Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Personal Invitation From My Good Friend, Barack Obama



Honestly folks, I really have been trying hard to tone down the sarcasm but sometimes I just can't help it. After the last exchange between the DNC and me over their "thanks for your support" and "please send more money" appeals, I was sure they would remove my name from their mail list out of sheer embarrassment. But no, I was wrong. Instead, this time I got a “personal” greeting from the "savior of the world** himself. Barack even said to me, “if you make a donation before midnight, you could join me at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. I'm looking forward to seeing you soon.”


Of course, out of courtesy, I responded with this personal note:

Hey Barack,

To say that you are arrogant is a misnomer. I know some very arrogant people and, believe me, I don't think you're arrogant. I think you must be the dumbest rock in the whole pile. Either that or you are borderline certifiable.

How can you send me this email? How can you possibly think that I am a supporter? Do you and the DNC really believe that I am going to donate anything to your campaign? Have you been smoking something illegal again?

And do you really think I am ignorant enough to believe that you are personally inviting me to accompany you to the DNC convention? Even if that were true, I wouldn’t walk across the street to see you for free.

On a positive note though, I do enjoy sharing this stuff on my blog for the amusement of others. So I want to thank you and your cronies for keeping me well supplied with fresh, new material.

Just so you know, the five bucks you asked me for, I'm sending that to the RNC. That really hurts me to do that; I’m disappointed in their non-conservative candidate and the party has become far too liberal and unprincipled for me. Nevertheless, at least they don’t insult my intelligence with this kind of CODSWALLOP (I wanted to say something else but my wife wouldn’t let me).

Respectfully, your friend,

Ralph M. Petersen

P.S. My original offer still stands, buddy.
Call me if you need me to be your running mate. Luv ya, man.

**my thanks to Stan at Just After Sunrise for the link to this great video ad, "The One."

Can Christians Witness In Public Schools?

Retired Christian school educator, administrator, and author, James Bramblet brought this message before the fall conference of The Northwest Fellowship of Christian Schools in 1958. He has given me permission to edit his speech for publication here. I know this is a long post but it is an important topic and well worth the space.

Many times in my career I have encountered opposition to Christian education by Christians who argue that our teachers and students should remain in public schools to be witnesses. The Word of God has several things to say on the matter.


God’s Word makes a distinction. Children do not think or act like adults. The Apostle Paul says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (I Cor. 13:11). There is a difference in thinking and in understanding between a child and an adult.

What is that difference? “That we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). A child is tossed about by every wind of doctrine; he is easily influenced. This is as God designed. He intended that children be subject to their parents who are to be the controlling influences over them.

Children are malleable; you can teach them correctly or incorrectly but whatever you teach them, they are going to believe because they are “tossed about by every wind of doctrine.”

To expect that children should be witnesses concerning Christ is foolishness. God has created them with a desire to please the adults over them. The Lord used that quality of childlikeness to illustrate trusting faith when He said we should become as little children. We should receive truth as a little child does and not doubt as adults do. Children naturally will receive instruction, and when they go to school they go there to receive and not to give.

What happens when the principles that are taught in school are contrary to those learned at home? Adults, in the same situation, would see the conflict and determine which principle to follow. But that is not so with children. At home, they simply act the way they are expected to act. At school, they act the way their teachers and classmates expect them to act. Conflicts don’t bother them at all. This is confusing to many parents when they find out that their child who acts the part of a well-behaved Christian at home and at church, acts contrary under different influences. The responsibility for teaching children is with the parents, for the Scripture plainly teaches, “Fathers…bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)


According to Scripture, a witness must be one who stands in separation from those to whom he is witnessing. “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” (II Tim. 2:3-4)

During the war (WWII), we were separated and isolated in some remote part of Idaho for training. We could not associate with anyone outside while they were teaching us what they wanted us to know. Why? We were at war and we had to be trained to fight the enemy.

Suppose someone had suggested that we send our young men to Japan to be trained. That would be foolish! They would not fight the enemy if they were trained by the enemy. Yet that is exactly what people do with their children. They send them into the training camps of unbelievers and then wonder why they don’t turn out to be Christian soldiers. If we are to be good warriors we must separate ourselves, or as it says in Scripture, “Be not entangled with the affairs of this life.”

II Cor. 6:14-17 says,“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” We usually apply this passage to marriage or business. But the same principle applies in the education of our children. A schoolroom is not a neutral place of isolation. Close relationships naturally develop between classmates, between students and teachers, and between teachers and administrators. That is one of the reasons that it is difficult for a teacher or student to testify concerning the things of Christ. The basic thinking or worldview of administrators, teachers and students is in diametric opposition to a Christ-centered worldview. For that reason, the Scriptures require that we stand in separation for our witness to be effective.

Hag. 2:11-13 gives us more insight on this principle of separation, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said,’No.’ Then said Haggai, if one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, ‘It shall be unclean.’” The subject here is separation from spiritual uncleanness. If that which is holy touches something, does it make it holy? No! If that which is unclean touches something clean does it make it unclean? Yes! According to the principle of separation, if those who are unbelievers are present, do they make all unclean with their influence? Yes! If there are those present who are believers do they make all holy? No!

The application to Christian education is obvious. Will your child influence others in school for Christ or will he be influenced away from Christ? We know, both from Scripture and experience, that the Christian is nearly always influenced away from the things of the Lord when he compromises a separated position.


Many Christians argue that we should be involved with unbelievers in order to be witnesses among them. We might call this way of thinking “witnessism.” It misuses the command for Christians to be witnesses as an excuse to remain mixed up in the world. They tell us we must stay in modernistic churches as witnesses; we must stay in the public schools as witnesses. But God’s Word says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.”

God’s Word provides real life illustrations of the necessity for witnesses to stand separated from the world.


Had Moses chosen to remain in Egypt, he might have become the King. He might have thought, “I should stay here in Egypt and be a witness in the palace and perhaps all of Egypt will be won for God.” But Moses knew better. In Hebrew 11:24-27, we read, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Moses understood the principle of separation. It would have been much more comfortable for him and he could have thought of himself more highly as one of the princes of Egypt than in the wilderness with a little group of God’s people. But Moses, hearing God’s Word and knowing His will, chose to separate from Egypt.

It is just this very matter we debate in trying to convince people of the necessity of Christian schools. Yes public schools have much greater prestige, resources, and programs than do Christian schools. But we stand for God’s truth and we must stand in separation from the world.

Pharaoh offered Moses a compromise that the adults go and worship God but leave their children in Egypt. Moses refused. That same offer is made to us today. Satan knew then and he knows now that, in one generation, if he can control the children, God’s witness can perish from the earth.


Lot, on the other hand, practiced witnessism; that is mingling with the world in order to be a witness to them. When Abraham and lot separated, Lot chose the nice green plain where there were two large cities. He may have thought that if he moved down to Sodom and Gomorrah he could be a witness to the people there. He evidently had some training in God’s Word for he knew he shouldn’t move right in and live in Sodom. We read in Genesis 13:12 that he went down and “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”

But in Genesis 14:12 we find that he has moved into Sodom. Perhaps his wife visited the Sodomite women and came home and said, “We can’t be a witness with our dirt floors and our old tent. We’ve got to have a house.”

By the time we get to Genesis 19:1, he is not only living in Sodom but he is holding office. He is sitting in the gates of Sodom, a place of leadership. Now he can be a respected witness. He is the chairman of the school board and his wife is the president of the P.T.A. But there is no record of him doing much witnessing. The truth is that he has so compromised with the people of Sodom that he can’t witness to them. To be a witness to the world we must not be entangled with the affairs of the world. Lot got involved in Sodom, became one of the officers, and was never able to bear witness there.

It’s nice to think we can join some ungodly organization, become active in it and then be a great influence for God. The trouble is we just aren’t strong enough to do it. In reality, those organizations have a corrupt influence on us. If we are going to be a real witness we must stand in a place of separation.


Some people think that even though they can’t say much about the things of the Lord in the public school they can still be a silent witness.

Just what is a “silent witness?” That phrase is an oxymoron. If you are silent you aren’t a witness, and if you are a witness you aren’t silent. Suppose you have been accused of a terrible crime and the circumstances look very incriminating. But there are some people who know you aren’t guilty and can bear witness to the fact. During the trial your witnesses are brought up and they all turn out to be “silent witnesses.” That would be of no value to you. A silent witness is not a witness at all. God’s Word says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” (Psalm 107:2)


Not long ago a Christian who teaches in a public school said to me, “Mr. Bramblet, I agree with you but if I taught that way, I’d lose my job.” What kind of Christians have we become that our jobs and associations prevent us from being faithful witnesses? By contrast, Hebrews 11:33-38 recognizes some real witnesses, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy…” They not only gave up their jobs, they gave up their lives for the testimony of Christ.

It is only in Christian schools where we can teach according to God’s Word! A Christian teacher who refuses to teach evolution and the supremacy of man will be a real witness but he will lose his job. Christian parents of children in the public schools who would attempt to convince their school boards that they will not tolerate teaching that excludes God from the universe will probably not change the schools but the schools will change them. In order to bear a true witness for Christ we must be separated and if we try to stay in the world with a true witness, the world will separate from us. Christian parents and teachers who want to witness in the public schools will pay a price.


