Friday, March 30, 2012


Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." - John 18:36

2012 is a presidential election year.

As the year proceeds, politics will increasingly dominate the attention and the passions of the nation.  This year's election antagonisms are being intensified by a strong thread of religious rhetoric. Many conservative Christians see Mr. Obama as an enemy of the highest order - one, because his positions seem to be closely aligned with the Christian left and by the persistent notion that he is a Moslem hiding in the clothing of the very liberal United Church of Christ. And thirdly, because his political actions seem to intent of promoting the largely often Christian-despising secular left. And those on the Christian left that unfortunately seem to dominate the clergy of Mainline Churches often espouse positions that a sense that cultural priorities trump biblical values. They attack conservative Christian candidates with an intensity equal to the conservative's attacks on the President.

A little while ago I was having lunch with some pastoral colleagues who were passionately discussing the co-opting of a major Christian university by those who are pursuing the homosexual "agenda." (Please note that I believe there is a homosexual agenda. More about that another time.)

Sitting at lunch with us was a young man who comes from a church that espouses biblical values.

For those of you who only pay attention to religious political rhetoric, biblical values are neither conservative nor liberal. Christians trying to live authentic biblical lifestyles think that Christ and His purposes are more important than any human philosophy and are repulsed by the claims of both the Christian Right and Christian Left that theirs is the authentic Christian faith.  Both the Right and the Left are not careful about letting their culture values trump their biblical values. Authentic biblical Christians, I have found are conservative on moral issues - like human sexuality, homosexuality, abortion vs "choice."  They are "liberal" on social issues like justice, poverty, the environment.

This young man asks what drives the whole homosexuality debate.  "Fear" was the answer (with which I concur).  "What are they afraid of? was his response.  The debate discussed that issue more and then returned to the dissection of the original political issue.

The young man said to me quietly.  "I need to tell you that I was genuinely excited by the outcome of the last election. Not because I agreed with all the positions of the candidate, but thrilled that my children now lived in a nation where a black man could be elected president.  My fear is that my children will grow up in a world dominated by secular values where there is no place for God."

We continued our discussion and talked about how ill-equipped the church was to be in this debate because politics seem to have become more important than making disciples. (If you have forgotten, that's why Jesus says we exist - to make disciples.)  Instead "we have simply become the haters in the culture." 

It is a position we have earned--sadly.

In letting fighting culture wars pre-empt the proclamation of the gospel we have made expressions of religion in public life something unwelcome.   (Scott McKnight has an excellent discussion on this issue. Please read.)
The Pew Trust, a highly responsible group that measures religious values, notes that more and more Americans are expressing the position that politicians should tone down the religious rhetoric and focus on answering the pressing issues facing the nation. Read ...

My counsel to all Christians is to be a part of the politic process behaving like Christians and expressing your Christian values, but not erode the evangelistic mission of the church to fight every cultural like just one more political action group. 

And perhaps we need to reflect on these words of CS Lewis, amply supported by the Word of God.

“A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat "Do as you would be done by" till I am black in the fact, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbour as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him. And so, as I warned you, we are driven on to something more inward - driven on from social matters to religious matters.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I am having a bout with pneumonia. As a result, I have been home a lot and last week probably watch at least fifty different sports cycles on ESPN.  Last week was filled with Manning's journey to Denver, the on again-off trade of Tim Tebow to the Jets, the NCAAs as they began heading from the Sweet Sixteen to the Final Four, spring training news, and the bad news story of the New Orleans Saints and bounties.  As a result, a whole lot of my posts have been focusing on sports.  I know only a part of my subscribing readership (29 on Blogspot and 13 on Wordpress (Both versions of the blog are visited 50-60 times a day not counting the Facebook views through Networked Blogs) are interested in sports, so I am starting something new.  I call it Tuesday Sports Desk. Tuesday is the day to hear my commentary on sports.  I will generally restrict my sports posts to that day, unless something in the world of sports has become major news in our culture.  Hope this gives you some more clarity on what to expect from this blog.

I suspect the biggest news of last week was Peyton Manning's signing with the Denver Broncos and its ripples across the contract negotiations across the NFL. Once the face of the Indianapolis Colts (plus the Circle City's most popular citizen), he has become Mile High Manning.  I continue to be impressed with Manning, who did not drag out negotiations, who signed a contract designed to actually protect the financial viability of the Broncos, and the positive way he handled his relationships with people like Tim Tebow.  Rumor was that the owner of the Titans was literally prepared to make him part own of the franchise, and to give him say so in the coaching staff, the draft, etc.  Fortunately, the self-effacing Manning just wanted to play football.

