Monday, July 31, 2006

A Story to tell

I am a writer at heart, as I hope these pages are demonstrating. Several months ago, I emailed an internet aquaintance in California on the idea for a movie on the Nativity. I am sure that The Nativity Story was already well into the works when I wrote that email, but I can't help wondering if I could have written that screenplay. I visualized going on location for research. A dream "working vacation" for any writer -- even in an Israel currently in turmoil not far away from where the action began in Nazareth.

The intrigue of Herod's reign alone makes for an exciting background. Couple that with the mysterious magi from the east, and the politics behind a taxing and census of subjegated peoples, you then have a fascinating stage onto which Joseph and Mary step. I have not seen The Passion, but I am sure I will be seeing this less controversial movie. On the other hand, The Resurrection, coming in the spring, will probably be more of a question of interpretation, at least among some.

There are ways, of course, in which The Nativity Story may be controversial. For instance, if I were writing the story I would work in the time of year (I prefer during the "holiday" season in the fall -- though others prefer the spring). Either way goes against tradition, and would raise a stir among many. And I hope that this version works in the time interval before the magi come to see the "young child" in the "house." I'm betting, though, that it will follow tradition -- even if it leaves out the shepherds (not that it will, the writer mentioned Matthew's account when discussing sources).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Birthdays and Babies

Moments from now (11:27pm) will mark exactly 26 years since Timothy Spicer Martin came into this world on July 30, 1980. I had been graduated from BJU only a few weeks. Actually, I think I had some summer classes to pick up even then.

Tonight I had hoped to put up some new pictures of HIS son, my grandson, Jett James Martin. Jett is now 3½ months old, over 24 inches long and getting bigger every day! My how they grow up!

Alas, hardware incompatibility and website inconsistencies (at!) have prevented the pictures from being available. However, we were able to spend a couple of hours with Jett this evening while Tim and Meredith ate out. We had dessert about an hour ago (10:30 pm)!

How did my son get so old? :-)

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The problem of the preachy prayer

Dateline: Georgetown, Del.

Mrs. Mona Dobrich and others are suing the Indian River district school board because a local minister dared to pray an evangelistic prayer.

Quotes from the New York Times article:

The Jewish mother:

"It was as if no matter how much hard work, no matter how good a person you are, the only way you’ll ever be anything is through Jesus Christ," Mrs. Dobrich said. "He said those words, and I saw Sam’s head snap and her start looking around, like, ‘Where’s my mom? Where’s my mom?’ And all I wanted to do was run up and take her in my arms."

The local minister:

"Because Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, I will speak out for him," said the Rev. Jerry Fike of Mount Olivet Brethren Church, who gave the prayer at Samantha’s graduation. "The Bible encourages that." Mr. Fike continued: "Ultimately, he is the one I have to please. If doing that places me at odds with the law of the land, I still have to follow him."

Did the minister go "over the line" preaching in his prayer? And should a Jew feel "threatened" by such a message? It is the exclusiveness of our faith in Christ as the only way that is the point of contention between Evangelical Christianity and the multi-culturalism that is in our nation today.

It is not enough for us to allow other belief systems along side our own. We must deny our own belief system in "tolerance" of those we feel are false and/or incomplete. Judaism, with which we share common standards of behavior, is actually more "anti-christian" than any other religion. That system, in its present form, is defined by its exclusion of Jesus as the Messiah their own Scriptures predicted. Now one cannot be a "Jew" and at the same time confess Jesus as Messiah.

How can we not "insult" them when we proclaim the truth that by its nature declares their "faith" as a lie? If they accept the New Testament as historical at all they have to admit that the Pharisees did the "right thing" when they silenced the heretic who claimed he was the Messiah. For if Jesus is truthfully portrayed in the gospels, and later preached by a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" as being the very one they had been looking for, then of course Christianity (the "Nazarenes" in modern Hebrew) cannot be allowed to continue preaching what Judaism considers a lie, can it?

And so, we are met with a dilemma. How do we "speak the truth in love"? Do we bring it up in a prayer? Or do we speak openly about Jesus as Lord, and live accordingly. We are told to "evangelize" (proclaim the good message) to the world. But we are also told that we cannot make anyone believe it. But then, logically SAYING a thing does not make it so either. So, if it is not perceived on some level as possibly being the truth it should not offend anyone. If an Orhodox Jew really believes she can be "good enough" to earn God's favor, then a Christian's prayer, or even sermon, should not cause distress.

But then, when the Jewish mother complained about the preachy prayer, some in the audience intimidated her. And then, reportably, she received "threatening" phone calls. Neither activity was called for on the part of Christians. Our faith is not threatened by our inability to proclaim it to others in an orderly manner. When in public prayer, we should pray manner-of-factly to our Sovereign Lord. We don't have to sermonize, but rather just TALK to GOD. And when we close the prayer, we should feel free to pray "in Jesus' name" invoking Him as our authority in approaching the throne of God in the first place.

If we simply pray truthfully, from the heart, then we will not be threatening anyone. When we preach to the unconverted, let us just tell them who Jesus is, and what he has done. Let us let the Holy Spirit change hearts and minds, for we cannot. If anyone feels threatened with the truth, then perhaps it is because they doubt their own "truth." Or maybe they feel our "truth" is actually a "lie."

Unless, of course, they are relativistic post-modernists. Then both truth and "non-truth" are on equal footing. Neither can be "trusted."

Which brings me to my original thought - before the news item grabbed my attention. I am adding a new entry to my profile. Tonight I finished reading the first volume (of five) of "The Complete Works of Francis Schaffer." This volume's theme is "A Chritian Worldview." I would not have finished reading it - a task I began untold months ago - if I had gone to a movie tonight. But my wife was not up for a two hour trip out of the house across town to a crowded theater. And so, to avoid vegging out on the TV or the internet, I read.

