Went out in my canoe today for a bit. Went down the river a piece and noticed that a beaver is trying to dam up our river. It was rather amazing. He picked a rather wide section of river to back up and I’m amazed how quickly he’s building. Not sure what we want to do about that. I guess I’ll let the people living on the river decide that, I’ll just watch what he does.

It’s fun to watch nature and try to figure out what them little critters are thinking about. It’s funny how hard humans make life in comparison. The sparrows and the lillies are better theologians than many people.

Every once in awhile you come across a story in the news which makes you cringe, it makes you embarrassed to be a Christian. A case in point.

This “Christian” couple uses their profession of faith to rip off other “Christians.” Several embarrassing aspects pointed out here:

1. People know Christians don’t pay attention.

2. People who know Christians know they can suck Christians into money-making schemes because, for some reason, many Christians are money hungry.

3. Christian companies, groups, publishers, churches, can get too focused on money and not check out where the money is coming from.

4. Someone saying they are a Christian should not guarantee for us they aren’t crooks! Claiming to be something means nothing.

5. I’ve got a driveway full of rocks I just found out have gold in them! No really, I do. You can have one for $5.

Galatians 3:29 says that if you are a believer you are an heir of Abraham. Some have used this to say that the Church is the same thing as Israel–Covenant Theology. The proper understanding is explained in chapters 3 and 4 of Galatians–we enter the relationship by faith now, not by works and keeping the law like the Jewish nation.

It is interesting to see the way God describes His promise to Abraham. When He promised the nation he said they would be as numerous as the sand and as numerous as the stars.

Some have used that illustration to explain Abraham’s earthly seed as the sand–the Nation of Israel, all Jews–and his spiritual, or heavenly seed as the stars–all believers. Kind of an interesting way to look at it me thinks.

Nancy Pelosi, Democrat in the House, (which is similar to being “in the hood” but completely different) says she will continue to ask for Communion from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church recently said it would not serve communion to anyone who supports abortion, which Pelosi does.

Setting the abortion issue aside, consider the ramifications just on the Communion issue. If the Catholic Church offers communion, which in their take is the literal body and blood of Christ which literally gives grace just by eating and drinking, would it still do so if the Catholic Church says they don’t want you to take it? How could Pelosi benefit from taking that communion?

It also should raise larger Catholic issues–if taking communion gives grace, are they not also saying that supporting abortion could keep you from salvation? Since that is indeed what they are saying, one can see the salvation by works which the Catholic Church has always maintained no matter how they try to hide it.

I do not say these things to be a know-it-all, I say these things to cause people to think. I don’t know all the ins and outs of Catholicism, but I know enough to see its flaws. I know enough to know that Christ ate with publicans and sinners–the very ones who needed grace!

A mayor’s prayer breakfast was cancelled in Oregon because some prayers pulled out because a Muslim was not allowed to pray. Area mayors and businessmen are in a tiff over this slight and decided no prayer is better than some.

One more reason why church and state should be separated. It just makes the whole thing look foolish and silly. Let the state run the state; let the believers pray for them. That’s the way Romans 13 sees it. Let’s stick with that.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 is an interesting passage which has passed my attention in the past apparently. Paul is telling them that he opened his heart to love them, something not real easy to do considering all the junk they were doing. He then asks them to open their hearts too.

I wonder how often we close ourselves off to people we should really still be open too? I wonder what Paul would say to our church. I’ve wondered that a lot. It’s not always bad to open ourselves up, make others feel like one of the bunch. I’d have to say our church is growing tremendously in this area and your pastor is happy about that! Many people have told me how friendly you all are.

At the same time, with this kind of statement, Paul knows he needs to add a warning, verse 14–don’t unequally yoke yourself with non-believers. There is a time and a place for everything. Times to be open, times to be closed. One would almost bet, for most people, we should be open even more.

The ever exciting Awana Grand Prix and Awards night is done for another year. What a good show. In case you were there and were hoping that maybe we could shorten up the program somehow, I asked Kasey O’Brien if he wouldn’t mind having his family skip next year. Without them there, the awards ceremony would take approximately 2 minutes. I sure hope they iced down their elbows and wrists after carrying all their loot.

