Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This may read as if I have ADD, and maybe I do, but that is not the cause for the disconnected topics. I just have a little bit to say about several things.

The increased frequency with which I am seeing doctors and other medical personnel bugs me. The reason was confirmed by a lower back specialist/surgeon last week. He was about half way through his review of the MRI when I stated, "So, what you are telling me is that I am getting older." His succinct and honest reply lacked any possibility for misinterpretation: "Yes". So, I shall try to maintain an attitude of grace and venerable dignity at the four different medical appointments I have this week.

"We are weak, but He is strong." So goes the line from Jesus Loves Me. "We" includes me and I need to remember that I am weak, too. Incidences are increasing in which people need help, especially financial/material help. A common refrain is, "I know God is going to provide." However, the expressed trust in God to provide is not matched by lifestyles devoted to actively pursuing His likeness in them. In other words, the reality appears to be more along the lines of "I do not need to do anything because I expect God to do everything for me." I never hear, "I have made a mess out of my life. I don't even know how to get out of this predicament. Can you help me get started?" Pastors really do experience a lot of people like this and it can easily lead to cynicism. That's when I need to be reminded that I am part of the "we" in "we are weak."

We established a garden last year, bringing in ten cubic yards of garden soil from the landscape supply business. Even with Miracle Grow it only produced a mediocre harvest of undersized vegetables. Even as we worked the garden, we began composting all of our organic material from the kitchen. This past Spring we distributed the compost over the ten raised beds. The difference that decayed waste has made is nothing short of amazing. For the first time ever, we successfully grew artichokes. [http://gallery.me.com/gantenbein#100045&bgcolor=black&view=grid] So many of the vegetables are huge! Needless to say, we will be dumping more waste on next year's garden. Maybe that is why God allows so much "waste" to be dumped on our lives: It provides a great opportunity for us to grow and produce great spiritual fruit.

What makes baseball managers wait so long? The pitcher as gone six or seven good innings and has a two or three run lead. Then the lead off batter hits a home run, he walks the next two batters and it is obvious that he is really struggling. But the manager does nothing. It's as if he's thinking, "I can't take him out until it's too late to salvage the game." Sure enough, the pitcher hits a batter and gives up a grand slam to the next. Now, the team is down by the same number of runs that it had previously been ahead. In comes the reliever who shuts down the opposition for the final innings of the game and you can't help thinking, "If the manager had put him in after the first or second walk, we would have won!" I can understand the manager wanting to give the guy a chance to work himself out of the jamb but aren't these professionals who are supposed to know when I guy has lost his edge? How do the other players really feel (not in front of the cameras and mics) about standing by helplessly as the manager allows one player to throw away what the whole team has worked so hard to gain?

Why does clear ocean water, such as in the Caribbean, cause such a longing to be in/on/by it? What makes it seem so peaceful? How fast can the next thirteen weeks go by?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friends Don't Hurt Friends…Usually

I might have hurt a dear friend today. I did not mean to and I may not have. But the very possibility makes me sick to my stomach.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Signal Available

When I first turn on our television and cable box, a message is displayed on the TV screen: "No Signal Available". It stays on the screen for several seconds until the cable box does its thing and we can start viewing the shows. And that is the way it works: No signal, no picture; Valid signal, clear picture.

The same principle applies to many other things, including those shows on The History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic Channel, etc. with titles like "Banned from the Bible", "The Real Jesus", and the like. The are usually full of interviews from high brows and others who have very important titles and positions but clearly no personal relationship with the God about whom they speak so authoritatively.

Why is any follower of Christ able to understand and accept the things of God so easily when these "learned" people have no clue? The answer is in the very book they intentionally or unintentionally denigrate with their "knowledge".

The secret counsel of the Lord
is for those who fear him,
and He makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14 (ESV)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Regarding Worship Music

A very dear friend whom I highly esteem asked me to write an article on worship music following another article on his blog site by Chuck Colson who sited Donald Williams, Director of the School of Arts and Sciences at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. ( http://samshaw.wordpress.com/ ) It was a good article but something about it bugged me: It sounded like rules with an angle. Consider the following I have lifted from the article:

Williams writes, we must know “those marks of excellence that made the best of the past stand out and survive so long.”

These marks of excellence “are not arbitrary.” They “are derived from biblical teaching about the nature of worship.”

In all honesty, not only does that not bother me, I agree with it. But one of the marks of excellence—"musical beauty"—became very subjective, showing Williams' own proclivity nourished by a classical music training. Again, I do not object to that but it is, none the less, subjective and not necessarily "derived from biblical teaching about the nature of worship." Although I may also agree with Williams' statement that "more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition," I must also note that this is subjective. After all, as much as I love classical music and adhere to the aforementioned rules of good composition, I have never seen any evidence that those rules, and no others, came from scripture and that anything else can not be truly worshipful.

I can not say I disagree with Williams' tastes, put I do not think that having 75% of an assertion be inspired by scriptural principles justifies tucking in an additional 25% made up of personal conviction and placing it under the same label. Most teachers would give 75% a "C" or "D" and that's not exactly what we should be aiming for.

I do like Colson's conclusion:

Surely all sides of the music wars can agree that we want to praise God by singing hymns and spiritual songs that are biblically true, theologically profound, poetically rich, and, yes, musically beautiful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When Men Create God In Their Image

"So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female." —Genesis 1:27 (HCSB)

Wouldn't the world be a better place if man had left it that way instead of reversing it? But ever since "God created man in His own image," man has been returning the favor. First, man decides what he wants. Then, man makes a mold for a god that will fit what he wants. After that, man puts bits and pieces of the Bible into the mold and fills it in with his own opinions and desires. Voila! A "god" who justifies man's every action. And anyone who disagrees is simply dismissed as one who is out of fellowship with God. He seeks the endorsement of the church and when that endorsement fails to materialize or is withdrawn, the church is at fault. No matter what, it is never man's fault.

Too bad man can never see that his god is a destroyer of lives and relationships. And after it all falls apart, man blames the church and those closest to him.

It's Judges 21:25 all over again...and again...and again:
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted."