Friday, November 17, 2006

Friends in High Places

Like many bloggers, I have the fantasy of becoming a serious, published author. I picked up a book on Christian writing by Jerry B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame. The book is entitled Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life and while reading near the end I came across a story too wonderful and humorous not to share. Jerry Jenkins was telling a story about how he was asked to write an autobiography for Paul Anderson, the world's strongest man. Anderson won the 1956 Olympic gold medal in power lifting and once did a back lift of 6.270 pounds in 1957. Anderson was 5 foot 9 inches and 375 pounds of muscle when Jenkins began talking to him. Anderson ran a boys home and was known for not allowing any swearing. Later Jenkins tells this story:

"The day he drove me back to the airport, we were waiting for my plane and a man with his back to us was frustrated about something and said "Jesus Christ!"

Anderson bristled and stared, and when the man said it again, Paul rushed him from behind, wrapped those tree trunk arms around his waist, and lifted him off the ground. "Where is He?" Paul said. "He's a friend of mine!"

The guy peeked over his should and saw this mountain of a man and said, "Oh, my God!"

Anderson siad, "That's Him! Where is He?"

I thought the guy was going to wet his pants. And I dare say he never swore again without first look over his shoulder."

For those of you who share my published author fantasy, I'm enjoying Jenkin's book.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Intelligent Design for Skeptics

If you know a skeptic who doubts the existence of God, send them to this animated video "The Watchmaker." It does a great job of showing how unlikely it is that creation was all a matter of random chance.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Facing Our Fears

If you have not yet ventured out to the movie theater to see the movie "Facing the Giants" then let me give the movie my personal recommendation. (Click here for a 2 minute video clip.) There are many stories woven together in a powerful way.
  • The story of a football coach who feels like a failure in his career which could apply to anyone struggling with how they make a living.
  • The parents of the football players who plot to have the coach fired even thought he is a "fine man" because they value winning more.
  • The young wife who desperately wants to have children but hasn't after four years of trying
  • The faithful Christian who has been "prayer walking" along the halls of a high school for years asking God to send revival to the students of the school.
  • The teenage boy who routinely disrepects his father.
  • The teenage boy who has always been physically too small and too weak.
  • The father in a wheelchair trying to raise a teenage son into a man by himself

I'd like to point out to other things which struck me.
  • This film was basically produced on faith by a single church that wanted to impact the world at large, Sherwood Baptist in the small town of Albany, Georgia. This is an amazing example of how God can use regular people who want to let God use them in a mighty way for His purposes.
  • My favorite scene is when the current coach of the University of Georgia, Mark Richt, visits the main character in the football team locker room and tells him how many times the Bible says to "have no fear" right before the state championship game. I know I've often been too timid, too hesitant, and in general fallen victim to fear. I wonder how many blessings I've missed out on in life because I've not taken step one on faith when God prompted me to. By the way, click here to read Mark Richt's testimony

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Make a Loan and Change a Life

A few weeks ago I was reading my local newspaper, The Tennessean, and saw an article about the most recent Nobel Prize in Economics. I learned that Muhammad Yunus, who got his Ph.D . from Vanderbilt University here in Nashville in 1971 received the Nobel Prize for his work combating poverty through the use of "microcredit" or "microloans".
Yunus’ concept of microcredit – small loans to poor villagers in Bangladesh to help them buy livestock or fund an enterprise, has grown from $27 he loaned out of his own pocket into the Grameen Bank, which has loaned more than $5.7 billion to 6.61 million borrowers. Despite lack of collateral or signed loan documents, 99 percent of the loans have been paid back. The Grameen Bank provides services in more than 71,000 villages in Bangladesh through 2,226 branches.
Just a few days ago I was channel surfing and stumbled upon a Frontline story Uganda: A Little Goes a Long Way which showed how an organization called
Kiva was using the internet to connect people like me with deserving entrepreneurs in far away places. The response to this TV show was overwhelming as their website was swamped and inaccessible for several days. The website finally came back up and I was able to make my first "microloan" Saturday night. I used my credit card to loan $25 to Ariola Sánchez, a retailer in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Kiva pooled my $25 along with loans from 9 others to fully funded her request for a $250 business loan to purchase an inventory for resale.

