Friday, December 31, 2010

Armed Forces Bowl 2010

Yesterday, I had the great privilege of attending the Armed Forces Bowl with my two sons and a bunch of great friends. Due to construction on the Ft Worth stadium, the bowl was held in Dallas at SMU’s Gerald Ford Stadium. It was a tremendous experience, but to full appreciate it, I must tell of a couple of incidents that happened before we got to the game.

My older son Jeff, who attends SMU, had bought 16 tickets and went early with several friends. My younger son Justin, a US Marine who recently returned from Afghanistan, woke up to find his car had been burglarized, resulting in excessive damage, so Justin, his fiancé and I stayed behind to file the police reports. I found it ironic that he had spent nine months putting his life on the line to come home to this. We found out later that six other cars were hit in the area. Fingerprints confirmed that the same person was involved and that the police had a suspect.

Just about kickoff time, we left for the game and decided to take the DART train. I hadn’t ridden the train in a couple of years, but had good service with courteous drivers when I rode it regularly in the past. The three of us got our tickets and walked toward the 11:27am train at Parker Station, along with two other parties that we did not know. We asked the driver if this train was going by SMU and she motioned for us to get on. Unfortunately, she must have been an Obama supporter because, as soon as she noticed my son’s marine shirt, she locked the door and sped off, leaving us and the other two parties standing on the platform. We weren’t too upset at first since we encounter this every now and then, but in one of the other parties, a mother and her young child had attempted to board and she had to pull her child back at the last second, thus avoiding a tragic accident. So, we all waited another twenty minutes and took the next train to the game.

We arrived just as the halftime show was beginning, and what a contrast in attitude toward our veterans than what we experienced at the hands of DART. Many veterans received free tickets to the game. Dozens upon dozens of people shook my son’s hand and thanked him for his service. A stranger behind us served in the same marine unit as Justin 30 years before.

The halftime show consisted of various honors and awards for our troops. A group of local army graduates were sworn in. Many wounded warriors were introduced to thunderous applause. As a surprise, Operation Finally Home presented a mortgage-free, custom-built home to Army Specialist Hugo Gonzalez, an Army war veteran who was severely wounded while serving in Iraq. The program also pays the property taxes for the first two years. On hand was his wife Amy and their three children.

During the second half, a couple of the latest marine attack helicopters were on display, and we received satellite feeds on the big scoreboard from troops in Afghanistan wishing their families and supporters a Happy New Year. At the end of the third quarter, the troops who piloted the flyovers were introduced.

Lots of other stuff was happening, but it was too much to remember it all. Oh yeah… in the middle of all this was a good football game, in which the Army Black Knights defeated the SMU Mustangs 16-14.

His Name is Sean

As reported in the Tacoma, Washington News Tribune, the parents of Sgt Sean Collins, a Yelm, Washington soldier killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, was very grateful for the outpouring of support from friends and strangers, but were stung by slights from two Democratic politicians.
“As a father of someone killed, it is overwhelming,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Collins (Ret.). His son, Sgt. Sean Collins, was buried Wednesday at the Tahoma National Cemetery. Among that outpouring of empathy, two politicians inadvertently stung the family.

One slight came in a letter of condolences the family received from the office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. At first, the Collins family appreciated that Cantwell had taken the time to send a letter acknowledging their son’s sacrifice. But the letter misidentified the slain soldier in its last paragraph, which reads:

“Again, please accept my warmest condolences. May your memories of Bryn and the knowledge that he made a positive impact on the lives of so many serve as a source of comfort to you during this time of sorrow.”

The letter was dated Dec. 20 and delivered to Sean Collins’ mother, Linda Collins of Yelm. The error conveyed to the family that Cantwell had sent a form letter. “They couldn’t even proofread it,” she said. “I’m sure if her son had died, she would’ve at least wanted his name spelled correctly.” “That’s just sloppy staff work, that’s an embarrassment,” Patrick Collins said. He has not yet called Cantwell’s office to ask for an apology.

Cantwell’s office is on short staffing for the holiday week and has not replied to an email to its press staff. The Collins family was in touch with Cantwell’s office in the capital Thursday, and was told Cantwell’s staffers were looking into the mistake.

The other slight came when Patrick Collins called the White House and asked to have President Obama call his ex-wife, Linda, to talk about their son. He was told that Obama did not regularly make phone calls to the families of fallen soldiers.

