Archive for March, 2013

Colorful Colorado

Entering the domain of nature in Colorado around the time of the Autumnale Equinox is like entering the territory of dreams. These timeless mountains give the feeling of walking through another dimension. Fall and winter are having their honeymoon. The old season is slowly acceding to the new. The landscape seems to settle into a quiet that will blanket it for months.

These mountains hold secrets silently. Deep history steeped in lore brings to mind the outlaw life of men of this land, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, whose relatives still live here. As with most myths and legends your imagination can be transported into the timeless past. This is a conclave of the mystical and historical.

From brushy draws to timbered mountain tops the sound of bugling elks echo through the eastern sky. Of all the sounds that elevate one’s soul the most beautiful is silence.

Some views are made all the more resplendent because they are paid for by cold sweat even in the snow. Getting here is a pilgrimage. Mountains grace the horizon. The summit gives up an unforgettable view of untracked vastness. Here your eyes can feast on a mosaic of red, yellow, garnet, and gold. These windows into the region, wild and serene, give occasion to pause and allow your mood to be governed by the views around you. This is a place of the heart.

Even the grays, as artist Guzman noted, form a couch on which all color sits. If you don’t have the grays, you can’t get the luminosity of the colors. There is a life’s lesson there.

The cold temperature gives the lungs a cryovac-like sensation. You know nature is about to engage in a slow slumber. It is worth every effort to avoid missing a single moment of this fading beauty which can be taken with you in the encroaching colorless days. As autumn and winter struggle for mastery of each day, it is obvious winter will prevail.

My spirit experienced two contrasting emotions simultaneously. Elation and humility found occasion to be compatible. The result was lines from “America the Beautiful” flowing though my mind.

“For purple mountains majesties above the fruited plain! …
“God shed His grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea…
“God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul with self-control, thy liberty in law! …
“God shed His grace on thee till selfish gain no longer stain the banner of the free!”

I came to this country hunting wild game and found far more. In this remote region where antique machinery rusts and buildings decay I found treasures far greater than the gold extracted from these hills. The treasured thoughts deposited in my memory bank will pay dividends all of my life.

And then the hunt! Few things compare to the comradery of hunters gathered in the early morning just before individually embarking on what each is certain will be a successful adventure. Hydrated and happy they sally forth often to return only
with a cachet of memories —- good ones.

So inspired my soul, if not my body, will scale these heights many times.

Find your own quiet place, any place and let your spirit soar. Do it often. There is strength and stability in serenity.

Magnificent Montana

To be in an idyllic place for an ideal purpose is to be twice blessed. Such has recently been the experience of my wife and me. First the place.

For ten days we have retreated to Montana on the eastern slope of the western continental divide. The beautiful home made of antique reclaimed logs riparian on the chortling Big Hole River, one of Montana’s blue ribbon trout streams.

Here deep history is steeped with lore. Nearby is the only place Lewis and Clark on their national epoch exploration are known to have stood. The Beaverhead Rock which when seen by native American Sacagawea on August 8, 1805, as she guided the Lewis and Clark expedition identified the area where her native tribe spent their summers. The battlefield where General John Gibbon mercilessly attacked Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce in 1877 is also close by. Tipi rings and buffalo jumps are reminders of a bygone era.

Majestic and historical conclaves abound. Ghost towns dot the high plains harboring hidden history, and the spirit of classic pioneer communities such as Bannack, Virginia City, and Nevada City. All served as capitol during their gold rush era.

Mt. McCartney, the tallest free standing mountain in North America, keeps guard on the ranch. From the slopes of the mountain indigenous animals view the Hilton Head size ranch. Along the river in the marshes moose browse while on the high desert the deer and antelope play. On the mountain ridges two large herds of elk graze. Bald and Golden eagles sore overhead while pelicans, yes pelicans, glide along the river’s surface. The primordial cackle of Sandhill cranes pierce the air. Bears, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions are often seen and heard. The flora adds to the monochromic landscape: Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine, and Arnica abound.

Fifteen feet drift boats with full rowing/fishing frames float the highly fishable waters of the storied Big Hole River.

Now the purpose. This is a place one’s spiritual self meets God’s glorious earth. The more the conscious mind becomes captured by the beauty around you the freer the subconscious is liberated for creative contemplation. The setting gives occasion to explore oneself on an introspective journey inward. Here elevated thoughts can breath freely.

For several years I have taken student athletes and coaches from Shorter University to Montana for a week of Christian leadership training. When I was Chairman of the National Board of the Fellowship Athletes my friend Harvey Gainey who was Vice Chairman from Grand Rapids, Michigan established the ranch. He developed a large part of it as a Christian retreat. At his expense he provides a free week for students from thirteen universities.

Among Shorter athletes attending were members of our men’s basketball team that finished the season number one in the nation, our three time National Champion cheerleader squad, our National Champion Girl’s Softball team, members of our men’s indoor and outdoor National Championship track team, and our girl’s basketball team that finished with the second highest GPA in the NAIA in the nation.

The purpose is to equip these athletes to inspire and encourage faith among teammates and all students. They are intended to be spiritual catalysts on campus.

Ensconced in the mystique of the old west the majesty of God elevates one’s spirit.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Robert Leroy Parker, AKA Butch Cassidy, and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, AKA the Sundance Kid, were immortalized in the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” featuring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Reality immoralizes them.

