Saturday, January 07, 2006


Faith Without Works... dead.

So the Broken Messenger reminds us in this great post on justification and sanctification.
It is a dangerous thing for the Christian to confuse being justified by faith (justification) with being sanctified through faith (sanctification), or to think that being justified by Christ trumps being sanctified in Christ. And so many, even though they acknowledge that a holy life is to be lived out through a faith in Christ, use a faulty perception of justification to excuse and dismiss their habitual sins.
Jesus did not come to merely "save us." Imagine - do you want to spend the rest your life floating down a river nearly drowned only to be pulled out every day? I think not, I think we would like to learn to stop falling in the river.

Jesus came that we might have abundant life - It is high time more Christians claimed that life.


Beauty In A "War Zone"

The Marine Corps has an artist-in-residence deployed in Iraq and he is currently one of my favorite deployed bloggers. He has been busy with his camera lately. the results are stunning.

Here is a look at some morning birds in the region.

And here is art through the lens.

Remind me again what a soulless bunch of barbarians soldeirs are?!


Comic Art

For reasons entirely unknown to this fan, the image of the Kid Flash is one of the most enduring I have of my childhood reading. The costume is garish as can be, but when I was a kid I loved it, wanted to make one. He was the first I saw with the hair poking through the top like that, and it looked like a mask that might really work. Lots of people thought the costume goofy, but it has a certain endurance that is hard to match.

He was the Flash's nephew -- Wally West who just happened to be in the same kind of place and suffered the same kind of accident his uncle did, giving him exactly the same powers. Made me wish for a superpowered uncle!

Well Wally is THE Flash now. His uncle has moved on and Wally has inherited the red tights.

But you cannot keep a great costume down. Another relative has shown up, this one from the future, sent back to learn from his ancestors - his name is Bart Allen and when he first showed up he was Impulse, but that wasn't going to last long, you could feel it in your bones.

This image representes the first time he put on the Kid Flash outfit and it was spectacular. As you can see they have managed to improve on the original design.

For some reason playing with the colors on the Flash has always been a big deal. One of Flash's arch-nemisis is "Reverse Flash" - a character who has the same power, but is evil and whose costume is the Flash's in reverse. It was way cool the first time you saw it and I think that is part of the appeal of Kid Flash, the yellow, but enough of the red in the pants to let you know he's a good guy.

Anyway, Kid Flash is certainly the best looking of the sidekicks ever and he is the only one to grow up and take the name.


Is This Bad News?

Last year deadliest for journalists since 1995-RSF


No, Duh!

Magnet therapies 'have no effect'

Dog poo problem creates a stink

Ah the press, masters of the obvious.


Bad Sixties Poetry Come To Life

Oh, come on, you remember it
If you love something, set it free
if it comes back it is yours forever,
If it doesn't hunt it down and kill it.
Owner Shoots Pet White Deer That Got Away


And In The Friendly Ones, It's A Party!

Bacteria Thrive in Hostile Human Bellies

Friday, January 06, 2006


God Told Me To Write This

Blogcorner Preacher is absolutely ranting about Christians who claim
the Lord had, take your pick, a) spoken, b) written, c) e-mailed, d) instant messaged, e) otherwise directly intervened in that person's life.
I will never forget the time I accidentally ended up on an airplane full of pastors of a denomination that makes such claims routinely. The conversation was amazing. God "gave them a word" for everything. When I returned from my travels I told my wife I was pretty sure when one of them excused himself for the tiny little room in the rear of the plane his words were "Excuse me, God has given me a word that I need to urinate."

I basically agree with the point John Luke is making. Certainly in an indirect manner God tells us when we need to pee -- he did so by giving us bladders that create the correct sensory signals.

The are a couple of serious problems I have with this "God told me" approach. The first is that it smacks of legalism. Christ came to transform us so that we made decisions in line with His will, not so that He dictated every decision -- that was the problem He had with the Jewish authority.

The other is the utterly coersive nature of the approach. It stifles arguement completely. Imagine a church ruling board meeting. The pastor arrives and declares that God told him to expand the building 300%. Now, the rest of us on the board look at the budget and recent income and decide we couldn't possibly support the loan. Now what do we do? "Excuse me pastor, but I'm guessing that was the buritto you had for lunch talking, not the Lord"

Besides, God did give us a Word - His name is Jesus.



If you don't know what I am talking about -- sorry. I refuse to link or explain, it would give the imbecile more press than he deserves.

There, I feel much better now.


Mark Steyn Says It All

Mark Steyn had a piece in OpinionJournal on Wednesday. It is a grandeloquent and sweeping piece that says in a relatively short space just about everything that is wrong in the western world today. I am behind the curve on this, everybody talked about it yesterday, but all the discussion has been so limited, I am not sure I realized the scope of this piece. At the core lies this thesis
One obstacle to doing that is that, in the typical election campaign in your advanced industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the West are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society--government health care, government day care (which Canada's thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain's just introduced). We've prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity--"Go forth and multiply," because if you don't you won't be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare.
He restates the thesis later in the piece with this little pithy sentence
The Western world has delivered more wealth and more comfort to more of its citizens than any other civilization in history, and in return we've developed a great cult of worrying.
This is a common theme among many thinkers, but rarely have I seen it examined in such a practical, political and sweeping sense as Steyn does in this peice. We are, in essense, victims of our own success. As the "primary impulses" are satisfied with plenty, we turn to the secondary ones because we really are strivers. As a people, I don't think we really know how to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor, so we turn to what seems like the next important thing.