The whole notion of giving up your will for someone else seems very weird to us. Seems impossible even. But the notion is that of love–giving up your will for someone else’s. The problem with “love” is that it sounds very sissy like. “Love is for girls.”

It is a definite manly desire to have adventures, to do new things, to take risks and be a rebel, not always following the way of everyone else. That’s manhood in a nut shell. Love–giving up your will for that of another–fulfills all of that. If we were to carry out love as the Bible defines it, we would live a life of constant adventure, never knowing what is next, not following the way of the world which is to do your own thing for your own reason. Doing another’s will is actually rebellious in our age!

If you don’t believe me that “love” is a masculine word and action, take a look at 1 Corinthians 16:13,14, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” Verse 13 sounds manly and rugged, but what’s up with 14? How does love fit? I just told you!

It’s time we redefine Love and take it out of the wishy-washy feminization it has undergone. Biblical Love is an adventure and can be carried out with anyone at anytime. If no one is there, then love your Lord!

At TNBS last week I talked about John 3:8 and how those who are born of the spirit are like the wind–we don’t know where we came from, we put our past behind us and we don’t know where we are going, we are giving up our will to follow God’s. The words “past” and “future” are rarely found in scripture but the word “now” is all over the place.

Christians are to live in the now. Like the disciples who gave up their jobs and followed Christ immediately when asked, so to are we to be willing to drop what we are doing and follow the Lord. Paul, in all his travels, very rarely had definite plans. In several of his books he has a similar conversation–I would really like to come to you and it’s my goal to do so, but I may not make it, Lord willing I will be there.

Human nature likes stuff spelled out for it. We want to know where we are going and what we’ll be doing when we get there and who will be with us. But when it comes to following the Lord–we don’t know! As long as He is with us, that should be enough.

I have often been asked if our church has a prayer line where people share their requests and people call the next person on the list and they call their person etc until everyone knows what to pray for.

I have resisted the notion ever since I have been here and I don’t plan on adopting a non-resistance stance towards prayer lines. I have found that they are used for gossip and whining more than for prayer. That’s my honest, brutal opinion. A church that truly cared for one another would automatically know what to pray for anyway, seems to me.

Anyhow, I’m not the only one who views prayer lines this way. Lark News does a very well done prayer line spoof which shows they’ve been around the Church a long, long time.

I just read 1 Corinthians 8-13 this morning. What an amazing stretch of God-breathed verbosity! 8:1-3 talks about knowledge and if you don’t have love, knowledge tears things down. Our focus is on love, which builds up. Love without knowledge is still love; knowledge without love is just arrogance.

Then we have several chapters on liberty and how we are to strictly use our liberty, as a runner preparing for a race, to present the Gospel–be all things to all men so we might save some.

Chapter 13 talks about love. Love is patient–something only a person who has given up their will can be. Love is not jealous and does not brag–something only a person who has given up their will can do. Love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things–something only a person who has given up their will can be.

Knowledge passes away (13:8) but love endures forever. Want to know more about God? Then love Him. If all we want is more knowledge of Him, we can get it but we won’t know what it means for us or how to relate it to others.

The “problem” with this is that this is not consistent with what our world does. Our world brags, it’s jealous, it encourages us to “get an education,” pursue knowledge for knowledge sake, prove yourself, achieve, etc. All fine things, and all things which get in the way of love.

That’s why we’re just like our society, we are our society. We’ve lost our Christian distinction of being about love rather than proving how valuable we are. The world and its knowledge has no value. We’re making ourselves just like the rest of the world, we are not adding the value only we can give–love. Love is our ultimate priority, when we love, then we are known (8:3).

Interesting article in Christianity Today about recent articles in The New York Times and US News and World Report about Evangelicals and society. The consensus is that “evangelicals are no different than the rest of society.”

Makes you feel good eh? But it’s also disturbingly true. The beginning of the Christianity Today article gives a hint as to why this is–we’ve been striving for years to get our seat at the table, to have our voice be heard, and get respect from our society. All things Christ never said to be concerned with!

We’ve lost our focus people. Who cares what the world thinks of us? The worse they think of us probably the better job we are doing. We’re selling out to be able to get a voice at the table. It doesn’t seem to be working anyway, so why don’t we shut our voice off and get busy living the life we have in Christ?

