The Day Evil Became Visible

Photo by Wilfredo Lazaro of the Memorial Lights on 2011
Photo by Wilfredo Lazaro of the Memorial Lights on 2011 with the new World Trade Center building in red, white and blue colors under construction

What does this day mean to you at this point eleven years later? Each year I look back at what Deborah and I were doing on this day in wonder and amazement, remembering details I would never remember on any ordinary day. Every year I look for photos I took on that day of us watching the news hour after hour from Philadelphia, PA where our motorhome was parked, and every year I am amazed that I didn’t take one single photo. Not only did I not take a single photo that day, but I didn’t take another photo until we landed in the Cayman Islands on October 1st a few weeks later. I had been a photographer for almost 10 years at that point, taking thousands upon thousands of photos, and yet on this one day, and for weeks to come all I could do was watch things unfolded on the news. Now, we see photos of two beams of light shooting into the night sky where buildings use to be.

This was the day I presume for many that evil became visible. Even though the fall of man took place long ago, for many of us who often choose to ignore the evil in the world, this day it was impossible to ignore. For me and my friends growing up in the 80’s and 90’s we knew nothing of this type of evil in the world. We were past the great wars of Nazi Germany and Pearl Harbor, and beyond Vietnam. Sure I remember Bush senior sending some planes over to Iraq, but that seemed to be over quickly, and besides, we seemed to have won. We knew nothing of the true existence of pure evil that comes from Satan out of hatred for others.

That reality changed of course on September 11, 2001. Now more than a decade later I can still turn on the news and see the events unfold exactly as they did when I was watching them years ago since networks rerun the coverage over and over again, thinking somehow those who were old enough to remember will have forgotten.

Today we think of pure evil and Satan as being those terrorist who flew planes into our buildings and killed “innocent” people, but we all posses the evil of every sin ever known to man. To Jesus and the Apostles the evil of Satan was much closer than some unknown terrorist, the evil was from not looking to God for everything. Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).

I don’t know what this day means for you at this point, for me it is still a day of remembering those who died, and that yes, evil does exist, and it is ever-present, and closer than we would ever care to think, only squelched by turning our hearts to God. If you look closely there are some amazing stories of people who turned to God during those horrific days, and some day I really hope to visit the memorials in Washington and New York.


[An interesting site for research and photos of that day is the 911 digital archive.]

5 Books Worth Laboring Over on this Labor Day

Deborah and Her Pancakes at IHop in Auburn
Deborah and Her Pancakes at IHop in Auburn

It was a nice lazy rainy Labor Day in Auburn today. For some reason it seems to rain on Labor Day. I would only know this because last year I noted it was a rainy Labor Day due to Tropical Storm Lee. This year Hurricane Isaac is long gone but we did have a nice storm front come through, giving us some much needed rain for the second half of the day. I thought it would be great to start off this Labor Day holiday with a big stack of pancakes and then labor over one of the many books I’m trying to read right now. Deborah and I were able to get the pancakes today, but I never got to the reading part, instead opting to redesign my blog.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to labor over books. I thought by now reading would come easy, or easier, but I still have to force myself to read. I know this is in part due to the multi-tasking, sound-bite culture I’m a part of, but I know reading is of the utmost importance. Even Paul said as much himself (2 Timothy 4:13).

It probably takes me 2-3 times as long to read a book, but I do get through them. Each book I finish changes me, even if ever so slightly, but I am, at least in part, a compilation of every book I have ever read. On my currently being labored over reading list is The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Call it some tech form of ADHD or something, but I like to bounce around from book to book. I’ll leave those three for another day.

Below are five books well worth your time, and these five books I’m laboring over myself. I have read cover to cover the first book on my list, but the rest I am slowly and methodically laboring over page by page.

5 Books Worth Reading on Labor Day or Any Day

  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren
    If you are reading a book right now, and haven’t read this classic book, just put down all other books and read this one first. This is truly the book of books, one of the best books I have read to date, mainly because it provides great instruction on how to better understand what you are reading. For my full critique of this book, see the review here.
  • 25 Books Every Christian Must Read by Renovaré
    Ok, so this book is like a whole list of it’s own, but if you are looking for a fantastic starting point for some of the greatest books ever written, this is a great place to start. This book is #37 on my bucket list, not this book, but all the books in this book. Most are epic volumes, like Calvin’s Institutes and Augustine’s City of God, but they are classics for a reason.
  • The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by David Brainerd and edited by Jonathan Edwards
    Not the easiest book on the list to read, but a real incredible look at the life of a believer and missionary. Brainerd’s diary shows how someone tried to understand how to serve a sovereign God while fighting depression and illness.
  • The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
    This was a total unknown to me until I read it through some footnote in some book, which might have been #5 below, at this point I don’t remember. This book is just an overpowering book. John Wesley said that of all the definitions of Christianity that he had encountered, the best was that of a Scotsman who lived in the 17th-century. He said: “Christianity is the life of God in the soul of man.” It’s a short read, and an easier book to read, but one of unending depth that requires time to digest.
  • God’s Passion for His Glory : Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards
    This book, the only one on the list that isn’t currently available on Kindle (although it was when I bought it in 2011), is two books in one. In the essay The End for Which God Created the World, the great theologian Jonathan Edwards proclaimed that God’s ultimate end is the manifestation of his glory in the highest happiness of his creatures. John Piper adds as a Part One to this essay in the form of a fantastic biography on Edwards, one that makes the Edwards essay easier to understand.

A Look Inside My Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day Brings Opportunity for Christians

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day
Crowds at Chick-Fil-A Store #1445 at Tiger Town Shopping Center in Auburn
This is the last Chick-Fil-A pro marriage homosexual theological chicken eating post, promise… I think… maybe. This above photo was the scene at our local Chick-Fil-A Store #1445 today around 2:45-3:00pm(!), and what an awesome scene it was. There were lines of cars wrapped around the building, out into The Home Depot parking lot, and out into the streets. There was even a line at McDonald’s across the street to get over to the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, now that’s funny. From last word, the Chick-Fil-A in Prattville had to close after they sold out of chicken, and it’s possible ours will too. I love my Chick-Fil-A, and that’s how it feels to me, it’s not “the” Chick-Fil-A, it’s my store. I know people who work at this store, they have the best customer service hands down of any fast food restaurant in town ten-fold, and they have great food.

I have had many conversations with people about this “event” today, for lack of a better word, and it’s all across the board. Some Christians were saying don’t eat chicken today because of this and that, some were saying if you don’t eat chicken today you’re not a “Christian” and so on. From the reasonable to the absurd.

My question here, is, now what.

To be a Christian means to follow Christ, to become Christ-like. We the church body obviously have a huge reserve of people, many of which I think have been sitting on the sidelines, until eat chicken day came along. When we read the book of James we see the example Jesus’ brother gave us, to be people of action, and not just on Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, but 365 days out of the year, or 366 days this year. So where are we chicken eating people the other 364 days of the year? I mean here in Auburn, we Chick-Fil-A loving chicken eating people are pretty much the overwhelming majority, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to eat there again today. Don’t get me wrong, today was definitely about eating chicken, and that was what we good chicken loving Bible Believers should have done today. But what about tomorrow? How do we show the love of Christ, and support uncompromising values and truths of Scripture the rest of the week?

You probably tracking with me so far, but here’s the kickers. Ever since today was dubbed Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, we social people (that’s all of us) have been throwing around opinions faster than the news can actually absorb them. Today was a great example of the reason churches should embrace social media, learn it’s power, and use it to point people back to Jesus as the Messiah. While the outpouring of support for Chick-Fil-A seems phenomenal all around the country, it does give the church body a great opportunity to reach out to gay people, to show them the love of Christ.

Scripture has example after example of Jesus eating with “sinners” like tax collector and prostitutes, perhaps we should be sitting down with gay people in our cities and talking to them about Christ as well?

Many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, and when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

…and Jesus responds by saying these are the people I came here to save (Matthew 9:10-13).

It’s a fine line we walk today. If we are going to make a point to go talk to homosexuals about Christ why not our next door neighbor? The homosexual groups see some Christians as hate mongers, hypocritical people who don’t follow what Christ teaches, and we see them as a people living in perpetual sin. There are absolute truths in Scripture that should not and can not be compromised. But there are ways to follow in Jesus’ footsteps without compromising what we believe. Perhaps this is done by sitting down and having a meal with someone you disagree with on such a fundamental level that the only way to agree is to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work?

I don’t know what today means for tomorrow. Come Friday when the homosexual “kiss-in” is supposed to happen, we may see the reverse of today. When that happens the only thing we may have accomplished will be to really irritate PETA for devouring so much chicken in one week, which is ok by me. If we come out today to buy chicken for ourselves, why aren’t we Christians going to come out Friday to buy lunch for some kissing couple?

There must be something learned by all this. There are theological truths to be learned here. There are opportunities to teach being handed to pastors on a silver platter. And there are opportunities to talk to people who do not know the love of Christ, and the salvation that comes with trusting in the Messiah. Would Jesus have eaten a chicken sandwich today, or would he sit down and eat with homosexuals on Friday, or both? Scripture seems to indicate both, but it matters because this is not life or death, this is eternal life and eternal death.

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The Catholic Church, the NCAA, and Penn State Football

Emmert Podiumh NCAA Penn State

I tend to stay away from topics I’m not involved with or have studied to some degree, but I am a follower of the greater Church Body, and an avid football fan (albeit Auburn Tigers Football not Penn State). I also try to steer away from current events as well, but in this case, it just deserves attention. While the Catholic Church has been having to deal with similar sexual sins for a while now, it is a self-governing body, while the top level of college football is governed by the NCAA, and this is basically their first large dealing with sexual sins and child abuse.

Today, the NCAA handed out the penalty it felt was justified for these horrific sexual sins against children, and it was a heck of a penalty. You can read the full pdf of the NCAA decision here, but the list of sanctions the NCAA placed on Penn State went well beyond the death penalty in my opinion, and rightfully so. The president of the NCAA made it clear that, at least Penn State, had put football, and winning football games, above all else, even the welfare of its own children. Living in a part of the country where football rises above everything, and is somewhat the religion of Saturday night, this penalty should raise awareness across the entire college football continuum. We love our football, but to what expense? Well, at least for the governing body of college football, the NCAA has made it clear, if you take football above the welfare of everything else, this is the list of what you get.

Punitive Component of the NCAA Penn State Penalty

  1. $60 Million Fine – this is the equivalent to the approximate average of one year’s gross revenue from the Penn State football program, to be paid over a five-year period to an endowment for programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse
  2. Four-Year Postseason Ban – they can’t play in a bowl game from 2012-2013 season until the end of the 2015 season. Some might think this isn’t that big of a deal, but this is where athletic programs get extra money, recruiting, and will basically disband any future NFL stars.
  3. Four-Year Reduction of Grants-in-Aid – the NCAA is limiting the Grants-in-Aid monies to 15 grants where in 2017-2018 they can go to 65
  4. Five Years of Probation – they are independently monitored for five years and any violation can mean higher penalties
  5. Vacation of Wins since 1998 – this is huge! This means Coach Joe Paterno will have these wins removed from his record as well
  6. Waiver of transfer rules and grant-in-aid Retention – this will allow any returning or new football player to be able to leave Penn State without any restrictions. This will basically have the affect of mass exodus with any football players of super high talent levels
  7. Individual penalties to be determined – open door for future action against specific people involved

Corrective Component of the NCAA Penn State Penalty

  • Adoption of all recommendations presented in Chapter 10 of the Freeh Report (full PDF of Freeh report here)
  • Implementation of Athletics Integrity Agreement (which is a huge list of things)

That’s quite a list, and in my view, which is just one of a mere spectator and lover of all things college football, this is worse than the death penalty that SMU received many years ago. I’m actually not sure the NCAA could put down a penalty or sanctions that would be too severe. Penn State removed the statue of their famed coach, and will probably begin to do what all quality higher education institutions in this country should be doing, focusing on winning through education, not football.

What does this have to do with the Catholic Church? Well, it is always interesting to me to see what secular institutions do when you compare that to what the church does. Although it is very hard to compare the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse of children by priests spanning centuries with college football, these were similar sins of the flesh, and above is how the secular world of NCAA College Football handled their sexual sin problem. How does, or how did the church handle their problem? In an overview, they instituted #7 above, and then whatever the court of law said they had to do.

