Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prayer Blog - 1/31/2009

I ran into my old friend CDL tonight at the Tennessee basketball game. He recently retired and is looking to return to high school coaching, which he sees as his calling. Please pray for God to open a door for CDL, preferably soon.

Bible Trivia - 1/31/2009

Question: What did "mammon" mean?

Answer: Riches (or money) (Matthew 6:24)

Comments: Jesus advised his followers that one cannot serve both God and mammon. The Greek word for "Mammon", mamonas, occurs only in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:24) and in the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:9, 11, 13).

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24, NASB)

Many translations render the word either "money" (CEV, ESV, The Message, NIV, NLT) or "wealth" (NASB, NRSV). The AMP, ASV, KJV, NKJV, and RSV all leave the word untranslated, accounting for the term's familiarity.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/30/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 30, 2009 · (09-13)

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

In this issue
Obama picks religious adviser DuBois for faith-based post; questions remain (801 words)
Recession forces cutbacks at Southern Baptist agencies (584 words)
Opinion: God as athletic director (582 words)

Obama picks religious adviser DuBois for faith-based post; questions remain
By Robert Marus (801 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- President Obama has selected a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister who served as his top religion adviser during the presidential campaign to head a revamped White House office on faith-based social services.

Critics of President Bush's attempt to expand the government's ability to fund the charitable work of churches expressed guarded optimism at the pick of Joshua DuBois to head the renamed White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The New York Times first reported Jan. 29 that DuBois, who joined the Obama campaign last year and served as its chief liaison with the evangelical Christian community, would head the new council. Other news outlets confirmed the news.

Burns Strider, who served as a religious strategist with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said Obama's choice of DuBois "is no surprise, but even more it's an indicator of the importance placed on the goals and work of the faith office." Strider, a Mississippi native who was raised Southern Baptist, now does consulting with the Eleison Group, which focuses on faith and politics.

Advocates of strict church-state separation who have criticized direct government funding for explicitly religious charities and the way Bush used the faith-based issue were largely supportive of the expected appointment. But they said thorny questions remain for how Obama will handle the faith-based effort.

Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, described DuBois as "an impressive, compassionate advocate with whom I have had several opportunities to meet throughout the electoral campaign and the work of President Obama's transition team."

Gaddy said he would have preferred Obama close the office altogether, but since the president has chosen simply to re-tool it, "the question remains whether or not a change in the name of the office as organized by the Bush administration will reflect substantive change in the policies of the Obama administration that advocates for religious liberty find acceptable."

Gaddy, who also serves as pastor for preaching and worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, La., said he was "cautiously optimistic" that Obama's faith-based office would avoid the mistakes he thought Bush's made.

"In recent conversations, senior transition officials assured me of President Obama's interest in establishing a council that protects religious freedom and assures constitutional separation between the institutions of religion and government," he added.

Gaddy and other church-state separationists opposed many aspects of the initiative, which Bush used to expand the numbers of government social-service programs that provided grants directly to churches and other overtly religious charities. While Bush and his supporters contended that churches were unnecessarily being left out of the programs, opponents said religious charities were already eligible for such grants as long as they clearly separated their clearly religious work from their other charitable work.

Bush officials argued that religious organizations should be eligible for funds on the same basis as secular providers, while retaining their special rights to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.

That aspect of the program proved the most contentious in Congress, and Gaddy and others have expressed hope that Obama would reverse Bush actions allowing religious organizations receiving federal funds to take religion into account when hiring for jobs wholly or partially subsidized with government dollars.
Obama promised not to allow discrimination under the program in a July campaign speech, but he and his surrogates have said little about the issue since.

Given the new president's background in constitutional law and assurances they have received from DuBois and other Obama officials, opponents of Bush's faith-based efforts expressed hope that the new administration in general -- and DuBois in particular -- would handle the initiative in ways more sensitive to their concerns.

"Josh clearly has the background and interest in bringing diverse groups together for a common purpose," Holly Hollman, general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee, said Jan. 30. "He recognized the need to carefully consider various approaches to the more difficult aspects of the policy. We were pleased that he listened to our suggestions for correcting some of the problems in the Bush administration's approach and that he expressed a real desire to get things right."

Another criticism of the faith-based push under Bush was that his White House politicized the effort. That included accusations of grants to conservative religious groups as payoffs for their support of Bush in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Strider said efforts to increase funding for faith-based groups under President Clinton's administration did not prove the political football they did under Bush, and that he expected DuBois and Obama to handle the effort in a similar fashion to Clinton.

"Politics doesn't belong in the faith-based office, and we are fortunate President Obama chose a trusted adviser in Rev. DuBois who is committed to dialogue with the whole faith community and will focus on programs and services that work for all," he said.

Robert Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.

Recession forces cutbacks at Southern Baptist agencies
By Bob Allen (584 words)

DALLAS (ABP) -- Several Southern Baptist Convention entities are tightening the belt in response to budget shortfalls in a flagging economy.

GuideStone Financial Resources said Jan. 27 it just implemented a hiring freeze and is giving no raises to employees, with a goal of reducing its workforce by about 10 percent through attrition.

"The downturn in the global economy and the subsequent reduced value of securities in our investment funds has impacted the fee revenue that funds our budget," GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in an internal memo to employees.

On Jan. 28 the SBC International Mission Board drew $7 million from reserve funds to account for a declining dollar and higher costs overseas. Board treasurer David Steverson called it a "larger-than-usual" amount.

Those cutbacks come on the heels of similar actions by other SBC entities.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., took steps to deal with a $3 million budget shortfall, reducing its administrative staff by 35 workers effective Jan. 30.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, announced plans to cut its budget by up to $4 million to avert a "financial crisis." Cuts included closing a childcare center and isolated layoffs.

Facing a $1 million revenue shortfall, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary announced an "austerity budget" Jan. 19 including temporary salary reductions but avoiding employee layoffs.

In December Woman's Missionary Union, an auxiliary to the SBC, announced cutbacks including unpaid furloughs for all workers in budget cuts totaling $1.4 million.

On Jan. 8, the SBC's North American Mission Board asked team leaders to operate at 90 percent of their approved budgets in 2009.

As of Dec. 31, year-to-date giving to the Cooperative Program, the SBC's unified budget, was about 5 percent behind the previous year's pace.

But SBC entities also rely on investments for income, and those funds have been hit hard by the recession. That particularly affects GuideStone, the convention's provider of retirement and health-care programs for church and denominational employees.

The agency also provides financial assistance for ministers in need -- a program that relies on investments for most of its operating income.

As of Dec. 31, GuideStone managed assets totaling $9.9 billion with an annual operating budget of $63 million, according to the SBC annual.

Hawkins said further cuts may be necessary if the market continues to decline.

"While we are hopeful about the future, further deterioration in the financial markets or a significantly prolonged recovery from the current recession may require other measures to further reduce future costs," he said. "Continued monitoring of the budget and additional strategic planning is a priority as we move through 2009 and into 2010 with all of its financial uncertainties."

In November the IMB cut back on administrative costs, such as limiting travel and not adjusting salaries. But the agency so far has avoided reducing its 5,300-member missionary force, which includes several thousand career missionaries.

"I believe we need to buckle our seatbelts and get ready for another challenging year in 2009," board treasurer Steverson said in a news release from the most recent trustee meeting. "While I believe the worst of the stock market decline is behind us, we now have to deal with all the fallout of that decline."

The total IMB budget before the cuts was $315 million, to be funded by $102 million through the Cooperative Program, $170 million from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, $24 million in investment income, $8 million designated for hunger and relief and $10 million in field-generated and other income.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: God as athletic director
By Jim Evans (582 words)

(ABP) -- We have all seen it. A football player makes a big play, scores the winning touchdown, drops to one knee and points a finger towards the heavens.

What does it mean when, in a moment of success, a player acknowledges God in some way? Does the gesture mean that the player is giving God credit for the touchdown? Did God help the player or make the play happen?

I have always wanted to see the other side of this sort of athletic piety. Say for example, what would happen if a kicker, after missing a field goal, raises his arms palms up and stares into the sky as if to say, "Where were you when I needed you?" Or after a brutal tackle with a resulting fumble, the running back shakes his fist towards heaven as if to say, "Can't you hold onto the ball?"

I guess, since that kind of piety does not happen, the theology at work here goes something like this. When you win, God is with you -- but when you lose, you are on your own.

Of course, it doesn't always work out so well for winners.
Recently the Covenant School, a Christian school in Dallas, sent their girls' basketball team to play the girls' team at Dallas Academy, also a Christian school. At the end of the game the scoreboard read Covenant 100, Dallas Academy 0. You are reading that correctly; it is not a typo. The Dallas Academy girls were held scoreless for the entire game while the Covenant girls scored 100 points.

As the results of the game were made public, criticism began pouring in to administrators at Covenant. The Covenant team's deliberate effort to score 100 points while the Dallas girls did not score at all was dubbed un-Christian behavior. Apparently Jesus does not trounce his opponents, except maybe that pesky Antichrist.

Anyway, in the face of mounting criticism, the Covenant School is offering to forfeit its win. They are seeking forgiveness for running up the score and not allowing their opponent to score any points -- behavior they now admit was less than Christ-like.

So the theology at work here seems to be this: If you have success in appropriate portions, God is with you. But if you flaunt your abilities and run up the score, God is not with you. Or: If you lose, you are on your own -- unless you lose in such an egregious fashion as to invoke the oppressed-people syndrome in which case God is with you.

I remember an English professor in college who, after listening to two students argue over which team God loves better -- Alabama or Notre Dame -- finally said in exasperation, "God does not watch football games."

I am not sure he is right about that. The New Testament says that God watches the birds, takes note when a sparrow falls, numbers the hairs on our head, pays attention when little ones are at risk, seeks to protect rebellious children like a hen gathering her chicks, waits patiently for prodigal children, searches for us like a poor woman who cannot afford to lose a single coin, travels difficult paths to pull us out of the ditch.

So why wouldn't God watch football? The sticking point is that God may watch, but God does not take sides. God doesn't care who wins or loses. Like all things in life, God is mostly concerned about the way we play the game.

-- James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala. He can be reached at

Prayer Blog - 1/30/2009

After having my Adult Learning class at UT from 5:30 to 9 tonight, I am slated for a session from 8:30 am to 5 pm tomorrow. Pray for stamina throughout the day. (Note: It is not that I do not enjoy the class. I do. That is just a long time for anything.)

Word of the Day - 1/30/2009


Apostasy is a total desertion of or departure from one's religion, principles, party, cause, etc.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul laments that his friends Alexander and Hymenaeus have succumbed to apostasy.

Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. (I Timothy 1:20, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/30/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Thursday, January 29th, 2009

-I spent Thursday night with KLTW and RAW. As has become her custom, KJW spent the night with her aunt PWC. (This means that unfortunately there will be no KJW photos in this post.)

-KLTW, RAW and I used the time to commiserate. They did not get the car loan that they had so hoped for earlier in the day. (See the January 28th Prayer Blog. KLTW is being treated horribly at the hospital she now works at. My church has shown great interest in my ideas but has none whatsoever in hiring me under the “new” regime. (A Prayer Blog will be forthcoming over the weekend.) We decided to order pizza, watch a movie, and engage in some well needed escapism.

-We ordered pizza from Pizza Hut. I am fairly certain that the list of items Pizza Hut was out of on this night exceeded what they had. They were not offering any pan pizzas or any type of food item that could be contorted into a stick. There were a lot of unhappy customers when I picked up the food.

-They were even low on their 25¢ toys from dispensers near the counter. (I always get KJW one.) She will have to settle for a pink die.

-On the plus side, Pizza Hut does have new red boxes that simply say “The Hut” on them.

-While eating we watched 3:10 to Yuma. RAW had long wished to see the movie and KLTW and I agreed as we both like Christian Bale (for very different reasons). It was not exactly the uplifting film we all needed on this night. The characters continually made choices that seemed illogical to us and in our minds the ending was far from happy.

-In spite of the limited food choices and the less than uplifting film, it was still a great night with friends.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/30/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

-On Wednesday night, MPW, RAW, and I attended the Tennessee basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena. We were running late as usual, this time because RAW forgot both that there was a game and that he had been invited. In an effort to save time, I met the brothers at MoFoS and we headed to the arena from there. We arrived just in time for the 8 pm tip off. (Note: For the first time all season, our tickets were ripped instead of scanned as proof of attendance.)

-Our opponent was LSU, who entered the game with a 15-4 record. They were an experienced squad with all five starters having started all nineteen games. Their leading scorer played the 2 position. This combination has been a recipe for disaster all season. It would prove to be so again on this night.

-The UT students must have also forgotten about the game as the student section was half empty. Yes, half empty (as opposed to half full). When the students have been overflowing for four seasons, a depleted crowd is certainly considered half empty.

-The students lack of enthusiasm did not translate to Section 317, or at least the two fans stationed in front of us. They stood throughout the game, impeding our view. While we agree that there are appropriate times to stand at sporting events, there are also times when it is fitting to be seated, such as when every other person in the rafters is.

-As noted, the Vols lost again, 79-73. Marcus Thornton, another shooting guard, just missed scoring 30 points for the third consecutive game. His 29 points were enough to defeat the Vols. Tennessee erased a 14-point second half deficit to take its only lead of the game, 69-67, with 4:45 left. As has often been the case this season, the Vols collapsed as the game ended.

-Tennessee has now lost twice as many games at home this season as in Bruce Pearl’s previous three seasons combined! Perhaps more importantly, Tennessee fans may never again eat free chicken.

-The Vols also reached a new low in regards to the halftime “entertainment”. They brought out
Simon Sez with Steve Max. Max is a professional Simon Sez caller. Yes, the children’s game. What’s more ridiculous than that? UT flew him in from New York to do this gig! Max carted out a bunch of students divided by gender and eventually the two winners faced each other. For the record, Wayne and Allison tied in the finals. Throughout this debacle, I could not decide whether to be angry or pity this guy. On the one hand, UT paid him for two nights work (including the Lady Vols’ basketball game the following night). On the other, the guy is a professional Simon Sez caller.

-If you were the Simon Sez guy, why would you admit it?

-The night’s one bright sport was the play of freshman Emmanuel Negedu, who for the first time was selected by the radio broadcast team as the player of the game. Negedu scored a career-high eleven points, made all six of his free-throw attempts, and nailed a 3-pointer in only fifteen minutes of playing time.

-Negedu also brought his celebrity friends, supermodel Marisa Miller and her Hollywood producer husband Griffin Guess, to the game. Miller was the cover model of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue in 2008 as well as a Victoria's Secret Angel. She appeared on the big screen several times throughout the game. Negedu attended the same high school (Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, new Hampshire) as her husband and befriended him when Guess spoke there. To be honest, I had never heard of them prior to the game. I do not know whether that is good or bad.

-After the game we talked to my good friend CDL and his daughter CML, whose season tickets are five rows in front of ours. CDL hoped the loss meant that we would take it out on Florida on Saturday. We are both hoping he is correct.

-Finally, Wednesday marked JTH and ALK’s four month anniversary. Congratulations! How long is that in JTH years?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Church Sign - 1/29/2009

Church: Zion United Methodist Church (1807 Duncan Road; Knoxville, TN 37919)

Sign: “A Person of Words
And Not of Deeds
I Like a Garden
Full Of Weeds”

Commentary: This poem reminds its reader of the necessary correlation between one’s faith and one’s actions.

“Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17, NASB)

Word of the Day - 1/29/2009


An appetence is an intense desire; strong natural craving; appetite.

At a time when enemy Philistines siezed his hometown of Bethlehem, David developed an appetence for water from his hometown well. Three of his mighty men procured the desired water for him, but he would not drink it and offered it as a sacrifice to the Lord. (II Samuel 23:14-17)

David had a craving and said, "Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!" (II Samuel 23:15, NASB)

Note: This image of David pouring out the water from the well at Bethlehem was created by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/28/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 28, 2009 · (09-12)

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

In this issue
Church with woman pastor expects further rebuke from Georgia Baptists (636 words)
Childs makes 'tiny stitches' in lives of children, youth in Croatia (525 words)
Former youth minister pleads guilty to sending explicit e-mails to teen (179 words)
Opinion: Torture: Reflecting on a long, illuminating battle (762 words)

Church with woman pastor expects further rebuke from Georgia Baptists
By Bob Allen (636 words)

DECATUR, Ga. (ABP) -- A church denied voting rights in the Georgia Baptist Convention because it is led by a woman pastor could face further sanctions, Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell reports in the church newsletter.

In a recent meeting with representatives of the state convention, Pennington-Russell said she and other leaders of First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., were told that some individuals were not satisfied with a vote last November to refuse to receive money from the historic church -- thereby making it impossible for FBC Decatur to qualify to send messengers to the annual meeting -- and would likely move for full ouster this fall.

Pennington-Russell said for the first time she asked convention leaders the difference between refusing funds and withdrawing fellowship, and they said while the church could not contribute to the convention, it could still receive materials and services like training of Sunday school teachers.

Asking if that meant the state convention staff would meet with the church to help with an influx of new members needing a good foundation in the faith, Pennington-Russell said GBC Executive Director Robert White responded that he would be willing to come over a help "personally," but not as representative of the state convention.

"In that hour-long conversation it became crystal-clear to me why people are abandoning denominational structures in droves and why denominationalism as it exists today is doomed," she reported.

Pennington-Russell said she is convinced the officials in the meeting care deeply about the gospel but are "missing the point."

"The sad reality is most denominational organizations are stuck in bureaucratic systems that have forgotten why they exist in the first place," she said. She said denominations -- like churches -- exist not to provide goods and services to eligible "members" but to worship and serve.

Messengers at the Georgia Baptist Convention annual meeting last fall changed financial policies to for the first time permit leaders to decline gifts from churches "not in cooperation and harmony with the approved work and purpose" of the convention." A report of the committee recommending the change said it was in response to "questions raised regarding First Baptist Church of Decatur, who has a woman as senior pastor."

While few Southern Baptist churches have called a woman as senior pastor, the denomination did not officially discourage the practice until 2000, when it amended its faith statement to specify, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

A motion at last year's SBC annual meeting called on the national body to withdraw fellowship from churches with female pastors, but the SBC Executive Committee is recommending against the change, saying there is already a mechanism for excluding a church for any reason by making a motion at the annual meeting.

While the SBC changed its constitution to disallow churches that affirm homosexuality in 1993, denominational leaders said in a meeting last September it would be unwise to expand that prohibition into a laundry list of moral principles addressed elsewhere, such as in the Baptist Faith & Message.

First Baptist Church of Decatur called Pennington-Russell as pastor in 2007. While still technically part of the Southern Baptist Convention, the last two decades the 146-year-old church has identified primarily with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate breakaway group.

Before coming to Georgia, Pennington-Russell was pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, and Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, Calif. She is a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a doctor of ministry degree at Baylor University's George W. Truett Baptist Theological Seminary.

She was a featured preacher at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration last January, a gathering of more than 30 racially, geographically and theologically diverse Baptist groups in North America.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Childs makes 'tiny stitches' in lives of children, youth in Croatia
By Laurie Entrekin (525 words)

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Elaine Childs, one of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's field personnel in Cakovec, Croatia, likes to think of her work in Roma villages as analogous to lace making, a well-known Croatian trade since the 15th century.

"Most of life's achievements come about because we make one tiny stitch at a time, and eventually something complete comes out of it," Childs said.

Childs is in Croatia representing her home church, First Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tenn., which has a strategic partnership with the Croatian Baptist Union to support the work of the pastoral center in Cakovec. The center provides seminary extension textbooks and classes for Baptist pastors and church members enrolled at the Baptist Institute of Croatia.

