Saturday, April 02, 2005
Pope John Paul II Dead at 84
Life Changing Preaching
Two responsive points I would like to make. The first concerns that fact that Romans 10 discusses faith as producing salvation and not transformation. In my opinion salvation happens once and transformation, or santification, is the process of a lifetime. Consider Jame 1:2-4:
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.The "perfect result," transformation, occurs as a result of endurance, whcih can only be accomplished over time.
Turning to my second point, Romans 10 refers to the "word of faith" producing salvation. Indeed, preaching is the proclaimation of the word that may result in faith. But, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." The Word is more than words -- The Word is flesh. Proclaimation is not enough, dwelling amonst is called for.
I think Adrian makes this very point in a post he did this week as well. The post is a testimony by Charles Spurgeon of a specific instance where he was of aid to a soul, not from the pulpit, but in the one-on-one.
The preached word is an empty thing if it is not seen in the life of he who proclaims it. Scotwise posted this week about transformation.
To understand His pleasing and perfect will we have to?The transformation involves more than hearing the word, it involves "service" and "obediance."
- Offer ourselves as living sacrifices = SERVICE
- Be Holy = SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD SYSTEM
- Pleasing = OBEDIENCE
- Worship = ADORATION
When these qualities are transformed in our minds, then the will of God takes priority in our lives, and The Christian's Supreme Assignment turns into reality ? that no one should perish but have eternal life!
Again, preaching is an important and vital ministry, but God Himself chose to deal with us through more than words, he chose to create trasnformation in us by taking flesh. We minister on His model. We both proclaim, and we live. Our lives bring truth to our proclaimations.
The Great Terri Schiavo Round-up
The media coverage was truly amazing. Most of it bad. This from the NYTimes and this from USA Today both struck me as efforts just to make Michael Schiavo look good, though I have no idea why that would want to. I guess just to appear "fair." This piece, covering the squabble over the funeral arrangements, from the normally reliable Scotsman seems designed purely to sell newspapers. In my opinion, that really is purely a family matter.
Speaking of getting it wrong, Cheat Seeking Missiles takes apart the LA Times editorializing after Terri died.
Duckwriter is a journalist and I really like his blog. He went off on a rant during this whole episode, and since he is a journalist, this seemed like the best place to share the rant.
Wesley J. Smith wrote for the Weekly Standard how the internet made this Terri swarm happen. He does not mention the great word "blog" but that is pretty much what drives information through the internet these days.
And while I am bringing up blogs, Right Wing News, shows the old media how it should be done. This lengthy post is a Terri FAQ and sticks to the facts, really, really well.
CHURCH AND THEOLOGY
There has been, at least in my reading, a lack of good church and theological writing on this issue. The best work I saw was stuff by John Mark Reynolds that I linked to when it was completely fresh, emanating from his guest hosting of Hugh Hewitt's radio show. To date, the greatest shame the church in general has suffered is, in my opinion, when it mostly stood on the sidelines as Hilter rose and acted. The Roman Church was pretty active in this debate and some individual Protestant congregations were likewise active, but the greater church organizations were largely mute. If they continue so, they risk being relegated to the trash heap as pointless, or worse yet, being viewed as complicit in evil.
All I really have to share are four posts, not really theological in nature, but from preachers/bloggers that I read regularly and respect. They bring a Godly perspective to whatever they write. Three come from Sheep's Crib -- this -- this and this. The last comes from the every reliable Milt Stanley and it is here.
The politics here were truly amazing. This issues surrounding Terri crossed traditional dividing lines to some extent, but in many ways it was still business as usual.
The American Thinker posted a letter to Terri, that while not strictly political in content, asked a lot of the right questions about how politics are working right now.
Everybody wondered about political payoffs and backdoor deals. What else could possibly motivate a judge to be so recalcitrant in the actual killing of someone? Worldnet Daily looked into it, but most of the substance they found was a $250 donation to Judge Greer's campaign from George Felos. If that explains it, Greer sure is cheap. I personally think this is something that needs to be looked into much, much further.
Of course, the media wanted a political twist along traditional lines and tried to make create a rift in the conservative coalition. (HT: Duckwriter)
The normally right on Thomas Sowell seemed to want to blame liberals regardless of what he was talking about. Don't forget the libertarians Mr. Sowell; they're usually consider on the right.
In my opinion, the biggest political observation of the entire episode is that many opposed saving Terri, seemingly and purely because President Bush and the Republican controlled Congress wanted to. Hugh Hewitt saw it in a host of the usually suspect commentators. James Taranto explored the seamy underbelly of the Democratic party and found real ugliness. (3rd item in the BOTWT linked) But Powerline hit the perfect level of pith:
I don't know how to account for it, unless one concludes that for some liberals, politics is about hate, period.LEGAL
Anyone that knows much of anything knows that the American legal system is not perfect. It usually produces what is legal, but what is legal and what is just or right can be two different things. We have a secular government, even if most of us have a faith of some sort. Most of us think it good to have a secular government, but so long as we do there will always be some differentiation between the legal and the moral. But in this case, that gap seemed to many a chasm, and rather than Solomonic wisdom from the judges we saw strict legalism and plays for power.
The independent discretion given to the judiciary was intended to be there as a check and balance to prevent the tyranny of the majority from overwhelming the rights of an individual. The problem is that here, they chose not to consider Terri as an individual, and chose to protect Michael's rights. I think what angers most of us most is that because of of her medical status Terri's individuality was counted as legally unimportant. That is an injustice very similar to that visited on chattel slaves, and our system is supposed to have evolved beyond that.
I really enjoyed Hugh Hewitt when he got on board with this issue. He put on his lawyer hat and did an excellent job explaining the legal issues.
Andrew McCarthy at NRO was the go to guy during the federal legal battles, he was just excellent. I linked to almost all his stuff at some point, this is the only one that came during my break in blogging on Terri to respect her dying.
So what really happened? -- The Schindler's got out lawyered, it's as simple as that. Powerline seems to agree. More starkly than even the OJ Simpson case, this case illustrates that money really can buy a verdict. I personally think we have to start paying judges better. Many judges are only mediorce legal scholars who take to the bench because the cannot attract enough business in private practice. I think we ought to pay judges enough to attract the best legal talent to the bench. Judges should be smarter than the lawyers in front of them, and help bring equity to the cases when the lawyering is unbalanced.
If looking for legal round-ups this piece by William Anderson from the Weekly Standard is good and this post at Mullings is a very efficient read.
The ramification through the legal system shall be most interesting, particularly if Tom Delay has anything to say about it.
Most people do not think ethically, they think practically, or religiously. I personally try to operate from a "religious ethic." That is to say, theology does not constitute an ethic, but should definitely inform one, and most religious systems of belief have a well-established ethic. Unfortunately, in the case of Protestants, they tend to pay little attention to the ethic and talk about the theology -- all the time. That is changing and lies at the heart of much of the religious denunciation that has flowed in the wake of this situation, but given the simplicity of the arguments I have been hearing "on the street" we have a long way to go.
Blog Allthings2all was my inspiration throughout this entire episode. She has many posts worthy of reading and I have linked to most of them. This one from last weekend is just one I have not previously linked to.
The starvation aspect of this whole thing was really troubling, and most of us were astonished at the medical profession defense of the practice. I think everyone saw through it as an artificial construct allowing doctors to claim they do not actually kill anyone, when if fact they induce suffering at levels much higher than those they are trying to relieve. Radley Balko tackled the inanity of this construct at FOXNews. Milbloggger Major K wonders pointedly about the difference without distinction that is implied in this whole starvation thing.
National Review Online was marvelous throughout. In this piece, Wesley J. Smith examines with a bioethicist the concept of personhood (how the heck can we even have such a conversation?!). Rich Lowry examines the Orwellian nature of the whole episode and how very twisted the language has become around it.
From England, Michael Gove had some interesting things to say, and he writes one of the best quotes I have seen throughout the entire episode:
Attachment to the rule of law is certainly a foundation stone of our civilization. But so is respect for the moral principles on which our civilization has been built.Eric Cohen at the Weekly Standard reminds us that liberalism is more than a political movement, it really is a set of ideas, and they have consequences.
Of course, one of the key questions in all of this is they value of life. Many, many people think a life like Terri's is not worth living, or is even not life at all. I bet a lot of those same people think "fur is cruel." Orson Scott Card at RealClearPolitics.com examined this value of life question, as did Carol Stahl from the Amarillo Globe News. I spent my elementary school years in Amarillo and am very glad to give it a plug.
There is a tendency to over-react in this situation. John Mark Reynolds cautions us about what are ethical responses to unethical actions.
I am somewhat worried that this event will be a flash-in-the-media-pan. I hope not though. What I want to do with this post is to illustrate that this episode points out much that's good and bad with our nation and can serve as a guide to help us improve it.
But this post is not about laughs, it is about my firend John Gilmartin at Sheep's Crib, who, by virtue of this post, has come to occupy a very dear place in my heart. John launches on an absolute rant about what he calls "mega-barns" and the blame the leaders of his denomination put on pastors.
I share John's anger. John is very defensive of his parishoners and those like them, as well he should be. What I am about to say, is not a shot at them.
I doubt the spiritual effectiveness, as differentiated from the obvious numerical effectiveness, of the mega-barn movement for precisely the reasons John rants about. I do not think God intended the church to be something that pastors and staff do to the congregation. Rather, I think He intends it to be something that we all do together, with pastors leading the way.
John, I will take 5 genuinely transformed souls over 5000 loud singers any day of the week. Go get 'em tiger.
Another One Bites The Dust
"It was a mistake and it was wrong," he said, refusing to answer questions.That's quite the bunch Clinton had. Here Berger pleads guilty, though he claims he did nothing crimanally wrong, and Clinton claims he did not commit perjury, even though he was disbarred. Sounds like they all signed up for an Egyptian river cruise.
It's part of a plea agreement between Berger ? who still claims he hasn't done anything criminally wrong ? and the Justice Department so he doesn't get jail time.
