Saturday, July 23, 2005


Time To Do A Little Housecleaning

In the Boar's Head Tavern on Thursday, proprietor Michael Spencer posted a bit of a letter he received at his personal blog, Internet Monk. Michael is the leading Joel Osteen smasher in the blogosphere -- and there aren't many better targets in Christendom, so he files the letter under "pro-Osteen." I'm going to go a bit farther. Here's the quote:
People are tired of the same old hum drum. They want to know how to live now. Heaven is there and all whom God allows will enter. I guess slavery will always be around. Jesus came to set the captives free, but religious people are determined to keep them bound. The message of God is love. As Malcolm X stated, " By any means necessary." We should preach and teach love at all cost. Those who don't love are not interested in hearing or teaching others about it. They lead people astray, "In the name of Jesus." "Jesus Christ, the savior of sinners? The Gospel of salvation? The cross of Jesus Christ? Salvation by grace, through faith by Christ"

No one should be teaching about the cross. We have made that a Graven Image. That was the means by which Jesus was crucified, but so were many others. We have put crosses all over the place. We have dignified the cross as if that is what God wants. There is no Gospel of salvation....
I'm going to file it under heresy.Without getting into it too heavily, three comments on my part

Look, in America, people are free to think and worship as they see fit, but those of us in Christianity are similarly free to define what Christianity is -- and whatever this person is serving, it ain't Christianity. Spencer can be a little too strong and a little too impolitic for my taste from time-to-time, and there have always been people in the fold that bought into nonsense, but if there are people actively arguing for this kind of malarky, it's time for us to get serious about saying what is and is not Christianity. Given the self-contradictory nature of this person's rant, it's kind of easy - but in other cases it is not.

My questionis this -- what are you doing in your congregation to make sure people that think this way are on the margins where they belong? What can we do? We sure cannot let it continue.

UPDATE: In rereading this post I had one thought that I think is really worth throwing out there. For churches that allow it, like my Prebyterian church, we really need to restore the role of "teaching" elder. Right now, the role of elder has been reduced to an almost purely administrative one. This reduction in importance of the role does too things. First of all, it makes most of the job immensely tedious which automatically eliminates a lot of people that ought to have it. Secondly, it attracts people who have agendas, but are not necessarily well schooled all things Christian.

Perhaps by reintroducing a doctrinal component to the job, things could improve? The modern church needs too many people involved to exclude the agenda types from the day-to-day work, but perhaps if there was a formal doctrinal class.... Just an idea that needs tossing around.


Getting Real With Africa

Milblogger Hurl used the opportunity of the SecState's visit to Sudan to teach a great history lesson:
Conflict in Sudan has been going on for 50 years, why is it just now getting attention? In 1955, the Islamic Arabs of the North began waging a war against the mostly Christian (and a few animist) indigenous black tribes of the South until a ceasefire in 1972. They picked it up again in 1983, and since that time, it is estimated that 2 million have been killed and millions more displaced and taken as slaves. That's right I said SLAVES. Black Africans are still languishing in slavery, but you won't hear a peep from almost any black members of congress or many prominent blacks like Jesse, uncle Al, Farrakhan, etc.

In fact, as many BLACK AFRICAN SLAVES have been taken from Sudan alone in the past 25 years as in the ENTIRETY of the transatlantic slave trade that ended up in North America - about 1 million. Think about that.

Arab Muslims have been killing non-Arab Muslims in Darfur for 2 years, totaling between 50,000 - 300,000....and everybody is making a big deal out of it. But Arab Muslims (Sudanese government) have killed 2 million non-Arab (black) Christians and enslaved well over 1 million in the past 25 years....but nobody cares? Hmmmm.....
I said a while ago that I thought the problems in Sudan were pretty intractable. Now you know why. Maybe we need to arm the black Christians? Just a thought.


Aye, Man!

Rebecca is posting on the great creeds and confessions of the faith throughout July. On Thursday, she posted about the "Scots Confession." Full info here. She posts some of her favorite sections, so I am going to post mine:
Chapter 2 Original Sin

By this transgression, generally known as original sin, the image of God was utterly defaced in man, and he and his children became by nature hostile to God, slaves to Satan, and servants to sin. And thus everlasting death has had, and shall have, power and dominion over all who have not been, are not, or shall not be born from above. This rebirth is wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost creating in the hearts of God's chosen ones an assured faith in the promise of God revealed to us in his Word; by this faith we grasp Christ Jesus with the graces and blessings promised in him.
Much as the idea of penal substitution is dying, so is the concept of original sin (they're a package, really) but leave it to good old John Knox to get it right.


Comic Art

As a part of my series to look at the "Honorable Mentions" from my "Expert Witness" post at Evangelical Outpost -- I want to look today at Gil Kane.

Kane has been around forever. Most people these days think of Kane for his work at Marvel, which was very good. I enjoyed it, but because Marvel was so strongly established by Jack Kirby, I think everybody that drew there for a while tried to look just like him. This beautiful Inhumans cover is an example. If I did not know better, I would have thought it was Kirby.

But I remember him from his DC days. Like most people my age, I went looking at comics as a kid because of the George Reeves Superman TV show and the god-awful Adam West Batman.

When I finally found them a whole world opened up to me -- turned out there were a lot more superheroes than just Batman and Superman. The relative complexity of the Marvel characters at that time was appealing, but the DC charcters had such a wonderful look, in some cases better than Marvel -- Gil Kane was among those cases. I will never forget the first time I saw the Atom, and it was drawn my Gil Kane. It was not the best story in the world, but I will always remember the look. The Ray Palmer Atom has always been a fairly weak character, revived recently in the JLA context, but I still love the look, and I don't think it has ever been done better than Gil Kane.


Isn't That Cute

When I was a kid, even girls liked fuzzy little cute ceterpillars. -- Not any more

Killer Caterpillar Eats Snails Alive

They're pretty nasty about it too. OK ladies, altogether now - EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!


Ultimate Geek Post!

The 100 Greatest Mathematical Theorms Of All Time. Number 25 bears my name and I have never heard of it. So I looked it up. It is a most elegant proof, even though I find set theory about as boring as math gets. Why couldn't my namesake have done something really cool like the fundamental therom of calculus or the incompleteness theorm. I guess we Schroeder's are fundamentally boring people.


World's Coolest Mom

A 13-year-old boy drove to school because mom had a headache.
Best I ever got was my certifiably crazy uncle letting me drive on my grandfather's farm with a promise never to tell my mother. Some moms are just too cool.


No Relation -- Thankfully!

From FOXNews yesterday
They call themselves the "Tucson Raging Grannies" and range in age from 65 to 81. And despite being decades older than the maximum age for recruits, they're upset because they can't enlist in the Army.

Five members of the group are fighting trespassing charges after they were cited at a protest here last week at the military recruitment center.

The group has protested on Wednesdays for the last three years outside the recruitment center.

But on July 13, five grannies went inside to try to enlist and were cited.

"We went in asking to be sent to Iraq so our kids and grandchildren can be sent home, but rather than listening to us, they called the police," said 74-year-old Betty Schroeder. "It was their place to tell us the qualifications, but they wouldn't even speak to us. They should've said, `You're too old.'"
She obviously married the name -- no person with actual Schroeder blood would be this publicly foolish.


From The Edge Of Evangelical Outpost

I honestly never thought anything that Joe Carter (Evangelical Outpost) ever wrote would qualify for my weekly "Edge of Taste" column, but for his moving weekend, he is recyligng some old posts and this was among them. I still can't bring myself to put in in Tuesday's space so I am presenting this today. Please go and enjoy

The Weekend's Useless Post:
Flatulence and Five-year-old Boys

When you return, please enjoy this little recycled goody for Edge of Taste a few weeks ago. It's all in the theme -- and for the record, I'm six.

