Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is the god of Pleasure Beginning to Take a Hit?

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be...... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..." --- 2 Timothy 3:1, 2a, 4b

Our republic is really in a quandary of unprecedented proportions, is it not? There are just all kinds of things happening -- an election in the making with not a single candidate addressing the real issues that directly impact the future destiny of our nation -- a "war" that is hotly discussed and debated on a daily basis -- financial crises and a national debt that continues to escalate!

But the one thing that is beginning to dominate the thinking and decision making of most U. S. citizens every day is something called gasoline and related components such as diesel fuel and heating oil.

It makes headlines in newspapers and TV news reporters are positioned beside a gas station pointing to the recent increase in gas prices (as this is being written, I bought a few gallons yesterday at $3.99 per gallon in Nanty Glo PA) and use a growing favorite expression in their vocabulary -- "pain at the pump!"

There is a scramble to explain why and who is responsible for this growing expression of greed on the part of some very influential persons somewhere -- God alone knows who they are, where they are and what they are doing. The good news is that in due time He will return upon their heads the fruit of their doings -- no one has beaten the "law of sowing and reaping" yet and none ever will!

But maybe there is another factor to consider in all this chaos -- perhaps the "god" of Pleasure is beginning to be hammered a bit! God's actions at times are directed to the "deities" a nation forms for itself.

For decades we as a nation have been on a "pedal to the metal" pace in our pursuit of pleasures of every possible kind. It would take a long amount of space and a considerable amount of time to detail them all here.

It is evident to anyone who looks a bit and listens that we are a pleasure saturated country, and are constantly attempting to devise new ways of experiencing pleasure.

One obvious tragedy in this is the well established fact that we cannot get half of our population into a place of worship on Sunday morning to even go through the motions of worshipping the God Who brought this mighty universe into existence by simple spoken commands!

Sunday, as mentioned elsewhere on my website and blog, ought to be renamed Funday -- it is a day of zealous pursuit of pleasure from border to border and shore to shore.

Interesting, is it not, that now there is much talk not only about gas prices, but what heating costs will be this winter and the ripple impact from fuel prices in terms of groceries and various consumer goods.

Could it be that those guys I see gassing up at a gas pump (tanks on 4-wheelers on a trailer towed by a gas guzzling pick-up) on Sunday mornings may be forced to revise their pleasure agenda in the future? Many other examples could be cited as people deal with costly expenses related to the pursuit of pleasure to the neglect of giving time, attention, money and worship to the living God!

Stop and think for a minute -- a lot of decisions are going to be made and a lot of plans changed due to drastically changed financial spending -- we'll spend a lot more money on our gas, our heat, our groceries -- which means leas money for our pleasure pursuits than we've been used to having. And then there is the fact that many families are up to their eyeballs in debt because they made the deadly mistake of adopting the philosophy of "instant gratification" -- just have to have those things that enhance our fun times even if we have to go deeply into debt to get them.

Something we so easily forget -- the thing about God as He begins to deal with a culture and its rebellion is that He has many methods at His disposal and can keep turning the screws tighter and tighter as time progresses!

Of course we also have an abundance of information available that if the tactics do not bring about the desired results, then eventually judgment is employed and God has done that very thing a number of times, but somehow the dominant spirit in our republic right now is that we feel we are an exception -- besides, this is a "Christian" nation, isn't it?

What will be the next "god" or "goddess" on God's hit list? Now is the perfect time to review a portion of 2 Chronicles 36 -- see how one people fared who thought they could ignore God and get away with it -- start reading at about verse 11.

"For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD." --- Exodus 12:12

Friday, May 30, 2008

Any Volunteers to Teach Jesus and Some Others About "Holy Conferencing?"

We believe Christians can discuss important issues without the acrimonious debate and parliamentary maneuvering that can divide a group into contending factions. We see too many examples of that in secular society. We believe the Holy Spirit leads in all things, especially as we make decisions. We want to avoid making decisions in a fashion that leaves some feeling like winners and others losers. --- from "Guidelines for Holy Conferencing - What God Expects of Us" as printed in W. PA Annual Conference (United Methodist Church) pre-conference reports and legislation information.

As one looks at the guidelines for "holy conferencing" it is quite obvious that someone needs to confront Jesus and at least a couple or so others in the New Testament about the fact of their defiance of these standards with the result of causing deep division and being guilty of making some feel like winners and others losers!

We won't even try to include the Old Testament prophets on this matter at the present time -- that would add quite a number to the list of those failing to do "holy conferencing" in addition to Jesus and others in the 1st Century.

A couple of those guidelines state, "Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable.....Avoid using inflammatory words, derogatory names, or an excited and angry voice."

Now consider how Jesus handled Himself on certain occasions:

"I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me." Then they said to Him, "Where is Your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."....... Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." --- John 8:18, 19, 42-47

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.......Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar." --- Matthew 23:15, 33-35

Paul didn't seem to be a practitioner of "holy conferencing" on various occasions:

Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. --- Acts 13:9-11

And the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'" --- Acts 13:44-47

Ought we not take a look also at Stephen who is described as one who was filled with the Holy Spirit? But what is this? Speaking to a group of very religious people (the kind who should engage in "holy conferencing") he gives a history lesson and then concludes:

"You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. --- Acts 7:51-54

Oh yes, we must not forget that very radical cousin of Jesus, John the Baptist! Is it not possible that those who are strong advocates of "holy conferencing" and doing "dialog" would have more than a tad of difficulty with this fellow today? Is he guilty of name calling or what?

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight.'" And John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." --- Matthew 3:1-9

Maybe I missed it -- do you see any place where John announces, "Brothers and sisters, it's time for us to enter into a "holy conferencing" experience since we have some serious issues which need to be addressed." It is noted, however, that this man was filled with the Holy Spirit from the time of his birth. Hmmmmm -- filled with the Holy Spirit, but yet did no "holy conferencing" as is stressed in church circles these days! The way he acted is it possible he wouldn't be permitted to enter a lot of churches today -- that is, unless he kept his mouth totally shut?

Just a few of many examples drawn from an infallible source of information which indicate that "holy conferencing" was not a priority when it came to confrontations over various issues. Jesus, of course, is the prime example. It appears that He was not too convinced that one just has to dialog and do the "holy conferencing" thing. But this one thing He did, and which He calls us to do -- be witnesses to God's eternal truth always -- no compromising on that! But that is where the problem is -- too many have bought into the idea that absolute moral truth does not really exist, and this provides the perfect climate for dialog and "holy conferencing!"

No where do you see any indication that God was willing to enter into dialog about anything -- He draws the line on all moral and spiritual issues. He defines what is acceptable and what is unacceptable on human sexuality, but in dialog and "holy conferencing" we want to erase the line God has drawn or else come up with an agreement that it is a "fuzzy" issue and we don't quite fully agree on it yet, but we'll continue to engage in "holy conferencing" until we do -- maybe it will happen at the next General Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2012!

On the most critical spiritual issue, God has said that we either are forgiven and restored to righteousness through His Son, Jesus Christ, or we are not -- plain and simple! But the conferencing and dialog sessions come to the conclusion that whatever "religion" you may practice is good enough -- Christianity is but one of many peas in the same pod -- just pick the one that seems to fit and work best for you!

So then, who will put the bell on the cat -- oooops! I mean, who will volunteer to confront Jesus and the others with the fact that they have violated the guidelines for "holy conferencing?" If we have more than one, maybe we can get up a committee to do it! In mainline denominations especially, is that not the only way anything can be done these days?

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. --- 2 Timothy 4:1-4

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

W. PA United Methodists on Death Penalty and Hand Guns!

"...We believe all human life is sacred and created by God...The sixth commandment, 'Thou Shall not kill,' not only forbids killing, it also implies that we are obligated to prevent harm and to preserve life and the well-being of human life..." --- statements in proposed resolutions for consideration at the W. PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, June 2008

Among the many pieces of proposed legislation to come before the members of the W. PA Annual Conference session during the second week of June, 2008, are those dealing with the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the purchase of hand guns.

One item addresses the subject of establishing a moratorium on the death penalty. One argument put forth for this is quoted above, and is a quotation from the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. Officially the denomination goes on record as saying that "we believe all human life is sacred and created by God." The resolution proceeds to set forth the logic of the need to preserve life.

There's a major problem here -- we strongly protest the execution of criminals convicted of murdering one or more other human beings, but we will not "officially" protest the intentional pre-meditated mutilation and murders of thousands of unborn children in the state of Pennsylvania each year!

And then there is the resolution which is titled, "In Support of 'One-Handgun-a-Month' Legislation in Pennsylvania." This one gets a bit wild by mentioning that in light of the sixth commandment we are "obligated to prevent harm and to preserve life and the well-being of human life!"

Ah, yes -- same issue, only in connection with those horrible things called "hand-guns" -- it's like a lot of people are going to walk in the store and buy 2 or 3 of those things every week! If we want to propose legislation on restricting or limiting what are regarded as "tools of death," how about eliminating those "tools" used by those guys who wear white coats and mistakenly have the initials "M.D." behind their names -- you know, those tools used to tear apart an unborn child before it is born? Quite a few thousand in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania end up murdered each year before they are born with no charges of criminal activity ever being filed!

But worse, we draw that line at the entrance to the human womb -- we'll legislate in the name of protecting human life, but what's inside the human womb -- you know, that little one God is forming for a high and holy purpose (Jeremiah 1:4,5) -- that one doesn't count. Maybe that's because too many of us have bought into the propaganda line that all that is inside the womb is a mass of tissue and blood, to be disposed of at the whim of the "mother" (term used loosely) and in the name of "constitutional rights!"

Do you sense that something is terribly amiss here? Do you wonder at the blatant inconsistencies of episcopal leadership which does not hesitate to address certain social ills and campaigns vigorously for stamping out malaria in Africa which kills a million children a year (according to figures quoted by those involved in the Nothing But Nets campaign) but says absolutely nothing about the 1 million unborn victims of intentional murder in the United States each year?

What will happen? The W. PA Annual Conference will likely pass those resolutions and many others besides, and then return home with a "feel good" feeling that we have done some great things for the Kingdom of God. But in the meantime the slaughter of the innocents continues and we haven't even uttered a whisper of protest against this abomination!

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" --- Matthew 23:23, 24

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A World in Convulsion!

Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants...... The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant....... The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again. It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. --- Isaiah 24:1,4,5,19-21

Not a pleasant subject to approach under any circumstance for a number of reasons -- this thing of calamities and what are termed "natural disasters" taking place just about everywhere throughout the world.

While it is quite acceptable for the news media people to report the events and provide details as to physical damage, property loss, human injuries and number of lives lost, it is a general rule of thumb that you do not bring God into the picture!

After all, in the United States has it not been the practice in the past number of decades that certain boundary lines have been drawn by court edict with much of the population nodding empty heads in agreement that it should be so -- God is not allowed to enter into many areas of human activity -- certain properties are off limits! His Name is not so much as to be mentioned -- check out a number of graduation exercises at this time of year and note how "rules" have been spelled out in regard to high school graduates making any reference to God in their speeches!

But, alas, again I digress a bit -- a few of us believe on the basis of a totally reliable volume of information which Almighty God has made available that He does interact with His creation and with humans whether they like it or not and whether they are willing to accept it or not!

That revelation coming forth from the Creator and Sustainer of this mighty universe of which we are a very small part indicates that there is a climax to human history as we are presently experiencing it.

The basic progression is this:

1. Increased population accompanied by increased evil activity -- simple logic - the more sinners you have rebelling against God, the more evil you will have demonstrated!

2. Increased chaos and calamities among the nations of the world -- since about all the governing powers of the nations of the earth are in an unregenerate state, it follows that there will be tensions and conflicts constantly -- treaties and agreements will often be broken without a second thought.

3. Since the majority of the human population does not know God and is not the least bit interested in becoming acquainted with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, then selfishness and greed will kick in and dominate -- it makes for a bad scene everywhere you go!

