Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For or against the Christ? (part II)

I must say that it’s been a real treat getting some of the feedback I received from my previous post. I think your responses tell a story of how radicalized religion can be both positive and detrimental to our work as living ambassadors of Christ.

As promised, here was my response to the woman with the bold sweatshirt. Now, I’m warning you in advance: (1) This post is pretty long and (2) its length doesn't necessarily suggest profoundness. I just talk alot. The unimportant parts are italicize. If you want, you can ignore them. They just set the stage for a more important point. *Sigh* So much for brevity, right Mari?

I admit that I didn’t make any deep and prophetic statements that caused her to reexamine her position. If anything, I’d say that she had my number. I’ll explain in a second.

As I stated previously, seeing this woman’s shirt caused a mixed reaction inside of me. I admired the courage it took for her to make her beliefs known so openly, but also disturbed me to see the arrogance and oppression clearly conveyed by the garment. I wanted to call her out on it, but she beat me to the punch. *Please note, I’m not going to be quoting word-for-word. I can’t remember exactly what was said. But it’s pretty close*


The woman first came to me as she was approaching the checkout line. Noticing that I was administering a survey to a shopper, she detoured from the line and came my way. Our conversation started off well enough. She asked me what I was doing. I explained to her that I was pre-testing a survey instrument for my thesis. I went on to answer questions she had about my research. She seemed very interested in my work and wanted to take part (a kind gesture on her behalf, largely because I had been having a horrible time getting people to commit). I politely declined, informing her that I couldn’t use her responses since my sample had to be random (Long story. But to make the story short, a ramdom sampling strategy was the most effective method for my research design). She understood. It should be noted here that this woman had an incredible personality; one of the nicest people I ran into all day.

**End of Digression**

As she was turning to head over to the counter, I jumped in with a question about her shirt (most people who know me would agree that this was a bold move, given how conservative I am when it comes to confronting people) said to her, “I’m sorry; but as I look at your sweatshirt I assume that you’re a Christian.” She flashed a beautiful smile and proudly said “Yes I am!”. She mentioned that she attends some church in the area. I forgot the name of it, but I probably would've kept it anonymous anyway; just to protect its identity. She returned the questioning by asking me if I was a Christian as well and, if so, what church I attended. I informed her that I was a Christian, though I didn’t have a church home. She invited me to her church, to which I responded by saying “I’ll think about it.” She seemed geniuinely happy to hear that, almost as it something great just happened. “Praise God that I ran into you”, she said. Crap! How could I confront her on the sweatshirt and she just thanked God for meeting me?! But, I put that out of my head for the moment, braved it up and said “Yeah. I’m a Christian”, reverberating my previous affirmation. “But I disagree with the message behind your shirt. I think it does more to turn people away from God than it does to attract them to Him”. I was expecting for her demeanor to change, but it didn’t; much to my surprise. She continued smiling at me while responding “I’m sorry if it offends you. But I can’t suppress the truth. If one person turns away from sin from my message, then its worth offending others.”

Whoa. Hard to top that. But I tried. “Has your effort been successful? Have you led anybody to repent?” She responded, “No I hasn’t. But I'm not responsible for changing people’s hearts. That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Ghost. My only job is to get the word out there, even if it makes people uncomfortable.”

Wow. This lady OWNED me.

She thanked me for the time and for the conversation and continued with her checkout. Being the sick one that I was, I was also starting to get angry looks from people. Maybe it had something to do with the sniffing, coughing and hacking I was doing. So I got out of there.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but to recall her words about not holding back the truth. The fact is: for Christians, Jesus is our truth. We are called to be the salt of the earth. Since we are salt (as Will recently put it), sometimes we have to get mixed into the meat every now and then. To that end, the lady was absolutely correct. But I also couldn’t help but to think that our ministry goes WAY beyond wearing apparel that condemns sins. Of course I didn't think to say any of this until after I left the store (don’t you just HATE that?!)

Anyway, it bothers me to think that many of those to whom we are called to minister only experience the condemnation that comes from not following Christ. So many of them will never experience the truth and happiness that comes with following Him. If our lives as Christians have become more about chastising those with whom we disagree (denying rights to gays, vilifying those who commit abortion, calling someone’s religioous belief system a lie, etc.), how can we expect for people to accept our message? How can we expect the Holy Spirit to work wonders if we spend our time creating the obstacles? I mean, Jesus is pretty good at what He does and all, but I’m sure that He doesn't appreciate us making His job harder than it needs to be.

Proponents of the “Apparel Ministry” (as I like to call it) feel like as long as they are planting the seed of inquiry and conversation, the Holy Spirit can move in and take over. Really? Now, I’m not trying to discount the power of God; but let’s not kid ourselves here. Above all else, God gives US the call to be physical extensions of His heavenly hand. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, God expects us to get our hands dirty when it comes to reaching out to others. Relying on some mystical being to change somebody’s heart won’t work after you’ve physically insulted and demeaned them with a shirt. Some people can see the error of their ways and turn away from wrongdoing. But most people don’t. Usually, we're to blame for it.

In every instance in the Bible where God reveals Himself and wins the hearts and/or respect of those who originally didn’t believe, He used some person to be an extension of Him. Those people built relationships with others, worked with them, supported them, fellowshipped with them. They didn’t just wait around condemning others; hoping that it would eventually lead to someone asking “What must I do to be saved.”

I suspect that a large part of the problem is that many of us can’t reach out to others because we don’t even know them. I’m estimating that less than 5% of the Christian world even has a true friendship with people outside of their church circle. When’s the last time you had a meal with a non-Christian? When’s the last time you did something sociable with someone with whom you had varying faiths?


It took me a second to realize this for myself; largely because the only people I've really associated with were church folks; especially true since most of my family is spread out all over the country. But as I started breaking away from them somewhat (except for my partner, JD who has been my heart even when I didn’t deserve her), my eyes were opened to how many acquaintences I didn’t have. My inner circle was essentially made of the folks at my former church. Essentially, my eggs were all in one basket.

**End of Digression**

Having closeness with other Christians is pretty good when you’re trying to maintain a healthy relationship with those in the body of Christ. It’s not so good when you become so exclusive that you don't minister to those outside of the circle. I think that’s why I’ve been trying to be more involved with community activities, volunteerism, and school projects. It’s a good way to know people different from myself. The ultimate point is that we need to remove ourselves from our church exclusion and show the outside world the Jesus that lives in us. Building relationships, I think, is far more fruitful to doing so than wearing sweatshirts that belittle people.

Your thoughts?


Monday, January 29, 2007

For or against the Christ? (part I)

I think that this might wind up being another one of my longer posts, for which I apologize in advance. But this is something I really have to get off my chest…

I spent most of my weekend in bed dealing with yet another cold (I tell you, my immune system is shot to hell) and playing email tag with Greeny. But I managed to remove myself from my joint for a brief moment yesterday to do some pre-testing of the survey instrument I plan on using for my thesis. Essentially, I wanted to try it out so that I can work out any of the kinks that I have in the instrument.

Anyway, I decided to do my data collection at a local grocery store. While I was at the store randomly selecting respondents, there was a woman coming towards me wearing a sweatshirt with a 'quote' from Satan (in fiery letters) stating: "Support homosexuality, follow Islam, and commit an abortion. Please?" On the back of her shirt, there was a punchline saying: "Let's face it. Jesus is the only way."

As I read her shirt, I was completely flabbergasted.

I wasn’t the only person who saw this lady’s shirt. Employees and shoppers alike (many of whom were young people) all stopped to get a glimpse themselves. As I sat back and observed what was going on, I couldn’t help but think to myself how many gay people were at this store. How many of them saw what this woman was wearing? What about decent, honest, law-biding Muslims? What about the emotionally and spiritually drained women who may have – or were contemplating – an abortion? How effective was that shirt toward marketing our Christ to the world?

At the point, I was overwhelmingly embarrassed to be a Christian. I felt like any credentials that I had as one of Christ’s followers was quickly debited from me after this woman sold our Christ as being bigoted and accepting these controversial practices as supporting the devil. How can we declare the Good News of a Savior who loves and accepts everyone when this woman’s shirt clearly implies the opposite? I was not only embarrassed to be a Christian, but I was embarrassed for all of those neutrally-minded people; tending to their own business; who now had this shirt right in their face.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand the ultimate point of the shirt’s message. I can also accept the idea that is she was so open and brave with her proclamation. But, I couldn’t help but to ask myself how effective this woman was with her delivery. I mean, do we serve the same Jesus? If so, I wonder what He would’ve thought about this sweatshirt.

I guess my ultimate question would be: How would people respond if a person went into a public facility wearing a shirt that said “Christianity is fake” or “There is no God”? Though we live in a free society and people are free to do as they please (allegedly), I wonder how much of a reception the person wearing this type of shirt would receive. In a somewhat related story, my boy the Hippie Conservative was recently bashed on a “liberal” Myspace.com page for sharing his conservative opinions about a controversial matter. What does this say for liberalism?

I’m interested to hear what you guys think about this. To coin the popular phrase, what would Jesus do if He saw that shirt? Do you think He’d agree with the shirt’s message or disagree? Would He have addressed the woman? Biblically, how would Jesus have responded? How would you respond if you saw this woman? What kind of argument would you present either in support of the shirt or in opposition? I don’t plan to challenge anybody’s viewpoints on this issue. I’m just interested in feedback. I actually had a conversation with the woman (to be continued in part II), so I’ll share my views later. But for now, I’m just curious to see what type of discussion can be generated.

Your thoughts?


Friday, January 26, 2007

Amer-i-can't Idol

I like Keith Olberman. While he’s no doubt the liberal version of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity he’s still pretty cool (I tend not to like folks who are either too liberal or too conservative. Which is why my boy, The Hippie Conservative is j-u-u-ust right). But a couple of nights ago, he made a comment that annoyed the hell out of me. He accused the judges on the popular singing competition American Idol of being too mean to the contestants. This was apparently in response to comments made by Simon Cowell – the most notorious of the judges – addressed to a mentally challenged contestant.

Now, let’s be clear on one thing: I really don’t like American Idol. For the most part, I’m not a fan of the music industry these days, so it would only make sense for me not to like a show about kids aspiring to be in that industry. But I’ll admit that the initial auditioning is pretty addictive for me to watch. I get a kick out of watching people get on stage and make a fool out of themselves. For this reason, they deserve whatever criticism they get.

I’m sorry. But watching some of these putrid performances, you can’t convince me that these people don’t already know that they suck. There's absolutely nothing wrong with pointing that out. After all, knowing how bad they are, the contestants try to be…well…the worse they can be; more than likely so they can become the new William Hung (in a way, I feel bad for him and how bad the media has been exploiting him).

Most of these contestants -- who seem to get stranger and stranger each episode -- need some serious professional help.

And not just with their singing...


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My thoughts on the SOTU

This will definitely be a post for the records. For once, I'm not going to bash the President.

Yep, you heard me correctly.

Don't get me wrong: I think that his State of the Union address last night was complete and utter garbage (so much for my not bashing Bush). I also maintain that this speech (along with the fifteen or so that I've actually watched since following politics) is a clear and televised reminder that there is no such thing as "bipartisanship". But I must admit that Bush was brilliant in his delivery. Normally, you would never hear me say "Bush" and "brilliant" in the same sentence (unless of course I was saying "Bush is soooo not brilliant"), but I have to concede. The 2007 SOTU was...well...brilliant. Now let's be clear on something: when I say that, I'm not implying that it was brilliant in the sense that the speech's highlights were lucid, well thought out, and feasible. Rather, I mean brilliant as in clever. The president was clever in his attempts to continue pushing his destructive agenda; at the expense of taking smaller losses in other areas.

For starters, consider that he faced a situation completely foreign to him. For the first time during his presidency (or, as I like to see it, his reign), he was pitching his SOTU ideas to a Democrat-controlled Congress. He and his folks were no longer the home team. But despite all of that, he was able to stick to his guns on the most important issues to him and remained unrattled doins so. Stubborn and pig-headed? Yes. Brave? Yes. Stupid? Not really.

However, despite remaining true to his position on Iraq (I'll be writing on this soon), he willingly gave the Democrats some appeasement when he addressed liberally-based issues. He started by giving a shout-out to Nancy Pelosi in a pretty classy and dignified way. Then he addressed issues like immigration reform, health care reform (though he didn't present solutions. He basically said that tax cuts would help make prescription meds more affordable. Now that was a pretty stupid thing to say.) and "global climate change" (he didn't say "global warming", but we get the point). Hell. He even mentioned Darfur. Though he painted an inaccurate picture of the economy and didn't even touch Katrina, stem-cell research, or gay marriage; he was quick to deliver many issues to the Dems on a silver platter. Openly discussing and "reaching across the aisle" to address Democratic agendas was a pretty calculated move to get more people to subscribe to his nonsensical viewpoints about the war, connections between Iraqis, the Taliban and (interestingly) Hezebollah, along with the escalation of troops. Apparently, it worked. I mean, did you notice when he got a standing ovation when he equated increasing military presence in Iraq to "supporting the troops"? Even if he pissed off some of his already defecting buddies in the GOP, he at least bought more time and less opposition from the Dems.

The fact is: Bush cut some of his minor losses to acheive his ultimate goal: pushing forward with his foreign relations agenda in Iraq (or lack thereof) and gaining support for doing it. Basically he told his Democrat-controlled Congress that "I'll give you these things (all the issues I mentioned earlier) and I'll take this thing (Iraq). Support, in this case, doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with him or even standing by him. Instead, support in this case means 'no real opposition of'.

That's why Bush's speech was brilliant. Thank you.

*Pause for standing ovation*


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Have Nots

Last MLK Day was pretty busy for me. I did some volunteer work at a local outreach center, attended an Affirmative Action rally and an MLK Symposium on the main campus, and capped the day by going to watch my beloved Pistons lose to the miserable Timberwolves. But, perhaps the most notable thing I did was the volunteer work that a few of us put in at one of the food banks in the city. The experience wasn’t noteworthy to the extent that I felt like I did a great thing for the world (in fact, probably the opposite). Rather, it was notable because it helped me to realize something that too many of us fail to think about: Poverty is really a big deal that, oddly, does not seem to garner the attention that it requires.

In today’s social climate, it’s clear to me that poverty has become one of those ping-pong balls that we enjoy hitting every now and again (we hit it away from us, but it eventually comes back). But we have failed to produce any concrete and LONG-TERM solutions. Every time I hear a politician declare to the world that they plan to fight poverty, I turn red in the face. The sobering reality is that politics, no matter how manipulative and influencial, is NOT an adequate mechanism for tackling this issue. Most of us enjoy hearing soundbytes from politicians (in fact, most of us demand that they address it in their “agenda”), because we want to reassure ourselves that we care about the poor. We want to believe that we’re not as shallow and heartless as most other people. We want to believe that supporting a politician who speaks out against poverty is really doing something in the interest of the poor (even if they don’t do anything at all). I liken it to buying the mega-sized tub of popcorn, the bulk-sized box of Goobers, and a diet Coke; thinking that the diet soda will somehow add some nutritional value.

It’s my belief that poverty exists in this country because we; the middle to high-middle income folks in society; need for poverty to exist. The poor of the world are used to satisfy our sense of value and self-worthiness. Similar to the junk food/diet Coke example, we throw a couple of coins to a poor person and think that we’ve actually done something to help them out of their situation. This, to me, is exactly why even some of the riches cities in the country have not been able to truly address the problem of poverty. Like so many others, the presumption is that “spare change” kindness and governmental programs are the only solutions to the problem. But, I’m convinced that there are deeper factors that must be considered. What they are, I don’t know.

One of the reasons why I decided to start a blog was to keep my thoughts and reflections in a secure place where I could also share with others (as long as the Internet is not destroyed by Iran, I should be good). Maybe one day, my blog will serve a greater purpose. When God calls me home, maybe Landon or one of my own kids will stumble on this site and will get an idea on how Uncle Andre or (*gulp!*) Daddy thought about some of the situations the world was facing in my time. But more importantly, maybe peering into my thoughts will help them to successfully come up with solutions to the problems of their time. That said, I have a simple question for any readers out there (present and future):

You’re a state governor. Your state is represented by an assorted demographic (made up of whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, women, etc.) One of the most significant threats to your state is poverty. How do you resolve this problem?

I’m not expecting any answers to this. But if you’d like to take a crack at it; by all means, do so. For the most part, this is just a simple activity that I use to question myself on how well I understand things. It’s not hard to sit back and blame the government for the problems of the world. It’s just as easy to blame rich, pampered, and spoiled celebrities. But, the biggest question is: How do YOU deal with the issues?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Taking eggs from the basket

I can't remember exactly where, but I heard an incredible story that I'd like to share:

There was once a boy with two parents. His mother had always been loving, sensitive, and caring toward the boy while his father -- an alcoholic -- was mean, abusive, and disparaging.
One day, in the heat of an argument, the father pushed the mother down a flight of stairs; killing her instantly. For his act, the man received a life sentence in prison.

During the funeral, the little boy spent most of the service standing directly in front of his mother's body. Inexplicably, as he stared down at his loving, nurturing mother, the boy found himself unable to cry. As hard as he tried, he could not produce one single tear.

The boy eventually grew up, graduated from college, obtained a successful career and started a family of his own; doing it all just to prove to himself that he didn't need his father. Building a strong hatred and resentment for his father, the man refused to allow his father any access into his life or the life of his family. For him, the grudge was rooted too deeply. One day, the man received news that his father died in prison
. Though he vowed to himself that he would never allow his family to get involved with the father, his wife was able to convince him to attend the funeral.

At the ceremony, there was clear tension in the air. As the man approached the casket and looked down on his father, he was immediately reminded of all of the painful memories that were allowed to endure over the years. Suddenly, much to the man's suprise, seeing his dead father caused him to cry uncontrollably. While he was unable to cry for his loving mother, he cried for a man for whom he held a deep-seated hatred.

Is there a point to this story, you ask? I think there is. You see, the man became so consumed by the strong emotions that he had for his father (hatred in this case, but this could apply to anything), that once his father died, the man lost the one thing driving him. Essentially, he had nothing else to live for. He placed his hatred for his father above the love of his mother, his career; even his own family. His father's death left a void in his life that nothing else could fill.

Let this story serve as a warning: Do NOT put all of your eggs in one basket. If you do, and you happen to lose that basket, you'll live to regret it.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A rock in the road

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is dealing with some difficult problems in her life. Interestingly (but not coincidentally, I believe), I received an email from Diane that helps me make sense out of the trials and obstacles in our lives:

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. He then hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Someof the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none of them did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

This is why we struggle. This is why God allows for obstacles to get in our way.

Thanks for this, Di.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What if?

Though we don't always see eye-to-eye on everything, my blogging buddy Will raised some interesting questions about our faith.

Be prepared to be challenged.


How to study the Bible (part 2)

Yesterday, I started a piece about how to study the Bible. Here's the rest of it:

Pull out the pen and paper
At last point, I was talking about investigating the Bible. But once you get your exploratory juices flowing (that didn't sound right), you have to be able to record it all.

When you’re reading passages of scripture that’s all you’re doing. When you study however, you should also get in the habit of writing stuff down. The best way to identify how much you know and understand is by being able to record your thoughts. This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often this step goes undone. By writing down the things you study not only will you be able to recall it later, but it shows that you’re able to dissect and discern the things you have read.

I suggest you use index cards, notebooks, portfolios; essentially anything where you can take notes and store them away for safe keeping. You should make note of the chapters and verses you read, along with any notes (dates, questions, references) that you need to refer to. I think that this is a pretty good tool for organizing your information as well as to provide you some insight on how much your understanding of things has changed over time.

Using a good ‘Good Book’
Hands down, one of the most difficult aspects of studying the Bible study is getting past the verbiage. Ye, Thou, doest, doeth, etc. Some of that language is strange enough to make a grown man cry. It’s important to realize that many of the literal interpretations of the Bible were lost as they were converted from Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) to English. Words used in one way could very well mean something entirely different.

That being said, when you study your Bible, you want to be as careful and thorough as possible when it comes to obtaining accurate interpretation. In addition to the King James Version (the standard Bible used in most churches), I also recommend using a modernized Bible like the New International Version (NIV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or student Bibles. These books are most likely to have a good balance of accurate interpretation, contextualization, and readibility. There are all sorts of great Bibles to use, but these are just a few.

Picking a Bible is like picking a car or a cell phone. You make your choice of Bibles based on the features it has. For the sake studying, I recommend some of the following:

Book prefaces: In some Bibles, each book is preceded by an introduction. These intros usually contain important information about who wrote the book, the audience to whom the book was intended, important dates, historical data, the themes to be explored, etc. This commentary is good to know when reading so that you can contextualize the content.

Scriptural cross references: Good Bibles include an area where text is accompanied by additional scriptures that address related concepts. For instance, the term “water” (or it’s equivalent) can be found in multiple verses; used for varied reasons.

Concordance: A concordance is a perfect tool for people like me, who have a terrible memory when it comes to verses. They help the reader to located verses based on a keyword found in that passage.

Word/topical indexes: Many Bibles allow the reader to locate verses based on topic. From abortion to forgiveness, to salvation, this index is a great reference point to complement a concordance.

Dictionaries: Confused about what a sepulcher is? Want to know how big a cubic is? Biblical dictionaries are excellent in making sense out of the terms that are not used in our everyday conversation.

Seek additional assistance
I usually resort to personal study or study with people on campus; largely because I spend most of the time there between classes and work. But I strongly recommend that you seek additional study at your church. It’s likely that your pastor has attended and/or has been certified at a reputable theological institute and will be able to impart his/her knowledge on how to read and study the Bible. Other good sources include personnel at different bookstores, Internet study tools and various computer programs.

Understand why you study
I think the absolute most important part about studying the Bible is understanding the why. This, I think, is where many ultra-religious people get it twisted. Learning the Bible is not about memorizing verses that you can use to support arguments, bash 'sinful' people over the head, justify ignorance and intolerance, or to show how much you know. Rather, studying is an important step to knowing God; as He wants us to know Him. Equally as important, studying the Word is crucial so that we can take what we've learned and relate it to our lives.

As you study, I think it's important to remember that no one (not even the writers) will ever completely understand the Bible. Since the words are inspired by God and God is infinitely beyond us, none of us will ever get to the point where we've cornered the market on knowing God. But with each new idea you obtain and the more open your mind is to making new discoveries, you will inch yourself closer and closer to learning God. That's better than studying for some silly quiz anyday.


The Greater Gator


In the heat of an intense debate I had with my boy Aldo, I promised that if the Florida Gators won it all, not only would I admit that I was wrong and that Florida is the better team; but I'd also post it on my blog for the world to see.

Sadly, I'm a man of my word.

After Florida feasted on the then-number 1 rated Ohio State Buckeyes, I have to tip my hat to Aldo and all of the Gator nation; as much as I hate it. I was amazed at how stifling Florida's defense was; shutting down one of the country's most potent offensive attacks. Now, you could argue that OSU lost because one of their most important players, Ted Ginn Jr. was hurt. You can also argue that having almost two months off made the team rusty. And you'd be correct. But, let's not rule out the fact that Florida was completely and inexcusably dominant in this game.

Interestingly, this blowout proves that the BCS system can get it right sometimes.

...even if it also gets it wrong.

I'm still remaining faithful to my beloved Wolverines. I still think that the BCS raped us by not putting us in the championship game in the first place. But after we got smacked around by USC, and after Florida's impressive thumping of Ohio State (to whom we lost), Florida is no-doubt the better team. I didn't say the "best" team; considering that an undefeated Boise State didn't even get the chance at playing for the national title (if anything, their undefeated record should've given them a shot at OSU above Florida and...as much as I don't like to admit it...Michigan).

But, the purpose of this post is not to spout or complain about what should've or could've happened. This post is to declare to the world that Aldo's Gators are the best team in college football.

OK. That's done. Does anybody have the number to a good therapist?


Monday, January 08, 2007

" Beauty "

I can't remember where I first saw this video. I think it was Joslyn who sent it to me (if I'm wrong, I'm sorry). But it's a pretty mind-numbing piece that shows how manufactured the "beautiful" people of the world are.

I think everybody needs to see this...


How to study the Bible (part 1)

Every so often, someone will ask me where I get my Biblical knowledge. Let me just say for the record that I don’t know jack about the Bible. I’m not a theologian. I haven't been formally trained in the Bible. At best, I'd say that I'm a novice. In fact, as one of my friends who I consider to be a theologian tells me, it takes an entire lifetime to learn the Bible. Even then, you still don't know much. Each time you read a passage in the Bible there’s something new to learn.

The truth is: I can’t quote scriptures, nor can I quickly reference particular passages in ordinary conversation. As a matter of fact, I’ve never even read the entire Bible (I’d say I’ve read about 45% of it, but that hardly counts as the whole thing). So, to that end, it’s reasonable to conclude that I’m far from being a Bible scholar. But I can – at least – offer some suggestions on how to study your Bible, at least how I do it. That’s a start, I guess.

**I admit, this piece got a little long. So rather than strain your eyes I'll go over this in multiple parts.**

The approach I take to studying the Bible isn’t much different than the approach I would take in studying for an exam in school. It involves pretty rudimentary steps that, if done efficiently, can improve study skills:

Knowing what's what
For starters, I think it’s important to know that there is a difference between reading the Bible and studying the Bible. Reading the Bible can be done in large blocks if so desired, like reading numerous chapters at a time. If you wanted to, you could probably read your Bible from start to finish in a few months. Studying the Bible, however, involves the reader to focus their attention on individual topics, verses, characters, or circumstances raised in particular sections. This process takes far more time than it would to simply read a verse. For example, consider the popular verse in Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”

It probably took you about four seconds to read that line. But if you were studying it, it would have probably taken you at least five to ten minutes to fully comprehend it. That involves taking time to dig deeper into the passage to see what it’s really trying to say. Doing so (at least for me) requires a chunk of uninterrupted time where you can focus on what you’re reading.

Being a “Biblical Detective”
I think that the most critical component of effectively studying the Bible is being investigative. As the student, you must be able to ask important questions as you read the text. As my former Sunday School teacher used to tell me, you need to turn yourself into a “Biblical Detective”. Look deeply for clues. Ask questions. “What is this passage saying?” “Does anything stand out in this verse?” “What don’t I understand about this verse?” “Are there any abnormalities in this passage of Scripture?”

For example, use the well-known discussion that Jesus had with the woman at the well; found in the fourth chapter of John:

(5) Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
(6) Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
(7) There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
(8) (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
(9) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
(10) Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
(11) The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
(12) Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
(13) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
(14) But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

When reading this passage, some of the questions that come to mind include:

  • Does the time of day when this event happened matter?
  • What were the customs of that time?
  • Why did the disciples leave Jesus alone?
  • Is Jesus demanding the woman give Him water or is He asking?
  • Why don’t Samaritans and Jews deal with each other? What kind of history do they have?
  • What does Jesus mean by “living water”?
  • Was there any significance with the woman pointing out how deep the well is?
  • Why does the woman compare Jesus to Jacob?
  • Does Jesus seem rude to the woman?

I think you get the point…

It’s important to realize that there are no certain questions that you have to ask. Any questions you can come up with will be important to help you understand what you’re reading. But, to give you an idea on what types of general questions to ask, here a few my late pastor taught us to ask:

  • Who wrote the passage?
  • To whom was the passage written?
  • When was the passage written?
  • Why was the passage written? What issue or situation was being addressed?
  • Is there any background information pertinent to the passage?
  • What lessons can I learn from this passage?

There a dozens of questions you can ask yourself as you read. The whole point is for you to figure out what needs to be investigated. Only you can determine what you’d like to know.

Part 2 tomorrow...


Friday, January 05, 2007

Angel in the subway

I don't consider myself to be the frisco, roughneck type. At the same time, I don't particularly wear my emotions on my sleeves. But I heard a story on the news yesterday that literally moved me to tears.

According to the story, New York resident Wesley Autrey showed the world what it truly means to be a hero. While with his two daughters in a New York subway, Autrey noticed a man fall on the tracks after suffering from a seizure. After handing his daughters off to the closest person around, Autrey then did the unimaginable: he jumped down to retrieve the man. This act would not have been as heroric except for two things: (1) the tracks are electrically charged and (2) there was a train coming. Nevertheless, Autrey instinctly jumped on the tracks and covered the convulsing man as the train passed over them.

The train missed Autrey's head by inches.

Both men emerged from the incident unscathed. The man who initially fell only received minor bumps and bruises, but is in relatively good shape. Autrey indicated that he was OK as well.

Stories like this refresh my faith in people. We hear countless stories about greedy and corrupt politicians, spoiled celebrities, negligent parents, violent offenders, etc. But very seldomly do you hear stories of selflessness, valor, and heroism. I mean, this man risked his life (in front of his daughters, no less) to save a complete stranger because, as he puts it, "...it was the right thing to do." While others stood and watched (I probably would've only been an onlooker myself), this man flirted with danger for somebody else. Most of us won't make simple sacrifices for the people we call "friends"; let alone risk our lives for complete strangers.

Mr. Autrey is starting to become somewhat of a celebrity because of his deeds. He's been scheduled to be on a couple of talk shows, has been given donations from some celebs (reportedly, Donald Trump gave him $10,000 which -- to me -- is an insult considering that he's a billionaire), scholarships have been set up for his daughters, and they've received lifetime passes to Disney World. Let me just go on the record by saying that whatever good fortune this man gets for his deeds won't be enough.

His ultimate reward, I believe, will come later when God says to him "Well done, my good and faithful servant..."

Thank you, Mr. Autrey.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Bowl-ing for Justice

As if watching my beloved Dallas Cowboys lose to the miserably bad Detroit Lions wasn't enough, I had to sit back helplessly as my heroes in the Maize and Blue had their tooshies handed to them by USC. Dag! I can just feel a lashing coming on from Aldo any moment now...

As I stated before, there is no justice left in the world of college football.

But at least Boise State gave me something to celebrate. If you guys missed this game, I'm sorry for you. You missed a classic! Congrats guys.