friendly rabbi, but I believe they need to embrace Jesus for salvation. However, like our President, I will jealously guard their right to practice and express their faith. To me, that's what true tolerance is.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Monday, October 8, 2007

SEMPER FIDELIS - What's REALLY Happening in Iraq?


THIS IS A LITTLE LONG, BUT WELL WORTH READING!
Major General (Sel) John Kelly was a recent guest speaker at the San Diego Military Advisory Council networking breakfast. Here are some of his remarks about what’s happening in Iraq.

"I left Iraq three years ago last month. I returned a week ago after a two week visit of getting the lay of the land for my upcoming deployment. It is still a dangerous and foreboding land, but what I experienced personally was amazing and remarkable--we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself. The higher command in Baghdad told us four years ago when we first took responsibility for the Al Anbar not to worry about victory, as no one--military or civilian--thought it possible. That thirty years from now when the rest of Iraq was a functioning democracy, Al Anbar would still be a festering cancer within...

Our success, so we were told, would be in containing violence, not defeating the Al Qaeda and other foreign born terrorists that were deeply entrenched in the Province. The reality is that today the incidents of attack in Al Anbar--mostly by Al Qaeda--are down by over 80% in the last six months--that translates to dozens and dozens every day then, to perhaps three or four today. Since the spring, local inhabitants and their sheik leadership are now joined with us at the shoulder in fighting the extremists that plague their country. Three weeks ago, I went to a gathering of sheiks from the Province outside of Ramadi that numbered over 300 of the most influential men in the west. Three years ago, my entire days and nights were devoted to tracking many of these same men down, and capturing or killing them, which is exactly what they were trying to do to me. However, by relentless pursuit by a bunch of fearless 19-year-olds with guns who never flinched or gave an inch, they have seen the light and know AQ can't win against such men. By staying in the fight and remaining true to our word and our honor, AQ today can't spend more than a few hours in Fallujah, Ramadi, or the Al Anbar in general, without being ID'd by the locals and killed by the increasingly competent Iraqi Army, or by Marines.

That's the way it is today in this war, but it is also the way it has been since the birth of our nation. Since our Declaration of Independence, 42 million Americans have claimed the honor of having served the nation in its military forces. Since that time, over a million have lost their lives serving the colors, with millions more wounded. Since George Washington first took command of the Continentals besieging Boston, America's warriors have stepped forward and endured horrors unimaginable to most Americans and saw it all with their young eyes so that those safe at home would never have to. With all this service and loss of life, we as Americans can be proud of the kind of people we are, as we have never retained a square foot of any country we have defeated. We possess no empire. No man or woman calls us master, as we have never subjugated any society. On the contrary, billions across the planet--and billions more yet unborn--are today free and increasingly prosperous because America took a stand; but it has always fallen on the shoulders of our soldiers, sailors, airmen Coast Guardsmen, and Marines that the task fell to...and they have never wavered.

The reality was that when many in this room grew up, and I know I am showing my age here, we were surrounded by men, real men, who had gladly worn the country's cloth in wars against fascism and communism. The earliest memories we had as kids back then were of comic books and paperbacks that honored the sacrifices of the super heroes of those conflicts. It was a time when little boys could play guns and weren't considered at risk to be psychopaths. To stand up when the national anthem was played or say the pledge of allegiance and a prayer to any God you worshiped before school, wasn't considered offensive to the sensitivities of the nation's self-proclaimed intellectual elite. Places like Guadalcanal, Coral Sea, Normandy, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Hue City were real to us then, and we knew without thinking that we owed the nation a debt.

We live in a very different world today. Today, Memorial and Veteran's Day are more about a day off to take advantage of the big sales at the malls, or fighting the traffic to get a long weekend at the seashore. But we should not forget that as we stand here today we are at war, and a new Greatest Generation is fighting a merciless enemy on our behalf in the terrible heat of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan.

Like it or not America is engaged in--and winning--a war today against an enemy that is savage, offers no quarter [and] whose only objectives are to either kill every one of us here in our homeland, or enslave us with a sick form of extremism that serves no God or purpose that rational men and women can ever understand. Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our vicious enemy would do it today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter. In addition to killing thousands of innocent victims that day, they also killed hundreds of heroes: police, firefighters, and first responders of every sort that were not victims in their deaths, but the first fallen warriors of this generation's war. Given nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons--and the experts bet they will get them--these extremists would use these terror weapons against our cities, and smile. The best way to fight them is somewhere else...for whatever reason, they want to destroy our way of life. I thank God we still have enough, just enough, young people in America today willing to take up the fight and defend us all.
Our enemy is on a 100-year campaign to victory and believes without question that he is winning. We, on the other hand, look out two years at best and seem to be wavering and looking for a way to rationalize our way out. The problem is our enemy is not willing to let us go. Regardless of how much we wish this bad dream would go away, he will stay with us until he hurts us so badly we surrender, or we kill him first. To him this is not about jobs, economic opportunity, or solving social problems in the Middle East. It is about way of life, about every man's and every woman's worth and equality in the eyes of the law, about the God given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He doesn't believe in these cherished concepts--we do. Our positions are irreconcilable.

The good news is our service members are as good today as their fathers were in Vietnam and their grandfathers were in Korea and World War II. In my two tours in Iraq as an infantry officer with the 1st Marine Division, I never saw an American hesitate, or do anything other than lean into the fire and with no apparent fear of death or injury take the fight to our enemies. They also know whose shoulders they stand on and would die before anyone of them shamed any veteran of any service, living or dead.

You should see them. They have a look in their eye and a way of walking that marks them as warriors as good as any that have ever marched to the guns, but they are not born killers. They are, on the contrary, good and decent youngsters mostly from the neighborhoods of our cities, and small towns across America. Almost all are from "salt of the earth" working class homes, and, more often than not, are the sons and daughters of cops and firemen, factory workers and farmers. Kids who once delivered your papers, stocked shelves in the grocery store, played Little League, and served Mass on Sunday morning. They were athletes, as well as "couch potatoes," drove their cars and motorcycles too fast, and blasted their music a bit louder than they should. They are ordinary young people, performing remarkable acts of bravery and selfless acts of devotion to a cause bigger than themselves. They could have done something more self-serving, but chose to serve knowing full well Iraq and Afghanistan was in their future.

America's Armed Forces today know the price of being the finest men and women this nation has to offer, and pay it they do everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 4100 in all services have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a thousand of this number Marines, and Sailors serving with Marines - our precious Docs. And the sacrifice continues as Americans have gone to God since we all went to bed last night and slept free and protected. Their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, aunts, uncles, cousins and fianc├ęs have only just learned of their deaths and begun to deal with the unimaginable pain that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Thousands more have suffered wounds since it all started, but like firefighters and cops who fall protecting us here in America, they are not victims as they knew what they were about and were doing what they wanted to do.

Rest assured, my fellow citizens, the nation you are a part of, this young experiment in democracy called 'America' that started just over two centuries ago, will forever remain the 'land of the free and home of the brave' so long as we never run out of tough young Americans willing to look beyond their own self interest and comfortable lives and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm."

Semper Fidelis

Sunday, October 7, 2007

PRAY FOR TONY SNOW

I recently read this interview that former Fox Newscaster and Presidential Press Secretary, Tony Snow, gave to Christianity Today. It was such a blessing I wanted to share it with you!


Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow announced that he had colon cancer in 2005. Following surgery and chemo-therapy, Snow joined the Bush administration in April 2006 as press secretary. Unfortunately, on March 23 Snow, 51, a husband and father of three, announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen—leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy. Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 30, but resigned August 31. CT asked Snow what spiritual lessons he has been learning through the ordeal.

"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages—in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases—and there are millions in America today—find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations. The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer. I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face. Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere. To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension—and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'
Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.
The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter—and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."
There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived—an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tinny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing though the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment. There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue—for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf. We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us—that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us partway there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two people's worries and fears.

Learning How to Live
Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love. I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was a humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity—filled with life and love we cannot comprehend—and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms. Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up—to speak of us!
This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place—in the hollow of God's hand."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

CAN FRED BEAT HILLARY?



I received the link at the end of this blog from a trusted friend, who sends me a lot of the good stuff that I’m able to share. It’s not a joke, it’s a real website that will ask your opinion about several moral/political issues. Once you’ve registered your answers, it will show you the candidate or candidates who most closely match your position. It’s not biased toward either political party or position.

It only took me about a minute, and the results showed that Fred Thompson most closely matched my positions. Hmmm. He is definitely a conservative politician, but I still have questions about his personal faith.

Has anyone reading this blog been able to find a quote or article about Fred Thompson being a follower of Jesus Christ? I’ve found that he was baptized in a Church of Christ in Tennessee, but that it doesn’t appear that he has attended church much as an adult. He married his second wife, Jerri, in a liberal United Church of Christ (which is as different from an ultraconservative Church of Christ” as grits are from waffles).

Take the test yourself, and let me know which candidate matches your convictions.

By the way, it’s EASY to leave a comment. You don’t have to register or leave your name, you can comment as “anonymous” if you like.

Here’s the link:
http://www.wqad.com:80/Global/link.asp?L=259460

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

FOR CRACKED POTS ONLY


I had several people ask me to repeat or send them the story I used to close the message last Sunday entitled “GOD USES CRACKED POTS.” In my opinion, the theme verse of 2 Corinthians is, “But we have this treasure (thesaurus) in jars of clay (ostrakinos) to show that this all-surpassing (huperbole) power (dunamis) is from God and not from us.” (2Cor 4:7)

There is a beautiful fable that comes from the East (both China and India) that illustrates a wonderful truth about how God can use cracked pots.
Once upon a time there was an elderly Chinese woman who owned two large clay pots. She would hang each pot on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. Every day she would walk from her house to the nearby stream to fetch water. She would fill both pots, pick up the pole and walk back to her house. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full pot of water. At the end of the long walk back to her house, the cracked pot always arrived only half full. Because of the crack, half the water had leaked out during the trek.

For two full years, this happened daily. The Chinese woman arrived home with only one-and-a-half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud that it had never lost a drop of precious water. But the poor, cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection and was miserable, thinking it was a complete failure. One day, the cracked pot was so tired of failing that it spoke to the woman. The cracked pot said, “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. I have failed you, and I’m sorry. Maybe you need to replace me with another pot that isn’t cracked.”

The old woman smiled and said gently, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other side? I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on the path on your side. And every day as I’ve walked back you’ve been watering those seeds. For the past two years I’ve been able to pick the flowers to decorate my table. Without you being just the way you are, there would have been no beautiful flowers to grace my home.”
The cracked pot no longer felt like a failure, nor was it jealous of the perfect pot. Instead, the cracked pot continued to contain and share the precious cargo it carried.

One of the mysteries of the Bible is how God uses less-than-perfect vessels for His service. You don’t have to read far into the Bible to see that the “heroes” of the faith, weren't always heroic. Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered; David committed adultery; and Peter blasphemed. God can use cracked vessels. So don’t despair if there are flaws and failings in your life; God can use cracked vessels who are clean and empty!