Friday, July 25, 2008

Bible Trivia - 7/25/2008

Question: What do the seven heads of the beast represent in Revelation 17?

Answer: Seven hills on which a city sits. (Revelation 17:9)

Comments: At the time that Revelation was written, the early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire, which itself was historically known as the "City of Seven Hills". The seven hills of early Rome were the Cermalus, Cispius, Fagutal, Oppius, Palatium, Sucusa and Velia. They figured prominently in Roman mythology, religion, and politics. Though the meaning of much of Revelation's imagery is subject to great debate, the "seven hills" mentioned in Revelation 17:9 referring to the seven hills of Rome is not.

"Here is the mind which has wisdom The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, (Revelation 17:9, NASB)

Word of the Day - 7/25/2008


A thaumaturge is a worker of wonders or miracles; magician.

Pharaoh's thaumaturges were able to replicate the first two miracles that Moses and Aaron demonstrated to Pharaoh but were stumped by the third - producing gnats.

The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. (Exodus 8:18, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/25/2008

On Thursday night my parents and I ate dinner at Calhoun’s and attended the WordPlayers’ presentation of “The Secret Garden” at the WordPlayers Theater. The WordPlayers have been a local Christian drama troupe since 1995. Though I had seen the WordPlayers perform many times I had never seen them perform at their home base.

The WordPlayers now reside in the Middlebrook Christian Ministries (MCM) building. The property once housed Mars Hill Baptist Church and my church purchased the location when that church disbanded several years ago. The site now houses six ministries including The WordPlayers, Joni and Friends, The Samaritan Ministry, Apostles Anglican Church, and the Imani African Community Church. The Anglican Church meets there on Sunday mornings and graciously allowed the drama to drastically alter their sanctuary.

Attendance was remarkable for a Thursday night. A vast majority were children who were surprisingly well-behaved considering the length and nature of the piece. Also many people from my church attended. I especially enjoyed chatting with JFC (aka “Jo C.”) and DJR at intermission.

The creativity of the production astounded me. The sets consisted only of these six two-sided moveable pieces and yet they were able to create several different atmospheres. As they were performing in a church sanctuary, there was no offstage area. As such all of the actors froze out of the spotlight when they were offstage.

I was especially amused by Alysha Cantrell. In addition to playing the pivotal role of a robin and narrating, she also played a painting by simply standing still and holding a picture frame.

The play is based upon the popular novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in 1909. Born in England, Burnett (1849-1924) actually immigrated to Knoxville in 1865. Though I had read the book and seen the movie as a child, I honestly did not remember much about it.

The story centers around 10-year old Mary Lennox, continually described as a “wench”. She is orphaned and sent to Yorkshire, England, to live with an uncle whom she has never met. While there, she discovers an abandoned garden. Life in Yorkshire transforms she and the family with which she resides. Though the story has a strong message, one motif that I gleaned from the play was never tell a woman a secret - the garden is Mary’s secret and by the end of the play everyone knows!

Mary Lennox was played by Christiane Frith and she carried the performance beautifully. The ten-year old lead was played by a girl who turned nineteen last week. Amazingly, cast against a legitimate ten-year old she did not seem out of place.

The play ran a little over two hours with a ten-minute intermission. The first act was significantly longer than the second. It opened on July 18 and closes on the 26th. So if you are free this weekend, check it out.

On “the way” home, I visited JTH before calling it a night.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 7/24/2008

Associated Baptist Press
July 24, 2008 · (08-73)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

in this issue
Baylor President John Lilley removed for failure to 'unite Baylor family'
BWA meeting in Prague begins with prayer, praise
Pastors' biggest challenges differ by region, BWA speakers say
4th Circuit appeals court upholds Va. city's 'non-sectarian' prayers
ABC-affiliated Ottawa University names banker, alum new president
CBF ministry to internationals takes place at home, abroad

Baylor President John Lilley removed for failure to 'unite Baylor family'
By Marv Knox

GRAPEVINE, Texas (ABP) -- Baylor University President John Lilley has been fired for failing to "bring the Baylor family together," reported Howard Batson, chairman of the university's board of regents.

Regents voted to remove Lilley from office, effective immediately, during their summer meeting July 24 in Grapevine, near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The vote was taken by secret ballot and the vote total was not announced to the board, Batson said.

Batson cited Lilley's inability to unite Baylor's various constituencies at least nine times in a 20-minute telephone press conference and several times in an interview with the Texas Baptist Standard shortly after the regents' vote.

Lilley became Baylor's president in January 2006, at a time when Baylor's constituency had divided over the administration of the previous president, Robert Sloan. Also controversial was Baylor 2012, a decade-long strategy for growing the world's largest Baptist university and increasing its influence.

For two and half years, Lilley worked to strengthen Baylor but could not foster unity, Batson said.

"The board really thinks Baylor needs a new president who can bring together and unify the various constituencies of the university," he said. "We felt like Dr. Lilley came at a very difficult time in the history of Baylor, and we acknowledge that. We do appreciate his service a great deal."
Lilley could have stayed longer -- possibly until his contract ends in 2010 -- if he had agreed to participate in a transitional process, Batson said.

Under terms of the proposed transition, Batson would have been authorized to appoint a presidential search committee "sometime before the end of 2008," he said. Lilley would have remained in office until his successor was selected.

"This could take from months to years," Batson noted. "With John in place, we could take more time to do a thorough search. We probably saw John serving out much, if not all, of his contract. But he didn't want to do it under those terms. ...

"The reality was we felt unless he was willing to transition, he would not have the support of various constituents of the Baptist family and move the university in the successful way it is moving. ...

"He didn't want to work under those conditions. The board felt it could have worked very well, but he did not, and we respect his reasons."

Although tensions with faculty flared this spring, when Lilley's administration initially denied tenure to 12 of 30 faculty candidates, Batson said no single factor led to the regents' decision to dismiss him.

"There's no denying we had the tenure situation ... and the branding situation [Lilley's initial decision to get rid of Baylor's popular "interlocking BU" logo]. Perhaps the process was not as swift as some of us had hoped in bringing the Baylor family together," he said. "I don't know that there was any one particular relationship that caused the difficulty. ... We did not see the Baylor family coming together as we envisioned."

In an e-mailed statement, Lilley expressed his disagreement with the regents' decision.

"Two and a half years ago, I was invited unanimously by the board of regents to come to Baylor," Lilley said. "I did not come to Baylor to advance my career. [Wife] Gerrie and I were reluctant, but finally were persuaded to come because of the unanimous vote and the promised prayers of the regents.

"We felt that we could help to heal the wounded hearts left in the wake of the conflict that preceded us. Despite the board's unanimous vote, it became clear immediately that the Baylor board of regents reflected some of the deepest divisions in the Baylor family."

Lilley expressed satisfaction with the work he and his team accomplished during his tenure.

"I am proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to bring the Baylor family together and to help the university achieve the ambitious goals set forth in our mission and Vision 2012, documented in our annual report just presented to the regents," he said.

"I deeply regret the action of the board, and I do not believe that it reflects the best interests of Baylor University."

In both interviews, Batson affirmed what he called Lilley's "significant accomplishments" achieved during the past two and a half years. They included:

-- Baylor's highest-ever ranking by U.S. News & World Report -- 75th -- among national doctoral-granting universities, an increase of six places.