Lonabaugh got his name from the ranch where he stole his first gun, horse, and saddle in Sundance, Wyoming. He adopted the name while serving his prison sentence for the robbery. Parker got his name as a result of having been a butcher. Recently I visited one area where the two hung out for a time and visited with relatives of Cassidy. The area is known as Brown’s Park or Hole located in the northwest corner of Colorado bordering Wyoming and Utah along the Green River.

What follows is mostly their account of their outlaw ancestors. According to them they were not killers, but for a time were members of the “Wild Bunch, many members of which were killers. They liked the area for many reasons. One was they could easily move from state to state and wait for things to cool off in the vacated area before returning. Repeatedly they were not killers, but ranch hands and robbers. They would not steal from people who employed them. As a result ranchers were willing to pay them top dollar to work for them. People in the area were intrigued by them and looked after them. If a lawman was coming to the area local citizens would warn them and they would hide out in the vastness of Brown’s Hole.

Out of gratitude Butch and Sundance would throw a big Thanksgiving feast for the community going to the extreme of importing exotic foods such as oysters and other seafood. Relatives give this account of their demise which is contrary to the film.

The movie depicts them as being killed in a shootout in Bolivia. Not so, say relatives. They assert they never went to Bolivia. It was a time when photos and printing presses were not common so their profile was not well known. However, there were a couple of men who passed themselves off as Butch and Sundance. Using the stolen image they got a lot of favors because of their popularity. They are the two who went to Bolivia and were shot in the gunfight.

Relatives tell of Sundance and Butch being seen in America several times after the Bolivia shootings. Again this is the story of relatives. The real Butch and Sundance reputedly lived out their days and are buried in the state of Oregon. I report — you decide. The notoriety of these two has made them old west icons. In reality they were bad dudes who were an embarrassment and grief to their families.

The mother of Cassidy is described by relatives as weeping over her outlaw son as she worked in the field. There is little or no pride in them among relatives today. It is a strange thing that we tend to lionize our villains and demonize our virtuous heroes.

Think about that including those who are alive today.

Paul and the Greek Poets

You never know what lesson you are learning today will mean for you tomorrow. A classic example involved one of my favorite Bible characters, Rabban Gamaliel I., a prestigious scholar and member of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Historians record that as a teacher he insisted that his students study the Greek poets. Imagine a young student thinking, “What’s with this? Why should I a Jewish boy with Roman citizenship have to study Greek poetry?” From his perspective that would have been good logic.

Recently I stood on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece where that lesson proved to be very valuable for that young student named Paul. In Israel Paul could quote Old Testament passages and the people understood where he was coming from.

Later he went to the cultural center, Athens. The people there knew nothing of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Near the base of the Parthenon crowned Acropolis is the small hill known as Mars Hill. Here on the occasion of the meeting of the Areopagus Paul addressed a crowd described as, “All the Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking and listening to the latest ideas?”

Along the pathway leading up Mars Hill were statues to various gods and goddesses. All were well identified. Just incase they had overlooked one, they had a statue dedicated to “the unknown God.”

The Greeks were devotees of their poets. Seizing the moment Paul addressed the crown saying, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Lock on. They knew Paul was quoting from two of their favorite poets, Aratus and Epimenides. Gamaliel had saved the day. Paul got his audience and the gospel spread.In that day as in this people have different opinions regarding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul was one who spread the news broadly. Recently sailing the Aegean Isles locals share another means of the discrimination. On most of the islands were Jewish colonies expectantly looking for Messiah.

Many Jews were made Roman slaves and forced to be oarsmen on slave ships. They had been in Jerusalem and knew the promise of peace and hope offered by Jesus. Their pain and drudgery was made easier by the hope they had of a better heavenly home as a result. They believed in Him as Messiah.

As they forcefully were made to power the ships around the sea, they encountered Jewish communities expecting the Messiah. Many in these colonies joined in sharing their belief and thus through persecution the word spread.

By academic and enslaved spokesmen the word spread. Rome intended it for evil, but God intended it for good.

There are still persons on both sides of this vital issue. This is merely a historical perspective of how many came to believe.

Troy: The Trojan Horse is Still There

While cruising the Greek Islands and surrounding area we visited sights of two great battles, one historical and the other mythological. Each has lessons to teach us.

Our port of call was Canakkale, Turkey near the Dardanelle coast which has territory in both Europe and Asia. It is the city nearest the sight of ancient Troy. The “wooden horse” from the 2004 movie “Troy” is exhibited in Canakkale.

Troy is the sight of much of Homer’s epic “Illiad.” This classical work is considered by many to be a splendid embellishment of deeds of piracy and war carried out by Greek ships on the Anatolian coast in the 13th century B.C.

In the narrative Paris kidnaped Helen, the wife of Menelaus, and carried her to Troy and married her. The Greek Menelaus brought a coalescent army to avenge the honor of Helen. After an unsuccessful siege of Troy Menelaus devised a clever strategy. He had build a large wooden horse which was placed outside the city gates during the night. When the citizens awoke and noted the Greek fleet had gone away they assumed victory and brought the horse in the city as a symbol of victory.

The wooden horse was filled with Greek warriors. After a day of celebrating their assumed victory the drunken city of Troy slept well while the warriors came out of the horse and opened the city gates. The Greek fleet under the command of Agamemnon returned from just over th horizon to invade the city.