I am going to refrain from commenting further on Tim Tebow.  I have already surrendered a 50 year allegiance to the Cleveland Browns, who are now a case study of locker room and front office ineptitude. The Broncos have become my team, and I will root for the Detroit Lions; but all of that is now months away, which is fine. Opening Day for Major League Baseball is now eight days away. Now that's America's game - or at least this American's.

Last weekend's Sweet Sixteen contests were among some of the most exciting in years. One of my Final Four picks, Missouri, didn't even get that far.  I had been rooting for Ohio and Indiana, even though Kentucky is my pick for the ultimate winner.  Aaron Craft continued to be a powerful on-court force for the Buckeyes.

My sentimental Final Four was Kentucky, Ohio State, Kansas and Baylor with the Buckeyes winning.  My realistic Final Four was Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri and North Carolina with Kentucky winning. Ironically, the Final Four I picked with my heart rather than my bracketology seems to be the more accurate. Kentucky, Ohio State, Louisville, Kansas.  Dare I hope now that the Buckeyes win?


Came across a great website called MENTAL FLOSS.  This one of their articles. Read more at FLOSS

© William Whitehurst/Corbis

 Because the Gideons put them there! The Gideon Bible is not some special version or translation of the Bible that hotels really like (the books are usually plain old King James Versions); they’re named for the group that distributes them. Gideons International got its start in 1898, when two traveling businessmen, John H. Nicholson and Samuel E. Hill, arrived at the crowded Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin, for the night. The two had never met, but there was only one double room left, so they decided to share it. The men got to talking and found they shared a common faith and had both toyed with the idea of creating an evangelical association for Christian businessmen. They decided to give it a shot together. They called a meeting the following year for men who were interested in joining together for “mutual recognition, personal evangelism, and united service for the Lord.”

 Only one other person showed up to that meeting—William J. Knights, who suggested they name their organization after Gideon, an Old Testament judge who led a small band of men to defeat a much larger army. As the group expanded in its first few years, most of the new members were men who frequently traveled for work and spent many of their nights in hotel rooms. They wondered how they might be more effective witnesses for Christ on the road, and hit upon the idea of providing Bibles to hotels. They could be used not only by the Gideons’ members as they traveled around the country, but also borrowed by other guests in need of them. They started with the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana, then set out to put a Bible in every hotel room in America. Since 1908, they’ve distributed more than 1.7 billion Bibles, expanding beyond the U.S. to more than 190 other countries.

Passing Them Out The Gideons don’t go room to room themselves, slipping the books in nightstands like Bible elves. When a hotel opens, local Gideons members will present a Bible to the hotel’s general manager in a small ceremony and then give enough books for each room and some extras to the housekeeping staff for distribution. In addition to hotel rooms, the Gideons also give Bibles to military bases, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and to students on college campuses. Each Bible handed out is free of charge, and the project is funded entirely by donations to the group. The Gideons will also replace any books that go missing or get worn out, and the group says that the books have a six-year life expectancy, on average. They don’t get bent out of shape when people ignore the “thou shalt not steal” rule when it comes to the Bibles, either. They’d rather you just take the book if you need it that badly.

Based on the success of the Gideons’ Bible project — the group’s own statistics claim 25% of the people who check into a hotel room will read the Bible placed there — other religious groups have begun distributing their own free literature to hotels. The Marriott hotel chain, founded by a Mormon, places the The Book of Mormon in many of its rooms, and many hotels also offer Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Scientist or Scientologist books along with the standard Gideon Bible.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Shawn Lyons Jegede is an insightful and passionate African-American pastor with my parent denomination, the Churches of God, General Conference.  Last week she sent this message to her colleagues across the church.:

"Speaking to my pastor colleagues: I know we sometimes shy away from controversy but I implore you not to remain silent on this issue of racism and the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. I know it may be awkward to deal with but, as true witnesses of Christ, we too must fight injustice and stand for what is right as He did. We are the light of the world and darkness can only exist when light is absent. Open your hearts and observe the wounds this case has reopened. Not sure what you can do? Here are a few suggestions. Sign one of the petitions for the case and encourage everyone in your congregation to as well. Hold a time of prayer during worship this Sunday and pray for everyone involved directly in the case. Pray also for everyone who's heard about it that God help us all assess ourselves and receive healing from prejudice and from the effects of being discriminated against. Finally, talk about racism openly with your congregation and allow space for people to be honest and receive spiritual direction and support. Let us not allow Satan's weapon of racism to hide in our hearts or in our pews. --Your sister in Christ."

I am taking her words to heart. By now, you are well aware (I hope) of Trayvon Martin, the young African-America gunned down in Sanford, Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.  Trayvon was shot and killed February 26.  The Sanford police have not yet arrested Zimmerman even on suspicion of murder.  Zimmerman defends his actions on a law in Florida known as the Stand Your Ground Law.  A quick reading of this law makes such a defense dubious at best.

The police have already admitted that Zimmerman violated major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual, which states, “it should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.”

Although some are prone to see racism behind every encounter between African-Americans and the police, this is not the first time Sanford police have been accused of racial motivations.  Even the city manager of Sanford is considering dismissing the chief of police.  You only have to see pictures of Trayvon and Zimmerman to seriously question that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman. And once Zimmerman started chasing Zimmerman, the self-defense argument seems to go out the window.

For a time-line of these events, now almost 30 days old, go to ABC NEWS.

The persistence of such incidents remind us that racism is not dead in America. It continues to be an insidious reality that damages participatory democracy.  I know white persons, some of whom have been on the short end of the affirmative action initiatives, find it hard to think well of African-Americans and I know that too often the race card has been played African-American radicals who have abandoned any semblance of respecting people not of their race. But none of this changes the fact that until we treat one another as fellow Americans, neighbors with the same needs, similar dreams, and the same inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, ours will not be a nation of integrity.  And while the rest of the country persists in justifying racist attitudes, we as Christians have absolutely no right to such a position.  It is time for we as disciples of Jesus Christ to declare that racism has no place in the kingdom of God.  We need to be doing something about it.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said it would not allow Christian proselytizing to continue in Yemen and threatened to attack other U.S. citizens and interests if the United States does not stop aiding Israel, viewed as an enemy by most Arab nations.

“The United States, its infidel subjects and interests, are legitimate targets for our jihad until it ends its war against Islam and Muslims, starting with its aid for Jews in Palestine and recurring crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.”

Joel Shrum, murdered in Yemen
The occasion for this pronouncement the killing of Joel Shrum, gunned down in Yemen last week. Joel was a Christian, one who was in Yemen to help Yemenis learn English. The slain teacher had worked at the International Training and Development Center, which was established in the 1970s and is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in Yemen.Shrum actually urged Yemenis not to abandon their faith. He did not proselytize. Shrum not only taught Yemenis English, but would often buy students books and assist them in learning computer skills. Read more .... This one was close to home as Joel was from next-door Mount Joy and his in-laws are next door neighbors to my father in another city.

Al-Qaida and its tribe are most dangerous group on the planet.  Their crimes are made more heinous because they do it in the name of their god. They are also at heart religious totalitarians.  They are no friends of freedom.  For all of the vilification heaped on America for its wars in the Middle East, we persist in being the nation persistently and vigilantly opposing the tyranny these haters propose to inflict not only on Christian
infidels but on every people who does not share their faith.  And what I have learned for Muslims in this country with whom I have become acquainted, these actions do not reflect the Koran's teaching about jihad and Islamic nations who refuse to reign in these terrorist make the concept of a peace-loving Moslem difficult to practice.  Muslims who respect other religions, who honor the freedom they have are often terrorized themselves by the Islamists.
My prayer is that starting in nations like Yemen and Egypt and Indonesia that those governments will begin to see the threat Al-Qaida is and stop offering them sanctuary and support.

Friday, March 23, 2012


From Dan Masshardt, writing as CHOOSE TODAY

We are in an ongoing battle with Jesus.  The battle for lordship over our lives.

The cosmic reality is that Jesus is Lord.  But the sad human reality is that we want to retain lordship over our own lives.  We want to call the shots – make our own decisions.  This is true for individuals and for churches.
We’re continually naive enough to think that our ideas might work better than His.

Jesus will win the war.  One day every knee will bow to him and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
But will we – will you – not only say the words but live in light of the truth that Jesus is Lord?

Someone once said to me that the problem with being a living sacrifice is that you can crawl off the alter.

It’s time to give up and let Him have His way.

From Christian blogger Greg West and THE POACHED EGG ...

Bats Aren’t Bugs!! (They’re Not Birds Either)

bats arent bugsMy all-time favorite comic strip is Calvin and Hobbes. Although its original run lasted less than ten years and the author retired from drawing the strip in 1995, it still remains one of the most popular and most read. One common recurring theme in the strip is about how Calvin’s overactive imagination and his propensity to procrastinate in doing his homework often gets him in trouble at school, as is the case with his assignment to do an oral report on bats.
Thinking himself already an expert on the subject of bats, Calvin waits until the last minute to throw something together for his report. Expecting to dazzle his teacher and fellow students with his impressive knowledge, Calvin begins his report in front of the class:
“Dusk! With a creepy tingling sensation, you hear the fluttering of leathery wings! BATS! With glowing red eyes and glistening fangs, these unspeakable giant bugs drop into…”

That’s as far as Calvin gets before he is abruptly cut off by his classmates who spontaneously shout out in unison, “BATS AREN’T BUGS!!”  At this point Calvin verbally lashes out at his fellow students for daring to challenge his obvious expertise on the subject before finding himself invited to a private audience with his teacher, whose first question was probably to ask where he got his information from.

I empathize with Calvin, as I myself remember giving oral reports in school; sometimes making them up on the spot. The difference between me and Calvin is that I knew better than to try this with a subject in which I was not thoroughly familiar with. Calvin thought he knew all there was to know about bats, when in fact he knew very little, other than the fact that they resembled some giant drooling bug he had seen in one of his comic books, or in a horror movie that quite possibly gave him a bad case of the ‘heebie jeebies’. Like Calvin’s fellow students, we ourselves would be quick to point out that Calvin is obviously mistaken when it comes to his classification of bats as bugs. If Calvin had said that they were birds instead of bugs, maybe he could have squeaked by with just a few muffled chuckles from his classmates instead of the more humiliating rebuke dished out by his classmates; but probably not as everyone today knows that bats are mammals and not birds. Had Calvin said they were birds instead of bugs, he probably would have been subjected to the students yelling out a chorus of, “BATS AREN’T BIRDS!!” Like I said, everyone today knows that bats are indeed, not birds.

Many critics of the Bible are quick to point out that the Bible cannot be deemed reliable because it contains errors, similar to Calvin’s, in classifying bats as birds in chapter 11 of the book of Leviticus. Perhaps if Moses had done just a little bit of research, as Calvin should have done, this gross misclassification of bats would not be in the Bible, and I would not be sitting here today, writing this essay in the defense of biblical inerrancy. If only Moses would have consulted his Hebrew edition of the world encyclopedia, or discussed the issue with one of the local ornithologists, he might have saved us modern defenders of the faith some time and effort.

The problem with this objection to biblical inerrancy is that the critics, reading through the lenses of modern science, are reading into an ancient passage, written in an ancient language, to an ancient people, something that is just not there; in other words, they are not reading this passage in its proper context. As we say when it comes to biblical interpretation, “Context is everything.”
In a recent issue of The Christian Research Journal, apologist James Patrick Holding put it this way:
A popular phrase today says, ‘Context is everything,’ While this may seem an overstatement, in reality, it is not far from the truth. Context is a governing aspect of all communication, and without it, critics of the Bible do little more than manufacture pretexts favoring their own agendas.1
In the King James Bible, Leviticus 11:13, 19 reads, “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls… the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.” Holding addresses the context of this passage earlier in the same article:
Using English translations that read ‘fowls’ or ‘birds’, critics accuse the author of Leviticus of erring in placing bats, which are mammals, under this classification. This objection, however, perpetuates a linguistic decontextualization. A modern, scientific definition of what a ‘bird’ was would not exist for another 3,100 years. The objector assumes that when the author refers to ‘birds’ (Hebrew: ‘owph), it is meant to refer to a feathered, egg-laying animal. Here, however, the word used indicates classification by function or form: animals that fly.
Faced with an answer like this, some critics offer the strained counsel that since ‘experts in Hebrew’ chose the English word ‘bird’, they must have been aware that ‘owph meant a feathered, egg-laying animal—as though seriously proposing that the Hebrews had in mind the modern classification scheme that defines ‘bird’ in scientific terms that would not exist for at least three millennia. Admittedly, modern translations continue to use ‘bird’ despite the apparent conflict it causes. It is doubtful, however, that modern translators are doing anything more than preserving a popular reading, as opposed to making a statement about the scientific and technical content of Leviticus 11:13.2
So, whether you are a skeptic, a critic, or a proponent of biblical inerrancy, before you shout out something like, “BATS AREN’T BIRDS!!”, you may wish to pause a moment and first carefully consider the historical and literary context of the passage you are reading.

1. Context is Everything by James Patrick Holding; Christian Research Journal Vol. 34/3/2011 p11
2. ibid
The Poached Egg Apologetics

Thursday, March 22, 2012


A good friend and a blogger of the first order, Tammie Gitt, recently posted this article: It reflects my heart, as well.  We must pray for our soldiers and their families. - STEVE

I worked late tonight. It’s been a long day at the start of what promises to be a long week. I said goodnight to my coworker and flopped into the car, breathing a heavy sigh as I turned on the ignition and backed out of my parking space.

The radio was on but I wasn’t really listening. I was already thinking about what I had to do when I got home if I had any hopes of getting to bed early.

Then a word caught my attention – Afghanistan.

