Saturday, February 16, 2008

Prayer Blog - 2/16/2008, #2

WAM is ill, evidently quite ill. He slept in ice last night to mitigate his fever. Today has been a better day but he is still not ready to resume his daily routine. May he have a quick recovery with no lasting effects.

Prayer Blog - 2/16/2008

CAT, a college basketball player, has suffered an injury. He has an MRI scheduled this week and asked us to keep him on the prayer list. May he have a speedy recovery and resume his promising career.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Separated at Birth?

In the play "Life of Galileo" I attended last night, I noted how much Carol Mayo Jenkins' head shot (left) resembled Charlotte Rae aka Mrs. Garrett from "The Facts of Life" (right). Mayo Jenkins is UT's "Artist in Residence" and is quite an accomplished actor.

WRK had no recollection of the program, which made me feel remarkably old. Then I realized that I was still probably the second youngest person at the event...

Can I get a witness?

Bible Trivia - 2/15/2008

Question: What sin did Reuben commit which his father heard of (Genesis 35)?

Answer: He lay with his father’s concubine. (Genesis 35:22)

Comments: Reuben lay with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. The event is chronicled in only one verse with no consequences or reaction given, only that his father heard of it. Where did Jacob hear it? My guess is that younger brother, Joseph, presented as an informant at best and tattletale at worst two chapters later, spilled the beans.

Though unstated at the time, there was severe ramifications for Reuben’s action. This is the type of act, that is never completely forgotten. In Jacob’s blessing shortly before his death, he displaces the birthright from Reuben, his first born son:

Reuben, you are my firstborn;
My might and the beginning of my strength,
Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence,
Because you went up to your father's bed;
Then you defiled it--he went up to my couch. (Genesis 49:3-4, NASB)

I have always wondered if Reuben’s later actions surrounding Joseph were indicative of constant attempts to redeem himself. How awful life must have been before Jesus...

In a completely ridiculous observation, in the last three stories in which Reuben appears he is always in verse 22 of a given chapter (Genesis 35:22, 37:22, 42:22) I will let you discover for yourself the hidden meaning of this. (By that I mean, I got nothing.)

Word of the Day - 2/15/2008


A menage is a domestic establishment; household.

Jesus often stayed in the menage of Simon Peter in Capernaum (Mark 1:29). While Simon Peter and his brother Andrew dropped their nets to follow Jesus (Mark 1:18), evidently they maintained possession of their home. This is not accusation, merely an observation that tends to contradict the image most have of the new disciples leaving everything about their former lives to follow Christ.

In Eckleburg’s Eyes - 2/15/2008

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

I spent the morning in Bible Study with MLM and CMU. I taught on Luke 5:33-39. Abbreviated notes will be available Sunday.

MLM wanted us to contemplate an episode of the TV series House, M.D.. We often supplement our Bible Study with video clips. I lead the Biblical portion and MLM leads the visual complement. We watched the episode “Damned If You Do” from the series’ first season.

The episode features a nun, whose hands are red, swollen and cracked. By chance, she is sent to House for treatment. The religious patient considers the possibility of stigmata while the atheist doctor assumes an allergic reaction. There was much theology to consider.

My favorite quote in the episode came from the title character: “She has God inside her. It would be easier to deal with a tumor.”

On a trivial note, the cliché from which the episode takes it title is from former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. The full quotation is, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.”

My Valentine’s date was the beautiful and talented, WRK. I was actually a fill-in for her boyfriend, PAT, who will return from Kennesaw, GA, on Friday. Not since Joe Besser subbed for Shemp in the Three Stooges has there been such a poor substitution.

I even picked her up a dozen roses, at PAT’s request. This shows how much I love PAT as flower delivery gives me flashbacks to one of the darkest periods of my life, working for unstable florists.

I have always had my Valentine’s gifts well in advance so purchasing flowers the day of was a new experience. Seeing countless grown men scavenge for gifts and lugging around huge teddy bears was quite a sight. It is one of those situations where you definitely do not want to see anyone you know. Naturally, I ran into JMT, one of my best friend’s uncles. Even in these embarrassing circumstances, it was good to see him.

After eating quickly at Jason’s Deli, WRK and I went to see the play, “The Life of Galileo,” at the Clarence Brown Theater. I love going to the theater. I love it so much that it is one of the few events that requires formal attire without inducing vexation. We lowered the average age significantly. I really wish more young people went to the theater. I do not know why they do not.

Our seats were wonderful, fourth row center at eye level with the actors. The play was very good. It had a small cast with many of the actors assuming multiple roles, which was confusing at times. I really wish they would have altered accents with costumes, but it was still very enjoyable.

Terry Weber, who attends the church I grew up in and is in virtually every local production, was credited with five parts. I am pretty sure he played more. None of the roles were Abraham Lincoln or Jesus (the staples I associate with him), though the anachronistic insertions would have added a unique take on Galileo.

The play was very informative. Naturally, the religious aspects were of keen interest to me. It was good to see the legendary scientist placed within the historical context of the Inquisition. Thanks, Dr. Loyd Allen, for enhancing my understanding of the play.

I also never knew Galileo had a last name - Galilei. (His parents evidently were not as creative as their son.)

Galileo lived a long life, as evidenced by the length of the play. It started at 7:30 and I returned WRK to her home after 10:30! We had contemplated hearing Christabel and the Johns at Barley’s Taproom, but the lateness of the play made us call it a night.

I realize that Valentine’s Day is often depressing, especially for the lovelorn. I will share a verse that I learned years ago. If you read the “One Year Bible,” this verse actually falls into the reading for February 14:

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted/And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”- Psalm 34:18 (NASB)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 2/14/2008

Associated Baptist Press

February 14, 2008 (8-19)


Religious voters in ‘Potomac Primary’ boost Obama, protest McCain
Surgery causes Al Mohler to bow out of SBC race
Rep. Tom Lantos, champion of religious freedom, dies
Huckabee endorsement brings IRS investigation of Wiley Drake
Opinion: Torture is the bone caught in America’s throat
Opinion: An economy of scale to pursue edification, discernment

Religious voters in ‘Potomac Primary’ boost Obama, protest McCain

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- In the latest presidential primary contests, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama improved his position among Catholics on the Democratic side while most white evangelicals chose not to vote for Arizona Sen. John McCain, even though he is now all but guaranteed to be the GOP nominee.

The so-called “Potomac Primary” on Feb. 12 involved contests in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Obama and McCain swept all three of their respective primaries, but exit-poll data showed that Obama won decisively among Maryland’s most religious voters and made significant inroads into Clinton’s previous lead among Catholics.

McCain, meanwhile, won the Virginia primary by a smaller margin than many observers had expected. And he lost decisively to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee among Republican voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians.

On the Democratic side, results by the afternoon of Feb. 13 showed Obama beating Clinton in Maryland with 60 percent of the vote to her 36 percent.

He won among all Maryland faith groups other than Roman Catholics and Jews. But while Clinton had won Catholics by large margins in earlier contests, she only edged her rival 48-45 percent among the state’s significant Catholic population.

Obama, meanwhile, beat Clinton decisively (61-31 percent) among Democrats who attend religious services weekly or more often. Among those who said they worship more often than weekly, his advantage was even greater: 67 percent to Clinton’s 20 percent.

Clinton still edged Obama among the most faithful Catholics, but she led by less than 10 percentage points.

In the overall Virginia GOP contest, McCain beat Huckabee 50-41 percent. But the Arkansan -- who was a Baptist pastor before he entered politics -- beat McCain 60-31 percent among those who describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians.

Huckabee also beat McCain among the most fervent believers of all faiths, with those who said they attend services weekly or more often favoring the Arkansan over McCain by eight percentage points.

McCain beat Huckabee handily among the commonwealth’s more secular Republicans. Virginia GOP voters who said they attend church supported the senator 59-29 percent over his chief rival.

McCain has amassed more than half of the delegates required to cinch the GOP nomination, while Huckabee lags far behind. But the governor has shown no indication he intends to drop out.


Surgery causes Al Mohler to bow out of SBC race

By Robert Marus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptists’ oldest seminary and spokesman for conservative social causes, will bow out of the race to head the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, according to a Feb. 14 statement.

Mohler will undergo surgery for a pre-cancerous tumor in his colon, according to a release posted on the website of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler, 48, has headed the institution since 1995.

Three other candidates for the SBC presidency have already been announced: Georgia pastor Frank Cox and Californians Wiley Drake and Bill Wagner.

Doctors discovered the tumor during a routine colonoscopy Feb. 11, and a subsequent biopsy revealed that it was pre-cancerous.

Mohler went through similar surgery in December 2006. That surgery was complicated by blood clots that formed in his lungs. The Southern Seminary statement said Mohler’s physicians “will take special precautions to prevent a recurrence of the blood clots with this new surgery.”

