Saturday, November 15, 2008

Prayer Blog - 11/15/2008

Today, my parents are hitting the road again on another trip. This will be a relatively short trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where they will be attending the annual convention of the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. They will leave this afternoon and plan to return in the afternoon on Monday, Novemeber 17th. Please pray for safe travel on this trip.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 11/14/2008

Associated Baptist Press
November 14, 2008 · (08-110)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
North Carolina Baptists nix plan that forwarded gifts to CBF (578 words)
Baptist state conventions cope with budget woes (453 words)
Religious leaders ask Obama to ban torture through order (589 words)
Continued investigation sheds light on Baylor Election Day incidents (492 words)
CBF provides $10,000 in relief for escalating crisis in Congo (235 words)
West Virginia Southern Baptists support marriage amendment (249 words)
Opinion: Georgia Baptists isolate themselves (737 words)



North Carolina Baptists nix plan that forwarded gifts to CBF
By Steve DeVane

GREENSBORO, N.C. (ABP) -- North Carolina Baptist churches soon won't be able to support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through the state convention, messengers decided at their annual meeting Nov. 12.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted to kill that option in a new giving plan that becomes effective in 2010.

Messengers rejected a single giving plan with options proposed by a study committee by a vote of 431-354. The proposal would have allowed churches to designate 10 percent of their gifts to ministries of the breakaway moderate group.

The committee proposal was a conscious effort to make a way for North Carolina Baptist churches with an appreciation for the work of CBF to remain involved in the state convention.

"The Giving Plan Study Committee made a proposal to the convention as we felt led of the Lord," said Ed Yount, committee chairman. "It was approved without opposition by the board of directors. The great thing about being Baptists is our autonomy and the messengers have spoken. My prayer is we can move forward in Christ."

North Carolina adopted a multi-track giving plan in the 1990s. It allowed churches not supportive of the conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention to shift a portion of their mission gifts to mission and ministry programs of the CBF. The moderate group formed in 1991 over differences with SBC leaders on issues such as biblical inerrancy and the role of women in ministry.

While some of the state's Baptists said the approach respects local-church autonomy, others said it is divisive and undermines a unified Baptist witness.

The vote will end the BSC's four giving plans in 2010, after 19 years of multiple options. One of the current options, Plan C, sends 10 percent to national CBF.

The study committee's recommendation would have allowed churches to support CBF by checking a box on the remittance form churches use to send their money to the BSC.

North Carolina Baptist churches have been among CBF's strongest supporters. In the past few years, many churches that have historically supported CBF through the North Carolina convention have started sending funds directly through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.

The motion to remove the option of giving to CBF through the BSC came from the floor. Matt Williamson, pastor of Oak Forest Baptist Church in Fletcher, said he opposed sending money to CBF because the group does not support biblical inerrancy or the SBC's leadership.

"That does not seem to be good discipleship," he said.

Eric Page, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Columbus, said refusing to take a strong stand would promote "tolerance" of a group with which most North Carolina Baptists disagree.

Page illustrated his point by saying the cartoon character Popeye took abuse only so long before he "popped out" a can of spinach and put an end to it.

"It's time for us to pop out a can of spinach and put an end to tolerance," he said.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship issued a statement expressing gratitude for past partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

"We affirm the right of the convention to make this decision to no longer allow funding to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through convention channels, but we regret the loss of this partnership," CBF leaders said.

"We look forward to continuing and growing our ministries and partnerships among the churches in North Carolina as together we are the presence of Christ in the world."

-- Bob Allen contributed to this story.


Baptist state conventions cope with budget woes
By Bob Allen

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) -- Southern Baptist state conventions meeting around the country this fall are adjusting their finances to cope with a weakening economy.

In the opening session of the Nov. 11-12 Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting, Executive Director James Porch described a $1.4 million shortfall in the convention's budget.

Porch reported total receipts of $37,086,227, a 3.67 percent shortfall behind an annual budget of $38.5 million.

Porch challenged messengers returning to their homes to "examine the extravagance that we have in our own life -- the things that we can by choice limit -- and then we can sacrifice by choice even more to God."

Baptists in Georgia met Nov. 9-11 in Jonesboro with Cooperative Program receipts down more than 5 percent, from $52 million to $49 million.

"Every year, it seems like an adjustment needs to be made," Dan Spencer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Thomasville and a leader in the Georgia Baptist Convention, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We'll have to see how it pans out and what our churches will be able to commit to."

The Florida Baptist Convention met Nov. 10-11 in Lakeland with contributions more than $562,000 behind its 2008 budget. Executive Director John Sullivan attributed the shortfall to financial difficulties in local churches and said the convention's leadership would have to face "hard decisions" about programs and staff, according to the Lakeland, Fla. Ledger.

Stephanie Murphy, who regularly attends a Southern Baptist church in Alabama, told the Anniston Star that after balancing her family checkbook, sometimes not enough is left to drop anything in the offering plate.

She said she hears from others in the church parking lot who cannot afford to give as much as they once did. "There's a lot of guilt," she said. "It's not the church's fault. They depend on donations, but with gas prices, then mortgage rates and now all the troubles on Wall Street
people are worried."

"Going to church shouldn't be stressful," she said, "but everybody's feeling it."

The pinch is also being felt at other levels of Baptist life. In October Alabama's Mobile Baptist Association approved a budget of $594,905, marking a reduction of more than $13,000 from the 2008 budget.

Thomas Wright, executive director of missions, said the association's budget and finance committee identified several economic indicators that members thought might affect income to churches, and in turn, the association. According to the Mobile Press-Register, the weeks leading up to the annual meeting proved the analysis accurate.

One state group bucking the trend, the Mississippi Baptist Convention, approved a record-setting Cooperative Program budget Oct. 28-29 in Jackson. A 2009 budget of just under $35 million represents an increase of about 2 percent, or $676,866, over 2008.


Religious leaders ask Obama to ban torture through order
By Bob Allen

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A multi-faith coalition of more than 200 religious organizations is calling on President-elect Barack Obama to, as one of his first acts in office, sign an executive order banning torture.

"This is an opportunity where one individual could with one stroke of the pen really change U.S. history," Linda Gustitus, president of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, told reporters in a conference call Nov. 12. She said an executive order by Obama "could turn the page on a very, very dark chapter and end U.S.-sponsored torture."

Nearly 60 delegations of people in 27 states and the District of Columbia contacted about 70 district and state congressional offices in a "National Day of Witness" on torture. They asked members of Congress to support a statement declaring the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners as "immoral, unwise, and un-American."

"The use of torture by the United States in recent years and our refusal to renounce its use has diminished us as a nation -- not only in the eyes of our own citizens, but certainly in the eyes of the world," said John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ. "We have squandered the international goodwill that was bestowed upon us after 9/11, and we have in many ways forfeited our role as a moral leader in the community of nations."

Thomas said "there would be no clearer signal of our intention to reclaim the religious and moral values that have historically informed our nation's character" for Obama, who until earlier this year was a long-time member of a Chicago UCC congregation, to issue such a declaration.

The coalition, formed in 2006, supports a "Golden Rule" approach to torture, where the United States does not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that Americans would find unacceptable if used against U.S. soldiers or civilians.

