Saturday, August 29, 2009


I am disturbed by the way we have racheted up public discussion over issues in our country to the level of harshness that creates even more hardened divisions at a time when a bipartisan approach has become critical to our nation's well-being. If you read the posting by one young man to my August 20 posting of McKnight's comments on
"Obamacare and Political Rhetoric," you will see that Christians (and Christian leaders) are held to a higher standard of attitude and behavior. (This, I might say, is a fair expectation--our Lord holds us to a higher standard.)

Three words from God's Word come to mind in all of this. One is Jesus' words in Matthew 5:16, "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Just before that he says, "You are the salt of the earth" (salt, in Jesus' day was a preservative and a seasoning.) But I am also reminded that in serving those two functions, too mugh salt is destructive.

The other is Paul's words in Ephesians 4.15 "speak the truth in love." Third are the words of Peter's admonition in I Peter 3.16 about sharing the essentials of our faith and values "with gentleness and respect." The words speak very clearly against the acidity and sometimes outright hatred in the way people engage in civil discourse in America today and are particularly incumbent upon Christians.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


There's a certain arrogance to blogging. You make the assumption that someone out in the world is ready for and in need of your pontifications on some earth-shattering topic. Or maybe there's some insanity because you are positioning yourself for someone to ridicule your ignorance or attack your cherished beliefs. There's some self-promotion because you want people to think you are an expert on something no matter how esoteric or mundane.

But some of us blog because of our creative urges. I, for one, am at my best when I am using the intellect and imagination God has given to help communicate an idea, or paint a picture of life, or bring energy and focus to a vision. When I step out of my every day stuff,I draw myself from the mere maintenance of life to the deepening of my soul. I begin to identify possibilities instead of simply getting projects completed. I see the beauty in God's design of my world and my life painted in rich colors of the heart rather than the grayscale of daily existence.

It is the same simple joy that writers both profound and anonymous have found in their craft. Writing (and hence blogging) is one of the ways we live life to the max.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I played my worst round of golf in more than a year last Friday. It was on a course I really like with some very good friends. But the golf was a mess. I won't tell you my score except that I had six triple bogies on the front nine and my best scores of the day were two bogies on par three's. Normally I am a pretty fair putter, but ran a string of three puts that made me wonder if I even know how to read a line to the hole. This summer I've finally started hitting the fairway on my tee shots (long a bane to my golfing existence) but I found maybe four fairways of the eighteen that I stepped onto. And this summer I finally learned how to hit out of sand trap (after only 30 years), but today ... well, you have a pretty good idea.

Why do I play golf? Because I ENJOY IT. It only takes sinking a 50 foot putt (which I have done on more than one occasion) or dropping one on the green next to pin to have a chance at par to get me back on the course. Some of us take a lot of pleasure out of very small things.

So despite my bad round (and there have been a couple in the last month), I will return to the course with good friends (oh yes, that's my strongest reason for playing golf--the good friends I have been able to spend some quality time with, times THEY particularly enjoy because they can generally count on at least beating me.

Are we having fun yet?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


One of the blogs I read regularly is called JESUS CREED by Scot McKnight, a New Testament scholar with impecible evangelical credentials and thoughtful reflections. His posting yesterday I thought was worth passing on for your prayerful consideration.

Posted: 19 Aug 2009 03:49 AM PDT

The recent inflagration in rhetoric, comparing Obama to socialism or Hitler and the like, is a lazy, morally inexcusable way of getting an emotional response and often carried off in the absence of concrete evidence or knowledge of actual policy.

But it works, and so both sides have tried it -- from Nancy Pelosi to Rush and Sean Hannity. The issue for us is what kind of rhetoric Christians should use in public discourse.

Example: Is it accurate and non-distorting (or inaccurate and distorting) to say Obamacare is socialism?

When done well, apocalyptic rhetoric has an important place in American politics. Apocalyptic and politics are friends. We should not blame this on Republicans though; the Democrats were full of it during the Bush and Reagan years. It's the way our politicians and whistle-blowers like to warn. But it has moral limits and we need to know them. It has a power and an intent, and we need to know them too.

What might surprise the Democrats is that, in our own history of public rhetoric about politics and religion, we have seen a regular use of the jeremiad, the threat that if we don't change, God will judge us or our country will fall apart. Sometimes political rhetoric gets ratcheted up with apocalyptic warnings, by both sides in American history. I read a collection of essays by American historians, and I reviewed some it on this blog (Prophesies of Godlessness), and it really surprised me how often the language became apocalyptic -- including Jefferson and Emerson -- when their major ideas got involved. The Puritans and their opponents had the same form of rhetoric.

