Saturday, January 14, 2006

 

Rumors Of War

Matt 24:3-9 - And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.
With Victor David Hanson proclaiming military action against Iran inevitable and John Mark Reynolds wondering why there isn't more buzz about it I could not help but think of that passage.Says Hanson:
The fourth scenario is as increasingly dreaded as it is apparently inevitable ? a U.S. air strike. Most hope that it can be delayed, since its one virtue ? the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat ? must ipso facto outweigh the multifaceted disadvantages.
I am not afraid of war, but I am highly nervous about this one, not from a military standpoint, but from a political one. It is fraught with so much context.

This is, in my opinion, the biggest single call to prayer on a geo-politcal scale we face today. Join me please.

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I Agree!

With NZ Bear and most of the center-right biggies

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.


Signed,

N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber's Corner
Lorie Byrd / DJ Drummond , Polipundit
Beth Cleaver, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
The Anchoress, The Anchoress
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!
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'Defensive' Attitude

Blackfive interviewed Capt. B of "One Marine's View". It's a highly enjoyable talk with one of the real people doig the real job in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can tell Capt B is a smart gu becasue only a smart guy could crack wise that much. Here's my favorite exchange:
Blackfive: Do you have any journalists you particularly loathe?

Capt B: I thought Lois Lane was a bit nosey; she just about blew the super fighting cape crusader?s cover numerous times. Sometimes you got to go with your gut call. If he fly?s like Superman, looks like Superman, well he probably is Superman. How tuff is that one?? This simplicity needs to be applied here in Iraq. If it looks like we are winning, well we are.
You have to love comic book analogies! Read the whole thing.

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Comic Art

This week in Comic Art I thought, for reasons I don't quite understand that we'd take a look at black superheroes. Frankly, it's been a controversy for years, why isn't there a "great" black hero. It's got nothing to do with racism, getting a good character together is just difficult.

For DC, success with black heroes hs come only lately. Black Lightning dates back to the '70's and never really caught on. He has seen success in recent days as a part of "The Outsiders," and on TV as "Static Shock" But at his inception they worked so hard to make him black, they forgot to make him good.

John Stewart has had the role of Green Lantern on and off since the '80's and may be DC's most successful black hero. At this point, he may be the most widely recognized GL since he is the GL they have chosen to use on the JLA cartoon series on TV.

Given the success that Stewart had taking a traditionally established role and filling it with a black person, DC decided to try it again, this time reviving Golden Age hero "Mr. Terrific" in a a revived Justice Society title.

Which reminds me -- the revised JSA is so good, with it's reconstituted characters from the Golden Age, that I think I'll do a whole series on it starting next week, so that's enough on Mr. Terrific for now.

Marvel had better luck with their attempts at black heroes. Luke Cage never saw huge commerical success, but he was always a great character. I think the problem was the whole mercenary nature of his character. It improved when they partnered him with Iron Fist, but since they remained mercenaries, it was always difficult to find them really, really heroic.

Luke is a part of "The New Avengers" now and as such is getting more heroic everyday. Although he now looks almost completely like a hoodlum, I'm hoping the other costumed adventurers will wear off on him and he will finally get a good look going.

As best as I know, The Black Panther is the oldest black hero in comics. He showed up with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers very early. His own title followed quickly.

I think he succeeded so well so fast becasue he was black, but he was never American. He is the king of an African country and the Black Panther mantel is a part of the traditional heritage of the country. He was regal and heroic from the very beginning. Needless to say, some blacks complained that he wasn't "really" black which always bothered me, it seemed to me that they should aspire to be just like him -- as I always aspired to be just like the heroes I followed most closely.

The Falcon has been the most consistently appearing black hero ever. Sam Wilson was "rescued" from the street and given his powers, then he teamed up with Captain America. He was as much an effort to bring the seemingly "out-of-touch" Captain America into the modern day as he was consciously black.

Falcon has been having more success lately as the character has started to stand on his own two feet and they have started to take some of the hard edges off of him. In my book he is the best looking of the black heroes, if not the most interesting -- I still give the edge to Black Panther on that one.

When you have to decide what color to paint the character, the race of a hero will always be a conscious decision. However, I hope that some day it becomes a non-issue with the readers.

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Where Are The Scare Quotes?

Vampire seeks governor's job

Obviously Rueters, widely known for its use of scare quotes around the word terrorist, actually thinks vampires real, and thus not worthy of the quotes. So, isn't blood drinking a crime or something?

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Only Those With A Grudge

Were human ancestors hunted by birds?

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Actual Humor - From Actual Canadiens!?

A novel method for the removal of ear cerumen

They novelty? They do it with a "Super Soaker Max-D 5000." Folks, this appears in an actual medical journal! Thus while we see real humor from Canadiens, our fears about their health care system are confirmed.

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Because, Obviously, He'll Never Have A Wife

Man Aims for New Snake-Kissing Record

I know if I kissed just one...

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Friday, January 13, 2006

 

Where Do I Sign Up?

Thanks to Glenn Lucke at Common Grounds Online for the link to this funny, but truly sad video. Please go watch it, I'll wait.

What's wrong with this picture? Well, it's because this is generally what really happens. (HT: lameworldview)
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Give away Super Bowl tickets and ponies? Never when there is a buck to be made - a profitable raffle for those things perhaps. What do these people think, God's house runs on faith?

Forgive me, I try and limit my sarcasm and cynicism for lesser posts, but I see things like this and I am just blown away. I get tempted to start turning over moneychanger's tables.
Ps 27:13-14 - I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.
Sometimes all there is to read scripture and pray for faith.

 

Judicial Driftwood

Al Mohler points to an article the acknowledges that a leftward drift in judges is real, but concludes that that's ok becasue they are just smarter than the rest of us. That's actually a really old charge - "conservatives are stupid."

But the best comments of the day, I think, came first from Mark Steyn appearing on Hugh Hewitt who described the Senate as "an abomination."

Which leads me to the one I loved most, Eric Hogue, substituting for Dennis Prager, called the hearings "made for TV." His point was that the Dems, knowing they are going to lose, are using the opportunity to play for the cameras, and thus their base. I think he's right.

Reflecting on that, it dawned on me that Eric is more right than he knows. It is made for TV. The problem is that Dem Senate staffers, after all none of the Senators have an original idea - they are working from the scripts prepared by their staffers, and the base only watch Jerry Springer. Think about it -- what has their behavior most resembled?

Alito's handling of the hearings has been politcally masterful. He was a parabolic mirror -- simply focusing, brighting, and illuminating the behavior of the Senate Dems -- much to their chagrin.

 

Radical Is Scary

Yesterday I ended a post on "the great gifts brouhaha" with these words
I'd much rather spend my time seeing if I can figure how to be that radically Christian. If I can, God will tell me whether He is still handing out the gifts or not and I won't have to worry about what everybody else says.
Refelcting on those words, I was reminded of this Unveiled Face post from last weekend. Mick is talking about Aaron entering the Holy of Holies and he writes
Aaron was coming closer to God than anyone else ever did, and without a mediator this was not a safe place to be - God is a holy God and indeed a consuming fire.
Suddenly I was afraid of the words I had written just the day before. We tend to think of the phrase "fear of the Lord" as "awe of the Lord" but I am struck that perhaps "fear" is the right word. God is and should be scary. Mick goes on to talk about Christ as our mediator and how he makes it possible to approach God. Mick says such an apporach can be made "confidently." I'm not sure.

Aaron's sons had died trying to make the approach. A mediator makes the approach possible, but under the circumstances, I'd be making the approach behind the skirts of the mediator, like a terrified small child. Maybe I won't die, but that does not make it any less terrifying.

I wish to witness the full glory of God, but I am so ill-prepared and ill-equipped.

 

Even If 'A Religion Of Peace;' It's a Religion Of Bad Values

Yet again there are hundreds dead at the Hajj. If you haven't followed this over the years, it's becoeming an old story.
The site is a notorious bottleneck for the massive crowds that attend the annual hajj pilgrimage and has seen deadly stampedes in the past, including one in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and another in February 2004 that killed 244. Seven of the past 17 yearly pilgrimages have seen deadly incidents at al-Jamarat.
It dawned on me as I read this account that for this to happen again and again, year after year, it has to be more important to each individual pilgrim to complete their pilgrimage than to preserve the life, health and safety of their fellow pilgrims. Otherwise, they would stop immediately when encountering someone who has tripped in front of them and those behind would stop when those in front stopped. Simple etiquitte.

Say what you want, but time-after-time, Islam proves itself to be a religion in need of reform.

 

Are Comics Important?

There was an article in the LA Times Wednesday about a new venture into comics, by Richard Branson, he of 'Virgin' fame, using Indian (Asia) myths and legends. They are trying to capitalize on the success of manga - Japanese comics in recent years.
"The growth of the comic market in America has been spectacular," notes Adrian Sington, executive chairman of Virgin Books, who is supervising the multimillion-dollar investment for Virgin. "It's been led by comics made in Asia."
While there is some manga I really like, as a genre, I could take it or leave it. This article helped me put my finger on part of the reason why.

Deepak Chopra, of guru fame, is a part of Branson's venture and is quoted in the article on Hindu religious themes in the comics. Then it dawned on me - manga from Japan and now this venture bring an entirely different set of religious and social values to table.

The traditional American super-hero, Superman, et. al., while hardly Judeo-Christian in any sense anymore, have flowed from that tradition and the conception of heroic that they represent is very different than that found in manga - and I imagine from the Indian comics as well.

I am not sure comics are leading changes in our culture, but pop culture is generally reflective of changes that are happening. So, does this venture mean we are becoming somehow "more Asian?" Probabaly.

How do we respond, that is the question.

 

They Obviously Surveyed My Wife

Over a 20-year period, the percentage of Americans who said they find overweight people less attractive steadily dropped from 55 percent to 24 percent, the market research firm NPD Group found.
I mean, that sort of slide probably happens with most wives of middle-aged men!

 

Friday Humor

Cudos to Mostly Cajun for this one
Little Johnny's neighbors had a baby. Unfortunately, the baby was born without ears.

When mother and new baby came home from the hospital, Johnny's family was invited over to see the baby. Before they left their house, Little Johnny's dad had a talk with him and explained that the baby had no ears. His dad also told him that if he so much as mentioned anything about the baby's missing ears or even said the word "ears" he would get the spanking of his life when they came back home.

Little Johnny told his dad he understood completely.

When Johnny looked in the crib he said, "What a beautiful baby."

The mother said, "Why, thank you, Little Johnny."

Johnny said, "He has beautiful little feet and beautiful little hands, a cute little nose and really beautiful eyes. Can he see?" asked Little Johnny.

"Yes," the mother replied, "we are so thankful; the Doctor said he will have 20/20 vision."

"That's great," said Little Johnny, "cuz he'd be outta luck if he needed glasses."

 

Well, That's A Relief

One-Eyed Cat Had Medical Condition

Here I thought it was just a freak.

 

I Always Thought Those Hollywood Types Were Alien

Astronomers See 'Star Formation on Steroids'

 

Guard Your Nanites

Study raises concerns about nanotech safety

There so small, so hard to see, and so easy to step on.

 

If It Had Been Me...

Boy, 11, OK After Truck Runs Over His Head

...there would have been no vital organs involved and this would not have been a news story at all.

 

If I Ate It, I'd Do More Than Protest

'Ratball' Soup Report Sparks Protest

 

Well, No Wonder

First I saw this:

Man claims to be reincarnation of snake god's wife

Then I saw this:

Rare Two-Headed Albino Snake Draws No Bidders

And I thought - You know, if my husband was a worthless two-headed snake, I'd try to change sex and species too!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

 

Even With Justice - No Peace

Yesterday, A-Team blog had a fascinating post about the memorial service for Tookie Williams, calling it "morally repugnant."
The fact that thousands demandefd clemency for this man is morally repugnant enough, but in addition to the proponents having no regard for the victims, they also celebrated William?s life. At the memorial service, Jesse Jackson compared Williams to Moses, King David, the Apostle Paul, Job, and several black leaders. He referred to him as a hero, with several allusions to Jesus Christ.
I agree with Roger's label, and I believe that justice was served by William's execution. But I was struck by how the memorial service showed that such justice brought no peace to the mourners.
About twenty minutes into the service Snoop Dogg was cheered onto the stage, much like he might be at an award ceremony. He recited a poem entitled ?Until We Meet Again,? noting that, ?I feel him. I feel like we?re the same kind of people.? In other words, black. Snoop reported that, ?It ain?t easy being a black man? If he black like me, you?re guilty till proven innocent!?
How can such find peace? In, to answer that question, rides Brad at Broken Messenger.
If we are not wounded by our sin in our consciences or hearts, and if we do not weep over the grieving it causes our Lord, then we probably have never realized repentance at all. We may be operating like the devil himself, who knows well of his error but who does not believe that God will overcome him. Or we may be so thoroughly blinded by the devil that we believe that we can live like the him but will still have enough time to turn to God late in life; or we believe that at the final hour before death we will repent or that we will find God?s forgiveness because of a prayer once said to Jesus.
God, and His son Jesus, are the only source of peace for the world. Instead of comparing Williams to Christ, Jackson should have submitted to Him.

Fortunately, most of us are not confronted with such grevious acts as multiple, vicious murder in our lives. But the source of our peace is the same. Repentance, humility, submission - these words, so rarely mentioned these days, are the source for the peace that William's mourners - and the rest of us - seek.

 

The Biggest Blow?

A volcano erupted in Alaska yesterday. Normally that would be the biggest eruption of any day. But apparently Senator Ted Kennedy, behaving like what Michelle Malkin calls a "Category 5 windbag" managed a larger one. Hugh Hewitt thinks Kennedy and his compatriots have gone "Thelma and Louise" and links to Volokh making a McCarthy comparison, perhaps the first such appropriate comparison in decades. Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment. (Salute to BOTWT)

But it's Drudge that best describes the eruptions and its devastation.
Judge Samuel A. Alito's wife Martha left the confirmation hearing room in tears this evening, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
Hugh Hewitt interviewed a confirming attendee at the hearings on his radio show yesterday, who said the breakdown happened when Mrs. Alito was struck by the contrast when a Republican Senator actually complimented the nominee. Michelle Malkin has the pictures.

That dear public is a hearing too far. So much for the world's greatest deliberative body. Drudge reports that Lindsey Graham apologized to Alito's family but that's the wrong person. Kennedy has violated every reasonable rule of decorum in reducing a nominee's wife to tears. The word "gentleman" has left the building.

They are no longer wrong, they are no longer misguided, they are no longer anything but mean - poor losers.

When I was a senior in high school we were undefeated in football. We were really good. At one point we went up against a team that frankly just wasn't in the stadium with us. That happened several times in the season actually. We worked hard to keep from embarassing our opponents, and anybody on our team that taunted or otherwise verbalized in an unsportsmanlike fashion not only found the bench - coach did not even let them dress the next week.

But one opposing team, well, they didn't get it. They responding to their frustration by playing dirty, resulting in a couple of injuries. One of their players was ejected. I happened to be nearby on the sidelines when he was escorted out of the stadium. He spit on me. Coach grabbed me in case I "reacted," but it wasn't necessary, the guy was pathetic. I haven't thought about that in years, not until I watched Ted Kennedy do the rhetorical equivalent in a committee of the Senate of the United States.

Too bad Kennedy cannot be ejected.

 

OK, That's It - I Quit...

...talking about charasmatics and cessasionists anyway.

Quite a while back, Adrian Warnock convinced me I was a "Reformed Charasmatic." That was way before this whole huge thing erupted in recent weeks, so when it did erupt I comfortably plunked myself in that position.

Now, Pyromaniac wants to tell me I really am a cessassionist.

And yet, my particular beliefs have not changed one whit, so you guys can fight over me all you want.

Here's what I am willing to say. There are some looney charasmatics out there, the Benny Hinn's of the world. There are also some pretty high and dry reformed cessasionists types, most of the examples of which I can think of right now, you would not know. You know who they are though. People more or less afraid of the Holy Spirit.

I think everybody in this thing has been arguing against those archetypes, when few, if any, of us actually fit the bill. Therefore, I'm tired of it, have been for a while actually.

You want to know what I really think? I agree with Phil (and pretty much everybody else) that what passes for signs and wonders today does not stack up against what did in Acts. But I don't think it's because God has ceased to grant such power. I think it is because we are so lost, we don't know how to access that power. And I think part of the reason we are so lost is we spend so much time trying to figure out what label to use.

So with that, I leave this conversation. I'd much rather spend my time seeing if I can figure how to be that radically Christian. If I can, God will tell me whether He is still handing out the gifts or not and I won't have to worry about what everybody else says.

 

Illuminated Scripture


 

I Want To Make Fun, But I Can't

I used to laugh uproariously at this TV show. You know the one, where people's houses are so cluttered they have to bring in "professionals" to help them organize their souls. I always wanted to see the place six months later. I figures if it got that bad before, it has to happen again.

It's not funny anymore.

Wash. Woman Suffocates Under House Clutter

Those poeple weren't just TV posers -- they had a ministry.

 

This Is Just Bizarre In So Many Ways

The European Parliament has passed a resolution demanding pressure on China to ban the farming of bears for bile.
From the fact that someone thinks bear bile useful, to the fact that someone is "farming" bears to meet that demand to the fact that the European Paraliment thinks it's any of their business - this story just seems like a visit to the Twilight Zone.

 

The Best Blog Post Ever Written

From Questions and Answers
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabridge University, it denos't mtater in waht oredr the ltetres in a wrod aer, the olny iprnoatmt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
I can relax now.

 

Well I Could Have Told You This

Geniuses are Just Like Us

Personal experience - you understand.

 

Avoid The Bird Flu...

Girl Gets Bird Flu After Kissing Chicken

Do not kiss chickens - I repeat - Do Not Kiss Chickens.

 

When Adults Play With Children...

WEDGED in his sister's 8kg capacity washing machine with his knees pressed tight to his chest, Robin Toom, 30, was stuck and hot.

"I just hopped in there, playing hide and go seek with the kids," the baker's assistant said yesterday from Townsville.


...they are supposed to be smarter than the kids.

 

Whatever -- It's Ugly

Experts say it is a squirrel struck by hair loss.

But websites insist some have mated with inner-city rats resulting in hybrid offspring.
I think it's inspiration for a sci fi movie. A rat bred with a squirrel, add the ancient DNA of a sabertooth tiger and you have something there.

 

This Has Got To Be A Question Of How

Y-S student expelled for blowing up toilet

I mean - sometimes it just happens.... Not that i would know from personal experience or anything.

 

What's Wrong ...


