December 23, 2005

Thoughts and Reflections on Christmas

This is Rebecca's second Christmas with us, with her third birthday coming up soon (her birth date was 1/2/3, and her adoption date was 1/5/4).

This Christmas has been sort of hectic, with a lot of church activities and other things. Decorating the Christmas tree was a disaster this year, with Rebecca unwrapping the ornaments that resemble little Christmas presents (a little piece of styrofoam was the only reward for her efforts), and the kittens knocking the ornaments off the tree that were within reach (and the reach is higher than we anticipated - the kittens actually made a leaping and climbing game of it!) The minimum height for the ornaments wound up being about four feet.

Rebecca now knows the names of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, and we have a small Nativity creche in her bedroom with only those three present, avoiding the complexity of angels, shepherds, and Magi. That will change right after Christmas when we present her with a full-fledged creche with Veggie Tales characters! We have a larger Nativity set with a collection of Thomas Kinkade pieces but with Rebecca and the kittens, we didn't want to set it up. All those pieces will stay in their original packing boxes this year.

Some links I'd like to note:

Amy Welborn talks about how many Christians don't get the true meaning of Christmas either in her essay A Sword Will Pierce Your Heart, in National Review Online. Read it all, it is a very moving and thoughtful essay, and here's her conclusion:

Glad tidings of comfort and joy, and Merry Christmas indeed. But without awareness of the risk of discipleship, and the reality that the baby in the manger ends up hanging on a cross, those words have about as little power to change the world as "Happy Holidays."

John J. Miller talks about the figure of Father Christmas in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and discusses J.R.R. Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis's friendship as a related topic, in another NRO essay, Xmas in Narnia.

And another NRO piece (last one!) by Nina Shea, The Real War on Christmas discusses the persection of Christians by tyrannical regimes around the world. William F. Buckley has a similar column in the magazine, where he recounts a horrific incident of martyrdom in North Korea, also reported in First Things. Christmas is not merry and joyful to all people around the world it seems.

I don't intend to upset with that last gloomy link, but I do want to say that we have it real good here in America. If the most significant bit of news is that we're arguing about whether to say "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays", I think that's a pretty good argument that we live in a free country - that we've made it - now let's not take it for granted.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 12:59 PM | Comments (1)

March 13, 2005

Thoughts on John 11

One little word in John 11:6, "so", tells me so much of the character of God. Often mistranslated in paraphrases as "although", the verse (along with its context) says:


Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.
John 11:1-6 NKJV


Look at that last sentence. Jesus is asked, by Mary and Martha, to come and heal their brother, and he waits two days to come because he loves them? Yes, that is what the Gospel says in a literal translation. Jesus loves them, so He waits. Why? To show them the greater glory. Not a simple sign of a miraculous healing, though that would have convinced many. Not the reassurance of a resurrection in the far off future, even though that is assured for us in this passage. No, Jesus wanted to pull out all the stops and provide the greatest sign short of His own Resurrection, the resurrection of Lazarus, the sign that would "break the camel's back" and assure His own sacrifice soon thereafter. And why did He do it this way? He tells us, later in verses 42-43:
And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."John 11:42-43

Whenever we ask God for His help and it doesn't come right away, perhaps we should just wait a little longer for an answer to prayer that is greater than anything we can imagine. Even if it isn't that great in our own point of view, God has His own reason for everything He does, and His way is always best, both for His glory, and for increasing our faith and trust in Him.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Ps 27:14 NKJV
Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2005

More thoughts on The Chronicles of Narnia

After finishing last week's post on C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, where I discussed The Deplorable Word, I realized I missed the most obvious symbolism of it. The evil expressed by the act of killing everyone except the speaker of The Deplorable Word is the opposite of the mercy and grace of God. Evil would kill everyone in order to hold onto a dominion consisting of no living thing, whereas God's love would be shown by Him laying down His own life in order to make eternal life available to everyone.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2004

The Secularization of Christmas

I agree with Shane Raynor - it's a loss when Christmas is secularized, but it's not a great loss. There are much worse things that can happen, as Michelle Malkin reminds us.

We watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas this morning (the original cartoon with Boris Karloff's narration). I was struck by how the Grinch was "converted" by the Whos' enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas even when every material thing the Grinch associated with Christmas had been taken from them. There's a bit of wisdom there. Go ahead and celebrate Christmas anyway with all the joy and enthusiasm the holy day deserves, and maybe some of those Grinches who are trying to purge the day of any real meaning will see that they are removing a truly great thing from us.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2004

Prepare the way of the Lord

My favorite Christmas music, Handel's Messiah, is not only about Christmas, but rather about all of the life of Christ, from the prophecies of His coming, to His birth, His ministry, Passion, and coming again. Last year I saw a play which reenacted some of the events surrounding Handel's composing Messiah and its first performance. There was actually a bit of scandal involving one of the soloists, which Handel had to deal with by applying a bit of firm but loving persuasion, showing him to be a quite gracious and compassionate man.

The entire work is based on scripture. The portion dealing with the Nativity sets the prophecies of John the Baptist's and Jesus' coming to music, then the Christmas stories. My favorite selection is the music based on the following verses:

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV

There is quite a bit to be said about getting ready for the Lord. I decided to follow Jesus on June 21, 2001, yet I was getting ready for at least eight months before that. Looking at things and beliefs I was holding onto in my life and asking myself "do you really think it's good for you to be doing that -- or believing that?" Confronting myself, saying "you know He's right - give it up and follow Him." Eventually it came down to one day that I realized "now is the day of salvation" and stopped arguing with God.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Rosh Hashanah

Dennis Prager, at Townhall.com: What American Jews need to think about this Rosh Hashanah (plus some closing words for us Gentiles as well).

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

The Same God?

Mark Shea (Catholic and Enjoying It) wrote an excellent (and long!) post on whether Christians and Muslims worship the same god.

