I couldn’t have said it any better

Dear Frank Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. […]

I was meaning to address this grave problem with my fellow Christians back in September of 2016 when I received Franklin Graham’s Decision 2016 Election SpecDecision-September-2016ial in the mail. I don’t subscribe to any publications by the Billy Graham organization, but since I am a Christian, I guess some targeted advertising group pointed the publishers my way. I never did respond to this disgraceful publication that attempts to tell the brethren, in so many words, that Donald Trump was a more Godly choice for a president than Hillary Clinton. I may have used Twitter and/or Facebook to object, but nothing detailed like this open letter.

Let me be perfectly clear, I was no fan of Clinton. I couldn’t stand her neo-liberal politics and hawkish approach towards the Middle-East. I couldn’t see her being any better a president than Obama. Also, I can see some fundamentalist Christians taking exception to her as a prospective president, but I would hope if Graham couldn’t get behind Clinton as a “lesser of two evils” option he would at least be quiet this presidential election. After all, Trump did an excellent job revealing to the American public he was lacking in Christian character.

Read this open letter below from a pastor who calls himself “Peter” printed in Trinity’s Portico that says all the things I wanted to say and more when I flipped through Graham’s mailer in anger and frustration.

via An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor — Trinity’s Portico

Five Ways You Can Be A Real Gentleman In A World Full Of Boys

Man holding a bowler hat

A female Facebook friend posted this very interesting article by Patrick Armen from Elite Daily. I too have heard of the “death of the gentleman.” Too, I have read and see all around me how men–at least in the West–seem to be living as, as the author calls them, “overgrown boys.” The last three points seem to be written with me in mind. It’s time to man up! — Jack

Five Ways You Can Be A Real Gentleman In A World Full Of Boys

I keep hearing people proclaim the death of the gentleman. Everywhere I turn, I see overgrown boys speak to women in abominable ways. I see them playing manipulative games and emotionally punishing women like a pack of high school children.

I’ve seen these overgrown boys high-five their friends after spending a night with a woman, and then recount all the things she thought she shared with him and him alone.

I call them “overgrown boys” because they are not men; being a man is more than just mimicking the external features of manhood. Being a man means embodying the behaviors of one, of gracefully owning the calculating logic and flowing emotion that lives within us all.

In short, being a man is living in harmony with what you think and how you feel.

I will not delve into the superficial characteristics of a gentleman (such as holding doors and paying for dates), as the subject has been discussed at length. My interest is in the mindset of a modern gentleman: the class of Clooney; the fun-loving, go-getter attitude of a Branson; the seductive energy of Depp.

The Modern Gentleman is driven.
This is the single greatest flaw I see with men of my generation. When did it become cool to be in your mid-20s and have no vision?

Sure, you post motivational quotes on Facebook, along with pictures of what you consider to be the good life, but why are you spending your Friday and Saturday nights piss drunk or hungover?

What’s with the 4 am McDonalds runs? How productive are you after a night out?

Listen, it’s fine to let loose sometimes, but if this is your weekly routine, you need to reevaluate where you’re going. A man of passion is a man who will constantly strive to better the lives of the people he loves. Turn off “Game of Thrones” and get cracking.

The Modern Gentleman is composed.
I can’t believe the lack of maturity I’m seeing these days. From bragging about your sexual conquests to getting into arguments, to verbally lowering people around you to emotional outbursts at the wrong times. What the hell, man?

A gentleman is absolutely discreet, always composed and always in control. He does not let his emotions get the best of him.

Remember, it’s all about balance. Everyone has good days; everyone has bad days. What distinguishes you is your character on such days. When challenged, our lowest nature will drag us into the chaos with clenched fists, but ultimately, you lose.

You lose every time you react to someone who taunts you. You lose every time you brag to your friends for validation. You lose every time you argue with people you care about.

How can your woman ever trust you again after that? If you snap at every little thing, how are you supposed to protect her and the people you love from the worst the world throws at you?

The Modern Gentleman is humble.
You start with nothing, but gradually (if you put in the work), you grow confident and might even develop a certain level of cockiness. But, eventually, those who become truly confident come full circle. In other words, they come back to nothing but a positive and peaceful nothing.

They see they are not better or worse than anyone else; they just worked very hard. They don’t feel the world owes them anything, and they don’t feel the need to put others down to show how great they are; they’re just comfortable.

These are the people who don’t need a reason to talk to you; if they see a beautiful woman, you bet they’re already walking over there with a huge smile on their faces. These are the guys who go around the bar raising a glass to everyone, partaking in everyone’s joy and basking in the energy of the room.

These are the modern gentlemen.

The Modern Gentleman has impeccable speech.
This is a slight detail most people don’t notice, but it’s a game-changer. I’ve seen men dress to the nines in expensive clothes, and yet, swear like sailors. I don’t have that big a problem with swearing per se, but manners are important.