4. And since God in a sense gives humans all the rope they want for a while, it is simply a matter of time until the human race "hangs itself!" The law of sowing and reaping is always in effect, whether recognized or not. And it applies to individuals and to nations at the collective level!

5. It is a fact that God does chastise people and nations -- if chastisement does not produce the desired results, then He brings forth judgment! And He does bring forth various calamities and takes responsibility for it. But it seems where such information is revealed in His Word, then we respond by taking our censor's scissors and cutting out such statements with the attitude, "That has absolutely nothing to do with us today and does not apply!"

The foremost Authority on human activity and the destiny of all humans has spoken in regard to the home stretch of human history. Jesus indicated that increased chaos will be prominent as we enter into what are referred to as the "latter days" or the "end times." If you want the details just go to Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13. There is also a statement made by Jesus in Luke 17 in which He tells us that humanity will regress to conditions as they existed in the days of Noah before the judgment of the flood and the times of Lot when he lived in the city of Sodom!

Now here's the real shocker -- one would think that within the circle of those professing to be Christian there would be quite a bit of agreement on this subject, but if there is anything that causes high intensity conflict it is the subject of Jesus' return to earth and what events will precede His return to earth! Perhaps a comparable conflict would be the one over the issue of sodomy and lesbianism and the acceptance of these lifestyles within the ranks of those professing to be Christian.

Is Jesus going to return to earth? You will receive a wide variety of answers on that, ranging from yes, to maybe, to absolutely not! Do these chaotic events have any meaning to us? See the preceding list of possible responses.

But for a few -- what is happening throughout the world does have meaning in light of God's special revelation and reminds the remnant that we have to live in these days as short range pessimists with a long range optimism!

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. --- 1 John 3:1-3

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Time to Pray for a Special "Visitation!"

Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies. Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him reprove me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked. --- Psalm 141:1-5

It seems there are two main things which dominate the news media -- the antics of political candidates as we come down the home stretch of primary elections and the "pain at the pump" which millions of U. S. citizens are experiencing as they never have before -- recent headlines mentioned gasoline hitting over $4 a gallon in a couple of metropolitan areas -- but even as this is being written, it has likely surged over that figure in many other places as well, and if it hasn't already, it will in the near future -- like maybe tomorrow?

Finger pointing as to who is to blame and accusations directed mainly toward elected officials for failure to do anything about this "crisis" are spreading faster than the dreaded Bubonic plague of the middle ages!

It is rather certain that there are influential persons somewhere who have the power and position to manipulate situations in the world of finance and market activity. While it may be possible to identify some and the companies of which they are a part, it really is not all that important that we be able to do so.

And here's why -- Almighty God knows who they are and the gods to which they do homage -- in many cases, the idol dominating them is best summed up in the word, "money!" This disease of the spirit is not limited to petroleum -- it is rampant in many other areas as well in the ruthless corporate world of business and finance.

Can we do anything more than whine and complain, or as some choose to do -- curse them also?

Yes -- we do have a powerful weapon at our disposal -- it is called prayer and it can used for much more than asking for some kind of blessing, which is about as far as some go with it!

Quite specifically, it is legitimate to pray against the deeds of the wicked as mentioned in Psalm 141 which is quoted above. Greed is wickedness -- manipulating financial circumstances so that you can profit excessively at the expense of others who will be plunged into unreasonable hardship because of your actions is an abomination to a holy God!

So pray that God will return upon the heads of those guilty of fostering these conditions the fruit of their greedy actions! This very second God knows who they are, where they are and what they are doing to accumulate excessive wealth at the expense of the poor! By the way, this thing of God visiting upon the heads or returning upon the heads of certain persons the fruit of their doings is noted in the Scripture. So, not just in the petroleum industry but in others as well, there is a need to pray against those who are not acting ethically, honestly, reasonably and fairly in their way of doing business for the enhancement of the human race!

Paul hinted at such an approach when he referred to a man by the name of Alexander. This is what he said about this man:

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. --- 2 Timothy 4:14

So the time is now for us to pray that God will repay those who are driven in their greedy quest and manipulating market conditions with the result of making what many would agree are "obscene profits" while at the same time bringing increased hardship into the lives of those who have very limited resources to begin with!

As for me and my house, we will continue to pray against the deeds of the wicked. Will you join us in this unique way of waging war against evil and all who are a part of it in today's confused world? Pray for a special "visitation" upon certain people who by their financial scheming, plotting and manipulating are increasing by large measure the suffering of millions!

P.S. For some reason I feel especially moved to pray as mentioned above each time I lift the nozzle at the gas pump and put a few quarts into the gas tank. I think especially of those who are responsible for this insanity -- I don't know their names, but God does -- and that makes a difference!

I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; indeed I sought him, but he could not be found. --- Psalm 37:35, 36

Monday, May 19, 2008

B. O. Says No More SUV's!

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK..." --- Remarks by Senator Barack Obama while campaigning in Oregon

B. O. is determined that SUV's and other products and practices which consume tons and tons of energy in the United States will be eliminated when he takes over the presidency in January 2009! Along with the tirade about the SUV's B. O. also stressed that the United States has to lead by example!

You thought the day of miracles is no more? Well it is nothing short of a miracle that B. O. didn't bite his tongue in half with those remarks!

Let's see now -- he is practically demanding that U. S. citizens give up their SUV's among other things (and no, I don't own one myself) -- as president, will he give up that gas hog of a limousine? Aren't presidents supposed to set an example for the citizens of this republic? All he has to do is trade that gas guzzler in and settle for one of those little hybrids now being built by most manufacturers!

And then there's that monstrosity named Air Force One in which it is guaranteed that he just won't be able to resist taking flights all over the place -- that thing gulps fuel like there's no tomorrow, and costs thousands of dollars for each minute it is in the air!

So, B. O. -- how about setting a noble example for the citizens by putting Air Force One into mothballs and using a small fuel efficient Cessna or Beechcraft instead?