-- Attracting a "large and diverse student body," including last fall's enrollment of 14,174 -- the university's second-highest total.

-- Record endowment, "now crossing the billion-dollar mark."

-- A record 402 students enrolled in Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, including "more students interested in ministering in the local church."

-- Athletic successes, including the men's basketball team's return to the NCAA Tournament, the women's basketball team's continual appearance in the tournament, men's and women's tennis teams' Big 12 championships and anticipation of an exciting football season under a new head coach, Art Briles.

-- Classification as a university with "highest research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

-- Extensive construction on campus, including the $42 million Brooks Village residential center and the $30 million football training/practice complex.

"John has left Baylor better than he found it. John had a passion for the research element of [Baylor] 2012," Batson said. "We are appreciative of his service and love for the university."

The regents selected one of their own, Harold Cunningham, as acting president with "full authority" to lead until an interim president is chosen, Batson said.

Cunningham is immediate past chairman of the Baylor regents and served as a Baylor vice president twice -- for special projects and for finance and administration.

"Harold has a track record of proven leadership and is well respected within the Baylor family," Batson said. "Harold is the perfect person to do this."

Acting president is not the same thing as interim president, Batson stressed, noting the regents will begin a process to designate the interim president. That person will not be a candidate for the presidency, he pledged.

After the interim is chosen, the regents will begin a search for then next president, he said.

Despite Lilley's firing and his predecessor's departure under a cloud of controversy, the regents do not expect difficulty "drawing top talent to Baylor," Batson said, noting, "We will be open-minded and do an international search."

The regents want someone with strong leadership skills and academic background, as well as ability to build consensus, he said.

"We want a unifier of the Baylor family; that's always a good thing," he said, adding that "connections to the Baptist family are a must."

"The largest mandate is we need a new president who will listen to all the voices of the Baylor family and bring us together under the vision of 2012," Batson said.

A reporter noted many people think the regents themselves -- or at least some of the regents -- are a significant part of the ongoing conflict at Baylor and asked Batson what the regents will do to restore trust among the "Baylor family."

"Actually, I think the board of regents is more unified than I've seen it in a long time," Batson said. "We may not agree about every motion, but I see the board functioning in a healthy fashion. ... At the end of the day, we can walk out of our meetings as a unified, functioning board."

Lilley's "dedication and service to Baylor" are appreciated, said Jeff Kilgore, vice president and CEO of the Baylor Alumni Association. "He is a distinguished alumn[us] and will always have a home with his alumni association."

Lilley inherited a "highly sensitive and emotionally charged campus -- and alumni/donor base -- probably without being fully equipped with an adequate understanding of our experience in Baylor's recent history," Kilgore observed. "Having been away so long, I'm sure it would have been extremely difficult on anyone to get an in-depth understanding of the Baylor family and its unique structure. ..."

"While John made himself very accessible to many of the various constituent groups, he often remained vigilant to his own opinions," Kilgore added. "In a delicate time such as this for Baylor, it is not only important to reach out for input, but for that input to have impact on decisions and the direction Baylor heads.

"It's become evident how essential inclusiveness and collective buy-in are to the success of a private academic institution and alumni relations."

Kilgore noted Lilly was "the single conduit of information between regents, faculty and alumni," adding that task "probably proved to be too much for any one person and probably not the most effective model [for] moving Baylor forward."

Although the alumni association often has been at odds with the regents in recent years, Kilgore extended an olive branch.

"We understand what a difficult and critical process it is to determine the university's leadership and to take measures to move Baylor forward, and our association of alumni and donors stands ready to provide support in any possible way," he said. "Our regents are entrusted with much, and we are all looking toward their leadership and a process that fosters inclusion and input from faculty, staff, alumni and other constituent groups.

"That input across the family is always welcomed and appreciated during times such as these."

Baylor is one of nine universities affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and one of 27 BGCT agencies and institutions overall. One of Lilley's fellow institutional leaders, Ken Hall of the social-service organization Buckner International, expressed both pride and grief regarding Baylor.

"Baylor overall is a great university," Hall said. "I'm particularly proud of the university as it is today. As a Texas Baptist, I'm very proud. But I'm also extremely grieved that, for the past several years at the board and the highest levels of administration, there continues to be disunity."

Hall noted he does not know the specific facts of the regents' decision to fire Lilley, but said he is praying for "this great flagship ministry of our Baptist General Convention of Texas."

"I am personally praying that during this time of transition, the current leadership -- both volunteers and paid leaders -- and the various constituencies will find in their hearts a way to get together and represent what it truly means to be a Christian university.

"They need to genuinely present a Christian approach to divisiveness and difficulty. We see it in our churches, our denomination and in our institutions too often. We're not representing our Lord best when people see us fighting."

Matt Cordon, a Baylor Law School professor and president of the Faculty Senate, could not be reached for comment by press time for this story.


BWA meeting in Prague begins with prayer, praise
By Jim White

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (ABP) -- Nearly 400 delegates to the Baptist World Alliance's annual gathering in Prague, Czech Republic, raised their voices in prayer and singing as the July 21-25 meeting began with a rousing worship service.

The three-day gathering enables Baptists representing many of the 214 national and regional Baptist groups that make up the BWA to gather for worship, fellowship, study and planning.

Chief among issues scheduled to come before the gathering is a report from the BWA Implementation Task Force. The panel was charged with determining how organizational changes recommended by an earlier study group called the 21st Century Committee would be implemented.

After hearing the task force's initial presentation, delegates had an opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions. A follow-up session was held July 23, with a vote on the proposals scheduled for July 25.

Since the full Baptist World Congress meets only every fifth year, officials hoped that the process could be agreed upon in time for changes to be implemented by the next BWA Congress meeting in 2010 in Honolulu.

Specific recommendations for implementation initially included:

-- The BWA General Council would remain unchanged.

-- The size of the group's Executive Committee would be trimmed to 24 (six representatives selected by the regions, 15 at-large members, three BWA officials -- general secretary, president and the treasurer).

-- The nominating committee would have 17 members and recommend names from across the globe to the General Council.

-- The number of global regions would be kept at six despite the disparity in geographical size and population. The six are North America, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific Rim.

-- Recognizing that resource potential differs from region to region, covenants would be developed for each region outlining mutual responsibility for supporting BWA and how regions may apply for grants for assistance.

Following the presentations on both days, lively discussions took place, with questions focusing primarily on constituency representations since each region would have only one official representative.

Other concerns expressed were over the method of member selection, regional autonomy and whether regions received preferential treatment based on their ability to contribute to the BWA budget.

A vocal Caribbean contingency raised questions about what impact the changes, if implemented, would have on the office of BWA General Secretary Neville Callam. Callam -- the century-old organization's first non-white chief executive -- was installed last year after many years of ministry in Jamaica.

A joint meeting of the BWA Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation Commission and Freedom and Justice Commission is to take place to formulate a response to a letter from 138 Muslim scholars titled, "A Common Word Between Us and You." The letter was sent to world Christian leaders, including BWA President David Coffey, last October. Baptists who have experience in Islamic studies, or have lived in an Islamic country, will present papers on the question.