Later, Patrick Collins read a story about Obama’s phone call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie. Obama reportedly praised Lurie for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance to play football after serving time in prison for running a dog fighting ring.

“That burns,” Patrick Collins said Thursday. “Any soldier that gets killed in action, you’d think the president would be calling someone in the family. There’s no politics in it. His predecessor did it,” Collins said.

After the newspaper’s blog posted this story, a commenter called “First_Lefty” left several comments, giving his condolences, then proceeded to defend Mr Obama, writing “who he calls and why is his business”. He then went on to blame President Bush for Sean’s death, and decried the perceived shameful treatment given to Cindy Sheehan. The following is the reply to First_Lefty from Lt Col Collins.
First_Lefty: Well, your name kind of says it all. I'd like to set the record straight, but first I'd like to thank you for your condolences. You should be thankful. A better man than you just died defending your right to express your opinion.

There was an error in the original article, I never called the White House - I have no desire to get a call from the President. I did make a request for the President to call my ex-wife. I believe it is something that should be done. If Gen Petraeus can take time to write a personal note, if my son's Company Commander can find time to make a phone call - all while fighting a war; if the Governor of Washington can find time to send personal condolences, then yes the President should be able to find time. Ultimately, it's not even a question of time. I would understand the President saying that it is not his policy, that the Office of the President cannot get involved in every soldier's death. But that's not what was said. The response we were given was that he is too busy to fit it into his schedule. That's what makes bogus calls to the President of the Eagles so galling (incidentally, yeah, Michael Vick has had a tremendous year ... playing nothing but a game).

As far as Senator Cantwell, sending a form letter is "okay", even nice. Having such a poor quality control, especially on a letter to a Mother who has lost her son at Christmas is just pathetic.

Is this political (?), maybe in your eyes. However we actually waited because we knew someone like you would make this accusation. When we told the reporter, it was in response to a question. In fact, we purposely told him that we didn't want to make this about politics. It may come as a surprise to you, but calling the Senator's office while we were grieving the loss of our son wasn't high on our priority list. Taking care of our son's three siblings and arranging for a burial somehow rated higher in importance.

Finally, to answer your first suggestion, that we should focus our anger on those who sent him to war - that would be Mr. Obama. My son was a member of the 101st Airborne. They are in Kandahar Province as a part of the surge ordered by the President almost a year ago. Not only did I agree with that decision by the President, making it something I would never blame him for, I have no doubt that your political persuasion would have enabled you to put an equally feeble comment in response to that if I had mentioned it.

You sir are a sad excuse for a man. It almost makes me sad to think I spent 28 years, and my son sacrificed his life, defending your right to be as misguided as you are ... yet that is where we are today.

Thank you, Lt Col Collins. Our nation owes your son Sean a great debt of gratitude. God Bless your entire family.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Silent and Holy Night

In modern times, the Christmas holiday season is filled with much hustle and bustle. We’re blasted by ads urging us to save money by buying our gifts from a particular source. I haven’t checked out any of the watchdog sites who inform us as to which retailers are hostile or supportive of using the word “Christmas” in their commercials and sale ads, but at least locally, there appeared to be more mentions of Christmas instead of the generic “holidays” or “seasons” this year. I even heard Best Buy use the word “Christmas” for the first time. I did notice that many such as Walgreens, who were using “holidays” in the past, stopped using either term and just urged customers to buy gifts without mentioning any occasion at all.

Of course, the hesitation or outright refusal to use the word “Christmas” is a part of the larger culture war against Christianity and any traditional or family values. Much of this hostility is led, or at least aided and abetted by our secular media. I'm usually not shocked anymore by many of the positions taken by the opposition, but I was mildly surprised by the angry tone of the comments posted on many mainstream websites by the "tolerant" left against the pro-Christmas programming by Fox News. The attitude of the media toward Christianity was probably best summed up by NPR’s Nina Totenberg who said last week that “I was at -- forgive the expression -- a Christmas party at the Department of Justice.” This is the same NPR network that recently fired Juan Williams for echoing what many American feel, that he got a little nervous when he saw a group of Muslims walking through an airport.

