Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dwight Howard And The Blessing of Life

The latest in our ongoing series on American Heroes and Idols

By: Michael Beckman

Cross-Posted From: Tales from a tribble

Dwight HowardAs a big Rockets basketball fan, I was very excited along with the rest of Houston fans when the Rockets signed center Dwight Howard as a free agent in July of 2013.  The Rockets had just signed the best center in the NBA to go along with another super star of the Rockets, James Harden.  This dynamic duo would surely be fun to watch, and it has been.  The Rockets are now one of the best teams in the NBA with a legitimate chance to fight for an NBA Championship.  But more than just acquiring a great basketball player, our city of Houston has been blessed to have a great man join us.

That may be surprising to some because when Dwight decided to sign with the Rockets [especially over his previous team, the Lakers] there was a lot of negative talk that came out about Dwight.  You could read comments on twitter that Dwight was a loser, he was selfish,  he would be a negative on the team, and he didn’t care enough about winning.   Those descriptions about Dwight could not be further from the truth.  None of them apply to this gentleman.  Dwight Howard is a winner, a team player and a big positive to the team, on and off the court.

There is one main reason that the last description of Dwight Howard, that he didn’t care enough about winning, came about.  That is because before the game, during the game and after the game, you will always see Dwight with a smile on his face.  Many basketball fans have taken that to mean he just doesn’t care.  If only they knew the real reason Dwight always has a smile and a positive attitude, even in defeat.  It has nothing to do with Dwight not caring about the game, as he hurts as much as anyone else on the team when they lose a game.  It has to do with life itself.

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The Amateur

TheAmateur-Cover211The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House is the title of a book by Edward Klein that was first published May 15, 2012. The Google eBook synopsis of this publication says:

“It’s amateur hour at the White House. So says New York Times bestselling author Edward Klein in his new political exposé The Amateur. Tapping into the public’s growing sentiment that President Obama is in over his head, The Amateur argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance have run our nation and his presidency off the rails. ‘Obama was both completely inexperienced and ideologically far to the left of Americans when he entered the White House,’ says Klein. ‘And he was so arrogant that he didn’t even know what he didn’t know.’… From Obama’s conceited and detached demeanor, to his detrimental reliance on Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett’s advice, to the Obama’s extravagant and out-of-touch lifestyle, The Amateur reveals a president whose blatant ignorance and incompetence is sabotaging himself, his presidency, and America.”

MY GROWING SENTIMENT

Of course, at the time of its publication, there were reviews praising it (generally, by right-leaning individuals/organizations), as well as reviews trashing it (generally, by left-leaning individuals/organizations). Since the book’s publication date was well into the primary season for the 2012 presidential election, it came at a time when I had already decided to vote for the Republican Presidential Nominee that November. So, although I don’t think my views were quite as harsh as those presented by the Google eBooks synopsis, I’d say that I had come to be in general agreement with its theme. Since then, sadly, I believe that President Obama has continued to prove that Klein’s allegations were completely accurate, if not understated. And, sadder still, affirmation of this truth seems to continue to grow and even accelerate, on a nearly daily basis.

WHAT I PRAYED FOR

Undoubtedly, those whose reviews trashed Klein’s book professed that he had only assembled his assertions to support opinions of Obama that he had held from the outset of his presidency. And, I’m just as sure that they would level the same charges at me. With that, I’d remind them of an article I wrote at the time of President Obama’s first inaugural, entitled A Prayer in Baltimore. In that piece, I said: Continue reading

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When Did The Evening News Become The 24/7 Conjecture?

GREAT ASCENT WITH GREATER DESCENT

There has been much marvelous advancement in broadcast journalism since I came into this world. At that time, we only had a console radio in our home. When I was a toddler, we got our first black-and-white TV but we could only get reception from one local TV station. By the time I was old enough to start paying attention to the news, we were able to receive broadcasts from local affiliates of the three major TV networks, as well as a weak signal from an independent station in another city. In the past 50 to 60 years, technological improvement has been phenomenal and the sources to choose from have increased by several orders of magnitude. However, as has been glaringly obvious lately, along the way, a key element of the news has been frighteningly perverted, if not lost. That key element is, simply, the reporting of the news. “Back in the day”, you could count on the fact that when you tuned in to news programs, like The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, you would just get the known details of that day’s current events. That seemed worthwhile and productive. Today, to a great degree, news reporting has become lost in a nearly endless supply of conjecture. This seems, at least counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive.

NO VALUE

The current coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is, by far, the clearest example of this decline in broadcast journalism. I think Politico summarized the “not worthwhile” aspects of this well with an article entitled “Rush Limbaugh slams plane media ‘show’”. I’m not a “Ditto Head”. I very rarely listen to Limbaugh these days. But, I think he hit the nail on the head in saying,

“We’ve got anchors and anchorettes who don’t know beans about even why an airplane flies. They couldn’t explain the concept of air pressure differential or lift to you if their jobs depended on it. They go get guests, and nobody knows what happened here, so you got a bunch of people on TV who just want face time.”

DIMINISHED VALUE

Beyond Limbaugh’s “not worthwhile” points, there have been many instances where the coverage of this story has fallen into the category of “counterproductive, if not dangerously destructive”. Some of the current theories on why this flight has gone missing include:

  • Some incident led to the crew, or perhaps all on board, being rendered unconscious. The plane continued to fly until it ran out of fuel and it went down, most likely at sea.
  • Terrorism – The plane went down in a failed attempt.
  • Terrorism – The plane landed, to be used in a future attempt.
  • Hijacking – For some cargo on board.
  • Hijacking – For some person/s on board.
  • Crew suicide.
  • Some nation’s military mistakenly shot it down.
  • Struck by a meteor.
  • Taken by space aliens.
  • Sucked into a black hole.

ADDED VALUE

Now, I won’t say that none of this speculation has been interesting to me. It has, and I understand that it’s interesting to others too. But, beyond entertainment value, what does it accomplish. I don’t see it adding to solving the mystery. With the resources that our nation and dozens of other nations have dedicated to solving this mystery, I assume that it will be solved, if possible. The current press coverage adds nothing to that and in fact, it can detract by making it necessary for those seeking a solution to divert their attention in response to the press. Also, publicizing weaknesses that could be exploited by terrorists or hijackers or the suicidal doesn’t aid the experts doing the searching. It’s more likely to result in encouraging others with ill intent to carry out their evil plans. And, if I was among those who buy into meteor or space alien or black hole theories, I wouldn’t need the encouragement of the press to put on my tin-foil hat and head for my bunker in Northern Idaho. Moreover, I see none of this as bringing comfort to the loved ones of the crew and passengers who were aboard Flight 370. In my view, our society would be much better served by the media if they would limit themselves to, simply, reporting the known details of current events and applying enough true journalism to assure that all with related responsibility are held to account. If that was the case, I’d be completely comfortable in knowing what’s going on in the world and that all that can be done about a particular occurrence is being done. Furthermore, the resources that are currently being wasted on conjecture could be turned towards other issues that are just as important, if less titillating.

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Our Goal is Not Diversity; It’s Love

By: Trevin Wax

Cross-Posted From: KINGDOM PEOPLE – THE GOSPEL COALITION

trillia-newbell-unitedI’m thrilled to have Trillia Newbell on the blog today. Her writing has been published in numerous places including the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, The Resurgence, and The Gospel Coalition. She currently is the consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lead Editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Trillia is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, so today she and I discuss what diversity looks like within the church and why ethnic and cultural diversity in and of itself should not be the goal to which Christians aspire.

Trevin Wax: Your book begins reflectively, first with a celebration of our society’s move toward integration in various aspects of public life, and then with a lament that “separate but equal” continues to exist in our churches. What are some reasons the church’s strides toward ethnic integration have been so slow?

Trillia Newbell: This is something I continue to explore. I spend a chapter in United dedicated to the difficulties most likely associated with the pursuit of diversity. The most obvious hindrance could be a sin of partiality.

James addresses our potential to gravitate towards those we believe are superior or that we would prefer above others (James 2:1-13). He is addressing a preference for the rich over the poor but I believe we can struggle with this tendency as it relates to ethnic diversity as well. We can simply prefer those more culturally like us to the extent of isolating those who are not. So, as a result we have homogenous churches because we aren’t relating to others outside of our own ethnic groups.

As far as other reasons, our history of racial tensions in the United States definitely plays a role. There’s an element of trust and comfortableness that must be established in any congregation and we are still working to apply the gospel to this issue relationally.

In regards to history, churches that have been long established may have a difficult time building diversity if they have been historically homogenous. Other reasons might be: church location, city demographics, and specific neighborhood demographics.

Finally, we might simply be complacent. It takes effort to reach out to neighbors, evangelize, and exercise hospitality.

Trevin Wax: I love how this book includes real-life examples of friendships you’ve developed across ethnic lines. You talk about your friendship with Amy (white) and Lillian (Chinese), and why your friends’ diverse backgrounds and experiences are one of the best parts of your friendship. Why do many Christians assume that it’s best to be “color-blind” rather than celebrate the richness of cultural variety God has given us?

Trillia Newbell: I think people use the term color-blind as a way to say “I’m not a racist.” They may want others to feel welcomed by them. The problem is, unless you are truly color-blind you do see color. What I think people ought to say instead is that they don’t differentiate or discriminate based on ethnicity.

