Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The past week our family has been engaged in a massive field day (you former Marines know exactly what that is) and re-org. The kitchen is completely reorganized, and I don't want to tell you what we found and threw out of our basement, but it was a scary amount of stuff, decades old. Only the garage now remains, and it, like Saddam, knows its days are numbered. D-Day is Monday, H-Hour is 0700. A sizeable force of brooms, boxes, and shelves lies ready. The garage cannot stand against the Arsenal of Democracy.

It is a fine thing to do at the turn of the year - out with the old... and hopefully not in with much new junk.

The intake of truth is just like that, I think. A key feature of spiritual momentum is that your intake and application of God's word is daily exceeding your intake and application from Satan's world system. When you combine consistent and swift confession of sin with that positive intake equation, you go far towards cleaning out the basement of your soul, removing destructive emotions and sinful tendencies that lurk even below the surface of consciousness. Every day the old ways of thinking go out as trash, and they are supplanted by the effulgent health of the mental attitude dynamics of the Bible. This is God's plan for your life, no matter who you are, or where you've been.

Tonight I am teaching a special lesson on New Year's Eve. A reflection of Thanksgiving, and an anticipation of the Fear of God.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Christian Music Review: Ginny Owens.

Some friends of ours were kind enough to give us "Without Condition," by Ginny Owens for a Christmas present. I am very pleased to recommend it highly. With regard to vocal style, Ginny Owens reminds me of Sarah McLachlan, but not quite as edgy. This is definitely contemporary music, with some pop and alternative themes. There is a fair amount of diversity of sound within the CD so that it is not so repetitious to go dead upon the second or third listen.

The real meat of the CD has to do with the content, and here Ginny Owens shines with the real light of God. Some sample ideas: "I am Nothing" takes the theme of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and runs with it, giving many examples Christian and life achievement, and declaring if they are done without love, then she is nothing. "If You Want Me To" is a soul-searching toward service in undeserved suffering. It is a beautiful soliloquy that expresses "no matter what" humility. For those of you who were face to face on Veteran's Day, you may recall Virginia Miller singing this one for us at that time. There are many other tracks, and the doctrinal content is quite positive, and without defect of falsehood or tone, as far as I could tell.

There is one more fact about Ginny Owens. She has been blind from childhood. Combining her musical skill with the sound doctrine of her songs, that all adds up to quite a testimony.

Courage and Faith.

Friday, December 27, 2002

The past months have been a foreign policy minefield for our President and his leadership team. It has only gotten worse in the most recent weeks due to the nuclear blackmail of the North Koreans. Nuclear weapons in the hands of blatantly evil men remain the gravest threat to freedom in the history of foreign policy. Our President must act to protect our interests in the world, especially our safety and freedom. Pray for his wisdom to defuse the situation if possible, but to act to permanently remove the threat in North Korea regardless. It is not always right to go to war, but it is sometimes the only right course of action. In that case we ought to pray what is right, even if it means war, and the death of many human beings.

I am proud to say that President Bush has done an outstanding job in shoveling out the Augean Stable-full of foreign policy crap which he inherited from the previous administration. But by no means is he to the bottom of the pile. Keep praying! George W. Bush is at least a man who is well-disposed toward prayer support.

Courage and Faith

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie review.

Turner and I went to see this one yesterday at the Highlands Ranch multiplex.

Before we start, however, you will of course want to know my credentials as an afficionado of all things Tolkien. When I was 13, I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It had a profound influence on my love for God, life, and literature, to say the least. I have since read the three great works several times, the most recently in the summer and fall of 2001, out loud, to my family. I truly enjoyed the first film installment, The Fellowship of the Ring.

This one moved faster than the first, had more action, was breathtaking, funny, and touching in appropriate and well-timed turns. I highly recommend this film, just as much, if not more than Fellowship. Inevitably, there were changes from the book, and it is here that I wish to bring my focus. There were omissions from the original text, which are excusable considering the great length of Tolkien's text. There were changes to political details, travel narratives, and personal relationships. Some are innocuous, some seem to add significantly to the story, and some detract. One particularly negative change is the interaction between Gandalf, Theoden, and Grima Wormtongue, found in the chapter, "The King of the Golden Hall." The film makes its worst turn here.

King Theoden of Rohan (a nation whose military is entirely composed of Cavalry, so God knows they're my favorite) sits enthroned in the Golden Hall of Meduseld, the hill-crowning capital town of the grassy realm. He is evidently in his dotage: bent, wizened, and enfeebled, his condition making his country impotent against the Two Towers of evil, Orthanc of Saruman and Barad-dur of Sauron. Yet Grima Wormtongue, a human emissary of the wicked Voice of Saruman, whispers treachery and deceit into his ear, the true cause of an unnecessary and premature aging process. From Wormtongue, Theoden has bought the myth of his own decline, and lived it. The nation has come to dire straights as a result. In the book, Gandalf speaks the truth, unenhanced by magic, and not so magically but spiritually Theoden is freed. Much to my disgust, the movie portrays Theoden under a magical spell, and Gandalf by the magic of his staff, dispels that magic.

Here is the original passage from Tolkien:

"'Now Theoden, son of Thengel, will you hearken to me?' said Gandalf. 'Do you ask for help?' He lifted his staff and pointed to a high window. There the darkness seemed to clear, and through the opening could be seen, high and far, a patch of shining sky. 'Not all is dark. Take courage, Lord of the Mark; for better help you will not find. No counsel have I to give to those that despair. Yet counsel I could give, and words I could speak to you. Will you hear them? They are not for all ears. I bid you come out before your doors and look abroad. Too long have you sat in shadows and trusted to twisted tales and crooked promptings.'"

"Slowly Theoden left his chair. A faint light grew in the hall again. The woman hastened to the king's side, taking his arm, and with faltering steps the old man came down from the dais and paced softly through the hall. Wormtongue remained lying on the floor. They came to the doors and Gandalf knocked.:

"'Open!' he cried. 'The Lord of the Mark comes forth!'

"The doors rolled back and a keen air came whistling in. A wind was blowing on the hill.

"'Send your guards down to the stairs' foot,' said Gandalf. 'And you, lady, leave him a while with me. I will care for him.'

"'Go, Eowyn sister-daughter!' said the old king. 'The time for fear is past.'

[and then, after a paragraph description of the great heroine Eowyn...]

"Now, lord,' said Gandalf, 'look out upon your land! Breathe the free air again!'

[and after a paragraph describing the panorama from the hill...]

"'It is not so dark here,' said Theoden.

"'No,' said Gandalf. 'Nor does age lie so heavily on your shoulders as some would have you think. Cast aside your prop!'

"From the king's hand the black staff fell clattering on the stones. He drew himself up, slowly, as a man that is stiff from long bending over some dull toil. Now tall and straight, he stood, and his eyes were blue as he looked into the opening sky..."

You can see that it is the truth of the wide world and Gandalf's words which sets the king free from Wormtongue's awful spell of deceit. That's the kind of truth that is so thoroughly and tightly woven into Tolkien's books, and sadly is lost through the movie. It is almost as though Grima Wormtongue himself wrote that portion of the screenplay.

If you desire an afternoon of escape, with a grand visualization of the Trilogy, the movies are quite good. They fail to evoke, however, the charm and truth of the original. See the movie. But if you fail to read the books you are missing out on an essential of Western Literature and a glorious telling of many truths.

A final word: The Two Towers stands tall in the Pantheon of movies about Cavalry, and that is in my mind a most compelling reason to see it.



Band of Brothers final thoughts:

Rene' and I watched the final episodes of Band of Brothers this past Saturday night. This series, available at a video store near you, has my highest recommendation. Even after our tearful reactions at the end of 11 hours of material, both of us wanted to go right back to Episode 1 and work through it again. You will leave this series with a much enhanced appreciation for the American soldier, and especially for the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

After re-examining the entire series in my mind's eye, here are a few of many spectacular peaks.

1. The scene depicting the drop on Normandy, the early morning of 6 June, 1944. There was a panorama of the night sky, filled with C-47s and anti-aircraft fire, and then with the parachutes of the airborne infantry liberators... it was a freedom sky, courtesy of the United States of America.

2. The impeccable tactics and execution of Brecourt Manor. The battle of a handful of Easy Company soldiers is still studied and honored as a classic example of light infantry assault. Suppressive fire and maneuver.

3. The dread preceding the assault into Carentan. Germans in prepared positions in a city. The director of this piece did great work toward imparting the confusion and utter lethality of urban warfare. As the men of Easy Company approach the city, you experience this primal scream inside of you, "NOOOOoooo!" But the point is that they did it, regardless of their dread.

4. The makers of Band of Brothers also portrayed superiority of German tanks in the probe on Nuenen, during Market-Garden. The British tankers, who were teamed with Easy Company, had little chance against the long 75 mm and 88 mm guns of the Germans. They were slaughtered, and the infantrymen of Easy found themselves in grave difficulty as a result.

5. The Battle of the Bulge. Once more I found myself with chills coursing their way down my spine as the screen played another battle just right. The cold, the Germans, more Germans, more cold... all working together to generate an appreciation for the sacrifices of these men and many, many other Americans just like them.

6. The oddness of the Winter and Spring of 1945, which saw a sudden cessation of combat for the 506th PIR. Although many other men continued constant contact with the enemy, both in Europe and the Pacific, action tailed off significantly after January of that year.

And many, many other incidents, too many to mention. Another observation: at the beginning of each episode, they have brief excerpts of recent interviews with the men of Easy Company. Their identities are not revealed until the end of the last episode, when their names are stated to go with their faces. What a powerful way to do it! Throughout the series you see the actors play out the incredible sacrifices of the men. Then the names are given to associate with the deeds. Major Winters... Sergeant Guarnere... First Sergeant Lipton... They are truly faces carved in granite by war - and for our liberty. See this series and thank God for them and for what you have.

And finally this thought: in the final statements of the real men of Easy Company, there is not one arrogant word. These men, officers, NCOs, and enlisted men, are humble to the core. Consider what they did, and then their true humility, the next time you want to crow about any of your personal accomplishments.



Saturday, December 21, 2002

Here's an excerpt from Bartleby.com.

Hymns Based on Psalms

Psalm XXIII

Henry Williams Baker (1821–1877)


THE KING of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never:
I nothing lack if I am his,
And he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow 5
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me 10
And on his shoulder gently laid
And home rejoicing brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still, 15
Thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight,
Thy unction grace bestoweth,
And O! what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth! 20

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house forever.

I have been away for a couple of days, and sick for another few... I'm glad to be feeling better. Yesterday Rene' and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. I identify that at least two points in my life I made fantastic decisions: one was to believe in Jesus Christ, and the other was to marry Rene'.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Website Review: Bartleby.com

Bartleby.com is a literary website par excellence. Named after Herman Melville's paragon of human inertia, Bartleby the Scrivener, it contains thousands of pieces of literature, including prose, verse, ballad, and non-fiction. There is literature from classical antiquity to the modern era, encompassing adventure, mystery, horror, love, comedy, science fiction, and many other genres - from Plato to Sherlock, from Twain to Sophocles and so much more. It is not comprehensive by any measure, but it is an excellent collection nonetheless, and best of all it contains many works of great virtue. As long as Bartleby exists, there will be no lack of lit for my consumption. It is more convenient than a library: its books are always there, there are no worries about return dates, and no degenerate dogs thinking the books are chew-toys.

I have to state that I am not overfond of reading via computer. Perhaps it is because I sit in front of my monitor all day long already, and being thus committed to so many hours of devotion to my Cyclops, it is too much to take leisure in reading there. Instead, I find something of worth at Bartleby, print it out, and read it, sometimes including my family in an out-loud session. The shorter works are ideal for an afternoon study break; the longer for our nightly family reading sessions.

The site is easy to navigate, and lends itself to either an orderly or more eclectic selection process. Search by subject, author, or title, scroll as though you were strolling among the bookstacks, looking for something to strike your fancy. However you go about it, Bartleby is a reader's dream.

Animo et Fide.

Monday, December 16, 2002

From time to time I become aware of a friend or parishioner who is enduring emotional pain. When I was in college at Azusa Pacific, I wrote this:

Pain

Pain is pain.
Neither blaming the other,
nor blaming God,
nor blaming myself
will ease the pain.

Anger
does not stop the pain.
In anger lies futility,
a deception of the devil
when there is nothing
to be angry for.
In anger there is only more pain.

The Lord
does not take away the pain.
He lets the pain run its course.

No pain, no gain.
I'll be stronger, wiser, better prepared.
May the naive benefit from my pain.
To God be the glory!

Even though
God does not take away the pain,
He gives me hope
for a time
and a place
without pain.
Heaven.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

This morning our children performed their "Christmas Vignettes," and it went off marvelously. Alene Lindstrand coordinated the effort, but the children really deserve our praise for their dedication which manifest itself in an excellent performance. The content was the key. There was much truth spoken, with special focus on the gospel message in the context of the Christmas season.

The experience of such a performance is good for at least three reasons.

First, as a lesson in discipline, to learn the parts well;

second, as a lesson in self-esteem, to stand before the congregation and recite the parts;

and third, as a lesson in Christian service, to participate in giving the message of Christ to the world.

Such practices are worth the time and effort, and I look forward to many more years and many more children doing the same.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I have continued to read Plato's Republic. One of the early themes in the work is eternal accountability; that we human beings are accountable in the next life for the deeds of this one. That's pretty good, but Plato offers no redemption whatsoever except good works. God's word says our works are not good enough for God. He is perfect and holy in all His ways, and He does not compromise. From His grace He provided a Savior in Jesus Christ.

I had a Greek professor at the University of Houston, a Roman Catholic whose true religion was Socrates. She worshiped the man, and considered him the equal of Paul. Socrates is good on ethics, but less than worthless in the realm of theology, and he was certainly no man of God. The message of the gracious God was available to Socrates through Israel, and he evidently had rejected it, for he believed in works as the defining element for the next life.

Socrates, as represented by Plato, is the pinnacle of Greek philosophy, and that's saying a lot. But when Paul came to Athens and preached to the philosophers there about the God that he knew, it was news to them. And for all their efforts in philosophy, they had made no progress in generating revelation. Revelation comes at God's initiative, not man's.

I plan on translating Jude next week in preparation for a brief (for me) exposition of it. After that, I will begin the prep work on the epistle of James. I plan on accelerating the exposition of that book somewhat as well, in order to enhance greater cohesion in teaching the truths of the book. I haven't settled completely on how to do this, but I'm organizing in that direction. I need to cover more material - I only have 30 years or so of this left, and I've just scratched the surface.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

I'm just back in from a three day visit with my dad in California. I'll post again tomorrow.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Army did not go. Congratulations to the United States Naval Academy for their 58-12 drubbing of the Black Knights. The Midshipmen played against tough competition all year, and it paid off admirably in the most important game of the year.

At least the lopsided nature of the game freed up some time this afternoon for some much-needed exercise and catch-up on reading.

This week I began Plato's Republic, which I am reading in the original. The first part portrays a charming night-time feast and horse race, and a conversation about old age. Socrates communicates that attitude makes all the difference in the twilight years - not money or health. He also says that as the body decays, so also its physical desires, making it easier to focus on philosophy. I am hoping to finish the Republic before next summer, and the Critias by Plato as well. The latter is his "history" of the submerged continent of Atlantis, which he plays totally straight as fact.

Go Army.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

The dog crisis, day 2...

I still love my dog. God made dogs, they were a part of the original creation, in their unfallen state they were wonderful...

Under the positive guidance of good families they may attain some imitation of their unfallen state.

Border Terrier Info Page

Ultimate Guide to Border Terriers

How could you not love these noble but rascally animals?

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Holy theological crisis, Batman!

Last evening I put the finishing touches on the Doctrine of Dogs. I must declare myself an unabashed lover of dogs. I'm like many of you who find them to be adorable, useful, funny, noble companions. Yet the Bible has a very consistent view of the canine species: they are held in contempt. How could this be?!?

I should be teaching this doctrine by Friday evening. Tune in to find out.

Monday, December 02, 2002

I also searched online today for a comparison of dispensational and covenant theologies. I found this excellent website: The Conservative Theological Society

There is a journal article there by Ronald M. Johnson, which outlines the differences between the two theological systems, and which I found to be quite excellent and helpful. It can be found on this page: "Systematic Theology is the Hermeneutic"

I will be teaching some of this material in January as a part of our Basics/Advanced series.

Courage and Faith.
Regarding Conrad Richter:

Richter wrote a trilogy on the pioneers of the Ohio country of the early 19th Century. The books are: The Trees, The Fields, The Town.

It is a remarkable journey from austere wilderness to civilization, all seen through the eyes of the Luckett family, but especially through the eyes of Sayward, beginning in her life as a girl to its conclusion many decades later. She experiences the gamut of frontier life, from joy to heart-rending tragedy. But there is an overall thesis which serves as a superb refutation to the 1960s generation of America. Richter establishes the pioneer generation, the one which endured the great hardships of the forboding trees of the wilderness, as truly phenomenal in their virtue. Sayward Luckett personifies their virtues in her willingness toward hard work and steel-jawed endurance of the difficulties of frontier life. He then goes on in the final book to develop a son of Sayward who personifies all that is anti-pioneer, and paints him with convincing brushstroke and color. Superimpose the World War II generation and the Vietnam generation over these two and you get the picture. I highly recommend these books!

The Trees (Amazon.com)

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Conrad Richter is perhaps best known for his Light in the Forest, a novel on the predicament of a white boy raised by Native Americans during the early 19th century. The Light in the Forest is a bleak tale of prejudicial attitudes that has become popular among more liberal minded folks of recent years, especially those who tend to emotionalize the plight of modern Native Americans. But I don't want to talk about that book.

The Sea of Grass is a brief masterwork set in New Mexico in the late 19th century. It concerns the transformation of a vast cattle ranch and its owner due to the incursion of squatters. At the beginning, the Colonel's (yep, that's what the main character is called) ranch is a vast unfenced prairie as large as "Massachusetts with Connecticut thrown in." The Colonel is a larger than life figure, so used to living life on his own terms that he cannot fathom the changes on the prairie breeze, blowing in from the East in the form of poor folks who squat on chunks of his land, fencing and farming. Instead of adapting, he immolates the ones he loves most, including himself, in anger and intractability.

The novel is worthwhile for its plot, its beauty, its incredible mystery (right in the middle of it all is a profound and heartbreaking mystery), and its thought stimulation...

First with regard to the Colonel. If you've been associated with Berachah Church, then you know of Colonel R.B. Thieme, Jr., the Pastor of that great institution for more than 50 years now. This novel paints a Colonel that has many similarities to our own beloved Colonel, and is a worthy read just for that.

Second with regard to the Debate between environmentalists and developers. In an interesting twist, the Colonel of the novel represents the environmentalists, while the squatters portray the developers. Lots of conversation just waiting to happen over that one.

More Richter tomorrow or Monday.

Courage and Faith.
Great books:

This week I finished William Manchester's The Last Lion, his masterful first volume biography of Winston Churchill. It is much more than biography. Manchester's tome is a history of England during Churchill's time. One ungentle critic of Churchill's The World Crisis jested that it was an autobiography thinly masquerading as a history of the First World War. A plainer truth spoken by a critic would be difficult as a diamond to find. No, not regarding Churchill's book, but the history of Britain from the 1890s to 1950s is history masquerading as Sir Winston's biography. Every once in a while an old stoned-out hippie will proclaim, "Man, I was the 60s." Winston Churchill was Great Britain.

Read this book if you have the slightest interest in Churchill or Britain. You will laugh, cry, and gain insight on one of the great figures if not the greatest figure of the 20th century.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I really liked Michelle Malkin's Thanksgiving Prayer, but this one beats all others, both because of its originality and the content from an obviously mature believer in Jesus Christ.

"City of New York, October 3, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington
"

Thursday, November 28, 2002

An excerpt from Michelle Malkin's Thanksgiving Prayer, as written in Townhall:

"O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, we thank you this day for "Proud to Be an American" and "These Colors Don't Run," for "Let Freedom Ring" and "Of Thee I Sing," for "Every Heart Beats True" and for "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."

For Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, for Green Berets and Gold Stripes, for the 10th Mountain Division and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, for the KC-130 Crew and the 101st Airborne Division, for the soldiers and SEALS and special forces who made the ultimate sacrifice this year, and for all who continue to protect and to serve, we give thee praise.

For the Border Patrol and citizens on patrol, for the National Guard and Guardian Angels, for the USO and the VFW, we thank you, O God, our creator and redeemer.

For the Pentagon rebuilt and Ground Zero restored and the faith of a nation renewed, for "Semper Paratus" and "Non sibi sed patriae," for "Never forget" and "Never surrender," for freedom from fear and freedom to dream, for free minds and free markets, for freedom with responsibility, we give thee praise.

For the Song of Solomon and the Prayer of St. Francis, for "the Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer," for "without vision we perish," for Proverbs 28, for John 3:16, for "The Old Rugged Cross," for "The Solid Rock," and for "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," we offer eternal thanks.

For "All men are created equal," for "Tear down this wall," for "Ask not what your country can do for you," for "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," for "I swear to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies foreign and domestic," we give thee praise."


I could add so much more, but the spirit of the prayer has it covered.

Courage and Faith

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

We watched episode six of Band of Brothers night before last. There is a great moment and great line when the CO of Easy Company is informed that Bastogne is about to be cut off by a German Panzer (tank) element. I believe it is Captain Winters who replies: "We're paratroopers, we're supposed to be surrounded."

I feel that way about Christians as well. "We're Christians, we're supposed to be suffering." In fact, it is a vital part of God's plan for our lives that we endure various kinds of sufferings on His behalf. Here are some thoughts that I developed from 1 Peter 4:

The warning, v.12. “Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, coming to you for testing, like a [some] strange thing is happening.”
(1) Undeserved suffering is a part of the Christian life.
(2) Therefore, it should be no surprise when you encounter it.
(3) Undeserved suffering is common for growing and mature believers. The fiery ordeal should be expected.
b. The exhortation to rejoice in such circumstances, v.13a. “But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice,”
(1) We can rejoice in this because it points to the reward that we will share with Him.
(2) The closer our lives mirror the sufferings of Jesus Christ, the more reason we have to rejoice.
(3) It indicates that our character has truly become Christ-like.
c. The certain extension of that joy to the judgement seat, v.13b. “in order that you might also rejoice exceedingly in the revelation of His glory.”
(1) The revelation of the glory of Christ includes judgment for church age believers.
(2) The excessive rejoicing will come not only because of the reunion, but because of the reward.
d. THE PRINCIPLE OF UNDESERVED SUFFERING, V.14. “If you are reviled in the name of Christ (for Christ’s sake), [it is] a blessing, because the spirit of glory and the Spirit of God rests upon you.”
(1) Undeserved suffering is an indicator that you are doing it right. It only comes to those who have the character of Christ.
(2) Therefore, it is a blessing because it locates your spiritual life. That is, it serves as a map and compass, determining your precise location in God’s plan.

Pardon me for not posting the last couple of days. I am taking some time off this week to get things done around the house and spend time with family.

Monday, November 25, 2002

I'm going to develop a Doctrine of Thanksgiving for, now get this: Thanksgiving. Yep pretty original huh?

I've finished with the re-write of the Doctrine of the Church for our (no longer) Basics series, and next I'm developing a brief Doctrine of Church Leadership, also for Basics. Looks like we're going to pass the one year mark and then some for my "few months" long Basics series. But the product should be exceptionally durable, useful for many years to help indoctrinate new believers at FRBC.

Then get ready for the Doctrine of Marriage.

The truth be told, though, I am eager to return to my life's work, the Life of Christ. I am determined to finish that before I die... to which some of you may reply, "So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up already!"

