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Well, I am about to break the one steadfast rule I’ve had on this blog since the beginning.  I don’t ask for money.  I fund this ministry/website out of my own pocket and try to avoid arguments that I am selling out or support tithing because tithes support me.  But I am in a quandary.  Not one that affects the site – yet – but one that affects me personally.

As my loyal readers know, I was in the middle of a messy divorce a little while back that cost me the rental property my ex and I operated because she refused to pay the mortgage or give me the rental income to do so.  Now the  final property-related nail is coming as a result of her bankruptcy and foolishness.  I am about to be foreclosed on by my bank for the house that I am currently living in.  Now, I did my best to pay the mortgage, but unfortunately, circumstances got the better of me.  Over the last 2 years, I’ve lost a number of my sources of income as the economy kept sliding and government and tourism-related industries kept cutting back.

Despite being willing to do just about anything and humbling myself, applying for literally hundreds of jobs, I am still jobless, my income is steadily decreasing and I am barely making ends meet.  Unfortunately, the mortgage was one of those things that just didn’t get taken care of in a timely basis and now the bank has called their note due.

When I was first served, I went through my affirmative defenses – one of which being that my ex-wife signed a quit claim deed, divesting herself of this house.  To date, the bank has still not recognized it and her name appears prominently on the foreclosure papers, myself, who continued to pay the mortgage long after she stopped, is relegated to a secondary defendant.  My biggest defense was that the bank had refused to accept and properly credit some of my payments, holding the money, as a bank employee explained to me, “in limbo.”  The banks lawyers have responded to that claim and offered me two options, after adjusting for the money that was never credited ($500+, not counting the interest and fees that they didn’t credit me for).

My two options are this: pay approx. $212,000 to pay off the loan, or approx. $40,000 to cover the missed payments, interest, lawyer’s fees, etc. etc.)  And I have until 5pm on April 1st to deliver that payment to their offices in Fort Lauderdale.  Considering that I have just enough to cover my electric bill this month and am eating courtesy of Food Stamps, that is far outside my reach.

Praying for a miracle, it came to me that I might ask if people would be willing to help me out.  $40K is not really that much, in the big picture and even small donations would help whittle this down.  I am not sure if this insight came from the Lord or not.  I was praying when it occurred to me, but my only experiences with hearing God were both forgiveness-oriented, so I can’t really tell.  Usually, I get insights from the Holy Spirit where I suddenly understand or realize some deeper truth or concept and I don’t want to misrepresent my Lord.

I have committed that any money I receive from this will be paid back to the donor/patron, unless they specifically state for me not to, in which case, I will pay to help out others needs on their behalf.

Also, I would prefer to do something rather than just take donations.  As I said, every little bit helps and I do have some skills that I can apply that are of value.

I sell books, CD’s, DVD’s and toys on Amazon – my site is Books From A Rose and I have between 2400 and 2500 items currently up for sale.  If you’re looking for something, please take a moment and see if I have it.  If I don’t, I would also recommend some friends of mine that helped me get started in this enterprise, Pursel Books.  They sell a quite a number of items on Amazon and eBay and may very well have what you need.

I am a writer.  I spent almost 20 years in the local TV business, writing news, commercials and promotional spots.  You can see some of my TV work at www.YouTube.com/user/lonerangerone. I also have written some plays over the years and am currently working on a couple of screenplays.  I have done reviews for Title Trakk, and I was the Senior Editor for Television for Infuze Magazine, before we were closed down, working with novelist Robin Parrish and music producer & novelist Matt Bronlewee.  I used to write songs back in the day – one was even performed as part of my church’s worship service.

I shoot, produce and edit video.  Okay, I am an okay video shooter… Great if I have a tripod.  I am a great editor, though.  Having learned from some of the best and learned how things were done, “back in the day…” I can find a way to make just about any video look the way you envision.  I have shot VHS and BETA, DV, HD-DV, and 8mm.  I have edited on everything from AVID Media Composer (my favorite) to Media 100, Pinnacle VideoCube, Apple Final Cut, Speed Razor, Boris FX, New Tek Video Toaster, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere.  When I worked for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, I also did Forensic Video Processing and was a member of Law Enforcement Video Association (LEVA).

I design, build and maintain websites.  While I am still exploring much of this field and I cannot do killer Flash opens and whatnot, I am pretty decent and very affordable.  I use Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Fireworks.  My work is available at www.StarlightstudioProductions.com, www.FASN.net, www.MartyWisher.com, www.UFTAFlorida.com, www.FamilyofGod.us, and this site, www.FinancialFreedomThroughFaith.org.  I am familiar with WordPress themes, editing them and promoting them.

I am a pretty good actor and I am a partner with the production company Starlight Productions, we do celebrity impersonations, character work and Murder Mysteries.  We just finished our first feature length film, “Light.”  I am also the sitting President of United Film & Television Artists (UFTA) a non-profit that helps filmmakers and actors with support and promoting our area as a film location.

