Righteous Children of God

Okay…at this point I will allow any of you who consider the subject of proper biblical hermeneutics boring to stop reading this article…

Still there? 🙂

Well, for those of you who are braving what could be a really dusty, boring dialogue…get a good shot of coffee and let’s dive in!

Of course, you may not even know what the word “hermeneutic” means. My Mac’s dictionary is short and sweet, stating it’s “a method or theory of interpretation.” Giving that topic it’s proper attention would take far more than a single bulletin article, but let’s go with a couple simple rules that perhaps we can immediately agree upon: [Read more…]

The Patience of Sunny

Augie and SunnyThe English language owes much to the Bible, especially the King James translation. Even the most non-religious often use expressions directly from its phrasings or stories—for instance, "the patience of Job."

And Job did seem a pretty patient man. Even though he "was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil"1 (Job 1:1), things went terribly south for him. First he lost his vast riches and all his children, but even in the midst of his grieving we learn that "in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (Job 1:22). Then, with no knowledge of why the former or latter happened to him, he was "struck…with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head: (Job 2:7). His wife then encouraged him to give up his integrity and "Curse God and die" (Job 2:9)… [Read more…]

SDMF and Hell’s Angels

Black Label SocietyAlthough I can appreciate almost any style of music that includes a melody, I am especially drawn to tunes with heavy guitars. Over the years, Ozzy Osborne has had a knack for not only putting out songs with great guitars—he also attracts especially talented guitarists. (For those not familiar with Ozzy, he first became famous as the lead singer of Black Sabbath—another guitar-laden band.)

Perhaps Ozzy's most famous guitarist is Rhandy Rhoads, who is considered one of rock's best even though he died at the age of 25 in an airplane accident. Rhandy's death was hard on Ozzy…but life does go on, and Rhandy was ultimately replaced by Jake E. Lee, who was later succeeded by Zakk Wylde.

Which almost gets us to the acronym in this article's title. 🙂 [Read more…]

What About the Children?

My good friend Winslow reminded me that I had left another article hanging. At the end of "What If'ing the Lord Almighty," which included rather disturbing incidents in the Bible where God's judgment didn't work out so well for children, I wrote:

So, how do I explain how a righteous God has children abandoned, swallowed up by the earth, "devoted to destruction," or drowned?

Although I may posit an answer in a future piece, the space limits of a bulletin article mean that I must leave it as an exercise for you. It is an answer an unbelieving world needs because vocal scoffers attempt to damn our God by bringing up every harsh incident that offends modern sensibilities…

Now, I will admit that I left myself enough wiggle room ("I may posit") that I didn't necessarily intend to do a follow-up. Was it a cop out? Maybe. However, after a game of phone tag with Winslow which included a voice mail message asking I finish what I started…well, here goes. [Read more…]

1984 + ?

1984 + ?As Jeremy passed the deteriorating wood-tiled church on North Main Street, he tried to remember just how long ago its large doors had been locked for the last time. Was it ten years? Longer? Shorter? However far back it was, the doors were no longer white, having lost the battle with weather that any abandoned building does. Its handicapped ramp had also, long ago, seen its rust color turn into the hue of gray decay. From the looks of it, it also lost its structural integrity—a fitting unsafe entry path to an unused church.

For that matter, even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it.1

Jeremy tried to narrow down the actual year by remembering other connected events. Although what finally finished off the small congregation was the hate-crime judgment against their minister, he wasn't the first conviction in Antrim when the Tolerance Purge ("Tolperge" in Newspeak) arrived. Not surprisingly, the first Tolperge drive avoided houses of worship, focusing instead on businesses. Religious kooks would be allowed their bigotry, at least for a time, but owning a business was a privilege in the eyes of the Federal Government, the Department of Tolerance, and their Tolerance Czar ("Fedgov," "Deptol," and "Czartol" respectively). [Read more…]

What If’ing the Lord Almighty

The Book of Ezra starts of with some great news: Cyrus (king of Persia) proclaimed that the exiled Jews can return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. Not only that, but he encouraged those around the Israelites to donate everything from gold to animals "for the house of God that is Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:4, English Standard Version). Cyrus was also someone who puts his money where his mouth is, and returned 4,500 "vessels of gold and silver" Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem back with the returning expatriates (see Ezra 1:7-11). Not a bad way to head back home, eh?

