Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hymn of the Week: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"

As one year draws to a close and another one opens, it is good to remember that God is not only "our help in ages past" but also "our hope for years to come." To me, the distinguishing characteristic of this hymn is that it gives great comfort—to know that God is near, is help, is hope, is eternally and ever the same.

Written by Isaac Watts nearly three centuries ago, the original title (according to cyberhymnal.org) is "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past." There are nine stanzas, which is several more than most hymnals contain—and yet, all are worth reading.

O[ur] God, Our Help in Ages Past

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

They Got WHAT On The Head of a Pin?

According to this story from msnbc.com, scientists in Israel have inscribed the entire text of the Jewish Bible (a.k.a. the Old Testament) onto a space roughly 0.01 inches square. And it only took about an hour to do.

The process involved using gallium ions to "bounce off" gold atoms from a silicon surface, in a process described as similar to using hammer and chisel.

This is just one more illustration of the truth of Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33, which teach us that "heaven and earth shall pass away, but my [Jesus Christ's] words shall not pass away."

A happy thought!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Political Predictions—Iowa

For what it's worth, I will add my two cents:

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee will complete his ascent by winning a modest plurality of the caucus vote. Mitt Romney will come in second, and John McCain will finish third. Giuliani and Thompson will lick their wounds and move on to New Hampshire. Ron Paul will be right behind them. This will worry Giuliani and Thompson...as it should.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards will finish very close at 1-2...too close to call at this point. Barack Obama will be 2008's version of Howard Dean: Lots of noise but little results. Hopefully he won't scream when he comes in a distant third. This will be followed by all other Democratic contenders (other than the eternally stubborn Kucinich) dropping out of the race.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Does Jesus Care?

I was reminded today that not everyone finds Christmas to be a time of joy in the pleasant company of loved ones. Some, quite frankly, dread the holiday—perhaps because they have no living relatives, or they are estranged from them, or because of dreadful memories that it brings of sad Christmases past.

This hymn is not a Christmas hymn. But it does remind us all that no matter what the time of year, God does care about each of us. The author, Frank Graeff, wrote the hymn in a time of difficulty in his own life; but the chorus echoes in his life and so many others: Oh, Yes, He cares!

If you are struggling right now, let these words uplift you.

Does Jesus Care?

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?

Refrain

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

Refrain

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?

Refrain

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Refrain

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Substitute Teaching: Christmas Break Update

Mattawan HS has been the place to be recently; four of the last seven assignments have been there. In the last two weeks, all of them have been in Lawton (2), Lawrence (2), or Mattawan (5) school districts.

Through 12/21/07 (beginning of Christmas break), here is where I have been so far [Note: Frequency of substitute teaching will drop a lot after beginning work with H&R Block in January]:

  • Mattawan (20; 11 in HS, 8 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Decatur (5; 1 in HS, 2 in MS, 2 in Elem.)
  • Paw Paw (5; 4 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Gobles (5; 4 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Lawrence (4; 2 in HS, 1 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Bloomingdale (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawton (2; 1 in Alternative Ed., 1 in MS)
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
I have so many interesting stories to tell....

Book Review: "George Washington" by James Burns and Susan Dunn

This installment of the American Presidents Series features our first president, and is also the only one in the series (so far) to be co-authored. (Click here for a review of the biography of John Adams, and click here for the review of Andrew Jackson's biography.) The thesis of the book is that Washington's greatest achievement is the way he shaped the presidency and consolidated executive power.

Although the book is biographical, the book focuses, not surprisingly, on George Washington's shaping of the presidency itself. As the first president, and as the hero of a nation, Washington had the power and influence to shape the presidency in many ways—and he did. Where the Constitution did not "seem" to grant the president a lot of power (prevailing thought back then vested much of the power in legislative bodies), Washington used it to the full extent he could, while still being very respectful of his constitutional limits. The book is generally complementary on his presidential service, and why not? He was a fine president, and did a commendable job. It also speaks highly of his overlooked brilliance at selecting a first-rate cabinet.

The authors apparently felt obliged to take an almost-gratuitous politically-correct jab at Washington for being a slaveowner, and also minimize the influence of religion on Washington's life. The epilogue also seems to give a lower regard (than most people have, or than I think he should) for his moral legacy. Despite these weaknesses, the book does an overall good job of portraying President Washington as president, and can be recommended as a useful perspective on his life and presidency.

Book Review: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson

From historical books to hysterical books: This humorous tale centers around the Herdmans, "the worst kids in the history of the world." These six siblings are nightmares to everyone in their path, and after they start coming to church, they become the characters in the church Christmas pageant.

Told from the perspective of one of the other children (whose mother was thrust into the role of director of the pageant), this short story is a hysterical look at what happened as the Herdman kids went from being everybody's worst nightmare to doing a reasonably good job at acting out the Christmas story.

Although it is an amusing story, two words of caution: First, there are a couple of times where God's name is used in vain by one of those Herdman kids. Second, this is not intended to be a serious Christmas story; nor is it intended to conclude with the Herdman kids getting saved or even repenting of all of their evil ways (which would naturally kill off much chance of similar sequels, which do exist). It is merely a humorous story—nothing more.

If you read at a moderate pace, ninety minutes will be all you will need.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Reviews: "Through Sunshine & Shadows", "The History of PBBC"

Obscure books? Admittedly so. Neither one ever had a massive publication total, but both of them contain topics familiar to me.

Through Sunshine and Shadows is the autobiography of Dr. Monroe Parker. Dr. Parker was born in 1909 (he was 77 years old when the book was published) in Alabama. His childhood is interesting, and his conversion to Christ at age 19 is the key to the book. After his freshman year, he transferred to Bob Jones College, then a new school in Florida, and was called into preaching and evangelism.

He entered evangelism near the start of the Great Depression. Most of his early ministry was in the Deep South, and it is almost shocking (to modern sensibilities) to consider today some of the things he did: Hitchhike long distances; travel with little or no money, relying on faith; and the conversion of large numbers of souls in multi-week evangelistic services. In fact, the large numbers of souls saved in his meetings are, sad to say, a phenomenon not seen much in the United States anymore.

His later ministries included a number of years at Bob Jones College (later University), serving as pastor of an Alabama church, president of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, and president of Baptist World Mission. God used this man in many ways—ways that each of us should pray to be used in.

The book itself has an "anecdotal" style to it, sounding more conversational than literary. It will win no stylistic contests. But it tells of a man who allowed himself to be mightily used of God during times that would discourage most of us today, if we faced them.

Interesting tidbit: Dr. Parker was preceded in death by two wives, and married a third time at age 73.

I would recommend that Christians everywhere read this book...if they can get their hands on it (Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1987; ISBN 0-87398-844-2).

The History of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, written by Larry Dean Pettigrew and printed by the school's Pillsbury Press, is perhaps even more obscure. I worked at PBBC for three years and was given a copy, but never completed it until after reading the Dr. Parker book. The school known today as Pillsbury Baptist Bible College has a very long history. The school was originally chartered in 1854 (before Minnesota was granted statehood) and existed in various forms until it became a Baptist Bible College in 1957. This book was written on the occasion of the college's 25th anniversary.