It also calls for one national standard about torture. The U.S. Army Field Manual, for example, sets one standard for interrogation techniques, but the CIA is not bound by the same limitations.

The coalition opposes holding terrorism suspects in secret prisons or transferring them to countries that use torture and calls on the government to hold U.S. officials who authorize, implement or fail to prevent torture accountable, regardless of their rank or position.

Leaders said use of torture since 9/11 has hurt the United States not only on moral grounds, but also has damaged the nation's credibility when criticizing other countries that violate human rights.

"It's time for the United States to get back on the right side of history, time for us to hear the hopes of our global friends and answer those hopes with action," Thomas said. "It's time for a fresh start with a new administration, time for the new president of the United States to join us and say clearly 'no' to torture."

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) issued the first statement by a member of Congress in support of the effort.

"Torture tarnishes our nation's values and damages our credibility," Holt said. "While an executive order will not remove the need for legislation on the issue, it is a way for President-elect Obama to put an immediate halt to our government's use of torture during interrogations and to put an end to the practice of secret detentions. By exercising his authority and acting quickly, he will begin to restore our moral leadership on the issue and repair some of the harm that has been done to our international reputation."


Continued investigation sheds light on Baylor Election Day incidents
By Ken Camp

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- According to Baylor University officials, continuing investigations into three Election Day incidents on campus revealed two apparently were not racially motivated as originally suspected.

In a Nov. 13 letter to students, faculty and staff, Baylor Interim President David Garland offered updates on investigations into the incidents. They included the appearance of a looped rope, originally thought to be a noose, hanging from a campus tree; a racially-charged disturbance outside a men's dormitory; and the alleged burning of Obama/Biden campaign signs in a campus barbecue pit.

Garland announced a student came forward Nov. 12 to claim responsibility for the hanging of the rope and to explain its origin.

"The student explained that he had been spending time with a group of friends on Fountain Mall the evening before the election and had discovered a rope he believed to have been from one of the tents during the university's homecoming activities. The students thought they could use the rope to create a rope swing," Garland said.

"The students tied one end of the rope to a limb of the tree and tied the other end in a loop from which they attempted to swing. Later, they abandoned the swing. The students strongly denied that the rope was intended to mimic a noose or to convey a message of any sort."

Garland reported "a diverse group of male and female students" who had been involved in creating the rope swing met Nov. 12 with student leaders who were planning a Nov. 14 unity march on campus.

"They conveyed their story, and I'm told that student leaders expressed appreciation for their courage in coming forward and understood the incident as an unfortunate misunderstanding," he said.,

Garland also reported Baylor police had identified and spoken with a number of students who participated in a post-election disturbance outside Penland Hall. Officials were expected to make referrals to Baylor's judicial-affairs department.

He also reported students met with Baylor police regarding the fire outside Brooks Flats. They described the source of the fire in the barbecue pits as computer boxes they found outside a parking garage -- not political campaign signs, Garland said.

"While we are all eager to move beyond the events of [recent] days and the negative light they have cast over our campus, this experience also calls our attention to the challenges that remain before us," Garland said.

"Relentless pursuit of campus unity is a work to which we must continue to commit ourselves if we are to truly embody our unique calling as a Christian university in the Baptist tradition."

He noted several positive initiatives -- launching the university's bias-motivated incident support team, prayer meetings for unity on campus, event-planning by leaders of student government and multicultural organizations, and ongoing dialogue involving diverse groups of students, faculty and staff.

"Faculty, staff and students have spoken out, decrying racism of any form on campus. All this good work must continue," Garland said.


CBF provides $10,000 in relief for escalating crisis in Congo
By Carla Wynn Davis

ATLANTA (ABP) -- The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has given $10,000 to ease the growing humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where increased violence from rebel fighters is killing thousands of civilians and forcing even more to flee to refugee camps and neighboring African countries.

Half the Fellowship's relief funds will aid CBF field personnel Jade and Shelah Acker, who serve in Uganda and are aiding Congolese refugees fleeing into the nearby country.

"The situation seems to be getting worse, and if fighting intensifies, then there will be many more refugees entering Uganda," said Jade Acker.

The remaining $5,000 will assist Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, with their response to the crisis in the Kivu area of eastern Congo. There, Baptist leaders have reported violence, few resources, children being forced to join rebel armies, and Baptists being arrested and imprisoned on false charges. There is an urgent need for relief supplies such as food, medicine, blankets and clothing.

Baptist World Aid has worked in Kivu province since the 1994 genocide crisis in neighboring Rwanda. According to multiple news sources, ethnic fighting and violence in Congo worsened in late August when rebel fighters advanced to Goma, the provincial capital. Now, doctors are working to contain cholera outbreaks in refugee camps while United Nations peacekeepers attempt to ease the violence.
CBF is accepting checks designated for Congo relief.

-30-

West Virginia Southern Baptists support marriage amendment
By Bob Allen

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (ABP) -- The West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists passed a resolution Nov. 7 calling on church members to support an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

The resolution called on members to "avail ourselves of the opportunity to affirm the historic, legal, and reasonable definition of marriage by supporting and promoting an amendment to the state constitution."

"Same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex unions," the resolution stated. "To believe otherwise is to ignore the uniqueness of each gender's design and undermines marriage."

The resolution said changing the definition of marriage has "devastating moral, spiritual, economic, and social effects on the whole society."

"As ministers of the gospel, we are compelled to defend the institution of marriage as created by God -- in church and in culture," the resolution said.

Messengers resolved to "strongly encourage Christians throughout West Virginia to engage in the civic process in defense of marriage and in support of the government's leadership in defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

"As Christians, we cannot ignore our duty to speak the truth to culture," the resolution said.

"West Virginians want to define marriage for themselves," said Jeremy Dys, president and general counsel of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, which supported the measure. "They do not want government setting a policy -- and they especially do not want a court imposing a system -- that knowingly deprives children of a mom or a dad."


Opinion: Georgia Baptists isolate themselves
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- On Nov. 12, in a front-page story, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the news that the Georgia Baptist Convention has approved a new policy giving GBC executives the freedom to refuse donations from churches it finds to be out of step with Southern Baptist beliefs. The policy move is aimed (for now) at First Baptist Church Decatur, because it called a woman, Julie Pennington-Russell, to serve as pastor.

It happens that this is my congregation, and Julie is my pastor.

And so I would like to begin this unofficial, unauthorized response by saying that the daily Christian ministry offered by my wonderful church will not be at all affected by this decision. The preaching of the gospel, prayer, benevolence ministries, after-school programs for children, youth ministry, global missions, counseling ministry, women's ministry, care for homeless and abused women and children -- all of these will go on just as before.

The decision does apparently mean that the GBC would prefer not to receive the thousands of dollars that we otherwise would have chosen to send them, as we have done for 145 years. In a time of economic recession, with money tight all over, the GBC will choose to reject our financial support for their activities. This must be an unusual organization, sufficiently flush with funds that it can refuse money -- in this economy -- based on differences over a disputed doctrinal matter. Would someone else like our money?

This action gets the relationship between church and denomination entirely wrong. In a religious tradition that believes in congregational polity, state and national conventions exist as a result of the free decisions of congregations to work together on common projects. They pool their funds to do together what none of them can do as well on their own. State and national conventions exist to serve congregations, and congregations are the ones who get to decide whether the entities that they created to help them advance their mission are still worth supporting. But here, the situation is reversed. That's just wrong.

