Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Forget the REAL Reason...

A couple days ago, our sweet, 9-year-old intellectual asked something akin to, "When did Christmas get hijacked by commercialization?" (my words, but I think it expresses the original gist of it). I told him I don't really know, but the above comic strip drives the point home....

We normally shy away from jokes that involve God or religion, because they are almost always irreverent of our Lord and Savior. However, in yesterday's Foxtrot (actually first printed 11 years ago; link only available for a couple weeks), the last two panels are a warning to us to keep CHRIST in Christmas, especially for the sake of our children. Presents are fun and all that, but if we make a bigger deal out of them than of the celebration of our Savior's birth, we do a serious disservice to our kids.

Another aspect is all the stress and running around that this time of year brings. At a time that's supposed to celebrate the arrival of "peace on earth and goodwill to men," isn't it ironic that we spend much of it stressed out about getting that perfect gift (while it's still on sale!!!) and trying to cram as much family time as possible, in as short a timespan as possible? Time with family and presents are great, but Satan is probably giddy with joy that those things distract from our Heavenly Father, who has given us the greatest Gift of all.

A song currently playing on Air1 asks how God's heart could not have broken on the day of Jesus' birth. For though the world celebrated the birth of a Savior, God was probably thinking of that coming day of the cross....

Some random thoughts. :) Merry Christmas, everyone! May God give you a renewed appreciation and admiration of His wonderful plan of salvation, for a world that deserves far worse. Let us spend another year celebrating Jesus' birth and gift, personifying to those around us the star that led the magi to the Savior! See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Hand of God: Another Christmas Memory

I think I'm going to start making a tradition of sharing memorable Christmas-time memories with you all. Last year, I shared something from the distant past (not-too-distant for some of you, I guess! Hee-hee!). This particular incident actually happened last year, on Christmas Day.

My wife's uncle had arranged for a four-day, big family Christmas retreat, at a ranch in North Idaho, a couple hours from our house. We were to drive up there several days before Christmas and come back Christmas Day, just in time to go to dinner at my parents' house.

To say that it was going to be a White Christmas is a gross understatement! A snowy front had settled in the area, and white stuff just forgot how to stop coming down. The roads were pretty bad on the way up there, and they were even worse on the way back! With our Honda Accord, equipped only with all-weather tires, I was afraid we'd get stuck and have to spend Christmas by the side of the road! But the Lord was with us all the way (isn't He always???), and we got back home in one piece. We had about an hour to drop off our bags, and then we headed back out, for dinner with my parents.

The Interstate was extremely icy; icier than I had seen it in years. We were doing about 30, when I noticed a police car, by the right side of the road, its lights twirling hypnotically. I was safe in the second lane, so I just held course. The road was straight and clear; no problem, right? WRONG! We were less than 200 feet from the cruiser, when, out of the blue, we started to fishtail! I tried to keep the front tires facing forward, as we glided all over the road, but the car was definitely no longer under my control. To our terror, we were headed straight for the police car. I could not see the officer, but I confess he was furthest from my mind. I was instead concerned with the financial and legal trouble I'd be getting into, after our two vehicles got better acquainted. Impact was imminent and unavoidable. I also had a column of cars behind me, which I imagined would quickly find my rear bumber and make us into a Honda sandwich (hold the hubcaps, please).

But then something that I can describe only as the Hand of God, pushed us around the police car and safely into the deep snow, 50 feet beyond it. When I got out, I noticed that were not the first, not the second, but the THIRD car to end up stuck by the side of the road. The policeman was making the rounds on his rollerskates, asking what size drink we wanted with our burger. Actually, I cannot imagine how he must have felt, as cars whizzed past him and into the ditch; I could have easily killed him.

In the end, God worked it all out, in His perfect way. For starters, all parties were safe and sound, as were the vehicles. Due to the first two cars already having had their fun, a tow truck was already on its way, and we got a group discount! Ever wonder how God provides for the lilies and sparrows that drive tow trucks? Well, He gets some middle-class saps to run off the road and spend $80 to get bailed out, because the daddy sparrow, even in his need, had just given his son some much-needed Christmas money.

Second, even though we were late, we still had dinner with my parents, which made us all feel a whole lot better.

And ever wonder what actually made us fishtail in the first place? Driving that same familiar stretch in the spring, it dawned on me: For about a quarter mile, trucks had made deep ruts in both lanes, which can cause sudden jerks, as the tires fall in and out. When the road was icy (and the tires not too good), that caused us to fishtail. Thankfully, they fixed the road this summer, and I got brand-new winter tires (which could almost pay the shop owner's mortgage bill!).

So the next time that you ask yourself how God could have allowed hard times or tragedies to befall you, look for the opportunity for good that He's opened up, either for yourself or someone around you. Remember that for every guy that prays for sunshine, there's a neighbor that's praying for rain. :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Faith Like Potatoes?

OK, so maybe this post has nothing to do with the recent movie... but it has EVERYTHING to do with those oddly shaped tubers that taste so good mashed, baked, or cut into strips and fried.

This post is part of a series on my childhood experiences. As I reminisce (is 34 considered old enough to reminisce???) about growing up, I start to see so many Biblical lessons, that we could all stand to learn.

Take my friend Wes, who learned not only that it's a stupid idea to impulsively throw a rock at a classic car, but also that God's forgiveness (and sometimes that of grumpy neighbors) knows no bounds. Well, his story reminded me of the time I threw potatoes at a little old lady....

Betcha' didn't think me capable of such mischief. Intrigued? Well, read on, then! Don't just sit there gawking!

I spent my first decade (if you count from conception) in a 4th-floor apartment, in Bucharest, Romania. Yes, we occasionally got out, but that's where we lived. The rear of the apartment had a balcony with a tall, cement guard-rail. You can see a little bit of it in the picture above, which features my dad and me, several years before the incident in question. The balcony did not overlook a street, but rather a park-like area, bordered by other nondescript block-apartment buildings like ours.

When I was about 8, an older friend came over and proceeded to get bored. We went out to the balcony, and he noticed a sack of potatoes in the corner. I don't know if my friend did this often, but he showed me how much fun it was to throw a potato at a passerby and promptly duck behind the guard-rail. Now, I really knew better, but it seemed fun AND safe (at least for ME!), so I did it, too. For some reason, it did not occur to me what might've happened if a potato, hurtling through the air from 4 stories up, were to clonk a person in the head, face, or other sensitive areas. It also did not occur to me what would happen to MY sensitive areas, if my strict mom were to interrogate me on why some potatoes were missing! We had our laughs and giggles, he eventually went home, and no one was any the wiser, except, of course, for the handful of poor passersby, who got pelted by our starch bombs.

Some time later, when I was at home, with nothing better to do, it got into my head to play "potato". Betcha' didn't know I was the original Mr. Potato Head! Well, along came this little old lady, carrying some grocery bags from the store. I took aim and let one fly. It hit her bag and took her entirely by surprise. I was ducking behind my wall, but I could hear her yelling, up toward the building. She said something to the effect of, "Shame on you! Your parents should have raised you better!"

Growing up, I was a very obedient kid, who could not stand being scolded. But this was worse. This lady, whom I didn't even know, was passing judgment on my own parents, whom I loved and respected very much. They DID raise me (mostly) right; it was my own decision, and mine alone, that brought them dishonor.

That same connection binds our own words and actions to our Savior's perceived image. As children of God, we are commissioned not only to live according to the faith that we have in Him, but also to make the Way attractive, so that those we come in contact with may desire the same salvation that He bought for everyone. But if through our words and actions, we misrepresent Jesus Christ, we push people away from Him. How can we claim to love our neighbor, if we push him away from the One who loves him the most?

