Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Approaching Storm

It was early morning when I strode outside with my dog.  The scent of rain greeted me, accompanied by brushes of wind across my cheeks.  I love the feel of wind, but this was a bit of a stiff breeze.  The rustling of the trees' branches drew my attention to their bouncing in the breeze, pointing skyward to the dark grey and swiftly moving, rain-heavy clouds.  The blades of grass belied the path of the wind, swirling in whip-like fashion in trails and swirls.  My dog turned her ears backwards, and her nose wriggled, nostrils flaring as she sniffed the wind.  I imagined she could most likely hear the storm in the distance.

As I watched the wind lightly tossing about the tree tops, I had an odd sense: it was as if the wind was warning me of something more than rain and thunderstorms.  I sensed a deeper omen.  "There is a storm coming.  Prepare."

The thought drew me back to a few years ago when a devastating tornado hit my area.  That day, too, I had an "impression" -- it was impressed upon me the thought of "A storm is coming. Get your shoes on."  I am one of those people who instantly kicks off the old shoes when I come home from work, allowing my toes to wiggle free of their stuffy shoes and grip the cool, slick wood flooring or fluffy carpeting beneath them.  But the afternoon of the tornado, it was "impressed" upon me that getting my shoes on was of utmost importance.  I was fortunate in that my home was not affected by the tornado, but I was called out by the Red Cross to help with damage assessment of a community nearby.

But, today, the "impression" I was receiving was not like the day of the tornado.  This approaching storm was one stretched farther out into time: more widespread, long range, more devastating.

I pressed the thoughts down, recognizing that perhaps my disaster preparations I had recently started were getting the best of me.  "You've been stockpiling supplies too much lately. You need to quit reading, surfing, ordering.  Put your faith in God instead -- that all will be all right."  But, I couldn't shake the feeling that this "impression" -- this idea being pressed upon me -- was from God.  I recalled "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." 

I prepare not in fear of "end times" as some do.  I prepare more for a situation of large-scale natural disaster or terrorists disrupting food supplies and distribution systems.  Now, with the chaos in the Middle East, I worry even more about terrorists disrupting the world in general -- oil, food supplies, war, terrorist attacks, economic hardship.

In church this morning I sat next to a young family who lovingly doted on their newborn baby.  She couldn't have been more than two weeks old.  The father held her with gentleness and love, gently pushing her bangs aside as she slept, kissing her softly on her forehead.  I felt a small stab of pain as I wondered if her parents worried about her future.  And yet I know every generation on this earth has worried about the future of generations to come. My grandparents faced World War II.  My parents faced the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our generation would be no different.

I turned to the parents and said "Congratulations!", this phrase meaning "I wish you joy!"  Indeed, I do wish them and the child joy -- that precious gift God gives no matter the situation or predicament. 

Normally, I am a joy-filled person.  But, it seems lately I've been worrying more than usual.  May God restore my joy.  May God restore OUR joy. 

Meanwhile, I keep thinking of that old song: "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition", written as a response to Pearl Harbor.   But, I will pray ... a lot.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)


Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Stethoscope

Great commercial ... thanks, J!

Friday, July 20, 2012

God Can, Indeed, Use You!

The next time you feel like GOD can't use you, just remember…

Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rehab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
John the Baptist ate bugs
Peter denied Christ
The disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zacchaeus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer…AND
Lazarus was dead!

No more excuses now!!
God can use you to your full potential.
Besides, you aren't the message,
you are just the messenger.

God bless!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Pastor's Son

Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven year old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts. 

This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring rain. 


The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, 'OK, dad, I'm ready.' 

His Pastor dad asked, 'Ready for what?' 

'Dad, it's time we gather our tracts together and go out.' 

Dad responds, 'Son, it's very cold outside and it's pouring rain.' 

The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, 'But Dad, aren't people still going to Hell, even though it's raining?' 

Dad answers, 'Son, I am not going out in this weather.' 

Despondently, the boy asks, 'Dad, can I go? Please?' 

His father hesitated for a moment then said, 'Son, you can go. Here are the tracts, be careful son..'

'Thanks Dad!' 

And with that, he was off and out into the rain.. This eleven year old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel Tract . 

After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his very last tract. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted. 

Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the doorbell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. 

He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer. 

Finally, this eleven year old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him. 

