Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Let Me Get This Straight . . .

So President Obama doesn't want to "meddle" in Iran. But he's perfectly willing to meddle in Israel.

So President Obama had to be prodded into speaking out (tepidly) about the horrific events in Iran, but wasted no time in calling a coup in Honduras "illegal" and demanding that the deposed leftist president -- a Hugo Chavez clone -- be reinstated in office. Never mind that the deposed leftist president wanted to shred the country's constitution in the face of opposition by the Honduran Congress, courts and military. As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh-In, "very very interesting."

With each passing day, I am learning more and more about President Barack Obama. And what I am learning is pretty much in keeping with what I expected all along. I posted the famous drawing of Che Guevara to do a little needling, but the more I look at it, the more I see striking similarities.

Yes, folks. Things are going to get very, very interesting around here. Just wait and see.

Monday, June 29, 2009

See What I Mean?

In my previous posts on Michael Jackson, I had referenced some of the concern I had with him being a "role model" for young children, even back in the "Thriller" days. Many parents seemed blissfully unaware or unconcerned about lyric content, not to mention the frequent crotch-grabbing and other elements of Michael's stage persona.

This linked USA Today article offers a glimpse into the upcoming extravaganza concerts that were to kick off next month in England. Here is a brief clip from that article . . .

For a splashy version of "Dirty Diana," Jackson wanted a flaming bed with a pole-dancing aerialist "playing the part of the fire," Alonzo says.

The elaborately plotted stunt: Jackson intended to be pursued around the bed by the "fire woman," and each time she touched the stage, flames in the form of fluttering crimson fabric would shoot skyward.

After she caught him, she would lash him to the bed's tall posts with gold rope and a sheet of red fabric would billow before him, illuminating his struggling silhouette.

When the sheet fell, the magic trick would be triggered — the woman would be revealed as the one ensnared, and Jackson would materialize on a stage in the center of the arena.

Pole dancing, firewomen and a burning bed. Yeah, that's real wholesome imagery for children, isn't it? I can just see the seven or eight-year-olds' questions on the way home. "Mommy, what was that woman and the pole all about? Why was the bed on fire?" Who knows what other things the show would have included if it had actually gone off.

My point in all this isn't to kick a dead man, even though I'll probably get accused of it. My point is that parents need to wake up and re-evaluate whom they allow their children to idolize.

Michael Jackson might be gone, but there will always be someone else.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Unrepentant Defiance

It's been such an eventful week. I finally felt well enough myself to return to teaching my Sunday school class. We've been in the book of Romans for the past few months. Today, my class was combined with another one for the summer months. To bring the new people up to speed, I dieseled through my introduction to the book, and then summarized Romans 1-8 in 45 minutes. In the course of summarizing Romans 1 at the beginning, a train of thought began running in my head -- so much so that I had to make a blog post about it.

When you read Romans 1, and the way it describes the complete and utter unrighteousness of fallen man, it is (or ought to be) a real eye-opener. In light of biblical truth -- completely unvarnished -- about how low mankind can fall, why are we amazed when a wicked world acts wickedly?

American Christians these days seem to do a lot of handwringing about how the culture at large responds to us. What if the Gospel were presented this way? What if Christians did this or that in trying to reach the culture? Christians are so misunderstood. If the culture only knew the truth. Why does society hate Christians so much? If we just did such and such, they'd understand and react differently to us.

Let's assume that the celebrities who passed away this week (Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Gail Storm, Billy Mays, etc) could return from the dead to testify to the eternity that awaits all of us — either with the Lord or separated from Him. What kind of difference would it make? Scripture has a few things to say about the world and its attitude. First, the Lord Himself discussed the possibility of Lazarus coming back from the dead to warn people about Hell . . .

But He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead' (Luke 16:21).

What if the world got a clear picture of the judgment that awaited its wickedness? Again, Scripture has something to say . . .

. . . and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds (Revelation 16:11).

Interesting. Instead of pleas for forgiveness, instead we get defiance and clenched fists. And that's not all. The Lord Jesus had even more to say about the world and its attitude toward the truth . . .

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.

If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.

But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE'
(John 15:18, 24-25).

Sounds like the world has an attitude problem, doesn't it?

