Saturday, October 29, 2005


Freedom In Transformation

Arch Van Devender, writing at Theologica, said
When Jesus sets a person free, He acts through the Word of Truth, by the power of the Holy Spirit, using the instrument of Scripture applied to the life and heart of the individual (either preached or otherwise communicated) to the end that both forms of "bondage" are removed. The person's heart is changed such that the desire to sin no longer reigns as the expression of their will. They now discover that their longing is not for the fruits of righteousness, but for righteousness itself. That which they desire to do is to conform to righteousness though faced with arduous obstacles to overcome. The sin inclinations in their members war against this desire for righteousness but sin has lost its dominion over them.

They are now empowered and unconstrained in pursuing the desires of their heart. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus said, because they shall be filled. In regeneration the first bonds of slavery to sin are burst and in sancitification and glorification all remaining chains are dispatched also. In every way, the blessings of freedom accrue and a person is fully and finally, "free indeed."
I must confess to being uncomfortable with the language of "freedom" when it comes to my faith. I understand it, I even agree with it, it just makes me nervous. The reason is the one sentence that I highlighted in the quote. Too many people forget that part of the idea.

This is compounded by the tension of the "already, not yet." God has set me free, but my heart is not so changed. The desires of my heart are still often quite sinful.

It raises a general question for me. Many of the promises of the Cross and scripture are represented as completed in us, and yet the evidence is so to the contrary. So, are those promises really complete? Or is this whole faith thing more of a process than much currently theology likes to state?

Talk about freedom, without tranformation, can be disasterous. I am transformed in a theological sense, but not yet in a practical sense. I feel obligated to constrain my self while I work out my tranformation. That often feels like the opposite of freedom.

This also raises the question about the appropriateness of presching in a manner that can, in a practical sense, result in sin. Should we?


Thinking About Miers And Jury Duty

Pretty much anybody that cares has already read Hugh Hewitt's NYTimes piece of the Miers nomination. Hugh lists a number of reasons about why the right's approach here was wrong. The primary damage he contends is to the "adivse and consent process" and potentially to Republican party hopes for the future.

I want to add one other thought to that list based on my ugly jury duty experiences of this week. It was obvious in the jury deliberations I participated in that people grossly misunderstood what courts should and should not do, that courts are about the application of the law, not making it.

The opposition to Miers ended up lining up behind some speeches and things that said she might not stand in the right place on affirmative action and a few other important issues. But it was about issues, not the law.

The Miers debate drives a further wedge between the proper constitutional role of the court -- to apply the law -- and the publicly perceived role, "to create justice."

First time I was ever involved in litigation personally was huge. It involved millions of dollars, public officials, corruption, lots of stuff. I was one of 95 plantiffs and I was the plantiff pointman with our attorneys. When it came time to depose the specific public official in question, I wanted him on a platter, I wanted his head. I wanted it on public record that he had abused his station for personal gain and render him unelectable for the foreseeable future. That, I thought was justice

My lawyer explained it to me. He told me how litigation is not about justice - it's about the law, that's all.

It is clear to me that before we can truly "fix" the courts, we have got to fix the public debate. I have become convinced that most conservatives don't really want a constructionist SCOTUS appointment, they want a "right-winger." That makes us as guilty as the left. See here's the thing, Roe v Wade is bad law. A liberal judge, that is committed to constuctionism would be forced to overturn it. The sooner all of us learn that, the better off we will be.


Comic Art

Just a few more weeks and we will be through the Honorable Mentions, but this week we are still looking at them and today the man in question is John Byrne.

There was a time when Byrne was everywhere -- I mean everywhere. He was almost inescapable. He was good, but enough already. He certainly did some of the most important and best selling stuff in the heyday of the '80's, which is why he was used so much.

Generally I liked him, but it was his stint on FF that started to make me think twice. He is probably the "anti-Kirby" in terms of style and for the FF had been so definitively associated with Kirby that Byrne's style just did not seem to fit.

Alpha Flight is the first book I remember where he was given complete reign, but don't quote me on that. He had been doing X-Men for a long time, but Chris Claremont was esconsed as the writer. Alpha Flight was a spin off of the X-Men.

Vindicator - pictured here whomping on Wolverine - was Byrne's design and I think he has a great look for a nation associated character (note the Canadian maple leaf) The clean lines of the costume were, as you would expect, a great match for Byrne's style.

I have to confess that his writing on this series was a little weak, but it was enjoyable

Far and away, it was Byrne's reinvention of Superman that is the most important work he has ever done. He certainly revivied a character that was on the verge of dying altogether --something that simply could not be allowed to happen to "the prototype." His Kryptonian stuff was a little so-so, but he made a significant contribution by making Superman more human and less god-like.

Supes had gotten to the point, where being against him was just a waste of time. Byrne gave him some weaknesses without giving up the essence of the character.

But it was the stuff that Byrne did on X-Men that put him on the map. He pretty well defined the look of the "new" X-men.

He drew the whole Phoenix/Dark Phoenix saga, which may be the most widely recognized comic book story arc ever.

This cover is also one of the more recognizable in all of comics and again it was Byrne.

Like I said, he was everywhere -- he almost defined the Marvel "look" for a while. Maybe he did not make my tops list because there was just too much of him, I don't know. He is good, he is important, and he is everywhere.


I've Heard Of A 'Rump Roast' But...

Trump Roasts Don King at Friars Club


As A Bad Actor?

Star Trek star George Takei comes out


No Justice For Jonah

Church Agrees to Ban Swallowing Goldfish


Is Michael Jackson Involved?

Million dollar bid for Lenin body

Friday, October 28, 2005


Turning To Prayer

Routine readers know I have had a hard week. What to do with a hard week?

I pray.

Which means that this post from Tod Bolsinger really hit home. Tod places the Lord's Prayer into context and says some really wonderful things about prayer in general.
Jesus is mindful that most prayers fall into two categories, attempts to impress people and attempts to manipulate God. So many of us approach prayer as if it nothing but either ceremony or or an opportunity to ask the Divine Genie to fulfill our wishes.
If I could summarize the primary thrust of my walk with Jesus for many years now it is to make prayer a real conversation. While I value the liturgical aspects of prayer and petition is an important part of my prayer life, what I want most from prayer is to sense, in some way, the presence of God. I want to have a conversation with my Lord - I want to learn from Him.
Kingdom praying is not about our fulfillment, but our transformation. In Kingdom praying, we seek only the face and favor of the King. In Kingdom praying we focus our attention on the God who knows what we need even before we ask.
As I seek comfort in prayer, that comfort lies not in God assuaging my fears or granting my desires, rather it lies in my discovery of His sufficience.


What To Do With A Total Bummer

Peggy Noonan in yesterday's OpinionJournal was completed bummed. In a very lengthy piece she argues that most people think that the "trolley is off the tracks." I am not sure I agree with her characterization, and I sure don't agree with her lack of hope.

I do think there is a problem with the "mood of the nation." I also think it is fear, but I do not think it is as deep-seated as Ms. Noonan seems to think.
But since 9/11, in the four years after that catastrophe, I have wondered if it hasn't all gotten too big, too complicated, too crucial, too many-fronted, too . . . impossible.
Note her reference, "But since 9/11...." That attack was a deep, deep wound, deeper than most want to admit. While I am not sure people think the trolley is off the tracks, I do think people are waiting for "the other shoe to drop."

In her lament, Noonan also presents the seed of the solution
Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.
True, our elites have theirs, but I don't think they think the trolley's off the tracks, though I do think they think there is little they can do about the national mood.

