Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Where to from here, Madam Shepherd?

All day, all night, Marianne
Down by the seaside siftin' sand
Even little children love Marianne
Down by the seaside siftin' sand. --- refrain from song, "Marianne," by Brothers Four

Although there is a difference in name spelling, the above lyrics came to mind when I read a petition submitted by Bishop Mary Ann Swenson on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops.

Bishops in the United Methodist Church when fully adorned in formal apparel for distinguished functions such as ordination services at annual conferences are usually seen holding a staff. They are at times referred to as the "shepherds" of the church. This suggests that they are leaders and have oversight regarding clergy and laity who are the "sheep" in the UMC.

Mary Ann (or as I prefer, Marianne in the refrain above) submitted a petition which was similar to a number of others to the General Conference that calls for a major change in the Book of Discipline statement concerning homosexuality.

Paragraph 161.G presently reads:

Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

If Mary Ann and others have their way, the statement about homosexuality being incompatible with Christian teaching would be eliminated entirely and another phrase inserted with the amended paragraph 161.G reading:

Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone sexual relationships outside the bonds of a faithful, loving and committed relationship between two persons; marriage, where legally possible. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

Fortunately the committee dealing with this and many similar petitions voted to reject them. Time will tell whether the entire body of the GC will agree -- debate should be interesting.

Over the years a number of the "shepherds" have been "converted" on the issue of homosexuality -- they used to be opposed or somewhat opposed, but now support efforts to legitimize it at every level of the church, including ordaining those who practice sodomy and lesbianism. Mary Ann and others would say, on basis of submitted petitions, that "committed and loving monogamous relationships" between any two persons whether that involves a relationship between 2 males, 2 females, or a male and female are quite OK.

So then is it acceptable to pose this question -- "Madam Shepherd, where do we go from here? You are attempting to lead us (and pressure us) to accept the practices of sodomy and lesbianism within the context (as you and others put it) of a committed and loving monogamous 'relationship!'"

Does this mean that later on down the road our views may shift so that those who are in "loving and committed" adulterous relationships should be accepted without question, or those who enjoy sexual adventures with animals, or those who get their sexual thrills in sexual activity with children -- the possibilities are virtually unlimited here -- where does one draw the line and by what authority is that line to be drawn? How about it, Madam Shepherd?

For more details on the "shepherds" of the UMC and those who support the sodomite/lesbian "agenda" for the denomination see, "UMC Episcopal Endorsement of Same Gender Coupling!

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." --- Matthew 7:15-20

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not a Chance -- The United Methodist General Conference Won't Touch This One -- Infection Within the Connection!

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. --- Jude 1:3, 4

Many years ago in personal conversation with a district superintendent I posed this question -- "Do you believe there is apostasy within the United Methodist Church?" His response was instant -- "Yes, no doubt about it!" I then asked if he would spell out some specifics. On this he chose to decline and not point any fingers in any direction regarding the issue of apostasy within the UMC.

It has been shouted from the housetops on a regular basis -- one of the distinctives within the United Methodist Church is the fact that it is a connectional system. Its very structure with episcopal leadership and clergy who understand that they are in what is known as "itinerant ministry" testifies that there is a definite connection -- there is no place for a "lone ranger" approach to ministry within the ranks of the United Methodist Church -- if you want to be independent, then start your own kingdom in some other place, but you can't do it within the UMC!

However, the one thing that a majority refuse to recognize by way of crisis within the denomination is this -- we have been plagued with "infection within the connection" for quite a few decades!

"How so?", you may ask. Over time it has been pointed out that pastors have a number of identities when it comes to this thing known as "theology." There is a spectrum involved here -- ranking from radical fundamentalist to conservative to evangelical to "middle-of-the-road" to "moderate" (whatever in the world that is supposed to mean) to liberal or ultra-liberal. One's view of the Scripture lays the foundation as to what one's position will be on matters of faith and the expression of that faith in today's world.

As has been pointed out in other postings and certain areas of my web site, the problem began in the later years of the 19th Century. Certain facts as reported in the Scriptures began to be called into question with the conclusion being that certain events could not be interpreted as taking place in a literal sense!

As this "infection" began to spread into a number of denominations more information as reported in Scripture was questioned until we came to the place where a lot of facts as revealed about Jesus were questioned or flat out denied!

Evidence of infection? Consider these "symptoms" --

  • Jesus' birth -- literally the son of a young woman who was a virgin and who had never been sexually intimate with a man prior to the birth of Jesus and that His conception was a miraculous act of the Holy Spirit? In the UMC you will find those who say it couldn't have happened that way!

  • Jesus' sacrifice -- literally His death on the cross fully satisfied God's demands for justice regarding our numerous sins of rebellion against Him -- He paid the penalty in full so we could be forgiven completely and restored to righteousness! In the UMC you can hear voices say that other religious "faiths" are also legitimate in today's world -- and the "Great Commission" as given by Jesus is not to be taken literally, nor His claim that He is exclusively the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to God the Father except through Him!

  • Jesus' resurrection -- His literal return from the dead and eventual ascension back to heaven to take His place at the right hand of God the Father until His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110)? In the UMC it has been said at times by some that it really doesn't matter whether He was raised from the dead or not -- it is the "spirit" of what He represented and taught that is important! This one is a bit tricky -- while there may be reference to Jesus' "resurrection," exactly what is meant -- a real, literal return from the grave in a body or something else?

  • Jesus' return to earth again -- not in humility by being born as a baby, but as King of kings and Lord of lords to take full control of the planet and to rule it permanently? In the UMC it seems there is a lot of fancy foot shifting as though some have moved into the "soft-shoe" dance mode -- a lot of hemming and hawing coupled with double-talk! Why is it so difficult to believe Jesus meant exactly what He said about returning to earth again? Could it come from the infected crowd who really do not want Him to come back to this world?

That's just a sample -- the "infected" element wants to change the standards of sexual morality as originally spelled out by God over centuries of time. And there are other matters that provide proof that that there is a serious "infection within the connection" which ranges all the way from the pew to the level of the episcopacy!

How do some persons attempt to justify this? We are a denomination of "diversity!" It is a perverted application to be sure and boils down to this -- believe about anything you want to believe and live about any way you want to live, and it's OK -- because we are a denomination of diversity and we respect each other's positions and beliefs -- and whatever one does, one must never suggest that there really is a problem of "infection within the connection!"

But there is good news, folks! One of these days God is going to interrupt the flow of human history and the infection (in whatever form it has existed) will be addressed and terminated forever!

For a related commentary on this issue see But doctor, I feel good and people say I look great!

We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. --- 1 Peter 1:19-20; 2:1-3

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Am I Missing Something on This One?

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. --- 1 John 2:15-17

I do occasionally breeze through the auto ads to see how much prices have jumped since the last time I did such a maneuver. I also take note of how the ads are baited -- lease a new vehicle for an almost unbelievable small number of dollars per month. Then you begin to wade through the small print which may have been designed by the over active mind of a Philadelphia lawyer! Finally you come to it -- that item says you have to also put a hefty amount of cash down, or hope that when you trade in that relic you have been driving, it will be worth the amount of cash the guy wants in order for you to get into that "bargain" lease rate -- usually your trade-in isn't worth very much! When was the last time you traded and got more than you thought your car was worth on the trade-in?

Anyway, the ad that caught my eye was one by a used car outfit -- a 1987 Porsche 911 was listed, picture and all -- the asking price? A mere $28,500.00 for a car that is 21 years old! I admit looking a second time and then a third time -- I began to wonder -- no mileage was listed as some dealers do in their ads -- just some of the features and the statement after that which said, "Extra Sharp Car."

I understand that Porsche is a very big name when it comes to prestige -- and it seems that those who are in the class of being wealthy (or think they are) want to drive vehicles that make a statement that says, "This vehicle is owned and driven by somebody who is SOMEBODY!"

The Porsche in question is a little shrunk up thing with 4 wheels -- as a few might admit, it could very well compete in an ugly dog contest when it comes to looks. But then the retort to anyone holding such a view would be, "You just don't appreciate the finer things of life!" Sort of like, if you are somebody of significance then you will eat raw snails and caviar -- for some of us, an Angus beef hamburger with lettuce, tomato and mayo has a greater appeal!

Each person has to make choices in regard to their personal system of values -- what is it that is most valued in life and what is it that we most zealously pursue? It certainly is evident each day that a majority are given to the ardent pursuit of that which is experienced through the 5 senses -- at the center of all this is something called money and all the things it will buy, including a Porsche 911!

It can be frustrating and the temptations do abound in a nation and a world where the rich are getting richer (dare we include oil company executives among others in this group?) and the poor are getting poorer!

One solemn bit of advice was given by the One Who put this universe together in the first place by speaking some rather simple commands -- He declared it to us in this way --

"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or' What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." --- Jesus speaking in Matthew 6:31-33

It was also this same Jesus Who asked the most probing question ever asked in any generation which is being swallowed up in its materialistic quick sand --

"For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" --- Matthew 16:26

It is good, sane and very smart to live with a perspective in which one views oneself as merely a pilgrim passing through on the way to eternity and a personal meeting with the Creator and Judge of this world -- His Name is Jesus Christ, the One Who sacrificed His life for the sins of the entire human race so that those who choose to repent and seek to obey and serve Him may have a place in His Kingdom forever!

So I guess I'll pass on that 21 year-old Porsche with an asking price of $28,500.00 -- besides, once I fold my 6'2" frame up like an accordion to get into it, I may not be able to get back out of it and that would be nothing short of a hell of my own making!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. --- 2 Timothy 4:7, 8

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Still No Word About That Other Million!

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations." --- Jeremiah 1:4, 5

Tomorrow, April 25th, is being noted as Malaria Day. United Methodist agencies are stressing the date along with offers of resources to better educate us on the need to combat malaria in Africa.

My bishop in the W. PA Annual Conference, Thomas Bickerton, has been very aggressive in promoting the need to support what is commonly known as "Nothing But Nets." Finances are raised to purchase netting to protect individuals from being bitten by mosquitoes which spread the disease. Our conference reported that he was in New York yesterday meeting with some big name people etc. and promoting the cause of combating malaria in Africa.

The bishop, as well as UMC agencies, stress the fact that there are 1 million or more victims who die of malaria each year in Africa. There has been a positive response to the appeal for support. In fact, my wife and I have sent in support for this cause.

But there continues to be the nagging question -- with all the traveling, contacts made, and conversations on the subject of malaria deaths by Bishop Bickerton -- why has he along with all the other bishops never mentioned the fact that there are also over 1 million unborn children mutilated and murdered in their mothers' wombs each year in the "land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Yea, yea, I know! I've been making a big issue of this thing of slaughtering the unborn for a long time -- how is it that we as a nation and as a church have allowed ourselves to be deceived into thinking that God isn't paying the least bit of attention to this abomination, or worse, that He simply doesn't care and will never confront our republic about this?

Back to the UMC bishops -- want to see how many unborn have been brutally mutilated and murdered under their respective watches? Go to A Quick Look At The United States' Massacre Tally! -- scroll down a ways to see the different bishops and the numbers. As of 8:43 AM on April 24, 2008 there were 4,786,524 unborn children exterminated in the United States' version of holocaust since Tom Bickerton became bishop of the W. PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church!

Now to what extent has he expressed concern about this abomination in comparison to what he has said about people dying from malaria?

Does anyone dare to entertain a thought that there is more than a tad of inconsistency at the episcopal level of the United Methodist Church?

In addition to that, here's another little gem to think about -- with all the lamenting about loss of members in the United Methodist Church, how many more do you think we might have had if those nearly 49 million unborn children would not have been destroyed since the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973? Want to sleep on that one tonight, if you can?

In the meantime we still wait to hear a word from Bishop Bickerton and the rest about that other significant "million" that they have miserably failed to mention!

'Thus says the LORD: "Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place......Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, for shedding innocent blood, and practicing oppression and violence.'" --- Jeremiah 22:3, 17

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Continuation of a House Divided?

But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. --- Matthew 12:25

It's a big year for the United Methodist Church. It's the time for the quadrennial meeting of the General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, during the latter days of April 2008.

This is the group of lay and ministerial delegates that will consider thousands of petitions on a wide range of issues and by votes cast will attempt to chart the course of the denomination for the next four years.

The content of the petitions provide graphic evidence of the division existing within the denomination and from time to time this division has made headlines.

Thanks to German theologians, with some assistance from others of a different nationality, over a century and a quarter ago we have now come to the point of being sharply divided over such matters as:

  • sexual morality and where God has established the boundary lines regarding sexual intimacy for human beings
  • whether an unborn child should live or its life terminated by means of very violent "medical procedures" while still residing in what is supposed to be the "safe sanctuary" of its mother's womb
  • whether or not murderers should be executed for violently taking the lives of other human beings
  • what territory Israel should claim and the extent to which it can defend itself against its many enemies or even have the right to exist

Add to the above a host of other issues as well. But what you see above is more than enough to remind us that the United Methodist Church is clearly a house divided!

There was a time in the history of the former Methodist Church that a high degree of unity existed. Among pastors and laity was a significant agreement that the Scriptures were of supernatural origin - a volume of information produced by the direct influence of the Holy Spirit on a number of persons over centuries of time. One has but to look back in the earlier decades of the history of the United States to see how God blessed the efforts of pastors and laity with the result of a growing church -- the numbers tell the story!