Friday, July 22, 2005


A Grand and Glorious Day

On this date, 10 years ago, I married the most wonderful woman ever to walk the face of the planet! Here is proof -- she custom made this card for me today -- each item is of special signifigance for us, but I won't bore you with the details.



What's In A Label?

Pyromaniac is arguing that the term "evangelical" has lost its meaning.
What has changed? The answer is clear: the concept of evangelicalism has been expanded to become virtually all-inclusive. The word "evangelical" has lost its historic meaning. These days it means everything?and it therefore means nothing.

So while evangelicalism may seem to be gaining clout and respectability in the eyes of secular media like Time, the truth is that evangelicals themselves are actually less evangelical. The movement has collapsed on itself.
I think he is right about this -- The phenomena has historical precident. The so-called "mainline" denominations fell pray to the same thing years ago. Presbyterianism used to be tightly associated with calvinism and "order." My current Presbyterian pastor is not only not calvinist -- he has actively decried calvinism from the pulpit. Many ordained elders do not even know there is such a thing as "The Book of Order" (essentially the 'constitution' of the PCUSA) and almost all of those that do could not even begin to tell you what's in it. The denomination is shrinking, rapidly. Those of us that hold fast to the traditional associations are marginalized because we would "exclude" others and add to the "failure" of the denomination. Other denominations have similar stories.

It should be noted, there is a difference between learning from other traditions and including them. Adrian Warnock is actively looking for what he can learn from other traditions:
I am determined to learn the secret of seeking the good in all my Christian brothers and sisters.
This is wise on Adrian's part -- it reflects a necessary humility -- we must seek God with all of our faculties, spiritual, intellectual, and physcial. But at the same time, we must also know that we can never truly and wholly know God; He is beyond our comprehension.

Blogcorner Preacher had some interesting insights along these lines:
Anybody who reads the Bible should fear God in the sense of having a respectful dread of the future that is in His hands alone. We are to be judged, and that judgment will affect how we spend eternity. So "dread" and "fear" are not over the top. Anything less than this, when we worship God, is just not right.
I think we are beginning to zero in on some important distinctions here. It is important that we identify with a religious "movement" of some sort -- evangelical, Presbyterian, Vineyard,.... But is is more important, far more important, that we place ourselves in a properly humble position relative to the Lord God Almighty.

I am a Presbyterian, yes, but I am a servant of God more. I was on Young LIfe staff, yes, but I am saved by Christ and aided by the Holy Spirit more.

What I find most fascinating in this is that anything, anything, can become an idol. One way of examining the phenomena that Pyromanic is describing, is from the viewpoint that "evangelicalism" has become an idol -- a substitute for the true God. And what Adrian describes is a view that understands that our various labels are not more important than our God.

This is worthy of Screwtape himself. What better way to tempt the faithful, than with some object that is so intimate to the exercize of their faith?

There is a lot in our labels -- but we are not labels -- we are people, and we are people who are at our best when we find ourselves in a proper relation with the triune God. It's about us and Him. Everything else, churches, confessions, theologies, music, movements, programs, jobs, name it, everything else, is a tool to be used in the building of that relationship. When we count the tool as more important than the thing the tool is to build, we have a problem.


Anti-Christian Legal Units Strike Again

I swear, the ACLU does not give a rat's rear about "civil liberties" anymore -- they have simply become anti-religion, and really anti-Christian, down to the nth degree. The WSJ reported recently (subscriiption required):
The American Civil Liberties Union has found a sympathetic ear for its latest assault against the Boy Scouts. At issue is the famous Jamboree, held since 1981 at Fort A. P. Hill in Virginia and indirectly receiving support from the Army in billeting, infrastructure, and so forth. The ACLU argues that this arrangement breaches the First Amendment's separation between church and state. A federal judge in Chicago concurs, declaring government aid for the Jamboree unconstitutional.

Because the Scouts require members to "privately exercise their religious faith as directed by their families and religious advisors," the ACLU petitioned the court to declare the organization "theistic" and "pervasively sectarian." Judge Blanche Manning didn't go quite that far last month, but she did rule it an overtly religious association because it "excludes atheists and agnostics from membership." She ordered the Army to expel the next Jamboree from Fort A. P. Hill in 2010, by which time we trust the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will have overturned her decision.
Do you notice the logical slight-of-hand there? "Exclusion" now equates, somehow, to "establishment."

Given this line of reasoning, how long will it be before the tax exempt status granted to churches will be deemed a violation of "separation" or worse "establishment?"

I am genuinely at a failure to respond to this stuff -- it so defies anything I understand as reason or logic, that is defies argument - one is left only with persuasion. And that may be the saddest thing of all -- courts are about argument and judges are supposed to reason. This keeps up and it we'll see courses in law schools taught by advertising executives.


Compare And Contrast

From South Carolina (HT: SmartChristian)
A non-denominational church in my old home town of Greenville, SC, Redemption World Outreach, had an unusual service this weekend. They are one of the largest churches in the largest city in SC, so they see some strange things, but nothing like this.

Sunday morning a "young man of Arabic descent" came to the sanctuary and demanded to give the congregation "a word from Allah."

"He didn't get specific about the word. He called himself a son of the kingdom," said Rick Smith with RWO.

According to church founder Ron Carpenter, after the man was stopped from going to the stage to give his message, "he became unraveled. He began to scream vulgarities out."

The church security team escorted Iyad Abed Alnazli from the building.
A peaceful and appropriate response to vulgarities in the setting.

From India:
Police in India's Uttar Pradesh state have arrested a publisher for a sketch of the Prophet Mohammad in a book.
An arrest! -- For a picture!

And we cannot compare the relative values of these religions? Well, I can -- there is no room in the world for a religion, or even sect or branch of a religion that compels arrest for pictures, and murders out of what is, as best as I can tell, pure bigotry.


Military Beauty

I ran into a couple of milblog posts that are simply -- beautiful. The first is from Blackfive. It concerns the testimony of the chaplain that served the SEALS that were killed in the recent helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
As I reflect over these days, I can't help but come to the same conclusion: this has truly been the most spiritually profound experience of my 13 years as a priest and my 7 as a Navy Chaplain.

So much to witness--the pain of so much loss, yes; but also the incredible will to hope.
There are great people protecting us and great people praying for them.

The other item is from the Mudville Gazette concerning the first operational wing of F-22's going into service. Look at that plane -- it is sheer mechanical beauty -- and it is deadly. In tests, a single F-22 has been known to take out 3 or 4 F15's, already the best fighter aircraft in the world, before the Eagles even knew it was there. That's an airplane!


Image Matters...

...sadly. This from California Insider was really interesting
Another PPIC poll asks some questions about a specific issue -- in this case, the environment -- and finds that Californians are pretty much in sync with the policies Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is advocating. Then the survey asks, what do you think of Schwarzenegger's peformance on environmental policies? And he bombs.
What that fact says is that politicians, at least as far s the general public is concerned are "images." How they govern matters not a whit. In fact, many of them don't even bother to govern anymore.

That is profoundly sad.


Toldya' So!

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about how bad the Chinese coal mining industry was. Looks like I am being proven correct. The Beeb reports on another blast in a mine -- this time, the mine is "legal."
China's coal mines are reputed to be the world's deadliest - more than 1,000 people have died in them this year.
I am not sure people in the west can understand the utter disregard people in China have for human life - it is little more than a low-priced commodity. It is very sad.


Friday Humor

The couple had been debating the purchase of a new auto for weeks. He wanted a new truck - She wanted a fast little sports-like car.

He would have settled on any beat-up old truck, but everything she seemed to like was way out of their price range.

"Look !" she said, "I want something that goes from 0 to 200 in 6 seconds or less. And since my birthday is coming up, you could surprise me!?

And so, for her birthday, he bought her a brand new bathroom scale!

Services are pending?


This may be the definition of paranoid.


Does It Include Driving Directions?

Just in case you were wondering, now you can look at a map of the moon and see where the various Apollo missions landed. It does not seem to include the roads plowed by the moon buggies. That's a shame.


In Search Of Bigger Pelts

Anyone that has spent any time in the high country of the American west, knows about this beast:

The fur-bearing trout was specially bred, years ago, to withstand the ultracold waters that flow off the spring melts. It was done by fertilizing trout eggs with beaver sperm.

Now it appears that the pelts are really worth something, so they are back in the lab trying to increase the size of the critter:

Government Plans to Supersize Trout

What will they think of next? (snicker, smirk, guffaw)


Cure Asthma -- Go Deaf

Scotwise reports that a young man has cured his asthma by learning to play the bagpipes.
A TEENAGER has managed to cure his asthma by playing the bagpipes Richard Humphries, 13, struggled to control the illness for years, until stumbling across the unlikely remedy by accident.
Now don't get me wrong -- I love the pipes. There is a drum/organ/pipes arrangement of "Amazing Grace" on a CD I bought in Edinburgh that reduces me to tears every time I hear it, but the pipes are best heard from a distance. Being in a small room with them can put one's hearing at risk.


Aren't We Supposed To Outgrow Things Like This?

IM someone: the online popularity test


If You've Ever Heard Her "Music" The Truth Of This Is Self-Evident

'Lennon,' the Yoko Musical, Needs 'Help!'


Life Imitates Python

After seeing this scene in "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" I really never thought I would read a headline like this:

Teacher cleared of class sex acts

Sometimes pop culture has a little too much influence. I had a hard time not snickering when I swaw the headline.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


It's Green

That headline may be one of the funniest lines ever delivered in science fiction. (click here and give it a listen) It was delivered by Enterprise engineer James Montgomery Scott in the episode "By Any Other Name" of the original Star Trek. So funny was this joke that in "The Next Generation" series -- the episode featuring Scotty ("Relics") -- they went to the trouble to set it up so Commander Data could have the same joke at Scotty's expense.

Scotty was often reduced to a joke, but he was far and away my favorite character. My favorite episode in the original series was "Bread and Circuses" In that episode, with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy trapped on the planet below, Scotty is in command of the Enterprise and he proves himself to be as tactically cagey as Kirk -- or Picard -- ever were.

Much of Scotty was from the heart of James Doohan, the actor that portrayed him. It was Doohan that decided the character should be a Scotsman, and it was Doohan that portrayed the character that was at times a clown, at times the best engineer ever seen, and at times a true leader of men.

Alas, James Doohan has passed away. He was and is an American icon. He entertained me over and over again. Thankfully, he will be available in reruns for the forseeable future, but the original has forever passed away, and there will never be another like him.

I cannot think of a more fitting memorial than that which he planned for himself. He is sending his ashes into space.



They are real and they inhabit cars -- even well-behaved, long-lived cars. They could care less about the car, their sole purpose is to make the car have trouble at the time and situation most inconvenient to the entire rest of your life. When they are at their best they strike when your schedule forbids being without a car and your pocketbook for the month is already spent.

Guess what kind of day I had yesterday and is forecasted for today -- just guess. Thus, blogging-lite (at least for this blog).

Somedays I know I live in the Twilight Zone.


Good Question

A commenter on this post posed an excellent question:
Okay, so riddle me this. Why do homosexuals want to marry while heterosexuals don't?
There is a real short answer to that question that will no doubt be poo-pooed as simplistic and close-mined and insufficiently psychologically insightful, but tough. It's how I understand the world and I was the one asked the question -- so here it is:


Ask yourself, what is the common thread between the two phenomena noted in the question? The is only one real answer -- both seek to behave outside the realm of common expectation -- centuries old expectation -- for human societal interaction. They are both acts of utter defiance towards the wisdom of virtually all of human civilization, and if you are so inclined, defiance towards the diety that originated that wisdom.

They both seek to redefine in a very fundamental fashion what is and what is not good behavior. It it terribly important to remember that the story of the Garden of Eden never talks about an apple -- it talks about "the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Think about that for a minute -- the bottom line on sin is when we decide what is right and wrong -- not God. Phenomena like that posed in the question are proof that the Apostle Paul had it so right when he said, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

So my question for each of us, is where are you deciding what is right and wrong instead of listening to what God says about it? Pyromaniac had a devestating post yesterday giving the answer to that question for some. But I think you need to ask yourself the question -- then stop doing whatever answer you come up with.


Illuminated Scripture


Blogs In Spaaaaaace!

Scotwise links to this story.
Is there anybody out there? And if there is, what will alien lifeforms make of bloggers signed up to a new service to beam their online rantings into outer space?

"We are giving bloggers the opportunity to send a piece of their lives into space to potentially connect with extraterrestrials," said Ted Murphy, president and CEO of the Florida-based firm MindComet.

Blogosphere meet atmosphere: The free service,, will beam web feeds of blogs - weblogs, or personal Internet diaries - into deep space via a powerful satellite broadcast.
RSS encoding - formatting information -- binary encoding -- and then there is whatever language you write in. I'm sure whoever receives this signal is going to understand exactly what I am talking about.

I'm fairly certain this whole thing has nothing whatsoever to do with the sidebar buttons and T-shirts you also find at the site -- nothing at all.


German Courts Save Man From Self

Bald man loses fight for state-financed toupee

It's a good thing because they never look good.


Did He Wear A Cape? What Were His Powers?

Arnold the Crime-Fighting Pig Dies

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Why Do You Serve?

Scotwise's "Daily Encouragment" for this date looks at I Thess 1:2-3 and lists three motivational principles for Christian service

I run a grave risk here since these are pulled directly from the scripture in question, but there is one other thing I would add to John's great list here -- OBEDIENCE.

In this narcissitic age, obedience is generally the last motivation anybody will list for anything, but I think it is an extraordinarily important one. Yesterday's "Utmost for His Highest" entry says the following:

Our Lord never insists on having authority over us. He never says, "You will submit to me." No, He leaves us perfectly free to choose? so free, in fact, that we can spit in His face or we can put Him to death, as others have done; and yet He will never say a word. But once His life has been created in me through His redemption, I instantly recognize His right to absolute authority over me. It is a complete and effective domination, in which I acknowledge that "You are worthy, O Lord..." ( Revelation 4:11 ). It is simply the unworthiness within me that refuses to bow down or to submit to one who is worthy. When I meet someone who is more holy than myself, and I don?t recognize his worthiness, nor obey his instructions for me, it is a sign of my own unworthiness being revealed. God teaches us by using these people who are a little better than we are; not better intellectually, but more holy. And He continues to do so until we willingly submit. Then the whole attitude of our life is one of obedience to Him.
Becoming obedient to God, as Chambers described it here is about becoming who God created us to be. It is, actually, the ultimately narcissitic act -- for in submitting ourselves to God wholly and completely, in the utter self-denial that that entails, we become the magnificent creation we were intended to be instead of the fallen, lifeless husk that we are.

In the end, we lack the resources to obey as we should, but obey we must, and in our efforts to obey, we must turn even more to God for the strength and power to do so -- confessing our disobedience as we do. Herein lies a true understanding of the love of God. The less we realize we are, the more we realize how much He loves us to bother with us at all.


Unwelcome News

Fewer in U.S. marry as more live together

God forbid we would make actual committments to each other, that might mean accountablity and responsibility, and putting the children ahead of ourselves. That may be the worse thing about this story, it is one more step towards turning children into accessories or pets.

Teaching group to consider banning word "fail"

Do you think it has dawned on this bunch of cretins that is you "ban" failure, you ban success as well?


From The Fat Front

Gene Linked to Both Obesity, Diabetes

So, do you think Gene, Obesity and Diabetes are cousins or siblings? But here is the real question, if obese people lose weight, their diabetes generally gets better as well -- How can that be true if it's genetic?

Hunger hormone linked to memory

A story that explains both my academic excellence and my weight. Or is it the other way around -- you're always hungry because you can't remember that you ate?


Russians Steal American Science

When I was in junior high school and Skylab orbited the earth, NASA ran a competition for student submitted experiments for orbiting science lab. I was one of four students in Indianapolis to enter the competition, and while I did not win, I actually got quite a bit of local press over the entry.

My proposed experiment regarding growing food in orbit. Now we learn
While the plants have provided crews at Russia's Mir space station and at the international space station a periodic break from their freeze-dried food packs, the task of attending to the growth chambers results in a much more important psychological benefit that may prove vital in long-term manned spaceflight, such as that observed in the 1996 simulation.
I've been robbed!


A Polar Lab

The Beeb reports that this is the winning design for an Antarctic science station. It's a little goofy looking, but a fairly decent idea. I want to take it out for a spin on those skis.


The Best of Pravda


Apparently no one in Russia has read the book "Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" that I commented on last week. If they had they would never have run with this story:

Talent upbringing: make a genius of your baby


This is simply terrifying:

Russian bakers pose naked to promote bread and buns


Psychedelic drug, LSD-25, likely to be legalized in Russian medicine


Ancient Aryan civilization achieved incredible technological progress 40 centuries ago

Particularly since yesterday we learned of the "Putin Youth."


Witch Doctor Research?

Scientists Discover Healing Power of Bones

What do you do, grind them up and serve them as a condiment? Ewwwwwwww!


Do The Math

Larry Summers appears to have been right on in his assement of the relative mathematical abilities of men and women. Here's proof.

A Stan Lee-inspired No-Prize to the first commenter that can poke a hole in the proof.


I Knew It - I Just New It

Last Saturday, I was worried that the disclosure that one of the London bombers was a chemist would give me trouble on my impending travels. Now there is this report out of Australia.

Britain bars 200 scientists

I'll just tell them I'm an engineer -- yeah, that's the ticket.


I Resent This Headline

Comic-Con Is Geek Heaven

You don't get to call me a geek -- only I get to call me a geek.


Living A Dog's Life

Why? - Because he eats better than I do.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


What Is 'Worship?'

The Upward Call is asking a question.
I'm serious. If anyone of you knows a pastor or elder, or theologian, be it armchair or professional, (and she could be female!) who could give me an opinion, I'd appreciate it. If you aren't one of those people, but you know someone like that, could you ask?

What do you think about this statement: "Music is the language of worship."
Rebecca gives a nice short answer
I think Paul is telling us that a worshipful attitude works itself out in service to God, doing all those things listed in the rest of the book of Romans. You know, like renewing our minds, loving the brethren, living peacably, submitting to our governing authorities, etc., etc...

So I'd say the "language of worship" (whatever that means) is right conduct. We communicate our worshipful attitude by living our lives rightly.
Rebecca is absolutely correct, I'd just like to add some background and source material. The American Heritage Dictionary defines worship this way
The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
Accepting that definition then the phrase Kim is asking about must mean that "music is the way we express our love to God." Since this seems to be mostly a ladies discussion, I'm going to ask this question in response to that -- Ladies, how do you know a gentleman is sincere in his devotion to you? Is it when he declares his affection, or when he acts on it?

Let's look at a Bible dictionary definition -- from Unger's Bible Dictionary
WORSHIP. The act of paying honor to a deity; religious reverence and homage. The rendering of the following Heb. and Gk. words:

1. Heb. shaha (to "bow down"), to prostrate oneself before another in order to do him honor and reverence (<Gen. 22:5>; etc.). This mode of salutation consisted in falling upon the knees and then touching the forehead to the ground (<19:1; 42:6; 48:12; 1 Sam. 25:41>; etc., often rendered "bowed"). It is, however, used specifically to bow down before God; spoken of worship rendered to God, and also to false gods <Gen. 22:5; Exo. 24:1; 33:10; Judg. 7:15; Job 1:20; Pss. 22:27; 86:9>.

2. Aram. segid (to "fall down"), spoken of in connection with idol worship; to fall down in adoration of idols <Dan. 3:5-6,10-12,14-15,28>; in honor of a man, as of <Daniel (2:46>).

3. Heb. `asab (to "carve, labor"), to serve an idol, as in <Jer. 44:19>; or according to others, to fashion her, i.e., the image (see Orelli, Com., ad loc.).

4. The Gk. words thus rendered are: proskuneo, properly to "kiss the hand to (toward) one," in token of reverence; also by kneeling or prostration to do homage-- the word most frequently used in the NT; sebomai, to "revere" a deity <Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7; Acts 18:13; 19:27>. Proselytes of the gate are called worshipers of God (sebomene ton theon, <16:14>; <18:7>), or simply "devout persons" (tois sebomenois, <17:17>, "God-fearing"). Latreuo (to "serve") in the NT means to render religious service or honor and in the strict sense to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for His worship <Heb. 10:2; 9:9>. Ethelothreskeia ("voluntary worship"), i.e., worship that one devises and prescribes for himself, contrary to the contents and nature of the faith that ought to be directed to Christ; used for the misdirected zeal and practices of ascetics <Col. 2:23>. Therapeuo to "do service," as in <Acts 17:25>.
All of this points to worship being far more than simply a declaration of our love for God -- worship is in fact a demonstrated devotion to God. Thus language is a secondary concern. Another interesting thing from all of that is that of all those passages cited, only Daniel 3:10-12 mentions music and it mentions it relative to a false God.
10 You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon?Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up."
So, it appears that the genuine language of worship is action, whether it be symbolic, which involves bowing or prostrating, or genuine action is service. That does not mean that music is not an acceptable part of worship, but it is not defintionally a part of worship, and if not joined with action, it is empty and void and meaningless.

That is true for other Sunday worship forms as well. Any declaration of affection is void and meaningless apart from service and action.

Now some personal observations. I have heard statements like those Kim is asking about made numerous times. I generally run into them as justification for changing the Sunday morning worship service - the now fairly common jettisoning of a standard and liturgical order of worship for the "free-flowing" use of contemporary music, sometimes punctuated with prayer, and culminating in a sermon of some sort.

In my opinion such "contemporary" worship is not best - I don't think it asks the participant to grow in any fashion, I think that it is designed to not challenge, which fills the pews, but I have serious questions about how it makes disciples. It probabaly works well for existing disciples, but I don't think it calls anyone forward to MORE. But let's set that aside for a minute, let's assume a more neutral position that it is all a matter of taste, and contemporary worship is just a switch to more contemporary taste. In that situation, the statement "Music is the language of worship" is an ineffective arguement because it does not specify the type of music, at best it says "let's sing more."

But the real problem with the statement in that context is that it negates deeper and more meaningful forms of worship. It says -- what happens in this service; that is real worhsip - what happens the rest of the week is secondary. Is that really a message we want to give? I certainly don't think so.

