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Friday, March 29, 2013

And Today, the Debt was Paid

On this day in 33 AD, God's plan for man's redemption reached it's final stage. Though one glorious act remained, He who was without sin died for our sins. Isaiah 53:4-6, foretold of the act of our salvation:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,  

stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 

each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

When Jesus was crucified, the Pharisees and Saducees and Essenes and Romans thought that they had conquered over Christianity. Satan thought that he had triumphed over God. It looked like evil had won out over good. But on the third day, it was revealed to be the very opposite. 

Today, modern culture thinks it has triumphed over Christianity. But just as during those days in 33 AD, Jesus will come again in glory. And the Bible tells us that while He came as a lamb the first time, He will return as a lion this time.

I was a former Christian for a chunk of my life. And I realize now that the main reason was because I refused to accept it wasn't all about me. That I was second and there is something greater than me. That is a humbling realization. And it's Jesus' death on this date that is at the core of it. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, look deep inside and ask why. It's quite possibly the same reason I had. Easter Sunday is the perfect time to come to that realization and accept the undeserved gift God gave us through His Son. Then you can truly say, "I am Free."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday - The Agony in the Garden

The most well-known event of Holy Week's Thursday is the Last Supper.

But before that, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed to his Father. Jesus, he who could call down a heavenly host of angels, prayed in his greatest hour of trial. Jesus gave Christians a blue print for dealing with temptation. I was stunned to see how clear it was when I really dug into the verses.

If you've ever wished you could resist temptation better, it's right here:

And I recorded this as well. At least check out the first slide. It's The Family Guy! Stick with it and you'll get Seinfeld, Monty Python and Animal House, among others.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Actually, it's not in the Constitution

Making NO COMMENT WHATSOEVER on the same sex marriage issue before the Supreme Court right now:

I'm a Christian who believes in the Bible. And I've got a couple dozen books on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the Framers of the Constitution in my library. I happen to think that the US Constitution is the finest model of government that man has created. Every American citizen should read a book about that Convention in 1787 (or at least read the Constitution, which I suspect most people haven't bothered to to do). The two books pictured here are excellent. And 'miracle' in the title of this one refers to the unlikelihood of what the Framers accomplished. It's not a religious look at the Convention.

Moving on to the point of this post: The US Constitution does NOT establish the separation of church and state. Read the Establishment and the Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. Heck, I'll type them for you:

Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."
Free Exercise Clause - "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

There you have the actual words written into the Constitution. Separation of church and state is a phrase coined by Thomas Jefferson and used in his letters. The incorporation of that phrase into Constitutional Law has been made by the US SUPREME COURT.

When Congress declares a religion for the United States; or doesn't allow someone to practice their religion of choice, then the government will be violating the US Constitution regarding religion. This public perception that the Constitution establishes a wall between the government and religion is, quite simply, ignorance of the actual Constitution.

If you want to argue that it's the Supreme Court's responsibility to interpret the Constitution and that the Court has decreed that there shall be a separation of church and state, fire away.

But Americans have been misrepresenting and misinterpreting the Constitution up to this day, including saying that it establishes the separation of church and state. No, it does not. It's written right there on the page. Or rather; it's not.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Tuesday - Jesus Tells of His Second Coming

To a Biblical Christian (by this, I mean someone who has accepted Christ as their savior and tries to live their life by the words of the Bible), this is the most important week of the year. Holy Week culminates with Easter Sunday; God's redemption of the promise of salvation.

I have been working on my fourth missive; this one about The Seven Woes. Jesus' unloaded on the hypocritical Pharisees and law clerks in the Temple on Tuesday of Holy Week. His words still ring true to Christians today. However, this one has been much more difficult than my first three.

Holy Tueday was an event-filled day. Along with the Seven Woes, Jesus uttered the famous, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" on Tuesday.

And he took his disciples up on the Mount of Olives and answered their question about the 'End of the Age.' I have a shelf full of books on prophecy: some I consider very good, some the work of quacks (Hal Lindsey, anyone?).