We're Really Jews
I get more and more bothered as Christian thought moves farther and farther away from Jewish thought. I have always found it marvelous that Jesus saved His condemnation primarily for the Jewsih authority of the time. I am of the opinion that Jesus was more of a reformer than He was a remaker. That does not mean He just came for the Jews, rather, it means that He came to fix what the Jews were doing wrong, and to make the blessing the Jews enjoyed available to the world.
But it is only when you turn to the French version of the story that the real truth comes out. The headline
Jane Fonda says she procured prostitutes for sex romps with husband
What?! How did that headline come out of a conversation about her North Vietmanese exploits? The secret it seems, lies in the last line of the story
Fonda's autobiography will be published in the United States next month.So, in an effort to make American want to buy her book, she give a Clintonesque "apology" for near traitorous acts, and talks about her bizarre sex life. I don't know who is worse, her for foisting this noise upon us, of the American public for being interested -- Actually, probabaly me for writing about it.
Friday, April 01, 2005
The Pope Is A Teacher To The Very End
I am not a Roman Catholic. I hold this man in no more reverance than any other Christian teacher or leader, though his accomplishments in that role are truly amazing. He is a teacher to the end and I sure do get his message here. Anyone who doesn't must be blind and deaf.
God Bless him.
Yes Virginia, There Really Are Miracles
"There?s virtually no evidence about the personal benefits of prayer. Certainly lots of people find it rewarding, but there's very little evidence about any health benefits," says Dr. Richard P. Sloan, associate professor of psychiatry and director of behavioral medicine at Columbia University.The MSNBC piece is not quite as breathless as the Boston Globe Piece that was so much fun in Hugh Hewitt world last Tuesday, as chronicled by Radioblogger, but it nonetheless just does not quite get this whole religion thing.
I thought "Men were from Mars and Women were from Venus," but I had no idea that Christians were from out of this world. I am of a mixed mind here. The demonization of Christian faith is largely political in nature. As faith becomes increasingly associated with politcal views, those with opposite political views will increasingly naysay faith. That is not necessarily a good development.
However, I cannot say I think the changes that are happening to our society are a bad thing. I think we need to be very,very careful that we do not make the same mistake our political opponents do. We cannot confuse our faith with our politics. One influences the other, but they are very distinct things.
What's Really Happening In Russia?
Hence, Putin is not only fearing territorial disintegration of Russia, but also facing a demographic disintegration. No wonder the situation is so tense.Russia has historically been a hard place. It's history is littered with misfortune, starting long before its biggest mistake of communism. Yet somehow it has always survived.
Traditionally, its salvation has lain in finding a strong, no make that tyrannical, leader. From Ivan the Terrible to Stalin, the nation has found itself in opression. I am praying for a different outcome this time. Won't you join me?
No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.
When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.
If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.
Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.
You can't trust dogs to watch your food.
Reading what people write on desks can teach you a lot.
Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
Puppies still have bad breath, even after eating a tic-tac.
Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.
School lunches stick to the wall.
You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
The best place to be when you're sad is Grandpa's lap.
Starting To Clean Up The Terri Schiavo Mess
But during that period, I have collected an enormous number of links on various topics, and now is the time to begin to sort through them. I am going to hit some highlights in this post, and then Saturday I am planning a very extensive post with more links than you can shake a blog at.
First I want to recommend this post from just yesterday by Mark Daniels. Our legal system has much to work out.
The shallowness of much of what has gone on in this debate really, really troubles me. This is the shallowest comment I found in everything I have read. Just thought I'd share.
I am very glad that there was at least one Protestant Church that was willing to take a hard-core stand on this issue, from Holy Coast. Apparently Judge Greer's church asked him to leave; I think that is probably appropriate, but I also think, they should assign a team to minister to him "in the wilderness." And if not that church, another should.
Courtesy of One Hand Clapping there as been quite a discussion about Terri's soul, be sure and read the comments and trackbacks on this link, it really is a great discussion. I long ago gave up trying to answer questions about God's judgement on specific individuals and their final destination. I really think that is God's business. What I know with certainty is that God is good, and Terri will be handled in accordance with that goodness.
Finally, The Wardrobe Door chimes in just yesterday with an opinion about what is and what is not appropriate post-Terri blogging. I think the author has a point, but I also think it very important to capitalize on the interest created in the last few weeks to deal with related issues.
Here is what I am thinking. I think the related issues fall into five broad categories:
- Media Related
I plan to organize my very large Saturday post in these categories. Then I am thinking about having a post each weekday, with each day corresponding to one of those five categories. In those posts I would try and link to the best stuff I could find in the category of the day from the past week. I might like to carry that on as long as the conversation continues.
I'd like some feedback on that idea. Leave some comments, or post yourself and trackback. If I do it, I would like help from the whole blogging community, sending in links and ideas. Do you think it is a good idea? Are you willing to help? Please, let me know.
The Need For Guidance
BUFFALO, N.Y. ? A 15-year-old boy who had shown strong interest in the Columbine school shootings has been arrested for allegedly plotting to blow up his high school, authorities said Thursday.Worse, of course, are the ones where the kids actually carry out their intentions as we saw last week. I don't question "What's wrong with these kids nowadays?" because if you think really hard, we all knew someone in our adolescent years that was kinda unhinged and if given the opportunity might so something really, really stupid. Most of us are slightly unhinged when adolescent anyway.