...with this? Why the fact that I am not among the nominees --- of course.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

How Can You Pronounce What You Don't Know?

I could not help but be struck by the juxtaposition od these two posts. The first was on Monday from my buddy Jollyblogger. He was talking about the inappropriateness pronouncing whether other people are Christians or not.

To be followed yesterday by this post from Challies on assurance of salvation. Tim's point is that if salvation is indeed wholly something that comes from and originates with God, we can never really know if we are saved.

My point, if we can't have full knowledge about the salvation state of ourselves, we sure as heck can't know about someone else. Now Tim says he is coming back to visit the issue again today, and he may make a case for someplace to find assurance of salvation, blowing my whole point, but he is going to have to work pretty hard to do that, because I don't think we can know.

So what motivation to be a Christian? Because if we don't at least try, we can be assured we aren't saved.

But back to the point. God is a mystery as are His ways.
Isa 55:9 - "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
This is a hard thing for blogging where all we really have are words and ideas, but somehow we need to learn to relish in that mystery.

David said:
In recent years I have become comfortable with my own ignorance,
I am happy for him, I too am learning that, but I want more. I want to find joy in my ignorance - the joy that comes from knowing I can never know, but that I can rely on my Lord whose knowledge is perfect and complete.

 

Where Church And Government Collide

Thanks to Between Two Worlds for the link to this article, A Biblical Theology of Poverty and Almsgiving by T. David Gordon. Contained within it is a very interesting section on tithing.
The one reality of the Sinai administration that does not properly inform our present circumstances (despite the fact that Christians commonly, albeit erroneously, think otherwise) is the Levitical tithe. The tithe was not instituted as a means of general support for the covenant community; because in the case of the Israelites, the covenant community was a nation, with all the rights of taxation or tribute thereby implied. Rather, the tithe was instituted for the Levitical priesthood, to provide the various animals and grains that were to be sacrificed by the Levites. "To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel" (Num. 18:21, emphasis mine). Note that "every" tithe is Levitical; there are no non-Levitical tithes. Indeed, the tithe was necessary in order for the other eleven tribes to participate in the sacrificial system. Only Levites were permitted to serve as sacrificing priests; but the substance that they offered on the altar came from the other eleven tribes, and was therefore their sacrifice also.

The tithe was also instituted in a manner that was sensitive to the plight of the impoverished or destitute, and adjusted itself to that plight in several ways. If an Israelite could not afford a particular sacrifice, he could substitute a less expensive one: "But if he cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, then he shall bring as his offering for the sin that he has committed a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering" (Lev. 5:11). The tithe adjusted itself to destitution in another way. Only the "tenth" sheep that passed under the shepherd?s staff was to be sacrificed (Lev. 27:32). Thus, an Israelite who had only six or seven sheep was not obliged to give any sheep to the Levites. Therefore, we see that, even when the tithe was instituted as the means of providing the substance of the Tabernacle/Temple sacrifices, that very ordinance was sensitive to the reality of poverty and destitution, in a way that the so-called Christian monetary tithe is not.

The Levitical tithe, however, has no legitimate place in Christian thinking, liturgy, or church life. It passed away when the sacrificial system itself passed away. Happily, well-thinking Christians have recognized this. In 1854, the Presbyterian General Assembly repudiated the tithe, and embraced instead the principle articulated by Paul in 1 Cor. 16:2: "each as he has prospered." They received, and distributed as their own mind on the matter, the paper originally authored by Thomas E. Peck and Stuart Robinson for the Baltimore Presbytery, and the highest court had this to say about the wrong and right principle of Christian benevolence:
So, under the gospel, the point upon which our "free will" is to be exercised is, not as to the giving, but as to the amount. God has not said, "Give me a tenth, or a twentieth, or a hundredth, or a millionth"; and it is presumption for any man to say to another, or for a church court to say to the members under its care, "You must give such and such a proportion." It is a matter between God and the man?s own conscience. He must "give as God hath prospered him," and of the measure of his prosperity another man has no right to judge, as he cannot know the condition of his affairs, nor how much has already been given, or is habitually given, under the solemn injunction that "the left hand shall not know what the right hand doeth."
Sadly enough, few Presbyterians today know their own history, nor the judgment of their General Assembly in the matter. But the anti-tithe argument is profoundly persuasive, not only because the Old Testament texts associate it exclusively with the Levitical priesthood that passes away after the death and resurrection of Christ; but also because in the many places where Christians are exhorted by Paul to support the church, its ministry, or impoverished Christians, not once is the tithe mentioned. To the contrary, when Paul argued that the Christian ministry should be financially supported by believers, he reached virtually anywhere else in the Old Testament, citing in one instance the cryptic passage in Deuteronomy, "Do not muzzle the ox when it is treading out grain" (1 Tim. 5:18, citing Deut. 25:4). It would have been much easier for him to settle the matter by citing the latter prophets argument that Israel "robbed" God by not tithing (Mal. 3:8). But Paul did not cite such texts, because Paul did not believe the Levitical tithe belongs in the New Covenant experience.
Some background is necessary here. The Prebyterian Church has been using the Levitical tithe to justify "taxing" local congregations to support the higher bodies for years. I think much of this arguement is a shot at that practice.

I do think it is wrong for pastors to tell their congregation that tithing - a literal 10% donation is somehow mandatory. I agree with the basic argument made here that the tithe was for the provision of the poor in a governmental sense.

But having said that, I think there are two important questions worth considering. The first is the importance of routne and regular sacrifice to the work of God through His church. I think it vitally important to have a discipline of giving. I don't think there is any magic in 10% and I don't think 10% should be presented in a coercive manner, but I think all Christians should give a percentage, based on their prosperity, routinely and regularly.

The other issue is the issue of providing for the poor, Essentially the arguement here is that we don't have to tithe to the church because our government is doing much of what the tithe was intended to do. But, having said that, I would much rather given 10% or more to a local congregation to provide for the needy in my area than pay the taxes for two very important reasons. The first reason is that the money will be more effective if managed locally. The second reason is a local congregation can provide a human touch to that aid simply impossible on a governmental level - the church can render compassion instead of simply bureacracy.

From my perspective when it comes to tithing the issue is not 10% -- it is sacrifice and compassion, that is what we are called to. Anything else is legalism.

 

What Do You Think About Prayer

Thanks to the other Warnock for linking to this post on prayer. Richard Hall offers some very interestng short little thoughts. Here are a couple of my favorites
3. We never begin to pray, we always enter into prayer that has already begun before us and without us, the prayer of the church.

8. It is also a nonsense to ask whether or not God answers prayer. The Father is the object of prayer, the Spirit is the subject of prayer, the Son is the predicate of prayer. How then can God not answer his own prayers? If God seems silent, it is only because he is listening - and thinking about his answer. And as for those answers, William Temple said, ?When I pray, coincidences happen.?
I very much like the idea that prayer is something that happens independent of me, that it is something I join, or participate in, but not something I originate. Frankly, I feel inadequate. One of the more entertaining thoughts was this one
9. Do you have arid times of prayer? What else! Wherever did we get the idiotic and disabling idea that prayer must be a richly rewarding experience?
Once again, it's not about me. Prayer is not about what I have to say, it's a seeking, a seeking of what God has to say, and more importantly it's a seeking of the presence of God Himself.

 

Book Review: The Story of Britain

The author of this book, Rebecca Fraser, is the daughter of Antonia Fraser something I did not know when I started and I read to regret.

I like narrative history as a genre, and I particularly like them when it comes to Great Britian, the sweeping story of that nation is grand, and quite illuminating to American history as well. But now I have found one I did not care for much at all.

The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present A Narrative History is too polemic to be of any genuine value as history.

This is hardly the first such history of Great Britain I have ever read, so I have some basis of comparison. I have two primary critiques of it. The first is that it is not really a british history, it is an english one. Wales and Scotland are barely mentioned save to acknowledge the fact that they once existed, were occassional military enemies, and eventually absorbed. It is as if those two nations made no contribution whatsoever to the cultural development of Great Britain as a whole. I find this terribly myopic, particular when it comes to democracy which flowed as much from Scotland as it did arise spontaneously in England.

But my major critique occurs with the author's handling of the 20th century, particularly the administrations of Churchill and Thatcher. WWII is treated almost as a trifle, a diversion somehow from the "true path" of development, as was the Thatcher administration. While the necessary plaudits are handed to Churchill, one feels as if they are given only grudgingly and as rapidly as possible, as if to reduce the author's pain.

It is with the Thatcher government that the knives come competely out of their sheath, however. One reads the pages devoted to this period all the while knowing one is being set up for the big..."but." Even when reading about the current Blair government the author cannot resist a final parting shot at Thathcher within the last two pages of the book.

What happens is that eseentially the book is pretty standard until the 19th century. Then as the rule of royalty is replaced by the party politics of Parliment, the book degenerates into a political diatribe, with the formation of the Labour party presented as perhaps the preeminent occurance in the entire history of the nation. By the end, the book has ceased all pretense at historical objectivity and become simply a pro-Labour pamphlet with the occassional barb in the side of the Tories.

Narrative histories, by their nature, will always have a point of view. But when they slide past such into actual arguement for a particular political party or viewpoint, in this reviewers opinion, they sacrifice the right to call themselves "history" at all. Such is the case with this book - it should be filed in the political section, not the historical one.