My other company, 13/30 Productions, does media and business promotion.  We provide newsletters, websites, press releases, social media marketing, etc., all to help small businesses get the word out about their product or service to their potential customers.  I try to apply all of my skills as a designer, writer, promoter and video producer to help my clients get their message out at an affordable price.  If you need a little more Internet-based solution, my girlfriend runs Small Business Development Group, specializing in Affordable Internet Marketing Solutions and Search Engine Optimization.

I am a pretty good speaker.  I used to teach when I worked in Financial Services and I gave a few lectures/presentations on Financial Freedom for Christians.  I have written and given a few sermons that I thought were pretty good.  They are posted on this site: What Would Luther Say?, The Waiting is the Easy Part, and eternal sunshine for the Transformed mind.

I have not given up on my vision for a financial non-profit company that would help people in the same need I am in.  That will come to pass one day.  That was from God and it is often those he humbles that have the strongest commitments.

If there’s any way I can help you or work I can do for you, please let me know.  I am a hard worker and willing to do what it takes.  I serve God and when I can man, and I do my very best.

I will update everyone when I return from Fort Lauderdale on April 1st.

If you feel led to make me an interest free loan or invest in one of my talents, you can contact me at lonerangerone@gmail.com.  If you feel like helping out the old fashioned way, my mailing address appears below also.  If you do not feel led, that’s really okay, I just ask that you pray for me, regardless.    Thank you in advance, and may God bless you richly.

Paul A. Rose, Jr.


Mailing Address:

Paul A. Rose, Jr.

PO Box 151443

Cape Coral, FL 33915

The Reverend Paul T. McCain is a Lutheran Pastor in the Missouri Synod and is Publisher and Executive Director of the Editorial Department at Concordia Publishing House, working on the soon-to-be-released The Lutheran Study Bible.  Unfortunately, the hard work of the Concordia editors is being eclipsed a bit by the release of the Augsburg Lutheran Study Bible earlier this year.

The Augsburg “Bible” was passed out to pastors at every Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) synodical meeting this spring, partially in anticipation of the recent vote by the ELCA to ignore the Word of God and ordain homosexuals as Pastors.

The Concordia Bible, on the other hand, is the latest update in a long tradition – reaching back almost 500 years to Luther’s translation of the Scriptures.

The Augsburg Press’ tome has rampant misstatements and revisions of Christian history that are representative of the church’s unfortunate sad turn in leadership (a turn that strangely reflects a similar history that placed many of the Catholic church bishops in power that Martin Luther railed against in his day).

While I don’t always agree with all of the strongly held beliefs of the Missouri Synod, I present Rev. McCain’s blog post, explaining key differences between the two versions of a Lutheran study Bible:

In light of the release of The Lutheran Study Bible, I thought it would be a good time to re-run a blog post from several months ago, explaining the important differences between the ELCA’s new Bible, which their publishing company titled Lutheran Study Bible, and The Lutheran Study Bible. By the way, they titled it that knowing The Lutheran Study Bible was on its way. Go figure.

I encourage you to advise everyone you know that the ELCA Bible is not The Lutheran Study Bible by CPH. The two Bibles are quite different in content, style and purpose. Most significantly, the ELCA Bible takes a different approach on key doctrinal points than does The Lutheran Study Bible. So, please be aware, and spread the word, that The Lutheran Study Bible the ELCA Bible are something quite different from each. Be sure to point people to The Lutheran Study Bible web site, or its Facebook Group, or Twitter feed.

This post examines two issues in both Bibles as a way of illustrating the stark and dramatic contrast between these two Bibles. To distinguish between these two Bibles, they shall be referred to as The Lutheran Study Bible and the ELCA Bible. The two topics used to illustrate the stark difference between the two Bibles are: the Great Commission and the topic of homosexuality.

The Great Commission

The Lutheran Study Bible on the Great Commission

28:18–20 Though all God’s people are to bear witness to the Lord (cf Ps 145; Is 43:10), the focus here is on the apostles and their calling as leading witnesses and representatives of Jesus. (Compare to the authorization in Mt 10:1–7.)

28:18 “All authority.” Christ’s human nature, which had refrained from exercising the divine authority belonging to the person of Christ, now is fully exalted and given free use of divine authority (cf v 19). “He can also powerfully effect and do everything that He says and promises” (FC SD VII 43). “The Church’s authority and the State’s authority must not be confused. The Church’s authority has its own commission to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments [Matthew 28:19–20]. Let it not break into the office of another. Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world to itself. Let it not abolish the laws of civil rulers. Let it not abolish lawful obedience” (AC XXVIII 12–13).

28:19 “make disciples.” See note, 5:1. Jesus gives us the tools to make disciples: Baptism and His teaching. all nations. Not just the Jews, but Gentiles too (cf 10:5–6). baptizing them in the name. “Name” is singular, followed by the threefold naming of the divine persons. This illustrates the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. See p 0000. Those baptized in the name of the Father have God as their Father; baptized in the name of the Son, they receive all the benefits of the Son’s redeeming act; baptized in the name of the Spirit, they receive the life-giving, life-sustaining power and presence of the Spirit. Christian Baptism is founded on this institution. See note, Nu 6:22–27. baptizing. Washing with the water of new birth. “Baptism is no human plaything, but it is instituted by God Himself” (LC IV 6). “It is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command to baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). Just as in this passage salvation is offered to all, so Baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because salvation is offered with Baptism” (Ap IX 52).

28:20 “teaching.” Disciples are made not only through Baptism, but through the ongoing catechetical work of the Church. observe all. Christians are called to do more than “obey”; they are called to treasure God’s Word in their hearts. commanded. Not only Christ’s moral injunctions (the Law) but also His invitation to trust in Him (the Gospel). I am with you always. Not only in Spirit but also according to His human nature. See “be with,” p 0000. “He is present especially in His Church and congregation on earth as Mediator, Head, King, and High Priest. This presence is not a part, or only one half of Him. Christ’s entire person is present, to which both natures belong, the divine and the human—not only according to His divinity, but also according to, and with, His received human nature” (FC SD VIII 78). end of the age. When He returns visibly.

28:16–20 Christ commissions His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations through Baptism and teaching. Christ promises to be with us, and He is the one who makes disciples through our baptizing and teaching. Today, remember your Baptism and confirmation in the faith, which are precious blessings for the Lord’s disciples. His love and care are new for you every morning. • Send us, Lord, to make disciples in Your name in accordance with our callings in life. Amen.

The ELCA Bible on the Great Commission
28:16-20 the eleven disciples went to Galilee: The eleven meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Even when the eleven see him, some doubt. Jesus’ resurrection returns to the question of his authority in 7:28-9:34; 21:23-32. Through the resurrection, God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth. This does not mean that only now does Jesus have authority. It establishes his authority exercised throughout his life and ministry (28:20). The end of the Gospel sends the reader back to the beginning (4:12-9:34), and it gives God’s answer to the Pharisees’ charge (9:34). In contrast to 10:5-6, 23, Jesus now send the disciples to make disciples of all nations. That does not mean make everyone disciples. Most people who are helped by Jesus and believe in him never become disciples. Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or ever know about him (5:30; 25:31-45). Disciples are students, called for the sake of the world to learn from Jesus and to bear witness to the kingdom. They are salt and light (5:13-16). Jesus promises to be with them always as they carry out this mission. Previously, Jesus promised to be present in the exercise of forgiveness (18:18-20) and in the “least of these” who suffer (25:31-45). (p. 1658)

Homosexuality

Genesis 19:5 The account of Sodom

The Lutheran Study Bible
Genesis 19:5 know them. Have sex with them. Homosexual lust burned among many of the men of Sodom. Cf Lv 18:22; Rm 1:27.

The ELCA Bible
Genesis 19:1-11 This scene is an illustration of Sodom’s wickedness. The verb know refers to sexual activity. With every man involved, the result would have been gang rape (19:4-5). Sexual abuse of strangers demonstrated who was in charge (as in prisons). The sins of Sodom are most explicit in Ezekiel 16:49: pride, gluttony, prosperous ease and not aiding the poor and needy (compare with Matt. 10:14-15). That Lot would substitute his betrothed (engaged) daughters is another sign of Sodom’s immorality. In 19:30-38, Lot himself is sexually abused.

Leviticus 18:6-23: Prohibitions Against Homosexuality

The Lutheran Study Bible
Leviticus 18:6–23: Pointedly, God provides provisions for holiness in sexuality by addressing key issues of incest (vv 6–16), adultery (vv 17–18, 20), sacrificial idolatry (v 21), homosexuality (v 22), and bestiality (v 23). The Bible records Abraham’s intercourse with a servant (Gn 16:1–4), Lot’s incest (Gn 19:36), and Jacob’s marriage to his first cousins, who were also sisters (Gn 29), but it never promotes such relationships. God restates here that His original intent at creation was the ordered intimacy between one man and one woman. He makes plain that close intermarriage is now forbidden. See note, Gn 4:19.

Leviticus 18:22: Sexual intercourse was ordained by God for procreation (cf Gn 1:28) and must involve husband and wife, the “male and female” in Gn 1:27. abomination. See note, Pr 6:16.

The ELCA Bible
Leviticus 18:22-23: “you shall not lie with:” Prohibitions against sexual activity between men and between person and animal.

1 Samuel 18:1

The Lutheran Study Bible
18:1 knit. Same Hbr verb used in Gn 44:30 to express Jacob’s love for his son Benjamin. Jonathan initiates a friendship with David that blesses and hallows life. loved. Used of a covenant relationship; possesses political overtones. Never used of homosexual desire or activity. (OT uses the verb “to know” for sexual activity; see note, Gn 19:5. Latter verb is never used of David’s relationship with Jonathan.) The fact that Saul, too, loved David (16:21) prepares us for the later political use of the verb “love.”

The ELCA Bible
18:1 These two became inseparable and are so devoted that their very well-being is tied together. This same kind of devotion describes Jacob’s relationship with his youngest son, Benjamin. 18:3 These two are kindred spirits. Their friendship is about a covenant or promise of steadfast love and loyalty to each other. First, this is about personal affection.

Ezekiel 16:49-50

The Lutheran Study Bible
16:49–50: Sodom’s pride, gluttony, and neglect of the poor describes a decadent society in which gross immorality might easily thrive. an abomination. Probably refers to sodomy (Gn 19:1–22). At times, “abomination” is applied specifically to homosexual behavior (Lv 18:22; 20:13).

The ELCA Bible
16:44-58: Samaria and Sodom, two cities destroyed for their wickedness, are portrayed as sisters of Jerusalem and sinners like their mother, the Hittite. Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which Assyria defeated in 721 B.C.E. Neither Samaria nor Sodom was as sinful as Jerusalem.

Romans 1:26

The Lutheran Study Bible
Romans 1:26 God gave them up. See note, v 24. dishonorable passions. Paul is not condemning all passion or sexual desire. Only the misuse of God’s gift of sexuality brings dishonor. exchanged. See note, v 23. Sin substitutes inferior things for God’s good gifts. contrary to nature. As God’s existence and character are seen in nature (vv 19–21), so His Law is also evident. Homosexual activity, referred to here, is a departure from the natural order.

The ELCA Bible
Romans 1:24, 26, 28 God gave them up: “In response to human sin, God handed over humanity to destructive behavior that alienated people from God, themselves, and others”

Romans 1:27

The Lutheran Study Bible
On Romans 1:27 As in v 26, homosexual activity exchanges a natural desire for the opposite sex for an unnatural lust for one’s own sex. shameless acts. Homosexual behavior. due penalty for their error. Participation in degrading, unnatural acts is, in itself, part of the judgment for sin. Paul’s candid discussion of homosexuality may surprise or offend some readers. The Greco-Roman world was generally open to homosexuality, though there were critics, including Jews, Christians, and some philosophers. Homosexuality is an example of how something that seems obvious from nature (the relation of two sexes; the body was not designed for homosexual activities) is exchanged for something unnatural. This is a further effect of exchanging the worship of God for the worship of idols. Luther: “Holy Scripture declares that sin came from the devil, whom, contrary to God’s Word, our parents obeyed. They became disobedient to God and thereby brought a terrible punishment upon themselves. For through this sin (of the Fall) not only our bodies have become so weakened that they have changed from immortal into mortal bodies, but the intellect, heart, mind, and will are entirely corrupted and turned evil (verboset). For man has lost the right and true knowledge of God. Moreover, his will is so entirely corrupted that he desires and wants nothing but that which is evil” (WLS § 4131).

The ELCA Bible
No comment.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

The Lutheran Study Bible
1 Corinthians 6:9–10 unrighteous. Those perishing (1:18). inherit the kingdom. See note, 4:20. Paul lists habitual sins, which imply a life choice incompatible with the holiness of God’s kingdom. 6:11 such were some of you. God, in mercy, called the unrighteous into His kingdom. washed . . . sanctified . . . justified. Terms of salvation, used interchangeably. Baptism makes us new creatures, holy with Christ’s righteousness. “Whenever God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or meditated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. Therefore, I constantly say that all our life and work must be guided by God’s Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy” (LC I 92). in the name of the Lord Jesus . . . Spirit . . . God. Trinitarian, as is fitting with reference to Baptism.

From the textual note on verse 9, placed after the word “homosexuality” in the ESV text: The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts.

The ELCA Bible
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Ancient Christian writers listed specific vices to illustrate a more general evil. Two terms in the vice list have been mistranslated from the Greek in all modern versions, and this has caused needless pain in the church: malos (“soft,” that is, lacking self-control) and arsenokoites (literally, “one who beds a male”). Both terms are specific examples of injustice, the topic of the vice list in 6:9-11. The “soft” person (here translated: “male prostitute”) takes more than his or her due. The arsenokoites (translated as “sodomite”) rapes and shames other males to increase his reputation for power. The issue here is violence. Neither term pertains to homosexuality or to the lives of gay and lesbian people.

1 Timothy 1:9-10

The Lutheran Study Bible
1 Timothy 1:9–10 The list of sins shows how God’s Law is properly used, namely, to bring sinners to contrition and repentance. Each of the sins listed by Paul closely corresponds to God’s Law as found in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1–17). On Paul’s use of “law,” see p 0000. 1:9 law . . . for the lawless. “Yet this is not to be understood in a simplistic way, as though the justified are to live without Law. God’s Law has been written in their heart (Romans 2:15). Also a law was given to the first man immediately after his creation (Genesis 2:15–17): He was to conduct himself according to this law. What St. Paul means is that the curse of the Law cannot burden those who have been reconciled to God through Christ. Nor must the Law confuse the regenerate with its coercion, for they have pleasure in God’s Law in the inner man (Romans 7:22)” (FC SD VI 5). Bern: “The law promulgated in fear by a spirit of slavery is one thing, and that given sweetly and gently by the spirit of liberty is another” (SLSB, p 200). 1:10 enslavers. Kidnappers, involved in illegal slave trade.

The ELCA Bible
Note at 1 Timothy 1:10 “What is ‘the law’? Here ‘law’ refers to the Jewish Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) or to additional Jewish laws based on the Torah. Paul called the law “holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12, 16), but also taught that Christians ‘have died to the law’ (Rom. 7:4, 6) and are ‘free from the law of sin and death’ (Rom. 8:2). As God’s child, Martin Luther understood himself to be free from the law. As Lutherans, we understand ourselves to be free as well.

2 Peter 2:10

The Lutheran Study Bible
2 Peter 2:10 lust of defiling passion. Possible reference to homosexuality, the sin of the Sodomites (cf Gn 19:5). Luther: “ ‘To indulge in the lust of defiling passion’ is to live like an irrational beast according to one’s own notion and all lust” (AE 30:180). despise authority. Rejecting people God charged with faithfully attending to His Word and His work, be it His Son, His angels, His prophets, His pastors, or His teachers. Cf Jude 8–10; see note, Heb 13:17. they blaspheme the glorious ones. To speak against God’s angels or anything of God is to speak against God.

The ELCA Bible
No comment.

Additional materials on homosexuality in the two Bibles

From an article in The Lutheran Study Bible titled, “Divine Warfare,” an excerpt from the Concordia Commentary series on the Book of Joshua:

“The Christian Gospel in Word and Sacrament rescues the perishing from eternal destruction and fortifies them to do battle against the forces of evil within (the sinful flesh) and without (the devil and the world) that assail them. It is necessary for Christians to oppose detestable practices such as idolatry, sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and occult practices, which correspond to the ancient abominations of the Canaanites. The church rightly prohibits God’s people from engaging in such practices. The church also rightly endeavors to persuade society at large to prohibit such evils, and to do so Christians work peacefully through lawful means, not by violence. . . .”

From an article in The Lutheran Study Bible titled, “Israel’s Identity Crisis”:

“We may find no appeal in the ancient gods of Canaan. There is no allure, no enticement. Yet, it was the Canaanite gods who caused many Israelites to be tempted away from the true God. Perhaps the Israelites wanted a god they could manipulate with rites and ceremonies, regardless of how inhumane their practice. We often seek gods we can manipulate as well. Even some Christians are enticed to worship such things as possessions, money, lust, greed, and power. Pornography causes some Christians to fall. Drug abuse, child abuse, homosexuality, and sexual, physical, and mental abuse cause others to fall. Sin causes us to forget that we are God’s temple (1Co 3:16). For the ancient Israelites, sin began innocently enough (it usually does in our lives too). Sadly, doubting God’s Word has eternal ramifications. As we fall into sin, we lose sight of the consequences—that “those who practice such things deserve to die” (Rm 1:32). Here are three personal questions to ask ourselves: (1) What idols have I set up in God’s place? (2) Is the god of self-indulgence, the god of promiscuous sex, or the god of child sacrifice (abortion) a part of my life? (3) Is the god of money and material possessions seeking to topple me into sin?”

From an article in The Lutheran Study Bible inserted at Roman 1, titled, “Homosexuality and Biblical Teaching”

“Marriage with God’s Blessing God created sex for the procreation of children and to strengthen the marital bond that supports those children (see note, Gn 1:28). Within the confines of marriage, sex is a wonderful blessing. Outside that relationship, it is idolatry—people rejecting God’s order, worshiping what is created rather than the Creator. Christians should abhor the sin of homosexual behavior as they abhor all sins. But at the same time, Christians should see homosexuals as people for whom Christ shed His precious blood. God wants us to recognize that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23–24). A homosexual, like any other sinner, needs to hear God’s word of Law and Gospel applied to his or her life with the goal of repentance and faith.”

From the prefatory materials in The Lutheran Study Bible on the Book of Galatians:

“Genderless Christianity. Feminist interpreters and those influenced by feminism have radically altered the historic interpretation and application of Gal 3:28. They argue that gender and social order should have no influence on roles of service in Christianity. This interpretation has been forcefully used to encourage women’s ordination in liberal Protestant church bodies and has even been used to support the ordination of homosexuals.”