Pastors' biggest challenges differ by region, BWA speakers say
By Jim White

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (ABP) -- Global Baptist pastors' problems are as different as the countries and regions in which they minister, according to speakers at the July 21-24 Baptist World Alliance annual gathering in Prague.

Over the past year, the worldwide Baptist umbrella organization's church health and effectiveness workgroup has focused its attention on the health of pastors. Three presenters provided glimpses into the particular difficulties pastors experience in North America, Bulgaria and Chile.

David Laubach, the North American presenter, emphasized the stress pastors feel in relating to a culture increasingly at odds with their Christian heritage. He cited statistical evidence indicating a move away from church attendance as the norm in American and Canadian life.

Although statistics from 50 years ago show that 80 percent of Americans attended church regularly, that figure has fallen to somewhere between 42 and 20 percent -- depending on whether one relies on individuals' self-reported attendance or actual Sunday-to-Sunday seat counts.

According to Laubach, 75 percent of churches in the United States are plateaued or declining and 24 percent are growing because they are poaching new members from those declining churches.

Only 1 percent of U.S. churches are growing because they are reaching the unchurched population, he said.

Since most American churches are small, the issue of survival assumes critical importance and depletes energy and resources. Across denominational lines, those in churches of fewer than 100 members said that "keeping the church going" was their chief concern. That concern was only slightly less important in churches with fewer than 250 members.

"Shrinking resources, absence of biological growth, aging mainline denominational populations, mobility, consumerist/entertainment culture, a sometimes-hostile environment, increased pastoral expectations and role overload, dramatically shifting ecclesiology, church change and conflict" are among the stress producers North American clergy deal with regularly, Laubach asserted.

The stress can create its own problems, he noted, because "emotionally drained pastors can succumb to moral failure and personal and family breakdown."

The problems Bulgarian Baptists are experiencing are in sharp contrast to their North American brothers and sisters. Baptists in the former Eastern bloc nation are blessed with such rapid growth that they cannot produce leadership and build buildings fast enough to keep pace with conversions, reported Teodor Oprenov, their leader. Baptists in other former communist nations face similar problems.

The challenge in Bulgaria, he said, isn't the post-modernist philosophy feared by many Western theologians, but rather the post-communist philosophical vacuum left among the general populace.

"They don't believe in God, but are waiting to be told what to do," reasoned Oprenov.

Nonetheless, the rapid growth of Eastern Europe's Baptists has created a backlash from religious groups more traditional to the region. Bulgaria has a very strong Orthodox presence, and religious authorities are often seen as mediators between humans and God.

In some Eastern European areas, Orthodox leaders have led aggressive and even violent protests against Baptist churches, often with the tacit or explicit cooperation of local authorities.

Baptist pastors in Bulgaria are almost uniformly men and are not recognized as clergy by the government. Indeed, they often are seen as troublemakers. To gain entrance to some places of ministry, sometimes Baptist pastors dress in black, as Orthodox priests do.

The third presenter was the head of Chilean Baptists, Rachael Contraras, who represented a Latin American perspective. As in Bulgaria, the Chilean church is growing and experiencing opposition from more established religious groups.

But poverty is their main problem. According to Contraras, a typical Chilean Baptist pastor is a married man over 30 who has at least two children. The pastors tend to be poor and poorly educated.

Limited access to education and theological training creates problems. First, outreach to well-educated young adults can be difficult. Those who have had access to good education through the university level often find it hard to relate to unlettered pastors.

In addition, as evangelicals have gained influence in Chile, pastors are sometimes invited to participate in governmental or social work. Those who are organizationally inexperienced and uneducated may not reflect well on the churches and denominational tradition they represent -- one still unfamiliar to the majority of Chileans. This can hinder Baptists from gaining the kind of social respect and influence that would benefit their work, Contraras said.

But the greatest problem affecting the health of Chilean pastors is their poverty. "Their income is very low compared to the people in his church and in society in general. He will live in a society in which everyone has a car, but he won't. Others will have houses, but he will not. He will live in a parsonage. Not having a place to live in retirement, he will preach until he dies," Contraras said.

Chilean pastors often work long hours in secular jobs to support their families. The stress of being the family provider and pastoring a church simultaneously has created such health issues as ulcers, burnout and depression, she said.

In Latin America generally, and in Chile in particular, pastors do not have access to public-health services, because the government does not provide any official recognition to the profession of pastoring.


4th Circuit appeals court upholds Va. city's 'non-sectarian' prayers
By Robert Marus

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- Sandra Day O'Connor has had her say again on an important church-state decision, in this case saying a Virginia city council's practice of offering non-sectarian prayers does not violate the United States Constitution.

The retired U.S. Supreme Court justice, sitting by special appointment on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a July 23 decision for a unanimous three-judge panel. The judges upheld the city's policy against invoking the name of Christ while delivering prayers at council meetings.

In the case, Turner v. City Council of Fredericksburg, the judges said they did not violate the rights of one of its own members, Hashmel Turner, a part-time Baptist minister, who claimed in 2005 that the policy violated two parts of the First Amendment. He said it ran afoul of the establishment clause, which bans government endorsement or advancement of religion, and the free-exercise clause, which bans government from impeding the religious practice of an individual or group.

O'Connor and her colleagues disagreed with Turner.

"The council's decision to provide only non-sectarian legislative prayers places it squarely within the range of conduct permitted by" U.S. Supreme Court precedent on legislative prayer, O'Connor wrote. "The restriction that prayers be non-sectarian in nature is designed to make the prayers accessible to people who come from a variety of backgrounds, not to exclude or disparage a particular faith. The council's decision to open its legislative meetings with non-denominational prayers does not violate the establishment clause."

On the free-exercise argument, O'Connor said, "Turner was not forced to offer a prayer that violated his deeply held religious beliefs. Instead, he was given the chance to pray on behalf of the government."

Although he was unwilling to do so on the terms that his colleagues had set forth, O'Connor wrote, Turner "remains free to pray on his own behalf, in non-governmental endeavors, in the manner dictated by his conscience."

The dispute in the historic city, located about halfway between Washington and Richmond, began when Turner was elected to the council in 2002. Council members had, for years, taken turns opening meetings with an invocation of their choice. When his turn came around, Turner began offering prayers that invoked the name of Jesus Christ. After complaints from some residents and the threat of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, the council adopted the non-sectarian prayer policy in 2005.

When Turner's name came up again in the prayer rotation after the new policy was passed, the council chairman asked him if he planned to offer his prayer in Christ's name. When Turner said he did, the chairman called on another council member to offer a prayer instead.

Attorneys for a Charlottesville, Va.-based conservative group, the Rutherford Institute, took up Turner's cause. They argued that the city discriminated against orthodox Christianity by allowing prayers in the name of "God" but not "Jesus Christ."

Turner said O'Connor's ruling was off-base, according to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. "She didn't feel my rights were being violated, but my rights are definitely being violated," he told the newspaper. "It removed an opportunity for me to pray in the manner of my conviction and my belief."

Attorneys for Turner have said they would appeal the case to the Supreme Court. When O'Connor sat on that body, she regularly was the deciding vote on important church-state cases decided by a 5-4 majority.


ABC-affiliated Ottawa University names banker, alum new president
By ABP staff

OTTAWA, Kan. (ABP) -- St. Louis banker and Ottawa University graduate Kevin Eichner has been named president of his alma mater and will be the university's third leader since 2006.