It also said a date for the surgery had not yet been determined, but it will likely “require an extensive period for recuperation and recovery.”

Because of that, Mohler said, “I have decided to give my greatest attention right now to addressing this new challenge and to ministering to my wife and children. This is clearly not the right time for me to accept this nomination.”

He continued, “Frankly that decision is made much easier by my knowledge that there is at least one strongly conservative, committed pastor who intends to be nominated in Indianapolis.” He was presumably referring to Cox.


Rep. Tom Lantos, champion of religious freedom, dies

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- One of Congress’ staunchest defenders of international religious freedom has died.

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) died Feb. 11 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., reportedly of complications from esophageal cancer. The 80-year-old Lantos had represented suburban San Francisco in the House since 1981.

Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor in Congress. At the time of his death, he served as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was also a co-founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

The congressman used his office to draw attention to human-rights issues, especially religious freedom. Lantos focused on abuses of minority ethnic and religious groups in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and China, to name a few.

“Despite the many demands on the time and attention of such a senior member of Congress, victims of human-rights abuses could consistently rely upon Rep. Lantos to be an advocate for freedom,” said Michael Cromartie, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a statement mourning Lantos’ death. “Rep. Lantos never hesitated to speak on behalf of those with no political voice.”

Lantos pushed for the 1998 legislation that created the commission, an independent government agency that monitors and reports on religious-liberty conditions worldwide. It also created, for the first time, an ambassador-level State Department position with a focus on freedom of conscience.

More recently, Lantos turned his attention to the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. In 2006, he was one of four members of Congress arrested at the Sudanese Embassy in Washington for protesting that government’s role in the crisis.

Lantos was born to a Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest in 1928. As a teenager, he fought against the Nazis as part of the Hungarian resistance to German occupation. He was eventually captured but escaped a concentration camp before fleeing to the United States.

At a Feb. 14 memorial service in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, colleagues and dignitaries honored Lantos. “For Tom, freedom was not just an abstract ideal,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, according to the Associated Press. “I can see him look at us with those piercing-yet-compassionate eyes and say, ‘All right, you can pause for a moment to remember me, but then you must resume the struggle.’”

After arriving in the United States, Lantos used scholarships provided by Jewish organizations to attend college, eventually earning a Ph.D. from the University of California. He worked as an economist and business advisor before being elected to Congress.

Lantos’ death came only a month after his announcement that he would not seek re-election due to the cancer diagnosis.

“It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress,” Lantos said, in a statement announcing his decision to retire. “I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”


Huckabee endorsement brings IRS investigation of Wiley Drake

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Outspoken California pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention officer Wiley Drake is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service.

The candidate for the SBC presidency this year is under scrutiny for using his church letterhead and church-sponsored radio show last year to endorse Mike Huckabee. Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming -- alive and well after Drake called God’s wrath against them for criticizing his endorsement -- work at the religious-liberty agency that filed an IRS complaint that prompted the investigation.

After Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced their IRS filing in August, Drake asked his supporters to pray for ill to befall Conn and Leaming. The two are communications staffers for the agency.

Drake confirmed Feb. 14 that he had recently received an IRS letter noting he was under investigation for using church resources to endorse Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, Southern Baptist minister and Republican presidential candidate. Federal tax law prevents churches and similarly organized non-profit groups from endorsing candidates or political parties.

Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., made the endorsements last August. “After very serious prayer and consideration, I announce today that I am going to personally endorse Mike Huckabee,” he said in the press release printed on church letterhead. “I ask all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters to consider getting behind Mike and helping him all you can.”

He said he believes “God has chosen Mike for such an hour,” and that of all the candidates running for president, “Mike Huckabee will listen to God.”

Shortly after he released the written statement, Drake also endorsed Huckabee on an Internet-based radio show the church sponsors.

“Yes, I endorsed him personally and, yes, we use the First Southern Baptist Church,” Drake said on the show. “Everything we do is under the auspices of the church.”

The Americans United complaint to the IRS mentioned both forms of endorsement. The IRS letter to Drake also mentioned both the press release and the radio show.

Drake, reached by telephone Feb. 14, referred a reporter to his attorney. “Because I have retained legal counsel and they’ve told me, ‘Don’t talk to the press,’ I have to abide by that,” he said.

The attorney, Erik Stanley, did not return a telephone message by press time for this story. But he told the Associated Press that Drake did not violate federal tax law by endorsing Huckabee because it was a personal endorsement, not done on behalf of the church.

“Our position on this is that ... churches and pastors have First Amendment rights just like anybody else, and that includes the right to speak out,” he said. “They can feel free to personally endorse candidates. It was not a church endorsement, and he made that very clear.”

Stanley is representing Drake on behalf of the Alliance Defense Fund. The group is a national network of attorneys who often offer legal defense of individuals and causes supported by the Religious Right.

In recent years, some religious conservatives have tried unsuccessfully to undo the tax laws that prevent churches from endorsing candidates or parties while retaining their tax-exempt status. Opponents of such efforts claim the prohibition actually upholds religious freedom by protecting houses of worship and denominational bodies from being used by candidates and parties.

In August, after Americans United announced their complaint, Drake told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn’t worried about federal tax regulators. “They don't scare me,” he said. “I don't give a rip about the IRS. I don't believe in the separation of church and state, and I believe the IRS should stay out of church business.”

The letterhead Drake used both to endorse Huckabee and to call for God’s wrath against Conn and Leaming also mentioned his previous position as second vice president of the SBC. He held that office from June 2006 to June 2007. He has announced that he will run for president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination this year.

SBC officials, however, have asked him not to mention his denominational leadership post on such press releases.

On Aug. 14, Drake released the statement calling for “imprecatory prayer” against Conn and Leaming.

The term “imprecatory prayer” is used to describe prayers, mostly in the Bible's Old Testament, that the righteous used to call down God’s wrath against their enemies.

In the statement, Drake asked supporters to “specifically target” Conn and Leaming. Their names usually appear as the return address or contact line on the Americans United press releases, including the one that announced the IRS complaint. Drake’s call to arms said Conn and Leaming “are those who lead the attack” on him, even though the group’s executive director, Barry Lynn, was quoted extensively in the release.

Drake’s statement justified its call to wrath by citing statements from Jesus, the apostle Paul, John Calvin, Martin Luther and the book of Psalms. It quoted extensively from Psalm 109, in which the Psalmist prays that his enemy’s “children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

The Psalmist, quoted by Drake, also asks that his enemy’s “children be continually vagabonds, and beg; let them seek bread also out of their desolate places.”

Conn, asked how he was feeling Feb. 14, laughed about the situation.

“I’m pleased to say that both Jeremy and I are feeling fine, and we’re pleased to see that the IRS is ready to enforce the law,” he said. “The irony of ironies is that both Jeremy and I have been doing very well even though most of the office has come down with the flu.”


Read more:

Drake, SBC presidential candidate, calls for God's wrath against AU (8/15/2007)

Opinion: Torture is the bone
caught in America’s throat

By David Gushee

It is clear to me that the problem of torture is like a bone caught in our national throat. We can’t swallow it, but we can’t quite spit it out. And so we are choking on it.

The sound of choking can be heard from various directions:

In recent congressional testimony on waterboarding given by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, CIA Director Michael Hayden, and others, the torture issue has been front and center. The basic import of this testimony is that the Bush Administration has at last admitted that it has employed waterboarding (simulated drowning, a recognized torture technique for centuries). Administration representatives say waterboarding is not presently occurring but suggest that such techniques could still be employed with the approval of the Attorney General and the President. This stance apparently will not change under the current administration, despite fierce opposition from many Americans of all faiths and political perspectives.

This week Senate leaders are trying to pass an anti-torture amendment with teeth. The context is the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Bill. The amendment would apply the interrogation restrictions imposed on the military by the Army Field Manual onto the CIA. This would ban waterboarding and a host of other cruel and inhumane acts. It appears that this legislation, which passed the House, faces doubtful prospects in the Senate. (Immediately is a very good time to contact your senators about this issue.)

The presidential campaign has had a number of surprises. Among them is the ascendancy of presidential candidates who oppose all forms of torture, and the decline or collapse of those who take the current administration position. Now, of course, these anti-torture candidates, such as Senator McCain, are being flogged as too moderate and too soft on torture.

The Bush administration announced this week its plan to prosecute six detainees linked to 9/11, including Khalid Shaik Muhammad, the purported mastermind of that terrible attack. Muhammad is among those whom the administration has admitted to have waterboarded as part of interrogations. The admissibility of any “evidence” he offered up under waterboarding will be just one among many issues raised by the trials of these men -- if the public is given access to news of these trials at all.

Given developments in the presidential campaign, it is now very possible to envision an election in which both major party candidates resolutely oppose torture. For this I can only thank God, even as others apparently gnash their teeth in frustration.

However, the fight against torture is not over until it is really over. This will require the ongoing efforts of advocates to help cement a cultural, religious and ethical consensus against torture over the next year or more. If our nation does elect an anti-torture president, we will still need to help that person implement their intentions into law. And this will require strong support from Baptist and evangelical communities, which have not broadly engaged this issue.

That is not entirely true. Many influential voices in the national (and international) evangelical community have come out strongly against any resort to torture. Many mobilized around our 2007 “Evangelical Declaration Against Torture,” which can still be signed at

Few of those hundreds of signatories are Baptists -- as of now. The stance of the official Southern Baptist Convention leadership was signaled by attacks on the declaration through Baptist Press, with no opportunity given to me or anyone else involved with the declaration to respond.

I am more surprised by the silence from moderate Baptist leaders and the centrist-progressive kinds of Baptists who gathered at the New Baptist Covenant meeting. It is my hope that their general silence on torture does not signal consent or acquiescence but simply a lack of focus amid other pressing issues.

A religious community that selected Luke 4 as its central text, that lifted up Jesus Christ our tortured Savior and Lord, and that emphasized peace, justice and mercy, cannot be sanguine about our national use of torture in the war on terror, can it?

Also: Please continue to be in prayer for the Union University community, which faces a massive rebuilding effort even as it celebrates God’s grace in sparing the lives of the thousands of students -- including my daughter Holly -- who were in the dorms when the tornado hit last week.


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. His latest book is The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.

Opinion: An economy of scale to pursue edification, discernment

By Beth Newman

I recently had the privilege of enjoying the hospitality of the Englewood Christian Church of Indianapolis. This congregation isn’t as well known as Saddleback, nor has its pastor (Michael Bowling) ever been interviewed by Larry King, but its story is as exciting as any told by Joel Osteen.

Even a partial list of the community projects supported by Englewood is remarkable: a lawn care business, bookkeeping and PC-repair services, and a bookstore with on-line ordering capability. All of these benefit neighbors in the streets around the church. The church’s largest area of outreach has been in the housing sector, where it has helped more than 25 householders become homeowners in their neighborhood.

What makes this story particularly impressive is not just what the church is doing but how it got into the position to make it all possible. Englewood’s history over the past 100 years is in many ways the case history for mainline Protestantism: once one of the largest churches in Indiana until “urbanization” led to a loss of members, it faced a struggle to survive financial and numerical freefall. I won’t recount the full story (it’s available on the church website) but I do wish to lift up for consideration the three Scriptural convictions that guided their path to renewal and dialogue:

-- The church must pursue one-mindedness.

-- Assembly is for the purpose of edification.

-- Godly discernment must take place in assembly.

These conversations (every Sunday evening) took place in a congregation that within 20 years had shrunk from more than 1,000 to 250 people.

I can’t help wondering whether their numbers made it possible.

While we are being inundated by the campaign ads of various presidential contenders, each of whom promises to transform, I can’t help wondering how a nation of 300 million can discern anything. Wendell Berry has observed that it’s impossible to think globally and act locally because of the vastness of scale. The globe is an abstraction, and what is real for any of us are our families, our schools, our neighborhood and our churches. Any change will take place there, or it won’t take place at all.

This is what the Baptist emphasis on the autonomy of the local church -- at its best -- is all about. The emphasis on the local is not an assertion of rights over or against a national convention or the church catholic. Still less is it a vehicle for the implementation of national programs. The local church is the place where the gospel is embodied.

Above all, the local church is the place where the voices of the congregants matter in discerning the call and the vision of the larger congregational body. As Paul wrote to the early Corinthians, “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” There must be, therefore, some economy of scale that allows space for each member to speak and to be heard.

While this practice, as Englewood discovered, is messy, costly and painful, it also embodies a kind of “localist” economics -- an economy not based on bureaucratic structures but based on love. This might sound cheesy or idealistic. But at a place like Englewood the economic focus is not on getting rich people to give money but on how individuals envision the kingdom of God in the concrete place where they exist.

As Englewood tells the story, “What has emerged from all of this activity has been a community of faith imperfectly but intentionally bearing the transformative gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a community church immersed in the real stuff of life. What better placement could there be for the leaven of God’s kingdom come on earth?”


-- Beth Newman is professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

Bible Trivia - 2/14/2008

Question: For what request did Solomon have Adonijah killed?

Answer: For asking to marry Abishag (I Kings 2)

Comments: Adonijah was, quite literally, the man who would be king. As David’s son, Adonijah he had a rightful claim to the throne and as his father lay dying, he had taken measures to ensure his succession. When Bathsheba and Nathan informed David of this, he appointed another son, Solomon, next line. After David’s death, Adonijah enlisted Bathsheba’s help to secure Abishag, David’s concubine, as his wife. Solomon interpreted this as an attempt to usurp his crown and had his half-brother executed.

In short, Adonijah was killed because he wanted to shag Abishag.

Word of the Day - 2/14/2008


An imbroglio is a misunderstanding, disagreement, etc., of a complicated or bitter nature, as between persons or nations.

Paul and Barnabas had an imbroglio over the participation of John Mark in their missionary endeavors. (Acts 15:37-39) R. Alan Culpepper suggests that the dispute may have been due to John Mark’s loyalty to Jewish Christianity in general and Simon Peter specifically, whom had stayed in John Mark’s home during his youth (Acts 12). He bases his theory on linguistics and John Mark’s return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul’s primary argument, on the surface appears to be John Mark’s previous desertion which would indicate unreliability. I might add to Culpepper’s theory that Paul may have been jealous as Simon Peter and John Mark have two names and no one ever seems to refer to Paul as Saul Paul, leaving him with just one. Note to self: E-mail Culpepper directly.

Though the imbroglio caused a rift, Mark and Paul later reconciled. In the last chapter of Paul’s last epistle (his last will and testament, if you will), he instructs, “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. (II Timothy 4:11)

There is no dispute greater than the love of Christ.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/14/2008

As usual when KJW rides in my XTerra, we forgot to return her car seat to its proper home on Tuesday night. You would think that this would be difficult to forget seeing as how one has to pry the baby out of said seat before leaving, but somehow we always manage to leave the seat in my vehicle. So yesterday, I returned the seat.

Not wanting to waste the trip, RAW, on his day off, KJW, and I ate at the Tropical Smoothie Café. Their slogan is "eat better, feel better." I cannot be certain that the food is healthier than other restaurants but I feel better about myself for intentionally eating healthier anyway. That has to count for something.

As you can tell from the photos, KJW was far more interested in her potato chips than the healthy wrap and banana we bought her. They are Sun Chips, so even the potato chips are healthier I suppose.

KJW typically turns any dining experience from a short film into a miniseries, so we were there for quite some time. The televisions were tuned to the Roger Clemens congressional hearing and VH-1's "Air Guitar Nation." Being unable to hear either program, we commented on the ridiculousness of both.

Why is Roger Clemens’ situation a congressional issue? Evidently, the 4½ hour session ended in a stalemate which essentially means that nothing was accomplished. What were they hoping to accomplish anyway? This is our tax dollars at work. It is times like these that I am thankful that I make virtually nothing and as such contribute very little to the government!

On the plus side, Tennessee Congressman John J. Duncan, whom SMA had seen at Ye Olde Steak House on Saturday, was featured, asking why Clemens never met with Senator Mitchell of whom the infamous Mitchell Report is named. He did not at any time say, "Go Vols!" but otherwise he represented Tennessee well.

I spent the night at Thompson-Boling Arena with a slightly different crew in a slightly different location. We were not in 315A for the Tennessee-Arkansas game. MPW acquired four extra tickets in Section 300, so he gave away our standard seats. There is a price for every transgression and we paid severely for this one. Three incredibly obnoxious fans sat directly in front of us. One of them was wearing a sweater vest. Need I say more?

Giving away our wonderful seats was not the dumbest move of the night. On a shivery day when it even snowed gently, I wore only a t-shirt at an event I knew included a significant walk. That coupled with a strong wind, made for quite an unpleasant trek to and from the stadium. A barking scalper actually asked for some of what I was smoking. Knowing that there was no one else to blame made it even worse.

The new crew consisted of myself, MPW, CL, and D, the point guard on our YMCA league team this past season. CL is becoming a fixture at MPW events, which is fine by me. D came to see his cousin, Gary Ervin, a senior point guard for Arkansas. Ervin did not play especially well, scoring seven points and shooting just 3 of 8 on free throws. The game is recapped in the currently inaccurate name of "View from 315A."

Kenya’s African Acrobats ( performed at half time. They had a few impressive stunts but most of their act could be replicated by cheerleaders.

