21 December, 2007

Christmas Wishes

Dear TBNN readers,

Well, it's been an exciting first year here at TBNN. (Technically we're not a year old. We'll have a special celebration for that in January.) We've enjoyed bringing you our stories six days a week, and watching interest in the site grow. But it's time to close down shop until after the first of the year. So today is the last post until Wednesday, January 2, 2008. We here at TBNN want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Also, some of our regulars here would like to take a moment and share with you their Christmas wishes.

"Christmas is a special time where we as believers in the one true and living God set aside a specific season to ponder the great mystery of the Logos being made flesh. What a tremendous and weighty theological subject matter. It's depths cannot be fully fathomed! That the Almighty left his home in glory to redeem his elect. What majesty, what wisdom, what glory worthy of all praise and honor." - Joel Osteen

"I just hope that when you get together with family and friends this holiday season, and your sipping that warm hot chocolate, or eating on that big turkey, or when you finally get that new iPod you've been wanting, that you remember that Christmas is about love, and our lives are to be about loving others and being good people. Look inside yourself and find the Christmas in you!" - John MacArthur

"May peace, joy and happiness be upon you all, and may you find joy this Christmas like you've never found before!" - Fred Phelps

"Remember as you celebrate Christmas, that there are others who are celebrating their special festive times. Don't forget our Muslim brothers, many of whom make their annual pilgrimage to Mecca this time of year. Or there's that wonderful holiday of Kwanzaa that we really don't know much about, but it's important! And let's not neglect Hanukkah. Respect those Menorah's when you see them. And last but not least, there's our pagan brothers and sisters who use this time to worship nature. So, Christmas is about tolerance and respect. May you find that this Holiday Season." - Albert Mohler

"Oh what depths and what riches may be found in the passages of God's Word that take us to the manger. Oh what joys may be reaped from those words of the incarnation. That we should not be left to die and perish in our sins. Oh what mercy!" - Brian McLaren

"You know Christmas is more than about a manger. It's about a mission, a mindset, a meaning, that goes beyond people being saved. Christmas is about a life of just trying to figure things out. It shows us that there's so much we can't know, and we just can go around pushing what we believe on other people." - John Piper

So there you have it folks. I hope I didn't mix any of those comments up. Hmm, maybe I better proofread it again, but I don't really have time right now. Oh well. Merry Christmas.


20 December, 2007

Santa's Sovereign Selection

NORTH POLE - Every once in a while, TBNN has the great privilege of interviewing a famous person. Today we are sitting down with one of our favorites, Santa Claus. We at TBNN freely admit that we believe in Santa, and sitting down with old Father Christmas up here in the Arctic only confirms that.

TBNN: We are honored to be here. Should we refer to you as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or something else?

Santa: You can call me whatever you like. Santa is just fine. Have some milk and cookies.

TBNN: Thanks. We are amazed that you are able to get presents to all these different people all around the world in just one night. How can you possibly do it? No offense, but you are a bit old and you're not in the best physical shape, so how does it happen?

Santa: No offense taken. I do need to lay off the Christmas cookies, but Mrs. Claus is just such a good baker. Anyway, I see where your confusion about the gifts comes in. The reality is that I actually don't deliver most of the presents that you see on Christmas. I would guess that about 15-20% of Christmas presents actually come from my sleigh.

TBNN: (Shocked expression on our faces) Sorry, but we still don't understand.

Santa: Let me back up a bit. After Christmas, I take a break for about two months. Mrs. Claus and I holiday in Florida with the rest of the old people. The elves go off to Cancun. Toward the end of March, back here at the North Pole, I decide who will get presents from me at Christmas. The decision is up to me. No one influences me in my decision. Then we start putting the gifts together. It takes a long time.

TBNN: Wow. Growing up, we always heard the little jingle, "Making a list, checking it twice; gonna find out who's naughty or nice..."? Is there any truth to that?

Santa: I have no idea where that song came from. As if kids could be good enough to earn Christmas gifts?! What a bunch of baloney. Maybe their parents made it up in the hope that it would motivate them to behave in school or something like that.

TBNN: We are still a little confused. Can you explain?

Santa: Sure. Each year I choose who will get presents. I only give gifts to people who believe I am real. How do they believe? They are the ones I show myself to. So both their belief in me and their gifts come from my hand. They can't earn it.

TBNN: We had always wondered why some kids get more stuff than others. This also explains why there are no gifts at all in some parts of the world.