On a deeper level, your self-speech is hugely important. If your goal is to be successful, why joke about being poor? If you aim for confidence, why do you make comments like, “I’m such an idiot”?

This may seem like a minor detail, but if, upon a screw up, your first instinct is to beat yourself up verbally, the thought is lodged in your subconscious.

So, let me ask you this: In your relationship with yourself, if love isn’t there, who is providing it? You are the owner of your self-worth. You are the captain of your confidence; no one else can give this to you.

In addition, how you speak to yourself determines how you speak to others. If you haven’t learned to love yourself, how can you love others? You can only serve mankind with love, and that love starts with you.

The Modern Gentleman lives for something greater than himself.
The successful people I’ve met all have one thing in common: They’re focused on providing value to the world, not on making money. I’ve heard this said over and over, but I guess I had to meet them to believe it.

A modern gentleman lives for something greater than himself. Shift your focus; you aren’t on earth to hoard and accumulate. Being a modern gentleman, your mission starts the second you leave your house.

Have you ever stopped to speak to a homeless person and ask about his story? I don’t mean throw a quarter without even making eye contact; I mean genuinely treating him like a person.

Have you sat down and had lunch with that awkward, quiet guy at your office whom everyone usually avoids? Have you flirted with the 60-year-old woman and reminded her of her beauty?

You don’t have to cure cancer to make a difference in the world; it’s as simple as reminding people of their own importance. Being charming is as simple as making everyone feel important in your presence.

Gentlemen, put away the games and childish things; strive for something more. Run that marathon; climb that mountain; build something, and be great. You won’t be remembered for sitting on your couch watching “Friends.”

In God I Trust (even if others are having second thoughts)

I was in my weekly Bible survey group talking about some recent news when one of the members of the group showed me the new one-dollar coin. I never had seen it before, nor had I even heard about the controversy surrounding it. The U.S. Mint has relegated some of the markings common to U.S. coinage to the rim: the year of the coin, the “E PLURIBUS UNUM” motto, and the “IN GOD WE TRUST” motto. Normally, our group does not spend time talking about politics, and that always has been a blessing to me since I have always felt like I was the only liberal in the room of older men who receive their political instruction from Rush Limbaugh.
The news of this coin design, however, fired up the group and sidelined the Scriptures for longer than most worldly issues have in the past. “They are trying to minimize God,” one man cried. “The edges of coins naturally wear down, so they are hoping that the word ‘God’ will wear down, as well.” “They are ashamed of God.” Most of the comments bordered on the hysterical, and whenever the innocuous “they” word is thrown around, any kind of intelligent discourse seems to be sucked out of the room. As usual, I held my tongue, quietly writing down on one of my Scripture-memory index cards a reminder to investigate this later. These few words are my thoughts on this matter.
While I have always felt sorry for Michael Newdow for being so hell-bent (eh-hum) on wanting the word “God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, I still think he has a point. I personally feel that removing the word “God” from things like currency, pledges, and oaths is not such a terrible thing. Conversely, I feel that this movement is a sign of the times – and that is a bad thing. If popular sentiment is calling for a change in our government, then I am usually for it, especially if it is fighting against one of those “tyranny of the majority” kinds of things. However, I am against a government that is so religious that it legislates religious canons (like many Islamic nations); but like my Christian brothers, I realize that fewer people believe in the Judeo-Christian God and more specifically Jesus Christ, and that is truly depressing.
Removing the word “God” from things like currency, pledges, and oaths only would set things back to the way that they were about fifty years ago – ironically, back to the time that so many of my Bible survey brothers pine over – “the good ole days.” For instance, many do not know that the government added the word “God” to the Pledge of Allegiance during the Cold War; the pledge had existed for 60 years without the word “God” in it. The motto “In God We Trust” has a similar history; however, listening to people like my brothers in the Bible survey, you would think the Anti-Christ had moved into their neighborhood.
You may have noticed that I carefully have written “God” throughout this tiny post, making sure that I preface each one with “the word” when applicable. You see, I believe that God is in everything, whether or not man decides to give Him the credit.
God will survive any government, even the current one where a supposedly “godly” president tells so many lies and places greed in front of brotherly love. Still, I have no illusions about Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, just as I had none about Bill Clinton – as my old hero I.F. Stone said so often, “all governments lie,” and that includes idealistic politicians who run them.
So exorcize the word “God” from all of these worldly things and still, money – that is often the root of evil – will continue to be the medium of exchange; pledges – which often are broken – will still be chanted; and oaths – that are lied upon – will still be taken, if not so help God, then so help your secular-humanist Huggy Bear. It all ends up business as usual or, as King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Practical Applications to Memorizing Scripture

In a (baby) step to try to get my writing published beyond this blog, I have submitted the following tiny essay to Cathedral Press for consideration to print on the back of one of their church bulletins that are read by subscribing member churches every Sunday. I know it is a subject almost none of the few and occasional readers of this humble blog have an interest in, but I feel compelled to publish it here, feeling it will probably be the only vehicle for these words.
Many years after accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, I came to the realization that while I was a Christian, I really did not know the Bible. It was not until my pastor inspired me to take up Scripture memory that I began to read more Scripture outside of Sunday church service and Bible Study.