Again, he turned to the door and rang the bell and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch! 

He rang again and this time the door slowly opened. 

Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, 'What can I do for you, son?' With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that * JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU * and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about JESUS and His great LOVE.' 

With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave. 

She called to him as he departed. 'Thank you, son! And God Bless You!' 

Well, the following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit.  As the service began, he asked, 'Does anybody have testimony or want to say anything?'


Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. 

As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, "No one in this church knows me. I've never been here before.  You see, before last Sunday I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live. 

"So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken-hearted I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, 'I'll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.' 

"I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more insistent, and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly... 

"I thought to myself again, 'Who on earth could this be? Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me.' I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door, all the while the bell rang louder and louder. 

"When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes, for there on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you! 

"The words that came from his mouth caused my heart that had long been dead, TO LEAP TO LIFE as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, 'Ma'am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU .' Then he gave me this Gospel Tract that I now hold in my hand.. 

"As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn't be needing them anymore. 

"You see -- I am now a Happy Child of the KING. Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say THANK YOU to God's little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from an eternity in hell ..."

There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honor to THE KING resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated.... 

He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably. 

Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love & honor for his son ... Except for One.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Aramaic Taught in Israeli Village

I found this great article last month --

The Israeli village where Christian children are learning Aramaic in bid to revive ancient language that Jesus spoke

By Julian Gavaghan
A Christian village in Israel is teaching Aramaic in an effort to revive the ancient language that Jesus spoke - centuries after it all but disappeared from the Middle East.

Maronite children from Jish, who speak Arabic as their first language, are learning the tongue of their forefathers after their elementary school became the only one in the country to teach the subject.

The language, which was the region's dominant language 2,000 years ago, is still chanted in the church – although few understand it beyond prayers.
But, rather than rebel against learning an idiom that has little practical use, the 80 youngsters aged five to ten are embracing learning phrases such as ‘ah chop’ – or ‘how are you?’

Many Muslim children are even happy to learn it because, according to the school’s head teacher, it is part of the Arab community’s ‘collective heritage’.

In the Arab village of Jish, nestled in the Galilean hills where Jesus lived and preached, about 80 children in grades one through five study Aramaic as a voluntary subject for two hours a week. 

Israel's education ministry provided funds to add classes until the eighth grade, said principal Reem Khatieb-Zuabi.

Several Jish residents lobbied for Aramaic studies several years ago, he explained, but the idea faced resistance.

Jish's Muslims worried it was a covert attempt to entice their children to Christianity. 

And some Christians objected, saying the emphasis on their ancestral language was being used to strip them of their Arab identity. 


Passion: Atif Zarka, 64, a volunteer Aramaic teacher's assistant, plays the violin to forth grade students studying Aramaic in Jish
Passion: Atif Zarka, 64, a volunteer Aramaic teacher's assistant, plays the violin to forth grade students studying Aramaic in Jish

The issue is sensitive to many Arab Muslims and Christians in Israel, who prefer to be identified by their ethnicity, not their faith.

Ultimately, Mr Khatieb-Zuabi, a secular Muslim from an outside village, overruled them.

‘This is our collective heritage and culture. We should celebrate and study it,’ he said.
Carla Hadad, 10, who frequently waved her arms to answer questions in Aramaic from school teacher Mona Issa during a recent lesson, said: ‘We want to speak the language that Jesus spoke.’

‘We used to speak it a long time ago,’ she added, referring to her ancestors.

During the lesson, a dozen children lisped out a Christian prayer in Aramaic. They learned the words for ‘elephant,’ and ‘mountain.’ 

Some children carefully drew sharp-angled Aramaic letters. Others fiddled with their pencil cases, which sported images of popular soccer teams.

The children are helped in their studies by an Aramaic-speaking television channel from Sweden, of all places, where a vibrant immigrant community has kept the ancient tongue alive.

The only other filmed production to use the language is Mel Gibson’s biopic The Passion of The Christ.

The language is also being taught in the Palestinian-administered West Bank at a special school for Syrian Orthodox Christians.

In the village of Beit Jala, near Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem,  priests have taught the language to their 320 students for the past five years.

Some 360 families in the area descend from Aramaic-speaking refugees who in the 1920s fled the Tur Abdin region of what is now Turkey.

Priest Butros Nimeh said elders still speak the language but that it vanished among younger generations. 