You may be aware of this already but, life aint easy. It’s a temptation to find the three things we know how to do and stick with that and forsake all else. This may not be horrible advice, but it may also take you away from enjoying life.

Isaac Asimov, who is a smart guy who has said really dumb things, came up with this quote which is fairly smart:

“Certain success evicts one from the paradise of winning against the odds.”

If you only do what is easy for you, you will miss out on the joy of accomplishing something hard. Now that the Cubs are a winning team, it almost takes the fun out of it. Rooting for them when they were losers made their winning so much sweeter. A sweetness a Yankee fan will never get.

However, the Cubs have a long way to go before they establish themselves as winners, so I’ll hang in there and make sure I enjoy myself while they are winning. It’s the joy of life–seeing the underdog win. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about? Christ died for the underdog and gives us the victory. How sweet it is!

The actor who has portrayed Big Bird on Sesame Street the last 30 years is going to deliver the commencement speech and receive an honorary degree from Villanova. Students are not happy that a pre-school teacher is going to address them, the highly educated college types.

How’s it make you feel that Big Bird gets a college degree for being Big Bird? I know I feel much better knowing my degree cost me roughly $50,000.

Trying to discover their true teaching on Christ being “impaled on the torture stake.” Rather than thinking of impaling as being stuck through with something, they just mean he was nailed to an upright beam.

Their view on the cross is that it was implemented in the Church after Satan took over the Church! So that’s nice. It’s a pagan symbol which Christianity borrowed so they can’t go there so it’s just a pole. Whatever, seems to be more majoring on the minors that the JW’s seem to be so good at.

Still reading the New World Translation. I have been noticing that in many verses where it should say “the Holy Spirit” the NWT says just “holy spirit.” Instead of “be filled with the Holy Spirit” it says “Be filled with holy spirit.”

This is obviously trying to say something, it’s a rather important something too. So I did a little digging and came across the Jehovah Witnesses official stand on the holy spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not God nor is it a member of the Trinity since they don’t believe in the Trinitarian view of God (Jesus is also not God). The Holy Spirit is “a force, like electricity.” When properly applied it provides more power than would normally be at work. So that’s nice.

They are now working on a new device which can produce energy from human waste. I’m sitting on a land mine of riches here! My house is full of human waste. Perhaps we can get our electrical engineering buddy Jed to get cracking at developing this exciting new technology, this could be my ticket!

I came across this quote in some reading this evening:

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”

–Elbert Hubbard

Very well said! I have nothing to add.

Looking at Exodus 33 for my sermon tomorrow and the word “grace” pops up in there. “Certain people” who used to preach at Rhinelander Bible Church said that the word “grace” in the Old Testament is different from the word “grace” in the New Testament.

That always seemed odd to me because, of course, one is a Hebrew word and one is a Greek word, but surely they both mean the same thing. So I did a little digging on the internet to see if there was an online version of the LXX, or Septuagint, the Greek Version of the Old Testament. Lo and behold, due to the marvels of modern day technology there is.

Drawing on my extensive seminary education in Greek and to set the record straight once and for all, the same Greek word for “grace” is used in the Old Testament as the New. Which is what I always thought, but now I know for sure.

Eli Manning has made quite the entrance into the NFL. His father, a former NFL star, started whining last week about how he didn’t want his precious son to play for the pitiful San Diego Chargers who had the #1 pick.

So, San Diego picked him anyway and everyone started booing poor little Eli. It was quite funny. At the same time, the NFL was heralding Mr. Tilman who used to play for the Arizona Cardinals and gave up a contract to join the military and he was killed in Iraq yesterday.

What a contrast! One guy who gave up football to serve his country opposed with a guy who doesn’t want to play with a bad team. A guy who thinks he’s something already because he has a dad who thinks his son is entitled to special treatment and flaunting the whole NFL draft system which has been in place for years.

Eli has some digging to do in his little hole. I think he’ll just get in deeper, could possibly ruin his career before it even starts. You look like a jerk and are a jerk if you place yourself number one in the world–let no man think higher of himself than he ought.

Reading Place of Trust which is a compilation of sermons by Martin Luther edited by Martin Marty, who was named after Martin Scorcese. Not really, he was named after Martin Luther, no seriously, he was.

Anyway, there are three sermons which are all dealing with how the believer is to trust God. he bases all of his sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. I have yet to read anyone on the Sermon on the Mount that seems to hit it.

In my opinion, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ attempt to show people they can’t make God’s standard of righteousness. When he talks of not worrying about food or clothes because God provides for nature, I think he is submitting an impossible proposal, one no person could possibly do.

That being said, it’s still God’s standard and should certainly maintain a high part in our Christian thinking, it is our aim. However, we’ll never make it, which is why Chirst had to die–so we would measure up. So, what I’m saying is Matin Luther wishes he knew as much as me!

OK, not really. What I am saying is that Christ’s point in all his preaching was to show how much we need Him. If all he said we could do, why would we need him? Now that we have Him, we can measure up and the things he speaks of can be a reality in Him.

The Apostle Paul is the guy who tells us to “forget those things behind and press toward the mark.” What is ironic about that is that in Acts he repeats his testimony twice!

So what does Paul mean by forgetting the past? It’s not that we don’t recall what the Lord has done for us or learn from our mistakes, it’s that we don’t beat ourselves up over it or rest on past success. The past don’t mean nothin today–what have you done for me lately?

If you say you “love the Cubs” because you “watched a Cub’s game when you were ten” and haven’t seen one since, well, the past don’t prove your love. If you consider yourself to be employed because you had a job cutting grass when you were 12, you may want to look for a job. If you say you are a Christian because one time you went to church, look out. Move on!

The other night I began a light novel, a little murder mystery. Rex Stout, who writes the Nero Wolf series of mysteries which I would recommend, has another barn burner going in Some Buried Caesar.

On page 122, Nero Wolf, the greatest detective ever, says in response to being asked who he has eliminated from the list of suspects, “I’ve eliminated no one. Elimination, as such, is tommyrot. Innocence is a negative and can never be established; you can only establish guilt. The only way I can eliminate any individual from consideration as the possible murderer is to find out who did it.”

An interesting point to be sure. There were two cookies on our counter at 9:47 this morning; there was only one at 9:48, whodunit? Everyone is guilty until the one who took it is found. The one with chocolate breath at 9:49 is the guilty one, all the rest are innocent.

As much as we’d like to think we are innocent until found guilty, we’re really guilty until found innocent.

In our constant search for eternal life, never having to age and going to any extreme to make it look like we’re young and healthy without having to actually be either, you can now get a voice lift. Doctor’s can insert new vocal chords so that old people will sound younger and healthier.

What will they think of next? Scientists have now created a real “virgin birth.” They were able to make a mouse by doing something or other with two eggs making it possible to have fatherless babies. The procedure is still very complicating and too much so to attempt on humans but they’re working their way up the food chain.

I am now done with the Elie Wiesel book, which is entitled Messengers of God: biblical portraits and legends. Some concluding thoughts:

Very interesting to get the Jewish insight into the Old Testament stories and characters. Interesting how depressing it is. Interesting that he brings up the Messiah very few times. Interesting how he makes points which totally back up Christ fulfilling the role of Messiah without ever making mention of Jesus and certainly that was not his point!

I read a biography on Wiesel about a year ago and he is a very depressed person with a depressing view of God. What a difference the New Testament makes to our understanding of God and figuring out who He is. Thank God for the fulfillment of prophecy and His NEW Covenant!

Wiesel on Job:

God was using Job as a screen to keep Satan busy while God freed his people from Egypt. Interesting theory.

Job’s friends were bad because they didn’t try to comfort Job, they pointed out his suffering and preached on suffering, he was in the midst of sorrow and they built theories on grief. Instead of helping, they discussed how bad it was.

The part of the story of Job the Midrash and Wiesel don’t like is the fact that Job took the kids and stuff at the end of the story. To them this disrespects the whole point of suffering. Wiesel is consumed with the Holocaust as he survived it, as he should be. But because of his suffering he was never able to enjoy success which came to him in life. To enjoy success was disrespect to the suffering. Kind of sad that he had no hope.