I will admit that after reading through that book this week, the good news that starts Ezra off isn't what is going to stick with me. Instead, it's the situation dealt with in the last two chapters. This is how the ninth chapter begins:

After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands…For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost" (Ezra 9:1—2).

Don't get me wrong, the officials and Ezra had every reason to be concerned. Israelites weren't suppose to marry people from other nations, and when they did it had catastrophic consequences. Even a smart guy like King Solomon proved the wisdom behind the Lord's prohibition: [Read more…]

My Close Personal Friend Penn Jillette

Okay, I'll be up front…I have never even met Penn Jillette…so the title of this article might be considered a wee bit of an exaggeration. 🙂

No, he isn't a close personal friend, but I have had a couple times where Penn has responded to me on Twitter…and considering he's got over 1.7 million followers, that's almost like being famous. 🙂

At this point some of you might be saying, "Who is Penn Jillette?" This is what he has (right at this moment) on his Twitter profile:

Twitter Bio of Penn Jillette

More than 1/2 (by weight) of Penn & Teller at the Rio in Vegas, Penn's Sunday School Podcast, P&T Tell a Lie on Discovery, P&T: Fool Us! on ITV.God, NO! – book

As that blurb indicates, he is the larger half of the Penn & Teller act, a pair of comedic magicians. If you have ever seen them, you also know he's the half that speaks (his smaller compadre never utters a word). And speak he does…during his magic acts…during their multiple TV shows…and in any other opportunity he is given. He is loud, fun, informative, and interesting…

And an extremely committed atheist. [Read more…]

Compassion for I-580

As I type this I am listening to the greatest negative my apartment has—the constant, fairly loud sound of traffic (often very heavy traffic). I've basically gotten use to it, but I still notice it…especially at places in my abode that have reduced sound proofing (for example, the huge door to the outdoors just before the kitchen).

I've wondered, however, if perhaps it is more of a blessing than a curse. Once as I looked through the open blinds in the living room, it hit me that the vehicles whizzing by 24 hours a day were a reminder of the myriad people out there. It is impossible for me to be a hermit in this location—I am constantly reminded I am not alone. As a Christian this is a benefit—since our duty isn't to self, instead it is first to God and then to others: [Read more…]

Oaths Gone Bad

Have you ever promised something, only to regret it afterward? When you were a kid, did you ever assure someone with the words, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye"? Do you ever swear by anything? ("I swear on my mother's grave that…")

Between Bible studies and reading, I've been thinking about oaths in Scripture that have gone awry. For instance, going through Judges this one stood out:

And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering" (Judges 11:30-31, English Standard Version).

In the previous verse it says that "the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah" (Judges 11:29) so it seems really odd that he would offer something that appears against God's command—sacrificing one's child (see Deuteronomy 18:10). Perhaps that's why after having success beating the Ammonites, our Lord allowed Jephthah's oath to come back and haunt him: [Read more…]

The Result of Double Faith

Between a couple trips through all 66 (and Bible studying) I've read every word in Scripture more than once, yet I still run into stuff I don't ever remember seeing before. Sure, it could just be that I've got an awful memory, but instead it seems to me that God's written word is like a gold mine where no matter how much you dig the precious metal never runs out…even when you are digging in the same exact place. It is inexhaustible.

For instance, a day or so back I was reading how Ahaziah (bad king of Israel) wonders if his injuries are going to lead to his death and decides to go ask Ekron's god Baal-zebub via messengers. The only real God sends Elijah to intercept Ahaziah's intermediaries, and Elijah sends them back with a pretty negative message. Seeing them so soon the king was surprised, and asked them why they were back so quickly. They relate the communication and then:

[Ahaziah] said to them, "What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?" They answered him, "He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist." And he said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite" (2 Kings 1:7-8, English Standard Version).

Now, perhaps you are far more observant than I am, but I never caught that Elijah wore clothing made of hair and a leather belt. Why does that matter? Fast forward to the New Testament and: [Read more…]

Was it a Bad Bird?