Needless to say, her words cut me to the core, and I put down the potato forever (at least, as a WMD). And my bottom was very thankful that my mom never found out about this incident (and even if she did read blogs, I think the statute of limitation expired long ago). But remember that Jesus is watching your every move, as are those around you, who are inwardly yearning to be reconciled unto God.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jesus and the Good Stuff

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, "They have no wine." Jesus saith unto her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." His mother saith unto the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, "Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast." And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now" (John 2:1-10, KJV).

I was reading these verses this week, and something about what the host said to the groom caught my attention: he said the wine that Jesus made was the good stuff. Not only was it good, but the implication was that it was better than any of the other wine that was served at that feast! And rightly so, for it was made by the same Hand that fashioned the grapes from which wine is traditionally derived.

If Jesus was so good at making wine, I wonder how His fish and bread tasted to the 5000, the 4000, and finally, the disciples, on the Tiberian shore. Man, that fish must have been Heavenly! He'd put Red Lobster (not to even mention Long John Silver's) out of business!

But that's beside the point. What I see in the miracle at Cana is the subtle reminder that anything God does is better than the best that we can do on our own.

But there's more....

Back to the wine again....

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). And He was true to His word. The various crucifixion accounts tell us that He refused any wine, when it was offered Him. Why? Because He wasn't thirsty? Because it was gross? Maybe. But I think it was to make a point: there's something far better waiting for us in God's Kingdom, something worth holding out for.

Perhaps this is why this world's pleasures never satisfy. Perhaps this is why alcohol, in particular, is so dangerous. Perhaps it is meant to remind us of what happened that day, in Galilee; that it is but a shadow of what awaits us in that Fair City. If there happens to be wine up there, I have a hunch it will not result in drunkenness or hangovers.

I won't look down upon you for responsibly enjoying an occasional drink, but as for me, I will refrain, until my first toast with Jesus.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is the Bible Worth Studying?

A visitor reading my comment on a blog, replied back with a very derogatory remark about the fruitlessness of studying the Bible. I couldn't help myself and wrote a pretty long reply. I think it was rather inspired, so here it is:

I appreciate you putting this discussion in context. It did not occur to me, when I wrote my previous comment, that you would be of the opinion that the Bible has NEGATIVE (or detrimental) value. We tend to judge a group or an idea by observing the behavior of a small sampling of those who belong to it. I can develop a very negative view of gays, simply from their reaction to the passing of Prop. 8, in California. Likewise, I can use similar techniques to pass judgement on blacks, Muslims, truck drivers, etc….

I freely admit that there are very many obnoxious, rude, and overzealous people, who call themselves Christian, who very sorely misrepresent the teachings of the Bible, especially the New Testament. You said that Christianity today is nothing like the one that your grandparents professed. Could it be that the parents who you say drove your friend to suicide did not follow the Bible as well as your grandparents? Is a speed limit sign bad, if there are people who don’t obey it?

If I call myself a boxer and put on the whole gear (so that I also look like one), does that MAKE me a boxer? If you didn’t know anything at all about boxing, you might actually believe me to be one. But as soon as you see the REAL thing, especially one that proceeds to pummel me to the consistency of oatmeal, you would know who’s the real boxer and who’s the impostor. So you need a reference, by which to judge.

I came to a crossroads, when I was in college, and decided to go to the source for the answer: the Bible. I did not know whether there was ANY truth to be found in it, but realized that the only way was to read it for myself. I didn’t read ALL of it, at the time; not by a longshot. I started in the Book of John (4th book of the New Testament), but by the time I was half-way through, I was convinced and surrendered to Jesus. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream, but I do have that peace that you were talking about.

I don’t know the exact situation with your friend (and even you may not know all the reasons that drove him to take his own life), but I’ll tell you this: nagging and harrassment are the provinces of men, not Jesus. My dad is NOT a Christian, and yet he nags me about everything under the sun (including my beliefs). I know he didn’t get that from the Bible. The Bible actually teaches that if you see your brother sin, you are to approach him about it, in a humble way, up to three times. If after the third time, he does not want to change, drop it. Nowhere is it even implied that you are to harrass, nag, or hurt him. Dropping it doesn’t mean that you’re now OK with his problem, but the wisdom here is that you can only make things worse with your nagging.

We (especially as parents) tend to take it upon ourselves to “fix” the people around us. This is not restricted to Christians. EVERYBODY does this. And everybody has a belief system that they want to impose on others. You said that Christian groups want to influence public opinion and won’t let people enjoy their lives in peace. This is true of ALL activist groups (it’s in their definition). I invite you to name ONE activist group that does NOT try to impose its views on the population. Groups like the ACLU, ACORN, and GLADD want to change laws that restrict my freedom, while promoting views that I strongly disagree with. We’re in the middle of a war of worldviews.

I should add here that there is a fairly large subset of Christians who believe that we should totally stay out of politics and public policy.

Your assertion that every human life is sacred is so very true and can lead us down all sorts of fascinating paths, but that’s beside the point.

I was trying to answer the fundamental question: Is there intrinsic value in the Bible? If we can say that there is even ONE work of fiction that is worth studying (and there are plenty that are analyzed to death in literature classes), then the world’s all-time number one bestseller should be counted, EVEN AS A PURE WORK OF FICTION. But archaeology has independently validated many of the historical and cultural references found in the Bible, so I conclude that those aspects also add to its value and merit.

As a source of moral guidance, its value rests on a slippery slope, unless we accept that its author is our creator: God. As a spiritual guide, it falls flat on its face, without God’s authority behind it.
So I conclude that while the Bible HAS value that make it worthy of in-depth study and analysis, its value in the context talked about here (spiritual and moral) is entire reliant on one assertion, which I would phrase as follows: The Bible is an accurate representation of God’s will for us. You can debunk this assertion in two major ways: (1) prove there is no God, or (2) prove that God’s will for us is significantly different from what the Bible portrays.

It's often hard to talk to unbelievers who are so against Christianity. This particular person was very angry at his friend's parents, who professed to be Christians, and whom he claimed drove his gay friend to suicide. He never responded, but I hope the Lord opens his heart.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Congratulations, Laura!

Well, I rolled a simple, six-sided die, to determine which commenter gets the free CD, and the lot fell on LAURA!!!! Muchos congrats!!! Thank you all for your continued support, and be sure to stop and visit my new blog, as well!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Absolutes? Absolutely!

Before I get into what the above picture has to do with anything even remotely Biblical, I wanted to share the excitement of this special day with you! Today is not only my parents' 35th wedding anniversary, but it's also this blog's first anniversary, in its current name and format! To celebrate, I'm doing two things, all at once! And no, neither of them involves walking or chewing gum!

1) I am having my very first "bloggy giveaway"! Leaving me a comment will automatically enter you in the drawing. No, more comments won't increase your chances of winning, but don't let that discourage you. Next weekend, I will draw a name at random, and that winner will receive a Christian music CD! Now, exactly which CD... that's open for discussion. :)

2) I am launching a new sister blog, called Lift Up the Standard. It will be of a more activist and political nature than Jesus Is Wonderful, and hopefully it will spark some good conversations, with a wider audience. Please check it out!

So, back to the Star Wars picture...

The climax of Episode III is arguably the battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who has just turned to the Dark Side of the Force and became Darth Vader (sans the breathing mask). As Padme lies unconscious, choked by an enraged Anakin, Obi-Wan tries in vain to convince the young man that he's on the wrong path. Anakin responds, "If you're not with me, then you are my enemy." Obi-Wan answers, "Only the Sith deal in absolutes." Some see this as a pot-shot at conservative Christians, who dare defy the concept that morality is only relative (never mind that the wise Jedi's bold statement is itself a contradiction). And yes, they might have something there, especially given George Lucas' liberal leanings. But there are a couple very interesting places where Jesus talks about who's with Him or against Him. Let's go exploring....

"And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:49,50, and similarly in Mark 9:38-40).

Now that's interesting, because you would think that besides the people who are gung-ho for Jesus and the ones who openly ridicule His followers, there are many in-between, who haven't made up their minds or are simply of a "live and let live" mindset. But Jesus doesn't seem to share that view (in fact, He promised in Revelation to spew such people out of His mouth). In this verse, He appears to see anyone who doesn't actually oppose Him as an ally.

Okayyyy... now, here's where it gets even more interesting:

"He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" (Luke 11:23, and also Matt. 12:30).

This is kind of the flip-side of Jesus' previous quote and was almost exactly what Anakin said. Anyone who is not following Jesus is leading people away from Him. Now why would that be?

In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

This is the ultimate in absolute statements and one that gets a lot of Christians in hot water with the secular progressives. It essentially asserts that there is only one way to God, and that all other religions are false. So, anyone who believes otherwise is, by word or deed, contradicting Jesus and leading others away from Him.

So what about the guy in Luke 9 (not Skywalker!) and Mark 9, who was casting out demons in Jesus' name, even though he was not traveling with Jesus? Well, he was pointing folks to Jesus, the Savior of the world, and that's exactly what Jesus would have us all do. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Detecting Antichrists

(Edited for clarity on 9/3/2009)

Every night (except when I'm so dog-tired that I can barely muster to find the bedroom), I read a few Bible verses to our son. It's a moment of quality father-son time, that I would not trade for anything. Lately, we've been reading 1 John, which I like to call "the opposites letter", on account of all the contrasts that it contains. The start of chapter 4 hit a chord in me, and I'd like to talk about it a bit.

[1] Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

First of all, we must always be on our guard, because false doctrines and false teachers are everywhere, some so cunning that, if it were possible, they could deceive the very elect (paraphrased from the Bible). Like the famous Bereans, we need to be comparing what we see and hear with the Word of God. That means not only having the Bible handy, but internalizing its contents, so that we are walking Bibles. This is especially important, as there seems to be a church on every corner, and religious people all around us.

[2] Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
[3] And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God....

Here's a litmus test that tells you whether or not a person, organization, or doctrine is of God. Sounds a little simplistic, if taken at face value, but when you look at it a bit closer, you'll find so much more.

What does "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" mean? Just that there really was this historical guy named Jesus, who walked around Galilee, 2000 years ago? Even many atheists will agree to that. But the "Christ" is not a last name, but a title. A title reserved for the Messiah, the one that scriptures prophesied that would come and bring salvation. The Holy One of God, God Himself, come in the flesh, to die on the cross for our sins. There's a lot there! And there are so many who deny this truth, try to water it down, or add man's ideas to it. God's not into that; no, He tells it like it is, and so do His people. Those who don't, simply aren't of Him.

[3] ... and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Many Christians are into "The Antichrist" that's supposed to come at the end of the world, only to be defeated by Jesus. I can understand where that idea came from, but there's nothing in the Bible that confirms that any one personage carrying that title will ever come. Only 1 and 2 John even mention the word "antichrist", and he makes it clear that they are already here today (from his time, even) and are very, very common. By his definition, an antichrist is one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22, 2 John 1:7). Jews are antichrists (how's THAT for political incorrectness???). Muslims are antichrists. Atheists are antichrists. Hindus and Buddhists are antichrists. The various end-times beasts and false prophets mentioned throughout the Bible are antichrists. I think even some "Christian" sects are that way or extremely close. And, of course, there are those (such as the Catholics and Mormons), who although will verbally agree that Jesus is Christ, they have added so many rules, traditions, and doctrines, that Jesus simply gets lost in the shuffle.

But a true Christian is one whose entire being depends on this simple truth: Jesus is Christ.

[4] Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

So need we fear the falsehoods out there? Naaah! Jesus has already overcome it, and through Him, we are overcomers, too! How do we overcome? Not by beating everyone else over the head with a family-sized Bible, but by not being tainted by their lies. By being a shining example, in spite of them and by not failing to teach our children to walk in God's truth.

[5] They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

How true this is! Here is a phrase software engineers like to use: You put garbage in, you get garbage out. For a computer program, this means that if you feed it incorrect data, you will get incorrect results, no matter how well-written the program itself is. Humans work the same way. We were created in God's image, but if we gorge on the sinful things of the world, that's exactly what we'll be spewing back out. But if Jesus and God's Word are what we put in, then that's what will be on our minds and lips.

[6] We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

We have a choice of what we put into our minds. People of the world like to listen to the things of the world, and people of God like to listen to Him. Worldly people will not want to hear what you have to say (even those who claim to be Christian). Here's a funny one for you: will a TV set ever listen to what you have to say (no matter how much you yell at it)? Where does it fall in, according to John?

The rest of the chapter is totally awesome too, but I'll stop here, for now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A (World)View of "Camelot"

Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer this past Tuesday, leaving behind a tainted legacy. He was the liberals' champion and the conservatives' arch-enemy. But this post is not about his works or where his soul might be resting right now (if it is resting at all). There is something he said at a dinner, more than 20 years ago, that has shed a spotlight on a current issue. The following is an excerpt from Yahoo's biographical article on him.

When a Moral Majority fundraising appeal somehow arrived at his office one day in the early 1980s, word leaked to the public, and the conservative group issued an invitation for him to come to Liberty Baptist College if he was ever in the neighborhood.

Pleased to accept, was the word from Kennedy.

"So I told Jerry (Falwell) and he almost turned white as a sheet," said Cal Thomas, then an aide to the conservative leader.

Dinner at the Falwell home was described as friendly.

Dessert was a political sermon on tolerance, delivered by the liberal from Massachusetts.

"I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly?" Kennedy said from the podium that night. "There are those who do, and their own words testify to their intolerance."

"Tolerance" has a become a buzzword and a banner, used by the secular left, to push an agenda of relativistic morality (or none at all) and gain acceptance of practices and beliefs that have historically been frowned upon by the populace-at-large. Drug use, sexual promiscuity and deviancy, abortion, and entertainment being some of the most obvious examples.

How ironic that Kennedy confessed a belief in (absolute) truth, but in the same breath denied the possibility that anyone could know it. By accusing such people of intolerance, he himself demonstrates a similar intolerance toward those very same folks.

In general, many vocal non-Christians accuse Christians of being intolerant, just because we espouse to the immutable truths found in the Word of God. But God Himself is the very image of tolerance. Anyone who's read the Bible cover-to-cover knows how infinitely patient and forgiving God is. Just look in the Books of Judges and 1 and 2 Kings, how often the Israelites rebelled against Him, and yet He always heard their pleas of repentance. Jesus patiently tolerated not only the doubts and nearsightedness of His own disciples, as well as the humiliation of imprisonment, torture, and the cross. How many sinners does He even today allow to live to a ripe old age?

On the other hand, God told the Israelites, as they were about to enter Canaan, to mercilessly and utterly wipe out the nations around them. He warned them that if they failed to do so, their heathen neighbors would be a stumblingblock to them and lead them astray. Naturally, God's chosen people disobeyed, and we all know the results. Likewise, I think Christians as a whole have been too tolerant of society's moral slipping and sliding, to the point where we have not only become the extremist minority, but we and our children are being assaulted every day by the filth that runs through our streets, like open sewers (paraphrasing from a Carman song).

Is there a way back? Some, looking at Revelation, say that things will just keep getting worse and worse, until He finally makes His triumphant return. But I say, even if the Titanic's sinking, we should not just sit there playing fiddle, but get as many as we can to the liferafts.

So don't let the atheists shoot you down with accusations of intolerance, hatred, and judgmentality, for they are guilty of the very same thing they accuse you of. Invite them to remove the beam out of their own eyes, before they start looking for slivers in yours.

As you can see, I don't tolerate people who call me intolerant. ;)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Greg's Testimony: Farrah's Viewpoint

Posted by: Farrah

I wish that I was worthy of the rosy picture Greg painted in his testimony. I wish I could say that I was a perfect Christian, but that is not the case. It would have been best if my husband had been my first date. He can say his wife (me) was his first kiss, but I was not so noble. I tried very hard to mess up God’s plans. As sincere and devoted as I was to my faith, it seemed I could not master the temptation of dating the wrong men.

Thankfully, God was merciful and intervened. One lost interest, one had a heart attack and returned to his Arab country from where he basically proposed. His family was wealthy, and I think he would have flown me across the world. Praise God, I came to my senses! To think I might have ended up trapped in a land where women are slaves to their husbands! The third terminated our relationship after finding a girl who had no limitations. He was in jail for rape by the time I married Greg.

That last one was rough, because it ended in real heartbreak. The kind of heartbreak that makes you want to die. I cried every day for weeks and begged God several times a day to take away the pain. I remember my mom sitting on my bed saying, “You don’t know what could happen. God could bring you the perfect Christian guy. A year from now you could be married!”

It seemed impossible. I laughed through my tears though there was a glimmer of hope. God is mighty, and He does big things.

I barely knew Greg. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the same computer lab doing homework. I was studying at a table, while he was writing a program. Apparently it wasn’t going well, and he was cussing like a sailor. Hardcore, offensive profanity. I thought, “I could never marry a heathen like that.” No joke!

Not only that, but I liked clean cut. He had a ponytail. I noticed eyes, he wore glasses. His pants and shirts were too short. Seriously, his pants were several inches above his ankles. I was surprised when he walked into the room one day with new clothes and contacts! I thought, “Wow! He’s actually attractive when he doesn’t look like a geek!" We enjoyed chatting now and then. Once he impressed me with his kindness and patience when he took the time to teach me three different ways to do matrices on my calculator.

After my horrible heartbreak I prayed and made a strong commitment to God that I would never date again unless the man loved Jesus as much as I did. One day, I got an e-mail from Greg out of the blue. I had asked him to e-mail me during a casual conversation the previous year before he went off to grad school. “Send me an e-mail when you get there.” and he took me seriously. It’s funny, I don’t even remember that conversation!

What a nice e-mail it was! Well written and overflowing with his amazing sense of humor. I looked forward to receiving more letters from this new friend. It would be a fun and refreshing break from the monotony of school.

But I was cautious. I knew my weakness and was determined to keep my commitment to God. I knew I couldn’t trust myself if I spent time with a guy, so I did everything I could to guard against romance. The first time he came back to visit his parents for vacation and wanted to get together, I warned him, “This is JUST friendship. It’s NOT a date.” Poor guy! He had never even kissed a girl, and after hearing THAT, he was scared to try anything! He was a perfect gentleman.

We went to a restaurant, and I prayed before we ate. Afterwards, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Farrah, that was really beautiful.” There was no hint of mockery. He was completely serious, and I was floored at this incredible, rare display of sincerity. I knew that Greg wasn’t a Christian, but he was real. In fact, that was one of the things that struck my family when they eventually met him: His sincerity.

I have little else to add beyond what Greg said. I shared my faith with him, and we fell in love over time through e-mail. I was worried about what would happen. I was extremely distraught when we had to end our friendship. It was heartbreak city all over, but this time I was confused. “Why God? WHY? I don’t understand how this happened again! I tried SO hard to do the right thing this time! I will just have to trust that You know what You’re doing.”

But it wasn’t a week later before Greg told me that he realized he was giving up not just me but God and asked me to teach him more about Jesus. I had renewed hope. The day he told me he got saved was one of the happiest days of my life!

Something different with my relationship with Greg is that I experienced the full joy of being in love after he became a Christian. It was the first time I walked around with a silly grin all the time and told everyone I met that I was so happy I couldn’t contain it. It felt right, because it WAS right. He was the one God created for me. And you know what? It probably was just about a year after that conversation with my mom that Greg and I were united in marriage. Our Lord is amazing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Testimony: Ending Is Beginning

We broke up. Someone stopped the car, before we plunged off the cliff.

I thought long and hard about the situation. Here was a young woman who chose her faith over me. Though I knew she was as head-over-heels for me as I was for her, this Jesus guy trumped all else. She dumped me, for a dead guy in an old book.

But what if there really was something to Jesus? Then I would not only lose her, but also a chance to find the answer to what I may have been missing all along. By the next morning, my mind was made up: I had to find out. I had to know if this Jesus, that she chose over me, was for real. I sent her an e-mail and told her that I wanted to know more about Jesus. I told her I could make no promises about us, until I made up my mind about Him. Later that day, she called me, and I spoke to her dad, a pastor. He was very nice, and he recommended I buy a King James Bible and study the Gospel of John.

I had tried reading the Bible before, for classes and Young Life, but it never made much sense to me, and it was very boring reading. Still, I needed to find out more about Jesus, and that seemed as good a place to start as any.

I went to the local bookstore, a dinky place in an old building, and scoured the Bible racks for a KJV. Didn't find one until I looked up. High, on the topmost shelf, someone had put a paperback KJV, all by its lonesome. It was meant for me. I bought it and began to read.

For some reason, the words made sense to me, now. The account of Jesus' travels and teachings became real to me. It was as if Jesus was speaking directly to me..., and I believed.

On April 8, 1998, while sitting at my desk, doing homework, I prayed the first earnest prayer of my young life. I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and to guide me in every decision I would ever make, including whether this girl that I still loved was the one for me.

She was.

And still is.

The following December, we were married, and Farrah and I will be celebrating our 11th anniversary this year.

So, this was actually the story of a love triangle. A Savior who loved His children beyond imagining used one to lead the other to Him. For that, I will always be thankful to Jesus, and to a woman who had the faith to love Him more than me.

So, did I adopt new beliefs for the love of a woman? Some may say that I have, but that's an awfully shallow way of looking at it. No one ever comes to Jesus, without Him first drawing them to Himself. He uses different means, depending on the person. For some, it's hardship. For others, it's the example of a faithful servant. For me, it was the love of a woman... for her Savior.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Testimony: Being Led and Leading On

Now, you might remember from my last post that I had decided to never let any girl alter my beliefs. Keep that in mind, because it's pertinent to what happened next.

There was a girl (isn't that how it always happens???) in college, whom I had a crush on. She was in the same major as me, only a year younger, but I was always a grader for her professors, so I didn't want to mix business with pleasure. OK, I was shy and totally scared out of my shorts to even say anything to her, save for teaching her how to do matrices on a calculator and talking about Star Wars. True story! Can you say G-E-E-K???

When I went to graduate school (1800 miles away), we started corresponding via e-mail. I quicky discovered that she was a devout, ultra-conservative Christian, very different from any other religious person I had ever met. She seemed to live what she preached, not just on Sundays, but every day. We both greatly enjoyed our discussions, and as often happens in such cases, we fell in love. OK, not just in love, but head-over-heels, walking-on-Cloud-Nine, miss-your-floor-on-the-way-up-the-stairs (also a true story!) type of love. The kind that makes people around the two of you want to hurl. ;)

But there was a barrier. She loved Jesus, and I didn't. I wanted nothing to do with religion (little did I know that religion and Jesus have nothing to do with each other!). She shared the Gospel with me and told me that she could not maintain a relationship with (much less marry) a guy that did not believe the same as her (turns out she had already gone down that road, and it inevitably led to heartache). Unwilling to even consider "converting", but already head-over-heels for her (note that our relationship was strictly over e-mail, with only a couple phone calls in-between), I kept postponing the issue.

