Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Duh Moment

I had a duh moment last Wednesday evening as I was leading the singing for a group of residents at a local assisted living facility. For those unfamiliar - or too old - a duh moment is that instant when something that should have been all too obvious suddenly becomes plain.

Here's an example of a duh moment. Back in the 70's (1970's) there was a television program called Hawaii Five-O about Hawaii's state police. We watched partly because we had just returned from two years in Hawaii and it was a connection to the places we had seen. I remember thinking at the time that Hawaii Five-O was a strange name. It wasn't until years later that it suddenly dawned on me - 5 O ... 50 ... Hawaii was the 50th state to join the union! We all have these embarassing duh moments ... right?

Anyway, back to my most recent. We were singing Silent Night and were on the third verse. How many times have we all sung " ... Son of God .. loves pure light ..."? It's really amazing how our minds work: I'm singing the song and happen to be reading the words when, all of a sudden, I see the words as if for the first time.


It's not " ... Son of God .. loves pure light ..." but " ... Son of God .. love's pure light ...". It's not that Jesus loves pure light, but that Jesus is love's pure light! He is the pure light and radiance of God's Love to us.

"For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

"There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." John 1:9 (NASB)

"Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world ...'" John 8:12 (NASB)

That's what the author of the song, Joseph Mohr, meant. It's not that Jesus as love's pure light is a new theological discovery to me, but, that now, whenever I sing this wonderful Christmas hymn, I am singing it with the fuller meaning and understanding that the author intended.

What is also interesting is that all this time while singing and not fully understanding the intent, others could have been hearing with the right understanding. How easy it is to see and not see, to hear and not hear -- until it has been revealed. And how glorious that revelation!

I shared my duh moment with those at the assisted living facility that evening. The next time Silent Night is sung, maybe some will have a renewed joy in proclaiming and hearing the timeless truth of "Son of God, love's pure light."

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Christmas Gifts - Part 2

(Part 1 is here)

Besides hearing the song, A Shepherd's Prayer, on the radio each year, God's other Christmas gift to me is a new perspective on the Christmas story. About six weeks ago, God grabbed me with this year's insight as I was reading my Bible. Have you ever noticed how many times "Fear not!" appears in the Christmas story - it jumped off the page at me.

Over the last six week period, I have probably done devotionals on "Fear not!" four or five times to different groups, but the longer I think on it, the deeper it gets.

There are three words/phrases that frame this - fear not, truth, and great joy.

As he was ministering in the Holy of Holies for the annual sacrifice, Zacharias was visited by an angel. I'm sure his first thought at the angel's appearance was, "Uh, oh! I'm dead! I've done something wrong." The angel's greeting, "Fear not!" addressed his immediate fear, but the angel's promise that Zacharias' barren wife Elizabeth would bear him a son seemed too unbelievable to be true. This was not possible in Zacharias' mind. The angel said this son would be the Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah. This was too much for poor Zacharias, and, for his unbelief, the angel left him speechless until his son's birth.

I think Zacharias' unbelief was a problem of failing to see God's promise as Truth. Already distracted with the deep disappointment of childlessness, he chose his own understanding over the supernatural promise of God when, with an angel standing before him, the most believable and reasonable thing was to believe the angel. The question is, "What is true?" or, really, "WHO is truth?"

Here, Isaiah 8 12b-14a, comes to the fore: "And you will not fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary." (NASB)

Today's science says "No" to the supernatural. God says, "I AM." Who is telling the truth? Whom do you trust?

Gabriel appeared to Mary. "Fear not!" Mary believed the angel's words though she did not fully understand. When there was a very real truth growing inside her, she trusted through the whispers and rumors.

As Joseph pondered the unbelievable story of his pregnant betrothed, Mary, an angel appeared with, "Fear not!" Joseph chose to trust the truth of the angel's message in spite of the scornful eyes and wagging tongues of the neighbors.

The angel hosts suddenly appeared in the sky to some shepherds in their Bethlehem fields. The former quiet and silent night became anything but for them. "Fear not! Great news! A Savior is born! Go see! Go tell!" And the angel hosts sang, "Glory to God in the highest!"

The shepherds believed the angel's story. They went to town and found the baby just as the angels had told them. They told everyone the truth of the great glad tidings. "And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them."  Luke 2:20 (NASB)

Fear the God who can; fear not the world that cannot.

That's the Truth!

Glory to God!

Joy to the World!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Created Perfect for His Purposes

At the conclusion of the sixth day of creation, God looked at everything He had made and pronounced it was "very good." Genesis 1:31.

This is intended as a brief thought on the issue of sin in God's creation. I'm not sure how firmly I will stand on all the following, but this is where I currently am in trying to pull together scripture and what I have heard and read recently from people like Greg Koukl, STR, and John Piper, Desiring God.

It seems most people have a very difficult time reconciling a loving and all-powerful God with sin. In fact, atheists throw it back at us all the time as a disproof of God -- which is no disproof at all but, rather, a very strong case for God's existence.

I know, I said brief, right?

OK. Here's the big thought: God created a perfect world - one perfect for His purpose. And His purpose is to manifest His Glory to the utmost. Creation is not for my comfort; it is for God's Glory! God is the point and period of creation.

You can waffle around all you want as to whether God created sin/evil, but you have to allow at the very least that God allowed it in His creation.

God is in control. "And we know God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose ..." Romans 8:28

We are created moral beings - we make choices between good/evil. It is in the struggle of good/evil and the overcoming of evil that God's Glory is manifested in us.

Evil/sin plays a role in God's plan. It hurts, and it destroys -- but it cannot destroy those whose faith is in God - those whom He has called to be conformed to the image of His son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Where sin abounds, there God's Grace (and His Glory - our right response to His Grace) even more abounds (Romans 5:20).

Yes, even sin plays a part in God's perfect creation.

We, the natural man, seek after emotionally satisfying answers. I think the emotionally satisfying answer is there but it is very hard to come to a point of comfort with. In fact, it takes a lot of faith and a willingness to rest our emotional satisfaction in God's sovereignty.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Christmas Gifts - Part 1

A confession - I look forward to each Christmas season for the gifts that I get, but not the pretty wrapped ones on Christmas morning like when I was a child. Time spent with family, good food, vacation days, good food - these are all things I look forward to, and as much as I love and treasure those things, they are not the gifts I most anticipate.

I love hearing Christmas music everywhere - Christ-centered Christmas music. I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas is OK, but it doesn't hold a candle to the traditional carols and some of the more recent Christian Christmas standards. Besides, 5 winters of snow shoveling in Cleveland, OH, kind of tarnishes the White Christmas image for me.

My most favorite Christmas song has to be Move Me Closer (A Shepherd's Hymn) recorded in 1987 by Evie. It tells the story of a mantle-manger-set shepherd asking to be moved closer to the Child. It wraps the spirit of Christmas up for me.

Each Christmas for several years now, as I'm driving down the road and listening to the radio, there it is! Move Me Closer begins to play. Sometimes I just turn the radio on and the song begins to play as if it was just waiting for me to get in and start the car. Usually, I'll only hear it once each season. What a precious gift!

The album Move Me Closer is on has long been out of print and has become a collector's item - with a collector's item price. I once bid on a copy on eBay but dropped out after the price went above $50. Just today, I finally purchased a used copy of the CD. I have a habit of copying my favorite songs onto a few CDs so I don't have to carry a CD library in my car, but I don't think I'm going to do that with this song.

Even though I will have the CD and could play the song any time I want, I want to continue to anticipate and be surprised anew each Christmas season as God gives the gift of this special song and its message to me.

Move me closer to the Child ...

Monday, October 29, 2007

The god of the Mirror

Very interesting 10 segment video of a debate between Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Good) and Dinesh D'Souza (What's so Great About Christianity) at King's College NYC on You Tube. The first segment is here.

There has been a recent glut of "God/religion is bad" books by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Hitchens. As I have read commentaries and books on these, watched videos as the above, and based on my own experience with local atheists (including my semi-atheist younger self), two thoughts have been firming up in my mind.

One thought is that even when these people are willing to assume God's existence, they form their ideas, writings, and speech around the god of the mirror - not God, but a god fashioned in their own image. So, when Christopher Hitchens rails about how immoral god is, he is absolutely right. He's seeing his own image in the mirror. It's like those who choose to marvel at man's engineering and scientific greatness in building a magnificent telescope rather than be awestruck at the wonders revealed.

Then, notice the cool calculated vehemence and loathing coming through in Hitchens. Add to that the fact that these writers have all but given up on trying to support their positions with credible arguments and evidence - reason is thrown out the window. I recommend Alister and Joanna Collicutt McGrath's book, The Dawkins Delusion, where he and his wife expose the non-existent arguments of Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion. On the cover of The Dawkins Delusion, atheist Michael Ruse is quoted: "The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why."

It's right out in the open. It seems we have turned a corner; the wraps are coming off; gasoline is being thrown on the fire.

Opportunity knocks.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Compromising on Rudy

There was a reported meeting of pro-life leaders, including Dr, James Dobson, where the leaders expressed their willingness to vote for a third party candidate rather than support a so-called compromise anti-life/anti traditional family candidate who would promise to do some pro-life/pro-family things - i.e. nominate strict constructionist Supreme Court justices, etc. In the pro-life community, there is debate among honest and sincere people as to whether this is a resonable course of action.

The debate basically breaks down along 2 paths. One group supports Dr. Dobson et al's approach which is in effect a shot across the Republican Party's bow to try to force them to walk the walk , not just talk the talk. The other group, it seems to me, basically argues that fewer unborn babies would die under a compromise candidate who presumably could win against Hillary. Too me, this is a lesser evil approach.

Below is something I posted to the blog at Stand to Reason on this subject. This is certainly not an exhaustive treatise on the above options - that may come in time.

One thing I would add is that if the Republican Party nominates a compromise candidate for president, I will immediately change my voter registration from Republican to Independent.

In my opinion there are 2 absolutely non-negotiable moral issues - 1) the sanctity of life, and 2) support for traditional one man one woman marriage for life. I will not support a candidate who is not whole heartedly behind these issues.

A president has the bully pulpit, national and local speaking opportunities, cabinet appointments, and the veto to help persuade and advance these moral issues. The promise to appoint strict constuctionist judges, without the heart and will to be aggressively pro-life/pro-family is simply inadequate.

Compromise in legislation may be acceptable when it is a case of saving no unborn lives vs saving a few, but compromising on electing a president and the support that gives to his party's apparatus, does not seem to me to be analogous to compromising on legislation.
I don't care which party it is, but we currently have one party with planks that support our positions. The election of a compromise candidate will all but ensure the pro-life/pro-family voice will be totally ignored in future elections.

If the Republican party is made to believe that pro-life and pro-family voters will not vote for a compromise candidate on these issues, then it can make the decision to commit suicide and have a new party rise from the ashes or embrace the strength of these positions.

Only God knows if Hillary Clinton has a chance to win against Mike Huckabee. I would almost go so far as to say if Huckabee (just using him as an example) is given a chance to promote his positions, pro-life/pro-family voters get solidly and aggressively behind him, and then he loses, America deserves what it gets and the blame will be on us -- the Christians and their pastors who woke up way too late to the poison we allowed to flourish in our nation. We ignored Francis Schaeffer until it was too late.

I expect moral leadership from a president and I will not vote for one who cannot provide that.

God help us.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

bzzzzz zZAP! (2)

Here is the previous post after considerable rework, revision, and additional thought. This is as it was submitted to local newspapers for publication (working in a 250 word limit). Thought it might be interesting for you to see the beginning and the end product.

“bzzzzz” "Hey, Martha, come look at this," Fred Lizard called to his wife. Scampering to the opening of their high Grand Canyon crevice, Martha found Fred staring intently outside. “bzzzzz bzzzzzzz” "Look at that beautiful sunset. It just takes your breath away, doesn't it." “bzzzzz” They stood there enraptured as the hues blended and gradually darkened with the fall of night. “bzzzzt” Even the fly lit and stared with a thousand lenses.

Do lizards, spiders, squirrels, deer, birds, etc watch the majestic display of sunrises and sunsets? Do they feel the same sense of timelessness, awe, and inspiration as we, or are they oblivious to the whole thing?

It appears this propensity for wonder is a particularly human fascination. In fact, the beginning story is really, "bzzzzzz zZAP!" While the lizard would not ignore dinner, we'll postpone eating to get lost in the vastness and beauty of sunrises, sunsets, storms, mountain vistas, snowscapes, seashores, the fathomless blue of the deep ocean, canyons, grassy plains, and symphonies. We'll spend hours accomplishing nothing, but taking it all in with a sense that time has not been wasted at all.

Everyone sees the painting, but few acknowledge the artist. True beauty is a telescope gazing on the Glory of the Creator - an invitation to eternal joy and fulfillment. In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes. The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

bzzzzz zZAP!

bzzzzz "Hey, Martha, come look at this," says Fred Lizard to his wife. She scampers to the opening in their Grand Canyon cave to find Fred staring intently outside. bzzzzz bzzzzzzz "Look at that beautiful sunset. It just takes your breath away, doesn't it." bzzzzz They stand there enraptured as the hues blend and finally darken with the fall of night. bzzzzz

Do lizards, spiders, squirrels, deer, birds, etc watch the majestic display of sunrises and sunsets? Do they feel the same sense of timelessness, awe, and inspiration as we, or are they oblivious to the whole thing?

Actually the beginning story above can be written, "bzzzzzz zZAP!" It appears the capacity for wonder is a particularly human trait. We'll stop eating to get lost in the experience of the vastness and beauty of sunrises, sunsets, storms, mountains, snowy scapes, the sea meeting the land, the fathomless blue of the deep ocean, canyons, and grassy plains.

We'll spend hours accomplishing nothing but taking it all in with a sense that time has not been wasted at all. In this beauty is a hint of fulfillment beyond sight.

Every one sees the painting but few praise the artist.

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush aflame with God.
But only those who see take off their shoes.
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sunday, August 26, 2007

No More Goodbyes

It seems life is full of goodbyes - us leaving loved ones and loved ones leaving us.

Some goodbyes we even look forward to - like leaving home to strike out on our own. Then, homesickness, however, reminds us there is a cost attached even to the freedom we desire. Goodbye.

Leaving home for a 6 month or more deployment is tough on both the service member and all of the family. You miss out on so much especially when your children are very young. Goodbye.

Saying goodbye to loved ones who have died is particularly difficult. Sometimes the mourning is all the more difficult because we didn't have the oportunity for one more "goodbye" or "I love you" when someone is taken suddenly with no warning.

I received the call that my mother was in the hospital in critical condition with cancer. My wife, our youngest daughter, and I packed up and set out from Cleveland, OH where I was stationed at the time to go to her bedside in Ruston, LA. In the week I was there, she rallied and was released to go home, but the prognosis was terminal.

Then came the morning I had to leave to go back to Cleveland. After the hugs and kisses, leaving her sitting in that kitchen chair, turning away, and walking to the car was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I knew I would not see her in the flesh ever again. Goodbye.

The youngest daughter had spent the night with her other grandmother. We picked her up and headed down the interstate. About 10 minutes from Ruston, she said she had wanted to say goodbye to Gram. I don't remember my exact words to her, but we didn't go back. It's not that an extra 20-40 mins would have wrecked our schedule, but I didn't think I could leave again - say goodbye again.

Some goodbyes are bittersweet, like dropping your daughter off at college for the first time and driving away. Something has really changed. Parents and child both are exploring freedom, but the family has changed in a way that will never be recovered. Goodbye.

When our daughter and grandchildren moved away after living near for over a year, there's another hard goodbye.

For a father, giving your daughter away in marriage is tough. We may joke about pawning her off on some unsuspecting guy, but the humor just masks the scars. I'll never forget the few minutes sitting there with her in the stairwell off the foyer while we waited for her turn to go down the aisle - her grand entrance on my arm. Only a father can understand the pain of that goodbye.

Most of the time we think of "goodbye" with the expectation of a "hello" down the road. We kiss, hug, and say goodbye when going home from visiting the grandchildren already having planned the next visit. Goodbye.

Someday, there will have been a final goodbye - when death slams the door on hello's and hugs and kisses. But if God be with ye (goodbye), we are ushered into a place where there is no need of goodbyes for all of eternity. Some hello's may have been deferred for a short time, but there will never be another goodbye for goodbye is just an earthly word.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"I Do" or "I Will"?

My wife and I attended the wedding of the daughter of friends at our church. Saying the bride was beautiful is like saying apple pie is good, so let's just say this hot apple pie had ice cream on top.

As I was looking through the local paper this morning for my mother-in-law's weekly column, there was the bride's picture under a caption to the effect: local couple says, "I Do." I don't remember them saying, "I Do." What I heard was a lot of "I Will's." Now, I'm sure somewhere in the ceremony they did say "I Do," but it's the "I Will's" that I remember.

Maybe 35 years of marriage colors my hearing - 35 years of "in sickness and in health", "for richer, for poorer", the blessing of children and curse of teenagers, separations and wonderful homecomings (courtesy of the military). The "I Do" of 35 years ago may have sealed the contract, but it is the "I Will's" that have sustained it and enabled two strong-willed people become closer to one.

Marriage is God's creation and God's plan. He is actively involved. It's really three contracts in one - the bride pledging her faithfulness to God; the groom, his commitment to God, and the bride and groom saying to one another that, on this day, "I Do," but, forever, "I Will."

(dedicated to Laura and Ryan)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Moral Relativisim

Below is one of my articles that ran in local newspapers today (7/29/07). Article submissions have a 250 word limit. It's pretty much motherhood and apple pie on the subject - thanks a lot to Greg Koukl and his material from Stand to Reason.

Is torturing children for personal enjoyment right or wrong? Surprisingly, some would say, “I don’t like that and would never do it, but who am I to judge?” Sound familiar? Welcome to the dominant philosophy of our culture – moral relativism.

