Wednesday, February 26, 2014

He’s A Real Nowhere Man

- Left Out Of The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary Celebration -
Cross-Posted From:

Did you see “The Beatles: The Night That Changed America – A GRAMMY® Salute“? That was the February 9, 2014, TV special described as “a tribute to the Beatles, marking the 50th anniversary of the group’s first U.S. television performance on CBS’ The Ed Sullivan Show.” I saw it and I really enjoyed it. Considering all that was poured into this 2 ½ hour production, it seems reasonable to expect that anything of significance, meriting related recognition, would have been included. But, that wasn’t the case. In fact, there was a complete void where I believe there should have been the loudest praise. Before going into that, though, let me overview what was included, that I liked.

Since I’m a Beatles fan, there was a lot for me to like about this show. My being their fan began when I watched that legendary black-and-white episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. I was in my Junior-year of high school and I clearly remember the excitement associated with the first appearance of the Fab Four on American TV. Coming on the heels of the months-long sense of depression in the U.S., following the assassination of JFK, the delight surrounding that event was most welcome. That experience, shared in similar fashion by countless millions of my contemporaries, marked the launch of the phenomenon known as Beatlemania. Unlike so many other “phenoms”, found in the worlds of sports and entertainment, the popularity of the Beatles wasn’t short-lived. The group had real talent that was rich and deep. At the heart of this was the among-the-best-in-musical-history collaboration of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Between 1962 and 1969, they published 180 songs, with the vast majority being recorded by the Beatles. In addition to the extraordinary contribution of the Lennon-McCartney partnership, each of the group’s members offered exceptional individual talent. The effect of all this was summed up well by McCartney during the tribute show when he pointed out that, if each of the four Beatles had started their own band, every one of those groups would likely have attained greatness on their own. So, I was fully onboard with the 50th Anniversary Celebration and I know I was far from being alone in that. Although the occasion was described as “a star-studded tribute”, I must admit to being a bit surprised to see that the vast majority of the most prominent “stars” in the program were ones who weren’t even born yet when the Beatles officially broke up in 1970. But, I guess that’s just further testimony to the legitimacy of this tribute to, arguably, the greatest rock band of all time.


So, what was missing? The performers included: Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Joe Walsh, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Keith Urban, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, Dave Grohl, The Eurythmics, John Legend, Alicia Keyes, Brad Paisley, Pharrell Williams, Gary Clark Jr., several Cirque du Soleil acrobats and the two living Beatles themselves, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Presenters included: LL Cool J, Eric Idle, Anna Kendrick, Jeff Bridges, Sean Penn, Kate Beckinsale and Johnny Depp. In the audience, along with Paul’s wife, Nancy Shevell and Ringo’s wife, Barbara Bach, were: Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and countless other “beautiful people”. Short biographies were presented on each of the Beatles and footage was shown from the original Ed Sullivan performance. There were commentaries from production staff and attendees of that historical television appearance. There were videos of David Letterman visiting the stage of what had been The Ed Sullivan Theater with Ringo and Paul and he interviewed them both. What could, possibly, have been lacking in this?! Continue reading

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mount Rushmore Worthy

Cross-Posted From:

In a recent article, entitled President Washington’s Day, I proposed changing from a Presidents Day, which celebrates all U.S. presidents past and present, to a President’s Day … President George Washington’s Day, to recognize Washington as the one who exemplifies true greatness in the office of president. Although I believe that Washington did clearly set the standard for true greatness in that office, it doesn’t mean that he is the only president deserving of being honored for true greatness. With that said, it does beg the question, how does one measure true greatness among the 44 who have held the office of U.S. President?
It struck me that, to answer this question, a good place to start might be to take a look at the criteria used to select the presidents whose statues appear on Mount Rushmore. In doing that, you find that Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who conceived the idea of the Mount Rushmore Memorial, defined his concept by saying:
“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”
These four criteria … founding, expansion, preservation and unification … aren’t necessarily the best and only way to gauge true greatness among those who had served as U.S. President up to the time of the Mount Rushmore Memorial’s dedication in 1936. However, it would be most difficult to argue with the choices that Borglum made – i.e. Washington for founding, Jefferson for expansion, Theodore Roosevelt for preservation and Lincoln for unification. Of course, both expansion and unification are criteria that could come into play again. But, preservation is the one that seems to have the most ongoing significance. Since I see preservation as being at the heart of Here I Raise My Ebenezer’s aim to serve as a platform for presenting views that support America’s founding ideals, that is the basis I’ll use here, in considering which presidents, who have served since 1936, have shown true greatness that would merit their being added to the Mount Rushmore Memorial.
As I also noted in the article entitled President Washington’s Day, there are two presidents who have served since 1936  who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored in this way. These are Nixon and Clinton. Likewise, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders. My list here includes: Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Carter and Obama. That leaves Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.
For me, the clear and obvious choice is President Ronald Reagan. Preservation and restoration of America’s founding ideals were hallmarks of his administration. He took on the leadership of an America that had been diminished by that waste of a war in Vietnam, the shame of Watergate and the socioeconomic malaise that ensued. And, without pointing the finger of blame at any predecessor, he inspired our return to socioeconomic wellbeing by leading us towards an America that he always described as “a shining city on a hill.”
rushmore with reaganOf course, I understand that not everyone will agree with my assessment here. If you, at least, agree that, in honoring those who have served as U.S. President, it’s important for us to only recognize those who exemplify true greatness, whether or not you agree with my criteria for selection or the list of those I’d exclude from consideration or my list of those I’d include for consideration or my ultimate selection of President Reagan, I’d like to hear from you. Likewise, if you are in agreement with my process and my conclusion, I’d welcome hearing your added thoughts on the topic.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Sweet Sound Of Grace