A long time ago I argued the opposite way. Mark confronts my previous viewpoint effectively, saying they are the same God, in that whenever anyone worships one God, they are worshipping God - but they may not understand everything about God.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2004

God's calling

Dawn Eden has an excellent post telling of her childhood experience playing telephone with an autistic child, and relating it to God's call to us.

I can relate to her experience. I don't know exactly how Amy and I wound up as followers of Christ. I remember one conversation back around when we were married where we agreed it would threaten our marriage if one of us "went Christian" on the other. Then three years ago, on June 21, just what we had talked about happened. And yes, it did rock our marriage, but after a few months, we decided to follow Christ together.

Yet even though I don't know all the details of God's call, I definitely know that God was calling me. A lot of little things occured, starting with the pangs of conscience accompanying the things I did to weaken our marriage, but also a realization that what a lot of Christians said started to make sense to me. Over a period of about three years, I actually started to believe that God's judgments are "true and righteous altogether". Yet I continued to resist, hanging onto the thought "I can't give this up". God said over and over to me, "Why not give it up? It's worthless. Let it go, I'm all you need." One day, I stopped fighting, believed in Him, cleaned up my house, and felt a huge weight lifted off my soul.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2004

Job's Friends & the Importance of Humility

T.M. Moore, at Breakpoint, has a valuable lesson on spiritual arrogance based on wisdom learned from the book of Job.

The book of Job is probably the most difficult book of the Bible for me to read, except for the book of lists, 1 Chronicles. T.M. Moore is right on this point: breaking out the conversations of Job's friends, they are actually on theologically solid ground. So why are they wrong? They don't present a complete and total revelation of God, and the arguments they make are done to justify an erroneous conclusion, and made with no compassion to their audience.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2004

April 11, 2004

Reflections on Easter

Some thoughts on Easter:

Some questions I asked myself several years ago, while I was reconsidering faith in God.

One issue that caused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead was, well, why couldn't He have? I mean, if He was who He claimed to be, the Son of God, sent from Heaven, and if "all things were created through Him", wouldn't the Resurrection be a relatively simple thing to accomplish?

Also, if He rose from the dead, and no other person has ever done the same (of their own power), wouldn't it be wise to consider that listening to that person, as God the Father told us to do?

And looking at His disciples, why did twelve men all choose to die preaching that they saw a first-century preacher risen from the dead if that were not indeed true?

And why didn't their opponents, the ones who didn't want Peter, James, and John preaching in Jerusalem, produce the dead body of Jesus so that the new church would be discredited before its initial growth?

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2004

Why did Jesus die?

Since I am going to see The Passion of the Christ tomorrow, my next Sunday entry will be a review of that movie.

In the meantime, here's a few thoughts I have before going to see the movie.

Why did Jesus die?

The church I grew up in taught me that Jesus' death was because of my sins, that He provided what John calls propitiation. Liberal Christians deny this doctrine, but it's in the Bible. Those who say they interpret the Bible differently are doing so by disregarding what it says clearly and simply. In the Unitarian tradition, into which I strayed for a while, William Ellery Channing delivered a sermon, Unitarian Christianity, where he claims that the doctrine of Atonement must be false because it is based on a hateful, violent God, and besides, it just isn't mentioned that much in the New Testament.

To respond to the first point: Is God hateful and violent? Well, yes and no. We know from the Torah that He is very adamant that we have no other gods before Him. Those who worshipped other Gods were commanded to be killed. Those who worshipped God without respect for the holiness of His tabernacle and its accoutrements were killed. Then why is Jesus so different than the God of Exodus and Leviticus? I don't know a definitive answer, but I think it may have to do with what it says in John 3:17, that Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it. Since He revealed God's grace and truth, it was no longer appropriate for God's Law to be the way to approach Him, it was now through God's grace - not that anyone in Old Testament times could keep the whole Law either, however. I think it was based on attitude - love the Lord your God with all your heart. God's grace would be revealed to anyone who did so, whether or not they knew all the details of Jesus' Atonement. Just my thoughts. Am I right? Probably not, at least in all the details. I don't know all the details of the workings of God's grace.

Now addressing the second point: Is the Atonement talked about a lot in the New Testament, or is it just a secondary topic which has been taken out of context?

Let's search: Looking for the word "ransom" we find Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, and 1 Timothy 2:6

We also have references from the other Gospels and Acts:Luke 24:46, John 3:14-17, Acts 8:26-38

And from the other epistles of the New Testament (ok - enough linking - get out your Bible and follow along)
Romans 5:10, 1 Corinthians 2:2, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 1:7, Philippians 2:8, Colossians 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 John 2:2, Revelation 5:9-10.

I've listed references from every book of the New Testament except 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. These are shorter books dealing mainly with other issues such as pastoral concerns or apostasy. So there are references to the Atonement in 18 of 27 books, and I've only listed one from each of those books. Some books, such as Romans, 1 John, and the Gospel of John have many more references to this event and doctrine. For Channing to say that the Atonement is just a peripheral issue in the New Testament makes me think that he never read the New Testament (or read it once and promptly forgot what it said), was a sloppy scholar, or was just plain lying, possibly unconsciously by stretching the truth, to promote his own bias.

I read a commentator recently, talking about The Passion, that the Atonement is just one possible interpration of the New Testament. If words mean what authors write them to mean, then that opinion is just outright wrong. When Paul, John, and Peter all say that Christ died for us, I cannot think of any interpretation of that which says Christ did not die for us.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:14 PM | Comments (1)

February 05, 2004

This is Good!

Got this in email from my cousin Ann, who has given me permission to reprint it:

The story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom
he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that
ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is
good!"

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The
friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had
apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after
taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was
blown off.

Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!"

To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have
known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took them to their
village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and
bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they
noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they
never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they
sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his
thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went
immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right," he
said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off. And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so I am very sorry for
sending you to jail for so long. It was bad of me to do this."

"No" his friend replied, "This is good!"

"What do you mean, "This is good?" How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?"

"If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you when you were
captured."

Situations may not always seem pleasant while we are in them, but the
promise of God is clear. If we love Him and live our lives according to
His precepts, even that which seems to be bleak and hopeless will be
turned by God for His glory and our benefit.

-- Author Unknown

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2003

One More Thing...

Merry Christmas!

No more blogging on this site until this weekend, unless Ann submits something, which I doubt because I'm sure she is having family over and has a full Christmas planned. Merry Christmas, Ann!

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2003

Counting Blessings

Things I'm thankful for today:

That somehow, someway, God called me back from a life of unbelief, so that I can worship Him and have His abundance in my life;

That my parents taught me while growing up that it is good to love the Lord, and whose influence had a big role to play in the calling mentioned above. When I knew God's call had to be answered, I knew what to do, thanks to the truth my parents gave me in my youth.

I'm thankful for a loving wife, Amy, who has faced off with a lot of uncertainties and fears about having a child, and is now willing and eager to be a mom to a child who needs one.

I'm thankful that we have the means to do this adoption, especially since we didn't quite have it all at the beginning of the process a year ago! Of all the years to have a bull market, this one was particularly well-timed.

I'm thankful for a supportive and enthusiastic church that supports Amy and me, and our family.

I'm thankful for a wonderful country, our own United States of America, with its freedoms and opportunites.

It's good to be thankful, and let me just add something here that might not be said enough: give someone out there, perhaps someone you don't even know, a reason to say "Thank You" to you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Purpose Driven Life

I'm participating in The Purpose Driven Life at Washington Crossing United Methodist Church. This isn't my regular church, but it's one I like to visit from time to time, about 25 miles away from me. Since I've got commitments at my own church, I'm actually going to two church services on Sunday in order to hear the sermons associated with the book. The home group (part of the program involves small groups meeting at participants' homes) is a lot closer to me which makes it easier. Another complication - one of our two cars just got hit in an accident, and we're likely going to give it up for cash, thus owning only one car until we finish our adoption.

I like The Purpose Driven Life. I had some misgivings about it at first - just another program, another drain on my time, this preacher is too proud for his own good, so on and so on. After hearing the first sermon, a videotape shown to many churches simultaneously, I changed my mind. I liked the way that the Christian life is presented as both an ever-present and an eternal mindset, emphasizing worship, fellowship, ministry, discipleship, and mission. I like that membership in a church is emphasized, and that the participants are asked to participate in a small group and to practice active intercessory prayer for each other. I like that it is not presented as just another self-help program, but rather is intended to prepare one for a richer life of fellowship with God and obedience to His will, being more concerned with life goals that have an eternal impact rather than those which will soon be forgotten.

One thing that I don't like, and it's a small dislike, is that a lot of people are touting the book as some big thing that's going to make a big difference in their lives. While I see value in good spiritual teaching, the One who empowers us for Godly living is the Holy Spirit. The teachings in the book may increase our awareness and openness to God working through our lives, but the bottom line is that the glory is due to God.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2003

Three Theological Words

Excellent reading over at Boundless, just put on the web today, 3 Mysterious Words, by Steve Shadrach.

Other excellent, and new, articles concern a student's questions about why homosexuality is wrong, Ask Theophilus, and a devotional/commentary on human frailty and God's strength, Human Clay: Thoughts on Spiritual Poverty, by Jessica Inman.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2003

Diane Knippers reflects on 9-11

Diane Knippers, President of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, reflects on 9-11 (scroll down for her comments, by her picture). She would also be grateful for your prayers, she has been diagnosed with cancer.

I remember 9-11 as a sad, but not overwhelming, event; actually, I think I was more angry than sad, and my anger was mainly directed at those who blamed the US for the attacks, or who danced in the streets at the news.

I was a new Christian at the time, about three months into my new faith walk, and found a foundation of strength from it. In mid-October I went to Washington for the 20th anniversary celebration of IR&D in the Senate Hart Office Building. Imagine my surprise when about a month later I found out that that building was associated with the anthrax attacks which rocked our nation right afterwards. I asked my doctor about it and he told me not to worry about it unless I had the symptoms or was exposed to some tainted mail. No reason to worry.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2003

God has everything under control

In spite of the anger I expressed in the previous post, I've got to respect what I heard in a sermon a long time ago. A preacher held up his fist, like he was angry, and he released his fingers one at a time, with the words: God - has - everything - under - control. Whenever we think the world is broken, he said, remember that: God has everything under control.

The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood, And the LORD sits as King forever. The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace. Psalm 29:10-11 NKJV
Posted by joelfuhrmann at 06:37 AM | Comments (1)

August 19, 2003

Reasonable Christianity

Much has been said about Nicholas Kristof's recent NYT piece critical of Christians who actually believe what the Bible says about Jesus: the Virgin Birth and Resurrection mentioned specifically, IIRC.

Back in 2000, when I was looking for an alternative to Unitarian Universalism (due to political, not religious, differences), I briefy considered nineteenth-century-style American Unitarianism as an alternative. There is a group active in reviving that, restoring religion to Unitarianism. Unfortunately, though it claims to be Christian, it specifically denies several fundamental doctrines: the deity of Christ, the Atonement, and several others. I was in this mode of thinking for about six months, but had this gnawing feeling in the back of my mind - there is no foundation here - just inchoate human thought. The feeling just worsened when someone in the group asked me to read a book by John Shelby Spong. Even as a Unitarian Universalist (well I fudge here, I was reading the New Testament again by this time, and beginning to believe it), I found his work repugnant, but I guess that would be natural for someone who had come to a point where religious liberalism had to be fled as quickly as possible.

It all became settled in my mind when I read the New Testament again, and considered the books as written by eyewitnesses, or those who could speak to eyewitnesses (testimony of the early Church Fathers was an excellent apologetic here). I realized that if Jesus was who He claimed to be, then His birth, His miracles, His Resurrection, would be nothing amazing at all, just God interacting with the creation He made by His own Word. No contradiction between reason and faith as far as I'm concerned. It's completely reasonable to believe that a machine-maker could alter the operation of a machine he designed and made himself.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

Michael Novak on The Passion

Michael Novak, in The Weekly Standard, expresses his opinion on Mel Gibson's The Passion.