Founded in 1865 and based in Ottawa, Kan., Ottawa University is affiliated with American Baptist Churches-USA through its National Ministries Board. A member of the university's board of trustees since 1982, Eichner succeeds interim president Fred Zook.

Board members appointed Zook as interim following Fred Snow's departure in July 2007. Named president a year earlier, Snow resigned to "pursue other opportunities," according to a university statement released at the time.

Eichner was president, chief executive officer and vice chairman of Enterprise Financial Services Corp., the parent company of Enterprise Bank and Trust, headquartered in St. Louis. A co-founder of the firm, he served as its CEO for six years.

Previously he was executive vice president and CEO of General American Financial, a MetLife subsidiary, for five years. He also founded Collaborative Strategies, a management consulting firm.

He received a bachelor of arts degree in social change at Ottawa in 1973 and a master of business administration degree from Harvard University in 1977.

"Kevin Eichner will serve Ottawa University well with his extensive background in strategic planning, organizational development, finance, marketing and operations," OU trustee chair Patti Wolf said in a press release.

Eichner said the post is an answer to a calling to become a university president, which he said he has felt since an undergraduate student. He reportedly turned down the presidency twice before agreeing to serve. OU officials approached him the first time three years ago, and then again when Snow resigned.

He will reside in Phoenix, Ariz., where Ottawa has a campus, for six months each year and for six months at the school's Kansas campus.


CBF ministry to internationals takes place at home, abroad
By ABP staff

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Imagine yourself living in another country, either by choice or by circumstance. Although a professional in your home nation, you can't qualify to pursue your vocation, or perhaps your language skills aren't yet up to par. Or perhaps you are unskilled and can only find menial labor, but you need work to send money home to your family.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel are finding ways to minister to internationals who come to the United States and to individuals who seek refuge in other countries.

In Gambia, Dabou made a living as a fisherman until the fishing industry plummeted. When he couldn't afford to feed his family, he left for Europe, where a job meant he could send money back home.

For migrants, such as Dabou, life in Europe isn't easy. It's hard to find and keep work, and there is sadness and loneliness from leaving family, friends and home behind.

But along the way some African migrants will cross paths with Joel and Tiffne Whitley, CBF field personnel serving among the large migrant community in southern Spain.

"I want others to be able to have a personal relationship with God," Tiffne said. "There are many migrants and refugees from countries in Africa who have not heard [the gospel]. It is our hope to build relationships with them, helping them with humanitarian needs and spiritual needs."

During a year of language and culture study, the Whitleys have developed relationships in two migrant neighborhoods. They've met migrants like Ester, who is from Equatorial Guinea and was thankful the Whitleys could connect her with a church, and Mamadou, who is from Senegal and has been teaching the Whitleys about migrants' greatest needs.

The Whitleys met Ester and Mamadou through a weekly food distribution. Each Wednesday morning they collect excess vegetables from a nearby produce factory. They sort, bag and distribute the produce in migrant communities.

"This small-scale food distribution has been a very meaningful and beneficial way for us to meet individuals, start friendships and nourish hungry stomachs," the Whitleys said. "We hope that in time we will be able to share the 'food of the gospel' and nourish hungry and hurting hearts."

For the Whitleys, this migrant ministry is built on prayer. They pray for those they meet on the street, around town and near their home. "Prayer is such a vital element of ministry because it puts the power where it belongs - with God," Tiffne said.

Butch and Nell Green are based at Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, S.C., to help U.S. churches find ways to minister to internationals in their areas. With the Greens' encouragement, Oakland members visited CBF personnel, including the Whitleys, in several European and North African locations in 2007.

The Greens, who formerly worked among unreached people groups in Belgium said that, at one time, distance between cultures was measured by geography. Now, it is measured by differences in language, culture and worldview.

"Not only do these things create barriers to the gospel, but they create barriers to meeting social needs," Nell Green said. "The church is poised to minister holistically to the entire world right here. No longer is the career missionary the church's window to cultures far away. Now we need only look out the window into our own backyards."

With a CBF $25,000 "It's Time" grant, Oakland will help resettle three refugee families and will expand the ministry members have begun among international students at nearby Winthrop University. In a bid to help the church develop the ministry further, Oakland leaders plan to visit U.S.-based CBF field personnel working with international students.

Oakland also has a growing Spanish-speaking group that emerged from an English-as-a-Second-Language class, and a group of young people -- composed of Baptists and Muslims -- that meets regularly for dialogue.

"Once an American has been the minority, been treated with suspicion, misunderstood, completely unable to communicate, or blundered through a culture different from their own, they are better able to understand the situation of internationals in their home cities and more able and willing to get involved," Whitley said.

"Internationals living in the States may know very little about American culture, customs, norms, language," Tiffne Whitley added. "They may look and sound different, but they are people. They have a need to be accepted and understood."

Green cautioned that U.S. churches must be sensitive to individual needs. "It isn't about mass ministry," he said. "It is about seeing that one person of a different background and loving them in the way Christ would."

He suggested that church members first learn what it means to be culturally sensitive, learn about other faiths, and learn how to invite and maintain cross-cultural relationships.

Green pointed out that since virtually every college and university has some international students, churches can be intentional about ministry to them.

Thousands of refugees have been approved for settlement in America, but can't come because they have nowhere to go. Churches can connect with local agencies to provide places for them. And churches can educate others in their communities about internationals and their needs, he said.


Bible Trivia - 7/24/2008

Question: How many times did God order a census be taken in the book of Numbers?

Answer: Two. (Numbers 1, 26)

Comments: The book of Numbers contains two censuses. It is from this numbering of the people that the book derives its name. At the outset of the book, God orders Moses to take the number of those able to bear arms—of all the men "from twenty years old and upward." There were 603,550 Israelites found to be fit for military service. (Numbers 2:32).

The results of the new census, taken just before the entry into the land of Canaan, gives the total number of males from twenty years and upward as 601,730 (Numbers 26:51) and the number of the Levites from a month old and upward as 23,000 (Numbers 26:62). This census showed that none of the Israelites who had bickered against Moses were still living and as such the conquest of the Promsied Land could begin.

But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. (Numbers 26:64, NASB)

Word of the Day - 7/24/2008


Antediluvian has come to mean antiquated; from a much earlier time. Its original and more literal meaning entailed before the Flood (in the Bible); pertaining to the time before the Flood.

The Antediluvian era in the Bible is presented in the first six chapters of Genesis.

It came about after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth. (Genesis 7:10, NASB)

Note: This oil on canvas is "The Deluge" by Francis Danby (1793-1861). It is part of the Tate Collection.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/24/2008

On Wednesday, I frequented two new (to me) businesses.

I ate lunch at Ott’s Bar-B-Q. The restaurant reopened on April 22nd. It is actually a throwback. Ott’s was originally opened in 1961 by Ott and Thelma Melott. The original business closed about five years ago.

The new facility is on the same site as the original pit. It is situated near the Dixie Lee Junction at the intersection of Kingston Pike and Hobbs Road. If you are traveling from the east (as virtually anyone in Knoxville would have to be doing), it is located on the right of Kingston Pike. Ott’s was able to draw customers for years even when Farragut was a rural outpost. The barbeque was supposedly good enough to keep customers coming to what was then the outskirts of civilization.

