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1984 + ? PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 22:38

1984 + ?

As Jeremy passed the deteriorating wood-tiled church on North Main Street, he tried to remember just how long ago its large doors had been locked for the last time. Was it ten years? Longer? Shorter? However far back it was, the doors were no longer white, having lost the battle with weather that any abandoned building does. Its handicapped ramp had also, long ago, seen its rust color turn into the hue of gray decay. From the looks of it, it also lost its structural integrity—a fitting unsafe entry path to an unused church.

For that matter, even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it.1

Jeremy tried to narrow down the actual year by remembering other connected events. Although what finally finished off the small congregation was the hate-crime judgment against their minister, he wasn't the first conviction in Antrim when the Tolerance Purge ("Tolperge" in Newspeak) arrived. Not surprisingly, the first Tolperge drive avoided houses of worship, focusing instead on businesses. Religious kooks would be allowed their bigotry, at least for a time, but owning a business was a privilege in the eyes of the Federal Government, the Department of Tolerance, and their Tolerance Czar ("Fedgov," "Deptol," and "Czartol" respectively).

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 23:43
What If'ing the Lord Almighty PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Sunday, 27 May 2012 12:00

The Book of Ezra starts of with some great news: Cyrus (king of Persia) proclaimed that the exiled Jews can return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. Not only that, but he encouraged those around the Israelites to donate everything from gold to animals "for the house of God that is Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:4, English Standard Version). Cyrus was also someone who puts his money where his mouth is, and returned 4,500 "vessels of gold and silver" Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem back with the returning expatriates (see Ezra 1:7-11). Not a bad way to head back home, eh?

I will admit that after reading through that book this week, the good news that starts Ezra off isn't what is going to stick with me. Instead, it's the situation dealt with in the last two chapters. This is how the ninth chapter begins:

After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands...For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost" (Ezra 9:1—2).

Don't get me wrong, the officials and Ezra had every reason to be concerned. Israelites weren't suppose to marry people from other nations, and when they did it had catastrophic consequences. Even a smart guy like King Solomon proved the wisdom behind the Lord's prohibition:

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Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 22:37
My Close Personal Friend Penn Jillette PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Sunday, 20 May 2012 15:43

Okay, I'll be up front...I have never even met Penn the title of this article might be considered a wee bit of an exaggeration. :-)

No, he isn't a close personal friend, but I have had a couple times where Penn has responded to me on Twitter...and considering he's got over 1.7 million followers, that's almost like being famous. :-)

At this point some of you might be saying, "Who is Penn Jillette?" This is what he has (right at this moment) on his Twitter profile:

More than 1/2 (by weight) of Penn & Teller at the Rio in Vegas, Penn's Sunday School Podcast, P&T Tell a Lie on Discovery, P&T: Fool Us! on ITV.God, NO! - book

As that blurb indicates, he is the larger half of the Penn & Teller act, a pair of comedic magicians. If you have ever seen them, you also know he's the half that speaks (his smaller compadre never utters a word). And speak he does...during his magic acts...during their multiple TV shows...and in any other opportunity he is given. He is loud, fun, informative, and interesting...

And an extremely committed atheist.

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Compassion for I-580 PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Sunday, 13 May 2012 17:50

As I type this I am listening to the greatest negative my apartment has—the constant, fairly loud sound of traffic (often very heavy traffic). I've basically gotten use to it, but I still notice it...especially at places in my abode that have reduced sound proofing (for example, the huge door to the outdoors just before the kitchen).

I've wondered, however, if perhaps it is more of a blessing than a curse. Once as I looked through the open blinds in the living room, it hit me that the vehicles whizzing by 24 hours a day were a reminder of the myriad people out there. It is impossible for me to be a hermit in this location—I am constantly reminded I am not alone. As a Christian this is a benefit—since our duty isn't to self, instead it is first to God and then to others:

Jesus answered, "The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31, English Standard Version).

Everyone who drives by—even the motorcyclist my friend was convinced was doing 120MPH—is my neighbor. Not only do I owe them love, I owe them that love in action. And, as Jesus noted while describing the judgment (separating the goats from the sheep), what we do (or don't do) to others we do (or don't do) to Him.

And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40).

Then he will answer them, saying, "Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me" (Matthew 25:45).

How we treat our neighbors reflects on our dedication to God. It reflects on our character. It reflects on the state of our soul.

Of course, the problem with masses of people (and constant traffic) is that it's easy to get desensitized to them. I've often said that the more people there are the less they notice each other (a part of the reason I do not liked being in locations packed with earthlings—for example, a mall at Christmas time).

As I watch the (relatively light) 7PM traffic head east and west (along with a Bart train that just passed by), I am reminded of a Christian contemporary song made famous by Brandon Heath. The tune, "Give Me Your Eyes," begins with him describing descending in a airplane ("my world from a mile high") and then entering the airport. As someone who has done that far more often in his life than his wife or he prefers, I can understand these final words before the first chorus kicks in:

Of the confusion and chaos
All those people going somewhere
Why have I never cared?