Santa: You're right about that. There are plenty of well-behaved kids in countries like Afghanistan. However, no one there believes I exist, and I haven't yet decided to go there. I may do so, but that is my sovereign choice.

TBNN: Some folks continue to feel like they deserve presents. What do you say to that?

Santa: That's nonsense. Nobody deserves anything good from me. I simply give gifts to those who believe; and they can only believe because I chose them to believe. I never looked into the future to see who would believe and then chose them. That's just silly.

TBNN: So you don't "woo" anyone to believe.

Santa: What does "woo" mean?

TBNN: Forget it. That was a stupid question.

Santa: Look, I'll try to make this simple for you. No one deserves any presents. I simply choose who gets them. The gifts are limited to those I choose. When I give gifts, no one rejects them. I keep those who believe in me so that they never stop believing.

TBNN: What about all the gifts that don't come from you? If only 15-20% are from you, then where do all the rest come from?

Santa: Haven't you ever gone to Wal*Mart, Sears, or Target at this time of year? How do you think they stay in business? This whole "present thing" has gotten out of hand with everyone giving to everyone else. Very little of it actually has anything to do with belief in me.

TBNN: What do you think of people who buy gifts for others but do not believe?

Santa: I refer to them as "False Santas." Interestingly, children are much more willing to believe in me, but their parents and school teachers "educate" them out of their belief. So I guess they never really believed in the first place.

TBNN: Some people say this isn't fair. You only give to some, but not to all. What do you say to that?

Santa: How am I obligated to give good to anyone? They don't believe in me unless I cause them to. It would be fair for me to stay in my warm igloo on the night of December 24th with Mrs. Claus. If I choose to give out presents to whomever I will, then that's just a free gift from me. Why do people have such a hard time with that?

TBNN: One last question for you. Where do the elves come from?

Santa: They're just my messengers and helpers. I don't really need them, but they are handy to have around.

19 December, 2007

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With all of the different mobile phone choices out there, things can become confusing. There's phones out there that play music, send email, recognize handwriting, and even have GPS functions. But all of those different phones out there are nothing but plots to confuse and deceive people into getting a phone that's not really a phone at all.

So why spend all that money on some new fancy phone, when the perfect phone was already built. Ten years ago Nokia invented the 1611 model, and it has proved to be the most faithful and most reliable mobile phone ever built. While other phones had preceded it, the Nokia 1611 was the seventh stylistic attempt at a mobile phone of it's kind, like silver refined in a furnace. It has also been the most used and most successful phone ever in the entire world, giving more credence to the fact that this phone has been specially designed and blessed.

"I have no need for any other phone" said Paul Hudson a Nokia 1611 owner. "When you've found what is perfect, why would you go back to something less perfect?"

So this Christmas check eBay, visit local garage sales, dig through garbage cans, but do all you can to find yourself a Nokia 1611. Your very phone service depends on it.

"I trust my husband's opinion very much" said Wanda Hudson, wife of Paul. "All I can say is that if the Nokia 1611 is good enough for Paul, it's good enough for me."

18 December, 2007

Church Christmas Bonuses Based on Number of Souls Won

SAVANNAH, GA - At Coastal Community Church, it's all about winning souls. "We care about people," said Senior Pastor David S. Young. "We take our marching orders from I Timothy 2:4 (click here) and II Peter 3:9 (click here). God's will is for no one to perish, and we intend to make that happen. We win souls at Coastal!"

Despite Pastor Young's excitement, the church has not been growing over the past two years. In order to "spice things up" and "light a fire," Pastor Young decided to implement a creative and intriguing new plan to motivate the pastoral staff to "win more souls."

TBNN has learned that Coastal has a total of seven pastors (Senior, Music, Youth, Children, Evang. and Missions, Elderly, and Administration). Each year they all receive the same Christmas bonus: $900. Not this year.

Music Pastor Wallace Simmons informed us, "We could have just done things like always, but Pastor Young wouldn't have any of that. He told us that this year there would be a competition. Starting November 1st and running until December 25th, the seven of us pastors would be competing for our Christmas bonuses. This is almost more than I can handle. I mean, I'm here to do the music, not go out on visitation!"

Pastor Mitch Dowd (Evang. and Missions), who is pictured here, said, "The Pastor put all $6300 into his safe at the church. He told us that at the end of the competition, he would pro-rate how we did. We aren't actually guaranteed any bonus at all. Some people might say that this competition is an unfair advantage for me, but I'm more scared than anything else."

Even Youth Pastor Colton Harris is intimidated by the new Christmas bonus plan. "This is almost more pressure than I can take. All I'm thinking about these days is who gets saved next. I have some advantage because I work with youth, but this is still rough."

Pastor Young informed the staff that in order to keep this competition an objective and fair one, the souls-won count (and thus the size of each bonus) would be based only on the number of people who "check the box in the bulletin and put it in the offering plate on Sunday."

The "box," for those of you who do not know, is a place on the weekly bulletin where visitors can check off any decisions they have made. At Coastal, if they check the box, they are also asked to write the name of the pastoral staff member who "led them to the Lord."

Now most of the way through the competition, the church has noticed a recurring problem. Deacon Marvin Jacobs told TBNN, "We keep having new people show up every Sunday and check the box saying they got saved that week. They even write down which staff member helped them. Well, most of these folks never bother to show up again. They don't seem interested in the church or in growing in the Lord. They just get saved and leave. It sure is weird."

At last count, the competition was a close one, with Youth Pastor Harris in the lead with 67 souls won. The Administration Pastor has won only 3 souls, probably (according to Pastor Dowd) because sharing his faith is not part of that job description.

Pastor Young has admitted to the come-to-church-once-and-leave problem, saying, "It seems that some of our staff is getting a bit too over-zealous with this whole thing. I have heard that some people have been told that if they just come to church and check the box, then they will be saved. Nothing more is expected. They come to church once, and then we never see them again. They might have a very false sense of security. Next year I'll have to tweak this competition. Instead of checking a box, we'll do it based on baptisms. Then we'll know for sure that they're really getting saved."

17 December, 2007

Old Emergent Straight Postmodern Whiseguys

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Not sure what to put in yours? Don't worry, just keep it empty for as long as you like, and each day pop off the top, and pour yourself up a shot of nothing. Sip slowly and enjoy the fact that there's no right or wrong way to drink up Old Emergent Straight Postmodern Whiseguys.


15 December, 2007

Implications for the Falling Dollar

Atlanta, GA -- Creflo Dollar’s standard of living may drop as US prosperity congregations begin to pay more for thier support of foreign evangelists, say economists.

Although he is extremely debt free, Creflo “The Dollar” has seen a drop in his total wealth compared other major foreign evangelists. Last week, after the Federal Reserve reduced interest rates The Dollar fell even further – now at a level not seen since he received his honorary doctorate from Oral Roberts University in 1998.

Foreign evangelists, such as Canadian Todd “The Loonie” Bentley, have gained tremendous ground – now on par with greenback evangelists for the first time ever. But does a less prestigious portrait of Creflo (on the dollar bill) have any meaning for most prosperity congregations?

Economists say the falling Dollar has pluses and minuses for US prosperity congregations. For those who would like to buy a Rolls-Royce, a Diamond DA-40, or a French chateau for their pastor, it means their standard of living will go down as they pay more money for these foreign goods.

Analyst June Cleveland thinks things may not be so bad for The Dollar. "After the pluses and minuses are all netted out, I think the falling Dollar will be in good shape in the long run. "Foreign prosperity congregations can now spend less of their own currency to purchase The Dollar, helping to cushion the blow of the reduced spending of US congregations."

The last time that the buying power of prosperity preachers was this low was about two decades ago, when the TV ministries were crippled by sex and money scandals in the 1980s. But the major difference was that The Dollar’s predecessors were rebounding from their low point in the mid-1980s when it was easier to make changes in foreign trade because the price of foreign anointing oil was relatively cheap.

14 December, 2007

Happerry Holihanukkwanzamas!

It's a very special time of year, and we here at TBNN want to stop and take a moment to wish everyone a very Happerry Holihanukkwanzamas! "What is Holihanukkwanzamas?" you ask. It's simple. We recognize that not everyone believes in Jesus Christ, and so we feel it is important to accommodate those people, so that they don't feel left out of the celebrations. Therefore we've invented a holiday for everyone.

The concept behind Holihannukkwanzamas is simple. We begin with combining the words "happy" and "merry" to produce "happerry." Now we know that's not a word, but hey when it comes to modifying a centuries-old celebration, we think of it as baking. Sometimes you have to substitute ingredients to get something to turn out better. No one says "Merry Hanukkah" so we couldn't say "Merry Holihanukkwanzamas" now could we? So we combined the two words.

Then we took the four main celebrations that usually go on this time of year and just combined them into one big celebration! First, there's non-religious people who simply refer to this time of year as the "holidays." Next are our Jewish friends who celebrate Hanukkah (or Chanukah if
you can get the little gutteral thing going in the back of your throat just right.) After that comes the newest biggest politically-correct holiday on the market, Kwanzaa. Dating all the way back to the year 1966 and invented by a political activist, Kwanzaa is more and more taking America by storm with its rich, moving time-honored traditions. And finally, there's Christmas. While probably the best-known of the bunch, it now no longer stands as the leader of the pack, but rather takes its place amongst equals.

Over the next few weeks we invite you to share this amazing new celebration with us here at TBNN as we teach you about the practices and traditions associated with this rich holiday. So keep checking back frequently, and in the meantime, Happerry Holihanukkwanzamas to you and your family, friends, live-in partners and anyone you've married in the state of Massachusetts or California.

12 December, 2007

Vegan Missionaries Find Certain Fields "Tough"

Dallas, Texas - Dellia Love is a vegan, a "raw vegan" to be precise. The word "vegan", which is taken from from the first and last syllables of the word "vegetarian" is a form of vegetarianism but differs in that vegans eat no animal by-products whatsoever. So as a vegan, Love not only refrains from eating any form of meat, but also from eating anything that comes from any living creature including milk and eggs. Furthermore as a "raw vegan" Love also does not eat any food that has been cooked above a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. So with such a strict diet, Love decided that the perfect way to spend her summer was on a missions trip to "the middle of nowhere."

After examining a number of different summer trips with different organizations, Love chose Mongolia for its "exotic flair."

"I was looking around on the internet at 3 in the morning and got really interested in Mongolia" said Love. "I thought, 'yeah Mongolia, it's so weird.' I just knew that's where I was like being called and stuff, yeah Mongolia, it's so exotic."

So Love proceeded to contact the mission agency offering the trip, filled out the required paperwork and raised her support to go. All seemed to be going well until, though, she arrived in Mongolia.

The team flew into the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and from there drove three hours to the remote village of Baala where the group stayed at the house of a small family of Christian believers.

"We were all starving when we arrived" said Love. "We hadn't eaten since the plane ride. The lady and the man whose names I can't remember, immediately started fixing us some food for dinner."

As it turns out the simple village family dutifully started preparing a small feast for their guests. The husband, whose name is Baat, began by slaughtering a goat and roasting it over a fire. He then proceeded to walk down to a small stream and catch five fish which he cleaned and cut into small raw pieces. In the meantime Oyon, his wife, went out to their chicken coop, killed three chickens, plucked them and began cooking them as she gathered several eggs to bake bread. Amazingly, within just about 1 hour the group sat down to a feast of goat, raw fish, chicken, bread, goat tongue, congealed and seasoned pig fat, boiled horse intestine and caviar. To wash it all down Oyon produced a Mongolian treat called Kymus, fermented mare's milk. While the other team members graciously began to eat what had been set before them, Love found herself in a bit of a dilemma.

"There wasn't a thing on the table that I could eat" said a frustrated Love. "They kept putting food in front of me, but I kept trying to tell them that I was a vegan. I pointed to the food and said it really loudly and slowly 'vegan, veee-gaaan' but they didn't seem to understand. They just kept encouraging me to eat."

Love's lack of Mongolian language skills coupled with the families lack of English language skills provided the perfect environment for a cultural misunderstanding to take place. And before long the Mongolian family had come to understand that "vegan" meant "sick" and quickly began to set out to find a remedy for their guest's illness.

Oyon left the table for a moment and returned with what appeared to be two recently severed chicken's feet. She then dipped the feet into some of the congealed pig's fat and took Love to a back room where she proceeded to try to spread the substance on her ears in an effort to remedy her sickness.

"I didn't know what this lady was doing" said Love. "She just kept trying to rub pig fat all over me with chicken feet."

Love resisted and "remedy" after "remedy" was presented to her. The family tried to get her to soak her feet in some of the kymus, all the while saying "vee-gaan, vee-gaan." They then attempted to get her to wrap up her throat with a rag soaked in a mixture of milk, egg and horse intestine oil.

As the evening wore on the situation became more and more frustrating for Love and her hosts. In the end, Love prevailed in resisting the "treatments" and dinner also. Still hungry, she managed to find a head of cabbage and finished it off before going to bed. Love spent the next two months in Mongolia living off of cabbage and raw potatoes.

"It was a miserable experience" said Love. "I'll never do it again. These people are barbaric. They don't eat any tofu or soy or anything. It's all just meat and dairy stuff."

Despite the bad experience, Love still has plans to keep trying at different mission fields.

