This Is A Good Thing

From time-to-time, bloggers do "How They Got Here" posts where they tell their readers how people arrived at their blogs. Usually, the entries are humorous. I've had a few funny ones myself but one of the things that keeps me blogging, at least in part, is actually the fact that people arrive at my blog by searching for biblical or theologically related issues just about every day. This is a good thing. In fact, that's exactly why I started this blog and again, that's why I will continue to maintain it. For all of you who've arrived here and found what you're looking for, all I can say is, "I'm glad I was able to help."

Evolutionists Are Fundamentalists?

Well, that's what this hilarious video kind of points out:


The Kleptomanic Christ: Studies in Mark, Pt. 50

For the most part, commentaries on Mark’s Gospel tend to offer some very unsatisfying answers when it comes to Mk. 11.5, the scene where Jesus’ disciples untie the donkey (and colt) and take them for a ride up to the Jerusalem Temple. Early commentators wrestled with an ethical dilemma that they thought this passage posed: Jesus advocating stealing. (Of course, this also posed a theological dilemma as well.) So, theological arguments were concocted so as to explain that it was impossible for Jesus to advocate stealing.

Yet, all of the ethical and theological misgivings disappear when we stop taking this story on its own and begin reading it with the larger narrative of Mark’s Gospel in mind. In fact, we see very quickly that there is no ethical dilemma and that Jesus was in fact, not thieving. First of all, Jesus picked the donkey(s) up in Bethany (11.5) and brought them back the same night (11.11). Stealing? Not quite. Borrowing? Yes.

Usually, when we borrow something from someone, we have some type of relationship with them (whether formal or informal). It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus knew many people in the tiny town of Bethany (which, as Mk. 11.1 points out, runs into and borders Bethphage): Mary, Martha, Lazarus (Jn. 11.17), the woman who broke the alabaster jar and anointed Jesus and Simon the leper (Mk. 14.3-9, Lk. 7.36-50, Jn. 12.1-8). It is reasonable to conclude that since Jesus knew at least 5 people in Bethany (and by virtue of this, their extended families, as well as friends and neighbors), we need have no qualms about Jesus stealing. In such a small town, perhaps the population was around 1,000, knowing a few people intimately means knowing a lot of people informally.

It is my view that Jesus either borrowed the donkey(s) from the family of Lazarus or Simon. A narrative reading of Mk. seems to cause me to lean towards Simon, at whose home Jesus is anointed just a few chapters later. Alas, by panning out and seeing the bigger picture, we make logical sense of the smaller things taking place in various episodes like this one. Furthermore, the image of a kleptomanic Christ fades into oblivion.

If Everyone Followed Through

Our dining room table has been taken over by paperwork for the adoption process (but that's certainly okay). Recently, we read that if every person who ever thought about adoption followed through with it, there would be no orphans in the world. You know, since we've started this process I cannot tell you how many people have said to us "We've thought about adopting" or "We've looked into it". Soooo many people have made these types of comments to us. I'm certainly glad people think about and look into it but we can really end the orphan crisis in this world if each person who has ever thought about it actually did it. I want to encourage you today, if you've ever thought about or looked into it, to follow through with it and give a child in need a chance. The paperwork, the cost, the time, it's all worth it and it's all doable. Today is your day to give a child a chance!

Addition To The Blogroll

I have decided to add Tim Ricchuiti (who must have had a time learning to spell that last name as a child) to the blogroll today. He posts very frequently (just about every day) and has some good insights into a variety of biblical topics. Check out his site by clicking the following link or checking the blogroll page: T. Ricchuiti: If I Were A Bell...


Images of Antiquity: Philippi, Pt. 12

It has been a while since I've done an entry for the "Images of Antiquity" series on Pisteuomen but this one's been sitting in draft mode for about 5 or 6 months, so, I thought I'd go ahead and publish it. I took the photos in the slideshow above while visiting ancient Philippi.

The first photo was taken very early in the morning. It was freezing outside but it was so beautiful. Legend has it that this is where Paul baptized Lydia, the dealer of purple clothes. In all actuality, she was probably not baptized at this exact spot but it isn't a huge deal as she was baptized somewhere within the vicinity. As you can see in the picture, there is a "cross-shaped" cut-out etched into the small creek. The steam rising off of the water made for a beautiful picture.

In the second picture you see the new Church that has been built in honor of St. Lydia. The sanctuary is magnificent as it has stained-glass windows of biblical characters, a painted dome ceiling of Jesus' baptism and a circular seating arrangement.

In the third photo you see ancient Philippi and some of her ruins. Off to the right of the picture, atop the hill, you can still see Philip's fortress. If you look to the bottom of the picture you can see a Latin inscription that speaks of Philip, ruler of the Province of Macedonia. At the very back of the picture, which you can not really see here, is the place where Paul is believed to have been jailed while in Philippi. In fact, to the left of the picture, near the erected columns is where Paul was dragged down the streets and beaten.

Photo four is of the theater in Philippi. It is well maintained and has been renovated to a good degree. By the time you travel through Turkey and get to Philippi in Greece, once you've seen a few theaters you feel like you've seen them all. In the last picture there is a pedestal that speaks of the Pythian Cult. Of course, in Acts 16, we have mentions of the "slave girl" who was saying that Jesus was "a" way of salvation. This hacked Paul off and he ranted against her, which led to some trouble (arrest). The "slave girl" was actually part of the Pythian Cult. Indeed, Acts 16.16 refers to her with the term "πυθωνα". In the pedestal, you can see the related term in the 5th line down (the 2nd word in that line). The Pythian Cult was prominenet all over Greece, especially in Delphi.


Performing Mk. 1.21-28 in Greek: Studies in Mark, Pt. 49

Here is my take on how Mark's Gospel (1.21-8) might have been performed in antiquity for Greek audiences. I try to inject emotion and pathos into the performance at the appropriate times. If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to comment.


Final 24

A couple of nights ago I stumbled upon a sweet mini-series that Bio (the TV channel) is doing: Final 24. Final 24 is a basically a series that covers the final 24 hours of a deceased but famous person's life (e.g. Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Belushi, JFK, Marvin Gaye, Nicole Simpson, etc.). The episode I caught covered the final 24 hours of Tupac Shakur's life. It was very interesting. It spent some time talking about a number of different theories surrounding Pac's death (e.g. a setup by Suge, payback from the crips, someone from Biggie's clan, etc.). Suprisingly, it didn't even throw out the speculation that he had not died, that is, the whole Makiavelli theory. Anyway, it was pretty interesting. Click the photo to watch the first three minutes of the documentary.

Saying Goodbye

Today was a bittersweet day. One of the good things that happened was that the wife and I recieved our certification for international adoption. The more bitter part was that, although we placed our dog with what seemed like a loving couple, it was sooooo hard to let him go, so hard to say goodbye. My heart's a little heavy. We got our Jack Russell Terrier right when he was born and we've had him for 5 years. Getting him was one of the first big decisions that the wife and I made as a married couple. Man...

I know it's not all that comparable but being in the process of adoption, and having to be the one to give part of our family away, kind of helped me understand a little of what the parents of our son (whom we're adopting) must feel. As my wife said, "Giving up a child, a human for adoption is either the most selfish thing you can do or the most selfless." That seems quite true. And though we did not entrust a human to others today, we did entrust part of our family to them. It's hard saying goodbye, but it was just something we had to do.

Another thing this made me realize is that for some, their animals are the closest beings to them. When they lose a pet or must relinquish it, it must be so devastating to them. I have learned from this experience to take that more seriously and to be more pastoral. Sometimes we just don't have eyes to see, ears to hear or minds to understand until we go through it. Such is the way of life, I guess. We love you Gus and we'll miss you buddy!!!

By George: Republican Rhetoric (Insights From Our Commander In Chief)

I spent an entire year collecting George Bush bloopers. Why? Because a certain in-law of mine despises the man and so, I thought it'd make a good Christmas present for this person. I think they really liked it. I recently uploaded the 22 minutes worth of bloopers to GoogleVid but it lopped off like 19 minutes. So, below are the first 3 minutes of the bloopers. Give it a watch!


Bend It Like Beckham: Fridays Are For Fun

Check out this video clip my wife showed me, pretty funny stuff!!!

Fandom of the Oprah: Critiquing the New Earth Movement, Pt. 3

There have been a few times in my life where I was privileged to attend the infamous play "The Phantom of the Opera". I always enjoyed attending these events. If you're not privy to "The Phantom", bascially, the title tells all: There is an opera house that many people believe is haunted by a ghost or phantom. People become enraptured by this phantom and some grow terribly frightened by it, especially after they think it is communicating it's desires to them. Of course, there is more to it than that but I need not go into detail here.

I wonder if, on a number of levels, this is a good analogy (and play on words) for critiquing Oprah Winfrey and her new spiritual pal, Eckhart Tolle. Have the two (Winfrey and Tolle) become a sort of destructive duo? Are they lurking around the halls of Churches and Christian homes (via book and T.V.) and slowly getting people to their personal desires, desires to see Christianity and Buddhism brought together? I think so.

The fact is, Oprah's fans are hardcore loyalists. The fandom of (the) Oprah is massive. And this is becoming more true for Tolle every day. I want to challenge Christian men and women to boycott Oprah and more specifically, her illiterate, pseudo-theology and spirituality. Don't buy into the false prophetess and her teachings. Stand firm in your beliefs and instead of adopting what she says, join me in sifting and critiquing it. More on Tolle's book A New Earth in the next post (#4) of this series.


Only In KY or Let There Be Light

So, last night I had a neighbor fire up his mower at 9pm and mow until 10pm. As I said in my post about that, I was pretty frustrated. We put the baby down at 9pm every night and that surely interrupted her routine. Anyway, I'm beginning to wonder if we're getting punked because lo and behold, tonight at 9pm, KY Utilities pulls up beside our house with two trucks making all kinds of noise. Why did they come? To change a light bulb that has been flickering for about a year (or more). I went and asked if they were going to be long, they assured me that they'd be quick. They stuck around for a bit, at least long enough for me to grab the camera and take a few snapshots. I don't know what's going on because typically, everyone's in by 9pm and settled down in this town/neighborhood. Only in KY!!! (Photo taken at 9:30pm.)

When Soul & Womb Are Barren: Thoughts On Adoption, Pt. 5

In post #3 of this series (Thoughts On Adoption), I made the comment that in the Scriptures, sterility is never blamed on men. Even more, sterility or barrenness is always portrayed as a curse from God. Further, in the Bible, every matriach who at one point is barren, is said to have recieved the gift of child from God. Add all of these together and the picture is quite terrible for Christian women who have pregnancy complications today. Indeed, while the issue of barrenness is tough in and of itself, the language of being cursed by God makes it worse.

Since entering the adoption process I have personally been dwelling on how the Scriptures might speak in a pastoral sense to both sterile men and women today. In fact, I noted before that it appeared that Scripture never indicted the male on charges of sterility. However, as I was reading Mk. this week, I realized that I might stand corrected. I also realized that this passage can be one that helps us to see that even in the Bible, it is not "always" the women that have reproductive issues.

In Mk. 12.18-27, the Sadducees confront Jesus and challenge Him with a story about 7 brothers (either direct kin or Israelite brothers) who, when the oldest died, the next in line took his wife for himself. This happened 7 times. They took her so that they might procreate and maintain the family lineage. However, it didn't happen. The interesting thing about this story, though, is that towards the end, we find this statement: "And of the seven, none left children. Last of all, the woman died too" (Mk. 12.22).

As far as I know, to the best of my knowledge, within the Christian Scriptures, this is the only place where it is acknowledged that men can face reproductive problems. In fact, male and female are mentioned alike here. While there are a ton of theological and ethical questions and issues that this story raises, few, if any, have noted the fact that sterility / barrenness can be attributed to both men and women. For those adopting and especially for those women who feel so abandoned by the Bible during such crises, I think this passage might offer some hope and comfort.

What the Sadducees are really trying to say to Jesus in this seemingly enigmatic passage is: If God cannot or will not "raise up" a child for any of these 8 people, what makes you think that there will be a resurrection where He will "raise" dead people? You see, the Sadducees believed that the only way one lived on after this life, was through their seed planted in their children; they did not believe in an afterlife. Jesus, though, challenges them on this. That is why the Sadducees practiced Levirate marriage, that is, when a brother dies, the next brother takes his wife. Basically, Levirate marriage is a marriage based on "death" (e.g. a brother has to die before it can happen).

Jesus, though, makes clear that He sees things differently. For Jesus, neither this life or the one after it is propogated or based on death, it is based on creation. The first life is rooted in creation and the new life is rooted in new creation. The resurrection, teaches Jesus, is the consumation of that new creation; when it is made whole. Thus, Jesus teaches here that earthly procreation, while a good thing in and of itself, is not one's goal or reason for living. The goal is to be transformed in this life in preparation for the life to come at the resurrection of all believers.

What I see in this story, then, in addition to the fact that men and women alike could be viewed as sterile, is hope. I see hope in the fact that in this story, neither is blamed and neither is viewed as cursed. I also see hope in the realization that God is the God of the living. For those who have unsuccessfully reproduced, know that God loves you. Know also that there are many children who are "living" in this world that need loving, caring parents. You have a chance to use God's transforming touch and power to help transform the lives and situations that they find themselves in. So, at long last, maybe this is one passage in which persons dealing with sterility can find comfort. In fact, this may be one way in which, unlike the Pharisees, when your soul and womb seem barren, you can acknowledge and rest in the "power of God" (Mk. 12.24).

The Progress Continues

We had our final home study today and it went quite well. We did the interview today and the social worker looked over our home to make sure it was fitting for children. So, we're making a lot of progress. Next step: Complete the work for CIS (Custom Immigration Services).


Sex Changes For Kids...How Sick!!!

This year, Boston will play host to SBL. That's a good thing, I guess. But here's something that's not so good about Boston: The Childrens' Hospital there now has a program to performm surgical sex changes on children. One apologist for child sex changes argues that they're doing this for all the, "Little boys [who] sob unless they're allowed to wear dresses. The girls [who] want to be called Luke, Ted, or James." Friends, America is degenerating quickly! This is so screwed up. Our children are not only targets for abuse, rape, kidnapping and abortion, now, we as parents can choose to have them mutilated if we'd like--all in the good name of science. I can't help but think that an entire generation of children are going to grow up confused about their identity and angry as heck at their moronic parents for putting them through such thigns. The truth is, while we like to think that we're such a civilized nation, Mother Teresa had it right when she insisted long ago that a nation that treats its kids this way, is incredibly depraved and incredibly primitive. Here's the link to the article: Child Sex Changes. Sickening! I'm so disgusted right now!!!

Voting: Which War-Monger Will You Pick?

Daniel Farmer over at Hopeful Daniel has posted an interesting article on voting. He links to an important column that has all three presidential candidates talking about how they are willing to go to war with Iran. Many like to think that the Dems are anti-war but that's just not the case. The truth is, all the American people have to pick from is the lesser of 3 evils. The only thing I see better about the Democratic frontrunners at this point is that unlike McCain, they're not just itching to bomb the crap out of the Middle East like he is. It'll take some provoking with them whereas with McCain, once he's in office, it's already done. For sure, if McCain gets elected, the U.S. is going to find itself in another war and that, sooner than later.


Only In KY or I Was So Ticked

So, every night we put the baby down for bed at 9pm. Usually, it is a pretty pleasant undertaking. However, tonight (Tuesday), almost as soon as I laid the baby in her crib, one of my neighbors, no joke, fired up his lawn mower. I thought they were probably just going to load it in a truck and haul it away or something but no, he decided to mow for an entire hour. I was fuming. I walked outside once and stood there with the baby, about 20 ft. away, just staring and he did nothing. He just kept mowing. I couldn't believe it. "Only in KY" I thought. Seriously, who mows from 9-10pm in a neighborhood setting? I was so ticked, honestly, I haven't been that upset in a long time. The baby finally fell asleep at 10:15, soon after the mower was shut off.

What I Did On Earth Day

Besides studying, researching and playing with the baby, I actually did celebrate Earth Day in my own way today. Gross as it may sound, I saved water by opting out of taking a shower. I also took my daughter on a walk and we enjoyed nature together. I think she saw ducks and geese up-close for the first time today (earlier in the week she saw horses). Tonight, while she was in the bathtub I shared the creation story with her. Even though she's only 9 and 1/2 months old and couldn't make sense of what I was saying, I still felt like it was a good thing to do. Just a few ways I celebrated Earth Day today. How did you celebrate?

New Pisteuomen Logo

The new Pisteuomen logo (to the right) was created in recognition of Earth Day. Not only is it a day to celebrate and thank God for His creation but in my view, it is also a day to remember that as God's people, we are to have a global mentality. Indeed, God's plan from the beginning was to unite all people in Christ. Enjoy Earth Day and if you have a few moments, why not design your own logo to raise awareness.

For the Twenty-Thousandth Time!

After ten months of being in the blogosphere, Pisteuomen was visited for the twenty-thousandth time this morning. That's nowhere close to 400-thousand like Mr. Jim West but then again I don't post 10 to 15 times a day (and there certainly is a relationship between # of posts and # of visits). Anyway, it's been a joy so far. I hope you'll keep reading and commenting here. Blessings.

500 Miles & Counting

So, the Earth Expedition is well under way and Daren has traveled over 500 miles on foot in just over a month. Check out the video of his trip so far below. Also, check out the EE Blog "HERE" and add it to your page-readers.


"Hey Night" : The Musical Michael Halcomb, Pt. 4

It is hard to believe that next month my wife and I will celebrate our 5-year anniversary. Time flies!!! We met each other while working at a youth camp in Indiana (Springhill/In-Pursuit). When I first approached her, she wasn't hearin' me at all. Later in the summer, though, I won a date with her and the rest is history. This is a song I wrote shortly after that when I was traveling around with my buddy playing lots of shows. The title of the song is "Hey Night" and basically, it just talks about the first night we hung out and how it was just perfect; I wanted time to stop. While traveling, this quickly became a crowd favorite; it was one of my favorites to perform as well. This particular recording is from a show done in Baltimore, MD. Enjoy.


Book Suggestions?

I'm getting ready to start a book club at the congregation where I serve. The meetings will be on Sunday nights, once a month and last for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. I was wondering if anyone out there had any suggestions for a good book to read? I have a couple in mind but I want to know if you've tried anything or been a part of anything that you've really enjoyed? If so, let me know via comment. Thanks.

Sundays Are For Friends

I had the great privilege of meeting a friend from the blogosphere this morning, Wendy Katz. Wendy and a friend attended the Church where I serve this morning and then they stayed and had lunch with the fam. It was a good time; nice meeting you Wendy, you too Jacquie. Due to Wendy's busy researching and work schedule (she's a bio-chemist) her blogging presence over at "We Serve The King" has had to take a backseat. Hopefully, she'll be able to begin blogging again in the future. By the way, I am remdined once again of the power of the internet and online communities. Anyway, the fam and I enjoyed your company.

After spending some time with Wendy and Jacquie, I got together with a neighbor friend and spent a couple of hours shooting hoops. Of two games in H-O-R-S-E, we both won one. I took the next two games: Around The World and O-U-T (shortened version of "horse"). Good times. I'm looking forward to spring and summer and being able to be outside more.


A Sermon On Werewolves

Yesterday I took a few minutes to sit down and read one of the oddest sermons I have ever stumbled upon. The title: A Sermon On Werewolves. No, it was not just some catchy title, the sermon is about what it claims to be about: werewolves. It was preached by Dr. Johann Geiler von Keysersperg (1445 – 1510) who was a famous preacher in Strasbourg, Germany. He gave this particular sermon at Strasbourg on the third Sunday in Lent in the year 1508. He listed 7 reasons for why werewolves attack people (a werewolf, of course, is a man who turns into a wolf at night):

1. Hunger
2. Savageness
3. Old Age
4. Experience
5. Madness
6. The Devil
7. God

Here's what he had to say about #7: "Under the seventh head, the injury comes of God’s ordinance. For God will sometimes punish certain lands and villages with wolves. So we read of Elisha, — that when Elisha wanted to go up a mountain out of Jericho, some naughty boys made a mock of him and said, “O bald head, step up! O glossy pate, step up!” What happened? He cursed them. Then came two bears out of the desert and tore about forty-two of the children. That was God’s ordinance. The like we read of a prophet who would set at naught the commands he had received of God, for he was persuaded to eat bread at the house of another. As he went home he rode upon his ass. Then came a lion which slew him and left the ass alone. That was God’s ordinance. Therefore must man turn to God when He brings wild beasts to do him a mischief: which same brutes may He not bring now or evermore. Amen."

How about that? What would we have done without German scholarship? Anyway, be on your watch, there's a full moon coming up soon.


Putting On The New: Thoughts On Adoption, Pt. 4

In Ephesians 4.22-4, Paul says to the Ephesians: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

Of course, this comes at the beginning of the more ethically-oriented section of the epistle. Paul is exhorting the Gentile Christians, here, to abstain from indulging in sinfulness and to be holy. What may not be as clear to the untrained eye is that Paul's statement here is cloaked in baptismal language. In antiquity, baptism was commonly done in the nude, especially for symbolic purposes. The person would take off their old clothes, go into the water and upon coming up out of the water, exit the other side of the pool and put on new clothes. Crossing to the other side of the pool and putting on new clothes represented making the cross or journey into a new life and taking on a new identity.

Interestingly, in international adoptions, the cross into a new life and taking on some type of new identity is symbolized by a very similar act. The institutionalized child, when leaving the orphanage, will take off the old clothes and put on new ones. This moment is a monumental one; it is truly life-chaning for the child, the orphanage, the adoptive fammily and the new community that the child will be part of. I don't think it is accidental that these parallels exist. Indeed, in Eph. 1.5--one of 5 places where it is found in the NT--Paul uses the word adoption (huiothesia). In that verse, Paul says that it was in God's mind all along, that His children, were to be adopted into His family--the Church. Physical adoption is rooted in the spiritual.

The realization that we are part of the community of God, is manifest in the communal act of baptism. This is the event whereby we shed the old self and become "new creations" in Christ Jesus. The truth is, for the child who is adopted and for all those touched by adoption, it is a powerful and life-changing event, just like baptism. I would submit that it is such, because at its core, it speaks of love and sacrifice and perhaps most importantly, community.


What Does Faith Look Like?

My mom sent me a link to a very fascinating slideshow put together by ABC: Fashions of Faith. The gallery of photos is great; the pic to the left is one of the snapshots. Give it a look, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Remember Little League?

I hated little league, I must admit. But this would be awesome!!! From the guys who brought everyone to a standstill in NYC, check out this one by ImprovEverwhere:

Things Went Well

We had our first meeting with our social worker for the adoption today, in which we completed our first of two home studies. More great progress.


New Photo For Pisteuomen

I took down the old Christian flag outside our Church house this morning that had weathered 3 seasons, including winter, and put up a new one. I thought the blue sky in the background, along with the blossoming white tree was quite pretty, so, I snapped a shot. The only bad part is, you can see that the flag is just out of the package as it still has all of it's folds. Still, I like it and it kind of gets me in the mood for Spring and Summer.

The 10 Stupidest Doctrines

Here, in my opinion, are the 10 stupidest doctrines (or teachings) that people have based on the Bible. What say you?

1. The Rapture
2. Forbiddance of Inter-ethnic/racial persons
3. Forbiddance of instruments during worship
4. Name it and claim it
5. CUFI (or anything Hagee)
6. Anti-Semitism
7. The Swoon Theory
8. Universalism
9. Mandatory %10 Tithe
10. Once Saved, Always Saved

More Celebrating!!!

As I mentioned Sunday evening, the wife and I finished the mandatory 24 hours of coursework for our home study. That was a huge accomplishment. Well, last night, we made another giant stride by completing the mandatory 8 hours of coursework by the National Council For Adoption. We will recieve our certificates in 2 to 4 weeks. After finishing our home study, soon, we will have the green light to contact CIS (Immigration Services) for approval to bring the child home, then we will begin working on our dossier which, in-turn, results in getting the child referral. I am amazed at the huge strides we have been able to make in such a short amount of time. What generally takes couples months has only taken us a handful of weeks. So far, so good. Please pray for our family, our child-to-be and the process. Thanks.


Prophets of Arrogance: Critiquing The New Earth Movement, Pt. 2

As I noted in my previous post on this series, Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle are nothing but pluralistic, false-prophets. Neither of them have qualified religion, theology or Bible degrees. They are both amateur spiritualists who want to seem knowledgeable and make a quick buck. Other than not having a clue about Buddhism or Christianity, which they are bent on mixing, they are just incredibly arrogant. Yet, this is another thing that I think makes their program sell.

What do I mean when I say they are arrogant? Well, actually, they are arrogant in the same way that pepole like the "Left Behind" guys and John Hagee are arrogant. With the "Left Behind" guys and Hagee, you have a group of people who take an ancient document, the Bible, and attempt to make it say all kinds of things about the 21st century west that it never intended to. They read Revelation like it was written for those living in America today, not those living in the 1st century Mediterranean. I think this is so arrogant and "me centered"; their mentality is "the Bible was written to me, for me and about me and my era".

Interestingly, Winfrey and Tolle have done the same exact thing. Here is a quote from the "New Earth" book, under a sub-titled section "A New Heaven and A New Earth": "The inspiration for the title of this book came from a Bible prophecy that seems more applicable now than at any other time in human history" (18). How arrogant is this?!!!! Yet, many illiterate and self-subsumed Christians today will read this and think "Yes, it is all about me, it is all about right now." What Winfrey and Tolle have done is to cater to the apocalyptic crowds but instead of being apocalyptic, instead of preaching about an end-time war (thankfully, they're not doing that!!!), they have turned the tables and talked about the apex of spirituality being reached.

Here is a quote from the same sub-section mentioned above: "It occurs in both the Old and the New Testament and speaks of the collapse of the existing world order and the arising of 'a new heaven and a new earth'. We need to understand here that heaven is not a location but refers to the inner realm of consciousness. This is the esoteric meaning of the word, and this is also its meaning in the teachings of Jesus. Earth, on the other hand, is the outer manifestation in form, which is always a reflection of the inner. Collective human consciousness and life on our planet are intrinsically connected. 'A new heaven' is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness, and 'a new earth' is its reflection in the physical realm" (18).

Anyone with biblical knowledge can see right through the psychologizing and spiritualizing that is taking place here. Jesus was not using a Jungian type of symbolization in his teaching. No, heaven didn't mean the inner conscience for Jesus and no, earth didn't mean the physical realm reflecting the inner. This is simply fabricated and untrue!!! This is way off. Sadly, many Christians are not wise enough to catch it. (By the way, this has been done a number of times throughout history by persons; Winfrey and Tolle are not the first to try it.)

Anyway, I just wanted to point out the sheer arrogance, which is built on pure biblical ignorance, that runs rampant throughout the "New Earth" book and its movement. When we read the Bible, we must realize that it was not prophesying about us today; it was talking about people in its own time. We must keep it in that context before ever extracting its implications and points of application for ourselves. Don't buy into all of the hokey pscyhologizing and stupid lies. Worst of all, perhaps, don't subscribe to the sheer arrogance these two put out. If you really want to follow in Jesus' footsteps, do what the apostle Paul said and do not think of yourself more highly than you ought but rather, in professing Christ, take on the nature and practices of a servant. Don't be swayed!

A Glorious Day!!! Bye Bye Student Loans!!!

Today is such a glorious day. "Why?", you ask. "Because I paid the last red cent on my student loan debt!" That's right, my student loans are no more. The burden has been lifted and I am free. Man, this is a good day.


Jesus' Dad Was Joseph of Arimathea

From a personal standpoint, it is my view that Jesus' father, Joseph, did not die before Jesus was crucified. Of course, there isn't much proof to back the argument up either way; there are only hypotheses and possibilities. Again, that's just my personal view. But another view that I find absolutely intriguing is that by A.J. Fejfar. The gist of his argument is that Joseph and Jesus, as "tektons" were both charged by the people of Nazareth with penury--a common and serious charge in NT antiquity. This is what eventually drove them both out of Nazareth. Surviving the charge, Joseph became rather rich--as was often the case if those charges were survived. Being rich, Joseph had in-roads with Pilate, so much so that he could ask for a private tomb for Jesus' burial. Thus, the rich "Joseph of Arimathea" in the Gospels, is really Jesus' father. If this is the case, both Joseph and Mary are actually present at the cross. I must admit, as one who does not believe Joseph was dead, I find this argument very persuasive. What do you think about this theory?


Adoption Progress

The wife and I are spending the day finishing up the 24-hour mandatory home study coursework. We will finish in about an hour; this is a gigantic step!!! We are moving right along. Pray for us. Praise God.

*Update: We finished!!!!!!


"Shout To The Lord" on American Idol - Take 2

As I noted in a post a few days ago, it was quite odd that American Idol aired the contestants singing "Shout To The Lord" two nights in a row. WSK pointed out in her comments, something I hadn't noticed: on the first night, they changed "My Jesus..." to "My Shepherd". Not so on the second night. See the 2nd video below, which still has me perplexed (see the 1st one HERE). Why is AI doing this? See the good comments to the previous post HERE.

What Religion Is Your Bra?

Check out this cartoon. Hilarious I tell you, hilarious. (Click the pic for a popout video.)


Will There Be Animals In Heaven?

At various points in my pastorate, persons have asked me the question "Will there be animals in heaven?" My answer to that goes something like this:

When we read the Scriptures, you might be surprised to find out that very little is said about a place referred to as heaven. Usually, heaven is mentioned not as a place in the sky somewhere but simply as the location of God's dwelling; it is a way to refer to God's presence. In fact, what the Bible has to say about the afterlife is not that we will all dwell in a far off world but that when Christ returns, this earth, like our bodies, will be transformed (hence, the NT language of the "new heaven" and "new earth"). And since all creation will be transformed, this includes trees and yes, even animals. So, the question is not "Will there be animals in heaven?" but rather, "Will there be animals in the afterlife?" To that, I believe we can answer yes.


"Shout To The Lord" On American Idol. What Gives?

What do you make of the fact that on American Idol tonight (video below), the contestants sang the praise song "Shout To The Lord"? Actually, this is two nights in a row with this song!!! Two nights in a row!!! What's going on? Is this Good? Bad? Patronizing? This comes a week after Dolly Parton's "Jesus and Gravity" performance. Mariah Carey's performance also had scores of scripture being quoted in the background. What gives? What do you make of all this?

Paper Presentation

I'm presenting a paper this Saturday morning at the annual SCJ (Stone-Campbell Journal Conference). The title of the paper is "Innovations & Galatians: A Social-Science Reading". Bascially, I'm doing a comparative case study that will empahsize what necessitated the composition of Galatians with an emphasis on innovation. Anyway, I'll probably post some thoughts on it afterwards, we'll see.


Two-Faced, Four-Eyed Baby...Literally!!!

No, I did not photoshop this, it is real. A baby in India, thought to be the reincarnation of the Hindu god Ganesh (half-human, half-elephant) was just born. This baby, literally fits the old categories of "two-faced" and "four eyes". She can close all four eyes at once, drink out of both mouths and breathe out of both noses. She only has two ears; everything else is normal. Here's the link to read more: Two-Faced, Four-Eyed Baby.

Tears Of A Teenage Mother

Yesterday, I spent about 30-40 minutes in the Kalamazoo library. During my brief stint there, I picked up a book I had not yet read, Tupac Shakur's, The Rose That Grew From Concrete. One of my favorite poems was "Tears Of A Teenage Mother". Here are the very simple, yet, very profound words:

He's braggin about his new Jordan's
The baby just ran out of milk
He's buyin gold every two weeks
The baby just ran out of Pampers
He's buyin clothes for his new girl
and the baby just ran out of medicine
You ask for money for the baby?
The daddy just ran out the door


Which Is Hotter, Heaven Or Hell?

Just a thought: If hot air rises, might heaven be hotter than hell?

Oprah, Modern-Day False Prophetess: Critiquing The New Earth Movement, Pt. 1

At present, I have a few ongoing series on Pisteuomen (e.g. Images of Antiquity, Studies in Mark and Thoughts On Adoption) and today I am going to add one to the list. This series might be surprising to some but I think it is an important issue. The title of this series will be "Critiquing The New Earth Movement". If you are unaware, The New Earth Movement is a religious trend that is being set and established by Oprah Winfrey and her pal, Eckhart Tolle. Both are celebrities, not educated religious scholars but as you and I know, with enough fame and money, often comes the ability to can convince many gullible people. Their new movement seeks to "awaken" and "enlighten" people to the power within. They claim that at this point in human history, we are in a position like never before, because we know how to transcend our evolutionary roots. If nothing else, this alone seems quite arrogant to me.

Anyway, because so many people are reading their books and watching their meditative webcasts (it went from like 2-million the first week to over 11-million the second week) and because they have launched an all-out but very subtle attack on The Gospel, I want to do what I can to expose the movement. Thus, I am going to be working through the book (among other things) and offering critiques of it. More than anything, though, as I said, I want to expose the movement for what it is. So, in this first installation, all I want to do is show Christians how Winfrey and Tolle are slowly pulling the wool over Christians' eyes.

The way that they are fooling people is at once, subtle and devastating. For example, on Tolle's website, he readily but not in a hateful manner, leads people into doubt about the witness, authority and reliability of Jesus, the Early Christian movement and the New Testament. Here is a question that is posed to him: "Dear Eckhart, I have been wanting to ask you this for months: What are your thoughts on the New Testament? It appears that you believe certain parts were add-ons, or apart from the essence of the teaching. Are there any parts in particular? And why?" Tolle answers: "The New Testament contains deep spiritual truth as well as distortions. Those distortions are of two kinds. Some are due to a misunderstanding of Jesus’ teaching, others arose because people had an agenda (wanting to fit Jesus into their preconceived notions, wanting to make converts etc.). At some point, if there is another book, I may write about this in more detail. But you can find all this out for yourself. When you are present, you access your inner knowing and you will sense what is true and what was added on or distorted."

Assuredly, I will refer to this quote more in the future. For now, however, all I want to do is point out how Tolle 1) Attempts to cast doubt on Christ, the first Christians and the New Testament, and 2) Mixes Christian language with Buddhist language (e.g. "misunderstanding of Jesus' teaching", "you can find all this out for yourself", "When you are present", "inner knowing", etc.). Indeed, the entire New Earth Movement is, in large part, an attempt to be pluralistic (to mix ideas from various religions together), especially between Buddhism and Christianity.

Don't believe me? Here are a few quotes from the first few pages of the book A New Earth:

"Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from then how to live. The Buddha is said to have given a “silent sermon” once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it"(6).

"The lotus flower is a central symbol of Buddhism and a white bird, the dove, signifies the Holy Spirit in Christianity. They have been preparing the ground for a more profound shift in planetary consciousness that is destined to take place in the human species. This is the spiritual
awakening that we are beginning to witness now" (8).

"The messengers–Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known–were humanity’s early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings" (8).

"According to the Buddha, the human mind in its normal state generates dukkha, which can be translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, or just plain misery. He sees it as a characteristic of the human condition. Wherever you go, whatever you do, says the Buddha, you will encounter dukkha, and it will manifest in every situation sooner or later. According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of “original sin” (10).

"In the teachings of Jesus, it is salvation, and in Buddhism, it is the end of suffering. Liberation and awakening are other terms used to describe this transformation" (13).

As you can see from this handful of quotes, Tolle is trying ever-so sneakily to blend Buddhism and Christianity into one. Of course, this is logically and theologically impossible at the root of either religous group. Christians are Christians and not Buddhists because they believe and live differently than Buddhists and vice versa. As I continue to expose the many fallacies and untruths of the false prophetess Oprah and her new cult, I will have much more to say about this. In the meantime, don't be swayed.


Imprisoned Islamic Terrorists Dig To Freedom

Read the article here: Escaped Terrorists.

Sterile Men, Barren Women & The Bible: Thoughts On Adoption, Pt. 3

When one starts reading adoption materials, they soon realize the struggle that many couples go through: not being able to have a child. For Christians, one of things that I think must be so tough is the fact that, in the Scriptures, the inability to birth a child is always blamed on the women. (*Note: Since writing this, my view has changed. See Pt. 5 of this series for more on this!!!) Indeed, the Bible lacks any account that I can think of where a man is blamed for this. Of course, today, we are more sensitive to the issue. We now know that men as well as women are often unable to reproduce. Still, how do barren Christian women, looking for comfort from the Good Book, find it, when the blame is always on them (and not the men)?

One argument could be that since biblical antiquity functioned within predominantly patriarchal cultures, men must have been sterile but it was simply blamed on women. This may be too hypothetical of an argument, however. It could also be posited that within Hebrew/Jewish theology, the belief didn't even exist that men could be sterile, so, there was no way men could be blamed. This argument may have a lot of merit to it but it still doesn't offer a lot of comfort or hope to today's women.

One place we cannot really turn to is eunuchs. These men are mentioned in the Bible but being a eunuch is a chosen way of life; it isn't forced on someone by sterility. Furthermore, all of the women in the Bible who, at one point are barren, eventually give birth: Sarai/h (Gen. 16.2 and 17.15-21), Rebecca (Gen 25.21), Manoah's wife (Jdg. 13), Hannah (1 Sam. 1.6-20) and Elizabeth (Lk. 1.5-25), etc. These stories can often lead a woman deeper into depression today, especially when, after so many years, her miracle never comes.

To compound the problem even more, the Bible seems to suggest that while deliverance from barrenness is a miraculous work of God (e.g. Gen. 29.31-2 through 30.13) sterility is a curse. This seems to be the case when, in Gen. 20.17-8, all the women of the household are prevented from getting pregnant by God. It is abundantly clear in 1. Sam 1.6-7 when the writer says, "...the Lord closed Hannah's womb..." and there may also be a trace of this in Isa. 4.1 where the women asked for their "shame" or "disgrace" to be taken away. It may have been the view of many that, if a woman was unable to reproduce, she was not very valuable. In fact, the biblical view of homosexuality and bestiality is condemned, at least in part, because it was sterile, unreprodctive sex (e.g. Lev.. 20.13-6). Sterile sex was punishable by death.

As you can see, the ancient male never comes under judgment for sterility here (unless he is having sex with another male or an animal, and here, the same goes for a woman). The burden of barrenness always falls on the woman's shoulders. Sterility is a curse from God. There is really no comfort for today's barren woman; she doesn't have hundreds of years to wait for a miracle from God!

So, how, from theological standpoint, might we find a biblical model for offering sterile women hope? Just as well, since all issues of barrenness point to women, how might sterile men find solace in the Scriptures? Honestly, I'm not sure how to answer this yet. I want to be careful not to force my sensitivities onto the Bible but I do want to be able to turn to it and find hope, I want to glean from it theological truths and models that will be of comfort to those unable to give birth today. That said, it may very well be the case that the best place to look for such comfort is in the stories and passages that speak of adoption.

This will be an ongoing investigation and theological exploration for me. If you have any thoughts, please, share them.

Again, see Pt. 5 of this series for more info.


Mama, Baba, Dada

Finally, at long last, my 9-month old decided to say Dada. It was her 3rd (after mama and baba--bottle--) word but I'll take it! Anyway, just another exciting step in parenting!

Gospel of Philip Vs. 17

I was reading the Gospel of Philip this morning and I came across this verse, which I thought was quite interesting:

17. Some said that Mary conceived by the Holy
Spirit. They are in error. They do not understand what
they say. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman?
Mary at the same time is the immaculacy, which
was not defiled by violence.

She is a great temptation to Hebrews, both to
those who preach and to those who listen to their

Her immaculacy, which was not defiled by violence,
is pure. But the mighty of this world defiled
themselves (through their fantasies).
And the Lord (Jesus Christ) would not have said,
“My Father Who is in Heaven,” if He had not had another
father. He would have said simply: “My father”.

Many modern scholars have re-adopted this image of the Spirit as Feminine. What do you make of this trend today and what do you think of this passage in the Gospel of Philip?


Would Jesus Ever Postpone the 2nd Coming?

Do you think that Jesus would ever postpone the 2nd Coming? In the OT, we find the prophets praying all of the time for God's return and especially, God's impending judgment. Occasionally, they believe that indeed, God did postpone or delay His coming and judgment? Today, we live in a world that is so militaristic. One nation wants to war against another and wipe them off the face of the earth. But what if, instead of warring, we prayed for the salvation of one another (like the prophets did)? What if people stopped praying (like Mr. Hagee and McCain) for the quick judgment of the Middle East but for the salvation of Muslims, for instance? What if we asked God to delay His judgment and postpone His coming? Do you think He'd listen and do that?


Go To H@#$ You Stupid B@$$%#@

Didnt' know if that was a catchy title for a post or not. Either way, Bryan has an interesting post up on Christians and cursing/cussing. Check it out at the following link: Linguistics and Cursing.

The Geography of Mark's Gospel: Studies in Mark, Pt. 48

Below is a file/module that I have created for use with Google Earth. The file contains all of the geographical locations mentioned throughout the 16 chapters of Mark's Gospel account. The file is free for download/use and will also be located on my "Free Bible Resources" page. Click the icon to download the file. Enjoy.

The Geography of Mark's Gospel
(.kmz file)


The God Who Relentlessly Pursues Us: Thoughts On Adoption, Pt. 2

One of the foundational beliefs of Wesleyanism is that the God of Christianity is a God who pursues people. For the theologically adept, you know this belief (in some form) as prevenient grace. The idea is that God the Spirit is constantly at work, wooing people to the Godhead; He is pursuing them that they might become part of God's people. Personally, I like this concept a lot. I also think that for those going through the adoption process, this can be quite an encouraging / empowering view. I was reading an article last night and a few thoughts came across: 1) In adoption, parents are relentlessly pursuing a child; they long very much to have that child in their lives and in their arms. The adoptive parents have been working so much, ahead of time, for this to hapen. It is quite similar with God the Spirit.

2) This period where God is pursuing us or even the period where we have responded to God but are awaiting the completion of our salvation, is often a tough time. We are in that "in-between" state; we are in the "already/not yet" state that the Apostle Paul frequently spoke about. The same is often true of adoptive parents. They have filled out many papers, completed many interviews, made numerous trips, paid many funds and dreamt of seeing thier child but they must wait. This wait is tough. But the wait also builds the anticipation and in a way, it makes us groan until the time of fulfillment. Again, the same is true of God and His people.

There are a many ways to think theologically / biblically about adoption. The two ideas above, I think, are quite helpful. Any thoughts?

Sporadic Posting For A Week

The fam and I will be headed North for some vacation time starting tomorrow. So, if I post at all during the next week, it will probably be sporadic (maybe not, we'll see).


Is Going Against Conscience Going Against God?

When I was a young Christian, there were many things that I considered sinful. For example, I might have considered stepping on the Bible a sin (probably not, but let's stick with the scenario). So, I tried my best to avoid that "sin". However, as I progressed in my faith, I no longer viewed that as a sin. Of course, I'm not going to go around stepping on Bibles but neither would I consider it a sin if I did step on a Bible.

Here's my question: If I had purposefully stepped on a Bible when I was younger in my faith, when I thought it was a sin, would I really be committing a sin? It has long been said that sinning against one's conscience is equal to sinning against God. But I'm not so sure that this is true. Just because I thought something was a sin early on, doesn't mean that it really ever was a sin. I was just wrong in my thinking about that issue.

So, what do you think: Is sinning against conscience the same thing as sinning against God? I mean, what if God doesn't consider a sin, what you or I consider a sin? Then, how can it be sinning against God still? Just a thought, I'd love to hear your view(s).

I Have Joined Skype

For those of you out there who have joined Skype, why not add me to your list? I joined yesterday and am going to give it a try. My "Skype Name" is Michael Halcomb. If you have a username, leave it in the comment section here, email me or contact me via Skype and I'll add you too.


Why We Are Adopting: A Glimpse of Ethiopia

Best & Worst Ways To Die

What do you think the best way & worst way to die would be?

One Book Only

Bryan tagged me with the "One Book Only" meme started by Drew T. The question is: If your library was about to burn up and you could only take one book other than the Bible, what would it be?" This is a tough one but I would probably grab Stanley J. Grenz' The Social God and the Relational Self. This is a profound book written by a profound theologian and is, in my opinion, one of the best NT theology books I've ever read or that will ever be written.

(I think I will opt out of tagging anyone this round. However, if you want to participate in the meme, feel free. Do your own post and leave a link in the comments section here, or just leave your comments without writing a post.)