Steyn is right of course, the plenty that meets our primary impulses is not on auto-pilot, if we do not tend to it, it will collapse under us. So the question becomes, "How in a time of such abundance do we keep society focused on the primary impulses?" Hence all of Dennis Prager's talk of "values," and values seeded in religion. This is why I was not too upset by the news that most teens in America are deists the other day. It helps hugely in fulfilling our societal needs, if it doesn't necessarily bring Christ.

This makes me think that the mega-church and emerging church, and all the other "relgious" institutions that I am so fond of deriding serve a most useful societal purpose, even if they are not really effective at spreading Christ. The problem is that the primary institutions of Christianity, the so-called mainline denominations, have suffered the same fate Steyn is describing, thus these modern religious institutions become "church" instead of being some sort of societal leveling agent, an effective arm of the church as they should be.

Traditional religious institutions must renew, or they must be replaced with something more substantive than a mega-church. Without such solid backing, the mega-church will cycle through this nonsense in decades instead of the centuries it has taken the mainline - then where will we be? The stakes are indeed high.


God And Art

On Wednesday, OpinionJournal carried a book review and summarized it this way:
Christine Rosen's complaints about Christian fundamentalism are mainly aesthetic ones
The rest of the review is not really on point for this post, but the summary caught my eye, because frankly, I think many Christians lack in the aesthetics department.

Which is why I read this post at Common Grounds Online by Aaron Menikiff with great interest. Aaron calls the post "All Art Is Moral" - he looks at DH Lawrence and Walt Whitman and the shift in art from celebrating the higher to celebrating the immediate and the fleshly. Then he concludes this way:
The great challenge facing Christians is to make a counterclaim in our writing and painting and music and sculpture. We are called to argue in diction and form and color that there is a sovereign, everlasting God and that His creatures?made in His image?are immortal and accountable to Him. Christians are called to pick up the pen and the brush because art is not neutral, it is moral.
That quote presents me with one of thse agree/disagree dilemmas. I agree wholeheartedly with his last sentence, but I sort of get that fingernails-on-blackboard sensation with his penultimate sentence.

Art is not a form of arguement. Frankly, it is because so many Christians that do art attempt to argue in their art that I think so much of it is so bad. Christians should do art, there is art with Christian subject matter (say a painting of the crucifixion) but I am not sure there is such a thing as "Christian art."

Art is expressive and it is creative. It celebrates the Creator because it imitates Him by creating. What God made was good; therefore, what Christian artists make should likewise be good, but there it ends. Christ shines through the art of His people because they are transformed by Him and their expressiveness will express that transformation. But arguement is a different thing, frankly it gets in the way of the art itself.

Indeed, pick up pen, pick up brush, pick up camera, pick up chisel, but don't argue - make beauty, and in that beauty express the blessing that God has granted you.


Science As Religion

Evangelical Outpost is looking at the rise of a new religion he has termed "neism." Joe explores this at great length quoting extensively from responses to the 2006 Edge question.

This is great stuff by Joe, but there is one small nit-pick I want to make. Joe says
Not only is there no conflict, evolutionary biology has even birthed a new religion, a blend of naturalism and deism that I refer to as "neism."
I differ from Joe's analysis only in that I don't think evolutionary biology has birthed this new religion, its roots are in something much simpler - simple human desire to discard God - sin.

Just before Christimas, I made the point that evolution is not Godless, save for an a priori decision to make it so. Evolution did not seek to discard religion, it is simply necessary to ignore the supernatural when forming natural theories of science.

If I may so bold, I think that much of the desire to create something like "neism" is born of the knee-jerk religious reactionism to evolution since its inception. Something remarkably ill-informed since Newtonian Mechanics also makes such supernatural exclusions. Deific religions positioned themselves, instantly upon the appearance of Origin of the Speicies, as opponents to it instead of as explorers and shapers and thinkers about it. They left proponents of evolutionary theory without religious recourse, thus practically inviting them to invent their own. That's an invitation that, given our sinful state, we are going to hop on pretty quickly.

Somehow, I find the word "grace" stuck in my mind. I also worry that proponents of Intelligent Design are making the same strategic mistake of opposition, although at this point, the cat may be so far out of the bag that it doesn't make any difference.

Somehow I cannot help but believe that we are better served by bringing Christ to the scientific discussion table than declaring ourselves in opposition to it.


Ode To A Dead Friend

As a child, pretty much all the way into undergrad school, I wanted to be a doctor. Then I started hanging out with pre-med types. While my grades and course work were comparable, something seemed very, very amiss to me, so I concentrated on my chemistry and dropped it.

My suspicions were confirmed when my friends went to med school. More hazing than education - medical school, and I audited some classes with me friends, seems designed to promote a stranglehold on the health care system. It is just way too manipulative for my taste.

Ken Stanley, my near lifelong best friend that passed away this past year was a cardiologist, a very good one. Also the one of the founding physicians of the Indiana Heart Hospital. We had endless debates on the ills of the health care system.

The Wall Street Journal carried a first person piece about the demise of a heart hospital in Milwaukee yesterday. It's very interesting reading. There is a lot I could comment on, but I don't wish to betray Ken's confidences since he still has many partners remaining active in the hospital he helped start.

Suffice it to say that health care system in this country is seriously broken from a business perspective (despite our increasing state of health) and the solutions are making matters worse, not better.


A Gift For My Deployed Friends

Stargazing for Soldiers: A Guide for Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq

I do envy you that night sky...


Friday Humor

There was a very gracious lady who was mailing an old family bible to her brother in another part of the country. "Is there anything breakable in here?" asked the postal clerk.

"Only the Ten Commandments." answered the lady.

"Somebody has said there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good morning, Lord," and there are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good Lord, it's morning."

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn't find a space with a meter. Then he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: "I have circled the block 10 times. If I don't park here, I'll miss my appointment. Forgive us our trespasses."

When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note "I've circled this block for 10 years. If I don't give you a ticket I'll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation."

There is the story of a pastor who got up one Sunday and announced to his congregation: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building program. The bad news is, it's still out there in your pockets."

While driving in Pennsylvania, a family caught up to an Amish carriage. The owner of the carriage obviously had a sense of humor, because attached to the back of the carriage was a hand printed sign... "Energy efficient vehicle: Runs on oats and grass. Caution: Do not step in exhaust."

A Sunday School teacher began her lesson with a question, "Boys and girls, what do we know about God?" A hand shot up in the air. "He is an artist!"
said the kindergarten boy. "Really? How do you know?" the teacher asked.
"You know - Our Father, who does art in Heaven... "

A minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many
cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. "Reverend," said the young man, "I'm so sorry about the delay. It
seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip." The minister chuckled, "I know what you mean. It's the same in my business."

A father was approached by his small son who told him proudly, "I know what the Bible means!" His father smiled and replied, "What do you mean, you
'know' what the Bible means?" The son replied, "I do know!" "Okay," said his father. "What does the Bible mean?" "That's easy, Daddy." the young boy replied excitedly, "It stands for 'Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.'

Sunday after church, a Mom asked her very young daughter what the lesson was about. The daughter answered, "Don't be scared, you'll get your quilt."
Needless to say, the Mom was perplexed. Later in the day, the pastor stopped by for tea and the Mom asked him what that morning's Sunday school lesson was about. He said "Be not afraid, thy comforter is coming."

The minister was preoccupied with thoughts of how he was going to ask the congregation to come up with more money than they were expecting for
repairs to the church building. Therefore, he was annoyed to find that the regular organist was sick and a substitute had been brought in at the last minute. The substitute wanted to know what to play.

"Here's a copy of the service," he said impatiently. "But, you'll have to think of something to play after I make the announcement about the finances."

During the service, the minister paused and said, "Brothers and Sisters, we are in great difficulty; the roof repairs cost twice as much as we expected and we need $4,000 more. Any of you who can pledge $100 or more, please stand up."

At that moment, the substitute organist played "The Star Spangled Banner." And that is how the substitute became the regular organist!


Nice Catch!

Lynn Swann Says He'll Run for Pa. Governor



If you are stuck on stupid, the following labels are for you:


How Do You Murder Underwear?

Scots tourist denies having murdered girl's underwear


Does Art Preclude Common Sense?

An artist who chained his legs together to draw a picture of the image hopped 12 hours through the desert after realizing he lost the key and couldn't unlock the restraints, authorities said Wednesday.



Scientists discover clue to growing new breast tissue


Well, I Can Breathe Easier

Judge Clears Md. Man Accused of Mooning

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Finding Self Acceptance

The Bluefish is quoting Richard Lovelace
Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives? Many? have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for their justification? drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.

Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther's platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude?
That's an awful lot of "theo-speak" for an idea that I think is vital for evangelism in the common age.

We are not, we cannot be, lovable. We are never good enough for ourselves or for the Lord. If you want to feel good about yourself, do so not because of you, but because of God - you are lovable because you are loved. Loved not by your parents, spouse, or friends, but loved by the God of creation. Loved to the extent of that same God self-sacrificing. That is, I believe, the evangelistic message of this age.


Legacy Media Debacle

I went to bed Tuesday night to this

Miners Alive: Geraldo Live On FNC (& CNN)

I woke up Wednesday morning to:

Only 1 survivor in W. Va. coal mine disaster

And my first thought was for the families of those miners. I recalled the interview I had seen just before bed of a woman that had just gotten the news her husband was "alive" who had run in her bedclothes, barefoot, to the church. I thought of her joy and expectancy, because she had yet to see her husband, and then I thought how that interview will haunt her for the rest of her life. It dawned on me that the interview had become an act of almost unimaginable cruelty.

Michelle Malkin has her usual great overview of "What Went Wrong".

I am reminded of the now-proven-utterly-false stories of human atrocities in the Superdome in the wake of Katrina. Certainly, this abomination of reporting is born of the same thing. More news distribution than there is product to fill it.

Who do we blame? There are many fingers being pointed at the mining company, but a reporters job is to get information, not pass on that which is handed to him/her. The fact is, in the "average" disaster there is far less news than can possibly fill the kind of wall-to-wall live coverage that we are saturated with these days.

I never have been able to watch it, I check in periodically to see if there is anything new, but then it is on with something else. That was true even on 9/11. Face it, all day there was but 5 minutes of actual fact.

But I appear to be in the minority, the networks do this because people are willing to watch this repetitive newless news. And so, gross tragedies like this one seem almost inevitable, as too many reporters chase too little information to fill the airwaves, and those who control the information succumb to the relentless pressure to answer the repeated questioning, and say something when there is really nothing to say.

In the end, the blame must fall on us the news consuming public. I prayed for the miners, indeed I did, fervently. But their families' hope, joy, and sorrow is theirs, not mine, or anyone else's. At a minimum there should be a moratorium on such interviews for a significant period after any such event. I know many such people go seeking their "15 minutes of fame" - it should be denied them, for they will, as this women no doubt now does, live to regret it, painfully and tearfully so.

Let us, the viewing public, not confuse our sense of empathy with their genuine loss. You may laugh and cry with them as you watch the tube, but you do not help them. Only God can do that in such dreadful circumstances. Let us leave them in peace.


The Problem With Tongues And The SBC

CT had an article on the Southern Baptist's decsion to forbid tongues in it's missionaries - at least the new ones. Here's the real problem from my perspective
Because the ruling is not retroactive, it will not apply to IMB president Jerry Rankin. "I acknowledged even in the discussions that [tongues] has been a continuing practice [of mine] for 30 years," Rankin told CT. The trustees who elected him president in 1993 knew he prays in tongues.