I believe I'm going to have to take a vacation day next Ash Wednesday (in addition to whatever day in December Return Of The Kng is coming out)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:30 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2003

What is the Work of God?

Today, over at blogs4God, Jen Kibler-McCabe provides this sermon from Vicar John Kibler-McCabe about St. Laurence the Deacon who was martyred on this day in A.D. 258.

From the sermon: Laurence mainly devoted his life to helping the poor, sick, and helpless in his area. This was actually a normal part of his job: as a Deacon, his main duty was to go and minister to people during the week.

Today, in my church, our pastor talked about John Wesley's vision for the church being in the community, helping those who are not as well off as we are. We have a summer basketball program for kids who live in our neighborhood. It draws a lot of kids and has even attracted kids from other nearby towns, some from as far away as the other side of our county (Mercer County), say about twenty miles away. It's a good thing to do, and we emphasize sportsmanship and teamwork more than winning, though we do give prizes for some special skills games, and everyone gets food each week, and everyone gets shoes and school supplies too, given by donations from our church members and local businesses who support us.

Now given that praise for our program, our pastor also had a critical sentence about the Episcopal Church, saying that the church needs to be helping the poor, and all some do is talk about whether to ordain a homosexual bishop. Well, that's all subjective you see, for there are some who think that ordaining a homosexual bishop is another way of doing social justice, and so, in the opinion of people who think that opinions carry the same weight as Scripture and Tradition, they are doing the work of God too.

So, what is the will of God, and how do we know what to do?
First off, I believe the will of God is for us to believe in Jesus (John 6:29), and to tell people why we do, and to invite them to believe in Jesus too (the conviction for repentance needs to come from God though, all we can do is steer them in the right direction). We need to know and tell what Jesus did for us, His atoning death and Resurrection. If we don't do that, none of the rest matters, all we're doing is making sinners more comfortable, and not actually inviting people to God's grand banquet.

Second, I believe we are called to help the poor, diseased, and less well-off. I think we are doing God's work by giving of ourselves to others. I also believe we need to show this compassion to people who live around us, and to people who live in other countries who may not have neighbors who are in a position to show similar compassion.

While I respect God's call for compassion, I don't think that it can be claimed that God's will calls for higher taxes or more government programs to do what Jesus calls us to do. It is not written in Scripture or the Apostles' Creed that Christians must support paying higher taxes. Christians can disagree on this, and everything which follows is my opinion on this. I agree with what needs to be done (within certain limits), I just don't agree on the how to pay for it, or the who will do it.

Now some people may be critical of this view - they say if government doesn't collect the money, people won't give enough. They've got a point, but my counterpoint is: is someone don't believe in compassion the same way I do, why should they be forced to satisy my ideals? I think it would be great for everyone to be a Christian, so why don't I write my congressman to tell him to pass a law to make it so? No - I don't go there, I respect freedom of religion, I know that religion cannot be forced on people. I believe in compassion the same way. Let people choose to do it. There will be greedy people who don't give -- that's their problem. Maybe if we went back to the first point above, there would be less greed, but I certainly believe that by going straight to point #2 and neglecting point #1, there will be less people with grace-filled hearts willing to act with compassion.

I alluded to certain limits on what I consider to be what needs to be done. I think social work should be limited to what everyone (let me call it an overwhelming supermajority) can agree is doing God's will. It's not reassuring to me that the Episcopal Church can, by a mere majority of bishops, many of whom have little or no respect for Scripture, throw away millenia of Church teaching on sexuality, and ordain a homosexual bishop. It is also not reassuring to me that the National Council of Churches, speaking for a minority of Christians, acts as an advocate for socialism even in countries where it has resulted in governments that do not respect basic human rights, such as Cuba (no freedom of speech and other violations of rights) and Zimbabwe (no freedom to live). Even in other more benign socialist states, it has not been shown that adopting socialism has made people better off. In general, it's a recipe for spreading the poverty around, which I guess makes the activists happy; just like the saying: misery loves company. Can you have an egalitarian economic system? “Oh yes, you can have an egalitarian society – but only at the lowest possible level.” - Friedrich Hayek.

Back to the NCC -- you can look at their website for hours and not find anything about making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). In the NCC worldview, Christians are told to tolerate and respect people of other faiths, fine and good for tolerance's sake, but is doing that alone doing what Jesus asked us to do? Can't we at least tell others that Jesus died for them too, and that they can accept God's gift? Is it really a hate crime to tell them that their religion isn't adequate for getting them where they want to go? Is it really compassionate, given the eternal consequences, to do any less?

So to sum up: what do I believe is the Work of God?
Believe in God, and the One whom He sent (John 6:29)
Tell others about Jesus and invite them to believe in Him too (Matthew 28:19, Luke 10:1-24)
Act compassionately toward others (Luke 10:25-37)

There are other details which can only be known by each individual as they find their place in the Church, everyone has a different role to play - indeed, I even think there is a different role to play for all the denominations we have, some emphasize evangelism, some helping the homeless, and some summer basketball programs, but as long as we follow Jesus and glorify God and tell the truth to those seeking Him we're all doing His will.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 01:51 PM | Comments (2)

July 22, 2003

Bill Bright

I note with sadness the passing of Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. I was involved in CCC back in my college days, and found fellowship with them rewarding. One thing I liked a lot about it was leadership training; it wasn't just about going to church, it was about building Christian leaders. Leaders who could witness to the public, who would build fellowships of fellow Christians and teach them to be leaders as well. I had some trouble with the witnessing to complete strangers part. I did it, but I have considerable trouble doing it now, especially since most of the people I talk to each day are at work, and I don't know how well it would go over there. There is a role in the body of Christ for this type of witnessing, even if I don't feel particularly well cut out for it.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:24 PM | Comments (1)

Uday and Qusay Hussein killed

Uday, Qusay Hussein are killed in U.S. raid on house in Mosul

Should I rejoice or contemplate the operations of God's hands silently? I do not believe that God is neutral between good and evil, nor do I believe that we cannot know the difference, as those who believe in "no-absolute-truth" proclaim. I am pleased that the people of Iraq will no longer be subject to the tortures these two men inflicted.