I'm ashamed of this now, but whenever she brought it up, I told her our love was like a car barrelling toward a cliff, without any brakes. I said that we won't know what will happen, but that the ride would be exciting. Inside, I was hoping that we could work it out, that we would stay together, without me having to pretend that I'm a religious person. After all, I wasn't ever going to let a girl change my beliefs.

One afternoon, it came to a head. She said that she had to make a stand for what she believed: in spite of her deep love for me, she could not marry a guy who did not love Jesus as much as she did. I answered that I never would. We broke up.

She cried herself to sleep that night, but she knew, though it hurt, that she made the right decision.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Testimony: The Early Years

This blog's new incarnation is approaching the one-year mark, and I recently realized that I've never shared how I came to the Lord. Let's fix that right now.

I was born in Romania, in a non-religious home. I think my parents did a good job teaching me right from wrong, but I had very little knowledge of the Bible or its Magnificent Author. As a teenager in the U.S., I was pretty much an atheist.

My first real exposure to the Christian religion (but not really Jesus) started when a high school classmate invited me to a Young Life event. I had no idea what Young Life was; I thought it was just a party. We did volleyball and lots of fun competitive games, and at the very end, one of the leaders gave a short message. I liked it and went back the following week, but with each successive event, less and less time was spent on fun and more on the Bible. I started to realize that the games were a way to get young people to come and hear the good news.

Unfortunately, while they taught about man's sinful nature, I only remember a "believe only", watered-down version of Salvation. I "decided" to follow Jesus, but did not repent of my sins nor gave my life to Him. Aside from their organized events, I didn't read the Bible, much less study it. I prayed to God, but He didn't seem to respond back. I continued in my sinful ways, unaware that Jesus had so much more in store for me.

The one unforgettable experience I had, in my one-year foray into Young Life, was a summer camp in British Columbia. There, at the Malibu Club, is some of the most beautiful country that God has ever made! But aside from the fun and challenging activities (especially the zip line that I almost chickened out on), I did not grow at all spiritually. I can't blame the staff; I wasn't ready. I now think that God was preparing me, but He was not calling, yet.

After I returned home, they kept asking me to come to other events, throughout the week: church, Bible studies, picnics, etc... I went more out of a sense of obligation, than anything else. Oftentimes, I would make up excuses, when I really didn't feel like going. The last event I think I ever attended was a mini-camp, ironically not far at all from where we now live. The last evening, I took a walk with my counsellor, and we chatted for a while. I mentioned that while the Bible has great teachings, I didn't take everything in it literally. I said that since men wrote it, it must have many mistakes. He didn't take that very well. It wasn't so much WHAT he said, as HOW he said it. He said that I couldn't follow Jesus if I didn't believe the ENTIRE Bible as true. Of course, I see that now (thought there are many parts that are symbolic, not to be taken literally), but his reaction was the last straw for me. From that point on, I saw religious people as no different from anyone else, except that they were stuck following a bunch of rules and doing boring things, like going to church and reading outdated writings. I felt sorry for them. I think that was the last time I had anything to do with Young Life.

As I got into college, I not only finalized my decision that there was nothing to Christianity (or any religion, for that matter), but also that I would never let any girl change my mind.

By the way, the picture of the guy on the zip line isn't me, unless I fainted on the way down! No, if it was me, you'd see a guy desperately clutching the rope. I think I'm getting better about it now, nearly 20 years after the fact, since a new friend has introduced me to rock-climbing. But that's a story for another time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lifehouse "Everything" Skit

I don't usually post videos on this blog, but Farrah inspired me. :)

Some of you may have already seen a version of this, but I was thinking about this video this morning and wanted to share it with you. The original version I saw a couple years ago literally made me cry, but I wanted to find one where a certain woman's dress was less revealing. This one makes me cry, too! (The video, not the dress!)

It's downright amazing how well an inspired video can depict the salvation experience, without saying a single word! It's a poignant reminder that no matter what we go through, Jesus is always there beside us, guiding us to the light and winning our battles for us, when we are too weak to fight for ourselves.

Looking at my published post, I see YouTube picked the perfect scene to represent the video! Yikes! You'll have to watch it, to see what it's all about.

And just as I was about to re-post, Air1 started playing Lifehouse's "Broken"! Amazing how the Lord works things out for His glory!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Matthew West Live -- A Few Favorites

Posted by: Farrah

I was in the mood to hear "The Motions" and did a search on youtube. I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of my favorites recorded live with a neat story at the beginning. Hope you enjoy!

No testimony, but another favorite recorded live.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Leave It or Clean It?

This post has been edited from its original version

Sorry I've been absent for a while, dear friends! I've been really busy with yardwork and trying to launch a new business venture, while still working full-time at my current job. More on that later....

We found out this week that someone in our family has announced that he's gay. It wasn't much of a surprise, but what was especially hard to take was the way that he did it. Since his birthday was in June, he made his birthday party a "coming out" party and even attended a "pride" parade. He was raised in a very religious home and most of the relatives are still very religious, so let's just say it didn't sit well with most of the family.

It is certainly sad to see anyone struggle with sin, but it's even sadder when one has surrendered to it and, in this case, convinced himself that homosexuality is a socially and morally acceptable "lifestyle". But what is even worse is promoting it and encouraging others to accept it and maybe even try it themselves. This is what really, REALLY irks me about the "gay rights movement". Not only do they seek acceptance, but they want to shove it down everyone's throats. (Some accuse evangelicals of the same thing, but that's a topic for another post.)

I've been thinking how we should act around him. He lives far away and we only see him once or twice a year, but the question is a valid one. He already knows where we stand, so beating him over the head with scripture and exhorting him to repent is probably out of the question. On the one hand, we are to show everyone love, so that we can be a positive influence on them. But on the other hand, we are to "put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:13b), who has turned from the faith, so that he will not be a bad influence to those around us, especially our children and those weak in the faith.

In my daily reading this week, I came across a great quote from Jesus: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Mattew 24:12). This is a very poignant scripture, for the gay community and their allies push their agenda under the guise of love. They say that they want the right to express their love for each other, "marry" the one they love, and receive love from the rest of us who disagree with them. But sin is sin, no matter how many people refuse to accept that fact, and sin will drive love out of people and replace it with lust. I know this to be true, from my own experience.

I was watching a Christian speaker on video recently, and he made a great point. He said that if he were Satan, he would focus all his energy on undermining families. And that's exactly what this world is doing. Marriage has become meaningless and even to be avoided. Relationships have been trivialized. Sex had become the ultimate goal of dating. The entertainment and news industry bombards us with unwholesome material. Sin, in all its forms, is what ultimately destroys families. The question is, how should the family deal with sin among its members? And this extends to the broader question of how should the Church deal with sin among its members? These are certainly questions worth exploring in future posts.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my rambles. I don't usually express my views so strongly, but I truly felt I needed to get this off my chest.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Symbolic Sunday

Posted by Farrah

I was reading to Kylen from Joshua recently as part of school. When we reached the part where three of the tribes on the other side of the Jordan built their own altar, he thought one lesson that might be taken is that we can worship God wherever we are. Amen! That got me to thinking about some other possible lessons.

The other tribes were worried that this was a sign their brothers were going to begin making their own sacrifices. Not only would that not be good, but it could be disastrous. God had lots of rules about where sacrifices were to be done, how they were to be done, and who would do them. These actions might bring God’s wrath down on everyone. In fact, they were so worried that they were ready to battle in order to stop them.

Thankfully, it turns out the altar was only meant to be a memorial, a reminder that they were all serving the same God. They had no intention of making their own sacrifices. And thankfully, the other tribes took the time to find out what was going on before attacking their brethren. (Little side lesson here: If you see your brother doing something wrong, try talking to him about it before assuming he has sinned and is in need of punishment.)

We are in a similar situation today. There are many Christian churches, and most of them have altars. However, there is only one sacrifice for our sins: Jesus, the Son of God, who sacrificed Himself once for all. There is no other way to heaven. Unfortunately, some churches have chosen to make their own sacrifices. These are often in the form of rules, good works, membership forms, and money. The people are tricked into believing that if they follow the rules of their church they will get into heaven.

It doesn’t work that way. Jesus has already laid down His life to atone for our sins. We simply need to accept the gift and embrace the giver. He wants our undivided love, not our devotion to our church.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In God's Image

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26a).

For several days now, I've been feeling led by the Lord to talk a little about being made in His likeness (or image). It's certainly a topic that has been discussed in great depth, over and over, even recently, on the blogs that I keep up with. I'm not sure what else I can add to the subject, but something this week reminded me of the classic Frog Prince fairy tale (the screenshot above is from the upcoming Disney cartoon, which I cannot yet vouch for). So what does this have to do with the Bible? If you will read on, a connection will soon reveal itself....

My wife teaches a "Just For Fun" class at our homeschool co-op, and this week, she taught a lesson about paper. For kicks, I made some hopping paper frogs, for her to show in class. These things are really fun to make and stage jumping contests with. One of the kids asked for the instructions, so I recorded the video below:

Thinking about the video, I started to dwell on God making man in His image. After all, I made the paper frog after the image of a real frog, did I not? It looks somewhat like a frog and can even jump like one. But it isn't a real frog. It is not alive. It cannot see or hear, much less jump on its own. And it has no chance of ever being anything more than what it is. In fact, since it is made of paper, we know it can only diminish in form and function, until I will have no choice but to toss it into the garbage.

Now, the Frog Prince may look like a frog, but he has the potential to be so much more. Once a man, turned into a frog by a wicked witch (at least I assume so...), he is doomed to a life as a frog, a much lesser creature. But unlike other frogs (especially paper ones), he has hope. If a princess would but kiss him, he would be restored to his former glory... even better actually, since any princess that would dare kiss a warty frog is certain to be the one he is destined to marry!

Man was created in God's image, much like the paper frog was created in a frog's image. We have many things common with God: a free will (Calvinism vs. Arminianism is a topic for another post!), a conscience, the ability to love, reason, wisdom, etc.... In fact, we are the only ones in all of Creation that possess any of these qualities, but we also lack all the omnis that set God in a class all His own. But God's intent was that we would be princes in His kingdom, not mere shadows of the original, doomed to nothing more. However, in order to become princes, we must repent of the sins that have cursed us and become new creations in Jesus Christ. Only a kiss by the Holy One of Israel can transform us. And we know that last state will be far better than the first, because if God can look on our ugly, sinful nature and still love us enough to provide a way out, then He must indeed want us to be with Him forever.

So, surrender your heart to Him, confess your past sins to Him, and let Him kiss and transform you into the prince you were always meant to be! Let go of the old creature, of the sin so characteristic of the warty frog that you were once cursed to be, and live the righteous life of a prince, a true son of God and heir to His throne!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Frequently Asked Friday

What is ClearPlay?

In short, ClearPlay is a company that makes DVD players that automatically skip unwholesome scenes in movies and mute offensive language. My wife ran across this product about a year ago, and we eagerly bought a player. There are definitely some pros and cons to the experience, and we both thought it would be a good idea for me to write a review, in the hopes that some of you will consider purchasing the product (and service).

How does it work?

More details are available at the company's website, as well as this Wikipedia article, but the short of it is that ClearPlay's editors review dozens of new DVD movies each month and create filters that know where the questionable scenes and language are. You purchase a player and their monthly service, which gives you access to their continually changing filter library. Every so often, you download the new set of filters to a USB Flash drive (they call it a FilterStick), which you then insert into the player, when you want to watch a new movie. The player automatically finds the appropriate filter and gives you the option to watch the movie, with or without filtering.

Is it legal?

When it first came out, there were some lawsuits involving copyright protections. However, the courts ruled that since individuals have the right to fast-forward or mute the movies they watch in their own homes, ClearPlay was perfectly within its legal rights. After all, all it does is automate the process for you. Since it does not modify the DVD itself in any way (how could it???), the movie makers' original visions (oh, like I care!!!) remain intact.

How much does it cost?

The players are about $80, and you need to buy an $8 monthly subscription, to get continued access to their continually changing filter library. I suppose you could pay for one month, get the filters, and then cancel, but you would not have access to filters for new movies that come out. I think it's totally worth it.

What are the pros?

Obviously, being able to watch a movie with your kids, without worrying about an f-bomb (or even most slang) or seeing a couple in bed, is a huge benefit. We are very picky about content in movies (and video games), and this product opens up our otherwise limited selection.

ClearPlay doesn't usually skip entire chapters (as defined by the movie's menu). Instead, it skips individual scenes or moments that have gratuitious violence, sensuality, etc.... Most of the time, you hardly even notice it did it, especially if it's a movie that you never saw full-length. An R-rated movie like The Matrix becomes PG-ish. You still see people lying prone on the floor, but not the hail of bullets that tore into them. Nice.

ClearPlay mutes most bad language, including most euphemisms. We were pleasantly surprised how strict their editors usually are.

The players, though only available through their website, are pretty stylish, have all the common A/V connections, and produce clear, crisp images. They boast that they play all the common formats (NOT Blu-Ray, yet), although the only other type of disc I tried was DVDs created on our computer, which worked very well.

Their telephone support is very helpful and friendly, and they bend over backwards, if you have any problems.

What are the cons?

Right off the bat, I should say that you need internet access and familiarity with computers, before you decide to buy. There are several ways to get the filters for your players, and they all involve downloading them. They have a handy program that helps automate the process, but when it doesn't work, you need to know how to manually download the filters from their website.

The ClearPlay editors don't have a problem with the c-word that means "poop", but we do. They also sometimes miss some words or leave in scenes that we would have removed. But these missteps are few and far-between.

While the players are great when they work, they have a high failure rate. We've had the service for not even a year, and we're already on our third player. Our first one all of a sudden got finicky about the types of DVDs it would play: only the double-sided ones. And no, I didn't all of a sudden start putting them in up-side-down! We called for a replacement, and they promised to send one right away, along with a pre-paid shipping label, to send the other one back. But they lost the order TWICE, and it took us a MONTH to get the replacement! They were so sorry that they gave us a free year of service and a free player.

The extra free player came in handy, when our second player stopped receiving commands from the remote. And no, the batteries didn't just run out! And just before that happened, it literally fried our FilterStick, making it unusable. Ever since, I've been careful to remove it from the player, as soon as the filter is loaded.

I also discharge any static electricity I may have, before touching the player, because I have a hunch that's what caused our previous player to malfunction.

There is no Blu-Ray version yet, but the Wikipedia article says they're working on it. Until they have that (hopefully with higher reliality than their current players), we have no reason to buy an expensive Blu-Ray player or the HDTV that would have to accompany it.


