Friday, November 30, 2007


I have not blogged out here in a while but have spent a great deal of time at my faith and culture blog, The RP2, plus commenting at friends' blogs. I just recently posted over there about the deplorable conditions of sweatshop labor in China, making of all things, crucifixes. I was torn about whether it deserved to be posted here or there, but nevertheless, it is over there and not here, so click over and please read. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Personhood Question Arises in Colorado

Not too long ago at the collaborative blog I posted on whether or not abortion is a religious issue. A good discussion ensued and boiled down to mostly a policy discussion. A good-natured debate in respect to the inequality of different religions was the primary topic of the thread and that different religions say that life begins at different times, whether in the womb or not.

I find it amazing that we must debate when life begins. Only because we have the unnatural capability of stopping a life from growing in the womb does this debate arise. In Colorado last Tuesday, a measure was taken by their court system to define when a life begins. A constitutional amendment was passed unanimously in the state supreme court and will go to a ballot vote in November of '08. The language of the amendment is as follows:
"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution defining the term 'person' to include any human being from the moment of fertilization as 'person' . . . in those provisions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law."
I walked through the argument for personhood and its endowment by God in the womb at the post at sbcImpact. Michael J. Norton, a lawyer who represented supporters of the proposal, said the real impact of the proposal would be in its simplicity, asking a profound philosophical and moral question.

“The whole issue centers on when does life begin,” Mr. Norton said. He said that though the word “abortion” would not appear in the language of the proposal, it would effectively make an abortion “the destruction of a person” and therefore illegal.

“Whatever rights and liberties and duties and responsibilities are guaranteed under the Constitution or other state laws would flow to that life,” Mr. Norton said.

Crying foul, Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said this then "would give fertilized eggs the state constitutional protections of inalienable rights, justice and due process." Opening a Pandora's Box of legal implications, birth control and in-vitro fertilizations would also be called into question.

This is an important debate that needs to happen. It is the responsibility of a free, civilized society to protect the weak and oppressed and certainly the unborn fall into this category. Several states (GA, MS, MI, OR) have attempted such measures, but thus far only Colorado has been successful, and Colorado would be the first state to vote on such an initiative.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Keeping Little Girls Little

As a father of four little girls, brother Bowden McElroy's post on Keeping Little Girls Little especially resonated with me. It has always been a major concern to me and my wife that our little girls stay little as long as possible. It is distressing to see other little girls, the same age as my oldest, look like they are eighteen years old in terms of body build. For a time, we tried to buy all organic foodstuffs to try to stave off early onset of puberty due to the growth hormones injected in milk and meats. Buying organic quickly became cost-prohibitive. However, the study Bowden has posted seems to intimate otherwise, and thankfully so.
The results of the study show that children living in families with greater parental supportiveness, from both mothers and fathers, less marital conflict and less depression reported by the fathers experienced the first hormonal changes of puberty later than other children. In addition, children whose mothers had started puberty later (a genetic factor), whose families were better off financially when the children were in preschool, whose mothers gave them more support when they were in preschool and who had lower Body Mass Index when they were in third grade developed secondary sexual characteristics later than their peers.
As Bowden notes, "A stable home environment may delay the onset of puberty in girls." One thing my wife and I constantly struggle for is a semblance of order in our home. The premise we base this on is that heaven is often referred to as "home" in the Scriptures as well as in popular culture so we try to foster as "heavenly" an environment as we can. It is a challenge!

Though we only have one nearing pubescent age, the results are evident. A stable home life counts for so much more than just the normal rhythms of life and prayerfully, it will develop happy, whole, God-fearing children in our home.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Weekly Exposition

I have enjoyed posting snippets of my messages from Sunday mornings and I hope they have been of some benefit to all you precious readers out there. This week's offering continues in the book of Hebrews, 12:3-11. This represents my last message from the book as I will head into holiday messages next Sunday that will carry us through the end of the year.

Here is an excerpt from Spiritual Discipline.

Verses five and six teach us that discipline is a mark of the relationship of a child of God with his God. "You have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons." He says, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord," rather welcome it! He says, "Do not be discouraged when you are rebuked," rather be encouraged!

