April 30, 2008

Blog Header - April 30, 2008

Another photo from the wonderful McKinley wedding. This photo is of Abigail and her sister Lydia who were posing together for a photo (for someone else's camera, but I grabbed the shot anyway). Did I mention that Abigail and Joe are now expecting? I can't wait to see them in action as parents. They're gonna be great!

Forcing others to worship properly

Do you ever feel like you need to do something in church so those around you will see that you are worshiping properly? Do you ever feel intimidated to place money into the offering plate so the folks around you (or the deacon passing the plate) will see that you are tithing? Do you feel intimidated into raising your hands during the singing because others are doing it (or intimidated into not raising your hands because of what others might think)?

When we worship God in the corporate setting, we carry on a delicate balancing act. We are worshiping corporately and must be part of the corporate conversation/experience. But we are worshiping God and must worship Him in spirit and in truth—as laid out for us in scripture. So then, we should not do things that will distract those around us from their worship of God, and we should actively pursue doing things that encourage others to focus corporately on God and to throw themselves into worship.

But since worship is a heart attitude, we cannot fully know when others are focused on God and are worshiping appropriately. Nor is it something we should be concerned about if it is not distracting to the rest of the gathered congregation.

It’s important to remember that we are not to judge whether someone else’s devotion to God is true or not. God Himself will weed out the tares. We cannot excuse our bad attitudes because of injustices, hardships, and unfulfilled expectations. We are responsible for our responses.

This quote is from the oustanding blog, Run With Patience, from today's post, "Responsible Responses." The post deals with this concept as shown in scripture when David danced in praise of God and his wife despised him for it. It's a great post and worthy of your time and thought.

April 29, 2008

You couldn't be more wrong than Wright

As Reverend Jeremiah Wright grabs more and more attention and hurts Barack Obama's campaign by making crazy statements we are treated to new rhetorical depths to which this man is willing to sink.

Yesterday Rev. Wright addressed the press club [story | transcript]. I listened to most of his talk while I worked. Various media outlets are reporting what they consider to be his most outrageous statements. But I have not heard a single report that addressed the worst statement I heard from Rev. Wright. Here's a quote:

Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Dr. Jones, in his book, God in the Ghetto, argues quite accurately that one’s theology, how I see God, determines one’s anthropology, how I see humans, and one’s anthropology then determines one’s sociology, how I order my society.

Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means “God with us,” if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.

My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.

Did you catch the phrase in the middle of this quote? "If I see God as superior, as God over us ... then I see humans through that lens.... And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior."

So Rev. Wright says that America is at fault for the attacks of 9/11. Rev. Wright says that the United States government created the AIDS virus to kill off black men. Rev. Wright says that we should not say "God bless America" but instead "God damn America."

None of these statements is nearly as bad as Rev. Wright's implication that God is not superior to us. He is right that our theology shapes our anthropology, and our anthropology shapes our sociology. And I think he has revealed in this statement why his anthropology and sociology are so amazingly skewed. His theology is terrible and obviously does not spring from scripture.

My question is: Why would Rev. Wright or Barack Obama or anyone else worship a God who is not superior to us?

April 27, 2008

Thomas a Kempis on "Unbridled Affections"

When a man desires a thing too much, he at once becomes ill at ease. A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace. An unmortified man is quickly tempted and overcome in small, trifling evils; his spirit is weak, in a measure carnal and inclined to sensual things; he can hardly abstain from earthly desires. Hence it makes him sad to forego them; he is quick to anger if reproved. Yet if he satisfies his desires, remorse of conscience overwhelms him because he followed his passions and they did not lead to the peace he sought.

True peace of heart, then, is found in resisting passions, not in satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal man, in the man given to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and spiritual man.

The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis

Blog Header - April 27, 2008

This blog header is a photo I took just around the corner from my downtown Washington, DC, office. These flowers were hanging from the street lamps on the corner of 10th and G Streets. The building you can see just over the top of the flowers is our other downtown office on 12th Street.

April 26, 2008

Worshiping with all your might

If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigor in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.

True religion is evermore a powerful thing; and the power of it appears, in the first place in the inward exercises of it in the heart, where is the principal and original seat of it. Hence true religion is called the power of godliness, in distinction from the external appearances of it, that are the form of it, 2 Tim. 3:5: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it.

The Spirit of God, in those that have sound and solid religion, is a spirit of powerful holy affection; and therefore, God is said to have given the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. 1:7. And such, when they receive the Spirit of God, in his sanctifying and saving influences, are said to be baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; by reason of the power and fervor of those exercises the Spirit of God excites in their hearts, whereby their hearts, when grace is in exercise, may be said to burn within them; as is said of the disciples, Luke 24:32.

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

April 25, 2008

Hedging your bets (spiritually speaking)

Galatians 5:1–6
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

We like guarantees. We like to know that if we have made a bad decision, it won't hurt us too badly. We want to be sure that we won't fall victim to "buyer's remorse." So a guarantee can be a good thing.

But wanting a guarantee is evidence either that we're not really sure that we are making a good decision or that we don't have total faith in the promises made by the product or service we are purchasing or the commitment we are entering into. And since we are not sure, we look for a guarantee to mitigate our losses—to hedge our bets.

Jehovah Jireh – my Provider

But God is not in the habit of giving us guarantees. If we truly know God's character, we will have complete and total trust in his ability to provide the things he has promised. The Jewish term Jehovah Jireh expresses this aspect of God's character—his ability to provide.

And yet we look for guarantees with God. I have discussed Christianity with some people who say that they will try all the different faiths in order to make sure that they're okay with God when they die. "One of these religions must be right, so if I have tried them all I'll be assured of going to heaven when I die."

That's not the way to handle it. In fact, that's a good way to ensure a trip to a different destination after death.

In conservative Evangelical circles we hedge our bets a bit differently. Rather than trying out Christianity and Judaism and Taoism and Buddhism, we try to earn God's favor by following a strict set of rules. We try to work hard in the church. We hold to strict standards of dress. We make sure our hair is cut just so. And then, in an effort to leverage the favor we are seeking from God, we force those standards on everyone else around us and indicate by our actions and our speech that if others do not hold to these standards they are not as righteous as we are.

When we do this, we reveal that we don't fully believe or trust in the blood of Jesus Christ. It is evident (even to the lost) that we are seeking a guarantee by working to curry God's favor. We don't truly believe that simply turning to God on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ will get us into heaven. No matter how loudly we proclaim it with our words, our actions are preaching a different gospel.

Mom (circa 1970)
Actions speak louder than words

But Paul directly addressed this in Galatians 5. And he didn't like it. Paul said: "Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."