Baptists used to believe that God's plan is for congregations to order their own affairs, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to Christ.

First Baptist Decatur undertook a slow communal process of discernment in the months before they called Julie Pennington-Russell as their pastor. This 145-year-old congregation with 2,700 members did their biblical and theological homework, they prayed earnestly, and they finally emerged with the decision that they did.

It is more than a little insulting for other Georgia Baptists, and the GBC itself, to decide that this autonomous congregation made such a bad decision that our missions money is now tainted. This puts FBC Decatur in company with, as Journal-Constitution reporter Christopher Quinn reported after a conversation with GBC Executive Director Robert White, other "gifts from questionable sources, such as alcohol distributors." I'm sure that comparison will go down exceptionally well in our congregation.

Most Baptist churches are in a situation of flat or declining membership. Many are in serious trouble, fighting for their very survival.

But First Baptist Decatur is doing well. Many are coming to faith in Christ for the first time. Our innovative early worship service is booming, with many new visitors each week. I have the joyful privilege of teaching a Bible study class each week to dozens who have never really participated in adult Christian education before. We are actually reaching our community, and our congregation's increasing racial and ethnic diversity clearly attests to this happy fact.

At the heart of it all is Julie Pennington-Russell herself. The sober-minded search committee that called Julie saw in her what we have all now experienced.

She is a pastor, called of God. She has all the requisite gifts of preaching, teaching, leadership, and care for souls. She exemplifies the fruit of the Spirit. She loves people, and people respond accordingly. But by calling her, FBC apparently joined the morally questionable ranks populated by alcohol distributors.

Daily readers of the Atlanta newspaper know that religion news rarely makes the front page. But today it did, under this title: "Baptist change isolates church." Baptists made the newspaper -- not for loving people or serving the poor, but for a decision to reject one of their oldest, most significant churches.

"Baptist change isolates church?" Not really. The headline should read: "Baptist change isolates Georgia Baptist Convention." Our congregation will be just fine.

-- David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University.

Prayer Blog - 11/14/2008

JMT's mother, who was was referenced in the November 12th Prayer Blog, passed away late on Wednesday night. She had suffered a severe stoke during the previous week. JMT has asked for prayer, especially for her father, during this difficult time.

Here is Betty Kennedy Martin's obituary as it appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:

MARTIN, BETTY KENNEDY - age 80 of Knoxville went to be with her Lord on Wednesday November 12, 2008. She was a member of Lincoln Park Baptist Church. She was preceded in death by parents: Felix and Lucille Kennedy; sister: Julia Webb. She is survived by her beloved husband: Henry Martin; daughters and sons-in-law: Becky and Bill Darby, Janet and Barry Musick, Marty and Sam Gamble, Jill and Ish Thomas; grandchildren: Whitney and Terry Kalna, Lauren and David Feldeisen, Matthew Musick, Jordan Musick, Logan Thomas, Morgan Thomas; siblings: Frances Beaty, Walter Kennedy, Alice Nipper, Bill Kennedy. Family and friends will meet at the main entrance to Highland Memorial Cemetery 11:45 A.M. Saturday for graveside services at 12:00 P.M. with Rev. John Holland officiating. In lieu of flowers the family request memorials be made to Lincoln Park Baptist Church 830 Chicamauga Ave. Knoxville, TN 37917. The family will receive friends 5:30 to 7:30 P.M. Friday at Rose Mortuary Broadway Chapel.

Bible Trivia - 11/14/2008

Question: What was the name of the well where Jesus met the Samaritan woman?

Answer: Jacob’s well. (John 4:6-7)

Comments: Jesus' famous encounter with the woman at the well took place at Jacob's well in Sychar. This is the only passage in the Bible in which Sychar is referenced. Some have held that Sychar is actually another name for Shechem ("Sychem"). In fact, the traditional site of this meeting is associated with Shechem, the modern city of Nablus.

The site has been associated with the story since the Crusades. The ruins of two churches and the unfinished walls of a third are found there. A cross-shaped church was built at the location during the Byzantine period using the well as its center. The Crusaders built their own church over the earlier one. Construction was begun on a Russian Orthodox Church in 1914 but the Communist revolution halted construction in 1917. The building has never been never completed.

and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:6, NASB)

Note: This illustration is "Jésus et la femme samaritaine" by Corinne Vonaesch. It is part of a series of 21 images illustrating the Gospel of John.

Word of the Day - 11/14/2008

Exculpate

To exculpate is to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.

God exculpated Abimelech from enlisting a married woman (namely Sarah) in his harem on the basis of ignorance. (Genesis 20)

Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her." (Genesis 20:6, NASB)

Note: This lithograph of Sarah and Abimlech was created by Marc Chagall (1887-1985) in 1960.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/14/2008

I spent Thursday at two of my homes away from home.

On Thursday afternoon, I was back at church, this time for Bible Study. If the church does not pay me, I need to start paying them...for rent.

All members of my Bible Study brought their own lunch so I grabbed spaghetti from Sbarro on the way. I arrived early and was fortunate enough to find an empty space on MLM’s office floor for both myself and my food. All four seats were occupied. I felt truly blessed as on many days this would have been an impossibility.

Bible Study went well. Each week the study seems to digress into MLM thoughtfully listening while I present an apologetic on some aspect of the Christian life that has been attacked. MLM’s pensiveness is evidence that he is a wiser man than I.

I also got to see KTH who was supervising her class of preschoolers in the gymnasium. Her husband, “Homer”, is still suffering from an undiagnosed illness and doctors are at a loss for what to do. Please pray that this problem is properly diagnosed and that his pain can be reduced.

On Thursday night, I met JTH, ALK, and JBT at Applebees. Our waitress, AFH found the restaurant uncomfortably hot. The key to the heating and air system is possessed by only one person and that person is not AFH. In the summer, AFH remedied this problem by fashioning a paperclip to change the temperature. While this worked for awhile, eventually she jammed said paperclip too far into the unit and shut down the entire system temporarily. She decided it would be best just to bear the heat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bible Trivia - 11/13/2008

Question: Which Old Testament prophet is quoted most often in the New Testament?

Answer: Isaiah.

Comments: The New Testament writers utilized the prophet Isaiah more than any other Old Testament book. They found wisdom from Isaiah on many topics including the birth of Jesus, his ministry, his rejection, his sacrificial death, the mission of the church, the inclusion of Gentiles, etc.

Isaiah is referenced 85 times in the New Testament. Since several passages are cited or alluded to more than once, 61 separate Isaianic passages are referred to in the New Testament.

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, (Luke 4:17, NASB)

Isaiah was so prevalent in the New Testament that scholar John F.A. Sawyer titled his 1996 book The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Israel.

Word of the Day - 11/13/2008

Ameliorate

To ameliorate is to make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory; improve; meliorate.

II Peter challenges its reader to ameliorate her faith.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge (II Peter 1:5, NASB)

The Contemporary English Version (CEV) renders this verse: "Do your best to improve your faith. You can do this by adding goodness, understanding,"

Note: This image is an interpretation of II Peter 1:5.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/13/2008, Part 2

On Wednesday night, I got to see the always fashionable KJW for the second day in a row. Oh, I also saw got to see her parents, KLTW and RAW as well.