OK, OK -- I already know -- once he moves into the White House (if he gets elected) in January 2009, he likely will tell us what to do about saving energy and "going green" but will in no way set any kind of a noteworthy example himself!

Main problem? Once one tastes the power, control and prestige of that office, all rhetoric used to hoodwink the public to get elected is long forgotten!

On the other hand, God sometimes gives a people exactly what they deserve when it comes to the process of government! A people long ago wanted things which were not good for them, in spite of God warning them of the consequences. So what was the result? We are told that He gave them the desires of their hearts, but sent leaness to their souls! If you want to check up on that, it's in the book of Psalms. I could give you the specific location, chapter and verse, but the exercise of looking it up does one good -- just like a brisk walk in the morning as the day begins!

So, if you have one those SUV's which B. O. railed against, hang on to it -- put a sign on it which says, "I'll give up my SUV when B. O. gives up his limousine and Air Force One!"

"The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: 'He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.'" --- 2 Samuel 23:2-4

Preening --- Success Depends on What You Have to Work With and What the Limitations Are!

It's the time of year that our humming birds are back and we were ready and waiting. When we had a front porch added to our home, we agreed that it would not be postage stamp size. It's 32 feet long and 12 feet wide with a roof which is supported by six 6 x 6 posts!

We have at least 3 large humming bird feeders suspended on front side of the porch It is always a pleasant and at times an exciting experience to sit on the front porch during fair weather months of the year. Watching the humming birds is better than watching any production coming out of Hollywood!

Just recently we observed 2 of the birds feeding side by side. Once in a while they would pause and then touch those long beaks, tip to tip. Was that the humming bird version of a passionate kiss? Later I saw a ruby throated male preening his feathers -- well, he was trying to anyway! One is pictured above. He's not very big to begin with and then there is that extra long beak that he has to maneuver around for the preening job. But he was making a noble attempt -- he was able to get to some of the outer area of his wings and lower part of his body, but that was it -- quite a bit of his upper body was left untouced -- too much beak and very limited area of body with which to work!

About a day later a wild turkey hen came into our back yard where we have bird feeders and always there is some feed on the ground. She began her usual picking away at cracked corn and then stopped after a bit. It was preening time -- very nimble with a long neck, she started to do her feathers -- all over -- about the only place she couldn't reach was a space about 2 inches or less around her neck -- limitations, you know! But she had a much higher percentage of coverage than the humming bird.

In our faith walk here on earth with trust centered in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, one needs to be aware of limitations -- ours, not His! Always one has to be on guard against the temptation to try to do certain things in our own way and relying upon our own strength and resources. It makes for a bad scene every time -- all too easy to forget Paul's statement which applies equally to all of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ -- "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." [Philippians 4:13].

In a sense, we are called to be involved in spiritual "preening" -- part of the definition given in the dictionary for this activity is "cleaning the feathers." God wants His people to be clean -- preened, if you will, of all sin. But the moment we tend to forget our limitations, then sin begins to accumlate in numerous ways. The Corinthians were told at one point that they were badly messed up due to sin in their lives -- but they had been cleansed and forgiven -- here is how it is described:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. --- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

An aside here -- does this statement make Paul one of those persons afflicted with "homophobia" such as we hear so often about these days, outside as well as inside the church -- you know, if you don't condone same-gender coupling then you are homophobic and a hater of those who practice that particular way of life!

A humming bird on our front porch and a wild turkey hen in our back yard remind me that I do have limitations, and have to be constantly on guard lest I forget that -- the wild turkey may have thought she did a good job of preening, but even she had limitations!

"Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest; when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the rock of flint; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end; then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. --- Deuternonomy 8:11-18

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Tumor May Be a Part of the Body, But....!

But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves; they are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. --- Jude 1:5-13

There was a great multitude of comments following a "witness" at the United Methodist General Conference on May 1 by those who practice sodomy and lesbianism along with their supporters. Certain votes related to the issue of human sexuality did not sit well with those who want the UMC to place its "blessing" on the practice of sodomy and lesbianism, accept such persons into the ordained ministry of the UMC, accept "unions" of such persons until such time as legal marriage for them is established, acknowledge the legitimacy of such "couples" raising children and their being identified as "family" in the same sense as a heterosexual couple which is married and raising children whom they have conceived in their marriage.

Hence, the protesting which of course disrupted the proceedings of the conference. But it appears to have been quite acceptable due to the "demonstration" having been negotiated with the Council of Bishops. We have long since learned, have we not, that what the bishops do, singly or collectively, is to be considered the "right thing" and if we march in lock step as we are expected to do, then that is the final word on the matter. But as pointed out elsewhere in this blog, there are times when the bishops choose to remain silent on very critical moral issues that impact our culture.

It was stressed that this was a moment of the body "hurting" in this struggle -- and on basis of the Corinthian reference that when one part "hurts" then all the parts "hurt" together, etc.

We have fast progressed (or is it more accurate to say, "regressed") to the point that sexual immorality is no longer considered to be "immorality" -- therefore, one can overstep God's boundary lines on sexual activity and it is no longer considered offensive to God, because we have reestablished those boundary lines by human edict and what formerly was an abomination no longer is so!

We now say simply that we have some disagreement on these matters and efforts have been made to "adjust" the UMC Book of Discipline to reflect this view. But as one reads the many laments on how the votes turned out, we then try to make the best of a bad situation -- the body is hurting!

Medical history shows us that sometimes the body can be afflicted with a tumor that is destructive -- it has cells and is living in the body, but its effect on the body is extremely harmful.

Jesus, as well as authors of New Testament writings, warned of those who would bring false teachings and have a malignant influence within the church that is called by Him to advance His Kingdom and proclaim His eternal truth.

Peter made a statement which clearly identifies the situation we are facing:

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. --- 2 Peter 1:19 - 2:3

I am fully aware to speak of these things in such a manner I will instantly be labeled as being "homophobic" and "mean-spirited" -- a hater of those who are practicing a same-gender coupling way of life!

I presently am pastor of a small church. Those who live as described above are welcome to my church anytime and the members of the congregation will also welcome those individuals. Never will we ever say, "You are not welcome in this place!"

But, on the other hand, do not expect us to condone your way of life if you engage in sexual activity with a person who is the same sex as you. And when it comes to the serving of the Lord's Supper, the condition is the same for you as it is for all of us, pastor included -- we are to repent of all sins before receiving the symbols which represent the broken body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Does not the ritual in the United Methodist Church mention something about persons earnestly repenting of their sins before partaking of the elements? Here is how it is worded in one of the rituals:

Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in His holy ways: draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to Almighty God.

As mentioned in another posting or so, if I had to repent of my sins (including those sexual in nature) why do those who engage in same-sex sin not have to repent? Then again, maybe the above paragraph has been conveniently omitted and is considered no longer relevant when it comes to observance of the Lord's Supper!

What's that? It's not sin when a "couple" is in a committed monogamous "relationship?" Since when did God move that boundary?

Now then -- think on this -- you go to the doctor -- some tests are done -- the results are in, and you have a tumor growing rapidly in your abdomen. It's in your body and in a sense, it's part of your body -- but do you want it to remain there? If the doctor says, "We need to do surgery and remove the tumor." What would your response be?

The church is a spiritual body -- what should be done about the tumors?

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate," says the Lord. "Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters," says the LORD Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. --- 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quibbling About Atonement!

Thom Rainer posted an article on Lifeway’s Web Site claiming that pastors who did not preach penal substitutionary atonement (he didn’t use the term, he described the doctrine in very strong terms) are guilty of pastoral malpractice. He used the word “treasonous.” --- quote on one of a myriad of blogs which are a part of what is known as Methoblog

I stumbled on to this by accident -- this flurry of comments about atonement which seemed to be sparked mainly by a fellow by the name of Rainer. Additional comments have been added and links provided if one chooses to further pursue the subject of atonement.

One interesting response was by a guy who said he would plead guilty to the charge as outlined by the guy named Rainer.

Very strange, is it not, that we get bogged (or is it blogged) down in what is a rather simple matter -- the issue of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sacrificing His life for the members of the human race so they could be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with Almighty God!

It may well be that this thing of there being an almost endless parade of "theories" about the atonement has come about due to failure to meet one of the four demands set before us by Jesus Himself -- "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3).

Why is it that we have to be so "adult" and so "sophisticated," zealously pursuing the "theologians" and the "scholars" and trying to determine who has the final word on atonement? Is it smply that we want to impress the laity with our ability to quote Dr. So & So and what he has to say about anything that has to do with a mess called theology?

Just what part of "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." [2 Corinthians 5:21] OR "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." [Galatians 3:14, 15] OR "...who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed." [1 Peter 2:24] is it that you don't understand?

I guess I would have to plead guilty for the benefit of those who seem to be badly hung up on the subject of preaching about atonement -- I'm guilty of spreading information among my people that Jesus died for our sins and we are called to repent of our sins and receive Him as Savior and Lord. And you know what? We remember His sacrifice for us regularly by engaging in an activity called Holy Communion!

Is it correct to assume that those who have problems with the subject of atonement (especially what is referred to as PSA) consistently avoid observing a sacrament known as Holy Communion?

Just wondering!

For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. but of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD." --- 1 Corinthians 1:22-31

Monday, May 12, 2008

They Were in Their Pulpits on Mother's Day, But Don't Expect Them to Be There on Father's Day!

...Pastors should bring a pulpit robe or alb and a red stole to process in the service of Ordination. If you do not have these items, that is fine, you still are a part of the clergy family and will join in the service. If you have scheduled a wedding for June 14th and plan to leave Grove City for rehearsal Friday evening, you still need to return to Grove City for the Sunday service. If you are participating in one of our camping events the week following Annual Conference, you still have ample time to arrive at camp following the service. If you need to be excused from Annual Conference, it is your responsibility to communicate in writing to Bishop Bickerton, Conference Secretary John Wilson, and your Superintendent why you cannot participate in Annual Conference this June.... Part of the "orders from headquarters" directed to pastors in one of the districts of the Western PA Annual Conference in anticipation of the service of ordination scheduled on Father's Day, June 15, 2008 at Grove City College in Grove City PA!

They say 3 out of 4 ain't bad! In baseball or softball, if you get 3 hits out of 4 times at bat, that would be considered an impressive batting average. If you were traveling through a small town which had 4 traffic lights and you hit 3 of the 4 when they were green, you would congratulate yourself on doing well in avoiding some red lights in that community. In fishing, if lively trout hit the bait 4 times and you get 3 out of the 4, you would consider that a successful fishing venture.

But sometimes 3 out of 4 is not a good thing -- ask the congregations of a few hundred United Methodist Churches in western Pennsylvania about that ratio. You see, for the 3rd time in 4 years their pastors will not be present with them on Father's Day!

The pastors have always been present in their churches on Mother's Day, as they were yesterday. But for 3 years out of 4 it's been a kitty of another color on Father's Day.

The Western PA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church will be meeting the latter part of the second week of June and will conclude with an ordination service on the morning of Father's Day, June 15th! The conference will meet at Grove City College in Grove City PA. It will be the 3rd year out of 4 since Tom Bickerton became bishop that Father's Day has been scrapped in favor of an ordination service!

The bishop along with support from his superintendents is adamant in demanding that all pastors be present for the ordination service on Father's Day. The pastors are given ample "warning" in advance about this (see the wording of statements in one district newsletter as noted above) with specific instructions about making sure arrangements are made for someone to conduct the services in the pastors' absence.

I'm not sure that even if you die on Saturday night, June 14th, that you would have a legitimate excuse for being absent from the ordination service the next morning! But that can be taken care of by arranging to have the funeral director wheel you down the aisle in your casket ahead of the bishop and all the other dignitaries in the procession -- that way, your presence will be obvious. Just make sure the casket lid is open so that they know you were present -- this is necessary in order to insure that no "unpleasant" things happen to you because you were regarded as being absent!