The Democrats famously resorted to this under Reagan and then again under Bush, and now the Republicans are resorting to it and Palin's "death panels" was a good example. So, let's not get all bent out of shape about it. Instead, let's learn how to use rhetoric wisely as Christians. A few thoughts:

I have to admit that (1) I have begun to resent this sort of language in public discourse today because it is so common and so extreme that it is losing its force. It's becoming a bit like shock talk instead of genuine rhetorical persuasion. (2) But, let's admit this: the prophets of ancient Israel through Revelation used extreme rhetoric often. (3) I have become convinced apocalyptic rhetoric is a form of "ultimate warning" rather than genuine expectation.

What most of it means, then, is "our country's future hangs in the balance and, if we make the wrong decision here, something irreversibly bad may happen."

Monday, August 17, 2009


Learn more about the Church of God Landisville by going to our blog NEWSBREAK FROM CHURCH OF GOD OF LANDISVILLE which is accessible at or by going to our website at


I have enabled this blog so that you can post comments without being registered as a follower, or having a registration with blog spot. Just go the COMMENT section and follow the instructions for posting.


If all goes well, Dianne and I will slip away a few days next week to the beach to celebrate our 37th Wedding Anniversary. We will be heading to one of Dianne's favorite vacation spots, Assateague Island near Ocean City MD. The fact that it's the beach is enough to restore her soul. The surf, the sea breezes, the great blue skies are an atmosphere where Dianne feels very close to God. For me the fact that I can turn off my cell phone and read a good book, sharing a quiet afternoon with my wife, is a pleasure to be treasured.

Assateague has another attraction--its wild horses. These protected animals often share the beach with the sunbathers and body surfers. They are magnificent animals with a unique history that remind us that this island is not one of those sandy amusement parks that pass for beaches on so much of the East Coast. This island is a wildlife preserve, a reminder of the creation that we are blessed to inhabit and called by God to protect and use wisely.

We should treasure our planet, its life and its resources. They are part of God's gift to humankind. Their beauty and their charm are part of what makes Christians sing, "This is my Father's World."

Thursday, August 6, 2009


A while back I suggested that we share the books we would keep in our library. In addition to my NIV/Message Parallel Bible, I would keep these 16 volumes that have significantly impacted me and continue to do so.

3. Dallas Willard HEARING GOD
4. Rebecca Pippert HOPE HAS ITS REASONS
5. Mark Buchanan THE REST OF GOD
8. Tim Hansel HOLY SWEAT
9. Douglas Rumford SOUL-SHAPING (out-of-print(
11. Dietrich Bonhoeffer THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
12. Gordon Stuart and Douglas Fee HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS WORTH
14. Calvin Miller ONCE UPON A TREE

Later I will share the 15 fiction books I would retain.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


My friend Ethan Galebach posted this comment on his Facebook page yesterday.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -Wayne Gretzky

Gretsky is on to something. In a world where people want to be inoculated against risk, many people never want to exert themselves or extend themselves. Fear of failure or fear of accountability often lead to the unwillingness to even try unless you can insure success and/or approval.

The Christian church in China might have died at the hands of Mao and the Red Guard if countless and nameless believers hadn't taken a risk.

Imagine a world where no one ever took a risk. Many of us residing in the United States today would still be thinking that Europe was the center of the universe and that you fell off the world somewhere beyond the Azores. Except for a man named Christopher Columbus. who took a risk.

People on a US Air flight that lost power over Manhattan might have died in a crash somewhere except for a pilot who took the risk that he could land on the Hudson River.

Slaves would have remained in bondage in the Deep South if some Quakers and others had not risked reputation and prosecution to create the Underground Railroad.

Soldiers would have continued to die needless death on the endless battlefields of Europe if a woman named Clara Barton hadn't taken a risk and carried medical treatment (and herself) into harm's way.

No great achievement that has truly benefited humankind has been accomplished without someone taking a risk and even paying a heavy price for that risk.

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than when he lays down his life for a friend."

Love is not afraid of risk.


My beloved Detroit Tigers have been a pleasant surprise. They have been first-place in the American League's Central Division now since ..... Although they have only one player batting over 300 (Miguel Cabrerra) they have managed to win through pitching. Two of their most dependable stars have been Allstars Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson. The other three rotation spots have been held down by a revolving door group whose pitching has been up and down.

Last week they added another proven ace, Seattle Mariners' Jarrod Washburn. He started last night against the Baltimore Orioles.

Someone once said you cannot win a World Series without solid starting pitching. Good pitchers command among the highest salary prices in Major League baseball. That's why going into the July 31st trade deadline--the most talked about and sought after player was baseball's best pitcher today, Toronto's Roy Halladay. The Phillies, seeking to repeat aa World Series champs went after him--but the price was far too dear--basically their young pitching future. So Halladay remains a Blue Jay.

It'll be interesting to see if Washburn can help the Tigers pull away from the White Sox and the Twins in a tightly contested division race. And then to silence the bats of the likes of the Angels, Yankees and Red Sox in the ALCS.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

15 books in 15 Minutes

Mike Stallons, a pastor friend from Charleston IL sent me this "library response."

15 Books in 15 Minutes

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Name fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.

1. The Holy Bible - Our Awesome Creator and Recreator
2. Where is God when it hurts? Phillip Yancey
3. Disappointed with God - Phillip Yancey
4. The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
5. Healing for Damaged Emotions - David A Seamands
6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
7.The Road Less Traveled - M Scott Peck
8. The Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren
9. How to make your children mind without loosing yours - Kevin Leman
10. Transitioning - Dan Southerland
11. Total Money Makeover - Dave Ramsey
12. Wounds that Heal - Stephen Semands
13. The Blessings of Brokenness - Charles Stanley
14. Celebration of Disciplines - Richard Foster
15. Invitation to a Journey - Robert Mullholland


Scott McKnight publishes a thoughtful blog called JESUS CREED. It is a daily commentary on Jesus and orthodox Christianity in the 21st century. You can access this blog by going to the blogs I follow section in my profile or by Googling Jesus Creed at

The worst society I can imagine is one where Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris get to determine what is good and what is bad and where they get to determine who is good and who is bad.

They are, you know, Christianity's fiercest (and sometimes uninformed) critics and, once we let them rip all traces of Christianity (or religion) from culture and society, I can't imagine they will be able to find any grounds for morality. Let them yack all they want about the problem of "religion." Their beef is with Christianity. Nietzsche, at least, understood Christianity as a cross-shaped form of love and sacrifice. He knew what he was staring at and he knew the alternatives.

But Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris have chosen to ignore what Christianity teaches, fasten themselves on all the bad they can find about those who have abused Christianity to their own ends, and then offer to the world a vision of peace and tolerance and justice shorn of Christianity (or religion).

Problem #1 enters. If DHH were to spend more time thinking through the issues, they would have to admit that what they want for society -- justice, for example -- is clear biblical teaching and that's where their vision originated. Problem #2: they also need to admit that what they want for their new society is what they inherited from a mostly Christian social world in which they were nurtured. There is no promise that if they got the world purged of religion that they'd get a Christian social ethic without the religion parts. In fact, as David Bentley Hart argues in his new book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies , they're playing with dynamite -- apocalyptic chaos.

So begins our series on David Bentley Hart's new book ... join us for this bi-weekly series.

Hart is an intellectual's intellectual. He's orthodox, he's unafraid of impolitic ideas, and he's taken on the critics in this book -- a book that sweeps us through Christian theology and Western civilization in order to put Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris to the test.

Here are some of his opening claims about the book: "... that among all the many great transitions that have marked the evolution of Western civilization ... there has been only one -- the triumph of Christianity -- that can be called in the fullest sense a 'revolution'..." (xi). "And," he says, "I am convinced that, given how radically at variance Christianity was with the culture it slowly and relentlessly displaced, its eventual victory was an event of such improbability as to strain the very limits of our understanding of historical causality" (xi).

Along with this claim for Christianity, he tosses dust into the eyes of modernity, which he rejects: "I mean the modern age's grand narrative of itself: its story of the triumph of critical reason over 'irrational' faith, of the progress of social morality toward greater justice and freedom, of the 'tolerance' of the secular state, and of the unquestioned ethical primacy of either individualism or collectivism (as the case may be)" (xi).

Hart tires of the DHH line that religion is violent and therefore should be put to rest. Why? Because "the modern secular state's capacity for barbarism exceeds any of the evils for which Christendom might justly be indicted, not solely by virtue of the superior technology at its disposal, but by its very nature" (xii). I'm not yet a fan of his prose style, but I'll get over it.