Of course, this doesn't mean that God is not still drawing men, women and children to Himself out of the midst of this God-hating culture. He most certainly is. And He does this through the "foolishness of preaching." We still have the Great Commission to carry out until He returns for His own. Some will receive the Gospel. Others will reject it. And that includes celebrities.

But let's quit being amazed when the world -- including comedians and celebrities -- mock Christians and the church. Let's stop being so flabbergasted when people reject the message, sometimes with open hostility. In the immortal words of Captain Louis Renault, let's stop being "shocked. . . shocked" when people take the precise attitude Jesus warned us they would take.

Christians aren't in this world to win popularity contests. By all means, we are to be winsome and windows to the love of Christ. But we are also to be uncompromising in the truth. And that alone will be very, very unpopular with a whole lot of people.

That's just the way it is.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Man Knows Not His Time . . .

By now, most know of the tragic death today of pop star Michael Jackson in Los Angeles. He was 50 years old. Also passing over the past week — Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. Death spares no one, from the wealthy and well known to the poor and unknown. And of course, whenever someone in the public eye passes on, I always wonder where they were at with the Lord, and what opportunities they had to repent of their sins and trust in Christ.

In the case of Michael Jackson, he grew up in the Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses) cult. Although he broke away from the Watchtower in adulthood, I never knew of Jackson actually coming to saving faith in Christ. Only the Lord knows. Most recently, it appeared as if he was coming under the influence of Islam. His brother Jermaine is a convert, who referenced Allah as he commented on the death of his brother. I couldn't help but notice Rev. Al Sharpton waxing eloquent in front of the cameras after the news broke, saying he'd been a friend of Jackson's for 35 years. I wonder if Rev. Al ever gave him the biblical Gospel? Seeing as how I've never heard Rev. Al mention the Gospel in public through the years, I guess I will have to keep wondering.

In all honesty, I never was a fan of Michael Jackson in a music sense. It's not really my style. As a Christian, I worried about his influence over children, whose parents seemed largely undiscerning in letting them indulge in his music. Even in his 1980s heyday, his crotch-grabbing and suggestive lyrics hardly seemed appropriate for pre-teen kids, but many parents -- even those in my own family -- were oblivious. A lot of his sad situation was self-inflicted, but a lot of it can also be blamed on his childhood. You often wonder if he ever really had a true friend who loved him enough to tell him the truth and confront him when he needed it. He certainly had his share of hangers-on, leeches and sycophants. It's all over now.

Whatever the case, God is — and will be — just. We should remember the Jackson family in prayer, as well as the Fawcetts, O'Neals and McMahons. May God bring them comfort and work His perfect will in their lives.

I imagine I'll be musing over this subject for quite a while. As an aside, Christians seem to love it when there are high-profile conversions. Yet, they're the first ones to put new converts on a pedestal way too quickly, and the first to throw stones when there's a stumble. God isn't moved by how high-profile someone is. We're all equal before the throne in accountability. We all need the Lord, whether we're a rock star, a movie star, a television star, or the star of our own daily drama called life. The only real star ought to be the Lord Himself. He died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification. I owe Him everything.

Finally, to those of you who are believers and DO know someone personally who is high-profile or well known. Love them. Be friends with them. Keep their confidence. And above all, love them enough to tell them the truth. Love them enough to tell them of their need to repent and the Savior's love.

Man knows not his time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not Much to Say

I was just looking at my number of posts this month, and I can see that I am lagging. Between personal circumstances in my family with illness and death, plus an increasingly heavy workload at my office, it's been hard to find time for posting. I'll try to do better in the coming days.

I suppose the biggest news of the day is out of South Carolina, and the troubling events surrounding Republican Governor Mark Sanford. However, I can really add nothing more to what's already being said. This certainly doesn't help the image of Republicans these days. If you're going to talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk.

And that goes for all of us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cuts? Oh, NOOOO!!!

This linked story about California's budget battle is a great example about something that's always bugged me about "public" money i.e taxpayer money. My money and your money. While the story is largely about public schools, my comments are aimed at government in general.