The link below goes to my Missive on Jesus' Olivet Discourse. If you have any interest in predictions regarding the end of the world or Jesus' second coming, here are his own words on the subject.

I have sketched out a part two involving Jesus' parables as part of the Discourse: maybe in 2014..

Happy Easter, friends.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Steelers - 5 Years at a Time (1970-1974)

This is a first

Chuck Noll was hired in 1969 and won his first game. Of course, he lost the next 13. 1970 was the year of the AFL/NFL merger and the foundation of the current NFL. The Steelers moved into the AFC Central, the forerunner of today's AFC North. And, they began playing in Three Rivers.

With a fair amount of Steeler Nation running a little short of perspective in a year when we will quite possibly miss the playoffs by just one game, I'm going to look at the last 40 years (the modern Steeler Era) in five year increments. At the end, I'll provide a bit of an overview of the past 40 years for Steeler Nation. And hopefully show that there's no reason to get worked up about 2009. Things aren't bad.

I was only 3 years old in 1970, so my earliest Steeler memories begin during this block.

Tag Line - The Steelers, after decades of futility, became an NFL power.

42-27-1 (.600 pct)

Close Losses %: 37% (10 of 27)

Winning Seasons: 3/5

Double Digit Win Seasons: 3/5

Playoffs: 3 seasons/3-2 record

Championship games: 2 (1-1)

Super Bowls: 1-0

The Steelers improved on their win total in 1970 and again in 1971, showing progress under Chuck Noll. Then, after only two playoff appearances in team history, three straight trips to the postseason, two AFC championship games and one Super Bowl win. Delirium for a long-suffering fan base that would shortly be known as Steeler Nation.

I define close losses as those by 7 points or less. An offensive play here, a key stop there, and a loss might have been a win. Even if it was a 'bad' game, I'm declaring it a competitive one, based on final score. The Steelers not only had a pretty good winning percentage for the block (about the equivalent of a 10-6 season today), they almost won over a third of their losses, including the 1972 AFC Championship Game.

KEY MOMENT - Many things happened that helped turn the franchise around in this block, but the breakthrough came in the 1974 AFC Championship game. Pittsburgh trailed rival Oakland (who had knocked them out of the playoffs the prior year) 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Steelers outscored the Raiders 21-3 in the fourth and secured the first of SEVEN Super Bowl appearances. Miami's reign would be over with the Steelers' emergence (the Dolphins had appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls, winning the prior two).

SUMMARY - 1970-1974 was a watershed block for the Steelers franchise. Chuck Noll transformed perennial losers into Super Bowl champions, stocking the roster with pro bowlers and future hall of famers. And this block featured perhaps the most famous play in football history, The Immaculate Reception.

TRIVIA - The Dolphins barely made it to the Super Bowl in their undefeated 1972 season. The Browns led Miami 14-13 in the fourth quarter of the playoffs. The Dolphins had an 80 yard drive to win 20-14. We almost had a Browns - Steelers AFC title game! And in the conference finale, the Dolphins converted a fake punt on a TD drive in what turned out to be a 4 point victory.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Story - Memories Are Empty

A Twilight-Zonish piece I wrote during my Austin days. The inspiration for it becomes pretty clear by the end.

Memories Are Empty

He stood on the littered blacktop streets of a strange city. There was a grayness that pervaded the light, blunting its effect into a muted dimness. Something wasn’t right. The normal sounds of a city were missing. Instead, they were replaced by a dull roaring, like the sound of the ocean when you hold a seashell up to your ear.

Smoke billowed down the street, the tall buildings on either side of him forming a funnel. His eyes teared a bit as he peered into the midst of the brownish, billowing cloud. He could not see its source. Papers fluttered on the breeze all about him. It seemed as if the air was full of them.

Where were the people? How could a city of this size be devoid of human life? The smoke; the paper, the lack of people: what was this place? Why was he here? What was he supposed to do?

The papers continued to dance in the air. Some fell at his feet, but most continued wafting down the way. The smoke should have left him a coughing wreck, but it stayed out of his lungs, somehow. He could breathe normally, though his eyes still stung. He decided to walk towards the heart of the smoke. He didn’t know what else to do.

As he moved along, he saw cars abandoned in the road. Some had doors standing open. Windshields were broken and tires flattened. Again, he looked around for some sign of life. There was no one. There weren’t even any birds in the sky. Dust and debris were several inches deep upon the ground. It was like a blanket of refuse. Shards of glass and jagged pieces of metal, some quite large, were lying all around. He had to walk carefully.

As he moved up the street, he saw flames high in the sky, flickering through the smoke, which grew heavier. He realized that there must be a building on fire. That would explain the wreckage around him. No, there was too much of it. There had to be more. The smoke cleared somewhat at ground level as he approached what must be the source of the fire. He saw the base of the immensely tall building that was burning heavily. Next to it were the shattered remains of what had been another skyscraper. It had collapsed to the street. Now he understood where so much of the debris had come from. Something terrible had happened, completely destroying a huge building and nearly doing the same to a second. What could possibly have caused this?

As he stared upwards at the flames pouring from the upper portion of the still-standing skyscraper, he once again wondered why he was here and what he was seeing.

Suddenly, a voice that came from both inside his head and from all around him whispered: “You will see, but you will not remember. You will remember, but you will not know. You will know, but you will not understand. You will understand, but you will never...”

It repeated this mantra, over and over. He clasped his hands over his ears and bent forward, almost in half, trying to shut it out. It was no use. The words were burning into his very being. They echoed in his head. Instantly, he saw the two towers before him standing tall and whole. He gasped as he recognized them. A few seconds later, a memory of a dream came to him. A vision of carnage seared itself into his mind. The images came back of the bodies and the wrecked building in Oklahoma City. He shut his eyes to get rid of the pictures, hands still around his head. It didn’t work.

“Not another one,” he whispered. “No, no, no!” He couldn’t breathe. There would be another disaster tomorrow. He fell to his knees and rocked himself back and forth. The dream only came to him immediately before the catastrophe struck. He recalled those that had happened in the past. He saw the loss of life and property that would follow the very next day. He had been given the curse of a dream vision that only he could see. And he knew that when he woke up the next morning he wouldn’t remember this dream. The event would occur, and he would be as horrified and shocked as the rest of the world. But at this exact moment, he knew exactly what was coming to the world on the morn.

Letting out a howl of anguish from the depths of his soul, he staggered to his feet and threw his arms up in the air in a futile act of supplication.

He shot upright in his bed. Sweat covered his chest and the sheets were stuck to him. He must have had a nightmare. It had been several years since the last one. That was the night of April 18, 1995. The Oklahoma City bombing had occurred the very next day. He must have sensed something in the vibrations of the cosmos that night.

Whistling as he adjusted his tie and headed off to his job with Federal Express in the World Trade Center, he knew that today, September 11, 2001, would have to be better than the day after his last nightmare.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Issue Four of Baker Street Essays is Up

After a Sherlock Holmes sabbatical lasting over a year, I've returned to The Game. Aside from enjoying both Elementary and Sherlock on television, I've written a new edition of my free, online Holmes newsletter, Baker Street Essays.

Among the highlights in Issue Four are an original parody of Holmes and Watson and a previously undiscovered letter to The Strand Magazine from Brett, Arthur Morrison's chronicler.

And here's a lost for many years drawing by Sidney Paget, saved from a trash can by his daughter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Christy Nockels - A Mighty Fortress

I've said many times before: I would listen to Christy Nockels sing the telephone book.

The Passion versions of Waiting Here For You and Healing is in Your Hands leave me weak in the knees. This is another example of her powerful voice for worship.

Martin Luther wrote this song around 1530. And it was if he wrote it for her to  over four and-a-half centuries later.