This is not the most readable book. Its strengths lie elsewhere, particularly in detailing how the school fluctuated between theological liberalism and conservatism over the years. It also tells a story nearly unheard of in the annals of American religious history: How a school that at one time was controlled by theological liberals was "reclaimed" and restored by Bible-believing conservatives.

If you are unacquainted with the school (and don't want to be) or have no interest in Baptist history, particularly in Minnesota, you will find this book highly boring. But if the opposite is true, this slice of history will probably appeal to you.

Interesting tidbit: The name comes from George Pillsbury, who was very generous financially to the school in the late 19th century...and, yes, he had a tie-in with a still-existing company with the same name.

If you want a copy of the book, your best bet is to contact the college directly at (507) 451-2710.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Christmas Verse: 1 John 4:9

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him."
Contemplate that...God sent his only begotten Son into the world. We celebrate this every year. But there are two more thoughts here:
1. What precipitated this event? God loved us.
2. What is His desired result today? That we might live through Him.

Christmas is not just a time to give gifts, eat well, and take time off work. It is, more importantly, a time to remember that God loves us, and that we, in gratitude, should live in the power of his grace and strength. This should cause others to want to do the same.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shocking Statistics To Think About

I mentioned in a blog post some time ago that the annual worldwide abortion total stands at about 46,000,000. This is a holocaust unparalleled in human history: The premeditated murder of so many innocent babies.

But the number 46,000,000, quite frankly, is one of those generic, "big" numbers that most of us deem impressive but don't think about much. Until....

Today I received an e-mail pointing me to a "world clock." This is fascinating to me for many reasons, not all of them statistical, but the one that caught my attention was the one on abortion. That "46,000,000 per year" translates to about 87.5 abortions per minute...and there goes the clock ticking each one of them off at what now seems a horrifically fast pace.

Some statistics about what 87.5 deaths per minute would be like:

  • A small Midwestern town of 1000 would be gone within 11.5 minutes.
  • The village of Paw Paw, Michigan (pop. 3363 in 2000) would be gone in 38.4 minutes.
  • My county of Van Buren, Michigan (pop. 79,018 in 2000) would be gone in just over 15 hours.
  • Kalamazoo County, Michigan, would be gone in a bit less than 2 days.
  • Finland would be wiped out in about 6 weeks.
  • Michigan would be wiped out in about 11.5 weeks.
  • California, the most populous state at about 36,500,000, would be completely exterminated in about 290 days—or about 41.4 weeks.
There's also a ticker that marks off births and deaths (and the corresponding population growth). It is amazing just how frequently humans are being born, and dying, on this planet. And then I realize: Every one of those births is a soul that will live somewhere forever; every one of those deaths is a soul going to either heaven or hell.

If that doesn't impress your soul with the importance of spreading the Gospel message now, you need to examine yourself.

Click here to view the population clock.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Good Advice from a Rabbi to an Errant Catholic

Recently my dad sent me an article written by Rabbi Marc Gellman, author of "The God Squad" column that appears in many newspapers. The lengthy question, written by a Catholic, could be paraphrased like this:

"I was alienated from the Catholic church, so I joined a tradition that taught some universal truths, but then became disillusioned with that, so I came back to the Catholic church, in hopes to promote some new ideas. I encouraged them not to blindly and completely accept all church doctrines, and that the religious education of the children—being too stuffy with religious study—should be improved. Are my suggestions 'really so ill-conceived'?" (The last few words are a direct quote.)
The questioner was disappointed that his thoughts received "a cold reception."

The rabbi graciously but firmly and convincingly wrote why "Cafeteria Catholicism" is a bad idea by any religious standard (and certainly by Catholic standards). With a few edits to replace Catholic doctrines with Baptist ones, it would be required reading for some of us!

At one point, the questioner stated that the study of the Bible was "boring." And this is where the rabbi shows exceptional wisdom, when he replied:
"If your experience with Bible study has been unfulfilling, find a new teacher, not a new book."
Brilliant advice! So many people complain about the Bible being "difficult" or "boring" or "dry," and yet they make no serious effort to locate someone who can help them to understand it!
In our day, with a multitude of Bible study "helps" out there, it might be tougher to merely sort through to find a good help, than to find one in the first place!

There is really no excuse for being unable to meditate, learn, and gain wisdom from the study of the Word. Every Christian, with the Holy Spirit indwelling him and aiding him, can do it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Observations from 1 Kings, #3

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah appears to Obadiah and tells him to summon Ahab for the challenge on Mount Carmel. Obadiah's response is interesting for several reasons.

The challenge takes place: Elijah calls down fire from heaven after the prophets of Baal cannot; Elijah then slays the prophets of Baal. Jezebel, wife of Ahab, is enraged; she sends a message to Elijah telling him his life will end before the same time tomorrow. Elijah flees into the wilderness.

Notice, however, that Elijah has a certain type of attitude, epitomized in these three verses from 1 Kings:

(18:22, during the challenge) Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
(19:10, in the wilderness) And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
(19:14, also in the wilderness and apparently oblivious to the fact that God heard him a few moments earlier) And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
Many have preached on Elijah's erroneous attitude here, and justifiably so. I found it interesting that Elijah said it—when he knew it was not true! We note Obadiah's reference in 18:13 that he was personally responsible for hiding one hundred of the Lord's prophets from Jezebel and Ahab. Then in 19:18, God reminds Elijah that there are still thousands who have not bowed to Baal.

The moral may be obvious, but it merits being said: Even when we feel alone, as if we were God's last living servant on this earth and nobody even cares...it's not true. God still has a remnant, and although they may represent a small percentage of humankind, we do not labor for God alone. This is a comforting thought! Encourage others who serve God, and let them be an encouragement to you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Blessed Be The Name

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entry on the name of Jesus. I was thinking about that again today, in church, when this hymn started running through my head. The "Christmas connection" came from the words "Who gave His Son"—it was through that virgin birth that Jesus Christ came to earth to "die" and "redeem" mankind: Us.

Contemplate that, please: The most sinless Being in the entire universe came to earth, as a baby, to be born to die for you! Blessed be His Name, indeed!!

Blessed Be The Name

All praise to Him Who reigns above
In majesty supreme,
Who gave His Son for man to die,
That He might man redeem!

Refrain

Blessed be the Name! Blessed be the Name!
Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
Blessed be the Name! Blessed be the Name!
Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

His Name above all names shall stand,
Exalted more and more,
At God the Father’s own right hand,
Where angel hosts adore.

Refrain

Redeemer, Savior, Friend of man
Once ruined by the fall,
Thou hast devised salvation’s plan,
For Thou hast died for all.

Refrain

His Name shall be the Counselor,
The mighty Prince of Peace,
Of all earth’s kingdoms Conqueror,
Whose reign shall never cease.

