Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scrooge McDuck's Sister

Most folks know who Scrooge McDuck is. He is Donald Duck's rich and sometimes miserly uncle. His creator, Carl Barks, died in 2000 at the age of 99 and many people eulogized him, recalling what a wonderful man and artist he was. His wife of forty years preceded him in death by about seven years. Most of the eulogies do not mention that Carl Barks had been married twice before and that his only surviving child, who happened to be born during his first marriage, is Dorothy Gibson. Barks was called the father of Scrooge McDuck so I guess Dorothy is Scrooge's sister.

Dorothy Gibson is about 86 years old, lives in a modest house in Bremerton, Washington, is an active member of Kitsap Lake Baptist Church, and I am very proud to be her pastor. The pride I have in that fact is not because I am friends with the daughter of the man who changed the image of Donald Duck and created numerous Disney characters. It is because I have the privilege of pastoring a very godly woman who, except when very ill, continues to help clean the church building, particularly the ladies bathroom. She does it because it needs to be done and she can do it.

All that may be changing, however. Recently, Dorothy contracted pneumonia and has not fully recovered. She has even stopped eating, in part because, "nothing appeals to me." Her health is otherwise very good and her mind is as sharp as ever (though she thinks she is becoming a bit forgetful). Her daughter and son-in-law do all they can to help her and encourage her to eat. We hope and pray that Dorothy will soon regain her appetite and energy. Earlier this year, my beloved Aunt Betty went to be with the Lord. The cause of her death was listed as "Failure to thrive." That means her health was good and all her organs were working, but she simply stopped prospering physically and passed away. I hope that is not what is taking place with Dorothy.

Eulogies are traditionally given after a person dies. The word comes from two Greek words that, when put together translated as "good words." It just seems a bit crazy that we wait until after a person has died before we speak a eulogy regarding them. I wanted you to know that whatever Carl Barks was, his daughter, Dorothy Gibson, was much more because she is, as King David was, a person after God's own heart.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Feel Your Pain

Finally following the advice of friends who are also in the ministry, conference leaders, authors, and assorted others, I have begun to do something as part of my desire to improve my preaching. And to those of you who grimace, yawn, shake your head, have your eyes glaze over, or fall asleep I want you to know: "I feel your pain."

Yes, I have begun listening to recordings of my sermons. But take heart because your suffering may lead to better preaching and relief for future congregants.

Oh yes, one more thing: Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Marley's Ghost

In Dicken's classic, A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley returns as a ghost to warn Ebenezer Scrooge to change his ways or he will end up in the same predicament as Marley. After a very revealing night, Scrooge does turn his life around and as the saying goes: "All's well that ends well."

The United States of America has a similar opportunity to learn from another country's, even a continent's, past before it is too late. I would encourage anyone and everyone to view the following video blog (Keep in mind that Pat Condell is a British comedian who spends much of his time bashing religions, including Christianity.): http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/06/pat-condell-on-ground-zero-mosque-is-it-possible-to-be-astonished-but-not-surprised.html

In the movie version of the television classic, The Little Rascals (a.k.a. Spanky and Our Gang), Alfalfa says, "I'm usually a lover, not a fighter, but in your case, I'm willing to make an exception!" I identify with him. I stay out of political debates and agonize over confrontation. But in this case, I'm willing to make an exception! This is not even political. This is spiritual. Islam, like all false religions, is founded by Satan and has the destruction of God's kingdom as its end.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Says Who?!

It was my privilege to be a member of the Bison Glee Club at Oklahoma Baptist University. One of my "brothers" posted an interesting link which discussed recent anti-Jewish/Israeli comments and sentiments recently and not-so-recently expressed in and around Washington D.C.

A couple of quick responses to the post fell into the category of what I have labeled, "Victory By Proclamation." That is, the responder essentially declared that the post was invalid because they said so. I almost posted a comment on their responses, pointing this out. Then it occurred to me: There is a stage in life, while growing up, when "Because I said so!" seems a perfectly valid, even ultimate argument. Why would the age matter. If the person is stuck in that puerile (Isn't that a great word? I love the thesaurus!) stage, he is stuck with all of its baggage, as well, and just as disdainful to expostulation.

The worst part was when I had to acknowledge such vacuous assertions exist in the spiritual realm only with deadly consequences. Think about it: How many of the following questions have been answered with what can be reduced down to "Because I said so."

  • Why do you say there is no God?
  • Why don't you want to receive God's forgiveness right now?
  • How could something have come from nothing without a Supernatural Power?
  • Why would you choose to reject heaven and risk eternity in hell?
  • Why do you think coming to church is enough and surrendering complete authority to God is not necessary?
  • Why do you call Him Lord but not obey Him?

In truth, the converse of any one of those questions is too often answered in the same way, i.e. Why do you say there is a God? Answer: Because I said so. In truth, we have precious little, if anything, to do with what is truth. Perhaps we need to pray for people we love, "Lord, may they acknowledge Your Truth… because You said so."

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. –Proverbs 14:12; 16:25 (ESV)
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. –Proverbs 21:2 (ESV)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Who Is the Exception?

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See, this is new"?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 (ESV)

The "Preacher" said it and it has endured for centuries, even millennia. Along with Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Songs (Solomon), Ecclesiastes has been identified as "Wisdom Literature."

It gives rise to a question: Why would a person think he or she is the exception? Since there is "nothing new under the sun," why would someone expect you or I to believe that his situation is unique in time?

An answer may include the disturbing possibility that he has been deceiving himself until he now believes it. And why would anyone ever nurture the desire to deceive himself? Could it be because he has an even greater desire to please himself? If the truth stands in the way of your desires, simply invent your own truth that fits those desires. Sadly, a person who builds a straw house finds that it has blown away long before the mortgage is paid.

C. S. Lewis said, "If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."

Final question: What can you do to make a person turn away from the folly of insisting he or she is the exception?

Answer: Nothing. But you can and should pray that the person will be unable to resist the unconquerable truth of God.

These thoughts began near the beginning of Ecclesiastes so they will end with its conclusion:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (ESV)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Do I Think Too Much?

My brother-in-law, also a Pastor, recently posted with a question on facebook: "A man I just 'buried' was baptized 75 years ago but never attended church since. Is he in heaven today? What do you say? What does Scripture say?'"

Some of the replies were quotes from scripture but too many others were just personal opinions whether referencing scripture or not. Do you know what I mean? It was like saying a perfunctory prayer preceding the meal so we can go ahead and eat. As a prayer may be nothing more than changed words, using a verse in this way is sort of like, "Here's a verse from the Bible. Now let me tell you what I really think." As a matter of fact, I seem to recall a good number of "I think…" statements in those replies.

This is something I need to be more sensitive in my own life. I remember Billy Graham saying, "The Bible says…". I really liked that. It seems what I hear nowadays is more pontification than proclamation. I need to spend more time looking in the mirror for beams.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I was reading from Leviticus...

Do we interpret the New Testament by the Old Testament or is it the other way around? You can hear adamant answers for each view but most people would probably give an honest, "I do not know."

Do we have to know? Are we supposed to know? Is it one or the other? Are the OT and the NT really separate or is there a back and forth flow of understanding and insight?

I used to dread reading from Leviticus, not because of its theme of and call for holiness but because I thought it was boring and irrelevant since so much of it pertained to sacrifices which we do not do anymore. But God began to speak to me through this book a number of years ago and now I treasure it. Part of my reading this morning was from Leviticus 21 and, while reading, my head began to fill with other passages and connections that I knew were being put together in my spirit by God. It was not just making sense – it was causing me to worship.

Consider the following and how they are connected: The regulations, etc. of the priests from whom the High Priest was chosen who would go into the Holy of Holies each year and stand before God on behalf of the people; the application of blood from the sacrificed animal onto the altar and the persons seeking forgiveness; God's declaration that "the life is in the blood"; God's command for us to be holy because He is holy; the blood that was applied during the original passover; the danger of the High Priest being unholy or disobeying God while in the Holy of Holies; Jesus' revelation to His disciples during the first Lord's Supper of "this is my body, which is given for you" and "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood"; John the Baptist's declaration of, "Look! It's the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!"; the veil that separated mankind from God in the Sanctuary and Holy of Holies that only the High Priest could go through; the tearing of the veil, from top to bottom, when Jesus died on the cross for our sins, thereby removing the barrier between God and man; that the word "for" in "this cup that is poured out for you" is the word "huper" and it means "over" which itself can have a double meaning ("onto" and "in behalf of"; and Hebrews 4:14-5:10.

I am sure there was even more but it was/is evident to me that God does not set up one testament over the other as if He has two sets of scripture and one is subordinate to the other. We do not have to understand it. It is okay. As my friend and fellow pastor, Brian Kimball, said, "In those days [Bible times] it was perfectly acceptable to say, 'It is a mystery.' Why can't we say that today?"

This I know: What I could grasp caused me to be in awe and to worship God. What was beyond my grasp did the same.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Great Trip!

The 35th Anniversary Celebration Trip finally arrived and it was great! Although it was arranged to mostly duplicate the 30th Anniversary trip, it felt like a completely different experience – not better or worse, but different. Besides that fact that we all live in different houses, go to different churches than we did in 2004, and all of us changed jobs, job titles, or employment status, there were many differences on the trip itself.
Some notable and maybe not-so-notable differences:
  • We went straight to Orlando instead of to the Herrons for Thanksgiving before traveling together to Orlando.
  • No blisters on my feet!
  • We travelled on Sunday to go to church with Osa Marie Wittenmyer and Terry.
  • Danny and I did get our haircut at the Harmony Barbershop on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom this time.
  • I did not gain 20 pounds. In fact, I did not gain any weight!
  • The parks were more crowded this time.
  • We went on Expedition Everest (and I almost lost my cookies).
  • We went to Blizzard Beach and came away bruised (and I went on Summit Plummet twice).
  • Cathy and I spent a night at the All Star Movies "Resort" (as in, we needed a place to stay for our first night and, being tight-wads, that was our final resort).
  • We coughed up the bucks and went to "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party."
  • We went on Toy Story Mania and LOVED IT!
  • We used Disney's Photo Pass (the verdict is still out on this).
  • We went on the new Finding Nemo ride which was much better than "Finding Nemo" on the submarines at Disneyland in California.
  • We toured the campsites at the Fort Wilderness Campground and checked out some great Christmas displays.
  • We saw the Stunt Car show at Hollywood Studios.
  • We wore "Anniversary" buttons and got treated with extra perks and greetings.
  • We went to the Hoop Dee Do Musical Review and Dinner Show. It was great except for the ending.
  • We went to the Candlelight Processional when Steven Curtis Chapman was the narrator.
  • We experienced Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba and it was great!
  • We went to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and saw a real astronaut.
  • We started the cruise wearing shirts made specially for the occasion.
  • We received perks on the boat for being Castaway Club members (repeat cruisers).
  • We saw a beautiful rainbow at sea.
  • We sailed in the Atlantic Ocean instead of just the Caribbean.
  • We toured Tortola, BVI and spent 2 1/2 glorious hours at a private beach.
  • We went to St. Thomas, USVI and rode the sky tram up to Paradise Point.
  • Some people did not get back to the boat on time and were left on St. Thomas.
  • We saw the Flying Dutchman, some stingrays, and an eel at Castaway Cay.
  • It rained on us at Castaway Cay and we went back to the boat early to watch "A Christmas Carol" in 3D.
  • We had a couples massage on the boat.
  • Cathy "beeped" at all the airport security checks because of her new knees.
  • I was able to post pictures and a total of nearly 3 hours of videos of the trip at: http://gallery.me.com/gantenbein
Now, the trip I had anticipated and planned for five years is over. It is not something I look forward to anymore. It is a memory. Well, it is a lot of memories. But it is more than that because it also helped me to rest and get refreshed. So it still has value. And that is enough to begin planning the 40th Anniversary Celebration Trip in 2014. This time our kids are invited so I hope they started saving up!

But you know what was the most special thing about the trip? It was the reason for the trip in the first place: Being with Cathy.