The high school sophomore had assembled bomb-making materials including gunpowder and fuses...
My question is "Where were the adults in this kid's life that would have steered him away from this sort of stuff?" I am not a parent, so I am not going to go judging anybody here, but when I was kid, I would get chastised for making comments about hurting someone, by parents, teachers, any adult in the local area.
This much I do now -- kids are not just smaller versions of adults, they need genuine guidance and direction, not just clothed and fed.
Nice To Be Noticed?
I realize blogging is a media thing and the more exposure, the better, but these are not the circumstances under which I would have liked to receive such exposure. Where was this exposure when I was posting everyday about what to do and how to help Terri? Of course, (I am now about to bite the hand that has fed me links for the last day or so) Jarvis has proven himself on the wrong side of this whole thing already.
The experiment took place a few months ago as part of a broader trial into what are known in the business as brain-computer interfaces. Although it is early days, aficionados of the technology see a world where brain implants return ability to those with disability, allowing them to control all manner of devices by thought alone. There are huge hurdles ahead. No one knows how much information we can usefully decipher from the electrical fizz of the brain's 100bn neurons.For give my impertinence to all those neurologists out there, but if we don't know "how much information we can usefully decipher from the electrical fizz of the brain's 100bn neurons," how can we know with such force of conviction when and when not consciousness and self-awareness are present in a person? How can we know when someone is or is not feeling pain?
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Terri Schiavo...In The Hands Of The Lord
The third verse of the hymn What Wondrous Love Is This:
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on,
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing and joyful be,
And through eternity, I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
And through eternity, I'll sing on
For a wonderful and loving summary of Terri's life and most unfortunate death, please read this Allthings2all post.
Illuminated Scripture in Terri's Memory
My wife and I are infertile without the later blessing that she has received. I understand, at least as well as a husband can understand, what she means when she says:
So when I decided that I needed to connect with someone who could wade with me through the crap and help me understand why God was allowing this, I decided to give church a try. But, when I looked around I felt surrounded by families with children, and I couldn't figure out where in your church would be a safe place for me. I tried my best, but, honestly, my best didn't amount to much. I was too broken. I felt like I was walking around without any skin on - just totally raw - and I was afraid to risk anymore pain, so the last thing I wanted was to go to a Bible study and listen to moms talk about their babies.I would very much like to challenge Rebecca's conclusions about church, but because of how much I share her pain, I know that an argument is not called for in this instance.
Instead, I shall chastise the church for not reaching out to her. Right in Rebecca's story I think we see the great problem with the church growth movement. They worry so much about who they are attracting that they roll right over those they have. The church should be a place that we believers go for worship and recharging. Then we go out and be the attractive ones. If we cannot minister to those in already in the church, how can we possibly expect to minister to those outside of it.
Shame on the church she turned to -- I hope there is another in her community that will reach out to her.
Your Faith Should Not Matter?
So according to Senator Danforth, it is just fine for us to get politically active and support the Republican Party, since their platform more closely aligns with our moral beliefs, as long as the Republicans don't listen to us.I just do not understand people that keep their faith in some sort of box. Well, I should check that, faith can't be kept in a box, people who do this have some sort of intellectual ascent to the precepts of Christianity, but I doubt it rises to the level of actual faith.
I for one do not want a religious conviction of any sort that does not make a difference in the totality of my life, how I live, what I think about politics, all of it. That's not a religion it's a philosophy.
Please Not From Home
A pie in the face didn't silence conservative pundit William Kristol during a speech at Earlham College.They just don't make 'em like they used to back home.
A man who later was identified as a student at the private Quaker college jumped onto the stage and splattered Kristol with the pie Tuesday night about 30 minutes into a speech about U.S. foreign policy.
...party controls the White House and the Congress. But I also know that our democracy works best when both parties are speaking out and being heard. Mr. Smith knew it, too. That's why he was using the filibuster. So that the other point of view could be heard. The filibuster has been around 200 years, and God knows our party used it whenever we needed it. But we're a two party system. And America works best when no one party has absolute power.This sounds like an argument for ending the filibuster to me. Given fact that the judiciary completely ignored the other two branches of government last week, they're the ones with absolute power.
Great News From The War Front
I love this story. By Dawn's Early Light (another SoCal Alliance member) talks about a soldier so moved by the plight of an orphan in Iraq, that he adopted the child. Needless to say, the soldier was a man of faith.
More On The Modern Screwtape
Matt is very eloquent and quotes Chesterton, always a winner. He concludes with this:
When thinking about our culture, the hope we have is that the forces that are against life will ultimately result in the destruction of their own civilization.Maybe Matt spends a little too much time in his ivory tower (That's a joke Matt!) at Biola. Taranto already pointed this out and called it "The Roe Effect."
Christian Carnival Is Up For This Week
What's Up With Che Guevara?
I really don't get the whole Che Guevara thing -- he has become a fashion statement. Not too long ago, I was in line at a fast food joint and some 15-year-old little girl was in line in front of me wearing a tee shirt with a picture of that guerilla-cum-terrorist. When I asked the young lady if she knew that she had one of the more evil men of the 20th century plastered on her chest -- she just sad, "No, but it's cool!"