Believers in "witnessism" think the Gospel can be slipped in when people aren't looking. That thinking is not only unscriptural; it is unsuccessful. The Gospel must be declared boldly and openly. If modern Christians do not return to a bold, separated testimony we will never be able to free ourselves from the educational and spiritual bondage of the world system.


If we are to maintain God's testimony upon the earth, our children must be taught the basic principles of God's Word from their youth up. We cannot raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord with just a short daily devotional time and a half-hour each week in Sunday school when the world has them five days each week in the classrooms of godless humanism.

It isn’t a matter of us trying to have Christian schools or hoping we can have Christian schools, we MUST have Christian training for our children or God’s witness shall perish from the earth! Thank God, He knows this, and is raising up Christian schools all over our land. He is speaking to the hearts of Christian parents everywhere. He is calling young men and women into Christian school ministry. Christians who oppose the Christian schools need be careful lest they find themselves fighting against God.

James Bramblet

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The United Methodist Position on California's Marriage Protection Amendment

This letter appeared a few weeks ago in the Press-Enterprise, a daily newspaper in Riverside County in Southern California.

“The Press-Enterprise article that describes how 80-plus churches are going to plot strategy for trying to pass the “marriage protection” amendment showed only a small part of the church population (“Prepping for ballot battle,” June 25).

Many more churches are going to actively try to defeat the amendment in November. The United Methodist Church has consistently fought for fairness and equal rights for all people,

At a recent meeting of representatives from the 338 United Methodist churches in Southern California, a resolution was passed calling for United Methodists to do all that they can to defeat this initiative.

Our churches were further called upon to oppose any discrimination based on sexual orientation. A pastor is quoted in your article as saying, “This is an opportunity for people within the church to speak out. The church can act as a moral compass on this.” We absolutely agree and urge the defeat of an unfair amendment that singles out one group of people to take away their civil rights.

All churches should oppose such an amendment.”

Roy R. Riggs
Moreno Valley
United Methodist Church
Moreno Valley

It may be of interest to note that on June 18, 2008, United Methodist leaders from the California-Pacific Conference met for their annual meeting. One Bible-believing Methodist Pastor (there are a few) reported back to his congregation, the determinations and resolutions of that conference. In his report he writes:

Despite what the Methodist Book of Discipline and the Bible says, that marriage is the union between a man and a woman and that homosexuality is a sin, the conference delegates voted and approved three resolutions that negated the laws of the church. On Saturday afternoon, when many delegates had (already) left, the Conference voted to support the decision of the California Supreme Court regarding marriage of same-gender couples and encourage both congregations and pastors to welcome, embrace, and provide spiritual nurture to these families.

The second resolution, which came before the remaining delegates on Sunday morning, says that the conference will support pastors who conscientiously respond by celebrating same-sex marriages, and support them in any resulting disciplinary action.

The final resolution was to oppose the November initiative that would amend the State Constitution to define marriage as a union “between a man and a woman.” I don’t know what other West Coast conferences have done, but our has stepped into the mud first. God bless us and our church. AMEN.”

I am amazed at the arrogance and audacity of church leaders; men (and women) who call themselves “pastors” and wear the title, “reverend” who will collectively and fearlessly thumb their nose at the sovereign, righteous, holy God of the universe, trash His Word, and decide for themselves, what is right and what is wrong.

Woe unto to them that call evil good, and good evil. Isaiah 50:20
One has to wonder, at what point do people say, “Enough is enough” and leave their churches?

Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, II Cor. 6:17

Monday, July 28, 2008

Doctrine Is Worth Dividing Over

"Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity.- But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin.

The old saying must never be forgotten, "He is the schismatic who causes the schism"... Controversy in religion is a hateful thing... But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation... "

Iain Murray

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lurking Contemplative Spirituality

Is your church introducing, or teaching, or promoting the unbiblical, mystical practices of new age meditation or contemplative spirituality? It quite possibly might be happening by stealth.

Rick Warren, America’s Pastor, has successfully infiltrated and influenced myriads of churches of all denominations with his Christian Life And Service Seminars (C.L.A.S.S.) materials.

Those materials are readily available and widely used in thousands of churches as new member or discipleship programs. If your church is using that material, it may be exposing you to the contemplative.

The subject of CLASS 201 (or book two in the series) is Christian Growth or Maturity. Section one introduces The Hand Illustration: Six Practical Ways To Get A Grasp On Your Bible. One of those ways is through meditation. After an introductory passage from Psalms 1:2-3, the book starts with this definition of meditation: “Meditation is focus thinking about a Bible verse in order to discover how I can apply its truth to my own life.”

At this point two words triggered my skepticism; “focus thinking.” I have seen and heard that phrase commonly used in relation to new age meditation techniques but I was also bothered by the whole definition which seems to be more man-centered rather than asking, How or what does this verse reveal about the God of Scripture?

A little further down the page is a list of suggested ways to meditate on a verse. Included are:
· Visualize the scene in your mind.
· Say the verse aloud, each time emphasizing a different word.
· Rewrite the verse in your own words.
· Replace the pronouns or people in the verse with your own name.
· Pray the verse back to God.

That’s where I got really nervous; this seems very similar to the methodology of classic contemplative prayer, but “what do I know?”

So I move on to another step – How to apply God’s Word. There, the reader is instructed to ask, “What did it mean to the original hearers?” I think the more appropriate question to ask is, “What did it mean to the writer?” In other words, what did God say? Not, what does it mean to me?

The next section of the book deals with developing the habit of a daily time with God. In it is a five-step chart titled, “Fifteen Minutes With God.” Now, I don't want to be an alarmist or anything, BUT, this chart follows, almost exactly, the contemplative practice of "Lectio Divina" which is a form of mysticism wherein the practitioners claim to receive special revelation from God.

The first step is, RELAX (suggested time 1 minute). Be still quiet! Slow down! Prepare your heart. Take a few deep breaths and wait on God.

The next step is to READ …until you feel God has told you something. Then stop and think about it.

The third step instructs the reader to REFLECT. It refers the reader back to the section on how to meditate and then suggests that the reader “think about what the passage means to you.”

All of this language is very indicative of contemplatives. But just to be fair, lets STOP for a reality check here. Am I presuming too much? Am I being overly critical? Am I trying too hard to make this say more than it says? Is this stuff really dangerous? It seems rather innocuous; maybe just slightly questionable on some minor points but, hey, c’mon Ralph, give Rick Warren a break and stop trying to make something out of nothing.

O.K. I have been accused of being skeptical before. But before I repent, in the interest of clarity, I want to make just one objective observation, offer one bit of supporting evidence for my concern and ask one final question. Then you can decide for yourself. That’s fair!

First the observation – This material was produced, promoted and propagated by Rick Warren.

The supporting evidence - I will let Rick Warren speak for himself. These quotes can be read in this post at Lighthouse Trails Research:

“The last thing Christians need is another Bible study.”
“The church is not fully mature without contemplative prayer.”

The final question – Is it unreasonable for me to presume that a man who believes that the church needs contemplative prayer would not reflect his beliefs in his teaching materials?

As Fox News says, “We Report, You Decide.”

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Parable Of The Arrogant Young Bank Manager

A friend of mine told me this true story about a woman he knows in Beverly Hills. I will call her Mrs. Brown to protect her identity.

She was a cosigner or joint controller of all her elderly mother’s bank accounts and assets. When her mother died, she went to their bank to transfer the money and close her mother's accounts.

But the bank manager had become aware of the death so he placed a temporary hold on the accounts rendering them inaccessible to the daughter until they could verify, to their satisfaction, her relationship and her right to the joint assets. It was a foolish and unnecessary delay. When she complained to the young bank manager, he said to her, “Mrs. Brown, if you would just come in more often and make yourself better known, we would not have this problem.”

She explained, “Young man, I have had all my accounts here for many years. I was a customer before you were born. In fact I am a charter member of this bank.” He did not seem to be very impressed. He was cocky, in charge and not about to be moved. He arrogantly stuck to his decision just because he could.

So, starting the next day, Mrs. Brown came into the bank every single day, walked up to the manager’s desk, slapped her hand three times on his desk and loudly announced to everyone in the bank, “Mrs. Brown, here to make herself known.”

The novelty soon wore off and the staff came to dread the daily ritual. Every day as she walked through the door, the manager buried his head in his hands out of embarrassment. All the tellers and clients stopped what they were doing. Silence filled the room as all eyes were fixed on her while she articulated her daily pronouncement, “Mrs. Brown, here to make her presence known.”

The arrogant, young bank manager was rightfully humiliated and eventually learned the lesson. The bank staff came to understand that Mrs. Brown was a client. They were there to serve, not to control and they began to treat her and all their customers with more respect.

When Mrs. Brown tells that story, she always ends it with this little piece of advice,

“Don’t change banks;

change the bank.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dangerous and Stupid Political Parties

"There are only two major

political parties in this country;

The dangerous and the stupid.

I am a member of the stupid party."

Dennis Prager

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why I Am NOT a Liberal

“Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples’ money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people’s freedom and security.” —William F. Buckley Jr.

Mark Alexander, the executive editor and publisher of The Patriot Post has this excellent perspective titled, “Why The Left Can't Get It Right” It is worth reading.

In summary, the difference can be articulated in four words;

"Liberals Feel,
Conservatives Think."

“Anyone under the age of 25 who is not a liberal, has no heart; anyone over the age of 25 who is not a conservative, has no brains.” Source unknown.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dense and Dumb Democrats

I recently posted copies of a couple satirical letters I wrote to the RNC and the DNC.

The Democrats placed my email address in their system so now I get regular updates on their campaign with thanks for my support and requests for more money.

Here is the response I sent back to them:

You people at the DNC are either dumber than rocks or you are just plain arrogant. Why am I on your e-mail list? Is it because of my offer to help your campaign? This is proof that you Bozos don’t care enough about the people of this country to even bother READING the messages we send to you. Maybe I presume too much. Maybe I mistakenly believe you CAN read.

The message I sent to you was SATIRE; it was SARCASM; it was a JOKE. You are wasting your fool time sending me all this blather and thanking me for my support. Do yourself a favor. Go find someone who can read and then ask them to read and interpret this message to you:


I sent a similar letter to the RNC. At least they were smart enough to understand the sarcasm and to not insult my intelligence with thanks for my support.

Sincerely in brotherly love,

Ralph M. Petersen

Dumb, Stupid, Senseless, Helpless, Defenseless, Gullible Sheep

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Psalm 19:1
I am amazed at the intricate design of the universe right down to every minuscule detail. I am convinced that God created everything and every creature for a specific purpose; that is to manifest or show forth His glory. Even the cute little object lessons we develop from nature are, I believe, not of our own inventions at all but are in fact, deliberately designed by God to show us something of Himself. For example, the children’s song, "Bullfrogs and Butterflies" illustrates the miraculous transformation that occurs in the new birth. I think He made them that way on purpose.

Another animal, though, is used abundantly in God’s Word, as analogous to His people. Personally, I wish it was the rhinoceros. I could get excited about concepts like power, and strength. But God compares us to sheep; “…We are the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Of all the animals in the world, God compares us to dumb, stupid, senseless, helpless, defenseless, gullible sheep.

Did you know that sheep cannot survive on their own? If human life suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, all the sheep would be dead within a few days. Sheep are creatures of habit and if they are left to themselves, they become victims of their own demise. Every day, without a shepherd, they will do the same things, they will go the same places and eat in the same pastures. They will ravage the pasture until it is destroyed and then they will pollute the ground until it breeds dangerous parasites.

When they are thirsty, they drink indiscriminately, any water that is available even if it is dangerously contaminated.

Sheep are tense, “psychological basket cases.” They are constantly in a state of fear and aggravation that keeps them from properly digesting their food.

They have no ability to defend themselves. They have no weapons, no camouflage, no speed and no sense. They are “easy pickings” for predators.

The only way sheep can possibly survive is under the watchful care of a shepherd. That’s why God appoints shepherds (pastors) to care for His flock. And He gives them a very narrow and defined job description. They are not called for social or political activism. They are not called to entertain. They are not to be chasing after goats. They are called to lead, feed, guide, guard and protect His flock. “Feed the flock of God which is among you…” (1 Peter 5:2)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Appearance of Impropriety - Lessons For Non-Profit Leaders

With nearly 20 years combined experience as an officer or director in two non-profit Christian ministries, there have been a few occasions where questions of ethics and practices came alarmingly close to home. And I have learned that the law can and sometimes does hold all the officers of an organization, including churches, collectively and personally responsible for actions of individuals in the organization. Knowledge with wisdom about that fact frankly keeps me in a state of healthy fear. Someone once asked me, “If you are not going to learn from your mistakes, what’s the point in making them?”

So I was interested in a local story that broke recently in my town that might be worthy of cautious concern to anyone in church or parachurch ministries. There are several lessons to be learned.

In brief, a local charter school is now under Grand Jury investigation for some pretty serious charges that may or may not be illegal but the allegations are rooted in the “appearances of impropriety.” It is interesting that the term, appearance of impropriety, has its roots in the Bible. It is from I Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” So what happened?

One of the principle characters is a man known to me and with whom I have served on another board in the past. He is a very likable person, well-known and active in the community, and he has a passion for the multiple non-profit organizations he serves. And, I believe that, in this case, his practices, his activities, his interests, and his intentions were always for the well-being and benefit of the school. Yet, many people around him were often conflicted by, what one letter writer called, “funny business.”

Ironically, he is very knowledgeable and astute in laws and ethics as they pertain to not-for-profit organizations in California. In fact, the very issues that resulted in this current investigation, were of great concern in another not-for-profit organization where, under his leadership, they were distracted for several months by some similar concerns over some alleged unethical activities of a former board member. Even though the accusation proved to be unfounded and without substance, that organization took deliberate actions then to create “at arm’s length” policies and procedures to protect their employees and directors from the possibility of any “appearance of impropriety.” In short, this man knows “where the rocks are.”

So, back to the story - The man is currently serving and has served on the board of directors at the charter school for a number of years. He is also the president and CEO of another non-profit benevolent organization. The accusations in this case can be broadly summarize around the school board’s alleged misdealings or the possibility of “self-dealing” regarding contract arrangements that may have unfairly or questionably inured to his own benefit or that of his family, and his other non-profit organization. It is possible, and maybe even likely that the contracts were reasonable or even a bargain to the school; that’s not the issue; it is not illegal to establish contracts with officers or directors. There are recognized, legal conflicts of interest. In most cases, those arrangements can be expedient and good for organizations. The question is, how should those arrangements be negotiated so that the officers, directors and the organization itself are protected?

A brief review of the news article revealed these several varied and disconnected charges about some of their practices:

  • Board members failed to recuse themselves from votes that benefited themselves or their families.
  • The board awarded contracts among themselves without seeking bids thereby excluding other qualified vendors the opportunity to compete.
  • The board engaged in “bid splitting,” a practice whereby goods or services are divided into several processes in order to keep the total amounts under the threshold that would normally require a different action or higher accountability.
  • When other bids were invited, the board member who was competing had the unfair advantage of seeing and then underbidding the competition.
  • Board members were allowed to vote on their own reappointments.
  • There was an allusion to possible violations of the “Brown Act.” That has no direct affect on churches but the underlying principle is that the board possibly acted in secret and without transparency.

I am sure that I do not need to rehearse all of the specifics about this case in order to point out some potential dangers. But I do want to make just a few general, random observations and comments for the benefit of anyone involved in church or non-profit ministry leadership:

  1. The origination of this major firestorm can be traced back to a couple small, seemingly insignificant flashpoints that may be related. The first came from a “disgruntled” employee(s). But further in the article, it was revealed that the board of directors decided to dissolve a “troublesome” advisory board that was established and required in its charter documents. The week after the story appeared in print, two opinion letters were printed in the newspaper from some of those disgruntled people. There is a lesson to be learned here. Officers, directors, boards and fiduciary managers must not disrespect, ignore, marginalize, insult or attempt to quiet the people or the organizations to whom they are accountable. Once the people begin to sense that happening, they begin to question the practices of the leaders.

    2. These kinds of problems tend to escalate into a feeding frenzy. Once their suspicions were aroused; once the sharks smelled fresh meat, they tore indiscriminately into every little thing they could find. Although there are some serious accusations under investigation, there is also a myriad of seemingly petty, nonsensical, and irrelevant issues piled on. None of them would warrant any serious jury investigations but now, everything is under scrutiny.

    3. When the credibility of leadership is doubted and the confidence is eroded, it is hard to restore. The school board’s chairman issued a statement saying the school operates in “an open and transparent manner so that the public trust in the school will remain strong.” The problem with that statement is that it closed the barn door after the horse escaped. Now the school is clean. Now there are no current contracts with the board member or other organization in question. Now there is added accountability that has been forced upon them. Now they have finally addressed some long-standing deficiencies. But, in spite of the assurances, the public trust has been eroded and the resulting damage was the impetus to finally force the board to make necessary corrections.

    4. It is easier to avoid these problems before they happen than it is to make corrections after the damage is done. In the case of the charter school (and possibly the other non-profit by association) the actions that led to the investigation will result in mandated audits of their business and fiscal practices. In addition, there will be, by mandate, an outside representative in attendance at all board meetings to ensure accountability. There is a parallel here for our instruction. From time to time, most organization’s constitutions and policies are amended or crafted usually to respond to or correct problems or abuses whether real or imagined to ensure accountability. Whenever a governing body loses the faith or confidence of the organization it serves, trouble will come and structural changes that may or may not be right are likely to result.

It is always a shame when a good community non-profit benevolent organization comes under this kind of scrutiny for questionable practices. When it happens to a church, it is a reproach to Christ.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's The Oil, Stupid.

"The economic mess the country confronts can be laid at the feet of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

"The Don’t Drill Democrats could halt and reverse the skyrocketing cost of oil, but they are choosing not to.

"Every Democrat on the fall ballot is part of the anti-energy party which is wreaking havoc on the economy and every family’s budget. A vote for any Democrat is a vote for shortages, rising gas prices, rising unemployment, and falling production. A vote for any democrat is a vote for failing airlines and collapsing financial institutions and for the shuttering of car plants and large manufacturing.

"A growing, vibrant economy needs energy. The Don’t Drill Democrats are anti-energy.

"It is that simple."

And if you have about 30 minutes, this podcast, “If You Vote For A Democrat This Fall, You're A Dummy!” from Hugh's Friday radio show will really disturb you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

When Cancer Strikes, God Is Strong

Last week (July 3 to be exact) marked the third anniversary of the beginning of what would become the most frightening ordeal my family has ever experienced.

As my wife and I were shopping on a Saturday morning, I received a call from my daughter who was concerned about our three-year old granddaughter who had been throwing up for several days. Her husband was away on a business trip. I told her to get ready and I would drive her to Kaiser for a checkup.

The bad news came within two hours; Madi had a tumor growing at the base of her brain and emergency transportation had been called to transport her to Los Angeles. I returned home to get my wife and make several phone calls. We drove to L.A. that evening where Madi and my daughter had been admitted to the emergency room. Surgical removal of the tumor had already been scheduled for Tuesday. I left my wife with them and returned home because I had communion service responsibilities in church the next morning.

About 8:00 AM Sunday morning my wife called to inform me that Madi had slipped into a coma and the emergency staff had to drill into her skull to relieve the pressure from fluid buildup and then she was transported to surgery for immediate tumor removal.

It was CANCER. Over the next two years, after several surgeries and various treatments the prospects did not look promising. But we learned what it meant to be totally dependent on God and trust in His absolute sovereignty. It has been over a year since treatments have ceased and Madi is still alive, the cancer has not advanced and she has resumed growth. Praise God.

You can read more about Madi, her ordeals and her family here and here.
But that is not the reason for this blogpost.

I know, from personal experience, the emotional, spiritual, and financial stress that comes to a family when faced with cancer. And I know how much my family appreciated the thousands of faithful prayers and support from across the country and around the world during our times of need.

I received a personal note from Josh at Truth Matters. He is a brother in the Lord, and a warrior in the battle for Truth. Recently cancer has afflicted his family and they are in desperate need of some prayer and relief to provide for the daily care and help for his mother, Carol. Their medical insurance plan makes little provision for very expensive daily medications that will be ongoing for several years and they have already made tremendous personal sacrifices to meet her needs. The burden is great but God is greater.

I have already made a contribution to help Carol. If God puts this burden on your heart, I know Josh and his family will appreciate anything you can do to help too. You can read more about her needs and be kept informed of her condition here.

"Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Rhinoceros and The Dromedary

A thirsty Rhinoceros, having to his great joy encountered a Dromedary in the desert of Sahara, besought the latter animal of his mercy to give him a drink, but the Dromedary refused, stating that he was holding the fluid for an advance. 

"Why," said he to the Rhinoceros,"did you not imitate my forethought and prudence, and take some heed to the morrow?" 

The Rhinoceros acknowledged the justice of the rebuke. Some time afterward he met, in an oasis, the Dromedary who had realized at the turn of the market and was now trying to cover his shorts. 

"For Heaven's sake," he gasped to the Rhinoceros, who was wallowing in the midst of a refreshing pool, "trust me for a nip." 

"When I was thirsty," replied the Rhinoceros, "you declined to stand the drinks, but I will give you a horn." 

So saying, he let the grateful sunlight into the Dromedary's innards.

Moral: Virtue is its own reward.
from Project Gutenburg ebooks

Ronald McDonald Is Acting Like Bozo; Doesn't Need Hateful Christians

McDonald’s and I have enjoyed a pleasant relationship for many years. Ever since my high school days, when hamburgers were fifteen cents, it has been one of my favorite fast food choices. In the last few years their one dollar menu and their senior discount meant that I could drop in once or twice each week for a double cheeseburger, an order of fries and unlimited refills on my diet cola for under three dollars. Life is good!

So I was a little disturbed when the American Family Association called for Christians to boycott the golden arches because of the corporation’s support of the gay agenda. O.K. so I didn’t completely stop eating my senior happy meals but I did notice my visits were less frequent.

Hey, it’s a free country and they can make BOZO business decisions, however insane they may be, according to what they believe is in their best interest. Frankly, I find it very confusing to try to keep up with every corporation’s parent organizations, stockholders, and investments in order to control where the profits from my consumerism will be spent after it has left my pocket. The Apostle Paul gave us some real practical instruction in that regard when he said, “Whatever is found in the marketplace, that eat, asking no questions for conscience sake.”

But then today World Net Daily reported this outrageous story. According to Bill Whitman, McDonald's, CEO, those who oppose homosexuality for religious reasons are participating in "hate."

"Mr. Whitman has intentionally avoided addressing the reason for the boycott. Instead, in response to the boycott, he simply stated, “Hatred has no place in our culture.” This boycott is not about hiring gays or how gay employees are treated. It is about McDonald's choosing to put the full weight of their corporation behind promoting their agenda," the AFA alert said.

So, Ronald, it’s been nice knowing you but I’m leaving and I am going to sign on to AFA's boycott. I'll miss you buddy. Besides, your french fries don't really taste all that good anymore since you caved in to the pressures of the transfat police. But now your golden arches kinda look like rainbows and your CEO has insulted me and disrespected my Christian faith. His accusations about Christians being hateful seems a little disingenuous, don’t you think? If you repent and fire your CEO, I’ll consider coming back. In the mean time you can find me at Burger King.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Two Reasons To Vote Right!

I posted an item titled, What Will Happen During An Obama Presidency? on July 1.

A man by the name, Alex responded with a comment that I posted as written.

I do not think it would be appropriate for me to just blow him off with some obnoxious, sarcastic remarks. I believe that he is sincere but his comments deserve some honest response.

So, Alex,

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your visiting my blogsite and I sincerely hope you come back again often.

First, on the issue of waterboarding; before it was sanctioned as torture, it was not considered torture and has been used without objection from the left and the right for a long time. That accusation from the extreme, overly sensitive, offended left has been investigated and determined to be without substance. Have you seen waterboarding? I have. It is very uncomfortable and it certainly creates a sense of panic but it is hardly torture. During the Viet Nam war, our troops suffered some real torture. In fact, throughout history, evil men have devised some extremely, horrendous methods of torture. You should research some of those methods; there is no comparison. More recently, some of our non-military citizens have been really tortured. I believe his name was Nick Berg (I’m not sure), but he was beheaded alive. Michael Savage was the only media personality I know with guts enough to post the actual video. That video was very hard to watch but I forced myself to see it at least four different times just as a reminder of the capabilities and resolve of our real enemies. It was a slow, torturous death. A half dozen men held Mr. Berg, hooded and bound on his knees while they cut his head off with a large saber. His screaming turned to gurgling when the blood started flooding down his throat into his lungs. Finally, silence. I don’t know if his death was by drowning in his blood or if they severed his spinal chord first. When the job was over, one of them held his severed head high in front of the camera for the world to see. THAT’S TORTURE. But in spite of the cruel, ungodly, barbaric acts of our enemy combatants, the United States, as a matter of policy, has always been constrained by our Judeo-Christian morality and acted with civility and without undue cruelty.

The whole prospect of catastrophic, wholesale destruction of our environment and the planet is largely based on questionable science, a lot of speculation and may be one of the largest world-wide hoaxes in history. And I know there are millions of people who sincerely want to believe it to be true but the reality is that, since the year 2000, our planet has been cooling, not warming.

As for lying, “under the cover of not remembering,” - this is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's memory lapse about her lost files. But all of these arguments really miss the whole point. I really hope you read all of Dennis Prager's post as well as Thomas Sowell's. They are very important; not just for us conservatives, but for every person in this country. Believe it or not, most of us conservatives really want the best opportunities for everyone, including liberals.

There are two critical issues facing us in this next election. They are of monumental import and none of us can afford to play silly games with our votes over inane, non-essential bickerings about who can’t remember stuff or who made incompetent staff appointments.

Those issues are:
1. The appointment of Supreme Court Justices – Our country cannot continue to survive a Supreme Court that insists on ignoring the people, usurping illegitimate powers, redefining the constitution, and using their positions to enact laws. Barak Obama has already esteemed Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the most liberal activist justice in my memory) as the ideal model of a prospective candidate. We need a president who will appoint justices who will protect the Constitution in its original intent. If we want changes, we, the people, through our representative legislators, can affect them.

2. National Security - This country has real enemies who want to eradicate us off the face of the earth. That is not my opinion; it is their public declarations and they will test our resolve again early in the next administration just as they have done in the last two. You don’t have to like him, I certainly have my own disappointments in George Bush but, this country has not been attacked since 9/11. We need a president more like Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick,” rather than one like Rodney King who will just cower and whine, “Can’t we just all get along?”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

@Black Or White?

This election year has brought up an old question:
If a man who is half black is a black man, does that mean that a man who is half white is a white man?
Just wondered!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Save The World; Think GREEN!

“Environmentalists often talk as if they are trying to save the last few patches of greenery from being paved over, when in fact 90 percent of the land in the United States is undeveloped and forests alone cover more area than all the cities and towns in the country combined.”
—Thomas Sowell