The halftime highlight for me was a replay of Ryan Childress’ marriage proposal to Lauren Clabough after the Georgia game on January 26. I suppose with tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, the powers that be thought that this fit the romantic theme. It was not for sentimental reasons that I enjoyed the clip. D, the only married member of our party, wanted confirmation that Childress was a current Tennessee basketball player. He then substantiated that he was not a senior. His conclusion was summarized in one word - "Dumb@$$!" His sincerity made the moment priceless.

The night was concluded at Applebees for half-priced appetizers with MPW and CL. There, I got to embarrass MPW (not that this feat is difficult) by telling her several facts and stories, including his nickname. All in all, it was a great day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

View from 315A

Tennessee (22-2) handily defeated Arkansas (17-6) tonight, 93-71. With Kentucky’s embarrassing 41-point loss last night and Florida’s home loss to LSU tonight, the Vols sit firmly atop the SEC East. The LSU win also makes Tennessee’s narrow escape from Baton Rouge on Saturday seem less discouraging. Maybe John Brady really was LSU’s problem...

JuJuan Smith was amazing hitting all six of his three-point attempts en route to 32 points. He scored only two in the last game in which he was hampered by the flu. I think it is safe to say that JuJuan Smith plays better when he does not have the flu. Remember, you heard it here first.

Chris Lofton did not get a good look at the basket all night and scored only six. JuJuan and Lofton seldom score heavily in the same night. It was only Lofton’s second game all season without a three-pointer.

Tennessee actually shot 73% from the line after going 4/15 against LSU. Overall, it was a great win against a good Razorback team.

I’ll just say, “Go Vols” and let you talk.

Prayer Blog - 2/13/2008

I talked to my good friend, CAB, tonight. I was saddened to hear that her position was not renewed by an organization that could really use her expertise. To make her job search more challenging, she is also recovering from lime disease she acquired on a trip to the northeast. God, grant her the discernment to find the job You wish her to have, the strength to do the job, and peace as she waits on You.

Bible Trivia - 2/13/2008

Question: According to Isaiah 11:6, in the Messiah’s peaceful kingdom, the leopard shall lie down with what?

Answer: The kid (Isaiah 11:6)

Comments: The leopard lying with the kid (goat) is one of three examples Isaiah uses to illustrate the peaceful nature of a future age. This is an example of synonymous parallelism, a literary device which uses the line to repeat a concept from the preceding line without making any significant addition or subtraction. The line in question, is lesser known than its counterpart, featuring the lion.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” - Isaiah 11:6 (KJV)

Word of the Day - 2/13/2008


A chanticleer is a rooster. The term was used as a proper name in medieval fables.

On the night of his arrest, Jesus predicted that before the chanticleer crowed, his disciple Simon Peter would deny Him three times (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38). As usual, Jesus was correct. This is the only New Testament pericope that features a rooster (alektor).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/13/2008

Yesterday marked the birthdays of SMA and my childhood friend, KEO. Many blessings.

I spent the evening with RAW, KLTW, and my beloved, KJW.

One of KJW’s favorite new toys is a bunny that her great granddaddy gave her. It plays “Jesus Loves Me” when you press its belly. She loves it! I am so pleased. Karl Barth (1886-1968), perhaps the most influential theologian of the 20th century, was asked in 1962 (on his sole visit to America) how he would summarize the essence of the millions of words he had published. He replied, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." So in my estimation, KJW already understands the gist of Church Dogmatics. She is so advanced.

One of her favorite books is the My First Bible, given to her by yours truly. She brought it out for us to read to her. Now, if her parents would just let me start teaching her Greek...

The thing she was most interested in last night was SpongeBob SquarePants, known to her simply as “Bob.” We decided to take her to MoFoS, to check on the availability of “Bob” and so she could see JTH, her “Uncle Hickey,” whom loves her though he would never admit it.

Her daddy had her look at JTH and mimic the words “Dumb Hickey.” Despite the fact that the child did not know what she was saying (or at least mean it anyway), JTH instantly, “Well, you were a mistake!” Touché.

After purchasing KJW some “Bob,” the four of us went to IHOP and participated in “National Pancake Day.” From 7 am - 10 pm, every customer was privy to a free small stack. The only catch was that they asked you to consider making a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. We could not believe the place was not packed, but we got right in. I guess this was not something they advertised.

I noted that “free” is perhaps my favorite word. RAW countered with “Snickerdoodle.” I could not argue.

Like ordering her a half-priced appetizer at Applebees for my consumption, here I ordered KJW’s free small stack. I get a great joy out of using the child for discounted food. She did get to eat silver dollar pancakes. For future parenting reference - beware of food with syrup.

We then returned to their house to view the 1993 version of The Three Musketeers at my request. For some reason, unknown to even me, I wanted to watch the film. I enjoyed it very much, it was just random.

I will close today with Aramis' (Charlie Sheen) method of “wenching,” perhaps my favorite scene in the film:

As morning hues of sun swept fire caress your passion face. Alone with thee in pure desire, to worship your untold grace. My soul would cry in silent prayer, for hours spent apart. Your essence warms the evening air, as I dance into your heart.

I will consider my dating career a success if I can utter those words to a girl’s face without laughing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 2/12/2008

One True Love (2000)

Today’s edition of A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli serves as a confessional for me. I was home, working on some projects, and had the television on in the background. At 2 o’clock, I did what no self respecting man should do - I watched a movie airing on the Lifetime network. That’s right “television for women.”

The movie essentially had three strikes against it to begin with. 1. It was on the Lifetime network; 2. It was originally a TV movie, originally airing on CBS in October 2000; 3. It has never been released on DVD (never a good sign). On the plus side, it was not a Lifetime original movie. That would have made watching it an unforgivable transgression. As further justification, the movie did star David Hasslehoff and may very well have been the most appealing thing on in the time slot, which clearly was not saying much.

The movie basically supports the concept of finding “The One.” Hasselhoff, who always seems to play a public servant of some kind, plays a fireman named Mike (he also often seems to play people named Mike) who gets in a wreck with a girl named Dana and naturally saves her. Both are coincidentally engaged to people they are not sure of with the same coincidental wedding date. An orphan, played by Cameron Finley (the Beaver in the remake of Leave it to Beaver), coincidentally happens upon the scene and then coincidentally ends up in both of their lives. Then, coincidentally of course, both members of both couples realize they are not right for each other at the exact same coincidental moment. Then, by shear coincidence, the two realize they knew each other as children and coincidentally wind up at the same cabin and decide to marry each other and adopt the orphan that had coincidentally crossed both of their paths.

Random observation: Has anyone else noticed that Hasselhoff always calls children, “Pal?”

The film was directed by Lorraine Senna, a TV movie specialist, who also directed the movie that preceded it, Our Son, the Matchmaker. (No, I did not watch it.) Doris Roberts, from Everybody Loves Raymond, not the Central Baptist secretary, also has a bit part.

Clearly, the movie is completely implausible and more predictable, but there is nothing in it that I would be embarrassed to tell my church I watched. Well, at least not do to issues of morality. The producers did misuse the Hoff by not putting him on the soundtrack. It is not a great movie, but is not terrible either. It is an average TV chick flick, but I tend to enjoy chick flicks.

And yes, KLTW, I know I am a fifty-five year old woman!

Confession is good for the soul...

Current IMDB rating: 5.7/10. Chanalysis: 4/10

Associated Baptist Press - 2/12/2008

Associated Baptist Press

February 12, 2008 (8-18)


Polls, authors say white evangelicals embracing political independence
CBF council approves budget, reports revenue shortfalls at February meeting
Dobson backs Huckabee after Romney bows out
Texas’ Church Under the Tree reaches disenfranchised youth

Polls, authors say white evangelicals
embracing political independence

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A raft of recent polls and books suggest that the evangelical vote may be turning -- or returning -- to a more even distribution between the Republican and Democratic parties.

A Zogby International poll released Feb. 11 showed that about one-third of white evangelicals who voted in two Super Tuesday states voted in the Democratic primaries.

The poll -- of 400 voters from each political party in Missouri and Tennessee -- was taken by phone Feb. 5 and 6, immediately following those states’ primaries. In the Show-Me State, 34 percent of self-identified white evangelicals voted Democratic, while 29 percent of their Volunteer State peers did.

Extrapolating from overall voter numbers, “that’s 160,000 people in Missouri; that’s 182,000 people in Tennessee,” said Robert Jones, a religion-and-politics consultant for Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress, in a conference call with reporters. The two organizations commissioned the poll in response to Christian leaders who criticized the media consortium conducting the most widely used exit-poll data. In every primary and caucus so far, the consortium has neglected to ask Democratic primary voters if they are evangelicals but asked that question of voters in all Republican contests.

“The media is operating with an outdated script, and the experience I’m having on the road confirms the data,” said Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners/Call to Renewal movement. The Christian group fights poverty and war. He said that in recent speaking engagements at evangelical college and seminary campuses around the country he has seen far more enthusiasm for Democratic candidates than he has in years.

In 2000 and 2004, white evangelicals voted for President Bush by about a 3-to-1 margin.

“I would say that all the data, the Barna data, the Pew data, this data, shows that evangelicals are leaving the Religious Right in droves, and the Religious Right is being replaced by Jesus, and that’s progress,” Wallis said. He referred to another recent survey -- from evangelical pollster George Barna -- that showed 40 percent of born-again voters said they will vote for the Democratic presidential in November while only 29 percent plan to vote for the Republican. The remainder remain undecided or said they would vote for a third-party candidate.

However, Wallis added, “That does not mean that people are moving from being partisan Republicans to being partisan on the other side.” White evangelicals -- after years of close identification with GOP politics -- are going to be more independent, Wallis said. And that’s a good thing for both politics and religion.

“People of faith shouldn’t be in any party’s political pocket or candidate’s but evaluate whoever by our moral compass,” he said.

Polls show that more than a third of white evangelicals voted for Bush’s Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, in the 1992 and 1996 elections. Asked if the new polls didn’t mark a turning point so much as a return to pre-Bush dynamics, Wallis said evidence he has seen among younger evangelicals shows disenchantment not only with the Republican Party but also with the issues that have defined conservative evangelical leaders in recent elections: abortion and homosexuality.

Instead, he said, even younger evangelicals who previously were committed to Religious Right organizations are defecting because they are as concerned with issues like global warming, poverty and the Iraq war as with saving unborn children.

“There are still these old white men that are standing in the river and they have their arms up in the air and they’re saying, ‘Stop, stop! There are only two moral-values issues,’” Wallis said. “And the water is rushing right past them, including their own young people.”

A variety of recent books by Christian journalists and scholars also notes the seeming trend of evangelical Christians away from the political agenda that has defined them in the public’s eye. Later on Feb. 11, panelists discussed Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne’s new contribution to the genre, Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right.

Dionne said conservative Christians are merely rediscovering Scripture’s call to concern themselves with multiple issues. “The end of the Religious Right does not signal a decline in evangelical Christianity,” he said. “On the contrary, it is a sign I believe … of a new reformation among Christians, who are disentangling their great movement from a political machine.”

He continued, “Linking religion too closely to the fortunes of one political party or one leader or one group of leaders is always a mistake.”


Read more:

Obama, in South Carolina win, shows cross-religious appeal (1/28)

CBF council approves budget, reports
revenue shortfalls at February meeting

By Hannah Elliott

ATLANTA (ABP) -– Leaders of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship approved a $16.5 million budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year and heard of budget shortfalls during the CBF Coordinating Council’s Feb. 7-8 meeting in Decatur, Ga.

The council’s finance committee reported that, as of the end of January 2008, CBF’s revenue had reached only 89 percent of its projected 2007-2008 budget. Meanwhile, expenditures by the end of calendar year 2007 reached 91 percent of the projected budget. January expenditures are still being processed, said CBF spokesman Lance Wallace, although the term’s total expenditures will probably parallel last year’s figures.

“Obviously, I think they were hoping for 100 percent, and we’re behind on revenues. But we are containing costs, keeping it down near 90 percent,” Wallace said.

December, January and February tend to be CBF’s most active months for revenue, he added.

“We’ll know better after this three-month period as to where we stand on revenue. It’s hard for us to draw any conclusions until we get past February.”

CBF supporters who attend the group’s General Assembly, scheduled for June in Memphis, Tenn., will give final approval to the budget.

CBF moderator Harriett Harral said that while CBF leaders are “being practical” about spending, they continue to “leverage every resource we have, and that’s dollars of course as well as everything else.”

They’re able to do more work than the dollar figure would seem to imply, she said, especially considering that designated funds for specific projects and money given to regional CBF partners are not included in the 16-million figure.

“There are a lot of different ways to look at the finances, and one of the things that has become clear to me is that we are blessed in some ways that we don’t acknowledge, in a way,” she said.

Harral said that instead of dwelling on the group’s financial situation, she left the meeting thinking about “how wonderful it is to get to be a part of” the fellowship. There was a lot of excitement among council members because of the recent Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant meeting, she added.

In his coordinator’s report, CBF executive coordinator Daniel Vestal discussed the covenant celebration, held in Atlanta the previous week.

“It had more of the feel of a revival,” Vestal said of the celebration. “There were several times when I literally sat in my chair and wept. The New Baptist Covenant was a gift. A gift of the people who gave money to make it happen, the people who gave leadership, the people who gave their gifts of preaching, teaching, music, platform leaders and volunteers. And most of all, God gave us a gift.”

The convocation highlighted efforts to reach across dividing lines to partner with others -- and that’s one of the things CBF has done well throughout its history, Harral said.

Mercer University President Bill Underwood addressed the CBF group at lunch and similarly acknowledged the contributions of CBF in the overall success of the meeting.

“The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant could not have been a moving event for thousands of people like it was without the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,” Underwood said.

Former President Jimmy Carter – one of the main organizers behind the historic gathering -- has invited leaders of participating organizations to meet at the Carter Center March 12 to discuss possible follow-up ministries.

Both Vestal and Harral will attend the March meeting.

Other items discussed at the Coordinating Council meeting include:

-- Emmanuel McCall, CBF’s past moderator, said the nominating committee has selected an individual to serve as the next moderator-elect, but that person has not yet accepted the nomination. The council will vote on the nomination by mail later this spring, he said. The general assembly gives final approval to new officers.

-- Jack Glasglow, CBF’s moderator-elect, provided a report on the group’s involvement with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The Coordinating Council endorsed the goals for global poverty reduction at its October meeting, and Glasglow said the U.N. has been notified of the endorsement.

Glasglow has worked with CBF staff to compile an inventory of Fellowship-sponsored ministries around the world that do work to meet the goals. As of Feb. 4, the inventory included 102 projects, representing the ministries of 67 CBF field personnel.

“Being the presence of Christ to the most neglected means being involved in the things the U.N. goals address,” Glasglow said. “We are doing this not because the U.N. is leading us, but because Christ is leading us, and it is important to partner with others in this work.”

-- On recommendation of the legal committee, the council formally established the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship 403(b) Retirement Plan.

-- CBF has begun the partnership-application process for the Micah Challenge, a global campaign to mobilize Christians to end poverty.


-- Patricia Heys of CBF Communications contributed to this article.

Dobson backs Huckabee
after Romney bows out

By Robert Marus

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (ABP) -- In a move unprecedented for him, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson has endorsed a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a statement released Feb. 7, Dobson backed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee for the GOP nomination over his only remaining significant rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“My decision comes in the wake of my statement on [Feb. 5] that I could not vote for Sen. John McCain, even if he goes on to win the Republican nomination. His record on the institution of the family and other conservative issues makes his candidacy a matter of conscience and concern for me,” Dobson said.

Dobson said at the time that McCain’s then-chief rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, was more acceptable on social issues -- even though Romney is Mormon and held moderate positions on abortion and gay rights prior to launching his presidential run.

But Romney’s Feb. 7 withdrawal from the race, following a disappointing showing in the Feb. 5 “Super Tuesday” primaries, left Dobson with only one remotely viable choice in the GOP race, he said.

“The remaining candidate for whom I could vote is Gov. Huckabee. His unwavering positions on the social issues, notably the institution of marriage, the importance of faith and the sanctity of human life, resonate deeply with me and with many others. That is why I will support Gov. Huckabee through the remaining primaries and will vote for him in the general election if he should get the nomination.”

Dobson has never endorsed a candidate in a presidential primary before. While federal tax laws do not allow non-profit organizations like Focus on the Family to endorse political parties or candidates, Dobson said he is making his endorsement as a “private citizen” and not as the head of Focus on the Family. The statement was distributed under the aegis of the organization’s CitizenLink e-newsletter.

Dobson and other conservative evangelical leaders have had an uneasy relationship with McCain. The Arizona senator has generally voted conservatively on social issues and has a strongly anti-abortion-rights voting record. However, he supports federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, which Dobson and others consider tantamount to abortion.

McCain also opposed President Bush’s attempt to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, calling it a states’-rights issue. McCain had supported a similar amendment on the state level in Arizona.

Dobson and other religious conservatives have further criticized McCain for his sponsorship of a campaign-finance law they say restricts the ability of anti-abortion-rights groups to influence elections.

Many of Huckabee’s fellow evangelicals, however, have also been reluctant to get behind the former Baptist pastor’s campaign. Some distrust Huckabee’s populist economic rhetoric and his willingness to raise taxes while he was governor of Arkansas. Others worry about his ability to beat the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Dobson’s endorsement gives Huckabee an obvious boost, but the former governor faces an uphill battle against McCain, who has more money and nominating delegates than he does.

