Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We May Be Worshiping The Wrong Jesus, Too....

Yeah .. Him .. in the picture to the right, there. The picture is called the "Sallman Head", after its painter, Warner Sallman. He painted it in this form, what's variously reported as 1935 or 1940.

It's also been referred to as "The American Jesus". Which, of course, He wasn't.

Matthew reports Jesus' "arrest" in the Garden of Gethsemane; in his report, he states that Judas had arranged to identify Jesus by giving Him a kiss. Well, I'd imagine He would have been well-known and easily identifiable, but then, neither the CNN Mideast Bureau nor the Jersualem Times were around yet, so it's safe to assume they didn't know Who He was.

So Judas planted the infamous kiss.

Now, let's think about what folks in that area looked like, then and there in history. There are quite a few races of folks, today, that we can identify by sight. Aside from WASP's and Black people, we can usually tell someone of Arabian extraction ... or someone from the Orient, normally even Vietnamese from others in that area ... many times native Americans ... folks from India or Pakistan ... and we could probably pick out a Mayan person.

I'm sure you can think of some, too.

So, what about Jews, 2000 years ago?

We hear the term "anti-Semitic" and know it applies to people who are anti-Jewish, but it's a lot more than that. Merriam-Webster tells me that Semites are "..a member of any of a number number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia, including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs." Hence, Anti-Semitic would be Anti-Arab, as well.

I find that interesting.

So, what did Jesus really look like? Read this excerpt from a Popular Mechanics article from 2002:

"An answer has emerged from an exciting new field of science: forensic anthropology. Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in human history." So .. what did they suggest? Well, here's what the experts came up with, and it's nothing like the image we've probably been carrying around in our heads.



What did the Bible say, as to how Jesus appeared? Isaiah put it this way: "He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him."

I'm not an expert in how handsome men are, but that doesn't sound like the Man in the Sallman Head, above. It sounds more like the Guy on the left. A Guy I can sure identify with.

Then there's Philippians, which says He took upon Himself the form of a servant, having made Himself of no reputation.

I'm getting the idea that where He was, when He was, He was very much an unexceptional Man, in appearance.

As to Himself, He was tempted. Hebrews 4 says it this way: let us hold fast our confession. " ... we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." And in this verse, the word "all" means "each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything". So if you can think of a way to be tempted, He's experienced it.

That would include a number of temptations that overtake people, that we'd rather not think had been a temptation to God in the flesh. But the Bible says otherwise, and it certainly trumps what we'd "rather".

Last December, a good friend invited Peg & I, along with two other couples, over for a pre-Christmas dinner. Our friend has a 6 year old (or thereabouts) son who, when told we were coming over for a get-together, asked his dad "Are you going to play dirty Jesus?"

Of course, he meant dirty Santa. But that struck a real chord with my friend, who passed that along to the gang. And it brings up the fact that Jesus walked around in the hot sun in the mideast summers, wearing sandals and a robe, and I don't think where He was staying had an en suite for daily bathing activities.

Ever heard a preacher say "He was fully man as though He were not God at all .. and ...."? If they're anywhere near close in that description, you know all the personal issues He faced.

So if you can picture how we would look, after following Him around for a few days, or maybe three years, you can probably form an opinion on how Jesus, Himself,  looked.

The Bible tells us a lot about what His physical appearance wasn't. And the inner temptations He faced, since they're the same ones you and I do.

Maybe a little boy's description wasn't that far off. If that's the case, I think I like my Savior that way.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Misdirection. A Trick Even Magicians Use.

I heard a magician say, years ago, that if he could put a stick of dynamite on stage, with a lit fuse, he could parade an elephant across the stage and nobody'd see it. I suppose that's why most magicians seem to use attractive, scantily-clad assistants.

Do you suppose magicians are the only ones who use that misdirection trick? Getting you to look one way, when the action is in another direction?

Perhaps unknowingly, I think even churches do the same thing.

Take the news, of late. Same-sex marriage gets attention at lots of church meetings. As does the Boy Scout issue, abortion, the abuse issue in a particular denomination we've all heard about, etc etc.And it's not that we shouldn't be concerned about those issues, but perhaps that it's drawing our attention away from "the elephant in the room."

Two things strike me about this.

  • First, if we could completely stop abortions in the USA, get the Boy Scouts to reverse their decision, and illegalize "same-sex marriage" everywhere in the USA, we'd leave lost America no better off than it is today. It's not that I'm against speaking to those things, if we're doing the things we are supposed to be doing.
  • If we could reach everyone, teach everyone, and be known for the Gospel of Jesus, the people of America would be better off for it. And so would we of the SBC.

If that were the prevalent topic, then people .. both saved and lost .. wouldn't have the peripheral issues to zero-in on when they hear "Baptist". That would probably put more attention, within and without the SBC, on the real "elephant in the room". Ten million or so "members" who are not disciples.

My take on members who don't attend church? Who aren't involved? They may or may not be saved, but for sure they're not being discipled. We're not fulfilling the great commission with the majority of the people whom God sent to us. Who joined on our terms.

I once heard a pastor who'd visited a particular family say, of them: "They haven't been in church in 17 years .. oh, they're saved and love the Lord .. they just haven't been in church."

The SBC has seemingly been set on not addressing that issue. Collectively, we plead autonomy of the local body, and at the church level, we plead priesthood of the believer. And with the exception of a rather weak resolution passed several years ago, calling on churches to clean up their membership rolls, the SBC has done nothing about it.

Hey .. they'll throw out a church that calls a woman as pastor, but the church which fails with 2/3 of the people who they take in as members? Why, they're just swell.

If God had included the churches which, collectively, form the Southern Baptist Convention, in His letters to certain churches in the Book of Revelation, I wonder what He would have said.

I suspect he'd mention elephants.

And an old magician's trick.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heaven. And Maybe Hell. And Our Limited Capacity

I'm not at all certain we realize what all Adam's sin did to us. One of the things it did, which I've been thinking about a lot lately, is really not connected to sin in us. It's simply a trait which seems more or less neutral.

It's our tendency to grow accustomed to things.Oh, it has a few manifestations we don't like ... losing the excitement of salvation ... taking people from whom we benefit, for granted ... losing sight of how blessed we are ...  traits of that sort.

Sometimes it's a good trait. We used to live within a block of the Monon Railroad Line in Carmel, Indiana. Shortly after bedtime every night, there'd be a freight train come through town. After a few weeks living there, we never noticed it again.

As we age we ... at least this true for me (to Peg's constant amazement) ... sometimes become accustomed to waiting, and become more patient.

A long commute to work seems to get shorter, the more we do it.

Flying was a nerve irritant for me until I took a job that had me in 100 airports all over the country, in just about 8 years. After that long, I recall one time I went to sleep after the plane stopped at the runway, but before it took off. So this trait can be a good thing.

But there's one area where this would be a huge problem. Namely, in eternity.

As a little background, Peg and I have traveled a lot. Plus, I've been on several foreign mission trips. All in all, I think I've been in 45 states and 22 foreign countries. The number represents a combination of the aforementioned mission trips, vacation trips with Peg, business trips, and trips we won from several sources.

Needless to say, travel has lost its glamour. There isn't anyplace we want to visit badly enough to actually go there.

So, when someone paints a word picture of heaven with golden streets, jasper walls, pearl gates, etc etc, I know in my heart that I'd get used to that in pretty short order. Unless, in eternity, there's a really big change in ME. And it may well be that the biggest difference in Heaven, after the Personal Presence of the Savior, may be the difference in me. Maybe, since it's eternity, we will simply live in the present .. live in the moment .. without anticipation, regret, or any other thoughts of the past or future.

Let's hold that thought for a second.

I recall the first time we vacationed in Phillipsburg, Ste. Maarten. We went downstairs to the restaurant for supper, just after sunset, and it was simply delightful. It's under a canopy, adjacent to the "boardwalk" ... which is actually concrete ... along the beachfront. It was a delicious and delightful time, and in that moment I could have wished to stay there forever.

A week later, I was ready to go home. Same as had happened 20 years before, in Hawaii.

So I figure that, if I can get tired of the nicest places I've ever been, I .. in my present form .. could get tired of Heaven, too. Hence I figure there's likely going to be a huge change in the "ME" that makes me me.

I think the doubts and fears that creep up, from time to time, are a good thing. Things that put the "but what if" thoughts in our mind. What's good about them is that we must continually, as often as they crop up, reaffirm in our own mind, what we believe. And that's a good thing. Hence, I think that, when we die and are immediately in God's presence, we're going to have a giant humongous dose of that "I'm so glad I'm here" feeling that I got that first time in the Restaurant at the Holland House, on the beach at Phillipsburg, Ste Maarten.

Can you imagine what it would be like ... awash in delight, amazement, wonder, relief that it's really true and our faith was not in vain ... and that feeling never ever goes away?

On the other hand, imagine a non-believer who doesn't to to heaven, who simply dies. And is alone. Forever, realizing that he's there because of his own choices, that he could have done something about it, but didn't? And that first realization never, ever, goes away? He never gets relief?

Wade Burleson wrote a blog post recently, about Hell, and the fact that it is Holy. Not just physical flames of a conventional fire composed of rapid oxygenation of combustible materials. And, he may well be right.

Think about it this way: we've most all done something or other, in our lives, that hurt someone else, that grieved us immensely at the moment. Sure, we did what we could to rectify the situation, but still we bore the pain of what we'd done. But then, over time, the wounds we inflicted on ourselves and perhaps others, have gradually healed. We stop thinking about our offense and begin to think of it only occasionally, then rarely, then not at all.

Can you imagine dying, finding yourself separated from God, and from everyone else, realizing you could have done something about it, but didn't? And that feeling never ever goes away .. Gnawing at you every moment, for eternity? Never getting used to being there?

Sounds like hell to me. Oh, I'll never really know, as I have made alternate arrangements for eternity.

Ones I'll never want to get used to....

Of course I know the Bible talks about streets of gold, walls of jasper, a lake of fire, etc. But the Bible also talks about the "hand of God" and plenty of other things that are obvious euphemisms or allegories. Also, think back to the times those things were spoken or written. Wouldn't God portray heaven in the most glorious and wonderful way they could comprehend at the time, and wouldn't He also describe hell in the worst possible terms they could understand at the time?

I think that just may be the case.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another Deadly Reminder....

The death this past week of Cory Monteith, star of the TV Program "Glee", serves as yet another reminder of what frequently happens to those leading an ungodly life of self-indulgence. I mention that, today, as the media has now revealed that he died of of an overdose, a combination of illicit drugs and alcohol. That took me back to another similar occurrence.

The death of Chris Farley.

I had been a viewer of Saturday Night since its inception, so was familiar with Chris' work; when he died under similar circumstances, I was moved to write a poem. Sadly, it applies to Mr. Monteith, as well.

For your consideration:


            HOW MANY MORE….


How many more will have to die
Before the Lord tells you and I
In words we can’t misunderstand
That we all live only by His hand

And furthermore we’re in a war
With Alcohol … and Drugs .. and more
That overwhelms our spirits so
And leads us to that land of woe

Where the famous die and friends are grieving
For talented and loved ones leaving
This world and going who-knows-where
With pain that’s more than they can bear

God does not trifle, as we have seen
It’s not that He is ever mean…
But rest assured that He is just
And those who do not in Him trust

And give Him sway, in truth and fact
Live only by His gracious act
Of mercy undeserved and free
That He can stop whenever He

Decides that it is fit and meet
To sweep abusers off their feet…
As Chris and John and River know...
To where they never thought they’d go.

So time has come: don’t take for granted
That seeds by which your deeds you’ve planted
Won’t sprout and grow and put to sleep
The life you thought you’d always keep,

And too late come to see the facts
That you and others by your acts
Have drawn the curtain to a close
Much sooner than you might suppose.

How many more will have to die?
Not mine to say, but I know that I
Will not be one of those who do…
The question is … will one be you?



And now, sadly, Cory Monteith, as well.


Monday, July 15, 2013

My Take on The Zimmerman Verdict Us.

Anybody that was there and witnessed George Zimmerman shoot Trayvon Martin, raise your hand.

OK, anybody that was actually on the jury that decided the Zimmerman case, raise your hand.

I didn't think so.

OK then .... everybody that got whatever they know about the case from the media, or by rumor (which is the blunt word for what somebody said on social media) raise your hands.

I thought so.

The protests we're seeing around the country, and indeed the whole seeming upset about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, isn't just a racial deal. It, to me, is more of a reflection of the entire mood of the USA people, and perhaps all people everywhere.

Go back to the early 1800's in the USA for a second. You know who the most hated minority in the USA was? Probably not who you think they were:

The Irish.

The movie "Gangs of New York" touched on that. And if you saw the film, you know how ugly that was.

So why don't us good ol' boy WASPS hate the Irish now? I think it's because they look just like us. And maybe that's the root of the problem ... we tend to dislike people who aren't like us.

Until we get to know them as people. As persons.

The Irish looked just like us, so as quickly as they lost the brogue, and looked and sounded like us, the problem vanished. But with the Black citizenry, that's probably not going to happen. So they'll always be "them and us". Which is, of course, wrong.

But it's not limited to race. Or nationality. I've been observing the acrimony that's flying around the SBC for about 7+ years now, and it is absolutely silly what people are dividing over, sometimes heatedly so.


  • Calvinism vs whatever the other folks are called.
  • Open vs closed vs close communion.
  • Unknown tongues.
  • Women teachers.
  • Women pastors.
  • Whether our church has "Baptist" in its name.
Not to mention political differences affecting Baptists and others (admit it .. your opinion of someone changes the instant they say they voted for Obama .. or worse yet, if the say they like him).

If you want to look outside the USA, check out the demeanor of fans at some soccer matches. Or maybe the "Catholics" and "Protestants" in Northern Ireland.

You get the idea. Where there are differences of most any sort in people, folks will get divisive and acrimonious and sometimes hateful and mean-spirited. And maybe even murderous.

For no good reason.

I have my own opinions about George Zimmerman and they form what is not a kind attitude in my head, but that is irrelevant. Our legal system worked, and he is not guilty.

We can .. and I am sure someone will .. fill books with second guesses and "what if's" about the trial and the verdict. But let me tell you ... if I am in court, charged with a crime, over something I did that I didn't consider a crime, I'd want the best legal defense team on the planet. And so would you.

Our legal system has yielded some victories for Hobby Lobby recently, and for some others in what we consider righteous conservative cases. If you like those but protest the Zimmerman verdict, you're running a risk of being classed as a hypocrite.

Jesus was up to the task with Manuel Noriega, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, the "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz, according to all the credible reports I've seen. He's up to the task with George Zimmerman, too.

If that's not what we're wishing for, or hoping is true, we'd best lose the descriptor "Christian".

The upset we see over the verdict isn't about the verdict. It's about us.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Lazy Dog and a Fox

WARNING: Silliness follows:

29 years ago, we sold the company I'd worked for, for 9 years, to a (now-defunct) national-level insurer. Shortly thereafter, the insurer put in their own management, and bought out our contracts.

I went home with a year and a half's pay.

In the process of planning the rest of my life, I figured out I'd be needing a computer to go about finding a new job, so I could prepare decent-looking letters. Before I bought that, though, I found Mom's old portable typewriter and started practicing. I typed some "Now is the time..." and 'The quick brown fox.." sort of stuff, and then quit.

A couple days later, I had gotten a Commodore 64 computer and was moving the old typewriter, and I noticed someone had surreptitiously added a few lines to my typing. I suspected Brad, who still lived here at that time.

Thus began the Great Battle of the Fox and the Lazy Dog. I'd type a few lines, and come back the next day and discover he'd added a little. It went on for a couple weeks....

It follows; just click on the pictures to enlarge them to readability.

Silliness. Nonsense. Competitiveness, maybe. But it was fun; perhaps you will enjoy this little slice of life in our household, nearly three decades ago.







Peg stumbled across these pages today, cleaning out some junk. I had a good laugh over them, and decided I'd expose them to the (admittedly limited) public here.

P.S. Pulitzer Prize people: We may be reached at BR-549.