Christians also receive much opposition and antagonism from our own government, a government originally founded on Biblical principles. Many large corporations, including some non-profit charities have followed their lead. In just the past week or so, we witnessed

--The Federal Reserve forced a bank in Oklahoma to stop displaying a Bible verse of the day and crosses on the teller’s counter, and ordered the removal of buttons that said "Merry Christmas, God With Us."
--The Red Cross banned Christmas in over 400 of their fund-raising shops, ordering the removal of decorations or any other signs that might remind anyone of Christmas.
--A school in Virginia ordered student members of a "Christmas Sweater Club" into detention for singing Christmas songs, handing out candy canes and generally spreading Christmas cheer.
But before we begin to accuse the feds of being completely hostile to religion, we should point out that Mr Obama’s Justice Dept recently filed suit against a school in Illinois on behalf of a Muslim teacher who wanted to abandon her students in order to make her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca. Never mind that she could have taken the trip during summer break. The feds and ACLU are also strangely quiet when schools promote a day of tolerance, forcing students to dress in Muslim garb and adopt Muslim names. But, imagine the outcry if a school promoted a day in which students dressed as Bible characters. All involved, from the superintendent to the night janitors would be fired on the spot and possibly face civil and criminal penalties.

Yet, even with the hostilities toward Christianity, believers can peacefully rest in knowing that our sovereign God is in control. In contrast to the modern holiday chaos, we can look back at that silent and holy night when the Son of God came into the world as a little baby to continue the history of our redemption that was planned before the beginning of time. During a season of calamity and commercialization, we can joyfully sing "Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!"

We can take time to marvel, as did the shepherds as the angel accompanied by the angelic choir announced that a Savior had been born in the city of David. As they were probably too awed to speak, the only sound might have been an occasional bleating of sheep. They then followed the star on that clear night to find the Messiah in a manger. After worshiping him, they returned to their jobs, never to be the same again.

Perhaps the only time that some of us glimpse the true meaning and spirit of Christmas is at a Christmas Eve or Christmas Sunday service, but we should not limit ourselves however, to one day or week out of the year. Like the shepherds who returned to their daily lives praising God, we should attempt to glorify God with everything we do as we return to our “normal” routines for the rest of the year.

You are also welcome to read our The True Meaning of Christmas article.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas within the Big Picture

I ran across an article entitled The Big Picture in the December 2009 of Tabletalk magazine, published by Ligonier Ministries. It was written by Robert L Reymond, a Reformed theologian and Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In this excellent article, Dr Reymond challenges the next generation to view the Christmas story as part of the bigger picture, in the context of redemptive history within the whole of Scripture.
Since my article is appearing in this issue of Tabletalk magazine, I have a great opportunity to tell you young folk of the next generation about a pet peeve of mine with my generation when it comes to the reason for celebrating Christmas. Many people, as you know, celebrate not much more than “roasting chestnuts by an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at their noses.” But Christians surely know enough to know that Christmas means more than that. It surely has something to do with Jesus, doesn’t it? But what?

This month a lot of sermons will be preached about Jesus’ incarnation. And taking its cue from the angel’s announcement to the shepherds on the plains of Ephrathah, my generation simply celebrates the “good news” that some two thousand years ago, in the words of the announcing angel, “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11). My generation tends to concentrate its attention in their worship services throughout the Advent season on the fact that Christ was virginally born a babe in Bethlehem. And that is about as far as they go in their thinking as they reflect upon the momentous fact that God became man through the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

But why did Jesus do that? If I were to ask my generation why Jesus came, I would very likely get answers such as these: “He came to be my Savior,” “He came to die for me,” and “He came to pay the penalty for my sins” (you get the picture) — all answers correct in themselves, but all answers that fail to place Christ’s coming within the broader context that the Bible places it. And when one fails to place His coming in the Bible’s broader context, he fails to appreciate its full significance.

Don’t misunderstand: There is nothing wrong with Christians celebrating the birth of our Lord at Christmas time. Indeed, it is appropriate for the church universal as well as local individual congregations during the Christmas season to think about the incarnation of God the Son and the means whereby that great event was effected, namely, His conception in His mother’s virgin womb. But I submit that something larger and grander than Christ’s birth should seize our minds and set the bells of our hearts pealing with joy at Christmastime. I’ll explain.

