Berean Blog

Random thoughts from a Doulos Theos (servant of God)

Location: Rocky Point, North Carolina, United States

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ashley singing like an angel at our most recent Gresham Place service! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I have found many reasons to neglect posting, but I have delayed long enough.

I mentioned that we survived Ophelia with minimal effects. Mama didn't have it as well in her apartment at the heretofore-proclaimed hurricane-proof complex. The roof was damaged by winds, allowing rain to stream down the wall of the apartment above hers, then down her bedroom wall. As a result, her carpet has been removed by the maintenance personnel. Again, as comparative damage goes, it was relatively minor, but I don't imagine the hurricane-resistant qualities of that building will be quite as loudly declared in the future.

You know, I feel for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but even more so as time elapses and stories come to light. That aside, and from a purely political perspective, it is incredible to witness the wrangling and opportunistic maneuvering taking place in the past couple of weeks.

Louis Farrakhan has now made it official that he no longer maintains any grasp on reality. Having gotten a glimpse of how our government truly operates in my years of holding the clearance I held for many years, I must admit that I have, at times, held what could be viewed as an extremely negative view of American "democracy"; however, Farrakhan makes my level of trust look like a kindergarten student's!

Have you noticed how a crisis brings out the true colors of liberals? To illustrate, I submit this. I'm afraid that, were that to happen here, you'd be reading my prison blog shortly thereafter.

Speaking of the true colors of liberalism, it's nice to note that Bill Clinton is still a ground-breaker. I never did credit him with much class, but this even surprised me. The Chinese seem to have caught on to his legacy, though! What a riot!

Many of you know that I have been closely watching the situation on the Korean peninsula. Recent news developed so rapidly that I missed an "I-told-you-so" opportunity.

When it was announced a few days ago that the DPRK (North Korea) was willingly abandoning its nuclear ambitions, I was suspicious. It simply was not in keeping with their behavior, and I fully planned to share that with all of you. Had I acted more quickly, I could be feeling smug in my intuition.

Scarcely 24 hours later, they announced their expectations that in exchange for their complicity with international demands, the United States should provide them a reactor. Now that is the North Korea I know! That is one regime that has been consistent only in its unhinged capacity. Here's a great review of the situation.

While I'm on the topic of conservative news, I have to share this. I'm beginning to wonder when, if ever, the former elite will wake up and realize that the stranglehold they formerly held upon public opinion is, and will remain, a thing of the past. You have to admire Matt Drudge; he held his ground for years while the mainstream media dismissed him as a "gossip columnist" and "rumor-monger", even while he continued to scoop them on major story after story. He was, if you recall, the one that broke both the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals.

Is anyone as disillusioned with television as am I? There seems to be less and less of any value on the networks.

For instance, a Peter Jennings tribute? What was that all about??? Shouldn't tributes be reserved for individuals of note? Honoring Peter Jennings for his longevity in the media machine made about as much sense to me as dealing with Yasser Arafat simply because he survived long enough as a terrorist to considered a viable peace partner. I know I can't be the only one who thinks like this...

We stumbled onto "CSI: Miami" the other night. What on earth happened to David Caruso? Did he somehow get stuck with all the years that Dick Clark missed? He used to be my age, but now he looks like he's about two years shy of a hundred. {Sigh}

We have enjoyed the new season of "The Biggest Loser" thus far. We have found our family favorites and razzes already. I am surprised by how quickly I have developed an affinity for Matt, but I really do like him. I don't particularly care for Nick; he has deeper issues than a weight-loss competition can address, and I feel a bit sorry for him.

I caught the premiere of "My Name Is Earl" last night; as a former Mahayana Buddhist, the promotions sparked my interest, so while Dee took the Arrows to Awana last night, Michael and I sat through it. It was disappointing, of course. If you check your Christian worldview at the door, you may find it cute, but there's not much redeeming value there.

In my new man, I am confounded by what I thought I found in Buddhism.

First of all, the "law" of karma is simply the Biblical concept of "sowing and reaping" in different packaging (yes, I know Buddhism pre-dates Christianity, but even pagans can occasionally find a few elements of truth).

Most importantly, however, it never occurred to me to wonder: if there is no G-d of the universe, who determines what is good and bad? How can one live conducive to moral law without a moral law-giver?

I've had this argument with an atheist, who told me that "one can be moral without being religious". I had a two-fold response to that:

1) I'm not religious, I'm a Christian (there's an enormous difference, which is what Matthew chapter 23 so powerfully demonstrates).

2) Presupposing that there were no difference, if you don't acknowledge a Divine authority, who decides what is right and wrong? Oh, you can counter that with societal expectations and such, but to quote Ravi Zacharias, "In one society, you love your neighbor, while in another, you eat them. Do you have any personal preference?"

Needless to say, I have never received a satisfactory response to quell this issue. Suffice to say, whether or not an individual chooses to believe in YHWH, it is a choice that requires faith to sustain it. The frightening issue is, if a Christian is wrong, what is the result? Nothing! If an atheist is wrong, what an eternally tragic mistake!

If you're still with me, dear reader, I have claimed your attention long enough. I do thank you, and I'll close now.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Our new co-worker...the wind was blowing a bit, and it was impossible to catch a shot of her when her web was completely still. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

As evidenced by the existence of this post, Ophelia left us unscathed. We "suffered" only a loss of power for four or five hours. If that's the worst we face this year, I'll happily take it.

We did not end up relocating, but took what little chance there was at the Doulos shanty. My primary concern was any tornadoes that may have been spawned. After the fatalities (one of whom was a close friend and roommate to an Arrow cousin) from last year's visitor to Rocky Point, I would have to admit it weighed heavily upon my partially-sanctified mind. A far more secondary concern was the power. One of the few drawbacks to living with a well is: when power goes, water goes.

We did make a startling discovery once the worst of the winds passed us; the top of one of the trees in the front yard snapped right off. It was about ten inches in diameter and ten feet in length, and could have caused some damage. However, it inexplicably fell straight down, and the only damage done was the hole it impaled into the ground. The angels were on duty and all was serene -- we didn't even know it happened, and we were all right there in the living room just a few feet away!

Thank you for your prayers; I hope to share more in the not-so-distant future...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I wanted to post a quick update for those who have wondered about our plans for Ophelia. It would appear she has finally settled upon a course, as have we.

The Wilmington crew is not working tomorrow (of course), so by necessity, my services are not in demand for the duration of Ophelia's visit. Early in the morning, we will CSMO (to borrow an old artillery term - collect stuff/move out) and relocate to Ogden to wait out the storm at the church fellowship hall. This is merely precautionary, since we would be safe from a small storm like Ophelia at home, but the power is more reliable at the church, and I much prefer a brick building over merely a brick foundation!

An interesting feature year-round, but perhaps of interest to readers now is the Wrightsville Beach webcam. I'm considering adding it to the permanent list of links, and if that's of interest to any of you, I'll be happy to do so.

There is so much more on my mind, but I'll save it until after the current circumstances. As always, we value your prayers...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

This seems to have become a weekend activity… At any rate, I trust this finds each of you well.

The speed at which this year is progressing is remarkable. It occurred to me this week that we have but a scant three months until the Christmas season is upon us.
With that said, I would hardly be a music minister of note were I not thinking ahead to Easter. Since, however, I am apparently not among that populace, I have begun to think of Christmas!

Last year at about this time, I heard a song by David Phelps, "Love Goes On", which inspired a script by the same name. It was a four-act musical story of two brothers, one of whom was a successful secular musician, and the other a missionary upon whom tragedy had befallen.
"Love Goes On" was well received by our congregation and visitors, and although there were no measurable decisions, my prayers for successful sowing of the seed of the Word were, indeed answered.

This year, I have had a similar inspiration from the new Casting Crowns album, Lifesong. (By the way, if you want to check out this album, or any other I mention, for yourself, you can simply use the first link on the left side of this page) The song is titled "While You Were Sleeping". Mark Hall had originally intended to remake "O Little Town of Bethlehem", but realized as he studied the song the tragedy that most of the residents of Bethlehem had slept through the advent of their Messiah!
He wrote the song with that thought in mind, which then expands on Jerusalem’s similar response to the death of their King, and closes with a challenge to America to not make the same mistake with Yeshua’s return. It is a striking song, and I hope to do justice to the challenge with a script.
Thus far, I have written only the plot and scene summaries, and fear that my ideas may overreach our ministry’s resources. I cherish your prayers for wisdom and clarity of thought as I undertake this project.

It is a timely message, is it not? My heart breaks, as I look at our society and the American church in particular. We have so "majored on the minors"; we have painstakingly hammered out our congregational credos and doctrinal statements, carefully spelling out exclusions and boundaries. Self-righteously pleased with the holiness of our ministers and laity, we go through the motions of "church as usual", only dimly wondering why attendance is diminishing?

