July 2006


When was the last time you read through what your church is ‘about’? For me it has been several months since I read through the ‘core commitments’ of my church. During the process of joining the church these were covered in the “New (Potential?) Members Class.” At the time I read through them and seriously thought about what this body has set up as their goals and methods. Nobody wants to hitch their wagon to a sinking ship or sign the line underneath unbiblical doctrine. So in that regard, for the visitor, for the prospective member, these commitments are great.

But wait a tic! These aren’t just for new people are they? If these are the commitments of the local church, that implies they are at the forefront of her mind. These are the things that we love and are convinced are our duty that we set them before us as commitments. We are going to strive for these things, this is serious and requiring our thought, effort, and dreams.
As I alluded to above, when was the last time I looked at them? I can’t give a specific time, only the vague reply: ‘months.’ This can’t be right. This must be changed! Therefore, it’s time for action on these very points!

At this point, God gave me a devotional idea that is the entire purpose of sharing this rant. Why not pray through these ten commitments over the coming days (weeks, months, years, [eek] decades) for our church? We know that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him for ever (christian hedonist tweak), why not pray for myself and the church that this commitment would be on the forefront of our minds, and be the desire of our hearts in the days ahead? Why not pray that the “commitment to knowing, loving, and obeying Christ” would burn in our hearts such that it would be the evident passion of our existence.

So would you join me in praying through these over the next ten days? Even if you are not a member of my church, go search through that dusty drawer, pull out that forgotten folder, track them down on that deserted derelict disk (“ok ok” you say, “I got the point, stop the misdemeanor alliteration”), find the commitments of your congregation and ask God to bless you in those areas.

A further devotional exercise is to find the verses upon which the commitments were framed. What is the Scriptural foundation of the commitments? I think praying through those verses are a mighty blessing in addition to the pleading for the application of them to the body.

The following are those Core Commitments I thought were awesome when I joined this church earlier in 2006. I look forward to seeing how God will answer the prayers of blessing the congregation concerning them. Will you pray?

CEFC Core Commitments
1.The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We are committed to knowing, loving, and obeying Christ, and to maintaining this as our first priority.

2.We are committed to maintaining a regular rhythm of corporate prayer for the revival of the church and the extension of Christ’s kingdom.

3.We are committed to exegetical teaching of the Scriptures as the backbone of the educational ministry of the church.

4.We are committed to corporately praising God, for He is worthy. We will prepare our hearts for worship, seeking to encounter Him who inhabits the praises of His people.

5.We are committed to living holy lives that reflect the character of God.

6.We are committed to loving one another sincerely, deeply, with actions and in truth.

7.We are committed to living among those who do not know Christ and to bearing witness to His grace in our lives by word and deed.

8.We are committed to every member ministry in accordance with our spiritual gifts, so that our church may be joined and held together by every supporting ligament, growing and building itself up in love as each part does its work.

9.We are committed to training and multiplying leadership.

10.We are committed to giving generously of our people and finances to extend the global church planting movement, with an emphasis on unreached peoples.

The following is a letter to the President that a friend of a friend of a friend wrote. It is authentic, which is why I changed the author’s name (I kept the bold font where he had it, so the only change is the name at the end). The author encouraged the forwarding to contacts if the reciever found this letter worthwhile. I do think it is worthwhile, but I detest most forwards. So I’m posting this here for public viewing and comment. (Peter and Wendy, or the Lost Boys, if you think this shouldn’t be posted, please let me know and I’ll remove it.)

If one is interested in the political views of a Lebenese American and/or the recent politics of greater Palestine, read the following.

Regardless of your views the people of Lebanon and Israel need our prayers currently.

-Mark

*************************************

President George W. Bush
The White House
July 19, 2006
Dear Mr. President,
I have been an American citizen for many years, and I have voted for you twice. The first time it was a pleasure but the second time it was an effort.
As a former Lebanese citizen, the invasion of Lebanon by Israel was, and is still, a nightmare experience for me. To see my new country America, not only giving the green light to Israel but encouraging it to continue to shred Lebanon to pieces, blows my mind. Israel blames the fragile democratic government of Lebanon for not controlling Hezbollah. If our mighty military presence in Iraq has not been able to control the relatively small militia of Muktada Sadr how can we expect the government of Lebanon to control Hezbollah?
From what I have heard on the news, Israel have had plans in the making to attack Lebanon for the last five years, and the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers was but an excuse to put their plan into action. The attitude of the present government in Israel towards the Palestinians and towards Hezbollah is expressed best in August 30, 2002 by Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli army chief of staff: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciences that they are a defeated people.” It is sad to see that my new country America under your administration, along with the Religious Right, are encouraging the extremists in Israel to become the mainstream. What would it take for Israel and for America to learn the lesson that the abuse of power does not solve problems but compounds them.
Here are a few lessons from history.
1. In 1967 Israel had the huge success of defeating all the Arabs in six days. The P.L.O. at that time was a weak and insignificant organization. The 1967 war convinced the P.L.O.
that the Arabs can not defend the Palestinians and that they need to take the responsibility for reclaiming “their land”. In a real sense the “1967 smashing success of the Israelis” gave birth to a new P.L.O. As a result of that “success” Israel continues to live with the consequences.
2. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon to remove the P.L.O. and as a result of that invasion Hezbollah was born. Israel gave birth to Hezbollah and today it is living with the consequences of that conquest.
3. When the Arab countries gave the P.L.O. the right and the privilege to become the sole spokesman of the Palestinians, Israel did not like that. So for three years Israel supported, financially and by all means, a little organization with the name Hamas. That little organization, Hamas, did not like the P.L.O. because they thought that Arafat was a compromiser. Israel wanted to weaken the P.L.O. by strengthening its critics and Israel gave birth to Hamas. Three years later Israel realized that Hamas is more dangerous than the P.L.O. and that is what probably convinced Prime Minister Rabin to begin negotiating with the P.L.O. The lesson that Israel needs to learn is this: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” According to Israel’s radio, as it appeared in the “Washington Report”
in November 2001, when Prime Minister Sharon was not aware that the microphone of a journalist was on, he reprimanded Foreign Minister Peres saying: “Every time we do something, you tell me Americans will do this and do that. I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure. We Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.”
4. As Americans we want to propagate democracy in the Middle East. One of the expressions of that democracy was the free and fair elections carried by the Palestinians that brought Hamas to power. Neither America nor Israel liked that democracy. For the last several months the
Palestinians in Gaza have been living in the largest concentration camp in the world. In their daily oppressed and hopeless lives a few stupid Palestinians sought revenge by kidnapping one soldier and killing a few others. That act gave Israel the excuse to carry out its planned agenda: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciences that they are a defeated people.” A friend of mine told me recently that he was moved very deeply by what he saw on Al Jazeera TV. A Palestinian woman in Gaza who lost several members of her family in an Israeli attack was carrying two small boys as she talked to the camera. She said that she always hated terrorism and the fundamentalists. But after what happened she vowed that she will raise her two sons to become suicide bombers. What are we and Israel breeding? What consequences will we have to face ten years from now?
5. An old lesson from the Old Testament comes from the life of David. Most people assume that the biggest sin that David committed with the most dangerous consequences came as a result of his sin of adultery and murder. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband with a few other soldiers. In 2 Samuel 24 we see another sin that David committed that we hardly notice which had far more dangerous consequences. Actually it resulted in the death of 70,000 Jews. That sin was his abuse of power.
Mr. President. Do you fully understand the consequences of the decisions that you are making?
Sincerely,
Arnold


Now that my summer class on Predestination is complete (no kidding, I took a class exclusively discussing predestination… yeah) I’m getting pumped up for Greek this fall. Realizing my own nescience per English Grammar, I intend to study up on all the intagibles of one’s primary tongue before embarking on a second language. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Isaiah543‘s sermon link du jour had a grammar lesson in it!

Well, I stumbled upon this today, the GrammarError blog. So while I’m studying, I’ll aspire to keep my posts off there radar. (yes, that was intentional) 🙂


There will never be enough time for me to post the little investigation into the ethical quandries of Genesis that was inaugurated at Bible study a few weeks ago. So, here is a link to A Puritan’s Mind, specifically an article on Kierkegaard‘s concept of Teleological Suspension*. Since this topic came up in study in passing, I thought I should look it up and read a little. To me the concept that cracked the whole discussion open, that ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment, was being reminded that we all are depraved. I think the article is smashing.

(*look at the section of the article on his (Kierkegaard’s) critics, and you’ll see a bit about this concept, sorry I’m not supplying more links or descriptions of Ethical or Teleological Suspension…)

In light of the French national football team beating Portugal and breaking into the World Cup Finals, I thought it appropriate to point out the best comic ever made.

Superdupont

[i think i’ve just fed the trolls…]

When I was about six years old, I remember playing tee-ball. Of that time, little about the games themselves sticks out, yet one memory is clear. Three-quarters of the way through the season, I decided that rather than shaking the hands of the people on the other team, I would just spit on kid’s hand as I walked down the line.
It was funny until I did that the last game of the season. As usual, I spit on each of their hands, until I got to the end of the line. Their coach walked behind all their players. With my eyes down, aiming at each hand that went by, I did not notice the coach. He saw it and quickly horse-collared me. He marched me around until he found my parents.
Did I really do anything that bad? I asked myself. His firm grip told me I did.
My dad greeted him with a smile; they had been old high school friends. The coach did not return the smile, but gruffly asked, “Is this your boy??”
“Yeah,” my dad replied swallowing hard.
The coach told my dad what happened, and the look of warmth in my dad’s face flushed to burning anger.
Afterwards the teams met together to have ice cream and celebrate the end of the season. I did not enjoy this as I might have, staring into my sundae and dread what was coming when I got home.
In games you have sportsmanship. In games you have rules and discipline. If these are abandoned, if the boundaries are burned down, there is chaos; the game is no fun, the positive is not affirmed, the negative is not reproved and as such, detracts from the whole.
But where is the relevance between this story and today’s events?
Well, about a week ago, the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA) voted that local congregations may appoint homosexual clergy and church leaders, if they so choose. Like me spitting on the hands of other players, the PCUSA assembly spit on the hands of all who seek to live godly lives within this denomination. Where before local bodies would face some sort of reprimand for endorsing homosexual clergy, now local leaders have received consent to appoint such leaders, metaphorically spitting on the hands of those who maintain the standard of godliness for those with oversight of the congregation. The vote has said that it is ok sportsmanship for some to shake hands while others spit on those passing by and then spit on the Word of God and say, No thank you, we have progressed and become more tolerant and we have found truth and right is not rooted in your archaic laws, but in our feelings, inclinations, and predispositions.
Here, as opposed to a child’s tee-ball game, the stakes are not loss of an ice cream cone and a pat on the back at the end of a game; here the stakes are the gaining of or loss of soul. A church assembly condoning sexual immorality and leaving the God who gave them does not liberate man from being faithful to God’s Word.
“And [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,” Luke 17:1-3.
This is clear, but the PCUSA paraphrase of verse three might read, “if your brother sins, ordain him.” The message is that that those in leadership have the responsibility not to endorse or be posterboys for sin (Galatians 6:19-21), but they ought to be extremely circumspect in their own lives (James 3:1), watching that they do not cause the little ones to sin. For all the little ones seeking God and striving night and day for relief from their burdens, from a heavy heart, a guilty conscience, a stalking past of abuse, a sexually deviant background, the solution is not to permit more behaviors among the shepherds of the church, but present the little ones with the God who asks to shoulder their sins and make them new creations.
Please look here for a statement of those in the church body who have spoken against this divisive ruling: http://www.presbycoalition.org/GA5statement.htm

The word genius is conferred to few as an apithet, but certainly it applies to Leonardo DaVinci. As I visited a display of his labors this weekend at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, I became gripped with just how much of a genius he was. The singular aspect of his work that impressed me more than any other was how he was able to take the breadth of his learning and make many areas of study subservient to the one he was focusing on- whether using geometry to enhance the beauty of paintings, studying water currents for the design of flying apparatus that would sail on the air, or harnessing the properties of physics in civil engineering to design more efficient water transportation devices. He made use of each area and it seemed even if he was designing a machine, he wanted it to have an aesthetic, but functional, beauty. He was a master not because he saw one area as independent from the rest, but interdependent on the others.
DaVinci strikes me as a rare genius because he could be called not only an artist or sculptor, but an engineer and a mathematician too. There seems a sharp contrast between these two fields, of the freeform and unrestrained liberality of art on the one hand and the suffocatingly stringent rigorous nature of the engineers who found their understandings based on proofs, theories, and laws on the other. The two fields are disparate to many and cause sides to be chosen by those in each; the artist esteems the heart and scoffs at delving too deeply into the nature of things, they just are, he says, and by delving too deeply into mysteries you miss the blessing; the logician elevates the mind and harnesses its power as a machine to crank out all matter of formulas and principles while looking with apprehension at the volatile character of the emotions. The emotions to the engineer are altogether too fickle to be trusted while the mind to the artist is too callous.
DaVinci showed that by more thoroughly understanding one subject, we can be helped in others by broadening our scope of the way things work. DaVinci showed the body is not just anatomy and physiology, it is mechanics and physics, it is structure, geometry, and so much more. Neither the human body, nor the body of Christ is broken up into one group that defines what it is; it is many parts, many functions, and many unique areas meant to complement each other and work together.

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