Thursday, June 26, 2008

Remembering the basics

Link to original article. Emphasis added is mine.

There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget.

Most of us know that we are supposed to love and fear God; that we are supposed to read our Bibles and pray so that we can get to know Him better; that we are supposed to worship Him with our lives. But actually living it out is challenging.

It confuses us when loving God is hard. Shouldn’t it be easy to love a God so wonderful? When we love God because we feel we should love Him, instead of genuinely loving out of our true selves, we have forgotten who God really is. Our amnesia is flaring up again.

It may sound “un-Christian” to say that on some mornings I don’t feel like loving God, or I just forget to. But I do. In our world, where there are hundreds of things to distract us from God, we have to intentionally and consistently remind ourselves of Him.

I recently attended my high school reunion. People kept coming up to me and saying, “She’s your wife?” They were amazed, I guess, that a woman so beautiful would marry someone like me. It happened enough times that I took a good look at a photograph of the two of us. I, too, was taken aback. It is astonishing that my wife chooses to be with me—and not just because she is beautiful. I was reminded of the fullness of what I have been given in my wife.

We need the same sort of reminders about God’s goodness. We are programmed to focus on what we don’t have, bombarded multiple times throughout the day with what we need to buy that will make us feel happier or sexier or more at peace. This dissatisfaction transfers over to our thinking about God. We forget that we already have everything we need in Him. Because we don’t often think about the reality of who God is, we quickly forget that He is worthy to be worshipped and loved. We are to fear Him.

A. W. Tozer writes:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us … Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

If the “gravest question” before us really is what God Himself is like, how do we learn to know Him?

We have seen how He is the Creator of both the magnitude of the galaxies and the complexity of caterpillars. But what is He like? What are His characteristics? What are His defining attributes? How are we to fear Him? To speak to Him? Don’t check out here. We need to be reminded of this stuff. It is both basic and crucial.

God is holy. A lot of people say that whatever you believe about God is fine, so long as you are sincere. But that is comparable to describing your friend in one instance as a 300-pound sumo wrestler and in another as a five-foot-two, 90-pound gymnast. No matter how sincere you are in your explanations, both descriptions of your friend simply cannot be true.

The preposterous part about our doing this to God is that He already has a name, an identity. We don’t get to decide who God is. “God said to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). We don’t change that.

To say that God is holy is to say that He is set apart, distinct from us. And because of His set apart–ness, there is no way we can ever fathom all of Who He is. To the Jews, saying something three times demonstrated its perfection, so to call God “Holy, Holy, Holy” is to say that He is perfectly set apart, with nothing and no one to compare Him to. That is what it means to be “holy.”

Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves. His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him. Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?

God is eternal. Most of us would probably agree with that statement. But have you ever seriously meditated on what it means? Each of us had a beginning; everything in existence began on a particular day, at a specific time.

Everything, that is, but God. He always has been, since before there was an earth, a universe or even angels. God exists outside of time, and since we are within time, there is no way we will ever totally grasp that concept.

Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be! If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep–dependent lives.

Please stop here, even if just for a moment, and glorify the eternal God: “But you, O Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:12, 27).

God is all-knowing. Isn’t this an intimidating thought?

Each of us, to some degree, fools our friends and family about who we really are. But it’s impossible to do that with God. He knows each of us, deeply and specifically. He knows our thoughts before we think them, our actions before we commit them, whether we are lying down or sitting or walking around. He knows who we are and what we are about. We cannot escape Him, not even if we want to. When I grow weary of trying to be faithful to Him and want a break, it doesn’t come as a surprise to God.

For David, God’s knowledge led Him to worship. He viewed it as wonderful and meaningful. He wrote in Psalm 139 that even in the darkness he couldn’t hide from God; that while he was in his mother’s womb, God was there.

Hebrews 4:13 says, “No creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” It is sobering to realize that this is the same God who is holy and eternal, the Maker of the billions of galaxies and thousands of tree species in the rainforest. This is the God who takes the time to know all the little details about each of us. He does not have to know us so well, but He chooses to.

God is all-powerful. Colossians 1:16 tells us that everything was created for God: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

Don’t we live instead as though God is created for us, to do our bidding, to bless us and to take care of our loved ones?