While more "churches" spring into existence, more and more lost are dying around us. It brings to mind a story that Ravi Zacharias relates in his book Deliver Us From Evil about a village that is bought in its entirety by a wealthy man. There is but one lone dissenter, who makes a point of interrupting every visitor that the wealthy man brings in to shout, "Don’t let him tell you that he owns ALL of this village – he doesn’t own MY house!"

Ravi makes the poignant application to the American church; while the enemy of our souls claims more and more of our cities, we vainly stand at the door of our churches and shout hallelujahs and praises to our personally distant G-d that the devil hasn’t claimed OUR property.

Or has he? Is it not tragically ironic that while we have excluded blatantly unregenerate individuals from our assemblies (the very ones that we are commanded to "compel to come IN"), we have haphazardly allowed in all manner of ungodly and heretical teachers and unscriptural "doctrines"?

From the mournful allowance of cessationism (the Holy Spirit worked differently for the apostles, although that completely insults and violates the nature of YHWH) to the drivel of prosperity-based teaching, the American church is inundated with spiritual pabulum and outright poison. Oh, there is no shortage of anything -- but the souls that are so precious to our Father.

As goes the church, so goes the nation, beloved. Lest we cluck our tongues at the reprobate nature of our society, let us first turn a critical eye within our own walls. Let us first cleanse the temple, then invite the Spirit in to revive our callused spirits; then and only then can we expect to be the "Bride without spot or wrinkle" for whom our Beloved Bridegroom will return.

That is one comfort that we can draw from the response to Katrina. I don’t know this for a fact, but I can surmise that among the Body of Christ working together to minister to the destitute and homeless victims of the Gulf region, there is an undeclared cease-fire to the bickering that is normally so prevalent throughout American church congregations nowadays. I imagine that not a single comment has been harbored about whether the other assemblies helping use drums, or hold Sunday night services, or allow women to speak, or if everyone dresses a certain way.

Are these issues relevant? Perhaps in the right setting, but they are usually hindrances to the REAL purpose of the Body…the Gospel. Let us focus on the important matters, and the other issues will pale in their significance.

Has your humble writer succumbed to the spirit of ecumenicalism? Not to the point of embracing heresy, but time is short, and I think it far past time that Christians work together, as long as they share common missions under the precious blood of our common LORD Yeshua HaMashiyach. Let us ever guard against the doctrines of devils (of which Peter spoke), but then let us not quibble over the preferences that divide us (as Paul commended us).

I hadn’t originally set out to write on this particular topic, but my mind has lately been upon the admonition of Christ in Luke 17:32 to "remember Lot’s wife" .
How strange for Him to challenge us to remember a woman whose name we don’t even know! His point, then, must have been to draw our attention to her attitude. She simply could not let go of that old life, even as it turned to ashes before her stone cold eyes.

I see an application to a church full of members who crave and can stomach only spiritual milk, and who want only a church setting that lends itself to comfort. No room for repentance, no sense for sanctification, no defense of dedication. No mention of the blood, no talk of the sacrifice of the cross, no time for doctrine.

To quote the apostle Paul, "brethren, these things ought not to be." How dare we presume to supposedly come to Christ merely for "fire insurance", yet willfully neglect the task of dying to ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him??
Have we not become the Pharisees, against whom Christ railed (Matthew 23) for their religion of routine, yet ignoring the weightier matters of judgment, mercy and faith?
Is it any wonder that the American church cannot reach the lost while we either exclude them from our religious club until they become outwardly righteous like us, OR so become like them that they see no need to come to Christ because they see no difference between them and us?

Brethren, let us forsake the things which are behind and reach forth unto those things which are before, pressing for the prize of the high calling of G-d which is in Christ Jesus. May His Spirit strengthen us to lay aside those weights and sins which so easily beset us and run with patience the race that is set before us.
Looking where? To Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who was tempted in every point as we are, yet was without sin. He is now on the right hand of His Father’s throne, but soon to return to rule and reign with His saints from the throne of David in His holy city of Jerusalem.

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus; may You still find faith upon the earth, as Your children still strive to seek and to save the ones in the uttermost parts of the earth who are out of the fold, away from the ninety and nine.

Have a blessed weekend, loved ones.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Happy Labor Day! Our house is a flurry of liveliness – strange, isn’t it, how a day off from working can translate into additional activities?

Last night, we helped the Arrows make individual to-do lists for today, and with some minor prodding, they have embarked upon their collective missions.

For my part, I wrote my lesson outline and handout for this Wednesday night’s lesson, and installed a printer on Dee’s computer. In sheer exhaustion from my monumental effort, I collapsed and sought refuge in a bit of mental emptying in this missal.

Before the Arrows awoke, Dee and I enjoyed a few quiet moments, relishing some music and sipping coffee. Those moments are far between, so the opportunities are, without a doubt, carpe diem events.

Perhaps we should have foregone the coffee; I heard from a coworker last week that coffee could lead to criminal behavior. She received that tidbit from one of our field representatives, who heard it in one of their college classes. Red flag! Not only was it third-hand information, but its acknowledged source was a local college professor.

I am certain that we have a small number of professional, unbiased, knowledgeable professors in our local institutions of higher learning. I am merely unaware of any of them, save Doctor Mike Adams. With that in mind, I decided to research this particular nugget of "truth". As so wisely stated by one of my modern heroes of the faith, Chuck Missler, "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."

As it turns out, it does seem to have a minor basis in truth, but either our coworker heard incorrectly, or it was presented erroneously.

My initial refutation of the presentation in question held; without getting into too much (and potentially offensive) detail, when I mentally cross-reference our national prison population with the average clientele of Starbucks, it simply does not compute. I confess my ignorance in higher–level criminology (perhaps I should consult Dr. Adams), but from a novice perspective, I think we may be barking up the proverbial tree – except in a different forest altogether.

Not all on the work front is arduous. We have received our perennial visit from a lone Argiope Aurantia (if you ain’t as edumacated as me, that’s a writing spider, or a banana spider).

Normally, our visitors spin their webs in a less than ideal location, and consequently last little more than a few days, but this year’s pilgrim has made a more sagacious choice of real estate, and has now lingered for two weeks. She has grown quite rapidly, and I’ll try to get a photo or two to increase her posterity among the global audience of this site.

While I’m on the subject of posterity, I was saddened this weekend by the passing of a great conservative mind. Chief Justice William Rehnquist will be greatly missed by all of us who hold the Constitution dear (although it would seem that our company is dwindling among Western society).

I once read a definition of an American as "someone who will vociferously argue the Constitution, a document that he has never read". While that may evoke a wry chuckle, it is truer than many of us would like to admit.

Even with that in mind, I cannot fathom what our President is thinking by nominating John Roberts for Chief Justice. Bush is shrewder than his critics imagine, so I am positive that the nomination has political ramifications that are too nuanced for me to readily grasp. Nonetheless, I believe that this is one fight that should not have been shirked. My personal preference and expectation was Clarence Thomas, but alas, George wouldn’t return my phone calls. (Just kidding on that last part)

I have another update on my favorite "religion of peace". This is without a doubt taking the extremity (pardon the pun) of spiting one’s face.

I have now successfully avoided the mainstream of movement at our abode long enough. I should, I suppose, sally forth back into the fray.

Have a wonderful day, beloved – and I sincerely hope you didn’t put too much Labor into your Day.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I must confess that I have been somewhat remiss in submitting any new entries to this diatribe. For those one or two who may actually be following along, I must proffer my deepest apologies.
I attempted to publish a new entry yesterday, but not having learned from my first attempt on this blog, I published it without first saving it as a draft, and lost it in its entirety in the process. I have thus learned to either save it first, or draft it offline and publish it later, as I am doing with this one.

Previous Issues Update:

Michael had his rifle returned! After five months, and several (increasingly harsh) calls to various sources, private property is back in private possession. My last call was to the detective in charge of property (?), and within two days, the original investigator was at our door, and she brought the rifle. I had been harboring threats and thoughts of fascism, but Dee brought me to a different line of thinking (as she is wont to do). Apparently, the detective in question has pressing personal issues that may have precluded her from timely return of the rifle. My flesh begrudges that there is no excuse, but my spirit reminds me that I (who shares Paul’s sentiment of being chief among sinners) have neither room nor allowance for judgment. In either circumstance, my flesh is satisfied with the rifle’s return, and all is well.

We decided to forego public education for the complete quiver of Arrows again this year. It seemed the right decision, and G-d willing, there is always next year to reconsider. It was a minor letdown for one of the eldest, but all of them have settled into the routine of early rising and the regimen of schoolwork the past two weeks. Curriculum choices are abundant, so we value your prayers for wisdom as we forge through the next 170 scheduled days.

I neglected to mention my ultimate choice for Wednesday night study. With the failure of the VA in St. Louis to approve school funding in time, I missed the deadline for fall registration at Moody. The upside to this is freedom to pursue a longer study!

Consequently, I chose Dawson McAllister’s "A Walk With Christ to the Cross", which is an incredible and up-close look at the final hours of Yeshua’s earthly ministry. It is a powerful study with evangelistic and revival-inspiring content, and I look forward to great returns.

Those who regularly peruse this page may have noticed the addition of links in the sidebar. They are sites I personally recommend, and it is far from comprehensive. My personal recommendation, of course, holds no real value, but they may prove of some interest!

And Continuing On…

We had a special service on Wednesday, held jointly with Beth Simcha. Normally, they hold services on Saturday and Tuesday, so this was the first opportunity for both congregations to fully mix and meet. How sweet it was for us to come together in unity and fellowship (Psalm 133)!

I regularly address our Sunday School class on the dangers of preterism. I have repeatedly warned them that should they ever find themselves in a church that teaches the replacement of Israel with the church, they should be aware that that church has problems with its ecclesiology, as well as its eschatology. What logically follows is that it should probably be questioned on its other doctrines, as well. I personally hold that particular view in contempt as heresy, as it violates what Paul so clearly lays out in chapters nine through eleven of his Roman epistle. I challenge the reader to read that particular trilogy and NOT be touched by it.

At any rate, the joint service had a special speaker, Mike Clayton of Joined to Hashem. Mike is a gifted speaker, and spoke powerfully on the significance and responsibility of Biblical covenant relationships. He also gave details of his recent trip to Israel, and I felt somewhat akin to the Emmaus disciples, as my heart burned within me. This is a rare, although not unprecedented, occurrence with me. The first time I felt it was when I first read the trilogy of which I just wrote.

Simply put, I hold a deep and unexplainable love for the Jewish people. The few drops of Jewish blood in my extremely mixed heritage may explain it, but I don’t fully accept that. I have a feeling that whatever YHWH may be moving us toward; it just may have something to do with Israel.

Coming home Wednesday night, I reminded the Arrows of the importance of touching the mezuzah as they went in the house. We have had one inside the front door for months now, but after finally obtaining another klaf, I mounted one at the back door last weekend.

I thought I was fully understood, until I individually asked them about it when we all were inside, and learned an important parental lesson (sometimes, you need to review instructions!). One of them responded to the question, "Did you remember to touch the mezuzah?" with, "I don’t know what that is, sir."
As it turned out, my assumption of their understanding was woefully overestimated, to say the least! Most of them thought they weren’t allowed to touch it!

We eliminated all confusion Thursday night; we sat down as a family and reviewed Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, and discussed the significance of the mitzvah.

If you followed the recent Gaza "disengagement" debacle at all, you may be surprised to learn that the last settlers just left this week. Jeff Jacoby discusses it here.

Katrina has left an indelible impression upon our country. Whether you choose to believe those who proclaim this as G-d’s judgment, or those (such as RFK, Jr.) who moronically declare this to be the responsibility of conservative politics, it is a tragic disaster. I take comfort in the fact that churches were among the first responders; this is as it should be, and is a clear sign that the Body of Christ is not completely asleep.

Following Katrina, it was nice to see that Lee and Maria have apparently decided to remain more aloof. I mentioned to Dee that Lee is an appropriate name for something full of hot air but completely harmless. Her hope is that he doesn’t live up to his name, suddenly changing course and spontaneously moving a different direction….I feigned ignorance at the meaning of that observation!

Even without natural turbulence, we have had more than enough socio-economic buffeting to compensate. After an announcement from our beloved governor on Thursday that there would be no gasoline rationing in North Carolina, that’s precisely what was taking place in some parts of our state on Friday. There were even reports of some stations selling gas for as high as almost six dollars, and other stations allowing only ten gallons per vehicle.

Dee and I have been pleasantly surprised at our lack of concern. I am a self-acknowledged "dopey optimist", but she has always been more firmly grounded in reality, so I was at a loss to explain our relative calm in this latest storm. That is, until I realized the promise of Isaiah 26:3-4:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he
trusteth in thee.
Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is
everlasting strength:

(Or, for my Jewish brethren)

You will keep whoever's mind is steadfast in perfect shalom, because he trusts
in you.
Trust in the LORD forever; for in the LORD, the LORD, is an
everlasting Rock.

We may be troubled on every side, but yet not be forced to distress; we can be perplexed, but not be compelled to despair (II Cor. 4:8). Stayed upon Jehovah, our hearts can be fully blessed. Fellow saints, I leave you with this:

Phil. 4:6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
Phil. 4:7 And the
shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and
your thoughts in Messiah Yeshua.
Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever
things are true, whatever things are honorable, 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 any praise, think about
these things.

Amen and amen. He is faithful and true!