Let's start with the fact that things are basically OK because they do have theirs. If things were really, really bad, we'd all be struggling. I, like Noonan, have more than my fair share of concern, but when I look objectively, things are OK -- have to trust the data.

Here's the problem. As I did my business commuting yesterday I listened to a CD I got in London over the summer -- the greatest speeches of Winston Churchill. That man's oratory is nothing short of incredible. Noonan's former boss, Reagan was "The Great Communicator." Churchill won the war with his words. Reagan turned the country around, less because of his policy and more because he made people feel good about being Americans again, using his communication skills.

There are some places I think this president is better that Reagan, but one place he is not is communication. He appears to either be of the opinion that he cannot do anything about the national mood, or thinks he lacks the skills to do it. But he can. He has shown moments of rhetorical brilliance, particularly immediate post 9/11. He could hire Ms. Noonan herself to write for him, Lord knows she's good.

I also think blog have a role here. We are prime gripers We need to become uplifters. It's easy to point out how bad things are, and it brings readers. But I for one want to have a positive impact.

This is a great nation. We are in good shape. We are going to be hit again in the GWOT, but, in the grand scheme of things, so what? Yes, we lost lots of friends in that catastrophe, but the nation stands tall.

It's been four years, the wound is healed and it's time to stop staring at the scar.


Learning About Christian Leadership

Adrian Warnock is looking at how to know if you are a Christian leader.

He has a lot of good points, especially this one
The ultimate test of a called man is whether he desires the advancement of the gospel more than the advancement of his own ministry.
I have to say that I think the ultimate qualification for genuine Christian leadership is humility. Every failed leader I have ever met thought he/she somehow deserved their leadership.

Someone once said feeling a call to Christian leadership is really the elimination of all other possibilities. Wise words

Eternal Perspectives also looks at Christian leadership, from a very different angle.


Thoughts On Iraq Fatalities

As usual, Victor David Hansen gets it right.


I Hope I Get The Chance To Be Like This Guy

TERMINALLY ill John Noble was so determined not to miss his own funeral he decided to hold his wake before he dies.
That's real class.


Time Waster Extraordinaire



Friday Humor

Appropriate for the week that was


This Will Make My Wife Sell Our Collection Of Corn Memoribilia

Farmer Finds 11-Foot Python Curled in Corn

On the subject, here is the correct response to a snake. Wait for it...


How Dark Was It? - I Can Guess The Food

Man Finds 56-Pound Mushroom in Missouri

I'm betting it was very near a stockyard. Just a hunch.


Grounds For Divorce?

Workers Find Lost Wedding Ring in Sewer


Worst Pun In Headline History...

...amd I had nothing to do with it.

How sweep it is for White Sox!


Speaking Of Off-Color Jokes...

...this explains why dogs lick themselves that way

Quarter of dogs are stressed out -survey


Write Your Own Off-Color Joke Here

First wild beavers for 500 years

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Borked By The Right!

Miers Withdraws Supreme Court Nomination

This is conservative pundit cannibalism.
"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House - disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers - and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."
I hope Senate Republicans back this story to the hilt, it is the only way to preserve at least some of our politcal capital.

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Being A Good Theologian

Jollyblogger has an excellent piece on the role of theology in the "average" christian's life. He concludes this way
When John Frame defines theology as "the application of the Word of God by persons to all areas of life," he is, in a very real sense, describing what Christians have always done throughout the ages.

Thus, the question is not "will I be a theologian?" Rather it is "will I be a good theologian?"
I could not agree more. David begins by citing one of the more common complaints about theology, namely that it is easy to grant theology authority not its due.

By the definition granted here, theology is nothing more than the application of study and reason, to gain understanding. It is the standard academic process, and the question David leaves us with is, bascially, are we going to be good students or bad students?

The argument against theology, that of false authority, is really simply too much reliance on our own understanding.
Prov 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (NAS)
I have had that verse thrown in my face numerous times as an argument against "thinking too much" about my faith. The question is really how to build our understanding on trust in the Lord.

The line between dogma and reasoned faith is a fine one. But more, the distinction between passion and dogma is hard to find. To me, the key is to find a way to be passionate about Christ and at the same time reasoned in my faith. Note, I did not say "passionate about being reasonable" -- that produces someone who is almost purely academic. No, what I seek is to be a person that is as "on fire for the Lord" as a newly initiated Pentecostal with all the reason and thought of a wizened old Presbyterian.

You see, when it gets down to it, when people object to theology, they generally aren't objecting to its contents, they are objecting to its dryness.

David's right here, we are all theologians, and we should all be good theologians. The trick here is to learn how to be theologians empassioned for Jesus Christ, and to communicate that passion in all that we do and say.


Sin Tax -- Why Nevada Likes Gaming And Prostitution

OK, This post is about sin taxes, but not about Nevada -- sorry.

Evangelical Outpost had a really interesting post in sin taxes the other day. Joe makes two basic points

On his first point, I could not agree more. Joe quotes Fr. Robert Sirico on sin tax

It is a mistake to entrust the modern state with the enforcement of certain moral codes of behavior that extend beyond obvious crimes against person and property. When government is allowed to go beyond these limits and enforce a wider array of moral issues, it will substitute its own form of morality for traditional morality. A government program like recycling, for example, could be deemed more morally worthy than traditional virtues like fidelity in marriage. Obeying securities regulations could be seen as the very heart of virtue, whereas teaching children at home seen as a vice. The government's sense of morality, especially when it is influenced by excessive power, is often at war with traditional standards and common sense.
I couldn't agree more -- the proof is in strong evidence in our society these days. Both recycling and smoking have taken on heavily moral tones in discussion. Neither is essentially a moral issue, they are health and science/engineering issues, but not moral ones.

Joe's solution concerning the inequitability of sin taxes is a little tough though.
Insurance companies already use actuarial statistics to determine the premiums paid by smokers, so there should be no reason why a similar method could not be used to determine the taxes. The state could calculate the total cost of the activity (i.e., Medicare payments, loss of income tax from early death, etc.) divide it by the quantity of the product consumed (i.e., packs per day smoked) and amortize it over the life expectancy of the average smoker. The resulting amount would be added to the price of each pack as the equitable tax on the product. The money could then be set aside in a special fund which would be used to reimburse the state for incurring these expenses.
Such a solution would remain fairly inequitable. A responsible smoker -- someone that smoked only a couple of cigarettes a day and therefore had virtually nil in the way of health affects would be inequitably taxed.

Then there is the issue of what really is a smoking related health issue, and the costs thereof. Smoking can end life earlier, but does it really end life more expensively? In some cases yes, but a whole lot of non-smokers die pretty expensively too. How do you really tell the difference? "Smoking related illness" is little more than a box that doctors check on a form used to accumulate actuarial tables -- it's often as much a best guess as a medical diagnosis. Given the aforementioned moral status of smoking it's likely to be where the doctor runs whenever the patient smokes.

Frankly, as with all taxes, sin taxes have problems associated with them. Besides, in my opinion its not really a sin tax -- it's an inelastic demand tax. Most of the things taxed in this fashion have a very high price tolerance point. Which means if the government really wants to strike gold they should abolish all of these taxes and tax health care.


Thinking About Racism, Or The Lack Thereof

I was born in Mississippi, at Ole Miss, in 1957 -- before James Meredith. Because of my family, I have returned to Mississippi often throughout my life -- still do. I have seen racism at its very ugliest. For me "Whites Only" signs are not something I have read about -- I have seen them. Let's not even talk about the time I wandered up to the "wrong" water fountain.