In my last sermon I mentioned how social media options like Twitter and Facebook are great places to get topics for talks and articles, but there is one thing that definitely beats both hands-down…

The utterances and actions of a 4 year-old. 🙂

A couple weeks back I had a bunch of stuff to bring into the church, thus requiring a couple trips from my Nissan Cube. During the first one I had left the driver's door open, and when I returned to my car I was pleasantly surprised to find a little bird flying around near the dashboard. It's hard to explain how cute it was—kind of imagine the birds from Bambi flying around that famous deer when he was just a newborn fawn. (At this point I'll have to admit that I am not even sure if I've watched Bambi completely, so those cartoon birds might just be a figment of my imagination.)

The adorable bird, however, wasn't as enamored with its equal surprise at seeing me, and when I went to the other side of the car to let it out it took my absence from the open door to escape. Even though the feathered friend's visit was short, this little episode is my favorite one (so far) with nature during my stay here on the grounds of the Pleasant View Church (although there is also something to be said for the turkeys some mornings and deer some nights).

Naturally, having a story about a cute small bird would immediately make me want to share it with an equally cute small boy, and later that day I described the experience to Augie. He clearly enjoyed the tale, and at one point asked a very simple question. [Read more…]

You Prayed for What?!

Have you ever seen a football game where the guy gets the ball and promptly runs to the wrong end zone? Or a basketball game where a player gets disoriented and sinks one in the opposition's basket? Although in some ways it's funny (as long as it wasn't an athlete on your team that made the faux pas) isn't it really more painful to watch than humorous? Well, assuming you aren't a really cruel person. 🙂

Oddly enough, this situation came to mind when I read a Scripture quoted in Hank Hanegraaff's book, Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century. He used a different translation and didn't include the first verse and a half, but for the purposes of this article:

Two things I ask of you;
   deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
   give me neither poverty nor riches;
   feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
   and say, "Who is the Lord?"
or lest I be poor and steal
   and profane the name of my God (Proverbs 30:7-9, English Standard Version).

Now, I don't know about you…but when I pray for God's blessings I generally am a bit more ambitious than that…and Agur son of Jakeh's words seemed to be those of someone praying against himself. Sure, he didn't petition to be poor, but praying against riches? Seems like someone scoring for the other side…for his enemies who don't want him to be successful. [Read more…]

“Whose Damsel is This?”

The first time I visited a Half Price Books was last year in Arlington, Texas. Like Radio Shack, it's the kind of store I like to stop in whenever I see one, but generally I don't buy anything. It's not because there is nothing I'm interested in, quite the opposite. Instead, if I were to buy everything that caught my eye at a Half Price Books I'd soon be broke.

This past Saturday, however, I couldn't help but purchase a rather large Bible. First, the price was right—only $4.99. Of course, value is relative…$4.99 wouldn't actually be a great deal for some mass-market paperback versions. However, when it is "the only Bible of the twentieth century designed and illustrated by a single artist, renowned bookman Barry Moser" that includes 232 pieces of his artwork and is printed on "high opacity 50-pound Glatfelter paper" (with a Smyth-sewn binding)…well, then it is both a beauty to behold and a steal.

And now it's mine. 🙂 [Read more…]

The Gospel for Hair Bands

I'm not entirely sure, but the first time I heard Europe's "Wish I Could Believe" was while listening to the Internet radio station XERS earlier this year. Having an ear for songs that speak to spiritual topics, this portion of the chorus caught my attention:

Cause I, wish I could believe in God
So I can move ahead
I know I can't believe in God
Time to move ahead

Now, I can't say that the rest of the song "fits" the transcendent searching of that refrain, but I think we can all appreciate the longing contained in "I wish I could believe in God."

And we Christians naturally wonder what is preventing the lyricist from believing in our Lord…and what exactly makes him so confident he can't? [Read more…]

“I’m Sorry if I Offended You”

Although there are myriad other reasons to be aggravated with politicians and government leaders, perhaps one of the most annoying is how they apologize. First, they are unlikely to actually admit they did anything wrong—for instance, they don't say, "I'm sorry I said something really stupid." Instead, they proffer an equivocation like, "I'm sorry if what I said offended you."

You are sorry if what you said offended me?! So, calling me a <fill in the uncivil word or phrase here> is not itself actually offensive or wrong?! Instead, I just took it wrong?! [Read more…]