For to be disciplined means you are a child of God and that He loves you! Too many children these days get away with too many things. I wore enough stripes on my legs as a boy to know that my father was concerned about my erring ways and that he desired for those ways to be trained out of me. He never punished out of malice; it was always out of love. And there are certain levels of discipline we can expect according to this writer.

The first level is that of a rebuke. Consider with me the power of a mother's eyebrow. My mother could make me stand up lock-straight just by a curl of her eyebrow. Consider the snap of a father's finger; same effect. This is God getting your attention. It may come as a friendly word of advice from a friend; a word of admonition from your pastor; a song lyric; an impression from the Holy Spirit. This level is by far the simplest and easiest to endure, yet easily overlooked and typically broomed away.

The second level is God getting more serious because you didn't. It is the level of chastening. The discipline is stepped up so that you might take notice of the path you are now treading and the dangerous place you have put yourself. This comes as the stern "talking-to" that my dad used to give me as a teenager. (Sometimes I wished he would just whip me and get it over with.) This is the prayer that lays heavily upon your heart, the word of admonition that went unheeded that constantly troubles your heart and mind, when the skies feel as gray as gun metal and are closed just as fast. However, this is the level that God desires that you PAY ATTENTION because in no way does He desire to proceed to the next level.

If you choose to ignore Him it gives God no pleasure to proceed to scourging. This is the same word used of Jesus' scourging in Matthew 27:26; a frightening prospect indeed, knowing that all our sins were laid upon Him and He received all our punishment for them. It pleased God to bruise Jesus, but in no way does it give Him pleasure to bruise His children.

I just recently finished Elie Wiesel's book Night about his imprisonment and hard labor in a German concentration camp. Elie just happened to catch a German guard with a young woman. Fearing he would get in trouble, the guard took measures to insure Elie would keep quiet. He called for a crate and had Elie stretched out over it, bare-backed. Elie only felt the sting of the first lash; the following twenty-four lashes drove him into unconsciousness. After the beating, the guard had Elie stand in front of him and he demanded that he would never speak of what he had seen. Elie's response was, "My head bobbled yes, it bobbled as if it would bobble that way for all eternity."

In no way is scourging ever done in such a way by our loving Father. Every stroke is measured; every stroke is for our good. He does resort to such horrendous means but only when He has exhausted all others. When He scourges, it isn't to be taken lightly, but soberly and sensibly. His correction is always to be received to bring us to our senses, never to leave us senseless.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Important Books (To Me)

Other than the Bible, what books have had a profound influence on you, shaping the way you live and act as a Christian, the way you believe, do ministry, and relate to others? Five books have been especially significant to me (in no particular order).
  1. Knowing God, J.I. Packer
  2. Overcoming the World, Joel Beeke
  3. A Passion for Prayer, Tom Elliff
  4. Every Man's Battle, Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker
  5. Ministering Like the Master, Stuart Olyott
What books have had a profound influence on you and your walk with Christ?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Preacher's Pledge

I have blogged on pulpit plagiarism before (here and here). It still amazes me that some preachers are not above plagiarism and use the Internet frequently and regularly for sermon preparation. I admit, the Internet is a useful tool, but for a pastor to download and preach verbatim a sermon is theft and at worst just sheer laziness. However, I am just simply flabbergasted by the need of pastor's to sign a pledge not to base their sermons off the labors of others.

And, the pledge affirms that a preacher should preach from, of all things, the Bible (insert sarcasm)!

In a new campaign aimed at putting the centrality of the Bible back into a preacher's message, "The Preacher's Pledge," introduced by, has been signed by pastors from over 50 nations so far.

"We introduced The Pledge because we think preachers must engage the Bible in their sermon preparation and not simply short circuit the process with someone else's study," says Ron Forseth, general editor for "Our site is a valuable supplement but not the primary source for a sermon. God's Word is."