The location is very nice with a modern jukebox and two flat screens television sets inside. The unique thing about the barbeque (for the Knoxville area) is that the sauce is vinegar based. As such, it is more runny than usual. The baked beans I got as a side were also doused with the same sauce. I honestly prefer a thicker, less oily barbeque sauce but if nothing else, this establishment did provide something unique. There was also more meat on the sandwich than at most barbeque joints.

It was reasonably priced. I paid $6.65 (tax included) for my pulled sandwich and baked beans. The restaurant also caters.

After lunch, I stopped by the new Family Book Outlet location. It is the largest business in a new shopping center right off of the Campbell Station Road exit of the Interstate.

The place is the smallest Family book Outlet that I have seen and is not worth the trip to this one unless it is most convenient to you. The store consists of about three-quarters Christian books and as always the books are reasonably priced. The selection simply pales in comparison to the other Knoxville branch on North Peters Road which itself is inferior to the Pigeon Forge franchises.

The store was especially weak in regards to biblical reference materials. The most telling fact about my visit: I bought nothing! Still, if you are traveling through Knoxville (as this is the only place off of the interstate) or if you do need a Christian book store in West Knoxville, it is worth a visit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/23/2008

My mother's first cousin, CJN of Maryville, was slated to undergo hip replacement surgery tomorrow, July 24th. The surgery has been postponed as it was discovered that she has a urinary tract infection. When this problem subsides, she will have the hip replacement procedure. Please keep both of these medical conditions in your prayers.

Church Sign - 7/23/2008

I am debuting a new feature today. Church signs always catch my eye. It fascinates me what churches choose to put on their relatively limited sign space. In the age of the sound byte, I think these short messages are especially significant. In this feature I will post church signs that I found clever or that I strongly disagreed with.

Church: Dixie Lee Baptist Church (14650 Old Stage Rd; Lenoir City, TN 37772)

Sign: To love God with all your heart is not a “suggestion”

Commentary: The verse is question is part of the Shema, specifically Deuteronomy 6:5. The Shema is used as the centerpiece of all morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Jesus famously cited this as the most important commandment. (Matthew22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5, NASB)

I have seen many variations of the “not a suggestion” motif but never in relation to love. Love by its very nature is not coercive. As such, it struck me that to love is a command and not an emotion as so often thought of in our culture.

Bible Trivia - 7/23/2008

Question: Which book says that 1000 years is as one day in the eyes of the Lord?

Answer: II Peter. (II Peter 3:8)

Comments: II Peter famously claims "with the Lord one day is like a thousand years." Many have seen this as an allusion to Psalm 90:4. Milton S. Terry (1840-1914) explains, "The language is a poetical citation from Psalm 90:4, and is adduced to show that the lapse of time does not invalidate the promises of God." (Biblical Hermeneutices: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974, 406.)

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. (II Peter 3:8, NASB)

Many have utilized passages such as Psalm 90:4 and II Peter 3:8 as an indication that the days in Genesis' creation accounts are actually longer periods of time such as geological ages.

Chris Tomlin's "Better is One Day" (based upon Psalm 84) perhaps takes on new meaning when he sings, "Better is one day in Your courts/Than thousands elsewhere". Presumably, no conversion ratio was intended...

Word of the Day - 7/23/2008


To manumit is to release from slavery or servitude.

Many have interpreted that in the book of Philemon, Paul urges Philemon to manumit his wayward slave, Onesimus. The letter itself is ambiguous as to whether Paul only wishes Philemon to forgive Onesimus for his abandonment or to manumit him.

I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, (Philemon 1:10, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/23/2008

Tuesday’s social calendar centered around two meals with friends.

I met SMA at the Kalamata Café for lunch. I had been craving sushi and SMA consented to go. We both ordered plates with two varieties of sushi. I allowed SMA, the sushi expert of the duo, to order for me. He did well. I ate the crunchy ebi (shrimp) and yellowtail (fish) while he had the crunchy kani (crab) and picante. They were all delicious. I even effectively ate with chopsticks. I would not say that I am good with chopsticks but I am getting better.

I also enjoyed the side dish - edamame, soybeans cooked in the pod. I enjoyed them far more once I realized that the tough shell was not intended to be eaten...

SMA is in heavy bar preparation with his exam being only eight days away. He will take the two-day test on July 30-31 and will receive his results on October 10th. The test is a pass-fail exam with the results being public information.

Instead of going immediately home to study, we naturally decided to hit up retail stores in Turkey Creek. First we went to Target and then Wal-Mart. Here is an example of a typical Wal-Mart experience. This man has a shopping cart. You will note that nothing besides a twelve-pack of coke is in it and it is not even in the cart portion. Sadly, this is not uncommon for Wal-Mart customers. The universe wants to know, "Why?"

The trip was successful as SMA decided to buy a $20 box of TNA (wrestling) Impact trading cards. Though the wrestling company is a fledgling organization, he was assured of one genuine autographed card for his purchase. Of all the people he could have drawn, he got Mike Tenay - the organization’s announcer. In other words, he drew the least desirable card in the deck.

The purchase was not all lost as he also found a Kevin Nash Then and Now insert card. The card was appealing because it has a photo of Nash in his University of Tennessee basketball jersey. He played for the Vols for three years, ending in 1980. That was well worth the $20.

As usual, SMA and I demonstrated great proficiency in simultaneously wasting time and money. On the plus side, if he fails the bar, at least he will have a Kevin Nash card to show for his time.

In news from the Estate, his mother purchased a golf cart for the property. She had the choice between red and orange and she chose red because the orange was more Auburn orange than UT. That is a devoted fan. No word on whether the red is Alabama red.

On Tuesday night, JTH and I met Mr. X at Applebees. JTH brought MoFoS pens to distribute to servers. JBT bought them in bulk and by bulk I mean that Sam’s Club and Costco would be envious of the quantity. JTH is hoping that the next time JBT signs a credit receipt at Applebees, it will be with one of his own pens.

By the way, Costco has placed a billboard in town asking people who want a franchise in Knoxville to submit their request to their web site. SMA is considering using the forum for hate mail.

The food was great and the company better at Applebees. Naturally, with Mr. X and I together, the conversation made its way to UT sports. JTH made the obligatory “Andy Kelly, #8” reference to show his up to date sports following. Kelly played was the quarterback from 1988-1991. He then submitted, “Where’s Roland Poles at now?” His random dated UT sports references never cease to amaze me.

For the record, Poles was inducted into the Section V high school football Hall of Fame in January for his exploits at Caledonia-Mumford High School. The school's article on him can be read here. I always try to give a great answer to a great question.

In other news, it appears we have finally seen the last of CDM as she removed her child’s belongings from the church daycare earlier in the day. It seems that her car blew up the previous day and that she and her daughter had to walk home in the rain. She did the most natural thing in the world with a car in need of repair - she quit her job (a posh job at McDonald’s) and took her child out of daycare, which due to charity costs her virtually nothing.

The day before, she had not packed her daughter any food and refused calls to her cell phone from the day care. Fortunately, the day care fed the child. Is there an award for worst mother? If so, I would love to see what she would do with the prize money.

The only thing left of her will be references at MoFoS for being the laziest employee in the history of a company of lazy employees. I will miss her like Joel McHale would miss Gary Busey if Busey ever stopped doing asinine things. Sadly, I actually have a higher opinion of her now than JTH!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 7/22/2008

Associated Baptist Press
July 22, 2008 · (08-72)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

in this issue
Obama, McCain's first joint appearance set for Saddleback
New ABP website uses colllaboration to offer more resources, interaction
Groups ask federal appeals court to halt Kentucky's funding of Baptist agency
Early retirement likely for embattled Nashville pastor

Obama, McCain's first joint appearance set for Saddleback
By Rachel Mehlhaff

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (ABP) -- Barack Obama and John McCain will make their first joint 2008 campaign appearance to an audience of Christian activists at a Southern Baptist church.

The two have agreed to participate in a "compassion forum" at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. on August 16. Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, extended the invitation.

"I just got to thinking, you know what? These guys have never been together on the same stage, it would be a neat way to cap the primary season before they both go to the conventions and things go dark for a couple of weeks," he told the New York Times. "I've known both the guys for a long time, they're both friends of mine, and I knew them before they ran for office, so I just called them up."

Warren will moderate the forum, which will focus on moral-values issues -- such as poverty, the environment and global AIDS relief -- in which many centrist and younger evangelicals have taken an increasing interest.

It will be in a non-debate format and Warren will interview the candidates separately for about an hour each. Warren will pose the questions. There will be no panel or questions from members of the audience. Obama will go first, as determined by a coin toss.

"The primaries proved that Americans care deeply about the faith, values, character and leadership convictions of candidates as much as they do about the issues," Warren said in a press release. "While I know both men as friends and they recognize I will be frank, but fair, they also know I will be raising questions in these four areas beyond what political reporters typically ask."

The four areas include: poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights.

This forum will be the presumptive nominees' only joint campaign event prior to each party's national convention, according to the press release.

The event is part of a series Saddleback calls the "Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion." According to a press release, the series "was established to promote civil discourse and the common good of all." A past event, held during Passover, featured Holocaust survivors sharing their stories. Another forum, set for September, features former British prime minister Tony Blair, who recently converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

The church has invited the moderate-to-progressive group Faith in Public Life to co-sponsor the event. In April, the group hosted a similar Compassion Forum for presidential candidates at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Some Religious Right groups have reacted skeptically to the announcement. Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council said he hopes Warren will also ask the candidates about issues -- such as abortion and gay rights -- that have been of paramount importance to conservative Christian voters in the past.

In a July 21 e-mail update sent to FRC supporters, Perkins said, "While the Left would have us believe that this is the faith community's new agenda, a candid discussion of traditional values issues such as life, marriage, and religious freedom is what American voters need and deserve. Surely Rev. Warren won't ignore the most crucial initiative in his state (and perhaps the entire nation) as California determines the fate of marriage this November."

Perkins was referring to California, which earlier this year became the second state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay-rights opponents have gotten a proposed constitutional amendment on the state's general-election ballot that would illegalize gay marriage again.


-- Robert Marus contributed to this story

New ABP website uses collaboration to offer more resources, interaction
By ABP Staff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (ABP) --The newly redesigned Associated Baptist Press website ( offers expanded resources and reader interaction, but the real change is the way ABP and its three Baptist media partners are collaborating to produce the site, according to Executive Editor Greg Warner.

The nearly 2-year-old New Voice Media Group partnership includes ABP; the Baptist Standard, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; the Religious Herald, which serves the Baptist General Association of Virginia; and Word & Way, the historic Missouri Baptist newspaper.

The four partners have collaborated to build one state-of-the-art website that makes content from each partner immediately available to all the others, Warner said. And the first-of-its-kind collaboration means users of each partner's website have access to Internet tools that no one partner could have provided alone.

"The four New Voice partners are modeling a kind of cooperation that is rare in Baptist life but ... can open up powerful new possibilities for us and our readers," Warner said. "We believe the New Voice Media websites, working together, can create an online community of traditional and progressive Baptists that can make a real contribution to the future of Baptist life."

The new website offers click-of-the-mouse access to information and insight from a broad range of Baptist sources as well as easy opportunities for reader interaction, such as real-time comments on news stories.

Advertisers will also, for the first time, have the option of increasing their reach by placing ads on ABP's site and the three news partners' sites simultaneously.

As the site grows, it will provide new kinds of content, such as resources for ministers, churches and families. The new forms of content will respond to the results of a New Voice Media survey of church needs.

The site's new resources will be a boon for local congregations, according to one pastor. "New Voice Media provides a platform for churches to be able to do things not found anywhere else in Baptist life," said ABP board member William Shiell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., in e-mailed comments.

Website users, Shiell said, can "communicate about God's mission in the world through local churches, connect to other Christians who are serving faithfully, and find a pool of resources and information to help them minister in an effective, high-quality manner."

The Baptist Standard and ABP are the first two New Voice partners to go live with their content on the new site, which is being developed by Brainstorm Lab of Macon, Ga. The Religious Herald and Word & Way will soon follow.

"ABP's new website is certainly not lacking in its ability to dazzle!" noted Religious Herald Editor Jim White, in a statement. "The website enables the Internet visitor not only to read the news but watch and hear the news through its video and audio capabilities."

"I am pleased to see the new Associated Baptist Press site up and running," added Word & Way Editor Bill Webb. "ABP has been a dependable and vital news service since it began some 18 years ago. Now it has taken some giant steps to add contemporary media and visual resources. These new capabilities further enhance ABP's ministry of news, feature and opinion dissemination."

The ABP website, the editors said, reflects the New Voice partnership's commitment to offering traditional and progressive Baptists a platform for cooperation and information.

Baptist Standard Editor Marv Knox explained that the websites of the New Voice partners provide "a tangible, practical way to put in place the priesthood of the believer."

The new site "is the first major, tangible step in creating a new way for like-minded folks -- particularly traditional Baptists -- to find each other," he wrote. "We're in the process of creating spaces for folks to get together and explore ideas -- about faith, church, life, missions, ministry, family and all the other truly important relationships that define what it means to be fully human and intentionally Christian."


Groups ask federal appeals court to halt Kentucky's funding of Baptist agency
By Robert Marus

CINCINNATI (ABP) -- Two civil-liberties groups are asking a federal appeals court to stop state funding for a Kentucky Baptist agency, saying the agency uses the money to promote its religious beliefs to the detriment of employees and children.

On July 17, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look at Pedreira v. Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, Inc.

In the suit, which a lower federal court dismissed in March, a group of Kentucky taxpayers asked that state funding for the agency (which has since changed its name to Sunrise Children's Services) be halted. Like many of the dozens of child-care agencies affiliated with state Baptist conventions, Sunrise has long contracted with Kentucky officials to house and care for children who have been taken into state custody.

The agency "uses its public funding to indoctrinate youths -- who are wards of the state -- in its religious views, coerce them to take part in religious activity, and convert them to its version of Christianity, and does so in part by requiring its employees to reflect its religious beliefs in their behavior," the plaintiffs' brief to the 6th Circuit states.

The lead plaintiff is Alicia Pedreira, who was fired from her job with the agency in 1998 after her employers discovered that she was a lesbian. She had gotten positive performance reviews prior to her termination.

"This case illustrates the all-too-real dangers of the government funding religious organizations without adequate safeguards," said Ken Chloe, an ACLU attorney, in a statement. "The Constitution's promise of religious freedom guarantees that the government won't preference one form of religion over another. Yet that's exactly what happened to Alicia Pedreira, who was fired because she didn't conform to the religious beliefs of her government-funded employer."

The plaintiffs' brief also notes a report from an independent Kentucky government contractor charged with monitoring child-care agencies. It said children under the agency's care reported being coerced to attend church services and being barred from attending other faiths' services.

Attorneys for Sunrise have countered that they do not use government funds to coerce or indoctrinate the children in its care.

A spokesperson for the agency said July 22 that it did not have any response to the latest development in the case other than the same arguments asserted to the lower court.

"They have followed their judicial right to appeal, and we continue to stand our ground in terms of our policies and our service to at-risk youth and children in Kentucky," said Karen Taylor, director of communications for Sunrise. "We are unapologetically faith-based [but] we do not coerce our children to believe any one certain way. They certainly are invited to go to church but don't have to go, they are invited to Bible studies but don't have to go -- but they're also invited to go do fun things that every kid wants to .... While we've been accused of coercion, it's just not there."

The lower federal court dismissed the suit in March, citing a 2007 Supreme Court decision that limited taxpayers' ability to file suits based on the First Amendment's guarantee against government establishment of religion. While many experts at the time said the decision was very narrow, some federal judges have interpreted it as instituting a broad bar on taxpayer lawsuits against government funding for religion.


Early retirement likely for embattled Nashville pastor
By ABP staff

NASHVILLE (ABP) -- Prominent Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Sutton likely will retire early from Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, following a year-long period of turmoil within his congregation.

In an e-mail to church members, John Levesque, chair of Two Rivers' human-resources team, outlined terms of a proposed retirement package. The 57-year-old Sutton will be offered the package if the congregation approves it in a vote scheduled for July 27.

If the proposal passes, Two Rivers would pay him the equivalent of 22 months' salary -- one month for each year he has served as the church's pastor -- spread over five and a half years. The church would pay a portion of Sutton's medical and long-term disability coverage until he accepts a position elsewhere or reaches age 62 -- whichever comes first. Two Rivers also would continue to contribute to his retirement account for 24 months.

Three church committees -- human resources, trustees, and building and finance -- developed the package.

Sutton, 57, was receiving about $150,000 in salary and benefits annually, according to the Nashville Tennessean. He was to receive $67,285 in base salary, $79,999 as housing allowance and $3,600 as car allowance in 2008.

Last year, the former Southern Baptist Convention officer came under fire from a vocal group of Two Rivers members. They accused him of misappropriating church funds for personal use, including an alleged use of $4,000 for his daughter's wedding.

In September 2007, more than 70 then-members filed a lawsuit alleging Sutton had illegally concealed church records that would prove their charges.

Sutton survived an October ouster vote, and a judge dismissed the lawsuit in January. In April, he requested that the plaintiffs be dismissed from membership "because of the damage done to the witness, reputation, and welfare of Two Rivers Baptist Church."

On May 4, Sutton supporters failed by four votes to gain the super-majority necessary to withdraw fellowship from those who had filed the lawsuit. On May 11, the church reversed itself, voting to discount the ballots cast by the members in question. The action removed them from the congregation's rolls.

The three church teams held an informational meeting about the retirement package July 20. Another was set for July 23.

Two Rivers is one of the most prominent congregations in the SBC, which is headquartered in Nashville. Many of the denomination's top leaders attend the church.

According to SBC statistics for 2007, Two Rivers claimed 6,900 total members, with 1,621 as average worship attendance. The church recorded 106 baptisms for the year and $4.4 million in total receipts. Those numbers have declined in recent years.

Sutton served as SBC first vice president in 2005-06 and is the author of three books. He was a prominent figure among the denomination's conservatives in their successful struggle to take control of SBC agencies from moderates in the 1980s and '90s.

He was nominated for the SBC's presidency in 2006 and had the support of many of the denomination's conservative power-brokers, but lost in a three-way race to a candidate backed by a reform movement in the denomination.


There was an error in the 22nd paragraph of the July 6 ABP story, "Jesus in MySpace: Churches use social-networking sites." The founder of mentioned is named Joe Suh, not Jon Suh. Please change it to read:

"It is kind of a MySpace for churches," said Joe Suh, one of the founders. The site was created about a year and half ago to fill a need that Suh's congregation, The River Church in San Jose, Calif., felt.


Bible Trivia - 7/22/2008

Question: What kind of leaf did the dove have in its beak when it returned to the ark?

Answer: An olive leaf. (Genesis 8:11)

Comments: Noah sent birds out of the ark in an attempt to determine when his family could safely leave. The third time proved the charm for Noah. The return of the dove he had sent, with its olive branch, signaled that it was safe for the ark's inhabitants to finally disembark.

The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. (Genesis 8:11, NASB)

It is from this story that the expression "extending an olive branch" derives. An olive branch now refers to any symbol of peace, or peace offering to an adversary to show good will and in the hope of securing peace. This metaphorical interpretation of the olive branch has been attested as early as c. 1330.

Word of the Day - 7/22/2008


An amanuensis a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another; secretary.

Paul often employed an amaneunsis to write his letters. For instance, Tertius was the amanuensis who penned Romans.

I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22, NASB)

: Note: This is a 19th-century depiction of the Apostle Paul.

In Eckleburg's Eyes- 7/22/2008

I spent Monday night at the Silver Spoon Café with TAM and OMM. We always eat there as it is a mutual favorite.

The restaurant changed their menu about two weeks ago. As a regular, I had not perused a menu there literally in years. So I decided I would take a look. The house specialities are now printed in red and I decided to try one I had not before. The Burgundy Burger lived up to its billing.

I also noticed a disclaimer that informed that the menu was available in Braille upon request. So I requested one. My waiter did not know if one existed, but the staff was able to dig one up. The menu has not been updated in years. It is also huge! Unfortunately, there is absolutely no writing on it so the waiters are clueless when asked to help direct the customer to anything.

In other Silver Spoon news, longstanding waiter Ed will work his final shift on Sunday, July 27. He is leaving for graduate school in North Carolina. Ed has worked at the Spoon for seven years and is most known for his serenading tables with his operatic voice. He will be missed.

TAM and OMM are well. TAM has been asked by fellow retired seminary alum RBW to team teach a Wednesday night Bible Study. Earlier this summer, the church made wireless internet available on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the east side of the building. The duo plan on using this new technology as part of the “Roy and Tom Show”. TAM allowed RBW first billing due to his seniority. I suggested the acronym RATS.

As always, TAM was a fountain of recommendations. He endorsed Anderson Cooper’s book Dispatches from the Edge. Like many from the church, he also suggested William P. Young’s novel The Shack. Though I usually scoff at fiction, I may check this book out as so many have raved about it.

TAM also recommended a web site called Rome Reborn in which archaeologists have rebuilt Rome during the time of Christ. Click the link to access it.

TAM and OMM both recommened the animated movie Wall-E.

It was a good night with dear friends. They always go out of their way to be kind.

Also at the restaurant was SBC, father of my childhood best friends RCC and BSC. RCC is now working for his father handling all of the accounting duties at Chancey & Reynolds Inc.. BSC is working as a bartender at Aubrey’s. It was good to hear that both are doing well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bible Trivia - 7/21/2008

Question: By what other name was Reuel, Moses’ father-in-law, know?

Answer: Jethro. (Exodus 2:18, 3:1)

Comments: Moses' father-in-law actually has three names Biblically: Reuel (Exodus 2:18), Jethro (Exodus 3:1) amd Hobab (Judges 4:11). He is most commonly called Jethro. Only in the account of the marriage of his daughter Zipporah to Moses (Exodus 2:16-21) is he called "Reuel." There have been several proposals as to why the figure has varying identifications.

Some have concluded that this is simply indicative of the common Ancient Near Eastern practice of having multiple names for persons and cities according to context. Reuel means "friend of God", while Jethro means "excellence". Thus, it has been suggested that Reuel was the man's personal name while Jethro was an honorific title.

In the story that identifies him as "Reuel", he is classified by the the word 'ab which literally means "father" but can also refer to the head of a clan who would be responsible for arranging all the marriages for his female descendants. Thus some have speculated that Reuel was the patriarch, which the word combination father/daughter allows. This would make Jethro his son.

When they came to Reuel their father, he said, "Why have you come back so soon today?" (Exodus 2:18, NASB)

Talmudists have actually concluded that the man had seven names!: "Reuel," "Jether," "Jethro," "Hobab," "Heber," "Keni" and "Putiel".

Word of the Day - 7/21/2008


A tantara is a blast of a trumpet or horn.

At the battle of Jericho, a tantara was the signal for the Israelites to shout. This shout led to the fortified walls of Jericho crumbling and the Israelites claiming their first victory in the conquest of the Promised Land. (Joshua 6)

So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:20, NASB)

Note: This image is "The Battle of Jericho" by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/21/2008

Like a vast majority of the country, I screened The Dark Knight this weekend.

My Bible Study met at Shoney’s on Friday morning before heading to Carmike Cinemas Wynnsong 16 for the 10:30 AM showing of the film. Wynnsong had 22 presentations of the film on its opening day and we participated in its third. We were expecting a crowd of mass proportions but arrived to find an almost empty parking lot. I chose this theater as I assumed other Knoxvillians would choose the nicer Regal Pinnacle theater but I never expected the total desolation we experienced at Wynnsong.

Despite the lack of viewers, two of the most annoying movie goers in human history sat in rows next to ours! A soccer mom directly in front of us continually texted which entailed her phone lighting up at inappropriate times. For the record, during a movie this would be any time!

This woman was the model of decorum compared to the father who brought his three-year old son to the violent film in the row behind us. Not only was the son subjected to the violence of The Dark Knight but many sexual scenarios in previews preceding the film. Naturally, the child talked throughout the film, eventually pleading with his father to take him home. The father vetoed his request. MLM admitted regretting not confronting the father and asking him to leave the film for the child’s sake. MLM and I were on the same page. I wanted them to leave to. Maybe not for the child’s sake...

With a theater experience this bad, I am pretty sure SMA was sitting somewhere nearby.

Oh, lest I forget, I thoroughly enjoyed the film itself. Like virtually everyone, I echo the praise for Heath Ledger as The Joker. I think his Joker is the definitive version, far outclassing Jack Nicholson. I feel comparing the two is unfair as they appear in vastly different films and as such roles. I feel a better parallel is that his rendition of a sociopath exceeds even Anthony Hopkins’ brilliance in The Silence of the Lambs. I thought he was that good.

The film was long for a summer blockbuster (152 minutes). If you have yet to see the film, there are no extras after the credits.

My group will discuss the film in two weeks as MLM is with a youth trip this week. I will attempt to post a theological review of the film after we discuss it. I can already divulge that I do not agree with all of the film’s ideology, particularly its stance on truth. I do plan on viewing the film at least once before then, preferably without any children within earshot.

Late on Friday night, I went to Applebees with JTH and JBT. I think I was experiencing withdrawal as I had not eaten there all week. I cannot tell you the last time that happened. A sign that we eat there too often is that our waitress referenced my only eating desserts on Sundays. When JBT asked why, she responded, “Because he’s weird.” She really does know me...

Though SCB did not attend, her 19-year old brother, Justin, did. He eerily resembles a young Jamie Foxx. He has moved from Virginia to avoid the drug culture he grew up in. He also provided a great scapegoat as JBT is blaming a push off on the basketball court for the injury to his right elbow.

On Sunday morning, Sunday School was held at MPW’s condo. We continued our study of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. On this day we studied John 17:6-19. WAM’s invaluable insights are posted in the WAM Quote of the Day. This picture of the Brothers Walker was taken by WAM. In fact, they confiscated the camera soon afterwards as he took photos throughout the scripture reading. I never seem to remember not to give him the camera.

Note: That vast light may very well be the light of God emanating from the

It is always worth noting that KJW did not attend as she was actually at church with her aunt PWC. She did call to let us know where she was going to eat. Technically, PWC called, but KJW did speak.

My Sunday afternoon was spent in preparation for the night’s “Summer Breeze” Bible Study. I frantically prepared a lesson on all 16 prophets as MLM had called the previous night and asked me to teach while he was on vacation with the youth group. I arrived according to schedule at 6 pm at the church lobby. What MLM forgot was that the majority of the group was with him at the beach and that he also gave them less than a day’s notice as to the meeting. So no one showed except me. It was not all for loss. In addition to being prepared for next week, I picked up this fascinating literature from LifeWay. This deacon does indeed "got skills." The skills depicted actually are a clear embodiment of those stated in the Pastoral Epistles. Sorry, I never seem to be able to resist critiquing LifeWay.

Despite the much anticipated movie premier, the highlight of my weekend was ½ price weekend at area Goodwill branches. Sadly, this kind of discount on books rivals Christmas for me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/20/2008

MLM has requested prayer for the SonBurn mission trip which begings tomorrow. MLM will be one of the leaders from the group from the Central Baptist Church of Bearden. The trip spans a week.

WAM Quote of the Day - 7/20/2008

WAM attended Sunday School at MPW's condo this morning. Somehow the discussion veered towards Benny Hinn and his ability to see the Holy Spirit move. This image evidently inspired WAM and he thought the Holy Spirit might account for Santa Claus' remarkable volume:

"Do you think that's where Santa Claus comes from?...The Holy Spirit flying around...he had to be booking of the Spirit."

Honorable mention:

  • The highlight of the day came when WAM brought up a woman's period. He referred to it as "the bleeding thing" while moving his right pinky rapidly. I apologize for his use of technical jargon.
  • This inexplicably led to a discussion of the many uses of birth control. WAM characterized birth control as "like asprin for women."
  • After class, we discussed Hulk Hogan making a comment about many of his wrestler friend sbeing homosexual on his daughter's "reality" program Brooke Knows Best (which, by the way, is beyond horrible). This led to speculation as to who might have been unceremoniously outted by the Hulkster. WAM suggested perhaps the most least likely candidate, Ric Flair adding "so that's why they call him the 'Nature Boy.'" If anyone can explain that connection, I would love to hear it.

Note: WAM took this artsy photo of himself after many attempts and just before the camera phone was confiscated by his classmates as being a distraction.