Kiva is not a religious organization but I could tell that many of the entrepreneurs who benefit from the loans are Christian. One of the items Ariola sells, for examples, is Bibles. I encourage my readers to visit the Kiva website with their credit card handy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Grace Shown by Ted Haggard's Wife

I was not planning to post anything about the sad and tragic fall of the Rev. Ted Haggard. Frankly, I did not know too much about him, his background, or his ministry and I didn’t want to add to the media buzz over the situation.

I changed my mind, however, when I read words attributed to his wife that absolutely floored me in the way they exhibit the ability to show grace in the toughest of times... and grace is of course what my blog is all about.

If you check out this Fox News story “Evangelist Admits to Sexual Immorality” you will find these words about a letter from Haggard's wife that was shared with his congregation:

In a separate letter, Haggard's wife prompted laughter when she promised to remain with her husband and said church members no longer had to worry about her marriage being so perfect she couldn't relate to them.”

Yes, you read correctly, the words of Ted Haggard’s wife Gayle prompted laughter. I think the congregation laughed in joy that she could at this time of pain make light of the perception (or is it wishful thinking?) that preachers and their wives have perfect marriages that should be envied and serve as some kind of role mode to the rest of us. (Those of us who are preacher's kids know better.) To me, these words speak volumes about her and how powerfully she has allowed God to work in her life at this time.

While I’m on the topic, I would also like to point my readers to another bit of insight on this sad situation. See Gordon MacDonald’s leadership blog “Out of Ur” and his post “The Haggard Truth: Gordon MacDonald on lies all-too-easily believed for some insight on the dangers of fame for Christian leaders and the impact when a Christian leaders falls.

It seems to me that when people become leaders of outsized organizations and movements, when they become famous and their opinions are constantly sought by the media, we ought to begin to become cautious. The very drive that propels some leaders toward extraordinary levels of achievement is a drive that often keeps expanding even after reasonable goals and objectives have been achieved. Like a river that breaks its levy, that drive often strays into areas of excitement and risk that can be dangerous and destructive. Sometimes the drive appears to be unstoppable. This seems to have been the experience of the Older Testament David and his wandering eyes, Uzziah in his boredom, and Solomon with his insatiable hunger for wealth, wives and horses. They seem to have been questing—addictively?—for more thrills or trying to meet deeper personal needs, and the normal ways that satisfy most people became inadequate for them.”


“More than once we’ve seen the truth of a person’s life come out, not all at once, but in a series of disclosures, each an admission of further culpability which had been denied just a day or two before. Perhaps inability to tell the full truth is a sign that one is actually lying to himself and cannot face the full truth of the behavior in his own soul.

But then all sin begins with lies told to oneself. The cardinal lies of a failed leader? I give and give and give in this position; I deserve special privileges—perhaps even the privilege of living above the rules. Or, I have enough charm and enough smooth words that I can talk anything (even my innocence) into reality. Or, so much of my life is lived above the line of holiness that I can be excused this one little faux pas. Or, I have done so much for these people; now it’s their time to do something for me—like forgiving me and giving a second chance."

The Devil must be celebrating big time over his ability to bring down a big-name Christian leader. Speaking of that, I highly recommend everyone read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis for a chilling insight into temptation. My reaction upon reading it was “If I was the Devil, that is exactly what I would do!” It really is worth reading!

The Screwtape Letters

C. S. Lewis

Best Price $3.33
or Buy New

On yet another related topic. Do you believe that the Rev Ted Haggard was a "bad apple" his entire pastorial career? Or.. do you believe that he was at one time living an upright life and being used by God? I don't know any of the people involved but my first reaction is to believe that he was a good man who was not vigilant and was undermined by the temptation of the Devil... just like in The Screwtape Letters. See a previous post of mine "Like a Roaring Lion... Er Shark".

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved