Friday, September 16, 2005

Republicans and Democrats

My sister sent me this picture outlining the differrence between Republicans and Democrats.

Wrong in so many ways, but just plain funny.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thanks For The Link

During the week it's kinda hard to get on my computer long enough to make many posts on my blog. I have teenage daughters that suck up the computer time like a high-powered vacuum. So, here I am late at night, eyes drooping, trying to type (and yes, for me, 10:30 is late at night).

I posted a little comment of this blog over on MSN. The writer was spouting anti-Christian stuff; mainly griping about evolution vs. creationism, and how stupid Christians were for believing anything other than evolution. He was especially vitriolic toward the far fundamentalist crowd that stands hard on the 7-day creation story, and the Earth being only 6,000 or so years old.

I don't really blame him. Personally, I'm not a big buyer of that concept, and I wrote the guy a fairly gently comment, ending with "...the "fundamentalist" Christians are sometimes a bit zealous, but zeel in the service of God is hard to fault, unless it leads people astray. And there I think you and I can find some common ground, with the sometimes crazy sounding telling of The Message."

So I get an e-mail today from someone who read that comment, and sends me a link to, which is actually a very interesting website devoted to the literal, 7-day, 6,000 year-old-Earth, Genesis creation story. I've visited the sight many times in the past.

The e-mailer tells me " Here you will find many of the answers to questions you may have about the "theory" of evolution vs creation."

He goes on, "The Lord called me nearly two years ago and at the time (He left me in NO DOUBT as to His existence) I was struggling with the whole evolution thing. Being faithful He led to to the answers I was seeking. After you have had a look around this site it might be worthwhile for your walk to consider this - If Genesis is not accurate, the fall never happened, then what purpose was there for God to send Jesus to redeem us? Once we limit God, i.e. "He can't have created in 7 days", we are losing sight of his awesomeness..... Once we put our "spin" on His Word, i.e. They are examples...... We are removing His authority over us..... I pray that this is of some use to you........ God Bless"

Sigh. Didn't read my comment very well, did ya, friend? See, I have no questions about the validity of creationism vs. evolution. I don't know why he thought I did. What annoys me is when well meaning people send you a link, telling you, essentially, "this should set you straight, and correct your wrong thinking."

Maybe I'm over-reacting. I probably am, since I'm tired and fuzzy.


I want to post my e-mail response, because I think it lays out what I believe pretty well:

"Dear (insert his name here):

I've been to Answers in genesis many times, and to be honest, I'm not buying all of what that organization says about Genesis.

The Bible is the inerrant word of God, I don't question that at all. What I do sometimes question is whether we are interpreting it correctly. The "correct" interpretation of The Bible has changed and morphed as man's understanding of himself and the Universe has changed and grown. It took Martin Luther to stand up and question the Catholic Church's "interpretation" that stood as canon for 1000 years. Our Protestant "interpretation" is only some 400+ years old, and is still changing. The modern evangelical movement didn't start till the 1800s.

I believe that God is not a liar. God does not test us capriciously or uselessly. To say that the world was created in seven standard 24-hour days is one interpretation. To say that a day in God's time is an epoch is another. Yes, I know all about the Hebrew words used to denote "day" and "time period" etc, etc.

That the Genesis account is accurate is without question. I think our understanding of it is definitely limited. To say that seven actual days is the only possible interpretation is hard-headed.

To ignore all the evidence placed not only here on earth, but throughout the universe (stars whose light travels for millions of years to reach us, etc), that points to a much
longer history is staggeringly ludicrous. And to say that God put it there, pre-made, with the fossil strata and stars whose light was already enroute, all laid out in advance for mankind to find and test our faith, is plain outrageous. That, in my mind, calls God dishonest, and a Liar. I know that whatever God is, it's not a liar. He is unchangingly truthful.

Neither does this change the veracity of the Garden of Eden story. Through Adam and Eve, our ancestors, whoever they were, sin entered the world. Whether Adam is a literal man, or a parable man, somewhere our ancestors sinned and stepped out of favor with God. The point of the account remains. The need for salvation does not waver one iota.