Maybe I will get a movie review in NEXT week.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bending light

Back in the early twentieth century scientists were seeking a chance to view a solar eclipse to "prove" Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Specifically, the theory that gravity bends light. The experiment entailed picking a star that would be hidden by the sun during an eclipse and seeking to "see" that star as the result of its light being bent by the sun's massive gravity.

My son Samuel, studying physics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is not particularly a fan of Einstein's theory. He made the observation that HEAT bends light, as anybody can tell on a scorching hot day in the south. He contends that the light frome the star was actually refracted by the sun's extremely hot ATMOSPHERE.

He agrees with me that the speed of light is affected by numerous things, the most obviously being media through which it travels. We agree that there is nothing to prove that outside of the presence of the galaxie's gravity and magnetism, the light of far away galaxies might very well be free of the restraints we put on the "speed of light." We certainly can't disprove this theory, for we have not "observed" the conditions in intergalactic space. This is his favorite answer to the apparent age of the universe due to distances. His theory holds that God created everything "in place" and then allowed it to begin to spread out.

I prefer to accept most of Einstein's theory, and have a lot of respect for Russell Humphrey's "White Hole" cosmology. A good overview of this view can be found at fellow blogspot blogger Scott Nelson. That being said, it is undeniable that heat and an atmosphere could very well account for the apparent gravitational effect on the light from a faraway star.

The point being, I guess, is that sometimes the simplest observations could also be the simplist answers.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The potential of the tithe

In last Sunday's bulletin I read statistics from Barna that claimed that the most generous gruop of church members are the poorest: 8% of those making under $30,000 or so. It never gets better, though those making over $100,000 improve to 5%. This got me to thinking. Uh, oh, here I go again!

According to Barna, 47% of adults go to church on any given week. If this figure is right, then "church goers" would provide a giving base of perhaps about 45 million "families." Given the median income of $45,000 per annum, we come up with a potential tithe of 202.5 Billion dollars a year! That could provide a living wage ($30,000/yr @ 15$/hr) for 6.75 Million families. Of course, the $4,500 is about four times the average amount given to church. This 202.5 billion would not go to poverty relief alone, of course. I suppose at least half of it would go to the regular running of the churches (though we seem to be doing well enough with what amounts to about 5% of the potential now).

Let's figure then, that 180 billion would go to things OTHER THAN church staff and plant facilities, etc. That would leave 6 million families raised out of poverty. Well, let's budget some of that money to foreign missions (though that is usually above the tithe), and offer "only" 5 million families the dignity of a standard of living unheard of in much of the world.

Or perhaps, we could fund health care for ANY who need it. And education. Especially for believers, anyway. Hey, maybe we could do a better job at it than the government (read: "beast system"?). Some day it may come to a choice - dependence on God (through HIS tithe) or on Government (through taxes). Where will we stand in that day?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Long live the penny

Once again there is talk of eliminating the penny - the one cent piece. I don't think it will ever happen although presently it takes more than one cent each to make them (or so I've heard). That cost of the penny probably includes handling - part of my job. Also included is packaging and storage!

However, the cent is our unit coin. Everything can be measured in cents, though the cent mark is not even on the keyboard anymore! In case you were wondering the ¢ is alt+0162. I think the solution to our penny problem is to reformulate the cent. We need to make it lighter. And perhaps even thinner and of different metals.

Meanwhile, we could do away with the unpopular "nickel" - the five-cent piece. Perhaps we could move toward a smaller penny and a large "dime" - the ten-cent piece. And though it is popular, the "quarter" should be phased out in favor of a revamped half dollar (which practically no one uses these days!) , followed by the dollar coin. Perhaps we could even go to ten and twenty dollar pieces and do away with paper currency altogether! Anything needing "large bills" could be on debit and/or "smart" cards anyway. My reasoning in chosing these denominations has to do with the "simple math" involved with tens and twos. Almost everyone can divide and multiply by two, and the moving of the decimal point is child's play!

Paper currency is one of the most "diabolical" schemes ever devised! Nothing more than promisory notes, paper "money" has very little value of its own. A personal check serves the same purpose and the funds are actually "available" unless the check itself is bad (human error or fraud). Coinage used to represent real value (based on the weight of the coin and the value of the metals used). Now, however, so much money is spent on controlling the flow of the money that value-added "taxes" would quickly devalue the money anyway.

For instance, if we made a dollar coin with a dollar's worth of gold in it, we would already be working at a loss. The cost of production must be considered, and then other costs related to getting it into circulation would further devalue the coin. However, the coin will last for generations, while bills have a much shorter lifespan with additional costs incurred when they are finally destroyed.

Paper currency is a whole lot easier to counterfeit that coinage -- especially the bigger bills. If larger denominations were not even legal tender, then counterfeiters would be rare. Coin is harder to hide, and heavier to transport. It is hard to imagine the present drug trade operating with dollar coins instead of 100-dollar bills!

And so, long live the penny. And let's say good bye to "funny money" with all its expensive technology that is still being thrawthed by counterfeiters. If we must have "money," then let it be the following coins: zinc cent, nickel ten-cent, copper half-dollar, bronze dollar, silver ten-dollar, and gold twenty-dollar.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A problem with "gender"

I am a conservative. I state that in my byline, and it can be discerned from my profile. However, that does not explain why the following statement bothers me so much:

"The theory of evolution says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of God. People might argue about what sort of supreme being would work her will through such a seemingly haphazard arrangement, but that is not the same as denying that she exists in the first place."