 

Not Good For Me

The TV show Smallville is one of my guilty pleasures. More Buffy than Man (or Boy) of Steel, it still contains enough "inside baseball" references to excite the average comic book fan. Among them was the appearance this season of a character, dressed in orange and green, that swam faster than Clark, some guy named Arthur Curry. Those in the know immediately pegged him as Aquaman.

Looks like DC's favorite underwater son is getting his own TV show. The eco-warrior aspect of the character as he appeared on Smallville may send me running for the hills, but until then, anything that boosts a comic book character is good news for me - even if the last thing I need in my life is another guilty pleasure.

 

In A World...

...where moderately sampled mp3's played over tiny little ear buds is considered the height of sound reproduction, this headline did my heart good.

Hi-fi is alive and well at CES

Everytime I see a kid with an iPod tell me about how good "his music" sounds, I want to take him home and show him what a real stereo can do. Of course, for him to recognize it he'd have to listen to music instead of whatever it is he listens to on that iPod...

Thank you -- I have just done the perfect imitation of my father, the only difference being we competed over who had the bigger stereo.

 

The Best Of Pravda

Our friends at Pravda are in rare form this week. They can't seem to make up their minds what they think, if they are a newpaper or propaganda service, or even who their allies are.

Consider this juxtaposition. First we read:

Russia to close borders with Turkey over bird flu epidemic

That strikes me as a bit extreme, but they lack the governmental capabilites we do to deal with such things. But then, the very next story:
In addition to people suffering from war and disease, the cruelty of stuffing live birds into plastic bags and burning them alive is a reminder of the inhumanity that still exists on our planet. The graphic videos of birds being cruelly killed in Turkey, because they were suspected of being infected with the avian influenza H5N1 virus...
Let me make sure I have this straight, they are condemning Turkey for slaughtering infected birds, but they are closing their borders to people that might be fleeing that same illness. Even Stalin knew people were more important that birds.

In the end, I guess they are pure propaganda, but they have quit shilling for the party and started shilling for the American left.
I am a citizen of the USA by birth, and it concerns me that the image of the United States that is presented by the international 'Mainstream Media' is largely a product of US government and corporate propaganda. Media monopolies, such as the ones owned and run by Ted Turner in the USA and by Rupert Murdoch in both the USA and Great Britain, present a one-sided, 'official' view of US politics and of US foreign policy.
Uh, dude, Turner sold off CNN and if CNN and FOXNews have the same version of events, even on a football game, I will be amazed. There is a quaint charm to this story, reminiscent of the old "We have American defector..." stories of the communist days.

Finally, this headline from a country that shutdown a major natural gas pipline just cracks me up

Condoleezza Rice wants Russia to obey her every single word

Who's dictatorial there guiys? What's really funny is they would probably be better off if they did listen to her more.

Russia, the very definition of "pride goeth before the fall."

 

Why Explain A Slighty Twisted Sense Of Humor?

Milky Way's Warp Explained

 

AMAZING!

Obese 'don't want to lose weight'

Take a hint people, if they, or should I say we, wanted to lose weight, well, we would! Amazing as it may seem to some, not everyone in the world is a victim.

 

Better Vanishing Than Appearing

Vanishing Gas Confirms Black Hole Event

I don't know about you, but events associated with my "black hole" usually result in a vapor that causes my wife to excuse herself.

 

Islamofacism Is Creeping Up In The Most Amazing Places

A mouse got its revenge against a homeowner who tried to dispose of it in a pile of burning leaves. The blazing creature ran back to the man's house and set it on fire.
The first suicide bomber of the animal kingdom. No doubt as the mouse ran into the house he cried "Allah Akbar!"

 

World's Oldest Fight Goes High Tech

Cat Owner Turns to DNA to Implicate Dog

 

Pigs Really Do Appreciate The Finer Things In Life

Wild boar caught snoozing in Bavarian bedroom

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

 

"Evangelical" - The Word Is Beginning To Make Me Tired

It started when I read this post by the iMonk over at Boars Head Tavern - he rants off of the latest concerning Prayer of Jabez' entreprenuer Bruce Wilkinson. Spencer has this very quotable:
We don't worship Jesus in evangelicalism. We worship celebrities and the success fetish they foster. We don't want to go to places like Africa and Appalachia and do small things for years. We want to build a Christian Disneyland in 18 months and produce a video curriculum about it.
I agree there is precisely a lot in Christianity that is headed in the wrong direction he describes, but I was put off by his defining "evangelicalism" this way. I have always thought of myself as an "evangelical," I thought like Presbyterians, or Lutheran, or Catholics, there were some good evangelicals and some bad ones.