When asked, Rankin told CT, "I am assuming that this does not have anything to do with me, because it was stated that it doesn't."
That's both silly and troubling. The silly part is that apparently cessasionism does not date to the end of the apostolic age, but to just the last few months when the SBC made it's decision.

The troubling part is this kind "have it both ways" decision solves nothing. In a decision like this lies the roots of conflict. One side or the other will demand an answer as to whether tongues are acceptable or not, if they are they should be for all, and if not they should not be for all, and failing such an answer someone is going to get hurt or angry.


Illuminated Scripture


On Abramoff

The clearest, most concise telling of what we do, and do not, know at this point in the Abramoff scandal is from the Times of London. The fact of the matter is we know there is some potentially large scale scandal, but we know almost nothing else, and certainly we have no specificity.

Captain's Quarters is looking at the potential political ramification - his predictions are general enough to be reasonable, but it is way too early to really figure out what is gong to happen out of this.

My friend Mark Daniels is looking at this very hard. He is looking at how the affects the public trust of government here and here.

Full disclosure: I have used lobbyists in my day, never to fend for legislation, but to make introductions and set up meetings for myself and clients. The purpose of those meetings was to solicit elected official pressure to help untangle bureacratic hassles. Worked too - until the elected official was term limited out, then the bureacrats were back with a vengenance.

Clearly, votes for money is wrong. We elect our legislators to to vote as their research and values tell them to vote, not a paycheck. Votes for money render an election moot. But influence will always be part of the systems. Mark Daniels, in the second link above says something very telling:
Most legislators, forced to be generalists who juggled lots of different topics...
Legislators will always be confronted with more than they can possibly research and understand on thier own. They will always need help from staffers and experts, or people than can connect them to experts. Thus contact and influence will always be "the coin of the realm."

The line between earning and purchasing such access and influence is a very fine one indeed. Let's face it, if over the years a person has proven themselves to be a reliable source of information, and helpful in your legislative efforts, they are likely to become a friend. Which means they might buy you dinner sometime, or take you to a ballgame, or invite you to go on vacation with them. In such settings when is there a quid pro quo involved, and how do you prove if their is? It is not a straighforward question.

In this case, there appears to be some clearcut votes for money stuff, and, as I say, that is wrong. But as this progresses, there is also going to be an enormous amount of political opportunism, people spinning the innocent to make it appear corrupt, and the other way around. I, for one, am going to stick very closely to the facts, not the spin.

The facts will come out slowly, and they will come out piecemeal. It will be important to hold the facts and reserve judgement until all the facts are in. In many instances, we will never have all the facts because the result will be deals and gag orders. We will be forced to withhold judgement permanently. We should endeavor to do so.

It's not a perfect system, but it's better than everything else. If we rush to fix it, based on incomplete and unsatisfactory information, we will make maters worse, not better.


Defining Intelligent Design

Mere Orthodoxy is looking at intelligent design. Good source as most of the posters there were educated in the heart of the idea. The look is in multpile parts. To date:

Part I
Part II
Part III
And a comment

It's important to understand ID to discuss it, even if I am not enamored with it.


Stretching An Analogy

This is an electron photomicrograph of the surface of a granule of activated carbon that I took some years ago. Activated carbon is a substance used to purify lots of things. You know the "filtering charcoal" you use in your aquarium -- that is a rather crude version of the same substance.

See all those little holes? That's why this stuff works. There is an attraction between the surface and the contaminants you wish to remove -- the more hole, the larger the surface, the larger the surface, the more you can purify. The holes, by their size, help create the attractive forces that suck up the contaminants.

Carbon, and other, similar solid materials, zeolytes for example, have drawbacks in application because they are solids --a bunch of engineering stuff that I won't bore you with. "If only you could get those holes into liquid you could solve a lot of those engineering problems." That is the thought behind this headline:

Secret of first liquid with holes

The story is about a group in Northern Ireland at Queen's College that has some grant money to try and get similar effects to activated carbon and related materials in a liquid medium. A fine idea, but it ain't "holes."

As I write, I am resisting the very strong urge to explain this all to you in minute an excruiating technical detail, but you would all tune out. Which is why the particular scientist cited in the story has resorted to this specious and uninformative analog way of describing the research he is undertaking.

My point, in the end, is this. Sometimes when we search for "interesting" ways to communicate science to the masses, we misinform more than we inform. Sometimes, we should just do without the press.


Annoying, But Interesting, Time Waster

The World's Worst Predictions


My Most Tasteless Joke Ever!

Why do bunnies reproduce so fast?

Bunny date rape.


No Doubt With Itsy-Bitsy Cow Patties

For those who fancy a little farming, there are now tiny cattle to go with it

But I bet there is nothing small about the smell.


To Wipe What?

Church Selling Toilet Paper to Raise Money

It can't be good, it just can't be.


Which Is Often...

Animals know stupid when they see it

...and probably includes this guy.


With What?

Canadian man shoots himself while using bathroom

And yes, I am very afraid of the answer.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Bad News?

A-Team Blog links to this article at World Magazine that describes the the belief of the average teen:
    1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."
    2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."
    3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."
    4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."
A-Team describes this as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

Is this Christianity? No, of course not. But I am not sure this is bad news. I recall a conversation I had with a pastor about 12 years ago in which I wished for a general societal return to the non-specific, deism of my childhood. Why? Simple, it is a much easier place to work from when trying to teach people about genuine Christianity.