Michael Cromartie, vice president of the evangelical Ethics and Public Policy Center, criticized Dobson’s pledge not to vote for McCain -- all but certain to be the GOP nominee -- in November. He told Christianity Today that evangelicals sitting out this election will assure the White House to one of the two top Democratic contenders -- Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

"Dr. Dobson should know that John McCain would certainly appoint better justices to the [Supreme] Court than either Obama or Clinton," Cromartie said. "Politics is about making choices between relative goods and lesser evils and not about having perfect choices. It's a wasted vote on Dr. Dobson's part. It's irresponsible on his part to give that kind of leadership."


Read more:

Huckabee, McCain, Dems left as Romney drops out of race (2/7)

After Super Tuesday, parties, religious voters still divided (2/6)

Huckabee’s role in SBC conflict presaged political balancing act (1/15)

Texas’ Church Under the Tree
reaches disenfranchised youth

By Loni Fancher

ROCKWALL, Texas (ABP) -- Commitment is the key to a fruitful ministry, Ron Evans says. He should know. He is the pastor of a church that literally meets under a tree.

On any given Sunday afternoon, people of all ages -- ranging from wealthy families to homeless youths -- gather in Haggard Park in Plano, Texas, for Church Under the Tree.

“They come here because they’ve been to a church or they’ve met church people,” Evans said. “And when they came in all dressed in black with tattoos and piercing[s], no one would talk to them, and no one acted like they cared about them. But they come here because we did.”

The group has become a church of its own, but Church Under the Tree has members who never would darken the doorstep of a traditional house of worship.

It all started after Evans, then-youth pastor at Brown Street Baptist Fellowship in nearby Wylie, Texas, started spending time in Haggard Park. The park is a place where teenagers from all over the Dallas area hang out together. Many of them come from broken homes, battle drug problems and are sexually active.

Later that summer, Evans and his three teenage daughters took a guitar, a Bible and their Labrador puppy with them to the park. They worked their way through the crowd, claimed a picnic table and began singing, hoping to draw people into conversation. In the end, the puppy was the draw.

Evans and his family put down the guitar and spent the next six weeks building relationships with people. That’s how the church developed.

“You’ve got to get in their heart,” Evans said. “You’ve got to become their friend. It’s relationship ministry, and that’s all it is.”

Now the original group hangs out every Friday night, but they also meet more formally on Sunday afternoons. They gather for lunch and transition into a time of prayer and preaching. In the beginning, attendance was lackluster at best. These days, Evans said, on a typical Sunday dozens of young people will gather in the park for worship.

Evans and his group have challenged the Church Under the Tree family to seek depth in their faith. The group shares a prayer journal they call “The Book of Life,” which is passed around each Sunday for people to share prayer requests or what God is teaching them. Evans scans it into his computer and e-mails a file of the updated pages to supporters each week.

Small groups have started meeting on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings, and Evans said he hopes similar groups will multiply throughout the Dallas area.

“One-hundred-percent commitment to the students and to God’s Word -- that’s the only combination that accomplishes anything,” he said.


Prayer Blog - 2/12/2008, #2

A Best Buy employee in Knoxville, TM, was wrongfully and rudely terminated by the company. His absence has left his department at a loss and obviously agiven him a lot of personal anguish. Help he and his former department get through this trying time.

Prayer Blog - 2/12/2008

JH, a Knoxville native, presently training for the ministry in Oregon, is struggling with God's plan for his life. He has begun seeing a counselor. Bless their time together and help him find your peace and plan.

He also has an opportunity for employment teaching English as a second language. If it be your will, make this connection.

Bible Trivia - 2/12/2008, #2

Question: In which book do we find the story of the birth of Isaac?

Answer: Genesis (Genesis 21:1-8)

Comments: After nine chapters of build up awaiting the child of promise, the birth of Isaac is granted only eight verses in Scripture. It seems anticlimactic, almost an afterthought. This is how most of us experience life - the trials seem to drag on and time does indeed fly when you are having fun. Abraham’s long wait reminds us that if we are in the midst of a seemingly interminable wait, it may very well be as much a part of God’s plan as the joyous climax we await.

Bible Trivia - 2/12/2008

Question: Which book says that when Jesus returns, every eye shall see him?

Answer: Revelation (Revelation 1:7)

Comments: It is interesting that every eye shall see Jesus. Presumably, some bystanders will be blind. Does this mean that all the blind will receive sight to see Jesus (Isaiah 35:5, Matthew 11:5)? The return of Jesus may have evoke a physiological response as Philippians also adds that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess at the name of Jesus (2:6; Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11).

Scripture is clear that the heart, not the eye, is the organ with which one sees God. In the Beattitudes, Jesus asserts, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NASB) Perhaps the eyes referenced in Revelation are the “eyes of the heart” of which Paul writes (Ephesians 1:18) and Michael W. Smith sings.

In any event, Jesus’ return will be experienced by all.

Word of the Day - 2/12/2008


A speculum is a mirror or reflector.

Paul asserts that in this life we see dimly as in looking in a speculum, but that vision will improve on the next life. (I Corinthians 13:12)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/12/2008

JTH and I went to the Bearden-Karns girl’s varsity high school game last night. File that under things that I never thought I would be doing. We had been intending to support MoT all season and when I learned it would be her last home game early in the day, we thought it was time to go.

We put our usual excessive amount of planning into the night. By that, I mean absolutely none. JTH was already scheduled to work alone at MoFoS. So, naturally, he called and received permission to close the store to attend the game. So, JTH locked the door and met me at Bearden. Yes, you read that right, a business was closed for a girl’s high school basketball game.

I arrived to witness the end of the JV game and surprisingly, knew three of Bearden’s players, one of their cheerleaders, and their JV coach, JB. We had three of the kids in daycare and one at church. I have been asserting since the summer that JB looks like a really tall Tom Cruise. JTH was the first person to agree with me. Anyone?

JTH arrived and we sat with MoT’s parents during the game. We quickly learned that she would not be playing or dressing for the game. We did get to sit with our church friends, MoT’s family, WW, and LBC. More importantly, we got to sit directly behind the loudest fan in the gym, which was worth the price of admission. I am not dogging her. I once was that fan.

Then, JTH received a phone call. It seems that as he closed the store, he actually locked a customer in! The customer, fearing activating an alarm system, called the police from the store. The police, in turn, called the store manager, who having given two weeks notice, does not have a key to the store. So, JTH had to leave the game to rescue the customer he stranded. Does it seem strange that I, who does not work at the store, possesses a key, and the store manager does not?

JTH missed a good portion of the first half of the game. Senior night festivities lengthened the game significantly and I had to meet my father at the Spoon at 8 so I missed the 4th quarter. I later learned Bearden lost by two points.

So, MoT did not play, her team lost the game, and both of us missed significant parts of the action. Maybe we should start planning...

My father and I ate at watched the Tennessee-Rutgers women’s basketball game at the Spoon. I cannot believe I watched parts of two women’s basketball games in one day. I was glad I watched The Lady Vols game as we won assuring Tennessee of the #1 ranking and the ending was so controversial it was featured on ESPN. I also saw Bruce Pearl wearing pink to support cancer research. Bruce always pulls off huge fashion risks at Lady Vol games, yet one more reason to love the man.

After dinner, I helped JTH at MoFos. By helped, I mean I sat and hung out as the store was dead, having already closed earlier in the evening. Ways to kill business...

Afterwards, I picked RAW up from work. Both of his vehicles are acting up, so he went home with me and borrowed my truck for a few days. It was good to get some one-on-one time with one of my best friends.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bible Trivia - 2/11/2008

Question: How many spies did Moses send ahead into Canaan?

Answer: 12 (Numbers 13:1-15)

Comments: Moses sent twelve spies, a representative from each tribe, to investigate the land of Canaan. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, returned with favorable reports. Joshua, Moses’ successor, learned from Moses’ expedition. When it was time for him to dispatch spies, he sent only two. (Joshua 2:1)

Word of the Day - 2/11/2008


Retrenchment is the act of retrenching; a cutting down or off, as by the reduction of expenses.

Paul’s testimony is Ephesus riled local merchants, most notably Demetrius, because it caused a severe retrenchment in the once profitable silver business. The silver was used to construct idols to worship Artemis (aka), a service that new Christians would no longer need. (Acts 19:22-41)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/11/2008

It was a weekend of celebrations as two birthdays and two graduations were observed.

Prior to the festivities, I hung out Friday night at MoFoS with JTH, PCR and JBT. I often work the register to lend a hand, and (more importantly) to ensure an employee discount. During this process, a disheveled man came in enquiring about VHS tapes. This, along with preferring full screen movies, is never a good sign.