Preachers then make their commitment to the following:
• I will make the Bible my primary resource in sermon preparation and preaching.
• I may use other resources such as commentaries and web sites to enhance, not replace, my personal interaction with Scripture.
• As I study I will strive to accurately understand and honestly apply God's Word, allowing Him to uniquely proclaim His truth in a relevant way through me.
Maybe it is just me. I hope it is. Why this need? Is Sermon Central so naive? I'm going to be bold: if a pastor needs to sign this pledge, does he need to be in the ministry anyway? It seems a commitment to the Bible would be a non-issue and that without reservation the Bible would be central. Perhaps as preachers graduate from seminary they can just sign a little pledge card akin to True Love Waits.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Books from Church Members

Occasionally, church members will give me books to read and critique for them. This is something I encourage them to do, especially since it gives me peace of mind that they are indeed reading. Reading is a practice that is definitely lost on some church people and if they are reading then often it is something froofy (technical term). Lately, I have been given two books and I would like to share my overall critiques.

The first is 23 Minutes in Hell, by Bill Wiese. It records the author's twenty-three minute descent into hell with the intent to scare you straight. I do not discount Wiese's experience. He quite legitimately may have been given a tour of hell and allowed to experience some of the torments so that he might return to warn people of their impending doom if they fail to accept Jesus.

Some of the imagery was like it was out of a childhood nightmare and Wiese may have done a much better job if a more experienced writer co-authored the book with him. The scenes he depicts seem more to be grounded in horror movie epics rather than biblical truth. For instance, in grisly detail he describes his demonic accusers and the shrieks of terror of others imprisoned in hell. Though he does describe the isolation and separation he felt while in "hell" it seems biblically incongruous that he could experience the terror of others, as well as be tormented by a demon.

The latter half of the book is Wiese's attempt at developing a biblical doctrine of hell, which a writing theologian alongside of him would have helped, but as a lay writer, Wiese did an admirable job. Obviously Wiese wanted the biblical record to match his experience and that portion of the book, as I described to the church member, is a hermenuetical embarrassment. I do not discount Wiese's experience and that part of the book can stand alone on its own merit. It is up to the reader to decide whether or not Wiese is sincere. His theology leaves much to be desired and a word of caution, if you are looking for a biblical doctrine of hell, you won't find it here.

The second book comes highly recommended. When this lady handed me this book, pleading that I read it because "I would never be the same," I shuddered because of the Oprah's Book Club sticker adhered to the cover. Reluctantly I took the book and agreed to return it the following Sunday.

She was right. After reading Night by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel (and I didn't notice the similarities in the author's names until I posted) the horror of the Nazi concentration camps became a little too real. Devastatingly simple in its detail yet graphic enough to churn your stomach, I finished this book after the second sitting.

It chronicled Wiesel's family's abduction by the Nazis in World War II and their transport to the extermination center of Auschwitz. Separated from his mother and sisters forever, he and his father made it through "selection" and immediately began hard labor. The narrative then becomes Elie's feeble yet desperate efforts not to be separated from his father.

The book is appropriately titled for darkness settles in on the prisoners as they arrive in the camp. A blackness that should be unfathomable in human experience envelops those unfortunate enough to be alive.
What are You, my God? I thought angrily. How do You compare this stricken mass gathered to affirm to You their faith, their anger, their defiance? What does Your grandeur mean, Master of the Universe, in the face of all this cowardice, this decay, and this misery? Why do You go on troubling these poor people's wounded minds, their ailing bodies? [p. 66]
Elie loses all hope in humanity and eventually in God as he watches horrid death after horrid death. The story climaxes with a death march to Buchenwald, where he and his father are transferred as the Russians and Americans are marching through Germany. Their lives were reduced to the avoidance of violence and the constant search for food. Never should another human being be treated in such a way. Never should man forget man's capacity for inhumanity.
In the afternoon, they made us line up. Three prisoners brought a table and some medical instruments. We were told to roll up our left sleeves and file past the table. The three "veteran" prisoners, needles in hand, tattooed numbers on our left arms. I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name. [p. 42]
Liberation for Elie was welcome yet horrifying. Having not seen his own face in years,
One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed never left me. [p. 115]
The book concludes with Wiesel's acceptance speech for the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize where he takes a bold stand against worldwide injustice and oppression, calling all with the ability to fight against it. May we never forget man's ability to do evil and to harm another human being, including our own.