Now, the "therapeutic" nature of this basis is somewhat new, that whole "feel good about oneself" is far more naricisstic than the deism of my youth, but I still find this good news. Despite the efforts of so many, and so verbally to eradicate God from common discourse, they have not. This really does change the focus of evangelism.

Based on this, the key to evangelism is, as I have thought for sometime, not to convince people of God, but to convince them of our genuine, and continual, need for Him. The key to that is to do so without the condemnation or "turn or burn" approaches. This I think comes from demonstrating how dissatisfactory so many approaches to "feeling good about oneself" really is; that in fact we cannot feel good out ourselves without accepting the Love of Christ.


GodBlogging - For Better Or Worse?

SmartChristian linked to this post at the CT Blog and quoted it extensively. The writer - Craig Bloomberg of Denver Seminary - is wondering if blogging is good for the church.
Besides, what messages are we sending when we allow bloggers or those who respond to them to post almost any linguistic utterance at will for all the world to read? To the undiscriminating, surely the answer is that even the most meaningless, intimate, hateful, crude or careless thought deserves an outlet enabling others to talk back. From a non-theological perspective, this is the ultimate demeaning of human language. From a Christian perspective, it may be an offense to the Word who alone gives human communication grace. But then, you might not be reading these words if it weren?t for a blog site. So am I overreacting?
On the one hand, there is a lot of rotten GodBlogging out there, maybe even on this blog from time to time. On the other hand I have read more "good stuff" in a week reading Christian blogs than I have gotten out of most congregations in a year.

I guess my general comment on this question would be that "democratization" of information like seen in the blogosphere is in the tradtion of the Reformation. Christ entrusted the building of His church to some relatively uneducated fishermen, not the religious leadership of the time. We see Paul tackling heresy in his letters, they are as old as the church, which means there were a lot of people "jumping on the bandwagon" and pouring out junk in the name of Christ even a scant few years after the Ascension. Yes, there is "danger" in Christian blogging, but there is danger in all Christian activity.

Good thing there is a Holy Spirit.


Is Your Faith Too Practical?

Most recent Warnie receipient GospelDrivenLife (hmmm, could that be a shot at Warren?) had a great post just yesterday.
The conversation developed and her client offered these words, after describing her pursuit of the Lord, "I hope the Lord is pleased with the sacrifice I have made." My wife was instantly struck with how that sort of comment is 1.) common, 2.) self-focused. Her immediate reply was this, "I don't know if he is, but I know he is pleased with the sacrifice of his Son."...

...We are deeply self-promoting. We do not want "bleeding charity" as Lewis says it so well in The Great Divorce. Give me something to do. Be practical. Gospel-centerdness means I rest in the pleasure of God in the sacrifice of his Son.
I am first struck that it is possible to accept the "bleeding charity" and still want something to do, to want our faith to be practical. In fact, I want my faith to be the most practical possible - I want it to change the very essence of who I am.

What is so right is that God changes me, I do not change myself. What is so right here is that I cannot earn anything when it comes to God, it is purely a grant of grace. But there is a danger in pronouncements of this sort, a danger that I will continue to sin that grace may abound, waiting for God to change me.


The Dirty Not-So-Secret About Unions

The WSJ ran a piece yesterday (subscription required) revealing the National Education Association (NEA) spends its members money. Holy Coast does a good job of looking at it.

Needless to say the NEA coffers are essentially, as Holy Coast puts it, a "cash cow" for liberal Dem causes and organizations. Of course, there are issues of membership agreeing with this political expenditure and so forth. But what I find most troubling is that a union has so much extra cash at all. They have a very specific job, they should be collecting enough money to do that job -- why do they need anything more and why does the membership permit it?

Well, they are coersive organizations, that's why the membership permits it. The line between extrotion and dues is pretty fine in some shops. Unions have a long history of this. Anybody remember Jimmy Hoffa? Why would organized crime want in on unions anyway? -- Because of the money.

But what's really troubling is that the government worked so hard, the Democrat government (this was a Kennedy thing), to break the union/mafia connection, not to reform, but to make the money available for their politcal uses.

It's time for serious reform and regulation with regards to unions. Closed shops need to be abandoned, dues need to be regulated in accordance with formulas that limit the accumulation of funds, types of investments for pension funds need to be heavily regulated, the list is pretty extensive.

A lot of unionism has lost its power in America, but what remains is not the best, but the most misguided; its continuance assured not by doing that which it was created for, but by this kind of near-corrupt activity.


It Was Human?

Scientists prepare to share the secret of Mozart's skull


You Don't Say!

PC thinking 'is harming society'


The Best Of Pravda

Sometimes, I get the impression that Pravda is a newspaper run by children. Just read these headlines and tell me what you think

Real terrorists rape consumers
How many times have we heard that filthy lie, "It's for your own good," as politicians and their owners overstuff their pockets and fat stomachs at your expense?

Viktor Yushchenko to fly new gorgeous $12-million jetliner
Gilded handles and lamps were manufactured at the personal request from the president's wife

2005 ends with political success for Russia
The year 2006 will be much more important for Russia taking into consideration Russia's chairmanship in the Group of Eight

Ukraine to steal Russian natural gas 'legally'
No wonder the last offer to Ukraine was based on the same price formula as that used for European customers

Mine's bigger than's not fair...whine, whine, whine...cry, cry, cry.

But we will end on a positive note:

Russian Orthodox Church condemns Lutheran gay weddings

A little common sense from a place often short of it.


Since When...?

Nasa scientists have witnessed a rare explosion on the Moon, caused by a "meteoroid" slamming into it.
...Does the word meteoroid require quote marks? Is it an alias? What? - are they better known as hemorroids to their friends?


Yeah, But Isn't It Easier...

Chemical analysis of elephant hair can provide clues about the animal's diet check their poop? More plentiful too.


Solve The Riddle...

...without following the link. You can do it, it's not that hard.

Airliner sets out with 170 on board and lands with 171

Unless, of course, you are a judge with an abortion case on your hands, then it will be impossible to come up with a sensical answer.


I Plugged This Into Babelfish...



PT Barnum Lives

Two-Headed Snake for Sale for $150,000


OK - But What Do The Reindeer Think?

Camel farming seen aiding refugees in Norway

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Woe To You

I was reading Matthew 23 and I was struck by how much condemnation Christ had, contrary to some teaching, and how much He aimed that condemnation at the religious officials of His day, that is the leadership of His chosen people. Consider how Jesus starts His little sermon
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
That is an outrageous statement. The religious establishment of Christ's day had so clearly lost its way. This sermon is called by some "The Seven Woes," each beginning with those well known words
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
There is so much in this passage. I personally think anyone anywhere near church leadership ought to dwell in this passage for a week or more every year. It is a great list of where church leadership can go wrong and usually does. But today I want to focus on just this one brief point
'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
The essence of that brief passage is "Which is greater?" That is a question to live by.

Christ reasons that he who "swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it." The point, of course, is that God Himself imputes value to the temple and them temple in turn to the gold - the mistake that the Pharisees have made is that they have assigned value apart from the source of all value. They measured the value of the temple not by the presence of the Lord, but by the golden adornment.

I am forced to wonder if when we measure success by attendance we do not make the same mistake. I am forced to wonder if when we determine if a church is thriiving by the number of programs it has going we do not make the same mistake. I wonder if we decide what is "good" and what is "bad" worship by the type of music or the presence or lack of liturgy if we do not make the same mistake.

I, for one, wish to avoid ever hearing the words "Woe to you" directed at me from the mouth of Christ. I shall endeavor to make Him the source of all that I value.


No Faith?!

SmartChristian points to a HuffPo piece by Sam Harris that is just a little amazing. It is about how science must push out religion. Andy is right when he says
It is kind of a communist thing.
but it is also an awful argument - dismissive instead of engaging, belittling where it should be constructive, and based on faith nearly as much as any religious pronouncement.

Finally, the crux of his argument is completely nonpersuasive.
It is time we conceded a basic fact of human discourse: either a person has good reasons for what he believes, or he does not. When a person has good reasons, his beliefs contribute to our growing understanding of the world.
Note what he argues for here, not fact and reason, but reasonable belief. He goes on to try and distinguish, without explanation between reasonable belief and faith.
Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail.
What an incredible false dictomy he has created here. Seems to me he is putting as much faith in his reasonable belief as any religious believer puts into their belief, reasonable or otherwise.

But the real problem with this argument is the lumping of all religion together as unreasonable. Without even bothering to argue that my particular faith is the most reasonable, anyone, I would think, would have to agree that some religions are more reasonable than others? This is a bit like saying "All vegetables are green," completely ignoring corn, beets, and any number of other wonderfully edible, and non-green, plant material.

He dismisses miracles off-handedly as unreasonable, as if the unexplained does not happen every day. At best, what he argues against applies not to religion itself, but to some, perhaps even most, religious practioners, but that hardly argues against religion completely.

But it is his conclusion that is most startling
I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths.
Set aside for the moment the question of "truth" in religion -- this statement belies a compelte misunderstanding of the role of religion in civilization. How does he propose that we will even define what is "more loving" or "less fearful?" More importantly, presume we can arrive by some undefined mechanism at such defintions, how do we enforce them? What is to prevent some future Hitler from defining love as the elimination of the Jews, after all, it would be for the best of the most of the population, isn't that "loving?" Further, what would then prevent this hypothetical dictator from scientifically implanting that definition of love?

Harris' blog post would be extremely dangerous were it not so superficial and unconvincing. No doubt many superficial people will be convinced, but I think most are smarter than that.


When Bullying... pays to know who has the back of your intended victim.
Russia was forced to all but abandon a gas blockade against neighboring Ukraine on Monday after European trade partners said their own supplies had been hit and warned Moscow relations would suffer.
I am not sure what game Putin was up to, but given how little practice the Russians have at this whole capitalism thing it is quite possible this was all a "purely commerical" matter. If not, Putin grossly miscalculated.


Not Surprising...

...and not so significant.

'Narnia' Takes 'King Kong' Crown

After finally seeing Kong last week, I don't think this says much about values, Narnia is just A LOT better movie.

I also have to say that I've talked to quite a few people about Narnia, most of them in church, they know Narnia is somehow "Christian" because Lewis wrote it, but frankly, they don't get it. My conclusion? There are those of us that adore the books and we are many, but we are still minority.

In the end making a good movie matters a lot more than good source material, and I think that is the case here.


And...We Call The Wind Maria

Rain, wind and fire cause misery in US

If you missed the joke, here's the reference. My recall of song lyrics can be a bit obscure.


Alphabet Soup

Do you see it hiding there in the trees, behind the sheep?
Here's another one in plainer sight, but still lodged well within the beautiful fall foilage -- It's a covered bridge. Did you know the greatest concentration of covered brides in the country is in Parke County, Indiana - Which is our "P" destination.

Parke County is about 45 minutes due east of Indianapolis.

Every fall they have a week long covered bridge festival which covers several towns and brings in a whole lot of people. It can be fun, but I ususally try to avoid it, the crowds are immense. They try and do it at the height of fall color which is when the bridges are at their most picturesque, but if you go just a day or two later, which we did when we took these photos, it's still lovely and a lot less hassle.

They've divided the county into four driving routes of about 2 hours each (not at festival time -- at festival time there are traffic jams) that take you past 10-20 bridges. Most of them you cannot drive over, but there are a few.

Most of the bridges are not even on roads anymore and you have to park and walk over to them to inspect them, but they are really pretty and really fun to see. If you are looking for a romantic Saturday, you can do a lot worse that Parke County.

I'll leave you with a picture of the biggest, and prettiest. Not in frame, but equally interesting, a water wheel flour mill is still here in Bridgeton, Indiana - a town named after the wonderful sight.


Fantastic Time Waster!

Simulate the flight of a paper airplane!

Suggestion for improvement -- add a variety of airplane designs.


To The Rain Dance Add...

Some Sing, Others Dance to Get Snow to Fall

All in pursuit of a "Snow Day" from school. Oh how far mankind has come...



Q: I am writing you at my dad's request. Recently, my boyfriend offered to change the oil in my car for me. I have a 1992 Olds 88 in very good condition (180,000 miles). Up until now, my dad has maintained it. My boyfriend charged me $45 for parts and nothing for the work. He said most of the cost was to refill the fluid levels in the headlights. When I informed my dad of this, he called me an idiot and told me not to see this boy ever again. When I asked why, he said to write to you guys. I don't understand. My boyfriend said he used the "halogen" type fluid, which is supposed to be better than the standard type. What did I do wrong? Melissa
For the record, the stupidity here is not the woman's failure to understand how things work in her automobile, but rather that she was willing to parade that ignorance in such a public fashion. Ignorance is excusable, but stupidity prevails in the proud public display of ignorance.


And By Telling the News About It...

Couple discovers hidden second floor of building

...they pretty welll guarantee that they doubled their property taxes.


And Here I Thought...

...they were a complete waste of money.

US studies find antidepressants work for some

For the rest of you...tough darts.


Use Of Overused Metaphor Continues

Warning of 'anti-Semitic tsunami'

Will the tsunami of tsunami-metaphors continue to wash over the rhetorical beaches in 2006? Apparently, the inundation continues.

Monday, January 02, 2006



Eccl 1:1-18 - The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; and hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, then turning toward the north, the wind continues swirling along; and on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.

All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new"? Already it has existed for ages which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; and also of the later things which will occur, there will be for them no remembrance among those who will come later still.

I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, "Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge." And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
I am drawn to Ecclesiastes often. I find comfort in its seemingly cynical abandonment. I have been told this is because I am a failure, that I denigrate the accomplishment of the successful as vanity to make myself look good. And yet that misses the point of the book as well, for ALL is vanity, even my declaration of it.

I find the viewpoint of this book especially appropriate at the beginning of a new year, a time when we set goals, make resolutions, and charge ourselves up for the tasks ahead. In the end, this is not a book of cynicism, but of hope, hope in the right place, for it concludes
Eccl 12:13-14 - The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
Vocation, ministry, preaching, blogging, working or resting - fear God and keep His commandments - that is not cynical, that is the only source of hope and fulfillment.


The Necessity Of The Random

While pondering evolution the other day, it dawned on me that despite it's claim to describe the origin of the speices, it might not really do so. The rise of the mammal, which has lead to mankind, has been traced to the cataclysmic meteor collision in what is now the Gulf of Mexico causing the mass extinction that ended the reign of dinosaurs as the dominant life form on the planet. Absent that event would the ecological niches have even existed to drive the evolutionary force to our current state?

So what caused the rise of man, evolution - or that meteor?

No doubt, conjecture, data and pontificating will come in mass quantities following such a question, all the while missing the point.

Seemingly random events have massive influence on the course of events. Lest one argue that astronomy can predict such a collision - fine that does not change its randomness -- we have no control over it just because we can predict it. Randomness reflects causation, or lack thereof, not foreknowledge.

We know a great deal, we control far less. Even a scientist must admit this. What does that say about our place in and our relationship to, the universe?


Narnian Reflections

I saw Narnia for the third time over the weekend. That movie effects me on an emotional level like few ever have. It leaves me in a bit of a stunned silence -- even on the third viewing. I have been to a place I have always wanted to go and I don't really want to leave. I cannot help but reflect that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy would have a truly difficult time back in "reality."

Although I don't think the scene plays as well or as powerfully in the movie as it does in the books, when Susan and Lucy accompany Aslan on his trek to the stone table, I am touched at the deepest level, at his resurrection as well because of the intimacy they share with Aslan. In the early scene they hold is mane, in the later they ride him. Oh how my heart longs to hold Christ's hand and to "ride" Him.

Then I am forced to reflect on how the boys seem not to have this intimacy. No doubt some will want to, and some have, make all sorts of noises about the sexual roles and so forth, but set that aside. Consider the roles they play apart from their sex.

Are those destined to fight the Lord's fight going to be somehow less intimate with the Lord than those destined to tend the Lord and His army? I would hope not, but experience would teach me otherwise.

I think about those on the "front lines" who are so often tripped up by thier personal foibles, flaws and sins - they all seem just a little "too worldly." I reflect on the masters of mysticism I am so fond of extensively quoting each Sunday here, they seem to be firmly holding the hand of Christ, but seem so foreign to those that need the gospel.

Then I reflect on the tension in my own life, my overwhelming desire to "hold Aslan's mane" and my similarly intense desire to be in the battle and the fact that when I concentrate on one, the other seems to slip way from me. Oftimes I am content to be one place or the other, but not now.

Now I find myself wanting Aslan's mane in my left hand and the sword of Narnia in my right. (Forgive me for slipping in and out of metaphor here -- I realize it is bad form.)

Am I nuts, or do I have a vision here? I, frankly, don't know. I'm in love with the idea, but utterly clueless on how to come close to achieving it. Please - pray with me about this.


There Is Poor...

...but that is a highly relative statement. The Truth About Everything looks at a Christian Science Monitor article about how much "stuff" Americans have. Randy's point - our poor are very wealthy, particularly by world standards. Something I wish Jim Wallis would remember from time-to-time.


When The Church...

...fights political battles with itself, only the gospel loses. Which is why Christians can and should do politics, but the church should not.


Time To Move On

The year in which we have celebrated the centenary of Einstein's publication of his papers on relativity are, at last, behind us. So much hoopla over something so few really understand. OpinionJournal marked the end of the year by a look at some books that compare and contrast Einstein with other really smart people. They might as well have called it "the incomprehensible meets the uninteresting."

So why do I bring it up? Well one of the books they cite compares 'ol Albert to a guy that is likely a lot smarter - mathematician Kurt Gödel. Gödel's masterwork - "The Incompleteness Theorm" - is one of those fundamental bits of math that defines the likely limits of human knowledge, though just how is still being discussed today. That theorem is also the key thread that runs through one of the most fun books on math/ science I have ever read. I recommend it highly.



Last week I said there was no pollution for the holiday, but this wekk there are some links worth perusing:

Smoking remains legal, if shunned, but if some get their way, fire will be banned.

An important question exisits concerning terrorism and industrial chemicals. The NYTimes continues to beat the drum on this issue. The problem here is a tough one. Many small companies have large chemical inventories, large enough to cause considerable damage, and death, in the event of a terrorist attack on thier facilities. They are already forced, by law, to incur huge expense to prevent and mitigate accidents. Laws to create the same safeguards from terrorist event at the company's expense will put many, if not most out of business.

You want to kow the real problem? Existing law already makes information aabout how much material, where and how it is stored publicly available on the Internet. In otherwords, existing law gives terrorists some of the best planning tools they could wish for. How about before we create laws forcing these companies to spend more money, the government spend some to secure the information.

The law of unintended consequences continues to pay havoc with 'environmentalists.'

The NYTimes also continues to hammer on gold mining. Things to remember. 1) Gold mining is nothing compared to other forms of mining - it's just easier to pick on because the profits are so high. 2) The places in Nevada where it is going on were useless and virtually uninhabitable for centuries prior to the mining, so what if we are leaving it that way.


Later To Be ""

Teen's New Name:

Man, what a specieist his guy is -- what about the cows McDonald's kills, or the pigs every rib joint in the word kills? I mean come on guy, why are you picking on KFC when there is so much to go around?

Obvioulsy, his inconsistency, dare I say hypocrisy, in selecting only to deal with the killing of chickens renders his whole point moot. Soory guy, you lose.


No S*&^

Police are puzzled over area toilet thefts


Tacky - Even By My Standards

Q: How do you pay homage to a towering musical genius? A: With a bra that can play Eine Kleine Nachtmusik


It Was Like A Swarm Of Angry Mosquitoes...

Pack of Angry Chihuahuas Attack Officer

...insignificant, and yet, immensely annoying.


Higher Education - Not So High?

Several Illinois basketball fans who thought they had tickets to Wednesday night's game against Southeast Missouri State arrived at Assembly Hall only to find they had been duped, campus officials said Thursday....

...The tickets obviously are bogus. The word "Illinois" is misspelled "Illinios" twice....
But then, as any Big Ten fan knows, that's not really news considering the school.


When You Have Accomplished It All...

...and there is nothing left.

Mich. Man Bowls 3rd 300th Game, Then Dies

If only I had such lofty goals.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


A New Year's Thought

Broken Messenger Says:
As Christians we become contrarians by nature, not because we want to be contrary, but because the God we serve runs against the current of this world. For his wisdom is considered foolishness, yet it is greater than all. His strength is believed to be non-existent by the worldly, and yet it is so strong we see only his fingerprints in Creation and realize that to know the full measure of his power, requires something well beyond our powers of comprehension.
I desire this year to be so contrary. To rely on God's wisdom and not my own. I can think of no better goal.


An Ode To The New Blogging Year

Mrs. Blogotional composed this little ditty and I think its great!
Twas the night before New Year's Eve,
When all through the blogs,
Everything lay quiet,
All counts gone to the dogs.
My blogging husband in pajamas
And I in my cap,
Had just settled in
At the computer tap, tap.
All the biggies still posted,
Ran year end summaries and predictions
Hashed over trends and bits
Beat on MSM editions.
But on the blogs, electrons were erratic,
Bloglines showed a sad trend,
A blog that normally posted sixteen items
Maybe a single post did extend.
Those few that did post,
Ran disclaimers galore
Come back in January they said,
New topics we'll explore.
So we skittered round the blogosphere
Sighed, harrumphed and realized our fate,
Even guys in pajamas need
Time to relax, reflect and cease debate.

Happy 2006!


Sermons and Lessons

Somehow, it seems appropriate to hear from Spurgeon for the new year.



The Year In Minutae

100 things we didn't know this time last year

It's an amazing list. Some we don't care about -- AT ALL
Nicole Kidman is scared of butterflies. "I jump out of planes, I could be covered in cockroaches, I do all sorts of things, but I just don't like the feel of butterflies' bodies," she says.
Some are actually interessting
The = sign was invented by 16th Century Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde, who was fed up with writing "is equal to" in his equations. He chose the two lines because "noe 2 thynges can be moare equalle".
Some are silly
In America it's possible to subpoena a dog.
Some are weird
When faced with danger, the octopus can wrap six of its legs around its head to disguise itself as a fallen coconut shell and escape by walking backwards on the other two legs, scientists discovered.
And some, finally, have implications I am almost afraid to consider
You're 10 times more likely to be bitten by a human than a rat.
Read them all -- It's a slow news day.

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