While you should read the whole story, I will excerpt a couple of notable portions. The article opens with a description of the crisis and what might be cut, then gives some reactions from students and educators about the supposed cataclysmic effect of the cuts. The world will end as we know it . . . you get the idea. Here's clip one:

Many Democrats and school advocates are calling for tax increases to lessen the impact on schools, but Republicans oppose raising taxes. They say California should live within its means and school districts should be given more flexibility to spend their funds.

"You can't spend what you don't have, and you can't spend what the taxpayers don't have," said State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, vice chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Mr. Huff's comment seems sensible. But here's the other side:

The cuts are expected to lead to sharp reductions or complete elimination of after-school programs, summer school, adult education, guidance counselors, and electives such as art and music. Class sizes are set to expand from 20 to more than 30 students for kindergarten through third grade.

The teachers union is threatening to strike to protest layoffs of 125 teachers, larger class sizes and proposed cuts to their health care benefits.
"We can't cut our way out of this. We really can't. There will be nothing left of education," said Pixie Hayward-Schickele, who heads the teachers union.

Now this is interesting to me. Any business or household has to live within its budget or it goes under. The alternatives are to make more money or to cut things.

Not so for the government or institutions on the public dole. Cuts? Surely you jest. Year after year, increases are demanded to pay public employees more regardless of performance, and whether or not the money is there to do it. Eventually, the public body goes into deficit spending, and then the public is blackmailed to approve higher taxes to offset the deficit put in place. Or in other instances, the legislators in a given area vote for tax increases regardless of whether the public wants them or not.

When the public finally has enough and begins demanding that the government live within its means, we hear all the sob stories and horror stories of what will happen if they don't get the money they demand.

I think it's about time the beast got starved to death. Many people do not get automatic pay increases every year outside of occasional cost-of-living raises. With many, any pay increases are due to increased responsibility or due to merit. Businesses and industries have to make cuts. Their employees have to bear them, whether it means pay cuts, loss of benefits or even layoffs. It's sad, but it happens. Look at what's happened in the auto industry over the past couple of years. However, those on the public dole seem to think they have the right to limitless raises and benefits whether or not the state, city or county can afford it.

Some of these programs are nice, but aren't necessarily vital to education itself. I know some will argue with me about that, and that's fine. If you look at any budget, you'll find areas where you can cut. And most public education programs have things that really aren't necessary except to the targeted special interest.

So the public education system has to be cut. What will become of us? Somehow, we'll get by. We did before, and we can do it again. I have to live within my means or pay the piper. So should government, whether it be local, state or federal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Word for the Week

After a couple of weeks like the ones I just had, I can't think of any better post to start a new week than something from God's Word. He alone is our anchor in troubled times.

While they are saying, "peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would over take you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thesssalonians 5:3-11).

Friday, June 19, 2009

In the Clearing Stands a Boxer . . .

The blogosphere has been abuzz with the recent exchange between Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Brigadier General Michael Walsh. Here's the story if you missed it.

I have to commend General Walsh for his gracious response. My response would have been markedly different, but I guess a high-profile general has to be careful. His commander-in-chief ought to speak up and slap the Boxer upside the head.) If you swatted her on the rump, she'd take it as a sexual advance, no doubt.)

My only comfort is that the Boxer is taking a hit in the polls for her conduct. Unfortunately, people like her are oblivious. So a word to the hecklers out there. When she shows up in public somewhere, call her "maam" until her head explodes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ernest L. Vinson (1931-2009)

Yesterday morning shortly before 2 a.m., my beloved uncle Ernie went into eternity following a battle with a form of leukemia. I am thankful that his suffering didn't last long, and that he is now in the presence of the Lord. No more pain, no more grief. Only joy and peace.

Normally, I handle death with equanimity. But this is different. This one hurts like no previous death in my family. I've lost grandparents, my father, uncles and cousins. I've lost close friends. With all there was a sense of loss, but I dealt with it fairly quickly and moved on.

To be clear, I loved my late father. But in all honesty, I did not have a real close relationship with him. We became somewhat estranged in my teen years for a variety of reasons. It pained me, and and I regret that we weren't as close as we ought to have been. I have no doubt that he loved me, but we had a lot of baggage to slog through. He died in 1980 before we could sort it all out. He would be in his 90s if he had lived. I prayed with him before he succumbed to emphysema at the age of 62, and that was that. Dad did his best, and had lived a very hard life. He carried a lot of emotional scars from his own childhood, as well as going through the hell of the Great Depression and World War II. Frequently, he turned to the bottle to drown his pain, which made life miserable for me and the rest of my family. He walled most of us off, and I never could really break through that wall.

Not so with Ernie. Not only was he a second father to me, but my bowling and fishing buddy. For the past 18 years, I made twice-a-year jaunts to Arkansas to fish for crappie on Lake Charles. He taught me to bowl and to fish. And those hours out in the boat on the lake were times of very wonderful fellowship. Words weren't always necessary either. Ernie wasn't perfect and had his issues. But he was a great man and I loved him very much. I will feel his loss keenly.

I am thankful that my mother and I got the chance to be with him in his final days, and were the last ones who got to speak to him when he was still conscious and coherent. I am thankful for the opportunity to pray with him, and share with him my hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that is really the ultimate comfort. I have hope in Christ, and hope in a certain resurrection.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jimmy Carter Slithers Again

Every time I think former president James Earl Carter Jr. can't possibly sink any lower, he outdoes himself. Yesterday, the perennial boob from Plains made this stunning demand. He wants Hamas taken off the terrorist list.

What minimal respect I had left for Carter has now completely fizzled. Instead of being allowed to globe-trot in style and meddle in everything under the sun, he ought to be in jail.

Preferably in Marion or the Colorado Supermax, not Gitmo.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beware of Obamacare

Perhaps it's because I spent the latter half of last week with an ill relative at St. Bernard's Medical Center in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Maybe it's because the news headlines are squawking about it due to President Obama's renewed push for government health care. Whatever the cause, health care has been on my mind.

So what do I see this morning, thanks to the BBC? Check out this little article about some of the pitfalls of socialized medicine.

President Obama insists he's not taking over the health care industry, just like he insisted he's not taking over the auto industry -- even while the government became the largest shareholder in General Motors. He insists those who raise concerns are just scaremongering, playing on people's fears.

Yeah, right. You have to give Obama some credit. He's never one to be bothered with troublesome little things like facts.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm Beginning to Hate June

And I don't mean Cleaver.

I just got back late yesterday from my emergency trip south. I had to leave to get back to work, and while my uncle was obviously deteriorating in health (leukemia), we thought he had some time yet.

We were wrong. We had nearly gotten back home only to learn he took a turn for the worse shortly after we left. He is now in a coma and unless the Lord intervenes, it won't be long before he passes away. In June, of course.

June has not been a kind month to my family. My grandfather died in June. My father died in June. Another uncle and a cousin died in June. With the exception of my father, who died in June 1980, the other deaths took place in 1974, 1975 and 1976 respectively. And now, this.

Don't get me wrong. Our days are numbered and our God is sovereign. I'm not angry at Him or bitter in any way. Just sad, and a bit mad . . . at June.

June is supposed to be the time for weddings and enjoying the onset of summer. I can skip the weddings, of course, but I do like summer.

That's beginning to change.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Blog Hiatus

This is just a note to announce that I'll be on a hiatus from the blog until next week due to an illness in the family. I'll have to be out of town through Monday.

I would appreciate prayers for my uncle in Arkansas, who is battling a form of leukemia.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Your Schoolchildren and the "OM"

In this USA Today article, journalist Marilyn Elias files a story on the growing use of "meditation" in schools and hospitals. Doesn't that just thrill your socks off?

I'll bypass the hospitals and focus on meditation being used in schools, as it ought to concern Christian parents. Those advocating such practices will deny it through their teeth, but the links to Eastern mysticism and the occult are undeniable. Biblical meditation on God's Word and this type of meditation are two completely different animals. We're talking about altered states of consciousness here, folks.

The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi worked for years to get Transcendental Meditation accepted in the mainstream as "non-religious." It was a really slick sales job. Never mind that it came straight out of Hinduism, and that the Sanskrit initiation called for offerings to Guru Dev. If this demonstrates anything, it's another classic lesson in how subtle Satan's deceptions can be. It's oh, so innocent looking. Anti-freeze tastes good to a dog, too.

I don't care how they label it. Public schools are the first to try and shut down any Christian expression from students or parents. Yet they'll allow stuff like this to be pushed toward children, and never mind the Hindu origins of the practice.

I think it's time for the reins to get yanked again.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Sunday Reflection on a Divine Promise

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

In the course of teaching my Sunday school class on Romans today, the Scripture above kept surfacing in my mind as I was wrapping up chapter 8.

I wonder how many believers realize the significance of this biblical promise highlighted by the Apostle Paul?

It's really quite breathtaking to contemplate.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

D-Day . . . Remember!

Today is the anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy during World War II. I have to wonder how many even care anymore.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Frustrating a Guitarist

Before you ask, I don't want to frustrate the pictured Mike Rutherford (Genesis). I'm the frustrated guitarist. Well, maybe I shouldn't call myself a guitarist. A "hacker" would be more appropriate.

Seriously, there are times when I will try to figure out a favorite tune, only to find that none of the chords I know seem to fit. Then I do a search for chords on line, and none of those seem to fit either.

It's then when I realize that the original guitarists who did the tune used an alternate tuning of some type, which they typically will not reveal. It is then that my frustration boils over. I don't have time to sit and twiddle knobs to figure out something I just want to do for pleasure.

I guess it's an "artist" or "proprietary" thing. What else could it be, other than wanting to frustrate people like me?

There's something these guys might ought to consider. You'd think any writer/performer would want their music to live on. Part of the way it lives on is by other people playing it, not just by listening to a CD.

How many bands that are popular now formed originally by getting together in the garage or basement to jam to popular songs that they like from other groups who have made it? If said band or guitarist uses normal chords, it's not a problem. But when a song has a weird or alternate tuning, the song just doesn't sound the same even if the chord you're using is "close" or technically the correct chord. And for me and my sensitive ears, if the song doesn't sound like it does on the record -- or if the chord is off -- I wince.

So, my professional guitarist friends, give it up for the rest of us hackers. I mean, it's a good thing to keep Maalox and Tums in business, but it's hard on our health.

P.S. In case you're wondering, this post is intended to kill time until I can come up with something more substantive.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Miss Gulch for President

Given the state of our country, I am beginning to think Miss Almira Gulch would make an excellent candidate for office.

I'll leave it to my readers to guess whether I'm kidding or not. At the very least, you can tell I don't have much time for posting at the moment. I am crushed with guilt . . .

Monday, June 01, 2009

U.K. Global Day of Prayer: Stop Compromising!

I was cheered to see this little story in the Christian Post today. In the article, a U.K. pastor named Jonathan Oloyede said that it's time for Christians to stop compromising their faith. Here's a short clip . . .

More than 10,000 Christians in London prayed in each of the capital's 33 boroughs as part of the Global Day of Prayer, which was observed in 219 countries on Pentecost Sunday.

Speaking at the Newham prayer meeting in East London, Pastor Jonathan Oloyede said that it was time for Christians to pray and act. He warned in particular of the threat posed by ungodly legislation being passed by Parliament and plans to build a so-called mega mosque at the site of the London Olympics.

"I used to be a Muslim. The Muslims don't just want to build a mosque. They want to take over," he warned. "If you want to roll over and play dead while the legacy of your forefathers is thrown in the dust and you can't stand up and say enough is enough then you are not fit to be a Christian."

Oloyede said Christians in the United Kingdom need to "stop trying to be nice and cute" in the face of threats to their faith and the well-being of the nation.

"All that stuff about not offending anyone is nonsense," he said. "I used to try to be nice to everyone but God said to me: You cannot be my messenger by being nice to everybody. So are you going to just play nice or are you going to be a follower of Christ?"

Wow. Can you imagine if I had said such a thing? I'd get called a meanie and worse.

Watch for what Pastor Oloyede said to be distorted by the media, and probably some others who claim to be Christians. As far as I am concerned, the pastor has a lot of intestinal fortitude and should be applauded.

MTV: How Low Can They Go?

I almost never watch MTV or any other music channel these days. This story is a perfect example of why I don't watch.

The sad thing is that these people think they're on the cutting edge of culture and "societal evolution." In reality, it's the same old putrid effluent bubbling up to the top of the septic tank. Maybe it's even a bit more putrid than ever.

All in all, it reminds me of a great lyric line by the Christian band, The Choir. "Did I smell the decay and call it perfume?"