The LORD is King forever and ever; The nations have perished out of His land.

LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear,

To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.
Psalm 10:16-18 NKJV

May we be humble in the knowledge that God is our judge as well.

UPDATE: Just read this, and now I understand what the author of Psalm 137 was probably feeling, when he wrote this post-exilic imprecatory psalm.

O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!
Psalm 137:8-9 NKJV

I don't particularly like to think about the image portrayed by these two verses, but I think it was written for men like these.


Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:13 PM | Comments (2)

July 08, 2003

Iran

Well, tomorrow is the big day for Iran-related blogging, and I don't know what to say. I've planned to write something, but as the day approaches I still suffer from writer's block on this issue.

Hossein Derakhshan writes in his weblog that if we want to help Iran, then we've got to know about it. I'm going to do that. Here's another link from Hossein Derakhshan's site to help. (Thanks to Rev. Mike's House of Homiletic Hash for the link)

Well, I just thought of something I can write about, a historical reflection:

I was a senior at Texas Tech University back when the Iran hostage crisis erupted. I was a active Christian and churchgoer at the time, even participating in Campus Crusade for Christ there. There was a lot of anger and resentment over the hostage crisis, among other things, and a lot of it was directed at President Carter as well as the Iranian theocracy.

I was returning from a job interview one night, and struck up a conversation with a man who was flying to Lubbock, and then catching a bus to meet his wife in some other town there in West Texas. As fate would have it, he was Iranian, just married to an American woman, and would soon be returning the family to Iran. I felt some pain inside for the decision his wife had made, but I stifled it, telling myself to listen to this man and not judge him or his wife -- they had their own reasons for their decisions and it was not for me to criticize or judge.

When we arrived in Lubbock, one of the Campus Crusade for Christ leaders, Ramiro, was to pick me up at the airport. We were very close to the time that my Iranian friend would have to be at the bus station, so close in fact, that if he had to hunt down a taxi, he might not make it. Since Ramiro was right there to pick me up at the gate, we offered to give him a lift. Again, as fate would have it, we arrived at the bus station just in time to see his bus pulling out of the bus station. Our Iranian friend was now without a ride to his destination, and sortof stranded. He could have obtained a hotel room, but I invited him (I think this was a challenge from God, actually, I was a bit afraid, both for me and for him) to stay at my dorm, and we would get him where he needed to go in the morning. He accepted the offer.

Now throughout this time, we shared our faiths with each other; I, a Christian, he, a Muslim (are they Shiite Muslims in Iran? I think they are, could be wrong though - gotta learn stuff like this). He had a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini in his wallet. In all this talk however, I think I spoke from my heart, telling him why I believed in Jesus. I didn't shove a tract in his face or anything, but I may have spoken to God's grace being evident through Christ's death alone.

The one thing that bothered me the most about the whole thing was that this happened during the height of the hostage crisis, and the atmosphere in my dorm was really tense. A common picture posted on students' dorm rooms showed Marines hoisting a flag and inserting it in a certain part of a prominent Iranian's posterior. Not very friendly. I told my Iranian that he should not tell anyone where he was from or he could be in big trouble. I think he understood the danger, and we got him to his next ride the next day with no trouble.

I hope my witness that day was full of grace and truth, and I hope that my words found good soil in that young man's heart.

Earlier this year, I started a program of fasting and praying both for spiritual revival in my church, but also the nation and the world. During the war against Saddam, I fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays (and it almost exactly corresponded to the Lenten season). Now I just do it on Wednesdays, and I will dedicate tomorrow's prayer and fasting to Iran and the goal of freedom in Iran.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:47 PM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2003

Should we be witnessing to people of other faiths?

I've been thinking about the recent controversy regarding Christian-Muslim dialogue, especially the criticism of the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has used harsh words to describe Islam, and who also operates a Christian humanitarian-aid organization, Samaritan's Purse.

In the mission-related literature I receive from the United Methodist Church, there is no emphasis at all on telling people about Jesus Christ, in fact, the denomination seems to be dedicated to understanding and meeting people where they are in their own faith, be that Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever. There is hardly any difference between them and the the doctrine of Universalism, with respect to preaching the Gospel.

I don't agree with this belief or practice. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples. Now words are important; Franklin Graham used very confrontational words, "wicked" and "evil". Maybe he should have been a bit 'nicer'. However, Christian critics miss the point when they accuse him of wrongdoing because someone would be offended. Jesus told us we would cause offense, and He told us to go out and preach knowing we would be persecuted.

It's not a sign of compassion to just let people of other faiths be. Since we know, from John 3:36 (NKJV), "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him," then it would actually be an act of hate to ignore them.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:45 PM | Comments (4)

June 13, 2003

Commencement Wisdom

Ben Domenech has an excellent post on what graduates should be hearing at their commencement.

I can attest to the truth of his wisdom. A couple of years after I graduated from college, I was unhappy with my church, yet instead of just looking for another church, I just turned my back on God altogether and went off on my own. I did some things I shouldn't have done, but it all comes down to this: I ignored God, living as though He didn't exist, or didn't care. I certainly didn't care about Him during that time.

Sometime in the late 1990's it started to hit me that the message that groups like Promise Keepers were trying to get across to America was right after all. Faith matters -- Families matter -- and for the same reason. God is the foundation, and provides a solid foundation for living. There's a verse in Psalm 11, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?". It has to do with this I think. There are all sorts of spiritual forces around us telling us that compromising on our standards is alright, no one's going to get hurt. Anything that makes us view others as anything less than a being created in God's image is going to harden us to the reality of God's commandment to "love our neighbor as ourself" however.

