Black Friday Anxiety and Me

[Updated from the archives.]

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Black Friday holds no attraction for me, no allure, no batting eyelashes drawing me to the stores.

I went to the mall on Black Friday.

A Question Never Before Posed to Me

Late Thanksgiving night my wife asked how early I wanted to get up to go to the mall. This is most definitely not one of our annual conversations, because I’ve never gone to the mall the day after Thanksgiving. This year was different, though. There we were Continue reading

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When It’s Easy To Be Thankful – Jesus, family, my readers

[From the archives, last year’s Thanksgiving Day post. My update: I’m still thankful for the same things I wrote about then.]

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I am writing this post the week before Thanksgiving, but I already know what I’m thankful for (and perhaps you can let me know what you are thankful for in the comments). Here’s my short list:

My Savior Jesus.

My wife, our son, and our daughter.

My job.

My readers.

I’m sorry I don’t have a link to show how much I appreciate you all, but perhaps I can trust that you’ve seen in my responses to your comments that I am thankful each and every time you come by my blog. And for those who have never left a comment, I give thanks for you too, because I know that visiting and reading is a choice you make and you’ve chosen to spend your time with me here.

Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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Giving Thanks for the Lamb

[Updated from the archives.]

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Wild turkey are prevalent in our town. Watch out when you meet one on the running trail. (Wikipedia)

Wild turkey are prevalent in our town. Watch out when you meet one on the running trail.
(Wikipedia)

Lots of people like to have turkey on Thanksgiving. I’ve decided to focus on the Thanksgiving Lamb.

If you offer an animal from the flock as a fellowship offering to the Lord, you are to offer a male or female without defect. If you offer a lamb, you are to present it before the Lord. (Leviticus 3:6-7.)

Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. … The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning. (Leviticus 7:13, 15.)

Lambs as offerings of thanksgiving: have you ever considered Continue reading

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Books I’d Ban – volume 2

Here is the long-awaited sequel to “Books I’d Ban”, Volume 1. Seriously, these are not worth reading.*

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Grime and Punishment – An impoverished student in czarist Russia learns his landlady won’t return his security deposit if he doesn’t clean up his apartment. He kills an old pawn broker and her daughter to get the money for cleaning supplies. While at first he thought he’d get away with the dirty deed, in the end he comes clean with the police.

Lord of the Files – In an alternate ending to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Piggy survives and grows up to become the webmaster of the largest file sharing network on earth.

A Passage to Indiana – A young British schoolmistress finds herself in the exotic rural environs of 1920s Indiana. Local customs – as well as the people – beguile and bewilder her. After some unpleasant business, she departs Indiana never to return.

The Secret Gardener – Frances Hodgson’s little-known prequel reveals the secrets of the gardener. Never published, because then the garden wouldn’t be so secret any more.

The Bun Also Rises – A baker in Pamplona rues the annual running of the bulls because the stampede always causes his bread dough to fall no matter how much yeast he uses. An American expatriate tells him to try making small bun-sized loaves.

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*If you know of any more books that belong on this list, please add your warning in a comment below.

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Questioning Salvation

Julie Anne at Spiritual Sounding Board posted a photo from Todd Friel’s Facebook page where he suggests:

Todd Friel's Three Questions

Todd Friel’s Three Questions (Link to Facebook post)

I’m not a fan of his suggestions, at least not if what he means is that we should lead with these questions when meeting someone claiming to be a Christian.

First, his points are better used as topics for conversation among people. With my friends, we talk about what we’ve been reading, what the meaning of Bible phrases like “born again” mean, how great Jesus is, but we don’t boil it down to three pat questions. That’s just silly.

Also, who asks those types of things of strangers anyway? The point of being with other people is Continue reading

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Immigration Status and the Right to a Fair Trial

I was picking a jury a couple years ago when one of the people waiting to be called forward to answer questions handed my bailiff a note: “Is the defendant in the country illegally?”

After the next break I had the potential jurors wait in the hall while the bailiff directed the note-writer into the courtroom. The attorneys and the defendant were present, I read the note out loud, and asked the man what his concern was.

