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Watching Fox News…. Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church on Chicago’s south side was just asked to “step away” for a couple of weeks by Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago after his controversial sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ (Obama’s, now former, church).

A statement from the Archdiocese’s website:

To put recent events in some perspective, I have asked Father Michael Pfleger, Pastor of St. Sabina’s Parish, to step back from his obligations there and take leave for a couple of weeks from his pastoral duties, effective today. Fr. Pfleger does not believe this to be the right step at this time. While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests. I hope that this period will also be a time away from the public spotlight and for rest and attention to family concerns.

I hope also that the life of St. Sabina’s parish may continue in uninterrupted fashion. Fr. William Vanecko, Pastor of St. Kilian’s parish, will be temporary administrator of St. Sabina’s and will assure the full complement of ministerial services during this period. I ask the members of St. Sabina’s parish to cooperate with him and to keep him and Fr. Pfleger in their prayers. They are in mine.

From my experience… you don’t appoint an interim pastor unless he is going to be gone longer than two weeks.  Another thought is, how arrogant he is to say to the Archbishop (his boss), “I don’t think this is the right step.”  That will likely be what eventually will get this guy removed permanently.

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Some may not be aware, but Iowa has a Republican Senate Primary tomorrow.  The three contenders are Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje, Marion businessman and Navy vet Christopher Reed, and Strattford attorney and former Iowa Representative George Eichhorn.

Any of the three would be better than incumbent U.S. Senator Tom Harkin who has not represented Iowa well.  His liberal positions are not in touch with mainstream Iowa (which I noticed his most liberal positions are conveniently left off his issues page on his website).

Another reason why I feel that Tom Harkin is bad for Iowa is that he no longer lives here.  Unlike the senior senator for Iowa, Chuck Grassley, who lives here when the Senate is out of session and visits every county in Iowa every year; Harkin resides near Washington, D.C., just maintains a P.O. Box in Iowa and is only out here when he is fundraising or campaigning.

I have decided that I am going to cast my ballot tomorrow for George Eichhorn, and I would like to encourage my fellow Republicans who live in Iowa to do the same tomorrow.  I think that George Eichhorn has excellent experience having served in the Iowa Legislature for three terms.  While I am not against seeing non-legislators run against Harkin I feel that both Rathje and Reed are the the strongest candidates.

Regarding policies they are all pretty similar.  I feel George Eichhorn articulates his the best and knows how to campaign.  Steve Rathje has been running for two years, but as a recent Des Moines Register article points out as of 5/14/08, only had $7,700 in the bank.  Eichhorn only has $4,100, but he just declared his candidacy.  Eichhorn also seems to have the backing of some key party leadership.  I also watched a recent debate between Eichhorn and Reed (could somebody explain to me why Rathje wasn’t there?), and I feel that Eichhorn best explained his positions.  Reed came across as inexperienced, and Rathje communicated a lack of desire to win since he couldn’t even bother showing up.

So George, you have my vote tomorrow.  I hope to see you on the ballot in November against Tom Harkin.

Cross-posted at From Their Own Mouths

Update (6/4/08): Congratulations to Christopher Reed who yesterday’s primary.  Very close race.  Mr. Reed was my second choice.

1,873 of 1,873 precincts – 100 percent

  • Christopher Reed 25,150 – 35 percent
  • George Eichhorn 24,735 – 35 percent
  • Steve Rathje 21,326 – 30 percent

Source: KCCI TV

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By Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Todd Purdum who covered Bill Clinton for sixteen years wrote a troubling piece in Vanity Fair (I don’t normally read Vanity Fair, but there has been enough brouhaha over it I wanted to read it.).

Is Bill Clinton a asset or liability for Senator Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House (now doomed I’m sure), and the likely bid they’ll make to get her on the ticket with Barack Obama?

He’s evidently an angry man.

“There’s an anger in him that I find surprising,” one senior aide, who has known and served both Clintons for years, told me this spring. “There seems to be an abiding anger in him, and not just the summer thunderstorms of old. He has been called into question repeatedly by top staff. The fact is, you can only weigh in so often on this stuff. It’s just a huge force of nature.”

His painful departure and transition from the White House.

By most accounts, including his own, Clinton struggled to find his footing in the early days of his post-presidency. “I was lost for three weeks after I left the White House,” he said on the campaign trail this winter. “Nobody ever played a song anymore. I had no idea where I was.” He had ended his administration in a firestorm of criticism over his eleventh-hour pardon of a raft of assorted miscreants, including the fugitive financier Marc Rich, whose ex-wife, Denise, contributed $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential-library fund, approximately $1 million to Democratic causes, including $70,000 to a fund supporting Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and $7,000 worth of furniture for the Clintons’ new home in Chappaqua, in suburban Westchester County.

Apparently President Clinton is lacking the appropriate staff to “save him from himself.”

