Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 ARRIVES IN JUST A FEW HOURS

When I was a teenager, 2001 belonged in the realm of science fiction. Remember Kubrick's 2001 - A Space Odyssey? Now we are ten years past that and the years of my childhood increasingly feel a little bit like ancient history. (I hit 60 in a couple of months). 2011 begins in just a few hours.  Each new year I find myself saying about the previous one, "Boy did that go by fast!"  I also find myself praying that it will be a very good year - the new one - better than the departing one. Not that 2010 was a forgettable year or a bad one.  Just that each of us would always pray that our best days are ahead of us.

2010 had its challenges, but it also had some fabulous things happening. Let me note my personal highlights.
Dianne spending time with the Lord at a prayer retreat

The first was my wife Dianne.  In 2010 we celebrated our 38th anniversary.  For the last few years Dianne has not been well, but this year she found healing and came into her own as a wonderful spiritual leader in my church.  She has been trained as a Stephen Minister, helps lead worship, and now serves as an unpaid staff member for the church as its Spiritual Gifts/Ministries Counselor.  In addition to all of that she went to work for a wonderful group called IU13 which provides teachers for special needs children. Watching her work with autistic kids and children needing emotional support and help with their at risk status has filled me with awe and pride.  She is a magnificent Christian and has inspired me over and over again.

Lynn Byers working at Adventist Hospital in Port-au-Prince
Then there's the terrific church that I serve, the Church of God of Landisville that has made outreach its brand and has urged its people to live as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.  People like Lynn Byers, who as a teenager was in my Sunday School Class, who is now on her second tour in a medical team to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.  There are more stories we could tell, but let it suffice to say that I have been privileged now to serve as its Lead Pastor for nine years and I in awe of a congregation that has made caring discipleship, loving evangelism, and practical servanthood the fabric of its lifestyle.L

Jeremy Moyer, our youth leader and I baptizing Ben Green

Part of my joy was to watch BURN, our student ministry grow from a dozen to more than 100 kids, many of them unchurched.  And one evening I had the unique and incomparable privilege of baptizing 12 of them in the pool at Hempfield Rec Center.  They wanted to be there because they knew that many of their friends would come to the pool party we held, but would not have come to the church - and these kids got a chance to share their witness with more than 75 peers.

Another highlight of 2010 was a wedding of my son Christopher to Megan Parrott. It was a rare opportunity to have my entire family together.  These are some precious highlights for 2010. Along the way I blogged more than two hundred posts on several blogs and made friends in various parts of the country as I wrote.  I preached more than 40 sermons to some people who genuinely are hungering and thirsting for a right relationship with God.  Much to point to and to celebrate.

But the greatest joy for me has been to live a resurrection life by the grace of God and in the service of my Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no greater privilege than being his ambassador and his disciple.  And with this in mind, I anticipate 2011 to be an even better year.

Christi, Dad, Mom, Megan, Chris, Katie, Michael - all my children and my newest daughter-in-law




                                                                                    

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

FILTHY - NO, FAITHFULLY RICH

Sally Quinn posted this article in her blog ON FAITH (which is distributed by the Washington Post0. The writer, David Walters, has some observations that our worth our reflection. - Steve

Filthy Faithfully rich

By David Waters
The founders of Facebook are joining 55 other billionaires who have pledged to give most of their money to charity before they die.

A capitalist plot to redistribute wealth? Hardly. "The Giving Pledge", started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, won't redistribute wealth so much as reprioritize it. Fifty-seven billion dollars (they have more) works out to about $10 per earthling, but it's the thought that counts.

What interests me more than how much they will give away is why. What has caused some of the wealthiest among us to become so unnecessarily magnanimous and benevolent? Have they found religion?
00000129e851a14de4583ac4007f000000000001.zuckerberg.jpg
Major faiths consider charity to be a religious duty, not merely as a kindness but as an act of justice and righteousness.

Are the filthy rich trying to show us how to be just and righteous?

Probably not. Nearly all of the pledges wrote letters of explanation, but only a handful mentioned their faith.
Most of the billionaire benefactors attributed their generosity to doing what is right, fair, kind, moral or just plain responsible -- without reference to God, Jesus or any religious figure.

"Both of us were fortunate to grow up with parents who taught us some tremendously important values. Work hard. Show respect. Have a sense of humor," Bill and Melinda Gates wrote. "And if life happens to bless you with talent or treasure, you have a responsibility to use those gifts as well and as wisely as you possibly can. Now we hope to pass this example on to our own children."

Words to live by, even if life hasn't blessed you with billions.

It's possible many pledges were motivated by faith, but just didn't mention it in their letters. Some of them might have thought any sort of religious confession was inappropriate or too personal or none of our business.
David and Barbara Green, who co-founded Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in their family's garage, attributed their pledge to the Lord and even quoted Scripture.

"We honor the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,' David Green wrote.

Hedge fund billionaire Leon G. Cooperman and his wife Toby gave a nod to three secular figures and one sacred book.

"In the early 1900's Andrew Carnegie said 'He who dies rich, dies disgraced,'" Cooperman wrote. "In the 1930's, Sir Winston Churchill observed that 'We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.' In 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address stated 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.'

"Well before all these gentlemen expressed their thoughts, it was written in the Talmud that 'A man's net worth is measured not by what he earns but rather what he gives away.'

Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, is as well known for his contributions to conservative Catholic causes (Ave Maria University) as his contribtions to hungry college students.

"I came into the world penniless and as a Catholic Christian," he wrote. "I know that I cannot take any of it with me, so it has long been my desire to use the material resources that I have been blessed with to help others in the most meaningful ways possible. My faith has always been a central part of my life."

The only other religious reference I saw was from Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor. Steyer built a fortune as an asset manager in San Francisco.

"As luck would have it, we live in a city named for a man famous for actively denying his birthright," Steyer wrote, "a birthright not of ambiguity or even scandal but of confirmed privilege. He stripped himself of his worldly goods (including clothes), identified with animals, and kissed the sores of lepers. Because what he did came to define him, St. Francis is our epitome of a "to do" kind of guy."

Preach always. When necessary, use assets.

"(Wealth) is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends," wrote John Wesley, 18th century founder of Methodism.

"In the hands of his children it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless; We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death."

Wesley gave away a fortune and died penniless.