Those days are long gone -- now we talk about celebrating our "diversity" and ignore the reality of a spiritual cancer which continues to destroy a denomination. One of the greatest proofs of this is seen in a most basic issue in the Christian faith -- is Jesus Christ exclusively the way of forgiveness, peace with God, and the hope of Heaven in eternity? Quite a number within the denomination take the position that other faiths have a legitimate claim on the issue of life's purpose and destiny for eternity. When you have a bishop of the UMC saying that we need to forget about this matter of going to foreign nations and trying to convert them to Christianity, then we are in far bigger trouble than we can even begin to imagine!

With that I rest my case -- the division and the compromising will continue -- there will be a continuation of those leaving the denomination, both laity and pastors -- and the membership will continue to shrink within the United States.

For those few who still believe the Bible means precisely what it says on such issues as stated above and choose to remain in the UMC, there are two main actions to take -- stand firm in one's witness that Jesus Christ is exclusively the way of salvation and hope (that shuts all the other "faiths" out!) and pray that God will do some supernatural surgery in removing the "spiritual cancer" which is destroying the body!

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. --- Jude 1:3, 4

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Pot Calling the Kettle Black -- D.C. Style!

"I've served with seven presidents. When they come in, they all make mistakes. They all get older...." --- part of press release on John Murtha stating that John McCain is too old to be president, April 17, 2008

Putting big feet into big mouths seems to be a natural with politicans -- it's more common than we realize -- B. O. did it recently in regard to remarks about people in the small towns of Pennsylvania.

Now Big John Murtha who represents a portion of south central PA, including the city of Johnstown, in the U. S. Congress has declared John McCain to be too old to be president of the United States! These words come from a man whose age must be affecting serious thinking on his part due to the fact that Big John is older than McCain!

Says Murtha -- "Let me tell you something, it's no old man's job." That is interesting coming from one who has given no indication that he is going to step down from his position due to age -- he is about 4 years older than McCain!

I have the misfortune of living in Murtha's district, and have communicated with him from time to time. His replies are always typical of a politician -- lots of talk but no real substance on whatever the issue may be.

Murtha is notorious for the practice of "ear-marking" when it comes to spending the tax money we have paid to the federal government -- designatiing millions of dollars here and there within the boundaries of his district with much of it related to defense contracts of some sort. In fact, Big John qualifies for title of "King of All Ear-Markers!"

One of the urgent needs is for Route 219 to be made into a 4-lane highway north from the Ebensburg area to the New York border. What has Murtha done? Well, he was present at the opening of a very short 4-lane extension which is just west of Ebensburg and proceeds north from Rt. 422. They even put a sign along this extension, naming it the John Murtha Highway -- it was but a short time when someone shot the sign full of holes!

But down in the Johnstown area, it appears that God plays second fiddle to Big John in the minds of a lot of Democrats! So, how long will he keep his seat in Congress? It is likely he is very selective on the age issue - he is quick with the lip as to who is too old to be president, but no comment on what the age limit should be to members of the U. S. Congress!

Aren't these pot and kettle episodes exciting, and each one gets better as time passes!

This has been written by a non-affiliated registered voter in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. And I am Clayton D. Harriger and I approved this message!

"Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain." --- Ezekiel 22:27

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dare to Be or Reluctant to Be a Daniel, Which Will It Be?

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and good will of the chief of the eunuchs. --- Daniel 1:8, 9

It has often been a theme in children's Bible school sessions. And sometimes pastors have picked up on it a bit. It's the "Dare to Be a Daniel!" challenge to people of faith of all ages.

Anyone with a measure of exposure to Bible stories has doubtless heard of Daniel, the Hebrew captive in Babylon, who refused to compromise his convictions which were rooted in his upbringing. He was keenly aware of Who the God of Israel was and he was further determined to be obedient to this God. As noted in the statement above, he would not compromise those convictions and three friends chose to join him while a bunch of others probably felt it would not make any difference by eating and drinking whatever was set before them. You also don't read anything more about those compromising Hebrews, do you?

We are clearly living in a time in which there is an embarrassing reluctance to be a Daniel within the ranks of those professing to hold to the Christian faith! This is seen in two ways:

  • Conviction to stand faithfully by the standards which God has established for holy living and witness. The common word now is compromise and "don't rock the boat!" Increasing numbers are entering into the "dialog" mode -- various issues on which there is sharp disagreement are resolved through the "dialog" process -- parties with differing positions sit down at a table and discuss these with the understanding that each respects the other and the position which the other side represents. One of the greatest examples of this disaster is the "dialog" sessions taking place on the subject of the practices of sodomy and lesbianism. Those advocating such practices really don't care if you disagree with them so long as you are willing to "dialog" and eventually all work together within the established church for the good of the Kingdom! It's those few of us who are the "homophobes" who refuse to "dialog" that give the church a bad name, right?

  • Honest confession in prayer with unapologetic recognition that political and religious leadership erred and brought about a direction in the life of the people which led to an indescribable disaster. Daniel was thoroughly honest in his assessment as to why he was in Babylon rather than back in the kingdom of his native Judah enjoying freedom as a citizen there. Note some things he said as he prayed:

    And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land." --- Daniel 9:4-6

Later it is noted by Daniel that he confessed his sin and the sin of his people Israel. It was then that the angel Gabriel appeared to him with some rather startling news about some future happenings!

At this point in time all indications are that this thing of confessing as well as repenting of sin is something to be avoided -- dare to be a Daniel? Well, maybe up to a point -- but to do so wholeheartedly places one in a very difficult position -- it's like being the point man on a military patrol to rout out the enemy -- you're the first one in line and you are the first target of attack!

The majority trend is this -- compromise a bit here and there in order to maintain "peace" and whatever you do, don't bring this subject of sin to our attention -- people don't want to hear about that! Or to put it another way by rephrasing an approach taken by former President Bill Clinton -- "Just what do you mean by sin?"

How many are out there in the republic of the United States who will dare to be a Daniel with the conviction that obedience to God is an absolute must and the conditions under which we presently live demand total honesty in a true spirit of repentance and prayers of confession?

Look -- over there in the distance-- do you see them -- isn't that a majority I see that is holding banners with very large and bold letters saying, "We are most reluctant to be a Daniel -- in fact, we don't want to be like him!"

"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, therefore you shall bear the penalty of your lewdness and your harlotry.'" The LORD also said to me: "Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them. Moreover they have done this to Me: They have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths. For after they had slain their children for their idols, on the same day they came into My sanctuary to profane it; and indeed thus they have done in the midst of My house." --- Ezekiel 23:35-39

Monday, April 14, 2008

B. O. Inserts Big Foot into Even Bigger Mouth!

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." --- B. O. in San Francisco as reported on Friday, April 11, 2008

Yes, B. O., some Pennsylvanians are serious about their religion and there are quite a number that take the attitude, "You'll get my gun when you pry it off my dead fingers!" And most of those Pennsylvanians would fully agree with the accurate bumper sticker released some years ago which said, "Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile has killed more people than my gun!"

There are Pennsylvanians who are in sharp disagreement with a large number of politicians, including the president of the U. S. when it comes to the religious issue. The president is on public record as stating his belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God! That statement can be documented as taking place at a joint news conference years ago with Tony Blair in the United Kingdom. It's more than an outside possibility that a lot of politicians, including the great B. O. himself, would agree with Bush on that religious position!

I and some of my fellow Pennsylvanians would radically insist there is but one true God Who chose to become human in the Person of Jesus Christ and any religious expression in this present world that does not have Him at the heart and center of its worship, devotion and activity in daily life is totally false. This is underscored in John 1 - 3 about Who Jesus really is and what He demands of us humans if we expect to enter His eternal Kingdom! Go ahead, and read it for yourself -- then you are on the spot -- you're at a fork in the road -- you have to decide -- is what is told about Him the truth and is He telling the truth, or is He just a high profile fraud and nothing more? If He is telling the truth, then this idea of worshipping God any way that strikes your fancy when it comes to "religion" is a bunch of nonsense and could cause a person to end up in a devil's Hell forever!

On this gun issue, all indications are that B. O. does not seem too sympathetic to the common interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Yes, a lot of us Pennsylvanians have our guns and intend to "cling" to them as B. O. put it! I am one of a number who is licensed to carry a handgun concealed and loaded, if I so choose! And that can range from a .357 Magnum all the way to a very dainty little .22 Magnum that can be concealed in my hand!

Pennsylvania has not only a lot of gun owners but a great hunting population -- it is said that more deer are killed on PA highways in a year than are taken in the hunting seasons of a number of other states combined. Over a million hunters are out on the first day of Pennsylvania's deer season.

By the way, guns sometimes are excellent tools to have around the house -- it was reported a while back about a 12 year-old girl being home alone due to her parents being away at some evening function -- two illegal aliens broke into the home with one carrying a weapon -- that one came up the stairs toward the girl who had retrieved her father's 12 gage shotgun -- she shot the one coming up the stairs who took the blast in the abdomen and genital area -- he died instantly -- she shot the other one who managed to get outside where he bled to death! She had been trained in skeet shooting by her father and knew how to handle a weapon and use it when necessary! She ought to be a poster child for a while in a society reeking with people who think they can break into anybody's home and take anything they want by force, killing the occupants if they feel so moved!

But Pennsylvanians also have good memories when it comes to how politicians are prone to open their mouths and insert a big foot in them! If all goes well, perhaps B. O. has just shot himself in his big foot before he inserted it in his big mouth so far as Pennylvania is concerned.

But then, the other option on the Democratic ticket isn't exactly a winner either, is SHE? Then go Republican? Ooooh! Frustration will definitely be the name of the game when a lot of us go into that voting booth in November! Please understand that these statements are coming from one who, first, has a basic mistrust of all politicians to begin with (I rest my case on the records they have set for themselves!) and second, is a non-affiliated registered voter in south central Pennsylvania -- Cambria County!

We definitely need a Joshua type of leader in times such as these -- but I see none at all in the field -- do you? But more on that at a later time.

"Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." --- Joshua 1:7, 8

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Will It Be Blessing Prayers or Repenting Prayers?

"God bless America!" --- oft repeated phrase heard throughout the United States on numerous occasions -- i.e. after a presidential address et alii!

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land." --- Daniel 9:3-6

May 1, 2008 has been designated as the National Day of Prayer in the republic of the United States. It has been something which has taken place for a long time.

How will it go this year as many join together in observance of this event? Will it be dominated mainly by "blessing" prayers -- that is, a chorus of voices beseeching God to bless the nation, its leaders and all the citizens? As noted above, the phrase, "God bless America," has been used again and again and we have a song by that very title as well.

Or will there be praying that reflects the critical matter of repentance at all levels of our nation? A primary example is that of Daniel who was deeply concerned about the issue of repentance on the part of his people. He makes no excuses but honestly admits the heart of the problem -- willful disobedience to God which brought about the destruction of the kingdom in which he was a citizen!

There is little indication at this stage that the spirit of a grieving prophet over his people's sin will be recaptured on May 1 in our nation. There may be a few who recognize the need to repent -- a repentance involving each individual as well repentance at the collective level involving our institutions, including church groups and government!

Lest one is tempted to think that Daniel was a bit "self-righteous" in all this, as you read further through the account you find that he admits to confessing not only the sin of his nation, but also his own sin! We don't have the details on that -- in fact, Daniel is of such a noble character that the Bible does not record one negative thing about him as in the case of a number of others.

So then -- have you been praying for our nation? Not focusing on seeking blessings, but rather expressing grief over how sin is ravaging our culture and the need to repent of all that God finds to be offensive and abominable in His sight?

Far be it from us that we just devote a little attention to this on May 1, but that each day will find us beseeching our heavenly Father to be merciful because we are a sinful and wicked nation and need to repent before He chooses to bring devastating judgments upon us!

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Son of man, say to her: 'You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.' The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD had not spoken. The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads," says the Lord GOD. --- Ezekiel 22:23-31

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Murmuring Israelite in the Wilderness!

Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" So they said to one another, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt." --- Numbers 14:1-4

This is a confession time -- yes, in the daily times of prayer God has a way of jolting my memory about some things which prove to be most embarrassing and humiliating!

I find it all too easy to murmur and complain -- I would be more than qualified to be an Israelite wondering about in the wilderness -- in fact, to stand at the head of the line of chronic grumblers! As you see above, this is one incident of many in which the Israelites lapsed into the murmuring mode.

Time after time, in spite of the witness they had of God's mighty miracles of deliverance and provision, they would forget and regress into what would be almost a "ritual" of complaining.

So I, too often, can quickly lapse into a pattern of complaining:

  • the weather can be a frequent target -- too hot or too cold -- too much snow or ice -- and in connection with the winter, murmur about all that junk PennDOT throws on the road in winter time which results in the paint of my car getting chipped and the car often looks like it was in a hot tub of salt water -- you know, chalky white stuff all over the surface and the windows!
  • driving -- someone is going too slow in front of me -- someone is tailgating me from behind -- someone pulls right out in front of me -- why don't people know how to drive????
  • the deer and rabbits chew at some varieties of our flowers -- the buds on the rhododendrons are a target, so I do some grumbling about that as I try to take action to "head them off at the pass!"
  • and on politics -- I will not even go into detail on that one, although there are comments on both the blog and the web site which relate to this subject.
  • then there are those daily irritations, disruptions and the reality of what some describe as Murphy's Law -- lots of grist for one prone to complaining!

And so as I talk to the Lord on that morning walk, that's when He starts coming back at me about that grumbling pattern I get into -- He reminds me of others who have circumstances much worse to deal with than salt residue on a car in the winter time --

  • there are brothers and sisters who are suffering violent persecution and even being put to death for their faith in some places in this world -- the Voice of the Martyrs is most helpful in providing information on this growing problem.
  • there are brothers and sisters who are laboring under difficult circumstances to share the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ which I likely will never experience.
  • there are brothers and sisters experiencing severe health problems which I have never as yet experienced -- I can still see and hear -- I can still walk -- and I have been blessed with a good measure of health.
  • and God has provided Jean and me with a home that is mortgage free which sits on a 1.2 acre lot which He also provided shortly before retirement -- and no, it was not inherited!
  • we have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren -- a family which God has been pleased to bless in numerous ways.

It often comes down to a matter of disciplining the memory -- of intentionally remembering past blessings and benefits -- sometimes when walking in the rain or when the snowflakes are falling, I attempt to remind myself that each raindrop or snowflake represents a blessing which God has mercifully granted to me and my family in times past! The reciting of the first few verses of Psalm 103 is a good cure-all for one when in the complaining mode!

Heavenly Father -- forgive me for falling into the trap of murmuring and complaining over the most trivial and petty things -- forgive my indifference to the plight of my brothers and sisters in the faith who are suffering in ways I cannot even imagine as they seek to bear witness for your Son Jesus as Savior and Lord. And forgive me for forgetting there are others who are going through trials and tribulations which I have never experienced. And forgive my failures in keeping silent when I should have spoken a word -- for inaction when there is something I was capable of doing but didn't for the advancement of your eternal Kingdom. Grant me grace and the empowerment of your Spirit to proclaim your Word faithfully and to invest my remaining time, abilities and resources wisely in the fulfillment of your call upon my life. And whatever measure of time I have left in this world -- a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years -- or if you should spare my life until Jesus returns, may all that I say and do be to your honor and glory through Jesus, my Savior and my Lord. Amen!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Don't Blame Me -- It's Jesus' Fault -- He Taught Me to Do It!

"...it is written..." --- Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11

Why do I do it? How did I get into such an awful habit? It has actually become an addiction in my life over the years! It is what "anonymous" of W. VA referred to as "spouting off Bible verses." See comments on my post of April 5, 2008. I'm not sure if "anonymous" is male or female or something in between. As mentioned in reply at that time, it sure takes a lot of guts to make your statement and then refuse to identify yourself!

Anyway, about this addiction -- it was immediately after Jesus came into my life and did a major make-over from top to bottom -- inside and out! And so, as I began to read and study the Scriptures, portions began to be etched in my memory. I noted that Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and teach me -- He would guide me into the truth and show me things to come. (See John 14 - 16 on that).

I also observed that Jesus was a "Bible verse spouter" on many occasions starting with an encounter with someone out in the middle of nowhere. Oh, I almost forgot -- unfortunately there are persons within the ranks of what claims to be Christianity (theologians, seminary professors, pastors and laity) who don't believe that Satan and demons actually are real and literally exist! So just whom was Jesus talking to out there in that waste land?

Jesus' most lengthy time of "spouting Bible verses" took place when He was talking with Cleopas and a companion. He engaged in conversation with them after His resurrection from the dead. At one point He gives them a mild rebuke and then starts "spouting:"

Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. --- Luke 24:25-27

How long do you suppose the "spouting of Bible verses" continued on that occasion as a couple of pairs of eyes were suddenly opened and the realization set in that Jesus was no longer in the grave, but very much alive!

There were a lot of other "spouters" of Bible verses also -- Matthew did it -- Paul and Peter -- in fact, there was quite a gang who did it. Some of those fellows in the Old Testament did not start their statements with, "It is my opinion or I think..." but a "Thus says the Lord..." An interesting way of "spouting off," is it not?

So it's Jesus' fault plus the example set by a number of others that I do it too. I find myself doing a lot of it in my sermons and teaching!

Now then, what can be done about this addiction to "spout off Bible verses?" For starters, how about a BVSA (Bible Verse Spouters Anonymous)? Hey, they have such groups for alcoholics, gamblers and people who eat too much, so why not such an organization for those of us who are addicted to "spouting off Bible verses?"

To show there are no hard feelings about this, I nominate "anonymous" of W. VA to get this thing up and running. Maybe over time our culture will be purged of all tendencies to "spout off Bible verses" and "anonymous" of W. VA will no longer have to go through trials and tribulations of such a practice on the part of persons such as I!

So the next time you hear someone "spouting off Bible verses" just remember it is not likely his or her fault -- the blame has to be placed on Jesus, Who showed us how it is done!

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. --- Jeremiah 6:10

Monday, April 7, 2008

You Don't Like Bible Verses Thrown Your Way, Do You?

"The truth is you need to do more than spout off Bible verses to combat racism in the church." --- statement by "anonymous" of W. VA in response to my post on the scheduled W. PA Annual Conference mandatory training sessions on racism.

Actually I find myself agreeing with "anonymous" from W. VA who objected to my post about the forthcoming training session on racism in the W. PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church -- well, up to a point that is.

Note the phrase, "The truth is you need to do more than spout off Bible verses to combat racism in the church."

Two things are most essential in experiencing the transforming power of God's Word:

First, there has to be a determination as to what this Bible, containing lots and lots of "verses," really is. The testimony, as given in the Bible, makes statements such as the following:

"Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" --- Jeremiah 23:29

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." --- Jesus in Matthew 24:35

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. --- 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. --- Hebrews 4:12

However, the Scriptures have not only been viciously assailed outside the church, but within as well. One survey among protestant pastors a few years back determined that only about 51 percent of those pastors have a Biblical world view! And among United Methodist pastors that number dropped to 27 percent! But little wonder -- in the latter years of the 19th Century a deadly "virus" was imported from Europe -- in the disguise of "scholarship" it infected people with the view that the Bible is not trustworthy and as that expanded the end result was that many things as reported throughout the Bible simply did not take place and were not true!

So it really comes down to this -- a decision as to whether the Bible is nothing more than a "rag sheet" and we really can't be sure of much of anything by way of its contents, OR we are dealing with a volume of information brought together over time by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. If the latter view is taken then there is also recognition that where there is faithful witness to that Word and it is received by persons who are open in mind and heart, then miracles of change will take place!

Second, however, there must be a willingness to receive it -- both the Old and the New Testaments record numerous incidents in which God's Word was rejected. God's Word is light -- it is truth -- it explicitly reveals Jesus Christ to be God in human form and exclusively the only way of salvation and hope for human beings -- it rebukes and challenges -- it enhances growth in the Christian faith -- it enables the believer to discern right and wrong -- it often calls for decisions to be made in order for one to be conformed to the will of God -- and it provides absolute assurance for the future in terms of time as well as eternity! I am tempted to "spout off" a number of Bible verses in support of all this but I won't at the present time.

Ooops! I forgot -- when one does such a thing you are guilty of "proof-texting" are you not? It is quite interesting what people do to avoid being exposed to God's Word -- how their "defense system" automatically kicks into high gear when one of us "Bible thumpers" has made reference to something God has revealed for His people's benefit. If I quoted from the latest issue of Newsweek magazine or an ancient mold-covered issue for that matter, the Bible resisters would likely accept that without objection.

Yes, "anonymous" from W. VA, it does take more than "spouting" Bible verses as you put it to combat racism in the church -- there has to be a recognition of what it is you are dealing with when you confront the Bible, and whether or not you are willing to receive the contents of said Book which have the power to bring about desired and very positive changes in human life and relationships!

Since our culture finds itself in about the same identical position as that of the ancient kingdom of Judah in its latter years just prior to invasion and destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar and his army, our response to God's Word is also identical to theirs as well. Consequently racism, which is but one of the many spiritual, moral and ethical maladies infecting our nation, will continue!

I close with one more "spout off:"

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He also did evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel. Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the LORD which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand. And all the articles from the house of God, great and small, the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his leaders, all these he took to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions. --- 2 Chronicles 36:11-19

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Before & After Experiences with Racism!

And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts......" --- Mark 7:20-23

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. --- 2 Corinthians 5:17

As stated in yesterday's post, there are some more things I want to mention relative to the issue of racism, but this one is more of a record of a journey from the very young years to what most would say are the "senior" years! So let's get going!

In my very young years, I never saw a black person. They did not live in the rural area where I was born and raised. My first view of a person of another race was at our church where a mission program was being held and the featured person was a Japanese -- before WW II. I was very curious about that person and noticed immediately that he did not look like white people in his facial features.

Later on I may have seen some blacks, but do not distinctly remember the occasion/s.

My first real exposure and contacts with blacks came when I entered the USMC and boot camp at Parris Island SC. There were some black fellows in our platoon, but nobody expressed any "racist" attitudes or feelings toward them -- we considered ourselves all in the same boat and worked together as a team in all that we did -- this was especially important on field day nights when we had to clean the barracks from top to bottom.

The only kind of "confrontation" during boot camp that might be called a "racist" matter, but really was not -- on November 10 which is the Marine Corps birthday, we were about at the end of boot camp training -- it was a day of partying of a sort -- at one point our DI's got out the boxing gloves -- the senior DI had done some boxing and learned that a black fellow in our platoon had done some also, so he challenged H. to a match. It wasn't long before we realized that H. was getting the best of the DI, but he seemed to hold back from "putting him away!" When asked about it later and why he didn't really put the DI down, H. replied as he rolled his eyes, "No, suh -- that man would remember the next day what I did to him and I would really pay!"

Then came schools at Jacksonville FL and Millington TN with blacks and whites in classes -- everyone got along -- we learned together -- ate together - slept in the same barracks, etc. -- no problems.

Then came assignment to duty at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in NC. Jean and I were just married and got an apartment in New Bern which was a few miles from the base. I had a car -- some others didn't. I was approached by a black fellow in my squadron who lived in New Bern and asked if he could ride to base with me. I told him yes and we became very close buddies. There were a couple of other fellows who also rode with me and helped with the driving expense. But H. (not the fellow in boot camp) was the kind of fellow who would do anything for you if he could -- a real friend. But he lamented to me more than once how he wished we could just go out together in the evening to a bar and have some beers together (understand this was in my BC days [Before Christ]). Segregation was the order of the day -- we could not go into a bar together -- all whites in one place and all blacks in the other!

I was much bothered by this -- I saw water fountains in the local 5 & 10 -- one marked "colored" and the other marked "white" -- when I took my dad to the bus station for his trip back home we stared a bit at the way the station was set up -- an area for the "colored" and a much nicer area for the "white" folks.

And that's the way it was in NC for the time we were there and I admit to being very uncomfortable with that "social" system -- that under certain circumstances a very close buddy who happened to be black and I, a white person, could not socialize! It was ok if we were in a foxhole together under fire, but that was about it!

Then came discharge from the USMC -- back in northwestern PA and work in a factory that manufactured mobile homes near Clarion PA. Months passed and then God did a most merciful and miraculous work -- I repented of my many sins, received Jesus Christ into my life as Savior and Lord. Right on the heels of that came the call to the ministry in the former Methodist Church. From the time of receiving Jesus into my life to the time of standing in the pulpits of 2 Methodist Churches in New Castle PA was about 20 months, give or take a few weeks!

I finished college and was on the way to seminary. Contact with black people during this period was rather limited, but occasionally we crossed paths from time to time.

During the time at seminary things were rumbling a bit in Washington DC -- something called Civil Rights legislation was being debated in the Congress and pressure was mounting to correct many injustices and prejudices which had taken place over time. Three of us from the seminary went up to Washington DC to participate in what was called a "vigil" by seminary students -- a visible witness in the capitol in support of the proposed Civil Rights legislation. Some eyebrows were raised a bit at the seminary I was attending since the pending legislation was considered to be a "liberal" effort! While at the site of the vigil there was another "protest" going on just a few yards away from us -- the American Nazi Party under the leadership of George Lincoln Rockwell was vehemently protesting the Civil Rights legislation. They were dressed in their khaki uniforms with swastikas and all, and had their signs and their literature.

At one point a couple of us went over to one of the young men who was on "duty." We asked him some questions about this issue of race and the treatment of the blacks, etc. I can say that I never saw so much hate expressed in words, facial expressions and in the eyes of a person in my entire life. But that moment also was a blunt reminder of that need, as stressed in yesterday's post, that the only remedy for this thing is to experience what Jesus said must happen -- one has to be born again!

The legislation eventually was passed and some changes began to take place. It was by no means perfect, but at least it was a start.

As time passed there came into being something called Affirmative Action -- a further attempt to right the past wrongs and in a sense, go overboard to correct the past wrongs by use of a "quota" system.

I found out that this can be more than a bit rough for white folks under certain conditions. I had a PA State Trooper and his family attending one of my churches when they moved into the area. He was a corporal in rank and was working hard to prepare for the rank of sergeant. Andy was good at his job -- tough but always fair. He was in on a bust of a huge load of marijuana taken off an airplane which landed at the Johnstown Airport and was in charge of destruction of those bales of the weed -- they soaked it down with diesel fuel and then set it on fire. He was highly respected among his peers and by his superiors.

The day came -- he took the test for sergeant and scored higher than anyone else taking the test. Did he get the promotion? Nope -- it was given to a black who scored lower on the test! The reason was that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had put in place a "quota" system -- so many blacks had to be placed in the higher positions, in spite of not scoring high enough to earn the promotion as had been the custom.

So now we have a kind of racism of another kind rearing its ugly head, do we not? There were a host of explanations and reasoning as to why this was necessary. Is it appropriate to ask, "Do two wrongs make a right?"

What did Andy do? He quit the PA State Police and got a job with a major utility group, heading up its security system. Actually God worked this thing out for him in a wonderful way -- his pay and benefits were much better than if he had continued with the State Police! But the Commonwealth lost an excellent police officer!

Now then, how do you counsel a man such as Andy going through that experience? Do you just simply say, "Well, Andy, that's the way the little white ball bounces sometimes -- you'll just have to consider a bit of sacrifice in this -- just grin and bear it!"

In spite of the accusation of "spouting" off with Bible verses, I will continue to stand with the conviction that racism or any other social, moral or ethical problem can only be effectively remedied as each person meets the demands of Jesus -- and if that isn't done, the problems will continue to eat away at our culture as a fast growing cancer does within the human body!

Come to think of it -- perhaps Jesus should be compelled to attend the training event for racism. He didn't meet the quota system when He picked those 12 to follow Him, did He? At least not according to United Methodist Church standards as they are in place at the present time! There was not one female in that original group -- no other races were represented were they? Someone had better straighten Him out on this thing! Any volunteers?

But then if we don't pay much attention to His demands or to His personal claims regarding Himself (the "I am" statements) why be concerned with much of anything He did or said -- just follow our own ideas about how to level the playing field in our nation and in our world!

"But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you. So you shall say to them, 'This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.'" --- Jeremiah 7:23-28

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mandatory Training on Racisim? You've Got to Be Kidding!

Mandatory Training on Racism Scheduled --- Headline on front page of the March 14, 2008 issue of InterLink, newspaper of the W. PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

It seems all systems are go as another "mandatory" training session for clergy of the W. PA Annual Conference on the explosive issue of racism will happen at four designated locations this spring. Bishop Bickerton has sent a letter detailing this matter and stressed also the need for church leaders among the laity to attend as well.

The events are being funded through the "Believe Again" program which was launched some time back. I still have not gotten an answer to an issue I raised about this at the begining -- just what is it I am to believe anyhow? A link at the bottom of this discussion will provide more details about that.

Apparently to get us all set straight on this racism thing a company known as Rhymes Consulting which is based in Pittsburgh will provide leadership for the sessions. Now the question is this -- is this a Christian organization and are the people leading this all dedicated Christians deeply involved in their respective churches?

But no matter -- at the heart of the Christian faith is something called transformation of a person in the inner depths of that person's being upon the condition of repenting from all known sin and receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord -- quite literally, a miracle of change takes place!

In order for this miracle to take place the 4 demands Jesus placed upon us humans must happen -- no options here -- either we meet those conditions or we don't!

  • Jesus said we must be born again - John 3:3
  • Jesus said we must repent - Luke 13:3
  • Jesus said we must be converted and become as a little child - Matthew 18:3
  • Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink of His blood -- not literally, of course, as He explains on the occasion of issuing this demand - John 6:53-66

But that is where the problem is -- it is possible to hang the label, "Christian," around your neck -- circulate in and around the church and not really know what it is to be born again as well as meeting those other demands as set forth by Jesus! I recall hearing a preacher many years ago expressing frustration about the subject of being "born again" -- he admitted he knew nothing about it!

But having the experience will change one's perspective when it comes to racial issues plus a lot of other stuff which relates one way or another to this thing called sin. Paul expressed it well in statements made in Galatians 3:28 -- and how about those statements in Colossians 3:4-14 -- you know, where he says racial identification is obliterated and not recognized in Christ Jesus -- sure shoots this diversity thing (of which too many United Methodists are so proud) all to pieces, does it not?

Is this racism thing the only thing NOT to go when Paul was inspired to write this:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. --- 2 Corinthians 5:17

Is there anyone brazen enough in the W. PA Annual Conference or anywhere else for that matter who will say to Paul -- "Yes, some things may be a bit different, but racism still remains -- it's an old thing and it will stay, no matter what -- even the grace of God is not sufficient to deal with that one -- at least not until we call in a consulting firm!" Come to think of it, there probably are some who would do it!

Just what is meant when it says that a person becomes a new creation in Jesus Christ? What are the "old things" which pass away? What are the things which become "new?"

More to come in a day or two about this racism matter -- as experienced by a fellow who at one point didn't really care if there was a God or not!

By the way, that link on the matter of "Believe Again!" as mentioned earlier -- it's at Believe Again! OK! But What Is It That I Am to Believe? A link at the bottom of that area will bring you back to this place.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
--- John 15:5-12

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do Continued!

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! --- 2 Timothy 3:1-5

The monkey above appeared recently in a post which was titled in part with the term, "Money See, Monkey Do!" You'll have to go back a ways to see it or hit the word, monkey, in the label list. In light of developing events, the title is appropriate for today's comments.

This past Monday it was reported in Waycross GA that nine 3rd-grade students conspired to hit their teacher over the head with a blunt object, handcuff the teacher and then stab the teacher! The plot was discovered before the little tykes (or substitute monsters for this one!) were able to execute the plan. Investigation continues with the students (word used loosely) suspended. One theory is that the conspiracy was hatched because of a student being punished.

In addition to the knife discovered in the backpack of a student, other items recovered were duct tape, handcuffs, ribbon and a heavy crystal paperweight. Well now, where do you suppose those young 'uns ever got an idea such as that? Some at least will admit there is a lot excessive violence available for our young to experience by way of "musical lyrics," gaming and supposed "entertainment!"

April 3, 2008 news report from WJAC-TV in Johnstown PA -- three kindergarten boys cornered a 6 year-old girl, exposed themselves to her, and demanded that she touch them in their private area and give them oral sex! Where was the teacher while this little drama was playing itself out? It seems the teacher wasn't paying very close attention to just what the activity time involved for three who were her responsibility!

Same question as asked above -- just where did those little guys come up with all that, or are they starting graphic sex ed classes at the pre-school or kindergarten level now -- you know, teach those kids how to do it, do it right, and do it safely, right?

In the case of the three with their little hormones going crazy, perhaps they got instruction off the Internet -- it is now possible for them to access some very graphic stuff for free in spite of so-called "controls" put in place!

Have you been getting any feelings lately that something has gone a bit awry -- that the ship of a republic known as the United States is listing a bit -- or maybe a more dramatic example -- we resemble a modern day Titanic which has struck some spiritual, moral and ethical icebergs and are unable to plug the gash -- just ain't enough duct tape around to seal those gaps!

Things haven't improved a whole lot have they since those days decades ago when we decided to banish God, His Word and the practice of praying to Him in our public schools? Activities that now fill in the vacuum left by that debacle are not all that attractive are they? And then we followed up with the systematic extermination of what amounts now to about 100,000 unborn children on average per month throughout the year -- tally is now pushing up toward a grand total of 50 million victims! When we reach that, is it possible that God might step in and say the slaughter has gone on long enough -- time to stop it! Time will tell -- but speaking for myself and my family, we really don't want to be around at that precise moment when God makes a direct response to these abominations -- and rest assured, He will be making a response -- not whether He will, but WHEN!!

How do you avoid such tragedies as those just mentioned? The formula has been around for a long, long time -- but as a culture we have rejected the formula and chosen rather to give God an obscene gesture by way of response!

"Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you; 'a land flowing with milk and honey.' Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." --- Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Learning from Mr. & Mrs. Goose!

Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be only your own, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths.
--- Proverbs 5:15-21

At this time of year I see them every morning on my morning walk. I changed my schedule a bit. I roll out between 4:30 and 5 AM -- I sleep in a while now that I am "retired" -- before retiring from the United Methodist ministry I got up at 4 AM each morning.

I have my devotional time -- the Bible reading part of the devotion time takes me through the whole Bible once and the New Testament a second time in a year plus the other trips I take, especially time spent with the Old Testament prophets. And as mentioned in yesterday's post -- it's a great experience since the World's Greatest Theologian is always present to tutor and guide in these sessions!

I used to leave the house at about 6 AM for my walk. As you know, it's a bit dark at that hour at certain times of the year. So I have changed to leaving the house at about 7 AM, but I'm still up by 5 AM -- I just continue in prayer mode on my walk.

Anyway, during my walk I hear them coming -- their honking tells me they are on the way -- a pair of Canada geese. Often they fly very close overhead and barely clear the tree tops at times.

I submit that we can learn a thing or two from this pair.

  • This species mates for life -- no "revolving door" for them in the matter of changing partners as is so common in United States' culture and the way we humans relate to one another with our adopted philosophy that "sex is fun with anyone (or more than one anyone at the same time) anywhere and at any time -- just name when and where!"

  • They are committed to family -- both Mr. & Mrs. Goose are involved. We have seen some of those families at Duman Lake Park near where we live. I recall one occasion of a gander standing with head and neck extended as he kept looking about while the female and the young 'uns were eating at the breast works of the dam. He conveyed something by his very appearance -- "Don't bother me or my family or there will be big trouble!" That's the kind of commitment that has pretty much disappeared in our republic as family break down continues unabated!

  • They know where they are going -- I'm not sure where Mr. & Mrs. Goose are headed -- but each morning they are coming from the same place and are headed toward the same place -- which is more than can be said for most humans. The main problem is that the majority have bought into a false system of values -- the idea is that if we accumulate enough material goods, including lots and lots of money, and pursue a myriad of pleasures we will gain happiness and fulfillment, or will we? Consequently we're not sure where we are going as we compete in the "rat race" of life! One fellow who thought he had arrived and had it all put together was bluntly told, "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" Ah, for verification on that take a look at Luke 12 in the New Testament.

Yes, Virginia, things such as fidelity, commitment and knowing one's destination are still things that make for a very profitable and satisfying life experience! Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Goose, as you fly overhead for reminding me of this each morning!

And now a PS: This piece, as many of my rantings and ravings in this blog tend to be, was in the "incubator" for a while. Today, 08-04-02, as I took my walk the honking was extremely loud and it was obvious that more than 2 were involved -- and then I saw them again coming from the same direction and flying low as usual -- but there were about a dozen! Mr. & Mrs. Goose had some friends with them on the flight this AM! Hey, there's a lesson there too -- Christians, having been born again by a miracle work of the Holy Spirit, are the only people on the face of this planet who are absolutely sure of their destination -- ought we not be at the business of inviting others to travel along with us? Jesus has made it possible for all to travel to that sure and certain destination known as Heaven, has He not? Thanks again, Mr. & Mrs. Goose, for conveying another great lesson for us humans as we trod this sod called earth!

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." --- Jesus in John 14:1-3

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No Fooling! I'm Being Taught by the World's Greatest Theologian!

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you..... However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." --- Jesus speaking in John 14:26; 16:13-15

April 1, 2008 -- On this day -- a day which ranges all the way from a simple April Fool's joke to very complex and elaborate hoaxes, it is appropriate to consider our privilege to learn from One Who holds the undisputed title of "World's Greatest Theologian" and that's no joke!

In a post a few days ago I posed the question as to whether any who had stopped by had met Theo, my Administrative Assistant, at my web site, Circuit Rider's Range. He has a special area at that location identified as
The Theology Pit!

It is there that the subject of something called "theology" is pursued a bit. Pastors can even become obsessed with it and seem at times to come close to deifying certain idividuals who have come to be known as "theologians."

But of all those persons who over centuries of time have been known as theologians along with the many books they have produced, there is but One Who stands in a class all by Himself and the Book which He has produced -- His name? Holy Spirit! His book? the Bible!

What too often happens is this -- we (pastors and laity) can easily get so enraptured with theologians and authors of the day to an extent that we spend more time with them than we do with the World's Greatest Theologian and His Book!

Look at it this way -- suppose you were traveling a long distance on an airline flight and you were given the choice with someone else paying the tab -- the choice is to go 1st class or coach (2nd class) -- which would you take? I haven't flown in a while, but as I remember -- 1st class had amenities you didn't have in the coach section plus wider and much more comfortable seating! I do remember a flight I was on in which a young fellow in the military along with his wife and infant child were in the coach section. The child was very fussy and they were trying to get it quieted down -- after a while the pilot came back and asked them if they wanted to move into the 1st class section and finish the trip seated there. They didn't hesitate and soon were able to get the child settled down.

A 1st class experience is making oneself available to the Holy Spirit and taking a generous amount of time to do this -- and then take His Book and see Jesus make good on His promise that the Holy Spirit would teach us -- guide us into the truth -- and show us things to come! What more can one ask than that -- to be personally instructed by the Author of the Book which He brought into existence over centuries of time?

A 2nd class experience is giving time to all those others -- I realize the risk of being accused of being radical and prejudiced on this issue. But stop and think through what Jesus promised -- it really does amount to a choice of going 1st class in an experience with the Holy Spirit and His Book or 2nd class with the others and their books. It comes down to how much time we are willing to give to whom (or Whom) and their writings each day!

We can learn a very profitable lesson from the people of a place called Berea in the 1st Century. Paul and Silas eventually made their way into that community. They shared the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures note that these people were more fair minded than those in Thessalonica where Paul and Silas had been. It is stated that the Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the things Paul and Silas had spoken were really so. (Acts 17:11).

Seems these days we are more concerned about what some Tom, Dick and Jane have to say about the Bible than what the Bible has to say about us, them, the entire human race and what God's expectations and plans are!

Yes, I have quite a collection of books, including those written by persons considered to be "theologians" and have read in them, but I much prefer giving more time and attention to the World's Greatest Theologian and His Book -- the only time I can say as I hold His Book in my hands -- at last, here is Something I can believe and not have to struggle and ask, "Does this guy or gal know what he or she is talking about or not? Is it true or will it lead me down the path to disaster?"

So, if you dare -- how does your time spent in reading "stuff" compare to taking the Bible in hand and then with openness of heart and mind, alloting a significant amount of time in allowing the World's Greatest Theologian to teach you things that are vitally important for time and eternity?

And you will find that's no joke -- on April Fool's Day or any other throughout the year!

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. --- 2 Timothy 3:16, 17