My generation of evangelical pastors has not done a good job at teaching Christian people that the isolated events of the Christian proclamation such as Christ’s incarnation, His death, His resurrection, and so on did not occur in isolation from the “meta-narrative” of Holy Scripture (by this I simply mean the “big-picture story” that provides the redemptive-historical significance of all the “lesser stories” of Scripture). When one fails to place the gospel events within the context of the Scripture’s meta-narrative, he will miss nuances that he should not miss, and he will fail to appreciate the unity of scriptural teaching. Let me say this another way: Since the facts of Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection are what they are only within the framework of the biblical doctrines of creation, fall, redemption, and the consummation of history, we must place the message of the cross within the framework of Scripture as a whole if we would properly understand the significance of that message. And if we don’t do this, we will not understand the gospel in its fullness.

So let me ask my question again: Why did Jesus come two thousand years go? When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was going to be the virgin mother of the long-awaited Messiah, in her Magnificat in Luke 1:54–55, she declared among other things: “[God] has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

And when Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, prophesied about his infant son’s future ministry as the one who would go before the Lord to prepare His way, he said this: “[God] has shown] the mercy promised to our fathers [by remembering] his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:72–75).

What have we just witnessed? We’ve seen both Mary and Zechariah place the Christ event within the context of the Abrahamic covenant and extol the covenant faithfulness of God to His people in sending His Son. In their awareness of the broader significance of the incarnation and the words of praise that that awareness evoked from them we see biblical theology being beautifully honored and redemptive-history magnificently depicted. It is little wonder that God selected such a maiden as Mary to be the mother of the Christ and Zechariah to be the father of the Baptist. They were both “covenant theologians”!

So I would urge you young folk of the next generation to celebrate not only the isolated events of the Christmas miracle but also to do more than my generation has done in celebrating at Christmastime God’s covenant fidelity to us His people, for this is the “big-picture” reason for the season!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mr Obama’s Plan to Reduce Abortions

As I was reading a few recent stories from LifeNews, I couldn’t help but think back to a statement that Mr Obama used quite frequently during his campaign. He consistently stated to Christian and family groups that, although he favored the “right” of a woman to kill her baby, he was strongly committed to reducing the number of abortions. Many Obama apologists jumped on the bandwagon despite his record of being the most pro-death legislator to serve in the senate. Mr Obama consistently voted against bans on partial birth abortions, and in March of 2001, was the only Illinois senator to speak out against a bill that would have provided life-saving care to babies who survived botched abortions. Even though many anti-abortion groups were in favor of the bill, Mr Obama led the fight to defeat the bill and force physicians to allow the baby to die on the table.

So, what steps did Mr Obama take to reduce abortions? His first official act as president was to reverse Mr Bush’s executive order which prohibited federal funds from being used to fund international abortions. I’m not sure how providing federal funds for abortions would reduce the abortion rate. I’m also having trouble understanding how Mr Obama’s other positions, such as support for embryo-destruction research, revocation of religious liberty protection for pro-life doctors and other health care workers, elimination of parental notification and consent laws, and the funding of abortions through socialized healthcare would also reduce the number of abortions.

Yet, even today, Mr Obama’s political allies and his lapdogs in the media continue to parrot the line that he is committed to reduce abortions. The Obama administration has now filed a lawsuit against a pro-life counselor for offering alternatives to women seeking an abortion.

In January, David Hamilton was talking with women going into the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only abortion business in Louisville, Kentucky. Hamilton was arrested for moving the arm of a clinic escort out of his way as he attempted to present alternatives information to one woman going towards the center entrance. Although Hamilton told the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper he did not try to hurt or intimidate anyone, he was charged with disorderly conduct as police cited him for “pushing and shoving clinic escorts.” The misdemeanor charge was dismissed in May after Hamilton completed eight hours of community service.

The Obama Administration, months later, is now charging him with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law passed during the Clinton administration designed to take a more aggressive stance against sidewalk counselors and abortion protesters at abortion facilities. The lawsuit seeks a $15,000 penalty and $5,000 in compensatory damages. Hamilton moved to Houston, Texas in July and told the newspaper the lawsuit and its intent to deprive $20,000 from Hamilton for a dismissed misdemeanor charge, is a surprise to him. “I never touched the girl going into the clinic,” he said of what happened in January. “I didn’t come close to touching her. I said what I had to say and kept walking.”

Vincent Heuser Jr., the attorney who represented Hamilton in the January case, told the newspaper the lawsuit is “absolutely ludicrous” and he said Hamilton’s guilt in the incident was “seriously doubtful” because the officer who charged him with disorderly conduct was not in a position to see what happened. The incident was such a minor offense that Anne Ahola, the director of the abortion business, told the Louisville newspaper she doesn’t remember it and she is unfamiliar with the lawsuit.

