Saturday, April 02, 2005

Silence, the 'Frightening Gateway to Reality'

Rob Asghar has written a wonderful piece on the power of silence, the gateway to reality and the place where God meets us. Please read this post. You won't regret it.

John Paul II and the Power of Genuine Passion

Earlier today, my wife and I took a short day trip. Along the way, we listened to The Best of Bowie, a sort of "greatest hits" collection.

David Bowie probably is, above all else, a shrewd businessperson. Throughout his long career, he's found a way to combine interesting riffs and catchy hook lines, the classic formula for success in pop music.

He also created a sometimes androgynous and always pliant public persona. People are as intrigued by him, and thereby inclined to buy his records and attend his concerts, as they have been by Greta Garbo, Bob Dylan, and others.

But the real clincher in Bowie's appeal, I think, has been his marriage of a passionate, dramatic, almost theatrical style of vocalizing (the appeal of which is probably enhanced by the fact that his is a rather thin voice, practically incapable of doing what he demands of it) with lyrical content that is often world-weary and cynical.

Like many pop icons before and since, Bowie has thus been able to have it both ways: He can rouse or hint at genuine emotions while all the while, in effect, standing to the side, smirkily laughing off the emotions he sings about. Does Bowie mean to satirize the feelings, relationships, and institutions he lampoons? Yes, but...

A few years ago, I wrote a song that opens with the lines:
In this age when passion has gone so out of fashion,
When the words, "I love you" ring subversive...
In a way, David Bowie epitomizes a world culture that has forgotten all about genuine passion, a word that means loving someone or something so much that one is willing to die for them or it. Our media-saturated world has become jaded by the regular attempts made to manipulate our emotions.

On top of that, an attenuated Freudianism--or is it simply an international case of John Wayne individualism?--that finds people insisting human beings are little more than biological entities doing what's best for themselves, everyone else be damned, has depersonalized the human race and individual people we encounter.

Today, the planet has stopped and taken notice of the death of someone whose world view most emphatically did not match the one that David Bowie's music seems to represent.

Unlike Bowie and so many generations of pop stars, John Paul II never warbled theatrically. He was, in fact, understated in his communication style. As Zbigniev Brzezinski, one-time national security adviser to Jimmy Carter commented today in an interview on National Public Radio, the Pope was no demagogue. But John Paul's understated (and at the end of his life, painfully articulated) words conveyed more genuine passion than we often see in all the faux-passion to which we are daily subjected in mass media.

That was the source of John Paul's connection to people, a connection to which much of the world---even the non-Roman Catholic world--is witnessing today through its grief over his death and its joy over his life.

The source of the late Pope's passion, of course, was the Passion, the gift of Self on the cross given to us all when God-in-the-flesh, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, became a human being and died for us.

Christ's suffering for us paid the price we owe God for our sin.

Christ deemed every human life to be of infinite value and so, worth taking the risk of becoming human, enduring human pain, and confronting the human temptation to take the ways of selfish ease rather than self-giving love.

Christ also deemed our value to be so great that He was willing to die for us and then to share with all who follow Him the power to live that life He reclaimed for Himself on the first Easter when He rose from the dead.

In gratitude for Christ's passion, John Paul II, a follower of Jesus, sought to reflect and live that passion for every human person.

That was why he turned the attention of the Roman Church to the world, embracing the world in all its diversity.

That was why he insisted that taking human life--whether through capital punishment, abortion, assisted suicide, or denying food and water to a disabled person--was wrong.

That was why he was an advocate of democracy and a foe of selfish materialism.

As many commentators have pointed out today, his continued functioning as pontiff even as his health failed dramatically was a witness for the fact that even the most disabled and frail among us have value because all of us are created in the image of God. Indeed, John Paul obviously believed what Saint Paul wrote in the New Testament, that as a follower of Christ, when he was weak, then he was strong. It's in our weakness that as Christians we become vulnerable and open enough to dismiss the lie of our self-sufficiency and to instead, rely on God's power.

John Paul's life, particularly near his death, was a loud AMEN! to Jesus' words, "Without Me, you can do nothing" and to Paul's affirmation that "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." Through his tenacious clinging to Christ as his earthly life ebbed away, we saw how the life God gives to us can never be taken from the soul surrendered to Christ!