Paul is saying here that if you try to "hedge your bets with God," that you have fallen from grace and must keep the whole law. In other words, if you follow man made rules in order to attain righteousness, you will not gain heaven when you die. We have five thousand years of history in the Bible laid out to show us that we are not capable of following the law of God. Man is not able to attain the standard of holiness and righteousness that God has set out. That is the whole reason that Christ had to die—we couldn't do it on our own.

Screen capture from a web site

So if we try to attain righteousness by using a particular Bible version, or by dressing in a certain way, or by doing acts of charity we will be required to fulfill the entire law or else we're hell bound.

It's all in the attitude

But Titus 2:15 says that God is preparing a people for himself—a people "zealous for good works." How can we know whether we are doing our works in order to attain righteousness or we are doing them because we are zealous for good works"? The answer is in our attitude. If we do our good works because we are driven to them out of love for God and love for others, we are zealous for good works. But if we look at others and say, "that person is not worthy" because they are not living up to the standard we have set in dress, in action, or in anything else other than faith in Jesus Christ, then we are trying to attain righteousness by our good works. And that, according to the Apostle Paul, means we are not Christians.

Do we sometimes look at another person and say, "She's probably not a Christian because she wears halter tops"? Do we say, "Because he listens to secular rock music he is not a Christian"? Do we say, "she needs to stop watching the TV shows she watches in order to have a good testimony to her neighbors"? Do we say, "His desire for more and more money shows that he is not Godly"? If we say any of those things, we are responsible for the whole law and have "fallen from grace."

God does not view legalism lightly. It is a terribly dangerous thing. We must be ruthless in our efforts to root our own legalism out of us.

April 23, 2008

Blog Header - April 23, 2008

This header is a photo of our dear friends Joe and Abigail McKinley, taken during their wedding reception. They are a wonderful couple.

You may read more about their wedding.

ADDENDUM - April 24, 2008  We just got the news that Joe and Abigail are expecting a new addition to the family in about 8 months. YEA!!! Congratulations Joe and Abigail!

Alive Day - Michael Jernigan

Marine Corporal Michael Jernigan

Another one of the amazing young people featured in the Alive Day documentary is Marine Corporal Michael Jernigan. Mike lost much of his skull, both eyes, parts of his right hand and sustained various other injuries as a result of a roadside bomb blast. Mike is an engaging conversationalist. He has a vibrant personality and exudes positive energy. I was so impressed by his attitude after all that he has been through. In fact, it was enjoyable just to watch him interact with those around him at the event. In spite of his blindness, he seemed to bring light into the room by his very presence.

Mike Jernigan and his fiancé

Corporal Jernigan wears one glass eye. The scarring in the other eye socket was so profound that he is not able to wear a glass eye in that eye socket. On the night of the Alive Day event at Washington's Navy Memorial Museum, Corporal Jernigan wore a strangely beautiful eye embedded with a ring of diamonds. He explained the significance of these diamonds when he told us that upon his return to his wife, she left him as a result of his injuries. He chose to grind the 1-karat diamond ring into smaller stones and have them inset into his eye as a reminder of what he had lost due to the bomb blast.

That story could sound bitter—but in Mike's case it is not. He has a fantastic outlook and is using the reminders of his injuries to motivate himself to press on to the future.

In his own words:

One of the greatest challenges since I came home is learning how to live independently and recuperating in a life without vision.

Currently, I am a spokesperson for a guide dog school, Southeastern Guide Dogs, which has started the Paws for Patriots program. We are providing guide dogs for those visually impaired in Afghanistan and Iraq. I will be starting school in August. I have been traveling quite a bit, and I am constantly changing my daily routine. One of the greatest challenges since I came home is learning how to live independently and recuperating in a life without vision. As for the future, I would like to finish school and I am looking forward to working again.

When we were checking out of the hotel the day after the Alive Day - Home From Iraq event, we met Corporal Jernigan in the hotel lobby. I introduced my family. Mike showed my son his eye and told him about some cool other eyes he has including one with a skull and crossbones on it. David was duly impressed. And so was I.

Well-deserved applause

I was greatly honored to be included in this event. We Americans can be very proud of our military men and women. They are outstanding representatives of our nation.

April 22, 2008

A delicate balancing act

When do we "live at peace with all men (as much as is possible)" and when do we "confront [a person] to his face"? Both of these situations are laid out in scripture and both involve Christians dealing with Christians.

Quite often we are told that we must submit and not stir up trouble. This is usually the course of action requested by those in charge. And at other times we are encouraged to fight against some perceived error, the encouragement to stand against error typically coming from the more energetic folks (read "younger").

My father's Navigators blog is currently doing a expositional series from Paul's epistle to the Galatians. In the post What makes Christianity tick? my father is dealing with a lack of unity Paul had to deal with. The following is a snippet from that post:

There was no unity here. No peace! But Paul was not the problem, though he instigated the troublous moment. It was Peter and he had to be rebuked! His behavior of separating from fellow believers on the basis of race was totally disconcerting to Gentile believers and, I might add, very dishonoring to the Lord.

Read the full post.

Alive Day - Lt. Dawn Halfaker

First Lt. Dawn Halfaker, U.S. Army

First Leutenant Dawn Halfaker is strikingly well-spoken. She is intelligent, driven, attractive, and an amputee. Dawn's right arm and shoulder were blown off by a rocket propelled grenade, which fortunately exploded after it had passed through her shoulder. During Dawn's interview in the Alive Day documentary I heard many of the people watching the film crying as they considered the impact this has had on this young lady. Dawn discussed her concerns about the fact that if she has children some day she will never be able to pick them up with two arms the way most mothers do. She talked of her concerns that her children may not see her as a normal mother but that they may see her as a little bit less somehow.

But these fears were not on the surface when I met Lt. Halfaker. She was very impressive from the moment I began speaking to her. She is intelligent and full of life and has a fanatastic outlook.

Here is Dawn's story in her own words:

My dark memories are inescapable, they are the fiber that shape the threads of my new life and I must accept them for what they are and persevere through them.

In theory my life has moved well beyond the tragic event that befell me on 19 June, 2004. I have a new and successful career that consumes me; keeps me occupied twenty four hours a day and takes me on adventures around the country. I am in graduate school; I have a beautiful new condo in metro D.C. and I have a slew of friends who I trust and love that make me laugh. However, through the windows of my ‘new' life, each day I find myself at one moment or another looking back at my service in the military and my injury, wondering how different, easy, and wonderful my life would be like had I not become a product of the ravages of war. I could have gone to Yale. I could have branched ---, rather than MP and sat behind a desk doing war-fighter's errands. My list of ‘I could be doing...' is quite long. And through my best efforts to skew my vision at something other than the past, I am reminded of it every day and every day it tears at my heart, mind and soul.