While Childs helps out at the center, most of her "tiny stitches" are made during Good News Bible clubs in various Roma villages, which she helps plan and lead alongside Karmen Horvat, a missionary with the Child Evangelism Fellowship. Horvat has been organizing the clubs for the past six years.

During the two-hour clubs, children sing songs, hear a Bible story, play a quiz or game, watch a puppet show and learn a scripture verse.

Sometimes, adults attend the clubs and stand in the back of the host home, listening to the Bible stories. At one of the sessions just prior to Christmas, an uncle of one of the children stayed around to hear Childs tell of the journey of the wise men to see Jesus.

"[After I told] the story, he [said] that he used to be afraid to go out alone at night, but isn't anymore," Childs said. "He said, 'Now I just remember that God is with me.' I think he's wonderful evidence of how God works miracles in peoples' lives one step at a time."

When Childs first arrived in Croatia last July, the children's clubs were held twice a day for five days in seven different locations. In the fall, Childs and Horvat resumed clubs in four villages -- Kursanec, Pribislavec, Sitnice and Orehovica -- and are currently holding sessions about once weekly in each location. Continuing the clubs is important, Childs said, especially for the 27 children who made a profession of faith during the summer.

"These kids choose to use their free time on the weekends to listen to Bible stories. They have such a desire for the word of God," said Childs. "Looking into their faces, I [am] amazed by how much they want to know."

According to Childs, there is a real need for continued Christian education and discipleship for young people once they are too old to attend the children's clubs.

"The church teenagers don't have what we would think of as a youth group where they can discuss issues with each other," she said.

In November, Childs began hosting a Bible study for young people in her flat. She is leading a small group of girls through Old Testament wisdom literature, beginning with the book of Job. She hopes that out of this small group study, she will be able to identify a core group of youth who would be interested in regular Sunday worship services.

Laurie Entrekin writes for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship communications.

Former youth minister pleads guilty to sending explicit emails to teen
By Bob Allen (179 words)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (ABP) -- A former American Baptist youth minister has pleaded guilty to sending sexually explicit emails and photos to a 15-year-old girl he was counseling.

At his arraignment Nov. 5, David Esarey, 30, denied sending photos to the girl and claimed teenagers must have used his computer at Stepney Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Conn., without his knowledge.

Pleading guilty to reduced charges Jan. 22, however, Esarey admitted sending the emails to a child he knew was younger than 16, according to the Connecticut Post.

Originally charged with employing a minor in an obscene performance, third-degree child pornography and risk of injury to a minor, Esarey pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a child. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 13. An assistant prosecutor said he will recommend that Esarey receive probation and be required to register as a sex offender.

Kevin Merritt, pastor of Stepney Baptist Church, said Esarey has not worked at the church in any capacity since his arrest. "I am glad he is accepting responsibility for his actions," Merritt told the newspaper.

Opinion: Torture: Reflecting on a long, illuminating battle
By David Gushee (762 words)

(ABP) -- It is still hard to believe that the hopes we have nurtured in the Christian anti-torture movement would come to fruition -- and so early, and so comprehensively, as they did with President Obama's executive orders on Guantanamo, detention policy, and interrogation his first week in office. Those orders fulfilled, to a very large extent, the agenda that Evangelicals for Human Rights has been promoting since our founding. And in nearly every detail the president's orders tracked with our declaration of principles for a presidential executive order, released last spring. We applaud the president for these decisions.

My first article on the issue of torture was just about exactly three years ago, in the pages of Christianity Today. The Bush detainee policies had thrown off the moral gyroscopes of many people -- perhaps especially evangelicals and Southern Baptists, with their so-often-reflexive Republican and Bush loyalties. If President Bush had ordered or permitted something, it must be right, they reasoned -- and if anyone was opposed to it, they must be partisans, liberals, irrationalists, pacifists, or heretics. CT wanted me to try to think through the issue biblically and theologically, and I did my best to do so. I argued that Christians could never support torture or cruelty in the name of national security. A few months later, Evangelicals for Human Rights was born as an organization, and later we produced "An Evangelical Declaration against Torture," which helped change the terms of the debate and gained considerable mainstream evangelical support.

You would have thought we had argued that Jesus was not the Second Person of the Trinity from some of the criticism our work received. A large number of evangelicals simply were unable to reflect on these issues in any coherently Christian way, so they just engaged in ad hominem attacks. (I have a nice collection of these in my "save for a sunny day" file.) Others offered a defense or quasi-defense of abuse, cruelty, or torture in the name of Romans 13 and just-war theory. Some are still at it. A review of the articles and news stories on these issues available in the conservative Christian media since early 2006 would be an interesting, though depressing, project for some enterprising researcher.

History will record how woefully un-Christian -- how out of touch with anything approaching Gospel values -- that these arguments were. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I believe that some who carry the name of Christian teacher/minister/leader will face serious accounting before God for defending or euphemizing the cruel abuse of human beings made in God's image.

And I think that is the next stage of the torture fight: coming to grips, settling accounts, evaluating the religious, moral, and cultural meaning of the fact that not only did our government torture people, but that many Christians fully supported it. EHR and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture will continue to press for legislation codifying many of the principles and policies articulated by President Obama. We also support some kind of national inquiry tasked with uncovering everything that happened and hearing the voices of those who wrote the policies, those who implemented the policies, and those who suffered from the policies. We need a total national repudiation of what occurred, and the development of a moral consensus in which we agree that national security will never again be (purportedly) purchased in this country at the cost of our 240-year-long rejection of torture and cruelty during wartime. There is no such consensus now.

Much needs to happen -- not just in Washington, but in the churches, parachurch organizations, denominations, and educational institutions bearing the name of Jesus Christ. We need ministers, professors, and organization heads to reflect on what it means that over half of evangelical Christians supported the use of torture even as late as summer 2008. We need these leaders to think about their silence amidst this long-running national debate, and even in some cases their active, public support for extremes of mental and physical cruelty toward those in our custody.

Yes, as critics never tired of saying, there is plenty of torture in other parts of the world. Yes, much of it is worse than what our nation did. Yes, there is plenty of need to protest the torture that goes on elsewhere. But we live here. This is our country. This was done in our name. This was authorized by our leaders at the highest level. And most Christians were fine with it. That is our problem, and it's a big one.

-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Prayer Blog - 1/28/2009

RAW requested prayer as tomorrow he seeks a loan to purchase a Jeep. The Jeep was already purchased at an auction by his friend DKN and he worries that the investment will hurt his friend. He has already been turned down for one loan and is not optimistic about his chances. Please pray for RAW during this time and as always for our economy. I know of few have been unaffected by the current crisis.

Word of the Day - 1/28/2009


A nabob is any very wealthy, influential, or powerful person.

Jesus warned his followers that they would eventually be forced to face various nabobs for His sake. (Matthew 10:17-18)

"But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. (Matthew 10:17-18, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/28/2009

News & Notes from Monday-Tuesday, January 26-27th, 2009

-On Monday, I ate lunch with JTH at Wishbone’s Famous Fingers & Wings. Wishbone’s is one of JTH’s favorite restaurants and I do not mind going. The food is fine but I do, however, get frustrated at their penny pinching. I realize that they are a locally run business in the midst of an economic crisis and all but charging for an extra honey mustard is a little ridiculous. On this day, they charged me $1.89 (plus tax mind you) for tap water! As often as JTH suggests we eat there, I have developed a plan to recoup some of this loss. The next time I need paper towels I am not buying any. I am going to walk into the restaurant and just take rolls off of the table. Not one or two, but all the tables. I may not even dine there the day I do this. What do you think?

-On Monday night, I briefly visited JTH at MoFoS. He was flying solo and attempting to organize the store’s new layout. In the midst of all of the new, he did bring out one old item- the clearance sign made by BC years ago. We discussed needing a reminder of JDM’s stint at the store as well. We then remembered that tire marks are still on the carpet from when he road his motorcycle into the business...

-While leaving the store I also talked to JBT. He asked me for help identifying his birth India. Any suggestions on where to begin the process?

-My Tuesday session at Hope Resource Center consisted of only one appointment, at 2 pm. The client did show up and I enjoyed chatting with him. After a poor start, that makes six kept appointments in a row!

-On Tuesday night, I attended my Ethical Issues in Adult Education course at UT. (Pictured is my beloved professor, RGB). We discussed ways to respond to ethical dilemmas and whistleblowing. The latter refers to speaking out to the media or the public on malpractice, misconduct, corruption, or mismanagement witnessed in an organization and not the literal blowing of whistles (which also would have been educational).

-We did not complete the portion on whistleblowing. This means I now have something to look forward to for our next class.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Word of the Day - 1/27/2009


Provender is dry food, as hay or oats, for livestock or other domestic animals; fodder.

In Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the prodigal becomes so desperate for sustenance that he longed for even provender.

"And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him." (Luke 15:16, NASB)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/26/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 26, 2009 · (09-11)

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

In this issue
Website seeks to rally support for women's ordination (938 words)
Baptist foundation loses money in Madoff scandal (567 words)
Prominent Dallas pastor accepts BGCT post (288 words)
Birmingham site of first of four regional new Baptist Covenant meetings (951 words)
Opinion: Wrestling with God's word (1,063 words)

Website seeks to rally support for women's ordination
By Bob Allen

CONROE, Texas (ABP) -- A former Baptist General Convention of Texas employee and her husband of 47 years have started a website urging Baptist women to speak up for their rights to be ordained as deacons and senior pastors.

Shirley and Don Taylor launched a Baptist Women for Equality (bWe) website and open letter calling on Baptist women to question church bylaws that limit certain leadership roles to men.

"The action must come from women themselves," Shirley Taylor said in an email interview. "The men have been supportive, but women have not stepped up and claimed their equality."

Taylor said men she worked for at the BGCT were very supportive of women -- though her website is not associated with the state convention -- but there is no church in her association that has a woman deacon.

She said that is partly due to what she believes is faulty teaching about submission, but more so because no one challenges church bylaws that limit the offices of pastor and deacon to men.

Taylor, a grandmother of three, said she attended Baptist churches for many years without worrying about women's equality, until the Southern Baptist Convention changed the Baptist Faith & Message in 1998 and again in 2000 with views she found demeaning to women. Taylor said the SBC, America's second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics, has "consistently shown a mean spirit toward women."

Taylor started talking to Baptist men and women and found that many -- including pastors -- are ready for women deacons. They know church bylaws excluding women deacons can be changed, but often treat them as if they are sacred documents and would never think of challenging them.

While visiting a large Texas church in October, Taylor coined a phrase describing such bylaws as "the cold heart of the church." It came to her as she sang along with a choir of 35 women and 15 men singing praises to God, and it dawned on her that no matter how much those women loved God, the church they served had bylaws that prevented them from serving as deacons.

She said parents who take their daughters to a church that does not recognize women deacons and pastors tell them they are scripturally inferior to boys every time they attend.

"Every time my church observes the Lord's Supper, and I see only men going forward to serve the bread and juice, I would look at the young girls and wonder how long it would be before they realized that their church was willing to send them off to a foreign land to serve as a missionary but would not allow them to serve the congregation at home," she said.

"We expect that these girls will become Sunday school teachers and Bible school teachers someday and will lead children to Christ. But we will not allow them to serve that child they lead to the Lord a piece of bread or cup of juice."

Taylor said churches have too long "bullied" women with selected Bible verses written by the Apostle Paul. First Timothy 3, for example, often quoted as limiting pastoral roles to men, she says was written in a time where women were considered the property of men, had little education and could not publicly speak to men who were not part of their family.

Women today take their equal rights for granted in everyday life, she said, but "foolishly" give them up in church because of a misinterpretation of Paul's words.

Taylor said for a long time she sympathized with people who said it was one thing for a church to have women deacons, but they were unsure about having a female as pastor, because it wasn't something they were used to.

That changed for her when she studied Acts 10:14-15, where Peter protests he would never eat "impure" non-kosher food and a voice replies, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." If the blood of Jesus could make a pig clean, she reasoned, surely it could reverse the curse of Eve on women.

Taylor calls on women to be proactive by talking to other women and their families, friends, fellow church members and pastors. She encourages women to forward her open letter to others, and email her to join the cause.

Taylor acknowledged she has met resistance -- from some people who fear men will stop coming to a church if women are in charge and and others who spout Bible verses demanding the subordination of women -- but she is undeterred.

"I believe that when people start talking that attitudes will change," Taylor said. "If I have changed my attitude (and I have), then what is keeping the other women sitting in their pews from coming to the same conclusion?"

Taylor said women in Baptist churches are already doing many things that a deacon does, but without the title. She said churches pick what they want to believe, allowing women equal voice in church business matters, sending them to preach as missionaries and granting them any role in church leadership except one or two.

Taylor said her husband is very supportive of the effort, spending hours faxing an abbreviated version of the open letter to churches and LifeWay Christian Stores. Together they have contacted more than 1,000 churches with their message.

"Women are tired of being bullied by men in Baptist churches with selected quotes from Apostle Paul," she wrote in the open letter. "Since we allow women to be the voice to our children to bring them to salvation, how can we deny them any position God calls them to fill?"

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Baptist foundation loses money in Madoff scandal

OKLAHOMA CITY (ABP) -- At least one Baptist group lost money as part of Bernard Madoff's alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme. The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma said it lost $1.4 million, less than 1 percent of its assets, when third-party money managers invested in two of Madoff's allegedly fraudulent hedge funds.

Madoff, former NASDAQ chairman and founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, was arrested in December for allegedly swindling a number of high-profile Jewish charities and celebrities including Kevin Bacon, Larry King and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Robert Kellogg, president and CEF of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, said his organization, which manages investment funds for Southern Baptist ministries, did not make any direct investments with Madoff, but learned in mid-December from its investment consultant that one of its managers gave the foundation "nominal exposure" to allegedly fraudulent management by Madoff.

Kellogg said total losses amounted to about $1.4 million out of a total of $234 million in assents managed by the foundation.

"To become a victim of fraud, despite our best efforts, is frustrating and disappointing," Kellogg said. "While we are thankful the loss represents less than 1 percent of our assets under management, it's still a letdown whether it's $1 or $1 million."

Kellogg said the Foundation remains fiscally strong and at the end of this month will distribute for the second consecutive year $10 million to more than 300 charitable organizations.

Oklahoma Baptist University, the foundation's largest client, lost about $600,000 of its endowment holdings. University officials said the loss would not have a significant impact on the school's operating budget.

"While we certainly were saddened by the scam, it is a very small part of the overall investments of the University," said Randy Smith, OBU senior vice president for business affairs. "The loss does not weaken our overall financial stability."

Madoff is accused of defrauding investors by selling them investments not paid back by legitimate stock gains but with money from new investors. The alleged crime is named after Charles Ponzi, who invented the pyramid scheme in 1920.

Like many Ponzi schemes, Madoff is accused of an affinity fraud, which preys on victims of identifiable groups such as ethnic or religious communities. The Madoff scandal targeted high-profile Jewish charities, including the American Jewish Congress, Elie Weisel's Foundation for Humanity and a charity started by filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

A smaller-but-similar scandal hit Baptists in the 1990s, when 11,000 investors in the Baptist Foundation of Arizona fell victim to a $550 million Ponzi scheme.

The BFA began marketing individual funds, often in churches, telling prospective investors their funds would be safe, yield high returns and help strengthen Southern Baptists in the state. Foundation officials invested aggressively in Arizona's hot real-estate market, which eventually cooled.

Whistle-blowers went to the media, prompting investigation by state officials, who forced the foundation to stop selling securities in 1999. The foundation filed for bankruptcy, listing assets of $220 million and liabilities of $640 million.

Investors eventually recovered a portion of their money through sale of assets and legal settlements, including $217 million from Arthur Andersen, the now-defunct accounting firm later involved in the Enron scandal. Several BFA officials went to prison.

Kellogg said the Oklahoma Baptist foundation would take the occasion to review "due diligence efforts" for investing but lamented that it is difficult and sometimes impossible to "detect and prevent fraud committed by a deliberate and determined mind."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Prominent Dallas pastor accepts BGCT post

DALLAS (ABP) -- Jim Denison has resigned as senior teaching pastor at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas to become founding president of the Center for Informed Faith and theologian-in-residence with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The new Center or Informed Faith is an independently financed ministry -- funded by anonymous donors -- that will have offices at the Baptist Building in Dallas.

As BGCT theologian-in-residence, Denison will provide theological resources for Texas Baptists through church conferences and seminars, Internet resources, BaptistWay Press publications and annual meeting workshops. He also will be available for pulpit supply and interim pastorates.

"This center is an exciting new venture," said BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett. "It reflects an innovative approach to serving the needs of our churches in Texas while also being involved in ministry beyond the state. We pray that this will be a kingdom thing."

Jeff Byrd will be director of the Center for Informed Faith. Byrd has resigned as associate pastor for missions at Park Cities Baptist.

"The mission of the center is to equip the church to reach the world," Denison said. "The center will promote cultural engagement, spiritual renewal and practical discipleship. ... It will speak to current events from a Christian perspective."

The center will work with a number of partners in doing ministry, including the BGCT, Dallas Baptist University, B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, Global Media Outreach, East-West Ministries International, the American Tract Society and others, Denison said.

Denison has been pastor of Park Cities Baptist since June 1998. Park Cities is one of the largest congregations in Dallas and one of the BGCT's strongest supporters. Denison also has a ministry to more than 12,000 people through his daily e-mail called "God Issues Today."

Birmingham site of first of four regional New Baptist Covenant meetings
By Bob Allen

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- Planners of a Jan. 31 gathering of diverse Baptist groups hope a national mood set by the election of America's first African-American president will spill over into renewed relationships between black and white Baptists.

"We are very excited in this time of a new atmosphere in the entire country to do some work to bring together a larger sense of the Baptist family," said Gary Furr, co-chairman of a steering committee planning the first of a series of regional gatherings of an interracial network known as the New Baptist Covenant.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who spearheaded the movement that prompted some 15,000 Baptists from 30 organizations representing 20 million Baptists across North America to attend a national meeting a year ago in Atlanta, is keynote speaker for the first of four regional repeats of the gathering scheduled for 2009.

It will be held in Birmingham, Ala. -- significant for its role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Sessions for the first event are scheduled at four sites: 16th Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and St. Paul's United Methodist Church, all within walking distance of each other in the downtown part of the city.

The historically black 16th Street Church is a particularly symbolic location, because it is where one of the most shocking incidents of the African-American struggle for civil rights took place. On Sept. 15, 1963, at the end of a tumultuous summer of anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, a bomb set by segregationists exploded at the church. It killed four young girls attending Sunday School.

Joining Carter on the program are Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, and Robert Smith, associate professor of divinity at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School.

Small groups will focus on special interests including health care, poverty and race.

"I am proud to be a part of the New Baptist Covenant initiative," said Arthur Price, pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church and the planning team's other co-chair. "If ever there is a time when God's people must come together and be on one accord to make an impact in our churches and the culture around us for Christ, it is now."

Furr -- the white pastor of suburban Vestavia Hills Baptist Church -- said he and Price, who is black, have been developing a friendship for several years and have done a number of things together, so planning the meeting together was a natural thing.

Particularly with regard to the helping the poor, Furr said he hopes the event will drive home the message that "we need one another and we need to help one another."

"Our hopes for this event are, first of all, it will be a time of inspiration, worship and challenge to all of us to build community and to forge new relationships with one another and pledge to cooperate with one another more fully," Furr said. "Our greatest hope is that people go home with a new set of relationships."

Jimmy Allen, a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and coordinator for the national New Baptist Covenant celebration, said other regional gatherings are scheduled April 2-4 in Kansas City, Mo.; April 23-24 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Aug. 6-7 in Norman, Okla. A fifth regional gathering is being planned in Chicago, with a tentative date in June 2010, and a triennial national gathering is planned for 2011.

A Baptist theological student network formed out of the New Baptist Covenant has also set meetings for March 26-28 at Mercer University in Georgia.

Allen said each regional gathering is planned by a local steering committee, and he serves as a volunteer coordinator to help with scheduling and other matters when asked. "Each of the meetings comes out of a grass-roots response to the national meeting and the aftermath of it," he said.

Planning for the New Baptist Covenant goes back to April 10, 2006, when Carter, a prominent Baptist layman, and Mercer University President Bill Underwood convened 18 Baptist leaders for a meeting at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Out of that meeting came a document called A North American Baptist Covenant pledging to:

-- "Create an authentic and prophetic Baptist voice for these complex times;

-- "Emphasize traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality; and,

-- "Promote peace with justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity."

A follow-up meeting of 80 representatives of more than 30 Baptist organizations held Jan. 9, 2007, firmed up plans for a national gathering Jan. 30 -- Feb. 1, 2008, organized around a theme based on Luke 4:18-19, in which Jesus reads from the Old Testament book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release of the captives, and the recovering of sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

At the meeting last year, Carter described the New Baptist Covenant as "the most momentous event of my religious life."

The stated purpose for the regional gatherings is to "unite Baptists from our various conventions, fellowships and organizations to celebrate, exhort, network and encourage one another in fulfilling the obligations of our new Baptist Covenant."

"We are very excited about the possibility of a full crowd coming for this, and that President Carter is coming," Furr said of the Birmingham gathering. "We're looking forward to a wonderful time."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: Wrestling with God's word
By Miguel De La Torre

(ABP) -- Since converting to Christianity in my early 20s, I have found the biblical text to be a crucial part of my spiritual formation. I look to the Scriptures for truths and wisdom upon which to base my life.

In times of trouble, I have found comfort and guidance in the pages of my worn-out Bible. But to say that the Bible is crucial to my intellectual development does not become an excuse to stop thinking -- to blindly accept what others tell me the Bible says.

If we are, according to Jesus, to love the Lord our God with all of our mind, then I am to use my mind to better grasp the divine mystery. For those of us who take our faith seriously, we must leave behind the ignorant bliss of claiming to be among the people of the Book yet bother not to actually read its pages.

Those who call themselves Christians but neither study nor know the biblical text, except for some Sunday school stories they vaguely remember when they were children, usually fall prey to religious demagogues who do the textual interpretation for them in such a way that it advances the self-proclaimed religious leader's power and privilege.

And here is the danger of allowing others to dictate to you what the Bible says.

According to Jesus, on the Day of Judgment, many will come to him: "Lord, Lord, did we not cast out demons in your name, did we not establish multi-million dollar radio empires in your name? Did we not organize colossal stadium-filled televangelical spectacles in your name?"

And truly Jesus will look at them and say "Get away from me you wicked people, for I never knew you!"

Not to love the Lord our God with all of our mind is to endanger our very salvation as we allow the religious self-proclaimed leaders to fuse and confuse a neoconservative or liberal political agenda with the Word of God. We are called to honestly struggle with the biblical text to prevent taking the wide and easy road that leads to perdition.

But a word of warning for those who choose to wrestle with the text, you may end up, like Jacob, walking away with a limp. At times, to read the Bible creates more questions, more doubts, and more frustrations. But I believe that this type of biblical wrestling is what leads to the steep and narrow road upon which few traverse.

Much within the biblical text causes me to have restless nights. Allow me to share just one of the terrifying texts, which I can neither explain nor comprehend.

When Joshua led God's chosen people into the land of Canaan, he found other people living there. How do you claim a land when it is already occupied?

According to the text, after conquering the first town (Jericho) they followed God's direction and put everything to death -- men and women; young and old; ox, sheep, and donkey. Everything was put to death without mercy.

Let's dwell on this for a moment. God has you invade another people's land and kill everything -- not just the soldier-combatants, but the civilians.

The spears of God's people are thrust through babies. The swords of God's people lop off the heads of children. Pregnant women are killed. Families are decimated before each other's eyes. A gory bloodbath takes place that has more in common with some diabolical scene from the depths of Hell than the glories of Heaven.

Think of the Nazi concentration camps. Today we would call "God's command" ethnic cleansing, war crime, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Is the God of love, peace and redemption truly the author of ethnic cleansing? Did God actually command total annihilation? Is the God of life for some the God of death for others?

This call to a bloodbath is not restricted to the Book of Joshua. It is interesting to read the sermons of preachers in North America when the land was being colonized by the Europeans. The indigenous people were usually referred to as the Canaanites, thus prophesying their own genocide so that the invaders could steal their land under some biblical justification.

If I am honest with myself, the Book of Joshua depicts a non-biblical God.

But the Canaanites worshipped false gods and did despicable things before the eyes of God, some may reply in defense of God -- as if God needs defending. Such unexamined retorts undermine the very purpose of the biblical text, which is to force us to think and ponder that which makes us spiritually uncomfortable.

But, for argument sake, let's say that this is true. What then are the biblical implications? Do we have a right to kill everything that does not recognize the true God, the true God being how a Christian defines God?

Should we then invade and decimate all non-believers who in our eyes do despicable things? Obviously some have answered "yes" to these questions. Think of the Crusades. Think of the centuries of religious laws.

So, should we today set up concentration camps to kill, in God's name, Muslim, Jews, Hindu, Buddhists, indigenous-faith practitioners, etc.?

After all, if God's way never changes, if his command to massacre people who never heard of him and thus worship differently was ethically acceptable in the time of Joshua, why shouldn't it be acceptable today?

Here is the crux of the dilemma -- either I repudiate God's command concerning the genocide of the Canaanites, or I conclude that there exist circumstances when ethnic cleansing is acceptable.

There's another alternative. I might begin to question the biblical text itself. Maybe God did not order the massacre of civilians. Maybe Joshua projected his desires upon God to provide religious justification for taking another person's house and land.

This, of course raises complex questions. Are there parts of Scriptures that are not from God but projected onto God? A disturbing question indeed; Jesus seems to have thought so, telling his disciples, "You have heard it said ..., but I say unto you...."

Hence I return to my original premise: To attempt to look into God's face usually means an encounter where the wrestling might leave you wounded.

Forgive me while I limp away and store up my energy, so that on another day I can again attempt to look into God's eyes to ascertain God's character.

-- Miguel De La Torre is associate professor of social ethics at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

Word of the Day - 1/26/2009


Depredation is the act of preying upon or plundering; robbery; ravage.

After Israel's siege of Jericho, Achan engaged in depredation against God's wishes. (Joshua 7:1) He was eventually stoned for his transgression. (Joshua 7:24-25)

But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel. (Joshua 7:1, NASB)

Note: This representation of the stoning of Achan was painted by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/26/2009, Part 4

News & Notes from Sunday, January 25th, 2009

-I had a very light Sunday, though it began in a panic. I discovered that I had left my credit card at Applebees the night before. I called the restaurant and they had it. I met the store’s general manager Trina, who lived down to her reputation. Her attitude coupled with my extended wait removed any gratitude I might have had towards her.

-JTH came over in the afternoon after he dropped ALK off at Bearden United Methodist Church for her handbell practice. They were spending the day together as he had been gone so much. They had celebrated his brother CEH’s birthday at Lakeside Tavern and then attended a piano concert at my church. JTH enjoyed the concert but was hoping the pianist would play slower tunes. I am betting he was the only one with that response.

-After visiting with my parents, we picked up ALK. She was none to pleased at practicing 1½ hours with no break. We stopped by McKay’s as JTH wanted to see if they had any comedy CDs. Not counting Jeff Foxworthy (and we don’t), they did not.

-We then ate at Aubrey’s before they continued their date night by watching Step Up 2: The Streets on DVD. I can honestly I did not mind being excluded.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/26/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Saturday, January 24th, 2009, Part 2

-On Saturday night, I visited KLTW, RAW, and KJW. I delivered their souvenirs from DC. (Note: KJW is wearing my shoes in this photo.)

-When I arrived KLTW was in the process of making RAW’s father ROW an Italian cream cake for his birthday the next day. RAW was preparing to cook chili for his father. KJW was eating. See photo.

-I missed a great deal while I was away. KJW’s hair was cut at Wal-Mart. Is there any service Wal-Mart does not offer? Her hair is now shorter and more manageable. Most importantly, it can still be put into pig tails.

-One of KJW’s three fish, Marbles, is now “with Jesus”. His soul was. His body was put into a Wal-Mart bag and into the trash. Since KJW is now working on potty training and the pipes are not stellar, KLTW worried that flushing the fish might result in a resurfacing of Marbles which would traumatize KJW.

-Speaking of KJW’s potty training, she had an accident while I visited. After getting poop on her father, he called for KLTW to help clean the child. KJW informed her mother, “My butt is dirty!”“ Indeed it was.

-KJW has learned to play Ring-Around-The-Rosie. She seemed unimpressed when I explained that song was about the Black Death.

-On Monday of last week, she began streaking. She comes by it honestly...

-After visiting with the Walkers, I stopped by MoFoS and hung out with JTH. We then had a relaxing meal at Applebees. Yes, I ate there twice in the same day. They were different locations as I ate in Bearden for lunch and Cedar Bluff for supper.

-Our server, AFH, had found $5 off coupons and gave them too us. We were very grateful. AFH was on the last day of her 21-day fast and had plans to eat at Aubrey’s the next day. We were very proud of her.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/26/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Saturday, January 24th, 2009, Part 1

-I ate lunch with my parents at Applebees. (Guess who picked the restaurant?) Dad had just come from the 9th Annual Chocolate Fest, a fundraiser for the East Tennessee Kidney Foundation. 23 booths were scattered throughout Knoxville Center, mostly offering chocolate (hence the name). For $15, a donor got a sample from each vendor.

-MPW and I attended the Tennessee-
Memphis basketball game at 3:30 pm at Thompson-Boling Arena. Last year when the two teams met on February 23rd, the teams were ranked 1 and 2. Tickets were selling for over four figures. This year, MPW and I could not pawn off our extra ticket. JTL also had no company, so he sat with us.

-There was a strong Memphis contingency in our section. They repeatedly spelled out T-I-G-E-R-S. They were quite obnoxious and I respected them for it.

-Tennessee lost the game 54-52. The game disseminated into a half court contest. There are few teams who will not defeat the Vols in this type of game.

-Still, the Vols held a team to 54 points and lost! The last game I attended at Thompson-Boling Arena, one player (Jodie Meeks) scored 54 by himself. On this day Meeks would have matched both teams.

-Tennessee allowed an uncontested three-pointer just before the half. It loomed large. I suspect that had Bobby Maze been in the game, the shot would have been defended.

-Tennessee has now played both teams from last year’s national championship game, having played Kansas on January 3rd. They lost both games.

-It was the third straight time I had seen us lose at home. I had missed a win over South Carolina the previous Saturday. We have lost more games at home this year than in Coach Bruce Pearl ’s previous three seasons combined.

-The ZOOperstars performed at half time. Peyton Manatee (pictured), Shaquille O’Seal, Dennis Frogman, and Monkey Mantle were the four ZOOperstars in attendance. The ZOOperstars once appeared on America’s Got Talent. We interpreted their presence as the Georgia mascot regenerating.

-Also at halftime, a student named Tyler took a pass from former Vol Dane Bradshaw and tried to recreate Chris Lofton’s shot that defeated Winthrop in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The shot came remarkably close.

-In other sites and sounds of the game: The UT dance team performed. They were fresh off winning their third straight national title...Jacqui Pearl sang the national anthem before the game...Prior to the game there was also a moment of silence for former N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow who had died earlier in the day...The entire Tennessee football was introduced during the first half.

-After the game, we walked back to our car with JDM, ANS and their friend Wala. We commiserated on the loss together.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/26/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Friday, January 23rd, 2009

-I spent Friday night with my father whom I had not seen in some time.

-I dropped by MoFoS to pick up The Express on DVD for Dad and I to watch. I was there for just a few moments, but in that time I saw the store’s new layout (including new counter), visited with EA, NHH, JTH, TJK, and got cussed out by De La Rosa. Evidently, he is getting tired of being called De La Rosa. Fear not, I will not stop. At the moment, I am the person he hates most associated with the store. This is a place of honor and rotates randomly. If, however, I wind up dead, put him among the long list of suspects.

-Dad and I watched The Express. It is the story of Syracuse running back Ernie Davis, who in 1961 became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Not coincidentally it was released on DVD on January 20th, the date the first African-American president took office. Dad and I both enjoyed the film and the story.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bible Trivia - 1/25/2009

Question: Which book tells the story of Onan?

Answer: Genesis. (Genesis 38:7-10)

Comments: Onan was the second son of Judah. After his older brother, Er, died, Er's wife Tamar was given to Onan in accordance with the custom of Levirite marriage. Levirite marriage is a type of marriage in which a widow is required to marry one of her husband's brothers after her husband's death to assure that the deceased's line is prolonged. Onan refused to impregnate Tamar as her children would be considered his brother's and not his own.

Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother." Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. (Genesis 38:8-9, NASB)

Onan's selfishness displeased God and he died shortly thereafter. (Genesis 38:10) Today the term onanism can refer to the "pulling out" method of birth control.

Note: This re-enactment of this scandalous Biblical scene is provided by the Brick Testament.