Guest-Post From:
Steve Tessitore, American Missionary in the U.K.
Verse 1: “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found; Was blind but now I see”
Grace = God’s Riches AChrist’s Expense
Amazing = A wonderment; way above normal; out of the ordinary; defying the senses.
“How sweet the sound” … Since when does grace make sound?
“That saved a wretch like me” … How does grace making a sound save somebody?
“I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see” … I don’t remember being lost and needing to be found and I have never been blind.
“How sweet the sound” … This is not sound that resonates in the physical ear but in the soul of man. This sound that grace makes is the sweetness of being given a gift, a prize; something immeasurable in value for no reason other than God’s love for us.
“That saved a wretch like me”  The saving is for the eternal soul of a man. It needs saving because man’s end, without being given this gift, is an eternity apart from God.
“I once was blind” … Not physical blindness but the kind of blindness that doesn’t see the trouble I’m in spiritually. I don’t see God’s riches, at Christ’s expense, just waiting for me to receive by faith, believing in Christ’s loving sacrifice of Himself for me.
“But now I see” … Our spiritual eyes are opened by believing in Jesus. We get born again – John 3:3. God’s Spirit helps us to see things as He sees them. He says our sin leads to death, physical and spiritual. God is light and so, where He is, there is light. Spiritual death means separation from God and darkness.
Verse 2: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” 
“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear” … How does grace teach my heart to fear when, just before, I was being told how amazing grace was for saving me? As John Newton, the composer of Amazing Grace, was enjoying the sweetness of amazing grace, he was also made aware that this good news comes on the heels of the bad news of the condition of man’s sinful soul. Grace teaching my heart to fear … “for the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23(a) … fear for my soul begins here.
“… and grace my fears relieved” … “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23(b) My fears relieved. In the event of learning why he needed grace, Newton’s heart feared his end if grace was not available to him.
Hebrews 2:9 says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the GRACE of God might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:14-15 continues the principle of Christ dying in our place …”inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same (flesh and blood), that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through FEAR OF DEATH were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Because we are born into the world already spiritually dead to God, Jesus came and applied the circumcision of His flesh to us. That is, He took the chastisement of His flesh, as a man, which we deserved, and forgives us of all unrighteousness, and takes the eternal spiritual arrest warrant that the devil holds over us and nails it to the cross while declaring it … PAID IN FULL! - Colossians 2:13-14 (paraphrased)
“But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ. By grace you are saved.” - Ephesians 2:4-5
“How precious did that GRACE appear the hour I first believed.”

Friday, February 14, 2014

President Washington’s Day

Cross-Posted From:



Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it was traditionally celebrated on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth. However, according to, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.


I think it was a damaging mistake to change from honoring the best of our presidents, as we did when I was growing up, to celebrating them all, as is done today. No doubt, some will say that my lament here is nothing more than me being sentimental about how things were “back in the day” but I truly see this shift as resulting in a loss for our culture. I see it as being akin to the philosophies of “no winners or losers” and “everyone gets a trophy”. With these, in what is likely to have started as a well-intentioned attempt to protect those with lesser abilities from being mistreated, the result is a homogenous society where all are rewarded equally, regardless of what effort is applied to their varying sets of talent. And, since there is no greater reward associated with greater effort and/or greater ability, the incentive to actually strive for greatness has been dramatically diminished. That seems to me like just the opposite of the standard we should be setting in establishing a holiday in recognition of America’s presidents.

Of course, I recognize that some may view Presidents’ Day as just being meant to honor the office. I’m OK with that but I believe most Americans look at Presidents’ Day in the way described it, “… a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.” With that being the case, I ask: Have they all been great and are they all deserving of being honored as such? In looking at the list of 44 U.S. Presidents, I think it’s pretty obvious that the answers to these questions are no and no. As a matter of fact, there have been two in my lifetime who have so dishonored the office that I would object to their being honored with their own holiday. One of these famously said, “I am not a crook.” He was. The other just as famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He did. Ironically, with both of these, if not for their acts which truly dishonored the office, they might have been remembered as among our best presidents, if not among the greatest.


Thankfully, many of our 44 presidents have been distinguished. But I think there are just a few who were truly great. Chief among them is President Washington. In addition to the fact that he will always hold a unique position, as Father of Our Country, there are many other aspects of his life that can be pointed to as great. Arguably, one of the greatest things about his presidency was something that he didn’t do. He could have become King George I of the USA or U.S. President for lifetime. But, in keeping with the objectives set forth in the U.S. Constitution, that were ‘in order to form a more perfect union”, Washington willingly relinquished his presidential authority in 1796, at the end of his second term. In an article entitled The Wisdom of George Washington, provides the following comparison to illustrate how very exceptional this act was:

The world’s most generous prize money is attached not to the Nobel Prize but to the Mo Ibrahim Prize, awarded for good governance in Africa, as determined by a very simple test: a democratically elected leader who actually leaves office at the end of his term. The winner receives five million dollars plus two hundred thousand dollars a year for life. The 53 African nations yielded one claimant in 2011, but none for the two years previous. The precedent set by George Washington has not been easy to establish elsewhere, prize money or not.

With this in mind, rather than continuing with a Presidents’ Day that honors all U.S. presidents past and present, I’d like to see us return to honoring George Washington, as the Father of Our Country and as the U.S. President who set the standard for true greatness in that office. Whether we do this on the third Monday in February or on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth, doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is preserving America’s founding ideals. As this relates to the subject at hand, I see it as inappropriate to include those who may have only been great at getting elected but who were inferior leaders, when we set aside a special day in appreciation of the office of U.S. President. Rather, I see it as most fitting to observe a President’s Day … President Washington’s Day, to recognize the one who showed the most honor to the office through greater effort applied to greater ability, as our nation’s leader.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why God? – The Right Place To End!

Cross-Posted From:
Empty Tomb

In my first “Why God?!” article (Why God? – The Right Place To Start!), I noted that this question typically, comes with crying out over hearing of some horrendously evil act in the world or a natural disaster or a friend’s life-threatening illness or a family member’s untimely death or some other form of suffering. I went on to offer encouragement that looking to The Creator is the right place to start in seeking answers to such questions and that He gives us the reassurance of His loving intentions.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11


With the second article in this series (Why God? – The Right Way To Go), I admitted that my honest answer to “Why God?!” questions about evil and suffering in the world is, “I do not know.” However, I pointed out that all the related answers we really need can be found in God’s Word. And, I indicated that in looking for these answers it’s important to start with the understanding that “… from the beginning it was not so.”
Tragically, it was the choice man made with the ability God gave us to love and specifically, the free will He gave us to decide whether to love or not to love that led to evil and suffering coming into His creation. With that understood, I drew attention to the fact that, though it was beyond us to recover from what is commonly known as “the fall of man”, even in His condemnation of that first choice of man, He revealed that He had prepared a path to redemption. Detailing that path and where it leads is what I have in mind with this, the last in my series of “Why God?!” articles.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thumping Bible Thumpers

Cross-Posted From:



Here’s an image I saw recently, when a friend shared it on Facebook. At first glance, it may seem to be intended to convey the simple message that it’s wrong to commit hateful acts towards people because they are homosexual. I would agree with that and I suspect that’s all my friend was trying to say with her Facebook post. However, closer examination reveals more complexity to the ideas presented by this illustration, ideas that result in the whole of the communication being more harmful than helpful.


Let’s begin our closer examination with a look at the Scripture quoted, Romans 13:10. One thing you have to watch out for when Scripture is quoted is that it can be taken out of context, often to support a specific agenda. To put this verse into context, it’s necessary to first remember that the Book of Romans was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome. As with most letters, both then and now, they aren’t written with each verse presenting an individual idea. Rather they are written with a number of verses that knit together to express views on a specific topic. “Love Your Neighbor” is the subheading typically used for what Paul is addressing with this section of his letter. His complete thought here is:

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10

As you can see, before Paul says, “Love does no harm to a neighbor”, he gives some examples of how you can fail to show love and selfishly do harm to a neighbor. That is, by breaking God’s commandments. In other words, sinning against your neighbor. And, you’ll note that the first of the examples he gives is a sexual sin. But none of that is represented in the illustration. Perhaps that reflects the fact that the Facebook post my friend shared was from The Christian Left via Episcopal Church Memes. Although The Christian Left denies it, they do have a widely held reputation as a group that cherry-picks the Bible. Likewise, The Episcopal Church tends to not recognize the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. In both cases, this has contributed to their acceptance of homosexual behavior. I don’t think it’s much of jump, then, to come to the conclusion that this is the agenda behind their taking this Scripture out of context.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why God? – The Right Way To Go.

Cross-Posted From:



In my last article on this question, I pointed out that it seems more commonplace to be expressed as “Why God?!”, in crying out over hearing of some horrendously evil act in the world or a natural disaster or a friend’s life-threatening illness or a family member’s untimely death or some other form of suffering. Of course, this impassioned plea can take on other forms – e.g. “Why did God allow this?” or “Why me God?” or “Why now God?”.

As Atheist-turned-Christian author and apologist, Lee Strobel, said in a speech just after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 : “(The) ‘why’ question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?”


In initially responding to these “Why God” questions, I have to agree with the response that Strobel gave in that same speech, when he said, “… the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words – ‘I do not know.’” However, God’s Word does provide answers for many of the most common “Why God?” questions and I want to take a look at those answers here.
Though I recognize that it seems out of context for the question, “Why God?”, the first answer that consistently comes to me is the one Jesus gave when He was asked about divorce.