Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gender Genie

Cut and paste in the text box. The Gender Genie will tell you the gender of the writer. Longer submissions are more accurate. Enjoy.

The results of my Harry Potter article:
How did you do?

Words: 5632
Female Score: 6610
Male Score: 8074
The Gender
Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Katherine and I are about a month into the Blockbuster movie deal.

We pay $15/month. We get 2 movies at a time through the mail. No late fees. Unlimited movies. But unlike Netflix, we get to exchange a mailed movie for any in-store movie for free! And, as soon as the mail movie is checked in at the store, the next mail movie is shipped. So we could have up to 4 movies at a time (though the timing would need to be pretty good), without paying any more than the $15/month. I recommend it so far.

We've seen:

1. Bowling for Columbine -- Michael Moore documentary. Not great. He's done better work. Interesting stuff for sure, but what's his point? Not sure. Worth watching, but be prepared to be confused.

2. Waiting for Guffman -- Christopher Guest and Company, mockumentary. Hilarious, but not his best work. I liked Spinal Tap (own it), Best in Show, and Mighty Wind better. Some great scenes though. Why can't anybody else do this kind of comedy?

3. My Left Foot -- Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis). Amazing acting and a terrific true story. Very inspiring. I really like stories like this. Whatever happened to Daniel Day Lewis?

4. Bonhoeffer -- Documentary on the German theologian/martyr. Couldn't stay awake. I'm really interested in the subject, but the movie was pretty bad, I thought. I should have paid more attention, if only to be more specific in my critique. Sorry.

5. Lost in Translation -- I think I see the beauty that so many critics saw -- and I'm not terribly impressed. Halfway between artsy and hollywood. My suggestion -- skip it.

6. An Inconvenient Truth -- Al Gore's documentary on Global Warming. I'm interested in the subject, but had a few negative reviews, so I didn't expect much. Actually, I thought was terrific! Katherine and I were very impressed. The presentation was clear, fact based, but not boring. I think I understand the issues of global warming so much better now. My highest recommendation of the last few months. You should see it.

7. The Search for Spock -- I love the Star Trek movies and I like the original series (and to a lesser extent the "New Generation"). I'm not a Trekkie per se, but I really like the movies, especially. I hadn't seen this in a while -- probably won't see it for a while again. Some good scenes, but overall, not as good as I remembered. Wrath of Khan (own it) is great, though. Watch that one instead.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Curse of the Cyclops

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pascal, 265

265. Faith indeed tells what the senses do not tell, but not the contrary of what they see. It is above them and not contrary to them.

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Basic Concepts in Practical Mercy

Basic Concepts in Practical Mercy
02: Three Levels of Mercy

There are three basic levels of mercy:

1. Charity, Give water to drink, Give a hungry man a fish to eat
2. Personal Development, Give bucket to draw water, Teach the hungry man to fish
3. Empowerment, Give well to manage, Sell the hungry man the pond

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In charity, we see basic needs for food, shelter, education, a listening ear. We meet them. This is the simplest, easiest way to provide a ministry of mercy to another person. Here are some good examples:
1. A soup kitchen, providing food and water, basic nutrition, to those who are hungry.
2. A homeless shelter, providing a cool (or warm), safe, clean place to sleep for those without.
3. Free health screening, providing basic medical attention to those with no other access.
4. Free meals for a refugee family just arriving, or to a single mother immediately after birth.
5. Cleaning the kitchen and bathroom of an elderly person who has no family or friends still living.
6. Paying the electric bill of a person who has had a devastating illness and/or loss of employment.

Jesus commands us, in Matthew 25, to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and feed the hungry. James 1 tells us that pure religion includes taking care of widows and orphans.

There are some people who will need ongoing charity throughout their lives because they are permanently handicapped, but these people are rare. Normally, this kind of mercy should be directed to people in transition only! When we foster an attitude of addiction to this sort of charity, we are not being merciful at all. In fact, rich people who get a "good feeling" from providing charity to the poor might have a selfish (subconscious) desire to keep them poor so that we can continue to get the good feeling of helping them. That is not merciful. That is oppression.

Generally speaking, we give our charity with a focus upon moving toward development.

Personal Development
In personal development, we find ways for people to provide their basic needs for themselves more efficiently. We connect them with tools are resources so that they can come to a place where they can help others. This is far more demanding for both the giver and the receiver of mercy, but far more rewarding for both, too. In development, the giver and receiver share responsibility and take a step toward inter-mingling the roles of giver and receiver. Here are some good examples:
1. A jobs training center that gives computer skills to unskilled laborers.
2. An ESL class that provides a place in which to acquire English skills for better employment.
3. A budgeting class or counseling to help "stretch" the money earned by the poor.
4. Giving (loaning?) a car to someone who needs transportation to secure a good paying job.
5. Conducting a "grief group" to help recently bereaved people to connect emotionally.
6. Having a subsidized general store, or goods-for-services exchange store.