John Paul II was not perfect. I disagreed with him on many points. But the world loved him--and I loved him--because he was an authentic follower of Jesus Christ, whose genuine passion for God and the inestimable value of every child of God, all made us dream of what might be possible if, powered by the living Christ, we learned to love God with every fiber of our beings and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman, who's in charge of things at Dean's World on the weekends, presents excerpts and links to many blogs--including this one--as they react to the life and death of John Paul II. Check that out here.

BY THE WAY: I also link to two versions of an October, 2003 appreciation of John Paul which I wrote here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Thoughts on Pope John Paul II

My prayers right now are with Pope John Paul II and my sisters and brothers in Christ who are part of the fellowship of believers in Jesus Christ throughout the world. I pray that God will give the Pope, who has suffered so much, an easy passage into heaven.

On October 17, 2003, I wrote an appreciation of John Paul, which you can find here.

It says much of what I would say were I to write a tribute to him today. Let me just add this: I love this man and the world has been blessed by him and his presence and witness at this juncture in history.

[Please pardon the grammatical errors. For a slightly shorter, more grammatically correct version of this article, click here.]

I'm Not Sure What This is About...

...but Dave Barry seems to think it's where pop music should be headed. (I'll be singing Cars all day long now.)

David Brooks Contemplates the Unthinkable...

switching baseball allegiances. Actually, I think that he should go for it, especially because no one could accuse of him of doing so just to go with a winning team.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

We Need to Make It Safe to Be Vulnerable

A tribunal of the United States Army today found Captain Rogelio Maynulet guilty of "intent to commit voluntary manslaughter" in the shooting death of an Iraqi. The killing was caught on video by a drone surveillance aircraft.

According to an account from the CBC, "Maynulet's armoured tank division had been on patrol near Kufa on May 21, 2004, when it was alerted to a car believed to be carrying two militants loyal to the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. "

Maynulet and other US troops exchanged fire with the car's occupants, a driver and a passenger. One of the Iraqis, the driver, Karim Hassan, was severely wounded. When an American medic told Maynulet that there was nothing to be done for Hassan, Maynulet killed him. Maynulet said that he did so in order to end the man's suffering.

The Army's prosecuting attorney, Major John Rothwell, said in his closing remarks that Maynulet had decided to "play God" in ending Hassan's life. The BBC also quotes Rothwell as saying, "This combat-trained life saver prescribed two bullets. He didn't call his superiors for guidance, didn't consult with his medic."

The US Army court in Wiesbaden, Germany, decided that Maynulet had taken upon himself a decision that was not his to make. He killed a defenseless, unarmed man.

On the same day that ruling was rendered, one that, it seems, was warranted by the facts, Terri Schaivo died of starvation and dehydration in a Florida hospice.

I don't have any quarrel with the fact that her death was completely legal. The numerous judges who ruled on her case had the solid backing of state statutes and case law. The US Supreme Court was, according to the laws of the land, right in refusing to intervene in her situation and in so doing, to uphold the rulings of lower courts allowing her death. The federal and state judges are, in fact, to be applauded for the courage and for the consistency with which they stuck to the constitutional principle of federalism and avoided creating new law by judicial fiat in the Schaivo case.

But I also believe that Terri Schaivo's death and the means by which death came to her, were immoral, as surely as Karim Hassan's death and the means by which it came to him were immoral.

In both cases, decisions were made that a vulnerable person's life was no longer worth living and therefore needed to be extinguished. In both cases, someone played God with someone else's life.

The irony that emerges from these two judicial processes is that a defenseless person may be freer from the possibility of being killed in a combat zone than in a hospice in their own hometown.

Terri Schaivo was not terminally ill. She was disabled.

She was not allowed to die. She was made to die.

Her death came in accordance with the law. The law needs to be changed. We need to make it safe to be vulnerable.

[A previous post I wrote on the Schiavo case appears here.]

UPDATE: Thanks to Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost for linking to this post.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks also to John Schneider of Blogotional for linking to this article on Terri Schaivo's death.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Schaivo Case Example of Injustice to Disabled

Aaron of Two or Three [.net] today linked to a powerful article from today's Harvard Crimson newspaper. It was written by a Harvard student, Joe Ford. Ford, who has severe cerebral palsy, sees evidence of American prejudices against disabled persons in the case of Terri Schiavo. He makes a powerful and convincing case that Schaivo, who is not terminally ill, is being starved to death because those displaying cognitive disabilities are seen to be living lives not worth living.

This is Nazi master race stuff, folks, and it's frightening that it is happening in America!

Please read Ford's article.

A Blueprint for Reforming Ohio's School Funding

Ohio's state constitution commits the General Assembly (state legislature) to providing "for a thorough and efficient system of common schools."

While local school districts must be held accountable for educating students and spending local tax dollars wisely, it's also imperative that we insist that the General Assembly and Governor Bob Taft straighten out the school funding mess. It's the state school funding formula which requires districts to go back to the voters for levy renewals and increases so often.

Several years ago, the governor appointed a blue ribbon task force to suggest a reform plan.

The elements of the proposal...

(1) Educational adequacy would be fully funded by the state. Currently, state law requires that each school district maintain a "floor" of funding through a minimum 20-mill levy. Under the panel's proposal, all local levies would be done away with and replaced with a single statewide 20-mill levy on property taxes. This would result in no difference in what taxpayers pay for the "floor" of educational funding and that no districts would cry, "Poor!" because they refuse to adequately fund schools at the local level.

(2) There would be a de-politicized plan for determining the actual cost of educating a child. Currently, one of the ways "phantom revenue" can be created is by playing games with this number.

(3) The so-called "charge off" would be eliminated! This is one of the biggest culprits in the creation of "phantom revenue." Here's the current basic formula for how state revenue--taxpayer money meant to be designated in part for education--goes toward local school districts:

Cost of Doing Business (CODB) multiplied by
Number of Students multiplied by
Formula for dollars per Student (cost of educating a student)

MINUS

23 mills multiplied by
Property Valuation

Here are several things to be noted:

(a) In his latest proposed biennial budget, Governor Taft is eliminating the local CODB which, though sometimes applied capriciously, has somewhat blunted the injustices of Ohio's school funding formula.

(b) The gap between the 20-mill required floor and the 23-mill "charge-off" puts local school districts in a "deficit" situation as regards state funding from the get-go. Any school district that seeks anything less than 3 additional mills of property taxes from its community is automatically penalized with fewer of the tax dollars its citizens paid into the system.

(c) Property valuation is another place where a shell game is played with our tax dollars. Let's say a school district gets a three-year levy renewal. Irrespective of the millage and irrespective of any increases that individual taxpayers may pay on their properties in the course of a levy's renewed period, school districts currently receive no increased revenues from the houses and developed real estate that exist at the beginning of the levy renewal period. The only new monies the districts will receive in the course of this renewal period is from new housing or developments.

This is particularly unfair. Voters vote for the levy for the schools. The county collects the monies. But through the state's funding formula, that money--our money--disappears.

The three basic elements I mention above will go a long way toward straightening out the public school funding mess and toward insuring that our state is honest and accountable in funding public education.

Our public school districts aren't perfect. But they (and we taxpayers) need a state school funding system that is honest, clear, and fair. Write your state senator (Tom Niehaus) and state representative (either Joe Uecker or Danny Bupb) and tell them that.

For a copy of the blue ribbon task force's report, go to http://www.blueribbontaskforce.ohio.gov.

In order to advocate for the task force's reforms, you can find out who your state representative is at http://www.house.state.oh.us/jsps/Representatives.jsp. And you can do the same thing with your state senator by looking at: http://www.senate.state.oh.us/senators/.

[Check out the first article in this two-part series here.]

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Bevy of Blogging Options

By the way, Eric Berlin is hosting the next Carnival of Vanities blogging showcase. I'm not into all of them, but check the menu out anyway!

What Might Have Been

Eric Berlin links to age progression photos showing how Michael Jackson might have looked had he not undergone those alleged surgical procedures. While they can't claim to be "on the money," I tend to give them credibility given past success in using photographic age progression to show what Nelson Mandela would look like following his long imprisonment. Those age progression images were dead-on. The image of what a forty-five year old Jackson should have looked like seems credible also because it looks like his brothers.

A Liberal Opposed to Killing Terri Schaivo

Deborah White, one of my favorite bloggers, has two posts on the Terri Schaivo situation, pointing out that liberals and liberal Christians need to be appalled by what is happening to be consistent with their politics and their faith. Good stuff! Check out her posts here and here.

Lots of Theories About the Empty Tomb

Aaron enumerates five of them at Two or Three (.net). As I said in my Easter message, there's no way I can prove Jesus rose from the dead, although there are many good, rational reasons to believe it's so.

But in the end, the only ones who know that Jesus rose are the ones who dare to trust Him.

Good job, Aaron!

Dave Barry Offers Alternative to Hybrids

Truth to tell, this is the only reason I would consider owning a dog.

And All This Time I Thought That I Was a Conservative

I read Rob Asghar's post and cracked up. Then, my brother, the comedian Marty Daniels, got serious in the Comments section...along with some other folks. Good discussion there.

My Sentiments Exactly

Yes, there are people playing politics with Terri Schiavo's life and death. Yes, there are people making irresponsible allegations about the motives of Michael Schaivo.

But, to my mind, Jesse Jackson spoke the simple truth today when, after visiting with Terri Schaivo's parents at their invitation, he said:
"Without food or water for 12 days, there are vital signs (that) she is
being starved to death. She is being dehydrated to death. That's inhumane. It's
immoral and it's unnecessary," Jackson said.

I say what I said in a post on March 21, there is a marked difference between letting someone die and making them die. This is so sad.

'Quiz Show,' Fragmentation, and Integrity

Over the years, it's become something of a tradition in our household to take in a movie on the holidays where feasting (sometimes frankly, gorging) take place: Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving.

On some holidays, we go to a local theater, as we did on the Christmas-before-last in order to see the depressing and forgettable, Cold Mountain.

Other times, we just pop a film into the DVD player. For some reason, yesterday our daughter wanted to watch Quiz Show, a DVD of which our son owns. Both he and my wife had seen it; our daughter and I hadn't.

Our son loves Quiz Show and while I don't always agree with his reviews of films (the appeal of The Gladiator, a film he loves, eludes me, for example), his preferences are often close to mine. So, we all decided to watch Quiz Show.

The Robert Redford-directed story of the 1958 scandal surrounding the quiz show, Twenty-One, really is a fabulous film.

Mark Van Doren, scion of a respected academic family and a brilliant man, wowed NBC television audiences in the late-50s with his knowledge of an array of subjects.

Through the investigative efforts of Richard Goodwin (played by Rob Morrow), then working for a Congressional investigating committee, it was learned that producers of Twenty-One fed the answers to certain contestants, including Van Doren.

The movie tells the story of how two men--Van Doren and Goodwin--fought to maintain their integrity, the former losing and then regaining it, the latter nearly losing it and keeping it.

Van Doren, earning $84.00 per week at the outset of the film's story, is bought off for an initial purse of $25,000.00 (ultimately, $122,000.00), a contract with NBC to provide erudite conversation on The Today Show, and dizzying celebrity.

Goodwin felt a kinship with Van Doren. They both had Ivy League backgrounds and they both loved learning. Goodwin struggled to expose the crookedness not just of one 50s game show itself, but of the network itself. In the end, he refused to allow himself to be charmed by Van Doren, who confessed all before a congressional committee.

But, Van Doren and at least initially, the producers, of Twenty-One took the rap. The higher-ups at NBC got off the hook, an element of this true story left dangling in the moral ambiguity with which life is sometimes conducted.

Integrity, of course, means wholeness. It's about being the same person in private that you seem to be in public.

To lack integrity is to be fragmented, never certain what mask to wear and when. When we allow our integrity to slide, we eventually risk losing track of our true selves, a reality that Ralph Fiennes, in his memorable performance as Mark Van Doren, conveys well.

This same sort of crumbling of one's personality and integrity is clearly seen in the demon-possessed man encountered by Jesus in the New Testament. That man, it's said, was so overtaken by the fragmentation of his personality visited on him by evil that he was "beside himself."

Van Doren slid into such a state of being. In a memorable scene, Fiennes' Van Doren is pitted in what seems a friendly contest of wits with his venerable father (played wonderfully by Paul Scofield). Yet, visible to the audience and to Goodwin, present for the dinner at which this happens, is a man who, on the one hand, is fragmenting from guilt, pride, the lust for money, and the love of fame and on the other, loves and respects the father who has been the very model of unconditional love and moral uprightness for him his entire life.

Of course, no one is perfect. We don't always "practice what we preach." Nor are we always the persons others think that we are or, that we want to be.

But what I have learned is that in those times when the evil that lures me threatens to tear me to pieces, there is someone willing and able to pull me back together again. It's the same someone who cast the demons from that man who was beside himself, Jesus the Christ, available to all who simply dare to call out to Him. (One of my favorite passages in the Bible is one quoted by Saint Peter in the very first Christian sermon on the first Christian Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead: "All who call upon the Lord shall be saved!")

Often, our calling on the Lord will only happen when somebody else "calls us to the carpet." The fragmentation of our personalities and the disintegration of the values which we know, in our heart of hearts, are right, can be so pervasive that only the shouting of someone who cares about us--or the subpeona of a Congressional committee--gets our attention.

Personally, I've never been able to maintain my integrity without Christ. And even with Him close at hand, I sometimes have tuned Him out. That's why I'm thankful He never gives up on me, never quits trying to tell me, "I'm willing to meet you where you are and then help you become all that you were meant to be."

I highly recommend Quiz Show if, like me, you haven't seen it yet. More than that, I highly recommend life with Jesus!

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Good Word for the Bay State

Quick...Which US state has the lowest divorce rate among the fifty states?

Such a place would seem to have strong family values, ones that include a commitment to marriage.

According to Kevin Baker in the May, 2005 issue of American Heritage magazine, it's Massachusetts.

Yeah, that Massachusetts. Irredeemably liberal, tax and spend, not-really-a-part-of-America Massachusetts.

In an amusing, mostly good-natured piece, Baker writes to defend his home state, especially the little corner of it in which he was raised. He deems it unfair that the name of his state was used as something of a curse word in the 2004 presidential race (and earlier, in the 1988 election).

Notes Baker:
The charge that [John] Kerry was from Massachusetts was repeated again and again throughout the election, the implication being that simply hailing from such a bizarre, addled, liberal place ought to be enough to disqualify anyone from the Presidency.
And he closes with these good words:
I never like it when people call the South "redneck country," or when news commentators flippantly refer to our great industrial heartland as "the rust belt." I think if we really are to pull together as a nation, we need to restore at least a basic respect for how we all live and where we come from. An apology would be a good start, but I'm not holding my breath. As an old New Englander I know the worth of the place I come from and that its values and its character will endure long after the noise of another campaign has receded.
Massachusetts has had, as Baker points out, four consecutive Republican governors. The current chief executive, Mitt Romney, is a pretty conservative fellow. Although Massachusetts has produced a few Kennedys and others of the more liberal stripe and done some things that the rest of the country might consider a bit looney, none these facts warrants making the state a byword for flakiness. I like having Massachusetts, the cradle of liberty, as part of the Union.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter: Life Trumps Death!

Matthew 28:1-10
(shared with the people of Friendship Church, March 27, 2005)

Every year, when his players came to training camp, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins, Vince Lombardi, gave the same lecture. It began with the basics. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a ball aloft, “this is a football.”

Easter brings the Church and the world back to Christianity 101. Everything depends on Easter, the day we say that the perfect, sinless Savior of the world Who had been killed on a cross, rose from death. Through Easter, we believe that all who entrust their lives to Christ live in the certainty that they too will rise and live with God forever!

There are lots of people who want to keep Jesus at arm’s length. They patronize Him and His followers by calling Him things like “a great moral teacher” or even “the kindest man who ever lived.” But they refuse to entertain the possibility that He actually rose from the dead because it could lead them to acknowledge that He was more than a great moral teacher or a person of preeminent kindness.

I know because as a one-time atheist, I used to be one of those kinds of people. The last thing I wanted was a God to rule over my life. I wanted to rule myself. I was like George Bailey in my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life, who said, "I want to do what I want to do!"

Of course, not everyone who has that attitude stands outside the Church. Some people retain their George Bailey-like self-worship but become part of the church because they think it will bring them benefits in this world,.

They think it will make their kids behave.

They think it will steady their nerves, like a good stiff drink.

Some think that if they do their religious duty, God will, as Janis Joplin sang years ago, come through with a Mercedes Benz.

The folks who get into the Church for the benefits they think it will bring them are more pathetic than any overt atheist ever could be. At least the atheists are honest about their unbelief.

But these religious folks are hypocrites hoping to use God while keeping Him out of their business.

They don’t believe in Easter any more than the atheists do. But you couldn’t tell that by looking at the expressions of piety they wear when they go to worship on Easter Sunday.