Ms. Johnson better add our education system to the indictment. I knew who Che Guevara was when I was 15.
Life Imitates Clancy
From Rome comes a report that recently released files reveal a role for the KGB in the 1981 assassination attempt on the Pope. Clancy wrote a book about exactly that not too long ago. Good research or good imagination? I would love to know.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Terri Schiavo's Hopes Dashed - AGAIN
Here is something I do not understand, not for the life of me. I am obese. Less obese than I use to be, but obese nonetheless. Every mother's son in this country feels absolutely free to tell me that I may die young because of it. People get very ugly and very adamant about it -- even though it is clearly my choice. It is as if my health or ill health due to my weight is the most important thing in the world to them.
Smokers have it even worse, they have been relegated to the trash bins of humanity, made second class citizens because they engage in an activity that may have them die in their 60's instead of in their 80's. They hide in alleys, and are chastised by complete strangers for enaging in an activity that is completely legal.
And yet, behavior that will definitively result in the death of a complete innocent is lauded and encouraged. I may go bald from tearing my hair out...
Dare We Hope For Terri?
Could it be that like Job, God is going to let us go to the very edge of despair, to the place where there is no hope but Him alone, before He rescues us? I will not pretend to know the ways of the Lord, but I will hope in Him, even when I am afraid to. God grant me the faith I need.
Goals and Ambitions
Is the church today ready to hear that voice? Is she bowed down before God in prostration of need, in conscious dejection of unworthiness, in passionate self-abasement and desire for that renewal which comes through renunciation?There sure are a lot of churches that I think should confront those questions.
It is all about who we focus on, and who we are in light of that focus. New fav I Was Just Thinkinghas a great post where she explores what success really is.
My success is found in my love for Him and my love for His word, in my desire to know the word and meditate on it and study it and live it. It has nothing to do with bestseller lists or the amount of money I make each year or any other commonly used measuring stick. Success in the Kingdom of God ? and that includes His Kingdom on this earth ? is vastly different from what the world thinks of as successful.There is a reminder I need everyday of the week. She signs her posts, "In the grip of His grace." What a wonderful sentiment and a great place to be.
God Did Not Forbid
Colorado Court Bars Execution Because Jurors Consulted BibleThis is bad law and a formula for the end of our society. Here is the Scotsman version of the story.
The State's Supreme Court said the bible constituted an outside influence and a reliance on a ?higher authority.?Given the decisions we have been hearing out of courts lately, relying on a higher authority does not sound like a bad idea to me. You know I seem to remember a time that you put your hand on the Bible to demonstrate your veracity before you testified in a courtroom.
Stuff like this drives me to me knees. I should rant, but I am still too distraught from last week's idiot court actions to work one up.
In Praise Of Our Military Heroes
This one from FOXNews is about amputees returning to active duty. God Bless 'em.
Blackfive has a great story about how women in the breach.
Real heroes all!
The Best of Pravda
I know some people from the Baltic States. I not too sure they would appreciate this article. It's nice to know Pravda is in touch with its roots.
Why does Russia make this story funny -- people were hurt.
Check out this headline:
The New York Times conducts an interview with renowned mathematician Peter Lax. This guy is the biggest of the big leagues in math and the interview is proof that you should not send a journalist to do the job of someone who actually understands his subject. Consider this question:
In Hungary, you were a math prodigy. How did the New York public schools measure up?or this one:
Did you know John Nash, the protagonist of the film "A Beautiful Mind"?This guy is one of the top matematicians of the last century and we're asking him about his public school experience and movies -- oh please.
How long will it be before this shows up in an episode of "CSI?" No doubt they will use it wrong when they do.
It appears some scientists are upset that there was no tsunami from Monday's enormously large earthquake. Okay, not really, but apparently they are puzzled. There is no puzzle here, the reporter just wants the scientists to know more than they do. Even in well instrumented oceans like the Pacific, we cannot predict a tsunami based on seismic data -- we need oceangraphic data. I doubt they have gotten all those instruments in place in three months. Come on!
Places To Look
- Fellow member of the SoCal Bloggers Alliance member, By Dawn's Early Light posts about about missions to the very troubled nation of Malawi. Sounds like a prayer opportunity to me.
- Nick Queen posts this week's Out of The Wilderness Showcase featuring new Christian bloggers. Welcome!
- Proverbs Daily has some nice things to say about little 'ol me. Hey -- Right Back At 'Cha Jeff.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
New Hope For Terri Schiavo
And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey...
Good News about Terri I will report. According to Blogs for Terri, who link to a Newsmax report, Jesse Jackson may actually be swaying some Florida State Senators. The good Reverend has been known to exaggerate in the past, but at this point I'll take whatever good news I can get.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Fortunately, I have three preacher friends to help me remember what is important and necessary.
John Brown of Scotwise, in his Tuesday Encouragment reminds me of the urgency of evangelism. Ultimately, we can never convince those on the other side, only the Holy Spirit can do that. But we have to help them find the Holy Spirit, and that is what evangelism is all about.