Biblically, we can think of the principle of gleaning:

Leviticus 19:9-10, When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Basically, according the law, farmers (in this agricultural society where everybody was some sort of farmer) were allowed to pick when to harvest, but they could only harvest once. Not all the grapes (or corn, wheat, rice, etc.) is ripe at the same time. If you harvest it too early, it's no good. If you harvest it too late, it's fallen (and therefore, off limits). Therefore, the early fruit and the late fruit were for the poor. Also, the corners of the field were for the poor. A few principles here:
1. The poor have to work for their food (and if they sell what they harvest, they'll need to work extra for the money).
2. After a poor man picks early grapes off the ground and late grapes off the vine for a few seasons, he's probably skilled enough to be hired. This is job training.
3. This command is not simply "a good idea" or some way to earn "brownie" points with God, this is not for "advanced" Christians, or for those who have really big farms (the very wealthy). This is a law of God for everyone, regardless.

Mercy ministry that develops people requires much thought and energy. It requires us to look behind the presenting problem. If someone is hungry, why? How can we stop the cycle? How can we bring this person to the place where they can help others? Much of this kind of ministry involves various levels of education. Education comes in many different forms and types. However, those who engage in this type of ministry will eventually see that there are problems behind even these problems. There are more structural issues of empowerment that need to be addressed, too.

In empowerment, we seek to provide opportunties the poor to be in control of their own lives and communities in substantial and structural ways. This kind of mercy ministry is the most demanding upon both the giver and the receiver. It has the power to transform communities and cities. Here, the giver and receiver effectively trade places after a time, if it is done right. Some good examples:
1. Habitat for Humanity. Providing home ownership (rather than perpetually paying rent). This will change the "wealth status" of generations to come.
2. Promoting locally owned businesses. Keeping the resources of a poor neighborhood in the neighborhood, not flowing out provides more jobs, more affordable housing, etc.
3. Micro-business startups. Training and equipping new business owners from the poor community.
4. Long-term mentoring of children, especially young boys, to become leaders among the poor.
5. Helping communities organize to put pressure on local politicians for justice.

While charity and personal development often aim toward helping people one-at-a-time, empowerment aims at helping an entire community (albeit sometimes through individual leaders).
Empowerment commonly faces strong opposition because the results can be quite intimidating to those who are currently in power. There is always resistance by the powerful to a shift in power, but the Bible calls us to be those who would fight for the justice of all, not the status quo.

The biblical writers speak of this as "justice." Note that in Greek and Hebrew, the words for "justice" and "righteousness" are the same. These are two different words in English, but not in the Bible.

Proverbs 31:8-9, Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Isaiah 1:10-18, Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation-- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 58:1-10, Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

Micah 6:6-8, With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Basic Concepts in Practical Mercy

Basic Concepts in Practical Mercy
01: Biblical Reasons for Poverty

In the Bible, there are three reasons for poverty:
1. Oppression / Injustice Another's fault
2. Calamity / Natural disaster No particular fault
3. Laziness / Sin Your fault

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Poverty as a result of oppression:
Psalm 82:1-4, God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the "gods": "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 72:1, 4, Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness… He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.

Psalm 74:21, Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name.

Proverbs 16:19, Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.

Ecclesiastes 5:8, If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.

Isaiah 1:17, Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 10:1-2, Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Isaiah 26:6, He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust. Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.

Amos 2:7, They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.

God's people are commonly poor because of oppression:
1. At the birth of God's holy nation Israel, the people were slaves because of oppression (see especially Exodus 1:11-12; 3:9).
2. For the first 400 years of their nation, Israel was repeatedly oppressed by various Canaanite nations (Judges).
3. God's anointed, David, was oppressed individually by his father and brothers and then by the King Saul (1 Samuel).
4. After a brief period of national success (wherein they forgot the lessons they "learned" about oppression and they oppressed everyone around them) Israel splits and is soon oppressed by various evil kings, and finally by Assyria in the North (722) and Babylon in the South (586). They are further oppressed by Persia and then Rome.

In all these oppressions, God sides with the victims, not the oppressors.
Deuteronomy 26:7, Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression.

Psalm 9:9, The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 10:17-18, You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

Psalm 103:6, The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Psalm 146:7-8, He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.

Proverbs 14:31, 31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Isaiah 49:25-26, 25 But this is what the LORD says: "Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine. Then all mankind will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Isaiah 60:14, The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Ezekiel 18:5, 7, "Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right… He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.

Ezekiel 45:9-10, " 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: You have gone far enough, O princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. 10 You are to use accurate scales, an accurate ephah and an accurate bath.

Amos 4:1-2, Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, "Bring us some drinks!" The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: "The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.

Zephaniah 3, 19-20, At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes," says the LORD.

Malachi 3: 5, "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty.


Poverty as a result of calamity:
Genesis 47, a famine in Egypt caused widespread poverty.

Ruth 1, Naomi and her daughters-in-law were poor because their husbands (and sons) had died.

1 Kings 17, Elijah helps a woman who is poor because her husband died.

John 9, Jesus helps a man who is poor because he was blind.

There are many other examples throughout scripture, and many we know in our own lives.

One of the key signs of the "return of David" or "the Son of David" or the "Messiah" is the reversal of the effects of these misfortunes:
Luke 4:14-21, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 7:18-23, John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' " At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."


Poverty as a result of laziness:
Proverbs 6:6-11, Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

Proverbs 21:17, He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

Proverbs 23:20-21, Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

2 Thessalonians 3:9-10, We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

Our Response

Clearly, in every individual case there is more than one reason for a person's poverty. No one is without sin, and we all oppress each other in one way or another, of course. The reasons for poverty are a very complex mix of these three in real life. Each can lead to the others.

One thing is for sure, though -- we are our brothers' keeper. God commands us to get involved to help the poor, no matter the reason for their poverty. We can respond in different ways to alleviate the different reasons for poverty:

Oppression -- oppression and injustice exist all around us. God wants us to liberate those who are captive by racism, oppressed by unjust housing laws, and exploited by poor education. Commonly helping these people means directly fighting the oppressors with non-violence.

Calamity -- calamities are commonplace everywhere, but South Florida is famous for natural disasters. However, we must also respond to the needs of those who are handicapped, elderly and widowed, the orphans, the refugees and the immigrants. Most people are eager to help when shown the needs.

Laziness -- only God can change the hearts of individuals, but he has chosen to do so though his people. Our compassion and loving service (which rarely means "handouts") is the tool he uses to transform lives. As Pastor Lem Tucker used to say all the time, "He who has the greatest truth, must have the greatest love, and that is the greatest proof."

In some ways, these are the hardest people to love and be merciful to unless our hearts are overwhelmed by the mercy God showed us before we took a step in his direction. We were all lazy (in fact, we were dead!) in our sin before God opened our eyes to see him.

On the last day, when we stand before the throne of grace we will give an account for all we have done. When God asks us about our relationship to the lazy bum who won't get a job, we will not be proud to say to him, "I didn't let that lazy bum have any of my mercy! He wouldn't appreciate it! He would take advantage of it! I didn't let that happen. He didn't fool me. He tried to get my money, but I wouldn't let him. Aren't you so proud of me!" No, we will want to say, with tears in our eyes, "I did everything I could do to show him the love of Christ -- I gave him everything I had, I used all my resources to try and convince him of your mercy and grace, but he wouldn't listen. He squandered all the mercy he received, but I tried."

What if Jesus, on his way to the cross, had thought about us and said, "Now that I think about it, they will probably abuse my grace and mercy. They'll probably take advantage of it to sin even more. Nevermind. I'm not going to do it." He knows we take advantage of his grace all the time, but he give his life to us anyway. How much more should we give our wallets, our homes, our food, and our lives for the lazy poor?

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Tolkein on Sermons

They are bad, aren’t they! Most of them from any point of view. The answer to the mystery is prob. not simple; but part of it is that ‘rhetoric’ (of which preaching is a dept.) is an art, which requires (a) some native talent and (b) learning and practice. The instrument used is v. much more complex than a piano, yet most performers are in the position of a man who sits down to a piano and expects to move his audience without any knowledge of the notes at all. . . . But preaching is complicated by the fact that we expect in it not only a performance, but truth and sincerity, and also at least no word, tone, or note that suggests the possession of vices (such as hypocrisy, vanity) or defects (such as folly, ignorance) in the preacher.

“Good sermons require some art, some virtue, some knowledge. Real sermons require some special grace which does not transcend art but arrives at it by instinct or ‘inspiration’; indeed the Holy Spirit seems sometimes to speak through a human mouth providing art, virtue and insight he does not himself possess: but the occasions are rare. In other times I don’t think an educated person is required to suppress the critical faculty, but it should be kept in order by a constant endeavour to apply the truth (if any), even in cliché form, to oneself exclusively! A difficult exercise . . . ”

- J.R.R. Tolkien in a Letter to his son Christopher, 24 April 1944

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


My Name is Earl is one of my favorite shows. It is creative, hilarious, and has a lot of great commentary on culture and spirituality.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God

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In its essence, the word "gospel" simply means "good news." We can speak of the gospel of a new baby, the gospel of a pay raise, the gospel of a peace treaty or the gospel of discounted tickets to your favorite activity. But normally we don't. We don't use the word "gospel" for these things. It has taken a pretty specific meaning.

When Christians speak about "the gospel," we are talking about a particular gospel -- the good news about the Kingdom of God. Over and over again, the Biblical writers tell us the Jesus "proclaimed" or "preached" the gospel "of the Kingdom." What is the good news specifically? This is the good news (gospel) -- The Kingdom of God is Near.

What does that mean? Many books have tried to answer this question, but basically, it means that God has come to restore his world back to it's original intent. Everything that went wrong with the world is being reversed by God. Jesus' kingdom will reverse all evil. All personal sin, all sickness, all chaos, all diseases, all death, all oppression, all pollution will be reversed so that righteousness, justice, creativity, health, progress, happiness, harmony and growth pervade every area of the world. That is the gospel! That is the good news.

The gospel is far bigger than personal salvation, and it is far more profound than simply empowerment for the less fortunate. It includes those things, but goes far beyond them. As we sing at Christmas time in "Joy to the World" the gospel is that Christ's victory over Satan, sin and death is applied "far as the curse is found." Wherever we see evil overcome, we see a glimpse of the Kingdom of Jesus, and evidence of the gospel.

So, according to Jesus, when we speak the good news without reversing real evil, we lie. However, when we reverse evil without speaking the truth about Jesus, we rob Jesus of his glory. There is no gospel without the King, nor without his work. We cannot pick one. Word and deed proclaim together.

Mark 1.14-15, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Luke 4.18-19, [Jesus said,] "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Luke 4.43, But [Jesus] said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose."

Matthew 4.23, Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

Luke 8.1, After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

Luke 9.1-2, When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Luke 10.8-9, [Jesus said,] "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' "

Luke 7.18-23, John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' " At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Martins and Freedom

In my mind, Martin Luther (of the 1517 Reformation) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (named for the former) are inseperable.

Both defied the government, breaking laws. Both were godly men (with weaknesses) of uncommon courage, strength of heart, and skillful rhetoric. Both worked for the freedom of the oppressed. Both were preachers. In fact, I can think of no other men so used by God to advance the cause of true freedom.

Today, we honor Dr. King, one of my great heroes, a preacher who gave his life for the cause of freedom.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Thoughts on Bush's Iraq

The previous post on Demotovation led to a few email discussions, thanks, fellows. Here are some further thoughts cut and pasted from those conversations:

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Ok. I'm with you . . . we can't retreat. The welfare of Iraq is vitally important to the welfare of the USA. I agree. But I don't think the President does. That's my point. I think he's pursuing the welfare of the USA at the expense of Iraq. To use my "morale" analogy -- If morale is bad in the company, firing people doesn't help the problem, obviously. That's only going to create worse morale. Rather, we need to fix the problem at its root. Bad wages? Bad management? Poor working conditions? Whatever the issue is, that's what needs to be addressed. The morale problem is the consequence of the root issues, so treating the morale is not going to help.

So, in Iraq, Muslims and terrorists are anti-USA. Why? Because of our "immorality." We are sexually permissive, yes (think Hollywood, Baywatch, etc.). But more than that, I think, we are consumeristic. We consume so much. Clearly, the United States has enough disposable income to end extreme poverty worldwide. Every 5 seconds, a child dies of hunger. That's 5 "September 11th"s every day! We are rightfully outraged by the attacks on September 11, but why aren't we outraged that our brothers and sisters worldwide are dying needlessly in such numbers? We choose, as a nation, to allow this to go on. It would cost us greatly to end hunger worldwide, but we could do it -- we choose not to. We prefer a secure retirement, or better home stereo system, or whatever, rather than give food to people who are starving.

The old adage, "If you want peace, work for justice" makes sense to me. Why should I have an awesome stereo when someone else can't get enough food to keep living? Because I'm so smart? Because God loves me more? Because I'm white? Because I'm American? I had no choice in any of these things. None of this means anything. It's not fair. Justice dictates that we help others. I'm not talking about handouts. I'm talking about leveling the playing field. Those who are starving to death are more than happy to work for their food. No doubt about it, but we won't let them.

I don't see Bush's "new" plan addressing these kinds of issues. Until we start addressing these issues, terrorism will continue. There's nothing to lose! You can't fight or negotiate with a (nearly) endless supply of suicidal attackers. It is our aggressive stance toward the world that provokes the violence. A more aggressive stance will not end the violence.

I think the Middle East is vitally important for our country. Especially now that we've started the war. Failure is not an option, which is why I oppose the President's plan. It drives us further to failure. More troops in Iraq means less violence. That makes sense to me, but it won't work long term. It works short term because the USA military really is amazingly powerful, and we can quell any resistance. But, the amount of force it takes will incite more violence, not pacify, I believe. Our domination is the reason for the resistance. Further domination doesn't help.

Is this not the way of Jesus? Of the gospel? The way to victory is through peace. The first shall be last, the last shall be first. "If a man would follow me" (that is, the Messiah, the King, the Victor), "let him take up his cross first." "Whoever finds his life will lose it, whoever loses his life, for my sake, will find it." The path to personal joy is through personal sacrifice. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Sure, it's counter-intuitive, but that's the foolishness of the cross.

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Demotivation from Bush

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It seems to me that Bush's speech last night was basically . . .

"Ok, the war is not going so well. Our military is not having the affect we thought it was going to have. We're not making progress. So, the obvious solution is . . . more of the same. Our problem is that we haven't been trying hard enough. Let's re-double our efforts, maybe that will work."

You can't fix a morale problem by firing all the unhappy people.
You can't fix a peace problem by killing all those who oppose you.

Thoughts, anyone?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007


For Christmas, we got a handheld GPS unit from my parents. Following in my dad's footsteps (almost quite literally), we plan to use it (as they intended) to go geocaching.

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Basically, this is a global hide and seek game. People hide small containers (ranging in size from a lunch box to film canister) all over the world, then post the latitude and longitude online. Then we go find them. Each cache has a journal in it to record your visit. It's pretty fun. We've done a few already.

If you're interested, you can sign up for a free membership and view our profile, chwilliamfla.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

"Mere description is impossible. Language forces you to an implicit comment." -- C.S.Lewis, Present Concerns: Essays by C.S.Lewis, "Prudery and Philology" (1955).

There are always further meanings behind our words. We're always saying more than we are saying. Even now.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I don't really get Leno's humor. I don't think he's funny.
Except the headlines. I love the headlines!

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Breakout Churches

by Thom Rainer, Zondervan, 2005.

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This is a followup(?) to Good to Great by Jim Collins.

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Good to Great has made a huge impact at my hospital and many other companies. He did extensive research in the business world. He found several companies that were tooling along just fine, average, turning a small profit for many years. Then, all of a sudden, they started making tons of money for many years in a row. Then, his reasearch team said, what happened differently from other similar companies? Great book for anyone interested in the pursuit of excellence.

Breakout Churches follows the same sort of model, but for churches. Rainer's research team identified several churches that were pretty blah for a long time. Then, all of a sudden, they burst forward in church attendance, conversions (from other faiths), community impact, etc. He follows the same ideas as articulated by Jim Collins. Very helpful for any church (PCA?) that has been stagnate for some time. Basically, Rainer (and Collins) says it comes down to a committment to excellence and "hardwiring" excellence into the community. The principles, though, help to make excellence happen. Not quite a "how-to" book, but bordering on it.

Thanks to my friend and pastor, Worth Carson for the recommendations and borrows. These are good reference books, but not quick page turners.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hospital Prayer Journal

We keep a journal in the hospital's chapel. People write prayers in the journal. When the pages are full of prayers, we replace with a new journal. Most of the prayers are pretty generic, but some are quite amazing. I'll try to preserve the spelling, grammar, etc. Here's one:

Dear God,
Even to this day, I still question whether or not you exist. I wonder if you are real or if you are just a figment to millions of people's imaginations. My friends . . . tell me I am crazy to question whether or not you exist, they tell me how wonderful you are and how I should be greateful cause you died for our sins, but it's hard for me to believe in you. Everyone tells me how great you are but every day I see so many people suffering; people dying very painful deaths, and it makes me think "If God is so wonderful, why dies he let all this cahos happen!" I want to believe in a supreme being; a Great God, but I need you, therefore, to show me your ways. Why you let all this terrible stuff happen. I need it explained to me why you hurt your poeple. Until I can see why all this happen, I will still question your existance. So please show me what you are thinking, show me what goes on in your mind. Show me your ways so I can believe in you. Please show me God. Thanks. Please answer my prayer. Amen. "A not so sure believer."

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