Saturday, January 31, 2009

One Super Bowl Ad You Won't See

NBC has chosen not to run an anti-abortion ad by

The ad does NOT show any negative or disturbing images, and the only sound is violin music. I think the ad honors our President and especially the mother and grandparents who lovingly raised him.

On Sunday, there will no doubt be plenty of beer ads during the Super Bowl. How many women will be beaten by their drunk husbands during and after the game? How many children will be belittled by drunk parents during and after the game? How many people will drive home drunk after Super Bowl parties, injuring or killing themselves or others in accidents? How many people will call in sick Monday morning because of a Super Bowl hangover? Year after year NBC has no problem running numerous ads that promote alcohol and drinking. I guess, in their chosing to not run a pro-life ad, NBC is at least being consistent: beer ads aren't pro-life.

You can read The Washington Times article here

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

God on the Go?

I recently read a Los Angeles Times article titled "Worship on the go starts taking root: More books, electronic media offer quick hits."

The article states:

"So you're racing through another jam-packed day, late picking up the kids from basketball practice because you got stuck at the office. Then you pay the bills, walk the dog and perhaps grab cold pizza before collapsing into bed."

Look at the words to describe this person:
"racing," "late," "stuck," "grab" and "collapsing." The article says that the trend for a person like this is to make time for God via resources such as The One Minute Bible Day by Day, and the 5 Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time. The key words being "one minute" and "minimum." Notice how it's implied that the time we devote to our faith can be short and convenient. It's not held up as a priority. Otherwise, the books would be titled the One Hour Bible Day by Day or the 5 Hour Theologian: Maximum Truth for However Long it Takes!

Another resource the article mentions is Aunt Susie's 10 Minute Bible Dinners: Bringing God into Your Life One Dish at a Time. Okay, sorry, but this title reminds me of the people who fast because they can diet at the same time. You know, kill two birds with one stone!

The article goes on to state that "The American style of worship, like everything else in overloaded lives, is speeding up. Call it God on the go." I say, "Time Out." Notice the "like everything else?" Faith is relegated to being something we squeeze in. We aren't to remove something in our life to make time for faith. Instead, we are to cram faith in wherever we can find a five-minute spot. Faith carries no more weight than brushing our teeth or filing our nails. And we are to gulp it down quickly so we can get on to the next thing.

Can you imagine Mary, having heard from the angel that she was to bear the "Son of the Most High," telling the angel to "hurry up, you’ve got one minute?" Can you imagine if she packed her lunch, tuned into the Weather Channel and looked for her shoes at the same time the angel was trying to make his proclamation to her? Do you think Mary would say "Hey, could you talk to me while I drive? I’m running late." Rather, in Luke 2:19 we find that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

The LA Times article reports that there has been a rise in books, DVDs, podcasts, text messages and "e-mail blasts" that "distill the essentials of faith." I have no doubt that they distill. It's the essentials I'm doubtful about, and what happens to them in the process of distillation.

An executive editor at B&H Publishing, which produces the One-Minute Bible, is quoted in the article as saying, "It's not meant to replace the Bible. It's meant to whet your appetite." Leaving aside the question of whether or not a "quick hit" actually does launch one on to the reading of the Bible, what strikes me again is the underlying implication and attitude towards faith and God that these "quick hits" promote. They condone a busy (some would say insane) lifestyle that only has one minute for God. It is that very attitude that I believe will cause these "quick hits" to become the main meal and not the appetizer.

The Bible says we are to be in the world, not of it. God is to be number one, the top priority, in preference to and in authority over the "everything else" in life. The fruit of the Spirit--love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)--are the true markers of a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, and they contrast mightily with the grabby, late, chasing, collapsing-to-exhaustion lifestyle that throws a token five minutes God's way. But these books would have you believe that faith is no different or more important than rushing off to the dentist's office.

If a one-minute radio devotion reaches a non-believer and plants the seed that takes them into church and fellowship with Christians, and leads them to God’s Word and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, wonderful! But somehow I don't believe that's the target audience for the 5 Minute Theologian and 10 Minute Bible Dinners.

