Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hang on for a power surge...

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...Eph. 3:20

Is there a more mind-boggling verse in the Bible? Or a more challenging one?

What would happen to our personal and corporate lives if we took God up on this promise? When I was a middle-school teacher, a common frustration was the student who fell into sort of a comfort zone, a zone marked by minimal thinking, ambition, and activity. Once settled in to this mental pothole, it was extremely hard to pry the kid out. If one had no goals or aspirations, it was fairly easy to accept failure.

It seems Paul is telling us that we should guard against low expectations and minimalist thinking when assessing our spiritual lives. In essence, we sell God short. A friend has pancreatic cancer and our thought process becomes, "Well, I'll just pray that God gives him comfort and peace in his final days." After all, almost no one recovers from that disease. Somehow we forget that God parted the Red Sea, healed Naaman, and fed thousands with a few leftovers. Why assume there are situations too hard for God?

We frequently settle for less is assessing our spiritual potential. We become a modern-day Moses, pleading with God not to give us something to do we can't handle and hoping He will find some Aaron out there to do our spiritual heavy lifting. Paul wants us to realize how we cheat ourselves (and Him) when we don't tap into the ultimate power supply. He wants us to think big and make big plans. He wants churches that dare to make challenging decisions, based not on what they can do, but what He can do.

Let's take God for his word here and expand our vistas. There's a lost world out there, one that seems to give Satan easy victories. The challenge is to realize that we are the extension cords, if you will, of God's unimaginable power, and to flip the switch!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Assassinating the King's English

The King's English is actually a book on grammar that was published in 1906 by a pair of brothers. Of course today, when one mentions "the King's English", it's usually a reference to long-ago times in England when proper use of the language was standard fare. Sadly, these kinds of references are more common now than ever before as shallow-thinking individuals wage daily war on our beautiful language.

Nowhere is this disturbing trend more evident than in names of stores and businesses, and the convenience store is particularly culpable. Around the Dallas area is a chain of 7-Eleven copycats called "Qwik-Mart". Let me ask the obvious question: does misspelling "Quick" bring in more customers? I really doubt that old Larry and Martha, driving down the thoroughfare, needing a loaf of bread, actually pick out "Qwik-Mart" over all the rest of the competition because of the cutesy way "Qwik" is spelled!

I visited Amarillo, Texas once and was immediately taken aback by a particular chain of stores named, "Toot 'N Totem". There are so many problems here, almost too many to mention. First of all, there's no consumer study that I'm aware of that points to greater consumer spending if you blatantly abbreviate "And" to the almost obscene "'N". And the use of a Northwestern American Indian icon like "totem" to substitute for "Tote Them" is a dastardly deed. The name of the stores should be, "Toot and Tote Them". On the other hand, the whole concept is lacking. The stores' business would probably grow if the place were simply named, "The Store".

This morning, I passed an apartment complex with the name of "Majic Apts". Again, was there a bean-counter in a Wall Street office who suggested to management that there would probably never be a vacancy if "magic" were spelled "majic"? I doubt it. It was no doubt some proprietor's crazy idea...thinking that "majic" added a little pizzazz to his otherwise roach-ridden apartments. So wrong!

Perhaps the most egregious treatment of the King's English is a chain of liquor stores in Dallas with the scalp-scratching name of "Bi-Lo". "Bi-Lo"!!!! Where do I begin? We all know "bi" has nothing to do with "buy", and, in fact, has other connotations that really confuse the issue. "Lo" is a wonderful word ("And lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth"). But it has no use in the title of a liquor store! "Buy-Low" sends a clear, concise message, far different from the brain-scrambling, intellect-abusing "Bi-Lo".

I can only hope this country is strong enough to survive both Obama and deliberately misspelled convenience store names.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Itchin' for Vermont

Three weeks from today, Carole and I will visit heaven for the 6th time. But unlike Paul, I am able to tell you about it. I first became interested in Vermont after seeing some foliage shots in a 1970's-ish coffee-table book. I decided this was something I'd have to see for myself, but with three small kiddos and all the expenses that go with a young family, I didn't see it happening.

But in 1982, I entered a contest on KRLD radio that offered two round-trip tickets anywhere American Airlines flies. I flooded the station with entries and managed to win. So, it was off to Vermont with Carole for 5 days of chasing color throughout the state. Two years later, we went again and had the thrill of having our rental car break down on the quietest of backroads in the most gorgeous valley I'd ever seen. In '88, I won another contest but this time, only one free ticket was the prize. In an act of total selflessness, I left Carole at home and went solo to the Green (should be Orange) Mountain State. Twice more in the '90's, we took in Vermont's colors, once even sneaking Brooke out of high school to drag her along. She was not a believer until she saw for herself the incredible reds, golds, and oranges that make eyeballs ache and adjectives strain.