Monday, December 27, 2010

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - MORE THAN CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS

Most pastors love Christmas Eve. Churches are full and they get to preach to what is often their largest audience of the year. My congregation, the Church of God of Landisville, set what was probably a record for us - 312 people. I spoke on John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

My message was about people's priorities over Christmas and the battle that often ensues between those muscling to "Keep Christ in Christ" or militantly shouting "Happy Holidays."  Then there are those who are satisfied with the sentimentality of Santa plus a nice Christmas Eve service (which is a whole lot of Christians.)  To them I said, "If this is all there is to your Christmas, then you will never truly bear witness to the world that Jesus has come."  To the politically correct holiday police, "Do you really think that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ?"  To the strident "Keep Christ in Christmas" crew, "Why are we so concerned that Christ is the center of a 2-3 week celebration? Are we equally concerned that Christ is kept 365 days a year, 24-7?"  In fact, to Christians every where: "If Christ is not obviously the center of your life year round, if you only let your allegiance come to the forefront at Christmas, how can you reflect the glory of God that we claim to behold at Christmas?"

I have this persuasion.  The glory of God--His holiness express in unconditional love and amazing grace-is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.  That glory is revealed in the manger and the cross and the empty tomb.  But that glory is also revealed by those who live transformed by His glory. Paul says in Colossians 1:27. "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."       

I cannot speak for those who believe that political correctness is more beneficial to our society than the Truth that Sets Us Free.  I am not satisfied with a faith that is at the level of the sentimentality of Santa (as much as I like the Jolly Old Elf).

I believe that the world needs more than a declaration of "Christ in Christmas" or a rhetorical "Jesus is the reason for the season."  Jesus is the answer, the only one in fact, to everything that separates us from God and keeps us from living in His image.  We need more than simply Christ in Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

CHRISTMAS EVE 2010



"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us: We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly ... God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:6,8

Thursday, December 23, 2010

ALL IS WELL

Michael W. Smith is one of the true genius composers of our times. This is now one of his Christmas "classics" and we offer it on Christmas Eve Eve to remind you of the Joy that enters the world with the birth of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WEB SITINGS 3 - (CHRISTMAS EDITION) HALLELJUAH CHORUS, LYNN HYBELS, NICK STEPHENS

One of the latest phenomenons is a viral YouTube on a food court flash mob performing the Hallelujah Chorus. Ken Meyer is his weblog LeaderFOCUS  gives us a little background on the "original."

Monday, December 13, 2010
The tradition is now more than a quarter of a millennium old. Today, the YouTube videos go viral as the music rings out in shopping malls across America and the familiar strains Handel’s Messiah breaks unexpectedly into the noisy food court; surprised patrons stand to their feet and cast off inhibition and join in the exuberant singing. Pocket cameras appear capturing a serendipitous holiday moment that will be the topic of conversation for the whole season.

George Frederick Handel drew from the King James English Bible in 1741. He wrote the masterpiece in less than a month (twenty four days, to be precise). The oratorio, taken as a whole, is a summary of the entire Bible, from Creation and the first Prophecies of Salvation through an Anointed One, to Messiah’s appearance and Eternal Reign. That this frontal declaration of biblical monotheism would resonate so clearly and broadly and universally in our increasingly secular age speaks volumes about the spiritual appetite of the masses.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts of the Chicago years, those formative days in my development when singing occupied a considerable portion of my routine each week, my professors and mentors put me in long rehearsals, handing me a thick, dog-eared paperback book, well worn, containing the entire text of Handel’s complete Messiah. Night after night, we would work through the sections. Our world was divided into four equal groups: sopranos, altos, tenors and baritone/bass. We learned pitch and harmony, tempo, crescendo, decrescendo and fortissimo. Some of the passages would be tedious, repetitive and complicated. Others would take us to the heights, ascending well above our post-adolescent imaginations. A piano would bang out the parts until we mastered them, and then the four sections of the room would come together in harmony.
Read more 
Lynn Hybels reflects on her many experiences with Christmas. She writes ...



Here’s the main difference between me at 29 and me at 59: I used to think that everything mattered. Now I realize that very little matters.
I used to think that festive yet elegant Christmas decorations mattered. I used to think that hosting big parties mattered. I used to think that buying gifts for everyone who might possibly expect a gift mattered. I used to think that sending Christmas cards mattered. And that beautiful wrapping paper mattered. And that sophisticated holiday menus mattered.

But no more.

This year I’ve hit an all-time Christmas-decorating low. Last night Henry and I dug through boxes in the basement and found what we were looking for: two small nativity scenes, both handcrafted in African villages, and one olive wood carving of Mary and Jesus, made by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. We also selected a Waterford angel given to me years ago by a kind church member and a Saint Nicholas figurine from my sister-in-law. I have an aesthetic bias against Santa Claus decorations, but I love this old-fashioned Saint Nick. I may also get a $4 mini evergreen for Henry to decorate. Maybe not.

Part of the decorating pressure of previous years was driven by The Party. For years, on December 23, Bill and I hosted a party for a random (and large) assortment of friends, many coming in from out-of-state to attend a Christmas service at our church. After the service a parade of cars would inch through the snowy neighborhood to our driveway. The house would be shimmering, the table heavily-laden, and the standing-room-only crowd in a festive mood. It was a lot of work, but it always seemed worth it — until recently. The past few years, as schedules have become more frantic, we have felt that we might serve our friends better by giving them a December night off rather than another party to attend. Nobody complained when we decided not to host the event this year. Read the rest at her * meneutics

Then this post (in its entirety) from Nick Stephens.

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas . . .”
by nick francis stephens
The sounds of the season are upon us, sounds that generate all sorts of conjecture and diverse response. For some of us they are fond memories of a childhood past, reminiscent of family, presents, cookies, and Christmas carols.

Yet for others the scenario is quite different. It's yet another reminder of our loneliness and unrelenting abandonment issues. A season of hope reveals itself to be nothing more than a season of despair. The little hope we have dissipates and contributes to the further deafening of our spirit and the continued paralysis of our souls.

I cannot say I’m a huge fan of holidays but I can say this, I’m a huge fan of humanity. There is just something about the image of God present in the human story. It’s fuel for my passions!

Humanity’s relationship with God may appear as a one-sided conversation, but to me, it is more akin to a dance between lovers: the creativity, the laughter, the lights, the music; it’s all the handiwork of God on display through God's most splendid grandeur . . . people!

I am captured by a sense of delight every time I hear the voice of Bing Crosby and the multiple renditions of his popular Christmas carol. Although we struggle through the hustle and bustle of the season, I’m certain we are moved by the genteelness and romance emanating from the words. . . “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”.

For some of us, I wonder if those words instill a sense of hope that this year things will be different, and for others perhaps it's simply the anticipation of the season. Whatever the response is nonetheless, the lyrics bring a stirring to our hearts worthy of overcoming the greatest of holiday humbugs.

My soul cannot help but wonder with the passing of another season, what really are the dreams that we hold onto, or perhaps better yet, what are the dreams that hold on to us?