Worship flows out of our devotion to Christ -- It expresses itself in our committment to Him. It is easy to say (or in this case sing) one is committed to someone -- it is another thing altogether to live out that committment. It is the living out of the committment that lends truth to the statements. Otherwise we can make the statements in any language and they are simply unimportant.


Salute To Those Who Serve Those Who Serve

Sometimes when I am going to the post office to mail another package to one of our service people, I really truly wish I could deliver it personally. There is nothing like pressing the flesh to let someone know you really support them. Whenever I learn about entertainers going over to entertain the troops, I am momentarily jealous. This blogging guy is no exception. (HT: Mudville Gazette)

Pete Johannson is a reasonable successful stand-up comedian doing a tour for the troop. Do what you can to support this guy - which for starters measn read his blog. He doesn't have to go over there, he could stay here and have enough work.


Now Here's A Vision

SmartChristian posted on Sunday about Acts 2:42-47. This may be the best handling of that passage I have ever seen. I personally get so caught up in trying to show why the passage IS NOT a justification for socialism that I miss the good stuff. Dr. AJ breaks its down into the five primary practices of "simply church:"

Here's how he concludes

I personally long for the SIMPLY CHURCH daily experience. It takes stripping away all the hard crust of modern techniques, corporate structures, and practiced entertainment, but it can be done. It must be done!
All I can say is LET'S DO IT!



Does this blog (Gadfly's Musings) have the answer to life the universe and everything? Jollyblogger seems to think he just might. The first post that Jollyblogger points to certainly indicates a guy that think well, but doesn't seem to get the joke, even if he does get the point -- at least in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Here's where he gets the point
There is power in the argument that the world is absurd. But it is the power that lives in the world of impressions, not the world of realism. If one has only the impressions that he or she receives from the world to go on, then the ultimate conclusion that death comes eventually to all things and that chaos governs all things up to the point that death takes over, is easily attained. A fellow called "The Preacher" wrote about that 3500 years ago in a book called Ecclesiastes. He makes the same point a lot more clearly and, quite frankly, with far more zeal. The conclusion of the matter is the same.
Now that is extraordinarily insightful -- a literay comparison of Ecclesiates and Hitchhiker's Guide might just be thesis material. Buty I am not a literary type -- I am a science type, which is why I have to disagree with the Gadfly on this
The problem with the Hitchiker is that its message is delivered through farce and English farce at that. Farce wears extremely thin after about an hour. After two hours all hope of entertainment is lost and all that remains is the task of gold-miner, sifting through endless grains of sand, all of which look alike, in the hopes of finding another nugget that makes the whole enterprise worth while.
This indicates to me someone that is missing the leaves for the forest. He is right in broad brushstrokes, but Hitchhiker's Guide is so full of "little" jokes and hilarious references to the absurdity of how physics understands the universe that I laugh at virtually every page, and enjoyed the movie immensely, saddened only by how much material did not get in it.

The essential fact is that Hitchhiker's Guide is a framework upon which the writers can hang joke after joke. Like the "Airplane" movies the plot is little more than an excuse to tell jokes. This is a large part of the reason that the various incarnations of the material (book, radio, TV, movie) are so radically different. The movie was heavier on the absurdity angle than most of the other material and this may account for Gadfly's perception. Or maybe he just does not know enough physics to get all the jokes?

However, I will agree with Jollyblogger, this is a blog worth reading. It's on my bloglines as of now.


What A Revolting Development

THE sun rises over several hundred tents next to blue lakes. At the stroke of 7am, large speakers blare Soviet-era patriotic songs and bright-eyed youths emerge for another day of physical and ideological instruction.

This is the first summer-camp of Nashi (Ours), a youth organisation set up by the Kremlin this year to support President Putin. It has assembled 3,000 teenagers from across Russia for two weeks of fun, training and political indoctrination.
Putin is really starting to scare me. I hope he does not use the cover of the War on Terrorism to completely reinstate an oppressive state in Russia. Historically, they have known little else, but they are wonderful people and deserve so much more.


Why I Rarely Blog California Politics

When I grew up in Indiana, Republicans ruled the roost -- that changed not long after I left, but more on that in a minute. Elections were about as predictable as the moonrise. As a Republican it made me feel a bit like I was in the womb, but it made for really boring newspapers (nobody had even thought of blogging back then.)

California politics are very similar. Holy Coast said this yesterday
When you have 153 seats up for election and not one of them changes parties, there's something wrong. Legislative and congressional districts are not supposed to be guaranteed for life to any one party,
Indiana did change the Republican stronghold, as I say, not long after I left, and they did it the old fashioned way -- Evan Bayh ran one heck of a great campaign. Out here in CA, Arnold did well in the recall, but only because the dissatisfaction with Gray Davis was so immense that Mickey Mouse could have won had he chose to run. Almost from the beginning, on anything remotely substanative, Arnold has gotten flack.

But Arnold is a man of his word. He said he was going to change things, and he is doing whatever it takes -- which in this case means a special election and ballot initiatives to break the gerrymandering deadlock. Let me put it to you this way. In the small valley in which I live -- roughly 8,000 people -- we have parts of four state assembly districts and three state senate districts. I share an assembly district with people that live 40 miles away, through some of the most densly populated real estate in the country. See why there is a problem?

The Wall Street Journal had an editorial about the upcoming special election yesterday (subscription required)
But Californians keep resorting to direct democracy because their politicians are shielded from voter accountability. Mr. Schwarzenegger's determination to challenge this cozy status quo has made him the target of tens of millions of dollars in union-financed attack ads and his approval rating has fallen as a result. Taking reform to the voters is risky, but in doing so Arnold is simply keeping his word. If California wanted a risk-averse Governor, it would have stuck with Gray Davis.
I'm ponying up to help Arnold! I hope you will join me.


From the Edge of Taste

Every now and then when I think my fascination with comic books mean I lack a real life, I run into somebody that makes me feel down right normal.

I've been ripped off on Ebay before, anybody who buys much there probably has -- just part of the deal. At least those that did me wrong had more taste than this.

Sometimes, familiarity breeds stupid tastelessness.


Lighten Up Already

World Wrestling Entertainment recently found itself in the position of defending the psychological and cultural nuances of one of its characters after a particularly ill-timed episode of "SmackDown." The episode featured an Arab-American character named Muhammad Hassan, and it ran on July 7, the same day as the London terrorist attacks.
For the record -- professional wrestling is fake, it's as bogus as Monopoly money, it makes a three dollar bill look legit. The whole thing is scripted, they have writers for crying out loud.

Anybody that takes professional wrestling seriously enough to get offended really, really needs a life.


Forgiveness and Consequences

I really hate it when someone writes a post that I wished I had written, and they did it so well that I have nothing to add, all I can do is link and ooh and ahh. But Jollyblogger absolutely hit it out of the park with this goody.
But I want to press this matter in a slightly different direction and say that it is possible to extend forgiveness while enforcing relational consequences for offenses. Forgiveness and consequences shouldn't be seen as "either/or's" but "both/and's." Some think that if they enforce the relational consequences to an offense then forgiveness cannot be present. And the same goes in reverse - some think that if they forgive they may never enforce relational consequences....

... I think of the requirements for leaders in Titus 1 and I Timothy 3. In these are lists of requirements for those who would be leaders in the church. The one who sins in any of those areas, be it through drunkenness, violence, failure to lead the family or whatever may repent and enjoy all of the blessings and privileges of fellowship in the church. But he is not entitled to the privilege (and responsibility) of leadership. Hence, my point again is that forgiveness does not always necessiatate the restoration of privilege.
Amen, David, Amen. Follow the link -- read it all.


A Difficult Mind Bender

This is no easy puzzle. Do not give up easily, keep trying -- You'll figure it out and you'll be proud of yourself when you do!


Somethings Boggle The Mind

This story is about muslims in Malaysia attacking another religion - horribly ugly, but not mind-boggling in this age of Islamofascist terrorism. But the religion they attack does boggle a bit
A mob fire-bombed the headquarters of a bizarre Malaysian cult built around a giant teapot Monday, police and a fireman said, two weeks after the sect was raided by religious officials.
This does; however, make me seriously worried about Darwin, MN and Cawker City, KS.

It is mind-boggling enough that some, formerly trapped under the oppression of Soviet style communism long for a return of those days, but this threatens actual brain freeze.
A German man has canned the noxious-smelling exhaust fumes of East Germany's cult Trabant car and is doing a brisk trade selling the scent to those nostalgic for the former Communist state.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when we measured automotive performance not in miles per gallon but in pounds smoke per mile.


Life Imitates Art

A movie fan had his nose bitten off outside an Australian cinema in an argument over the quality of the violent new Bruce Willis movie "Sin City," police said.
That is totally appropriate for this film.

For the record -- the production of the film is jaw-droppingly excellent, particularly in it's faithfulness to it's comic book origins. But it is about a place where no one really wants to go. If you are a fan of film making, I recommend this movie -- if you like a good story about decent people, better look elsewhere.


What'd He Do?

Nationwide moth hunt under way

The fiend! My guess is he must have eaten part of the Queen's sweater.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Amen and Amen

Pyromaniac wrote one of the better blog posts I have ever read. It's pretty hard to pull just a small money quote, but I will try
Evangelicalism as a movement has bought that lie. That's why we have so many Fad-Driven® Churches and so few where Christ is honored and His Word obeyed. That's why the gospel is not only in eclipse but actually under attack on several fronts within evangelicalism.

We don't need more hype and activity and mass movements. We need the pure light of God's Word?"the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises" (2 Peter 1:19).

The alternative is a postmodern darkness that is shaping up to be worse than the murkiest spiritual gloom of the Dark Ages. We could sure use a new generation of Reformers.
Just to add some evidence to his thesis, I offer this little tidbit.
The NBC network, eager for new hits to reverse a ratings slump, said on Friday it has given a mid-season 2005-06 commitment to a new drama titled "The Book of Daniel," depicting Christ as a contemporary confidant to a pill-popping priest.
The question in my mind is how do we go about reforming? In the first place, no matter how apt the comparisons to the period of the reformation may be, there is a huge risk in romanticising it and having reformation become more important than the actual reason for reformation. This is frankly what I think is happening in much of the emergent movement.

Secondly, there are places where the comparison is not apt. During the reformation, there was but one spiritual authority, at least in the west -- the Roman Church. We live in an age of Christian pluralism. Breaking away, forming yet another church, does not in the end accomplish much.

No, in this age, we need to find a way to accomplish true reformation, to remake the existing institutions in a manner that more conforms to God's Word. This is a much harder task.
1 Cor 1:22-25 - For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The first thing we have got to do is quit trying to "succeed." We simply are not going to attract huge numbers -- because the gospel is foolishness to so many.

Those realizing the power available in the church will naturally try to use it to their own ends, which in an age of pluralism will mean many perversions. I think the best we can do right now is to find those that truly do hold Jesus precious in their heart and band with them. Together we can become a shining light on a hill.

I like blogging because I have found more that proclaim a genuine gospel there than I can visiting dozens of local congregations. So, how can those of us in the Christian blogosphere become the source of the "reformation" Pyromaniac calls for? Blogging alone is not enough, but it is a start, much like a certain 95 theses.


What About When You Are Younger?

This is another one of those studies that we should have known the conclusion to without the study.
A happy old age is what many people spend their lives preparing for, aiming for financial security and good health in their dotage. But one thing people need not worry about, it seems, is how clever they are. A study of more than 400 pensioners reveals that cognitive ability is unrelated to happiness in old age.
I'm afraid I don't even understand forming this question. In the first place, intelligence is highly overrated -- it does not even guarantee academic success. But in the second place, I cannot, even in my wildest imagination, posit a connection between it and happiness.

If anything, most of the really smart people I have ever met (which includes a few Nobel laureates in the sciences) they are some of the least happy people I have ever met.


Let's Go Digging!

Fragments of biblical scroll found in Israel

This will set off a feeding frenzy of digging in the Israeli desert, and then, if they find more than a few words, a huge debate about what the Bible "really" says.

Somehow I think God has done a good job of preserving scripture through these many centuries. If He didn't, He wouldn't be much of a God.



Oh No -- Chemicals Are Everywhere!

For the record, the mere presence of a toxic material is insufficient to create toxic reactions. Toxicity is based on the presence of a toxic agent, the amount of it present, the pathway of exposure, and the duration of exposure. You would hate your life without toxic chemicals, virtually everything is toxic in some sense. (for example, water, taken through an inhalation pathway is HIGHLY toxic) It's not the "chemical," it's how you handle it.

Trivial and Not So Trivial

Trivial ... EU cracks whip over environment

Not So Trivial ...

RUSSIA is seeking approval to build the first international storage facility for nuclear waste.
If you knew what a mess the Soviets have made of almost all things nuclear, you'd know why this is not trivial.

Ecotourism At It's Finest

Singapore Opens Landfill to Tourists

Now What?

Food movement 'harms environment'

Hundreds of years of human progress so that foods grown in one place can move to a place that simply cannot grow them, thus improving nutrition around the world, causing such alarming effects as nearly doubling life expectancy, and now it's bad?! We really need some perspective.


Someone's Head Is Going To Explode

The world is rife with stories of invasive species being transported to places they don't belong and taking over. But usually it is a predatory thing. They either breed or eat more native species out of existence. That's why this story is pretty funny.
It's hard to imagine a tiny, 2-inch frog could cause so much harm. Beloved in its native Puerto Rico, the coqui frog has become a menace in Hawaii, where it suddenly appeared in the 1990s. With no natural predators, such as snakes, to keep their numbers under control, the frogs and their loud "ko-KEE'' mating calls have multiplied exponentially -- causing headaches for homeowners.

Some believe the noisy amphibians could also cause serious damage to Hawaii's economy if they drag down housing prices, which real estate agents say is a distinct possibility. Officials have begun an extermination effort on several islands, hoping to get the problem under control before long-term economic losses set in.
Let's see...environmentalists hate development, the frogs are driving it down. Environmentalists hate invasive species for the reasons I cited above. Who are they going to root for here?

They are going to try and obliterate the frogs, but then I cannot help but believe that that will bring PETA running to the scene, and then how do you do it? Poison? What about "collateral damage?" Introduce a predator? What will it eat after it's done with the frogs?

See, the real point is sometimes we don't control nature - we can't! We are neither as constructive or destructive to the world as we think we are.


A Meal Fit For A...

...frankly, I don't know. Scotwise reports that at Camel Races in Australia, they are now serving camel dishes.

I'm not to sure about this -- I've eaten quite a bit of game in my life, but never camel. Then there is this
Publican Lester Cain says the meat is full of flavour and low in fat,
"Low in fat?" -- How do you think the camel goes that long without water? What do they do, put them on a diet - for years - before the butcher them?


0/anynumber = 0

Music festival's world record bid
An estimated 17,500 people at a music festival in Surrey are set to take part in a world record attempt for the largest "air guitar" ensemble.
This may be the greatest non-accomplishment in human history!


Silly Songs Stuck In Your Head

Assumption of Command is concerned that he has a silly song stuck in his head and an even sillier song cannot seem to drive it out. No worries...this will hammer anything else out of your head like they were using it for a bongo.


