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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Pictures Tim Won't Let You See

You might want to head over to Tim's blog to catch up on the discussion concerning "Centaurs" vs "unicorns". He has come out heavily prejudiced towards one side and refuses to fairly present the case! So, since this is MY blog (which, admittedly, no one reads), I will reveal the Truth . Tim contends that unicorns are not noble, brave beasts, worthy of joining you in battle. As you can see from theses pictures... the world does not agree with him. The Czech Republic and Scotland, to name but two, include the noble creature on their coats of arms. And what are coats of arms? They were identifying banners carried into Battle! [I bet William Wallace had a unicorn on HIS coat of arms!]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Peter Pan Nabbed by Police

If Tim were home, I know he would want to post this story. The title on was "Peter Pan, Snow White Arrested at Disneyland". If that title doesn't catch your attention, then the picture of Peter Pan being put into a police car should.

And that, of course, was the whole point of the protesters having dressed up in Disney character costumes. At first I thought it was the actual character actors who were protesting. But it was the bell hops and maids at two Disney hotels in Anaheim who had dressed up as Disney characters to protest the high cost of health care insurance. If you take a close look at Peter Pan, you'll notice his costume isn't quite up to snuff.

While I do understand their frustration with rising health insurance costs, I don't believe Disney is alone in being unable to entirely absorb the cost as an employer. As former employers ourselves, we had always paid 100% of employee's health costs, even when it hurt. But the costs eventually became SO high that we had to pass on part of that cost to our employees (which included us!). People love to bash Disney, but the real problem is with the high cost of health care and health care insurance. That's certainly something even Mickey Mouse himself can't control. They should have protested outside of their insurance company.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Judges: Background Context

As we study the Bible it can be difficult to force ourselves to look beyond the immediate portion we're reading and make ourselves step back to determine the larger context. But if we don't, we can make grave errors in our understanding of a passage. It's important to know the Book as a whole. Each book has a specific Purpose, is written to a particular Audience and exists in a particular Culture and Time period. But we shouldn't stop there. There is an even larger context - the Bible as a whole. We often forget that the Bible is ONE book, written by one ultimate author, the HS. It's also a progressive revelation from God, so if we isolate a book from that greater context, we're likely to miss significant things.

I've been preparing the Book of Judges for SS class and thought it would be a good idea to back up a little, so the kids might appreciate the bigger picture concerning where God is going in the Book of Judges. I came up with 5 main points I think it's vital for them to understand. Here are the first three:

1. God's Original Intention for Man [Gen.1:26-28; 2:15-19]

According to the opening chapters of Genesis, God created man (and woman) to be Vice Regents of His creation. They were to exercise dominion over creation, be fruitful & multiply and fill the earth. As a bonus, they had an open, personal relationship with the Regent, God. When they disobeyed their Sovereign, that purpose became horribly corrupted. But God immediately set about to restore His original plan and bring Himself glory by doing so.

2. The Abrahamic Covenant [Gen.12:1-3; 15:5-21; 17]

God chose out one man and from him created a people as His own, to represent Him to the rest of Creation. You could almost look at Israel as a microcosm of God's original plan for man. [This is an unconditional covenant, completely reliant upon God. Israel may fail to be faithful, but God will always remain faithful.]

3. A Nation of Priests/Mediators [Ex.19:4-6]

Going a step further, God intended Israel to be a kingdom of Priests. What's the function of a Priest? To be a Mediator between God and man. Israel was to Mediate between God and His creation. They were to represent Him in such a way that the nations would flock to Him.

[You'll notice that this Covenant is a Conditional one (if../then..). That's significant to having an understanding of 1Pet.2:9-10, where the very same verses are addressed to the church.]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Christian Life in the Greek Present Tense

The time has come to start working on the next Ladies' study. I've decided to study "Prayer from Paul's POV". [I'll come up with a catchier title later. Suggestions?] After translating Rom.1:8-12 and making a beauteous chart, I spent time making observations. The first thing I noticed is how many Present Tense verbs Paul uses in this passage. That's significant!

[As a reminder... Greek Verbs tell not only the TIME of the action, but also the KIND of the action. While there are some other specific uses of the Greek Present Tense, generally it denotes progressive action, which can be either on-going, repetitive or continuous.]

Here are some examples from this passage:

1:8a "...I am thanking my God ..."
1:8b "...your faith is being proclaimed in the whole world."
1:9a "...God...whom I am serving..."
1:9b "...I am making a mention of you"
1:10 "...always...making request/beseeching/imploring/begging
1:11 "...I am longing to see you..."

I worded it so that you could appreciate the "Present tenseness" of these verbs. When Bible writers talk about the Christian life, the Present Tense verbs start jumping out all over the place. That's because faith in the heart affects the outer actions... continuously, progressively. "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is." You don't "thank God" once, or even every once in a while. A heart of faith is thanking God continuously, progressively. It's a "lifestyle" attribute.

Read over this passage a few times and spend some time thinking about the significance of these verbs being in the Greek Present Tense. Then ask yourself if this is personally true in your life.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lessons Learned

We've been going through a transition time. Having sold our business, we've been trying to find the next source of income. Transitions can be frightening, especially when you are aging and you don't have a clear picture of where you are headed.

Fortunately, God knows the answers to all my questions and concerns and He has my future all mapped out. I am completely convinced of that truth from an intellectual POV, but I have been having a hard time letting it trickle down to my emotional POV. And that has been bothering me. After prayerful study and meditating on God's Word, I thought I would share some of the conclusions that have helped me apply my "head" to my "heart". While most of these are not "new" truths, they are truths that I have absorbed in a new, more personal way. The crushing burden in my chest has lifted, and if it returns in the middle of the night, then I just remind myself of these "epiphanies", the weight leaves and I go back to sleep.

1. My prayer was wrong. I was praying, "Take it away...take it away. Fix it." Which, quite honestly, was not doing a thing for me. Is God able to take it away? Certainly. Then it really sank in that He has allowed this situation to help conform me to the image of His Son. [Rom.8:28-29] In the long run, THAT is what will bring me true joy. THAT is what is BEST for me. My prayer is now, "Lord, give me the strength to trust You, to rest in You, even when my "eyes" don't see the end."

2. I was not truly thankful for His current provision. He has given me two part time jobs I enjoy [teaching Koine & working at church], as well as the monthly payments for our business to live on in the interim. Yes, we had hoped to invest the payments to support us in our old age, but that was OUR plan. It's one thing to be a good steward and to plan wisely, but completely another to cling to absolute control of everything in our lives. For a believer, that is God's area.

3. I was looking at only MY picture of the future. This is where I want to be in 7 years when the business payments end. Maybe that isn't God's idea at all! All kinds of things might happen in the next 7 years, and my worry and anxiety would end up being completely foolish in hindsight. God knows 7 years from now. He tells me to be concerned with TODAY. [Mt.6:33-34] Today did He provide for me? Yes. I now remind myself that He is just as able to provide for me 7 years from now...and it doesn't have to be in the exact manner I have decided it should be. He knows what is best for me so much better than I do.

4. I need to spend more time immersed in God's Word for my own personal study, not just as a preparation for teaching. I spend a lot of time preparing for SS, Ladies' studies & any 1-on-1 mentoring I might be doing. I certainly learn & apply a lot in the process, but I do tend to be more others-focused. I ALSO need to be spending time repetitively reading a book of the Bible without having an extraneous motive... just humbly reading and letting the HS speak personally to me.

5. I looked for "feeding factors" to avoid and discovered the Evening News was NOT being helpful. I do not need to hear nightly scare stories about the price of gasoline and home heating oil going up, the stock market going down, etc.. It is of absolutely no value to me, except to make me anxious. So I skip the Evening News for now. I keep up with news on-line and in the newspaper, where it is much easier to choose what I want to be exposed to. Daily I remind myself how wealthy Americans are and how skewed our POV is because of it. So I skip the Evening News and instead read the "Voice of the Martyrs" magazine, in order to get my perspective right. The result is LESS needless anxiety and MORE compassion for believers around the world who are suffering for their faith in Christ.

6. I remembered the lessons learned from the 1Peter Ladies' Study. I remind myself constantly that I am a pilgrim, a traveler passing through. This is not my home. I need to keep my focus on my home country, which is eternal. I recalled Paul's life after conversion. He just kept walking, faithfully serving. I don't remember any verses about him becoming overly focused upon his old age. He was focused on glorifying God, moment by moment, day by day. And the result was that he "learned to be content" because of the opportunities God gave him to practice. [Phil.4:11-12]
I GET it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


We recently started the latest Ladies' Bible Study. It has been very encouraging to see the unexpectedly large turn out. [It's being offered at two different venues on two different nights. One class meets weekly and the other class meets bi-weekly.] I'm encouraged because these women are willing to WORK to learn skills which will help them interpret Scripture accurately, and then be able to use that knowledge in the preparation of lessons for discipleship, counseling, SS lessons, etc. - that is, in ministry.