The ELCA Bible
No further comments or materials.

Haunt-ing of Jackals

I have just posted my review of Eric Wilson’s latest high-octane thriller, Haunt of Jackals over on Amazon.com.  You can check it out here.

Wilson is a deft writer, who manages to take obscure historical anomalies, like a World War I-era Russian locomotive ending up on display in a small town the Pacific Northwest and give them much deeper, more organized, rational, yet strongly spiritual purposes. In his first four novels, he continuously honed his writing skills melding historical fiction with spiritual warfare, rivaling authors such as Steve Berry with his attention to detail and ability to connect seemingly innocuous events…

Wilson’s writing gets better with every novel published and it’s disappointing that more people haven’t discovered his unique talents, even after penning the New York Times best-selling novelization of Fireproof for the Kendrick brothers.

The Christian market and sales aside, Wilson’s superb writing and historical depth should stand out in the current spate of Vampire and werewolf themed stories. It’s better written and more adult in storytelling than Twilight; better grounded, more spectacular and with stronger characterizations than True Blood or Kevin Williamson’s adaptation of LJ Smith’s Vampire Diaries.

MurderByPrideCover(F)I would like to direct my readers to my review of the metal rock band Stryper’s latest CD, Murder By Pride, just published this weekend on TitleTrakk.com

“Murder By Pride is one of Stryper’s most thematic of all, and like a phoenix reborn from its ashes, Stryper rises up in this album to reclaim their place as the definitive Christian metal band.”

5125BTSAllenInAct15DayLaceAPhilBeach2

Lacey Chabert, Allen Wolf, Phillip Winchester

I know I’ve been veering off the original topics of this blog recently, but that’s the beauty of owning the darn thing – I can use to promote other things on occasion, too.  I am far more than just a former financial adviser ad I think my readers are more than just folks who struggle with how to follow God with their finances.  One of my favorite quotes is from Franky Schaeffer, son of the famous Christian thinker – “…life cannot be compartmentalized.”

That said, I wanted to take a moment and highlight a good friend of mine’s new movie trailer.  From award-winning filmmaker Allen Wolf comes “In My Sleep”

Here’s a synopsis:

Marcus wakes up in the middle of a cemetery half naked and has no idea how he got there. Urgent questions pound inside his head. “Where was I last night? Who was I with?” Marcus suffers from parasomnia, a rare sleep disorder which causes him to do things in his sleep which he cannot remember the next day.

His situation takes a horrifying turn when Marcus wakes up covered in blood with a knife at his side. Then, the wife of his best friend is found stabbed to death. Marcus is terrified to put together the pieces – could he have murdered her in his sleep to hide a dark secret between them?

Mysterious phone calls make Marcus believe someone is watching him. He investigates his own nocturnal activities, desperate to figure out what happens after he goes to sleep at night. His journey to discover the truth ends in a shocking discovery.

Allen is a Christian whose faith informs and enhances his exploration of  the various themes in his movies.  “In My Sleep” is a hiugh-concept psychological thriller in the vein of Hitchcock.  The movie was finished a couple months back and recently debuted at the Cannes Film Festival to great reviews.  It stars Philip Winchester (Crusoe, Flyboys), Lacey Chabert (Lost in Space, Party of Five), Tim Draxl, Abagail Spencer, and Kelly Overton, with supporting roles from some great character actors you know but may not know by name, including The Practice‘s Michael Badalucco, My Name Is Earl‘s Beth Grant, Chuck‘s Tony Hale (also Arrested Development), JAG‘s Patrick Labyorteaux, Criminal Mind‘s Kirsten Vangsness, and Dollhouse‘s Kevin Kilner.  Oddly enough, a recent Dateline NBC story about a similar, but true situation may bring more folks in to see the fictitious story Allen wrote nearly 10 years ago.

Please take a moment to check out the trailer…

Michael Badalucco

A little off of our standard road…

I would like to share with my readers the first chapter of  a fantastic new Science Fiction novel from my good friend Robin Parrish, author of the Dominion Trilogy.  The book is titled Offworld, and is available in stores now.  Enjoy!

From my review of Parrish’s Fearless:

Parrish quickly proves that he is far from a one-hit wonder….  I can’t imagine anything less than… the style of a blockbuster film. One thing’s for sure – The Dominion Trilogy should have a place on any suspense fans’ bookshelf next to Stephen King and Dean Koontz.


Offworld

I was reading the other day and I came across this statement from some genetic researchers: “Our story-telling brains are what makes humans unique.”  So let’s start with a story.

There’s this movie that I really like.  It’s called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  It was a very well-written film, but it didn’t do well in the theatres, probably because Jim Carrey wasn’t funny, Kate Winslet wasn’t sexy and Elijah Wood wasn’t a Hobbit.

It’s not written or produced by a Christian, but it has an interesting premise.  Jim Carrey’s character, Joel, receives a card in the mail, explaining that his girlfriend, Clementine, has undergone a process whereby she has had Joel erased from her memory.  Joel struggles with this for a little while and then decides that his life would be easier if he underwent this process as well to have her “unwritten” from his memory.  Of course, it wouldn’t be good drama without a conflict and that arises as, during the process, Joel realizes that he really doesn’t want to forget Clementine, because, even though the memories are shaded now by sorrow, they have helped form who he is today.

The title comes from a line in the poem by Alexander Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard:”

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!

The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.”

The thought of this stanza of the poem, as well as the film, is that by simply forgetting and/or being forgotten, we are healed and all is right with the world – all is sunshine and bright.

The text you will be reading for our Bible study over the next week is Romans 12 & 13 and it has a slightly different take on things.  If you would take out your Bibles – and turn with me to the 12th chapter of Romans.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Bible, Romans is in the New Testament, about 3/4ths of the way into the Bible, following the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, Luke’s continuing saga of Christ’s followers.  Romans is teh sixth book, right after Acts.

Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome before he arrives and he spent the last chapters explaining to them that the Jewish people were not to be scorned, but rather prayed for, because they are the original benefactors of God’s mercy and favor.  In fact, he goes as far as to say that God has closed the door to sacrifice, imprisoning all men in sin, Jew and non-Jew alike, so that all may come to grace through Jesus Christ and be blessed by His mercy.

Continuing in Romans 12, starting with verse 1:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

Theologian Wesley Kort tells us that there are two ways we should embrace our study of the Bible.  First, we read it Centripetally.  Centripetal force is moving or directed toward a center or axis.  That is, we immerse ourselves in the reading and becoming transformed.  But, we also must read it, Centrifugally.  Centrifugal motion is directed outwards – in Kort’s writing, we return to our world after being immersed in the Bible. But when we return, we return as different people, and our world appears to us in a new way—“somehow invisibly infused with the kingdom of God.”

You see, too many Christians, I think, read the Bible and follow Christ Centripetally, spiraling deeper and deeper into the Scripture and isolate themselves more and more from the outside world.  We must, at some point, move back out, spinning away from the axis, into the world, in service, in mission, in relationships.

Our bodies are meant to be living sacrifices – but not on an altar in a church where no one can see us, but in the world, acting as servants, becoming Christ to a dying world.  True Christianity contains three elements: it is Missional, it is Relational, and it is Incarnational.  You see, we cannot just accept God’s mercy and keep it for ourselves.  We must take that mercy and extend it to our brothers and sisters.  Paul even hints earlier in Romans that one of the reasons the Jews were separated from God’s covenant – by their own act, not God’s – is because they hoarded His mercy.  Yet – yet, Paul writes in Romans 11, if their flaws led to the salvation of the entire world, how much more will the whole world benefit from Israel’s return to the mercy of God in Christ?

Leonard Sweet writes,

“I heard the story of a member of the church approaching their pastor and telling him that they had been called into full-time ministry. The pastor did not respond in the manner they were expecting when he said, ‘Oh, I thought you were a Christian.’

“This set the member back a bit. He answered that of course he was a Christian. Then the pastor said, ‘Then, too late…’ by which he meant that when we became disciples of Jesus, we accepted the call into full-time ministry.

“So much of the time we write a check and think we have done our part. Or, if we are really trying to be spiritual, we may go on a mission project for a few days a year. In reality Christ turns us into ‘Mission 365,’ as my friend Tom Ingram calls it. We are in mission in the car, in mission at the grocery store, in mission at Starbucks, in mission on Twitter.”

Being a Christian means we are living sacrifices – or in the words of the Blues Brothers – “We’re on a Mission from God”

Returning to Romans 12, verses 9-13:

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Live in harmony with one another, bless those who persecute you, rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  It’s not an accident that this passage follows Paul’s exhortation to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  This is what happens when your mind is renewed.  This is the proof in the pudding, as it were.

Did you know that every day, more text messages are sent than the entire population of the world?  We have FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo – all sites dedicated to “social networking,” yet we’re more distant, father apart than we ever have been before.  Tell me, when was the last time you spoke to your neighbor – or even waved at him from your front yard?  We have e-mail, voice-mail, cell phones, Instant Messages, text messages, Voice-Over-Internet, but how often do we consciously choose to use technology over actual face-to-face interaction?  How often do we choose e-mail over even having a telephone conversation?

There is an African concept called ubuntu. The philosophy of ubuntu says: “I am related, therefore, we are.”

How often are you relating to people?  Christians shouldn’t be people who follow Christianity.  Christians have to be people who follow and fall in love with Christ.  But how much time do we waste trying to get people to follow our particular rules, regulations and traditions, rather then trying to help them fall in love with Jesus?

Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  Christianity is meant to be lived in relationship.