Paul alone has a lot to say about the sexual sins of the flesh. They are not to be tolerated, and in his day, they were indeed worthy of the death penalty, but not the one where you can’t play football anymore, the capital punishment kind (see at a minimum Colossians 3:5). How can the church of today be less forceful against sin than a secular institution? There is of course a greater element of forgiveness and repentance involved, but in this particular case today, I think the church body can learn something from the punishment of the NCAA. This will really hurt Penn State right now, but in the end their football program will be one of integrity and honor.

I say the Catholic Church in this post only because they are the most prominent, the highest profile, and some of the worse abuse from within the greater Church Body. Things like this go on in Christian Church just like it goes on in college football, but that doesn’t mean we don’t meet these challenges as a Church Body with integrity and honor, and justice. After all, our governing body may be the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the United Methodist Church, but ultimately we are accountable to God, a much higher authority than even the NCAA, unless perhaps you ask someone from the state of Alabama on a Saturday night that is.

Searching Out the Reasons for Writing Religitic

This is my first actual post on this blog, so titled Religitic, in a while. The title I chose years and years ago for the life we Christians sometimes lead, one that is partly spiritual, partly heretical, and often mostly hypocritical. Therefore, I combined heretic, and hypocrite, with religion and got Religitic. The walk of any believer should be filled with trying to remove the “ic” and add the truly “religious” part, but the word religious today is as dirty as any cuss word we can use.

This blog, domain, and twitter account, was created years ago, but I am just now getting around to working on some of the content. I find myself more and more frustrated with things in our culture, our society, aspects of work, and other things that just make up life. I created this blog called “Religitic” a while back in the hopes that some day I would just start writing in a much more unfiltered way than I do on my own personal blog that has all the bureaucratic filtering of a life involved with office politics, religion, and people’s feelings. It never really happened that way, but I did create a sub-section over here with the tag Religitic, based on writing as described here, a little less filtered and polished.

I find myself so often writing with such a filter that I can’t even say the things I really want to say, not out of a fear of offending someone, but more out of expectations I have created on my other blog. The intent for this was to be able to write without as much of a filter, to generate ideas, passions, and work out my understandings of different topics.This blog is going to be filled with partial thoughts, politically incorrect ways of thinking for our society today, and theories or theologies I haven’t fully understood enough to talk about yet. It will not be filled with photos and fun, but it could be filled with posts from my personal journal, my daily devotionals, or just short ramblings. Hopefully so I can learn, and put my polished work on my main blog. I will still be writing everything from the basic worldview I hold… or that of a protestant orthodox believer in Jesus Christ as the single one and only savior of humanity. If you are looking for polished theologies and fully vetted work, look elsewhere, this won’t be the place.

This is a great look at preaching today, all the way back from from John Calvin, to A.W. Tozer, and on to John MacArthur who is quoted as saying “Worship services in many churches today are like a merry-go-round. You drop a token in the collection box; it is a good ride.” For an in-depth look at the history of preaching and what it means for our churches today, check out this article called “The Centrality of Preaching,” it is well worth the read.

Hand Made Smocked Clothes and Gowns for Preemie or Premature Babies

Hand Made Smocked Preemie Premature Clothes

This is slightly off-topic for my blog (hence my need and reason for having a Sidenotes Category), but well worth some publicity to lovingly brag on my wife, Deborah. In case you didn’t know, Deborah is about the best seamstress I know (just check out her blog or her custom made items on the Etsy store), and her work is in the category of heirloom clothes, depending on the particular project she’s working on. She has made, and is making, everything from Easter (see Easter Order) and Christmas gowns (see here), to fun football dresses (here) babies and girls can wear to any worthy SEC game, though she doesn’t discriminate against any school. If you are looking for an incredible dress or gown, get in touch with Deborah for details.

All of this is custom made to order per each individual, and all is hand made one individual stitch at a time. The most amazing work I’ve seen come out of her sewing room lately are these preemie clothes I photographed above. While each ministry is different, specifically because God has gifted each one of us in totally unique ways, this work is over the top awesome. Deborah started making these hand-made smocked (the crinkled stuff around the chest area for the guys reading this post) preemie gowns and clothes for parents who would normally never get the honor of having something special for their own child.

