Alec Baldwin was exposed. You will be, too.

phone.jpgOK, so Alec Baldwin isn’t going to win Father of the Year in 2007.  Or 2008.  Or ever.  But this really isn’t about piling on him.  Of course what he said was awful, but I’m not sure that worldwide humiliation is fair or helpful either.  (Too bad about him and Kim Basinger.  They made terrific guest stars on The Simpsons once.)

But his travails did remind me of this verse:

Matthew 12:36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but you are going to die.  Yes, you.  Roughly a quarter of a million people die every day, and very few of them planned it.  The mean, median and mode of deaths per person is exactly one (1). 

Every one of our careless words (and thoughts, and deeds, and failure to do good deeds) will all be reviewed one day.  Just you and your creator, one-on-one.  Every secret laid bare. 

You have two options:

  1. Be 100% accountable on your own (bad idea).  God is more holy than we can imagine.  All our excuses and “I was a good person” reasoning will vanish in an instant.  We will not be in a position to convince almighty God that Heaven just won’t be the same without us.
  2. Accept what Jesus did in your place (good idea).  He did all the work.  You just have to trust that He was raised from the dead and make him Lord of your life.

Matthew 22

caesar.jpgGreetings!

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

It was customary at that time to send two invitations to a wedding – one to request someone’s attendance and another to announce that it was ready.  In this story, there are three invitations sent.  Not only do the invitees ignore the extra invitation but they even kill the servants!  This was more than a great insult to the host. 

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

 4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

 5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

 8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

 13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

So what is the application?  God is generous in his invitations to us, but one day the opportunities will be gone.  As Hebrews 4:7 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  You never know which day will be your last.

The wedding clothes were often provided to guests.  Refusing to wear them would be arrogant and rude.  In this parable, these people are trying to come to God on their terms (bad idea).

Paying Taxes to Caesar

Once again, the Pharisees are foiled in their attempt to trick Jesus.   

 15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

 18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

 21“Caesar’s,” they replied.
      Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Marriage at the Resurrection

 23That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27Finally, the woman died. 28Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

 29Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

 33When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

The Sadducees were another ruling group of Jews along with the Pharisees.  Jesus showed the error of their thinking and He corrected their false doctrine about there not being a resurrection. 

Jesus did not say we’ll be angels in Heaven, just that we’ll be like them in the sense of not marrying.

The Greatest Commandment

 34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If people were expecting an easy shortcut as to which commands they really needed to follow then this answer must have disappointed them.  Saying to “Love the Lord with all your heart . . .” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” makes it harder, not easier.  Everything we do must be out of genuine love for God and others.  When you realize how hard it is do that perfectly for even 10 consecutive minutes it helps you realize how much you need Jesus’ sacrifice in your place.  Should we aim at keeping those commands?  Yes.  Do we have any hope of doing it?  No way.

Whose Son Is the Christ

 41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
      “The son of David,” they replied.

 43He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
 44” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘ 45If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

This passage makes more sense when understanding that the word Lord is a term of deity in the original Hebrew.  Jesus was turning the tables and asking them questions now and they had no answers.  Also note how Jesus claims that David was speaking by the (Holy) Spirit when he wrote Psalm 110.

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Spring Ballet pictures

Here are a few pictures from the girls’ ballet last weekend (they are in a pre-professional company called the Houston Repertoire Ballet).  I am not an expert in ballet by any stretch, but I have seen a few of these shows.  And this one was the best I’ve seen.  Every other account I heard agreed. They did a great mix of styles in showcasing a history of ballet. 

I never get tired of watching my daughters dance.  They and some of their friends got to do several solos this time which should be a great experience for them.

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My wife’s parents came for a visit and her sister made a surprise flight down from Ohio.  It was a great weekend.  The whole group worked incredibly hard and it went over really well.  Only 222 days until the Nutcracker shows!

Weekly roundup

11.jpgSpinal Tap reunites to fight climate change – The satirical movie This is Spinal Tap was such a clever send up of the rock world (“This one goes up to 11 . . . It’s one louder.”).  My fears were confirmed when I discovered that they would be supporting Al Gore’s efforts and not mocking them.  If you put your favorite line from the movie in the comments section it will make me feel better. 

The Democrats all flew in separate private jets to their debate in South Carolina.  What, no jet-pool?  I imagine Republicans would be just as wasteful, but then again, they aren’t trying to cram global warming restrictions down our throats and brainwash us and our kids with their faulty campaign videos documentaries.  Just something to keep in mind the next time you get a stern lecture for using napkins.  You would think that in an Internet age gross hypocrisy would be on the decline. 

More good pro-life reasoning by my favorite elephant.

One of my dogs has epilepsy (Xannie, the one on the right).  D’oh!  The poor thing had her second  set of seizures in the middle of the night this week.  It lasted over an hour.  It was the second time she has had them, and only a couple shots of valium made them stop.

I’m surprised she didn’t die.  I took her to the emergency clinic at 3:00 a.m.  The Vet thought I was cruel for not leaving her there “overnight” for observation (it was another $300 or so for just another 3 hours – you can do a lot of things for $100/hour!).  These Vets are very talented, but they can go a little overboard on the diagnostics.  Hopefully the medicine we got will prevent more seizures.

Wishbone “the Refrigerator” (the guy on the left) has pancreatitis.  I hope they both last a few more years.  I really like my dogs, but they have hit their lifetime maximum for animal hospital visits.  Click the pic for a larger view. 

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Matthew 21

jerusalem-entry.jpg

Greetings,

The Triumphal Entry

 1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
 5“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
      ‘See, your king comes to you,
   gentle and riding on a donkey,
      on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
   “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
   “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
   “Hosanna in the highest!”