Refrain

Words by William Clark, with Refrain by Ralph Hudson

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hysterical Homeschool Video

A friend of ours who homeschools her children sent me a link to this hysterical video about the stereotypes of homeschool families (please note the source before thinking I am making fun of homeschool families). Remember as you view it that is clearly a farce on stereotypes associated with homeschoolers, and then laugh your guts out.

You can enjoy this video by clicking here.

"Holiday Greetings to you All"

From my brother came these touching greetings for the holiday season. I was so moved, that I thought I should send them to you, too....just as I received them.

To all my Democrat friends:
Please accept (with no obligation, implied or implicit) my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To all my Republican & Independent friends:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Review: "Rediscovering American Values" by Dick DeVos

This book, written over a decade ago by the man who lost last year's gubernatorial election here in Michigan, is a series of essays on twenty-four "values" which DeVos believes are important to a better America. He is right. Many of us could probably think of a few more to add to the list (he makes no claim that his twenty-four are a complete, all-inclusive set).

Each essay includes good reasoning about why he believes the "value" is important in our American society, and includes at least one real-life example of a person or people who lived out that value and bettered their community. There is a certain "feel-good" element to the writing, also. Each essay could almost be a stand-alone speech on the virtues of that value.

It is interesting that DeVos references his religion frequently. Although he is not Baptist, as I am, there is much in common with what he believes is healthy for society and what we Baptists believe is healthy for society. Although we may have doctrinal differences (and although I would have been a little bit more forward with inserting Biblical teaching/doctrine/references than he was), there is a lot of wisdom in this book. And that's no surprise, when you consider that he did get a lot of that wisdom from The Book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Have a New Job!


For now, I have a new job.

Beginning January 3, I will be a professional tax preparer with H&R Block, and will be employed with them through the tax season to April 15. I will be working at the Paw Paw office.

Need help with your taxes this spring? Give me a call!

The Granholm Tax Hike

The counter at the bottom of the column demonstrates how much the Democrat-led, tax-hike-down-the-throat increases have cost Michigan taxpayers....just since October 1! It amounts to approximately $39 per second. More information about what this is really costing Michigan taxpayers can be found here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It Was An Interesting Day in Lawton

For the first time this season, one of the seven districts (and only one of them) in which I substitute took a snow day today, due to ice. As Murphy's Law would dictate, it was the nice middle school math job. I am informed of this by phone shortly after 5:30 a.m.

I turn on the computer to see what else is available....nothing, at first. But a half hour later my wife checks it and informs me that "Alternative Education" at Lawton Elementary has come up. I think about it, decide to take no risks of missing another one, and accept this assignment.

Oddly enough, it doesn't start until 9:00, so I go back to bed for a time.

Although "Adult and Alternative Education" meets at the elementary school in Lawton, these are not little kids: They are teens and adults who for various reasons are working on high school credits outside of the "mainstream" schedule. They had a 60-year-old complete the program to get a GED not too long ago. One young man today told me that he could either be here...or in jail. He was a pleasant person, by the way.

The program goes until 8:00 p.m. on M-Th, and until 4:00 on Fridays. Kids come and go on various schedules during the day; adults frequently come in after work but can come in anytime during those hours. One 21-year-old girl was working hard for several hours today; she is almost finished and will get her GED soon. She hopes to go to community college in January. I never had more than seven people at any single time...and I got to leave at 4:00.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

This is perhaps the most beloved Christmas hymn in America. The words were written by Charles Wesley, who is said to have written over 6000 hymns. www.cyberhymnal.org lists 265 of them in its database which are set to music, including such well-known texts as Arise, My Soul, Arise; Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus; Love Divine, All Loves Excelling; and this one.

Felix Mendelssohn wrote the music. The original tune was written as part of a secular cantata in 1840, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press. Mendelssohn's other universally-recognized musical work? His "Wedding March," which has accompanied many brides down church aisles. Interestingly, Mendelssohn was Jewish and wrote a great deal of religious music...and this was not one of those many pieces!

Wesley's words and Mendelssohn's music were "wed" by William H. Cummings and first appeared in an 1857 hymnal. Both the words and the music were a little bit altered from the respective original works. The most famous four verses of the hymn are given below. You may be familiar with one or more variations.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Refrain

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Refrain

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Refrain

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

Refrain

Saturday, December 8, 2007

NBC Reverses Course!

Apparently even network television can be swayed by the moral outrage of the better part of our citizenry. Fox News reports (here) that NBC has reversed course and in a statement said, "We have reviewed and changed our ad standards guidelines and made the decision that our policy will apply to content only and not to a referenced Web site. Based on these amended standards the Freedom's Watch ad will begin to run as early as Sunday."

Good.

How Badly Does NBC Dislike U.S. Troops??

In an ungrateful and thoughtless decision, NBC has "nixed" advertisements, paid for by Freedom's Watch, which thank our American troops overseas for their service. The "stated reasons" NBC gives are that the commercials give the group's website at the end, and according to Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBC, "the link to the website violates their policy on controversial issue advertising because it encourages political action and other activities. He said the policy is applied consistently across the board and this group was not targeted in any way." (from the news article linked below)

The Foxnews.com story from which I learned of this can be found here.
The two 30-second commercials, which I recommend viewing, are found here and here.
The Freedom's Watch website is www.freedomswatch.org. There is also a link to a petition with which you can share this viewpoint with NBC!
The response of Bradley Blakeman, president and CEO of Freedom's Watch, to NBC can be found here. He does a fabulous and tasteful job of pointing out that this is, in essence, censorship of a viewpoint which NBC apparently disagrees with. How can any American disagree with a message that merely thanks our American troops who hazard their lives overseas for our safety?!?

And how can NBC, which shows a lot of garbage which ought to be censored, say with straight face that thanking troops at Christmastime is against its policies?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Substitute Teaching: 12/7/07 Update

Elementary school time is on the rise. I had my first "day off" when I didn't actually want one on Tuesday; but otherwise assignments have been easy enough to find. I also had my first two-day assignment in an English classroom in (where else?) Mattawan HS.

Through 12/7/07, here is where I have been [future scheduled assignments in brackets] so far:

  • Mattawan (15; 7 in HS, 7 in MS, 1 in Elem.) [2]
  • Decatur (5; 1 in HS, 2 in MS, 2 in Elem.) [2]
  • Paw Paw (5; 4 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Gobles (5; 4 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Bloomingdale (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawrence (2, 1 in HS, 1 in Elem.) [1]
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
I have not yet been to Lawton, the other school district in which I am qualified and enrolled to substitute. (At this rate, I'm starting to wonder if I ever will!)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mitt Romney's "Big Speech" on His Religion

Today, as you may have heard, Gov. Mitt Romney gave a speech on his religion and faith. As a Mormon running for president as a Republican, he undoubtedly thought it important that Americans had an understanding of where he stood on these matters, and how they would (potentially) impact his decisions as president.

The text of the speech can be accessed here.

This speech is brimming with blog-worthy observations. More will be coming in the days ahead.

Observations from 1 Kings, #2

And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. (1 Kings 3:28)
This verse is the conclusion of the story about the two women who both had babies and one had died; when Solomon proposed using a sword to divide the remaining living child between them, the true mother was easy to identify.

It is the people's reaction that is interesting: The people "feared the king" because he had "the wisdom of God...in him, to do judgment." This is, in this way, similar to the concept of the "fear of the Lord," which in part exists because God, as the Holy Judge of the universe, will judge His created beings. Therefore, we fear Him. Likewise, it is proper for children to have a small but healthy degree of "fear" of their parents, as they should recognize that (1) the parents are wise and (2) the parents are God's instruments of judgment, should the children sin.

This idea of fear (of God, or of parents) is not based in the ability of the superior/stronger to inflict pain and suffering—it must be based in the idea that the superior/stronger can administer righteous judgment: Judgment based on the true and righteous Word of God. It is an unpopular idea today that sin (which we all commit) merits judgment, and just as unpopular that God may even allow human beings, such as parents, teachers, or law enforcement, to be the "bearers of judgment."

And as all good Christian parenting books teach, judgment must be based in love. God loves us—obviously, a more popular sermon topic today than His judgment—and likewise, parents must love their children. (For that matter, teachers should love students, police should love the residents of their community, etc.)

At least in the early years of his reign, I think that Solomon did love the people of Israel; and we know that he had wisdom, as God gave him much. Therefore, the people's reaction, as described in this verse, is appropriate.

Observations from 1 Kings, #1

1 Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying,
2 I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man;
3 And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: (1 Kings 2:1-3)
It is my hope, that if I die before my children, and especially before my son; and if I have an opportunity to express my last wishes to them regarding their lives before God, that I will use that opportunity to exhort them as David did.

David certainly gives "practical" advice to his son, King Solomon (continuing reading 1 Kings 2—some of it may seem a bit morbid by today's standards!). All fathers should give wise advice to their children. But the main focus, I think, is that Solomon do what God wants him to do. That is what really matters. Whether or not my children spend their lives doing what I want them to do is insignificant, compared to whether or not my children spend their lives doing what God wants them to do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Grandmother at age 29?

In this article from the Quad City Times, we are introduced to Celia, age 15, and her 1-day-old little boy, Russell. Celia's mother, Leticia, gave birth at the even-younger age of 13, while in the 7th grade.

The happier side of this story is that there exists an entity in Davenport, IA, called the Brighter Futures Maternity Home. Celia spent the last six months of her pregnancy there (in part because of her mother's anger) and developed beneficial relationships with the staff. Thankfully, she did not choose to abort her son.

The harsh reality is that she is a 15-year-old single mother, and Leticia is a grandmother at 29—with three younger children below the age of ten. Neither is married to the father of her child, and statistically, it is highly unlikely that this will ever occur. Leticia stays home with the younger children. Celia has returned to high school and wants to play basketball.

There are so many family issues here that I will not even try to list or analyze them, but one fact stood out to me in this article....Leticia "always urged Celia to tell her if she was having sex so she could arrange birth control for her." [Celia didn't tell her until she became pregnant.] This is the wrong approach. Leticia's responsibility can be summed up in two things:

  1. Model sexual purity to her daughter.
  2. Teach the inestimable value of sexual purity to her daughter.
She clearly did neither. Her husband (if there ever was a husband) is not mentioned in the article, and yet her youngest child is a year older than her grandson.

The alert Christian recognizes that a mother's teaching responsibility extends further than those two points, and includes prayer for her children.

ALPHA THETA wins Turkey Bowl!!......An Update

As reported earlier on this blog....Alpha Theta Pi defeated Alpha Omega Delta in the annual 2007 Bob Jones University Turkey Bowl, by a score of 1-0.

Here is a link to the article in the official BJU campus newspaper about the game.

This is Alpha Theta's second Turkey Bowl championship; the first was three years ago. I misspoke in an earlier entry about this.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Glory Be to the Father

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Glory Be To The Father

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen, Amen.

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Chad Groover!!


On Friday, November 30, our friend Chad and his lovely bride Gwen were married! We were able to travel to SC for the wedding. It went very well, as did the reception; few weddings I have been to have gone so well and been done so tastefully.

We wish them many years of blessings and bliss...especially since they waited so long to get started!

Sonny's BBQ: A Real Treat!


Last Sunday at lunchtime, on my trip back from Chad's wedding (see post above this one, once it's written), we stopped for lunch at the one and only Sonny's BBQ we saw along the route, in Corbin, KY. For those of us who live outside the deep south, it is a rare treat to enjoy food like this.

Not only was the food very good, so too was the service. Our waitress was a young, sweet, innocent-looking girl named Melissa...and she was the very essence of everything called "southern hospitality." She was friendly, generous, and kind to the kids. If she were getting a grade, it would be an A+. Her manager should promote her to some sort of mentor status.

Good service is not always easy to find for a family of six on a budget eating out. Congratulations to one young lady who epitomized it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Be a Republican--It's Better for your Mental Health!

This article from foxnews.com says it so well, I'll just quote it below:

Don't worry, be happy: If you're a Republican, those words should be easy to follow.
A roundup of Gallup health polls over the past four years finds that Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to report having excellent mental health.
The survey found that 58 percent of Republicans polled reported having excellent mental health. Only 38 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Independents reported the same.
The study concluded it was unclear why there was such a strong correlation, but the relationship between party affiliation and mental health was virtually constant even within categories of income, age, gender and other factors.
"The reason the relationship exists between being a Republican and more positive mental health is unknown, and one cannot say whether something about being a Republican causes a person to be more mentally healthy or whether something about being mentally healthy causes a person to choose to become a Republican," the study said.
The study speculated that the fact that Republicans have on average higher incomes than members of others parties could play a factor. But in the study, even Republicans making less than $50,000 a year reported having excellent health far more than Democrats earning the same.
The study was based on interviews with 4,014 American adults who were at least 18 years old, conducted from November 2004 through 2007. The margin of error was 2 percent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God's Provision, 11/28/07 Edition

Yesterday an undesirable thing happened: Our comcast.net internet service went away. Since we also have Vonage phone service, this meant our phone service dropped also. I was not very happy about this, of course, for two reasons:

  1. I use the internet to do online tutoring. Therefore, I missed all my scheduled time yesterday.
  2. I use the internet to schedule substitute teaching assignments. Since I did not have an assignment for today (11/28), I could not schedule one in advance for today, either.
So here I am, thinking that I would be out of work (and missing the corresponding income) for a full day, barring a phone call at the last minute. On top of this, I passed on a half-day teaching assignment for today, also; and I was regretting that.

So I prayed about it before getting a good night's sleep.