One of the best sources for inspiration and motivation for me is Psalm 37, which says that righteousness and justice grow in us as we trust in God. I pray around these verses a lot:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:3-6 NKJV

Later in the Psalm, David also says,


The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV

I'm familiar with both halves of that as well. I can get rolling in my walk with God, and really feel like I'm making progress, and then POW!! I'm flat on my face, getting up and asking God to help me get up and move on. It isn't fun when that happens, but I'm committed to getting up and following Him each day.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2003

In National Review Online, Rabbi

In National Review Online, Rabbi Daniel Lapin discusses Mothers' Day, and says it was observed every day in his house, along with Fathers' Day. He also points out some ways of looking at it differently. He also suggests a different way to say grace. Very thoughtful essay, indeed.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2003

The Dunker Journal links to

The Dunker Journal links to an article where astronomers put an exact date and time of Jesus' crucifixion, basing it on the fact that a solar eclipse is noted as occuring in the year 33 A.D. They (the astronomers) also note that Jesus was crucified on the day after the first night with a full moon following the vernal equinox. What's wrong with this scenario? Solar eclipses only occur when the moon is new, it is not possible for a solar eclipse to occur when the moon is full. I would think astronomers would know better than to make simple errors like this. The Dunker Journal is correct in noting that it was a supernatural occurence, there is no natural explanation for the darkness that occured that day.

Update: And, yes, the moon was full when Jesus was crucified. It wouldn't have been Passover otherwise.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

Over at blogs4God, MeanDean notes

Over at blogs4God, MeanDean notes that IBM has bought the Episcopal Church. Who would've thunk it? Actually, I was thinking it would be more likely to be bought by PepsiCola, then they could change the signs on the buildings without buying any new letters!

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2003

David Heddle talks about predestination

David Heddle talks about predestination on his blog's anniversary. The more I read David's work, the more I think he's right, even though I am a member of a denomination that officially disagrees with this doctrine (I'm a United Methodist). However, I think that David will agree with me that every individual needs to make a decision of faith, and to make what looks like, at least from our human perspective, an act of repentance. God may call us to repent, and that calling may be irresistable, but we still have to do it. When the Apostles told their listeners how to be saved, they said to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". When I was younger, I understood predestination to mean that nothing was required; that people who made not even one repentant prayer might wind up in heaven, and people who loved the Lord dearly might wind up being damned. I think David would tell me that that was a misunderstanding, that God's call inclines one's own heart to make that first prayer. At least, that's how I see it now. Another way of looking at it is fishing: Is it the skill of the fisherman, or the foolishness of the fish, that results in its capture? Arminians think it's the fishes own fault, while Calvinists look to the skill of the fisherman.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

Susan Konig laments irresponsible parenting

Susan Konig laments irresponsible parenting and asks why more moms can't be like her own. Very fine tribute to the power of righteous parenting. Parents who love their kids set limits for them the same way we keep our pets inside or in our yards. Bad things can happen when you mix youth, freedom, and a lack of responsibility. Actually just put any two of those three together and bad things can happen.

Lee Anne Millinger also laments the inability of parents to teach their children about knowing God. She's right. Sunday school is inadequate for teaching children to pray, to read the Bible, and other basic things to know about Christianity. Even if it's something as simple as a family devotional at breakfast (what we did in our home), children need to be taught to pray, and to emphasize that it be done daily, not just at church.

I'm particularly glad for the influence my Mom and Dad had in my life, even after I went down a false path, I was able to see the wisdom offered by what they taught me while I was growing up. When I decided to turn around, I knew what to do, I didn't have to consult anyone or go buy a book, all I had to do was counter my unwillingness. The Proverbs say, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) It doesn't say the going will always be easy, but I do think it means if you want your children to go down the right path, the best time to start teaching them is right now.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2003

In Remembrance Last night, our

In Remembrance
Last night, our church had its annual sacrificial meal, commemorating the Last Supper. Communion is always special, but it seems even more so on this day. A little more special for us, as our church is unable to use its kitchen (structural damage has prevented us from having full access to our church since December 1999). We have our sacrificial meal in a meeting room of another organization down the street from us. Maybe the disciples' last supper with Jesus was also in a strange room.

Good Friday
A while back, and I cannot find his original post in the short time I have, Jeffrey Collins Joyful Christian said that he thought Psalm 22 was an expression of Christ's thoughts on the cross.
Psalm 22


My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
"He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him! "

But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother's breasts.
I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother's womb
You have been My God.
Be not far from Me,
For trouble is near;
For there is none to help.

Many bulls have surrounded Me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
They gape at Me with their mouths,
Like a raging and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.

But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me;
O My Strength, hasten to help Me!
Deliver Me from the sword,
My precious life from the power of the dog.
Save Me from the lion's mouth
And from the horns of the wild oxen!
Psalm 22: 1-21 NKJV

The Psalm doesn't end there, however. There is a good ending, as we will soon see.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2003

Finally, a quiz result that

Finally, a quiz result that understands me!!

You are Psalms
You are Psalms.


Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(seen at susan b.'s site @ Lilac Rose)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2003

Richard Hall has an excellent

Richard Hall has an excellent post on Lent and repentance.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2003

A couple of weeks ago,

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Byron and I blogged about praying for the people of Iraq. That generated some interest in creating new websites, or linking to websites similar to existing sites setup to encourage people to pray together for our country. Here's a website, The Religious Liberty Program (provided by the Institute for Religion and Democracy) created for the purpose of increasing Christians' awareness of religious persecution around the world, and encouraging prayer for them.

This week's prayer request: Indonesia

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:47 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2003

This week has been a

This week has been a difficult one for blogging. On Thursday, Amy asked me if she could post a tribute to the Reverend Mr. Rogers, so I said sure, go ahead, so the previous post, as anyone reading the byline will find out, is by her. I didn't grow up with Mr. Rogers, finding out tonight in a conversation with another member of my church, that I'm probably a little older than his targeted audience. I don't even remember it being on TV in my childhood TV days. Amy loved him, of course, so I let her have the helm on Thursday. I love the values he expressed, that I read quoted over in National Review's The Corner that day. I especially liked the part about having boundaries for children; that they show the child the parents' love, that the rules are an expression of the parents' love, and is not just to exert power for power's sake. Amy and I are going to be parents in about a year, going the adoption route, adopting from China. It will be a new experience for us, our first child. If Mr. Rogers ever wrote a book about raising children, I'm going to heed his advice. One thing I believe about respecting our elders: the best way to respect them is to listen to them and live in such a way that shows that you respect their wisdom and character.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2003

Mark Byron says we need

Mark Byron says we need to pray for the people of Iraq. He's right.