Lt. Dawn Helfaker and Nancy Hogan of
Paralyzed Veterans of America

Whether I watch the news and see that another suicide bomber has taken more life from the people I was trying to protect, whether I hear that another one of my friends and/or former comrades has died in the heat of battle, or whether I just feel a hint of phantom pain trickle down from my brain to my armless shoulder, I remember and I am conflicted. But, at the end of the day when I lay down to go to sleep with all of my modern comforts surrounding me, I am happy with who I am, and although my dark memories are inescapable, they are the fiber that shape the threads of my new life and I must accept them for what they are and persevere through them, no matter how painful they may be. My happiness would suffer otherwise.

How a Christian brother responds

As the little men of the patriarchy react in anger to opposing opinion, trying hard to end intellectual thought and balanced debate, those who have the discernment to recognize the promulgation of heresy respond to those under counterattack in a much more genteel fashion.

When Dr. Cindy Kunsman presented a scholarly look at the claims of the patriarchy movement, she apparently made many people uncomfortable. One would think that a professor of Christian theology at a leading Southern Baptist theological seminary would be able to defend his views in polite and reasoned debate without resorting to schoolyard bully tactics. One would expect that the person offended would make his own presentation of his defense and not enlist others to do his dirty work. But then, there is not a whole lot of thinking going on in the patriarchy movement—just a whole lot of bluster and forceful authoritarianism.

As these men show themselves to be unworthy of their positions and even their manhood, the other side has responded with feedback from Christian brothers and sisters.

April 21, 2008

Alive Day - Cpl. Jonathan Bartlett

This past Friday I had the privilege and honor of photographing the Deloitte & Touche Business Resource Group's event focusing on the employment of disabled war veterans. This was a deeply moving event. What an amazing group of young people who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. I'm going to introduce you to a few of these amazing veterans this week. Today, you'll meet Corporal Jonathan Bartlett, U.S. Army.

At this event, the documentary "Alive Day: Home From Iraq" was shown. It is an outstanding film documenting the heroism and the struggles of 10 disabled veterans of the War in Iraq. It showcases their courage, their commitment, their strength and their fears about the future. These young people are so impressive that words fail to express it, but the documentary comes close. It is available wherever movies are sold. But it is real it shows a small glimpse of the horrors of war. So it is not for the faint-hearted, or for those who are easily bothered by profanity. Such things pale in comparison to the true horrors that these young people have gone through and the struggles they will have for the rest of their lives because they were willing to give so much to protect the freedoms and comforts we all hold dear.

Broken Mirror

by Jonathan Bartlett

Cpl. Jonathan Bartlett

I wake to a head full of fog and light coming through my heavy eyelids. I try to move but I feel strangely restricted as if someone has secured me to what feels like a soft bed whilst a thick blanket lays over me as well. There are dull pains in my arms and back as well but they are like foghorns in my mind, distant and unseen. Upon moving I discover my movements are limited by tubes going into me! Instantly my eyes open and I attempt to sit up but I can't seem to make it. It is as if someone is weighing my chest down and throwing my feet in the air at the same time. My eyes are assaulted by glaring lights, fuzzy humanoid shapes and a dark figure in sharp detail striding for the door. He is tall wearing a long dark robe, carrying a large sharp scythe and shaking his head. I can see only him until he closes the door. Strong hands help me sit up as the room comes into focus. All around me the expressions of concern on my family and friends bore into me. I look around to discover what they are staring at. However I can't seem to focus through the tears in my eyes.

I try to speak yet am unable to remember how to express my thoughts. I finally manage to open my mouth. The tears flow over my lips then into my mouth like rain onto desert sand, reminding it how to work correctly. After working the solidness out of my jaw my first words are that of a child, very primitive and monosyllabic. I try to move my limbs, to stretch some of this odd weariness out of me when the pain sears into my mind. The pain lights me up like a nuke on a foggy day. I then begin to yell and scream the most obscene and natural curses every soldier is issued when he graduates Basic. After I calm down and my tears have cleared I look about and actually see the source of my pain and my family's woe; I appear to be a mass of bandages from the waist down. I realize to my horror that my legs are mostly missing.

I feel the way star-crossed lovers do upon parting as it becomes more and more apparent my dreams have been trod on by high explosives.

My mind reels with pain and confusion as the implications of my injuries are explored. I'm obviously back in the States, half a world away from my bunk at the base in Iraq. Was it last night? How long was I out? I remember the mission brief, the shower after and the reading before I went to sleep but after that I draw a blank. "I must have caught a bomb", I wonder aloud. "Yes you did son" says the man with the strong hands. He is my uncle Trevor if I remember right. Neither my mother, father, brother, or best friends know exactly what happened and they look so sad. It's too much to bear. It's greater than even the pain. "I'll be alright, it'll hurt I'm sure but I will recover" I say to them. Conversation ensues and I can see my mother and father feel better at my attempts to appear strong but they don't see how empty and fragile those words are.

Corporal Jonathan Bartlett and
Colonel Marilyn Quagliotti (retired) of Deloitte

I feel cast adrift in pain amid all the good words and strong support. My loss is only compounded by the ability to still feel my lost limbs; the pain of my injuries is constantly replaying before my senses. It makes it hard to talk, however, thinking is all too easy. What does this mean to my career as a professional soldier? My heart and soul is in the Army and now I can't do what I love. I feel the way star-crossed lovers do upon parting as it becomes more and more apparent my dreams have been trod on by high explosives. I don't even feel like the same man. Last I slept I was a soldier but when I awoke I am little more than a cripple. I feel broken and shattered. When I look my self, into the mirror image of what I am, the person that stares back at me is shattered and broken as well. He can't seem to stand though he tries so hard and there is so much blood, tears and pain. After my family leaves and I am alone in the dark I crank up my drugs and try to cry the pain away.

April 20, 2008

Alive Day Memories - Produced by James Gandolfini

This past Friday night I was honored to photograph an event honoring the wounded and disabled veterans of the Iraq War. The event featured a showing of the James Gandolfini documentary, "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq." This powerful and moving film covers the stories of 10 veterans who survived severe attacks in Iraq.

I highly recommend this documentary (not for children).

This news snippet will give you a taste for the stories told in this documentary:

Thomas a Kempis on Works Done in Charity

Never do evil for anything in the world, or for the love of any man. For one who is in need, however, a good work may at times be purposely left undone or changed for a better one. This is not the omission of a good deed but rather its improvement.

Without charity external work is of no value, but anything done in charity, be it ever so small and trivial, is entirely fruitful inasmuch as God weighs the love with which a man acts rather than the deed itself.