Saturday, November 23, 2002

One of the more fascinating studies from the New Testament (aw heck, they're all fascinating to me) is a word study on the Greek reciprocal pronoun ALLELOIS. Examining this word gives Christians a clear idea on what they are to be toward one another, what their reciprocal responsibilities are. Here is the summary from my Doctrine of Reciprocal Responsibilities:

A. Love another, so that you can work together. Romans 12:10,16; 13:8; 14:13; 15:5,7; 1 Corinthians 12:25; 2 Corinthians 13:11-12; Galatians 5:26; 6:2; Ephesians 4:2,32; Colossians 3:9,13,16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; James 4:11; 5:9,16; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8-10; 1 John 3:11,23; 4:7,11,12; 2 John 5.
1. Overlook the quirks and idiosyncracies.
2. Forgive the sins.
3. Confess sins, when you commit them against another.
4. Pray for one another.
B. Work together on inculcation. Colossians 3:15-16; Ephesians 5:19-20.
1. Use the most effective mnemonic devices. Music and rhyme are best.
2. May be reminders of principles, applications, or Biblical examples of application.
C. Work together to encourage the weak. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15.
1. Do not let them go without a fight; reach out in compassion.
2. Use easy, ‘milky’ methods of teaching and communication.
3. Teach and admonish; fill in their gaps.
4. Have as the objective their autonomy.
5. This is intended as a temporary situation for each individual.
D. Work together concerning the ministry of the word.
1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God might be proficient, fully equipped for every good work.”
2. The ministry of the Word enables and equips everything that goes on in the local church.
3. The ministry of the Word is the only way that individuals will fulfill the plan of God.
4. There must be teamwork regarding the ministry, so that it functions without a hitch.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Just back from a morning visit to the Littleton, Colorado VFW post. Mo Lowery and I went there to ask whether they needed people to speak and pray at funerals for veterans. About 2000 veterans die every day; 1500 of those from the World War II generation. As we walked in, there was another gentleman on his way out, and we introduced ourselves. He said he was there hoping to get volunteers for the All-Veterans Honor Guard. Hmmm. I may be thick at times, but I can figure out a divine guidance moment just as well as the next guy. He needs chaplains, rifle team members, everyone he can get. He has done 448 funerals at Ft. Logan National Cemetery this year alone, and he is swamped. I promised him that I would do as many as I could, and left him my phone number. I figure it is a great way to give the gospel, and at the same time serve men and their families who have honorably served our great nation.

Courage and Faith.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Many of you may remember my tribute to Rick Rescorla from this past Memorial Day. It turns out I was one the lead surfers on a wave of biographers. Here is Amazon.com's precis to a brand new book on the life of Hardcore One-Six:

"Sometimes from the ashes of tragedy comes an extraordinary, even magical story that inspires, offers hope, and helps heal even the deepest wounds. Heart of a Soldier is such a story, one of love and friendship, danger and courage, redemption and heroism, thrillingly told by one of America's finest writers.

Susan Greer, middle-aged and divorced, had just about given up on love and romance when she met a stranger who, oddly, was jogging in his bare feet.

Born in Britain on the eve of World War II, Rick Rescorla became an American citizen and a much-decorated soldier. His extraordinary life is woven into the military conflicts of his time, from the battlefields of colonial Africa, where he and his best friend, U.S. Army officer Dan Hill, led lives of adventure worthy of Kipling and Conrad, to some of the deadliest battles of Vietnam to the epicenter of modern-day terrorism. Surviving them all with great courage and style, Rescorla seemed invincible.

Rescorla tried to put combat and death behind him, and for a time it seemed as though he had succeeded. With Susan, he found the peace and domesticity he craved. But it turned out that everything in his remarkable life was preparing him for one last act of selflessness that would transcend all that had come before. Then, on September 11, 2001, he faced the ultimate test.

Heart of a Soldier shows us bravery under fire, loyalty to one's comrades, and the miracle of finding happiness late in life. In charge of security for Morgan Stanley, Rick Rescorla successfully got 2,700 of its employees out of the World Trade Center's South Tower on September 11. Then, thinking perhaps of the soldiers who had died in his arms and of Susan, the woman who had "made his life," he went back and began climbing the tower stairs, looking for stragglers."

Looks like this one's on my "must read" list.

Courage and Faith.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

This morning I had a very fine conversation with Nick Bacon, who is the president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He was kind enough to allow me to introduce myself and converse for some time about ministry and veteran's issues. Nick is an evangelical Christian who has strong roots in Berachah Church, where I was ordained.

The connection between faith and military service is well personified in Nick, who was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, and has chosen to continue his service to our great country in many significant ways.

Courage and Faith.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

"For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains
to destroy us."


Reiner Maria Rilke, The First Elegy
Translated by A.S. Kline

I thought I would offer some thoughts on this theme.
Rilke employs the German word schrecklichen to convey the sense of awe-struck terror, and compares that to schon, or beauty.

I believe he is but a stone's throw from Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

That passage identifies the beauty of nature with the awesome creative power of God. Yet there is something more awesome than the creative power of God. It is the power of His love, which in patience "disdains to destroy us."

Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

And,

John 3:17, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

Monday, November 18, 2002

This week I am studying a most challenging passage: 2 Peter 2:20-22. Many have stumbled over it with the result that they have compromised their orthodox view of eternal security. Stay tuned for the results.

I am also preparing the Doctrine of the Church for our Christian Basics series.

A simple reminder from your Pastor as the holidays approach:

Psalm 46:10 "Cease striving and know that I am God..."

Slow down enough in your holiday busy-ness so that you do not lose your spiritual momentum.

A quick note to those who want to know when to check in: I post almost every day. Come back often.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Reflections on Band of Brothers:

I know that I have urged this principle many times from the pulpit, but here it is in print: the more you train the less you bleed. It's an old military saw that is driven into the head of every recruit. Training prepares you for the crucible of battle, and greatly increases your chances to survive and even conquer.

Why is it then, that this subject is nearly taboo among Christians?

Why shouldn't we train, and train some more for the spiritual battles of our Christian lives? Why shouldn't we go beyond what we want to do, and even exceed what we thought we could do? Lose your life on the earthly battlefield and you have not lost all; lose on the spiritual battlefield and you are on the verge of great and eternal loss. Which then is of greater importance?

I'll let you decide whether ours is the right kind of ministry.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Movie review: Band of Brothers, episodes one and two.

Okay, I need to get serious about movie reviews, which means that I have to settle once and for all on units of measure. I'm going to rate movies and books from one to five stars. If I'm in an especially whimsical mood I'll use special units of measure ala Mike Rosen, our local radio talk show host.

Now back to Band of Brothers, the film based on the book based on the true story of Easy Company, 2/506th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment). A miniseries that focuses on the training of an infantry company for the entire first hour, and does it well is already gold in the bank. BoB does that in style, and reveals the great secret of preparation for combat: hard, unfair, even brutal training. Training that develops both mental and physical toughness, stretching its men beyond what they want to do, beyond what they even thought they were able to do. No nation has ever discovered a way to simulate the ultimate unfairness of the battles of men, but the closer you can get to that, the better off your men will be when they finally face the real deal.

I had a great appreciation for the way in which Captain Sobel trained his men. He didn't just train them: he messed with them big time, making them run the 6 mile round trip up Currahee Mountain for the pettiest of offenses. The mountain becomes the enemy, and they must surmount his unforgiving slopes at the most inopportune times. No officer, no noncom, no enlisted man of Easy Company liked Captain Sobel; they didn't respect him personally, identifying him as a petty, even sadistic tyrant. Yet they all acknowledged that their spectacular success in the European Theatre of Operations was due to two years under his tyranny.

Sadly, Captain Sobel was no field officer, and it cost him personally, although his wise battalion commander finds a good way to solve the problem.

The second hour-long episode focuses on Easy Company's drop into Normandy in the early morning darkness of D-Day. I will be brief. The portrayal of the flight, the drop, the re-organization, the first battle was so authentic as to cause a deluge and then a drought of praise. The authenticity extended from the uniforms and equipment to the ground on which they fought, from the strategy and tactics to the sheer emotional weight of combat. It is like Saving Private Ryan without the fiction.

Conclusion? Five out of five stars... Five out of five C-47 Transport Planes, if you will.

Currahee!
This past Monday, when my family and I were returning from Veteran's Day services, we came up over the hill near our home to a scene of many emergency vehicles, flashing lights, and emergency and law enforcement personnel. A lone, mangled bicycle lay near the curb, and in the grass by the sidewalk was a sheet-covered body. A bicyclist had been hit by a car, suddenly ending his life.

Memories came flooding back to me of a Christmas holiday weekend in 1974. I was a Freshman in high school, and having a rough time of it, for various but not uncommon reasons. My parents had sent me to a Christian camp for a few days between Christmas and New Year's, at a place down in the Redwoods near Santa Cruz, California, Redwood Christian Park. A couple from church drove us down on a Friday evening. As we entered the town of Boulder Creek, there was a woman standing on the side of the narrow road, waving and smiling at cars as they passed. She was obviously under the influence of some chemical high or another. Mr. Galbraith, who was driving that night, commented on her precarious position as we drove on into town. Since we were too early to register according to the camp schedule, we decided to stop at the local A&W restaurant for dinner. Sitting there, we heard the sirens, startlingly close, whose meaning was only too heart-wrenchingly clear.

We finished our meal in subdued silence and headed up the road for camp, only to find ourselves slowed almost immediately by the presence of fire engines and ambulances on the side of the road in an ominous spot. There is always a sense of dread when the ambulance remains idling on the scene. As a police officer directed us around the scene of the accident, they had just pulled the sheet over the poor woman's earthly remains. She was gone.

I can picture that scene in its every detail even today, almost 30 years after the fact. It had a profound impact on my young mind, making me realize my own mortality with an urgent sick feeling of the heart. That weekend I put my trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I knew just how desperately sinful I was, how desperately I needed a savior, how terribly fragile my own life was. It all came crashing together in the image of a sheet-covered body on the side of the road.

There was a song I remember hearing and singing that weekend, "Jesus is the Answer," by Andrae Crouch. Part of it goes like this:

If you have some questions in the corners of your mind,
traces of discouragement and peace you cannot find;
reflections of your past seem to face you every day,
but this one thing I do know;
Jesus is the way.

Jesus is the answer for the world today.
Above Him there's no other,
Jesus is the way


Life is fragile, and all too fleeting. And at the end, what? I found the answer to that question on New Year's Eve, 1974.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Here is an excerpt from my "Doctrine of Divine Essence." I am posting these written doctrines in hopes of making another approach in teaching the Word. The spoken word, aided by overhead transparencies, is effective, but I know that some of you will respond to reading doctrines in a very positive manner. I would challenge you to take the content this morning and integrate into your thinking, and especially into your prayers of worship to the Father. The comparison between God's infinity and His perfection is what makes Him stand apart from all other Gods. His infinite capabilities are totally governed by His perfect character. You certainly can't say that about the gods of Greece or Rome!

The next part of God’s essence is Infinity, which means that He has no boundaries in space or time. Principle: God is the creator of space and time, and is therefore greater than both.
1. He is transcendant, meaning that He is greater than space and time.
2. He is immanent, meaning that He enters space and time in order to have a relationship with His creatures.
3. How the infinity of God relates to the physical and temporal universe.
a. Immensity means that He is infinite related to space, Romans 8:38-39, “8 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(1) These verses have a big list of things that are not a barrier to God’s love.
(2) Height nor depth is not a barrier to God’s love.
b. Eternity means He is infinite related to time.
(1) Job 36:26, “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.”
(2) Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were born, or thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.”
(3) Psalm 102:27, “But thou art the same, and thy years will not come to an end.”
c. Further Scripture on infinity.
(1) Infinite greatness, Psalm 145:3, “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.”
(2) Infinite in understanding, Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite”
E. Perfection.
1. Distinctions between infinity and perfection:
a. God is infinite, but that does not imply perfection. A being may conceivably be both infinite and evil.
b. Perfection means that there are no flaws or mistakes of any kind in the nature or character of God.
c. Perfect is something we cannot be. The human state implies imperfection.
d. Human beings with sin natures cannot ever be considered perfect, though they may be holy.
e. Anyone with flaws or sins in their past have disqualified themselves from perfection.
f. Holiness is not the same as perfection: Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
g. Human beings are not called by God to be perfect; they are called to be holy.
h. This fundamental distinction is important for all Christians. Holiness is within our reach; infinity and perfection are not.
2. Scripture on the perfection of God.
a. Job 36:4, “For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.”
(1) God’s knowledge is not only infinite, but perfect.
(2) He understands all things, and His understanding is not twisted in any way.
b. Job 37:16, “Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds, the wonders of one perfect in knowledge.”
c. Isaiah 25:1, “O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.”
d. 1 Timothy 1:16, “And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
F. A comparison between God and man: Majesty.
1. Majesty is a quality of greatness by comparison, and greatness by any measure.
a. Royalty sometimes bears the title ‘majesty’ to denote their greatness above their subjects. Great mountains bear the title ‘majesty’ because of the way they loom over the low country below them. From John Muir, Range of Light, “Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.”
b. The majesty of a person or thing inspires awe and humility.
2. The majesty of God in Scripture.
a. Exodus 15:11, “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?”
b. 1 Chronicles 16:23-31, “23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. 24 Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and joy are in His place. 28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him; Worship the LORD in holy array. 30 Tremble before Him, all the earth; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. 31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; And let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”“ (also the 96th Psalm)
c. God’s reputation is majestic, Psalm 8:1, “LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!”
d. God’s majesty comes from His spiritual works of righteousness, Psalm 111:2-3, “2 Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them. 3 Splendid and majestic is His work, And His righteousness endures forever.”
e. Psalm 145:5-13, “5 On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. 6 Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness. 7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. 7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. 9 The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. 10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. 11 They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; 12 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

In 2 Peter 2:19 Peter proclaims, "...for by what a man is defeated, by that he is enslaved." There is a historical background for this, and if you miss the original setting, you miss the point. In the ancient world, when one nation conquered another, it meant slavery for the vanquished. None of this Churchillian "Magnanimous in victory" business. The victorious would do the ancient equivalent of spiking the football, loot and pillage the property of their foes, and cart the people off into slavery. War was a terrific boost to the ecomony. You added to your treasury, you added a free source of labor... it was nothing but good news.

If you are defeated by sin, then it becomes your master, indicating (in case you missed it) that you are now the slave of sin. This is not a happy or favorable situation. It is disaster of the first magnitude, and if it weren't for grace, your goose would be cooked.

If you are defeated by lust for power, stimulation, violence, emotion, money, or approbation, you become the slave to the same. Now your need for power, stimulation, etc. has become your priority and central value. As a result, you organize your life around that thing, to the compromise of all else. And creeping into your thinking and into your vocabulary comes the dirtiest of expressions: "I can't." It is not only that this not true, that what you really mean is "I don't wanna," but also that you have submitted yourself to cruel form of slavery that will ultimately result in great loss. As a Pastor, I have had to suffer through hearing these dirty words many times, and I find it both sad and despicable each time that I hear it. For some exasperating reason, these individuals feel compelled to tell me their excuses. They wish they could come to Bible class, but they can't. Too much going on, you know. House payment, car payment, their children are involved in this, that, and the other thing, and they can't possibly make it. To which I remind them that they can also listen to non-face to face teaching, provided through our ministry. Nah. Tough week at work. The Sopranos or Broncos or Seinfeld re-runs are on. Blah blah blah. And I think: "You are a slave." A slave to the demands of this world, but worse, really, because you might as well call the situation what it really is. You are a slave of Satan. And, if you have children, you're training them as slaves as well. It would be better for you to have a millstone placed around your neck and be cast into the sea. Most folks I know have great ambitions for their children, but if your compromised priorities form the role model for them, you do nothing but ensure their slavery to the things and the Lord of this world.

You won't have to face me at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That's one of the main reasons it's not called the Judgment Seat of Mark. You have to face Christ. Be real about this, okay? Live your life as if the Bible really is true, as if you really will have to face Him with an explanation of your stewardship of the gift of life. A clue: worldly things are not going to go over very well.

Inevitably, people who have the world as their master are offended by my lack of sensitivity and practicality, as if I don't live in the real world or something. I do though. I am confronted with choices much the same as you are, I can assure you, some even more difficult than yours. In the end, though, I've chosen not to jump through the hoops that the world has offered. I really do expect the same from you, even if I do respect your privacy and free will, and allow you to draw your own conclusions about the course of your life and therefore say little to you personally about the matter.

This web blog, like the Bible classes I teach, is an impersonal and respectful way to get that message across to all of you. But just because I'm respectful doesn't mean that I've lowered my expectations.

Animo et Fide.



Tuesday, November 12, 2002

You may notice the newest addition to my burgeoning blog: the insignia in the upper right hand corner. That is the Distinctive Unit Insignia of the First Cavalry Regiment, United States Army. I have to make it clear that I did not serve with them. I did serve with the 16th Cavalry Regiment, "Strike Hard," and the 112th Armor Regiment, "Rarin' to Go." But the motto of the 1st Cavalry Regiment, ANIMO ET FIDE, I have adopted as my own. I often sign my letters with that, either in the original or in translation, "Courage and Faith."
I am working today on the exegesis of 2 Peter 2:19. I'm glad to get back into the every day studies after a couple of intense weeks of interviews and writing for Veteran's Day. Exegesis is one of those big words that make us theologians feel extra special and important. It means to "draw out," and describes the process of interpretation by studying the text in its original setting, thus obtaining the author's original intent and message. Eisegesis is the opposite, describing an effort to infuse your own meaning into someone else's writing.

One of the great examples of eisegesis from our own era has to with Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, a song written as a melancholy reflection of a serviceman who has fought in Vietnam and come home to many dead ends. It was intended as an anthem for Vietnam Veterans, evoking their feelings regarding their homecoming, despised and mistreated and ignored by the American public. The proclamation "Born in the USA" was meant as a scathing condemnation of an America that would send it sons to war and then disdain them at their return. During the 1984 presidential election campaign Ronald Reagan picked up on the song thanks to George Will and others who saw it as an unabashed hymn of praise. When they attempted to recruit Springsteen for their campaign, he saw right to the heart of their eisegesis, and harshly criticized them for it.

Several years ago Rene' and I attended Mr. Springsteen's solo acoustic concert here in Denver. In the second half of the concert, he played and sang Shut Out the Light, an achingly tragic song that describes the psychological paralysis of a combat veteran who is welcomed home with open arms, but who is prevented from reconnecting with his wife and hometown because of the guilt and terror that still haunts him. At the final words of the song,

"Oh mama mama mama come quick
I've got the shakes and I'm gonna be sick
Throw your arms around me in the cold dark night
Hey now mama don't shut out the light
Don't you shut out the light..."


the Boss continued to play, gradually sculpting the acoustic guitar chords into something vaguely familiar, certainly familiar...

He sang clearly and defiantly, "Born down in a dead man's town..." (for you Philistines, the opening line to Born in the USA) It still sends a chill down my spine to think of that brilliant moment. You see, it was much more than musically brilliant; it was a literary masterpiece: the combat veteran who can't connect even with open arms followed by the combat veteran who desperately desires open arms yet finds none at all.

All of this to point out how important it is to capture the original intent of the author. Way too many people twist Scriptures to their own designs, disregarding original context and intent. Back to work.

Courage and Faith.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I wanted to use the following in my Veteran's Day message, but ran out of space. It is a portion of a longer essay in Samuel Elliot Morison's History of Untied States Naval Operations in World War II, covering the pacifist effect on the reduction in prewar U.S. armaments and their unintended outcome in speeding the war and intensifying its loss of life:

"One could be forgiven for wondering why we were such dupes concerning naval affairs in the 1920's and later. A cardinal explanation is the flood of distorted and misleading propaganda that swept over the country. The great theme was the furtherance of world peace. This met with an irresistible ground swell of public support, based largely on natural revulsion from the then recent slaughter of war in Europe. Emotion surged over reason. Armaments were represented as the principal cause of war and their severe reduction, and even abolition, was strongly advocated as a panacea. Extremists, of whom there were many, urged this country to set an example and disarm regardless of what was done abroad...

A typical example of a general attitude of the churches is given by the following extracts from Pastoral Letters adopted for the guidance of Episcopal congregations by General Conventions of the Bishops of my own Church: - The most hopeful step towards world peace ever taken is the agreement... to abandon war as an instrument of national policy. Yet the powers most active in promoting that agreement have shown a persistent disregard of its logical inferences and coninue to put their trust in armed preparedness. We covet for our country the courage to lead along the pathway of world peace, by doing its utmost even at the cost of risk and sacrifice to achieve immediate, substantial reduction of armaments... The Christian church refuses to respond to that form of cheap patriotism that has as its slogan ‘In times of peace prepare for war.’ It regards as wicked the waste of the nation’s wealth in the building of vast armament and the maintenance of greatly augmented forces on land and sea.
Practically all other Protestant sects adopted similar policies and propagandized the coutry in many widely read church publications. The numerous Methodists were extremely active and articulate politically. Their large Washington headquarters building in the shadow of the Capitol dome was convenient for exerting pressure on member of Congress.

At the top levels the Protestant churches mobilized their offensive against armaments in an organization called the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America...

The churches were far from playing a lone hand in the great game of undermining the relative power of the American Navy. They were enthusiastically supported by virtually the entire press, in the beginning."

I find it exquisitely ironic that Morison was a professor of history at Harvard, that modern hotbed of warmongering sentiment.

If war is hell, then the road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

Courage and Faith.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

This past Saturday afternoon I ran across a remarkable passage in Plato's Apology. The setting is the trial of Socrates. The charge against him is heresy, leading the youth of Athens to worship strange gods. Socrates, speaking in his own defense now turns to a particular slander: that many feel him a fool for sticking with his beliefs, even at the hazard of his own life. Here is his reply:

"But I myself should make to this man a just reply, 'You do not speak well, mister, if you think it necessary for a man of even the slightest virtue to consider danger of life or death, and not on the contrary only to examine whenever he does things whether they are done on the basis of right or wrong, works of good or evil. For according to your reasoning they were evil [cowardly] demigods who came to their end at Troy, who among others was the son of Thetis who so despised danger alongside enduring disgrace, so that when his mother (being a goddess) said to him, since he was eager to kill Hector, something like this, I believe, 'O son, if you avenge the murder of your friend Patroclus and kill Hector, you yourself will die.' and immediately she says to him, 'After Hector, death is ready for you.' But after hearing these things he made light of death and danger, fearing much more an evil [cowardly] life. and not avenging his friends, and he said, 'I may die immediately after exacting justice on an evildoer, in order that I might not remain here, jeered at beside the curved ships, a burden of the earth.' Do you really think he considered death and danger?'"

In other words, don't calculate the danger, calculate whether a deed is right or wrong. That is the only criteria you need consider. Thank God for millions of veterans who believed that very principle. The value of our freedom is what makes their sacrifices righteous before the very throne of God.

Animo et Fide.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Happy Birthday, United States Marine Corps. The first 227 years of forever.

"Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines don't have that problem."
Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America

"For all of those that have son's or daughter's at bootcamp let me pass on what I found. Let me give you a little back ground first. When my son left home he had no motivation, he was lazy, slobby, no pride, no self worth. This is the boy that got off the bus March 18th at Parris Island. The man that I met on Thursday for parents day is AWESOME. There is no way I can describe to you all the difference. He looks different, he walks different, he talks different, he has such a sense of bearing and pride all I could do was look at him in awe. Oh yes, the training is hard, what he went through is unimaginable to any one that has not been there. They are definitely taught to be Warriors. Let me tell you the surprise of what else they are taught. My Marine son has better values, better morals, better manners than any one I know. It is so much more than Yes Sir, Yes Mam...so much more. He cares about how he looks, he cares about what he does, and its not a boastful, bad ass thing. He is a true gentleman. I saw patience, and a calmness in him that I have never seen. I could never express my gratitude enough to the Marine Corps for what they have given my son. I know this, I have an 11 year old Devil pup still at home. When the time comes for his turn if I had to I would take him kicking and screaming all the way. Although I'm sure that will not happen. The hero worship I see in my younger sons eyes for his Marine brother tells me I will have two Marines in the family, and I will be one very proud mother."
"Cybil", Mother of a Marine writing to the myMarine Group

"Don't you forget that you're First Marines! Not all the communists in Hell can overrun you!"
Col. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC, rallying his First Marine Regiment near Chosin Reservoir, Korea, December 1950

"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold."
1stLt. Clifton B. Cates, USMC in Belleau Wood, 19 July 1918

"Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?"
GySgt. Daniel J. "Dan" Daly, USMC, near Lucy-`le-Bocage as he led the 5th Marines' attack into Belleau Wood, 6 June 1918

Whenever I can I sit on our backyard deck in order to have my prayer time. I was there this morning (the next door neighbors were burying their friend's cat, complete with inscribed memorial block of wood, and no I didn't do it, so stop thinking that; Frisky was looking on in total amazement, wondering why they weren't making that perfectly good cat into dog food, but I digress), and I was working through doctrine of majesty as a part of my worship. You can tell right away that God the Holy Spirit helps with concentration during prayer, considering the manifold distractions. I was thankful indeed. Anyway, I read through doctrines as a part of my prayer time, integrating what I read into prayers of worship. While I was reading I ran across a favorite passage which illustrates the majesty of God's power and character as well as any writing.