God created us all with a variety of shades and backgrounds. We can celebrate this rather than shying away from it. We are his and his creation. This is a good thing. So I’d encourage us that we don’t need to say we are color-blind and instead get to know the unique ways the Lord has made each of us.

Trevin Wax: One of the most memorable parts of your book is when you say the “diversity” in general terms isn’t what we are supposed to pursue. It’s love. Explain what you mean by this.

Trillia Newbell: I’m so glad that you picked that up, Trevin.  It is the only real motivation for a pursuit of diversity. What I mean is, it would grieve me for the church to pick up yet another trend. Building diversity for diversity sake isn’t the aim of United.

Diversity is about love because diversity is about people. Jesus died for the Church (people). God sent His Son because He loved the world. A Christian approach to diversity is about getting to know and welcoming in brother and sisters in Christ, made in the image of God. So, to put the pursuit of diversity into action requires that we die to self and love our neighbors as ourselves.

Diversity has been made into a political term. But when Christians pursue diversity, it is (or should be) out of a desire to show the love of Christ to others. The gospel compels us to love others and it is the gospel that breaks racial barriers. We are much more the same in Christ than we could ever be different.

Trevin Wax: There are plenty of pastors who read books and interviews like this and say, “Yes, I want my church to be more diverse, but I have no idea where to start!” A recent study from LifeWay Research found 83% of pastors said every church should strive for racial diversity, but only 13% say they actually had a diverse congregation. It’s not as easy as just “welcoming” other ethnicities into a church that is predominantly one culture.

What are some practical things a pastor can do to begin to move his church in this direction, taking into consideration that it’s a long and arduous struggle that will not happen overnight?

Trillia Newbell: This is a great question and one I have received several times. I want to start by saying that I’m glad you acknowledge that it may not be easy. I have spoken with pastors who have had an easier time because they started their church on the onset with a mission to be multiethnic. But most pastors, it seems, develop a desire for diversity after a few years in ministry.

I’m currently running a series on my site, TrilliaNewbell.com, to assist pastors who desire to pursue diversity but don’t know where to start. I’ve asked other pastors to share their unique experiences and perspectives to equip pastors and congregations as they seek to implement strategies.

With that said, a few ways that pastors might begin to pursue diversity would be:

Develop a diverse staff
Share about a theology of race and diversity from the pulpit
Cultivate a love for all nations, tribes and tongues
Begin to invite others into your home
If you don’t have a diverse staff for various reasons, invite speakers that are diverse.
This only scratches the surface but perhaps it will inspire some. I also spend time in United addressing some of the hindrances to the pursuit of diversity. I hope, though, that pastors would take a look at my short series. You never know what the Lord could do if you try. He is faithful.

Trevin Wax: What do you hope your book will accomplish in the church’s ongoing discussion of how best to display our unity in the gospel?

Trillia Newbell: I’m praying that we would no longer fear the conversation. I wanted to make the tough discussion about race and diversity accessible to anyone. Perhaps reading about the experience of another person will help also bring the issue into light. If even a few people begin to ask questions and open up with their friends, I think that would be encouraging and worth the effort to write the book.

I pray United will inspire people to pursue diversity through friendships—it’s doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it. And I hope that for the person who has never considered how the gospel unites and transforms racial divide, that it would cast a vision for the beauty of diversity in the church and all of life. New convictions, greater awareness, wonderful friendships…that would be amazing.

And finally, local churches catching a vision and beginning to reflect that Last Day when all nations will be rejoicing together.

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Going To Heaven Alone

iron

REBUKED BY FRIENDS

When I express strong views on a sensitive topic, I’m not surprised when I get pushback from those who see matters differently. But, when I’m rebuffed by those who I think are friends, accepting me and my beliefs, it’s sort of shocking. I had that happen recently and it led me to do some introspection that I’d like to share.

The specifics of this recent occurrence involved a meeting I attended with a small group of people who I’ve worked very closely with for several years. Without inappropriately sharing intimate details of that meeting, let me just say that there was mention of another person who we’ve known through our work, who seemed to be going through a difficult time and that they were attending a Bible study being conducted by someone else we’ve known through our work. Hearing that was a pleasant surprise to me so I responded by saying something like, “I just hope (that person) is truly paying attention at the Bible study.” With that, I sensed a reaction that I later described as a unanimous rolling of the eyes by the other participants.

UNDERSTANDING THE REBUKE

Since my comment came just from my truly caring about the person we had been discussing, that added to my bewilderment over being chided as I was. So, the following day, I approached one of the other attendees to discuss this. In addition to getting affirmation of my sensing that unanimous rolling of the eyes, I was reminded that there are some settings where discussion of topics like religion and politics is just not welcome. And, beyond that, I was told that I was just more spiritual than the other attendees.

In reflecting on that one-on-one follow-up conversation, I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anything in it that I didn’t already know. And, in reflecting on my follow-up self-conversation, I remained sure of my caring intent with the comment that led to my rebuke. To me, though, the disapproval I had received from my friends clearly indicated the need for me to examine how I share my Christian faith in order that it’s received as intended. So, I determined to do just that.

FOCUS ON A SIN

In the course of making this examination, I thought of a point that I’d heard Pastor Brian Brodersen, of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, make in a teaching from 1 Corinthians. As a side note, I ended up going through 11 of Pastor Brian’s teachings to find what I was looking for. At first, that seemed like a nuisance but it turned out that I was richly blessed through a fresh look at much more of God’s Word than I’d had in mind. Anyway, I did find what I was looking for in Pastor Brian’s lesson, entitled “Tending to Our Own Issues”, based on the following Scripture:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

The point that I had been thinking of was made by Pastor Brian in addressing the part of this Scripture that says, “I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” Pastor Brian’s comments here were: “ … notice, first of all, that the issues of sin go beyond sexual immorality … notice the other sins included there … we have a tendency to isolate a specific sin and focus in on that sin to the exclusion of other sins … that’s part of the problem we have right now, in the current cultural situation, in regard to homosexuality. I think that we, the church in general, have over emphasized this one sin. If you think about it, as we share the gospel with people, generally, we don’t begin by talking about specific sins. But, with homosexuality it seems we focus in on that particular thing. That’s the wrong way to understand it. I was thinking the other day about the idea that so many gay people have in their mind … I’ve heard them say this, ’You think I’m going to Hell because I’m gay.’ The reality is, they’re not going to Hell because they’re gay. They’re going to Hell because they’re lost. They’re going to Hell because they’re a sinner. They’re going to Hell for the same reason an adulterer is and the same reason a swindler is and for the same reason a slanderer is … because they haven’t turned to Christ to have their sins forgiven.” Continue reading

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Setting Up an Ebenezer

By: Henry Morris, Ph.D.

Cross-Posted From: The Insitute for Creation Research

My purpose in cross-posting this article is to help some of our readers have a better understanding of the aim of HERE I RAISE MY EBENEZER, as described on our ABOUT PAGE.

“Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

Many Christians have joined in the singing of a familiar verse in an old hymn without knowing its great meaning: “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’ve come.” When the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines, the old priest Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, all died the same day, as did Phinehas’ wife in childbirth. It was a tragic day for Israel.

But then the people returned to God, under Samuel, and 20 years later the Lord gave them a miraculous victory over the superior armies of the Philistines. In commemoration of this deliverance, Samuel set up a stone monument in the same place where the Philistines had captured the Ark 20 years before, calling the stone “Ebenezer,” a name which was always associated thereafter with the site (1 Samuel 4:1; 5:1).

Now “Ebenezer” means “Stone of Help,” and seeing it would always remind the people, whenever they might later come to fear the circumstances around them, that God had been their “help in ages past,” and thus could be trusted as their “hope for years to come.” Only God is truly able to help in times of great need, but He is able! “From whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

It is well to remember those times in our own lives when God has helped us in some special way. We forget so easily, and the sin of ingratitude is cited by God as one of the first harbingers of imminent apostasy (note especially Romans 1:21). A physical token can help us remember, but whatever it takes—remember! God will hear and answer our prayers for future help, too, but “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). HMM

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The Blessing Of Boxing With God

Your_Arms_Too_Short_to_Box_with_GodAre you familiar with the saying, “Your arm’s too short to box with God”? I guess I first heard that phrase sometime in the 1970s or 1980s but I wasn’t sure of its origin. When I looked into it, I was a bit surprised to learn that it came from a sermon, entitled The Prodigal Son, by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. It was published in 1927 in his book of sermons, entitled God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Regardless of where it came from, its core message always seemed apparent to me … It’s ridiculous to disagree with God; you should just accept His will and get on with life. As a result of a Bible teaching I got to take in recently, from Exodus 32 and Exodus 33, I now see that my thinking this way has been off-the-mark and that it’s been very limiting to me in truly getting to know God.

GOD AND MOSES

The Bible teaching I mentioned was from Pastor Dave Rolph, of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills. His lesson on Exodus 32-33 is from a series he is doing on Bible stories. This one is called The Heart of Moses. The story starts when Moses is up on Mt.Sinai receiving the law from God while Aaron and the people are below worshipping a golden calf they’ve made. When that happens, God switches from giving the law to Moses, to telling him he has a problem. The rest of the story covers what happened from that point forward and it focuses on the related interaction between God and Moses. Continue reading

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