Perhaps if we had come as did Alexander the Great did later with a copy of Homer’s “Iliad” in hand we might have heard the battle cry of Agamemnon’s fleet of warriors roll across the plain.

That which seemed so appealing proved to be the downfall of Troy. The application to us today is too clear to make the illustration have to crawl.

The second battle scene was that of a more contemporary true battle. It is known as the Battle of the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 – 1916.

The initial campaign was largely between the British Royal Navy and the entrenched Ottoman forces. The two sides hammered each other with heavy cannon fire. As we sailed by the sight I could see at least thirty major gun emplacements along the shore at a narrow point in the waterway.

The battle gave the appearance of being a standoff. The British fleet withdrew and sailed away. A land assault ensured involving mostly British and Australian forces. The Australian forces suffered numerous casualties. Each year April 25 is commemorated in Australia as the day of these great casualties. Many Australians still make pilgrimages to the area.

There is a lesson to be learned from the sea/land battle. The British withdrew not knowing the Turks has less than one minute of ammunition left. A bit more staying power could have turned the course of the battle and saved many lives.

Had they had the will power of a later war tempered Sir Winston Churchill who said at Harrow School in 1941, of the World War II battle against the Nazi forces, “Never given in– never, never, never, never, in nothing great of small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force, never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Ephesus: The Arena in Which Paul Preached

No visit to the historical islands and area around the Aegean Sea would be complete without a visit to Kusadasi and more importantly nearby Ephesus. A focal feature is the facade of the impressive Celsus Library named for Emperor Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and completed around 117 A.D. Once the third largest library in the world it housed over 30,000 volumes.The imposing front is designed to look even more impressive. Upward it recedes at two degrees giving the upper floor the appearance of being further away and hence the building being larger than it was. The style gives us the word “mirage.” The facility itself is a liberal education. The facade features four female figures representing what the ancients considered the basis of learning. A person having the qualities represented by the statues would indeed be well educated. They are: Sophia, wisdom, which is scholarly learning or knowledge; and understanding of what is right or true coupled with just judgment or action.

Arete, virtue, the fulfillment of function or purpose, the act of living up to one’s potential. When translated “virtue” it means “to be the best you can be.” I have always found it comforting to know God never asked us to be “the” best at anything, but rather to be “our” best at everything we do. Such a person would indeed be virtuous.

Eunoia, thinking, is an exhortation to contemplating, meditating, that is, well thought or reasoned opinions. It is the ability to compute using logic and reason.

Episteme, knowledge, is a sort of science. It is the art of demonstrating as proof, that is, the ability to repeat a fact.

On our recent trip we visited Ephesus during the day and evening. The stadium was dated by an inscription to Nero, 54 – 68 A.D. The long Arcadian Way leads to the Great Theater seating 20,000. Here the Apostle Paul preached and for doing so was basically run out of town. The truths he proclaimed eventually became the primary faith of the region.

Nearby is the traditional sight where it is believed the Virgin Mary spent her last years and is buried. Also close by is the Basilica of the Apostle John built by Emperor Justinian over the spot where John is reputedly buried.

We visited the city by day viewing all the points of interest. By night the city has an ethereal ambiance. The Seabourn Cruise Company, with which we were traveling, reserved the historical sight for an evening performance of classical music by the Kusadasi String Ensemble just for cruise members. Tables and chairs were set up on the Arcadian Way with the attractively lighted theater as a background. Down this street walked such historical figures as Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Hadrian, Caligula, Trajan, and the Apostles John and Paul.

Ephesus was a port city with lessons to teach us. The Romans cut the timber off the surrounding hills and did not practice reforestation. The port that once was six miles wide and seven miles long filled in by soil eroded from the hills and is now a fertile agricultural area. When the port filled in the city died.

Still carved in the large stone pavements are circles dissected by eight straight lines. It is a design formed by overlaying the Greek letters for Ichthus, meaning fish: iota, chi, theta, gamma, and zeta. Overlaid they form the dissected circle interpreted to mean “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”

In this way the faith once decried in the city is noted by those who came to embrace it.

Milos: What Happened to the Arms of Venus DeMilo?

What happened to the arms of Venus de Milo?

Standing six feet eight inches, she is believed to have represented Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty, love and sexual rapture. She is thought to have been created between 130 and 100 A.D. on the Island of Crete.

Last week while I was standing in the field on the Island of Milos, one of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, I learned from an islander their account of her discovery and condition. While digging among other ruins in that field a peasant named Yorgos Kentotoas unearthed her on April 8, 1820. It is not known if she was intended to adorn the nearby Roman amphitheater on Milos or the gymnasium in which she was found buried. In that day a gymnasium was often simply an open field in which athletes trained.

Originally she was painted and adorned with accents, such as ear rings and a bracelet, intended to give her a more life like appearance. In her left hand she held an apple, the symbol of Milos, and her right arm was across her torso as though the hand was tugging at the folds draped on her bent knee. The golden apple is also the symbol of her being “the fairest of the goddesses.”

When Yorgos found her among other ruins her body and legs were in separate pieces and her two arms were nearby. He took her home and housed her for some time. When visitors would visit the house and ask to talk with Yorgos, they were often told he was in the basement with his beautiful statue.