But the world seems so hostile to God's movement among us. We open our mouths about God, and they rush to shut us up. They deliberately close their eyes to God.
But they cannot close their eyes to us, so we have to let them see God through us. That is a tall order, I am such an imperfect vessel.
Milt Stanley of Transforming Sermons reminds me of the single minded focus, not on the job of evanglism, but on its object is the only way that to make God visible through me.
I must focus on God with such intensity that I begin to disappear, and only the focus of my attention becomes apparent. But again, how to I accomplish that.
Along comes friend John Gillmartin at Sheep's Crib. John tells a personal story about how important reading that which God has written is to maintaining our focus.
Devotion, prayer, and scripture. No matter where I wander, I come back to these things. These things will change the world. They are simple things, all we have to do is be faithful in them.
Apparently, God Is A Bad Guy
I can sort of understand this vitriol if your are a died-in-the-wool atheist, but most of the people writing this stuff claim a religious affiliation of one sort or the other. That's really sad. That means that they keep their faith completely compartmentalized in a tiny corner of their being, never to affect their political thinking, or worse yet, they consider the church a convenient social institution without any real truth associated. But most of all they have to think God is a bad guy.
Mark Daniels addresses some of the issues related to people in church that do not necessarily believe in his Easter post.
If I believe in a good and gracious God, how could I believe that His designs should have no affect on the rest of my life or the nation's life?
Evangelical Outpost nails Andrew Sullivan to the wall on a post he did along the same God is bad lines.
I will be accused of being cliched, but we just need to pray for such people. I am not offended by this stuff, just saddened that people would have such an image of God.
Not Good, Not Good At All
Apparently a lot of big name lenders don't understand the law.
The relief act provides a broad spectrum of protections to service members, their spouses and their dependents. The interest rate on debts incurred before enlistment, for example, must be capped at 6 percent if military duty has reduced a service member's family income.May I suggest that you contact any lender you work with and remind them of this law. Even if you are not in military service yourself, support our troops and make this reminder.
The law also protects service members from repossession or foreclosure without a court order. It allows them to terminate any real estate lease when their military orders require them to do so. And it forbids judges from holding service members in default on any legal matter unless the court has first appointed a lawyer to protect their interests.
From The Edge Of Taste...
This one proves that people are just wierd.
Then there is this one that proves people really will do anything for a buck.
I feel sorry for this guy, but come on, they could not right a death scene this funny in Hollywood.
Sometimes We Amaze Me
In light of that I don't quite know what to make of this story about developing robots to perform combat field surgery remotely, thus reducing the risk to the life of a doctor. It's way cool technology, but I guess the whole altruistic nature of medicine has gone pretty much by the wayside.
Imagine shooting a bullet at a rapidly moving object 5000 miles away, and when the bullet gets close to the object, it throws a baseball at the object, knocking pieces off. The bullet then catches those peices, analyses them and radios the results back to you. That is either a scene forma cartoon, or an amazing technological feat. Well, we are doing just that in an upcoming close encounter with a comet. Dang, that's good shooting.
More On The Prosperity Gospel
But Diane at Crossroads has a post about how this 'prosperity gospel' is problematic in Africa. At this point the problem is simply that many African converts are laboring under improper expectations, but I am gravely concerned. Here it is costing people their retirement -- there it could cost them their dinner.
Pray for the Gospel in Africa.
Monday, March 28, 2005
The Tyranny of Expertise
Many people, including people I respect greatly and with whom I normally agree, are saying that last week's great debate (I refuse to name it out of respect for the still living) was overwrought. Those that do generally start with the assumption that the 'experts,' in that case doctors, are correct in their diagnosis of a "persisitent vegetative state."
This belies a gross misunderstanding of what consitutes a medical diagnosis. Most diagnoses are simply a label placed on a specific set of subjectively determined symptoms. In some cases there is a hard understanding of what is going on, like in the case of smallpox or polio. However, in most cases the symptomology is simply described, taxonimized, published, and bingo -- you have a diagnosis. Medical experts are just people that, 1) read the publications so they know what label goes with what set of symptoms and, 2) have some experience at properly detecting the often very subjective symptoms. In many individual cases the detection of symptoms is based almost entirely on the description of the patient. The words you use in describing how you feel to your doctor can make a difference in whether he thinks you have a cold, or have gone all the way over into the flu.
Do you see how incredibly subjective this is? Do you see how subject such a thing could be to one's religious devotions, moral convictions and political affiliations? That can never be more true than a diagnosis like "the lights are on, but no one is home," in other words "persistent vegetative state." The inherent subjectivity lies in the "no one home part."
Lord Kelvin said:
"When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.How the &*^% do we quantify "someone home?"
But when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind."
Oh, there are lots of attempts to do that, but they too are subjective. Take one criteria that might be used to quanitfy "someone home" -- response to pain. When a painful stimulus is presented, on a scale of 1 to 10, how does the patient respond? One man's 5 will be another man's 6. Try it amongst yourselves on something more simple.
Men -- on a scale of 1 to 10, rate Jennifer Aniston. Ladies do the same with Brad Pitt. What, you don't all agree? So who is right? Why the expert, of course! So who is the expert? The person with the most partners? (ewwww!) The one that makes his point the loudest? The plastic surgeon? Oh you think, that might work. Why?