That is from an article at the New York Times about several books concerning the debate concerning the theory of evolution. How is it that this science writer can get away with speaking of God as "her" and "she"? I came across that the other night at a blog as well. How is it that secularists so easily refer to the god they don't even know as "she." Perhaps in is among "talking points" among liberals to lampoon God by using the feminine pronoun?

Since God is not a man (except in the person of Jesus), we can not logically insist that the masculine pronoun be used. However, in His role as Father and Husband (OT), it is logical to assign the pronoun "He" to God even if there were never any personal pronoun used in referring to Him. Jesus settled this when He instructed his disciples to pray "Out Father, who is in heaven." The blogger and the writer have succombed to the temptation to be "politically correct" thinking. Let the record speak for itself. YHWH just IS.

It is hard to imagine speaking of God as anything BUT "he." Especially if you believe in Him. That leads me to believe that some writers have little understanding of Who God is or what he has done.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Salt of the earth

OK, I'm a little lazy tonight. I focused on one verse this morning, Matthew 5:13. "You are the salt of the earth ..." And I had not many thoughts of any significance beyond that. However, I did a last minute google search on the phrase and come upon the following thoughts from Vance Havner (1901-1986):

(1). Salt of the Earth

"Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matt.5:13)

It might have seemed ridiculous to a casual bystander for Jesus to say to a handful of ordinary men, "You are the salt of the earth and I am sending you out to permeate and infiltrate and season the whole world." Yet that little band, that pinch or salt, started something that has survived the centuries and changed the history of mankind.
Our Lord used the simplest figures of speech. Nothing is plainer, more universal and old-fashioned than salt. It is such a common commodity that we take it for granted, but if suddenly no salt could be had, what a difference that would make! What would life be without salt! A little boy said, "Salt is what tastes bad when you don't have it." Christians are the salt of the earth and we ought to make a difference.

1. Salt has a seasoning influence.
There ought to be a flavor, a tang, a relish, and a zest about us Christians. Someone has said that our main trouble today is not that our doctrine is false, but that our experience is flat.

2. Salt preserves.
Civilization has been saved from destruction by the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit in Christians. Salt prevents decay and restrains corruption. One godly person in a group will restrain evil conversation.

3. Salt purifies and cleanses.
The best gargle for a sore throat is pain salt water. The church of Jesus Christ has had a purifying influence wherever it has gone. You may think that your community is in a bad state, but take out the church and you would not want to live there.

4. Salt heals.
Lives are changed, souls saved, homes rescued from disaster, broken hearts mended, sorrows eased, burdens lifted, sick bodies and minds made well because of the antiseptic and therapeutic power of the Holy Spirit working through God's people, the salt of the earth.

5. Salt creates thirst.
God's people should develop on the hearts of men a desire to know God. We ought so to live that others would want the peace and joy they see in us. Does anybody want to be a Christian like you? The best argument for Christianity is a Christian.

6. Salt irritates.
When the salt of God's truth is rubbed into this diseased old world, sick souls may smart. When the light is turned on, some will wince. The devil hates the Gospel and fights back… We are not the sugar of the earth - but we are salt and we will not be welcomed by a generation full of wounds, bruises and putrefying sores.

We need to get into the salt business and we must start with a few. this is God's program today. It sounds old-fashion, but salt is old-fashioned, sin is old-fashioned and so is the Gospel. We have been tickling palates with fancy flavors, spicy relishes, and spicy recipes borrowed from the world. Too many pulpit gourmets and theological epicures with menus from Hollywood are trying to please the jaded appetites of a fed up humanity. We need old-fashioned salt, and if we do not start producing more of it in our churches, we shall be good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.

(Used by permission from The Vance Havner Notebook, p.79-80)

There are few individuals that "salt of the earth" can describe without qualifications. We are all in danger of "losing our flavor" due to the impurities that are mixed with our salt. It seems, though, that some seem "saltier" than others. I remember a quiet young physician that was once a member of our church. We were Bible study friends with him and his wife. Dr. Paul Cone lost his wife Karen several years back to complications from Lupus. He coped as only a Christian can. I've seen that coping in the passing of two friends lately, in fact, and I can only hope that I can cope as well if my wife passes away before I do.

Paul Cone was diagnosed last year with leukemia. Tonight he passed away. He leaves his second wife and two daughters. He served his God and his community as a family practicitioner. He was true salt in a world in need of healing.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The will of God

Recent events have shown me that "discerning the will of God" is a difficult thing.

Of course, it is not hard to figure out the "revealed will of God." That is to say, His written Word is clear as to what is right and wrong. Well, mostly clear, or there would not be interpretations as to when "laws" are effective or even necessary. But I digress.

When we think of obeying God, the first thing that comes to mind is the Ten Commandments. In a later post I may speak to the "decalogue." Now, though, let's consider these basic commandments as a given base. We KNOW that stealing, killing, and dishonesty are wrong. And so are disloyalty to God and family. These are givens. The laws of our land are based on these.

As a Christian, the will of God for my behavior is perhaps best seen in the sermon on the mount, which I am studying right now. And then, there is one particular congregation that the apostle Paul told DIRECTLY "this is the will of God":

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

One is behavior: stay sexually pure. The other is attitude: be thankful.

More basically, Paul describes discerning the will of God as a frame of mind:

Romans 12:
1 ¶ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

And so, in order to KNOW the will of God, you have to sacrifice your OWN WILL! In the course of life circumstances determine much of the direction our lives might go. When we see things going in a way we would rather they not, we must sacrifice what we want as we:

  1. Pray to God.
  2. Seek Godly counsel.
  3. Discern the "times."

Often, these opportunities do not come in this order, but this is the order of the importance of our choices in determining the will of God outside of the Written Word.

Today, some among our local assembly of believers "disagreed" with the discerned will of God. At least one person saying the one involved in the discerning "must have misunderstood" God's leading! The discussion took longer than some expected, but we had to follow "the Presbyterian way." The matter had to be confirmed by a vote.

When the congregational vote came, though, I took the easy way out. I chose not to vote.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sons of God

In my devotions in the morning I am going through the New Testament chronologically. After James and Galations, the gospel of Matthew was written to the same audience: the young, mainly Jewish, church. I am presently reading in the fifth chapter:

1 ¶ And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 ¶ Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Today I read and dwelt on verses 6-7. These tell us of the character of a "kingdom citizen." Verses 3-6 laid down the requirement to be prepared to meet God: poor, mournful, and meek. The verses following verse 9 deal with the consequences of following Christ, but I will get to that tomorrow (possibly posting my thoughts on that as well). Anyway, the following poem (done in my favorite style - haiku) speaks to this passage:

Sons of God

Poor, mourning, and meek,
It is righteousness we seek.
We receive mercy.

Seeking righteousness,
full of mercy, pure of heart,
we are peace-makers.

Finding righteousness,
In His mercy, we see God.
We are sons of God!

My prayer is that someone will stumble across this site and be blessed as sons of Gods. "Sons" includes all "children," used in context as a generic term (uios is better here than paidion, for instance).

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's just not right

Providencially, I was exposed to a toy today that just didn't seem right. The toy itself has been around awhile - I had one once when I was younger (already an adult, but a mere "kid at heart"). The toy is a "virtual pet" - an electronic game teaching responsibility to kids before entrusting them to the real thing. Mine was a bird, and I lost it -- so it died of neglect. :-(

Anyway, this version is from Kids Only, Inc. The thing that bothered me was what I found on the back of the package. Listed among the virtual pets were a "boy" and a "girl"! I don't know about you, but to me that's just not right! What foods would the game include to feed the virtual child? And would they play games of skill, or just do "tricks" like the other animals? And, honestly, a "kept" child is NOT the message I want to give to MY grandson.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why do people fail?

My "long lost brother" called me tonight. He was definitely feeling down, though he said things were "looking better." This may be a good sign, as when there is "trouble in paradise" there is hope for improvement.

He said, "Ponder this, why do people fail?"

My immediate answer: because we are human.

He chastised me -- "ponder this, I said." His point was that I was not to give an answer right away. He has just got a new job after being out of work for a little while, from what he said. He had been "preaching" to himself on this question and his conclusion: "People fail because they don't like what they are doing."

He has seen hard times because he thought he was doing what he liked. He is certainly doing what he is good at -- having never had much else that pays what his present job pays. But his lifestyle is bad for his family -- his wife and young daughter from whom he is separated.

He has asked for prayer. We know that we will all fail if we don't turn to God. So, to succeed let us do the "superhuman" thing -- draw near to God.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thank you, Mr. President

Just a short blog in support of the president. Being blessed with a Congress that is on "his side," the president has not had much need to use the veto option. Today he did. With such unrealistic promises of the benifits - still unrealized - congress passed a bill that would provide more availability of our tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research. Mr. Bush kept his promise and vetoed the bill.

He has come down on the most scientific definition of the beginning of life there is: the beginning of DNA restructuring into a NEW being. That is to say, "life begins at conception." Of course, that is a truism. For "conception" means "beginning." A more accurate definition is "life begins at fertilization." It's simple biology, folks.

Although the concept of allowing for termination before implantation has merit, it is still the taking of a human life. That life may possibibly becomes TWO lives in the interim as twinning can take place any time before implantation. Implantation is also the time when a rudimentary "brain" begins (a nervous system producing "brain waves"). But that is all within two weeks of fertilization, before most women know they are pregnant. It is "safer" therefore to insist that the point of unique personhood is "conception."

Let us focus on adult and umbelical cord stem cells. These have been PROVEN to produce good results.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Back to the moon by 2020! Or earlier.

At another blogspot, Christian Conservatives, it was pointed out that in 1969 on this date Apollo 11 was on its way for man's first landing on the moon. On that trip, on July 19th or 20th, Edwin Aldrin took private communion in the Lunar module! I hadn't heard that before. And I have been on a "fan" of the space program from the very beginning. I was at scout camp in Florida the week of the flight, viewing the landing Sunday afternoon July 19th in the mess hall. That night I had to settle to listening to the first steps on a transister radio after curfew since we did not have an adult with us from our troup.

The president is all for the return to the moon, though he hasn't been as bold as John F. Kennedy declaring the goal to be "by the end of this decade." At the New York Times article we read:

"In that time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is to perform 16 more shuttle missions to complete the International Space Station, the half-built orbiting laboratory that was the Discovery’s destination in this flight. The agency will then embark on the president’s stated goal of returning to the Moon in a new generation of space vehicles."

I wrote a short story back in 1990 that projected 30 years into the future. In that story I thought that we would have established a mining and scientific colony there by then. Now, if the Lord tarries, we MIGHT have a colony there by 2030. That would be over 70 years since Sputnik. I suppose that's not bad in the scheme of things, though. I think that first decade was a little of a jump start that cost WAY too much!

Of course, it was largely the German rocket scientists that we and the Russians had "adopted" that gave us the science that became much of the space race. Our scientists, though, had developed the computer in 1947, which had not become significantly miniturized by the 1960's, even with transisters. All in all, though, we did "miracles" with very little loss of life. With today's computers, and vast advances in robotics and artificial "inteligence," a rudimentary station on the moon is a very real possibility by 2020.

Any one have the 1993 CD ROM "Return to the Moon"? Or maybe an update. I got that with our first "top of the line" computer -- a 486 machine, a blazing 40 MHz speed! I haven't tried it on my present computer, but it used a simulator to allow you to land on the moon. You also got to plan your missions, and all that. I am sure that a recent version would be a lot more fun.

Anyway, I think we can do it. Maybe even through international and/or private endevours. If we want to, that is.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just a chance

It is amazing how governments will jump through hoops to discourage good ideas. I think there may be one state in the union that hasn't passed a state-sponsered lottery. But let someone suggest that an incentive lottery, instead of basing it on greed, and it becomes "bribery." That is the problem faced in a voter lottery proposal on a ballot in a western state.

And then, there is a proposal to re-invent the social security number to be a random number that can be changed in case of "identity theft." I have to admit this seems a little less intimidating than being indentified with a single number (based on an old file cabinet system in the Northeast [NJ, I think]) for all your life. Perhaps, if the Lord tarries and the SSN isn't an embodiment of the "mark of the beast," someday we can re-apply for a new government number much like we change passwords.

I have long thought that a national lottery might be a good way to get people to file their tax returns on time -- and error free. One return, selected randomly, could be the winning ticket for a million dollar prize. The return would be inelligible if it had errors on it [such as a required space not being filled in - personal example!]. Perhaps there is "just a chance" that this would save the government millions on tax collecting costs.

As a Christian, I am fundamentally against gambling since it can so easily be abused. It is primarily a "voluntary tax" on the poor. Also, a culture that is based on "chance" is by nature against God. Of course, "God does not play dice with the universe" as Albert Einstein once said. He is in control even of the ping-pong balls of Powerball. Hmm... it has reached $100 million again, maybe I'll "donate" a dollar or two to SC education this week. Or not.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

David, the Cave Man

David was a great king. But before he became king, he was a fugitive. He wrote at least two psalms about his stay in a cave while running from king Saul.

The sermon this evening was on Psalm 142

Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.
  • 1 ¶ I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
  • 2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.
  • 3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.
  • 4 ¶ I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
  • 5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
  • 6 Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.
  • 7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

Pastor Rod Clay preached an alliterated sermon with four points, plus application.

We see in Psalm 142 David's

  1. Plea, verses 1-3a. David dares to complain to YHWH! He pours out his soul to God.
  2. Plight, verses 3b-4. He was all alone, and nothing seemed to be going his way.
  3. Portion, verses 5-6a. Whereas no earthly shelter, especially not a cave, could protect him, he knew that YHWH was his refuge. God was all he needed in this world.
  4. Prospect, verses 6b-7. Since David now saw that God would save him, he had a whole new outlook on life.

My professors in seminary discouraged alliteration because it can often be contrived. This time, though, it works well. Check out Rod's sermons at

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hire an abortionist!

I know that's a strange title, but it seems the answer to the problem faced by the state of Missouri. The state's official "death doctor," who is a surgeon, has admitted that that he might have made a mistake in not giving condemned inmates the proscribed overdose of 5 mg. of anesthesia. Most states only require 2 mg.

The report at the New York Times puts it this way:

"The judge ordered Missouri to hire a board-certified anesthesiologist (John Doe I is a surgeon), and gave the state until today to submit a formal, written set of procedures, including increased monitoring of inmates and an assurance of sufficient anesthetic drugs.

But in the state’s filing last night, officials said they had sent letters to 298 certified anesthesiologists who reside anywhere near the state’s death chamber in Bonne Terre, and were turned down by all of them. "

Nearly 300 doctors refused the job of killing condemned killers! They must take the phrase "do no harm" very seriously. So, therein lays the delemma. Who wants the job? The problem of the dosage can be hammered out to suit the ACLU, but who better to hire to oversee an execution than someone who kills for a living? Sure, most states have not dealt with the "fetal pain" problem sufficiently. And an abortionist has mentally blocked out that possibility anyway. But certainly he should have no qualms overseeing the death of the guilty.

And maybe, just maybe, he will have a second carreer when abortion is once again rare in the land. Dare we hope for an outright ban?

What if

Some scientists have postulated that the essence of "quantum physics" is that there are an infinite mumber of "universes" linked to the infinite number of decisions and/or incidents that happen in the world. There was (or may still be on the Sci-Fi channel) a TV show that had the protagonists "sliding" between such worlds.

This is probably a bunch of hype -- an extention of a sub-atomic phenomenum to the "macro" world. However, "What If" is a great tool to creating fiction. I remember reading a little book that postulated "What if the South had won the Civil War?" The writer/historian did a good job, though I think he used hypothetical persons born of those that would have died.

Anyway, I was discussing "illegal immigration" in an email exchange the other day. And I started to wonder about natural national boundaries. The discussion was on Mexico's "claim" to much of the Southwestern US. I thought: "what if...?"

If, for example, Napolean had NOT sold his claim to the Louisiana territory to to the US, much of the continent would be non-Anglo. The Mississippi River would be the western border of the US. The French might have negotiated with the "Indians" to turn over that land to the united tribes. Meanwhile the Mexican holdings could have reached into "Indian" territory and up the Pacific coast. The Pacific Northwest, though, might very well have ended up as Russian America. Without California gold, the Union may have been unable to finance their war with the South. The split may have even been peaceful, and perhaps even without giving Lincoln his shot at the presidency! Canada, if it did not choose to join the US, might not have advanced to the Pacific. The land west of the Great Lakes might have been left to the Indians as well.

A smaller US would not have become a superpower in the wars between the 1880's and the 1940's. Without the US entering the war, there may not have been a SECOND World War. German emperialism may have prevailed, leaving no opening for Hitler to rise to power. In the Pacific, the Russian Rim, from Korea to Oregon, would have been a deterent to Japanese emperialism. China may have also been stronger (no US interference in 1898?) as well.