In moral relativism, there are no universal moral absolutes – no Rights, no Wrongs – just preferences. Modern tolerance – doing whatever you want with none to say you’re wrong – sounds appealing, doesn’t it? This myth of moral neutrality eliminates categories of good and bad; Hitler’s morals were just different, not evil. Phillip Johnson says it’s become more intolerant to “name evil than do it,” but aren’t we denying our humanity when we fail to condemn what’s so obviously Wrong? Some things demand judgment! Unmask the moral relativist by asking, “You wouldn’t murder, but you think others should decide for themselves?”
Moral relativism doesn’t fit reality. It’s unlivable; still, it floods in through our education, political, and media establishments. Its allure is freedom from accountability from sin, but denying sin no more eliminates its consequences than naming Gollum’s ring "Precious" made it harmless. When “Judge not” is more popular than “For God so loved,” we’ve clearly lost our way. The real answer for sin is forgiveness, not denial.

A co-worker used to say, “Reality will prevail.” Thank God for the brick walls and pain of reality that signal we’re going down the wrong road, but, oh, the price we pay for our ignorance and lack of conviction. Will America wake up in time?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Has LA Sen. David Vitter Undermined His Moral Authority?

Of course, the recent admission by Louisiana Senator David Vitter that he had used prostitutes in the past was like dripping blood to a sea of sharks. The feast on this traditional pro-family advocate is in words and phrases like, sanctimonious, hypocrisy, lost his moral authority, etc - as usual, stink'n think'n is rampant in discussions of this situation.

This article is not a comprehensive treatment of the issue. I just want to work out (by writing and hopefully getting some feedback) some thoughts on the stink'n think'n, and, hopefully, help others see the same.

The first issue to deal with is the moral authority issue. That's the unseen subterranean mole-works undermining the whole foundation. What is the authority behind Sen. Vitter's moral pronouncements? If the authority is David Vitter, then, yes, he has certainly tarnished his authority to speak of his personal subjective beliefs. If his beliefs are universally and objectively true, however, then how has he undermined that moral authority? Isn't it the moral obligation of all to speak these truths regardless of how poorly we may exemplify them?

Notice that those who raise this issue are telling you something about themselves - they are the "true for you but not for me" moral relativist crowd who do not believe in universal objective truths - besides the universal objective truth that there are no universal objective truths. People with this viewpoint never have the authority to suggest their personal morality as "oughts" for anyone else.

The next important and related point is that the messenger does not determine the truthfulness of the message. The presence of law-breakers does not invalidate the law. Most murderers and liars know there is both a written law and a higher moral law they have broken. The law is no less true when spoken from the mouth of the sinner than the saint; however, the character of the messenger does determine the credibility with which the message is received -- especially when the message is unpopular (unpolitic).

Sen. Vitter is a hypocrite living in a universe of hypocrites, if you take the simple minded definition of hypocrisy as saying one thing and doing another. We have all lied, cheated, and stolen, yet we tell our children to not lie, cheat, and steal. So, we are all hypocrites by this simple definition. Calling someone a hypocrite, using this definition, is like saying, "Welcome to the human race."

Perhaps a more useful definition of hypocrisy would be advocating for something you know to be untrue. If I taught first graders that 1 + 1 = 1, but used 1 + 1 = 2 when dealing with my bank, then I am a hypocrite. It is in this sense that saying one thing and doing another is true. Is behavior contrary to stated belief always a demonstration of hypocrisy (by this definition)? In Vitter's case, "What do David Vitter's actions prove about what he believes about the sanctity of marriage?" On just a little reflection, we all know of times when we do things in violation of what we really believe, and later, we may be sorry that we did them.

Unfortunately, we do not know and cannot know with certainty what Sen. Vitter actually believes, but, given the totality of his walk and talk, it is still more reasonable to believe he is expressing his true beliefs in upholding the sanctity of marriage -- even with a substantial moral failure such as this. And, even in the recovery from this failure, he and his wife have exemplified dimensions of that sanctitiy in pursuing the routes of confession and forgiveness.

As usual, a person's view of Sen. Vitter will be driven by their philosophy.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Foolish Public Education

Submitted to local papers for publication:

“The God who is totally irrelevant and can be safely ignored is not God.” This is the subtle, but effective, indoctrination our children receive through 12 years of so-called “religiously neutral” public education.

IF there is a God, then all meaning, morality, and all Truth are rooted there. Teaching anyone contrary to this fundamental and basic foundation is teaching a lie and seeking their harm. Teaching our children religious neutrality “… doesn’t necessarily mean that they become atheists, but they are likely to think about God in a naturalistic way, as an idea in the human mind rather than as a reality that nobody can afford to ignore.” (“Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds” by Phillip E. Johnson.)

Wouldn’t teaching the existence of God and his basic characteristics – justice, love, mercy, etc – in public education be indoctrination? Yes, but no more so than the current “religiously neutral” approach!

But someone will be offended. Teachers can deal with incivility and hatefulness, but Truth always offends liars!

But it’s illegal. Not by the founding fathers or the Constitution. “Separation of church and state” is not there. Belief in God, disbelief, and ignorance are all religious positions. Pick one!

But, but, but …. Come on. We can send men to the moon and can’t figure out how to do this? We haven’t tried. We twiddle our thumbs and argue about prayer at graduation while generations of our children get foundationless educations. No wonder we keep getting more and more foolish with the passing years.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Personalize the Debate

This posts answers what I hinted at in green at this post.

A good friend, Rev. Clarence Powell, relayed this true story to me:

One day, while serving at the Baptist Children's Home in Monroe, LA, Brother Clarence received a call from a young college student thinking she had dialed a number to arrange for an abortion. (Some might think this was a case of dialing a wrong number, but I think she got the right connection - another one of those co (God and you) incidents.)

As he listened to the girl talk about wanting to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy, Brother Clarence had a moment of divine inspiration. He asked her, "What's the baby's name?"

The girl, somewhat taken aback by the question, floundered around, and Brother Clarence explained that all little girls dream one day of being a mother. They even think of names for their children. So, he asked her again, "What's your baby's name?"

She replied, "Mary."

Brother Clarence said, "Well, let's talk about Mary." He prayed for Mary, and, to his surprise, the girl on the other end prayed for Mary, too!

Brother Clarence referred the girl to a local pastor who got in touch with her and offered love and encouragement. See the difference personalizing the discussion made.

The next time you are debating with someone about abortion, use this tactic. Instead of talking about impersonal fetuses, the unborn, etc, give the baby a name. In fact, I would go so far as to deliberately use the name of one of their children, if I knew it. They may not go along with this, but there's no reason you cannot do it, even if you have to do it one-sided.

You cannot have a debate that is all emotion, and you cannot have a meaningful debate that is all cold hard facts (unless you are debating a computer -- and if you are losing the debate with the computer, you can just turn it off). For a debate to be fruitful, it must appeal to both the mind and emotion. Do not neglect the God-given power of the rightness of cradling a newborn in your arms! Giving the baby a name helps paint this picture.

Now, go back to my earlier post, referenced above, and use "Mary" where you see green words. See the difference it makes.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Taking the Roof Off

Here's a pro-abortion ploy. How would you answer this?

Pro-abortionist - "Where does an aborted fetus go - heaven or hell?"

Christian - "It's true that the child* even in the womb carries the mark of original sin and is therefore sinful before God, but the aborted baby* has certainly not reached the age of accountability where God holds us accountable for realizing our sinfulness (estrangement from Him) and recognizing our need for Jesus as the only way He has provided to cover our sinfulness and restore the relationship. So, I guess the answer to your question is the aborted baby* goes straight to heaven."

Pro-abortionist - "Well, if there's a chance the baby*, when it grows up and passes this so-called age of accountability, may not find your way to god and end up going to hell, then aren't we doing the child* a favor by aborting it and sending it straight to heaven? You should be in favor of abortion!"

You may be already thinking, "What do I say?"

There are several different approaches you could take here, but let's look at just one. Francis Schaeffer (famous and influential Christian apologist of the 20th Century that you really should know) advocated a tactic called Taking the Roof Off. Basically, he said people will find all kinds of excuses to hide under to support what they want to believe -- even when what they believe is irrational. This idea of hiding under, he likened to the snow/avalanche shelters built in the mountains of his native Switzerland to protect hikers.

Schaeffer's tactic to help the person see the irrationality of their position is to take the roof off their position and allow the rocks and boulders of truth to pelt upon them. You do this by carrying their position/belief to its logical conclusion and outworking.

Taking the Roof Off in this particular case might go like this, "If, in your opinion, abortion gets babies* to heaven and getting to heaven is a good thing, then getting more babies* to heaven is a better thing, right? So, why not abort every child? Everyone goes to heaven! What do think? (always end with a question - throw them the ball)"

It will probably dawn on the pro-abortionist that this is really not such a good idea. After all, if the government legalized killing every child in the womb, who would be around to pay into Social Security for the pro-abortionist to be able to draw out of the system? And it may even dawn on them eventually that the end result of their idea is the extinction of the human race.

The above is somewhat tongue in cheek, but you can definitely expect the pro-abortionist to protest your misunderstanding of what they said. This gives you the opportunity to allow them to more fully explain their position ... which gives you the opportunity to use the Take the Roof Off tactic again or use another tactic. The main point is that you can stay engaged and make the other person think.

I must confess I have never heard the above argument used by a pro-abortionist, but it would not surprise me! Also, I am not using it as a strawman (easily defeatable distortion of a person's viewpoint) but as an example for using the Taking the Roof Off tactic. This is not the only tactic that could be used here, but it does lead to an interesting conclusion. I also used this argument for its shock value. Since you probably never heard it either, it made you think - like finding a shuttered window you had never seen in your home and throwing it open to reveal a new vista.

You may also have picked up on another fatal flaw in the argument. It reasons there are three winners in an abortion - 1) the woman having the abortion (implicit), 2) the child who goes to heaven, and 3) the Christian who should be happy another soul has gone to heaven. Now, after using the Taking the Roof Off tactic as above, the pro-abortionist would probably back pedal furiously to make the point that she/he is not proposing that sending children to heaven is the reason justifying abortion but that it is a collateral benefit that should make Christians happy. But should this make Christians happy?

Isn't the pro-abortionist confusing reward (heaven) with the purpose of life? And the purpose of life is? (You do know, don't you?)

The most succint statement I have found is from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "What is the chief end (purpose) of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever."

It's like the man who buys a new car off the showroom floor and takes it straight to the junk yard. Afterall, that is the car's eventual reward -- but is that what a car is for? Has the car fulfilled its purpose?

I'm not going to develop the argument here, but you can see where this is leading -- a witnessing opportunity about the meaning and purpose of life. And, it's leading back to the central question of the abortion issue - What is it? (that abortion kills).

* there is another tactic related to the words in green I will explain in another post - here

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You Don't Have a Soul

"You do not have a soul; you are a soul. You have a body." C.S.Lewis

Did that wake you up?

You are a soul, made for eternity, that just happens to have a body right now, temporarily. The body perishes; the soul is immortal.

When you look at another person, don't look at them as a body; look at them as a soul.

Try living with this thought in your mind for a while. It should give you a different perspective on things.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Appropriate to the Situation

Another from my notebook - this one dated March 8, 1995.

Yesterday while rushing home from work - I was only going to have 15 minutes to change and leave for the Gideon's Pastor Appreciation Banquet, I was listenening to music on one of the Christian radio stations. They began to play the song, "People Need the Lord."

I had been thinking what I was going to say when I was giving the invocation prayer that night at the banquet and the song on the radio struck a deep chord - "that belongs at the banquet," the words are so apt to what the Gideon/church relationship is called to do. I actually gave thought to reading the words to the song as part of the invocation but decided that was not quite what was right.

That night at the banquet, after my invocation and after the meal, Gideon brother Sammy Brewster brought the special music for us. He sang, "People Need the Lord."

Another Co (God and me) Incident. Praise the Lord!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Co (God and me) Incidents

The below was written in my notebook and dated 12-22-99:

Last Friday morning, my wife was listening to the Christmas music playing on the radio as I was getting ready to leave for work. She remarked that the song just ending was one of her favorites -- it was a song I liked, too.

I decided to myself that I would find a CD with that song and give it to my wife as a Christmas gift. However, by the time I got to work, I had forgotten the name of the song!

After straining my brain trying to remember the name of the song to no avail, I finally just said a little prayer, "Lord, if you want me to get this for my wife, you'll have to help me remember."

That evening after rehearsal for our Christmas cantata, our choir director had us sit together in the auditorium to go over a few last things. As he was wrapping up talking about what we would be doing on Sunday morning, he mentioned that so-and-so would be singing a special - Breath of Heaven.

That was the song I couldn't remember.

God answered and my wife got the CD for Christmas.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jesus is Contrast not Comparison

"... Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame ..." Hebrews 12:2

Joy? Some places in the Bible words just leap off the page, grab your collar, and pull you down close. This is one of those places for me. I've always found this nugget fascinating - to call the excruciating pain, suffering, humiliation, and rejection of the cross ... JOY?

We try to compare the pain and the objective to be gained, but Jesus is really not about comparisons. He is about contrast. "In Him was light ..." - light and darkness are contrasts. The examples of His life and what He said are a contrast to what we think life is. Sin has so corrupted us. We settle for life on a level so far below what was intended that true life can only be seen as a contrast. You just can't compare yourself or anyone else to Jesus. He simply stands so far apart.

The love of the Father shown in Jesus makes the best love of man look like hate - contrast, not comparison. In Hebrews 12:2, the joy of fulfilling the Father's mission for Him made the very real pain so insignificant it could only be thought of in terms of contrast. He puts things in their right perspective. Jesus shows us the joy of doing the Father's will as a diamond reducing our sin-distorted fears to peanuts.

Begin to see in Jesus contrasts, not comparisons, and see what a difference it makes.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Little Hugs are Special

You may have to be a grandparent to really understand this.

Little Hugs are Special

Running into my arms
Eyes bright with love,
Little arms flung round
My neck squeezed tight.
Little hugs are special.

Soft cheek pressed to weathered face,
Sweet kisses and “I love you's"
All a little heart given
With nothing held back.
Child loving father loving child.

Love, out of proportion to any merit,
Unconditional, and pure.
Eternity to spend in this moment
Could not consume the joy.
Knowing here echoes of Truth.

“Don’t bother the Master with these.”
“He’s on important business here.”
But stopping, Jesus says, “Forbid them not,”
“Let the little ones come unto me.”

Running into His arms
Eyes bright with Love,
Little arms flung round
His neck squeezed tight.
Little hugs are special.

Soft cheek pressed to weathered face,
Sweet kisses and “I Love you's"
All a little Heart given
With nothing held back.
Son Loving Father Loving Son.

And the Father’s extravagant Love shown
In this most unlikely and simple thing.
Reminding us with each little hug and kiss,
“For such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Yes, little hugs are special.

c Harold Henderson, 2003
This work may be freely reproduced in unaltered form for non-commercial use.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Three Significant Quotes

Here are three quotes that have opened my eyes to the impact of secularism/humanism in our culture. I guess you can say, these quotes helped me put the pieces of the puzzle together.

First, before you read the quotes, I want you to picture in your mind the culture as the soil into which the Gospel is sown (Luke 8:5-15).

"No one indeed believes anything unless he first thought that it is to be believed.” St. Augustine

"False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion." Gresham Machen

Now, if you are getting it, I think this one nails the lid on the coffin and should send chills up and down your spine ...

"When people are taught for years on end that good thinking is naturalistic thinking, and that bringing God into the picture only leads to confusion and error, they have to be pretty dense not to get the point that God must be an illusion. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they become atheists, but they are likely to think about God in a naturalistic way, as an idea in the human mind rather than as a reality that nobody can afford to ignore.” “Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds” by Phillip E. Johnson, pp 89

All three synoptic Gospels tell the parable of the sower; however, I like Luke's account best because it tells us the most about the heart in the culture (soil) that holds the word (seed) fast and bears fruit with perseverance. That heart is described as "honest and good" (NASB and KJV), "noble and good" (NIV). Note that it is not the seed that makes the heart this way; this is a precondition of receiving, holding fast, and bearing fruit. This is the heart that will open up to and allow the working of the Holy Spirit.

Look at our culture today, and it's plain to see that our culture does everything in its power (whose power? Satan's!) to pervert hearts away from being "honest and good". Whereas 60 years ago, there was sufficient Chrisitian influence in the institutions of culture for this kind of preconditioning to still be pretty dominant, today we cast seed on thoroughly rocky and hard soil.

Are you concerned with why more are not being saved?

Among other things we do to reach the lost as individual Christians and as the Church, we need to be cultivating the culture with God's definition of nobility, honesty, and goodness just as the farmer prepares his soil to receive the seed. Unfortunately, I don't see an emphasis, or even an awareness, of this in most evangelistic communities. We keep on pretending the soil is as it was 60 years ago -- and with predictable results.

And, don't forget the effect on those inside the church of swimming in this polluted culture every day - but that's a topic for a later post.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Diamonds for Peanuts - Abortion

This is probably the first of many Diamonds for Peanuts posts. This piece was submitted for publication in local newspapers for the 34th anniversary of the 1973 Rowe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision.

I’ll let you in on a secret, but, first, take this intelligence test. There are three pictures in a row: two sparkling diamonds and a peanut. Pick the two that are alike. Would you pick the peanut and a diamond? A lot of people think you would.

This is the way some people argue ideas; they take two things with vastly different values and make them appear alike. A recent editorial headline ran, “Abortion is wrong; so are protesters.” Whoever wrote that headline is equating the “evil of abortion” (the writer’s words) with the incivility of some abortion protesters – diamonds and peanuts.

Another good example is the pro-abortion argument that “unwanted” children are better off dead than for some to suffer abuse and poverty. Even if all “unwanted” children suffered abuse and poverty, is it really better that they be killed? Not to diminish abuse and poverty, but isn’t this another diamond (the value of life) vs. peanut (abuse and poverty) comparison?

Those who argue this way are trying to inflate the significance of their peanut to that of a diamond. But, like the politician’s favorite ploy, “I could never personally condone abortion, but who am I to push my beliefs on someone else,” reduces sanctity of life to personal preference like flavors of ice cream, this trick ends up reducing precious diamonds to cheap peanuts.

“Hey, lady, I’ll trade you a peanut for that diamond on your finger. OK, two peanuts.” Is life really so cheap?