There are no short cuts to God, and He's not to be relegated to something to check off the daily "to do" list. When we spend quantity as well as quality time with God through Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit, we find that life stops being "grabby, racing, late, stuck and collapsing." Life becomes the life that Jesus calls us to, however long it takes.

"But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2

"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” Luke 8:14

"God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity..." Hebrews 5:13-14; 6:1

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

From the Wisconsin Right to Life Website: Fast Facts on Fetal Development:

+A human person’s life begins at fertilization when the father’s sperm penetrates the mother’s egg.

+From the time of fertilization, a baby’s unique DNA and genetic makeup are complete from sex to hair color to height as an adult.

+A baby’s heart begins to beat just three weeks after fertilization.

+Brain waves can be detected at six weeks after fertilization.

+At two months after fertilization, all of the baby’s organ systems are complete. The baby just needs to grow for the remainder of time in the womb.

"from my mother's womb you have been my God." Psalm 22:10

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16

"This is what the Lord says--he who made you, who formed you in the womb..." Isaiah 44:2

"This is what the Lord says--your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things..." Isaiah 44:24

"The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...'" Jeremiah 1:4-5

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Bible is True and Changes Lives

This essay by the Rev. Mark Creech in the January 17 OneNewsNow makes excellent points about the authenticity of the Bible, citing, among other things, the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also points out its authenticity via the changed lives that result from the reading of the Bible.

Creech writes:
"In a day when Americans are looking for "change they can believe in," both the written Word of God and the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, provide that change. What's disconcerting, however, is the nation seems to be looking everywhere for change except for where it really can and always has been found – in those teachings from the Bible that have been tested and tried in every generation and always found more than sufficient for life's challenges."

Read the entire article here:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Capacity Reset

I think this quote by Joel Quadracci, Quad/Graphics' president and chief executive officer, is one of the best I've read in summing up the state of our economy. Commenting in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the 500 production and administrative jobs that will be cut in Quad/Graphics plants across the United States, Quadracci says:

"From consumer spending to housing and everywhere in-between, the world needs to go through a capacity reset. There is simply too much of everything chasing too little demand," he said. "The printing industry is no different. There needs to be an industry-wide reduction in capacity."

Perhaps this capacity reset--in all areas of the economy--will bring things to a more realistic, non-materialistic level; one that will hopefully reveal Christians, especially, as being sound stewards of all that God has given us.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'" Luke 12:15

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:2

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Need vs. Want

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

Billy Graham, commenting on this verse, said,

"The 'things' He spoke of were the basic needs of life: food, drink, clothes, shelter."

Basic needs…That really struck me, especially since I read this right after seeing this Nissan Ad.

We can blame advertisers and society for blurring the line between needs and wants. But I think we all know who is really at fault: us (especially parents). We are to blame for our own out of control spending on things that aren't needs, but are wants. We don't look at food, drink, clothing and shelter as needs anymore. Instead, we see them as a given; to be expected and nothing special. In so doing, we completely gloss over being thankful for them, and transfer the application of the word "need" to things that are actually wants. Since many don't recognize a need when it's been met, they can't acknowledge that it's been met and so never stop in their effort to fulfill that need. They just keep going and going in their accumulation, not knowing when to stop.

Easy credit and the proliferation of shopping outlets have brought a sense of entitlement. Many of us share the sentiment of Peanut's character Sally Brown, who said, as her brother Charlie Brown read her lavish Christmas list to Santa, "all I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share." This sense of entitlement is something my parents and grandparents didn't have.

We in America have gotten to the point where five pairs of similar black shoes (my hand is raised, I'm totally guilty) aren't enough, and we find ourselves drawn to clearance sales where maybe we can hook one more pair, at a bargain price to boot! Our cars are old and "needing" to be replaced at three years of age, along with our dishwashers, comforters, winter coats, porch furniture, curtains, rugs, etc. Our winters in Wisconsin are long, but does each person really need 10 wool sweaters (that will never wear out unless infested with moths?) We’ve come to expect not one warm sweater to meet our need, but ten warm sweaters to meet our want, and then call having the ten sweaters a need! We call a five year old couch outdated and a new, up-to-date couch a "need."

And now all this unwieldy spending has come back to bite us. To many, it's as if the world is ending (when in actuality, it's only the world as they've know it that is ending). I listened to an interview with Rick Warren recently, and when the reporter commented on how Americans are struggling financially, Warren replied, "many people in other countries would love to have the problems we have." Touche!

We come to see the turning off of the money tap as "trial." We see our ability to not get credit as "hardship." We lament the fact that we can no longer mindlessly "kill time" at Wal-Mart. We feel bad that we could only spend $400 on Christmas presents for the kids this year instead of the usual $1,500. And our ski trip to Vail or our weekend at the Water Park may have to wait, or not happen at all. My point is not to minimize the loss of a job or having to move away from family and friends to find work, or having to go to a food pantry for help with food. I'm also not saying it's bad to take a family vacation or to ever buy a new couch! I'm talking about the many people who take no notice of and find no contentment in their needs alone being met and who are now crying foul because they'll have to curb or stop spending altogether on wants (and this includes people at all income levels, not just the wealthy.)

Paul said, in Philippians 4:11-12, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

If there is ever a time to evangelize on the basis of this message, it is now. How many people are hungry for contentment, but can no longer chase it with the almighty dollar? Let's reach them with the message of True contentment: To seek first the kingdom of God through His son, Jesus Christ.

"There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't Look Back

When Edna Mode, fashion designer to Super Heroes in The Incredibles, is presented with Mr. Incredible's old, torn supersuit--a suit, he reminds her, she designed--Mode throws the suit in the trash and says, "I never look back darling, it distracts from the now." Edna's sentiment is refreshing. Not only that, it's Biblical!

"Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--" Romans 6:6

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

"But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

"...since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Colossians 3:10

"For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." Hebrews 11:10 (Abraham in parenthesis added)

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." Hebrews 12:2

Jesus came to earth not so that we could re-live, turn inside out and go over and over again with a magnifying glass every past mistake, memory, incurred hurt, relationship, holiday, birthday and missed opportunity! And I don’t mean to minimize how horrid and incredulous some of those experiences have been. But Jesus came to reconcile us (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He came to give us unconditional, unmerited favor (2 Corinthians 6:2) and love from God (1 John 4:10) and to instill in us His peace, trust and hope (John 14:27 and 16:33). Jesus provides the way out of ourselves (and our past) through post conversion works of gratitude (John 7:18, James 2:26).

This isn't to say we shouldn't or can't learn from the past. It does mean that a life with Christ demands we don't stay there. I think Colossians 3:5 explains it best when it says "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." In essence, put a stop to whatever is coming between us and God.

Sadly, it is often our past that comes between us and God. The compulsion to look back, repeatedly reliving and retelling everything bad that ever happened in our lives, without ever getting past it, becomes an idol. We ignore the hand of Jesus Christ waiting to take ours and pull us out of the mire. It's so much easier, more dramatic or less scary to stagnate in our problems, sin, and past hurts. Maybe it's all we know or ever have known. But to cling to the past (which includes sin we've brought with us from the past) is to ignore God's call to offer our entire being--past, present and future--to Him.

Edna Mode saw no point in going backwards and gave Mr. Incredible a brand new suit. Jesus wants us to go forward too. We can choose to continue living in or trying to obsessively make sense of the past, or we can start over, learning from and living with Jesus Christ. Will we let go our grip on bygone years--and the sin (ours and other's) we've carried with us--and accept today under His Lordship?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

An Atheist Supports Spreading the Gospel

I am exceedingly heartened by the point made in an article written by Matthew Parris in the online Times of London that what he saw first-hand in Africa supports not only Christian mission, but the sharing of the Christian Gospel. Many in today's "emerging church" movement have argued that mission only is needed and that it's best to leave the sharing of the Biblical Gospel out. But Parris makes the crucial point that both are needed:

"Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good." Matthew Parris

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I can't think of a better foundation on which to enter 2009 than this:

"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22