I began my night by eating with JTH and TK at MoFoS. No, the store has not expanded its scope into providing meals (though if a traveling salesman suggested it, it would be a distinct possibility.). I brought a sandwich from Subway. It amazes how many meals I choose to eat in perhaps the most unsanitary business on planet. The visit was well worthwhile. In addition to picking up some DVDs and seeing the guys, I also got to see the legendary De La Rosa!

After eating, I headed to RAW’s where we played the 25th Anniversary version of Trivial Pursuit. I arrived to find KLTW studying, RAW playing a video game, and KJW coloring. In other words, I caught the family in their natural habitat.

I decided that I would use this time to tell KJW a Bible story. I selected the feeding of the multitude (the John 6:5-15 version) as one of the main characters is a child. Despite my riveting retelling and the fact that the story is kid friendly, KJW stopped me and shouted, “Stop teaching me!” I could not help but laugh. Since I was near the end of the pericope, I persisted and had her repeat “theology of abundance”. In deference to her being preoccupied, I did shorten my diatribe against the theology of scarcity.

After KLTW finished studying, we played the new version of Trivial Pursuit. We played in teams. KLTW and I faced off against KJW and RAW. KJW would not be denied entrance into the game despite our efforts to distract her with cartoons. I love that child like she were my own but I must confess part of me wanted to punt her during the game.

It was new game with old results. RAW won, six pieces of pie to three. Yes, I lost to a two-year old. (In this photo, KJW is trying on my hat and shoes for size.)

We had a good night. KLTW received great news earlier in the day. Her good friend MP was hired at Morristown-Hamblen hospital. She was elated not only because she is a good friend but also because his hiring means she will now receive every other weekend off.

In other Wednesday news, the Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center informed me that my injections had graduated from blue vials of to green vials. I have absolutely no idea what that means but it sounded like improvement nevertheless.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/13/2008, Part 1

My Wednesday was very atypical as my night class was cancelled. My professor, RGB, was attending the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education Conference (AACE) conference in Denver, Colorado.

I spent the morning at church pitching my educational concepts to TWC and GWS. The latter was a surprise. TWC was highly supportive and advised me to meet with GWS. I went to his office in hopes of setting up an appointment and he graciously spent a great deal of time with me. GWS was objective as always, critical when necessary, and treated me very fairly. He determined that my proposal was an avenue worth pursuing further. He was explicit that he was neither being optimistic nor negative about my prospects. Our meeting concluded in prayer.

He advised me to create a job description and provided me a sample document to model. He also suggested I breakdown my time spent, which is critical in a job that is a conglomerate of other positions. My next meeting will be with TWC, who will edit the document to his specifications. Afterwards, we will present the concept to LWF. If LWF feels the proposal is worthwhile, I will then address the administrative staff where my proposal will be dissected and reassembled (as it should be). If they approve (and that is a big “if”), the idea will go before the finance committee. A new committee is slated to be elected this Sunday (November 16th). And I thought it was hard to navigate through UT’s chain of command!

In all seriousness, I could not have been treated any more fairly than I was with both ministers giving more of their time than I merited. The most difficult obstacles will be pitching a new position as opposed to an established one (which comes with the territory) and convincing my audience that my skills are needed. The church is also preparing to enter a transition phase and a long-term commitment may not be possible.

I did learn two pieces of bad news while at the church. Dr. Henry Chiles (HMC), our (genuinely) saintly former pastor, was convalescing at the UT Medical Center. I also discovered that JMT’s mother was on her death bed at Shannondale Retirement Center & Assisted Living after sustaining a stroke last week. JTH and I immediately visited Shannondale as JTH babysat JMT’s children for years. When we arrived it was obvious that JMT’s mother was near the end. We spoke to one of her sisters. All of the sisters had visited over the weekend and had since returned to their various homes. We concluded our visit quickly.

After sitting with JTH while he ate at Wishbone’s Famous Fingers & Wings, I headed to UT Hospital where I visited with HMC’s daughter. He was asleep when I arrived and I did not wish to wake him. His daughter informed me that HMC’s wife had recently been moved from the hospital to Asbury Place in Maryville, Tennessee. The other bed in her room is being held for HMC. It appears an extended stay at a retirement community is expected. Dr. Chiles is in Room 508 if you wish to visit. Please keep this family in your prayers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prayer Blog - 11/12/2008, #4

Today I met with TWC and GWS regarding my possible involvement in my church's faith formations ministry. The process is still in the very early stages and a detailed descriptions of the progress was be posted in tomorrow's edition of "In Eckleburg's Eyes". Please keep this ministry in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 11/12/2008, #3

Tomorrow, my paternal grandfather, WCV Jr., returns to Knoxville where decisions will be made regarding how to treat his prostate cancer. Keep him and his doctors in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 11/12/2008, #2

Today, I learned that JMT’s mother is near death at Shannondale Retirement Center & Assisted Living after sustaining a stroke last week. The family is hoping that she passes soon as there is little hope of recovery amd she is suffering. All of the woman's sisters had visited her over the weekend and have since returned to their respective homes. She was aware of their presence. Please pray for this family, especially JMT's father.

Prayer Blog - 11/12/2008

My church's former pastor Dr. Henry Chiles (HMC), for whom the street adjacent to the church is named, is convalescing at the UT Medical Center. He was asleep when I visited his room, but his daughter informed me that HMC’s wife had recently been moved from the hospital to Asbury Place in Maryville, Tennessee, and that a bed awaits HMC in her room when he is well enough to be released from the hospital. It appears an extended stay at a retirement community is expected. Dr. Chiles is in Room 508 if you wish to visit. Please keep this wonderful Christian family in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 11/12/2008

Question: In what situation were quail first mentioned in the Bible?

Answer: As meat provided by God to the Israelites the night before manna was provided. (Exodus 16:13-21)

Comments: Twice during the wilderness wandering, quail was miraculously supplied to the Israelites as food (Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31-32). Quails are small, plump terrestrial birds which fly low to the ground and are capable of short, rapid bursts of flight. Regarding their appearance in the wilderness, the IVP Bible Background Commentary explains: "Small, plump migratory quail often come through the Sinai on their way north from the Sudan to Europe usually in the months of March and April." (Page 149)

So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. (Exodus 16:13, NASB)

This situation is not only the first time quail appear in the Bible, but quail appear in the Biblical text only in connection with sustenance in the wilderness. Quail appear in four verses spanning three books of the Old Testament, all in connection with their appearance in the wilderness. (Exodus 16:13, Numbers 11:31, 11:32, Psalm 105:40). Quail do not appear in the New Testament.

Word of the Day - 11/12/2008

Eructate

To eructate is to belch.

In Psalm 59, while listing his enemy's faults, the psalmist accuses them of eructating.

Behold, they belch forth with their mouth;
Swords are in their lips,
For, they say, "Who hears?" (Psalm 59:7)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/12/2008

As usual, I worked the 8:45 am - 1 pm shift at the Hope Resource Center. The sheer volume of clients that walk through the doors never ceases to amaze me. Most of them, however, are women. The campus location receives men coming from class but most male clients at the main center come after work. This tends to leave me with a lot of time to study. On this day, I got to work in a recently opened counseling room. I was especially pleased that it was equipped with a couch. You will note that in addition to my typical stack of articles to read, I brought Sudoku. It was a hard day at the office.