From John Muir, Range of Light, “Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.”

I've been to that very place. It is between San Jose and Monterey, and although the smog and dust of the San Joaquin Valley now more often than not obscures that view, I have seen it as described, and it is truly majestic. Yet if creation is majestic, then surely God the creator must be even more so. God exists exactly as the Bible reveals Him to be, and that makes all the difference. Live out your lives in careful consideration of that.

Courage and Faith.

Friday, November 08, 2002

I noticed today that Berean Publishers of New Zealand have recognized a poem of mine as one of their favorites. I wrote this several years ago, and it still moves me when I read it. The inspiration was Christ; the guide God the Holy Spirit. I merely acted as His servant. May its words fill you with the true meaning of the gospel. Thanks also to whoever sent it to them.

Berean Publishers of New Zealand
I am currently reading William Manchester's The Last Lion, a biography of the first part of Winston Churchill's life. It is excellent on many levels. First, as a history of Victorian England it is on par with Pax Britannica, considered by most to be the champion history on the subject. The prologue, which runs some 75 pages and gives an overview of Churchill's life, is the most memorable and entertaining passage of history writing that I can remember. Second, as a history of virtue borne of strife, it gives excellent service. Winston Churchill was born to a famous British politician and his american wife. They cared so little for him they refused to answer his pleading letters from school, even when he was a child of less than 10 years of age. His father openly despised young Winston and publicly disdained him even when he was very young. It was both neglectful and emotional abuse. On top of that, he was physically abused in an appalling manner by a certain schoolmaster. On one of the few occasions when he received care from his own mother, he came home with so many open wounds and bruises from brutal whippings that there was dismay even in an era when such things were acceptable. All of which contributed to his indomitability. An indomitability which, when confronted with the daunting tyrants of the 20th Century, was unfazed. Churchill had his flaws, like any human being. In many ways he was slow to mature. But he was fearless in combat, and could not be buffaloed by any political leader, British, German, or otherwise. Winston Churchill stands as one the the great examples that a difficult and even abusive childhood may be overcome, and may even become an advantage to those who are honest enough with themselves and with the world to see it.

I am still unsure about Churchill's status as a Christian. The book depicts the upper crust of English society as exceedingly degenerate, and they were Winston's people. Among his contemporaries were many fine believers, so that it is not out of the question.

The ultimate triumph over child abuse comes courtesy of the grace of God, and there is ample grace to recover from any difficulty. John 9:1-3 testifies to God's reason for allowing such monstronsities: "1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

Blindness is a terrible handicap, and most difficult for children. Although it is a physical handicap, Christ's principle readily applies to environmental handicaps as well. Whether parental or peer abuse, whether physical or emotional, God allows it in order to display His works.

Courage and Faith.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Today is doctrine day. I am posting the first part of the Doctrine of Theology Proper. The term theology is used in a broader sense to describe all aspects of theology and all of the sub-doctrines drawn from the Bible. Theology Proper focuses on the person of God Himself, and here is the very beginning of the work I did earlier this year. Seems like a long time ago already.

2002 Basics Lesson #2: Theology II... A Description of God
I. General Course of the Lesson: A Methodology of Description.
A. We will study the essence of God: Who and what He is.
B. We will study the capabilities of God: What He can do.
C. We will study the character of God: the manner of His doing.
II. The Essence of God.
A. God is a person: He is the living God.
1. Argument from comparison with man:
a. Since man is like God in soul essence, Genesis 1:26-27, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness”, we may infer that the structure of the divine soul is the same as that of the human.
b. So God is also a person.
2. The original Hebrew and Greek terms which describe the God of the Bible.
a. The Hebrew is EL-HA. HA is an adjective which means living, and this is perhaps a take off from the ‘I am’ of Mt. Sinai.
b. The Greek is ZONTI THEOU. ZONTI is a present participle which denotes not only life, but continual existence.
3. Direct statements to the effect:
a. Joshua 3:10, “And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.”
(1) You know that God is alive because the seemingly impossible comes to pass.
(2) From the human viewpoint the Jews had no chance to displace all of these tribes from the promised land. But, God was on their side.
(3) The living God implies that He intervenes in our affairs, and on behalf of those who love Him.
b. In Psalm 42:1-2, David is once again in a jam, “1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirst for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?”
c. In Psalm 84:2, the five sons of Korah, David’s allies, sing a song of longing for worship in the temple. Though they were great warriors (1 Chron 12:6), they would really rather be worshipping God. Note that these men are Korahites, from a dishonored family in Israel. Their forefathers caused Moses no little grief while in the wilderness. Yet these men are spiritual giants. “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
d. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, “2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”
(1) Paul says that the Spirit has convicted he and his fellow evangelists about their mission to Corinth.
(2) He has led them there, written on their hearts the need the Corinthians had for the Word of God.
(3) The context is the persistent lasciviousness of the people of this church. They had engaged in every kind of lawlessness, and done so as Christians.
(4) Along the way, they had rejected the ministries of Paul and the other good pastors and evangelists of the day.
(5) This unfortunate circumstance meant that Paul needed a reintroduction to the Corinthians, and this context, he was revealing the purity of his motives in his dealings with them.
(6) What purer motive could there be than rightness before God?
(7) And this is also the context of the impossible - true recovery from degeneracy. Only the living God can do that.
e. In 1 Timothy 4:10 Paul relates the term to salvation, the ultimate impossibility, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, particularly of believers.”
4. Statements which depict God as intervening into the lives of men:
a. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.”
b. Galatians 4:4-5, “4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
B. Spirituality.
1. John 4:24 makes a definitive statement about the spiritual nature of God, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
2. Spirit is the contrary nature to flesh, Isaiah 31:3, “Now the Egyptians are men and not God, And their horses are flesh and not spirit; So the LORD will stretch out His hand, And he who helps will stumble And he who is helped will fall, And all of them will come to an end together.”
a. Two comparisons come out of this verse: Egyptians vs. God, and their horses vs. Spirit.
b. It says that God is spirit, but the Egyptians and their horses are flesh.
c. So this is a primary difference between God and man.
d. That God is spirit means that He is fundamentally different from the physical universe of the flesh - he is not bounded by the atomic structure of the universe.
e. God is the creator of the universe, and thus He is outside of its boundaries.
3. Paul made an issue out of the difference between the flesh and the spirit.
a. 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But a soulish man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
(1) It is worth visiting here in order to see the contrast between PSUCHIKOS and PNEUMATIKOS.
(2) This is a surprising difference, where you would expect SARKIKOS instead of PSUCHIKOS.
(3) But Paul wants to emphasize that our invisible souls can also be contrary to the spiritual priorities of God, so he uses ‘soulish.’
(4) The thinking of men in this world is often contrary to spiritual thinking.
(5) The two viewpoints are as fundamentally different as the two realms.
b. Concerning the resurrection body, 1 Corinthians 15:42-46, “42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in a perishable body, it is raised in an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.”
(1) Paul contrasts the resurrection body with the body of flesh.
(2) Our resurrection body is extra-universal, not a part of the fleshly/physical universe.
(3) It is fully equipped for function and life in the spiritual realm.
(4) But here we see that even our future in heaven will require a change to a body that is suitable for the spiritual realm.
c. Ephesians 6:12-13, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
(1) There is a realm of warfare that is entirely spiritual.
(2) And there are spiritual forces of evil.
d. Colossians 1:9-12, “9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
(1) There is a realm of wisdom that relates to the spiritual.
(2) It gives the ability to please Him, meaning that we can only please God when we are in the spiritual realm.
4. God is not constrained by the physical universe, in either space or time.
5. He demands a spiritual worship on account of this spiritual nature.
6. God enters into our universe and intervenes. But at least for the purpose of worship, He demands that we enter His in some significant fashion.
7. We cannot worship God from the flesh; it has to be a spiritual worship, entering into God’s realm of the Spirit.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The work in producing the biography of CPT Swanson has reminded me of the work of the writers of the four gospels. It has been about 30 years and more since Jon Swanson's passing. I have conducted many personal interviews with his family and fellow troopers, both by phone and by email. It was about 25-30 years after Christ's death when Matthew, Mark, and Luke began their works, and 40+ years for John. Memories are hazy, chronologies are difficult to construct, and pieces of the puzzle often contradict. For the first time in my life I am doing the primary work of the historian: collecting first-hand accounts. I am painfully aware of the difficulty of the work, and the responsibility to give a coherent narration of a good man's life. I am also aware of the inevitability of the creeping in of inaccuracies, and it makes me appreciate all the more the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in ensuring the perfect accuracy of the gospel accounts through inspiration. “God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture, that without waving their human intelligence, individuality, literary style, personal feelings, the time in which they lived, or any other human factor, His own complete and coherent message to man was recorded in perfect accuracy in the original languages of the writers, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.” I don't have that for my effort in constructing history, but I appreciate the product that the Spirit gave us in the gospels, and in all of Scripture.

