Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Here's an interesting passage from Deuteronomy about recognizing false prophets:

You may wonder, 'How will we know whether the prophecy is from the Lord or not?' If the prophet predicts something in the Lord's name and it does not happen, the Lord did not give the message. That prophet has spoken on his own and need not be feared (NLT 18.21-2).

I would like to know what was an acceptible time frame for the prediction to come true? How long did they have to wait before knowing whether the prophet was really speaking for God?

Saturday, December 17, 2005


In his weekly radio address, the President just said that "in the war on terror, we can't be without [the Patriot Act] for a moment." He also said that before September 11, "terrorists at home communicated with terrorists abroad," but we didn't know that the terrorists were here [at home].

I'm not very intelligent about this type of thing, but can't the people who monitor these communications tell from the context of the conversations whether someone is inside or outside the country? Also, if a person in our country is reasonably suspected as a criminal, don't the authorities then have probable cause get a court-ordered wire tap? And can't this be done pretty quickly?

It seems to me that the President just wants to be able to spy on anyone and everyone for no particular reason without having to go through the judicial system for authorization. Sounds like that violates the Constitution.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Good Gifts Don't Come Wrapped in Pretty Paper

During the past few days I have been doing my Christmas shopping, and I am becoming increasingly more and more uncomfortable with the giving and receiving of stuff that we don't really need. We draw names on both my and my husband's side of the family, so we each have had to choose gifts for two persons (not including shopping for the kids in the family). When I think about it, though, we aren't buying things for these people that they couldn't buy for themselves. In my family, we have pretty much just asked each other what the other wants for Christmas, and for many of us, that's what we'll get. It all seems so contrived. None of this will keep me from having fun on Christmas, but, well, I don't really know what I'm trying to say here.

On another note, this week, my mom and I went to the mall to do some shopping, and we saw a big booth set up by one of the local churches where volunteers from the church are wrapping gifts for mall shoppers for free. Hmmm.

I used to attend a church where this idea was considered. The whole idea was to "show God's love in a practical way." OK. I agree that Christians definitely need to go out and show God's love, and most certainly they need to go about showing this love in practical ways. But wrapping gifts? C'mon. What's next, showing God's love by volunteering to hang lights and wreaths on the tops of people's houses?

Aren't there some other more pressing practical needs than giftwrapping presents for people who obviously can afford to buy their own wrapping paper and bows? What about the practical need of heat for someone who can no longer afford the outrageous price of propane or who is physically unable to split his own firewood. What about the practical need of food or rent money for people who have lost their jobs? Or the practical need of companionship for someone who is lonely? Sure makes the practical need for giftwrapping services seem trivial.

This is going to sound harsh, but those who think they are doing a service by wrapping presents for mall shoppers need to get real. Giftwrapping is not a worthwhile cause for the follower of Christ. The type of gifts Jesus gave required self-sacrifice and didn't come wrapped and tied with a bow. I'll be so bold as to say that those who think that wrapping gifts is a practical need are either very self-consumed or extremely ignorant. What kind of sacrifice does it take to wrap presents? Oh, yeah, those paper cuts can be brutal!

Jesus met people's practical needs by giving the gift of food to hungry masses, giving the gift of sight to people who couldn't see, giving the gift of health to people who were sick. Surely we, Christ's followers, can at least give a meal to a hungry person, or a coat to a cold person, or maybe even pay for a prescription for a sick person, or pay someone's heating bill for a month. Those types of gifts would be much more practical, and certainly they would be more appreciated. And the sacrifice involved would be much better than a paper cut.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Good Read

I just finished reading an extremely interesting article in Rolling Stone about our government's use of public relations firms to help shape public opinion. This article deals mostly with one particular firm and how it has helped not only to shape public opinion, but also to orchestrate events that make war efforts seem more legitimate.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the article:

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

Bamford, James. "The Man Who Sold the War." Rolling Stone 17 Nov. 2005.

This is a long article, but it makes for a very interesting read if you have the time.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Disciple's Response to "Happy Holidays"

Over the past few years, I have noticed that I hear traditional Christmas songs less and less often in the stores and on the radio. I used to hear songs such as “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as often as I’d hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls.” Now, however, the traditional song “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come” has been replaced by “Joy to the World, all the boys and girls” (as in Jeremiah was a bullfrog). Only very infrequently is the song played that makes a reference to the birth of Jesus. TV advertisements entreat us to shop in their stores for our “holiday” gifts rather than our “Christmas” gifts. Nativity scenes are replaced by Santa and his reindeer on city hall lawns. School children don’t exchange gifts anymore. What is the “correct” way to celebrate the big holiday that comes at the end of December has become a pressing issue for many communities.

This year marks a sharp escalation in the controversy over Christmas. Now Christians are fighting to take back their sacred holiday by boycotting stores that sell “holiday trees” rather than Christmas trees and that offer greetings of “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” The other day I heard of a lady who, when the checkout clerk at Lowes bade her goodbye with “Happy Holidays,” launched into a lecture on the true meaning of the season. When the manager told her that the standard greeting in their store was “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” the indignant shopper promptly returned her purchase.

The local news last week interviewed the proprietress of a tree lot who remarked that at least one customer wanted to know what kind of trees she was selling—Christmas or Holiday—before committing to make a selection. It seems that all across the country, Christians and non-Christian traditionalists want to make sure that the establishments they frequent this season will celebrate the correct holiday, and they are kicking up a lot of dust and ill feelings in their fight.

All over Christian talk radio, the word is that more and more, Christians in our country are facing persecution. At no time that I can recall has this idea been more evident than this Christmas season. Christians know from Jesus’ teaching that they will be persecuted for their beliefs, but is what is being experienced now real or only perceived persecution? Is there a vast conspiracy that is out to sabotage Christmas? What is the correct response whether the persecution is real or only perceived?

Jesus himself showed his disciples that the way to overcome evil intentions and actions is to respond with love and kindness. He said that his followers are to be glad and rejoice when they are persecuted. Jesus went so far as to say that his followers should not resist people who act with evil intentions against us. If someone hits us, he says, we are to not hit back, but we should allow that person to hit us again. If we are not to strike back when someone is trying to do us bodily harm, why do we strike back when the war is only with words? It seems that the person who engages in an argument in a store about the true meaning of Christmas is doing more harm to the cause of Christ than he or she is bringing benefit. The angels’ words “Peace on Earth, good will to men” are reduced to nothing more than a meaningless slogan.

What harm, really, is being done to us by the clerk who bids us “Season’s Greetings” or the store that sells holiday trees and holiday gifts? The next time someone wishes me a “Happy Holiday,” I'm just going to smile and say, “Yes, it is a very happy one!”

Friday, December 02, 2005

"True" Religion?

People who adhere to the three major religions--Christianity, Islam, and Judaism--all believe that their religion is the "correct" one, that their religion is the most direct path to God or that it has the most correct revelation from God, or whatever.

How can everyone be "right"? When God looks down on the world and sees all these people who sincerely believe that their religion is the one that God favors, he must laugh and shake his head. How arrogant we are to think that one particular religious adherence brings us closer to God than another!

Pure and lasting
religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us (James 1.27).