Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Opus 2011-278, More Money for Education?

I am a teacher in the California public schools.  One of the mantras of public education is “more money for the children.”  The teachers’ unions seem to think that there is a never ending source of funds that they can draw from without being required to put their own house in order. 

I never vote for increased taxes or any other type of funding for education.  There is already plenty of money in the system.  It is just being spent foolishly.

Let me give some examples that came up in our faculty meeting this week.

The first up on our agenda was a counseling service that has permanent residence on our campus.  They are not available to all students, only to those who are on Medi-Cal.  In other words, it is an extension of welfare, your tax dollars at work.  I am sure that they do some good work but a lot of your tax dollars have been spent remodeling a portion of our campus and paying salaries to offer counseling services.  Is that what public schools are for?  Not in my book.

RTI.  This is brand new this year.  Six people on campus were payed to go to special training and will be going again.  That cost money.  The consultants that were doing the training were paid.  The consulting firm was paid.  We had a nice handout that hints at more to come.  This is not free.  One of the brilliant points was that we need to avoid negative consequences and smile more.  Excuse me, didn’t I hear that last year?  And the year before?  And the year before?  Next time you are being robbed at gun point, make sure you smile.

English language learners had a presentation.  We have a fully paid teacher who is given 2/3 of her day to work with the English language learners.  Today she showed us the old party game in which you have the first person write a noun, fold the paper, have the second person write a verb, fold the paper, and so on.  This is a copyrighted idea called Foldables®.  This is cutting edge educational theory at work.

Then we had a presentation of Thinking Maps®.  Sounds good, right?  Who doesn’t want the kids thinking.  This cutting edge innovation can be found in any book on management under titles like “flow charts.”  We have an expensive, glossy notebook that shows us all these great diagrams.  The one that the rest of the world calls a flow chart is labeled, “Flow map.”  And it is copyrighted.  Again we had many people sent to training and fees paid for the use of this innovate thinking.

Then we had a session pushing cooperative learning.  For the 25th year in a row we were told how effective is it to let the kids work in groups of four with one advanced student, one slow student and two average students.  It hasn’t worked in 25 years but this year is different.  Suddenly the kids that are so good at copying the advanced student are going to be motivated to excel.  We are expected to access an expensive data processing program the district has and process all kinds of data to implement this revolutionary idea.

Then we have the Bully Prevention Curriculum.  Again we have a glossy notebook with a DVD to help us deal with this crippling problem.  We had an assembly with a multimedia presentation where we learned that civilization is coming to an end because of “cyber-bullying.”  The kids who are not supposed to have their phones turned on at school are text messaging insulting remarks to each other.  You can imagine what this is doing to self esteem.  Again we see large amounts of money being spent on this.

None of these have much to do with learning the basics to succeed in life.  All of them cost big bucks.  At the same time we don’t have enough money for books and supplies.  We are being told that we have to eliminate one teaching position at our school which will disrupt most of the students in two grades and cause teachers to start over again after five weeks.  Last year the teachers got a pay cut and increased cost in benefits.  And this poverty stricken district just had the superintendent of schools retiring at $275,000.

No, education does not need more money.  They, we, need to get their houses in order.  The good news is that you vote on your local school board, but that is a topic for another day.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Opus 2011-277, Bewitched by I Love Lucy

Every once in awhile I read some comments that show concern for the growth of the occult in our society.  People trace it back to the Ouija board parlor game and such TV shows as “Bewitched.”  Some even get heretical enough to question The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings.

I see the issue.  I agree we have a problem.  I have a question though.  Which witch was worse, Samantha or Lucy?  Samantha introduced witches into our homes.  She was an attractive, sensitive, well meaning wife and mother.  What is not to like?  All witches can’t be like her mother, can they?  We need to give witches a chance, right?

I have a bigger problem with the sitcom, “I Love Lucy.”  The full disclosure is that I don’t like slap-stick comedy.  I am more into George Burns the Lucy.  I like Bill Cosby more than the Three Stooges.  I will take the dry one-liners.  You can have the pie in the face.

Having said that there is still a problem.  Lucy and programs like it made a joke out of sin, poor character and bad choices.  Every week Lucy would lie, cheat or steal.  Then would come more lies to cover it up.  Eventually Ricky would catch on and confront her.  We would have a pseudo-repentance and Ricky of course would forgive.  Next week, more of the same.  We learned that sin was funny and that God, played by Ricky, was really pretty easy to fool.

One desensitized to the occult.  One desensitized to sin.  In the eyes of God, both are major issues. 

Take care with what you feed your mind and soul.

homo unius libri

Monday, September 26, 2011

Opus 2011-276, Monday Pulpit: PM

When I was in the army one of the big themes was PM or Preventative Maintenance.  Sunday the pastor hit on that theme.

I don’t have my notes in front of me but I have been thinking about the sermon.  One of the comments he made was that we need to make our decisions before we need to make a decision.

His topic was making choices and how God gives us free will through the power of the Holy Spirit and prevenient grace.  Yes, for you who are into extreme predestination, we Arminians also believe that we cannot do anything in our own power.  The difference is that we believe God intervenes in such a way to allow us the ability to choose.

The point was that we need to prepare for life by deciding what the laws and principles will be that we will follow.  Thus when we are faced with certain decisions and temptations we don’t even need to think about it.  We have already decided our foundation.  It becomes a no-brainer.  Thus if for some strange reason I can’t imagine, if I am ever propositioned by a woman to compromise my marriage covenant, there is no decision to make.  Just pass along what has already been decided. 

So lay the foundations.  Make the decisions.  Know where you stand.  It makes it much easier to get through the day.

homo unius libri

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Opus 2011-275, Healthy Insights: Obesity is Not the Disease

I recently had what I hope is a breakthrough.  At least is was an insight.  I decided that I did not need to save some money.

My wife likes to go out to eat.  I don’t mind but it is not a big issue for me.  I think it has to do with being served.  So we went out and picked a restaurant based on the coupons we had.  I have been trying to control my diabetes and am doing well.  One of the methods of control is rooted in self control in the area of food.  So here I am going over the nutritional guide.  I am looking at calories and carbohydrates and balancing them against enjoyment and satisfaction.  The waitress is standing there and the pressure is on.  My wife wants to know what I am ordering so she can get the best deal with her coupons.  What do I do?

I threw her a curve ball.  I ordered a bowl of soup.  I was so tempted by all of the dinner offerings:  Lemon pepper tilapia, club sandwiches with fries, country fried steak.  But I went for the soup.  140 calories as compared to 800 and counting.  She looked a little shocked.  She was looking forward to getting her meal for free.  When the check came it was less than it would have been anyway but she thought she had been betrayed.

The insight was in realizing that I could not afford to save money.  I did not need to eat because we had a coupon.  The breakthrough began with the order.  It continued when I did not eat the bread or any crackers.  I was not really there to eat.  I was there to socialize and listen.

So I sat and listened.  You husbands know of what I speak.  I nodded at the right places.  I muttered a few sounds when it seemed appropriate.  I even ventured a question on occasion.  And I enjoyed my soup.  It was a good time.  My wife got to vent.  I got to serve.  My body got to avoid storing extra calories.

The problem people have is not obesity, that is a symptom.  The problem is appetite.  We are a culture that has given in to the idea that if we want it we should have it, and by jingo, we WILL have it.  As usual, God has an opinion here.  Let’s look at the Word, first in the KJV:
(Philippians 3:19 KJV)  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
The NASB gives it with “appetite” instead of “belly” in case you missed the point.
(Philippians 3:19 NASB)  whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
We are surrounded by goodies.  Unfortunately those goodies are really badies.  They are often tremendous and wonderful but they are designed by God to be controlled, not control.  Satan tries to get us to reverse that God-given order.
(2 Peter 2:19 KJV)  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
I have always liked the way the old Living Bible paraphrased the end of that verse.
“For a man is a slave to whatever controls him.”
I am not really concerned about losing weight.  That is a symptom.  The disease is a lack of self control.  I want my life and health to reflect the God I serve.

homo unius libri

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Opus 2011-274, Should-a-Beens: “Ask not what your church can do for you...”

One of the great sound bites of history is the comment of John F. Kennedy when he challenged a generation to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”  It was a great moment.  Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears and short attention spans.

But it is a great principle.  I think it would do us well to rephrase it like this, “Ask not what your ________ can do for you, but ask what you can do for your ________.”  Fill in the blank.  I would suggest “church” as a good example.  We have a large mass of people on spiritual vacation, looking for the amusement church that has the best heavenly thrill rides.  They talk about how a church is not meeting their needs.  They have a long list of things the church should be doing.  They want great preaching, a singles program or youth program depending on their age.  They want a nursery and ample parking.  A/C is assumed and of course you don’t want too many old people or uncomfortable seating arrangements.  They totally miss that the spiritual gifts are given out so they can serve, not so they can be served.

The principle is that we are to give, not take.  It applies to all areas of our life.  If you don’t want to put “church” in the blank, how about “wife”? 

Remember we are called to be saints, servants, salt and light.  We are not called to be victims, critics or sponges.  Where do you fit on the spectrum?

homo unius libri

Friday, September 23, 2011

Opus 2011-273, House Cleaning and Senate Sanitation

Most people have seen the billboard of George Bush waving and smiling and asking, “Miss me yet?”  What if the election had gone a different way.  Would we be better off with Hillary? 

Before you answer, ask yourself if her goals would have been any different.  She might nit pick but I don’t see her regretting Obamacare except that she wanted it to be called Hillarycare.  And it was.  But then it didn’t pass.

Think about it.  She might have been more competent and seen the big picture.  She might have known how to avoid alienating so many people.  She might have been even more successful than Obama and things would be worse. 

Remember when Bill Clinton was elected and conservatives were in despair?  What happened?  Two years later there was a major tide in the other direction.  We don’t have a customer service department where we can return the official elected.  We are not a parliamentary system.  We need to wait two or four years and then show a little discernment.

God has a sense of humor.  He knows that we got what a majority of us wanted.  It is time to stop laughing and get serious.

So keep your chin up.  Keep politicking.  More important, keep praying.  If you study the history of the kingdom of Judah, they went through cycles of disobedience and suffering followed by revival and strength.  Get your own house in order and next year we can work on the House of Representatives, the White House and the Senate’s house.  Let’s at least be a people who learn from our mistakes.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-272, Driscoll on Seekers

Mark Driscoll made another interesting comment in his conference talk.  He said that Calvinists talking about being “seeker friendly” is strange since they don’t believe in “seekers.”  He pointed out that it is more a case of the Holy Spirit going out and chasing down rebels than people coming to Jesus.

He was speaking tongue-in-cheek and making his point by the humor of honesty.  He portrays presenting the gospel as simply putting the truth out there so that those who have already been chosen can respond.  It is like being at a lottery and announcing the winning ticket number.  You may have bought a ticket but a cousin of the organizer somehow ended up with the big reward.  The joke seems to be on all the other people who showed up thinking there was something there for them.

I am sorry.  This view of the sovereignty of God makes Him a clown trying to invent games to amuse Himself.  It starts at a worthy, Biblical place and turns an eternal truth into a cruel game.  Of course the people who preach this the strongest assume that they are of the elect.  They are always rejoicing at being chosen.  It is kind of like going into a cancer ward and rejoicing loudly about being healthy.

The Gospel is for everyone.
(John 3:16 KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus clearly stated that eternal life was offered to “whosoever” not “who-so-chosen.”

homo unius libri

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Opus 2011-271, Driscoll on Regeneration

As I walked recently I listened to another Mark Driscoll sermon.  Actually it wasn’t a sermon this time.  It was a presentation he made to a group at a conference.  The pod-cast was titled “The Four Points of the Movement” and dated 7/24/11.  I got half way through during my walk.  I don’t know if I will bother to finish.  I got angry enough listening to the first half to last me for a few days.

Driscoll was being his normal self.  Although I wish he would move beyond his inadequate Reformed Theology I believe he has the gift of Apostle.  He is one of those people that God is using to penetrate pagan America.  I think that the apostle Paul had some of the same traits.  Arrogant, cocky, pushy and foot in the mouth are some of the terms that come to mind.  Of course we need to understand that arrogance is usually what other people call it when you are right and you know it.  Some times you actually are right and people still call it arrogance because it relieves them of responsibility to consider the merit of what you say.

So I don’t reject Driscoll by habit.  I listen to what he says.  Sometimes I say, “Yes!”  Sometimes I scream and pound on things.  Sometimes I laugh.  But I listen, at least for the first half of his sermons. 

So what got my goat this time?  Clear statements of Reformed Theology.  He was talking along and made this statement, “Regeneration comes before faith.”  If you are Reform, you agree with this.  You may see not problem with it.  It is consistent with the Five Points of Calvinism.  But rarely is it stated so bluntly that unless you are one of the pre-chosen, you have no hope.  Unless you are part of the in-crowd of the elect the Gospel is not good news but a sign similar to the ones that used to be posted, “No Irish need apply.” 

Look at the key verse that we all accept.
(Ephesians 2:8 KJV)  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
The disagreement comes over what is “not of yourselves.”  Since the Five Points of Calvinism include Irresistible Grace and Undeserved Election you, your mind, your will and your agreement are removed by the equation.  Thus, the faith you have it the gift, not just the grace.  In order to have the faith, according to this segment of the church, you are first regenerated by the Holy Spirit. 

Is there something I am missing here?  According to this system God capriciously decides who will get the nod.  He regenerates them, puts in the chip marked faith, pulls out a plum and says, “Oh what a good boy am I.”  We are forced into salvation but of course that doesn’t matter because part of the package is that we are made to feel like this is a good deal.  The other side of the coin is that the large majority that don’t get this “get out of jail free” card are doomed to an eternity in Hell.  This doom is not because you deserve it any more than those who are saved.  They don’t deserve it either.  You are doomed for the sins you had no way to avoid and had no solution for.  This does not make sense to me.

Could God do it this way?  Of course He could.  He is God.  He can do anything He wants.  But if He does it that way then our “love” is nothing but a programing package that makes one person run on Windows and another on Lennox.  It is like playing a computer game where you have all the cheat codes.  You win but the win doesn’t mean much if you have a healthy personality. 

I assume God has a healthy personality.  In His grace I assume that He allows the Holy Spirit to compensate for my sinful nature and allow me to hear the gospel.  I assume His grace makes it possible for me to respond to His love.  I assume His grace allows me to decide to believe, not forces me to believe.  I assume that His grace then continues to work in my life as I take the undeserved gift of salvation and move on into obedience, growth and holy living.

I could be wrong, but understand, according to Reformed Theology I am wrong because God wired me that way. 

I chose to believe that the Gospel is Good News.

homo unius libri

Opus 2011-270, Counterfeit

I had a five dollar bill examined for being counterfeit the other day.  The clerk held it up to the light and acted like she knew what she was doing.  For a moment I had this terrible fear that I was passing counterfeit five dollar bills.  Would they confiscate my money?  Would I go to jail?  Would my friends shun me?  She gave it her seal of approval so I am still free to write.

Wouldn’t it be good if believers would learn to hold what they read up to the light?  Remember how the world was going to end a few months ago?  People believed it.  If the perpetrator lives long enough he will try again in a few years.  Have you seen a sale catalog of Christian books lately?  The one I get was about 50 pages long.  It had pages labeled “Favorite Women Authors” and pages of books about Christian exercise videos.  There were authors I had never heard of that had a whole page of titles in print.  I would like to think that all of this was genuine but I doubt it.  Much of it is fluff.  Some is harmless fluff.  Biceps for Jesus is not going to send you to Hell.  But much of it borders on the heretical. 

Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it is true.  Just because you read it in a “Christian” publication does not mean it is Biblical.  Just because they put it in a book doesn’t mean it is accurate.  Just because the latest, hot-off-the-press, warm fuzzy Bible “translation” says it also doesn’t make it trustworthy.

We are talking discernment.  Some people have a special gift of the Spirit in this regard.  They need to speak up more, even if it makes them unpopular.  Even if you don’t have the gift you are expected to exercise the discipline.  Tomorrow when you get up, turn on your brain and punch the “discernment” button.  It is like turning on a black light in a dark room.  You will be amazed.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Opus 2011-269, Healthy Insights: Mañana

There was a popular song when I was young enough to listen to AM radio.  It was called “Mañana.”  Some of the words went like this.
My Momma she was working, she was working very hard,
And every time she wants me I am sleeping in the yard.
My Momma thinks I’m lazy, and maybe she is right.
I’ll go to work mañana, but I gotta sleep tonight.
And the chorus went,
Mañana, mañana, mañana is soon enough for me.
Of course the idea was to mock people who always procrastinate.  I am here today to put in a word for procrastination.  There are some people who need to learn to say, “Later.”

Perhaps you know someone like this.  They are always going like a living dynamo and always have one more thing to do.  They are usually late because they stopped to get one more thing done.  They consider others lazy because they are not running fast.  And of course they complain about always being tired.

Perhaps a little nap would take care of some of that.  We talk about stopping to smell the roses.  This person has it on the list and will get to it next Tuesday, unless they are in the hospital for stress.

Although we are expected to put in our days labor and work hard we are also commanded to take a Sabbath.  Remember when Martha complained about Mary being lazy.  She wasn’t working, just listening to the words of Jesus.  Martha did not get much sympathy.  In another place Jesus had something else to say about this kind of frantic behavior. 
(Matthew 6:27 NAS77)  "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?
Just a few verses later He sums up what our target should be,
(Matthew 6:33 KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Make it a priority to seek the kingdom.

And don’t just add it to your list.

homo unius libri

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Opus 2011-268, On the Street: Pastors Wake Up

It happened again.  I had a conversation with some new friends.  We had them over for dinner and went through the process of getting to know them.  It was a good time in the Lord.  They are good people.  He is self-employed and seems to be doing well.  She teaches in the public schools.  They have three children that seem to be doing well.  They are involved in their local church.  They are the kind of people who are the backbone of any local congregation. 

I didn’t catch what was said that brought the response that revoked my response.  I don’t remember the exact words.  The revelation they gave was that they were never in a hurry to get into the worship service because the music detracted from worship, it did not support it.  They find themselves standing outside talking to friends until the “worship team” is finished with their marathon of contemporary, hot-of-the-board praise songs.  Then they make their way in and sit down.

This is not the first time I have heard this.  I have heard it from all ages.  I have observed it at churches I have visited.  It is not a reaction to the “boring old stuff.”  It is a reaction to the music that pastors seem to feel they have to supply in order to appeal to the younger generation.

Pastors, in your attempt to be cool, with it, contemporary and culturally conforming you are driving away a large part of your congregation.  They won’t make an issue of it.  They are not out to cause problems or split the church.  They assume you know something that they don’t know.  They will start by coming into worship late.  It will grow to standing outside the entire service or looking for places to serve.  It may eventually drive them away from the church.

“Amazing Grace” has survived for centuries.  “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” has been around even longer.  It is unlikely that the repetitive ditty written by your minister of music will have the same fate. 

You need to realize that someday these people will find a church that actually mixes the best of the old with the best of the new.  At that point you will miss them, their service, their tithe and their prayers.

Please wake up.

homo unius libri

Monday, September 19, 2011

Opus 2011-267, Tea Time: Steeping Determines Strength

In listening to pod casts I keep hearing about how the Tea Party candidates are starting to compromise.  Welcome to politics.  In a republic a certain amount of compromise is necessary.  It is not always evil.  If we can get a slice of bread today we can go for half a loaf tomorrow.  In a free country we may never get the whole loaf.  Such is the price of living among a free people.  Remember that in communist countries elections often produced results of 100%.

Will some of the Tea Party choices wimp out?  Sure.  They are humans and even in the best batch of humans you will have a few that won’t stay the course.  Does every compromise make them a Benedict Arnold or a Judas?  No, a thousand times no.  If you know their character and know their priorities then give them time to build the base we need.

Will Tea Party choices make mistakes?  Sure.  Even people with vision and principles, such as Ronald Reagan, made some serious mistakes.  When you look at a nice, honorable man like George Bush the Elder and his pledge of “read my lips” you see how easy it is for people who are honorable to not understand what evil lurks in the hearts of men.  They believed the elites when they promised to do something as part of a deal.  It is possible that some of the freshmen in Congress will need to go through the same process of learning. 

What Tea Party choices must never do is give up.  They must keep going for the gold and settling for the silver if necessary.  Just don’t accept the lead bell.

As a member of the mass of voters I am willing to give them time to do their job as long as I am convinced they have not taken their eye off the ball.  During the American Revolution there were frequent times when everything looked hopeless.  At one point the honorable George Washington was almost replaced with a political hack General.  We are blessed today because those men and women stayed the course.

homo unius libri

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Opus 2011-266, Do I Really Want to Win?

I was listening to a podcast from Ricochet and they had a guest who was an influential Republican consultant.  They were discussing the coming election and he was claiming to be a conservative, but a pragmatist.  He has been on before and I have noticed that he has a steady mantra of disparaging Sarah Palin and now Michelle Bachmann.  He is repeating the meme that we can’t win with people that are this extreme.  He wants a Perry or a Romney.  He kept repeating that Bachmann was right on all the issues but we could not win with her.

I ask myself, "Do I really want to win?"

First, they said the same thing about Regan.  If I look back on the elections of the last thirty years, every time we have run someone that people were convinced was a real conservative, we have won.  Every time we have run someone that was more “acceptable,” we have lost.  I am not sure why they say we cannot win with a genuine conservative.  Actually I do know.  They are trying to be subtle and tell us that if we don’t play with their compromises, they will take their marbles and go home.  The Rhinos want to treat us the way the Democrats have treated black Americans:  You have no where else to go so we will pat you an the head and do what we want.

Second, do I really want to win?  Yes.  Is it a win if we elect someone who turns their back on the principles that make up the Republican party?  Is it winning to elect a Rhino?  No.

If you look at the official positions of the Republican party Michelle Bachmann is right on every one.  She has experience and charisma.  I don’t know if she is the best candidate yet, but I am really tired of the squishy middle trying to manipulate us.  People will not vote for the Republican because of the party, they will vote for the candidate because of the principles.

So let the games begin.  Let them manipulate and posture.  The Tea Party movement has made some good beginnings but they don’t have enough votes to push anything through yet.  Give it time.  If we stick to our guns, they will be the ones who will have no place to go except the post office to re-register in the party that fits their positions best.

homo unius libri

Friday, September 16, 2011

Opus 2011-265, Reality Check for Teachers

If you wonder why education is such a mess look at teachers.  I am one.  I work with them every day.  They are a wonderful group of people.  They “care.”  They want to help.  Many of them work very hard at what they do.  Yet they, or we, are a danger to society.

A large part of the problem is that teachers are educated by teachers.  It is a self perpetuating cycle.  They live in their own little world, protected from much that life throws.

The core of the problem is that teachers as a group have lost contact with reality.  The example that is most clear to me at this moment is reinforced by the beginning of school.  As I walk through the doors I am coming off a three month vacation.  When I made a career change at 40 and went into teaching I worked summers and had a second job and a Christmas job.  My main summer job was teaching summer school.  I have not done it in years but I think it is running about $35.00 and hour.  How many of you could find a part time summer job making $35.00 an hour.  Time for a reality check.  Teachers are immersed in the warm bath of the public dole.  We are lined up at the public trough, sucking up tax dollars with no concept of what it takes to generate wealth.  Our pay raises are based purely on how many years on the job and how many classes we have taken.

We are well paid.  You will hear differently.  Don’t fool yourself.  I make less that my kids, true.  They also put in a longer week and only get a couple of weeks off for vacation.  They also graduated at the top of their class in hard subjects at demanding universities.  They did not get a degree in liberal studies at the State University of Partyville.  On our districts teachers start at around $42,000 a year.  Not bad for someone with no experience and it includes summers off, full medical, two weeks off at Christmas and a week off to celebrate the pagan beginning of spring.  (Easter vacation is not politically correct any more.)  Would I like more money?  Sure.   I am human.  But I really should not complain.

Teachers don’t live with their failures.  Every year they pass on their failures and take on someone else’s.  It is easy to take a short term view of what is success.  It is hard to feel guilty when the kids coming to me in 7th grade are reading on a 2nd grade level and have been taught that they don’t have to do anything to move on to 8th. 

Teachers are gullible.  At our beginning of the year meetings I kept hearing about how “studies” have shown _________.  I was told that “research” proves _________.  You can fill in the blank with the educational hail Mary toss of the week.  Anyone over 16 knows that research generally shows what the researcher wants it to show.  Just ask the Professors of East Anglia University.

This is a hard one.  How do I say it?  Is there a way to be gentle?  No.  Education prostitutes itself.  People buy their loyalty.  We are currently in a “block program.”  We have four periods a day instead of the traditional six.  The block program increases class size, reduces flexibility in scheduling, eliminates elective choices, keeps the kids in class longer than is productive.  For years we have spent countless hours in meetings talking about how to deal with it.  We have expressed our frustration with it.  We have petitioned, voted and complained.  At one point we were told that a 78% vote to go back to the six period day was not strong enough.  We needed a unanimous vote.  Finally in a moment of honesty that could get her fired an administrator admitted we were doing the block schedule because someone (probably a Federal agency) had donated several million dollars to the district on the condition that we have a block program.  Your tax dollars at work.

Children need to be educated.  They do not need to be programed by the state.  The current goal of public schools seems to be a generation of compliant mediocrity. 

homo unius libri

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Opus 2011-264, Key Scriptures: The Word on Salads

(Hebrews 4:12 KJV)  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Recently I have been eating a lot of salads.  I have the scars to prove it.  I forget that knives are sharp on a regular basis and, bingo, the blood flows.  It does add color to the meal, but not much to it’s visual appeal.

I find myself paraphrasing David in the Psalms, “How many times, O Lord?”  I don’t have an answer yet.

We have one of those metal rods with our knife set and I thought it was really cool to strop the blade a few times each use.  The injuries increased.  I realized that a sharp knife cuts quicker than a dull knife and you don’t feel it until later.  I sharpen knives less often now.

Always looking for life applications, I thought about how people deal with the Word, or should I say don’t deal with the Word.  Reading and thinking about what the Bible says means that you are sharpening your understanding.  In spiritual terms that means that you are more likely to run into its sharp edges and cut yourself.  This will necessitate change and healing.  It will make us adjust how we do things.

One reason that many people do not want to read the Bible is that they know it is sharp and “piercing.”  Notice that the verse points out how it “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  It brings conviction, guilt, and a need for repentance and change.  If that isn’t a good reason to avoid the Bible, I don’t know what is.

It can sneak up on you.  I even cut myself when I was cleaning a knife and had the blade safely directed away from my body.  I followed the rules.  It still got me.  Unfortunately my fingers got on the wrong side of the bevel.  I keep telling myself I will learn.

I still cut up all kinds of stuff for salads.  I have not abandoned the practice because I make mistakes.  I have tried to learn and adjust.   Also paying attention helps.

It would be good if we would apply the same discipline to our Bible reading.

homo unius libri

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Opus 2011-263, On the Street: Natural Selection at Work

Today I observed natural selection at work.  I saw an endangered species showing that its chances of survival were slim.  As I approached a very busy intersection I saw a man on a bicycle riding on the sidewalk.  He was hard to miss with his colorful helmet and yellow reflective vest.  He was one of the cyclists that we see so much of in Southern California complete with spandex cycling pants and water bottle.

The real reason I noticed him was that I was planning on turning right at the corner and he was riding a bicycle on the sidewalk toward that corner.  I had no desire to scratch my bumper with yuppie paint.  As I approached the signal turned yellow.  The cyclist sped up.  I said to myself, “He isn’t going to run the red light.”  I was wrong.  He went for it.  He made it because other drivers were watching for crazy people, after all, this is Southern California and there was a Whole Foods Market in sight.

This was a big intersection.  Divided going both ways.  Four lanes of traffic.  Controlled left turn lanes.  Right turn lanes.  He still went for it. 

Today he made it.  Tomorrow may be another result.  It could be genetic.  I would guess that he votes for the progressive candidates, has a low carbon footprint and loves anything organic.  In some cases natural selection works.  He may not live to pass on his traits.

Drive safely.  The life you save may not be yours.

homo unius libri

Monday, September 12, 2011

Opus 2011-262, Monday Pulpit: Are Your Pants on Fire?

Sunday nights our Associate Pastor has been conducting a study on the End Times.  This is not my favorite subject.  In fact, if it were up to me it would always be the last topic to study, right after the census in Numbers.  But that is my bad attitude, not your problem.  Most of the sessions have focused on the book of Revelation and Sunday night she was finishing up the series.

She read through the last two chapters of Revelation.  What jumped out at me was the repetition of a certain class of people that were to be rejected by God.  Here are the three passages imbedded in the chapters that talk about hope and restoration.
(Revelation 21:8 KJV)  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

(Revelation 21:27 KJV)  And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

(Revelation 22:15 KJV)  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Can you pick out the one class of sinner that is repeated in all three lists?  I’ll wait.

The only group that I could find in all three verses are the liars.  Consider also that bearing false witness is one of the Ten Commandments.  We begin to get a very serious view of something that is taken lightly today.

Call it what you want.  It may be spin, exaggeration, rationalization, “just joking,” or whatever other euphemism you want to substitute.  God has a word for it:  Lying.  God has provided a place for liars:  The lake of fire.  It is not one of those things that God takes lightly.  Remember how Jesus described himself,
(John 14:6 KJV)  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Truth and honesty are at the core of who God is.  Do not call yourself a child of God if you can’t tell the truth.  That is just another lie.

homo unius libri

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Opus 2011-261, A Snapshot of Fatherhood

I decided to read a chapter of Max Lucado yesterday morning and I am glad I did.  He was using his creativity to imagine what the angel Gabriel went through when he was sent to announce the coming birth to Mary.  When he got to Joseph it came alive for me.
        “And speaking of Joe - what does this fellow know?  Might as well be a weaver in Spain or a cobbler in Greece.  He’s a carpenter.  Look at him over there, sawdust in his beard and nail apron around his waist.  You’re telling me God is going to have dinner every night with him?  Your telling me the source of wisdom is going to call this guy ‘Dad’?  You’re telling me a common laborer is going to be charged with giving food to God?
        “What if he gets laid off?
        “What if he gets cranky”?, When God Whispers Your Name, p. 57
I could not help getting a picture of my father in a nail apron.  He usually had cement dust instead of sawdust, but the picture was too real.  Memories came back.

As a youth in the depression he helped support his family working on farms and general labor.  He worked as a UPS driver and in a foundry.  He eventually bought a pick-up and began to work for himself, first hauling trash and then learning to do concrete work.  He eventually earned his general contractors license.  He never got rich or saved a lot of money.  He never outgrew his blue-collar, working class roots.

And what a father he was!  He raised four boys who have all learned to serve the Lord and be productive members of society.  We came up through the radical 60's.  We grew beards and avoided the barber.  We also grew integrity and avoided booze and drugs.  How many men have that kind of record?

He must have been a lot like Joseph.  Jesus had an earthly father much like mine.  I also think his example is why I have a healthy view of God as father.

A reality of the incarnation was that Almighty God became man.  He went through what we went through.  Think about that next time you start to feel like life is getting hard.

    Man of Sorrows, What a Name
    For the Son of God who came,
    Ruined sinners to reclaim.
    Hallelujah!  What a Savior.

I need to take the book back to the library today, but Jesus is on permanent loan.

homo unius libri

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Opus 2011-260, Immortal Quotes: With All Due Respect

By this time in your life you have heard the joke about the judge threatening a mouthy defendant with holding him in contempt of court.  The man responds that he does have a lot of contempt for the court.  Funny.  Reflects reality.  We also hear people start an insulting comment with the words, “In all due respect...”  I did it myself recently.  Again.

Really, how much respect is due?

Our modern, or should I say, post-modern, culture makes a big deal about “respect.”  Of course they have polluted the meaning.  I tell the kids at school that respect is earned.  They have been taught that it is deserved.  They think children should be respected.  I tell them "Nonsense."  Children can often only be tolerated.  That is why the old saying is “Children should be seen and not heard.”  It is not “Children should be respected and listened to.”  Post-modern teaching is to respect the unrespectable.  Of course you would not want to spend much time around the children of these people, if they have any.

The Bible is big on patience, kindness and forgiveness.  It does refer to respect but not the way our current culture seems to do so.  Do people deserve to be the focus of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?  Yes.  Do they deserve respect?  No.

Go ahead and use the cliche.  Everyone knows that when you say “With all due respect...” you really mean, “I spit on you.”  It is one of those strange things about human language.  But don’t let your life use the cliche.  Be patient.  Be kind.  Forgive.  How did Jesus put it?
(Matthew 5:39-41 KJV)  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
That is not respect.  That is agape. 

homo unius libri

Friday, September 9, 2011

Opus 2011-259, Book Review: On an Unfinished Book

Like most people I have my prejudices.  Of course I call them by more complimentary terms such as tastes, but they are still a matter of prejudging.  When I see someone wearing a knit shirt two sizes two small that leaves no doubt about having and insy or outsy, I make a judgement.  When I see a guy walking like he has a deformity to keep his low hanging pants from really embarrassing him, I make a judgement.  Sometimes I make judgements that need a second look. 

I am giving a second look to the work of Max Lucado.  Actually it is a first look, because I had never read a word he had written.  I always assumed that anyone who sells that many books to the general public can’t be much more than an entertainer and was certainly below my level of expectation.  You can see arrogance and conceit as well as prejudging.  Recently I decided that was an issue.  My local library has a number of his titles.  I had nothing to lose.  I checked one out. 

This is going to be a book review of an unfinished book.  It is called When God Whispers Your Name.  I don’t know if I will get it finished before it is due back to the library.  That is not a criticism of the book.  It is more a reflection of the style.  I don’t know yet if this is Lucado’s style all the time but this book reads like a collection of short articles on many topics.  It reads that way because that is what it is.  He has taken thoughts, sermon illustrations, brief experiences and whatever else he can find and made them into short devotional, sermonettes.  He makes no secret of it.  In fact in one chapter he lists a bunch of one liners that may someday become chapters.

I found what I read to be of value.  Each chapter is short enough that it can be read in a few minutes.  If you have a busy schedule and don’t have time for heavy theology, this could do it for you.  He has a tongue in cheek sense of observation that will get you thinking if you give it a chance.  His comments are rooted in scripture.

One thing I found irritating is that he quotes from many different Bible versions and in this book does not tell you which one.  Since I have issues with paraphrases of the Bible and want to check with a reliable work this causes a problem for me because so many of the paraphrases get so far from the actual wording in the original languages.

I plan on looking for some of his books on the used book sales and keeping one by my chair.  If this book is an indication of his style, when I have a few minutes I will read a chapter.  I won’t worry about when I finish a book because each chapter stands on its own.

I was wrong.  There, I said it.  I find that Max Lucado is worth reading.  He may not be for everyone, but it is worth checking him out and seeing if he fits into your spiritual needs.

Lucado, Max.  When God Whispers Your Name.  Dallas:  Word Publishing, 1994.

homo unius libri

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Opus 2011-258, Christian Cliches: We Are All God’s Children

One of the popular things to say today is that we are all God’s children.  This is used as an excuse for putting up with all kinds of foolishness and to tolerate all kinds of sin.  The thinking is that since we are all God’s children then it doesn’t matter if we are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or any other expression of faith.  There are many roads to God and we all belong to Him.  Right?  Wrong.

Wherever that teaching comes from, it is not the Bible.  There are numerous parameters put on who can consider themselves a child of God.  First, you must be saved.  You must be a believer.
(Galatians 3:26 KJV)  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Then we get to the level of obedience.  Are you following the steps that God has laid out for you?
(Romans 8:14 KJV)  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Although God did cause unbelievers to do His will, such as Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh, generally speaking the Holy Spirit only leads those who have been converted.

Then we have the narrowest qualification of all, the demand for holiness.
(2 Corinthians 6:17-18 KJV)  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Nowhere in the Bible do we see this modern, self-esteem driven, diversity training crafted, multicultural definition of being a child of God.  Don’t delude yourself.

The Bible teaches adoption and “new” birth, not universalism.  Anyone can join the family.  All are invited, but membership is not automatic.

Does this understanding exclude people?  No and yes.  No, because it is clearly stated,
(John 3:16 KJV)  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Remember that verse and the “whosoever”?  All are invited. 

Yes, it excludes some.  You have to get on board to ride the bus.  It is a simple law of society.  We have events at school where they provide free shuttle buses.  I always drive.  I prefer to be in control of my destiny, but a school event is not an eternal matter.  I can’t complain because they say I am not on the bus.  I am not.  It was my choice.  I was invited.  I declined.

All human beings are not children of God.  Some have another father.
(John 8:44 KJV)  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
If your father is not God, then your father is the devil.  Seems pretty simple to me.

Would you like to join my family?

homo unius libri

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Opus 2011-257, Repentance That Isn’t

I was again listening to Alistair Begg.  It is a habit that is easy to get into.  Today he said something that almost made me pull off the freeway and give him a call.  He said, “Repentance is an Evangelical grace.”  He said he was quoting the Westminster Catechism.  He went on to explain that repentance is not something we do in order to get God to do something.  For a few moments he stopped being a Bible preacher and became a Reform Professor.  He got so carried away with what his books say that, in my opinion, he ignored what the Book says.  If you want to listen, the pod-cast date is 2/10/11.

Think about this.  If repentance is a gift that is only given to the elect, where does that leave the rest of humanity?  I have a picture of a TV game show like “Let’s Make a Deal” or “The Price Is Right.”  I see a mass of humanity jumping up and down yelling, “Me!  Me!  Pick me!”  And I see the game show host walking around with his microphone and finally approaching one of the frantic jumpers.  Or on “Let’s Make a Deal” when someone is called down I can just see them thinking in there mind, “Na, na, na, na, na, na, na.  I got picked and you didn’t.”

How can this be a gospel of hope?  To add to the mystery Begg later goes on and talks about how it is necessary to live the life because Hebrews says, “...without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”  That is the same verse my pastor, an Arminian, was preaching on last Sunday.

You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t say that faith is a gift given to the elect and repentance is a gift given to the elect and then say you have to live right.  As the TV AI used to say, “Does not compute.”

I do not in any way de-Christianize these brothers.  I accept them as part of the family, even if they don’t accept me.  My concern is not their lives because many of them live in obedience.  My concern is that soul that is sitting around figuring that God will arbitrarily pick them, or not.  And while they are waiting they might as well enjoy the fruits of sin.

Some things I don’t understand are mysteries.  Some seem to be nonsense.  Of course I am sure someone will quote something about the cross being foolishness to those who are not being saved.

I prefer my security to theirs.

homo unius libri

Monday, September 5, 2011

Opus 2011-256, On the Street: Toll Roads

I was driving north on a California “freeway.”  The sign announcing the next exit said, “Toll Road.”  That was bad enough.  I already pay a lot in road taxes that the politicians have stolen for their own pet projects.  Why did they want to make me pay again.  I know, silly question. 

I have driven back East so I am used to the concept of toll roads.  Now we have a different issue.  The sign also said, “No cash.”  What?  Did they expect me to use my credit card?  No.  Now they have special passes that you attach to your windshield.  It is read by the computer scanner as you drive by and the amount of the toll is deducted from your account.  Pretty nifty.  Very convenient.  Very Big Brother.

Understand.  In order to deduct from your account, they need to know who you are.  That knowledge will include your name and address.  It will probably have your social security number and phone number.  They might want your e-mail address.  What it will add is a knowledge of your location, direction and time.  Pretty nifty.  By offering a convenience the government gets access to your movements.  They know where you are.

Is this going to change your life?  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Maybe never.  If you are a boring person who never expresses an opinion or has any strong beliefs then you are probably safe.  You are also probably watching Jerry Springer instead of reading this blog.  Is Jerry Springer still on?  What this does is give some low level government employee a chance to stick his nose into areas that are none of his business.  Someday, when you do express an opinion or start to care about how things are falling apart, it will be too late.  They will already own you.

It doesn’t stop there.  The plans are for every car to have a computer chip that the government can read.  It will allow them to keep track of where you are and what you do.  There are two purposes behind this, both motivated be elites that want to control your life.  They don’t want to control you to benefit the country, they want it to have power for power’s sake.  One group are the environmentalists and their allies.  They want to charge you based on how many miles you drive.  Yes, a new tax.  The idea is to make those who use the road pay for them and make it cost so much it forces independent drivers out of their cars and into public transportation.  It is easier to control people who must wait for the next bus.  The fallacy is that the people are already paying for it in gasoline taxes and commercial licensees.  It is just a gimmick to get more money from people who are already paying.

The second group are the ones who want to see 1984 come eventually.  They want to know where you are and what you do.  Remember the shocking moment in the movie 1984 when the man realizes that the government was listening to a private conversation in which he shared his fear of rats.  Harmless enough except they were now using it to control him.  Suppose the government knows your movements and finds out that your church has a lot of dissident voices in it.  You are marked.  They can learn who goes to a gun show with the punch of a button.  They can find out who goes to a political rally.  They can find out who is eating at restaurants owned by their political opponents. 

Then there are other issues.  We have  tax issues.  How many times am I expected to pay a tax for the same thing?  Next time you fill up with gasoline look at the pump.  In California there is usually a sticker that explains how much of the price of the gas is direct taxes on each gallon you buy.  Under that are the hidden taxes of the licensing fees for the trucks that deliver the gas.  You have the inspection fees that are paid to have a government employee see if the pumps are working correctly.  There is the cost of the special nozzles that are mandated by law.  It is like education.  If you are paying to put your kids in private schools, you have already paid with your taxes.  You are paying twice for one product.

What about class issues?  Who is going to be paying this extra tax?  Will it be the guy who takes a helicopter to work?  Will it be the guy who works from home instead of going to the office?  Will is be the poor shmuck who has to get to work on time?  Doesn’t the extra tax hurt the poor more than the rich?  Will the rich guy be able to deduct the cost from his taxes?  Is this a way of keeping the wealthy from rubbing elbows with us common peasants?

There are people who want to mold this country into a model socialist society.  For the sheep who follow the bell it won’t matter.  Unfortunately, most of us are goats.  We like the freedom to wander.  That is an evil tendency that the elites want to stomp out.  For our own good, of course.

No thank you.

homo unius libri

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Opus 2011-255, Sabbath Observations: Good Morning Lord!

When I emerged from sleep this morning my first thought was, “No alarm clock.  It is the Sabbath.  Thank you, Jesus.”  Really.

What a blessing to live in a culture influenced by Bible teaching.  It is fading as we turn away from the Word but for centuries we have been guaranteed that at least one day a week our employer would not call on us.  Even in the slave culture of the American South the day of rest was assumed.

Yes, I am aware of the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day.  Yes, I am aware that most people use them interchangeably.  I had a chance to discuss the idea of the Lord’s Day with the kids at school this week.  I was discussing the meanings of B.C. and A.D. and trying to give them an understanding of why A.D. is Anno Domini, not After Death.  In trying to get at the meaning of “domini” I asked what the Spanish word for Sunday is.  Domingo.  I asked what it meant.  They said “Sunday.”  I said no.  We finally worked out it meant “Lord’s Day.”  That meant we could touch on the resurrection.  I digress.

Today I am not responsible to my employer.  A change of routine and demands makes it a day of rest.  My wife is out of town.  That makes it a real day of rest.  Tomorrow I will be going to church.  I will be celebrating the resurrection in my weekly Easter.  That will be a time of renewal but not a day of rest.  For today I bask in the physical, cultural and spiritual blessing of the Sabbath.


homo unius libri

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Opus 2011-254, School Mascots

The Christian College I attended changed their mascot from the Crusaders to the Sea Otters.  My fear is this change reflects their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When political correctness drives you to shy away from advocating the concept of "Onward Christian Soldiers" it says something about your unwillingness to offend the world.  Come to think about it, so does the Bible.
(1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB)  For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Since you can’t have a crusader without a cross, maybe the offense of the mascot was its costume, not its warlike nature.  To misquote The Shadow, “Who knows what thinking lies in the hearts of man?”

This got me to thinking about how lawyers often make the world a worse place by pushing lawsuits that have nothing to do with justice or fairness.  How about law schools having their own mascots.  Maybe we could suggest a few mascots for law schools.  Harvard could become the Litigators.  USC could become the Highbrows and Yale could become the Blood Suckers.

Perhaps we could do the same for government agencies.  IRS could adopt the Turnips, as in getting blood from.  DHS could become the Allstates, as in being in good hands.  TSA could become the Voyeurs.  The Department of Justice could adopt a Mafia motif since their protections seems to be for sale.  The FBI and CIA could fight over the Pink Panthers.  The Department of Agriculture could have a starving child with a bottle of ethanol in its hand.  The EPA could adopt the mercury laden florescent light bulb.  INS could be represented by the Three Monkeys.  The possibilities are endless.

I wonder what my mascot would be?  I wonder what yours would be.  Somehow I don’t think Socrates or Demosthenes would be appropriate. 

homo unius libri