People who are against military action in Iraq claim that we will be killing untold numbers of innocent civilians, not to mention putting American lives at risk. While I think the concern is exaggerated, the killing of innocents is a concern. I don't believe it should be a reason to avoid what needs to be done (more innocents have died under Saddam's regime than were marching in the anti-war protests according to Tony Blair), but the people deserve our prayers. I've been led to pray that the effects of the war will be minimal, that innocent lives will be spared. To Mark's prayer request, I would just add one more thing - that missionaries, preachers, and teachers be present in all the countries in that 10-40 window, telling everyone living under an Islamic regime about the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

Here is John Wesley's sermon

Here is John Wesley's sermon #27 Upon Our Lord's Sermon on The Mount, VII which covers the subject of fasting.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

Many Christians are praying for

Many Christians are praying for our country, and even fasting. Here's some practical and spiritual advice from Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer.

I'd like to extract this portion of his article, from the section entitled "Dealing with the Responses of Friends and Loved Ones, as many people are intimidated from talking about fasting for fear of violating Jesus' teaching about fasting from the Sermon on the Mount.


Many people are reluctant to tell others that they are fasting so they will avoid the sin of the Pharisees: fasting just to gain recognition for themselves. I strongly believe that attitude is a result of a wrong interpretation of our Lord's teaching and that it is a trick of the enemy who does not want us to fast, nor to share with your loved ones, neighbors and friends the benefits of fasting.

By isolating ourselves from the support of other Christians, we will be more susceptible to doubts and negative influences (both human and demonic). We need the prayer shield of our Christian friends and family members to help us continue when we feel alone and when the enemy tempts us to give up Our Lord as he did Jesus Christ. Eventually, people will notice you are not eating. However, I have found that unless you see them daily, they do not consider your skipped meal much of a concern. If you are asked, nonbelievers may be satisfied by such a brief answer as, "I have other plans for lunch today." Or Christians should be satisfied when you answer that you are fasting today.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:52 PM | Comments (2)

February 05, 2003

Since I got a link

Since I got a link to this query, just in case anyone is wondering, this is not me. Dr. Fuhrman is a nutritional specialist, and has written a book on fasting. I cannot attest to the integrity of his information, however I've talked with people who know him (I get some of his phone calls, his office is nearby) and they think he's great. The last link is to an interview with him about the practice of fasting.

Now that the subject of fasting has come up, I'd like to address it from a Christian point of view. I'm bringing it up because I believe it is important that we pray for our country, and in times of national peril, some of our Presidents have been known to issue proclamations of days dedicated to prayer and fasting. The best example of fasting in the Bible is probably the proclamation of the king of Ninevah, who proclaimed a complete and total fast for all creatures, including livestock; no living being was to eat or drink until the judgment of God was averted (it worked). I don't know how fasting works, except it serves to train the body to deal with minor discomfort; as far as helping our faith and walk with God, the Bible says nothing but good things about it, except that the disciples did not fast before Jesus' ascension, as Jesus did not view it as necessary while He was here in his pre-glorified state. He did say the disciples would fast after His ascension however.

I fast one day a week, and am considering increasing it to two days a week, according to Wesleyan practice, until the inevitable War with Iraq is over. I don't intend this to sound like boasting; I bring it up because I think that it is important for our President and our country that Christians do this, and I encourage everyone reading this to prayerfully consider doing likewise. When I became a new Christian, I would have never dreamed of a fasting discipline, but within the last six months, I've found a once-a-week fasting day is spiritually profitable. I guess it gives me more time for prayer and meditation on God's word. It also makes me consider my physical needs as just a little bit less important than other things (I have found it to tone down some of my Randian thinking for example). John Wesley made his preachers commit to fasting two days a week (W&F), where the fast consisted of a 24-hour period between dinner the night before, to dinner the night of, the fast. For a complete study of fasting and its spiritual benefits, one should consult their minister or a respected teacher within their church, and should also look up the subject of fasting in their Bible. For physical benefits, consult your doctor. People with medical conditions should consult their doctors before fasting. Those who are diabetic or hypoglycemic and must carefully monitor their blood sugar should not consider fasting at all.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2003

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent post about truth.

Let me see if I can add anything of value to his fine thoughts.

Repeating Josh's first point, a common misperception about witnessing is that Christians are said to be judgmental and arrogant by their witnessing. But is this so? If the Bible is true, as Christians claim it to be, this truth is not subject to human will. It's true whether or not we wish it to be. One of the claims of the Bible is that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. If this is true, then it isn't arrogant at all to tell others about it; true arrogance would be in keeping silent, as Jonah tried to do when God commanded him to go to Ninevah. Jonah didn't want to go, not because of fear, but because of his prejudice against the Ninevites. Of course, Jonah wound up preaching to the Ninevites, they repented and were saved. Jonah's preaching actually saved many lives (and even then Jonah was pretty slow understanding God's mercy).

Now about the search for truth: I used to think of truth as a journey. I used to be in a religious background that believed that the journey existed for its own sake. After a while, that stopped making sense to me, kindof like driving around in the countryside with no destination in mind. That's fun sometimes, but if you're trying to get somewhere, it won't work. Why is that important? Because eventually, we're all trying to get somewhere. It's the same feeling I confronted before: why am I here? what do I want to do with my life? is there any purpose to it all? Eventually we get tired of aimless driving and seek a destination. It doesn't do any good to pretend that a destination doesn't exist. You know you want to go somewhere, the only questions you have to answer then is "where do I want to go and how do I get there?" Christianity has unique answers to those questions.