He said they hoped teaching the language would help the children appreciate their roots.

Although both the Syrian Orthodox and Maronite church worship in Aramaic, they are distinctly different sects.

Ancient language: A copy of the Gospel of Luke in Aramaic script
Ancient language: A copy of the Gospel of Luke in Aramaic script

The Maronites are the dominant Christian church in neighboring Lebanon but make up only a few thousand of the Holy Land's 210,000 Christians. 

Likewise, Syrian Orthodox Christians number no more than 2,000 in the Holy Land, said Nimeh. Overall, some 150,000 Christians live in Israel and another 60,000 live in the West Bank.

They are helped by Swedish Aramaic-speaking communities who descended from the Middle East have sought to keep their language alive.

They publish a newspaper, ‘Bahro Suryoyo,’ pamphlets and children's books, including ‘The Little Prince,’ and maintain a satellite television station, ‘Soryoyosat,’ said Arzu Alan, chairwoman of the Syriac Aramaic Federation of Sweden.

There's also an Aramaic soccer team, ‘Syrianska FC’ in the Swedish top division from the town of Sodertalje. Officials estimate the Aramaic-speaking population at anywhere from 30,000 to 80,000 people.

For many Maronites and Syrian Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land, the television station, in particular, was the first time they heard the language outside church in decades. Hearing it in a modern context inspired them to try revive the language among their communities.

‘When you hear (the language), you can speak it,’ said Issa, the teacher.

Aramaic dialects were the region's vernacular from 2,500 years ago until the sixth century, when Arabic, the language of conquering Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula, became dominant, according to Fassberg.

Linguistic islands survived: Maronites clung to Aramaic liturgy and so did the Syrian Orthodox church. Kurdish Jews on the river island of Zakho spoke an Aramaic dialect called ‘Targum’ until fleeing to Israel in the 1950s. Three Christian villages in Syria still speak an Aramaic dialect, Fassberg said.

With few opportunities to practice the ancient tongue, teachers in Jish have tempered expectations. They hope they can at least revive an understanding of the language.

The steep challenges are seen in the Jish school, where the fourth-grade Aramaic class has just a dozen students. The number used to be twice that until they introduced an art class during the same time slot - and lost half their students.


Only 15% Believe in Godless Evolution

Terence P. Jeffrey at CNS News had an interesting summary of a recent Gallup poll (emphasis added) ...

Only 15 Percent of Americans Believe in Godless Evolution, Says Gallup

(CNSNews.com) - Only 15 percent of Americans say they believe that the human species evolved from a lower form of life and that God had no part in the process, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday.

A combined 78 percent of Americans believe that whether man developed over millions of years or was created from the start in his present form, it was God who did the forming.

In a survey conducted May 3-6, Gallup asked 1,024 American adults: “Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings: 1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, 2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process, 3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?”

Forty-six percent said they believe God created human beings pretty much in their present form within approximately the last 10,000 years.

Thirty-two percent said human beings develop over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process.

Fifteen percent said they believed man developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in it.

People with the last view—that man evolved from lesser beings without the guiding hand of God—are most likely to be found among people who seldom or never go to church and people who attended post-graduate school.

Only 14 percent of American college graduates believe in Godless evolution, the Gallup poll revealed. However, 29 percent of those who attended graduate school believe man evolved without any involvement by God.

Only 3 percent of Americans who attend church weekly believe in Godless evolution, and only 10 percent of those who attend church almost weekly or monthly. However, among those who seldom or never go to church, 26 percent believe man evolved without any involvement by God.

Among Americans who attend church every week, 67 percent believe that God created man pretty much in his present form within approximately the last 10,000 years. Fifty-five percent of Americans who attend church almost every week or monthly share that view.

Democrats and Independents, according to Gallup, are more likely to believe in Godless evolution (19 percent of each group do), than Republicans (only 5 percent do).

Gallup has been asking Americans this question about God and evolution since 1982. In its analysis of the current survey, the polling firm said Americans have been very consistent in believing God had a hand in man’s development.

“Despite the many changes that have taken place in American society and culture over the past 30 years, including new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans' views of the origin of the human species since 1982,” said Gallup’s analysis.