German technology -- unhampered by dictators -- would have remained there. Rocketry may never have become a way of humans entering into space, though I am sure that the Germans would have pioneered satelite communications. The automobile and the airplane, though, would have remained American contributions to progress.

Personally, I would not have been born in California (my dad was stationed there for the US Airforce). Perhaps my parents would not have even met (she being a yankee and he a reb). My mom, though, is the daughter of a minister. That means he could have been a missionary, or even been working as stated supply in the South. My wife, also a minister's daughter, could easily have been studying here in Greenville -- with a student visa.

But our forefathers followed the urge to acquire more land. And Napolean wanted to unload a bunch of land. So here we are, fighting over an activity as natural as migrating birds in winter. Just who's land is it, any way?

If any reader of this page cares to visualize this totally diffeent America, I would welcome a US map showing the regions as I have dealt with so far.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Spotted on the ride home

I drive home on a six-lane spur of I85 - I385 (which actually extends halfway to Columbia). Today I spotted two "vanity plates" as the cars sped around and past me. One called to mind horror stories or at least "bad luck." The other reminded its "readers" of the only source of true peace.

Visions of "bad luck" were called up when I saw the following:

Friday the thirteenth! What could have "possessed" them to chose this call up THAT number for an ID? This motorist considers "Luck" to be a determining factor in the course of this world. The "invisible hand" of Chance, AKA "evolution," rules his "universe."
And then, Hope:
Luke 2
When God stepped into history, everything changed. When He left, he promised to return. In the meantime, we become instruments of change. The beautiful story of the Nativity of Christ is unmatched in literature today. The God of unimaginable power - creator of all things - comes to lay in the filth that is an abandoned stone feeding trough. And His messengers go to the lowest among the people - shepherd of dumb sheep that are destined for sacrifice. Their lives meant little as long as the sheep were preserved from harm! In Luke 2 we see the full humanity of our Savior. In Him the hand of God became visible.

"Lesbian Money"

In the course of my work, I came across a twenty dollar bill stamped "lesbian money." I don't remember reading about any campaign to show that this particular segment of the population packs a financial punch. But that had to be what it was. It probably back in "gay pride" week or something. I think the use of dollar coins by African Americans was probably a better indication. Nobody hardly uses the coins otherwise.

Any way, I wish that certain folk would let their private lives remain "private." Any sexual activity outside of marriage (and that primarily for reproductive purposes, by design) is sinful. With that in mind, I pinned this haiku:

"Lesbian Money"
Proves that sinners spend money,
But that's all it proves.

It's not classic haiku, since it isn't about nature. The subject is rather "dark." But the form is haiku. What do you think? Should I go back to writing prose? :-)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Distance of Infinity

I have nothing profound to say this evening. So, to end a day that left me weary from the beginning, I will quote a historical figure of considerable political clout on the person of Jesus Christ:

"I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. The resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of inifinity...I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the Gospel. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or explain it. Here everything is extraordinary."

I will leave it a mystery as to who said this, but I came across this quote at another blog (see links to the right). I thought this man put it so well. Certainly there is no comparison between Christianity and ANY other religion!

Perhaps, just perhaps, today's leaders will see the wisdom of this worldview before Christ returns and makes it "painfully" clear.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A beautiful day

Today was supposed to be the first day of a week-long vacation. But I didn't communicate that well with my wife, so I have postphoned that week -- maybe until the fall.

And so, I was looking at the nice day I had to work in. And then I had to deal with a clerk at a gas station that had a bad attitude. When offered the greeting "have a good one" by a customer, she said "that's not going to happen." I was incredulous.

But I got to thinking -- uh oh, you know what that means! :-)

A beautiful day

A beautiful day
Starts with wonderful weather,
But ends with me.

I realized that no matter what the weather is, a beautiful day is determined by the attitude of the one experiencing it.

Have a good one.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Notes from my Bible

This morning, our associate pastor surveyed the message of the 119th psalm, reading and commenting on four of the 22 sections. While he was teaching, I jotted down an alliterated "message" of my own to summarize the message of the latter four verses of section Beth.

Psalm 119 BETH.

9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

Or as I jotted in the margin:

  1. Recite the Word. After you have hidden God's word in your heart (v. 11), don't hesitate to speak it out loud. Let it be part of your witness to other people, letting them know what the Word of God says on important topics.
  2. Rejoice in living the Word. Don't consider God's Word as a "burden" to your lifestyle. Enjoy being a child of God.
  3. Remember (or as the verse says Respect) the Word. The concept of "meditating" is to chew on it, getting all there is out of it. To swallow too quickly can choke you up; having meditated we can know our actions honor our God.
  4. Relish the Word. As in point 2, but exhibitting an inner peace. We need to truly enjoy what God has told us in his word. This is the essense of trusting Him.

I must admit, it is satisfying to have such insight while reading God's word. Oh, if I could live the word consistently. But then, it is not by my works that I am saved, but by the Grace of the God to whom the psalmist prays: "O LORD, teach me your statutes." (verse 12) If I can practice what I have preached - Recite, Rejoice, Remember, and Relish His Word - I can know that "peace that surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7).

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Redneck hospitality

I admire rednecks. They are "just people," and they don't care too much what you might think about that. I must admit, I have some "redneck" family members -- none locally :-) -- and they are the nicest people you will ever meet.

I found today that local rednecks are more than willing to help out. I was about to begin my much dreaded yardwork on one of the most perfect summer days in a while, when a guy on a bicycle asked if I needed someone to mow my lawn. Since my equipment was not up to the job, I agreed. Less than a half-hour later he was driving up on his riding mower, pulling a push mower beside it. His elderly father drove up with a can of gasoline. They live about a block away.