Another notion about truth is that the New Testament describes spiritual truths apart from physical reality. That is not the way the Gospel is presented however. The writers of the New Testament claimed to present direct eyewitness testimony of Jesus' resurrection. This testimony is true or false. If true, the New Testament describes a Man who claimed to be God's Son, sent from heaven to accomplish our salvation if we believe in Him, or to be condemned if we reject Him. If false, the whole message is a lie, and it is pointless to believe any of it. There is no value in believing that Jesus was a good man with good ideas which we can believe in whether he existed or not. We are told to believe in Him.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2003

Religious Liberty Advocacy Needed for

Religious Liberty

Advocacy Needed for Jordanian Widow

Urgent! Petitions are needed on behalf of a Jordanian Christian widow has been ordered to give up her children. IRD’s Religious Liberty Program asks you to take action through prayer and advocacy.

Please pray for Siham Qandah and her two children, and prayerfully consider speaking up for her to the Jordanian authorities.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2003

Meditations on knowing God I

Meditations on knowing God
I have a Bible reading discipline that I keep very rigourously; it is a foundation of my life now since I've been following Christ for the last year and a half. Over this last Christmas time, I think God has been showing me something new however: that reading the Bible is no substitute for prayer, praise, and walking with Him. Over the last two weeks, I've often been pressed for time (even without blogging), and everyday things to do sometimes became a little frantic. Sometimes I had to choose between prayer and Bible study in the morning as I had to redefine priorities in order to get to work on time. My experience is that Bible study could be put off to the evening (I have some verses memorized anyway, so I can read in my head anytime), but prayer is an absolute first-thing-in-the-morning thing to do. Look at the opening verses of Psalm 18 - they are an expression of love and trust in God which are wonderful words to greet God with each day:


I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:1-2 (NKJV)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2002

A while back, David Heddle

A while back, David Heddle commented about why evangelical Christians tend to support Israel. I've actually been sympathetic to Israel for a long time, even before I became a Christian (for the record, the Ayn Rand Institute is also pro-Israel in its editorial stance). To say that this is exclusively a Christian or "Religious Right" issue is not an accurate description of Israel's supporters.

From a secular point of view, I agree with the Ayn Rand Institute, that Israel deserves our support because it is a free country, with a foundation of economic and press freedom. I certainly don't see that in the Palestinian culture, where a zeitgeist of victimhood persists, and a totalitarian government censors the press and kills its own citizens without due process.

I've read some editorials recently where it is claimed Christians support Israel because we want war, as if we could call God's hand if we could just encourage a war to get started. This belief is offensive to me; God will do His will regardless of the acts of man, we cannot force God to do anything, except to forgive us when we repent and turn to Him.

From a religious point of view, I support Israel because the Bible says that I will be blessed if I do. I don't think that God's promises to Abraham became null and void when Jesus was crucified. And as far as responsibility for the Crucifixion goes, it is not theologically sound to lay that on the Jews; the Bible makes it clear that the Atonement was for the sins of all men. From that point of view, this is a true statement for everyone: "I am responsible for the Cross, my sins put Him there".

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2002

Franklin Graham is cited by

Franklin Graham is cited by World Magazine as Daniel of the Year. Congratulations, Rev. Graham, and thank you for preaching the Gospel truthfully!

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2002

Well that's all for tonight,

Well that's all for tonight, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Here is the Thanksgiving Psalm at the dedication of the Temple.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Thanksgiving! Very busy lately,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Very busy lately, so blogging has been slower lately, but now that Thanksgiving is here, I wish everyone a happy and blessed time with their loved ones. There is so much to be thankful for.

What am I thankful for? First and foremost, I am grateful for the second, third, ... and n-th chances God has given me. There is a large twenty year gap in my life where I did not even pretend to be a Christian, after being pretty dedicated in my youth, or so I thought at the time. I got hung up on legalism; trying to be a better Christian, getting frustrated whenever I failed, and eventually walking away from God. Now I realize that it is God's strength and righteousness that sustains me, not my own. I also thank God for providing me with a good teacher, C.S. Lewis, who helped me to realize the truth in the previous sentence in his book Mere Christianity.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2002

Here's some moving testimony of

Here's some moving testimony of the power of prayer, America's Sunday Best, from Opinion Journal.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2002

I'm pretty one-sided, Republican, when

I'm pretty one-sided, Republican, when it comes to my political views, and since I'm from New Jersey, where we've almost made it a crime to win an election while Republican, you might think it's pretty easy to get angry about politics. True, but when I stop to think about it, why be upset? A preacher told me a long time ago: "God has everything under control".


The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the LORD sits as King forever.
The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.
Psalm 29: 10-11 NKJV

I can't predict the future, so I don't know the details, but I do know that God is true, and He has told us the ending. We may have to go through trouble, maybe even war, but the end of the story is God giving peace to His people.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

International Day of Prayer for

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is on November 10. link
All days are good for praying for Christians around the world whose lives are on the line for their faith. We Christians here in America are very blessed to have the freedom to worship God according to each ones own conscience and free will. Please remember those around the world who have had that right taken away from them.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2002

The Confessing Theologians Commission has

The Confessing Theologians Commission has produced an excellent letter, Be Steadfast: A Letter to Confessing Christians, which provides answers to three questions:


    • Why should we remain in our churches?
    • Why do our churches need faithful confessors?
    • Why does our society need faithful Christian confessors?

The intent is to inspire members of mainline denominations to church renewal. I heartily endorse this statement.

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2002

Yesterday, I cited the work

Yesterday, I cited the work of Robert P. George, a director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, as well as being the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. He also writes for Toward Tradition.


Here are two fine examples of his work:

An interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, from NRO on the subject of just war.

A response regarding the issue of ecumenism, to a speech given by Dr. Tom Oden, of IRD, "The New Ecumenism" (the last three paragraphs are great!)

Posted by joelfuhrmann at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)