When the man checked out, one of the strangest one-sided conversations I have ever had incurred. It began with an endorsement of Alex Jones’ and disseminated into an endless rant that concluded with the United States on the verge of becoming the totalitarian society as depicted in V For Vendetta. The man seemed highly pleased that I was familiar with 9-11 conspiracy theories and the V movie. This diatribe took minutes and remembering that I base my entire life around the fact that a man died, and rose from the dead for my sins, I tried not to laugh at his seemingly implausible theories. Seeing my discomfort and the fact that I was on the verge of laughing hysterically, PCR informed me I had a "phone call in the back." My only thought was, "I’m not even supposed to be here today."

For what its worth, the man advocated Ron Paul for president.

Later that night, MPW's 24th birthday was celebrated Bailey's Sports Grille. I made two sacrifices to be there - I missed Psych (the only TV show I watch) and I went to a smoke-infested sports bar. I learned the hard way several months ago that smoke free legislation does not include places like Bailey’s.

JeML and JiL reserved a private area so that we would be assured of a ping pong and pool tables. More importantly, we were secluded from some of the smoky atmosphere. This meant that my clothes would only need to be excessively washed as opposed to being fumigated.

Our party consisted of JTH, JeML, JiL, MPW, RAW, and two girls I was less familiar with Cassie and her roomate, EM. EM has one of the most implausible jobs ever - she teaches Latin at Austin-East High School.

Unfortunately, KLTW left her license in a diaper bag that was with KJW in Sevierville so she opted not to come. I do not know why as I have never been carded there. Then again, she does not have facial hair. So with that, RAW left his date and mine with family. It would have been cool to have KJW there. I had visions of Reese Witherspoon entering and saying, "Look at you, you have a baby... in a bar."

We mainly played games. Up until the last game, I was undefeated at pool and winless at ping pong, the latter of which was expected when considering I am terrible and three of my opponents own ping pongs tables. JeML and JiL actually brought there own paddles. Speaking of that last game of pool, EM and I teamed up against the birthday boy and EM’s roommate. I played what could possibly be the worst game of pool EVER! And I was the only one of the four not drinking...

On that note, I also learned that water drinkers are second class citizens in waitresses’ eyes.

As an aside, at a nearby dart game, a girl seemed very happy to score "triple sixes." Are dart throwers (what is the word for that?) big fans of Satan?

I left early (still after midnight when MPW’s birthday was officially over) and made it home just in time to catch the 1 am rerun of Psych! So my two sacrifices were not all that grand after all.

Saturday, I ate breakfast with my parents at IHOP and spent the afternoon watching an abysmal Tennessee basketball effort against LSU at MPW’s condo with he and SMA. My commentary on the game is posted under the View from 315A.

After the game, we watched part of the low budget 1991 film The Pistol: Birth of a Legend. It is the story of Pete Maravich. If you like montages, this is the film for you.

That night we celebrated WML & CAL's master's degrees with their family and mine at the Copper Cellar. All three of us were raised together in Newport and all of us now have master’s degrees. I am very proud of them. WML's degree is in business and is seeking a job. I am so impressed as he worked full-time and was a great husband and father while earning his diploma.

CAL was very late arriving as she was replacing a faulty iPhone. She just recently began practicing law in Newport and unfortunately, just lost her first case. It was not her fault. She represented "the beater" in a domestic dispute. On the plus side, she did elicit tears from the abused...

Later Saturday night, we celebrated SMA’s 28th birthday at the Irish Times Pub & Restaurant with SMA, JTH and WRK. This was three days early but he was to be in Birmingham on the actual date. There was scintillating conversation I am sure. I could not hear much of it due to the unbelievably loud cover band in the background. I am not bitter about it though...

Sunday morning, I taught Sunday School at Topoco. The lesson notes are online under the heading "Bible Study."

After class, SMA, WRK and I ate. I made the choice of eating at a place that served brunch or one that served breakfast/lunch. So we ate the Copper Cellar. After not having eaten there in years, I ate there twice in a 24-hour period. The food was wonderful. Having not planned on eating there, we were all underdressed, much to the chagrin of the hostess.

We then toured SMA's family's new home in the Jackson Bend subdivision on the lake in Louisville. The house is equipped with a spa, a theater, a wine cellar, a boat dock, a swimming pool, etc. NFL star Albert Haynesworth owns property a couple lots over. The only things we could determine the home was missing were an ostentatious name, a chocolate waterfall, and most importantly a portrait of Abdullah the Butcher to hang over the mantle, preferably in velvet.

So, if anyone knows where I can find a professionally made, velvet, life-sized portrait of Abdullah, let me know.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The List - 2/10/2008

For whatever reason, I seem to have spent too much time lately in Wal-Marts across the south. So, free of charge, I now offer my observations on ways to improve the Evil Empire.

Top 10 Ways to Improve Wal-Mart

  • 10. Where there is a “2 for $_” sign, make the cumulative price less than the cost of buying two individually. (Yes, I realize Wal-Mart is correctly depending upon the mathematical ineptitude of their customers.)

  • 9. Hire someone who can answer a question. Bonus points, if the employee can answer a question pertaining to their own department.

  • 8. Make theft legal. Wait, they did that already...

  • 7. Dedicate an entire section of the store to Hannah Montana merchandise, like the holiday aisles. Since she appears on every aisle as it is, why not just consolidate Hannah paraphernalia into its own group and perhaps limit Miley Cyrus’ overexposure.

  • 6. Position the grabbie machine at the exit that does not close early. Late night grabbing is quite popular...

  • 5. Rule that if an item does not scan, it is item free within three minutes of attempting to determine what the price should be. I have spent countless minutes waiting on price checks on 49¢ candy bars...

  • 4. Limit the p.a. system to five uses per hour. If a child is lost after the allotted five has been used up, well, they will be picked up in an hour or less.

  • 3. Stop placing the slowest cashier in the express lane. It defeats the purpose.

  • 2. Do not allow customers with a shopping cart in the express lane. If you have to use a cart to carry off of your purchases, you should not be in the express lane in the first place.

  • 1. Prior to placing an employee on the floor, have their voice rated by testing groups to determine just how grating it is. Then, prohibit employees with annoying voices from using the P.A. system. Yes, I realize no one might be left, but I consider that an added bonus.
  • Prayer Blog - 2/10/2008

    WRK has been overwhelmed of late. Four tests, a project, and portfolio coupled with being ill have been heavily demanding. We pray for the discipline to finish all she has started and at least some enjoyment of the process.

    Prayer Blog - 2/10/2008

    DBN has been unemployed for several weeks. We pray that he finds a good job soon. An unnamed friend also requests that he also distance himself from World of Warcraft.

    Danes-worthy Anecdotes - 2/10/2008

    Preachers all collect stories. These are the best stories I heard this week:

    Knowing When to Quit

    One of SMA’s colleagues at law school told this story from his undergraduate days: One day he had gone to class as usual, and once there he regretted his decision to attend. For whatever reason, on this day, he just could not tolerate being there. So after signing the class roll to ensure his presence was not a total waste, he waited for the professor’s attention to be diverted and chucked his book bag out the window of the classroom. He then waited for a second diversion and followed his book bag to freedom. A problem arose on the way out the window. He thought he was on the second floor of the building, but had forgotten that it had been constructed on a hill, causing a slight, yet significant miscalculation. As he clung helplessly to the windowsill he realized the only thing left to do was jump. Fortunately, he got away relatively unscathed. Later in the day, one of his classmates asked him if it had been him who took the leap. He confirmed it and then learned that the class had been cancelled immediately after his plunge. The professor noticed his absence and surmised that one of two things just occurred: 1. His class was so boring that someone preferred jumping out of a window to hearing his lecture or 2. Senility was setting in and he imagine someone jumping out the window. In either case, a class dismissal was in order.

    Love Them Anyway

    While in Newport on Wednesday, I learned a lot about my family history. My grandmother’s father died when she was seven months old. Left with three children and a newly bought home, my great grandmother, Mae, did what she could to make ends meet. She rented part of her home to men, which was taboo in 1926. She also worked at a restaurant which served alcohol, further making her persona non grata in the town of Newport. Further adding to her dissatisfactory reputation were her often unsupervised children. My grandmother felt the town viewed her and her brothers as “trash.”
    To make matters worse, her father’s relatives also carried this view. Her aunt, a teacher, at the local grammar school was mortified to see her niece in line for free milk and rebuked Mae for allowing this to happen. Mae explained that the only milk her child would be receiving would come from that line and that unless she would pay for her milk, her daughter would gladly accept the charity. No milk was ever offered. In fact, none of her father’s family helped Mae or her children. In fact, Mae’s first bill after his death came for his burial - from her husband’s very own brother!
    Mae knew her children were wild and instructed them never to do anything to their relatives. No matter how they treated them, they were family and should be acknowledged as such. My grandmother and her brothers never retaliated and my grandmother is proud that not one of them died without loving her, realizing that she was not the “trash” the town once thought she was. This is a picture of the Golden Rule, as Christians are truly family - "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)


    On Wednesday, MLM had attended a Christian function at UT the previous night where a rodeo clown named Mark spoke. He was a minister who got into rodeo at age 44, with a bad back. He seemed to possess few of the attributes necessary for this field, but felt God’s calling and followed. Now, after he saves rodeo stars from charging livestock, he can tell them about true salvation from Christ. MLM was struck by the fact that most people pursuing careers, Christian and non-Christian alike, assess their abilities and see what would be a good fit for them. Perhaps, sometimes, God gives desire, abilities, etc. after a call.


    On Thursday morning, JCG attended Dr. Don Ivey’s funeral earlier in the day in Crossville. Dr. Ivey was a doctor who made house calls up until his retirement in 1993. At the funeral, many told stories about the doctor’s role in their life. One man told of how Dr. Ivey called his secretary to schedule a gallbladder surgery for the following morning. The next day, Dr. Ivey arrived and was alarmed when he looked at his already anesthetized patient. Somewhere, wires had been crossed and the male patient was clearly not the woman he thought he had scheduled for surgery. After the man awoke, gallbladder in tact, he was asked why he consented to the surgery knowing that he had no problems with his gallbladder. He responded that if Dr. Ivey believed he needed the surgery, then that was good enough for him! George MacDonald (1824-1905) said, “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.”

    Bible Study - 2/10/2008

    Luke 4:40-41
    Gospel Parallels: Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 1:32-34
    Lectionary Location: Not in Revised Common Lectionary.
    Biggest Issues: Why does Jesus not heal all who pray for healing today? Do demons exist?

    Luke 4:40-41 While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ. (NASB)

    “While the sun was setting.”

    Prime Time
    • Have you ever had one of “those” days?”
    • The sun setting continues the setting from the previous stories. Jesus is still in Capernaum on the Sabbath (4:31).
    • It has been a long day for Jesus. He began by teaching in the synagogue and was interrupted by a demon whom he exorcized. Even eating did not provide a reprieve on this day as he healed Simon’s (Peter’s) mother-in-law of a high fever.
    • Jesus’ long day does not seem to affect the way that he treats those in need.
    • How does the way I treat others after a long day reflect upon Jesus?

    A New Day
    • When have you delayed gratification? Why did you?”
    • The significance of the sunset for the locals was that it marked a new day. Jesus’ Jewish audience did not believe in healing on the Sabbath so sunset was the earliest they could be healed without compromising their Jewish custom or the healer, namely Jesus.
    • Do you think Jesus have healed them on the Sabbath?
    • In our age of instant gratification, it seems foolish to wait on healing. Looking back from a post-Christ world, the ancients seem legalistic to wait for help. Conversely, they took religious statutes seriously enough to delay much needed healing.
    • They take God very seriously. Their sense of reverence outweighs their sense of urgency.
    • How much does God factor into my decision making process?

    “all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him.”

    Helping Hands
    • Who first brought you to meet Jesus?”
    • Luke defines the nondescript “they” of Matthew (8:16) and Mark (1:32).
    • The implication is that the ailing could not help themselves. How do you envision the ill being escorted?
    • Luke makes it clear they bring the people, not the diseases to Jesus. This subtle nuance shows Jesus’ perspective on the situation. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Jesus was more concerned with the person than their ailment.
    • Why do you think they bring their friends to Jesus? He has done something amazing earlier in the day. It is worth a risk. There may be some impurity in motives. Mark has many there. It is a spectacle (1:32). Capernaum will later be condemned for its unbelief. (Matthew 11:23) In any event, it appears that miracles do not always produce faith.
    • The Graham Crusade’s Operation Andrew ( is one organization that is seeking to do bring others to Jesus through individual believers.
    • We would not fail to help someone with a physical illness, but we are more apt to delay a spiritual one. The need seems somehow less urgent. It is not.
    • Who could I bring to meet Jesus that needs him?

    “Any who were sick”

    • How do I view the ill?”
    • As a physician, Jesus is not a specialist but a general practitioner.
    • Jesus is indiscriminate based upon the nature or severity of illness.
    • Example: Though I have worked with AIDS patients in organizations in Atlanta and Knoxville, deep down I feel more sympathy for cancer patients. Though never deserved, AIDS is obtained through an act of will while cancer has seemingly no cause.
    • Do I look at others as though God loves them as much as me?

    “Laying His hands...”

    Hands On
    • Has a busy person ever gone out of her way to make you feel special?
    • Luke is the only gospel in which the laying of hands is mentioned. In Matthew, Jesus’ healing is attributed to speaking. This is not contradictory, as Luke merely mentions the hands. The conjunction “and” separates the act from the healing itself.
    • This represents Jesus’ bedside manner. Jesus adds a personal touch. His patients are not merely numbers. This is perhaps one of the best ways Jesus can show concern. Augustine (354-430) wrote, “God loves each os us as if there were only one of us.”
    • Studies have shown the medical benefits of appropriate touching.
    • Perhaps the touching and the speaking are indicative of the physical and spiritual dimensions of what is occurring.
    • How do I try to make others feel significant?

    “He was healing them.”

    Healing Touch
    • How have I experienced the healing touch of Jesus?
    • The Greek verb for heal, therapeuo is the word from which we get “therapy.”
    • Why does Jesus not heal all today? Does Jesus still heal?
    • Jesus responds to what is in the best interest of the kingdom of God. It was always in the best interest for those in contact with the physical Jesus to be healed. Today, the kingdom of God may be benefitted as much by a valiant death as a miraculous healing.
    • The absence of healing does not indicate the absence of faith!

    • Exorcism has been in the news this week, as a woman died in the process of an exorcism in Odessa, TX last week.
    • Do I believe in the existence of demons? Why?
    • In Luke the demons are secondary to the illnesses as they appear later in the text. They also appear to be working in conjunction with illnesses as opposed to representing a separate entity.
    • Many modern interpreters have suggested New Testament references demons (daimonion) correlate to modern mental illnesses.
    • This interpretation would explain why the demonic is uncommon today and mental illness was uncommon in antiquity.
    • Why is there a reluctance to acknowledge the demonic?
    • Demons were only widely acknowledged in a relatively small window in history. They are not featured in the Old Testament.
    • Many do not acknowledge demons and those who do are often reluctant to admit it. The scientific age, where Occam’s Razor rules, has mental illness as the far easier explanation.
    • The gospel writers differentiate between illnesses and demons.
    • The seeming abundance of Jesus in first century Palestine is logical if a demon’s natural enemy is the Christ. They would gravitate towards him to eliminate him.
    • The mental illness assertion draws suspicion on Jesus’ mentality.
    • What are the similarities/differences between demons and illnesses? A demon is personified and hence personal. An illness is impersonal. The devil could use either.
    • If one acknowledges the existence of the demonic, one must decide how must of an influence demons have.
    • In my opinion, demonic language applies to today.
    • What can we learn of demons from this text?
    • They are against God.
    • Demons are parasites who cannot survive without a host. The movie Fallen, a 1998 Denzel Washington film, depicts the parasitic nature of demons.
    • Demons affect both the physical and spiritual.
    • Demons inhabit. They do not possess.
    • Demons know who God is, perhaps better than believers, yet do not acknowledge him as Lord.
    • They recognize Jesus’ authority.
    • Their testimony is unwanted by Jesus.
    • A demon’s influence is limited to time and space. God’s blessing is not.

    “coming out of many, shouting”

    Good Riddance
    • When have I had difficulty ridding myself of something that was not good for me?
    • There is “shouting” (kraugazo) involved in the exorcism. This separation, like separation from modern parasites, seems to have involved some pain.
    • Presumably, the demon uses the voice of the host.
    • Jesus casts out the demons, but does not terminate them.
    • Why do you think Jesus does not kill the demon?

    “You are the Son of God!”

    Profession of Faith
    • When did I publicly profess Christ for the first time?
    • The first profession of faith in Capernaum comes from demons.
    • The demons do not disparage Jesus, but rather endorse him. Assuming they are his adversary, why is this their strategy?
    • They attempt to discredit Jesus using their own bad reputation.
    • The Son of God is equated with Christ in verse 41. These two appellations were not synonymous at the time.

    “Rebuking them, rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak because they knew Him to be the Christ.”

    Getting the Last Word
    • When have I been told to shut up!?
    • Jesus gets the last word in this confrontation, essentially instructing the demons to “Shut up!”
    • This is the third time Jesus rebukes (epitimao) something in Capernaum. This is how he handles the demon in the synagogue (4:35), Simon’s mother-in-law’s fever (4:39), and now the contingency of demons he casts out (4:41).The word is used more in Luke (12) than any other gospel.
    • Jesus did not silence them due to the untruths, but rather truths.
    • Jesus wishes his followers to come to this decision on their own.
    • They evidently acknowledge his authority and consent to silence.
    • How is Jesus’ authority demonstrated in my life?