When I meet people, I often inquire about their dreams (it’s a great way to start a conversation). I have come to realize through these interactions that so often our dreams are really all about us! Instead of having dreams that bring us to life, they bring us discouragement and hopelessness submerged in doubt.
Think about it? What are your dreams?

My tendency is to have dreams that are all about me! Accomplishing things by me for me! We all have dreams of belonging, becoming, and believing, but if we were to be honest with ourselves, how many of us leave God out of those dreams? Typically, we aspire on a daily basis to make our dreams a reality through egotistical ways, which to no avail only leads us on a cyclical journey of wasted effort, the hardening of our hearts and the loss of the dreams God has designed for our lives.

Given our human nature, it doesn't surprise me that we inherently focus on ourselves, but it certainly seems odd to me that we would choose a special day like Christmas to intentionally do so . . . Oh yea, that isn’t actually the reason for the season, perhaps our western ways of living have duped us while we were sleeping.
Like the dancing disillusion of holiday deception, is it possible that we have been deceived by our dreams as well? What if our dreams stopped being about us and actually began to focus on others? What if God created us to have dreams that inspired us to serve humanity? What would the world look like if all of us embraced dreams that moved us to live at our fullest capacity, celebrating the human spirit by serving humanity!

Jesus once said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Jesus' invitation wasn't about safety or getting to go to heaven, but instead it was so much more! It was about living an abundant life now! It was about empowering us to engage life at its fullest and help others to do the same!

Jesus wasn't saying come, follow me and I'll show you what you can have, he was saying come, follow me and I'll show you what you have to give. Jesus’ intention was never to move us towards self- gratification, consumerism and isolation! Rather, just the opposite takes place; lives are transformed, marriages are healed, addictions are demolished, isolation becomes a thing of the past and intimacy becomes our present reality.
I am convinced that God’s dreams for you and me is to give our lives away and to use our lives to inspire the world to live by faith, to be known by love and to be a voice of hope to the world. Simply stated, when we live the dreams of God, our lives will find that which we long for the most: intimacy, purpose and meaning!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS

Christians celebrate the first advent, the "arrival" of the incarnate Jesus in the flesh. But Advent and Christmas celebrated since the birth are intended to prepare us for a second Advent, far more glorious than the first. Sandi Patti sings of this advent using a song written by the late, great Dottie Rambo.

Monday, December 20, 2010

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - GOSSIP, ELIZABETH EDWARDS, THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS, MAKING PEACE WITH GOD

Karen Spears Zacharias is a writer whose thoughts I have come to deeply appreciate. Elizabeth Edwards died last week and many of us thought of blogging about her. Karen chose a different route called "Gossip-The Opiate of the Oppressed," talking about what Mrs. Edwards' experience teaches about ourselves. In it Karen writes:

"I no longer believe in the First Amendment, not as it is practiced and protected in this country, at any rate. I don’t believe Freedom of Speech is an inalienable human right any more than I believe that all men are created equal. A person must first redefine equal as something other than having the same value as another because this country has an ugly history to the contrary ... The death of Elizabeth Edwards has exemplified for me much of what has gone wrong with us. Nearly all the news reports of her death and funeral have mentioned the infidelity of her estranged husband John Edwards. Most spelled out the name of the other woman.

And I have sat on the other side of the keyboard wondering how do I write what I’m thinking without doing the very thing that has angered me? How do I say that I think that this practice is wrong on so many levels without myself mentioning the infidelity and the other woman? So accept that I understand the double-standard, the hypocrisy if you will, but there is simply no other way to explain what I’m thinking.

Why does a spouse’s infidelity warrant mention in the death reports of any of us? Why is that news? Why is that protected under the First Amendment? Why should that be the legacy that is put into print and passed along to generations to follow? For the grandchildren not yet born? Read More

Christmas is now just four days away.  Many of us will find a Christmas Eve Service to mark the occasion, even if we are not particularly Christian or even religious. There is something about Christmas carols, angelic faces on children, and the pronouncement from the angel "Fear not!" against the backdrop of a manger scene and candlelight that warms the heart and allows from even a minute to pray for "peace on earth and good will towards men."
But that is mere sentimentality if we are not prepared to allow the Prince of Peace to have rule over our lives.  For the peace that Baby will bring is more than an annual truce in Bethlehem or an absence of conflict. That peace comes when first we make peace with God. When we stop warring with Him over our soul and allow Him to take control of our lives.  Only then will we be transformed into people of peace. There will be no peace on earth until men make their peace with God.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

SUNDAY AFTERNOON FUNNIES

It's been a while, but here they are again just in time for Christmas.  Enjoy!




Saturday, December 18, 2010

THE REST OF THE BOWLS

Some of you have already said, "That's not the whole list!" Next are the BIG bowls. So here's the rest. Go Buckeyes!




JUST IN CASE YOU WANTED TO KNOW - THE BOWL SCHEDULE



Not sure all of you give a rip about this, but here's the whole list of college football games for the next two weeks. Some of these are pretty obscure, but there's another set of college football games - the second greatest sport after baseball.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WHEN NOTHING CREATED EVERYTHING

Christianity is often criticized for its "foolish" adherence to the idea of Intelligent Design as its explanation for creation.  This post from FIRST THINGS gives us food for thought as to the "foolishness"of the materialist explanations by Stephen Hawkings and others. - Steve

When Nothing Created Everything
Throughout history people have been awed and thrilled by retellings of their culture’s creation story.

Aztecs would tell of the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes, Phoenicians about the Zophashamin, and Jews and Christians about the one true God—Jehovah. But there is one unfortunate group—the children of atheistic materialists—that has no creation myth to call its own. When an inquisitive tyke asks who created the sun, the animals, and mankind, their materialist parents can only tell them to read a book by Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins.

But what sort of story are they likely to find? Should they be told, as famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking claims in his recent book The Grand Design that “the universe… create[d] itself from nothing”?

Since Hawking's explanation is a bit too drab and nospecific for bedtime reading I’ve decided to take the elements of materialism and shape them into a purportedly accurate, though mythic, narrative. This is what our culture has been missing for far too long—a creation story for young atheistic materialists.

******

In the beginning was Nothing, and Nothing created Everything. When Nothing decided to create Everything, she filled a tiny dot with Time, Chance, and Everything and had it expand. The expansion spread Everything into Everywhere carrying Time and Chance with it to keep it company. The three stretched out together leaving bits of themselves wherever they went. One of those places was the planet Earth.