This isn't the kind of class where you show up every week, chat about "what it means to me" and then go home to forget about it until the next week. No, friends, this is the kind of class where you come to realize how much you have left to learn.... where every week there is NEW material to digest and practice using throughout the week... where you have to relearn things you thought you had left far behind - things like grammar and history and geography.

Why, you might ask, would anyone be willing to subject themselves to such torture? Interestingly, anyone who has participated in one of these classes all the way through usually returns the next year... and they ALWAYS stick with it until the end! I often ask myself, "Why do they do it?" And I DO know the answer. It's because they have learned what a joy it is to be able to know God better, more obediently, to be able to gain new insight into Scripture, to have a whole new world open up before their very eyes as they start to plumb the depths of God's Word.

The hard part is convincing the first-timer to stick with it. It's hard to convince someone who is feeling clueless that ALL of us flailed around when we began. It has nothing to do with intelligence, with academic ability, with some special skill set you may have been born with. It has everything to do with hard work, with pushing yourself to learn, with reading, with meditating and with practice, practice, practice. This didn't come naturally to any of us!

But we discovered the value of perseverance. One day we DID start to notice things in our Bibles, it DID start to make sense to us, truths began popping out of the pages and organizing themselves in our minds. And that godly knowledge resulted in growth in our personal walk with Christ, in our dependence upon Him and in our obedience to Him. It changed the focus of our lives. That made perseverance well worth it!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Land of Hills & Valleys

In January I traveled to Israel with a group from NE Bible College. Though it wasn't exactly the study trip I had pictured, it was certainly a worthwhile experience. Because there weren't enough students to fill all the slots, they opened it up to people from churches who support the College. The result was that the trip was not as academic as I would have liked... but I was able to make new friends.

We visited some sites I had only dreamed of ever seeing. I'm sure I became quite annoying as I kept trying to explain to people the significance of the gateway at Lachish or the controversy over the "stable" at Megiddo or the importance of all the miqvehs at Qumran as to whether or not this had been an Essene community (a small minority do not believe it was) or why there had once been an Egyptian governor's house on the Tell at Beth Shean. I'm not sure they were able to see how utterly cool it all was! ;)

Other than the archaelogical areas, what was most educational for me? I'd have to say seeing the terrain. I knew that Israel is small, about the size of NJ. But I had not really appreciated that it is pretty much all uphill, except for the coast and Jordan rift valley. When you look at a topographical map you notice that the terrain is arranged in vertical strips: coastline, hill country, Jordan rift valley. So when I read "hill" country, I imagined gently rolling hills, such as you would see in southern NH. But it wasn't like NH at all. The hills, though not always very high, ascend and descend sharply, again and again, so that you are constantly traveling up and down. From the top of one hill you can easily see the surrounding hills, but there are steep valleys in between. And it's just one hill after another after another... I have a new appreciation for Jesus and the disciples walking around that land. They must have been been pretty buff!

The Kidron Valley and Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem are also a lot steeper and deeper than I had imagined. One of the funniest stories happened when we were independently walking around in the Old City. The Old City is like a rabbit warren. The streets are narrow and roofed over in the market areas, so you often have absolutely no sense of direction and can walk from one Quarter to the next without even being aware of it, except for, perhaps, a change in merchandise or the writing being in Hebrew or Arabic.

Rick, Heather & I were walking along and I noticed we were going DOWN a lot of steps. I mean lots and lots of steps. Down and down and down... I laughed, saying at least we didn't have to climb back up all of them. Yes... you guessed it. We ran into a sawhorse roadblock we couldn't pass. The gentleman explained there was a mosque service ahead and we could go no further. We told him we were headed to the Jaffa Gate and he started laughing a deep belly laugh. After wiping the tears from his eyes and chuckling a few more times, he informed us we had been traveling in the exact opposite direction - which meant we had to climb back UP all those many, many stairs. I was pleased to have given him such a spot of joy in his humdrum job of stopping tourists from wandering into a mosque service. I'm sure we made his day and he couldn't WAIT to go home and tell the wife and kids!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I'm Baaack!

Yes, I am still alive and well. I praise the Lord that we have a new Pastor caring for our fellowship. It is a blessing I am not apt to ever again take lightly. I thank those of you who have been praying for us and want you to know that God, in His faithfulness, has answered your prayers. Now we can focus on the business of doing the work of the ministry.

Personally, I am currently preparing to teach a new Ladies' study entitled, "From Scripture to Implication: Rules and Tools for Personal Devotion and Ministry Preparation". I'd appreciate your prayers that God would use the effort to His glory. The class begins March 19 and I'm sure you will be reading about it here in the coming days.