Together, in about three hours, we had the lawn mowed and much of the limbs and clippings picked up. I gladly paid him his modest asking price. He then offered the services of a friend of his, also a neighbor, to fix my gasoline-powered mower. I expected maybe a week. They had it running in two hours. It still had a problem, though. But hey, my lawn won't need mowing for at least a week. And they will have the mower back to me by midweek, I'm sure.

The point is, folks is folks. They may not dress like you, or talk like you, but they're people just like you. Learn from others, and then maybe they might learn from you.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Today I was minding my own business when I yawned. Nothing unusual there, but then I "covered" myself (when I was by myself!!??) by saying "Ho hum -- Hobo Humble." Hobo Humble?? Where did that come from? My imaginative psyche was playing tricks with my conscious self. I reached for my note book and penned, within minutes, the following haiku:


Nothing's more humble
Than a hobo on the road
Thumbing for a ride.

Now, that might not be exactly true. A hobo may be a snob, or greedy, or just a pain. But most likely, a hobo will walk where he needs to go. To humble himself to ask for help from a motorist is quite a step.

I had been writing for several years (at least five, I think), when I began writing haiku while working security at the Hitachi plant here in Greenville. Though what I write is probably not, for the most part, classic haiku, I do stick to the 17 sylable, 5-7-5 meter. My first stuff was only in 17 sylable stanzas with no conscious effort at 5-7-5. I rewrote some of them when I learned about the 5-7-5 form. I have recently read a book by a Zen Budhist that insisted it was a spiritual excercise and required "nature" themes. I disagree. But then I probably won't ever be a "haiku master."

But, just in case, I CAN produce that kind of stuff, almost off the cuff:


The water was wet,
Falling hard down from the sky
With life for the ground.

That "came to me" soon after a thunder shower on June 25, 2006.
Or maybe I should finish one of my novels. ??

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy birthday Mr. President

As I blogged yesterday, I am 12th cousin to George W. Bush. I am sure he doesn't know me, and I have never met him. However, I did shake hands with his father, my 11th cousin, once removed. Pres. Bush (43) doesn't remember me either. :-)

Any way, if anyone is collecting birthday greetings for the president from the blogosphere, here's a hearty HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the president! I read that he celebrated on the fourth and tonight is dining with a head of state in some location, perhaps in Texas.

He is 60 years old today. And I look older than he at only 53! I am losing weight, but I am far from being as fit as he is. He is looking good for someone about 95% of the way to 2 BILLION seconds old, huh? It's hard to believe it was over 20 years ago that I figured out the age of 1 Billion seconds was fast approaching for me. As a 30 year old I had more time on my mind. :-)

One billion seconds comes to 31.69 years (31 years, 9 months). It puts things into perspective, doesn't it? And now, we boomers are eating up that second billion seconds like there is no tomorrow! Statistically, most of us will see that 2 billionth second, even though we didn't have carseats, ate lead paint, lived with asbestos curtains, etc! Some of us will even make it to three billion seconds (95 years, 23 days). Heck, our own Strom Thurmond (my sixth cousin, a few times removed) was re-elected to the senate just shy of that mark!

Happy birthday "W," may you reach the three billion mark. Enjoy every second of it!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Out on a limb in the family tree

I have listed as one of my interests as genealogy. Indeed, I am interested in my family heritage. I have a problem getting past both sets of immediate great-grandparents.

My great grandfather was reportedly William Walter Martin of Greenville, Alabama. He married Minnie Gray. I can trace Minnie back to the immigrant in the early 1700's with some certainty. However, William is a dead end. His gravestone, pictured below, lists him only as W.W. Martin. Cemetary records have his name as "William Waller Martin" though my family insists that my dad, Henry Walter Martin, and his late sister Willie Glynn were named after their grand father. There were Wallers in Greenville, so there MAY be a connection there.

However, the best information I have is that William may have come in an orphan train with his grandmother. He may not even have been a "Martin"! To complicate matters, his brother-in-law was George Walter Martin who married Jessie Gray. Stories that William was a twin have surfaced, though George's dates don't match exactly.

Interestingly, my grandmother Martin was a Smith, and it is through her I can trace my heritage all the way back to the Scotish kings that preceded the Stuarts (James VI of Scotland became James I of England) I am descended from James III of Scotland. About two thirds of the American presidents are descended in some way from this same line!

However, I share an American ancestor with the present President (and, of course, his father). I am a twelth cousin to George Walker Bush. We both descend from Richard Swain, who immigrated to America in the early 1600's -- to the NORTH (Mass., not Virginia) :-(

The presidents line, through Richard's daughter Grace:

Richard SWAIN > Grace > Mary BOULTER > James PRESCOTT > Elisha > James > Lucy > Samuel P. Phillips FAY > Samuel H. > Harriet > Samuel P. BUSH > Prescott S. > GERORGE H.W. BUSH > GEORGE W. BUSH

My line is through Richard's son John:

Richard SWAIN > John > Steven > Elizabeth > Samuel SPRUILL > John > Mary > Elizabeth PHELPS > Enoch S. JONES > Martha > Mary J. DAVIS > Ola J. SMITH > Henry W. MARTIN > JAMES H. MARTIN

From what I have seen, the above is most likely true. I do not have the verification that the Lucy Prescott listed above was the mother of S.P.P. Faye. But the dates are close and so was the area in which they lived. With common names like Martin, Smith, Davis, and Jones, it is a wonder that one could get close to such a ten to twelve generation line! But I am more sure that MY line goes back to Swain than I am of the Bush line! I will get the documentation for anyone who is interested.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

When in the course of human events

This is for you, C.A.

I was reminded by a libertarian in California of our rights as human beings to determine our own "sovereignty." That is to say, there is not a "divine right of kings" in the "new world." Two hundred and thirty years ago brave men set out to "separate" themselves from the powers that were in place. They did it as thirteen sovereign states (or "nations"), many geographically larger than the countries of the old world. We celebrate today the FIRST "secession."

The "founding fathers," most notably Thomas Jefferson, had no idea of a nation covering the continent. In fact, nearly twenty years later, as Lewis and Clarke were exploring the territory recently acquired from the French, considered the "confederation" of the Atlantic states as those with a common heritage, but separate from the territories opening up. He thought that, perhaps, the new territories might form their own confederation. And that was fine with him.

This idea of separate confederations of sovereign states lasted for over seventy five years, popping up sometimes in heated discussions with such South Carolina politicians as vice president John C. Calhoun. The idea was totally constitutional, but the election of Abraham Lincoln ended all such possibilities of a peaceful separation. He wanted to change the paradigm -- the "union" was the all-important goal of the war he raged against sovereign states who thought differently. The united states of America were no longer a confederation. After the war, or even during it they became the "United States of America," a singular entity with a central government that took more and more of the "sovereignty" of the individual states. In the beginning, the united states of America were, and after "Lincoln's war" the United States of America is.

It is true the "Articles of Confederation," the first attempt of the thirteen new states to co-operate, did not last. However, the tenth Amendment left to the states or the "people" those powers not granted to the federal government in the constitution. Recent elections have shown that the ancient urge for self-government is alive. Half the nation, mostly rural and small-town America, feels that the best government is "local." Can Lincoln's dream survive the twenty-first century?

Monday, July 03, 2006

One of those days!

We have all had them. And this one was one of them.

You know, a day in which things just don't go quite right. It wasn't a bad day, actually, and things went more or less smoothly. But it was one that just wore me out.

The vehicle in which I had to ride was becoming an oven as the temperature edged into the mid 90's. The air conditioning could not keep up, and it was actually refreshing to get out into the heat with at least a breeze here and there.

But a small lapse of judgment in the rush to get away from the base in the morning probably cost us about an hour in the hottest part of the day. I noted the mistake at 12:30 and planned my afternoon around it. Unfortunately, I did not communicate those plans well with others and that caused me precious minutes in the busiest time of the day. And at the end, I had to wait for other guys who themselves had had long days! So much for a "simple" 9 hour day. A complicated 10 hour day seems sooo much longer!

And then, I got home to find that my wife had had a similarly long and hard day. In fact, I read half a novel while she unwound on computer games. Thus, this blog come at 10:30 pm, instead of 7:30 or so! And she was able to continue playing her games while she told me HER story. Me? I couldn't read while she spoke - that would be rude. Besides, I don't multi-task very well.

Yep. One of those days.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Full Assurance

Tonight's sermon was presented by a scholar of "dead languages" who brought to life a word not well translated by modern English translations, at least not in his text in 1 Thessalonians 1:5. The word, plerophoria is translated in the Colossians 2:2, Hebrews 6:11 and 10:22, as "full assurance." However, in the translations available, Paul's use of the term with "much" seems to have influenced them to "downgrade" the term to simply "assurance." The only other place where the word "assurance" appears in the N.T. (KJV) is at Acts 17:31 where the translators translate pistis, or "faith."

This word is primarily one of "fullness" rather than "assurance" as we usually think of the word. Plerophoria is a compound word derived from Plero "full" and Phoreo "I bear" -- that is, "to bear fully." In the text of 1 Thes. 1:5 this word is the third way in which the gospel is to be preached.

First, "in power" with the "dynamics" that come with the Word of God as your authority. Then, "in the Holy Spirit," by Whom we have the power of God behind the message. And finally, "in much full assurance," admittedly an awkward translation, which means the preacher can know without a doubt that his message is effective.

From the New Testament texts we can see a four-fold Plerophoria:

  1. A full assurance of understanding - acknowledging the "mystery of God." (Col. 2:2)
  2. A full assurance of the power of the Gospel (1 Thes. 1:5)
  3. A full assurance of hope - diligently following Christ to the end. (Heb. 6:11)
  4. A full assurance of faith - being cleansed by the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit by whom we are "baptised." (Heb. 10:22)

My many thanks to Dr. Benjamin Shaw, professor at Greenville Theological Seminary for his excellent sermon.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Surfing the Blogosphere

I had no real insight into the world today, so I just kept hitting the "Next Blog" link for who knows how long. I saw a lot of stuff, only two so distasteful I had to "flag" them to notify the administrators of blogspot that I disapproved. It may or may not remove them from the random stream of blogs, but I did my little part.

I found that sometimes the "Next Blog" will be a website, almost always an advertisement. And then there is the "Bestest Blog of all times" which has devised a blog sharing plan which enhances the chance that a blog will show up on a search engine's search. I am considering joining his page just for the fun of it. Perhaps I will get more hits because of it.

I did hit upon one dieting blog that was not going real well. However, she did have links to the importance of WATER in ones diet (and in "dieting"). Since the water thing is fresh with me, I visited her links. There seems to be a disagreement on how much water I should be drinking. My source said 8 ounces per 20 pounds of weight. One of her sources indicated dividing your weight in pounds by 2 to determine the amount of ounces to drink. The second method works out to 10 ounces per 20 pounds. Either way you figure it, that's a lot of water!

I will probably post more about water and diet in the days to come, especially if nothing else grabs my attention. Tomorrow is the Lord's Day, and I will be both ushering and praying the evening prayer. Hopefully, with this much responsibility, I will have some inspiring thoughts for this space when next I venture into the blogosphere.