Psalm 115:3 tells us, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Yet we keep on questioning Him: “Why did you make me with this body, instead of that one?” “Why are so many people dying of starvation?” “Why are there so many planets with nothing living on them?” “Why is my family so messed up?” “Why don’t You make Yourself more obvious to the people who need You?”

The answer to each of these questions is simply this: because He’s God. He has more of a right to ask us why so many people are starving. As much as we want God to explain Himself to us, His creation, we are in no place to demand that He give an account to us.

All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)

Can you worship a God who isn’t obligated to explain His actions to you? Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?

Do you really believe that compared to God, “all the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing,” including you?

God is fair and just. One definition of justice is “reward and/or penalty as deserved.” If what we truly deserved were up to us, we would end up with as many different answers as people who responded. But it isn’t up to us, mostly because none of us are good.

God is the only Being who is good, and the standards are set by Him. Because God hates sin, He has to punish those guilty of sin. Maybe that is not an appealing standard. But to put it bluntly, when you get your own universe, you can make your own standards. When we disagree, let’s not assume it’s His reasoning that needs correction.

It takes a lot for us to comprehend God’s total hatred for sin. We make excuses like, “Yes, I am prideful at times, but everyone struggles with pride.” But God says in Proverbs 8:13, “I hate pride and arrogance.” You and I are not allowed to tell Him how much He can hate it. He can hate and punish it as severely as His justice demands.

God never excuses sin. And He is always consistent with that ethic. Whenever we start to question whether God really hates sin, we have only to think of the cross, where His Son was tortured, mocked and beaten because of sin. Our sin.

There is no question that God hates and must punish sin. And He is totally just and fair in doing so.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Franky Shaeffer on Politics

Original Link

Dr. Dobson Has Just Handed Obama Victory

Senator Obama just took another giant step toward winning the presidency. Actually, someone who considers himself a sworn enemy of Senator Obama took the step for him. Dr. Dobson of the Focus On the Family radio program (and evangelical media empire) has aired a program in which he attacks Senator Obama, the Senator's theology and his credentials as a Christian. With enemies like this Senator Obama doesn't need friends.

No, I'm not talking about Dobson energizing liberal Democrats. I'm talking about Dobson energizing his fellow evangelicals to vote for Senator Obama.

I first met Dobson when I was on his program back in the early eighties. At that time I too was an evangelical right wing agitator. I describe my encounter with Dobson and my journey from the heart of the Republican/evangelical right to sanity in my book CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

In the bad old days Dobson gave away 150,000 copies of a shrill bestseller evangelical screed of mine called A Time For Anger. (There was a lot more money in the God business than working as a legitimate author let me tell you! If any of my novels made the kind of money my evangelical books did I'd be set! ) Along with my late evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer, like Dobson we were busy welding the evangelicals and the Republican Party into what amounted to a new party of soft theocracy. I changed my mind and got out in the mid eighties. But I have plenty of friends still in the evangelical movement, and they say unequivocally that Dobson's time has passed.

Dobson is one of the Evangelical religious right old guard. He's to the right what Nader is to the left. Like the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others Dobson has alienated as many evangelicals -- let alone moderate Christians -- as he's inspired. In fact, ever since he tried to get Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) fired last year Dobson has found himself painted into a reactionary corner. Many evangelicals still fear him and so won't denounce his posturing power-plays but they also despise him.

Cizik is the future of evangelicalism. Dobson is the past. Cizik is a strong environmentalist advocate on the issue of global warming. Dobson tried to get the board of the National Association of Evangelicals to fire Cizik because of that fact. Dobson said that Cizik's environmental beliefs ran counter to what Dobson thought was in George Bush's best interests. He also said that the environment distracts from the favorite issues Dobson raises most of his funds on: abortion and gay bashing. But Dobson failed. The board of the NAE rejected Dobson's power play, for the same reason many evangelicals will reject his telling them how to vote this year. Dobson also failed in stopping John McCain (who failed to kiss Dobson's ass sufficiently) from becoming the Republican nominee.

If you're one of many Americans who thinks that the war in Iraq was a mistake or believe that the Republicans have run the economy into the ground or think that perhaps the chaos George Bush unleashed in our foreign affairs has something to do with the price of gas at the pump... then you have Dr. Dobson to thank -- personally. No one worked harder to get Bush elected then reelected. Dobson delivered his millions of dupes. But now many of them see through him and like most Americans, are appalled by Bush.

Nevertheless Dobson has -- for eight years -- been George W. Bush's personal shill. In return Dobson has had ego-stoking "access" to the White House, or rather to the lackeys in the White House laughing at him but charged with stroking Dobson and the other pompous asses masquerading as religious leaders.

But the new generation of evangelicals is sick of being labeled as backward rednecks because of their association with fossils like Dobson. There are many evangelicals like Cizik too who are not all about homophobia, nationalism, war-without-end and American exceptionalism or the Republican Party. Like Cizik they believe that the America has a responsibility to do something about global warming, poverty, AIDS, human trafficking and other issues. They see through Dobson and the other so-called pro-life leaders, who have actually done nothing to reduce abortion. In fact Dobson has increased abortions because of his "abstinence only" crusade.

As a result of his power grabs and bullying of other evangelicals, not to mention his telling people how to vote and pointing them to the failed W, Dobson & Co. have zero credibility with a growing number of otherwise conservative evangelicals who happen--this year--to be looking favorably at Senator Obama's holistic Christian-based world view. Unlike Dobson they like Obama's theology just fine.

All that was missing to put the frosting on the Obama cake was for Dobson to attack him. For Obama to win all he needs to do is peel off a chunk of heretofore solid evangelical Republican votes. Dobson just handed Obama those votes.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of "CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

There's an idea...

Jay Leno's monologue on The Tonight Show a few nights ago:

Hillary Clinton is taking a month off from her job as senator to rest up from her campaign.

How does that work? You've been neglecting your job trying to get a better job. You don't get that job, so you to take a month off from the job you were trying to get out of and go on vacation.

Imagine if you tried that with your boss. "Hey boss, listen — I've been looking for another job, and I'm exhausted. I want to take a month off. Here's where you
can send my checks."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mike & the Mad Dog Breaking Up? Noooo!

In an earlier post, I was lamenting the poor quality of New York Radio. During my afternoon commutes home, I eschew (great word, huh?) the terrible musical radio and listen to Mike & the Mad Dog on Sports Radio The Fan AM 660. It's a sports show, that has its requisite NY sports scene discussions without overpowering their listeners with too much Yankee dribble. In fact The mad dog (Chris Russo) hates the Yankees!

A great show with a great dynamic is apparently at risk of ending. Oh the huge manatee!

Story Link

Over the weekend, Newsday reporter Neil Best suggested the wildly popular and successful 'Mike and the Mad Dog' radio show could be finished. According to radio industry sources, Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo haven't been getting along well enough to continue their afternoon program on WFAN.

While Russo and radio station WFAN, deny the rumors (Francesa refused to comment), Best cites staffers witnessing the pair fight and "subtle" signs "such as Francesa declining to ask Russo how he is after Russo had opened the show by inquiring into Francesa's well-being." Russo said to Best, "I think we've been going through [some strains]...I think we've been fine the last couple of months."

Why would the pair, who reportedly make over a million each, leave? Perhaps to pursue other opportunities--for instance, Francesa hosts "Mike'd Up," an Sunday at 11:35 p.m. sports program on WNBC. Newsday's Jim Baumbach is embarrassed to love listening to Mike & the Mad Dog and, back in 2006, ESPN's Bill Simmons watched the pair and noticed all sorts of weird things.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pennies for your thoughts

Source: From Christianity today.

Before appearing on Fox's popular The Moment of Truth (Tuesdays, 8/7c), contestants are asked 50 increasingly personal questions while hooked to a polygraph machine. Then, on camera, they field the same questions while hooked to the lie detector, but this time with loved ones sitting just a few feet away—and a viewing audience of more than 10 million. The more questions they truthfully answer, the more money they win—up to $500,000.

One man, with his spouse sitting in the front row, was asked, "Are you sexually attracted to your wife's sisters?" (He said yes.) A woman, with her mother in the audience, was asked, "Do you want to look like your mom when you are her age?" (She said no.) It gets uncomfortable. Each family is allowed to skip one question if they can't bear to hear the answer.

In one episode, a woman in the hot seat was asked by an ex-boyfriend, "Would you leave your husband for me?" After a few tense seconds, the woman's sister slapped the pass button. The audience let out a chorus of scathing boos. They wanted to know.

I recalled the bloodthirsty crowds in Gladiator, who jeered fighters who would not kill. Like them, this TV audience wanted entertainment, no matter the cost. The difference? Now we want emotional carnage. Perhaps this is a byproduct of our instant, total-access culture. We want to know what Britney Spears is doing right now. We want to know a stranger's dirty laundry. This voyeurism, or "information porn," feels dirty and thrilling. As one Fox exec said of the show, "By the time a participant is done, you know all about them." But should we?

There's a fascinating sociological undercurrent here. What drives us? Contestants know what questions are coming, but they press on—for the money. What consumes us? One husband used his pass when his wife was asked if she'd like him to lose weight. And what should remain secret? Questions often deal with one's inner thought life—like, "Do fat people repulse you?"

Christians understand the need for honesty and confession; some ugly truths, like the adultery one contestant admitted, must be revealed—privately. But can such public transparency—inspired by monetary gain in front of jeering masses—truly benefit anyone?

Well, apparently Fox.

Todd Hertz, managing editor, Ignite Your Faith and critic for

KP Yohannan in trouble?

Edit, February 14, 2014: Thanks to reader Bill Kendrick, no wrongdoing has been found.  See here for details.

As this is a very old post, I did not know until reading Mr. Kendrick's email. As such, I am deleting my comments and just leaving the original article.



Kerala bishop's trust in legal trouble
10 Jun 2008, 0311 hrs IST,Ananthakrishnan G,TNN

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Bishop K P Yohannan, a popular evangelist in Kerala, is in trouble with the law. A preliminary inquiry by the intelligence department of Kerala police casts doubts on how a trust he runs spent a massive Rs 900 crore of donations from abroad.

The trust, according to reports, received Rs 1044 crore since 1995 from Texas-based Gospel for Asia apparently for charitable purposes but had spent only Rs 144 crore towards this purpose. No satisfactory explanation was given on how the rest of the amount was spent, police said.

The matter is now pending with the state home department which is said to be considering a detailed probe. Any inquiry would necessitate central assistance as it involves money from abroad which falls in the purview of the Reserve Bank of India.

Yohannan is the founder president of the Gospel for Asia and the Believer's Church, both of which enjoy huge assets bases. What has raised eyebrows is that most of the trusts floated by Yohannan has on its board his family members. The trust, sources claimed, had recently purchased 40 acres of paddy fields in Pathanathitta district and filled it up to evade the Land Reforms Act.

Also under the lens is a land transaction worth Rs 130 crore said to have been undertaken by the trust some months back. The Church, however, denied the charges and claimed that its working was transparent.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Jack Handey

Thanks to another humor blog, I am reproducing for you below, my faithful reader (sigh), a list of Jack Handey thoughts. (From Saturday Night Live)

24) Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: "Mankind." Basically, it's made up of two separate words, mank and ind. What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that's why so is mankind.

23) If you're a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it's real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you.

22) I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it.

21) For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?

20) If you ever crawl inside an old hollow log and go to sleep, and while you're in there some guys come and seal up both ends and then put it on a truck and take it to another city, boy, I don't know what to tell you.

19) Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.

18) Can't the Marx Brothers be arrested and maybe even tortured for all the confusion and problems they've caused?

17) If they ever come up with a swashbuckling School, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, Then Jumping Off Something.

16) To me, it's always a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, "Hey, can you give me a hand?," you can say, "Sorry, got these sacks."

15) I guess we were all guilty, in a way. We all shot him, we all skinned him, and we all got a complimentary bumper sticker that said, "I helped skin Bob."

14) It's funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

13) If you're a horse, and someone gets on you, and falls off, and then gets right back on you, I think you should buck him off right away.

12) When I was a kid my favorite relative was Uncle Caveman. After school we'd all go play in his cave, and every once in a while he would eat one of us. It wasn't until later that I found out that Uncle Caveman was a bear.

11) Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.

10) If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them.

9) I hope if dogs ever take over the world, and they chose a king, they don't just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with some good ideas.

8) To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.

7) Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

6) One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said, "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.

5) If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He like enchiladas, because that's what He's getting!

4) It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

3) If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.

2) If you're a cowboy and you're dragging a guy behind your horse, I bet it would really make you mad if you looked back and the guy was reading a magazine.

1) If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."