 10When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

 11The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

It was predicted hundreds of years before that Jesus would ride on a donkey.  Of course, this is one of those prophecies that one could fulfill on their own as if reading a script.  But there are so many other fulfilled prophecies that Jesus could not control – where He was born, how He died, the Romans gambling for his clothes, that his legs would not be broken during the crucifixion, etc.

Sometimes people note the fickle nature of the crowds who cheered him on Palm Sunday then yelled for his crucifixion the next Friday.  But it may not have been the same group of people.  Still, think about how our loyalties shift based on circumstances. 

Jesus at the Temple

 12Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13“It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”

That was not the passive Jesus people are used to.  These money changers did big business with the visiting Jews who needed local currency for payments and/or animals for sacrifices.   His righteous anger resulted in animals being released and tables overturned.

 14The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

 16“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
      “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
   ” ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”

 17And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

The Fig Tree Withers

 18Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

 20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

The fig tree looked good from a distance, but was barren.  I think Jesus was making a commentary on the Israelites.  There is also an application to us if our faith is superficial.

 21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Much has been made of the “mountain moving” comment.  It sure sounds like hyperbole to me.   Jesus ministry wasn’t about moving things around in nature, it was about changing hearts and lives and eternal salvation.

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

 23Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

 24Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

   They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘From men’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

 27So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
      Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

Once again the Jewish leaders tried to trick Jesus, but He would have none of that. 

The Parable of the Two Sons

 28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

 29” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

 30“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

 31“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
      “The first,” they answered.

   Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

“Repent and believe” is the simplest way to explain what is required for salvation.  Repent of your sins and believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised to life.  It isn’t magic words like, “I will, sir,” but true repentance. 

The Parable of the Tenants

 33“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

 35“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

 38“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

 40“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

 41“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
   ” ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
   the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

 43“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

Jesus used this parable to show the leaders that He knew what they were up to with their murderous plot.  Jesus isn’t soft on sin.  He offers mercy and forgiveness now, but one day He will deliver crushing judgment.  Too many preachers and “leaders” leave out that part of the Gospel message.

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Disingenuous Diversity

diversity.jpgDiversity programs at businesses and schools tend to be disingenuous (lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity) and hopelessly mired in PC-land.  It is a shame, too, because if companies used them properly they could be fabulous recruiting and retention tools.

I believe in true diversity.  The groups I have managed have always been diverse, and my current group resembles the United Nations (except that we actually get things done). 

I don’t aim at politically correct diversity.  I try to hire smart, hard-working, talented, team-oriented people.  Prima donnas need not apply.  By doing that in a color-blind way, I tend to end up with a broad representation of sexes, ages, religions, races, etc. 

I am quite familiar with diversity programs and the politics behind them.  I represented the Christian employee network group at Compaq / HP and experienced some interesting things.  Corporations cave to threats of boycotts by the gay groups and do little to police them.  One “Pride” group at HP had a team building event to go to a drag queen contest.  Indeed.  It was published on the company’s intranet.

Of course, free sensitivity training was offered to anyone who might not think that a company funded employee organization based on sexual preferences was a swell idea.

We had a Christian employee network group with official “diversity group” recognition when we were still just Compaq.  The Diversity Manager complimented us regularly and considered us the model network group.

After the merger with HP, they approved all the other groups immediately but scrutinized the Christian group for a full year.  We met the criteria they had published better than any other group, so they finally approved us.  But someone complained and then our charter was revoked without discussion.  The explanation we got was tortured in its logic.  They obviously didn’t want to tell us the real reason behind it. They refused to meet with us to discuss the matter, even after I wrote Carly Fiorina. 

A good friend of mine ran the Asian-Indian network group, which, as you can imagine, was primarily Hindu.  The company paid every year for them to have a Diwali celebration (the Hindu Festival of Lights, a religious event) on company property on company time.  When we asked why that group could have a religious festival when all we wanted was the ability to network and communicate, the Diversity VP acknowledged that she didn’t even realize it was a religious festival. 

It all worked out fine, though.  To HP’s credit they let us use the email system for prayer requests and informal communications.  Many wonderful things were accomplished with that.  We could use conference rooms for lunch time Bible studies.  In some ways it was better to be an unofficial group than an official one, because that way we didn’t look too “corporate.” 

It also gave us a great witness opportunity.  I found out later that the leaders were amazed that we didn’t protest and complain like other groups did.  We didn’t agree with their decisions, but we always responded graciously and didn’t disrupt the workplace. 

The “Day of Silence” and “Diversity Week” programs at businesses and schools are a joke.  They aren’t about diversity at all.  They are aggressively promoting a particular worldview – and doing so with the power of the State in the case of the schools.  If they want to champion real diversity, how about inviting people with opposing views, such as those who view homosexual behavior as immoral yet think the homosexuals themselves should be treated with kindness and dignity and protected from abuse?  Now that would be real diversity.

I really encourage you to watch these videos and check out this site.  This is going on in public schools – elementary schools – today!

Quote of the day – Forbes on philanthropy

money.jpgI heartily endorse this perspective on philanthropy made by Forbes back in 1917.  They re-ran it as part of a 90th anniversary issue.

Too few millionaires who aspire to win fame as philanthropists begin at home, among their own workers.  To grind employees and then donate a million dollars to perpetuate his name is not a particularly laudable record for any man to live or to leave behind him.  Of course, it is more spectacular, it makes more of a splash to do the grandiose act in sight of all men, where it will be read of and talked of.  But it is rather a pitiable form of philanthropy.  Individuals like George Eastman and John N. Patterson, both employing thousands of men, who take deep personal interest in the happiness of their workers and spend money freely in furtherance of it, will by and by come into their own.

I might add that gaining your money via dishonest competition would fall into the same category. 

Treating employees right (and everyone else, for that matter) isn’t a barrier to long-term success, it is a catalyst.