This morning the phone rang at about 5:56 a.m. I still don't know who called...but it meant the phone was working, and likewise, the internet probably was, too. So I jumped out of bed (I rarely jump out of bed anymore—it's more of a glacier-like motion) to turn on the computer. The internet is working! There are sub assignments—two good ones to choose from! The one I passed on was an elementary P.E. assignment which had a student teacher (I know this because I am subbing for her next week); and the other one was Honors Math classes at the one school that allows me internet access in the classroom...where I am right now!

The Lesson: God can take a lousy-looking situation and turn it around favorably. And for this, I thank Him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Tragic Ignorance About God's Order

In this article from the London Daily Mail, we are told of two women who refuse to have babies—because babies are not "eco friendly," and increase the carbon footprint of the human race on our planet. The first woman, Toni, got pregnant by her boyfriend at age 25 and, after an abortion, subsequently had herself sterilized. She is now 35. The second woman, Sarah, felt the same way; but her husband got a vasectomy instead.

Both women (and their husbands) claim to enjoy children but are adamantly against having their own. They believe that procreation makes our planet a worse place to live [Toni is quoted as saying, "...a woman like me, who is not having children in order to save the planet, is considered barking mad."]. They also seem to believe the "usual environmentalist views."

Toni also struck me as seeming the more hypocritical of the two; in the article she is quoted more concerning her lifestyle (they "have a much nicer lifestyle" without children; they just came back from a long trip to South Africa—how much fossil fuel was spent doing that?). Sarah and her husband are portrayed as more serious about their "carbon footprints." But both of them are missing the main point that God would want them to focus on....

God wants husbands and wives to procreate. Except for that small percentage who are not biologically able to do so, it is selfish disobedience to the commands of Genesis 1:28 and 9:1 to not have children. Furthermore, an array of verses points to the conception of children as a blessing to the parents (e.g., Psalm 127:3-5).

Furthermore, God's view about our responsibility concerning the planet can be summed up in Genesis 1:28 and in the various passages about stewardship: We humans are to have dominion over the earth and all the living things therein; and we are to procreate. But we are also to use the earth's resources wisely, prudently, and without waste. We are to teach our children to do likewise.

Were it not for Jesus Christ, sin would overtake and conquer this earth long before pollution ever could. And let us not forget: Someday, He will make new heavens and a new earth!

Hymn of the Week: Now Thank We All Our God

This morning we sang this hymn in our church, and the songleader shared the story behind it. I also found the tune and the story here (it is copied below), and I encourage each person who reads this to meditate on thanking God even when thankfulness may not be your dominant emotional state.

Originally written in German by Martin Rinkart, it was translated to English by Catherine Winkworth.

Martin Rinkart, a Lu­ther­an min­is­ter, was in Eil­en­burg, Sax­o­ny, dur­ing the Thir­ty Years’ War. The walled ci­ty of Eil­en­burg saw a stea­dy stream of re­fu­gees pour through its gates. The Swed­ish ar­my sur­round­ed the ci­ty, and fa­mine and plague were ramp­ant. Eight hund­red homes were de­stroyed, and the peo­ple be­gan to per­ish. There was a tre­men­dous strain on the pas­tors who had to con­duct do­zens of fun­er­als dai­ly. Fi­nal­ly, the pas­tors, too, suc­cumbed, and Rink­art was the on­ly one left—doing 50 fun­er­als a day. When the Swedes de­mand­ed a huge ran­som, Rink­art left the safe­ty of the walls to plead for mer­cy. The Swed­ish com­mand­er, im­pressed by his faith and cour­age, low­ered his de­mands. Soon af­ter­ward, the Thir­ty Years’ War end­ed, and Rinkart wrote this hymn for a grand cel­e­bra­tion ser­vice. It is a test­a­ment to his faith that, af­ter such mis­e­ry, he was able to write a hymn of abid­ing trust and gra­ti­tude to­ward God.
Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Which One Is The State Flag?

Above is the current (and long-established) flag of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my childhood. According to this foxnews.com article, a state representative has proposed adding the words "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," as pictured below, to the blue field.

As a native Pennsylvanian, I agree with the sentiments of one man quoted in the article who basically said that a "dumbing down" is going on here...people don't recognize the flag, so instead of encouraging them to become acquainted with it, we make it "easy" for them to know what it is. It is a good exercise to learn to look up things one does not know—whether in an encyclopedia, almanac, or (especially today) on the internet. I hope they keep the flag unchanged. I recognize it...and I haven't lived in PA in 12 years!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Poem/Chorus

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul;
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole;
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free.

—Seth and Bessie Sykes

Yet More Reasons to be Thankful

An eight-month journey has finally come to an end: Today, I received my Provisional Teaching Certificate from the State of Michigan. It took (in my opinion) a lot longer than it should have taken, but I now have it in hand and can say so on my resume, etc. The certificate is good for six years, during which I am expected to complete 18 semester hours in an approved teacher preparation program; then I get the "Professional Teaching Certificate."

On Monday, I took my Final Exam in the H&R Block Tax Preparation course. I'm not guaranteeing a 100% on it, but I am confident that I will pass the course with ease. I have been led to believe that I can be optimistic about being hired for the coming spring tax season.

In the meantime, God is good, and our needs are met.

Oh, yeah: I hit a deer Monday evening (on the way to that final exam). No damage to me, but the car will need some (expensive) help. That's why I have insurance. More on this saga in a later post.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Substitute Teaching: Thanksgiving Break Update

After two consecutive days in elementary schools (Monday in Mattawan, as the computer teacher; Tuesday at Pullman [34 miles away—a logistical faux pas] as the art teacher/title I teacher) I can now claim a total of four days' experience in that line of work. Last week: Five straight days of middle school. And "math" has finally overtaken "science" as the subject most "subbed."

Through Thanksgiving Break, here is where I have been [future scheduled assignments in brackets] so far:

  • Mattawan (11; 4 in HS, 6 in MS, 1 in Elem.) [1]
  • Paw Paw (5; 4 in HS, 1 in Elem.) [1]
  • Decatur (4; 1 in HS, 2 in MS, 1 in Elem.) [2]
  • Gobles (4; 3 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Bloomingdale (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawrence (1, HS)
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
I have not yet been to Lawton, the other school district in which I am qualified and enrolled to substitute.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yes, one more reason to be thankful...

Alpha Theta 1, Omega 0.

Just click here. (for a limited time only)

More Thoughts on Thanks: Psalm 100

This Thanksgiving week, I can think of many reasons to be thankful. Reading Psalm 100 brings a bunch of those reasons to my mind. It is a good exercise to read this psalm and list how many reasons it mentions that should cause us to be thankful.

1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hymn of the Week: Thanks to God

As we have Thanksgiving coming up this week, it seems appropriate to choose a hymn which reminds and encourages us to give "Thanks to God" for all of the many things He has done for us. So many other songs do this also (Count Your Blessings came to mind a couple days ago).

The words were written by the Swede August L. Storm and translated to English by Carl E. Backstrom in 1931.

Whether you are familiar with the words or not, read them slowly and meditate on them. Give thanks for all God has given you.

Thanks to God

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Grand Unified Theory—Great Progress?!?

The still-theoretical "Grand Unified Theory" (a.k.a. "the holy grail of physics") is a hoped-for development by physicists to unify all four of the fundamental forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces), thus extending Einstein's General Relativity Theory. Many are working on it, but no definitive theory has yet emerged...yet.

A "surfer dude" with a Ph.D. in physics, who divides his time between surfing in Maui and teaching snowboarding in Lake Tahoe (no, really—I'm not making this up; the story can be read here) and has no permanent university affiliation, has offered up a theory that may have some potential. Furthermore, it is significantly simpler than most of the theories proffered earlier (I assure you, most normal humans would go numb trying to figure some of them out).

The article concludes with these paragraphs:

For his part, Lisi self-mockingly calls his finding "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything," and downplays the suggestion that it may be the Grand Unified Theory.

"The theory is very young, and still in development," he tells the Daily Telegraph. "Right now, I'd assign a low (but not tiny) likelihood to this prediction."

He hopes the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, currently being built on the Swiss-French border will find some of his 20 imaginary gravity-related particles.

"This is an all-or-nothing kind of theory — it's either going to be exactly right, or spectacularly wrong," Lisi tells New Scientist. "I'm the first to admit this is a long shot. But it ain't over till the LHC sings."

ALPHA THETA wins Turkey Bowl!!

I have learned that ALPHA THETA PI, my society from BJU, has won the Bob Jones University Turkey Bowl, the annual intramural soccer championship!!! They defeated perennial nemesis Alpha Omega by a score of 1-0.

To the best of my knowledge, they have never won the championship before, losing in the finals on at least two occasions. Not only did they defeat nemesis Alpha Omega, they also defeated Basilean in the semifinals—the other perennial nemesis.

More details will be forthcoming when available. Go Razorbacks!!

Michigan Presidential Primary Update, 11/17/07

A Michigan Court of Appeals decision has allowed the lower court's ruling (which has the effect of canceling the 1/15/08 Michigan Presidential Primary) to stand. You can read about it here. Here is a key excerpt from that article:
"In a 2-1 ruling, Judges Patrick Meter and Donald Owens said the law clearly allows information from a publicly funded election to be used for private purposes. The law lets the Michigan Democratic and Republican parties keep track of voters' names and whether they took a Democratic or GOP primary ballot but gives no public access to that information."

This is the main "problem" with the legislation. It is expected that either (a) the decision will be appealed promptly to the State Supreme Court, or (b) the House of Representatives will follow the Senate's lead and pass the bill to "correct" this issue.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Michigan Presidential Primary Update

Earlier this week a Michigan judge threw out (as unconstitutional) the legislation that put our state's planned January 15 presidential primary into place. Not being a lawyer or a lawmaker, I am not fully acquainted with the details of the decision, but they center around the issues of who got access to the voter lists (after the election) and the fact that the law was written in a way that didn't allow only a part of it to be stricken down. The case is now in an emergency appeal.

This is significant on the national political scene and for Michigan in particular. The January 15 date makes Michigan's primary one of the very first in the nation, and this makes Michigan a "mover and shaker" in presidential politics, the biggest state to have voted up to that point. If the legislation is not put back in place, the law returns the Michigan primary date to late-February, where no one really wants it, because Michigan then becomes irrelevant.

Even more importantly to many people, the alternative to a January 15 primary election is not a later election—it will be a late-January convention (for the GOP) and a caucus (for that other party), which will select delegates based only on the input of a few thousand people. The majority of the state's residents will have no vote in the process, if this occurs.

This will be a very significant development to watch. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The World Championships of Punkin' Chunkin': A Men's Must Read

Yes....it really exists. A competition that only a man could think of: To devise a machine which can send a pumpkin the furthest distance through the air. Held in rural Delaware, the annual World Championships of Punkin' Chunkin' (yes, that's spelled correctly) collects what must the world's oddest array of squash-hurling devices.

Click here to read the article. We have espn.com to thank for this.

FYI: The "world record" is held by a quarter-million-dollar machine called The Second Amendment, with a gun the size of a construction crane that uses compressed air to hurtle the pumpkin somewhere beyond oblivion. The record distance: 4,434 feet (roughly 0.84 miles; if a runner could clock a 4-minute mile, he would need 3:22 to run that far).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

NUMB3RS: My View

The TV show NUMB3RS (yes, the "3" is intentionally in the title) has been on for a couple of years now, and features a professional mathematician/college professor assisting his FBI agent brother to solve crimes. The show has riveting plot lines and generally good acting, and has been a success in its Friday 10:00 p.m. time slot.

As a general rule, I like the show. Being a "math guy" myself, I can understand—probably better than most—the uses of mathematics in crime solving. The show is very interesting and engrossing. But there are two things I do not like about the show, one minor and one major.

First, the minor: Charles (the mathematician) seems to be able to numerically quantify psychological data with ease. This is directly at odds with reality. A scene might go like this: "Well, if you can give me data about the last four crimes, I will be able to construct a [insert name of fancy mathematical system or algorithm here] that will predict where he is likely to strike next." Predict, perhaps. Predict with something like 88% probability...with that level of specificity...and after constructing the system/algorithm in something like mere minutes? Not a chance. Psychological data is notoriously difficult to quantify in any widely-agreed-upon manner, making psychological research inherently difficult.

Second, the major: The show contains far too much sexual content. No major character in the show is married, and most of them, at one time or another, have been immoral with another character in the show. (Charles has had two women—perhaps this is some crass Hollywood way of trying to make mathematicians look cooler.) As is usual from the Hollywood sewer, these adulterous relationships are either irrelevant to the plot, or the tawdry focus of it. Regardless, they are completely unnecessary: The show could be a success even without them.

This phenomenon reminds me of the show Due South from the 90's, about a buttoned-up, straight-as-an-arrow Canadian mountie and his Chicago police friend who solve crimes together. (This show's main irritation was its obligatory "music video" segment—some two-minute segment of the show would have to be accompanied by raucous, loud, obnoxious, unneeded rock music. This is now fairly common, even during football pre-game shows.) The show began with some success for a season or two before a tryst entered the plot, between the mountie and an evil-seductress-bad-girl. The show went into a ratings tailspin soon thereafter, and died the following year.

My point: Making the lead character initially virtuous, and then later making him a sexually "cool" person, ought to contribute to the downfall of the program. My wish is that Numb3rs will clean up its act, but I won't hold a single breath waiting for that.

Hymn of the Week: Eternal Father, Strong to Save

In honor of Veterans' Day, and with thanks to those who serve and have served our country, I chose this hymn, often called the "Navy Hymn," both to honor our military veterans and because its message is timeless and true.

The verses below were written by Englishman William Whiting in 1860, as a poem for a student about to sail for America. Several other verses have been written to the same tune and can be read here. It is often sung in the British Royal Navy and was the favorite hymn of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who at one time served as Secretary of the Navy.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Congratulations to the Atlantic Sun Conference (who?)

Congratulations are in order to the Atlantic Sun Conference [Note: I didn't even know what teams comprised this conference in men's college basketball until today], after teams from the conference recorded these victories this week, all on the road:

  • Gardner-Webb whips Kentucky, 84-68
  • Belmont takes out Cincinnati, 86-75
  • Mercer goes across the country and beats USC, 96-81
I am already concerned about my March Madness bracket.

Congratulations to President Bush (a.k.a. Bush 41)!

Congratulations are in order for former President George H.W. Bush, who, at age 83, successfully skydived again from an airplane, in order to celebrate the grand re-opening of his presidential museum. He has previously stated that he wants to jump again on his 85th birthday in 2009. His last jump was on his 80th birthday.

I have no intentions of following his lead. But I admire his spunk.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Observations from 1 Samuel, Number 5

The Emotions of Samuel, in 1 Samuel 15
"It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night." (vs. 11)
Samuel has just been informed that God is unhappy concerning the choice of Saul as king. Samuel already knew that God intended to replace Saul (see 1 Sam. 13:13-14). But if I were Samuel, I know what I'd be thinking in my flesh: "You know, I never thought this idea of a king was a good idea in the first place. If only the people had followed my advice...."

Yes, despite the facts that Samuel did not originally want a king, warned the people accurately about what a king would do, and knew that the king would be replaced, he still..."cried unto the Lord"! Would we be so saddened by the sin of others that we did as Samuel did?
"22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD. 26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. 27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. 28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou."
And so Samuel confronts Saul. Despite Samuel's sorrow for Saul, he pulls no punches; he firmly and strongly pronounces God's judgment. He is clear, and he accurately conveys God's words, despite his own sorrows and despite the very real possibility of physical harm (reading on in 1 Samuel gives us several examples of what happened to those who made Saul mad).
"32 Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. 33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal."
A few observations should be noticed here. First of all, Samuel is an old man; he is not young and strong, like the David we encounter in the rest of the book. Second, he "hews Agag in pieces." Apparently a single sword thrust to the heart was not what God wanted to convey to everyone! Here an old man, conveying what God intended to happen, does something that Saul and his strong, younger army should have done earlier (No, there was no Geneva Convention back then). Would we be as willing to do something bold and just as "politically incorrect," if that were what God wanted us to do?
"And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel." (vs. 35)
Samuel knew that Saul was a failure in God's eyes and thought Saul a "mistake" in his own, and yet he mourns for the one who has fallen from God's favor! Herein lies a lesson for us. We have probably all known Christians, whether leaders or laypeople, who have "fallen from God's favor" through sin. Do we mourn for them?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

John Edwards on Hillary Clinton—It's Great!

Click here to view a YouTube commercial, produced by the John Edwards campaign, that (rightfully!) slams Hillary Clinton for her double-talk on a variety of issues. It's great!

Even the background music is pleasant.

An Important Lesson in Data Analysis

The Foxnews.com headline shouted "Study Finds Abstinence-Only Programs Fail to Reduce Teen Sexual Behavior." I found this tempting, so I read the article.

The first three paragraphs read as follows:

"Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

The report, which was based on a review of research into teenager sexual behavior, was being released Wednesday by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy."

This is not encouraging news...and I also didn't find it very believable. So I kept reading. In the seventh paragraph, the name of the leader of the study was given, one Douglas Kirby. Kirby is a "senior research scientist at ETR Associates." The seventh through ninth paragraphs summarizes Kirby's "findings," which are the usual politically correct, pro-sex-ed spoutings of those who think our public school students should be given lessons in how to mate.

And then we get to paragraph #10:

"The sponsors of the study praised Kirby for his "thorough research" and for being "fair and evenhanded," but they also acknowledged that ETR Associates developed and markets several of the sex education curricula reviewed in the report. Several of the previous studies that were reviewed also were written by Kirby." [Emphasis mine...because it sure wasn't found in the article]
Notice what we have here: In the tenth paragraph (of twelve) of the article, we are informed that Kirby is anything but an unbiased reporter of data! He works for a company that markets sex education curricula, and he cites a lot of his own "research"! This should be considered as nothing more than a shameless attempt at marketing his company's wares, but the media will pick this up as serious, evenhanded research and use it to try to mold public policy.

One more reason why we need discernment today!

Observations from 1 Samuel, Number 4

"And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few." 1 Samuel 14:6
Saul, Jonathan, and the remnant of the people still with them faced dismal odds in an imminent battle. Scripture records that the small victory Jonathan and his armorbearer recorded was the catalyst for a huge military victory, and caused the Philistines to scamper back to their own cities.

Jonathan remembered an important fact at an important time: God doesn't need "us"—as in, large groups of people—to do His work; He only needs faithful servants. He may choose to "save by many" if that is His will. He may choose to use only one faithful servant to do great things for Him. Are we willing to be that lone faithful servant, if this is God's will?

Observations from 1 Samuel, Number 3

"11 And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.
13 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue:...." 1 Samuel 13:11-14a
The predicament was dire: A vast Philistine army was on the move, and Saul's men numbered in the mere hundreds. In verses 11-12, we see perhaps the clearest attempt (and among the most ridiculous) at rationalizing sin we shall ever find in the Bible. That only priests could offer burnt offerings was abundantly clear in the Law, and Saul knew it.

There is never a righteous rationalization for sinning. Wicked rationalization, yes—but sin is sin, no matter what reasons we provide to God for sinning. Furthermore, our rationalizations will never get in the way of God's judgments for sin; He will judge sin regardless of any words we may throw out as explanation. From Adam & Eve, and Cain...all the way to the present, God's judgment on sin is unrelated to our reasons for sinning.

Observations from 1 Samuel, Number 2

"23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:
24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you." 1 Samuel 12:23-24
Here we see Samuel as an old man, having already (and with great reluctance) ceded his authority as judge to the new king, Saul. The beginning of the chapter shows the people validating his righteous leadership over many years, and earlier chapters demonstrate his obedience to God in anointing the king whom the people wanted...when they didn't want Samuel's wicked sons as leaders.

But his work was not done: He still had important duties to perform as prayer warrior and teacher. As a father, these duties will be mine for as long as I walk this earth...even though my children are still young. Certainly, too, there are others whom I should teach and for whom I should pray.

The work of teaching and prayer is, in part, to help the younger generations glorify and praise God. May we do that faithfully.

Observations from 1 Samuel, Number 1

"Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed." 1 Samuel 2:3
I read this verse yesterday, only minutes after a rebellious teenager at a local high school told me that she was not going to do the assignment her teacher left her to do. This girl, sad to say, was so proud that she felt it appropriate to be arrogant and disrespectful to authority. God will weigh her actions.

The speaker of these words is Hannah, who is praising God after the birth of her son, Samuel. In the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah certainly comes across as humble (though distressed at her early inability to bear children) and obedient.

It is possible to be proud and/or arrogant without showing blatant rebellion. Pride and arrogance are attitudes of the heart which each of us must search out and, with God's help, remove from our lives. Any of us is susceptible to them.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Barack Hussein Obama

Yes, that's his real, given name: Barack Hussein Obama. Click here or here for evidence.

Consider this your fact for the day. And a prediction: Once a majority of Americans is aware of this fact, his chances for winning the presidency will dive.

Hymn of the Week: Maybe Today

The chorus of this hymn was so familiar to me that I had completely forgotten that its origins are recent (1976). Written by Frank Garlock, it is a comforting reminder that one day—perhaps this day—Christ is coming back to take His own unto Himself.

Maybe Today

My Lord will come, it may be soon,
It could be morning, night, or noon;
Till then I'll watch and work and pray,
When He comes, I'll go home, there to stay.

Refrain:
Maybe today, my Lord will come for me,
Maybe today, my Savior I shall see;
Maybe today, from sin I shall be free,
Jesus will come, and I will go home, it may be today.

My Lord will come, I know not when,
But this is sure, He'll come again;
With eager eyes I look for Him,
In His presence new joy will begin.

Refrain

We'll sing His praise forevermore,
When we have entered heaven's door;
Redeemed from all our sin and strife,
There we'll know perfect love, endless life.

Refrain

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Substitute Teaching: Where I've Been, Updated

After yesterday's sub assignment and remembering that I have taught twice at Howardsville Christian, here is the properly updated list of substitute teaching assignments [future scheduled assignments in brackets], so far:

  • Mattawan (6; 3 in HS, 3 in MS) [1]
  • Paw Paw (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.) [2]
  • Gobles (3; 2 in HS, 1 in MS) [1]
  • Decatur (2; 1 in HS, 1 in Elem.) [2]
  • Lawrence (1, HS)
  • Bloomingdale (1, HS) [1]
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
I have not yet been to Lawton, the other school district in which I am qualified and enrolled to substitute.

Islamic Cleric on How to Beat Your Wife

This story from Foxnews.com summarizes a Saudi cleric's advice on when and how to beat one's wife. In also contains a link to a 4½-minute video clip (spoken in Arabic with English subtitles) of the cleric sharing this information with three young men on the stage.

While nearly everyone with an ounce or more of sense will be able to see folly in the advice of this cleric, one verse came quickly to mind: "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Eph. 4:26).

Let this be another reminder that Islam is not a religion of peace and love.

Here is the text of the Foxnews.com article:

Saudi Marriage 'Expert' Advises Men in 'Right Way' to Beat Their Wives

Friday, November 02, 2007

Move over, Dr. Phil, there's a new relationship expert in town.

He's Saudi author and cleric, "Dr." Muhammad Al-'Arifi, who in a remarkable segment broadcast on Saudi and Kuwaiti television in September, counseled young Muslim men on how to treat their wives.

"Admonish them – once, twice, three times, four times, ten times," he advised. "If this doesn't help, refuse to share their beds."

And if that doesn't work?

"Beat them," one of his three young advisees responded.

"That's right," Al-'Arifi said.

He goes on to calmly explain to the young men that hitting their future wives in the face is a no-no.

"Beating in the face is forbidden, even when it comes to animals," he explained. "Even if you want your camel or donkey to start walking, you are not allowed to beat it in the face. If this is true for animals, it is all the more true when it comes to humans. So beatings should be light and not in the face."

His final words of wisdom?

"Woman, it has gone too far. I can't bear it anymore," he tells the men to tell their wives. "If he beats her, the beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly.

"He must beat her where it will not leave marks. He should not beat her on the hand... He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage. He should not beat her like he would beat an animal or a child -- slapping them right and left.

"Unfortunately, many husbands beat their wives only when they get mad, and when they start beating, it as if they are punching a wall – they beat with their hands, right and left, and sometimes use their feet. Brother, it is a human being you are beating. This is forbidden. He must not do this."

Take that, Match.com!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Substitute Teaching: Where I've Been

Some of you who know me realize that I have been generating some of my income these days from substitute teaching in the public schools of Van Buren County, Michigan. Today is my 15th sub assignment; I am using a computer during the planning hour at Mattawan Middle School today.

Here is where I have been so far:

  • Mattawan (6; 3 in HS, 3 in MS)
  • Gobles (3; 2 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Paw Paw (2; 1 in HS, 1 in Elem. My next three scheduled assignments are all at PPHS)
  • Decatur (2; 1 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawrence (1, HS)
  • Bloomingdale (1, HS)
I have not yet been to Lawton, the other school district in which I am qualified and enrolled to substitute.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Observation on John 21:11

"Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken." John 21:11
This verse comes near the conclusion of the famous story in John 21, where the disciples have caught nothing after fishing all night. A man they do not yet recognize tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, where they catch all those fish; the disciples then realize that it is Christ.

Here is the part that jumped out at me today (a part not previously noticed): There were not merely 153 "average" fishes; they were 153 "great" fishes! The Greek word for "great" here is megas, the familiar word from which we get mega- and similar roots in English. Mega-, of course, refers to something which is unusually large in size, mass, etc.

The point here is this: When Jesus Christ gives us something, it is not just the "average" sort of thing we can get anywhere....it is great! His blessings are not only abundant but also exceedingly above what we ask or think. No doubt the fish those disciples ate that morning were also delicious and nutritious, in addition to being sizable. God's gifts are always good and always great.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hymn of the Week: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Charles Wesley wrote this hymn to commemorate the first anniversary of his salvation. The hymn has been set to no less than seven different tunes (Azmon is probably the most common, but Lyngham is my favorite) and the poem actually consists of nineteen stanzas. The entire poem can be read here, but here are a few selected stanzas:

Aside: Note how the third stanza, like my previous post, discusses the "name of Jesus."

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me He loved, the Son of God,
For me, for me He died!

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Name of Jesus

"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:31)

"9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11)
In just a few moments of study, and with these two verses to catalyze the process, here are several thoughts about the name of Jesus Christ:
  • It is not to be blasphemed or taken in vain (Ex. 20:7).
  • His name is "hallowed" (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2) and is to be "made holy" by us.
  • All manner of spiritual things are to be done "in His name" (Matt. 18:5, 20; 28:19-20; Mark 9:41; Luke 9:48; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 2 Thess. 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 13:15)
  • Miracles were done by the apostles in His name (Luke 10:27; Acts 3:6, 16, 4:10; 16:18)
  • Preaching is to be done in His name (Luke 24:47; Acts 9:27)
  • Salvation comes through believing in and calling on His name (John 1:12; 3:18; Acts 2:21; 4:12; Rom. 10:13)
  • Sanctification comes through His name (1 Cor. 6:11)
  • Prayers are to be in His name (John 14:13-14; 16:23-24)
  • Those who "hold fast" His name are praised (Rev. 2:13)
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." (Col. 3:17)
And there is much more! Take a little time to make a study of this yourself—it will be most rewarding.