The most pointed criticism of Band (President Clinton’s current personal counselor who is involved in his daily schedule) is precisely this: that he does not possess what Clinton has always needed in a string of strong-willed aides, such as his gubernatorial chief of staff Betsey Wright, or his director of Oval Office operations, Nancy Hernreich—the judgment to save him from himself. The origins of such criticism may lie in the fact that one of his predecessors as personal aide, Stephen Goodin, was cited, together with Hernreich, in the Starr Report as having tried to keep Monica Lewinsky away from the president, while Band, then only an intern, escorted her to a White House party, at her request.

It is sad to think that we have a former president who needs a babysitter to help save him from himself.  But based on his behavior in the White House, this shouldn’t be very surprising.

His commitment to his wedding vows must not have changed much since being out of the Oval Office.

None of these wisps of smoke have produced a public fire. But four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president’s former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an “intervention,” because, the aide believed, “Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road.” The would-be intercessor was rebuffed by people around Clinton before ever getting an audience with the former president, and another aide told me that the effort was not well received by either Bill or Hillary Clinton and that some Hillarylanders, in particular, were in denial about the continuing political risks that Bill’s behavior might pose.

So is Vanity Fair being fair toward President Clinton?  What if the items in this story is true, how do you think that affects Senator Clinton’s political future?

Cross-posted at Red Blue Christians and From Their Own Mouths

Update – 6/4/08: Allan Bevere makes some great points about the Vanity Fair article, and how Purdum mostly relied upon anonymous sources.

Unless you have just arrived from another planet, you and everyone know about Bill Clinton and his constant zipper problems throughout the years. If indeed, the former president has been discretely sexually indiscreet as he has campaigned for his wife, no one would be surprised.

But here is the problem– the article relies completely on anonymous sources. One of the increasingly disturbing trends in current journalistic practice is the reliance on unnamed or anonymous sources in order to trash someone’s name and reputation. All that is needed, supposedly, is that the journalist researching and writing the story, consider the anonymous source to be reliable. Thus we are supposed to accept the “newsworthy” claim (accusation) as accurate because a journalist trusts the person who is providing the information while hiding in the shadows. (Journalists and anonymous sources– now there’s a time-honored recipe for truth and integrity!)

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Sermon given on 5/25/08 at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Indianola, IA.  Continuing my series on Sermon on the Mount covering Matthew 5:21-30 – Jesus’ teachings on anger and lust.

You can listen online here.

You can download here (right click on link and select “save target as”).

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Contempt

From Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy:

Contemptuous actions and attitudes are a knife in the heart that permanently harms and mutilates peoples souls.  That they are common does not ease their destructiveness, (pgs. 152-153).

Why is it that contemptuous actions and attitudes are so prevalent in the church?  Why don’t we challenge this more aggressively?  Jesus calls this attitude of the heart as the moral equivalent to murder.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire, (Matthew 5:21-22, ESV).

Anger, for many of us, is not a righteous thing, but rather prideful or vengeful and it seeks to do harm.  God throughout the Bible pointed His anger at sin.  Righteous anger is anger at injustice and sin.  Not at sinners, and not just when we are sinned against which is usually the only time we are angry at sin.

Righteous anger on our parts should lead to a response that is graceful and is bathed in truth.  We should demonstrate mercy to the victims, and seek reconciliation with those who offend.

Worldly anger leads to contempt which destroys spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and even physically when taken to the fullest degree.  It never pleases God, and should not be present in the life of a follower of Christ.

But it often is.

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1. Would you like to improve your reading ability?  Here are seven pleasurable ways.  HT: Jake Bouma

2.  Prodigal Jon explores why society tends to picture God as angry in his post “Painting God mad” at Stuff Christians Like.

3.  Flatulence is now considered bullying.  Jr. High boys of the world… beware!  (HT: Nuke)

4.  Evidently Obama’s uncle fought for the Soviet Army so he could liberate Auschwitz.  Velvet Hammer blogs on other Obama lies – numbering now 51 in this campaign.  Do we see a pattern here?

5.  Pistol Pete on what makes a great blog.  Caffeinated Thoughts has the honor of making his blogroll.

6.  A “Christian” T-Shirt concept that hasn’t quite caught on:

Source: Naked Pastor

7.  Straight Talk Express?  See below.  I don’t want it to be said that I give GOP politicians a free pass here.  There is much to criticize about John McCain as well.

HT: Stephanie

8.  Organic Faith shared some thoughts about Dr. Tim Keller’s message to last year’s Gospel Coalition regarding how pastors are losing focus in the pulpit.

Dr. Tim Keller said last year in a teaching to the Gospel Coalition that the difference between Gospel-centered preaching and lifeless pulpit talk is a focus on Jesus. He said that his wife told him that his best sermons are those that focus on the transforming power and example of Christ. He basically hit on an issue that I have been concerned about for a while. In the effort to be relevant, it has become all too common for preachers to deliver good messages on moral teachings instead of Jesus-focused calls to divine transformation and human repentance.

That is so true.  May that never be said of my ministry in the pulpit.