Belief in Jesus’ resurrection is the absolute foundational fact on which our faith rises or falls. The New Testament portion of the Bible says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. [With the consequence of being separated from God and from life forever!]...If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (First Corinthians 15:17-19)

So, here’s a good question for Easter Sunday morning: Is it true? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Because if He didn’t, you all can go on with your service here and I’ll go do something else. I mean, why would any of us bother celebrating Easter if Easter didn’t really happen?

I believe that there are good, hard-nosed, rational reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

But in the end, there is only one way any of us can be certain that Jesus was resurrected. It was the way the women who came to the tomb that first Easter Sunday knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. It was this: They dared to believe that it was true!

Matthew, the writer of today’s Bible lesson, says that the women encountered an angel at the tomb. “Don’t be afraid,” he tells them. “I know that you’re looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. But He’s been raised from death. Look where His body once lay. Go and tell Jesus’ other followers about this fantastic thing!”

Matthew says that the women ran to tell the other disciples with a mixture of “fear and great joy.” They could have believed some other explanation for the absence of Jesus’ body from the tomb. They could have thought, “Somebody’s stolen it.” But they dared to believe the message from the angel and were bound to pass it on!

That’s when they encountered the risen Jesus Himself. You see, the God we know through Jesus Christ never forces Himself on anyone. With Him, it isn’t a matter of “seeing is believing,” but “believing is seeing.” The moment we dare to believe in Him is the moment we begin to see Him clearly.

I’ve been following Jesus now for nearly thirty years--sometimes fitfully, rebelliously. But what I have experienced is this: When we allow ourselves to trust Him, trust that He is there, trust that life with Him is better than life with our sins, and trust that He can erase sin and the power of death over our lives, we will see Him. When the women believed in the risen Jesus, that was when they saw Him.

Pastor Mike Foss tells about a little boy named Gregory. Gregory was eighteen months old when Foss first came to know him. He had leukemia at the time, from which, remarkably, he went into a remission that lasted some two years. Then, the leukemia came back with ferocity! Foss remembers the day he visited with Gregory, looking at this now-three-year old boy through misty eyes, seeing the little guy’s fear, and then to reassure him, singing Jesus Loves Me to him. Foss says:
“Two nights later, Gregory had lapsed into a coma. His mother, ‘Shirley,’ remembered that he could still hear, so she went and got a book from the pediatric library and began to read it out loud. In the book, a little boy comes to the hospital for treatment and, in the middle of the night, wakes up and cries because he feels so alone. The next day another boy asks him if he was the one crying last night; the little boy says, ‘Yes.’ So, his newly found friend tells him that if he wakes again and is afraid, he should simply hold his hand in the air and an angel from God would come and take his hand. Shirley turned the page and, reading out loud, read that the boy did awaken at night, raise his hand and an angel of God came and took his hand, and he died.

“That's when Shirley lost it. She ran from the room, hid in the restroom and wept until she couldn't cry any more. Then she returned to Gregory and held his hand through the night. Early the next morning, the nurse and pediatric oncologist gathered with Shirley and her hospice volunteer for the last vigil. And that's when it happened. Suddenly, Gregory opened his eyes for the first time in hours, looked up over his left shoulder, smiled and raised his hand in the air. And that is when the angel of God took Gregory and escorted him into forever.”
Folks, I can’t prove that Jesus rose from the dead.

I can’t prove that He destroys the power of sin and death over the lives of those who believe in Him.

But I can promise that if you will dare to take the hand of the One Who has reached out to you through Jesus Christ, you’ll see the One in Whom you dare to believe. You’ll see Jesus. And when we breathe our last, you and I, we will see Him face to face forever and ever.

Those are the basics. May we never forget them.

Happy Easter, everyone!

[Mike Foss' true story of Gregory comes in a message he prepared for this Biblical text. You can find many of Pastor Foss' messages on the web site, www.changingchurch.org, when you subscribe to the Changing Church toolkit.]

Philosopher Discusses the Propositions of God, Miracles

I first heard the name of Alvin Plantinga, the philosopher, through my son, who majored in both History and Philosophy. Plantinga is considered one of the most eminent philosophers in the world today. He also accepts the propositions of God and of miracles.

Here's an Associated Press profile of him which appeared in many newspapers today. It's interesting stuff.