The man calling in to make a request was in Afghanistan and he wanted to hear a song. I’m not going to pretend to know how that happened or if the show was pre-recorded or what.

Like the DJ, I thought that I soldier charged with protecting supply lines would want to hear something a little more hardcore. Skillet? Thousand Foot Krutch?

But he asked for Casting CrownsPraise You In This Storm. It gets the guys through the day, he says. They’ve had a lot of losses recently and the song helps.

To be honest, I’ve kind of tired of the song. It seemed like every time I turned on the radio it was playing. This time was different. This time the DJ said goodbye to the soldier on the other end of the phone – the soldier half a world away fighting a war that’s gone on for a decade. This time the song became an anthem, a prayer, a whirlwind of thoughts.
I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
God, I was sure by now you would have reached down and brought these men and women home. You can do that. Bring us peace …
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining
Raining bullets and danger on soldiers who are doing their job but desperately want to see their families again …
As the thunder rolls
As the IED explodes and the crowds shout insults …
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
So much taken away … so many friends … lost … yet you are there  … and here …
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
On an Afghani mountainside or in a too-silent house on a military base
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
Lord, my day seems so simple, so easy when I think about what this soldier faced today. But I know you’re walking me through the mundane steps of my day just as you are guiding him through the valley of the shadow of death. I’m sorry that I forget about that. May your peace settle in our hearts tonight and may peace be realized in your creation. Amen.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I know that lately it looks like I'm turning LIFE MATTERS into a sports blog.  I'm not.  But sports occupy one the prime podiums of our culture and much of our nation lives in a world where sports is a part of their everyday experience and the focus of much of their conversation.  But because of that prominence, I am always impressed when its guardians take a courageous stand, one from integrity instead of simply the bottom line; who refuse to be mindless cheerleaders, but chose to be critical guardians of values that go beyond the world of sport.

One such person is Commissioner Roger Goodell of the National Football League. Today Commissioner Goodell leveled the deepest sanctions in the history of the league, sending a clear and forceful message that he would punish  illegal conduct, conduct that goes beyond unsportsmanlike to criminal.  For three years the NFL has been investigating charges about Assistant Coach Greg Williams and the New Orleans Saints, who allegedly were systematically offering bounties for hits by the defense aimed at one purpose - to injure stars and key players from their opponents so that they would be knocked out of a game.  Bounties have long been outlawed in the league which routinely reminds teams that such actions will not be tolerated - they will be punished.

The accusations proved true, and the crime (that is the correct word) was amplified by an intentional pattern of lying by Saints' coach Sean Payton and his staff. Payton is now suspended for one year, the suspension beginning before the NFL draft. He will not be paid more than $8 million dollars in salary.  Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, is suspended indefinitely with no review until the end of the 2012 season. Other staff received various suspensions.  The Saints were fined half a million dollars and key draft picks for the next two years.  Disciplinary action is soon to be announced against the players who participated in this system.

This is not an insignificant action. Goodell technically is employed by the league’s 32 owners, one of whom, the Saints’ Tom Benson, just lost the services of his head coach (Sean Payton) for the entire 2012 season and his general manager (Mickey Loomis) for half of it, not to mention a pair of second-round draft picks and $500,000. Another owner, the Ram's owner Stan Kroenke, lost his newly hired defensive coordinator (Gregg Williams) “indefinitely” (translation: at least a full season).

Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports wrote today:

From a personal perspective, Goodell’s penalties reflect the sentiments of an angry man – and, in fairness, he has every right to be furious.

Clearly, Payton and others in the Saints organization were stunned by the severity of Wednesday’s penalties. In retrospect, were they delusional? Who lies to his/her CEO, gets caught and expects to be dealt with gently? Who instructs associates to “make sure our ducks are in a row” in advance of interviews with company investigators (as Payton did in early 2010, per the NFL’s report), gets caught, fails to clean up the behavior in question and isn’t asked to clean out his office?

Mr. Goodell, thank you. As one who loves football and does not want it to go the way of buffoon sports like hockey that refuse to police the violence, and even market it--and wrestling that is now longer a sport but a  badly scripted "reality" show - you have sent a message that will be heard round the world.  And the integrity of the sport, not to mention the health and safety of its players will be preserved.


Reading: Matthew 6.9 "Our Father in heaven, holy be your name ..."

In my first church I had a wonderful friend named Jay. He was always telling people about his church and eager to introduce them to his young preacher. Jay was one of the church's deacons. He was also an auto mechanic, working for a shop that serviced and sold cars imported from England and Europe. One day he invited me to his shop to meet his boss, a man named Bob. Bob was a tall, cheerful, and garrulous man, ideally suited to sell cars.