Weirdest Headline I've Ever Read

China to send pig sperm to space

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Some Things Matter...Some Don't

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I was in undergraduate school, I had a girlfriend, that for a while I wondered if she was "the one." She wasn't -- I GOT A MUCH BETTER DEAL LATER -- but one of the ways I found out she wasn't was a huge row I had with her mother over Sunday dinner. Her mother was convinced that Roman Catholics were not Christians and were going to rot in hell for all eternity.

I had never heard of such a thing before, and her statements smacked to me of those that think Jews are "Christ-killers." So in my youthful enthusiasm, not having yet learned the pointlessness of arguing with the purposefully ignorant, I dove in head first. Silly, silly me.

But given that backgound, I was not terribly surprized when I read this article which blogging ally Hedgehog Blog pointed me to Friday.
A Christian adoption agency that receives money from Choose Life license plate fees said it does not place children with Roman Catholic couples because their religion conflicts with the agency's "Statement of Faith."

Bethany Christian Services stated the policy in a letter to a Jackson couple this month, and another Mississippi couple said they were rejected for the same reason last year.

"It has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith," Bethany's state director Karen Stewart wrote. "Our practice to not accept applications from Catholics was an effort to be good stewards of an adoptive applicant's time, money and emotional energy."
Legally, I support Bethany's right to make these decisions, ignorant though I think they may be. But as Christians I think this raises some really important issues.

Given that there are so many "flavors" of Christianity, what is it really worth fighting over, and what should we let go? One of the things that I find interesting in that various theological perspectives seem to coexist in a given denomination, but cannot seem to coexist interdenominationally. The PCUSA that I belong to is founded theologically almost entirely on Calvinism, but there are a lot of Arminians, and even increasingly some annhilationists in our midst. We coexist pretty well. But I know a lot of Presbyterians that love their Arminian pastor that condemn Arminian Methodists. This tells me the division is far deeper that just theological. But what is it that separates denominations other than theology and government?

So are these beefs really about power? I tend to think so. If you think about it, the Reformation was less about theology, though it played an important role, and more about abuses of power on the part of the Roman Church, or about about potentates accumulating power to themselves as in the case of the formation of the Church of England. It was, if you think about it, the abuses of the Roman Church that sent Luther looking and that looking is what began the theological part of the Reformation.

This, the biggest problem with the adoption story is not that there is a theological disagreement, but that the adoption agency is using that as a basis for abusing its power.
Phil 2:5-8 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The most powerful man ever to walk the planet was also the most humble. Christian institutions carry with them enormous power, that power demands humility. That is my prayer for the Church Universal this date.


Your Support Matters

As people who work very actively to do what we can for our deployed troops, I have to admit that one sometimes wonders if it really helps. We often don't hear back from those we send stuff to (I'm not condemning them, they are busy people) and sometimes I read posts about units with too much stuff.

But then I read a post like this one from 375 and a Wake Up.
And then there were the letters from back home. One came with news that SGT Ferguson, who chances of survival were once considered remote, was back in California and well on his way down the long road to recovery. Another came full of comedy DVDs that had me laughing until my sides ached. And still another came from a 10 year old who asked if she could send her own stuffed animals here to Iraq for the destitute children around our FOB. In the face of so much support, and in the company of so many everyday hero?s it is hardly surprising I found myself renewed. This mission can be difficult, but it must be done. And I plan on doing my part? the best way that I can.
And so, now I am renewed and know my efforts matters and can once again urge you to do whatever you can.


Sure - Blame The Christians

The sure sign of a madman in charge of anything is paranoia. This story illustrates that to a "tee."
Zimbabwe sought Friday to discredit South African clergymen who have criticized its demolitions of shantytowns, with state media saying their visit to assess the drive was bankrolled by British intelligence.

The South African church group, led by Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, said after its visit Monday it had seen victims of the crackdown living under inhumane conditions at a camp near Harare.

The clergymen also said they would urge local counterparts to speak more forcefully on the government campaign to tear down illegal shantytowns, which has left an estimated 300,000 people homeless and has been widely condemned at home and abroad.

The official Herald newspaper, citing government sources, denounced the visit as part of "the large campaign by Zimbabwe's detractors pushing for a regime change agenda in the country."

The Herald said it had been masterminded by a Harare-based British spy to keep the spotlight on President Robert Mugabe's government. A British embassy official said she could not immediately comment on the report.
Mugabe is a true madman, but this story also illustrates one of the downsides of the actual governmental establishment of religion. (Rememeber, the Queen of England is the head of the Anglican Church) It gives just enough air of possibility to such charges that someone is going to buy them. That hurts the mission of Jesus, and that is a problem.


Sermons and Lessons


St. Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, was the great doctor of the Latin church. He was born in North Africa in 354, the son of a pagan father and a devoutly religious mother. He was brought up as a Christian and at the age of sixteen went to Carthage to complete his education in law. In 375 he became interested in philosophy and abandoned his Christian heritage. A skilled orator, Augustine was offered a professorship in Rome, where he founded his own school of rhetoric.

There he came under the influence of the philosophy of Plato and the teachings of St. Ambrose. After a long inner struggle he renounced his earlier philosophical beliefs and embraced the Christian faith. He then returned to Africa where he formed a religious community. In 391 he was ordained a priest (against his wishes) as the Vandals began an invasion of Hippo.

For thirty-four years he lived in this monastic community. He wrote a vast number of books and became known for his eloquence, logic, and spiritual passion. These three combined to make Augustine one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Christian Church. Perhaps no one except St. Paul has been so widely read for so long. His theological insights shaped not only the age he lived in, but all the subsequent centuries of Christianity. It is difficult to find a theologian?from any age?who has not been influenced by the teachings of St. Augustine.

The following selection comes from Augustine?s autobiographical work, Confessions. In this passage he sheds light on the eternal struggle of the will and its surrender to Christ by retelling his own conversion to the life of faith.


1. A House Divided

My inner self was a house divided against itself. Why does this strange phenomenon occur? The mind gives an order to the body and is at once obeyed, but when it gives an order to itself, it is resisted. What causes it? The mind commands the hand to move and is so readily obeyed that the order can scarcely be distinguished from its execution. Yet the mind is mind and the hand is part of the body. But when the mind commands the mind to make an act of will, these two are one and the same and yet the order is not obeyed.

Why does this happen? The mind orders itself to make an act of will, and it would not give this order unless it willed to do so; yet it does not carry out its own command. But it does not fully will to do this thing and therefore its orders are not fully given. It gives the order only in so far as it wills, and in so far as it does not will, the order is not carried out.

2. Weighed Down by Habit

For the will commands that an act of will should be made, and it gives this command to itself, not to some other will. The reason, then, why the command is not obeyed is that it is not given with the full will. For if the will were full, it would not command itself to be full, since it would be so already.

It is therefore no strange phenomenon partly to will to do something and partly not to will to do it. It is a disease of the mind which does not wholly rise to the heights where it is lifted by the truth, because it is weighed down by habit. So there are two wills in us, because neither by itself is the whole will, and each possesses what the other lacks.

3. Torn Between Conflicting Wills

When I was trying to reach a decision about serving the Lord my God, as I had long intended to do, it was I who willed to take this course and again it was I who willed not to take it. It was I and I alone. But I neither willed to do it nor refused to do it with my full will. So I was at odds with myself. I was throwing myself into confusion. All this happened to me although I did not want it, but it did prove that there was some second mind in me besides my own. It only meant that my mind was being punished. My action did not come from me but from the sinful principle that dwells in me (Rom. 7:17). It was part of the punishment of a sin freely committed by Adam, my first father.

When we try to make a decision, we have one soul which is torn between conflicting wills. Some say that there are two opposing minds within us, one good and the other bad, and that they are in conflict because they spring from two opposing substances or principles.

For you, 0 God of truth, prove that they are utterly wrong. You demolish their arguments and confound them completely. It may be that both the wills are bad. For instance, a person may be trying to decide whether to spend his money extravagantly or hoard it like a miser, or, whether to commit murder or adultery?or even a third, whether to commit theft instead. Since he cannot do all at once, his mind is torn between these wills which cannot be reconciled.

4. The Full Force of the Will

It is just the same when the wills are good. If I am trying to decide between reading one of St. Paul?s epistles or one of the Psalms?or perhaps one of the gospels?some will say that in each case the will is good. Supposing, then, that a person finds all these things equally attractive and the chance to do all of them occurs at the same time, is it not true that as long as he cannot make up his mind which of them he most wants to do, his heart is torn between several different desires? All these different desires are good, yet they are in conflict with each other until he chooses a single course to which the will may apply itself to a single whole, so that it is no longer split into several different wills.

The same is true when the higher part of our nature aspires after eternal bliss while our lower self is held back by the love of temporal pleasure. It is the same soul that wills both, but it wills neither of them with the full force of the will. So it is wrenched in two and suffers great trials because while truth teaches it to prefer one course, habit prevents it from relinquishing the other.

5. On the Brink of the Resolution

This was the nature of my sickness. I was in torment, reproaching myself more bitterly than ever as I twisted and turned in my chain. I hoped that my chain might be broken once and for all, because it was only a small thing that held me now. All the same it held me. And you, 0 Lord, never ceased to watch over my secret heart. In your stern mercy you lashed me with the twin scourge of fear and shame in case I should give way once more and the worn and slender chain should not be broken but gain new strength and bind me all the faster.

In my heart I kept saying, ?Let it be now, let it be now!? and merely by saying this I was on the point of making the resolution. I was on the point of making it, but I did not succeed. Yet I did not fall back into my old state. I stood on the brink of the resolution, waiting to take fresh breath. I tried again and came a little nearer to my goal, and then a little nearer still, so that I could almost reach out and grasp it.

But I did not reach it. I could not reach out to grasp it, because I held back from the step by which I should die to death and become alive to life. My lower instincts, which had taken hold of me, were stronger than the higher, which were untried. And the closer I came to the moment which was to mark the great change in me, the more I shrank from it in horror. But it did not drive me back or turn me from my purpose: it merely left me hanging in suspense.

6. My State of Indecision

I was held back by all my old attachments. They plucked at my garment of flesh and whispered, ?Are you going to dismiss us? From this moment we shall never be with you again, for ever and ever. From this moment on you will never again be allowed to do this thing or that.? What was it, my God, when they whispered ?this thing or that?? Things so sordid and shameful that I beg you in your mercy to keep the soul of your servant free from them!

These voices, as I heard them, seemed less than half as loud as they had been before. They no longer barred my way, but their mutterings seemed to reach me from behind, trying to make me turn my head when I wanted to go forward. Yet, in my state of indecision, they kept me from tearing myself away, from shaking myself free of them and leaping across the barrier to the other side where you were calling me. Habit was too strong for me when it asked, ?Do you think you can live without these things??

7. Trembling at the Barrier

But by now the voice of habit was very faint. I had turned my eyes elsewhere, and while I stood trembling at the barrier, on the other side I could see the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy, as she modestly beckoned me to cross over and to hesitate no more. She stretched out loving hands to welcome and embrace me, holding up a host of good examples to my sight.

She smiled at me to give me courage, as though she were saying, ?Can you not do what these men and women do? Do you think they find the strength to do it in themselves and not in the Lord their God? It was the Lord their God who gave me to them. Why do you try to stand in your own strength and fail? Cast your¬self upon God and have no fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall. Cast yourself upon him without fear, for he will welcome you and cure you of your ills.?

I was overcome with shame, because I was still listening to the futile mutterings of my lower self and I was still hanging in suspense. And again Continence seemed to say, ?Close your ears to the unclean whispers of your body, so that it may be mortified. It tells you of things that delight you, but not such things as the law of the Lord your God has to tell.?

8. Why Not Now?

I probed the hidden depths of my soul and wrung its pitiful secrets from it, and when I mustered them all before the eyes of my heart, a great storm broke within me. Somehow I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes. For I felt that I was still the captive of my sins, and in misery I kept crying, ?How long shall I go on saying, ?Tomorrow, tomorrow?? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment??

I was asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most hitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard the singing of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain, ?Take it and read, take it and read.? At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before.

I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. So I hurried back to the place where I had put down the book containing Paul?s epistles. I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: Not in revelling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature?s appetites (Rom. 13:13, 14).

I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confi¬dence flooded into my heart and all the dark¬ness of doubt was dispelled. I marked the place with my finger and closed the book. You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer placed any hope in this world but stood firmly upon the rule of faith.


The Madness Spreads...

...From one hospital to a whole nation.
Dutch paediatricians have voted unanimously to adopt as national guidelines the so called Groningen protocol that covers the mercy killing of newborn babies who are incurably sick and are suffering severely. The Dutch Paediatric Society accepted that "in exceptional circumstances and under strict conditions... deliberate ending of life" of such newborns "can be an acceptable option."
Didn't Hitler start this way?



...when your parents used to work really hard to get you "to go" before you got in the car and started a road trip? Here's why
A Canadian teenager caught driving at almost twice the speed limit told police he had overdosed on a protein drink and was desperately looking for a washroom, the Ottawa Citizen reported on Friday.
I also think "desperately looking for a washroom" would make a great book title. I throw it out there for any aspiring author -- free-of-charge.



So much that is American music has flowed out of the black experience. In this politically correct age, we work so hard to acknowledge that fact that we sometimes overlook the amazing contributions that were made to these music forms by whites. That becomes even more complicated by the fact that in the rush to modernity, the roots can get overlooked.

As a music form, everybody knows the blues, but, in this hip-hop and pop age, they are underappreciated. Further, while most casual followers of the music know the absolute greats -- BB King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker... -- few know how they came to know them. With the possible exception of King and Buddy Guy, most of the true blues masters played in a age of discrimination when their music was laregely consigned to small clubs in black neighborhoods. So how did America at large come to know these musical giants?

Because a few brave white suburban kids ventured into those clubs and learned from those masters and then took the music to the masses that only white people then had access to. It happened when Bix Biederbecke when to listen to King Oliver and Louis Armstorng for jazz and it happened when the people in the Chicago Blues Reunion whent to hear Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf.

That historical context makes the CD/DVD set Chicago Blues Reunion: Buried Alive In The Blues on of the more enjoyable bits of media that I have run into in a long time.

The DVD, while a bit self-agrandizing, does a good job of letting you know who these people are and the context in which they came to be very, very good blues players. It also helps you see how the blues moved into the mainstream, and this author for one, hopes it will help them move there again.

The CD is excellent. There is not a bad cut on it, and a couple of really outstanding one. My favs were "Drinking Wine" and "GM Boogie." "Drinkin Wine" is almost a blues standard, but this rendition has a great all around sound and even at 10 in the morning made me want to go our drinkin'.

"GM Boogie" was writtne by Harvey Mandel and is intended to show off his guitar virtuosity, which it does to great affect. However, in it you can hear so much that was and is the blues. The solo heavy later part of the song is very traditional, but the early part is extremely reminiscent of one of the great modern blues bands -- ZZ Top -- that is almost had me do a double take when I first heard it.

All-in-all this is a great album and the DVD onoy adds to the experience. Highly recommended.

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