He does much who loves much. He does much who does a thing well. He does well who serves the common good rather than his own interests.

Now, that which seems to be charity is oftentimes really sensuality, for man’s own inclination, his own will, his hope of reward, and his self-interest, are motives seldom absent. On the contrary, he who has true and perfect charity seeks self in nothing, but searches all things for the glory of God. Moreover, he envies no man, because he desires no personal pleasure nor does he wish to rejoice in himself; rather he desires the greater glory of God above all things. He ascribes to man nothing that is good but attributes it wholly to God from Whom all things proceed as from a fountain, and in Whom all the blessed shall rest as their last end and fruition.

If man had but a spark of true charity he would surely sense that all the things of earth are full of vanity!

The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis

Blog Header - April 20, 2008


Today's blog header is a photo of my son David and his friend, Mia Courier, sitting in the bed of a pickup truck as we waited for the July 4th fireworks from Liberty University. Liberty puts on a good fireworks display and for those who are not able to make it into the crowds of people gathered on the Liberty University grounds, there is a large parking lot at the shopping mall next to Liberty Mountain.

April 18, 2008

Holding tenaciously to extra-biblical tradition

Wade Burleson at Grace and Truth to You has written a good synopsis of some recent events surrounding the patriarchy movement. This group is incredibly afraid of dissenting opinion. I have never seen people so quick to stop any vocal opposition before anyone else can hear what is being said.

Wade & Mrs. Burleson

Read Wade's article, "And What Is It About Patriarchy That Scares Us?" and consider what it means when a group of people cannot defend their positions and tries to shut down any dissenting arguments. This level of thought control goes beyond what is commonly seen in political debate and even beyond what typically happens in some of the more cultish religious groups. To me it looks more like the level of control exerted by totalitarian regimes.

This does not bode well for American Evangelicalism if it is allowed to continue.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


April 17, 2008

Home From Iraq

© 2006 U.S. Dept. of Defense, all rights reserved
Published with permission

Tomorrow evening I will be photographing the Welcome Home From Iraq event in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by CNN and DTT Ability First Business Resource Group, this event will feature guest appearances by many sailors, soldiers and marines who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The event will premiere the new CNN documentary, "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq," produced by James Gandolfini. This film depicts the lives and the sacrifices of 10 disabled veterans.

In addition to the military personnel, many Washington-based dignitaries will be in attendance. This will be a great opportunity to show our nation's gratefulness to these heroes who have served our country.

I'll post some of the photos this coming week.

April 16, 2008

Blog Header - April 16, 2008

I had planned originally to post a new blog header photo each Sunday. But I simply have too many photos that I want to use. So I decided to post a new blog header this week on Wednesday. And it's Wednesday today.

This photo is of our dear friend Abigail McKinley being escorted down the aisle to her groom. You can see her eyes fixed firmly on her groom's (Joe McKinley) face as she walks the aisle. Abigail and Joe are a wonderful, God-fearing couple. It was such a delight and honor to be at their wedding just about a month ago.

Congratulations Abigail and Joe!

If you'd like to read a series of posts about their wedding ceremony, which was outstanding beyond description, click here.

He's not bad – he's just partly bad

Proverbs 6:16–19

These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:

  • A proud look
  • A lying tongue
  • Hands that shed innocent blood
  • A heart that devises wicked plans
  • Feet that are swift in running to evil
  • A false witness who speaks lies
  • And one who sows discord among brethren

We have all heard sins described in ways that belittle the impact of the sin. A little white lie, a small daliance with his neighbor's wife, spin, he's fibbing, and on and on it goes. We all have our own list of what should be considered a "big" sin and what should be considered a "little" sin. In fact, in the case of the "little" sins, we usually don't even want to use the word "sin."

But the question then rises: are there degrees of sins? Are some sins greater than others? I guess to answer that question we would need to go to the person who defines sin—God Himself.

Sin is anything contrary to God's design. Sin is any imperfection. Sin is anything we do that does not spring from faith in God.

Unfortunately, that doesn't help us figure out what the biggie sins are though. Certainly homosexuality would be considered one of the big ones! And of course adultery! And murder! Alcoholism! Probably stealing should be included in the list of really, really bad sins.

I think we populate our own personal list of the BIG SINS with sins that we do not personally struggle with.

  • I am faithful to my wife so adultery is a really bad one
  • I am attracted to the opposite sex, so homosexuality should be included in the list of really bad stuff
  • I don't drink alcohol (something I'm particularly proud of and am certain God is proud of me in this regard as well), so alcoholism should be included in the list
  • I have never murdered and certainly am too righteous to ever do something such as that, so murder will be included in the list
  • I never steal ... well, I haven't stolen anything more than some pens from the library, ...oh, and I kept some extra money the cashier gave me in change (but that was her fault, not mine) ... and I fudge a little on my taxes, but IT'S MY MONEY! I don't really steal, so I'll include stealing on my list of really bad sins. But I'm going to keep this one at the bottom of the list because I don't want to return that old library book that I love so much

Perhaps we should look at what God groups together as the REALLY BIG SINS.

Proverbs 6:16–19
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

So murder is there: "hands that shed innocent blood." See ... I told you that was bad. But what else is really bad in God's eyes?

"A proud look." That goes a bit beyond saying "a lack of humility." This is elitism or egotism that is apparent at a glance. If we consider ourselves better than others, we likely fall into this particular sin. And "a heart that devises wicked plans." This is someone who thinks through the evil they're going to do in order to make it more effective and efficient. The last one on the list says "one who sows discord among the brethren." So that would be someone who points out things within the body of Christ that will cause others to become upset. "Feet that are swift in running to evil" would indicate an insatiable desire to do things we know we should not.

So we've now covered five of the seven things. And although we probably are not heavily involved in these five things, we probably fall prey to some of them. The egotistical, elitist one is something that is seen regularly among those who like to populate lists of sins they think are really bad.

What's left? The remaining two things that God hates are linked. They are:

A lying tongue Lying
A false witness who speaks lies    Lying

So God puts lying twice on the list of the seven big ones. And lying is one of the things we all fall to. How desperately we need a Savior.

May we all strive to put away lying. May we not fall to lying in order to present ourselves in a way that fits our elitist and egotistical view of ourselves. And may we be concerned more with what God sees as an abomination than the lists of abominations we have built in order to belittle others and retain our elitist view of ourselves. May we be concerned with God's BIG SEVEN rather than the lists we have compiled in order to create discord among the brethren. May we focus on avoiding God's BIG SEVEN rather than broadcasting our lists in an attempt to coerce others into following what we think is most important—which springs from a heart that devises wicked plans.