ClearPlay is a great idea, and I am a patient man, who's handy with computery thingies. Being able to watch clean movies is well worth the hassle we've gone through, with players breaking on us and the occasional hicups with the website. I am hoping that as the company matures, and the word gets out, reliability will improve. Who knows, maybe they would consider hiring me, to help out with that!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Representing Jesus

In case you're wondering why the sides of our car look banged up, they're not. I took the picture with the car in our relatively dark garage, resulting in a high-dynamic-range situation. The ripples on the edges are the result of my lack of patience to do a good job, trying to fix it up, and now I'm too sick of working on it, to try to do better. LOL!

I had started this post a couple months ago, right around the time that the Lord also inspired my friend Jim to write a post about literally wearing your faith on your sleeve. We joked about him stealing my thunder, and then I got too busy to finish the post.

Anyway, I really got into wearing Jesus shirts in 2004, when we got some printed with "" (this blog's previous incarnation was a bonafide website). Since then, we have amassed quite a variety (as showcased above), including license place frames, bumper stickers, and window clings.

So why do we do it? Just to show off? I'm a firm believer that you need to live the Christian life 24/7 (not because that's what you have to do, but because that's what you are), but what percentage of the people we encounter ever spend enough time around us to observe us living our faith? You can spot the gothic, head-banger teens, from the other end of Walmart, because of their appearance, so why not let yourself be more easily spotted as a "Jesus freak"?

But there is a flip-side, and it has nothing to do with being harassed for it (at least not in the United States... not yet, anyway). It draws extra attention to you, causing any of your un-Christian behavior to reflect poorly upon Jesus, the Bible, and your fellow Christians.

If nothing else, my shirt helps to remind me that, wherever I go, I am an ambassador for Jesus Christ and His perfect plan of salvation. Peter urges us to, "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15).

But I often forget that I'm wearing a Jesus shirt (which I think is an excellent demonstration of my unbelievable, unparalleled, and unequaled humility). I would be in a store, and a total stranger would walk by and say, "Me too!" I'd look a little puzzled, until I would look down and see that I was wearing my "I love Jesus" shirt!

Any way that we can witness is great. And the more of us that do it the better, because it will help keep God visible in the public square, where our society and government are systematically eradicating Him. How ironic that while laws are being passed, that condone and even encourage immoral actions, the freedom of religious public expression is being lost.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Played Against John Stockton... AND BEAT HIM!

For those of you who don't know who he is, John Stockton is one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace the hardwood. Probably the best player the Gonzaga Bulldogs ever had, Stockton was drafted by the Utah Jazz NBA team, in 1984. Spending his entire pro career there, he amassed an impressive list of accomplishments. He was voted one of the NBA's all-time best 50 players, led the league in assists, was an All-Star most of his career, and alongside "The Mailman" Karl Malone, led the Jazz to consecutive trips to the NBA finals (both times barely losing to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls). He retired several years ago, and although we live close to his hometown, I lost track of what he's been up to.

Well, last night, I took my son to Laser Quest, while my wife attended a choir concert (totally not my thing, and although I offered to endure it, she said she would have a better time by herself... who am I to argue???). In case you don't know what Laser Quest is either, they're a chain of establishments where you play laser tag. You play in this maze-like arena, equipped with a laser gun and sensors. As you tag other players (and get tagged yourself), the computer keeps track of everyone's scores. At the end, you get to see how well you did. It's great exercise and way less painful than paintball.

Anyway, so we played one game, and as we got in line for the second, I spotted him. John Stockton himself was there, with his wife and kids. I suspect it was their first visit. I don't do well talking to strangers, much less famous strangers, so I was content to just glance over at him once in a while, and not ask for a picture, autograph, or say anything stupid, like "Wow, you're one of my favorite players!"

When it was over, I paid attention to see what his callsign was, and although I was disappointed that we apparently never tagged each other, we were both in the top half of the scores, with me edging him out by a few points. I guess I'll have to be content that even though I did not have the guts to chat with him, I can claim that I was able to best him at something... although if it was a one-on-one game of hoops, he would have mopped the floor with me!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why Christians Must Be Politically Active

Posted by Farrah

This article sums up what I've been trying to tell Christians for years! Only Star Parker does a much better job of wording it. :-)
Christians face an ongoing paradox regarding engagement in political life in our country.

Christian Man, so to speak, sees the world through different eyes than Political Man.

Christian Man sees the world through a lens of responsibility. Political Man, or if you will, Secular Man, sees the world through a lens of “rights.”

Because of these very different attitudes about how to approach life, Christians have a natural inclination to not see politics of central importance to their lives and, as result, to not be engaged.

Christians see the quality of their lives as a natural outcome of their relationship with God and how they assume the responsibilities that He asks of them. This then reflects on how they manage their relationships with their families, business colleagues and customers, neighbors, and communities.

Political, or Secular, Man sees the quality of life as a political outcome. They see their life and property as secure not because of admonitions to not kill and not steal, but because they believe these are rights and that government will protect them.

Over the years, political/secular consciousness has, sadly, advanced in our country and increasing numbers of Americans believe that our prosperity and our success reflect political decisions rather than religious/moral decisions.

We can see the results of this tangibly just by taking a look at the growth of government. The more materialistic Americans have become in their attitudes, the more they believe that what is most important is their rights rather than their responsibilities, the more we have turned our lives over to government control and solutions.

A hundred years ago, government - federal and local - took less than ten percent of our income. Today, it is more than one third. If things continue on their current path, by mid-century it will be one half.

Why should Christians care?

We need to care because the pretense that life is a political rather than a religious/moral challenge and problem amounts to a departure from the Truth. And a departure from Truth must inevitably lead to failure.

We’re already seeing it.

The government programs, all designed in the last century to “solve” our problems for health care and retirement, are failing. I’m talking about Social Security and Medicare.
Our public schools that are educating the majority of America’s children have been increasingly secularized and politicized and the quality of education that these children are getting is dropping.

Public education in our urban areas is in severe crisis. Children, largely black and Latino, coming from communities and families that have been broken by the welfare state, another major symptom of the secularization of the country, get little education in these schools, and at least half never graduate.

The result is a growing American underclass that is becoming locked in a cycle of poverty and crime from which there is less and less hope of exit.

The paradox facing Christians that I mentioned in my opening is that, because Christians naturally relate to life through personal responsibility rather than politics, they are more inclined to not be politically active and engaged.

On the other hand, secular Americans, for whom life is all politics, are more likely to be active and engaged.

The result is that secular Americans have had a disproportionate impact on our country over recent years.

It is imperative that Christians look outward into our public spaces and get involved in the political process.

By this I mean more than just registering and voting. Christians must actively scrutinize public policy in the country and inject our values into what America is doing.

Christians must take back America. The political greatness of our country is that it is free. But it is up to citizens to decide what to do with that freedom.

We are in a crisis because the wrong people have been making the wrong decisions for too many years. As result, the very freedom that permitted all this is being eroded, and erosion of our prosperity will soon follow.

Christians need to step up and get our values for the preservation of life, for the protection of family, and for personal responsibility rather than political materialism, to define again the fabric of America.