In 1982, according to historical data published by Gallup, 44 percent said that God created man as is within the last 10,000 years, 38 percent said man evolved with God’s guiding hand, and 9 percent said man evolved and God had no part in the process.
I think the comment regarding Americans remaining consistent in their beliefs over the past 30 years , in spite of ongoing medical innovations and discoveries,  coupled with data on education levels are especially meaningful to me.





Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We Need to Talk

Recently in a weekly update from Snopes.com, I was reminded of a wonderful billboard campaign -- the "We Need to Talk" series of sharp-witted comments ascribed to God.  The Snopes story was based specifically on such a billboard that survived Hurricane Charley back in 2004.
When Hurricane Charley slammed into Florida in mid-August 2004, battering the state with up to 100 mph winds that knocked over signs, uprooted trees, and left thousands of homes destroyed or uninhabitable, one billboard on Sand Lake Road in Orlando survived the onslaught relatively unscathed. The storm peeled off the most recent advertising message displayed on the board, however, revealing in its place an ad from an earlier campaign:






Luckily, the Snopes article listed the others in the billboard series --
"C'mon Over And Bring The Kids" — God

"What Part of 'Thou Shalt Not . . .' Didn't You Understand?" — God

"We Need To Talk" — God

"Keep Using My Name in Vain And I'll Make Rush Hour Longer" — God

"Loved The Wedding, Invite Me To The Marriage" — God

"That 'Love Thy Neighbor' Thing, I Meant It." — God

"I Love You . . . I Love You . . . I Love You . . ." — God

"Will The Road You're On Get You To My Place?" — God

"Follow Me." — God

"Big Bang Theory, You've Got To Be Kidding." — God

"My Way Is The Highway." — God

"Need Directions?" — God

"You Think It's Hot Here?" — God

"Tell The Kids I Love Them." — God

"Need a Marriage Counselor? I'm Available." — God

"Have You Read My #1 Best Seller? There Will Be A Test." — God 
Don't they make you smile? I'd love to see these return.  They're great!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Faith

Professor: You are a Christian, aren’t you, son?


Student: Yes, sir.

Professor: So, you believe in GOD?

Student: Absolutely, sir.

Professor: Is GOD good?

Student: Sure.

Professor: Is GOD all powerful?

Student: Yes.

Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?

(Student was silent.)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD good?

Student: Yes.

Professor: Is satan good?

Student: No.

Professor: Where does satan come from?

Student: From … GOD …

Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?

Student: Yes.

Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And GOD did make everything. Correct?

Student: Yes.

Professor: So who created evil?

(Student did not answer.)

Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?

Student: Yes, sir.

Professor: So, who created them?

(Student had no answer.)

Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD?

Student: No, sir.

Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?

Student: No, sir.

Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?

Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.

Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?

Student: Yes.

Professor: According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?

Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.

Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.

Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?

Professor: Yes.

Student: And is there such a thing as cold?

Professor: Yes.

Student: No, sir. There isn’t.

(The lecture theater became very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?

Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?

Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man?

Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.

Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?

Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class was in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?

(The class broke out into laughter. )

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.

Student: That is it sir … Exactly! The link between man and GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bible's Importance in American Society

Just spotted this interesting article by Lamar Vest at FoxNews today (emphasis added) --

Does the Bible still matter in 2012?

After all the very visible fighting about public displays of religious symbols— from 10 Commandments plaques to graveyard crosses to faith-themed war memorials to holiday manger displays—you might have developed the impression that most Americans don’t think the Bible matters today and they like it that way.

You’d be wrong.

There is a lot of speculation about both the current role and the appropriate role of the Bible in America. But each year, American Bible Society puts the guessing aside and asks a sampling of Americans to tell us how they view and use the Bible and what they believe its role should be in America.  Recently, American Bible Society released this year’s results from that research in the 2012 State of the Bible report.

The State of the Bible in America in 2012 can be summed up in a two words: encouraging and unsettling.

The research, commissioned by American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Research, found that the majority of Americans (69%) believe the Bible provides answers on how to live a meaningful life. But while 79% believe they are knowledgeable about the Bible, 54% were unable to correctly identify the first five books of the Bible.  And approximately half of Americans surveyed didn’t know the fundamental differences between the teachings of the Bible, Koran and Book of Mormon, with 46% percent saying they believe all three books teach the same spiritual truths.
 
While nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the Bible has too little influence in society—a far cry from the anti-faith picture often painted in culture—approximately half (46%) say they read the Bible no more than once or twice a year.