April 15, 2008

Those unruly Baptists

[Henry Robert] is most famous for his Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies—a collection of rules regarding parliamentary procedure, published in 1876. He wrote the manual in response to his poor performance in leading a church meeting at a Baptist Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He resolved that he would learn about parliamentary procedure before attending another meeting. The rules are loosely based on procedures used in the United States House of Representatives, but the rule book was not intended for use in national and state legislatures.

Baptists were the last true congregationalists, but more and more of them have morphed into a synthesis of Presbyterian local government with a smattering of congregational votes thrown in from time to time. I find it very interesting that Robert's Rules of Order came out of frustration at trying to run a Baptist meeting. This may help to explain why many Baptist churches no longer truly have congregational voting in most matters.

Pickin' and grinnin'

Now this is my kind of music! I loved this group when I was in high school and they were playing local events under the name "The Road Ducks." They later became the great group "Little Feat." Here are two videos from these outstanding musicians.

Little Feat – Two Trains

This is a relatively recent video of two of the original Little Feat members. Still sounding awesome.


Little Feat with Bonnie Rait - Dixie Chicken

One of my favorite songs from years ago. This song just makes me chuckle every time I hear it. Great story line. This video is from the old days—probably the very early 80s.

April 14, 2008

Corrupt communication

Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Remember the days when mothers would wash their children's mouths out with soap? I do. I still have an aftertaste of Ivory Soap 40 years later. A Christian comedian once suggested that our mothers may have chosen which soap to purchase at the store based on how bad it tasted. There may be some truth to that. But our mothers were trying to teach us that we should not be using rotten language or using language intended to be mean to others.

Sometimes God has to wash our mouths out with soap as well. I believe God did that to me this weekend.

When Job's friend Elihu spoke up at the end of the long speeches made by the older men, he pointed out to Job that God will bring unpleasant circumstances into our lives to move us closer to Him. Sometimes the evils in our lives are placed there to keep us on the "straight and narrow."

Philippians 2:12—13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

This past weekend was chock-full of those kinds of circumstances. Not nearly as bad as what Job went through, but unpleasant nonetheless.

Through various wise pastors over the past few days, I have been reminded that:

  1. I must stand up against untruth, but must do it in a spirit of love and meekness (1 Peter 3:15) - Pastor Dick Gelina
  2. I am called to pursue peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14) - Pastor Mike O'Brien
  3. I am to let no corrupt communication come out of my mouth, but rather speak edifying language, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.(Ephesians 4:29) - Pastor John Piper

The process of sanctification is a tough one, and often has unpleasant prods along the way. But praise the Lord, he is still working on me.

Enjoy your hot chocolate


group of graduates, well established in their careers, were talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups—porcelain, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite—telling them to help themselves to the hot chocolate.

When they all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the professor said: "Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that you're drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the hot chocolate; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have does not define, nor change the quality of life you have. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the hot chocolate God has provided us."

God makes the hot chocolate, man chooses the cups. The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have.

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly...

And enjoy your hot chocolate.

From a widely circulated email.

April 13, 2008

Shout to the Lord!

I missed this one. I'm sorry I did—it would have been interesting to see the whole show. Simplegifts3 at Indelible Grace reports that the American Idol contestants sang this twice. The first time they sang it, the opening lyrics were changed from "My Jesus, My Savior" to "My Shepherd, My Savior." But the next night when the performed it again (the video shown here), the lyrics were back to the original, including the name "Jesus." I can only speculate that there were complaints when the lyrics were changed for the first performance.

Once again, it's good to see the name of Jesus proclaimed on a hugely popular television show, and done in the proper context.

Blog Header - April 13, 2008

This week's header photo was taken about 10 years ago during a senior portrait session for our pastor's daughter. Suzanna and I went all over the place to get a variety of senior portraits. This dirt road was actually very close to her house. As she walked to get into position for the photo, I noticed the nice backlighting and took this picture of her walking down the road.

Unfortunately, this road is now paved and lined with houses on each side. There are very few trees left and the grass has been replaced by sod.

April 12, 2008

Another reason to love Lynchburg - The Hillcats

Last night we went to the first homegame of the minor league Lynchburg Hillcats baseball team. As always, it was loads of fun.

We discovered the Hillcats midway through the season two years ago and found the games to be an enjoyable evening out for the family. The games (and food) are affordable, the fans are well-behaved and polite (no cursing or overly raucous behavior), and the baseball players are friendly—especially to the kids.

Cute kid sitting in front of us

My wife and I had both been to minor league games in the Northern Virginia area and did not enjoy them. The experience is totally different here in Lynchburg. It's hard to explain why. Perhaps it is the fact that the community so openly and vocally supports its team, which makes attending the games a community spirit event. Whatever the case, we have found these games to be a delightful time out as a family and have met some other families who regularly attend.

This year brought a slight disappointment when we discovered that our son's favorite player, Pedro Powell, has been moved up to the Double-A league—another step closer to joining the major league Pittsburgh Pirates. David has even said that if Pedro Powell makes it to the Pirates, he's moving to Pittsburgh, "no matter what it takes." Fortunately the firm I work for has an office there.

Pedro was a good player, but everyone loved him because he was simply a great guy. He signed balls and bats for the kids, smiled at them and said "hi" as he ran to the dugout, posed with them for pictures. And he made a beeline to the fence where all the kids go at the end of the games so they can talk to the players as soon as every game was over. David loved him. So we're sad he's gone from Lynchburg, but we hope his success continues. We hope that soon we will be able to cheer for Pedro Powell, the Pittsburg Pirate.

A full set of innings can make you tired though. Especially when the game ends an hour or so after your normal bedtime. So David likes the fact that no one minds when he cuddles with his momma at the game. I think Momma kinda likes it too.

April 11, 2008

A new pet–Roger Rabbit


ast night David came running up to the house holding a blue milk crate covered by a trash bag. He was talking excitedly about having caught something. We hurried to the door to see what was happening (camera in hand). David pulled the trash bag back from the crate to reveal his newfound catch—a tiny little baby rabbit.

David has always been great at catching things. But in the past it was usually runaway cats or frogs. He has had many, many pet frogs over the years and has caused great distress to many mothers as he taught other children the fine art of toad catching. But this was a first. As David put it, it was the first time he had caught "a furry pet."

We taped the trash bag to the top of the crate and headed out to find a suitable cage for Roger, David's name for his new pet. (Roger Rabbit—David has always had a way with naming animals.) His first stuffed animals were named very creatively. He had a bear named "Bearie," a dog named "Doggy," an owl namded "Owlie," and a cat named "Kitty."

Most recently, David has named all of his stuffed animals after girls that he has had a crush on. Some of these animals have changed names as the girls rise and fall in the rankings. The way he has named his stuffed animals has actually helped us to figure out who his best friends at school are, since he tends to stay pretty quiet about such things.