On Tuesday night, I watched Iron Man on DVD with MP, KLTW, KJW (note the half pig tail look she was sporting), and RAW at RAW’s home. KLTW had a migraine headache when we watched the film in theaters and wanted to see the last part of the movie. I think that was all that she did see as she studied throughout most of the night. That girl is overworked.

She did have a good story from the hospital. It seems a patient had dropped her salad and it needed to be cleaned up. One nurse thought it would be a funny idea to page “Code Name: Bugs Bunny” over the p.a. system. A colleague feared that this message would not be understood this so instead “Code: Green”, in deference to salad, was announced. Unfortunately, this is the name for a bomb threat.

I enjoyed the film, though as noted, I had seen it before. My review is posted in the May 11th edition of “A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli”. My only new observation is that Tony Stark needs to get better a security system for his home. Obadiah Stane, James Rhodes, and Nick Fury all enter Stark's mansion at various points in the movie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 11/11/2008

Associated Baptist Press
November 11, 2008 · (08-109)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue:
Texas Baptists elect Lowrie, defer name-change proposal (553 words)
Equality Riders arrested at Union University (1,076 words)
Baptist churches in Texas, California draw gay-rights supporters' protests (691 words)
Baptist youth minister charged with child pornography (307 words)
Opinion: Evangelicals and the Obama era (806 words)


Texas Baptists elect Lowrie, defer name-change proposal
By Ken Camp (553 words)

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- The Baptist General Convention of Texas elevated to its highest office the son of a former president, deferred action on a proposed name change and approved a reduced budget for 2009 at its most sparsely attended annual meeting in nearly 60 years.

The Nov. 10-11 annual meeting drew 1,891 registered messengers from 550 churches. That is the lowest number since the 1949 BGCT meeting in El Paso.
David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church in Canyon, Texas, garnered 53 percent of the votes for president, defeating Stephen Hatfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lewisville, 735-644.

Lowrie narrowly lost the president's race last year to Joy Fenner, retired executive director of Woman's Missionary Union of Texas. Texas Baptists Committed -- the organization that mobilized political opposition to prevent a fundamentalist takeover of the BGCT -- had endorsed Fenner. This year, for the first time in two decades, the moderate group did not endorse a candidate. However, they also did not oppose Lowrie.

Lowrie, 48, becomes the first second-generation BGCT president. His father, D.L. Lowrie, the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas, served two one-year terms in the early 1980s.

Carolyn Strickland, a deacon at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, won a contest for first vice president, outdrawing Ken Coffee, retired associate director of the BGCT State Missions Commission, 728-668.

Strickland's late husband, Phil, served 38 years with the BGCT Christian Life Commission, including about a quarter-century as director of the social concerns and public policy agency.

Messengers elected Bobby Broyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ballinger, Texas, second vice president by acclamation.

Hatfield, co-chair of the BGCT Future Focus Committee, presented a progress report from the strategic-planning committee created in response to a motion at last year's annual meeting in Amarillo.

Co-chair Andy Pittman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lufkin, characterized the committee's task as helping to "move the convention into the 21st century."

On behalf of the committee, Pittman introduced a motion that the articles of incorporation and constitution be amended to change the organization's name from "Baptist General Convention of Texas" to "Texas Baptist Convention."

The committee on convention business recommended that the proposed name change be referred to the BGCT Executive Board for further study and deliberation. "We believe that every Texas Baptist deserves the time to consider the decision that for some may be easy, logical and simple and for others may be complex," Hatfield said in support of the referral.

Messengers approved a $45,755,295 budget for 2009 -- about 8 percent less than the one approved at the previous annual meeting and down slightly from the current adjusted budget.

A year ago messengers approved a $50.1 million budget for 2008. After the first quarter of this year, the convention faced a serious budget shortfall. Staff implemented cutbacks, and the budget was adjusted to $46,186,665.

Messengers this year also approved a recommendation that the adopted budget continue to be divided 79 percent for the BGCT and 21 percent to worldwide causes as directed by churches.

For churches that select the BGCT's "worldwide initiatives" giving option, that area will include two additional-global missions programs -- intercultural international missions and Texas Baptist Men international ministries -- along with continuing support for River Ministry/Mexico missions, the WorldconneX missions network, Texas Partnerships and the Baptist World Alliance.


Equality Riders arrested at Union University
By Bob Allen (1,076 words)

JACKSON, Tenn. (ABP) -- Three Christian gay-rights activists were arrested Nov. 10 on the campus of Southern Baptist-affiliated Union University.

The arrests occurred during the next-to-last stop on the 2008 Equality Ride, an outreach bus tour of 15 religious schools across the South by Soulforce Q. The organization is the young-adult division of a group that fights discrimination against gays with nonviolent protest.

Police arrested 21-year-old Zak Rittenhouse of Frankfort, Ohio; 22-year-old Manny Lampon of New York City; and 22-year-old Jarrett Lucas of Minneapolis, Minn., a co-director of the 2008 Equality Ride, on trespassing charges. The arrests came after campus security warned them to leave an area declared off-limits to the riders.

University officials offered to let the activists into Luther Hall, a building located across a public street from the main campus, and told students, faculty and staff interested in dialogue about their presence. Instead, the riders chose to stand vigil inside one of three entrances to the campus.

After meeting only three students, the marchers chose to march toward a higher-traffic area of campus. They were stopped and told to turn back or face prosecution. Three refused to retreat. They were handcuffed and driven away in a police car.

"Although Union University cannot affirm this group's message, the university leadership made an attempt to offer dialogue and Christian hospitality to Equality Riders," Union officials said in a statement. "It is regrettable that the leadership of Soulforce responded by rejecting these offers."

Katie Higgins, the other Equality Ride co-director, said the goal of the effort is to communicate with as many students as possible, and the university's limiting their access made it necessary for them to move to parts of the campus offering more interaction.

One of the activists, Rachel Watson, is a Union University graduate. "It was heartbreaking to have my alma mater turn me away from campus," Watson said. "I wanted to talk to students about my life and the pain I experienced as a lesbian on Union University's campus, but instead I was locked out of my own school."

Watson, 22, of Jackson, Tenn., is a former member of Union's soccer team. She said she knew she was a lesbian even before deciding to attend the school, but she had been a fan of Union's athletic teams and thought she would feel safe attending a Christian university that encourages students to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Watson said that is far from the treatment she received from several of the faculty and students, who she said looked down on her as a disgrace. "It was difficult, but I feel like I never lost sight of who I was," she said.

Watson said she made it through by "staying true to my faith and always knowing God came first regardless of judgment and what people said about me."

Another rider, Mindi Monroe of Minneapolis, grew up attending a Southern Baptist church in Tennessee. She said for the most part it was a "very pleasant experience," but she learned love and acceptance from fellow church members came with conditions when she grew old enough to begin dealing with questions about her own sexuality. After her parents moved to another state, the family joined a church of another denomination.

Still, she said, "It's impossible to write off my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters as my people."

"They are my family," Monroe said. She said she took part in the vigil at Union University because it's important to make Southern Baptists aware of "people who suffer from their teachings."