Courage and Faith.
For those of you who visit here, I thought I would give you a picture of Captain Jon E. Swanson, United States Army. His widow Sandee sent this one to me last week, indicating that it was her favorite picture of him. Be ready for a meaningful and worshipful observance of Veteran's Day.



Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Two years ago on election day I had the most awful feeling. It was an undefined dread, as though an invisible shroud of evil had settled over the land. Like the guy said in Ghostbusters, "I have a bad feeling about this." And sure enough, our country went through a sore test of democracy, barely weathering the evil machinations of those who would manipulate democracy to satisfy their lust for power. I thought at the time that we were on the brink of the most severe civil unrest since the 1960s. I still believe today that we were indeed. When the dust settled and president Bush took the oath of office, I had the distinct impression that God had given us the president that we needed, and I said so at the time. For what, I did not know.

That our country exists today, undominated by foreign oppression, is sound evidence of the grace and patience of God.

Today America reflects her innermost self at the voting booth. We will have many new individuals sitting in elected offices across the land, and at the end of the day we will be looking in that great mirror of democracy: our elected leadership. I was at peace with God over the mess of the Clinton years, realizing that He wanted our nation to bear his shame as motivation to seek spiritual change. I am at peace with God today come what may. Our nation may choose the squalid chains of anti-establishment officials and policy, and if they do, God is in control. We will pay the price in the loss of freedom, and even the loss of life. The Law of Volitional Responsibility is fine motivation toward self-discipline, and we may have to go that way again.

I continue to pray for clarity regarding the issues and candidates. I cannot imagine there being a much more clear choice between the two than what we have today.

Courage and faith.

Monday, November 04, 2002

It is election day tomorrow.

I'm not going to tell you how to vote. After all, I teach my brains out on establishment issues, and by this time your conscience ought to be well-founded regarding the issues. The important thing I wanted to communicate is that you have a strong obligation to vote. I study history an awful lot, and I find that our position as Christians in America is highly unusual. That is to say, you have to look very hard to find a place in history where Christians have such a degree of control over their own destinies.

Thomas Paine said, "The right to vote...is the primary right by which other rights are protected" We stand on a historical pinnacle freedom. We are free to preach, free to proselytize, free to print and read our Bibles and inspirational materials based on the Bible. Voting is a means by which we protect those other rights. Allow the enemies of freedom to dominate through the voting booth, and you will have legislators who enact laws restricting your freedom; judges who uphold those restrictions. Ultimately, the cause of Christ will suffer. Understand this point clearly, and you will never turn your back on the voting booth.

"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. may your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." Although Samuel Adams was speaking of taking up arms for our country, the principle holds with regard to the voting franchise.

From the heart.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

This is my favorite verse that has to do with culture. We're not stuck with the Bible alone for reading (not that such would be a bad thing), and we're not stuck with re-enactments of Bible stories for our entertainments (not a bad thing either). "Okay kids, let's do the Jonah play again." NOOOOOOOooooo!!!!! This verse enables us to sail to a new world of entertainment, a world that is bordered by virtue and at the same time unbounded by human creativity. Books, movies, plays, music, and more... all are valid insofar as they are virtuous. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote an essay on how the gospel permeates all virtuous literature. How many great works of literature are clever retellings of the EUAGGELION, the gospel story.

This past year I saw four movies that very clearly passed the virtue test:
1) Spiderman. This is a good vs. evil movie, which contains themes of defending the weak and self-sacrifice.

2) Jonah. If you missed this, you missed a lot. A very fine and faithful re-telling of the misguided prophet. Surprising insight and attention to historical detail for a bunch of live-action vegetables. Has a subtle gospel, but gospel nonetheless. Good for the whole family.

3) A Walk to Remember. Okay so I cried. Imagine your 250 pound Pastor blubbering and you have the picture. First positive portrayal of evangelical Christians in a long time. In fact, this may be the first time that Hollywood painted Christians in a positive light since Cecil B. DeMille was making epics and Charlton Heston looked young (you just can't have old man legs in a short robe). It wasn't perfect, but the female lead carried the day, and it was worth every nickel.

4) We Were Soldiers. I have this thing about Mel Gibson movies. Every time I see one I think it's an elaborate remake of the Road Warrior. You know, Mel Gibson is just an average guy minding his own business when the bad guys tick him off. Then watch out! Mel's mad now. Then he shoots them full of holes in the shape of a smiley face. I thought this same thing in The Patriot. This was true to a much lesser extent in We Were Soldiers, but the element is still there, and I can't help but think that Colonel Moore bears a striking resemblance to Mel Gibson. Oh, wait, that is Mel Gibson, and this is a Mel Gibson Movie. This time the North Vietnamese make Mel mad, and they pay for it. But, this movie is worth your dollar for Sam Elliot's portrayal of Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley. If your ears are delicate toward profanity you may not share this opinion, but Elliot nailed the very idea of the U.S. Army Sgt. Major. It is also worth it because it portrays its soldiers and their women as godly and patriotic people, and it does not apologize for that. There were elements of the book that I did not care for, such as the author's tendency to place our communist foes as our moral equals. That's really bad. But it was a book that tore at your heart, and also made my Cavalryman's heart soar with pride for the way the Garry Owen regiment fought the battle. The movie leaves out that bad junk. I was amused that the one sympathetic communist character is summarily dispatched by Mel Gibson.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

I am putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's new topic for our Christian Basics series: Prayer. The striking thing about prayer is how little time folks actually devote to their communication with God. A few years ago I was having a conversation with a fellow pastor, and the topic turned to prayer. I told him that I only prayed a few minutes each day. He registered no response, so to this day I really don't know what he thought. But I know what I thought: a few minutes each day is a pitiful amount. Yes indeed I was wracked with guilt (okay not wracked, but still I realized that I needed an upgrade on my quality time with God).

I would like to emphasize strongly at this point that prayer should be characterized by its quality, and not its quantity. It is not that lengthy prayer is a bad thing, but if it is poorly done, inefficiently done, then it is a wasteful act. Prayer depends very much on our ability to concentrate, and for that reason I usually keep a printed sheet of my agenda right before my eyes. Furthermore, I make prayer a priority in my life. I've taken enough lumps in my spiritual life to know that this is essential. It is flat out the best way to put all that doctrine to use, and I am convicted that God wants me to do this very thing. So now I do.

Since I'm the pastor of this esteemed organization, I am going to challenge you: add five minutes to your daily prayer time, starting tomorrow. If you tend to struggle with that, then write down five people for whom you will pray, then do it.

See you in the morning.