Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Every Family Has Them

"Ok, I'll go ahead and say it--I know that being a conservative is not a requirement for being a Christian. I totally understand that. Still, I have no idea how anyone who claims to be a Christian can vote Democrat. Period.

"To me, Democrat-voting christians are not brothers/sisters in Christ. They're more like 2nd cousins once removed in Christ. You know, like the relatives that show up at the family reunion all liquored up who go up to sing some karaoke but can't see the lyrics on the screen so they decide to freestyle rap? You can't say they're not family but you don't want to admit to knowing them? Democrat voting christians are like that."

Comment by Joe Blackmon on the blog post, "The Mind of a Liberal...Courtesy of Nancy Pelosi" at Just After Sunrise.   Used with permission.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Today's Hymn - Another Hidden Treasure In Our Hymnbook


Each week it is my privilege to select the hymns and choruses for my church’s worship services. 

I am 66 years old.  I have attended church almost every Sunday of my life since before I can remember.  I grew up with and have spent most of my life involved in church music.  My mother tells me that she used to prop me up in an improvised baby seat me on the front pew every Wednesday evening while she was in choir practice.  I have sung duets many times, with my sister, when were young children.  I have spent many years in church choirs and singing solos, duets, and in small ensembles.  

Now this is not intended to boast; it is simply to make this point.  In all those years, I have learned and loved many hymns and songs.  But I have missed one of the truly great ones.  I never heard this song until I selected it for our congregational singing about two years ago.

I don’t know why it has remained so obscure for 275 years.  It is a great hymn of faith that focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In many ways this hymn parallels another great hymn that is one of my favorites – “My Faith Has Found A Resting Place.”   

In my opinion, this unfamiliar hymn should be known well and used often in Christian worship.  Besides, it is easy to sing and it has a very familiar tune that we all know as another song, “Take My Life And Let It Be Consecrated.”

The hymn, written by Johann Schwedler, was inspired by two Bible texts.  “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)  and “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

The title of the hymn is a question; Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know?  Originally it had six stanzas but most hymnbook today (those that contain the song) only provide verses 1,4,5, and 6.

The first five stanzas asks questions that are all answered by the common refrain,  “Jesus Christ, the crucified.”

Stanza 1 inquires, who is the greatest, the highest and the most glorious?

The questions in stanza 2 inquires about the very nature of Christ, the One who is omnipotent, all compassionate, the Mighty Warrior and protector, the God of all comfort, and the God of revival.

One of the two stanzas, that are not included in the hymnals, gets right down to the fundamental question of the very foundation of our faith.  These are great questions and I wish the editors had not omitted this stanza:

         What is faith’s foundation strong? 
                  What awakes my heart to song?
         He who bore my sinful load,
                  Purchased, for me, peace with God;
         Jesus Christ, the crucified.

There is a remarkable scene in the 1953 movie, Martin Luther.  As a young priest, Luther began to question many of the errant beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  He was deemed a trouble-maker and an heretic and in danger of excommunication (if not execution). In the scene, one of Luther’s superiors confronted him and demanded, “If we removed all of these rituals and relics as you say, what would you suggest we replace them with?”

Luther’s answer was direct and powerful and very much like the common answer to all these questions in this hymn.  He simply and boldly answered, “Christ.” 

Unlike the other verses, the last stanza doesn’t ask any questions.  Instead it simply makes this very clear and powerful affirmation of faith;

         This is that great thing I know;
                  This delights and stirs me so:
         Faith in Him who died to save,
                  Him who triumphed o’er the grave:
         Jesus Christ, the crucified.

If you are in any position to select music for your congregational worship, this is a good one to introduce and teach to your congregation.  If not, I would still recommend that you read it, sing it, teach it to your children, and use in your private worship and devotion.  

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  Col. 3:16

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Invasion Of The Body Cavities


You know you're getting old when you don't fit in the culture anymore.

I don't like socialized medicine (OBAMACARE).  I don't understand it. I don't see any use for it and I certainly don't see how it is improved or how it improves my life.

I grew up in a time when most people didn't have a health care plan.  We had doctors; respected men we knew in our towns and churches whose practices were local.  They knew us and we knew them.  When we got sick, we called them.  Sometimes they came to our homes with their little black bag and they treated us.  Sometimes minor operations were performed in their offices which, in many cases, were in their homes.  My sister and I had our tonsils removed in our doctor's home.  When we woke up, his wife served us ice cream in their own bed. 

We paid for his services when they were rendered.  No problem.  And if it was a problem, the doctor would just carry the charges on account.

Now I am FORCED into some kind of government approved one-size-fits-all PLAN that I don't want and don't need (unless, by chance, I get pregnant and want to abort).

I don't even know my doctor.  He (or maybe she) has some strange name I can't pronounce.  I have never met him.  For over a year my service provider has been hounding me with letters and phone messages to make contact with them.   They keep bugging me for stool samples.  They want me to put in in an envelope and mail it to them.  I thinks that's illegal.  The post office has rules about sending hazardous, explosive, or harmful contents.  I'm sure my stool sample would be classified as one of those and a violation of U.S. Postal Service laws is a Federal offense.  I just want to be left alone.

Last week I got a warning notice.  My doctor scheduled me for a lab test.  I was instructed to go to any of their multiple facilities' labs; my paperwork would be in their data system.  I was told that if I didn’t cooperate, my coverage would probably be dropped.

Whoa, really?  I wondered how bad that could be if I were “dropped.”  Well, anyway, I drove thirty miles to the medical center and checked into the lab.  Forty stinkin’ bucks - that was the amount of my "copay."  In the old days I would have paid the forty dollars for the office visit.  The only thing different now is that I have a lousy health care plan that I HAVE TO PAY FOR before they charge me a forty dollar copay.  How is that better?

So I was there less than ten minutes from check in to discharge -- Paid the forty bucks, walked down the hall to the lab, and, as if forty bucks wasn’t enough, they even TOOK MY BLOOD and all I got out of the deal was an elastic tourniquet with a cotton ball over the puncture; I ditched that in the trash can before I reached the exit.  Oh yeah, and I got a receipt telling me that the forty bucks will be "applied toward your total charges for services you will receive today or during this admission.  I this does not cover your full financial liability, you will receive a bill for additional charges....(and blah, blah, blah).

Why does he want my blood?  What is he going to do with it?  What’s he looking for?  I’m not sick.  I didn’t call him.  Is he going to ask me a bunch of personal questions?  Is he going to want to follow up with an invasion of my body cavities?  Well that is never gonna happen!  Does he expect me to change my diet?  Fat chance!  Is he going to start making me take pills?  That's gonna be hard to swallow.  I am not going to give up pizza and chili cheese dogs and I don’t want to take pills.  Is he going to ask me if I have any firearms in my house?  I'm a Conservative Christian American Patriot; of course I do but it’s none of his business.  Maybe he’s going to diagnose me as psychologically disturbed because of my bad attitude.  Well it's my attitude; it's the only one I have and I intend to KEEP IT.

I don’t like this.  I think it's the doctors who make people sick.  Lots of people I know, who were just fine before going to see their doctors, came back with some serious new condition or ailment and a chest full of prescription drugs.  I don't want no stinkin' institutional management of my health care; I just want to be able to call a doctor when I am sick.  How many more times am I going to have to fork over forty bucks for some services I didn’t ask for and don’t want before they just LEAVE ME ALONE?   Maybe I should just go curl up and die.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Cosequenses of Public Education


 A FEW WEEKS AGO I POSTED A COMMENT THAT WAS CRITICAL OF PUBLIC EDUCATION.  IT STIRRED UP AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE FROM ONE YOUNG LADY WHO USED A STRAW MAN ARGUMENT IN DEFENSE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION BECAUSE OF THE PRESENCE OF CHRISTIAN SCHOOL TEACHERS.  

I AM REPOSTING THIS, FROM 1-19-2009, TO REBUT HER ARGUMENT: 


Sooner or later, we reap the consequences of our actions. During this last election, the chickens came home to roost. Have you wondered why 18-to-29-year-old evangelicals voted for Barack Obama despite his apostasy on the fundamental moral issues of abortion and same-sex unions? They voted 32 percent for Obama, twice the percentage of that demographic group who voted for John Kerry in 2004.

What caused the children of the so-called "religious right," to change their moral imperatives so dramatically? In this article, Phyllis Schlafly suggests that most likely it's the humanistic attitudes and decision-making they learned in the public schools, which 89 percent of U.S. students attend.

From time to time I hear “Christian” parents attempting to argue in favor of public education. Their justification goes something like this, “I went to public school and it didn’t affect me,” (an opinion that might be arguable). I think some more honest responses would be “I would rather spend my money on recreation and comfort” or “Why should I pay for something when public education is free?” The truth is, many parents just simply let their kids make those decisions for themselves.

My friend, Ron Livesay, a retired Christian School administrator, has written this on the subject:

Over the years, I have had many parents tell me that they plan to allow their children to decide which school to attend when they reach a certain age, usually at the beginning of either junior or senior high school. My response to that is based on my biblical convictions concerning the absolute necessity for God-centered education. It is not my purpose to tell people what convictions to hold, but I am hopeful that this article will challenge your thinking.

First, it is unlikely that a twelve or fourteen year old has the maturity and accompanying wisdom to make a decision that will likely affect the remainder of his life. Regardless of how some of them appear, early teenagers are not adults and should not be subjected to the pressure inherent in making adult decisions. Sound decision-making can be learned from other situations that have less far-reaching implications.

Second, to allow a young person to make a decision that has the potential to help or hurt him greatly is to abdicate parental responsibility. Parents must take the position that their age and wisdom are greater than that of their children and that decisions must be made on the basis of what is right and good rather than what their children like or thinks is fun.
“Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” Proverbs 19:27 (NASB)
Third, the usual arguments given for a young teenager to make such decisions are weak. “He wants to go to the public school to be a witness for the Lord.” But putting canaries in with sparrows to teach the sparrows to sing will likely result in many chirping canaries and very few singing sparrows. We do not send our children to be foreign missionaries nor do we enlist them to fight in wars. Rather, we nourish them to maturity before we expect mature behavior.

“But the public school has more electives.” That is true but can we justify allowing our children to be taught by unbelievers for the sake of an auto shop class? The biblical principle is that parents are responsible for the education of their children and that it is of utmost importance that the education they receive be consistent with and based on God’s Word. It would have been curious indeed, had David attended Philistine Central High School so he could play football or march in the band.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations…’” Jeremiah 10:2 (NASB)
“I do not want to shelter my children from the real world.” What is the “real world,” anyway? According to Scripture, the real world is one that includes God rather than one that legislates Him out of existence. An education that does not include God is void of an understanding of the real world. It is public school students who are sheltered and protected from reality. To ignore the truth and try to be neutral is to deny the truth, and the public school has no option or intention to do otherwise.

“The public schools have many fine Christian teacher.” Praise the Lord for that. The public school can certainly use them. Christians who teach in public schools have a unique ministry. They are to be commended and upheld by prayer. Their task is not easy. They are laboring within a system that is hostile and restrictive, yet they have great ministry opportunities. But a mature adult teaching in the public school is not the same as a young, impressionable student attending that school. Christian teachers cannot make the public schools into Christian schools. The problem lies, not with the teachers. They are under the authority and control of a system that, by government decree, will never be godly.

There are many inane arguments for allowing young people to make bad decisions that we know will harm them. But they are usually inconsistent with biblical wisdom. The consequences of those decisions will be our responsibility.

Every Christian parent has a God-given responsibility for the godly education of his children. Whether through home-schooling, Christian school, or some other means is not the issue. The important thing is for us all to be faithful in our responsibilities.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine hearts and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children…” Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
Pastor Ron Livesay is my long-time friend, co-worker, and occasional contributor to this blog. He recently retired after serving God for over 30 years in Christian School administration.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Personal Confession Repost. Why I Don't Laff Anymore

I don't laff much anymore.  I'm not very good at baring my soul to strangers and making public confessions but it is time for me to level with you about a problem I have been hiding for a long time. This is very difficult for me but confession is necessary before I can ever hope to deal with this horrible problem that is affecting my job, my ministry and my relationships with my wife and family.

I knew that my personal weakness was soon to be discovered when people started noticing that I was laffing (that's what happens whenever people really start thinking; they begin to laff at the lunacy and idiocy of non-thinkers). They began to wonder what I had been thinking. It wasn’t really about the things I did but what people presumed to be some dark, latent, irreverent thinking that motivated my actions.

It started out innocently enough. I began to think in public now and then just to loosen up a little bit. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more of an obsession to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I know, thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't control myself. My board chairman called a special meeting and said, “We have noticed that you have been laffing a lot and we suspect it’s because you have been thinking. If you don’t stop thinking, we will have to terminate you.

Lots of people enjoy some occasional social thinking but I have noticed that most people avoid those who begin to think too much. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"

Things weren't going so great at home either. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day my pastor called me in. He said, "Ralph, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. Lots of people have seen you laff and they are sure that it is caused by your thinking. If you don't stop your thinking immediately, we will have no choice but to remove you from ministry and we may have to remove your name from our church membership roll." This gave me even more to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with my pastor. "Kathy, I have a confession to make, I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she interrupted, "I’ve known it for a long time. I could tell when you started laffing. I want a divorce!"

"But Kathy, surely it's not that serious" I said.

"It is serious," she said with teary eyes and a quivering lower lip. “Nobody likes us any more. Our friends won’t even talk to me because they have all seen you laffing and they wonder what you have been thinking. You think almost as much as college professors, and college professors don't make any money and the only friend they have are a few pinhead thinkers who can't relate to real people. So if you keep on thinking we won't have any money or friends!"

I laffed, "That's a faulty syllogism," I said in my sarcastic witty way. Then she began to cry. “See,” she said, “college professors don’t make any sense either.

I'd had enough. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche, with a PBS station on the radio. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors...they didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today; a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. Lately I have noticed that I am really starting to enjoy watching the Simpsons on T.V. but I still catch myself laffing sometimes.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. And my pastor is holding me accountable to ensure that I don’t slip up and succumb to the temptation to indulge in an occasional thought. And he has assigned counselors to watch out and make sure I don’t laff anymore. I know I will never be completely free from this awful thing that plagues my life. That is why I am asking you, my friends to help me and pray for me. I need your encouragement. Life just seems a lot easier, somehow, now that I have admitted my problem and stopped thinking and my wife and her friends like me a lot more since I stopped laffing.

first posted 4-18-2009

The GOOD OLD BOYS CLUB Reunion (NOT ALLOWED 2 LAFF)

Three times this week I have been asked about my blog address and the meaning of NA2L.  So I am reposting this from a couple years ago.  Sometimes old stories just have to be retold. 

March 26, 2012

I am really looking forward to my lunch meeting tomorrow.  Our Good Old Boys Club hasn't meet for nearly three years since we were disbanded. 

The "club" was composed of several conservative, principled, and unemotional men who were charged with the administrative oversight of our Christian school.   The name, which was intended to be pejorative, was pinned on us by a couple unhappy and overly emotional women who, later, got angry when we made light of it, adopted it, and wore the GOBC moniker with pride.
I even had a GOBC sticker on my car.  Apparently that was too far over the top.  I was forced, by one of our pastors,to remove it because, he said,  it was "offensive" to the women who gave us the name.  

Go figure.  It was MY FAULT that they were angry just because we had the audacity to joke about it.  Well I politely obliged and I removed the decal from my car.  I then replaced it with the letters, IAMF.  It was just a couple weeks later that someone asked one of my friends what the IAMF meant.  When he was told that it meant, "It's All My Fault," I was forced to remove that sticker too.  I guess that's what happens when people have thin skin.  They can dish it out but they can't take it. 
Oh well, I'm flexible and easy to get along with so I replaced IAMF with NA2L.  I know you're curious about that; it stands for Not Allowed 2 Laff.   It was the truth; I was not allowed 2 laff.  That sticker had to go too.  So instead I used it for my Blog address.  You woulda thought the world was coming to an end.  My blog caused an inquisition and nearly resulted in an illegitimate Matt 18 kind of church discipline.  Some people just don't appreciate humor. 

So, tomorrow our Good Old Boys Club will unofficially convene for the last time.   We will reminisce about all the years of our committee service and the good times we had together.  We will Laff a lot and joke about non-essential persons (NEP), fat books, ESLERs, and the terrorist, Ron de bom bom.   And we might even talk about how we were once publicly denigrated as just a few Well-Meaning Gentlemen With Different Ideas. 


They meant it all for harm but we used it as an excuse to Laff.