"I'm not going back to Mongolia, I can tell you that for sure, but I'm seriously looking at some remote parts of Africa for next summer."

11 December, 2007

"Agree to Disagree" Leads to Unity

TRENTON, NJ – Why do so many people reject Christ? Why are many young people unwilling to even discuss the gospel? Why is it so difficult in this postmodern era for the church to hold a position of respect within the community? One body of believers says it’s because of a lack of unity within churches.

Pastor Sylvia Walsh, of Harmony-Trenton Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), told TBNN, “Several years ago we conducted a survey in our community to find out why people were not coming to church. The number one reason was that the folks out there had seen too many church splits. They told us they wanted no part of that. That’s when we decided to do something about it.”

At that time, Harmony-Trenton (HTPC) instituted a new program at the church that they named simply, “Agree to Disagree.” The purpose of this program was clearly stated, “We at HTPC are committed to being completely united in all things. Whenever we cannot come to unity, we will simply agree to disagree.”

TBNN has learned that this program started off very well. Frank Wheeler, a Sunday School teacher at HTPC, said, “At the beginning things were great. All of those issues that used to dog this church simply went away. There were no more arguments over things like the length of the worship services, where to have the youth meet, how big of a bereavement fund to keep, and what missionaries to support. We didn’t even dispute over the yearly budget. Because of this, we started to have a lot of new people from within the community join the church.”

About two years ago some new members began to “shake things up” at HTPC. According to usher Daniel Falk, “Two different Baptist couples moved to the area and visited our church. They liked our music so they decided to join. A little while later they started complaining by saying that we shouldn’t have a woman pastor. Also, they wanted to vote on everything. To top that, they even said we shouldn’t baptize babies. Fortunately, we just kept reminding them that we always agree to disagree. After they accepted that, everything was fine.”

At last count, the membership at HTPC has risen from 220 at the start of the “Agree to Disagree” program to just under 700 today. “We are so blessed,” said Pastor Walsh. “We are really branching out. Within the last year we have had Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, and Atheistic families join the church. We don’t ask them to reject their traditional beliefs – we just want them to feel at home. Sure, they struggle a bit during the more Christian holidays, but we help them get through it. Whenever anyone begins to feel uncomfortable, we just remind them that we always agree to disagree. I’m certain that God is pleased with our unity.”

10 December, 2007

Church Begins Using O-Slashes and Umlauts to Attract Younger Crowds

Duluth, Minnesota - With churches struggling to attract new members these days, many denominations have begun trying new "creative" ways of recruiting visitors to their churches. Examples include various churches in one town offering "coupons" to church shoppers, a church holding a weekly "solid rock" concert to attract old rockers, and one church holding a "throwed communion" service. And recently the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Duluth joined the ranks of churches attracting new younger crowds through "creative outreach."

"We had been looking for ways to attract more youth" said pastor Røger Märrïs. "I began looking up things on the internet that kids were attracted to, and one thing in particular caught my eye - Scandinavian rock bands. It turns out lots of kids love these hard rock heavy metal bands. Well, all of them had one thing in common, they all had these awesome looking characters in their logos like slashed o's and umlauts. I saw that and I said, 'that's our answer right there.'"

Märrïs, immediately spoke with the church council about how the church could utilize this idea. The decision was made to start by changing the church sign.

"Changing the church sign was a good place to start because it was so easy" said council member Ëlïzäbëth Løwrëy. "We just added some dots here and there and a couple of slashes to make it look really serious."

The next decision that was made was that the pastor and other members of the church would alter their names to include the characters also.

"We felt to make things more genuine that some of us needed to change our names a little" said member Ålbërt Møønïë. "That way this new crowd would really be impressed with how hip we are here."

While many have been excited about the changes, the results have not been what they had hoped for.

"Unfortunately we really haven't attracted the young heavy metal crowd that we though we would get" said Märrïs. "What we have attracted is more Scandinavians, which we're really not equipped to minister to here since no one here speaks a Scandinavian language. Last week we had three couples show up from Finland, one from Sweden and a guy from Denmark, all thinking we were some kind of special Scandinavian church. When we told them what we were doing they didn't seem to understand."

"We're going to give it a little more time" said Møønïë. "What we might have to do is just better publish information about our Wørshïp Sërvïcë in the local newspaper or something.

08 December, 2007

Speechless Evangelism: Words Optional

Deluth, Ga – Have you ever gone speechless trying to share the good news? TBNN has learned that for pastoractor Benny Rogers and the membership of Spring Waters Assembly, “Words are optional.”

Pastoractor Roger’s on-stage evangelistic lifestyle lessons have been… well… quite action-packed over the last few months. In a style similar to that of Mr. Bean, the pastoractor performs common, everyday activities on the church stage instead of preaching a sermon on Sunday morning.

“One week it is a mock living room; the next it is a mock office; sometimes it is a mock car,” said usher turned stagehand Billy Nelson.

Pastoactor Rogers is usually on stage with one or two other people, but he rarely speaks. “People retain more information through observation rather than listening. Who will show them how to live? How can they see without out a preacher on stage?” asked Nelson.

Colby Keith, Minister of Music turned Executive Director, explained “Quite frankly, our surveys show that Christians really don’t want to hear about the gospel. Like reading any other boring instruction booklet, reading the Bible simply is not at the top of the congregation’s list of things to do. Pastoractor Rogers is a great studier of the Word. I feel that he's called to be our teacher and Bible studier.”

Hannah Indiana, 17 year old former choir member turned Thematic Vocalist said, “People like want to watch, and to see something, and to feel. We want to experience Christianity, not hear about it. Since like they replaced that boring sermon-thing with a play, I finally get Christianity. The third week after we started the new format, I came off the stage and rededicated my life.”

“I like to call it action-witnessing,” said longtime member Milly Ray Dryfus. “No Bible passages, no speaking, nothing is ever said about God or Jesus or doctrine or anything else dogmatically legalistic. We really don’t need to hear any of that stuff. People should see through our actions alone that we are going to Heaven. It’s all action evangelism all the time. It’s wonderful.”

TBNN learned that Pastoractor Rogers does a variety of skits. Some days he simply reads his newspaper on stage. Others, he works on his computer. On others, he sits and drinks coffee with friends.

Excerpts from a church playbill provide two examples of Pastoractor Rogers’ “Words Optional” style:

· Once he spilled coffee all over himself. He was able to give us quite a string of slang terms, but stayed away from anything regarded as “dirty” or “cursing”. It’s nice to know we can use terms that show disgust, while confident that such language indicates that we are Christians, without ever having to actually use our mouths to share the gospel. It’s all done through our actions.

· Using a mock living room, but a real TV and DVD player, when someone on the TV curses or says something suggestive, Pastoractor Rogers always shakes his head in disappointment and disgust as any Christian should do. It’s a direct witness to others in the room. And no matter how interesting the movie, our pastoractor always turns off the movie upon the third instance of blatant nudity. “Three strikes and you’re out” he says as he tosses the DVD in the garbage. His spirituality is unmatched.

07 December, 2007

Religion Spectator Magazine Special Column

Vineyard: Lakewood Vineyards
Type: Charlatan

Year: 2002

Overall Score: 50

They say in this business "Don't let the label fool you," and that has certainly proved to be true in this case.

Lakewood's Charlatan was recommended to me by a friend several years ago. I was always a little reluctant to try it, but I finally gave it a go, and I must say, I was very disappointed.

To be fair, Lakewood puts together a beautiful presentation, bottled and labeled all quite elegantly. From the beginning the taster is presented with a product that builds anticipation. One can quickly assume that he or she is dealing with a high quality item here. But unfortunately, the packaging is all that is desirable about Lakewood.

The minute I uncorked Lakewood's Charlatan I immediately noticed that what was inside did not match what was on the outside. I was expecting a deep dark and rich red color, which seemed only logical since the packaging was a deep dark red also. Instead what came out was clear, with a slightly foul odor.

I let it "breathe" for a minute or two before finally taking a taste. To give it the benefit of a doubt, I thought that perhaps my sense of smell might be off a bit, or perhaps the foul odor I smelled was coming from another source. And despite the clear color, I thought that there still might be something pleasing once I finally gave it a taste. So after several minutes I picked it up, swirled it around a bit, gave it another sniff (the odor was still there) and gave it a taste. It was worse than I thought. It was lukewarm, bland, and completely unsatisfying. There was no substance at all.

So my rating for Lakewood Charlatan is 50. "Why" one might ask, "would you still give even a score of 50?" Well, to be fair, I still thought it was well packaged and nicely presented. Also, whatever was in that stuff has made my teeth really sparkle. I suppose that counts for something.

05 December, 2007

Fred Phelps Accidentally Anathematizes Himself

Topeka, Kansas - The Reverend Fred Phelps in a recent televised exchange on Fox News' The O'Rilley Factor put himself in an awkward position of self-anathematazation.

Phelps, who is most well-known for his church's pickets of the funerals of fallen soldiers and his websites, godhatesfags.com, godhatesamerica.com, godhatessweeden.com and other like them, has often made statements in the past invoking God's wrath upon whole groups of people and/or nations. The current Phelps "Irreversibly Damned" list includes,

-All of congress
-All of the United States Military

...just to name a few.

While blanket statements of anathematization are not new to Phelps and his group of followers, he has often been careful to make an exception for himself and his congregation. But during the interview with host Bill O'Rilley Phelps became visibly annoyed when asked about his home state of Kansas and apparently spoke too hastily. The transcript is as follows.

[O'Rilley] "What about your home state of Kansas, I know your group has protested funerals there, what do the locals think of you?"

[Phelps] "Kansas is the seat of Satan! The entire state and all its citizens are under the wrath of God and are irreversibly damned."

[O'Rilley] "But you're a citizen of Kansas Mr. Phelps, so that includes you too, right?"

At this point in the interview Phelps looked shocked, and did not respond for several seconds. When questioned again by O'Rilley Phelps simply responded, "This interview is over!"

The statement by Phelps presents an interesting dilemma for the pastor. Phelps, a self-proclaimed "prophet like Elijah" has often professed to be the sole voice of truth in the entire world today. Thus, he believes his statements of anathema to be almost infallible, and irrefutable. Ero an admission of error by Phelps in such a statement would bring into question all of the other previous statements of anathema that he has made.

If indeed Phelps has truly anathematized himself it also presents an interesting paradox. The question arises that if the anathematizer is himself anathema then does that negate his previous anathematizations? Many fear an answer to the question could unravel the space-time continuum.

TBNN tried to reach Phelps for comment at his home in Topeka, Kansas, but a woman who answered the phone said that He was "unavailable" and to "call back later."

04 December, 2007

Sacrifice Hurts, but Missions is Worth It

FT. MYERS, FL – December is the time of year when Southern Baptist churches take up their annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. As you would expect, some churches sacrifice for missions while others do not. Most churches give at least something to the annual international missions offering, but the amounts vary widely.

TBNN has learned of one church that has given new meaning to sacrifice. At Southside Baptist Church of Ft. Myers, the body has decided to sacrifice their own needs and wants in order to support overseas missions work. According to Senior Pastor Donald Watts, “Jesus gave us the Great Commission, and we are willing to hurt to make it happen.”

Last year, Southside Baptist gave only $750 to the Lottie Moon Offering (this from a church with a membership of 850 and weekly attendance of 300). Both the pastoral staff and the deacons were embarrassed by this low amount. Deacon Herman Thomas informed us, “Last December we had to tell the local association how much we had given. I felt ashamed. We are one of the larger SBC churches in our area, but our $750 was the lowest amount given to Lottie Moon. We didn’t want to look bad again this year.”

What was Southside to do? The church leadership formed a 12-step action plan this past March to deal with the problem. Southside’s goal, which was warmly embraced by about 62% of the church body at a business meeting, was to raise the most money in their association for Lottie Moon 2007. The plan involved sacrifice and discomfort, but the church decided that missions is worth it.

The action plan involved denial in several areas. They are as follows:

1. Weekly pulpit flowers will be downsized from large to medium.
2. Starbucks coffee will no longer be served at the Welcome Center (Folgers is now offered).
3. The proposed construction of the softball field on church grounds will be delayed until March 2008.
4. Weekly church newsletters are now bi-monthly.
5. Youth pizza parties will be sponsored by the hosting parents.
6. No new Christmas greens will be purchased this year.
7. Any money designated for local and state missions will be allocated for Lottie Moon.
8. Barbecue will no longer be served at Wednesday night suppers (sweet tea and banana pudding remain).
9. The Lord’s Supper will be held only once every six months (grape juice is expensive).
10. Tuesday night evangelism will be canceled (to save electricity).
11. Giving will be the sermon topic each Sunday in October and November.
12. The pastoral staff and deacons will be expected to tithe on a regular basis.

According to Pastor Watts, “We feel comfortable that we will have a much better showing than last year. This 12-step plan, which we call Sacrifice Hurts but Missions is Worth It, will ensure that we meet this year’s Lottie Moon goal of $3000. I guarantee you that we will not be lowest in our association this year. It’s all about the missionaries.”

Deacon Thomas agreed, saying, “We just want to obey Jesus. He told us, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ No matter how hard it is, we must obey Him and follow His example.”

03 December, 2007

Mainline Churches Urge Compassion for "Undocumented" Bank Customers

By Guest Reporter Dr. Lance King, TSaB

In a landmark report issued by a consortium of liberal churches and para-church organizations, Americans are being advised to eliminate hate speech directed towards bank customers who make "undocumented withdrawals" from local financial institutions.

According to the report, which was drafted by Christians for Comprehensive Withdrawal Reform (CCWR), the Christian community needs to do more to shield the most vulnerable classes of our society from hateful speech.

"We call upon people of faith to stand against the tide of hateful speech directed against those who seek the same opportunities we want in this great nation," said Arthur Winkler, pastor of First United Methodist in Milwaukee. "They need to know that though they might struggle financially, undocumented customers are still deserving of God's love and light sentencing guidelines."

Conservative critics of the report contend that making undocumented withdrawals from financial institutions deprives middle class Americans of their hard earned money, and creates security risks for those who live near the bank. They also argue that when undocumented customers are caught they should be forced to return the money they have taken. CCWR officials, however, think that a more loving approach is warranted.

"These undocumented customers are often at the end of their rope. They have limited financial means, families to feed, and often they are forced to make their withdrawals using disguises so they can slip through advanced security systems without being pursued by armed officers," lamented a particularly incredulous Rev. Joanie Bosley, who conducted research for the report. Bosley also pastors a nearby Unitarian Universalist congregation.

"It's as if these anti-undocumented customer advocates are saying that these poor people are less than human," she added, sipping on her mocha-flavored, extra frothy latte. "They deserve better. In the Old Testament, God required a tithe of 10 percent of everything one earned. Surely First National Bank can afford to redistribute wealth to God's needy children?"

Some suggestions provided in the CCWR report include the removal of alarms and other security features, in addition to providing unlocked safes containing government issued checks and/ or grocery vouchers. The report also recommends the elimination of messy dye-packs which have been used to deter undocumented customers in times past, as they could be injurious to undocumented customers' clothing. Ministry officials have proposed new legislation which would make it a felony to deter or otherwise assault an undocumented customer when they are making a hasty exit. And, of course, any funds withdrawn by the undocumented customers would remain their own.

Winkler said the last point is particularly important, as it would be unfair to recover cash from undocumented customers who have families to support. To do so, he argues, would be to punish not just the undocumented customer but also his or her children.

"Taking away their booty - I mean, their hard-earned money - would be grossly unjust to these brave souls who risk life and limb to support their families. Whatever he might do, Jesus wouldn't do that, and neither should we. We must stop the spiral of hatred and shame that defines their experience, and extend God's love to everybody."

01 December, 2007

Pastor Swap, Only on ABC

Tune in Monday, December 3rd, at 9:00 pm ET for the premier episode of Pastor Swap, Only on ABC.

This week see what happens when Pastor Walker of Living Tree Full Gospel Congregation in South Carolina swaps congregations with Bishop Melanie Robe of the Seattle Diocese.

Bios are given below.

Living Tree Full Gospel Congregation: For the Living Tree congregation of South Carolina, life revolves around the men's outdoor events of hunting, fishing, and eating. Spending over 75% of their yearly budget on four wheelers, shotguns, and fishing tackle, Living Tree members (38 in total) dedicate almost all of their time to the Men's Fellowship, while treating wives and children like second class citizens. In this church, what Pastor Walker says goes. Mrs. Walker secretly complains that the women in the church have to stay home and do house work while the men spend days in the woods "vacationing." There is barely any quality time between family members, not to mention a lack of fellowship between the women, except over the phone. When she's not scrubbing floors or making dresses for her daughters, Mrs. Walker (36) spends her hobby time planning her husband's favorite meals or changing the diapers of any of her three grandkids. Pastor Walker forces all the male members of his congregation to mimic his lifestyle or leave.

Seattle Episcopal Diocese: At the Seattle Diocese in Washington, the Reverend Bishop Melanie Robe resides in an eco-village with her life partner Selena Mable. The congregation seeks ways to recycle their own waste. Bishop Robe loves her eco-village and all the people living there. She's dedicated to saving the planet, and her congregation's eco-conscious practices include not using toilet paper and recycling their urine to cultivate the church plants. Selena is a sensitive, artistic teenager, and she's been given complete autonomy in her open partnership with Bishop Robe. But all is not peace and love at the eco-village; Adam and Steve, two new members, have problems agreeing on which brand of organic fertilizer to use in the West Greenhouse.