Now a question -- is there anybody out there who knows of a similar debacle taking place in other UMC conferences or other denominations in the entire United States? Write it down -- you'll be hard pressed to find even a half dozen pastors who will be absent from their pulpits on Father's Day. For any outside the W. PA Annual Conference who are absent it will likely be due to an unexpected emergency of the first magnitude!

I wrote to Bishop B. about this the first year, figuring that being a rookie bishop and quite young (I have 2 kids older than he, 1 about the same age, and 2 a bit younger) that he didn't fully realize what he was doing.

The second year I also included the District Superintendents in the letter sent. The appeal was that Father's Day is an ideal time to stress the importance of family and responsibilities of fatherhood, etc. And this at a time when our culture is fast adopting an attitude that fathers aren't really all that important -- about all they are good for is to provide some wriggly things which are essential in making a baby! One woman got a lot of publicity plus many, many bucks from her book which described how she artificially inseminated herself (the old turkey baster tactic) and has a child she is raising without a father being involved! Much as she probably hates to admit it, she did need the help of a man at one point though she never met the guy -- he provided some of those wriggly things mentioned earlier!

Anyway, the bishop, as I expected, made no response to those letters. One person mentioned to me that Father's Day is not a significant religious holiday -- the implication being if the the W. PA Annual Conference wants to have an ordination service on the morning of Father's Day with all pastors expected to be present, so what? If a bishop says that is the way it is to be, that settles it -- no questions or objections are permitted! Sounds like a United Methodist version of a pope at his dictatorial best, does it not?

A final question I asked in one of the letters was this -- "If it were Mother's Day, would you have the ordination service with the presence of all pastors being required? We both know the answer to that one, don't we?"

There are many things that call for prayer -- sometimes very unusual things -- this is one of them. Whatever it takes, may Almighty God clearly reveal that it is His will for those W. PA United Methodist pastors to be in their pulpits on Father's Day in June of 2008 and not at Grove City College!

Go ahead -- ask them -- ask any congregation of United Methodists if they would prefer that their pastor would be present with them to conduct worship on Father's Day. And do not condition the people by first saying that this is what the bishop and the superintendents expect -- we're not concerned about their desires, but only with what God wants!

And as an ordained elder in the W. PA Annual Conference, where will I be on the morning of June 15th? Just where I am each Father's Day and where I have always been in 49 years of ministry -- occupying the pulpit of the church (or churches) God has called me to serve, and where He expects me to be. I mentioned this in the second letter sent to the bishop and D.S.'s -- also mentioned was the fact that if that was unacceptable to them, then they would have to take the issue up God, because He is the One Who wants me to be in a certain church at a certain time on Father's Day! I have never yet missed a Father's Day service in any of the churches I have served over the years and I have no intention of missing one in 2008!

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!" Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men...." --- Acts 5:27-29

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Could We Have Some Attention Directed to a Greater Tragedy, Please?

The above banner is on display at the home page of the web site of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. Address for the site is if you want to see it for yourself.

Yea, I know -- here I go again! But you have to understand that it's a pattern I've been in for quite a few years -- as I recall, it all started back in about the year 1973. A lot of water has run under the bridge in that amount of time and a lot of blood of the innocents has run down the sewers also!

W. PA United Methodists have been challenged repeatedly to support the Nothing But Nets campaign in an effort to cut down the number of malaria victims in Africa. As noted above, 1 million children die in Africa each year from malaria.

Bishop Bickerton has been at the forefront of this drive. He's been all over the map in promoting this and received high profile publicity at the General Conference recently with the announcement of grants being given to the United Methodist Church as the campaign continues.

Well and good -- Jean and I have contributed to this effort as have many other individuals and groups.

BUT, as asked so many times before -- why is there stone silence in regard to the more than 1 million unborn children who are brutally mutilated and murdered in their mothers' wombs each year in the "land of the free and the home of the brave?" Come on now, tell me -- why do our bishops in the United Methodist Church, Bickerton included, come down with a severe case of lock jaw when it comes to speaking out on this abomination? Do they deceive themselves into thinking that Almighty God is not going to respond to this massive shedding of innocent blood?

For the latest numbers from certain points of time and since certain politicians and church officials have taken office, go to A Quick Look at the United States' Massacre Tally!

Will there be anything significantly done to stop the hemorrhaging? Not likely -- about all we have to look forward to is God's response to it all, and that will not be a Sunday School picnic by any stretch of human imagination!

And will there be some "balanced" information on the W. PA Annual Conference web site about 1 million or more unborn children in the United States being exterminated each year along with 1 million children in Africa dying from Malaria? We all know the answer to that one, don't we?

"For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered to do all these abominations'?" --- Jeremiah 7:5-10

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

'Tis a Mystery in this Fair Land; Will Somebody Please Help Me Understand?

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, today responded to the United Methodist Church’s decision to reaffirm homophobic language which says homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and its failure to reverse a decision by the church’s Judicial Council to allow pastors to reject lesbian and gay people who seek membership in the church. The vote, which passed by a margin of only 84 votes out of more than 900 cast, reaffirmed discriminatory language in the Discipline of the United Methodist Church and failed to counteract an earlier decision by the denominations judicial body. The vote was taken on Wednesday, April 30, at the United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Separately, the church voted against anti-transgender legislation and voted to oppose "all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation." --- Part of press release by Human Rights Campaign, May 5, 2008

It's a mystery that has been around now for a few decades. Here are some of the elements ----

How is it that those who practice sodomy and lesbianism (and heterosexuals who support their agenda) speak in glowing terms regarding those who agree with them? But those who object to the practices of sodomy and lesbianism on moral grounds are automatically tagged as persons who are hateful and afflicted with bigotry and homophobia?

How is it that those involved in promoting the sodomite/lesbian agenda can quote Bible verses and such referencing of Scripture is considered a tactic that is quite acceptable? But those who object to sodomy and lesbianism are not permitted to refer to the Scriptures. If they do, they are guilty of using "clobber" references and the unpardonable sin of using "proof texts!"