For whatever reason it galled me from my first recognition. Maybe it's because my mother worked while my father was in law school and I was cared for by a black woman for the first 6 months of my life, I don't know, but I never got it, and I paid for it once or twice in some very ugly dinner conversation when visiting family, eventually I learned to seethe quietly for the sake of family harmony. Thank God times have changed.

I have experienced racism twice in my life. One was in an all white context involving a Jewish client. It got ugly, but reason eventually prevailed. The other experience was just this week. It ended in truce, but not resolution.

Given my still open wound, this WSJ piece by Shelby Steele, was not just good, it sang to me.
The problem here is obvious: The black shame of inferiority (the result of oppression, not genetics) cannot be overcome with anything less than a heroic assumption of responsibility on the part of black Americans. In fact, true equality--an actual parity of wealth and ability between the races--is now largely a black responsibility. This may not be fair, but historical fairness--of the sort that resolves history's injustices--is an idealism that now plagues black America by making black responsibility seem an injustice.
That last sentence really describes the sadness I felt as I heard people argue, in essence, the the defendant did not commit a crime because such things just are not a crime for black people, even if they are a crime for whites. (BTW, for other great comments on this Steele piece, see this post at Between Two Worlds.)

At six years of age, I was given a beautiful dream. It's not really my dream, it's a dream for others, others that I love. It's a dream that one day the dreamcaster's children will be judged
not by the color of thier skin, but by the content of their character.
I have been frustrated to tears these last days. Frustrated because I am without ability to move the dream any closer to reality.

The speech that cast the dream had a metaphor that I shall borrow. The funds are now available, the account is now full. All that remains is for the check to be cashed. But sadly, so many would rather hold the check stamped "NSF" than take it to the bank for another try.

The hurt I felt most from jury duty was not the sting of the accusation made at me, but the the empathetic pain I felt for those that did not realize what was available to them.

Please, please, please cash the check, it will clear.


Illuminated Scripture


There Are Other Explanations You Know

That Haze Over Titan? Scientists Suspect Erupting Geysers or Volcanoes

What a lack of imagination. My hypothesis is that the Saturnian moon is grossly over populated by beings that cannot walk and drive only 1950's era V-8's - everywhere. Because of their disability they all own three vehicles and one is constantly running. They are all employed only at industrial acitivty, most of them refining fuels for all those vehicles. Those that aren't employed with fuel refining, paint the vehicles with high VOC paints, using low pressure spray equipment.

Now, how to test this hypothesis?


Because It's Silly

I am borrowing this 'pop quiz" from The Happy Husband

1) You're at a fancy restaurant with your significant other, when your arch nemesis shows up with his gang to rob the place. You left your costume home tonight, and you wouldn't want to reveal your true identity unless there was no other choice. How do you handle this one?
Two Words -- Heat Vision
2) 4 +X/8=15Y-23Z; solve for each variable.
3) They're turning my blog into a sitcom! Quick, who's playing me?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
4) After much thought and deliberation, you realize the best thing you can do with your life is form your own team of superheroes. Keeping in mind that you don't actually possess any powers or a dual identity in this scenario, how do you go about selecting your team, what abilities do you look for in potential allies, and what do you call your group?
I check the comic books sales figures then look for the best sellers. The abilities I look for are best costumes and maximal silliness (Plastic Man here I come!) Group Name? -- "The people John likes to spend his weekend with anyway"
5) A freak accident caused by lightning or radiation or genetic engineering or whichever origin suits you, bestows upon you the ability to step INSIDE your television set and interact with the characters. Where do you go first, and why?
Star Trek, because it's fascinating and because I'm a blogger, not a brick layer.
Those are selected questions, there is more at HH -- fun, huh?


Mandatory -- Watch The Fishies Grow

Hugh Hewitt once said a blogger should "go deep" on one thing.

Here at Blogotional, we go deep on SALMON.

Watch 'em grow here.


Brits Look For Jimmy Hoffa

Nothing else could explain the recent spate of articles I have found in the Brit press

Wasps may be used to find bodies

That's gotta sting. In another story
Technology to "look inside" concrete structures could not only monitor them for corrosion, but also locate the remains of murder victims, experts say.
Given all this effort, how many bodies do you think are buried this way?


Evil Scientists Rejoice

A remote control that controls humans

But isn't this kind of reinventing the wheel? The pod people technology has been around for years.


There Shouldn't Be Any

The politics of sausages

I love 'em all!


What? - They Don't Think They Were Abducted?

Alien abductees prone to false memories?


There Is No Truth To The Rumor It Was Me

'Superman' Hospitalized After Leap

I'd have made it!


Probably Better Than Jury Duty

Goat's Rotten Week Ends With Eviction

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Love, Without Fear, Producing Obedience

At GodBlogCon there was much conversation of "favorite" bloggers. When we talked of bloggers that were uplifting, when we talked of bloggers through whom the joy of the Lord showed, one name was spoken most frequently -- John Brown of Scotwise.

Given my funk in light of my recently completed jury duty, I turned to John. He did not dissappoint. This post is great. Consider these penultimate paragraphs of the post
Our love for God is wrapped up in our obedience to Him, and His commands. If we love Him, we learn from His teachings, and then put them into practice. If our love for Him resides in us, He knows that we will share the gospel of Jesus, if we don?t, then we don?t love Him, it is as simple as that. God knows those who love Him, and is always at work in them. There are too many Christians, who are afraid and ashamed to tell others about His love, grace and mercy. So be it, but that is not the practice of those who love Him, perfect love casts out all fear!

Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace. - Thomas a` Kempis.
I love that formulation -- love of God results in obedience and it casts out fear. Obedience is not drudgery, it is an exercise in hope. Obedience makes hope real -- it casts out fear.

If I feel hopeless, the best thing to do is to act on God's Word.

I remember so often as a young man when I prayed that God would hug me, that he would offer me comfort in the same way that my mother did when I was a child. But of course God can't do that. I am to have faith that He is in fact giving me such comfort and leave my pool of self pity and get busy.

Much as God has forgiven us, He HAS comforted us. We exist at that place where mom dried our tears, stood us up and told us to rejoin the world knowing that she loved us.

What a great God we worship.


Smoke And Mirrors In The NYTimes

In the late 1980's I did quite a bit of work in Nevada's very large gold mining industry. The "Carlin Trend" near Elko, NV is one of the largest gold deposits in the world. There is little work I have enjoyed more. The long truck rides in the arid Great Basin, occasionally coming into a town, just makes you feel like one of the pioneers of old, a boom-towner. It was really fun, and terribly important work.

So with that background I tore into this NYTimes piece with a relish.

Behind Gold's Glitter: Torn Lands and Pointed Questions

I was met with an article full of prevarications, misdirection, misunderstanding and a structure designed to make the problem seem far worse than it actually is. In the first place, if you can wade through this very lengthy piece, you will find most of the genuine problems they cite are in other, often third-world, countries. I find it truly fascinating that the same kind of people that would loathe our military action in Iraq as sticking our nose in where it does not belong, would advicate so heavily for action in other nations where the same logic would say we do not belong.

But more problematic is the structure of the article where they intermix, almost indiscriminatly, anecdotes from those third world nations with opinions and quotes from American "experts" making it seem like the problem is not only in those third world countries, but also in ours -- something which is simply not true. There is also the simple misapplication of facts.

I am gong to look at just three quotes from the piece to illustrate the kinds of problems present.
Hard-rock mining generates more toxic waste than any other industry in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fair enough, but the article is about gold mining. It's been a few years since I checked, but the last time I did there were only two hard rock gold mines in the US. Most gold mining in this country is not hard rock mining. But even if we assume that all gold mining is hard rock mining, we should also assume that all copper mining is hard rock mining. For every ton of ore moved for gold mining, there are 10-20 moved for copper mining, so why are we picking on gold miners? Moreover, generating toxic waste is not the issue -- handling toxic waste is the issue.
Cyanide can present long-term problems, too. Most scientists agree that cyanide decomposes in sunlight and is not dangerous if greatly diluted. But a study by the United States Geological Survey in 2000 said that cyanide can convert to other toxic forms and persist, particularly in cold climates.

And just as cyanide dissolves gold out of the rock, it releases harmful metals, too.
Cyanide is used to extract the gold from the low grade ores mined these days. Play close attention to that sentence -- the cyanide associates with the gold to remove it from the ore. Thus the mines seek, very carefully and very thoroughly to collect ALL the cyanide because then they get all the gold. Also note the use of the word "can" - not "does." Nor do they cite evidence of pollution from those "harmful" metals at mines, because those other metals are recovered when the gold is recovered and sold into the open market, though they barely affect the balance sheet of the mine because of the relatively lesser value. I know one mine that produces 10 ounces of mercury to every ounce of gold, but it is still a "gold" mine and every ounce of mercury is recovered and sold into market. Most mines produce at least as much or more silver as they do gold -- again, captured and sold.
But stopping pollution forever is difficult. Even rock piles that are capped, in an attempt to keep out air and rain, can release pollutants, particularly in wet climates.
By the "concerns" raised by that statement we should cease all industrial activity, period. Because, of course, we can never fully guarantee that anything we do will not someday maybe result in a problem.

I could go on, but it would become repetitive. This is one of the worse environmental pieces I have ever read.


Answering ChristWeb's Question - NO!

Should You Teach Morals Without God

They are easily ignored otherwise.


Fixing Juries - My Ideas

Based on my truly depressing experience with jury duty this last working week, I have some ideas on how to make it work better.

The system has evolved into its present form through hundreds of years and great legal reasoning, but it is broken. I think it is time to think outside the box a little. Much as the GWOT has forced us to reconsider our civil liberties to some extent, I think we have to rethink how these things work, at least until we can get things working again. Here's a few of my ideas.


Post OJ, it is much harder to avoid jury duty than it used to be, unless you are willing to tell a "little white lie." I watched that lie get told over and over. People knew they had to come for at least that one day, but as soon as they ended up in a courtroom anyone with any sense (which I guess leaves me out) told the judge "they couldn't be fair" got themselves excused for cause and went back to work.

To get good, smart jurors, the overburden of jury duty has got to be reduced. Technology can reduce that overburden tremendously. The money must be found, the job must be done.


I cannot tell you how many television shows I heard quoted during the course of my service, most of it quite wrongly. Every television show depicting law enforcement and trial should come back from EVERY break with a disclaimer -- "This show does not accurately depict our legal system -- it is fiction."

Even the showing of actual trials should have a disclaimer -- "Unless you watch every minute of this trial, which is impossible since we have to show commericals, you do not know how courts work."


I polled the excuse for a jury I was on. I was the only one there that had ever had a "Civics" class. Jury instructions simply cannot cover important governmental and legal basics, and as I witnessed, they are paid little attention to anyway.

My suggestion is that when one reports for jury duty, if one can demonstrate having taken a civics course, one may sit for a short exam to demonstrate profeciency. If one cannot make such a demonstration, they would be required to take one day intensive class provided by the court and then sit for the exam to begin their duty. Failure of the exam would result in a repeat, not dimissal, unless there is evidence of diminished capacity.

Among other things, I hope such training would restore the presumption that law enforcement is benign. On my jury, for some it was not just a matter of "innocent until proven guilty" -- it was a question of proving the cops weren't victimizing the defendant for the heck of it.


There must be effective methods to keep the jury discussion within reasonable and legal bounds. It is simply too cumbersome and risky for most jurors to go to the baliff to go to the judge in the event of juror misconduct. Such action, even if correct only increases hostility towards the "snitch" even from decent jurors because it takes a great deal of already precious, and much of it bureacratically wasted, time.

My idea, introduce a "law instructor" to the jury room. This would be someone with some training, who would be in the court room for voir dire and jury instruction, but not for the evidence. They would sit in on deliberations and admonish and/or punish jurors who lied in voir dire and left the boundaries of the evidence, jury instructions and law in the deliberations.

I realize there are solid legal reason to reject all of these options, but as I said, the system is seriously broken. It is time to think way outside the box to fix it.


MegaChurch As Monster

Everybody's favorite target these days is Wal-Mart. "They come in -- kill off the competion -- it's just not fair." Hear that everywhere, and most people agree.

Ever dawn on you that Megachurches play pretty much the same game? It did on the Internet Monk.

This is a must read piece for anybody interested in the future of the church.


These Are Not Nice People We Are Dealing With Here

Journalist Convicted of Blasphemy in Afghanistan
The prosecution contended that the magazine had run two articles in its latest issue about apostasy that violated the law by saying that while apostasy was taboo, it was not a crime under Islam. The authorities apparently ordered the issue removed from newsstands.
Arab Terrorist's Wife Used Baby to Hide Grenade

Tell me again how "peaceful" things were before we got busy.


The Best Of Pravda

Well, what do you know -- they think we're nuts?!
There are some insane individuals, who try to use any possible chance to chase a tornado in a car
Yeah well, they have a few habits that are a little weird too. Remind me to tell you about the medical treatment for the trots in Russia sometime....

The next headline proves that while the Cold War is over, the competitive spirit is not.

Ukraine to outdo Russia in joining WTO

Remember when Olympic medals were a matter of national security? I think they are still there, only the opponent has changed. C'mon guys, this is the age of cooperation, remember?

Finally, this link proves that Pravda uses spam for filler material. I think we need to explain the whole concept of "reliable sources" to them.


Proving The Known

Was this research really necessary?

Brain Images Reveal Menstrual Cycle Patterns

I want a grant to do research on something everybody already knows. Talk about easy money.


Definition Confusion

Consider this Reuters story:

Film archives showcase classics of nanny state
In a blast back to an era when the government lectured its citizens on everything from blowing their noses to how to ride a bus, the National Archives will put 60 public information films online dating back to 1945.
So if it was a "nanny state" when they made instructional films -- what is it when they pass laws? Dictananny State?


Why Is This News?

Sheehan Won't Support Clinton Unless She Opposes War

Goodness knows Hillary will never get my vote now...smirk, giggle, snide.


Better Than Eating Jell-O

Well, most things are better than eating Jell-o, but this actually involves Jell-o.

Someone built a model of a city out of it. (HT: Sheep's Crib)

How come that old Stix song "Too Much Time On My Hands" is ringing in my ears?


Do You Think The Credit Cards Had Expired?

Serviceman's Wallet Found After 43 Years


Naked In The News

Man Wades Naked Above Niagara Falls Rapids

India charges Finnish tourist for bathing naked

You know, you'd think it would be the Niagara Falls people charging for the opportunity -- the view is better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


The Trouble With Juries

The past summer, as we steamed out of Russia, the wife and I listened to a lecture from Hugh Hewitt. When I blogged about it at the time, I said
Essentially, Hugh thinks Russia will be of little concern for the foreseeable future because of the endemic corruption and the lack of equal applicability of the law to all its citizens.
After completing my jury duty with a hung jury, I now have the same fear for the US. This post is being written just a couple of hours after leaving the courtroom, and is as much a soul purging as it is anything else, and I may be overstating the case somewhat.