Every weekday morning at my favorite café, I take out the index cards with the verses I am currently working on and drill myself. I begin by testing how many I know. I test if I know the verse by the Biblical reference and, then, if I know the book, chapter, verse, and what the verse says. The idea is to know the verse inside and out. I bring my Bible and study each verse in its proper context. I did not do this at first and it led me to memorizing verses with as much passion as one might memorize a phone number or a street address.

While I did not plan it, the Scripture memory cards turned out to be an effective witnessing tool. If it is not someone asking why I always carry around cards in my shirt pocket, it’s a fellow coffee connoisseur slowing down to read what is on these dog-eared cards that I have on the table every morning. On the occasions when someone comments on these beat-up cards, I show them a verse and hope they stick around long enough to hear my witness. Occasionally I will use the back of a card to scribble down a name or a note to myself when I am at work or at lunch. Once again, people ask me what are those cards on which I am writing.

Since I began trying to memorize Scripture, I have introduced my cards to people at work, on the bus, and in cafés and restaurants; also, I have read more of the Bible than in the past, and have become more confident in my witness because of it.

The Summer Read I Just Couldn’t

Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by the highway in a ditch.
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled pokin’ that dog with a stick.
Got his car door flung open he’s standin’ out on Highway 31.
Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run.
— “Reason to Believe”
I had not heard the final song from Bruce Springsteen’s 1990 album Nebraska in more than 10 years, but the opening lyrics came to mind while reading the first few chapters of Sam Harris’ book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (2004). Springsteen’s song is a bitter joke that comes at the end of an album filled with nihilistic despair, so, I was not surprised that my memory would call up this song while reading Harris’ depressing words:
“Despite the considerable exertions of men like [theologian Paul] Tillich who has attempted to hide the serpent lurking at the foot of every altar, the truth is that religious faith is simply unjustified belief in matters of ultimate concern – specifically in the propositions that promise some mechanism by which human life can be spared the ravages of time and death.”
An atheist friend suggested I read Harris’ book after I invited him to comment on my first post on this blog, Faith, Liberals, and Biscuits. He sent me an email complimenting me on my new hobby, made a snide comment about an admittedly shallow theological remark I made in the post and suggested I read Harris’ book. (Thanks for the prescription, Jimbo.)
End of Faith comes at a time when the Neocons and car bombers are sharing the news and beginning to wear down the American public; Harris started writing the book on September 12, 2001. Harris’ solution to the turmoil religion created was to destroy religion for the sake of world peace. Does Harris really think we will all be happier without God or, for his sake, the concept of God? Absolutely. In fact, reading End of Faith is a horrifying experience. “Words like ‘God’ and ‘Allah’ must go the way of ‘Apollo’ and ‘Baal,’ or they will unmake our world.” While he spends most of his time with fundamentalists in his sights, it is a bit strange how he seems to believe that even religious moderates are capable of anything. This, of course, is not a revelation to a Muslim, Jew or Christian. We have asserted from the Beginning that man is capable of atrocities, just as he is capable of lying or stealing an apple from a market; it is called “sin nature.”
If you can remove yourself from any religious predilections and look at the world with pure logic, most of Harris’ views are difficult to refute. Still, who is his audience here? Is he preaching to the choir? (Sorry folks, I just couldn’t help myself.) If he is trying to convert believers to the abyss it is a hard sell. Ask anyone who believes in God, whether their deity goes by Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah or some nebulous entity, and he’ll tell you the idea of abandoning this supreme belief for Harris’ solution is impossible to reconcile with what he knows and feels.
It is not just a choice of which is more sensible; any staunch nonbeliever who reads the Bible is confounded by the idea that millions of people throughout the ages lived and died not only understanding, but also believing in this nonsense. Any college student sufficiently full of himself can read Harris’ book and come away with the idea that this author has found the panacea for religious fanaticism. Conversely, anyone who has gone beyond Harris’ worldly assertions can see how utterly foolish they are and, Biblically speaking, “full of dead men’s bones.” (For a review far more eloquent then these comments by someone who, I trust, was able to finish the book, check out: Matthew Simpson’s review posted April, 5, 2005 at www.ChristianityToday.com.)
Ultimately, Harris writes off the religious folk as people who have never reflected on the intellectual foundations of their beliefs. If his book is so tactfully written to cloak his contempt for Christians and other Believers, the titles of some of his posts in the Huffingtonpost like “Science Must Destroy Religion” and the presumptive “There is No God (And You Know It)” remove all doubt. Of course, there are plenty of contemporary works of religious philosophy to discount his claim. One that stands out can be found in To Everyone an Answer (2004), a collection of Christian apologies focusing on subjects that include God’s existence, Intelligent Design, miracles, and Christianity v other faiths and cults, among others subjects.
Like James Moreland and Kai Nielsen’s Does God Exist? and Peter Kreeft’s Fundamentals of the Faith, I found To Everyone an Answer at the bookstore and “just had to have it.” In addition, like so many other books I impulsively purchase, this one could have spent years on the shelf unopened if it had not been for Harris’ impish opus, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
One essay, “A Thomistic Cosmological Argument,” by W. David Beck, lays out the logic of God’s presence and our place in His universe. TheThomistic Cosmological Argument comes from Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian. His Cosmological Argument, as it is commonly known, is based on three premises:
  1. What we observe in this universe is contingent. Nothing we see exists in and of themselves.
  2. A sequence of causally related contingent things cannot be infinite. Just as one boxcar pulls another that pulls another, the boxcars cannot be infinite; there must be an initial cause, like the train’s engine.
  3. The sequence of causally dependent contingent things must be finite. The premise that completes the logic is that if the sequence cannot be infinite, then it must be finite.
His conclusion is that there must be a first cause in the sequence of contingent causes. Still, pessimists like Harris can retort that the initial cause was a “big bang” or something similar. What actually caused the initial “big bang” that ultimately ended in you and me is something Darwin, his followers and, I would assume, Harris would simply shine on as a goal for future science to patch up along with all the “Origin of the Species” holes.

I hate the idea of not finishing a book I started – almost as much as I hate walking out of a movie, even if it really stinks. It is just that I have so many books I want to read, and being such a slow reader, the list of books I want to read only grows longer when I am dragging my eyeballs across the lines of a suicide-inducing tome like this one.

I would like to think that Harris would consider the words of Beck and other apologists in To Everyone an Answer, but in the time it took me to read what little I did from this depressing book and all the time this post spent in my jump drive waiting for me to finish it, a new book from Harris titled Letter to a Christian Nation has been published. From the blurbs on the Amazon.com site, it sounds like another tombstone.

Faith, Liberals, and Biscuits

I had just sat down with my second-helping of eggs and sausage and a really good biscuit when I heard one of my brothers in Christos exclaim “God bless President Bush! We are so fortunate to have a godly man in the White House. Can you imagine how bad off we would be if Hillary becomes our next president?” Suddenly, the eggs and sausage didn’t look so good. The biscuit was still wonderful. I’m not one to lose my appetite for biscuits over something someone has said across the dinner table.

Every January I make the pilgrimage to Santa Nella, California for the annual Faithful Men’s Conference. Since 2001 we have been meeting here at “The Oasis of I-5” for speeches, prayers, hymns, fellowship, not to mention breaking bread. Faithful Men is sponsored by the IFCA International, which stands for Independent Fundamental Churches of America. Since I placed my trust in Jesus Christ I would never go back to the lukewarm churches I attended when I was a child and later when I was courting my wife and attended church with her because she wanted to go and I didn’t want to be without her.

The thing is I have been a liberal far longer than I have been a Christian. Now there are plenty of churches out there where the pews, as well as pulpits, are filled with liberals, but I have found that most churches do not believe in the literal interpretation of the Word of God. I think whenever man says “Well the books of Job and Jonah are only allegories and shouldn’t be taken literally” then you’ve got flawed humans telling other flawed humans what God really meant: a faith based on human interpretation – scary.
Since a true fundamentalist will leave politics out of sermons, theology, Bible studies, prayer meetings, etc., I can attends these functions, like Faithful Men, and worship my God without feeling like I am at a Republican Party fund raiser – which has as much appeal to me as being cast into the Lake of Fire.
It’s the road trip conversations – where there’s nowhere to go but out the door into a tuck and roll on the Interstate; the comments in the dinning area, and the discussions between speakers when we are not studying God’s word where I wonder if anyone will see my ACLU membership card when I open my wallet to leave a tip; those are the trying times for this left-winger. “Hey, you know that Berkeley church group that made it out here? Did you know many of them belong to a Young Republican’s group right on campus? Praise the Lord, there’s some straight arrows at ‘Bezerkeley’ after all.” Or “Bill’s son died in Iraq. You know, it really gets my dander up to see all those Democrat congressmen criticizing President Bush.” [One nice thing about these men is that they never cuss, even if their choice of words seems hopelessly corny.]
Of course there are some political subjects that are so deeply woven into Christian theology that they cannot be avoided even in serious study: abortion rights and Gay/Lesbian rights, to name only two. Nobody here has asked me how I feel about Rowe vs. Wade; I quietly eat my biscuit.