We were going to return in October of 2001, but 9/11 happened and the fear of flying was palpable enough to ground us and our trip. A couple of trips to British Columbia in '02 and '05 allowed us to see God's majesty in a different way, but Vermont keeps whispering to our subconscious and reminding us that there's gold in them thar hills.

The last time we went, I knew nothing about photography and had a very average camera. Now, I've got at least a modicum of picture-taking experience and, thanks to Al Gore, the opportunity to share pix via the 'net and this blog. Rest assured, a few of our shots will touch down on "Jets and Life". Hope you like 'em.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Okay, call off the conspirators...

First of all, kudos to Don Staib for the above picture. He's a buddy who flies for American Airlines, and he took this shot on Friday while flying the stormy skies over Texas.

Now, then. My previous blog entry focused on the folks who feel that 9/11 was an inside job and my worries that there might be some truth to their claims. Fortunately, last week I recorded a two-hour program on this topic, shown on the National Geographic Channel. Methodically, point-by-point, nearly every conspiratorial claim was intelligently debunked.

By far the most compelling point is simply this: in order for 9/11 to have been a coordinated plan fomented by the Bush-Cheney administration, thousands of "worker bees" would have had to been on board with the strategy - with each of them being counted to keep their lips sealed. It's been 8 years, and there's been nary a peep from anybody who claims to have part of the alleged conspiracy. It is simply impossible to believe that a plan so evil, so complex, so devilish, could have been carried out without someone, somewhere, yapping about their role in making those buildings fall down or in attacking the Pentagon.

A good point made by the program was that whenever our country has an incredibly major event, conspiracy theorists pop up. Pearl Harbor had them and the Kennedy assassination had them. This is no different. The good news is that Bush and Cheney are off the hook, as we all suspected. The bad guys really did pull off 9/11 and hopefully our vigilance prohibits a repeat performance.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Scared I'll believe it...

I've begun reading a book that puts forth the idea that 9/11 was not the doing of Bin Laden, but rather the work of conspirators in the Bush administration. Now before you laugh, let me warn you that I, too, believe the idea is preposterous. But so did the man who wrote the book, and then the more he researched it, the more he believed.

The reason why I want to see what he says is the impressive set of credentials he brings to the table. Dr. David Ray Griffin is professor of religion and theology, emeritus, at Claremont School of Theology in California, and has written 30 books dealing with history, theology, and other subjects. On page 14, he gives a partial list of others who believe the same, and the names would knock your socks off. Included are former CIA agents, diplomats, cabinet members, and other prominent citizens. These are folks who are trained to be discerning and are experienced in separating truth from chaff. They have lent their names and leveraged their credibility to this effort to get the real truth out.

I'm digging into the first chapter, which deals with the delay in scrambling our military jets to intercept the ill-fated airliners. We all know that all over America, we have planes and pilots in absolute readiness for situations just like 9/11. They practice this stuff constantly and can be counted upon to be in the air within 5 minutes of an alert. For some reason, there was little or no scrambling of jets on that day.

There is much more to get to and I shudder to think what I'm going to find. I hope that all the theories are flawed and that I can shoot easy holes in them. But so far, the weight of research and scholarship in the book is impressive. I'll report back when finished. Meanwhile, be sure look out for black helicopters...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

About Revelation 21...

Seven or eight years ago, I was confident enough in my beliefs on the hereafter that I taught classes on heaven. Little did I know the massive turnaround that was coming. But I've done a lot of reading, particularly the works of Randy Alcorn, and not only do I have brand new eschatology ideas, but I'm considerably more excited about the prospects of the hereafter.

The change centers on the idea that there is no reason to think that Revelation 21 is meant to be symbolic and not literal. Heaven will be brought down (New Jerusalem) to the new earth. The new earth will be the same planet where we are now, only renewed...with everything evil, decayed, and rotten removed forever. God and Christ will rule this renewed earth and we will serve them. The reason I'm more pumped about this is the prospect of being in familiar environs that have been cleansed of the devil's influence.

There's a lot we don't know, of course. We'll have new bodies, but I don't know much more than that. Of course, we won't have marriage but I trust God to have a plan that let's us exist with our spouses in a way that will be superior to what we knew on this side of the curtain. We will serve God forever in ways that will be thrilling, rewarding, and perpetually fulfilling. Details are scarce, but that's okay. He tells us a little bit and faith fills in the rest of the picture.

One question I got a lot when I taught that class was, "What difference does it make?" I mean, should we devote a lot of time to ruminating on the hereafter? I think not only is it okay, but it should serve to motivate us and foster hope in our day-to-day lives. We all face discouragement, pain, and suffering...why not dwell on the promises of God that this is only temporary, and that glory will make today's troubles seems trivial? (see II Cor. 4:16-17).