Suppose the plastic surgeon was Rubens? He liked his women chunky style. Based on his paintings, he'd give Jennifer Aniston something below a 5. Not many guys around today would agree with that.
You beginning to get the point here? Expertise can be illusory, and it is often highly subjective.
So, in the end, I do not put much credence in what the medical 'experts' had to say. They know more medicine than I do, but I have the sneaking suspicion that the defintion of "persistent vegetative state" is fairly flexible and is, when the hype of expertise is stripped away, someone they think it is OK to let die.
I have broken a promise in writing this today, I think it is really disrespectful to put arguements like these in front of an actual person dying, something I do not want to do. But when I hear what I have been hearing from the more moderate on my side of the political spectrum, I just have to respond.
I don't think it is OK for the person in question to be allowed to die. They have to convince me, not just tell me, to get me to agree with them.
Update: Seems theJesusfreak starting asking the same questions I did and got some interesting answers.
The Price Of The Prosperity Gospel
I am tired because the message is so cockamamie. You give to place yourself in the proper relationship with God and the rest of the world. You give because others are more important than yourself, and God is more important than all of us. If you give as some sort of "heavenly investment," then you just miss the point. Christian giving should be sacrificial, completely sacrificial, as was modeled by Christ. I should probably take the time to develop my case here, but this post is not really about the theology of giving, it's about the very practical consequences of this sort of idea.
My wife handed me this article from the February 28 issue of "People" magazine. Trust me when I say I would never have found it if she had not pointed it out to me -- "People" is not on my reading list. Upon reading the article, I was reminded of this little incident from early last year.
These stories are all about church members, churches, and whole denominations being bilked out of thousands to tens of thousands to millions of dollars in Ponzi schemes. Why would churches be such a "target rich environment" for con men and schemers like this?
Could it be that this "Christian investment" idea about giving sounds remarkably like the sales pitch for a Ponzi scheme to begin with? Maybe? Just possibly? I am just glad these guys are taking advantage of bad theology. I have a sneaking suspicion that such pratical matters might be an actual test of a particular theological idea. Good theology is not likely to produce such disasterous results.
God In The Military
That is just a lead in to a couple of things. The first is this piece by Oliver North from the Holy Weekend. Ollie lauds the baravery and spirituality of our military chaplains. A good friend of mine was a chaplain's assitant in Vietnam. He is a man of God, as are all our fighting men and women who call upon His name.
And I have heard from my friend Jared in Iraq again. The man spends his days making sure bombs don't go off, but finds the necessity to tell us here at home about the resurrection. Don't tell me the military is a godless occupation. Here's what Jared had to say:
Hello again from Mosul, Iraq. Things have slowed down here a little. We seem to be less calls for EOD (explosive devices) in the past week, but we did have a spike in activity about two weeks ago. The guys of 1st platoon are doing well and are starting to not only rely on each other for their safety, but also for some good entertainment. We put together a cookout with the guys from EOD and spent a day just hanging out. Leave it to the guys of 1st platoon to get some real hamburger and potatoes shipped here without going through the usual one week of military inspections. The exact details of that operation are still classified, but I hope to be able to tell you when I get home. We also had to conduct a black op in keeping the eight cases of gatorade that we had received from our mess section secure from other units who wanted to help themselves to it. Let's just say that most people don't look on the roof of the battalion commander's office for gatorade!!!
In addition, the guys now have an X-box game system and have been playing 4-player football tournaments and shooting games. We also have constructed a horseshoe pit in front of our hooches (slang term for the housing units we live in). The ground was too rocky and hard to drive the stakes into but, with the help of a little plastic explosives and some fresh dirt, we have a horseshoe pit. We also get the frisbee, baseball, and football throws going around too.
The missions have been fewer, but they seem to be getting more involved. A week ago, EOD brought in a new team to help get trained up. These guys were from the Navy. They really knew their explosives, but were not well versed in ground tactics. We were at an IED site, which later turned out to be a hoax to draw us into a certain area, when we started receiving small arms fire. 1st platoon, who was already behind cover, started returning fire while I called in some helicopter gunships and a local infantry unit to help us out. One of the Navy guys decided he couldn't really see from where he was so he went from one place to another. While moving he was shot in the leg. He dropped to his knees and then started hobbling towards my location. Myself and another guy from 1st platoon went, grabbed him, and pulled him behind a vehicle. While the infantry unit started chasing the insurgents, we started to do first aid on the navy tech. We got him to the hospital and he came through just fine. The bullet went clean through and he will be up and around soon. With that, the Navy has decided to not come to Mosul, but now EOD has an Air Force team coming in. We'll see how that goes.
This weekend, as many of you know, is a special time. It is a time that we can reflect on the greatest gift of all time...the greatest sacrifice that was ever given. As many of you know, Mosul is very close to the remains of Ninevah, where Jonah went. Here on our Foward Operating Base (FOB) we have a Christian monastary that was built several years soon after Christ walked the earth. Our battalion's chaplain, along with several other chaplains, have gotten permission to hold Resurrection Day services there. The chaplain and I went there a few weeks ago to check it out. It is really cool to think of all the thousands of people that had come into that monastary to praise God. I will have to find out how the service goes as I have elected to pull the guard duty that some of my guys were scheduled for so they can attend. I pray that this small sacrifice will help bring one of the troops closer to God. I also pray that you will make a specific sacrifice for someone you
know (or even don't know) in honor of the sacrifice that Jesus made.
What's In A Trend?
I have decided that I am on a quest for a right theology and a deeper relationship with God. I have come to the logical conclusion that I can not afford any more Christian megatrends and fads that will come and go. I have come to the logical conclusion that I can not afford any more ?moves of God? that appear right but are grossly wrong five years from now. I have come to the logical conclusion that I can not afford to play anymore games that I want to get to the crux of the matter. I can?t afford to waste any more time on these ?fads?, ?games? and ?moves?. I need to spend my time, resources, devotion, study, and prayer time with God to ensure that I am growing as a mature believer in Christ.There is something I have thought for a long time now -- The Jews dealt with God for about 4000 years, and we Christians, along with our Jewish cousins, have had an additional 2000. Is there really going to be that much new stuff come along after 6000 years? Maybe we should be looking for how do do it right, instead of how to do it differently. Or maybe we know how to do it right and are just avoiding it?
Let's start with our personal devotion. How much time in scripture and prayer have you spent today? I've spent some, but not enough, there's never enough.
The New York Times ran a piece this last week arguing against newer NASA policies that, believe it or not, allow NASA to use its money for programs like the Space Shuttle instead of "the study of the atmosphere."
Is it any wonder we are in the state we are in when there is stealth agenda funding for things like environmental studies in the budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? Since when did atmospheric pollution have anything to do with aeronautics or space?
Real Science At Purdue
Mostly I wanted to get in a Purdue plug, increasingly the only state university in Indiana doing anything worthwhile anymore. This story is concerning the development of a new catalyst for cleaner burning of natural gas. This is good hard science that will make the world better. Can't argue with it.
The Robustness Of Creation
This article put a smile on my face.
In a startling discovery, geneticists at Purdue University say they have found plants that possess a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents, as if some handy backup copy with the right version had been made in the grandparents' generation or earlier.Hey, check that out -- Purdue -- again. Anyway, similar results, though without the actual genetic testing, were found in flora study done in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. It is sheer hubris on our part when we think we can "destroy the planet." God has got a lot of things up His sleeve that we have yet to dream about.
This link will take you to the MSNBC multimedia page. Scroll down until you see a photo essay entitled, "A Desert Blooms." It is pictures of Death Valley with its wildflowers in full bloom. For those of you not in the neighborhood, plants do grow there, sort of, and once a year, it can be spectacular. This year is really special because of the rains. Beautiful flowers in the desert -- God can do some really amazing things.
Mining the Blogdom
It was a great delight when so browsing that I ran across this post, it's follow-up this post and an appendix in this post from a blog called "I Was Just Thinking."
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of this blog, and she makes quite a point
...in some things I've read (both on-line and in a couple pretty high profile magazine interviews), I'm distressed by what seems to be a trend of Christian believers reveling in their messiness, in their imperfections, holding them up as a sort of badge of honor or something. Almost enjoying the fact that they are so much like those who don't know God. What's with that? What's with picking and choosing what we will accept out of the Bible, as if our freedom in Christ gives us the right to say to God, "That doesn't fit into my politics (or whatever) so I'm going to ignore it"?She uses a contemporary praise chorus as reference material, something which I will admit gives me pause, but she really does seem to get this whole Christianity thing pretty well, doesn't she? This post makes me hopeful. You can bet I will be returning to this blog.
My Bible tells me that as Christ's disciple I am to become more and more conformed to the image of God's Son. I'm told I'm being changed from glory to glory. I'm told that I'm not yet what I should be but, thank God, I'm not what I used to be.
What About The V Chip?
But apparently, that curse only extends to the point where it blocks pornogaphy and violence. According to this Seattle Times piece, some schmuck has invented similar technology to block the Fox News Channel. As proof that "great minds run in the same gutter," fellow SoCal Bloggers Alliance member Holy Coast found the same piece and commented on it here.
The ST peice is an obvious shot at Fox News as it spends most of its time unquestioningly quoting critics of the channel -- that is to be expected. But to fail to miss the irony between this device and the V Chip debate is absolutely stunning. It is amazing how blind the left is to its own inconsistencies.
Voices From The Past
Essentially the Domino Theory stated, that states would fall to communism around the world much as dominoes fall successively when lined up. This theory was much poo-pooed in later years, particularly as the cries to leave Vietnam grew increasingly strident.
Eisenhower was right then and he is even more right now. Consider this post from Confessions of a Political Junkie, titled:
Another Domino Falls
The post is about how democracy is spreading through out the Middle East and former Soviet States. Oh yeah, the domino theory is working, just now the dominoes are falling in the opposite direction.
Don't You Love It!?
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Illuminated Scripture - Special Easter Edition
Sermons and Lessons - Scripture Says It All
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."
8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.