For no particular Reason—for Reason is rarely particular—Time and Chance took a liking to this little, wet, blue rock and decided to stick around to see what adventures they might have. While the pair found the Earth to be intriguing and pretty, they also found it a bit too quiet, too static. They fixed upon an idea to change Everything (just a little) by creating a special Something. Time and Chance roamed the planet, splashing through the oceans and sloshing through the mud, in search of materials. But though they looked Everywhere, there was a missing ingredient that they needed in order to make a Something that could create more of the same Somethings.

They called to their friend Everything to help. Since Everything had been Everywhere she would no doubt be able to find the missing ingredient. And indeed she did. Hidden away in a small alcove called Somewhere, Everything found what Time and Chance had needed all along: Information. Everything put Information on a piece of ice and rock that happened to be passing by the former planet Pluto and sent it back to her friends on Earth.

Now that they had Information, Time and Chance were finally able to create a self-replicating Something which they called Life. Once they created Life they found that it not only grew into more Somethings, but began to become Otherthings, too! The Somethings and the Otherthings began to fill the Earth—from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the sky. Their creation, which began as a single Something, eventually became millions and billions of Otherthings.

Time and Chance, though, where the bickering sort and were constantly feuding over which of them was the most powerful. One day they began to argue over who had been more responsible for creating Life. Everything (who was forever eavesdropping) overheard the spat and suggested that they settle by putting their creative skills to work on a new creature called Man. They all thought is was a splendid plan—for Man was a dull, hairy beast who would indeed provide a suitable challenge—and began to boast about who could create an ability, which they called Consciousness, that would allow Man to be aware of Chance, Time, Everything, and Nothing.

Chance, always a bit of a dawdler, got off to a slow start, so Time, who never rested, completed the task first. Time rushed around, filling the gooey matter inside each Man’s head with Consciousness. But as he was gloating over his victory he noticed a strange reaction. When Man saw that Everything had been created by Time, Chance, and Nothing, his Consciousness filled with Despair.

Chance immediately saw a solution to the problem and took the remaining materials she was using to make Consciousness to create Beliefs. When Chance mixed Beliefs into the gray goo, Man stopped filling with Despair and started creating Illusions. These Illusions took various forms—God, Purpose, Meaning—and were almost always effective in preventing Man from filling up with Despair.

Nothing, who tended to be rather forgetful, remembered her creation and decided to take a look around Everything. When she saw what Time and Chance had done on planet Earth she was mildly amused, but forbade them to fill any more creatures with Consciousness or Beliefs (which is why Man is the only Something that has both). But Nothing took a fancy to Man and told Time and Chance that when each one’s Life ran out, she would take him or her and make them into Nothing too.

And that is why, children, when Man loses his Life he goes from being a Something created by Time and Chance into becoming like his creator—Nothing.


Joe Carter is web editor of First Things. His previous articles for “On the Square” can be found here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WEB SITINGS 2

As a blogger and a pastor, I spend a lot of time on the web reading blogs, looking at web sites, spending time with Facebook.  Here is a sampling of what I have found meaningful or thought-provoking lately.

From Stef Sellers' Facebook page, a profound thought from a delightful high school senior:  "Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same..."
   
From Jeremy Moyer's Facebook page (Jeremy is my church's Youth Director): "Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at."

From Carlos Whittaker on his web site Ragamuffin Soul"I love Jesus. If you are concerned with people seeing a Christian take “Christ” out of the word “Christmas” let’s just say it Merry Jesusmas so that everybody will get it."  

I follow a blog called Off ... we go now by Leonard Lee. He has a great post called "Mirror Mirror." He writes: "Have you ever left the house and realized you missed something important?  Food stuck in your teeth, a shirt with a stain, the dreaded white mark from your deodorant, your hair doing the rooster, zipper left at half mast…  This is why God invented the mirror.  The mirror can be a pretty good friend, telling you what to fix before you get gawked at.  Every day I see people who convince me they do not own a mirror.
                                 
"As a pastor, a lot of people talk to me about life.  Couples who are fighting, teens and individuals who are wrestling with decisions, relationships and life in general all make their way through my office.  One commonality many of these conversations have is that there are some things people just cannot see in themselves.  No mirror made by man can give a true reflection of the inside.  Here is a short list of hard to see traits.
  • Self-centeredness
  • Ungratefulness
  • Foolishness
  • Greed
  • Unteachable heart
To read the rest of this post go to Mirror

Nick Francis Stephens from Mosaic Lancaster recently went to Liberia.  Nick is a well-traveled pastor. In a post "the last shall be first and the first shall be last even if the signage is bad" Nick comments:        
"Recently, while I was in the UK, I read this on twitter, "Humanity needs one and a half planet earths to sustain our lifestyles. 2 planet earths by 2030. Anyone have a spare?".  Do we think this to be the case because there are just so many people in the world and our space is being limited or is it that we are so horrible at sharing that when other people encroach in proximity we feel violated in so many ways. read more
         
  

Monday, December 13, 2010

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - JOSH HAMILTON, CREATIVITY. ADVENT, HAITI, THE BEST WIFE

As I predicted, Josh Hamilton was named American League MVP.  An honor much deserved.  He made the difference for the Rangers as they finally got their first World Series.  But long before that I connected with Josh because of his faith, his battle to maintain and then regain a character reflective of Christ. If you have never heard Josh's story, you need to watch this video.



Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, writes in his blog:
                 
"The great stumbling block of the creative mind is the awareness of self from the perspective of others. Self awareness isn’t the enemy, because we are in fact masterworks of God, but rather the overemphasis regarding what others think of us. When we think too much about the opinions of others, we are letting them edit a book God has written.

In his introduction to C.S. Lewis’ sermon The Weight of Glory, Walter Hooper says Lewis was not capable of writing a great work until he converted to Christianity, not because only Christians create great work (obviously) but because his conversion marked an inner change in which he ceased to take much interest in himself.

In an age in which we can project an image and score that image based on immediate Facebook and Twitter feedback, thus making a video game of life and a false-reality composed of lies, what gets lost is a joyful obsession with the work we create from the purest of motives, a sheer joy in the act of creation itself that causes us to lose ourselves in something else, and in a way die to ourselves over the absolute love of a thing we are breathing into life."

As a writer, I need to say that sharing Christ in me is my chief motivation for writing.I consider indeed that when I write, especially when I share personal stories, I am merely editing a book that God is writing. I doubt if my work will ever rise to the level of a C.S. Lewis, but I write for the joy of it -- the joy of sharing what Christ is teaching me day by day.

We are rapidly approaching the end of Advent and Christmas arrives. In our culture there is no "advent," just Christmas. But where there is no Advent Christmas arrives without preparation or anticipation.

Haiti continues to face a myriad of problems, this time on the political front. It appears that the average Haitian is growing desperate in the face of unrealized promises, undelivered aid, and politicians conducting business as usual.  My friend Lynn Byers came home from Port-au-Prince to renew her visa, but currently waits in Dallas for a return. Yesterday Lynn posted on her Facebook page this message:               

"So not sure when I'll be going back to Haiti. Everyone (all the foreign staff) at the hospital is being evacuated. Well, I'll be here in Texas in the meantime! Guess I should start applying for jobs...My prayers go out to all my Haitian friends & patients during this violent time in Haiti. My heart goes out to them."  Lynn has a very informative blog that gives an interesting view from ground level. Read Lynn's blog.

 I just wanted to say that I am blessed with the best wife in the world, Dianne. One of the blessings she is to me is to teach me about the power of prayer.  I'll be blogging about this soon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I SERVE ONE OF THE TRULY GREAT CHURCHES

Part of the group at our All Church Family Retreat
My day job is serving as the Lead Pastor of the Church of God of Landisville in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  I have had this privilege since September 2001.  I hope that God will allow it to be my final pastorate (even though I am a good ten years from "retiring" as a lead pastor). The reason for this sentiment is that I serve a great church that serves a Great God.

Waiting to receive the offering on Children's Sunday
Landisville has been in existence since 1833, but in the last eight years has been on an initial journey of following the leadership of the Holy Spirit to become an outward-focused church with a commitment to outreach by being the best church it can be for the community.  We are not a mega-church, but what Lyle Schaller calls a "middle-sized" one. There are about 350 persons from infants to "ancients" in our core congregation. Many of these people have a gift of hospitality and more than the usual number have a powerful passion for simply living as Christ's authentic disciples.

Kids from our BURN student ministry at See You at the Pole
We operate two significant community outreach programs: the Christian Flow Center for the senior adults of Landisville and the surrounding community, and the Agape Youth Center, which provides an afterschool drop-in center for middle school and high school kids. (We are just across the street from the Hempfield School's main campuses).  And many of our people work regularly with the Lancaster County Council of Churches by providing meals in the city among the poor at Christ Lutheran of Lancaster.  Our Ignite the Day worship and Bible study attracts over 75 kids at Hempfield High School and we do all we can to be supportive of  the good our schools are trying to do for the community.

Our Adult Choir at our Traditional Service. We also have a Contemporary Service and a Wednesday evening Youth Worship Service.
We are blessed to be an intergenerational church where people of all ages matter to God and contribute to our vision for serving Him.  We have families that are drawing close to God and growing in spiritual maturity.

Mother and daughter praying before school
 There's a lot more to our story, but I will be sharing it in the weeks to come.  I love these people deeply.


This is part 1 in a series " A Great Church Following a Great Commission from a Great God"

Friday, December 10, 2010

GOD IS OUT OF OUR SIGHT, OUT OF OUR MIND

This is part 2 in an Advent Series, "Driving Back the Darkness"


We live in a world where God is out of  our sight and out of our minds. Too many persons, including many Christians, live as if there is no God or as if He is irrelevant to their daily existence. Craig Groeschel calls the latter "Christian atheists," persons who say they believe in God but live as if they didn't.

Why is this the case? I don't think it is because the true atheists have won us over. In fact, since the beginning of  the postmodern era, there are very few true atheists left. Postmodernism admits that man is a spiritual creature and most atheist's arguments fall of deaf ears.
I don't think it's because God has failed to make Himself known. Nor that He Himself is disinterested in His planet and its inhabitants.

I do think it is because most of us are deists at heart and agnostics in practice.  Deism is the classic idea of the "clockwork God" who sets the world into motion and then steps away to let humanity work things out. God is there, but does not intervene in human events. Agnosticism is the belief that although God probably exists, He is basically irrelevant to human life. Sort of like your grandfather suffering from dementia and confined to a nursing home.

Isaiah calls this state of affairs and its inhabitants "people living in deep darkness."

Advent is the season when we acknowledge that we are people living in darkness. In fact, if we manage a little honest reflection in between mad dashes to the mall for yet one more present, we admit we are in deep darkness.

That deep darkness confines generosity and good will to a few weeks before December 25.
It excuses our consumption and materialism while neighbors still starve and others have nothing.
It tolerates our intolerance of people not like us and blunts any compassion under the excuse of "being practical or realistic."

Deep darkness keeps us living as if we are accountable to no one except ourselves, and then justifies our making an exception to all of our sinful choices.

But in all of this, we are not without hope. "The people living in deep darkness have seen a great light ... for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given ... and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9.2-6)

The light is in the world.

The light is on.

The time has come for us to open our eyes and see the light.

(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn

Thursday, December 9, 2010

IS THERE INTELLIGENT LIFE DOWN HERE?

“The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.” ~Bill Watterson In Calvin and Hobbes

There are times when I have to ask myself, “Is there any intelligent life down here?” I know that sounds atypically cynical for me; but being a Christian has never meant to be out of touch with reality. People sometimes like to criticize Christians as being so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good. I’ve always enjoyed  C.S. Lewis’ response to that statement. “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” (Mere Christianity)

Hardly a day passes when I am not drawn to yet one more example of the insanity to which humanity sinks despite centuries of education, scientific progress, and experience. People who trade grocery money for a lottery ticket in hopes that they’ll hit it big. Governments that will pass laws about the fat content of school lunches but do nothing about the moral pollution that infects the airwaves and populates video games. Politicians who cancel school lunches and then vote themselves a raise. Parents who beat their children or expose them to sexual abuse because of their own casual relationship with another adult. The popularity of the degradation portrayed daily on Jerry Springer and people so desperate for attention that they appear on Jerry Springer. Couples who abandon a relationship with a spouse and then expose their children to decades of insecurity and self-hatred. Churches who talk about the love of Jesus and then ignore the plight of the neighborhoods around them. Schools so fearful of lawsuit that they deny the spiritual yearnings of their students.

It’s a pretty grim list and it grows by the day.

What I take heart in is that God, who saw that there was little intelligent life down here, decided to remedy the situation.  John tells us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

Isaiah tells us:  ” The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.”

Advent is about ending the insanity by introducing the Truth once again into a world of deep darkness.  It is about reminding us that a world where God is ignored and His will denied is a world where man tries to be His own God, and that always ends up badly. Man left alone without the intervention of God is not basically good. He is basically sinful – and sin always destroys as man moves lower and lower into his worst immoral urges. And without the light of God, man thinks that his darkness is the way it must be.
For God so loved the world that He came and He gave and that He allowed us to stop the madness by the power of His love at work within us.

This post is part one of an Advent series, “Driving back the darkness”
(C) 2010 by Stephen L Dunn

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

RADICAL LIVING: WHY NOT GIVE?

A good friend of mine, Dan Masshardt, posted this on his blog a month ago.  Thought it worth sharing during this season of "sharing and giving."  Check Dan out at Choose Today.