He pointed to the man sitting next to defense counsel and said, “I just want to know if he’s here legally or not.”

I said this wasn’t really the concern of the trial, and that the only thing the jurors needed to determine is if the crime charged is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The man said, “I know that. But I think I’m entitled to know if he’s here illegally.”

I told him that type of information is almost never brought up as relevant to a case, and the jury probably wouldn’t hear evidence about it one way or the other. I reiterated that the jury’s job was to assess the evidence, and then I asked if he thought he could do that fairly.

He said, “Sure, but I want to know if he’s here illegally. Don’t you have a duty to look into that?”

I said immigration was generally an executive branch issue while the criminal trial was a judicial branch issue, and that I was going to focus on the trial.

The man asked, “Are you refusing to tell me if he’s here illegally or not?”

“Yes.”

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As my dad later said when I told him about the potential juror who wanted to know about an accused man’s immigration status, “What on earth does that have to do with anything in the trial?”

Exactly.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34.)

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15.)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:8-9.)

As Jesus taught us in the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), being neighbors has nothing to do with national boundaries. And getting a fair trial in a courtroom should have nothing to do with immigration status.

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Atheists and Christians Talk Theology

[Updated from the archives.]

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A couple years ago I co-taught a Sunday school class on some basic theology: Christology and Pneumatology, the Incarnation and the Trinity, stuff like that. I started the very first session by pointing out that – whether we realize it or not – we make theological pronouncements all the time.

“I believe in God”

“Prayer is powerful”

“Jesus is my savior”

Each of statement is packed with theology, and you can probably come up with a number of Bible verses that speak to each of these. But what about more mundane statements?

“I love my family”

“It’s great to have a job you like”

“Pepperoni pizza is awesome!”

How are these theological? God’s common blessings are for everyone; that’s why they’re called common. Here’s where we see these blessings in the Bible:

Family is ordained by God – “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’.” (Genesis 1:28.)

Work is ordained by God – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15.)

Enjoying food is ordained by God – “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.'” (Genesis 2:16.)

I’m especially tickled by that last one. Adam and Eve were free to try out different foods and eat the ones they liked. That meant that they could also avoid those that didn’t suit their taste buds.

And as you can see, atheists then end up talking theology too. Every time they say they don’t believe in God they are making a theological statement, even if it reflects bad doctrine. And every time they say they enjoy something that is one of God’s blessings, they glorify the Creator even though they deny his existence.

Every statement is a theological statement whether we know it or not.

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Keeping in mind that every statement is a theological statement, what theology have you been talking about lately even if you didn’t realize it a the time?

What Bible passages help you understand the theology behind your statement?

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The Bible Says It’s Good To Be A Know-It-All

I ran across an interesting line in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight … (Philippians 1:9.)

What? Smart people are better at loving others? That seems like an odd thing for Paul to write when you consider his earlier letter to Christians in Corinth where he said:

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1.)

So which is it: does love abound in knowledge like he told the Philippians, or is knowledge empty while love is substantial as he told the Corinthians?

It depends on what you do with your knowledge.

Here’s that line from Philippians in context, giving a better picture of the reason Paul prays for their knowledge and insight.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11.)

According to these verse, then, there are three ways for love to abound in your knowledge and insight.

First – knowledge and insight lead to discernment

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ …

Depth of insight means we know things more than just on a surface level; we have the ability to act wisely because we understand deeply the difference between right and wrong.

The handy thing about discernment, then, is that we can use it to see the difference between what is pure and what is not. Love abounds in this discernment when we act in ways consistent with our relationship with Jesus.

Second – knowledge and insight lead to bearing fruit

… that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be … filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ …

The fruit of righteousness is the fruit the Spirit of Christ produces in us: love, joy, peace, patience , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.) It is by keeping in step with the Spirit that we avoid some very unloving acts: conceit coupled with provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26.)

Jesus said he produces much fruit in his people, in fact, and all they need to do to bear that fruit is rest in him.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5.)

And since God is love (1 John 4:8), the “fruit of righteousness” he produces in us is nothing less than his love.

Third – knowledge and insight lead to glorifying God

… that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight … to the glory and praise of God.

The love that abounds in our growing knowledge and deep insight of God has an ultimate purpose, the glory of God. In fact, everything we do should lead to that:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)

That is where love leads us, to God’s glory. Love is not an end in itself in our lives, just as knowledge and deep insight are not ends in themselves. Love and knowledge and wisdom have a single shared purpose: glorifying God.

Love abounding forever for the glory of God. That’s something worth growing in knowledge and deepening our insight about.

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Being a Cereal (or perhaps Serial) Reader

Cereal boxes would be a bigger slice on my pie chart.

 

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Kirk Cameron’s “Saving Christmas” Promo Puts a Heavy – and Heretical – Burden on Moms

Kirk Cameron made a movie that came out over the weekend. In this promo for the film he inexplicably puts a heavy burden on moms while trying to sell some movie tickets:

If you are a mom, if you are a wife, if you’re the keeper of your home, I want you to know that your joy is so important this Christmas. Because Christmas is about joy and if the joy of the Lord is your strength, remember the joy of the mom is her children’s strength so don’t let anything steal your joy. If you let your joy get stolen it will sap your strength.

Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way that you decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell and the traditions that you keep. Invite your whole neighborhood into your Christmas, and invite the world into our story of our king and his kingdom.

Join me and go see “Saving Christmas” November 14.

Let’s break it down.

Moms, Wives, and Joy at Christmas

If you are a mom, if you are a wife, if you’re the keeper of your home, I want you to know that your joy is so important this Christmas.

I like the idea of encouraging people who have a hard time finding joy at Christmas time. If he left it here, perhaps with a follow-up that said “I made a fun movie that might put a smile on your face while we focus on Jesus”, there wouldn’t be much to talk about. But then he says something that borders on blasphemy:

Because Christmas is about joy and if the joy of the Lord is your strength, remember the joy of the mom is her children’s strength …

Certainly the Bible tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10. In context, it looks like Nehemiah is telling people to be strengthened by taking joy in the Lord.) Nowhere are we ever told that the joy of the mother is a child’s strength.

When I told my son about Mr. Cameron’s statement he said, “That means the mom is the vicar of the home?” Apparently so, as well as being a demi-god too: her children, rather than having strength in the joy of the Lord, receive it in the joy of their mom.

How does the mom get the joy that strengthens her children? Mr. Cameron gets to that, but first he cautions that moms can’t let themselves lose their own joy.

… so don’t let anything steal your joy. If you let your joy get stolen it will sap your strength.

I thought he said that the joy of the Lord is the mom’s strength. How can someone steal her joy if it’s actually God’s joy that gives her strength? No one can steal God’s joy from him, can they?

But let’s put aside the nonsense about someone stealing God’s joy for a moment and turn to how Mr. Cameron says moms can prevent anyone from stealing their joy or strength or Christmas.

Christmas Checklist – follow these rules, moms, or no joy for you!

Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way that you decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell and the traditions that you keep. Invite your whole neighborhood into your Christmas and invite the world into our story of our king and his kingdom.

There you have it, moms. Your joy comes through in home decorating, kitchen duties, having a story in your heart and a song on your lips.

What’s that, mom? You work two jobs, have a hard time affording groceries to put on the table, and you couldn’t even decorate a doll house if your life depended on it? Come on, moms, how on earth do you expect to be able to invite your neighbors – let alone the world – into your Christmas if you haven’t decorated your home beautifully, cooked seasonal delights, and kept the right traditions?

The least you can do is have a song on your lips, for crying out loud, so don’t forget to keep on singing.

Atta girl, mom, there’s joy for you!

Mr. Cameron’s Main Point

With all this talk about joy and Christmas, it’s nice for Mr. Cameron to conclude by reminding us what this is all about:

Join me and go see “Saving Christmas” November 14.

It’s about selling tickets.

What Christmas is really about

Let’s have no more nonsense about decorating, or foods, or keeping the right traditions. We’re the ones in need of saving, not Christmas. It’s about our Savior Jesus, God himself, the Prince of Peace who brings good news to all people.

That’s what Christmas is all about.

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