How is it that within the church there are voices which say that God is giving us "new revelation" on human sexuality and sodomy and lesbianism as practiced within committed monogamous relationships are just as legitimate as marriage between a male and a female? This seems to get quite a chorus of amens. But those who insist that God's revelation is complete with a volume of information made up of 66 books which conclude with the book of The Revelation are considered to be a bunch of narrow-minded Bible idolaters!

How is it that there are those who speak of ALL being welcome at the Table (where the symbolical elements of the Lord's Supper are being served) with little or no emphasis on repentance from sin? This is considered a great thing because we are ALL regarded as being children of God. But those who stress the need to repent from all sin, including sexual sin, before partaking of those symbolical elements representing the body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus are considered mean-spirited, judgmental and even un-Christian!

Can you answer this mystery for me along with one final question -- if I had to repent of my sexual sins (which I will not detail here), then why does a person practicing the sexual sin of sodomy or one practicing the sexual sin of lesbianism not have to repent?

The response from some will be that these are not sins under certain conditions -- OK, then where and when did Almighty God give His approval? Please limit your response to books, chapters and verses only!

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. --- 1 John 3:4-10

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Bell Tolls for Eight Belles!

"She ran an incredible race. She ran the race of her life." --- Larry Jones, trainer for Eight Belles

She proved to all who watched that she could run with the "boys" -- she was the only filly in the field of 20 in a race that some have labeled as the most exciting 2 minutes in the arena of all sporting events.

Eight Belles was seeking to be the fourth filly in Kentucky Derby history to win the race. She didn't win, but came in 2nd behind Big Brown who was favored to win the 2008 running of the Derby. But shortly after crossing the finish line she suddenly collapsed with both front ankles shattered. And shortly after that the heart rending decision was made to euthanize her on the track where a short time before she demonstrated that she was a fierce competitor!

For many it brought back memories of a race two years earlier of a Derby winner -- Barbaro who shattered a rear ankle after starting a few days later in the Preakness. I saw that race also and was impressed with the fact that this horse, in spite of his injury, wanted to stay in the race until his jockey stopped him!

Perhaps, if we will, we can learn a lesson from animals such as Eight Belles and Barbaro. Their hearts were in racing -- that's what they were trained to do and they put all they had into it until the end.

In this crazy world of confused values and goals, God seeks to break through and remind us that He has a plan for each conceived human being. It will involve training and on our part, giving it the best that we have. The plan begins to unfold once we have repented of our self-centered ways and our sinful rebellion against our Creator, and have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

At one point the holy Scriptures refer to our journey here on earth as a "race" --

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. --- Hebrews 12:1, 2

So, how goes the race on a day by day basis in your experience? There are a lot of distractions and a lot of voices clamoring for attention. All the noise and clamor at Churchhill Downs did not distract a determined filly to give her best and provide dramatic witness that she could indeed run with the best of them!

Eventually each one of us will stand before Jesus Christ -- we will hear one of two statements coming from His mouth -- will it be "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:21) OR "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:23)

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

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Open Letter to Mel White, His "Significant Other," and Soulforce from a United Methodist!

We call on members of the United Methodist Church to support your local congregation if it is (or is rapidly becoming) a Reconciling Congregation. But we call upon you to leave your church if your pastor continues to enforce the words that " not condone." At least refuse to pay your tithes and offerings until your church opens their doors to all people as Christ commands. --- part of text of "open letter" to United Methodists from Mel White & Soulforce, May 1, 2008

Dear Mel, your "significant other" (Gary), and Members of Soulforce:

Due to the General Conference of the UMC of 2008 not moving in the direction as far as you wanted, you have responded by making a broad appeal to the membership of the United Methodist Church. It is your desire that the United Methodist Church come to the place where those who practice sodomy and lesbianism be fully involved in the membership and life of the UMC. Further, that those who practice such lifestyles be ordained into the UMC ministry if they feel so "called."

Actually what follows was written some time before the death of Jerry Falwell, who is mentioned in the following epistle. But the appeal at the conclusion of the letter is still quite legitimate as some would fully agree. So here we go.......

You have certainly created a lot of waves around the country the last few years in your campaign to force full acceptance of the sodomite and lesbian lifestyles upon all citizens and institutions within the borders of the United States.

It must be admitted by even your most dedicated foes that much progress has been made by you and other like minded groups in your ultimate goal to have civil and church legislation enacted which will grant sodomites and lesbians the right to:

  • legally marry in a church or in a civil ceremony.

  • adopt children and be recognized as legitimate families with all the rights and privileges now possessed by families consisting of a father (male) and a mother (female) who are married and their children.

  • be totally received into the life and ministry of any church, including ordination into the ministry of any church.

  • be employed in any work place with full protection so that although a potential employer strongly objects to sodomy and lesbianism on moral grounds, that employer is forced to hire a sodomite or a lesbian anyway because the law says you cannot discriminate, even on moral grounds!

  • be free to rent any property of choice which is available and even though a Christian who is the property owner has strong moral convictions that sodomy and lesbianism are an abomination, that Christian property owner must rent his property to a couple of sodomites or a couple of lesbians because the law says he cannot refuse the "couple" due to the fact that he would be guilty of "discrimination!"

Your efforts to put extreme pressure on various church groups have been highly publicized and it is clear that some are beginning to cave in a bit to your demands here and there -- even some church leaders who used to oppose sodomy and lesbianism have "converted" and now speak of it in favorable terms!

The strategy you are following could not be improved upon in any manner -- every facet of our society has been impacted and you now have growing support from political and church leaders. But of even greater significance is the fact that you now have a majority of those in mass media communications behind you along with an increased number of productions coming from the movie and television industries which present sodomy and lesbianism in a very favorable light -- or in the case of depicting stories of sodomites and lesbians who were victims of so-called "hate crimes" you have gained a great amount of sympathy for your cause and this should benefit you in seeking special protection and prvileges that we in the heterosexual community do not have nor ever shall in the future!

Now then -- having said all that and as you review your successes over recent years, may I make a suggestion to you regarding the expansion of your agenda to a much higher level.

Is it not time for you to enlarge your vision to include those countries that are still considered almost universally opposed to sodomy and lesbianism? You and your lover, Gary Nixon, at one point rented a house across the street from Jerry Falwell's church. And as anticipated, you reaped millions of dollars worth of publicity from this venture, and if you weren't very high profile before, you certainly are now!

OK, here it is -- are you ready for the next level of challenge? You can arrange for others to live in your house, attend Falwell's church and keep the heat on him and his congregation.

So how about you, your lover, and others who are committed to Soulforce and its mission moving to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, or Baghdad in Iraq, or Tehran in Iran?

Just do what you've been doing here in the U.S. as you challenge those Islamic cultures to consider the legitimacy of sodomy and lesbianism. Is it not true that the followers of Allah are much more hung up on sodomy and lesbianism than are the citizens of the U.S. and that those who practice sodomy and lesbianism in an Islamic culture must do so in complete secrecy? To be discovered as a practicing sodomite or lesbian can lead to a trial and execution as was the case on January 1, 2002 when three sodomites were publicly beheaded for practicing sodomy in Saudi Arabia! Surely you would agree, would you not, that these attitudes toward sodomy and lesbianism must be changed. And who would be the best person to confront those societies about this issue than you along with your supporters since you have great expertise in this area!

So, while it may be a bit difficult at first, if you pursue this with the same zeal as you have in the U.S., surely the professed followers of Islam will see it your way even as growing numbers of professing Christians and their leaders in this country are seeing things your way and agree with your contention that sodomy and lesbianism are to be considered every bit as normal as heterosexuality.

I anxiously look forward to a news release which tells of you, your lover, and Soulforce supporters taking up residence in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Iran and that you are zealously pursuing the same agenda there in public fashion as you have been doing in this country. And after you have "converted" the citizens of those countries you can then move on to the many others which are still dominated by Islam!

And by the way, Mel, try to keep your head as you pursue your crusade in those countries where Allah holds sway over the majority!

Still contending at Circuit Rider's Range, blogging at Musings of a Maverick! and warning at Driving the Final Nails!

Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in Full Connection
W. PA Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church

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, May 2, 2008

Aww, They Went and Did It Again!

"...The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching..." --- Statement from Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church recently retained by vote of the General Conference meeting in Fort Worth, Texas on April 30, 2008

The pressure was intensified as never before at the quadrennial gathering of delegates to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The "politickin'" process had been going on for a long time prior to the April sessions in Fort Worth, Texas.

Part of the growing problem on this issue is the growing number of sympathizers and supporters from within the ranks of the UMC. These include bishops, pastors and a number of lay persons. So it really boils down to a war on all fronts.

Soulforce is a very high profile organization which is quite aggressive in pushing the agenda for LGBT persons. A picture above shows the attempt to use the present slogan of the UMC to their advantage!

Soulforce is not an organization to be taken lightly -- they have a lot of smart people, strong financial support and have been implementing some very effective stragegies to wear down resistance.

The above mentioned vote on retention of a statement in the Book of Discipline will not make them go away and forget it -- they will be back, stronger than ever in 2012 -- that is, if this country is still standing by then and hasn't in the meantime been judged by Amighty God for all its abominations -- with one of the leading ones being the destruction of over 100,000 unborn children each month throughout the year! Oh yes, sexual immorality in all its variations fits in there somewhere too!

A couple of the strategies is the all too often successful effort to lay a guilt-trip on those of us who refuse to accept sodomy, lesbianism etc. as legitimate moral practices under any condition. If you let them, they will really do a number on you.

Another strategy is to draw us into doing "dialog" -- they just want to talk and and seek "common ground" -- work together within the church, etc. You can disagree if you want, but you MUST respect them and their position on issues related to the practices of sodomy and lesbianism. It's simply resolved by saying "We disagree a bit, but we will work together for the common good, and will respect one another, etc!"

This last strategy on the "dialog" matter is being used effectively in the W. PA Annual Conference.

But enough of that -- read for yourself from the "horse's mouth" -- or am I confused and it's the other end -- oh well, here are a couple of links to let you see for yourself what the "other side" is saying. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the "open letter" to United Methodists:

We call on the United Methodist clergy who know the tragic consequences of those words to take their stand against them. Welcome us. Marry us. Ordain us. Confront and condemn your fellow clergy who dare to use those words to deny membership to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians. We ask you to take steps immediately to join the Reconciling Ministries Network and to make it known to your community that you are an Open and Affirming Congregation.

We call on members of the United Methodist Church to support your local congregation if it is (or is rapidly becoming) a Reconciling Congregation. But we call upon you to leave your church if your pastor continues to enforce the words that " not condone." At least refuse to pay your tithes and offerings until your church opens their doors to all people as Christ commands.

For the entire letter, go to A Soulforce Open Letter to Members of the United Methodist Church Use reverse feature on web browser to return here.

Here is a link to an album of pictures from the "encounter" at the United Methodist General Conference -- Soulforce Pictures at UMC General Conference 2008

Finally, ponder the paragraph below -- another statement from that "open letter" to United Methodists in a republic known as the U. S. of A!

We call on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender United Methodists, their families and friends, to refuse to finance your own oppression by giving your tithes and offerings to a church that refuses to see you as fully human. How can we continue to support a local congregation where the pastor insists that our relationships are impure or unholy and thus refuses to marry us or insists that we are not really called by God to serve the church and thus refuses to ordain us? How can we even think of staying in a congregation that denies membership to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons? And as you leave, take down that sign or banner that reads "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors." Store it until the United Methodist Church earns the right to use it once again.

Be prepared to be labeled with an even greater intensity and viciousness if you suggest that sodomy and lesbianism are abominations in the sight of a holy God and the only cure is repentance, as is demanded by God in regard to all sins which are sexual in nature!

Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as if with a cart rope; that say, "Let Him make speed and hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come, that we may know it." Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! --- Isaiah 5:18-20