Soulforce was founded by Mel White, a formerly well-connected evangelical minister who ghost-wrote books for religious figures including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. The group says more than 200 colleges and universities in the United States have explicit policies that discriminate against students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Now in its third year, the Equality Ride has visited more than 50 of those schools, where riders say even students often are unaware of such policies. Union University, for example, has a policy prohibiting "sexual impropriety," which is defined as "engaging in premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, homosexual activities or cohabitation on campus or off campus."

Arrests are nothing new for the 17 young adults ages 18-26 participating in this year's Equality Ride. Four of the riders were arrested Nov. 3 attempting to talk to students at Central Baptist College in Conway, Ark. Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Texas pressed trespassing charges against three of them. Two were arrested at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College Oct. 20. Three were jailed Oct. 17 at Heritage Christian University Florence, Ala. Six were arrested for trying to enter the chapel at Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian school with ties to the Florida Baptist Convention.

Some campuses, however, were more hospitable. At Baptist-affiliated Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. -- the first stop on the Oct. 2-Nov. 13 tour and the location where 20 people were arrested on the first Equality Ride in 2006 -- this time five riders were allowed to enter campus to deliver books affirming LGBT people to the library.

Dallas Baptist University allowed dialogue termed "unprecedented" Oct. 24, engaging students, faculty and administration. Blair Blackburn, executive vice president at DBU, said at a press conference that while the school's "established beliefs may not coincide with the viewpoints of Soulforce on these issues, we understand anyone's right to disagree and their desire for an opportunity to discuss."

The following week Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, organized what Soulforce Q termed "a limited and formal exchange of ideas" with students, faculty, staff and administrators hand-picked by the seminary to represent a cross section of the campus community.

Prior to his arrest, Lucas said it's important to give conservative Christian denominations "space to grow" on the issue of homosexuality, but increased dialogue with Baptist institutions is evidence that religious organizations can change.

"I think it's been very productive," he said of this year's Equality Ride. "If we have impacted the life of one student for the better, it's worth it."

Following a return visit to Union University Nov. 11, this year's Equality Ride wraps up Nov. 13 at Simmons College in Louisville, Ky.


Baptist churches in Texas, California draw gay-rights supporters' protests
By Bob Allen (691 words)

DALLAS (ABP) -- About 100 people stood outside First Baptist Church of Dallas Nov. 9 to protest a sermon publicized on the church marquee with the title, "Why gay is not OK."

"To say in today's culture that homosexuality is a perversion of God's plan or to say on the marquee that 'gay is not OK' is going to be to subject yourself to charges of being bigoted and ignorant and hateful," Pastor Robert Jeffress said the first of a two-part sermon on homosexuality. It was part of an ongoing series of messages themed "Politically Incorrect."

The Dallas church wasn't the only high-profile Southern Baptist congregation met by protests the weekend after gay-rights foes won ballot victories in four states. Protesters also gathered outside of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., accusing Pastor Rick Warren of misleading the public in his support of Proposition 8. The amendment to the California Constitution, which passed narrowly Nov. 4, undid a recent court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

Laura McFerrin, who helped organize the Dallas protest, told the Dallas-Forth Worth NBC affiliate that the message on the church sign made her "really sad."
"I believe I was born a lesbian [and] that there's nothing wrong with that," she said. "I'm upset because children who are having to go into that church who might be gay or lesbian will think something about them is wrong, and that makes me sad."

McFerrin and her mother spent Nov. 8 making signs and fliers encouraging others to come out and support the protest.

"I am surprised that in 2008 any church would have a sign like this out," her mother, Grace McFerrin, added. "I feel that churches should not support hate -- which is what a sign like this does, is allow people to think it's acceptable to hate other people."

Jeffress said in his sermon it is surprising to consider how quickly public opinion has accepted efforts by gay activists, aided by the mass media, to "to normalize homosexuality in our culture."

He noted that, just over 40 years ago, a Time magazine article described homosexuality "a misuse of the sexual faculty," a "pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality" and "a pernicious sickness." As recently as 1972 the American Psychiatric Association regarded homosexuality as a psychological disorder meriting treatment.

"Today it is no longer homosexuals who need therapy, but those who speak out against" homosexuality, he said.

Jeffress said the "homosexual agenda" has made inroads not only into the culture but among Christians as well.

"Those who are involved especially in the emerging-church movement are embracing homosexuality as a viable alternative lifestyle," he said, referring to a church-planting movement popular among younger evangelicals.

Jeffress said that is because Christians and non-Christians alike have embraced several "myths" about homosexuality fed to them by culture.

One myth, he said, is that the only prohibitions against homosexuality are in the Old Testament.

But Jeffries also cited what he believes are condemnations of homosexuality in New Testament passages, including Rom. 1:26-29, I Cor. 6:9-10 and I Tim. 1:9-10.

Jeffress said it is impossible for a God-fearing Christian to be gay.

"You can't fear God and disobey God at the same time," he said. "People out there who are homosexuals, who are worshiping God or are in church and worshiping God, they're not worshiping the God of the Bible. They're worshiping the God of their own creation, the God of their own imagination."

Another myth, he said, is that Jesus never condemned homosexuality.

Jeffress said Jesus condemned homosexuality by upholding God's plan for human sexuality. "God's plan for human sexuality is very clear," Jeffress said. "God said sex is reserved for a marriage relationship between a man and woman."

In his next sermon, scheduled for Nov. 16, Jeffress said he planned to talk about the question of sexual orientation. "Is it fixed forever, or can it be changed?" he asked. "And what do you say to a friend or a family member who comes to you and says, 'I believe God made me gay?' We're going to continue next time five more myths about homosexuality. I hope you'll be here."


Baptist youth minister charged with child pornography
By Bob Allen (307 words)

MONROE, Conn. (ABP) -- An American Baptist youth minister in Connecticut was arrested on child-pornography charges after a nude photo of a 15-year-old girl he was counseling was found on his church computer.

David Esarey, 30, was arraigned Nov. 5 on charges of employing a minor in an obscene performance, third-degree child pornography and risk of injury to a minor. Media reports identified him as youth minister at Stepney Baptist Church in Monroe, Conn.

Kevin Merritt, the church's senior pastor, said as soon as police filed the complaint, Esarey was relieved of all responsibilities and placed on administrative leave. "At this point, he is no longer employed by the church," Merritt said. He said the church would not comment on the case.

Esarey's arrest followed an investigation launched in August after a church member using his computer at the church accidentally stumbled on the photo while looking for youth group photos. The church member notified Merritt, who in turn notified the girl's mother.

After the mother questioned her daughter about it, the daughter reportedly said she put the photo on the computer herself as a dare. Police said the mother later found several sexually explicit emails between Esarey and the girl. Police said the two discussed having sex, but they didn't touch except for an occasional hug.

Esarey, who is married, admitted to police he had counseled the girl privately but denied emailing her any photos. He said a number of male teenagers were interested in the girl, and they may have used his computer and cell phone to send her messages.

"My client maintains his innocence and we intend to vigorously defend him against these false allegations," Esarey's attorney said, according to the Connecticut Post.
Esarey joined the staff of Stepney Baptist Church in June 2005. The church is affiliated with American Baptist Churches of Connecticut.