What The State of the Bible report also confirmed is that the lack of engagement with the Bible among Americans isn’t caused by a lack of access to it. Here in the United States, 85% of households own a Bible. Actually, most families own more than one, with a household average of 4.3 Bibles.

Looking more closely at the data, something really interesting emerges. When we examine responses to the question “Do you believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life?”, we find that older respondents agreed at a much higher rate than did younger respondents. While 61% of those surveyed between ages 18-27 agreed, those 47 years and older agreed at a rate of 75%.

Before you assert that older people are just naturally more traditional, remember that the older group is made up of the Woodstock generation, free-love ‘70s kids and the MTV generation. The data seems to say that the older you are, the more likely you are to value the Bible. Maybe it’s that our own life experiences prove the value of the Bible’s wisdom?

There is no doubt that the findings in The State of the Bible lead to some obvious questions. For instance…

- If Americans believe in the value of reading and applying the Bible, why don’t more of us do so?

- If we believe that the Bible has the right amount of—or too little—influence in society, why is so much negative attention given to expressions of the faith in the God of the Bible?

When survey participants were asked what frustrated them most about reading the Bible, the most oft-cited response was that they “never had enough time to read it.” The busy-ness of our lives often make it difficult for us to follow through on what we say we value. Another reason I often hear from non-Bible readers is that they find the sheer size of the Bible to be overwhelming.

So where does someone start who wants to be a Bible reader but doesn’t have a lot of time? A good place to begin is with the “Essential 100.”  This list of 100 key verses and related stories do not contain everything the Bible has to say.  What it does provide is a concise way to understand the bigger arc of the Bible without getting bogged down. For all of those who wonder what the Bible is really all about, The Essential 100 (available at e100.americanbible.org) is a great starting point.

So is the Bible really relevant in 2012? You won’t know until you read it.
...
Some good advice there for those of us who find squeezing time into our day for Bible study tough.  Some other suggestions:
 
- Find yourself a good translation, and a Bible with notes throughout can not only help you understand, but will also offer insights and perspectives you might not have considered.  
 
- If you are already fairly familiar with the Bible, maybe choosing an unfamiliar translation might cause you to receive and digest the Word in a new way.  Familiarity can lead to boredom. 
 
- Luckily, for the techies there are a lot of useful websites, podcasts and tools to help us do just that.  I will be adding some info to the side margins.  In the meantime, check out Google for websites and iTunes for podcasts and apps.
 
But, let us not forget that PRIORITY is the ultimate "app" in helping us with the time issue.  We make time for what really matters.  I have been guilty of not prioritizing; but, of late I've been meeting with greater success since I started a "through-the-bible-in-a-year" initiative at the start of the New Year,.  I am still on track and have found the 20 minutes or so to be very beneficial -- I feel my "little flicker o' faith" starting to be more of a flame.  

Now, do NOT think you have to devote that much time.  We all know that new habits are hard to form, so be reasonable in any new routine you try to establish.  Even just a few minutes in focused contemplation with God's Word will help, and that is a far more manageable and attainable strategy than thinking you have to go for long stretches of time each day.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anti-Christian Sentiment in Europe on Rise

Having been to Europe numerous times, over the years I have personally noted the slow death of Christianity there.  Low church attendance gives witness to the sad legacy of the religious wars that took place.  One needs to also remember that the many differing denominations in the Americas were brought about by our ancestors escaping the warring in Europe, fleeing to this continent in order to be able to practice their beliefs freely and safely.

But, how sad to see that now there is a growing wave of anti-Christian sentiments on the continent where the Reformation was born.  This from Kevin Jones of The Catholic News Agency (emphasis added):
Report on Europe finds 'numerous' anti-Christian actions, crimes

.- A new report says that 85 percent of hate crimes committed in Europe during 2011 were aimed at Christians.

The report, from the Austria-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, summarized incidents ranging from vandalism and insults to the suppression of religious symbols, desecrations, “hate crimes” and religiously motivated violence.

Dr. Gudrun Kugler, director of the observatory, said studies suggest that 85 percent of hate crimes in Europe are directed against Christians.

“It is high time for the public debate to respond to this reality!” Kugler said.

In Scotland, 95 percent of religiously motivated violence targets Christians. In France, 84 percent of vandalism is directed against Christian places of worship.

The observatory has also monitored professional restrictions on Christians. A restrictive definition of freedom of conscience means that professions such as magistrates, doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists are “slowly closing for Christians.”

Teachers and parents “get into trouble” when they disagree with state-defined sexual ethics, the report said.

One survey in the U.K. indicates popular perception agrees. Seventy-four percent of poll respondents said that there is more negative discrimination against Christians than people of other faiths.

The observatory intends to monitor both the social marginalization of Christians and the denial of their equal rights.

Catholic Bishop AndrĂ¡s Veres of Szombathely, Hungary, reacted to the report March 19.

“The bishops in Europe are particularly conscious of these manifestations of religious discrimination and intolerance which actually confirm how some values and fundamental rights proper to Europe, such as freedom of religion and the legal recognition of our Churches, are far from being an established reality in some nations of the continent,” said the bishop, who follows the observatory’s activities under a mandate from the Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe.

He characterized the report as an invitation for all Christians who have experienced discrimination or intolerance because of their religious beliefs to “step out from anonymity and be courageous.”

The observatory’s report said that the anti-Christian actions are technically “a form of persecution,” but it advised against labeling them as that in Europe to prevent confusion with anti-Christian crimes in other countries.

The report also lamented stereotypes and prejudices in public discussion about religion, such as the instantaneous and incorrect labeling of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik as a fundamentalist Christian.

The observatory also noted positive developments.


“We were pleased to note that many who have focused exclusively on third world countries that demonstrated outright persecution, are beginning to notice that the marginalization and restriction of rights and freedoms of Christians in Europe are also of concern and deserves our attention,” Kugler said in the report’s introduction.

Among the highlights for 2011 were a resolution in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that encouraged public debate on anti-Christian issues and a reassessment of legislation with the potential for negative effects on Christians.

Another was the European Court of Human Rights to overturn a court decision against crucifixes in state school classrooms in Italy.

In January 2012, the Spanish government stopped a compulsory education class which drew objections from 55,000 parents, including many Christians.

The observatory stressed the religious freedom rights of both individuals and religious communities. Religion is a “valuable asset” for society that encourages healthy life and contributions to the common good, it said.

Bishop Veres encouraged religious believers to live their faith.

“(B)elieving in God must not be perceived as a fault or sign of weakness,” he said. “Living and witnessing to one’s own religious creed in respect for the freedom and sensitivity of others can only be beneficial for everyone, believers or non-believers, Christians or non-Christians.”

The bishops of Europe support those whose rights are not respected. Religious freedom is a “valuable good” that continues as a “pillar of peace on our continent,” the bishop said.
Hmmmm ... seems the anti-christian tide might be turning in Europe.  Maybe the PC-adherents are finally beginning to turn recognize their own hypocritical, hate-filled rhetoric.  Is there hope, then, that the tide will also turn here?

Good Friday: Cubans Observe Good Friday Today

How wonderful to hear that the Cuban government, in a gesture of good will, has granted Pope Benedict's recent request to allow Cubans to observe Good Friday.  This from the BBC --

Communist Cuba marks Good Friday with public holiday

Communist Cuba is marking Easter with a public holiday on Good Friday, for the first time in decades.

This follows Pope Benedict's visit to the country last week, where he requested the move.
Religious holidays in Cuba were cancelled after the 1959 revolution, and fewer than 10% of Cubans are practising Catholics.

Nonetheless, the Church is the most influential organisation outside the Communist government.
The Cuban government said it granted the request as a mark of respect, and to commemorate the "transcendental nature" of the pope's visit.

Live service
 
The Pope's predecessor, John Paul II, made a similar request during the last papal visit to Cuba in 1998, successfully persuading then-leader Fidel Castro to recognise Christmas as a public holiday.
A service at Havana Cathedral will be broadcast live on Cuban television, indicating the improving relations between the Church and the government, says BBC Havana correspondent Sarah Rainsford.
Religious or not, Cubans have welcomed the day off, and hope that the change will be permanent, our correspondent says.

Some described it as a sign that Cuba was opening up to the world.

"I think almost all Cubans think it's a very good idea," one told the BBC.