That said - there is one thing that is undeniable. After the last five days, the problems with American jurisprudence have gone from academic to very real to me, and I find them truly frightening.

The case I was involved in was a very straightforward case, based on a tape recorded conversation between an undercover police officer and the defendant. The crime was pandering, which is a specific intent crime. The defense stipulated to the findings of fact in the case, and the only issue in question was intent.

I thought the defendant guilty. My opposition in the jury room came in two primary forms, neither of which was based in any way on the law or the evidence. Let me repeat that - none of those in the jury room that argued for a not guilty verdict did so on the basis of the law or the evidence.

One "not guilty" argument came from a rather overzealous civil libertarian, who, despite his assurance in voir dire that he could and would equitably apply the law regardless of his personal feelings about its validity, choose to argue that "someone cannot be convicted of a crime just because he engaged in conversation." This is straightforward - someone lied in voir dire, procedures exist to fix that.

The other "not guilty" argument was blatantly racist, which, of course, was expressed by the accusation that I was a racist because of where I lived and I did not understand how things were in their neighborhood. My accusers were, of course, unable to explain precisely "how things were in their neighborhood" and why that negated the law that applied to the rest of the jurisdiction - it just simply did.

When I asked that the foreperson reread the jury instructions, something which would have demonstrated the lack of basis for either argument, I was refused and told, "Those don't matter."

All of what I have said here is a basis for a mistrial. But it was obvious from the first five minutes of deliberations that the jury was going to hang, which is also a mistrial, so I saw no need to create further antagonism without having any appreciable effect on the result.

It was the "different in our neighborhood" argument that troubled my soul. Less because of the very wounding accusations hurled my way, but more because of the very reasons Hugh cited that would keep Russia from being a genuine worry. The essence of this argument is that the law does not apply equally to all people.

High School Civics class, first day, first words:
Ours is a nation of laws not men.
Those words, that idea, that sentiment has made this nation great. It has, given time, undone the injustices that our society wrought early on.

There was a time, sadly, when the law did not apply equally to all people in our nation. It is our great national shame; fortunately, it is not true any more. More importantly; however, the solution to that former gross injustice lies not in changing what people group gets the benefits of that unequal application - it lies, rather, in assuring EQUAL application.

When deliberations began, I was one of three on the "guilty" side and the only one willing to argue for it. When we agreed to hang, I had convinced enough people that the jury appeared genuinely, numerically divided, and the judge readily accepted our conclusion that we were hung. I take pride in that. There can be a retrial - a result far superior to some of the more high profile, and unjust, results that have happened in this very same courthouse.

But I am deeply, deeply saddened. What I saw makes me fear gravely for justice in this country. When people are willing to jettison the law for reasons of race, or simple disagreement, justice ceases to exist. We become a genuine tyranny of the people.

I am moved to my knees in prayer for comfort and hope. I hope you will join me.


Jury Duty...

...[edited for the sake of American jurisprudence and decorum]

Thus the pickings are a little slim today. Sory.


This Is A Great Idea

From Indian Blog, Desipundit

Blog for quake relief Wednesday 10/26. Follw the link -- they have a list of suggested charities.


Alphabet Soup

Hey -- We've made it to the "F's" and we are definitely NOT going to France - nor Fayettville. I thought about French Lick for a minute, but after you have seen one picture of Larry Bird, you've seen them all. No, the "F's" Call for something extraordinary.

"Extraordinary" describes the whole of the Colorado River Plateau better than any other single word I can think of.

This huge ribbon of water flows through some of the most aird territory in the US and the result has been spectacular. Mrs. Blogotional and I have spent a lot of time wandering around the Plateau. We are not big hikers, (bum knee) though we do a little, but we take great delight in traveling the roads less traveled and seeing that which is usually reserved for the back-packing/rock-climbing set.

"Fishers Towers" located in a valley off the river near Moab, Utah is one of the those places.

This is the view of the big tower from the highway. Note how much it looks like Monument Valley? Technically, this is the north end of the valley near Arches National Park.

The sight is truly spectacular with none of the crowds. We travelled through here at the height of tourist season but were virtually alone. We found it by taking the "little" road to Arches -- you know, the ones you look at on the map and wonder if it's safe. I alwasy like to take those, precisely because of stuff like this.

If you actuall make it up into the valley, you will find that there are bunches of rock towers ther and climbers love them. These next two pics are available on the Internet and I chose them becasue of their detail.

Look at the shape of this rock! Cool, huh? This particular rock is spectacular becasue of the "twisted" shape, but rock stands like this are all over 100's of square miles of river plateau.

Here's a shot of the main tower from the other side than we saw it. Still spectacular. This is one of those happy, happy finds that we love to make.

Next time, take the "little" road, you never know what you'll find.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Once More Into...

...the breach of jury duty. Unless deliberations get contentious (a possibility) this should be the final day. At least, after hearing testimony I will have something to talk about beside mind-dulling bureaucratic excess, but it must wait until the verdict is rendered.


Ending Desire And Finding Happiness In Christ

The subject of Christian happiness came up yesterday. The point was being made that being a Christian does not mean giving up "your desires." As the conversation continued, it was clear that much of the discussion gets heavily semantic and I don't want to get too deep into it, but I do want to respond to this quote from C.S. Lewis' The Weight of Glory that was thrown in my face.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
I understand the point that Lewis is making here, but to throw this up and say it means that "God wants us to have our desires" is disingenuous and not faithful to the sense in which Lewis meant the quote.

This quote does not attempt to say that what we need is to intensify desire somehow. What it says is that we desire "weak" things instead of the "strong" things of God. Desire is not the issue, what we desire is the issue.

Our fallen nature is, as usual, at the heart of the matter. Besides, my desire for weak things is, in fact, a very strong desire, else it would not be much of a temptation. Nope, the work of the Holy Spirit here is not to intensify our desires, it is to reshape them, and then to intensify them.

This all came up in the context of how to find happiness as a Christian and it presumes that unhappiness is the result of unfulfilled desire. I disagree, happiness is the result of learning to delight in God - there it begins and there it ends. Thus unhappiness is simply a result on being unregenerant. I suppose one could argue that this is a reflection of the fact that we desire God most of all, and that is the unfulfilled desire.

I am not so sure about that - because I do not think that my relationship with God is about making me whole. It's about God, and God only. It's about lacking desire, not fulfilling it. Again, it could be argued that desire is lacked because it has been fulfilled, but then it is just circular. No, I think I find happiness in sacrificing desire to God - in sacrificing all to God. I am happy because of Him. I am happy because He gives me happiness.


The Miers Debate Goes Low

George Will in WaPo
Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it. Many of their justifications cannot be dignified as arguments. Of those that can be, some reveal a deficit of constitutional understanding commensurate with that which it is, unfortunately, reasonable to impute to Miers. Other arguments betray a gross misunderstanding of conservatism on the part of persons masquerading as its defenders.

Miers's advocates, sensing the poverty of other possibilities, began by cynically calling her critics sexist snobs who disdain women with less than Ivy League degrees. Her advocates certainly know that her critics revere Margaret Thatcher almost as much as they revere the memory of the president who was educated at Eureka College.
George, is that how allies talk to each other? That kind of rhetoric is precisely why the elitist charge is true -- it's not argument, it's insult. But let's get to the meat of the matter
In their unseemly eagerness to assure Miers's conservative detractors that she will reach the "right" results, her advocates betray complete incomprehension of this: Thoughtful conservatives' highest aim is not to achieve this or that particular outcome concerning this or that controversy. Rather, their aim for the Supreme Court is to replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the constitutional meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. Such conservatives understand that how you get to a result is as important as the result. Indeed, in an important sense, the path that the Supreme Court takes to the result often is the result.
This blog, for one has contended all along that the only question that really matters is her ability to deal with the constitution, and has debated that a "results' oriented approach is precisely the wrong one. But, George, this paragraph begs the question, "What evidence do you have that she won't interrupt the constitution strictly?" The only answer I have seen to date is that she lacks the "pedigree" - that is to say the Ivy League training, and bench experience. As I recall the framers did not go to Ivy League schools, certainly not all of them. Is it too much to ask to be presented evidence that she can't do the job before I am willing to criticise her?

Will being who he is -- lots of people with lots more credentials than I are going to tackle this piece (e.g. Hugh Hewitt) but I think this argument belongs to people like you and me, the elites have a stake in the elite system, and that system is a part of the problem here. (Here, thanks to Hedgehog Blog, is a great "average citizen rebuttal to Will by Presdient Aristotle.)My father is a "transactional attorney." That pretty much means he is a business man that went to law school. I think he has argued in front of the bar once in his life. My whole life, when a Supreme Court opening happened, he would wonder out loud at the dinner table when the President was going to call. Finally I got old enough to question him. His response was simple, "The court would be a lot better with more common sense and less legalese." He was right.

Ours is a citizen government. "Even you can grow up to be president." Shouldn't the same apply to SCOTUS? Hugh Hewitt has made this argument and makes it again in the post I link above -- Have you ever read the constitution? It ain't that hard. Pretty straightforward stuff. People "interpret" constitution-like documents every day. Ever been on an HOA? You spend half your life reading the CC&R's trying to figure out what you can and cannot do. Any HOA that keeps an attorney on retainer for such questions has dues that are way too high. Ever sat on a jury? That is the most basic application of the law we have, and we require ordinary citizens to do it, some of them barely literate.

Bottom line, all it takes to be on SCOTUS is the ability to read and to reason. You don't even have to be that familiar with legal research, you have clerks for that. To date the only arguments against Miers I have heard are "We don't know" and "Lack of credentials." The first argument is what the President's selection process and the Senate hearings are all about -- let them work. The second is elitism, pure and simple. I have known a lot of idiots with credentials, I have also known a lot of really smart people without them. Credentials are indicative, but they are not proof.

Blogger Irish Pennants hits it just right.
Democrats must be delighted with the early Christmas present they've been given. And the Harriet Miers nomination is a gift that keeps on giving. We conservatives are in a bus, heading for a cliff. Nobody seems to be steering, and most want to tromp down on the gas pedal.

Conservatives have engaged in lemming-like behavior before. The last time was the impeachment of President Clinton. He did perjure himself before a grand jury, which presidents ought not to do. But even if the half-eaten remains of small children had been found in the Oval office, the Senate would never have voted to convict Clinton, so his impeachment was an exercise in futility. A very unpopular exercise in futility, one which cost the GOP seats in the House and Senate in the 1998 congressional elections.

Every development in the Miers saga has been depressing.

Like just about everyone, I was disappointed that the president didn't nominate someone with stronger legal credentials and a more clear conservative record.

But I've been more appalled by the vicious, childish reaction to the nomination by many conservatives. I am not pro-Miers. I don't know enough about the woman to have a firm opinion. But I am, in Hugh Hewitt's formulation, anti-anti-Miers. Neither Bush nor Miers deserve absolute trust. A Supreme Court nomination is far too important for that. But on judicial nominations, Bush has earned, and Miers deserves, the benefit of the doubt until she's had the opportunity to speak for herself.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Absent party politics, "conservatism" is just hot air. In the heat of an intra-party battle and in the heat of an inter-party debate in Congress, compromise must be made. That is the nature of our political system.

The failed nomination of a Luttig or Brown would have cost the President enormous political capital, as a failed Miers nomination threatens to do thanks to the likes of Will. It would have rendered him pointless on domestic matters. Remember what that is like -- the post-impeachment Clinton? The Watergate embattled Nixon? Better a nomination that succeeds and moves the court to the right some, than a failure that freezes the administration in place on everything.

Conservative power in this country will come as liberal power did -- slowly, in small steps. We are not trying to fix a problem here, we are trying to build something. That is the mindset to keep.

And while we're here TTLB is running a "blog poll" on the nomination (HT: Sheep's Crib) Here's my vote - I support the Miers nomination.


Response v Conversion

In the hubbub to come over the Christmas' Lion, Witch & Wardrobe movie it will be sold as an evangelistic tool. Lame Worldview looks at that possibility.
As far as I know, what Disney is doing to market the film is standard fare for the company (which shouldn't shock any of us)'s primarily the "band-wagon" Christians who turn these ventures into a circus of cheezy evangelistic opportunities. I'm weary of the "this film (Passion of The Christ) is the greatest evangelistic tool of our time" mantra so often sold within today's shallow evangelicalism.
As much as I love the books, and trust me, I really love them, they have not changed my life in a substanitive way. Neither will this movie, nor anyone else's life for that matter.

The Holy Spirit changes lives, and we, dear friends, are the package the Holy Spirit chooses to wrap itself in, not movies or books. real evangelism opportunites do not come from movies, they come from your heart. Make one today.


Why We're There

365 and A Wake Up has a piece that is, simply, moving. It's the story of saving a life in Iraq. He concludes
Ten years from now our unit will have long since passed out of local memory, the desert swallowing any physical trace of our year in the Land of the Two Rivers. But there will be one living, beating heart that will bear testament to our company's mission and the good we tried to do. And right now that somehow seems enough.


Pop Science Strikes Again

I really hate this stuff
Many seismologists have lost faith that earthquakes would ever become predictable beyond statistical probabilities, which leave uncertainties of years, even decades. Some seismologists have proclaimed categorically that, due to their chaotic nature, earthquakes are fundamentally unpredictable.

However, given so many well-supported historical and modern indicators that the Earth does indeed send out premonitory signals, the naysayers should not deter us.
That's not science, that's advocacy. Mostly its about money. Seismologists have to do the best that they can with the resources available. If I have X dollars a year, do I spend them doing something that improves defintively the state of earthquake prediction, or do I spend them doing something that has as good or better a chance of leading nowhere than it does of working?

Reality check folks. Just because you want something, doesn't mean you can have it.



SmartChristian links to this story on computer dumping in India
Much of the lead poisoning in the country was blamed on the city's notorious traffic fumes.

In 2000, unleaded fuels took over but while the air cleared, toxic levels remain disturbingly high.
Uh, folks, lead is "bioaccumlative." Once it's in your body -- it doesn't leave. Cutting of the source will not result in a decrease in blood levels of lead, it will just stop that levels growth.

Oh, and while you're worrying about those old computers, how precisely does it get from the waste pile into the environment? I mean solder doesn't appreciably dissolve in rain.

Let's play America's favorite game - "Pick The Deepest Pocket."

Navy Sued Over Sonar's Effects on Whales
Environmentalists sued the Navy on Wednesday, claiming that a widely used form of sonar for detecting enemy submarines disturbs and sometimes kills whales and dolphins.

The sonar "is capable of flooding thousands of square miles of ocean with dangerous levels of noise pollution,'' according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
Here's the deal -- "active" sonar, the kind that puts sound in the water, is a major problem. Not only does it zero in on the enemy -- it tells him exactly where you are. It is used very rarely. Militarily, active sonar use has been decreasing steadily since WWII. This ain't nothing but a money grab.

Finally, what's this? Polluted land, not just any polluted land, but land polluted in the worst environmental disaster in human history, is going back into productive use?

Belarus Resumes Farming in Chernobyl Radiation Zone

Tell me again how we can "destroy the planet."


Perhaps The Church's Greatest Failure

Nothing sends shivers down my spine more than when someone in church gets a divorce and the church collectively shrugs. People talk about "needing to support them, not ostracise then." Fair enough, but isn't a valid support to urge them to try and make the marriage work?

Over the weekend the WSJ looked at a new book about the children of divorce.
No one disputes that some marriages must be dissolved. What concerns Ms. Marquardt is that the "happy talk" about well-managed breakups lets adults dismiss and make light of children's real experiences.

While her book may help grown-up children make sense of those experiences, it also carries a strong message for parents who are deciding whether to end a marriage: There may be no such thing as a "good divorce."
So many stories I know that confirm this, but prudence demands I do not tell them.

I am not asking for much here. But in the church we simply cannot "just accept it." Not much we can do about the people in the pews, but...People whose marriages are in trouble should be given a leave of absence from leadership positions to work on the marriage -- paid if applicable. People who divorce should be removed from leadership positions for several years. When divorced people are called to leadership they should undergo extra accountability. Scripture is clear that church leaders should have their households in order, is it too much to ask that we follow scripture?


More on Gender and Church

The discussion I picked up on Saturday continues at BlogWatch and A-Team Blog. This is an important discussion. Let's keep it moving!


Much As You Hate To Admit It....

...some people are just too dumb for some things.
Authorities said that the man was using a screwdriver and apparently trying to dislodge a round from the chamber of the pistol when the weapon discharged, with the bullet striking him in the abdomen.
This man should be denied a weapons permit on the grounds of sheer stupidity.


Won't He Get Stinky If They Don't?

Debate Simmers About Whether to Bury Lenin


Talk About A Rough Commute

Our England: must it become one vast suburb interspersed with a few national parks?

It's a long way to London from most of England...


Travelocity Takes Marketing Campaign Too Far

Gnomes roaming Yorktown

When the ad compaign goes from "cute" to "annoying" you have a problem.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


The Problem With 'Evangelicalism'

There are so many definitions for "evangelical" that it is a word almost without meaning. For some it's a politically active Christian. For others it's a particular theological school. The definition I like best is that it is the group of Christians that believe there is an identifiable "salvation experience" and that they conduct evangelism in order to try and produce this experience in others.

This idea has, in some ways, been a blessing. It has detached Christianity from Christian institutions in a way that I think was, at least, healthy. Most institutions had grown corrupt thinking they had a preistly roll in a person's faith.

But there is a downside to the idea as well, that being that many people have come to believe that the "salvation experience" is the sum total of Christianity. Broken Messenger has done a good two parter examining this problem here and here. From the first part
Too often the church is offering doctrines of Christ that lead to the conclusion that an acceptance of him can be undertaken without expecting a radical change in how one lives their daily life. The removal of sin in our lives should not be looked upon something we can cast away under our own power and wisdom, only the Spirit of God by his power, wisdom and truth can do such a thing. But the presence of habitual sin our lives should lead us to be alarmed and concerned about our faith and prompt us to turn back to God in all areas of our life.

If one should find themself caught in sin or lacking faith, we of course, have remedy though repentance of our sin before God. We have Christ, who upon confession, cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But a confession without faith, that God will also turn us from that sin we are confessing, should lead us to mourn our condition. Yet so often, many teach us move on in "faith" while still ensnared in sin and ask us to do so without thinking another thought about how it is destroying our faith and impacting our love for Christ. So a hidden tragedy ensues when we think that our faith is strong and in good standing before God, yet we are in fact standing in oppostion to him by living unconcerned about the habitual sin in our lives.
Christianity is not a "belief," it's not an "experience," it's not a "lifestyle," it's not even a "worldview," though it includes all of those things. Christianity is nothing less than the total reconstruction of yourself by the God of the universe.

The good news is not that we are saved, the good news is that we are remade. We sell Christ well short when all we sell is "salvation." I am not entirely sure I can envision church based radically on the transformative nature of Christianity, but try we must. One thing is for sure, we have to quit limiting the potential of the gospel.


The Line Between Faith And Politics

I doubt there is any hotter debate in the God blogsphere than the line and relationship between, our faith, our church and our politics. And more specifically how blogging fits into space between them.

Lots of people worry about people like James Dobson going too far. I tend to think Dobson treads the line fairly well, but the Gad(d)about has found some people that definitely cross it.
The people of "Christian Exodus" are drop-dead serious about "retaking" America one blue state at a time. They are appealing to conservative Christian Republicans around the country to move to two select northern South Carolina counties to begin a Christian political revival.
That's a bit much, in fact, it's downright inappropriate. I honestly do not think Christians are called to take political power as Christians. Christians should serve in politics, but that's a different thing. Matt said it best
This kind of movement doesn't surprise me at all. Christians feel they can no longer affect the world they live in because they've been promised something that I don't think God ever promises: Political power. And that is exactly what this group is seeking to "regain." It's disappointing.
I'm beginning to worry that blogging helps blur the line, particularly blogs like mine where I blog about both politics and faith. I do it intentionally because I really do think Christians should be politically active.

At GodBlogCon we got into a heated discussion about the abortion issue and precisely how active we should be in overturning Roe v Wade. At one point I said it is important to remember that if the gospel really penetrated our society abortion would end with Roe v Wade in place. I think that line got more "Amens" than any other in the conference. Does that mean we should not work to overturn Roe v Wade? Of course not, it is simply a statement of priorities.

Anyway, do you think blogs like this blur the line or help define it? Maybe I should create a "Statement on Faith and Politics" and leave in the sidebar for permanent ready reference? What do you think?


Sermons and Lessons


Born the son of a wealthy Roman general, young John was destined to become one of the finest preachers in the early Church. He would later be known as Chrysostom, "the golden-mouthed." At the age of twenty he studied rhetoric at Antioch. His original intention was to use his skills in the practice of law, but later he rejected law because of its secular nature.

He turned his attention to the study of Scripture and in A.D. 368 was baptized into the Church. Soon afterward he went into solitude with an old Syrian monk, living in a mountain cave near Antioch for four years. His extreme asceticism led to health problems, and he was forced to return to Antioch and temper his discipline. In AD. 386 he was ordained a priest, and twelve years later he was named patriarch of Constantinople.

In his later life Chrysostom was much maligned for his agreement with much of Origen's theology and for his constant criticism of the apathy he saw in the clergy. His plain speaking and rigid rule of life quickly made ene¬mies with the worldly clergy and the sensual court. He was exiled by Empress Eudoxia to Armenia, a region of Asia Minor. During his exile he continued to write forceful and influential letters to his friends and was known for his ability to endure hardship for the sake of God. Chrysostom died on the journey to a more remote region in 407.

Like Augustine who would follow, Chrysostom's rhetorical skills, learned before his baptism, made him one of the finest preachers in the history of Christianity. It is for this reason that we have chosen one of his sermons for the following selection.


1. Baptized into His Death

"Know ye not my brethren, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death" (Rom. 6:3?4, KJV). What does being baptized into his death mean? It has to do with our dying as he did. We do this by our baptism, for baptism is the cross. What the cross is to Christ, baptism is to us. Christ died in the flesh; we have died to sin. Both are deaths, and both are real.

But if it is real, what is our part, what must we contribute? Paul goes on to say, "As Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4, KJV). Here Paul tells of the importance of the resurrection.

Do you believe that Christ was raised from the dead? Believe the same of yourself. Just as his death is yours, so also is his resurrection; if you have shared in the one, you shall share in the other. As of now the sin is done away with.

Paul sets before us a demand: to bring about a newness of life by a changing of habits. For when the fornicator becomes chaste, when the covetous person becomes merciful, when the harsh become subdued, a resurrection has taken place, a prelude to the final resurrection which is to come.

How is it a resurrection? It is a resurrection because sin has been mortified, and righteousness has risen in its place; the old life has passed away, and new, angelic life is now being lived.

2. The Old Age of Sin

But tears come into my eyes when I think of how much Paul is asking of us and how little we have changed after our baptism, yielding ourselves to sin, going back to the oldness we had before, returning to Egypt, and remembering the onions after the manna. We undergo a change for only ten or twenty days after our baptism, but then take up former things again.

But we must see that it is not for a few days that we are required to change, but rather, for a whole lifetime. The youth of grace must not lead to the old age of sin. The love of money, the slavery to wrong desires, or any sin whatsoever makes us grow old in soul and body. Our souls become rheumatic, distorted, decayed, and tottering with many sins.

Such, then, are the souls of sinners. Not so those of the righteous, for they are youthful and strong, always in the prime of life, ready for any fight. Not so for the sinners, for they are subject to fall at the least resistance. The sinful lose their ability to see, to hear, and to speak, for they spew forth words that are foul.

3. Suddenly Young

Like the prodigal son, the sinful end up in the mire of the pig's slop, reduced to the greatest wretchedness, and are in a worse state than any disordered person. But when the prodigal was willing, he became suddenly young by his decision. As soon as he had said, "I will return to my Father," this one word conveyed to him all the blessings; or rather, not the word alone, but the deed which he added to the word. He did not say, "I will return," and then stay where he was.

Thus, let us also do this, no matter how far we have gotten carried away in our journey. Let us go back to our Father's house, not lingering over the length of the journey. For we shall find, if we be willing, that the way back again is very easy and very speedy. Only let us leave this strange land of sin where we have been drawn away from the Father. For our Father has a natural yearning toward us and will honor us if we are changed. He finds great pleasure in receiving back his children.

4. The Easier It Will Be

And how am I to go back again? Start back by avoiding vice, going no farther into it, and you have come home. When a person who is sick does not get any worse it is a sign that he is getting better, and so is the case with vice. Go no further and your deeds of wickedness will have an end.

If you do so for two days, you will keep off on the third more easily; and after three days you will add ten, then twenty, then a hundred, then your whole life. For the further you journey back the easier it will be to see how you should be, and the more you will begin to see of your great rewards.

So it was with the prodigal who, when he returned, was greeted with flutes and harps and dancing and feasts. His father who might have chided him for his ill-timed extravagance did nothing of the sort. He did not even mention it, but rather, looked at him as without stain, throwing himself upon him and kissing him.

5. God's Exceeding Desire

Let us, then, as we have such examples before us, be of good cheer and keep from despair. For God is not so well pleased with being our Mas¬ter as he is with being our Father; he is not so pleased with our being his slaves as he is with our being his children. This is what God truly wants. This is why he did all that he has done, not sparing his only begotten Son, that we, as adopted sons and daughters, might love him as a Father.

God's exceeding desire to be loved comes from loving exceedingly. This is why Jesus said, "Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." He even calls us to esteem that which is most precious to us - our soul - as second to the love of God, for our Father wishes to be loved by us entirely.

When we do not love a person we do not wish to be with them, no matter how great or noble that person may be. But when we love someone, we want to be with them, and we view their love for us with great honor even if they are not a person of great rank. For this reason?and not because of our great rank - God values our love. So much, in fact, that he suffered greatly on our behalf.

6. What Is There to Fear?

Let us, then, incur dangers for him, running as if for the greatest of crowns. Let us have no fear of poverty or disease, nor hardship or even death itself. For what is there to fear? Losing all of your money? If you bear it nobly, it will be as great a reward to you as if you gave it all to the poor - as long as you freely lose it because you know you have a greater reward in heaven.

What else is there to fear? Having people revile and persecute you? If so, those people have weaved a great crown for you if you bear it meekly. Rejoice and be glad, Jesus said, when people speak evil against you falsely, for great is your reward in heaven. And even if they speak the truth against us, it is to our advantage if we bear it humbly, just as the Pharisee spoke rightly about the publican, but only the publican went home justified because he bore it in humility.

Why do we seek profit? What did Judas profit for being with Christ? Or what profit was the law to the Jews? Or paradise to Adam? Or the promised land to the Israelites? We should keep our mind fixed on one point only: how we may do what is best with the resources we have been given.

7. A Serpent Nestling in Our Bed

If we do this, not even the devil himself will get the better of us. We must remember that we deal with a crafty enemy. If we were suddenly aware of a serpent nestling in our bed, we would go to great lengths to kill it. But when the devil nestles in our souls, we tell ourselves we are in no danger, and thus we lie at ease. Why? Because we do not see him and his intent with our mortal eyes.

This is why we must rouse ourselves and be more sober. Fighting an enemy we can see makes it easy to be on guard, but one that can¬not be seen we will not easily escape. Also, know that the devil has no desire for open combat (for he would surely be defeated), but rather, under the appearance of friendship, intends to insinuate the venom of his malice.

For example, he used Job's wife under the guise of love for her husband; Jephtha, too, he persuaded under the pretext of religion to slay his daughter, offering a sacrifice the law forbade. it was the same with Adam, for he put on the air of being concerned for his well-being, saying that his eyes "shall be opened" by eating from the tree.

Be on your guard, and arm yourself with weapons of the Spirit. Become acquainted with the devil's plans that you may keep from getting caught in his traps, and instead, expose him. Paul got the better of him because he was "not ignorant of his devices." Learn and avoid the devil's stratagems, so that after obtaining victory over him, we may, whether in this present life or in that which is to come, be proclaimed conquerors and obtain those unalloyed blessings.


Movie Quote Game - Again

There were no takers to the last Movie Quote Game. The answer to that one was the movie Caddyshack -- a conversation between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray in assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler's (Murray) shed late at night. When Spackler tried to invite himself for a swim at Chevy's place, Chevy responded with "We have a pool and a pond -- the pond would be good for you." It is one of the best throw away insults in movie history.

Ah, but it is time to play again. Gad(d)about introduced me to this very funny blog with the title:

I Drank What?

This title is also a movie quote, this one far more obscure than Caddyshack. I find this one especially fascinating because the blogger may not have even been born when the movie in question was released. I'll give you one more hint. The movie in question was mentioned on the Hugh Hewitt radio program during the third hour on Friday, October 14.


Hong Kong Destroyed -- Tokyo Next

Chinese tucking into mutant vegetables from outer space


Driven To Death

Car Ticketed With Dead Body at the Wheel

The heart-rending story of the least observant Meter Maid in parking enforcement history. But what I really want to know about this next one is, "Before or After?"

Corpse Involved in Mexico Motorcycle Crash


Been There...Done That

Chemistry class accident sends youths to hospital

Please, no questions.

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