I think the argument over Genesis is over blown by Christians, and is often a stumbling block. The fact that the universe is here is evidence enough of God The Creator. Whether God did it in seven days, or seven billion years, makes no difference, because no one will ever prove anything until Christ's return. God made everything, and God made us. That much is plain to see.

I think by limiting God to 7 days of work, and our existence to a mere few thousand years, and demanding that the exact wording (which has changed subtly from translation to translation) is ALL God could have intended to convey to us, then we mold God into a limited, boxed in God, making Him small enough for us to handle, and try to understand.

But God is so much
larger than that.

Universe filling large. Universe ENCOMPASSINGLY large. The brightest pulsar, the most fiery nebula, the most violent supernova, the most distant galaxy, to the most gentle lamb and the very center of the human heart - God is there, in all of it.

And His ways and thoughts are so far greater and deeper and wider and wiser and greater than my ways and
thoughts, that for me to assume I KNOW the heart and mind of God, and have Him figured out, is hubris on an astounding level.

No, I believe in Genesis, the fall, and Christ's redemption, for Christ has set me free. I just don't buy the Answers In Genesis version.

But if God uses that ministry to bring souls to Him, then God Bless it, and continue to do the work God laid out.

Thanks for reading though, and your kind response."

Thank YOU for reading. Kindly respond.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Must Read - Tribes

You really must read this.

It's titled Tribes, and comes from a guy named Bill Whittle on his blog, Eject!Eject!Eject!

It is a little long, and the language is occasionally colorful, but the points made are really interesting. I consider it a must read.

Anti-Christian Anger & Trying to Set The Record Straight(er)

I've been reading a few blogs, and posting a few comments here and there, and it has just been shocking today to realize just how much anti-Christian anger there is in the blogsphere.

You all likely know I am a born-again, Bible believing Christian. I don't have all the answers, by any long stretch of the imagination, but I have enough answers to satisfy my own faith and my own questions about The Nature Of Things. I'm convinced of the things I believe, and there's really no way to change my mind.

That's the crux, the very root, of faith - having a conviction and following it.

I have great respect for those Christians who feel a calling to go out into the world and face the anger and hatred spewed by those who feel judged by the Christian message. Most who DO feel judged don't truly understand the message. That they don't understand the message is likely the fault of those bringing the message. They don't tell it correctly, and they don't illustrate it with their lives.

Most people hear the gospel message as this: "convert to Christianity, believe in Jesus, or burn in hell." Slogans like "Fire and brimstone","turn or burn", "God hates gays" are wrong-headed thinking, hateful, and only isolate and alienate the very people that should be hearing the TRUE message.

If that was the entirety of the message, I'd tell the messenger to screw off too, because that's NOT the message Jesus brought. Far from it.

Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."

The very first thing one must do to understand the message of Jesus is realize or acknowledge that, there IS a God. "Fear" refers to respect, reverence, and acknowledgement of the FACT of God, not trembling in your boots fear.

--If you truly believe in your heart that there is no god, no higher being, no higher plane;

--and that we are all just protoplasmic proteins and chemicals;

--that through a billion-year-long series of amazing strokes of blind and dumb luck those proteins and chemicals have combined in just such a way to form more and more complex organic systems in millions of different forms (plants, animals, bugs, viruses, bacteria, etc) all over the world, with each new version being better than the previous model;

--and that through our fantastic luck, fate has somehow conspired to allow chance to pass us from unliving chemicals and proteins into the realm of true living things, and has built us into the penultimate creatures on earth, with thought processes that outstrip every single other living organism on this planet;

--if you truly believe all that, then STOP READING HERE. Your faith in dumb luck far outstrips my faith in a coherent being designing us, and nothing will convince you otherwise. Have a nice journey.

But, if you have an inkling that there is something more, some design, some purpose that you just can't put you finger on.... then you are at the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. The understanding that God just might exist opens up to YOU the possibility of something more, and whole new realm of ideas to ponder that just might have meaning for you.

Just about everyone knows about the New Testament's pivotal verse, John 3:16. You see it displayed at football games by chubby men with painted heads, or by screaming kids holding up signs at baseball parks.

But not everyone knows what it says.

Jesus said, "God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die."