The holiday has only been declared for this year, but the government says it will take a decision later on whether to make it permanent.
Let us be sure to include Cuba this day in our Good Friday prayers ... that the Holy Spirit would continue His work among the Cuban people and government.  "Lord, we thank you for your work in Cuba among Your children.  Continue to bless the faithful with courage and devotion.  Stir up a wind of true liberation, creating new believers and freeing them from the shackles of atheism, communism, and/or paganism.  We thank and praise You for the ongoing redemptive work wrought through the sacrifice of your precious Son, and it is in His name we ask these things.  Amen!"

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ten Commandments for Atheists

I spied this back in November on USA Today's website.  It's interesting how similar Jillette's Ten Commandments are to God's ...  and offers good food for thought!

Penn Jillette's 10 Commandments for atheists

(RNS) In his new book, "God, No!" atheist magician Penn Jillette tells how he was challenged by conservative radio host Glenn Beck to come up with an atheist's version of The Ten Commandments.

"I wanted to see how many of the ideas that many people think are handed down from (G)od really make sense to someone who says, 'I don't know.'"

Here's his list:

1. The highest ideals are human intelligence, creativity and love. Respect these above all.

2. Do not put things or even ideas above other human beings. (Let's scream at each other about Kindle versus iPad, solar versus nuclear, Republican versus Libertarian, Garth Brooks versus Sun Ra— but when your house is on fire, I'll be there to help.)

3. Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself. (What used to be an oath to (G)od is now quite simply respecting yourself.)

4. Put aside some time to rest and think. (If you're religious, that might be the Sabbath; if you're a Vegas magician, that'll be the day with the lowest grosses.)

5. Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)

6. Respect and protect all human life. (Many believe that "Thou shalt not kill" only refers to people in the same tribe. I say it's all human life.)

7. Keep your promises. (If you can't be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don't make that deal.)

8. Don't steal. (This includes magic tricks and jokes — you know who you are!)

9. Don't lie. (You know, unless you're doing magic tricks and it's part of your job. Does that make it OK for politicians, too?)

10. Don't waste too much time wishing, hoping, and being envious; it'll make you bugnutty.
"Bugnutty."  I like that word! 

The Promise of Spring

Matthew 13:31-32
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

He sat silently on the pew bench, half listening to the eulogy, half replaying scenes of his father.  This gentle man had 'slipped the bonds of earth' a few days ago after having languished in a long battle with cancer.  This gentle man -- a veteran of three wars: World War II, Korea, and then Vietnam.  He was a man that had served his country for many years -- honorably, faithfully, devotedly.  


Paul's father Frank had taught and modelled these beliefs and behaviors throughout his entire life, bring encouragement and inspiration to his family ... unto the second and third generations.  Frank remained ever active, not only working beyond the normal age of retirement, but being an active member in numerous church and community organizations: The Lions Club, the local VFW post, the Red Cross, Meals On Wheels, the town council, food pantries ... numerous groups, numerous people impacted by his leadership and service.


As his mind wandered back to the eulogy, Paul lifted his face a bit and raised his eyes toward the window.  The church was an old-fashioned one that had clear window panes -- very simple, elegantly beautiful.  Outside Paul could see the trees gently moving their branches in the springtime wind.  His attention was drawn away from the eulogy to the beauty of the trees.  Against the backdrop of some evergreens, some trees were just starting to bud in the surprising warmth of the early spring.  Some trees were in full red bud regalia.  Others were covered in lovely white or light pink blossoms.  Some trees had hints of green, evidence of the coming green blow-out.  Yet, a few were still completely naked -- no evidence of life yet.


The contrast of the trees' differing stages of spring were intriguing.  For Paul, his father Frank, who was a faithful Christian, was like the evergreens that were always alive and vibrant, never dormant in spite of the world's happenings.  Paul knew other people who were in full bloom in their faith lives.  Their lives were beautiful, natural displays of life in Christ.

And he was acquainted with a few whose lives were "bare branches."  Paul included himself in this group, having been in an ongoing struggle with Faith and the Church for many years.  He yearned to have the faith of his father, but just could not seem to ever "bloom." 


"I can still always hope ... maybe I'm like the other trees whose branches are still bare.  Maybe my time is yet to come.  My father planted me with good roots in fertile soil.  Maybe my time is, indeed, yet to come.  Lord, let it be so!"


"Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone but in every leaf in spring-time."  -- Martin Luther

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Foxworthy to host Bible Trivia Game Show

Sounds like fun!  From TV Guide via FoxNews ---

Jeff Foxworthy to host Bible-based trivia game show

Forget 5th graders... how well do you know the Good Book?

GSN has chosen Jeff Foxworthy to host the pilot of its new one-hour game show, "The American Bible Challenge," the network announced Wednesday.

On the trivia show, contestants will pit their knowledge of the Bible against their opponents. And although the competition will be fierce, it's all in the name of goodwill. Teams will play for a worthy faith-based organization, and the contestants will share their compelling backstories with the audience.

"I am excited to be hosting a show about the bestselling book of all time," Foxworthy said in a statement. "It will be interesting to find out what people really know, and an opportunity to present the Bible in a fun and entertaining way."

Foxworthy was also the host of the trivia show, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" The American Bible Challenge pilot will shoot later this month.






Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Potato Chips

A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with a bag of potato chips and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old man. He was sitting in the park, just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old man looked hungry, so he offered him some chips. He gratefully accepted it and smiled at him.

His smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer.  Again, he smiled at him.  The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As twilight approached, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave; but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old man, and gave him a hug. He gave him his biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face.  She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied, "I had lunch with God."  But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what?  He's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"


Meanwhile, the old man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked, "dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?"
He replied "I ate potato chips in the park with God."  However, before his son responded, he added,  "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime!  Embrace all equally!

Have lunch with God.......bring chips.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Footpaths and Hollows

Last week we had some unseasonably warm weather in the area, so one day after school I decided to use an outdoor walk as my form of exercise of the day.  Using the elliptical at 4:45 in the morning is a great workout, but especially on these short winter days, a gal needs some fresh air and sunshine every now and then to keep her head clear and level. 

I went to a park near school, having been to it on occasion in the past.  However, as I made my way around the park on the usual course, I discovered a hiking trail that went into the woods behind the park ... and lo and behold!  What a beautiful trail it was!  The soft, compost-padded trail turned into a steep decline down the back of a huge hill that lead to the river valley below.  Gradually, the trail lead up the back of another hill, which turned onto the park's regular roadway.  As I walked along the path, here and there I found little signs the park service had posted, explaining the different trees and plants and their uses.

I marveled at how tall the trees were -- I estimate that the ones in the "hollow" were easily 30 feet high ... maybe more!   As I made my way along the lovely nature trail, occasionally I would stop at the base of a tree and run my eyes all the way up the trunk, likewise eying the nearby trees, wowed by how tall they were. The barren trees, naked from the winter cold, afforded me a view of the surrounding woods, stretching miles over the river valley.  I tried to imagine what these woods would look like in the spring and summer with wondrously green vegetation.  And, yet, its wintry, monochromatic nakedness was a work of beauty just as it was. 

As I am inclined to do in such moments of simplistic beauty, free of the world's distractions and mind-cluttering noise, I pondered how we are, indeed, so similar to these trees.  These incredibly tall trees, I noticed, had no branches until the very top.  Such a dense forest created a fierce field of sunlight competition, and the physical ramifications on the fauna were evident.  Obviously, in a deep ravine where sunlight is at a premium, trees do not waste a lot of energy on producing branches down where the sunlight won't reach.  Instead, they expend their energy in growing upwards, birthing branches at the top -- reaching for the sun and its light. 

We humans, frequently expend a lot of valuable energy where there is little pay-off and growth.   The world, in its distracting and fallen state, can cause us to stop looking upward to God and pull our attention and spirits down.  In order to grow, sometimes we finally realize that we must let certain, lower "branches" go -- no longer feeding these useless distractions with our precious energy and life force --  so that we can focus our concentration on higher, more nurturing things.  We must keep growing upwards toward God, supporting our fellow "trees" in the process and producing a beautiful canopy of life that offers shelter and nourishment to the "forest" below.

The Buzzard, the Bat and the Bee

Thanks, J, for this gem ...

The Buzzard -- 

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner.  The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet.  Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

The Bat --

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place.  If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air.  Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

The Bumblebee --

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out.  It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom.  It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

People --

In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat and the bumblebee.  We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up!  That's the answer, the escape route and the solution to any problem.  Just look up.

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, but faith looks up!

Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly and trust in our Creator who loves us.

Good is good all the time!

Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil -- it has no point.