The Obama administration’s lawsuit comes months after it partnered with leading pro-abortion organizations to host an FBI training seminar with the main focus of declaring as “violent” the free speech activities of pro-life Americans.

FBI and Obama administration officials provided participants with an 84-page document entitled “Resource Guide: Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers” that contained print copies of Power Point presentations prepared by the Justice Department and an analysis of alleged pro-life “violence” prepared by the pro-abortion groups. The so-called violence perpetrated by pro-life advocates mostly contained examples of constitutionally-protected free speech, including activities such as praying, providing women outside abortion centers with alternatives information, and peaceful protesting or picketing.

The EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville is the abortion business that was caught on videotape covering up a potential case of sexual abuse of a minor.

Wow, filing lawsuits against anyone offering women alternatives should reduce the abortion rate considerably, or so these deluded individuals believe.

Not all liberal groups are publicly trumpeting Mr Obama’s claim, however. Several realize what a friend of the abortion industry they have in the white house, and are worried that his days may be numbered as more of the public begins to pay attention to his true agenda. Thus, many are acting now, before the Obama gold mine runs out.

For example, Planned Parenthood recently confirmed their plans for a nationwide expansion. A new mandate has been issued that all affiliates must operate at least one abortion center. One local chapter (Corpus Christi, TX) has resigned due to the new mandate because, according to the CEO, there was no need to duplicate the services of the abortion clinics in the area.

Lisa David, senior vice president of Health Services Support for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, confirmed the abortion expansion and the mandate — called a “new patient services initiative.” David said abortions must be offered by at least one center operated by every Planned Parenthood affiliate, except waivers would be granted in certain “unique local circumstances.”

The new mandate also calls for more emphasis on the non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood — used as method of attracting more abortion customers and painting a picture of Planned Parenthood as something other than an abortion business. David also confirmed that the national Planned Parenthood abortion business plans to expand into the territory of offering sexual assault examinations in order to boost its abortion business. The news outlet said Planned Parenthood “will expand immediate access to testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections.”

Jim Sedlack of Stop Planned Parenthood says Planned Parenthood is the last place women victimized by sexual assault or abuse should turn since the abortion business has a history of covering up such cases by doing abortions and failing to report them to authorities.

David also told the Daily Caller that every Planned Parenthood center will be required to “provide the full range of birth control method options, such as the IUD, in addition to well-woman exams including critical cancer prevention screenings.” That would have the abortion business lining up more with the Komen for the Cure Foundation, which donated $730,000 to Planned Parenthood in 2009 for cancer screenings despite the fact that abortion increases the risk a woman will contract breast cancer.

“Planned Parenthood continues its massive expansion of its abortion business while phasing out those centers that do not commit surgical or medical abortions,” Sedlack says. “Planned Parenthood leaves no stone unturned in dredging up money to build its facilities and expand its abortion business. It is time to inundate our elected representatives with the message that we must defund and repeal ObamaCare and that no government funds should ever flow to Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion chain.”

The newly-revealed abortion mandates come after Planned Parenthood released an annual report showing it received $363 million in grants and funds from federal, state and local governments, made more than $1 billion in profit, and upped its share of the national abortion business to more than 26 percent.

Meanwhile, Rep Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to de-fund Planned Parenthood after the newly elected Republican majority takes charge next month. Now, that a positive step that should aid Mr Obama in his agenda to reduce abortion. I’m sure he’ll support this effort, won’t he? Rather than to delude ourselves into believing that he will, we must continue to pray for our country, for the parents who are faced with these decisions, and especially for the helpless babies who do not have a voice in the matter.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Social Network Christmas

We're back again. I reported around Thanksgiving that we appeared to be back up and running after several previous computer crashes. We had replaced internal hard drives, and added an external for backup. We also added a couple of new cards, and re-loaded software multiple times thinking the problem was fixed. I finally gave up and built a new computer from scratch last weekend, re-using only the new parts that I had added to the older one. Thanks to our backups, we lost only a small percentage of files, mostly non-critical stuff that we should have purged long ago. This process also helped us to become much better organized. I've gotten most of the software reloaded (again), so by the grace of God, we are praying for no further glitches.

So... here's a great Christmas video from Igniter Media as told across a modern social network.