Every car, truck, name it...that passes by this home the Lord has blessed me with has one or more people in it. Maybe it is someone who just lost their job and doesn't know how they are going to tell their spouse...or pay next month's mortgage for that matter. Maybe it is someone else who is returning from a doctor's visit and is trying to keep their mind enough on driving as they consider the news that they may not live through the end of the year. Maybe it is someone who doesn't know it, but some drunk a few miles up the road is going to make it so that don't even have until the end of the day.

Why have I never cared?

No, I cannot go stand out in traffic, get people to stop, and ask them how they are. I mean, how they really are, not the quick, "Good" we say in passing when given a perfunctory, "How you doin'?"

I can't stop those drivers, but I am surrounded by the people those vehicles represent, and I have prayed for what Brandon Heath's song requests:

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

And it doesn't take a long time going through the Gospels to see what kind of eyes Jesus had for people:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 14:14).

"I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat" (Mark 8:2).

And when the Lord saw her [the widow who had lost her only son], he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep" (Luke 7:13).

Whether it was the spiritually lost, the ill, the hungry, the grieving...anyone who was hurting...our Savior's eyes for them were compassionate.

And those are the eyes I about you?

But I worry, could I actually handle it? Or, would I be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pain and need out there? Even worse, how about looking at someone you love and knowing that no matter what is done they will never accept God's gift of salvation?

Then would we want Jesus' eyes? Can you imagine how painful that was for Him?

I am going to still pray for Jesus' eyes, but perhaps a little less ambitiously. "Lord, please give me your eyes and your love for the ones you put in my path. And please never let me forget that not a single person who passes my window on the interstate is any less precious in your sight than I am."

"Please give me compassion for I-580."

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Last Updated on Saturday, 16 June 2012 13:48
Oaths Gone Bad PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Sunday, 06 May 2012 12:00

Have you ever promised something, only to regret it afterward? When you were a kid, did you ever assure someone with the words, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye"? Do you ever swear by anything? ("I swear on my mother's grave that...")

Between Bible studies and reading, I've been thinking about oaths in Scripture that have gone awry. For instance, going through Judges this one stood out:

And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering" (Judges 11:30-31, English Standard Version).

In the previous verse it says that "the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah" (Judges 11:29) so it seems really odd that he would offer something that appears against God's command—sacrificing one's child (see Deuteronomy 18:10). Perhaps that's why after having success beating the Ammonites, our Lord allowed Jephthah's oath to come back and haunt him:

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The Result of Double Faith PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Sunday, 29 April 2012 00:00

Between a couple trips through all 66 (and Bible studying) I've read every word in Scripture more than once, yet I still run into stuff I don't ever remember seeing before. Sure, it could just be that I've got an awful memory, but instead it seems to me that God's written word is like a gold mine where no matter how much you dig the precious metal never runs out...even when you are digging in the same exact place. It is inexhaustible.

For instance, a day or so back I was reading how Ahaziah (bad king of Israel) wonders if his injuries are going to lead to his death and decides to go ask Ekron's god Baal-zebub via messengers. The only real God sends Elijah to intercept Ahaziah's intermediaries, and Elijah sends them back with a pretty negative message. Seeing them so soon the king was surprised, and asked them why they were back so quickly. They relate the communication and then:

[Ahaziah] said to them, "What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?" They answered him, "He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist." And he said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite" (2 Kings 1:7-8, English Standard Version).

Now, perhaps you are far more observant than I am, but I never caught that Elijah wore clothing made of hair and a leather belt. Why does that matter? Fast forward to the New Testament and:

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Last Updated on Sunday, 13 May 2012 17:27
Was it a Bad Bird? PDF Print Email
Written by Alan Fahrner   
Sunday, 29 April 2012 23:03

In my last sermon I mentioned how social media options like Twitter and Facebook are great places to get topics for talks and articles, but there is one thing that definitely beats both hands-down...

The utterances and actions of a 4 year-old. :-)

A couple weeks back I had a bunch of stuff to bring into the church, thus requiring a couple trips from my Nissan Cube. During the first one I had left the driver's door open, and when I returned to my car I was pleasantly surprised to find a little bird flying around near the dashboard. It's hard to explain how cute it was—kind of imagine the birds from Bambi flying around that famous deer when he was just a newborn fawn. (At this point I'll have to admit that I am not even sure if I've watched Bambi completely, so those cartoon birds might just be a figment of my imagination.)

The adorable bird, however, wasn't as enamored with its equal surprise at seeing me, and when I went to the other side of the car to let it out it took my absence from the open door to escape. Even though the feathered friend's visit was short, this little episode is my favorite one (so far) with nature during my stay here on the grounds of the Pleasant View Church (although there is also something to be said for the turkeys some mornings and deer some nights).

Naturally, having a story about a cute small bird would immediately make me want to share it with an equally cute small boy, and later that day I described the experience to Augie. He clearly enjoyed the tale, and at one point asked a very simple question.

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