9.  Anne Jackson asks, “what is something you feel you can’t say in church, or around other Christians?”  She gets some humorous and serious responses. 

Some responses that caught my eye:

  • Anne started things off – “I suck at reading my bible.”
  • I can relate to Pete who said, “That sometimes when there is a dramatic pause in my message, and I look like I’m waiting on God to give me something really powerful to say, I’m not. In reality I’m just wondering if I zipped up my zipper before I went up on stage.” (I laughed out loud at that one.)
  • “Most people I know who claim to follow God are really sucky people who don’t care about anything but themselves and their comfort. It makes me not want to follow their rules.”
  • “When I’m leading worship, I sometimes think of all 31 flavors of ice cream at Baskin Robbins.” (Huh?  Ok then.)
  • “How I feel more alone than ever, when someone gets up to the mic and talks about the deep friendships that can be found in church small/care groups . . . and that just has NOT been my experience.”
  • “That law is easier than grace … just tell me what to do and not do and I’ll give it my best shot.  Grace is too big, to wide open and scary.”
  • “I don’t like Beth Moore Studies.” (It seems like every women’s Bible study I hear of is doing one.)
  • “Stop making Christianity a scapegoat for not developing a personality. Quit being judgement, flaky, egotistical, mean, rude, fake in the name of a God who was none of those things.”

HT: Rodney Olson

10.  An interesting way to get people to church.

And it is at a BAPTIST church!!!!  They reported their largest attendance ever (just kidding).

HT: Crummy Church Signs

11.  If you haven’t already found this gem, I highly recommend the Christian Classics Ethreal Library where you can read works by some great dead people.

12.  Here at Caffeinated Thoughts I am concerned about your health.  Nintendo is coming out with the Wii Fit.  Exercise for video game junkies.  Nice.

13.  You know you spend too much time blogging and commenting when…

HT: Smart Pastor

14.  I am all about networking.  It is in the name of the ministry I serve.  I have been a member of the National Network of Youth Ministries since 1998.  I have benefited from the youth ministry networks that I have been a part of or have led in my youth ministry career.  Since moving back to Des Moines six years ago I have been disappointed by the lack of a vibrant cross-denominational network for pastors in Des Moines.  Sam Rainer (a recent Southern Seminary grad – congratulations Sam!) blogs about the benefits of pastors who get together.

15.  No kudos for Indiana Jones…. just read over on Greg Stier’s blog some harsh, but likely well deserved, criticism of Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I was tuned in from the opening scene through the final scene. But, and I hesitate to make this declaration, I hated Indiana Jones.

There I said it.

Don’t get me wrong, Harrison Ford did a great job in reprising his role as the combative and compelling archaeologist. Shia LaBeouf did a fine job as a whippersnapper whip snapper in the making. And the villain, Cate Blanchett, was very good at being vey bad. But the real villains in this movie were not the old school Communists of Russia but the lame writers of the movie screenplay. Indy should have hunted them down instead of the Crystal Skull and given them a good shalacking.

Please don’t misinterpret. I am a HUGE Indiana Jones fan. I really wanted this movie to be great. In the first thirty minutes of the movie I thought that it could be. The next thirty minutes made me start to doubt. Doubt turned into resignation over the next 1,800 seconds. The last cringe-inducing, please-don’t-go-there segment made me want to reach through the screen, grab Spielberg by the lapel and ask him, “Why? Why? Why?” The director of E.T. should go home, sit in front of his old school typewriter (the one he typed the screenplay of Jaws with) and bring back a plot worthy of his considerable talents.

I guess I’ll wait for the DVD, LOL.

16.  Are you frustrated with no signs of spiritual growth in teens?  Tim Schmoyer gives three reasons why youth pastors (and parents too) may feel this way.

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Forgetting that growth is a process.
  • We are watching the process close up.

17.  David Innes of King’s College suggests that John McCain should tap Bret Schundler, the three-term mayor of Jersey City, NJ as his running mate.  An interesting suggestion, I’m not so sure a Mayor would be a good choice, but I do like his credentials.

18.  Gay Marriage by Judicial Decree – Stuart Taylor, Jr. on the recent California Supreme Court decision.  (HT: Mere Orthodoxy)

19.  Rick Warren – It is your skill, not preaching and prayer that will grow your church.

Ugh.  I think I just vomited in my mouth a little.

HT: Irish Calvinist

20.  Quote: Abraham Piper at 22 Words

If unapplied theology is worthless, we shouldn’t claim to believe truth with arguments, until we’ve proven we believe it with our lives.

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God is…

I’ve been reading The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard, theologian and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California.  In chapter three, “What Jesus Knew: Our God Bathed World”, he includes a quote by British Methodist theologian Adam Clarke (1760-1832).

God is…

the eternal, independent, and self-existent Being; the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence; he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, the most spiritual of all essences; infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made, illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only by himself, because an infinite mind can only be fully comprehended by itself.  In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived, and from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, and right, and kind.

What is your response to Clarke’s representative statement about God?

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