There was no Greek government at the time – only people who spoke Greek. The large French contingency on the island desired her. Yorgos and islanders wanted her to go to the Sultan to help gain tax relief. A conflict over her destiny resulted. The French eventually drug her to one of their ships anchored near the shore in the nearby harbor. Significant scratches resulting from the dragging can be seen on her back by a close observe. In a small boat they loaded her onto their ship. The arms were too heavy so they were in the process of being taken to another French ship anchored further off shore when the boat in which they were being transported sank and the arms were lost.

Several years ago a small exploration submarine was used in an unsuccessful attempt to find the arms. They are still buried at sea.

Her story is a classic example of how things come apart when individuals or governments are interested in different parts rather than the whole. In our own lives things are more harmonious when all the parts are put together properly.

Legends abound in Greek mythology. One of the most famous ones related to Aphrodite is her competition with goddesses, Hear and Athena to determine the most beautiful goddess. Zeus would not choose the fairest so the responsibility befell to Paris, Prince of Troy. Each of the goddesses offered him a bribe. He would not turn down the bribe of Aphrodite which was to give him the most beautiful woman in the world as a bride, Helen of Troy. Unfortunately for Paris, Helen was the wife of the Greek King Menelaus. Paris abducted Helen and that started the Trojan War.

Muslim Riots

So there was a short Internet depiction of Mohammad in a way Muslims consider offensive and that gave the right to riot, sack, pillage, burn, and kill. There is a disconnect there some place.

First, a couple of disclaimers. Yes, there are some Muslims who oppose such reaction. They are a minority and I think even they will admit they are not as outspoken as are radical members of their faith.

Second, there is almost no reason to believe all the rioting started in the middle East on 9/11 was as a result of a film released a month ago.

The riots are a result of a large radical Muslim element who believe everyone who does not espouse their belief is an infidel to be killed in the name of their god. For many in this school of thought that includes other Muslims who do not believe as they. Those peace loving Muslims are in a vice between the suspicion of the west and the fear of the east.

Now back to the concept that the video caused the riots. If the video was offensive, did that give the right for such violent response toward innocent people and a government that has in many instances supported them?

Our response to the riots has been to give our troops more sensitivity training. Don’t show the soul of your foot in the presence of a Muslim, don’t accept anything with your left hand, don’t blow your nose in the presence of a Muslim, and don’t handle the Koran without sanitary gloves has been stressed among our military since the riots began.

Now consider the response of other faiths to affronts shown them.

Consider the “art” of Andres Serrano who depicted a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. It was displayed in a museum and called “Piss Christ.” The exhibit was sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, an agency of the American government.

Couple that with the “art” work by Chris Ofili showing the virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung amid a collage of pornographic messages. Still no riots.

Did Christians and Jews revolt when the Bible was taken from schools? Did those highly offensive acts give license to become marauders?

After World War II, during which Germans killed over 6,000,000 Jews, did mobs of Jews burn German government buildings? When the Ten Commandments given Moses were taken from public places did they riot?

With appropriate homage for the peace loving Muslims, America must wake up and admit there is a peace loving community among Muslims, but there is a vast aggressive element that not only desires to wipe Israel off the map, but to destroy the country which they call “the great Satan.”

Militant Islam

There is a similarity between the old Soviet Union and the modern militant Islamists movement. There is also a dissimilarity.

Did the leadership of the Soviet Union aspire to have world dominance? Yes.
Did every Soviet citizen share their ambition? No.
Do the leaders in the militant Islamic movement desire world dominance? Yes.
Does every member of the Islamic community desire world dominance? No.
Did virtually every American and citizen of Europe realize the Soviet objective? Yes.
Do citizens of those two societies today realize militant Islamist’s desire world dominance? No.

Back to the members of the Islamic community who are not committed to militant Islamic world dominance. They are in a difficult position. Many easterners are suspicious they are covert militants. Conversely militant Islamists distrust them because they are not overt militants. I see this in Israel a lot when visiting there.

Some few folks in America are harshly critical of Christianity saying Christians want to make America a theocracy ruled by Old Testament laws. I have known a lot of Christian leaders across America and I have known only two who expressed such interest. Neither has any national influence and little local creditability. It simply is not an issue.

Persons concerned about efforts to make America a theocracy need to become activists, but they need to realize the theocracy militant Islamists have in mind is ruled by Sharia Law.

I had a very stimulating conversation with an intellectual leader from Atlanta recently who said the current unrest in the middle-east has no religious basis. This he has concluded in spite of Islamic religious leaders, Mullahs, calling for a global jihad, that is, a Holy war to eradicate all Jews, Christians and other infidels. The politically aggressive Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously based organization. They are the ones who killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when he made peace with Israel and tried to create a more inclusive Egyptian society.

The person arguing there is no religious influence in militant Islam explained than “jihad” simply means to do a favor for god. If given that point the favor they are calling for needs to be considered. It is stated by militant Islamists as the annihilation of all Jews, Christians, and other infidels. Persons identified by either of those titles need to pay attention to what is going on in the world.

What is happening in Egypt is an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious based movement, to make Egypt an Islamic state, a theocracy. Taking power gives Muslim clerics oversight over all legislation and imposes restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights, and basic liberties.

Arab countries are predisposed toward an Islam form of government and though we know a republic is a better form of government, we will never be successful forcing it on them and we should not try. Likewise, we need to be vigilant about encroachments by their form of government.

Let’s hope the present generation is as vigilant and dedicated as the one that stopped the Soviet red tide.

The Importance of Church Greeters

Greeters are the personification, the representative, the exemplar, that is, the church embodied. Their very presence is the first living impression of the church body.

Greeters need to realize they are more than themselves. They are the style and spirit of the church in human form.

Greeters are the Ambassadors of the Door. They are the gatekeepers in the House of the Lord; the envoy of the Lord of the House.

Greeters should be ever mindful their role is strategic, deserving of their best at all times. This demands consistency. They should put on their happy face before going to their post and not take it off. Don’t just be punctual, be early.

Appearance is important. Whatever the dress standard of the church the greeter should be at the top of the scale. They should groom themselves to look their best.

In business the customer is always right. In ministering every person should be accommodated positively. Regardless of how difficult a person might be to deal with always do so with a positive Christlike spirit. A “How may I help you,” attitude should prevail.

All should evaluate their vocabulary and develop it to include such expressions as: blessing, blessed, joy, love delighted, honored, glad, pleased, thankful, and thank you. Do not use trite comments such as, “no big deal,” or, “no problem.” “My pleasure,” is preferable.

Avoid stale cliches such as, “it’s good to be seen,” “fine as a frog hair split four ways,” and “so far so good.” If greeted by “How are you?” remember it is merely a friendly greeting not a request for a health report. Simply respond, “Blessed thank you.” Even if not feeling great we are all blessed.

Greeters should monitor their voice. It should neither be too loud or too soft. A loud boisterous voice is not necessary to give a positive attitude.

Use of a breath mint and faint cologne or perfume.

In shaking hands a firm, but not overpowering grip should be used. Do not squeeze a persons hand. Some hands are sensitive to pain.

It is reasonable that some greeters and persons greeted are friends. The greeter should not engage in excessive joking and kidding around with friends while serving while others are waiting to be greeted. Others might be overpowered by the thought of getting the same treatment.

Don’t tease children. Do make them feel special by giving them the same attention as an adult. Avoid touching them other than with a hand shake or fist bump. Parents will appreciate any appropriate attention given their children.

Give every person the same warm treatment. Be equally cordial and personable to the least, the last, and the lonely.

If help is requested see to it that attention is given the request immediately. If persons ask directions to a location have someone walk them to the desired place. Avoid trying to give complicated verbal instructions as to how to get there.

In advance greeters should study the forthcoming schedule of events in order to answer questions related.

It is estimated that one out of every seven people come to church with a heavy burden. Don’t add to it. Be a faith lifter.

Remember you are doing this on behalf of Jesus Christ. Therefore, be as Christlike as possible in all you say and do.

Jesus Wife: A Current Claim

It has happened again. They have “found” an “ancient” Coptic writing that “proves” Jesus had a wife. Since this revelation contradicts the Bible image of Jesus it is getting broad distribution in certain critical secular circles. This in spite of the scholars who presented the discovery at the International Association of Coptic Studies in Rome downplaying any possible link between the Coptic fragment and the Jesus of the canonical gospels.

The papyrus fragment on which the conclusion is reached is the size of a business card and contains only eight lines. Scholars are divided on whether the fragment is an authentic ancient text or a modern forgery. Therefore, the reliability of the text is greatly disputed if not totally discredited.

Dr. James Leonard who studies the Coptic language at Cambridge University said even if it is authentic it has no historical value in understanding Jesus because it was written four hundred years after Jesus lived.

Dr. Karen King, the Harvard scholar who has studied the manuscript, agrees with Leonard’s conclusion. She said it does not provide historical reliable data concerning Jesus. Little is known about the fragment’s origin and its owner has not been identified.

King is of the opinion the text has been culled from fragments of other discredited documents and compiled by a person of a more modern era.

Doctors Francis Watson of Durham University and Simon Gathercole of Cambridge having studied the text identified what they believe are evidences of forgery. One factor is the text gives evidence of having been written by a modern author rather than an ancient native Coptic linguist.

Having seen a photocopy of the document it seems strange that the fragment is centered around the word “wife.” It is as though the surrounding text were constructed to frame the word. It is a subtle way to highlight it. It isn’t clear how “wife” was allegedly being used. Was it a statement alleged to have been made by Jesus acknowledging He had a wife or was it a quote He was using regarding another person’s wife?

Bottom line, it is yet another attempt to discredit Jesus and dispute the Bible record of His life. Jesus is as one the world’s most loved and hated, even feared, character. Detractors make every effort to impugn his nature and character.

If, as many believe, He was Immanuel, God with us, He has every reason to feel like a billboard which depicts Him as saying: “Don’t Make Me Have To Come Down There.”

If the work is by a modern forger I hope he might have an experience like that of a lawyer, a Union General who fought along with General William T. Sherman at Shiloh. He set out to research the resurrection in order to disprove it. His findings turned on him and he become a believer. He spent seven years writing a novel centered around the result of his research. His name: Lew Wallace. His novel: “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”

The Greatest Football Team of All Time

The college football season is finally over with may fans having looked in more bowls than a plumber. Exciting teams and new records set will provide lingering heroics. If we think the Alabama Crimson Tide football team was good, consider this team. It ranks right up there with Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen of the 1920s,” Fordham’s “Seven Rocks of Granite of the 1930s,” the LSU “Chinese Bandits of the late 1950s, Georgia’s “Junkyard Dogs of the 1960s and 70s, and the Nebraska Blackshirts of the 1990s. It is the team that justifiably became known as the “Iron Men” of Sewanee University, also known as the University of the South.

I visited the lovely campus recently and strolled over to their playing field. It was a quiet time on campus and noting a flagpole and monument, I went to view it. It is a tribute to the legendary Sewanee “Tigers” of 1899. That was the year they went 12- 0 and outscored their opponents 322 to 10. Keep in mind all 10 points were scored by one team. That means they were 11-1 in shutouts. That is remarkable, but there is an even more remarkable feature of the season.

In a row they defeated Texas A & M, Texas, LSU, Tulane, and Ole Miss. Even more remarkable they played all five teams in six days. Between November 9, and November 14, they shutout all five.

The three teams they defeated before going on the road were Tennessee, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.
Compounding their play was the arduous nature of traveling 2,500 miles by train, which itself had to be fatiguing.

Still used as a recruiting tool is the sage expression: “Five wins in six days, and then they rested.”

Not really. Their first home game was six days after returning from this whirlwind road trip.. They closed their season with wins against Auburn and North Carolina. The Auburn team they defeated was coached by John Heisman, after whom the Heisman Trophy is named. Auburn was the only team to score on them all season.

Soon thereafter Sewanee became a co-founder of the Southeastern Conference.

Tony Barnhart, “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” sports writer lists them “Number One” on his all-time Southern football team. Compared with their contemporary competitors they were the University of Alabama upscaled.

The nature of the school makes this accomplishment even more distinct. It was and is an Episcopal school. One of the founders was Bishop Leonidas Polk, later a Confederate General killed in Cobb County. Members of the team were aspiring ministers. Now as then the school was known for its academic excellence. In the ensuing years the school has had twenty-five Rhodes Scholars.

They remain one of the most accomplished sports teams ever. They stand as a peerless example of athletics and academics coalescing. It is an idea whose hour of resurrection as come.

It is the synergy being created at Shorter University in Rome with the plus of spiritual enhancement.

Shorter University: A Faith Based School

There was a “Vent” in “The Atlanta Journal” recently that surely must have stirred controversy. It simply said, “Atheists do have churches. They are called colleges.”

First, a disclaimer. I don’t want to paint with a brush too broad. There are some very capable academicians who have strong personal faith and adhere to biblical ethics and morality. They are often lights shining in the darkness.

It would be difficult to develop a thesis that proves most colleges are in general not bastions of political, social, and spiritual liberalism.

Often a faculty member, shielded by tenure, goes extremely rogue. There are those professors who delight in trying to destroy the values with which students have been reared.

In general society has grown to expect and accept humanistic philosophy as the collegiate norm. If temporal schools, called “churches” in the “Vent,” are permitted to propagate their gospel why can’t faith based universities share their faith without castigation.

An action not intended to be an experiment proves a point. Shorter University in Rome issued a statement of faith and a code of conduct recently. Some honorable faculty members disapproved and would not subscribe to the policies. They exercised their liberty and left. I know most of them and personally hold them in high regard. Their integrity in standing for their convictions is to be admired. Likewise, the administration, trustees and constituents are to be respected and admired for standing for their convictions.

Shorter desired to provide a synergy of faith and learning.

SACS, the ultimate authority in college conduct, noted the school being an independent faith based school was within its rights in establishing the statement and code.

The departure of a significant number of faculty left a lot of vacancies. The question was would it be possible to find creditable scholars with prestigious degrees who subscribe to the standards of the school to replace them.

Surprise! For every vacancy there was an average of five applicants with terminal degrees from reputable academic institutions. Most of them had been teaching in Division I schools making much more money than a private school can pay. With regard to that, to the person, they said they were willing to teach for less money in a place where they can apply their faith in their academic field.

As illustration of the type faculty members being attracted two are noted. One is a PhD in bio-chemistry who has been working with the CDC for several years.

In conversation with another I mentioned I would love for a course on the Constitution to be taught. She replied, “I am a PhD from the University of Virginia and was a James Madison Fellow. I would love to teach it.”
The fact these came from secular universities indicates there are persons of faith who hold traditional values in such schools though they are not the norm.

Persons desiring a reputable degree offered in a school where faith and scholarship coalesce should consider Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.

Church Growth

Within the sphere of the readers of this paper are some splendid churches that have found a spiritual need niche and are admirably filling it. They are reaching people and ministering to them. These churches come in varying sizes and use different styles of worship. But, then…. Well, first this.

Reputedly an old Quaker was awakened by a would be burglar in his house. He got his shotgun, went down stairs, flipped on the light and stood facing the intruder to whom he said, “I would not hurt thee for the world, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot.” The pastors and people to whom the following applies with have one of several responses. Some will be in denial and declare it doesn’t apply to them. Some might very well get angry. Others with exonerate themselves explaining why they can’t change. Another group will conclude the insights were shared in good faith and respond in a productive way. First, you can’t be a New Testament church in a growing urban community such as our and not grow. In summary the church is mandated to reach, teach, win, and develop people. Where that is done there is growth. Conversely where there is no growth that church is failing to live up to their commission.

Excellence is shown by the attention given to little things. Start at the front door. Explain to your greeters how important their role is. Train them in detail as to what to do and say. We visit many churches and have heard offensive comments. “What are you doing here?” is common. One church where I have preached several times has a big greeter if someone perfunctorily says, “How are you?” actually says, “I am happier that a fat pig in the sunshine.” Another brags his response is, “I tell ‘um if they can’t tell by looking there is no reason for me to tell them.”

Leaders for God’s sake, that is not blasphemy, I mean literally for the sake of God program for the needs of the people not your personal desire. Most churches that are growing are relatively new starts. One reason why older ones aren’t growing is their membership has grown old. When it comes to making changes to meet needs that have changed that is a two sided coin. These older people must not be disenfranchised. They deserve to be ministered to. At all cost minister to them. Let them know they are wanted and needed, not overlooked. On the other hand they need to be led to see what the needs of the emerging generation are and what it takes to reach them.

Little things impress people in a big way. Start and stop on time. Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord, that is, as nearly perfect as possible. Pastors purge your default statements from your vocabulary. Don’t say “Amen” every time you are trying to cover a verbal glitch. Expunge “Uh” from your mental dictionary. Even if you have to have a family member or friend count how many times you use it to develop avoiding it. Be the best speaker possible. Be prepared. Don’t preach because you have to say something. Preach because you have something to say that the people NEED to hear. Know and love your people so you will be aware of what spiritual, cultural, emotional, social, and personal needs you need to address. Church leaders need to meet and ask themselves some hard questions and deal with some difficult issues in order to fulfill their function. I share this encouragement. You can do it.

How Greed Hurts individuals and America

What is one thing greatly eviscerating our society. Here is a hint. It is a spiritual problem succinctly identified long ago. Here is another hint. It is sometimes called a green eyed monster. It is greed. The laconic historical depiction is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Individually and as a society we are victims of the “more is better, but more is never good enough” syndrome. Untethered greed is the cause of corporate scandals, crooked politicians, classroom cheating, sexual indiscretion, impropriety in the faith community, and personal conflicts. With it so well defined not even the faith community is immuned. Not only are individuals guilty of it, but so are institutions and governments. Councils, conference rooms, and courtrooms are crowded by persons wanting more.

Often conflicts could be avoided if disputing parties were to lay aside greed and negotiate in good faith.
The following solution has been proposed. “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

That is not a reference to Rome, Georgia. It was written of ancient Rome by Cicero in 55 B.C. Some things are constant.

There are a few words that describe how we got in our current quandary. Some are: greed racheted up to rapacity and avarice, a lack of integrity and eroded honesty, covetousness, gluttony, voracity, and a colloquialism, “the gimmies.”

One study shows greed is not primarily a desire for money, but for the things money can get, such as, acceptance, power, influence, popularity, prestige, and clout.

Greed is a merciless master, a tyrannical taskmaster.

Patience, temperance, and self-discipline are essential to finding the desired state of being more elusive than a butterfly.

That state is contentment. Many in our society, and the society of many cultures, have been led to believe “things” afford contentment. NO! Write it across the horizon of your mind from heaven to earth — no, they don’t. Our attitude regarding them does.

Consider these words of a sage who had position, prominence, power, and possessions, but not contentment until . . . .

“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Then, he nailed it, “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It was the Apostle Paul who recorded that profound insight in I Timothy 6: 6-10.

This is not an anti-wealth article, for it is “God who gives us the ability to get wealth.” This is an encouragement to find the contentment that comes from the right attitude and use of money.

Our National Debt

Remember the often repeated theme in the Road Runner Cartoons. Wile E. Coyote is always chasing the Road Runner. At the last minute the Road Runner makes a diversionary move, the Coyote doesn’t. The Coyote runs off the edge of the cliff and for a moment is suspended in air treading space with his legs before —- ZIP he plunges to the bottom of the canyon. Often soon there after a large falling bolder hits him on the head.

That is a graphic of the American economy. We are not going off the cliff. We are off the cliff regardless of what is said.

Our national debt is variously reported to be approximately $16 trillion. Wrong! Not included is what the government owes the Social Security Fund. That is another $18 trillion bringing our national debt of nearly $33 trillion.

Based only on the $16 trillion debt every citizen owes $52.052.60. While solutions are sought the debt goes up $3.87 billion per day.

The soon to be imposed 3.8 percent tax increase on capital gains alone won’t fix the problem. It will hurt investors and hence an economic recovery.

New tax proposals for 2013 are designed to raise $317 billion over the next 10 years. Over 13,000 pages of new regulations have been prepared for this new Obama tax plan. There are more to come. These greatly expand government control and increase costs.

One noted economist has said that unless spending is controlled every citizen could be taxed at the rate of 100% and that would not solve the debt crisis. Spending must be controlled.

Borrowing more from China and other foreign countries isn’t the solution. Foreign governments are not as interested as they once were. They do not see America as a good borrower.

The question is posed as to how we got in this mess. There is a one word answer: GREED.

Greed is compounded by a fog of topor that seems to hang over our nation. This has resulted in a broad base commitment to working the system to get something for nothing. It is a form of greed that has gone viral identified as cupidity, an eager or excessive desire to possess. Avarice, meaning insatiable greed is yet another word for our societal appetite.

Entitlements have to be disciplined. There is no way to sustain them. Congress is going to be slow to make essential cuts because recipients of unmerited entitlements tend to be diligent voters. To take away an entitlement is to lose a vote.

A simple solution is not to tax the rich. There is no way that will solve the problem. If the President’s proposed full tax on the rich were applied to the 2012 budget it would decrease from $1.10 trillion to $1.2 trillion.

Every American is going to have to be involved in accomplishing a recovery. Special interests can’t be shielded, every citizen must be involved. Tough choices have to be made that will impact everyone.

As this financial scenario plays out greed plays the part of the Road Runner and we individually and culturally the pursuing Wile E. Coyote. The result is always the same. You know, the cliff and ZIP. Those who pursue greed never win. There are no cliff hangers. There is always a bottom to the canyon.

If we cannot govern ourselves individually there is no government that can govern us.

May the need for government restraints encourage us to better control not only our personal finances, but every area of our lives. Self-discipline is the most challenging form of discipline and the most essential.

 

What is the Federal Reserve?

Men who came to be known as “The Jekyll Island Club” represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth. Meeting at one of the most prestigious sites in America at the time they plotted the establishment of a central bank which they would control. The strategy of the elitist financiers involved the future of money and credit in America. Efforts to prevent the concept of a central national bank were begun by Thomas Jefferson and later championed by Andrew Jackson.

Those gathered on Jekyll were officially known as the National Monetary Commission (NMC).

Banks at the time were looked upon with suspicion. The NMC purposed to avoid the stigma of a bank by using the title “Federal Reserve System.” Their recommendation removed from Congress control given Congress by Article 1, Sec. 8 Par. 5 of the Constitution which states, “the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.” The action of the NMC would eventually mean their seven member board which would control the nation’s money and credit were to be appointed by the President and approved by Congress.

President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress elected in 1912, got the central bank legislation passed. This action ultimate resulted in the Federal Reserve being established.

Since that time one of the sidebar effects is the Federal Reserve acts to make the President look good. That is not a new thing.

Recently the Federal Reserve, which is an independent bank, announced they will purchase $40,000,000 of U.S. Treasury Bonds a month to stimulate the economy. Where do they get the money? They exercise the authority given them as an eventual outgrowth of the action of “Jekyll Island Club.” They print it. They have the power to issue money and regulate the value thereof. This is power formerly granted only to Congress.

Boosting the economy sounds good, but what actually does it do?

It devalues the dollar by creating more dollars. That sounds abstract, but what it means is it devalues your savings account, your IRA, the value of your home, any other assets, and the purchasing power of the dollar.

Four years after the signing of our Constitution, a federal law was passed making it a capital crime to do anything to devalue the dollar. That law is no longer in force, but the fact it existed indicates how serious the Congress of that day thought it was to devalue the dollar.

Thomas Jefferson in 1791 warned: “If the American people ever allow the banks to control issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their father occupied.”

The term “banks” is used in this sense not of your local bank, but the central bank now known as “The Federal Reserve Bank.”

The Federal Reserve is more complicated than space will allow for explaining. However, it is considered an independent bank because its decisions do not have to be ratified by the executive or legislative bodies of government.

Members are appointed by the President and traditionally their actions tend to make the President look good. Isn’t it interesting that just before this election they proposed to take action to stimulate the economy. It hasn’t.

This is not Your Father’s America

This is not your father’s America! The voter response November 6, 2012, was the announcement that a new era is now here.

Demographically and politically that was made obvious. However, there are less obvious evidences this is an emerging new culture. Rejoice that there are personal oasis where the values and virtues that have long identified our culture are not being blanched from the fabric that has long been America. Yet ….
Among the citizens of the new America many traits are waning. Personally and corporately some identifiable admirable qualities are no longer the norm.

Fading, but fortunately not gone are noteworthy attributes, such as:
Civility has been escorted off stage and replaced by rudeness or apathetic coolness.
Courtesy is passe. “Me first” is now head of the line.

Social grace is engulfed in a vortex of rudeness. Where is Captain Kangaroo when we need him to remind us of the magic words “please” and “thank you.”

In many quarters deception mocks integrity. Lacking integrity our culture suffers from a poor quality of workmanship, honesty in business transactions, and keeping commitments.

Many do not consider it a virtue to have a good work ethic. Do as little as you must to get as much as you can is the active axiom. Indifference is a prevailing demeanor. The conductor on the “Little Train That Could” is now the apathetic “Mr. Whatever.”

For too many decisions are made on the basis of passion not principles.

One out of every three citizens under age thirty is classified as a “none” because they have no religion. Couple that with the fact seventy percent of all churches in America are either plateaued or declining and it marginalized the religious community, making it a non-player in society.

The theme of eight-eight percent of citcoms is based on unapologetic sexual immorality. We nictitate at adultery and scoff at family values.

A sense of entitlement has rudely brushed aside the concept of personal responsibility and accountability.
Remember the old adages “How may I serve you?” and “The customer is always right.” Persons whose mantra is “no problem” and “no big deal” need to go to Chick-fil-A and learn a better response: “My pleasure.”

Patriotism is virtually mocked by dispassionate freemen/freewomen. Singing the National Anthem and Pledging Allegiance are passing along with “The Greatest Generation.” Remember them? Well, maybe not in that the emerging generations are likely unaware that generation simultaneously fought and won two world wars on opposite sides of the planet. In doing so they preserved the freedoms we now abuse.
I never thought that I, a life long optimistic zealot, enthusiastic about America would write such a summary.

What is a person to do? A resounding course reverberates “Suck it up and get use to it.”
That I refuse to do. I accept it, but do not approve of it. Therefore, I will encourage the significant segment interested in morals and manners to recommit ourselves to impact our little spheres of influence for renewal.