This will restore American greatness and get us back on the path for which we are destined.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Movie Stats

Farrah writes:
We get regular e-mail updates from ClearPlay, and here is what they had to say recently:

Whether you enjoy watching the Academy Awards or not, the yearly celebration of Hollywood’s finest at the very least provides an opportunity to reflect on the movie industry and its trends, its successes and its failures. As we examine box office totals and the Academy’s choices for 2008, the numbers provide interesting insights and some fertile ground for discussion. Take the following statistics:
  • Of the five movies nominated for best picture, four are rated R and one is rated PG-13. The average gross box office of the five movies was 50 million, skewed high by the sole PG-13 movie, Benjamin Button, which grossed nearly 123 million.
  • Rated R movies accounted for 50%(!) of the rated movies released last year, but only accounted for 22% of the total box office revenue.
  • Only 14% of the rated movies released in 2008 were G or PG, but they accounted for 23% of the total box office.
  • PG-13 movies accounted for a whopping 55% of the total box office gross and were 36% of the movies released.

The numbers indicate to me that America has a thirst for movies in the “family friendly” G/PG category. I think the statistics show that people enjoy clean movies and want to see films with their families. But despite the overwhelming success of non-rated R movies, Hollywood still makes as many rated-R movies as it does all three of the other ratings combined! From a purely business perspective, sense would seem to dictate that studios need to shift resources away from the raunchy, profane, and violent. So why don’t they?

While the answer is likely complicated, the number of rated-R movies released and the Academy Award nominations may suggest that one factor is a values gap: those within the industry simply don’t share the same values, perspectives, and goals as the movie going public. The statistics demonstrate that we want more quality, clean entertainment, while some directors and studios may want to generate buzz by pushing boundaries, seeking for prestige among their peers, or releasing films that reflect their own morals and interests.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We Are All Well! However . . .

Farrah says:

We will not be able to get much computer time the next two weeks. Stuff related to Hubby's job came up, and we are going to be extremely busy and having to make some big decisions. In a couple weeks we should be able to check back. Appreciate prayers! Love you guys!!

Oh, and . . . Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

And the War Wages On...

And the assault continues. TIME reports that Richard Dawkins and the Humanist Association (you can look them up on Wikipedia), have placed atheist ads on London buses. But Christian groups are fighting back with their own ad campaign, aimed at poking fun at the atheist ads.

Dawkins is a world-(in)famous atheist and author, who is quoted at the end of the article as saying, "If more people think for themselves, we'll have fewer religious people." You know, the guy's absolutely right, though he doesn't know it. Jesus doesn't want (as my dad says) "religious drones;" He wants people who will make the willful decision to love and serve Him. The Bible shows time and time again that tradition and mindless religion only lead to idolatry and sin. But the Apostles and prophets invite us to "come and let us reason together", and to reach a full understanding of salvation. The Bible says time and time again, that we are to serve God with not just our bodies and hearts, but with our minds, too! That means He's not afraid of being exposed as a fraud by the thinkers or philosophers or logicians. If anything, an honest search for the truth will only further confirm not only God's existence, but also His omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, and infinite love.

Christians do indeed think for themselves, Mr. Dawkins. If you begin to do the same, perhaps you will also become one, someday. Better not wait to find out on the other side!


Thursday, February 5, 2009

8-Year-Old May Sing About Jesus at School

If that cat is real, it's the biggest one I've ever seen!!!

I just heard about this on Air1 and thought I'd let you all know. Apparently, Bailey won the opportunity to sing any song she wanted, at her school, as long as it was approved by the administration. She picked Darrell Evans' "Trading My Sorrows," but it was rejected at first, because it contained the word "Lord". Her parents contacted the ACLJ (a charitable organization that fights for religious freedoms; think of it as the Anti-ACLU), and then informed the school that it was within Bailey's Constitutional rights to sing that song. I don't imagine there would be any infringement of "separation of church and state," since the school did not pick the song.

The school reversed their decision and even thanked her parents for clearing up the issue.

The singer called her, to thank her and give her encouragement. Way to go, Bailey!

Click here to read the whole story.

This story reinforces my belief that the vast majority of people in this country are tolerant and even friendly toward religious expression, particularly Christianity. But people in authority too often bend to the will of a tiny but vocal minority (that sue-happy atheist, anyone?), that threatens to sue, if they so much as sneeze the wrong way. It's a form of extortion, my friends, and we need to stand up to it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Dark Knight

Last night, Farrah and I watched The Dark Knight, the highly acclaimed sequel to Batman Begins, and I wanted to share some elements that allude to the redemption that Jesus Christ bought for us.

Movie review

As a whole, the movie was too long. Half an hour could have easily been left on the cutting room floor (or the digital bit bucket), without losing anything relevant to the plot.

This movie is also quite violent. It avoided an R rating by pulling the camera away, just before several potentially gory scenes, but the implied violence definitely exceeds the comparatively mild PG-13 rating it actually got. We watched it on our ClearPlay DVD player, which muted the occasional bad language and skipped past a slew of violence.

Even though the whole world was enamored with the late Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, Jack Nicholson did a far better job, when he played the part, nearly twenty years ago. This Joker was too crazy; the lack of a background story or a motive greatly took away from his character. To me, he was more of an annoyance, than a worthy foe to Batman.

By contrast, the Harvey Dent character was extremely well written and acted. In my opinion, he was the one who stole the show.

The highlight for me was the tension and resolution of the scenes with the two ferries, jam-packed with people, and rigged to explode. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I was very moved by the performance of a big, buff, former wrestler, nicknamed "Tiny" (whom I've seen in other imposing roles).

Batman's sacrifice


A running theme in the movie was Batman's quest to find a "hero with a face", that the people of Gotham can look up to. He thought he found that hero in District Attorney Harvey Dent. As Bruce Wayne, he held a fundraiser for him, lifting him up as a hero to be looked up to. Unfortunately (for all involved), the Joker decided to make it a project to turn Dent to the Dark Side (a la Emperor Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker). Like Satan, he knew that even if he could not defeat Batman directly, he could achieve victory by destroying his creation. He is marvelously successful in turning Dent to a villain, scarred inside and out.

Upon the death of Dent, Batman makes a familar decision: in order to preserve the people's good perception of Dent, he takes the blame for the five people Dent murdered, clearing Dent's name and reputation, while becoming a fugitive himself. Only his closest allies, including Police Commissioner James Gordon (and Gordon's son), know the truth.

As Batman speeds away, chased by scores of K-9 units, Gordon tells his son (paraphrased), "He's the hero the people deserve, but not what they need right now." The implication, if I understand it correctly, is that Batman is a true hero, but is forced to play a lesser role, for the good of the people of Gotham.

Jesus, the Son of God, God Incarnate, and Lord of all, deserved to be praised and adored as the King of Kings, when He first came, 2000 years ago. But instead, "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). What we needed at the time (and still) was for the King of Kings to redeem us, by becoming sin.

When the time comes, He will return and assume His role as Lord of Lords... and all will recognize Him for what He truly is.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Return of the Blogger

Quick update

WOW!!! Hard to believe that it's been more than a month since my last post. Every year, my wife reminds me that December and January are our busiest months, and I always seem to forget. To give you an idea of just how busy we've been, not only have I not done any blogging in over a month, but I also haven't played any basketball, either, which is my favorite sport.

The busiest time for us is actually after New Year's, when we prepare an elaborate birthday party for our son. Every year, I say, "Hon, let's go simple this time, shall we?" And every year, we end up putting up a big production! LOL! This year, it was Star Wars, a favorite of ours. I spent an entire week (including a couple all-nighters!), preparing a DVD invitation, in which we captured some scenes from the original trilogy and did our own voice-overs. It was a blast, and I cannot wait for our next project! Click here for more details, on my wife's blog.

What's even more amazing, is that during this hiatus, two more "followers" have added themselves to my blog!!! I just want to reassure you all that this blog is an integral part of my ministry, and I am excited to continue posting interesting entries and fellowshipping with all of you.

I have a couple posts in mind, as well as the long-awaited continuation to my current Frequently Asked Friday series on love and sin. Stay tuned!