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts 4

We all look back on this time in the earliest church right after Pentecost. It seems like an amazing time. And yet it seems like something so unrealistic to us.

Why?

What is to prevent us as Christians to live exactly like this right now?

My answer: Not one thing. Only consumerism and ideas of fairness.

I have a bold proposal for you to consider: If you have something that you don’t need and somebody else does, just give it to them. What’s so complicated about that?

This is perhaps especially true for those who really have no problems paying their bills and for whom the money they would get will not make any difference to them.

I know what we think: It’s worth this much…I paid this much for it… Those things are probably all true, but I doubt Jesus cares. Really.

If you don’t need it and somebody else does, just give it to them.

Things would change then….oh my.

Oh and the bigger the better. Not just little stuff, but anything. The more valuable the better.

Acts says that people sold properties they had and used the money to meet needs of others in their new community.

What’s the real difference between them and us?

They truly encountered the Risen Christ. When that happens on a radical level in your heart, what do money and possessions mean to you anymore? Can’t be much.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

WHERE'S THE LINE TO SEE JESUS? (ORIGINAL VERSION)

This video was first posted on YouTube

Where's the Line to See Jesus? (An Original Song) Performed by father and daughter, Steve Haupt and Becky Kelley Inspired by grandson, Spencer Reijgers Written by Steve Haupt and Chris Loesch Recorded at Shock City Studios, Saint Louis, MO Produced by Chris Loesch Video by Robbie Haupt and Greg Haupt Click here to visit the official website! http://wheresthelinetoseejesus.com/

Here’s the story behind the song from the young lady singing.

While at the mall a couple of years ago, my then four-year-old nephew, Spencer, saw kids lined up to see Santa Claus. Having been taught as a toddler that Christmas is the holiday that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, he asked his mom, "Where's the line to see Jesus"?

My sister mentioned this to my dad, who immediately became inspired and jotted words down to a song in just a few minutes. After putting music to the words, and doing a quick recording at home, he received a great response from friends. He sent the song off to Nashville without much response, except for a Christian song writer who suggested adding a bridge at the end of the first chorus.

My dad then asked if I wanted to record the song to see what we could do with it. I listened to the song, made a few changes to the words to make it flow better, and we headed to Shock City Studios. It was at the studio where Chris, owner and producer, rewrote the 2nd verse and part of the chorus... with goose bumps and emotions high, we were all hopeful and felt like we had something special. The demo was recorded in just under 2 hours and sent off again to Nashville... still no response.

Then 2 weeks before Christmas last year, my cousins Greg and Robbie decided to do a video to see what we could accomplish on YouTube. The first day we had 3000 hits and it soared from there. We received e-mails, phone calls, Facebook messages from people all over asking for the music, CD's, iTunes, anything... we had nothin'. After a couple of meetings with Chris following the amazing response, we got serious.

We headed back into the studio this past spring... this time with guitars, drums, bass, pianos, choirs... the real deal.... and here we are today. Getting iTunes set up, a web site put together, and loving that thousands upon thousands of Christians have come together... remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
Out of the mouths of babes come profound truths that many adults can not understand. Hopefully Spencer's observation will cause people all over to reflect on the love of Jesus, and that one day we will all stand in line to see Him. We are most thankful to our Heavenly Father to have this chance to share our music with you. Merry Christmas everyone.

Friday, December 3, 2010

COMMON GROUND OF THE DEFICIT COMMITTEE

Once again we share Cal and Bob who have some interesting thoughts on the current "bipartisan" attempts to reduce the deficit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

AMAZING GRACE

A treasured friend and mentor, Larry White, once described himself as "an unrepentant grace junkie." Grace is what all authentic Christians trust in because, to use a cliche, deep down we know we're not perfect, just forgiven. And once forgiven we seek to be agents of His grace.  This video sums it up quite well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ADVENT "CITINGS"

 “Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. … Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting — that is, of hopefully doing without — will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger
                                                                     
"The event of Christ is the only event in human history that promises relocation and centering, meaning and purpose. This promise and its fulfillment evoke passionate and heartfelt praise and thanks, especially for those aware of their own brokenness and the healing which Christ brings into their lives. "
- Robert Webber, Worship Resources for the Local Church

"For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all; No palace too great, no cottage too small."
- Philips Brooks, Biography


"The implications of the name "Immanuel" are both comforting and unsettling. Comforting, because He has come to share the danger as well as the drudgery of our everyday lives. He desires to weep with us and to wipe away our tears. And what seems most bizarre, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, longs to share in and to be the source of the laughter and the joy we all too rarely know." - Michael Card


 
"Commercialization has obscured the meaning of Christmas. The commercial has become more important than the carol. What man has to sell more important than what God has given."  - Anonymous

"The spirit of Christmas needs to superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world." - Stuart Briscoe Telling the Truth



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS - ESPECIALLY IT HAS "FEW" WORDS

Adding a new occasional feature ... LIFE MATTER (PHOTOS) Hopefully, it will remind of us the truth that your life matters to God.

Monday, November 29, 2010

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - STILL A DANGEROUS WORLD; BLACK FRIDAY; CS LEWIS IS BACK; HOMELESSNESS

Yoenpyeong Island is a non-descript piece of real estate off the coast of South Korea. It contains a tiny fishing village and a few South Korean Marines.  But last Tuesday a war that has never really ended was reignited with civilians in the cross-fire. North Korea, in a dispute over military exercises, rained down shells on this village effectively ending a quiet life for simple peasants.  Once again the unending enmity between North and South Korea reared its ugly head and threatened world peace.  No one seems to be able to control the brutal and paranoid leaders of the North who believe that if they threaten others enough we will rescue their devastated ecomony and insure their stranglehold on their people.  Once again, we are reminded that this is still a dangerous world where terror - either state-sponsored or religion-fueled - can shatter lives. Advent began yesterday, when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the One who will be called the Prince of Peace. The reality is that only when He reigns in the hearts of humanity will this stop being a dangerous and deadly world.

Black Friday came and went and once again Americans celebrated a "holiday of consumption."  Because I really would like to own a flat screen TV, I entertained thoughts of appearing at the nearby Walmart to try and capture one of a very few sets that would have been available for $179 at 5:00 am.  Somehow, camping out in a cold, darkened parking lot with a lot of sleep-deprived strangers, seemed a little over the edge even for a man who is generally awake each day between 3:00-4:00 am.  People claim they endure Black Friday because they want a bargain and to save money; but does our Christmas celebration really require new electronics and toys in order to be complete?  There is a movement afoot in some churches called the Advent Conspiracy, to try and change the emphasis of the season from a culture of consumption to a culture of compassion. Maybe the nasty state of our economy is God's nudging reminder that this is His preference for a season that will celebrate the birth of His Son.

CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia return to the wide screen in a week.  "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is another of the great story of good and evil and redemption and Aslan. This will be well worth your family's time and may help keep their focus on the "reason for the season."



Advent has begun and we proceed towards the celebration of the Nativity, when the Savior of the World entered the world essentially as a homeless person. Between 2.5 and 3.5 million people in America do not have a place to call home, to sleep at night.  This remains one of the glaring problems that our nation has failed to find a solution for. 1.35 million of these are children and at least 300,000 do not have a place to sleep each night.  There are five myths that actually keep us for doing more about homeless than we do.
1. Homelessness is a long-term problem.
2. Most homeless people have a severe mental condition.
3.Homeless people do not work.
4. Shelters are humane solutions to homelessness.
5. The poor we will always have with us.
To learn more about these "myths" and some solutions I would encourage you to go to this link: FIVE MYTHS.  I would encourage to learn more and maybe help with some of these solutions. I am sure that "the One who did not have a place to lay His head" would smile favorably upon you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent is About Dreaming the Dreams of God

During Advent I will be sharing observations from other blogs plus my comments. This one comes from Nick Francis Stephens, chief cultural architect of Mosaic Lancaster, a faith community being planted by the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God.

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas . . .”

by nick francis stephens

The sounds of the season are upon us, sounds that generate all sorts of conjecture and diverse response. For some of us they are fond memories of a childhood past, reminiscent of family, presents, cookies, and Christmas carols.

Yet for others the scenario is quite different. It's yet another reminder of our loneliness and unrelenting abandonment issues. A season of hope reveals itself to be nothing more than a season of despair. The little hope we have dissipates and contributes to the further deafening of our spirit and the continued paralysis of our souls.

I cannot say I’m a huge fan of holidays but I can say this, I’m a huge fan of humanity. There is just something about the image of God present in the human story. It’s fuel for my passions!

Humanity’s relationship with God may appear as a one-sided conversation, but to me, it is more akin to a dance between lovers: the creativity, the laughter, the lights, the music; it’s all the handiwork of God on display through God's most splendid grandeur . . . people!

I am captured by a sense of delight every time I hear the voice of Bing Crosby and the multiple renditions of his popular Christmas carol. Although we struggle through the hustle and bustle of the season, I’m certain we are moved by the genteelness and romance emanating from the words. . . “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”.

For some of us, I wonder if those words instill a sense of hope that this year things will be different, and for others perhaps it's simply the anticipation of the season. Whatever the response is nonetheless, the lyrics bring a stirring to our hearts worthy of overcoming the greatest of holiday humbugs.

My soul cannot help but wonder with the passing of another season, what really are the dreams that we hold onto, or perhaps better yet, what are the dreams that hold on to us?

When I meet people, I often inquire about their dreams (it’s a great way to start a conversation). I have come to realize through these interactions that so often our dreams are really all about us! Instead of having dreams that bring us to life, they bring us discouragement and hopelessness submerged in doubt.

Think about it? What are your dreams?

My tendency is to have dreams that are all about me! Accomplishing things by me for me! We all have dreams of belonging, becoming, and believing, but if we were to be honest with ourselves, how many of us leave God out of those dreams? Typically, we aspire on a daily basis to make our dreams a reality through egotistical ways, which to no avail only leads us on a cyclical journey of wasted effort, the hardening of our hearts and the loss of the dreams God has designed for our lives.

Given our human nature, it doesn't surprise me that we inherently focus on ourselves, but it certainly seems odd to me that we would choose a special day like Christmas to intentionally do so . . . Oh yea, that isn’t actually the reason for the season, perhaps our western ways of living have duped us while we were sleeping.

Like the dancing disillusion of holiday deception, is it possible that we have been deceived by our dreams as well? What if our dreams stopped being about us and actually began to focus on others? What if God created us to have dreams that inspired us to serve humanity? What would the world look like if all of us embraced dreams that moved us to live at our fullest capacity, celebrating the human spirit by serving humanity!

Jesus once said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Jesus' invitation wasn't about safety or getting to go to heaven, but instead it was so much more! It was about living an abundant life now! It was about empowering us to engage life at its fullest and help others to do the same!

Jesus wasn't saying come, follow me and I'll show you what you can have, he was saying come, follow me and I'll show you what you have to give. Jesus’ intention was never to move us towards self- gratification, consumerism and isolation! Rather, just the opposite takes place; lives are transformed, marriages are healed, addictions are demolished, isolation becomes a thing of the past and intimacy becomes our present reality.

I am convinced that God’s dreams for you and me is to give our lives away and to use our lives to inspire the world to live by faith, to be known by love and to be a voice of hope to the world. Simply stated, when we live the dreams of God, our lives will find that which we long for the most: intimacy, purpose and meaning!

Steve writes:
I remember the first time Nick came and sat in my office to get better acquainted.  This was exactly the question he asked me and I immediately began sharing my dreams.  Ironically, I had arranged the meeting because I wanted to hear his. (We did get around to that.)  I believe the reason Nick and I have become friends is that the dreams we share are God's dreams for the particular faith communities God has called us to lead.

Advent is an expression of God's dream that His people would no longer be separated from Him by the chasm of their sin.  It was  not because of self-gratification, but because He knew would never be the people He created us to be unless our brokenness was ended and a right relationship had been restored.  But He also knew that sin blinded us to our own brokeness or simply wrote it off to imperfection rather than a fundamental flaw in the human fabric.  Our mad-long pursuit of consumption in a season that leads up the celebration of a homeless infant's birth is a symbol of that brokeness. 

And perhaps most powerfully, God expressed His dream coming onto the planet and into our broken lives to seek and to save - to serve.

Maybe it is time to stop chasing after and holding onto dreams that simply continue our enslavement to self-gratification and to embrace a dream that exists to serve.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DID MR OBAMA GET IT?

The election is over and in just a few weeks we will begin to do the business of the people with a Democratic controlled Senate and a Republican controlled House.  The big question after the election has been, "Did Mr. Obama get it?" Did he understand that the majority of Americans have apparently rejected the policies by which he was attempting to govern the nation?

Dana Millbank, writing in The Washington Post summarized the press conference held afterwards in this way, posted 11/3/10:

The president, facing the media in the East Room the day after what he called his “shellacking” at the polls, admitted it had been a “long night.” He confessed that it “feels bad.” He acknowledged “sadness” that so many friends and allies had lost their seats.


But what he would not acknowledge is that his policies had in any way contributed to the shellacking and sadness.

The Associated Press’s Ben Feller asked if he would concede that the midterms had been “a fundamental rejection of your agenda.”

Obama declined. “What they were expressing great frustration about is the fact that we haven’t made enough progress on the economy.”

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie noticed that “you don’t seem to be reflecting or second-guessing any of the policy decisions.”

“Over the last two years, we have made a series of very tough decisions, but decisions that were right,” Obama volleyed.

“You still resist the notion that voters rejected the policy choices you made?”

“Voters are not satisfied with the outcomes,” the president said.

No matter how many ways reporters phrased the question, the answer was the same. CNN’s ED Henry suggested there may be “a majority of Americans who think your polices are taking us in reverse,” and asked: “You just reject that idea altogether that your policies could be going in reverse?”

“Yes,” Obama said sharply.

This a clip from that press conference.


 
Scot McKnight began a thread on his Jesus Creed blog continuing the discussion:
 
"What the critics of Obama are not understanding is that he does get it, and what it means for him is “Stay the course.” Obama doesn’t think the election results means he has to change; it means he has to do better at what he believes in and is already doing. No backing down here at all.


The one thing all should admire here is that Obama believes in what he is doing. It may well cost him the 2012 election, but he’s a true-blue liberal and he knows exactly what that means. It means he will stay the course. Which means I don’t think there’ll be much change in the next two years.

One of the comments on his post followed with:
"The problem with democracy is that conviction in the face of popular sentiment gets you fired. While I’m on the fence as far as some of his decisions, I can respect his unwillingness to pander to the polls".


Comment by Jeremy — November 4, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

"I would prefer that Obama did change course since I disagree with many of his policies. However, I would suggest that his attitude of not backing down is even simpler than suggested above. I think he is taking a gamble and hoping that the economy will turn around. I don’t think the American people (or any people for that matter)are as deeply principled as we might hope. As a politician you can do pretty much what you want as long as people have jobs, are earning good money and are well fed. I think Obama is hoping this will turn around than he will have more freedom for his agenda."

Comment by Andrew Potter

With these observations I want to add my own reflection. 
President Obama is a far more pragmatic leader than we give him credit for. The left wing of the Democratic Party has mistaken his liberalism for their failed extremism.  The Republicans have allowed too much political capital to be lost be not responding to those who impugn his citizenship and those who play to the often surreal diabtribes of the the conservative extreme.

I tend to agree with Andrew that the principles of too many Americans are about an inch deep, easily set aside when our prosperity and confort is threatened.  The policies espoused by both sides are rarely principled positions, consistent even at the price of personal self-sacrifice.  We want everyone to have the good life as long as we don't have to pay for someone else's good life.  The social policies of the left are often pursued with a the State knows best mentality that would have made the French Revolution proud - a revolution that destroyed many a life through the tyranny of those in power.  The deregulative polices of the right are often pursued with a sense of self serving that actually believes the lie that everyone can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and continues to doom more and more families to no health care or tort protection at all.

Unfortunately, I think Mr. Obama's policies still haven't addressed the two most critical issues facing our nation in the minds of most voters -- jobs and health care.  I am waiting to see what he is willing to do to provide substantive answers to these grave concerns.  And I am hoping Mr. Boehner will be concerned that his party will work with the best solutions that benefit all the people. I fear Ms. Pelosi has already revealed her lack of commitment to such a solution.

Friday, November 26, 2010

MUST SEE FOR BLACK FRIDAY

Alphabet Photography created a "must-see" flash mob video in a food court of the "Hallelujah Chorus."  This might make the Black Friday mania worth it all if this appeared at a mall near you.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THANKSGIVING?

One of the short-lived TV series I enjoyed was produced by Alan Sorkin called Sports Night.  A friend, Tammie Gitt, posted this video on her blog living3368.  I decided to repost and just ask, What did you learn from Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

WHY WE CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING

A good friend of mine, Rich Thornton, posted this video on his Facebook page.  It speaks as to why I believe Christians celebrate Thanksgiving ... or should.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MONDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS - $3.00 GAS, THANKSGIVING, CULTURE OF COMPASSION, DANGEROUS READING

Note: On the road and I didn't get this posted Monday.  Sorry for the delay.

Friday evening I left from a one day Prayer Retreat with nine persons from my church. They headed back to Landisville. My wife Dianne and headed westward along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to spend  Thanksgiving Week with my children in the Midwest.  As we approached Somerset PA I saw the signs announcing gasoline prices.  Three dollars a gallon! (Actually it's $3.00.9 as you read the fine print).  At first I thought it was for diesel. No, regular unleaded.  My spirit of thanksgiving is being tested. One of the life's great mysteries and one of its great challenges to household budget-making is the formula for pricing gasoline and the exact timing for when gas will rise and lower. Even with our high gasoline taxes, we haven't seen three dollar gas in Pennsylvania in a long time.  Is the economy REALLY improving? Price hikes make me wonder.

Thursday of this week is Thanksgiving.  Although a national holiday, not a religious one, it seems to me that the only thankfulness comes in that often abrupt prayer around a dinner table (sometimes the only prayer at that table until next Thanksgiving.)  In America this holiday seems more focused on turkey, football games, and plotting your shopping strategy for Black Friday which will begin in some stores is 12:01 am the next day. I wonder what would happen if we in this nation would spend at least as much time counting our blessings as we go wolfing down turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie - not to mention Miller Light, Doritos and leftovers during the Dallas Game.  We have so much, even those of us who are poor, in America compared to the rest of the world.  And at times we think of those blessings in terms of entitlement instead of gratitude.

I started reading a new book this week by a Christian author known for his more radical (i.e., nontraditional) thoughts about Christianity.  His name is Shane Clairborne, who has spent many years as an advocate for the poor, for the fringes of society, and for simple justice.  The book is actually a prayer book called Common Prayer--A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.In it he and his writing partners observed about the Advent season which begins next Sunday. "(Advent) is the biggest frenzy of retail spending. More than half of it, hundreds of billions of dollars a year,is spent as we celebrate the homeless Son of God in that stinky manger ... hundreds of Christian congregations are now rethinking Advent as a time for compassion instead of consumption."

Karen Spears Zacharias prompted the thought in me about dangerous reading. (Warning Mental Health Hazard Reading)  People often treat the Bible as a piece of benign literature. Christians can even be guilty cof this.  My experience is that Bible is filled with command and challenges that as a Christian I would be better off not reading them because then I have to take this ideas seriously if I chose to call my self a real Christian.  Here are just a few:

The first is from James 4:17: "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them." New International Version

Then Galatians 5:6." The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." New Living Translation

I John 4:20     "If anyone clains he loves God yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen."
Exodus 22:21    "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt."