Sunday, December 11, 2011

Convicted Toward Compassion

This morning I had the privilege of preaching from Matthew 9:35-38; 14:13-14; Mark 6:30-34; and Matthew 20:29-34. The emphasis was on compassion (splagchnizomai). The flow was pretty basic/simple: Showing (true) compassion flows from having compassion which follows connecting (identifying) with the people when you love (agape) them made possible by dying to self. There were two things for which I was very grateful: 1. In the second service there was someone who could pronounce the Greek word for me; 2. In both services it was evident to me that God was touching minds, hearts, and spirits. Though being the one preaching, I was as much a recipient of the work of God as everyone else.

During this Christmas season, may God's children "carpe diem"—seize the day (opportunity)—while our neighbors, fellow workers, classmates, shoppers, etc. are more receptive to hearing about God's love. As we do, we will witness not the results of our own charismatic witness, but the results of God's continued work through broken vessels.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moral Character

It has become my pattern to go on an annual sermon planning retreat in November. Perhaps partly as a result of 32 years of leading the music ministry in four churches and wishing I knew well ahead of time what the sermons would be about. So, while it feels good to give the worship teams the tentative texts, working titles, themes, and thrusts for the coming year,  an equally beneficial result is that I always know what I'll be preaching. The retreat is preceded and dominated with prayer as I seek direction from God. 

Also, for the past four years, God has given a unifying theme for the year. The emphasis for 2012 is going to be the fourth part of our goal/direction as a church—"live like Jesus: love God, love others, make disciples" (fulfilling the great commandments and the great commission with Jesus as the paradigmatic self). I would love to have a catch phrase for making disciples but that hasn't come, yet. Two years ago, when loving God was the theme, we emphasized being connected to God by practicing spiritual disciplines and used being "hard-wired" to God as the mantra.

Before this year's retreat, in just a couple of weeks, I'm trying to read several books and become familiar with two or three small group studies on discipling. I would like to share an excerpt I just read in one of those books.

From John MacArthur in Twelve Ordinary Men (2002), p.46:
"A third element in the making of a leader—besides the right raw material and the right life experiences—is the right character. Character, of course, is absolutely critical in leadership. America's current moral decline is directly linked to the fact that we have elected, appointed, and hired too many leaders who have no character. In recent years, some have tried to argue that character doesn't really matter in leadership; what a man does in his private life supposedly should not be a factor in whether he is deemed fit for a public leadership role. That perspective is diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches. Character does matter in leadership. It matters a lot. 
"In fact, character is what makes leadership possible. People simply cannot respect or trust those who lack character. And if they do not respect a man, they will not follow him."
So, I'm looking for material on making and being disciples and I get a strong statement that is very relevant to politics as well as the leadership that is imperative in the discipling process. While others blindly say, as if a self-given entitlement, "God bless America!", I must plead, "God, convict America, bring us to our knees, and give us godly leaders with moral character."

Oh yes, one more thing as a side: Be sure to visit our new, though apparently temporary, web site.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vanity of Vanities! (all for the love of an Apple)

I'm not sure exactly when it happened but it most certainly has happened: I went from being part of a ridiculed minority, a nuisance, and someone without common sense to someone who is on the band wagon, aggravating, and arrogant…and I didn't change a single thing. I just keep using Apple computers.

Of course this is really small potatoes in the grand scheme of life but it is interesting (and mildly entertaining) to me to note how mac users are perceived differently than we were, say, thirty years ago. I had been using a mac for a few years but bought my first new laptop in 1981. It was a gray-scale Powerbook, 80Mb hard drive, 40Mb RAM, built-in floppy drive, and it still works today (except for the floppy drive). Then, we were off base and very odd. Now, we're trendy and even uppity.

If all I did was word processing, I'd still be using my original laptop. But graphics require memory and lots of it so I'm on my third laptop and second iMac. I upgrade them but eventually they max out and, even though they all still work, I have to get the latest and greatest. You understand…I have an image to maintain. You can use Skype, I'll use it when I have to (when chatting with PC users), but I prefer the superior quality and flow of iChat. It goes with being uppity and arrogant.

So thanks for my status change. No doubt the pendulum will swing back again...some day. But I won't care. I'm a mac user and I got used to being mocked thirty years ago.

P.S. I just read a microsoft ad: "PC's are customizable for work and play. Get the facts." It's true. They really are. But my mac came loaded for both.

(It just occurred to me…I could have done this on my iPod Touch.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

What if?

Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." The reasoning is simple: Actions speak louder than words.

Accomplishing two things at once is said to be "killing two birds with one stone."

I just read something that does both. Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board and posted this on April 7, 2011:

Making budget cuts is hard enough but neither could not have been easy downsizing the staff that serves the country's largest evangelical denomination in the area of evangelism and missions for Canada and the United States. Undoubtedly, he has and will continue to receive criticism for such a move. I think the bottom line of "allowing us to put $9 million extra on the field for church planting this year" with the hope "it will be $15 million" next year shows where the priorities are and may his kind increase!

Speaking of "may his kind increase" and considering our nation's current economic disaster, I am convinced that a secondary effect, even if unintentional, is the example it sets for those entrusted with power to lead our country. What if they, too, drastically cut the administrative costs in order to put money out their where it is most needed? If they did, we surely would not be in the mess we are in.

I am in danger of beginning a rant that would surely sound political so I will stop here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The New Normal

Do you remember watching 9-11 unfold? I remember saying, when the second jet hit the second tower, "This is not an accident. We are under attack!" And then I remember thinking, "Nothing will ever be the same," meaning the way we go about our daily lives as been permanently changed.

The loss of life was and still is tragic. The victims are still dead. The families still mourn their loss. The way we go about our lives has changed. Suspicion and distrust remain. Inconveniences abound (think airports). Nevertheless, we go to work, school, shopping, vacations, church, etc., indicating that we have successfully adjusted to the "new normal" that followed 9-11.

And why wouldn't we?! After all, life has always been about adjusting to new normals. From the time we're born to the time we die, we are adjusting. We are born, we start eating solid food, we are potty-trained, we start school, we stop having recess, we graduate, we get a job, we change jobs, we move, we get married, we have kids, someone burglarizes our house, we buy a new car, we need surgery, we have to pay for our kids to go to college, the economy takes a nose dive, our kids get married, our siblings die, our parents die, we take a cruise, we have to learn new technology… Get the picture? We are in a constant state of adjusting.

So 9-11 brought in a new normal. There have been many others since then (What's your house worth compared to 5 or 10 years ago?). There will be more. We can handle it. After all, we were made in His image!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sometimes Separation of Church and State Is Impossible

The following is a copy of a recent exchange of communication between our congressman and myself. What I wrote was not perfect or even eloquent but I want people to see where Congressman Dicks stands since so many people overlook his ungodliness because he is able to throw a lot of money into our local economy.

Dear Congressman Dicks,

Thank you for your reply. I especially appreciate the clarity of your own position. It can be seen that you approach the issue from the standpoint of your personal interpretation of the law. I realize many carry such a viewpoint but, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I must give precedence to the supreme authority of what God says in the Bible regarding marriage. Every biblical reference to God's plan for marriage reveals it is between a man and a woman. We are in serious error when we reverse the proper course of interpreting man's law in light of God's word and counter it by interpreting God's word according to man's law. I believe our nation's founding fathers understood this and I pray our current leaders will return to it.

In Him,
Jim Gantenbein

On Mar 24, 2011, at 07:34 AM, Congressman Norm Dicks wrote:


Dear Mr. Gantenbein:

Thank you for contacting me to comment on the Obama Administration's conclusion that the law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional and its decision to direct Justice Department lawyers to cease defending the law in the courts. I appreciate your interest in this issue.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed by Congress in 1996.  It prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages and it allows individual states to refuse to recognize such marriages that have been performed in other states.  Section 3 of DOMA requires that marriage, for purposes of federal benefit programs, is defined as the union of one man and one woman.

Since its passage there have been several challenges to the constitutionality of this law, based on two major legal arguments concerning the 10th and 14th Amendments.  The 10th Amendment declares that "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State," and opponents have contended that Congress has no constitutional power to pass a law permitting states to deny full faith and credit to another state's legal determination of a marriage. A second argument, based on the 14th Amendment, contends that the law denies "equal protection under the law" to all Americans.

  On July 8, 2010, a U.S. District Court in Massachusetts found Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in two cases brought by same-sex couples married in Massachusetts.  In one case, the court found that DOMA exceeded Congress's power under the Spending Clause and thus violated the 10th Amendment.  In the other case, the court held that Congress's goal of preserving the status quo did not bear a rational relationship to DOMA and thus, violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.  These decisions are similar to other rulings rendered in cases involving state-passed laws restricting same-sex marriage in Colorado, California and other states.

In February, the President and Attorney General Eric Holder issued a determination that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. At this time it is unclear whether the Department will continue to defend DOMA's constitutionality against other challenges.  Based on the case law that is accruing and on my own views, I support the President's decision, and agree with the District Court's opinion that Section 3 is unconstitutional.

The House of Representatives may consider legislation this year that would assert the standing of the House to use taxpayer resources to respond to legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, and I expect to oppose such a bill if it is considered on the House floor. 

Thank you again for sharing your views on this timely and important matter. 

Visit  Norm's website:
Subscribe to Norm's Newsletter to receive periodic email updates from Congressman Norm Dicks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Intolerance vs Tolerance

in·tol·er·ance [in-tol-er-uhns] –noun
1. lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc.
2. incapacity or indisposition to bear or endure: intolerance to heat.
3. abnormal sensitivity or allergy to a food, drug, etc.
4. an intolerant act. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010. 

What is so bad about intolerance and what is so great about tolerating everything? Besides, is there anyone in their right mind who would claim that anyone has ever existed who was intolerant about everything or who tolerated everything? To assert such a thing could only be done with eyes, mind, and memory permanently closed or totally missing.

By the way, the same dictionary used above gives the following definition for "tolerance":
tol·er·ance [tol-er-uhns] –noun
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
4. the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

It seems, however, that the current use in our society could be simply defined as follows.

Tolerance: Allowing as valid and acceptable for everyone.
Intolerance: Not allowing as valid and acceptable for everyone.

Question: Does the person who extols tolerance extend that philosophy to the philosophy of the person who does not?
See? There can not be absolute tolerance without also embracing intolerance which, in turns, invalidates tolerance.

Bottom Line: Society and its individual members use terms like "tolerance" and "intolerance" to promote their own agenda and stifle the agenda of those who disagree.

That is pure intolerance!

But I can tolerate it.