Opinion: Evangelicals and the Obama era
By David Gushee (806 words)

(ABP) -- I began this election year with The Future of Faith in American Politics, a book arguing that there is an emerging political center in the white evangelical community.

This center breaks with the evangelical right in that it is more politically independent, prioritizes a wider range of moral issues than the traditional family values concerns, eschews the right's mood of angry nostalgia and seeks consensus solutions to advance the common good.

I suggested the right was losing its hold on younger white evangelicals, who were moving in this more centrist direction (and sometimes further left) and that it never really had a hold on a majority of nonwhite evangelicals.

During the election campaign just concluded, the right pretty much acted according to type. Especially once Sarah Palin was added to the ticket, Christian right leaders swung into action in support of the Republicans. They focused strongly on abortion and gay marriage, communicated a mood of intense anger and fear in relation to Barack Obama and pursued classic culture-war strategy to mobilize supporters.

Early exit poll results demonstrate that white evangelicals supported the McCain-Palin ticket at 74 percent, to 24 percent for Obama. In 2004, white evangelicals went for President Bush at 78 percent and Sen. John Kerry at 21 percent.

John Green, an expert on evangelical voting patterns, has reported that 32 percent of younger white evangelicals (18-29) voted for Sen. Obama, a significantly higher proportion than their elders. It also appears likely that regional differences between southern and non-southern evangelicals will emerge with further analysis.

One might conclude from these numbers that if there is an emerging white evangelical center, it hasn't emerged very far quite yet.

But I never argued that the evangelical center would vote Democratic. I said that centrists would be more open to voting Democratic, and that they would evaluate candidates according to a wider range of moral considerations.

From conversations on college campuses all year, it seems clear to me that Barack Obama's stance on abortion proved a major obstacle among evangelical centrists who were otherwise quite open to voting for him. Younger evangelicals remain just as unhappy with abortion on demand as older evangelicals, even as their positions on other issues, including homosexuality, are moderating.

Therefore, Barack Obama seems to have won the evangelical left, as expected, but only a relatively small percentage of centrists. However, he did make gains that, according to Beliefnet writer Steven Waldman, probably amounted to as many as 2 million white evangelical votes swinging his direction in comparison with 2004. This is a significant incremental change.

The evangelical right's white-hot anti-Obama rhetoric places it in a poor position to function as anything other than an opposition voice during the Obama years. After eight years of access and influence in the Bush administration, this will undoubtedly come as a shock.

On the other hand, this is how the Christian right began -- as an opposition movement. In some ways, it will mark a return to their roots.

The coming wilderness years will provide an occasion for the Christian right to rethink its approach, as will other branches of the tattered Republican coalition in the years to come.

I think they should move to the center. But somehow I don't think anyone over there cares what I think, and my intent is to leave them to their discussions while turning my attention to where the action is likely to be in the next stage.

The center and left of the white evangelical community are in a far better position to play a constructive role in affecting major policy decisions on the ethically significant issues that will be decided in the next four years.

Of course, we will not do so alone, but will work in partnership with the black and Hispanic evangelical communities, the center-left of the Catholic community, and a host of other interested parties who are ready to work with the Obama administration on a number of challenges our nation and world faces.

I am eager to see the Obama administration reverse Bush administration detainee policy as decisively as possible; sponsor necessary climate-change legislation and alternative energy measures; press for effective abortion-reduction strategies; spearhead comprehensive immigration reform; posture the United States as an adherent of international norms and practitioner of creative diplomacy; lead the world in the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons; ensure that every American has access to needed health care; and jump start our economy in a way that especially benefits those who most need help now.

These would all, in various ways, be significant steps toward justice, human dignity and a livable planet. They would all fulfill government's mandate to advance the common good and promote the sacredness of life. It is exciting to contemplate participating in the achievement of such goals in the days to come.

-- David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University.

Bible Trivia -11/11/2008

Question: What was the English meaning of the Greek word "gospel"?

Answer: Good news.

Comments: The Biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are designated as gospels. The word gospel derives from the Old English word god-spell meaning "good tidings" or "good news". It is a direct translation of the Greek word euangelion, from which the English language also gets the term "evangelist". Of the four canonical gospels, the word itself appears only in Matthew and Mark and the Gospel of Mark is the only book to designate itself as a gospel.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1, NASB)

The word gospel was not original to Christianity. In the Roman world, before the time of Christ, the word was associated with Augustus Caesar (63 BCE-14 CE), who ruled at the time of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1). Augustus was lauded as the "savior of the world" because of the peace he initiated and maintained. The early Christian movement adopted the term gospel and redefined it.

Note: The top picture is of the Harlem Gospel Choir.

Word of the Day - 11/11/2008

Alated

Alated means having wings; winged.

In a vision, the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne with alated seraphim standing above the deity.

Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (Isaiah 6:2, NASB)

Note: This painting, "The Prophet" by contemporary German artist Ulrich Leive, depicts Isaiah 6.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/11/2008

After two postponements, my basketball team finally played in their championship game at my church on Monday night.

On Monday afternoon, I visited the new Best Buy (#1382) in Turkey Creek (located at 11941 Parkside Drive). I was asked to drive KL to work and stayed to inspect the new franchise. If you go to the store, take the Campbell Station exit off of the interstate as the building is located at the west end of the shopping district. The store is in the midst of a “soft opening” before officially opening its doors on Friday (November 14th). It is much smaller model which is to be expected as few stores in the company are as large as Knoxville’s original location. The new employees were especially eager. A girl named Elizabeth asked for any feedback I might have. My pearl of wisdom was that I thought it was illogical that the stores DVD’s are arranged from Z-A instead of A-Z. This was duly noted.

Unfortunately, KL’s working prevented her from seeing a great championship game.

At 6:30, my team battled GLO’s squad in the finals of the men’s slow break league. Due to the two postponements, we had not played since October 23rd - in 17 days! By league rules, the ball can only be passed over half court and defenses can only utilize a full court press in the last minute of the first half and the final two minutes of the game. My team entered the final period of “straight basketball” (the terminology never ceases to amuse me) with a 45-41 advantage, having maintained our 30-25 lead at halftime. (Note: MPW won the opening tip over DKN just after this shot was taken.)

As usual, we struggled against the pressure defense in the game’s waning moments. DKN hit an uncontested three-pointer with 1:18 left to cut our lead to 46-45. After we connected on a free throw, out of a timeout, GLO’s team lined up under the basket and lobbed a pass into the 6'8" DKN. He then tipped the ball in with 24 seconds to put his team on top 48-47. That would be the final score. JDM shot a three-pointer at the buzzer and despite being contacted by two defenders no foul was called. (Admittedly, he was attempting to draw the foul.) We lost by a point. It was a feeling we were used as all six of our losses came by six points or less.

JTH, ALK, JDM, MPW and I stayed to watch the championship of the fast break league that followed our own. It pitted a team captained by LS, which does not attend our church against a team captained by KAS. The former team is predominantly African-American while the latter is Caucasian. LS’s team brought a small army of fans and the gym was segregated right down the middle. I realize that no racism was going on, but this situation bothered me. So after KAS gave a great devotional at halftime, I sat with the African-American contingency. I knew many of the players on the team and went to high school with LS’s sister MTP who is also the wife of player GDP. I enjoyed getting to know some them and who they came to support. In fact, two babies were present and one woman instructed one of the children to cheer for her daddy. Without thinking and in my sweetest baby friendly voice, I asked “Who’s your daddy?” Chan Vinson: Master Reconciliator!