You can’t tell from this photo, but these clothes are teeny-tiny. Deborah even included one for a boy, which most of the time parents never have any clothes for at all. It is just amazing to me to think that somewhere, some as of yet unknown parents, are going to be presented with one of these gowns to put on their baby, probably during a very difficult time in their own lives. For parents to be able to receive something like this (for free), of this quality, hopefully says to them, God loves you, and He loves your child as well, no matter what happens.

This set of preemie clothes was just shipped this week to a large hospital in Miami where the need far exceeded the supply. If you are at all interested in helping with this type of ministry work I am sure Deborah would be more than happy to talk to you about it. For today, it is my Photo of the Day, and quite a challenging photo to take at that.

Transcript Bob Costas Essay: Genuine Beliefs Help Make Tebow Who He Is

I don’t usually comment on my blog about a football game, but the Tim Tebow craze has been running so wild that I thought I would at least post the transcript of the Bob Costas monologue he gave last night during the Sunday Night Football in America game (the Cowboys and Giants). It is fascinating to watch the sports commentators opine on the unexplainable qualities in Tebow. Those of us who are believers know exactly what the unexplainable qualities are derived from, but the sports world goes on in unbound fascination to who they deem a mediocre quarterback who brings players to perform at a level better than who they actually are. Tebow himself even goes as far to say (and rightly so) that God is not pulling for one particular team, it’s just football.

There are so many theological arguments one could pull out of the above, and almost countless ones in the transcript below, but I will just let the transcript speak for itself. One thing is for sure, Tebow has a huge platform, and he is showing the world what it looks like to follow Christ as best as a sinful man can do. But, he is still just a man. We are not to put our faith or trust in his abilities, but see Christ who is shinning through him.

Transcript of Bob Costas Essay on Tebow

Back at halftime. The Denver Broncos now lead the AFC West at eight and five, seven and one with Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback. Here is the list of quarterbacks with higher winning percentages this year than Tebow. Aaron Rogers, and nobody else. And truth is, there’s nobody else quite like Tebow. No fewer than five of the seven victories have featured late fourth-quarter comebacks, approaching, okay we’ll say it, the miraculous.

Again today, Tebow did next to nothing until the waning moments, and then, down ten nothing with two minutes left, he throws a touchdown pass, and the Broncos then tie it at the gun on a 59 yard field goal, and win again in overtime on a 51 yarder. The combination of Denver’s continuing late heroics and today, the Bear’s otherwise unexplainable errors is enough to have some at least suspect divine intervention, except that Tebow who’s sincere faith cannot be questioned and should be respected, also has the good sense and good grace to make it clear he does not believe God takes a hand in the outcome of games. Most of us are good with that, otherwise how to explain what happens when there’re equal numbers of Believers on either side, or why so many of those same believers came up empty facing Sandy Koufax, or hit deck against Mohamed Ali, or why the Almighty wouldn’t have better things to do.

Still there’s no doubt that Tim Tebow and his team benefit from his honest belief. How? Frank Bruni put it well in today’s New York Times. Whatever Tebow may lack in classic NFL quarterbacking traits he possesses other qualities in abundance, and in his case those qualities; confidence, equanimity, optimism, and a presence that can’t be explained, but can certainly be felt, the whole Tebow persona derives from how he sees the world and his place in it. Those qualities, no matter how one comes by them, are an asset. Perhaps especially in specially in sports. Good for Tebow, and those who share his beliefs, and those who don’t can still acknowledge and appreciate that who Tim Tebow is is not only genuine, but for the moment at least, it makes him and the Broncos the most fascinating, and whatever sent you interpreted it, uplifting stories and sports.

~Bob Costas, Sunday Night Football in America Halftime Monologue

If you would rather watch the essay as it was presented to the world, you can see that here on video. Note on the transcript. One was not made available by NBC so the transcript below is one that I personally put together. Update, I was finally able to find a transcript put out by NBC and you can see the transcript here.

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/33399756

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