So, unless he has a new friend named Roger, this new pet's name is probably one of the best names he's come up with yet. I supposed if the rabbit turns out to be a girl (I have no clue how to figure that out), its name will have to be changed to Jessica.

After getting a decent cage for Roger and making a little house for Roger to hide in when he wants privacy (a shoebox in the corner of his cage), David went out and invited some friends over to see his new catch. He's very excited and will likely be blogging about it later today or tomorrow. He's been in a great mood all night. He loves critters.

Actions speak louder than words

Galatians 1:11–16  But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.

Last night I read the last half of Galatians 1 to my son as I put him to bed. Paul begins this chapter voicing his disappointment that the Galatians have turned away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul had proclaimed to them early in his missionary journeys. In this passage we read tonight, Paul defends himself against the proclaimers of this new "gospel." He points out that the gospel he has proclaimed to the Galatians came directly from God, not from "traditions of men."

I immediately thought of some of the false gospels that are being proclaimed today, even within conservative Evangelicalism. But I wanted to see if scholars agreed with my view of this—"In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom." So I turned to The Bible Readers Companion.

Because the strategy of those carrying this “different gospel” features a personal attack on Paul, the great missionary feels compelled to defend his apostleship. This defense is begun here and carried on through chapter 2. Paul has been accused of making the Gospel “easy” to please men.


The Bible Reader’s Companion, © 1991 SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

That last sentence jumped out at me when put into the context of recent conversations. The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed exactly as it is laid out in scripture. We can't fall for "Easy-believism" (Gospel-minus) and we can't fall for legalism, tradition, and man-made rules (Gospel-plus). We must proclaim the gospel in word, and even more importantly—in deed, as it was laid out for us in scripture. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for the sins of all the believing ones (indicated by the fact that they have repented of their sins and turned in faith to God alone, not to God plus a dress code or God plus King James Version only, or God plus a certain style of music).

What may have caused these false teachers to accuse Paul of preaching an "easy" gospel intended to please men? I think we see this same attitude quite often. We think that we have to earn God's favor in much the same way that we have to earn the favor of someone we are attempting to befriend. But this is not the gospel according to Jesus Christ. Jesus' death paid the penalty for the sins of all those who believe (that penalty being eternal death separated from God). And in dying to save us, He also broke the chains of the law giving us freedom in Him. This freedom continues even today as it did in Paul's day to strike people as an "easy" gospel. And it is an easy gospel. As Jesus Himself put it in Matt 11:28-30:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

May we all seek to proclaim the Gospel exactly as it is laid out in scripture. But may we remember that "actions speak louder than words" and if our actions proclaim that there are additional requirements for holiness other than repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (as did those who were preaching legalism and tradition to the Galatians), our actions are saying that we believe in Gospel-plus. No matter what our words our saying.

April 10, 2008

Important lecture on Patriocentricity

This video is the first in a series of seven videos discussing the Patriarchy movement, which is currently sweeping homeschooling circles in the United States. Lecturer Cindy Kunsman has done a tremendous amount of research into this movement and presents some of the dark and heretical teachings that form the underlying foundation of this movement—a movement that is sold to unsuspecting homeschoolers and others without much mention of their underlying dangerous beliefs.


The entire series may be found here.

How Vista changed my blogging habits

My company switched out my laptop this past Tuesday. My new laptop has the new Microsoft operating system "Vista." Along with the switch to Vista, this laptop also boasts the newer Microsoft Word 2007. I was previously working in Word 2003. My first duty this morning was to create a shell document for a proposal. This is typically a half-hour process, one hour at the most depending on the complexity of the request for proposal specifications. This morning's document took just short of four hours to create and I was simply not able to accomplish some of the things I would normally have done prior to moving the document on to the team of writers. So, needless to say, I am late with today's blog post and expect a degree of lateness going forward indefinitely. This should be fun for a while. I must give kudos to Microsoft. They continually find new ways to frustrate us all. And yet we keep going back to them for more abuse. There must be a psychological terms for this insanity. MSOCHD? (That would be Microsoft Obsessive Compulsive Hatred Disorder)

April 09, 2008

My son hits the blogging world

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Like father, like son

And such other delightful and frightening sayings as that. My son has entered the blogging world. His blog, Train Collector is his newest venture. He loves trains and wants to share his love of trains with the world.

The Doobie Brothers video might have been his father's fault.

April 08, 2008

Deserting the gospel for another


find it so easy to look at the people in the Bible—the Israelites, the early church, etc.—and think I'm so much better than them. I wouldn't start worshiping a golden calf while Moses is on the mountain, I wouldn't complain about manna when there was nothing else to eat, I wouldn't turn from the true gospel so quickly as the Galatians did.

But am I really so much better than they? I don't think so.

Galatians 1:6-10

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Each of us needs to consider what we are being told by spiritual leaders, church leaders, and friends. We need to place what those people are telling us against the standard of scripture and determine if what we are being told is true. We need to be like the Bereans, who searched the scriptures to see if what they were being told was true.

The gospel plus or minus anything is "a gospel contrary to the one you received." A gospel that springs from a hero other than Christ is "a gospel contrary to the one you recived."

The gospel (the "good news") is that Christ, the only begotten son of God, took on human flesh, died on the cross and rose again three days later so all those who believe in him will be saved from the penalty of their sins. Any gospel that is less than that (say a gospel that does not call for repentance or "faith alone") or any gospel that requires more than that (say a gospel that requires another man to sanctify you or requires you to follow extra-biblical codes of conduct) is "a gospel contrary to the one you received."

And according to Paul, those who spread gospel-minus or gospel-plus are to be accursed. That is the same as saying, "let that person go to hell." This is a serious thing!

May God grant us all the grace to recognize a gospel that is not the gospel delivered to the saints. And may God grant us all the grace to reject that gospel and to join Paul in the condemnation of those who spread that false gospel.

My son the chef

My son wanted to feel like a real chef, so he asked if we could get him a chef's hat. I told him we probably could, but we'd have to find out where to buy such a thing.

In his desire to get on with the full look, he took apart a pillow cover my wife made a few years ago, removed the pillow, stuffed the cover with clothes, and placed it on his head. He came out of his room and modeled it for us. "Do I look like a chef?"

A few minutes later he was in the kitchen helping to prepare our dinner. I couldn't resist grabbing his camera and taking this video

April 07, 2008

Another reason to love Lynchburg

Lynchburg open air market

This past Saturday we went to downtown Lynchburg to the open air market that sells Virginia-grown vegetables, flowers, and other wonderful items. This market has such a flavor of Lynchburg. The sellers are friendly, welcoming and helpful. The buyers are polite, friendly, and respectful. It's just a great time.

In addition to the outdoor sales, the market includes an indoor area where folks display various crafts and more food. The craftsmanship is amazing and tremendously varied. There are also small retail shops in this indoor area including restaurants.

Radishes at the market

We found this market when we first moved to Lynchburg about two years ago and determined that we needed to go back often. We have not done it often enough, but decided to go on Saturday.

We purchased eggs, a huge chunk of real churned butter, flavored goat cheese, quiche, Italian sausage, some brown eggs (that still had a hen feather on one of them), and other wonderful food items—all for way below store prices. We also purchased some flowers for decorating the front of our house.

Our son chose some beautiful daffodils, which will look great in front of our house planted in two small cement urns. He has always had great taste in decorating. And my wife chose a beautiful hanging plant with purple flowers, which is now hanging from a shepherd's hook next to our front walk.

One of the patrons in the café

After leaving the market, we decided to just walk around Lynchburg and enjoy the city. We walked down to the waterfront where our son watched some long freight trains go by. We walked to Amazement Square—a great hands-on children's museum. We walked to the large air conditioning units outside Amazement Square that have been converted into a full-sized school bus for the children to play in. The children can turn the front tires with the steering wheel, turn on the blinkers, honk the horn, turn on the windshield wipers, and open and close the cool bi-fold entrance doors. My son loves it.

We walked down a street we had not walked before and found a fantastic camera shop (which I'm sure will become a regular hangout for me). We walked past the delightful mix of eclectic architecture Lynchburg's city buildings present.

Inklings Used Book Store

And we went to the fantastic Inklings Used Bookstore (and café). The coffee is amazingly wonderful. If this place takes off, Starbucks will be out of business. And the bookstore is delightful too. I found a copy of Berkhof's Systematic Theology in great shapre for a great price. My wife found some wonderful treasures in books too. The owner of the store is an Episcopalian priest and is a very interesting man. I think you would have to be unusual in order to successfully run a store like this.

As always, it was a thoroughly enjoyable time out and about in our wonderful City. We love Lynchburg!

Did I mention, we love Lynchburg?

April 06, 2008

Blog Header - April 6, 2008

This week's photo is another of the photos I adjusted in Photoshop for use in our church's lyric projection for the praise songs. This barn is located on a hill to the side of Route 29 in Nelson County, Virginia. Everytime I passed this barn I was struck with its beauty, especially against the mountains in the background.

Finally, one day I drove to the side of the road, pulled out my camera and took this photograph. I took the photo in black & white but placed our church's logo on the side of the barn in Photoshop.

April 05, 2008

Spring is in the air

I took all of these photos yesterday. These flowers are among the many flowers that are blooming all around our house.

© Richard D. Gelina

C.H. Spurgeon
The Golden Key of Prayer

As spring scatters flowers, so supplication ensures mercies.

© Richard D. Gelina

C.H. Spurgeon
The Practice of Praise

Praise means this, that you and I are appointed to tell forth the goodness of God. Just as the birds of spring wake up before the sun and begin singing—and all of them singing with all their might—so become the choristers of God. Praise the Lord evermore, even as they do who, with songs and choral symphonies. Day and night, circle His throne rejoicing. This is your holy and privileged office.


© Richard D. Gelina

Martin Luther

A man who could make one rose . . . would be accounted most wonderful; yet God scatters countless such flowers around us! His gifts are so infinite that we do not see them.

Dorothy Parker — Flowers are heaven’s masterpieces.

© Richard D. Gelina

Worrisome scriptures

April 04, 2008

Help for the spiritually abused

What defines a cult? Is all fundamentalism cultic? Are cults only those groups that deny certain orthodox Christian Christological doctrines? Or is it possible that there may be cults within conservative Evangelical Christianity?

If you are interested in the answers to these questions, you need to check out two outstanding web sites:

Under Much Grace Mission Statement (excerpts)

Because so many earnest Christians still remain ignorant of the phenomenon of cultic social practices within Biblical Christianity, I hope to increase awareness and hopefully spare others the pain and tragedy that I have endured. Most Christians have no knowledge of the techniques of thought reform and psychologcial manipulation employed by legalistic Christian groups, so this site purposes to inform as many people as possible of the cultic nature of these otherwise Christian schools of thought.

Of special interest to me is the increased interest and acceptance of "Family Integrated Churches" which promotes the traditional idea of family as central to the restoration of Christianity within Western Civilization. I am deeply disturbed by this trend because groups such as Vision Forum headed by Doug Phillips promote the family but with rigid, legalistic standards of acceptable conduct. These extra-biblical standards are dangerous in my opinion but are marketed and widely accepted by many unknowing Christians as Biblically sound and orthodox. The tactics and practices used and promoted by Doug Phillips via the Vision Forum vehicle correspond to cultic practice and thus create a hegemonic and neo-Gnostic belief system. Because of the strong focus on their own version of Patriarchy, it is the opinion of many that the sequelae of this system present a very real danger to women.

Anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the anniversary of the assissination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is good for us to remember the positive impact of individuals who fight for what's right. It is particularly good to see the vision of such people come to fruition in the society we live in.

William Wilberforce dedicated his life to improving the morals of English society and to the total and complete abolition of the slave trade. We can read his writings and look at the world around us and realize that his dreams have been fulfilled. We can celebrate the life of William Wilbeforce, rejoicing in the knowledge that what he worked so hard to accomplish has become a reality today.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But what of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream? We all know what his dream was—he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation's capitol and told us what that dream was. Dr. King said that he had a dream that one day all men "will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Has Dr. King's dream become a reality?

In a day when the majority of people in our society proclaim that we are making personal attacks against anyone whose character we call into question, I think the answer must be "no." In a day when a Barack Obama can run for the presidency of our nation and although he seldom speaks of race, we hear non-stop reports (both favorable and negative) about him being "the first black man to run for the presidency," and we hear about folks even from Obama's political party stating that he could never have made it this far had he been a white man, implying that he is succeeding only because of the color of his skin and not because of any excellence on his part.

These attitudes are not what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought and died for. May we all commit ourselves to viewing and judging those around us not by the color of their skin or the nation of their origin, but by the content of their character. And I would add to that the need to judge them also by their understanding and belief in the death and resurrection of the Son of God who came to save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation—not because of the color of their skin, or because of the content of their character, but because of their great need of a Savior. I don't recommend judging them to disenfranchise them, but to target them for the proclamation of the gospel because if they do not yet believe in Jesus Christ, this is their greatest need.