There is an old Jewish proverb that the story is the highest form of truth.  Being an incarnational Christian is all about context.

Let me ask you a question.  Are you a mirror or a prism?

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there’s a scene where Clementine is trying to explain her philosophy of life to Joel:

“There’s all these emotions and ideas and they come quick and they change and they leave and they come back in a different form and I think we’re all taught to be consistent.  Y’know?  …You choose to do something with your life  — that’s it, that’s what you do… And my feeling is, that’s how you die, because you stop listening to what’s true and what is true is constantly changing.  You know?”  (written by Charlie Kaufman)

And if you think about it, Clementine is right.  Not that truth is not constantly changing, but that our perception of that truth is constantly being changed, developed, better understood.

There is a Jewish learning exercise called Hevruta is the practice of studying sacred texts with a partner.  Jewish scholarly life is built around people sitting around a text, reading it aloud, and then engaging in conversations and stories about that text.

The traditional study of Hebrew scriptures is with a partner, with whom head-to-head, nose-to-nose debate, dialogue, even shouting-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, is part of the learning process. They don’t ask, “What are you studying?” But, “What are you learning?”

Studying infers a solitary, sedentary ingestion of information. Learning is a social, active, exercise—a dialogue that must necessarily engage two or more persons in order for true learning to be accomplished. In the Jewish tradition, “learning” is a verb, a never-finished action.

Leonard Sweet writes, “Truth is best discovered in conversation; and truth needs multiple perspectives for it to be trusted.”

Sweet also writes,

“There are three alternatives for living a unique Christian way of life.  One is to imitate Jesus; two is to follow Jesus’ principles, whether found in His teachings or His stories; three is to be in such a relationship with Christ that you begin to share his life, his spirit and his presence.”

We are not called to be imitators of Christ, but rather implanters and interpreters of Jesus for the world we live in.  Jesus didn’t come to teach us how to be “like God,” he came to teach us how to be true humans, living in communion with the Father.  And just like Jesus used parables that took an agricultural approach – the sower, the vine and the branches, etc., because that related to his audience, so I can use an R rated film to make a point to an audience who relates to it.

We have gotten so caught up in being the church that we remember and like, the traditions and customs that sometimes we separate ourselves from the very people we are supposed to be trying to reach.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I like many of the traditions of the church, but that doesn’t make them Biblical doctrine.

A little while back, I interviewed Phil Cooke, a Christian TV producer and media guru, and I asked him if he had an opinion on why it seemed that most of the time, atheists create more realistic and believable Christian characters than Christian film and TV writers often do.  His response was at first surprising, but the more I considered it, the more sense it made.

He quoted a California Pastor named Erwin McManus.  McManus, speaking to an audience of Christian media creator-hopefuls, pointed out that he was more moved by the death of Mufasa in The Lion King on Broadway than by the death of Aslan in the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The point he was making was that Christians often become lazy.  They forget that they are speaking to a world that is outside their circle – a world that doesn’t know the conventions and concepts of the church.  They create a Pastor and because they know how he is supposed to react, they assume everyone else will too.  I myself used to wonder, when reading the Left Behind novels, how these people who’d never darkened the door of a church prior to the Rapture, somehow learned how to speak like Southern Baptists.

Meanwhile, the atheists – at least the ones I counted off to him – were committed to excellence, so they took the time to research and develop three-dimensional characters, rather than take any shortcuts or make assumptions about the viewers knowledge.

Being incarnational as Christians is often the hardest thing to achieve, because it means going completely outside your comfort zone, meeting and learning where people are, whether they’re in the jungles of Africa or the concrete jungle of Los Angeles.  But we are called to be transformed, to renew our minds and become a living sacrifice – which involves being willing to live for your faith more often than being willing to die for it.

Back to our question – are you a mirror or a prism?  A mirror simply reflects the light – a single instance of the light – and only back to the person or image standing in front of it.  A prism takes the light in and refracts it into a rainbow of colors that spread much larger and much farther than a mirror image ever could.

As we learn to be more missional, relational, and transformational, we become better Christians – we become more loving, more giving, more Christ-like and more effective.

You see, in the movie, as Joel goes through the process of erasing Clementine from his life, he realizes that he can’t live in a world without her – even if he can’t be with her.  In many ways, it reflects the true human condition – as the mathematician Blaise Pascal stated, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”

We know inherently that we need Jesus, just as Joel realizes, in his sleep that he needs Clementine, even the broken, sorrow-filled remembrances of her.

Think for a moment about your memories. What you remember is not personal, but social. Your “memory bank” is full of relational moments, not isolated, individual personal recollections. We find out who we are only in connection with others.…

So I encourage you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

Take what you have learned and take it to the world who so desperately needs it.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Love all and serve all, be a friend to the friendless, love your enemies, bless them that persecute you.

And in loving Jesus, rather than imitating him, invite him to live in your heart and transform you from the inside out.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Amen.

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