When we arrived at the shop, however, Bob was anything by cheery. His head was stuck deep under the hood of a car along with his arms and hands. We heard banging and grunting and cursing. Bob was obviously having trouble with a repair. As we stepped up Jay began, "Bob, I'd like you ..." Before he could complete the sentence, Bob exploded "God d.....! Jesus, H .....!" (You can fill in the blanks). Jay, however, was still rolling and completed his sentence as Bob uttered the second, "Damn!" "... my preacher.!"

Bob emerged from under the hood, red-faced and embarrassed. As he quickly wiped grease from his hands to shake mine, he said sheepily, "I guess I shouldn't have been talking like that in front of a preacher."

My response: "I wouldn't worry about me, it wasn't my name you were using."

At the core of Jesus' instructions to his disciples during that famous prayer lesson, we are taught to say, "Holy is your name." How we use God's name is an expression of our reverence for Him--our honoring Him, our taking Him seriously. It is an our expression of our recognition that He is God and His name represents His power and position and purpose.

Does the way we speak to Him or about Him reflect our recognition of His holiness?


This post originally appeared in my devotional blog, THRIVING IN CHRIST

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Came across a delightful and insightful blog called A NEW NAME by Emma Scrivener. Here is a sample.

The World’s Worst Evangelist

What does it mean to hold out Jesus to others?

I’ve been thinking about this after a conversation I had with my mum. We were talking about what it means to be a Christian.  I desperately, desperately wanted her to understand. But the more I tried to explain, the deeper I foundered.     I knew what I wanted to say.  But the words got stuck somewhere between my brain and my mouth.

I wanted to say that it’s all about grace.  From start to finish, there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation – it’s all a free gift.  Even faith.

But then that left Mum with nothing to do.  Which felt a bit wrong. And like I hadn’t done my job properly.  So I thought, yeah –  we need to receive Him as well, right? And faith, we need to get faith.

But that makes faith sound like some sort of commodity I can pick up at the grocer’s.
And before I know it, my brain starts rattling and nonsense spews forth.  The Jesus I love becomes ‘God’ and ‘God’ becomes a list of concepts instead of a person. Instead of holding out a positive life-giving, joy-filled relationship, I’m twittering about what Christianity is Not. Everything is Negative.  Christianity is:

not just believing in God
not doing good stuff
not reading the Bible or going to church
not being baptised or giving blood or  going to prayer meetings.

Well, nice one Emma – this sounds like an invite to Betty Ford.
But it gets worse.

I panic and retreat. Time to pull out the big guns. Mum, I say. It’s about giving your life to Jesus.

But as the words come out of my mouth I’m thinking: what does this actually MEAN?  ’Giving your life to Jesus?’

Is it a phrase that Christians get, but no-one else?

You see, I know what I mean.  But stripped of my  theological wrapping paper, I start to unravel. I get complicated up. And my good intentions and so-called training and marriage to an evangelist start splintering in my hands. I forget I love Jesus.  I forget that He’s beautiful and brilliant and real.  I forget this is my mum and not a lecture hall.  I forget that I’ve got the Holy Spirit to make sense of my mutterings.
I guess it feels easier to talk in concepts, than about a living loving relationship. Safer and more objective – like emotions can be neatly side-stepped.
It’s easier to ask people to do stuff and make decisions, than to encourage them to receive.  (Five steps to salvation! Starting here..)

It’s easier to talk about ‘faith’ and ‘belief’  than a named and historical Person (especially when He dies in such an undignified way and then comes back).

It’s easier to tailor selected verses than stand upon the whole of the Bible.

It’s easier to say nothing or deliver a staccato speech than to stop and engage. Especially when it’s to someone you love.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Photo by Michelle Houts
Spring officially arrives Tuesday. In the Susquehanna Valley, spring has been around for almost two weeks. It is a wondrous blessing. Not only it saving my heating oil bill and giving more days to choose a tee time for golf, there is fragrance of early blossoming flowers and  the warm breezes that make those afternoon walks for my health more inviting.  I've already enjoyed cruising down the highway, windows rolled down, the Beach Boys erupting from my car speakers. Today I removed the snow shovel from the front porch and contemplated scheduling the first mowing of the season with Tim who cares for my lawn.  I am even contemplating scraping off the gas grill and cooking tonight's supper outdoors. Only the powerful draw of the John Carter movie kept me indoors on perhaps the best Sunday to date in 2012.

The first days of spring coincide with the middle rounds of March Madness.  (So far only Missouri of my projected Final Four has been eliminated.)  It is the beginning of the advertising for my favorite golf tournament, The Masters.  Fantasy baseball is in its final preseason trading and real baseball is less than two weeks away.

I love the spring.  Next to fall it is my favorite season.  I am savoring it, and even the April 17th tax deadline is not dappening it.

But the best part of spring for me is that always accompanies Easter. Easter is the undeniable and outrageously joyous lesson that Christ is Risen and because He is risen, we are risen.

Spring is about to spring and i am LOVING it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


A good friend of mine, Dan Masshardt, Facedbooked me this link to a fun retelling of the story of St. Patrick.  I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


 Collin Hansen writes for THE GOSPEL COALITION Blog. He shares this post regarding Colt McCoy, the much-maligned quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Thought this was worth sharing. - STEVE

The Story: Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy recently talked with Austin Stone Community Church pastor of preaching and vision Matt Carter about the most disappointing game of his football career. His University of Texas Longhorns lost the 2009 BCS National Championship Game to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide after McCoy suffered a game-ending injury in the first half at the Rose Bowl.

The Background: During his senior year at Texas, McCoy finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. McCoy led Texas to a quick start against Alabama and believed a solid game plan would lead the Longhorns to victory. But a crushing hit from Alabama defender Marcell Dareus, later taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, knocked McCoy out of the game. Dareus later returned an interception by McCoy's replacement for a touchdown and was named defensive Most Valuable Player in the game. McCoy, visibly distraught by the injury that prevented him from fulfilling a lifelong dream, nevertheless gave all glory to God in post-game interviews.

"I always give God the glory," McCoy said. "I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life. And I know that if nothing else I am standing on the Rock."

Why It Matters: We exalt our athletic heroes when they're winning and giving thanks to God. Linsanity and Tebowmania fill us with pride as we pray for God to protect the integrity of their witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But sports humble even the most accomplished athletes, let alone the suddenly successful. Lin's New York Knicks have lost five straight. Tebow's general manager is recruiting a future Hall of Fame quarterback to take his starting job. McCoy's employer recently tried to trade up and draft his replacement. Injuries and age catch up with everyone. So what does Christian witness look like amid inevitable failure? McCoy's testimony to God's goodness even when your hopes have been dashed sends a powerfully counterintuitive message to a culture obsessed with building up and then tearing down celebrities. McCoy has wisely learned from the Lord's message to the apostle Paul: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. You can follow him on Twitter.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Courtesy of USA Opinion Facebook Page
I recently spent a five week sabbatical at my professional graduate school, Winebrenner Theological Seminary. Located in Findlay OH, it is the theological education institution of the Churches of God General Conference.  It was a delightful time and I have a post in the works about my sabbatical experience.  The downside is that it is located in Ohio and Ohio is one of the Super Tuesday States.

I continue to be one of those persons who is totally weary of the political primary process in the US that more resembles a WWF Grudge Match than an honorable and meaningful exercise in responsible democracy. The Republican version, I believe, will only be successful in giving voters reason to re-elect Barak Obama or in simply expanding the disturbing trend in the American culture of despising our leaders rather than working with them for the common good.

America faces some serious challenges and none is more serious than an economy that continues to struggle and spiraling consumer costs that move more people into functional poverty, that make the genuinely poor poorer, and creates more hurdles for the common man to restore fiscal order to his house.  I continue to look for bipartisan and realistic solutions from our political leadership that will preserve the common good, than the greedy and character-assassinating maneuvering that keeps us from pulling together to smoother waters.

An already troubled sport like football, which seeks to claim the title of America's Game, has once again been sullied by the bounties organized by Coach Gregg Williams and his compatriots.  The latest victim of this were the heroic New Orleans Saints, who many rooted for because of the rebuilding of that proud old city following Katrina and the gritty philanthropy of Drew Brees,  Maybe we need less ridicule of the values of Tim Tebow and more attention to the character of those who define the sport's values on the playing field.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Just an hour ago, the attention of much of the nation was turned towards Indianapolis and the release of the pairings of the 2012 College Basketball Championships euphemistically called "The Road to the Final Four." Perhaps the most influential man in America for about the last 72 hours has not been Barak Obama or John Boehner or Bill Gates or Peyton Manning or any of the dueling field of Republican presidential candidates.  It has been a quiet man who has invented a new field of science tied to NCAA basketball called "Bracketology." His name is Joe Lunardi.  For more about Joe go to BRACKETOLOGY.  After nearly five months of athletic contests, Joe assists tournament chiefs and office pool participants first try to make sense of those most deserving to play for all the marbles on the hardwood and then who is likely to win it as "brackets" are created everywhere that will consume our sports-infatuated nation for the next three weeks.  Only Peyton Manning's odyssey to a new football home and perhaps Major League's Opening Day will manage to wrest the headlines on ESPN away from NCAA Basketball.

Aaron Craft, Buckeye point guard from Findlay OH
My beloved Buckeyes lost more games than in recent memory and yet still managed to capture a three-way tie for the Big Ten title with a win over Michigan State (at Ann Arbor) on the final day of the regular season. They made it to the Big Ten tournament finals where once again they faced Michigan State, only to come up short 68-64 in a hard-fought contest.  Often a front-runner for a number one seed in the Big Dance, they had to settle for a two seed.

Like millions of Americans I have done my own brackets.  I have a sentimental bracket and a realistic bracket. Sentimentally my Final Four will be  Kentucky, Ohio State, Kansas, and Baylor with the Buckeyes triumphing. Realistically I see Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, and Syracuse--with the Wildcats winning the prize.

Now have done this prognostication, I will reaffirm the biblical affirmation: "I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." - Ecclesiastes 9:11.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Here's the joy thst follows repentance sung by one of my favorite a capella groups, Glad.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Wednesday, March 8, 2012, the Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning.  He had been their quarterback for 14 years, compiling records that have made him one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.  Along the way he has led the Colts to unprecedented success as a sports franchise.  His quirky sense of humor and his ability to make fun of himself made him an engaging and highly successful pitchman in advertising.  His dedication to preparation made him a quarterback who seemed up to every challenge.  His ability to read a defense and to call an audible made him a fearsome offensive weapon on the playing field.

Peyton was released on the final day of a contract, thereby freeing the Colts from a $25 million bonus.  It also paves the way for Andrew Luck to move quickly into his role as the signal-calling heir apparent of Indianapolis.  It  gives the Colts a lot of dollars to rebuild a team after an historically abysmal season; the only one in the last decade and a half that Peyton was not under center.

His confidence was sometimes mistaken for cockiness, but a true sense of humility marks Peyton Manning's place in history.  ESPN noted that there was not a hint of bitterness over the lost $25 million.  It was obvious as Peyton bit back the tears that leaving Indianapolis was not his desire or decision, but he was exceedingly gracious towards Jim Irsay even in that admission.  Last year Irsay, after putting the franchise tag on Manning and offering him a contract in excess of $150, was met with wise counsel from Manning himself.  Manning would not sign such a contract because he knew that it was not really in the best interests of his team.  And injury could end his career and yet bankrupt the team for a decade. Instead he opted for one year and the abovementioned bonus. It seems that Peyton knew both his humanity and his impact, and did not want to be a source of his team's failure.

Speculators believe Peyton will end up some place like Miami, leading the Dolphins.  Wherever he goes, Peyton has earned his place in the pantheon of leadership for the fans of Indianapolis and the deep respect of those who understand the importance of wise and sacrificial leadership.

Thank you, Peyton.

Monday, March 5, 2012


With all due respect and as a firm believer in the freedom of speech (and as a registered Republican), "Rush Limbaugh, please shut up!" Last week Rush created a major fire storm and disturbing sound byte when he called a Georgetown University student and birth control advocate, Sandra Fluke,  a "slut" and a "prostitute"for lobbying on behalf of contraceptives. Not all of us consider birth control a license for rampant social immorality and some of us consider there to be far more important political issues in this year's presidential elections.  Miss Fluke's comments are full of holes logically and even morally, but Limbaugh distracted the dialogue from those issues altogether.  Once again, someone in the name of conservative values has behaved in a way totally contrary to the scriptural injunction to deal with people "with gentleness and respect" and made evangelical Christians look like a bunch of intolerant, raving loonies.  And what troubles me even more is the failure of all three Republican front runners to distance themselves from the incivility of Rush's rampage.

Last Friday witnessed a horrific outbreak of killer tornadoes, one which reached E4 level and destroyed much of the town of Henryville, Indiana. The Friday storms touched struck at least a dozen states, just over two days after an earlier round killed 13 people across the South and Midwest. So far, emergency officials say the storms Friday killed 19 people in Kentucky, 14 in Indiana, three in Ohio, and one each in Alabama and Georgia. My own children traveling across Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio to join me in northwest Ohio for a birthday celebration for their mom spent time in shopping center shelters and basements while tornadoes passed them by. Our hearts go out to the victims of those tornadoes and the survivors who must bury the dead and try rebuilding their lives.  Senseless killings earlier that week in a high school in Chadron, Ohio also captured our front pages.  Tornadoes remind us that we are not, for all our intelligence and technology, the masters of our fate and captains of our souls. More shootings remind us that man cannot be the master either, for our basic sinfulness always emerges to take its victims.

My comfort and strength is fallen, troubled world is the promise Paul spoke of in Romans 8, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus, our Lord." (Romans 8:39)