Sunday, December 31, 2006

Small Group New Year's

Tonight at small group our kids played a game with Oreos. They split the cookies, stuck the cream side to their forehead, and then contorted their faces until the cookies fell to their mouths. The object: to catch the cookie in their pie holes without using their hands. Check it out:

Saturday, December 30, 2006

One Tough Funeral

My preacher friend, John emailed me this morning to ask if I "got the funeral" of Saddam Hussein. It's preacher humor, and unless you've been one, you probably don't get it.

I've conducted some difficult funerals in my day. There was a twenty-two year old young man who died when the trench he was working in collapsed on him. He wasn't a Christian, and his parents suddenly came face-to-face with the reality that, while they prepared their boy for life they left him unready for life after death.

Then there was the funeral of a fifty year old active-duty Sargent in the Indiana National Guard. Row after row of service men paraded by his casket, stopping to stand at attention and salute. There were three generals in the audience that day. One of them, who was offended that a chaplain hadn't been requested to preside at the service, refused to speak to me when we met prior to the eulogy.

Tough funerals. But none so tough as that of Saddam Hussein. What does one say at the funeral of an unbelieving, murderous, former-dictator? Good luck with that one, Pastor Who-ever-you-are.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Immunity Hanging on a Cross

Our family enjoys watching Survivor on CBS. Since the two tribes merged, each week features a battle between the castaways to win the "immunity idol" which prevents them from being voted off by the other contestants. Winning it is the only certain means of staying in the game.

The other night I noticed something that set me back a bit.

Survivor's immunity idol is hanging from a cross.

How appropriate. Our immunity was purchased on a cross. Immunity from sin's consequence, immunity from death, immunity from a godless eternity - all these were hung on a cross when Christ purchased our salvation.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hoosier Hysteria

Caleb, his girlfriend Bethany, and my buddy Fred trekked to Bloomington last night to see the Indiana Hoosiers defeat the Western Michigan Broncos. This was my first trip to the Assembly Hall. It was a great experience!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Wisdom of "Do-Over"

Yesterday was the faculty and staff party at my son's elementary school. Once a year the PTO calls on me to ride herd on 300 fourth through sixth graders. Yesterday I was stationed on the playground. It was an insightful experience that took my back to my childhood.

The children played "box ball," a timeless game that was called "four square" in my youth. A student stands in one of four equal squares that are all connected so as to form one large square. Students bounce a ball between the four squares. The goal is for you to pass the ball to another square without it bouncing twice in your own square, or without the ball going "out of bounds."
That is where it gets a little tricky. Apparently there is no rule to deal with what happens when the ball is "on the line."

No problem.

Enter the timeless tradition of school children everywhere: the "do-over." Ball hits a line. Do over. Someone walk through the playing area? Do over. Is there a dispute about carrying the ball rather than hitting it. Do over.

I wish "do over" was an option for me. I oversleep and missed an appointment. Just call a do over. My brain slips a gear and I buy my wife a kitchen appliance for our anniversary. Do over. My kid flunks her math test and I freak out like she's suddenly lost her scholarship to M.I.T. Do over.

Come to think of it, that's what grace is. It is a divine do over. And thank God for it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pulpit Plagarism

A few months ago a preacher in our area was "invited to resign," as they say, by his board of elders. Apparently the brother had been preaching Rick Atchley's sermons for the better part of a decade. The offense, as I understand it, wasn't so much the use of Brother Rick's sermons as the non-attribution thereof. I'm told some of Rick's personal illustrations even came off sounding like first person experiences rather than "I have a friend who . . ."

I'll admit to preaching another man's material on three or four occasions in the last ten years. (Okay, if you count 40 Days of Purpose, the count balloons to about a dozen times, but I paid good money for those messages and everyone knew it.) Each time the sermon was attributed to the original author, either from the pulpit, or in the accompanying printed material. On those few occasions, I did so because I was hammered for time. Once it was because of a grueling hospital- calling-funeral-during-the-week scenario. On another occasion there was a health crisis in my family.

Some guys tell me they do well delivering another pastor's sermon. Not me. I've never been able to "serve another man's bread" with any kind of authenticity or clarity. It always makes it to the table tasting dry and stale.

The guys at have an interesting blog about the whole issue of pulpit plagiarism. The title is The 1.7 Million Dollar Sermon. I would be interested to hear your take on it.

What say you, fellow pulpiteers?

Cheaper than Rehab

Son number one came home earlier this week and informed us that he "needed a couple of bucks for bowling." His P.E. class is headed to the lanes, and each trip will cost us $2. A small price to pay, admittedly. But like most parents, we're nickel-and-dimed to death. Consider the recent "school related" expenses we've encountered:
  • $75 for team approved basketball shoes for Abby
  • $40 for Abby's "practice pack"
  • $35 a month for a trombone for Jonah (It's only $600 if we pay all at once)
  • $75 for Caleb's Junior High semi-formal dance (ticket, corsage for date, new shoes, slacks)
  • $290 for a class ring for Abby
I sometimes get frustrated, as I imagine my parents once did. But then I remind myself, "it's cheaper than rehab." A Health Services Research study indicated that the average cost for inpatient substance abuse treatment in the US is $3754, and that such treatment is only effective about 70% of the time.

If you believe Peter Benson's research on the 40 Developmental Assets at Search Institute (and I think it is some of the best out there), involvement in things like band, and sports, and positive peer relationships are the very things that help kids avoid destructive behaviors. The price you and I pay, $50 here and there, is small compared to the incomparable financial, physical, emotional and spiritual toll that results from trying to parent on the cheap.

At least that's what I plan to tell myself the next time Caleb hits me up for five bucks to go to the game.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blazers Crack the Top Ten!

Eastside's boy's basketball team cracked the top ten with a number nine ranking in the IHSAA coaches poll. The Blazers are 6-0. This week they face a tough conference opponent in Lakeland. Go Big GREEN!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Forecast Foul-Ups

The weather man got it wrong again - thankfully so! Back in March, the internet weather service,, predicted “the Northeast is staring down the barrel of a gun.” 2006, they suggested, would be one of the worst hurricane seasons in the history of our country. Two months later they ran this headline: “One in Six Americans Could be Directly Impacted by 2006 Hurricane Season.” The hurricane season has finally given way to the holiday season and, as it turns out, 2006 was one of the quietest weather years on record.
This isn’t the first time someone pooch-kicked a prediction. In 1966 Arthur C. Clarke wrote in Vogue magazine that houses in 2001 would be able to fly, thanks to building materials made stronger than steel but lighter than aluminum. (Creating all sorts of problems for the family dog.)

In 1967 Science Digest predicted that by 2000, "discarded rayon underwear will be bought by chemical factories and converted into candy." (And what, exactly would such a candy be named?)

A 1981 book predicted solar-powered clothes that retain heat in the winter and coolness in the summer. People would be able to "press a button to formulate our clothing.” (Would one be naked on cloudy days?)

And then there is the grand-daddy of all blown predilections: Y2K. Experts anticipated problems ranging from VISA bills not being issued on time to entire power grids malfunctioning and plunging cities into blackout. I got my VISA bill right on time, and millions of Americans bought generators that have yet to be started.

That is what makes the predictions about Christ’s birth so amazing. Prophets writing hundreds of years before Jesus’ incarnation made some startling statements. Isaiah wrote that Jesus would be born of a virgin. Micah predicted that Bethlehem would be the Messiah’s birthplace. The death of Bethlehem’s infant boys at the hand of King Herod was predicted nearly six hundred years before by the prophet Jeremiah. So many prophecies, and all of them on target.

In his book "Science Speaks," Peter Stoner applies the modern science of probability to just eight Messianic prophecies. He says, "...the chance that any man might have... fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in 1017. That would be 1 in one hundred quadrillion. To understand the odds, Stoner suggests that "we take one hundred quadrillion silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state 2 feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up that one marked silver dollar. What chance would he have of getting the right one?" Stoner concluded, "Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing those prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom."

There will be a lot you can’t predict this Christmas season: what you’ll get for gifts, what the weather will do, who will win their bowl games. One thing you can count on, however, is the love of your Heavenly Father. He sent His love wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Of that, you can be sure.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thermostat Wars

With the coming of winter, the Weller household is all set for the latest variation of an annual theme: the thermostat wars. While Mrs. Weller likes a cooler household, I prefer it a bit warmer. Evidence of this disparity can be found in our sleeping quarters. On her side of the bed is a fan. On my side of the bed is an extra quilt. Ours is the only bedroom I know of with hooks in the ceiling for hanging sides of beef. (Okay, that is an exaggeration – but not much of one.)

Naturally, our temperature preferences affect how we set the thermostat. She likes it hovering around 62 degrees while I prefer it a slightly warmer 65 degrees. While 65 is downright frosty by most folks’ standards, let Mrs. Weller catch me fiddling with the thermostat, and the fun begins. Our thermostat rocks back and forth so frequently that our furnace gets seasick.

Apparently we’re not alone. According to a internet poll, nearly six in ten couples occasionally argue over climate control with 55 percent of America’s thermostat battles being “won” by the woman of the house. Only 40 percent of those surveyed said that the men in their lives have the final say over who controls the temperature. I guess I’ll just have to keep sneaking the thermostat up when I can, and put a sweater on when I can’t.

All this talk of temperature makes me wonder: who controls the spiritual temperature in your home? On this point, the Bible is pretty clear. It is the man’s responsibility to see to it that his wife and children are growing in their faith. According to the Apostle Paul, “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” If my wife’s spiritual growth has plateaued, I need to act. The same is true for my children. The Old Testament makes it clear that I am to “train up a child in the way that he should go.”

Of course, it takes two parents to raise children. But, ultimately, if my household is not a Christ-like one, I am the one who will answer for it. That is a weighty responsibility, one which all men need to take seriously.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Yes, I'm still alive. . .

After and extended absence, I return with some thoughts about the recent election. It's all Mitch Daniel's fault. I voted for him, so I guess you can blame it a bit on me, too. But I can't think that our right-wing Hoosier state would have voted out three incumbent Republicans had there not been such rancor towards our GOP governor. I've yet to hear anything positive about the sale / rental of our toll road. I'm still rankled over the closed-by-a-former-jock-strap-salesman plan to close our local BMV. I had his sign in my yard, but now there is no way I vote for the guy.

Follow me on this logic.
Mitch makes Hoosier republicans mad who. . .
Vote out three incumbent GOP congressmen which . . .
Serves as a bellwether for the rest of the nation's Democratic sweep . . .
That makes Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the house, causing . . .
The world to tilt from its axis, spin out of orbit and crash into the sun.

Therefore, the world is coming to an end, and it's Mitch Daniel's fault. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Death, Hovering Above

I heard him before I saw him. About sixty yards out, he came picking his way through the tall grass at the edge of the woods where I sat my tree stand. I was twenty-five feet up, in a swaying maple tree. The wind was in my face. There was no way he could smell me, and with plenty of brush at intermittent points between him and I, there was no way he could see me either. I waited for him to work his way into range. He strolled about nibbling grass, careless, oblivious to my presence. I took the time to count his tines. A nice four by four, he looked to be a large bodied, mature buck. I willed myself not to freak out. “Just breathe . . . stay calm . . . stop shaking.”

I looked ahead to the place where I wanted to take my shot. Ten yards off to my left there was a clearing. If he continued on the same path, he would cross a downed tree right about where I had placed a scent-bomb filled with “parfum de doe.” I worked my deer telepathy: Step over the tree. Meet Mr. Broadhead. As his head went behind a tree trunk obscuring my movement, I stood, swung around left, and drew my bow. Closer. Closer. Now step over the log. Step over the log.

He didn’t step over the log. Instead, he turned and walked along the log straight toward my tree. Hidden by nearby overhanging limbs, I didn’t see the deer until he was at the base of my tree. He stood, twenty feet beneath me, sniffing the base of the maple.

“Okay, plan B,” I thought. Wait until he walks on. He’ll turn broadside eventually, and I can hit him then. I released my hold on the bow, certain that he would hear my labored breathing and hammering heart. The buck moved on. I turned. When he was fifteen yards away, so did he, and I drew my bow. It was then that my safety harness made contact with my elbow. The device meant to keep me from falling to my death was making it impossible to inflict said fate on the deer below. I turned to see what the hangup was. Gingerly, I began loosening the belt that attached the harness to the tree so I could come to full draw.

The belt snagged.

Bark snapped.

The deer bolted.

I’ve been in the woods several times since, and I’ve yet to see a deer as nice. I’m confident I’ll take a deer, but I doubt I’ll have another chance to take this deer.

I wonder if that buck realized how close he was to death, hovering as it was, twenty-five feet above his head. One moment he was grazing, enjoying the quiet of deepening dusk, and without realizing it, he wandered into a mortal drama. Life and death just inches apart, and the only thing separating them was a happenstance decision to turn left and walk along the downed tree instead of continuing on over the log.

I wonder if you and I really understand the cosmic conflict in which we’re engaged. Do we grasp the enormity of Peter’s words when he warns “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.”(1 Peter 5:8 - NLT) Do we have any idea how closely we’re being watched? How near our adversary is to us?

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” And while I doubt these unseen forces use tree stands, wear camouflage clothing, and spray themselves with cover scent, they are no less real - and no less deadly. They are intent on destroying you and me.

And they’re far more experienced hunters than I will ever be.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Eighth Grade Education

Local legend Rick Minehart passed this along to me today, and I thought it of interest to regular readers of Frankly Speaking. . .

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895

Grammar (Time, 1 hour)
  1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
  2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
  3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
  4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of"lie,""play," and "run."
  5. Define case; Illustrate each case.
  6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
  7. - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
  1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
  2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
  3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
  4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
  5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
  6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
  7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
  8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
  9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
  10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
  1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
  2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
  3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
  4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
  5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
  6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
  7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
  8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
  1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
  2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
  3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
  4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.'
  5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
  6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
  7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
  8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
  9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
  10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
  1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
  2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
  3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
  4. Describe the mountains of North America
  5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
  6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
  7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
  8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
  9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
  10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it? Also shows you how poor our education system has become... and, NO! I don't have the answers, and I failed the 8th grade test!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It only took nine-and-a-half years . . .

Sunday morning our attendance was 222 people!

I did a little digging in the archives and saw that the last time we had an attendance that big (other than Easter and our new building dedication) was in May of 1996. That was before "the big split" that saw a third of our folks leave to start a new congregation.

Some thoughts on those ten years:
  • My first month here, we averaged 111 people. Last week's attendance was precisely double that figure. It only took nine-an-a-half years. Imagine what God will do with the next near decade.
  • My first week at BCC a friend phoned to see how it was going. "Well," I told him, "on the one hand we had our lowest attendance in over a decade last week. On the other hand, we've already managed to plant a church."
  • Christ's Church at Butler, the daughter church born of our schism has done well. Their eighty souls who founded the church have worked hard in the Lord's vineyard. Now there are 170+ people who attend there on any Sunday, and they have a great bus ministry that connects with troubled kids.
  • The "church across the street" as some folks have come to know our brothers and sisters at Christ's Church recently purchased a home in which they intend to hold Sunday school classes. Their new property adjoins a parcel that our congregation purchased earlier this year to increase our parking lot. Two churches. One heritage. Adjoining property. Hmmmmm. I wonder if God might use this irony for some greater purpose. Hmmmmmm.
  • God took our folly and did something great with it. Between our two churches, we're reaching twice as many folks as BCC did prior to our split. Frankly, I struggle to understand this, or to place it in a context that makes sense. How is this possible? Is God's blessing in spite of our mis-conception?
  • We've got a long way to go. Even with 222 people meeting at the corner of Oak and Eastern, that is still less than 10% of the folks who live in Butler. A town that, by some estimates, remains 70% unchurched. What are we going to do to reach those people with the good news of Jesus Christ?
  • Finally, God is good, and I am grateful. I look forward to seeing what He'll do next in this great adventure.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lord Byron

Byron Nelson, the 94 year-old golf legend went home today. His record of 11 straight tournament wins in 1945 is unlikely to ever be paralleled. Nelson was an incredible golfer, and a man of great faith. Nelson attended the Richland Hills Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas. (To read their obituary, click here.)

I love the story that Dave Stone, pastor of Southeast Christian Church tells about meeting Byron Nelson. He was preaching at Richland Hills and he and that church's pastor, Rick Atchley, played a round of golf at a Nelson designed course in the morning. Dave's play was so-so. Later that night Dave met Mr. Nelson, who was one of his heroes. Dave made the observation that, "it is one thing to play the course,
it is another entirely to meet the designer."

ESPN had this to say:

Byron Nelson, golf's elegant "Lord Byron" whose 11 straight tournament victories in 1945 stand as one of sport's most enduring records, died Tuesday. He was 94.

His wife, Peggy Nelson, told family friend Angela Enright that her husband appeared fine as she left for Bible study Tuesday morning. As she left their Roanoke home, he told her, "I'm so proud of you," something he often said about her church involvement. When she returned, she found him on the back porch facing his woodworking shop.
The Christian Chronicle reported: "Several years ago, a golf fan looking for Nelson’s ranch near Fort Worth stopped at the Roanoke Church of Christ and asked if the 'janitor' knew how to get there. Much to the fan’s surprise, the man sweeping the church floor smiled and replied, 'Yes, that’s where I live.' ”

I like best, though, what Lord Byron said about himself several years ago: "I don't know very much. I know a little bit about golf. I know how to make a stew. And I know how to be a decent man."

That you were, Byron. And God bless you for it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

George & Edith

George, age 94 and Edith, age 92, had been seeing each other for two years when they decided that life was too short and they might as well be together for the rest of their lives. Excited about their decision to become newlyweds, they went for a stroll to discuss the wedding and what plans needed to be made. Along their way, they found themselves in front of a drugstore.

George said to his bride-to-be, "Let's go in. I have an idea."

They walked to the rear of the store and addressed the man behind the counter.

"Are you the owner"? asked George.

The pharmacist answered, "Yes, sir. How can I help you"?

George: "Do you sell heart medications"?

Pharmacist: "Of course we do."

George: "How about a support hose for circulation"?

Pharmacist: "Definitely."

George: "What about medications for rheumatoid, osteoporosis and arthritis"?

Pharmacist: "All kinds."

George: "How about waterproof furniture pads and Depends"?

Pharmacist: "Yes sir."

George: "Hearing aids, denture supplies and reading glasses"?

Pharmacist: "Yes."

George: "What about eye drops, sleeping pills, Geritol, Preparation-H and ExLax"?

Pharmacist: "Absolutely."

George: "You sell wheelchairs, walkers and canes"?

Pharmacist: "All kinds and sizes. Why all these questions"?

George smiled, glanced shyly at Edith and replied to the pharmacist, "We've decided to get married and we'd like to use your store as our bridal registry!"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Eat at the Fair

Next week I'll be putting in my annual work-a-real-job week at the DeKalb County Free Fall Fair. I'll be working the morning shift cooking breakfast at the Bar None Saddle Club.

The great church ladies of our congregation (along with their men) will serve something like six to eight thousand meals in the next seven days. It will be incredible! If you've never been to our county fair, you've got to come and check us out. If you have been, I know you'll be back. And if you stop in to the Saddle Club for breakfast next week, look back in the kitchen for Big Frank. I'll be the sleepy one.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On the Rocks

Those who know me accept that I have a streak of LOCD - "Lawncare Obsessive Compulsive Disorder." I won't let people park on it. I holler at kids who walk across it. Yard sale? Forget it! For years I have stewed over folks cutting the corner with their cars. The city, in its frugality, didn't put in curbs when they repaved some years ago. On my corner, a steadily growing pit began to overtake the turf.

I first addressed this by backfilling the corner, reseeding, and putting in reflector stakes. They were stolen. I next put in small posts and linked them together with a yellow rope. They were ran over. Repeatedly. Finally, I asked a farmer from my small group to drop off some large rocks. I reasoned that, if someone tried to run over these he wouldn't get very far.

I was right.Here is what really amazes me: this young man was at the stop sign turning right. In a front-wheel-drive car. Noting that he is on top of all four really big rocks, either he a) never slowed down at the intersection, or b) got a John Force type hole-shot coming off the line. He was a nice kid, though. He said (and I'm not kidding about this), "Let me know if any of your rocks were damaged, and I'll make it right."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Buckle Up, Or Burn in Hell?

According to his blog, fellow preacher and pal, Mike Kjergaard (don't feel badly, it took me years to learn to pronounce it, and Hooked On Phonics really won't work for you on this one) was recently cited for not wearing his seat-belt. This made me wonder . . . suppose you were killed in a car accident while not wearing your seatbelt. Now, you've broken the law which is a sin, and you've died, presumably without the opportunity to repent and ask God's forgiveness for the aforementioned transgression.

Therefore, you will burn in hell for not wearing your seatbelt.

Nice job, Mike.

Now, before you regular readers of Frankly Speaking go blowing a theological circuit breaker, I don't believe any of that. (That doesn't mean I can't tell my kids that, though.)

Joke O' the Day

My attorney friend sent this to me today. As many lawyer jokes as I tell, he's earned a few megabites on Frankly Speaking.

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn't find a space with a meter. Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: "I have circled the block 10 times .. If I don't park here, I'll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses."

When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note, "I've circled this block for 10 years. If I don't give you a ticket, I'll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Wrigley Field Trip

The Frankly boys skipped work and school yesterday to head to Chicago to study the ivy-laden habitat of the native bear cubs of Wrigley Field.

Oh . . . the Cubs lost. . . to the in-last-place-until-playing-the-Cubs Pirates. The Cubs really suck this year.

Batting practice was a highlight, though. Juan Pierre threw a ball to my son, Jonah. And a BP dinger had me stretching out over the screen. I got leather on the ball, but dropped it! Pitcher Will Ohman made fun of me and nearby fans booed before Ohman tossed me the ball, which I caught with both hands. He tossed one to Caleb, too, after Caleb said "please." The guy was kind of a jerk, stopping during warm-ups for an outfield chat with a Pittsburgh player where they agreed they were counting down the "24 days left" until the end of the season.

In spite of the Cubs' loss, we enjoyed a three-generation day. I got to take my sons and my father to their first Major League Baseball game. The weather was great, the food was good, the company was exceptional. We even made it on TV when Pittsburgh center fielder Chris Duffy led off the game with a homer that landed close enough for my buddy, Sam Sprunger, and my son, Caleb, to wrestle with other Cub fans for the right to toss it back onto the field. The day was perfect - it was only the baseball that was mediocre.

With the Cubs in the NL Central basement and heading to Atlanta to face a Braves team that is battling to get back into contention for a wild card berth, we'll have to start singing the same old "Maybe next year" song. Maybe. If we get a new coach, a new GM (we should be so lucky), and a new owner (would that the baseball gods should so smile on us).

Memo to grandparents: you can buy a photo of the Frankly Speaking crew at yesterday's game by clicking here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Death of Customer Service

It is with a heavy heart that I report to you the death of customer service. While I had heard several rumors of his demise, it was not until I went shopping for shoes for Frankly, Jr. that I viewed the cadaver first hand. The corpse was spotted in several locations at the mall. Observe:

The fun began at shoe store number one, a well-known sporting goods store that bear's the first name of its founder. I mention this because, after shopping there, I began to wonder if the name above the door was an adjective describing the employees who work in shoes.

Son number one and I walked into the department and began looking at tennies which, by the way, cost more than the monthly rent on my parent's first apartment. An adolescent salesman, I'll call him Andy Acne, walked over and stared at us as if he was seeing an alien species for the first time. Just as Master Acne looked like he was about to start throwing peanuts to the monkeys, I ruined his fun by asking him to check my son's shoe size.

He stared at me blankly.

I asked him again. He walked over and pulled a shoe off the rack and said, "what size did you need?" I asked him a third time, "I need you to size his foot so we know." "Oh, okay." I waited for him to call me "dude," but he merely bent over and thrust Bubba's foot into the metal shoe sizer thingamabob. "Looks like it's eight and a half." "Let's go Bubba." I walked out of the shoe department with Caleb hopping on one foot trying to yank his shoe on in strange chicken dance fashion. Bubba walked in wearing a six and a half. No way was he an eight and a half.

At shoe store #2 we asked a polite young lady to size the boy up. She did - seven and a half. So far so good. When she went off to attend to another customer we asked another "associate" to see a particular size in seven and a half. After waiting several minutes for the salesperson to rummage around in the back room, take a bathroom break, call his bookie, and grab lunch he returned . . . empty handed. "We don't have it in that size, but we do have it in a mis-matched pair. One's an eight, the other is an eight and a half," he said. Just who, I thought, has the other mis-matched pair, and what makes this fellow think my son is equally deformed? We selected another style and, after finding it in the right size, asked them to hold onto it while we did some more shopping in the mall. A much too made-up, barely-out-of-high-school, should-have-gone-to-college-but-I'm-making-such-a-big-difference-selling-shoes person popped off, "We'll only keep it one hour. After that we put it back on the shelf."


Down the hall, down the escalator and into another sporting goods store. We asked to see a particular shoe in a size seven and a half. He disappeared into the bowels of the store and returned momentarily. "We don't have it in that size, but we do have it in an eight," he said. I wondered, why didn't he trot out the size eight to see if it might fit? "Okay, then what about this one?" He simply looked at me - not the shoe - and said slowly, "I . . . don't . . . think . . . so," and returned to checking items off his clipboard and ignoring the source of his store's income.

After an hour of looking for kicks, we came in under the sixty minute deadline, bought the pair and left - thank you Jesus!

I was still simmering in the juices of my ill customer service treatment when I drove to the big home improvement store near my home to purchase a light bulb for our microwave. I don't want to besmirch the name of this fine retailer, so it will remain nameless (they're really, really orange, by the way, and spend their customer service training funds to sponsor Tony Stewart's NASCAR).

I walked to the appliance department (in the back of the store), where I originally purchased the microwave, and asked the gal there for a bulb. "You need to go up to lighting for that." I walked back to lighting (in the front of the store). A smock wearing gentlemen asked me what I was looking for, so I showed him the paper with the bulb number written on it and told him. He replied, "This isn't my department, but let me see if I can help you out." Thoughtful. Good beginning. Maybe things will be different. "Let's go check in appliances," he said, and before I could tell him I just came from there he was off and running with me several paces behind.

Arriving in appliances (at the back of the store) he unscrewed the bulb cover on the nuke, took out the bulb and headed back toward lighting (in the front of the store). There, he stood, arm extended, bulb in hand, comparing the bulb in his digits with those on the display. After a while he intoned, "Looks like we don't have it. Perhaps you can special order it."

Off to the service counter I went, where I stood in line for fifteen minutes while a woman ordered flooring for her daughter's bedroom. When it was finally my turn, I explained to the fellow behind the computer that I needed a light-bulb for my microwave. "Appliance bulbs have to be special ordered back in appliances . . . "

He continued speaking, but faded from my hearing as I made my way to the front door. . .

Friday, September 01, 2006

Days of Elijah

Mrs. Frankly and I went to the great metropolis of Edon, Ohio last night to worship with Robin Mark. You might not know the name, but I'm guessing you've sung the songs. He is the author of Blessed Be the Name, and Days of Elijah, and countless others. This guy has the goods!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Oh for crying out loud!

I received news today that my blood tests came back okay - with one abnormality. My cholesterol level wasn't normal. Acceptable levels for cholesterol fall within the 140-199 range.

Mine was 128!

I was dancing a jig, planning to eat a pound of bacon dipped in butter when I came across an article about the risks of low cholesterol. THE RISKS OF LOW CHOLESTEROL!!! Isn't that like writing about the risks of using seat belts, or the danger in looking both ways, or the hazards of not running with scissors?

As it turns out, researchers have linked very low cholesterol - that's what I've got - with increased risk of depression anxiety and something called hemorrhagic stroke. Great. I finally get my HDL and LDL under control only to find I might get freaked out, bummed out or stroked out!

Health isn't everything its cracked up to be . . .

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PAPA Prayer

I'm reading Larry Crabb's book The PAPA Prayer. Here is a great excerpt from it:

Petitioning without relationship - that's what our praying so often amounts to, even though it's well disguised. No matter how piously we couch our requests and no matter how passionately we declare our confidence in the Giver's generosity, we stay in receiving mode. "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" It's all about us.

Our prayers of communion and worship sometimes have more to do with staying on God's good side in order to get more blessings than with building our relationship with Him. The idea of knowing God and being known by Him just doesn't seem that important.

For some, it's irrelevant. Children during a long, hot summer may know the ice cream man's name and may even greet him warmly and enjoy his smile, but the point is the ice cream. When my grandkids sit on Santa's lap in the mall, they have yet to ask Santa how he's doing, if maybe he's getting a little tired of all these kids. They hop on his lap, recite their list of desired gifts, and hop off. We Christians call it prayer.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why I am Faith Only

“If you would like to receive Christ into your life, just pray this prayer with me, and you will be saved,” intoned the speaker at our state-wide youth convention. I knew right away that there would be trouble. Sure enough, before the “amen” was spoken, I was confronted by an angry minister. “What is he doing?” demanded my friend. “It sounds to me like he is leading them in the sinner’s prayer,” I responded. It was not my first encounter with those who hold a “faith only” position for salvation, and it has not been my last.

Fact is, I’ve become faith only, too. No, I haven’t decided repentance is unnecessary, that confessing faith in Christ is superfluous, or that baptism is merely an “outward expression of an inward grace.” What has changed is my understanding of the word “faith,” and what it means. Still, it’s easy to see why there is such disagreement between our fellowship of churches and denominations over this issue. After all, faith only has been the predominant protestant position since the sixteenth century.

“Faith only” as Luther saw it
In his tower office in Wittenburg, Martin Luther read Romans 1:17, “The righteous will live by faith.” From that text, Luther developed his sola fide doctrine (Latin for “faith alone”). As a monk, Luther had witnessed first-hand the attempts at faithful Catholics to be justified by good works. Attending mass, reciting prayers, making pilgrimage to Rome, and even purchasing “indulgences” which promised forgiveness of sins in exchange for money were all means of obtaining righteousness in Luther’s day. Luther came to believe that many of these practices were not merely unnecessary but were abuses of power by the church. Luther determined that scripture – not the Pope – would be his sole authority in matters of faith and practice. These two beliefs, sola fide and sola scriptura, became Luther’s legacy and the defining doctrines of the Protestant Reformation.
1 Our convention speaker’s prayer was evidence of Luther’s enduring influence.

Faith defined
A website for a translation services company details some of the funny mistakes that well-meaning translators sometimes make. A sign in a Scandinavian airport reads, “We’ll take your bags and send them in all directions.” This sign hangs in a Hong Kong dentist’s office: "Teeth extracted by latest methodists."2

When translating from one language to another, some of the original meaning can be lost. Such is the case with the Greek words that are translated as “faith.” Pisteuo (pronounced pis-tyoo-oh), and its root word, pistis, are translated predominately two ways in most modern translations – as “belief” and “faith.” But like many English words, “belief” and “faith” are somewhat inadequate translations for pisteuo and pistis.

According to Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, pisteuo carries with it more than one connotation. It can mean a) to believe; b) to obey; c) to trust; d) to hope and e) as faithfulness.3
Faith, as understood by Paul’s readers, was (and is) a multi-faceted concept.

Faith is belief
“Faith is about believing certain things are true. . .,” writes the British apologist Alister McGrath. When a person says, “I believe in God,” often what they mean is something like, “I believe there is a God.” In that sense, faith is a mental affirmation or cognitive assent to a fact or set of facts.4
Affirming my belief in God is somewhat akin to saying “I believe in George Washington.” Although I have no first-hand knowledge that he lived, based on the evidence presented me by my first grade teacher, Mrs. Parks, I believe that the father of our country existed.

Sadly, this is as far as some people ever come. They mistakenly believe that an acknowledgement that God exists is a faith that is sufficient to save. James 2:19 shows the folly of that sort of “faith.” “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” Obviously, merely assenting that God exists isn’t enough, for if it were, demons would be saved. There must be something more to faith.

Faith is trust
Fifteen years ago, my wife and I vowed to each other that we would love, honor and cherish one another until parted by death. We accepted each other’s promises; we put our faith in one another. We trusted each other.

Trust is the second facet of faith. Merely believing God exists is not enough. We must also trust that He is able to do that which He says He can do. Both Paul and Peter quote the prophet Isaiah: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."5 Trust is part and parcel to faith. Many believe that God exists, but, for whatever reason, they are unable to trust Him. Maybe their trust has been violated by a parent or a spouse. Maybe someone in authority abused their trust, and although they believe God exists, they never manage to trust Him. Without trust, there is no faith. But is trust enough? While many say, “yes,” scripture indicates that faith has a third facet.

Faith is response
Faith is also response. “Trust and obey,” sings the old hymn, and rightly so. In his commentary on the book of Acts, Gareth Reese points out five reasons why faith requires obedience. Most of them require an understanding of Greek grammar. Suffice it to say that the original Greek supports the idea, and that in several scripture passages, belief and obedience are synonymous. Reese writes: “There are at least two places in the New Testament where ‘belief’ and ‘disobedience’ are contrasted, and these show convincingly that the faith that saves includes obedience as one of its constituent elements.”6

Belief alone is not enough. Demons believe, but are not saved. Trust is not enough. Trust is necessary, but without action, it cannot save. Only faith which includes belief, trust and an obedient response is sufficient to save.

McGrath uses a medical analogy to explain the nature of saving faith. Imagine that I am suffering from deadly blood poisoning, and that the cure, a bottle of penicillin is available to me. I have three options. First, I can believe that the bottle of penicillin exists. This requires no great leap. After all, seeing is believing, and I am looking at the bottle of pills. Second, I may trust that the medicine is sufficient to cure my illness, which would quite probably kill me otherwise. But, third, unless I respond by taking the medicine, I will die, “believing and trusting, but having failed to benefit at all from the resource which could have saved me.”

Faith requires a response, or it is not faith. If my denominational brothers and I can agree on this principle, then the gap in our doctrine becomes much more narrow and focused. Instead of debating what is or what is not necessary for salvation, the debate shifts to “what is the biblical response?”. Is it praying the sinner’s prayer? Is it raising a hand or coming forward during the altar call? Is it signing a commitment card? These are all responses and are acts of faith. Yet none of them are found in scripture. The only scriptural response that accompanies belief and trust is repentance, confession and baptism. That is the response saving faith requires.

Yes, I am faith only – if we are talking about the faith that is believing, trusting and responding. Given that definition of faith, I suspect I am not alone.

[1]Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1954-1981) pp. 289-290.
[3]G. Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 6:174-175.
[4]Alister E. McGrath, Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Myths (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), pp. 48-52.
[5]Romans 9:33 & 1 Peter 2:6.
[6]Gareth L. Reese, New Testament History: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Acts (Joplin, Missouri: College Press Publishing Company, 1976): pp. 604-605.