Avoiding Rash Judgment

So often I jump into the emotional fray, relying on my perception of the situation my past experiences to determine my present actions—when I should be waiting peacefully on God and relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This passage from My Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis admonishes us in these matters. I think it is good advice and worthy of consideration:

Avoiding Rash Judgment

Turn your attention upon yourself and beware of judging the deeds of other men, for in judging others a man labors vainly, often makes mistakes, and easily sins; whereas, in judging and taking stock of himself he does something that is always profitable.

We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.

If God were the sole object of our desire, we should not be disturbed so easily by opposition to our opinions. But often something lurks within or happens from without to draw us along with it.

Many, unawares, seek themselves in the things they do. They seem even to enjoy peace of mind when things happen according to their wish and liking, but if otherwise than they desire, they are soon disturbed and saddened. Differences of feeling and opinion often divide friends and acquaintances, even those who are religious and devout.

An old habit is hard to break, and no one is willing to be led farther than he can see.

If you rely more upon your intelligence or industry than upon the virtue of submission to Jesus Christ, you will hardly, and in any case slowly, become an enlightened man. God wants us to be completely subject to Him and, through ardent love, to rise above all human wisdom.

Boisterous praise

© Richard D. Gelina

Nehemiah 12:43   And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

I enjoy this verse so much. Even with our electronic sound reinforcement, our churches don't typically praise God at a volume level that may be "heard far away." Imagine how great this must have been.

I can't wait to hear what it's going to sound like in heaven!

Shakespeare's lost tragedy


April 03, 2008

Answering felt needs or real needs?

My father writes one of the best blogs I've seen for simple exegetical, devotional discussions, complete with thought-provoking questions and application. The most recent two posts on his blog are particularly outstanding.

Navigators: How God Looks Upon a Distorted Gospel deals with our need to stick to the Word of God, not adding or subtracting according to our own agenda or whim.

Navigators: People-Pleasing Preachers discusses directly the common current problem of adjusting the church's message to suit the "itching ears" of the congregation. This post is particularly important during these days of "Seeker Sensitivity," Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and the other fad-driven church-growth people and programs.

Take a read, comment on the thoughts, join the discussion.

Working hard to misunderstand

It's getting harder and harder to debate with people these days. The mere suggestion of disagreement becomes "a personal attack" and it seems that all the arguments you present to convince the hearers of your position are misunderstood intentionally, many times with the obvious goal of misdirecting the debate into territory that is not pertinent to the discussion.

The following quote is from Pyromaniacs: Coffee Klatsch. Read the full post, but here's a quote to whet your appetite:

Postmodernists aren't sure about much, but they work harder than Mormon apologists to maintain the few cardinal dogmas of their system. Of course, the first article of faith in the postmodernists' short canon is their belief that an impregnable fortress of ambiguity surrounds the very slippery notion of "truth." They can't seem to muster any settled conviction even when God Himself has spoken. But here's one thing they are dead certain about: Meaning is always elusive.

Meaning is at its most evanescent whenever someone disagrees with them. The more you labor to make your meaning plain, the harder the postmodern mind will labor to find a way to deconstruct your clarifications. And if you are stubborn enough to continue explaining yourself in the face of their determination to misread what you are saying, a devoted pomo will simply pretend not to be able to hear. If you persist anyway, prepare to be labeled either stupid or uncharitable.

Family idolatry

Idolatry can arise unexpectedly from the strangest areas of our lives. And as Christians, we sometimes realize that we have placed something that we love above God. We tend to react immediately to eliminate this newly realized idolatry by viewing that thing as an evil. This is an overreaction in most cases. Many of the things that we find we are idolizing are actually good things given to us by God for our pleasure. We just have a habit of taking good things from God and placing them in higher regard than the God who created them.

Romans 1:25 speaks of those who "exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." We must fight hard to not place good things given to us by God for our enjoyment in the place of the God who made them. But we also must not diminish those things once we have realized that they have been placed in a position of an idol. We simply need to return to a biblical and God-honoring view of these things.

Luke 14:26  If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

I have recently read some articles from the Patriarchy crowd that seem to hold the family in a position of an idol. They especially place the father of the family in a position that seems to usurp God's own position. As we are told in Luke 14:26 (the verse in the callout box to the right), our love for our families should, by comparison to our love for God, seem as if it is actually hatred. Luke 14:26 is not telling us to hate our families, but rather to love God infinitely more than we love our families.

May we all be careful to hold all of the good things God has given us in the proper place, remembering always that God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17) and, therefore, should be held in infinitely higher regard.

April 02, 2008

But I didn't mean to do it...

I have always loved Bill Cosby's video "Himself." He discusses children's disobedience and their common defense when asked why they did something: "I don't know." I try not to ask why, although I don't often succeed and the why question just seems to pop out. But when I talk to my son about something he's done wrong, he often says, "But I didn't mean to do it," as if this changes the fact that he has done something wrong.

Today as I was reading my Bible I came across an interesting passage:

Leviticus 5:14-16   The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

© Richard D. Gelina

Apparently God does not accept the defense, "But I didn't know..." or "But I didn't mean to..." God accepts only total perfection—total obedience—or else we are guilty of the whole law (James 2:10). It's a bit overwhelming.

After a few posts regarding our need to reject man's rules and regulations (if they are not directly derived from scripture), I thought it might be a good idea to remind ourselves that God demands absolute obedience to His commands. And we have our hands full enough trying to reach that level of obedience. In fact the level of obedience is impossible, as we can see by looking at the 5,000 or so years of man's inability to live by the Mosaic law.

But, praise God, there is forgiveness in Jesus' name. Without that forgiveness, we would remain forever separated from God with no chance of redemption.

Colossians 1:13-14  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

April 01, 2008

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T-shirts & tattoos

Although no t-shirts are available in our men's line, this tattoo will be a wonderful addition to any TRUE man's functional wardrobe. Proclaim loudly and boisterously your dedication to your White Washed Feminist.

WWF T-shirt: $18.95 (OBO)

For the ladies we have this fine t-shirt modeled by Kelly. Made of soft cotton cloth, the WWF historic photo has been strategically placed to cover anything that might provide titillation to others, causing them to stumble and fall when they realize that women are made differently than men, which is obviously a result of the fall and could not possibly have been God's plan in the first place.

For purchase of more than 3,000 shirts, 10 additional WWMMD? buttons will be included free of charge. Free shipping will apply as always, except to New Zealand, which is far too Patriocentic-friendly for free shipping (or for these t-shirts, for that matter).

This is the small print disclaimer rejecting all responsibility for any potential sins resulting from these products. All fault for such sin rests firmly upon any nearby female and not on the creator of these products, as he is a male and therefor free of any responsibility for his actions, whether good or bad.