Thankfully, no one was offended and I made some new friends. For the record, the children were GDP’s and MTP’s.

The script of the second game was the same as the first. The younger, more athletic team caved into the more basketball savvy team in the final minutes. KAS’s team won the game 47-45. I was very pleased that the slow break game was higher scoring than the fast break game. This did not inspire us to switch leagues next season.

After the game, JTH, ALK, MPW, and I joined GAB, JB, and JBT at Applebees as the group had met to eat and watch Monday Night Football. At some point we decided to wad all paper products up into tiny pieces and throw them across the booth at each other’s glasses. Regarding this image, JB observed (as only he could) “That joint is piled up.”

We did not attempt to conceal this from the waitress. The things a regular can get away with... AFH was our waitress. She noted that it was a slow day as only four people had asked her height. If an amazon serves you at Applebees, I will save you the trouble. She is 6'3".

Finally, we learned that the mystery woman from JBT’s mother’s funeral (seen in this photo) is his second cousin Margie. He did not really know her either. See the November 4th edition of “In Eckleburg’s Eyes” for the story.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bible Trivia - 11/10/2008

Question: What synagogue leader of Corinth was beaten up by Jews when Paul’s case was thrown out of court?

Answer: Sosthenes. (Acts 18:17)

Comments: Sosthenes was the leader of the synagogue at Corinth. He was seized by a Jewish mob when he refused to begin proceedings against Paul (Acts 18:12-17). His name means "safe in strength."

And they all took hold of Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began beating him in front of the judgment seat. But Gallio was not concerned about any of these things. (Acts 18:17, NASB)

The only other place the name "Sosthenes" appears in the New Testament is in I Corinthians 1:1 and scholars debate whether or not this is the same figure. Others also identify Sosthenes with Crispus who is referenced in Acts 18:8 and I Corinthians 1:14.

Word of the Day - 11/10/2008

Cerement

A cerement is a cloth used for wrapping the dead.

When the Beloved Disciple and Peter got to the tomb of Jesus they did not find a corpse, only his cerement.

And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/10/2008, Part 2

My relaxing weekend continued on Sunday though I did go on an intense mission.

I spent the day with JTH and ALK. We did little productive unless you consider working puzzles and watching football productive. When ALK left to attend one of her handbell practices, JTH and I went on noble quest.

As I have mentioned before, I wished to sample Mallowmars cookies. They were often featured on Gilmore Girls and I have wanted to try one for some time. After all, that show has been off the air for two seasons. JTH and I used a list provided by the product’s web site of suppliers in my zip code and set off in search of Mallomars. We frequented the following three stores:


Despite our efforts, none of the stores carried Mallomars! (If any of you can blow up the above picture of the Wal-Mart aisle and prove me wrong, feel free.) This bag of Fudge Marshmallow Cookies found at Wal-Mart was the closest we could find. Does anyone know if they are a generic brand?

Most importantly, it would seem that one cannot trust everything she reads on the internet. Who knew?

The mission had to end for this night as we picked up food from McAlister’s Deli and met ALK back at my house. There JTH and ALK began wrapping my Christmas gifts. This is JTH’s present to me each year. We always watch movies while he wraps. (I stink at wrapping.) We introduced ALK to one of our guiltiest pleasures, 2000's Whatever It Takes.

We got most of the Walker family gifts wrapped on this night. (I have a tendency to go overboard on Christmas.) ALK is a great wrapper. The only problem is that the gifts will be challenging to open. This is critical when one of the recipients is a two-year old. This should make gift giving all the more fun.

I know what you are thinking. Who wraps JTH’s gifts? KLTW wraps them. Prior to meeting her, he did wrap his own presents.

I must also note that ALK brought cake from her church. I like Bart more every time I see her.

Finally, Sunday was SDSH’s birthday. Happy birthday, Steph!

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 11/10/2008, Part 1

This past weekend was my most relaxing weekend in recent memory. My mother was in Abingdon, Virginia, with some (platonic) girlfriends from Newport over the weekend, so I spent Friday and Saturday with my father.

On Friday night, Dad, MPW, and I braved the rain and headed to Thompson-Boling Arena where we watched the Tennessee basketball team manhandle Tusculum, 82-52. We received a poster commemorating the 100th year of Tennessee basketball for our troubles.

We also sat through the perhaps the worst halftime “entertainment” in the university’s history. Alton Reese presented the five finalists for homecoming queen (reduced from the original 26 candidates). You could cut the tension with a knife as the crowd awaited the announcement of the winner. (Read: sarcasm.) For the record, Emily Edwards, a senior accounting major from Clarksville sponsored by Kappa Delta, was crowned by last year’s winner Mary Kathryn Rogers.

Also at halftime, ALK made the trek from her seat in the third row of the student section to the upper realms of the stadium where we sit. She was clearly winded when she arrived as well she should have been after hiking that far. It was very sweet of her. We also got to see JCT (who was sitting lower in our section, 317) and JTL and his wife Jill at the game.

My thoughts on the actual game are posted under “View from 315A”.



On Saturday, Dad and I watched two football games before eating at the Red Lobster. First we saw, the Vols’ football team lose their homecoming game, to Wyoming, 13-7. Then, we watched #1 Alabama hold off LSU 27-21 in overtime. The fact that Tennessee lost to Wyoming has yet to fully set in.

The Cowboys entered the game as the lowest scoring team in major college football (averaging 11.7 points per game). They were considered so bad that in spite of Tennessee’s woeful season, the Vols were 25-point favorites. Wyoming need not have an offense in this game, as Tennessee turnovers handed them the 13 points they needed to win. Has Tennessee ever lost when favored by more points?

The Cowboys (4-6) had lost their two previous tries against UT by a combined 89-24.

The loss officially eliminated the Vols from bowl contention and matched the 1997 sqaud for most losses in school history.

The worst thing about the game was that it was not a fluke. Wyoming deserved to win. They even outgained the Vols 266 yards to 219.

I personally blame Eric Berry. He wore #29 in honor of former player Inky Johnson and for the first time did not make a highlight reel play. He alone is usually worth seven points, which would have won the game. I blame the new jersey. (Note: For the record, that was a joke.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Prayer Blog - 11/9/2008

My "aunt" PRL's father Charles, who introduced me when I preached at English Mountain Christian Church on August 17th, has developed a serious medical condition. Presently it is believed that he has either a tumor on his spine or prostate cancer. A biospy has been scheduled to determine the nature and severity of his illness. Please keep the Lewis family in your prayers during this time.

Church Sign - 11/9/2008

Church: Rocky Hill Baptist Church (7409 S Northshore Dr; Knoxville, TN 37919)

Sign: “The Key to Heaven Is Hung on a Nail!”

Commentary: This sign reminds its readers of the cost paid for the believers' admittance into heaven: namely Jesus being nailed to the cross. The nails used to embed Jesus to the cross are not specifically mentioned in the accounts of his crucifixion, but they are referenced when Thomas vows not to believe until he has seen the damage they caused.

So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John 20:25, NASB)