Hmmm. Not so threatening. Kind of reassuring really. We all know we're going to die someday. The idea of not dying is kinda cool. Hmmm.

Yeah, but... if God loved us so much, why doesn't he just make it so we don't die at all? Why do we have to die, period? The answer I've found it quite simple, really.

Free will.

God's ultimate act of respect for the human individual is free will. You have the choice to either believe or not. An all-powerful God could have designed you without free will, to only accept God as your.... well... god. But you have the choice to look around at all the worlds religions, ideas, thoughts, or even into your own heart, and come up with what YOU think is the right approach to life and religion. Pretty cool, actually. God respects your choice, and lets you make it whether it is (in God's eyes) right or wrong. But we all are responsible for our choices.

We humans do die. All of us, eventually. What happens after that? Most people have the Gospel message backwards.

Most people have a concept that, as punishment for not believing or having faith in Jesus, God is sentencing them to hell. But this is wrong, and not Biblical. The truth is, everyone is already condemned, every single person has broken God's laws and, as justice, is under a death sentence as The Law demands. God, in an act of true compassion and love, is offering mankind the hope of being saved from that judgment through faith in Jesus. The judgment is already done. Everyone is already condemned. Jesus is the chance to be saved from that condemnation.

Read on past John 3:16:

John 3:17 & 18, Jesus said, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them! No one who has faith in God's Son will be condemned. But everyone who doesn't have faith in him has already been condemned for not having faith in God's only Son."

Sounds a little ominous, I'll admit, but it's very clear. Have faith, and you will be acquitted of your crimes, because Jesus will stand for the punishment in your place. Don't have faith, and you remain under the condemnation order, and will pay the punishment for yourself. It's not vindictive, or angry, or vengeful. It's very logical.

Humans broke the law (sin). Justice must be served because the law was broken. Jesus offers to stand in for the punishment of anyone who will ask him and believe in what he's doing. God honors Jesus' sacrifice for those that believe in that sacrifice, and releases the believer from condemnation.

There's no hatefulness here. No anger. Just truth (in my opinion). The Way Things Are. That's where I think far to many Christians fail in presenting the case for their beliefs. They get to emotional, to judgmental, and too forceful.

Jesus never once yelled at anyone to get his message across. People encountered him on their road of life, and Jesus simply told them his message, and people either responded or they didn't. But, Jesus' message was not an easy one to hear. It was radical, challenging, and life-changing. And not everyone who heard it, liked what they heard. Jesus knew this. He was eventually killed because of this message.

(As one author I've read put it: Jesus was a radical, dangerous man in his day, and his words were dangerous to the status quo. He brought God to the common man, which the religious leaders had tried to bottle up for themselves. You don't crucify Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers. You crucify someone you think is dangerous.)

Read on just a little further in John 3:19-21: Jesus continues saying "And this is the judgment: the light (the truth of God existence and message revealed in Jesus) has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."

And therein, folks, is the choice granted to you as a birthright from God. Nothing hateful or horrifying, but something a bit sobering, if you truly stop to consider it. We all know the concept: we do things we don't want anyone else to know about, something we like to keep in darkness, which we'd be horrified if anyone else found out about, but that we WANT to keep doing, for whatever reason. This is what Jesus is talking about. That's the judgment, how each and every one of us has already condemned ourselves.

But Jesus offers hope, and salvation.

That's the Christian message I know and am convinced of. I don't know this homophobic, gay bashing, angry, vengeful, judgmental Christianity I see all around. They are off the mark and have gone astray, and I'm sorry for the message they portray. But, again, even the correct message...

--that all people, everywhere, have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness of God;

--and that we are all under judgment because of it, and must ultimately be brought to justice;

--and that Jesus is the savior who till take the punishment for us if only we'd make the choice to accept it and believe in it;

...even this message brings hatred and venom from many. Jesus knew this stuff would happen. I'll leave you with these parting words straight from Jesus' mouth:

Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you whenever they revile you, and they persecute you, and they say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Thank you for attending church today. Drop a donation in the plate on the way out. ;-)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The American Dream

Today is my daughter Lindsey's 17th birthday. I can't believe the sweet, precocious little blond headed girl that was just in 5th grade the other day, is now a senior in high school, and 17 years old to boot. Tonight, I took her to dinner to celebrate.

Something you need to understand about Lindsey and I: we talk, often very deeply, about everything under the sun. We're both born-again Christians, and we often debate some of the deeper issues of faith, and sin, and doctrine, and why we believe the things we believe. Often we agree, sometimes we don't, but the conversations are always stimulating.

So tonight at dinner, Lindsey asks me, "Dad, define The American Dream."

Huh? You mean like a big house with a white picket fence, a loving spouse, 2.5 kids, and 2 cars in the garage?

"Well, whatever it is for you, dad."

Turns out Lindsey's history class has an essay assignment to write about what they think is "The American Dream".

So we got into it. The big house, white picket fence, et al, is kind of the face of The American Dream, I guess. But what does that big house represent? Success? Security? Strength?

I think what we figured out for ourselves is that The American Dream is virtually indefinable by anyone other than the person being asked. My dream is certainly not the same as anyone elses. We all have dreams, each one of us. Some lofty, some quite mundane, but they are our dreams, unique unto each and every individual.

I think The American Dream isn't so much "American" as it is human. The American Dream is, to put it simply, Hope. It's that world-wide human drive to grasp onto the Hope that I can achieve something more than what I have achieved today. Hope that if or when an opportunity presents itself, I have the freedom to try my best to take hold of it. It is American in the sense that our society provides the climate where individuals can try to grasp their dreams, but not because The Dream is uniquely American.

It's not about fairness, or justice, or equality. Those are laudable social values, and we naturally have to strive as a society to maintain those values, but The American Dream is far more than that.

A person grasping for The American Dream doesn't complain about fairness: they do what needs to be done to achieve their dream, in the face of unfairness.

A person grasping for The American Dream doesn't complain about injustice: they face injustice square on and forge ahead, and continue working to reach their goal.

A person grasping for The American Dream doesn't complain about inequality: they prove that they are more a match for any adversity and work hard until they achieve their dream, or die trying.

What The American Dream is about, is Hope: as long as Hope is alive, the possibilities are alive. As long as the possibilities are alive, The American Dream is alive.

Hope is what drives poor Mexican workers to risk life and limb to cross the border and look for work on US farms.

Hope is what drives Cuban refugees to face 90 miles of ocean on a shoddy, overloaded raft just to make it to the US shoreline and dry ground.

Hope is what makes people from every corner of the globe look to America and dream of a better life.

Hope is what will help many survivors of Katrina who have lost everything to rebuild their American Dreams. You can see it on the faces of people as they are interviewed on TV. They just exude a "My family and I are going to make it" attitude. They are down, but not out, because for them, The American Dream, The Human Dream - Hope - is still alive.

But there are others for whom all Hope has gone. You can see it in their eyes, too. The sadness, the lostness, the...... well..... hopelessness. For them, not only is The American Dream lost, many of them have never had The Dream. They've never even seen The Dream. For many, The American Dream is a myth. They've lived lives of such hopelessness that there never was and never will be A Dream.

I hope the survivors of Katrina will see that Hope is still alive. As horrifying as their experience has been, there IS hope. They are alive. They are members of the most prosperous, most generous and kind nation on the face of the earth, whose fellow citizens are doing an enormous amount of work to care for them.

Even the Dalai Lama, who I respect as a thinker even though I don't follow is religion, talked about hope in a speech today in Idaho:

"When we are really passing through a difficult period, it is very important to try to keep calm," he said. "And then, most important, you should not lose hope and optimism. We must keep our determination, our self-confidence and look at (the) more wider perspective"1

"Generally, where there is a challenge, we have the capacity to overcome that challenge."1

"For those people who are still alive, some friends passed away. Now it is the reality. It has happened, it has already happened. Even if you are frustrated, it will not solve the problem... too much anger, sorrow, and frustration will never bring return (of your loved ones)... only more suffering for yourself', he counseled. "Now try to rebuild your life with self confidence, with effort. 2

He's talking about The Human dream, fostered here in American in a way unique to the entire world. Hope abounds, we just need to grasp it.

Pray for the Katrina victims all over the Gulf Coast, and give what you can.