Then thanks to GospelDrivenLife (having somehow missed it at Miscellanies) I ran into this article on "Assumed Evangelicalism."
Assumed evangelicalism believes and signs up to the gospel. It certainly does not deny the gospel. But in terms of priorities, focus, and direction, assumed evangelicalism begins to give gradually increasing energy to concerns other than the gospel and key evangelical distinctives, to gradually elevate secondary issues to a primary level, to be increasingly worried about how it is perceived by others and to allow itself to be increasingly influenced both in content and method by the prevailing culture of the day.

It is relatively straightforward to point to individuals, churches, movements and institutions that are clearly either proclaiming the gospel or denying it. However, it is extremely difficult to spot assumed evangelicalism and to evaluate and critique it. The reason that it is so hard to evaluate and critique is precisely because it is assumed evangelicalism. In other words, it acknowledges all the right things. The theology of assumed evangelicalism could well be faultless and, when asked to do so, is probably able to articulate itself in an exemplary way. The danger of assumed evangelicalism is precisely the fact that it has come from somewhere very distinct and is heading to somewhere very distinct but the in-between-ness of it makes it a lot harder to evaluate clearly. The crossing of boundaries is notoriously hard to see until you have arrived on the other side. This means at least two things.

Firstly, it means that attempts to question people, churches, or movements and institutions that are perceived to be sliding into assumed evangelicalism will always risk being labelled judgmental at best and, at worst, the scare-mongering of the 'fundamentalist' fringe. Those raising the questions must be willing to accept that their judgements may be misplaced and unfair. Nevertheless, if assumed evangelicalism is a reality, then it is in all our interests to be willing to discuss, with love and humility, how far its characteristics may be true of us and our institutions.

Secondly, it means that many assessments of assumed evangelicalism will be largely criticisms of potential as opposed to actual. A fundamental worry aroused by assumed evangelicalism is generational - if we continue down this line in this particular way where will the next generation stand on this issue? In many cases (although certainly not all) criticisms may need to be tentative and provisional, to guard against the unnecessary fragmentation of evangelicalism and the drawing of lines before they need to be drawn. Such criticisms may be considered rude, but they show a commitment to the need to draw lines somewhere. We cannot afford to ignore the deceptions of our own hearts and the world in which we live. Both of these can subtly distort and truncate the biblical gospel.

If, then, assumed evangelicalism is a recognisable phase in which an individual, or movement, or church may find itself, what does the phase actually look like? What are its characteristics? We can address the issue positively by asking two questions to determine which of the three stages best describes ourselves and our ministries.
That is a great description of the syndrome that many of us in the Christian blogosphere fight against, and I think giving it a modified name helps to make people less defensive and more willing to talk.

But my bottom line question is this:
What are we fighting for when we are fighting for evangelicalism?
Evangelicalism is a set of ideas and priorities, an understanding, of Christianity designed to influence the church. As far as I can tell, that's all it is. It is not an institution that needs saving -- it's not the church.

The same set of ideas that originally defined evangelicalism are still around today and held by many -- they are what is important, not the label. As people seek to redefine the label, they are robbing it of the power that made it worth anything. Why not let it go?

Evagelicalism was founded as a counter movement to exactly the kinds of problems described in the article when they began to beset the denominations. That may be part of the problem,we started a countermovement instead of doing actual reform. So now the counter movement is taking on the same corruptions it was born to fight. That's acutally kind of inevitable if you think about it. But the counter movement has little worth saving because we still have the ideas that originally defined it.

I think rather than fighting for evanglicalism we should start fighting for what it was started to fight for to begin with -- the church. Heck with the label.

 

Whatever You Say Bounces Off Of Me and Sticks To You

Remember that old rhyme you used to use when you were, oh, five-years-old? It re-entered the adult vocabulary in the '80's because of a very funny kid's show. I couldn't help bu7t think of that when I read this:

Belafonte Says Bush Is 'Greatest Terrorist in the World,' Praises Venezuelan Dictator
"No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution," Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast.
Michelle Malkin takes a closer look including some of Belefonte's other memorable remarks.

I don't normally waste much time on the silly saying ignorant things, but this one really gets under my skin, not so much becasue of it's content, or its source, but because of what it says about public discourse and what passes for argument in this country. That someone would consider such name-calling as valid is beyond my understanding.

"But doesn't the right-wing resort to such things too?" retorts my imaginary liberal friend. "No," I respond, "the right-wing weighs the situation and attaches an appropriate label." So what's the difference you my reader asks. For example, tyrant:
1. An absolute ruler who governs without restrictions.
2. A ruler who exercises power in a harsh, cruel manner.
Now, to whom would that label properly apply, a duly elected head of the executive branch of a government, or some guy that bullied his way into office with coup attempt and a rigged election?

Come on Harry, if you're gonna resort to this type of stuff, at least find a word that applies!

 

Jonathon Edwards Wrote Me A Letter...

...well, almost. Reformation Theology reprints a letter he wrote to his son of 9 - already in the mission field.
The week before last, on Thursday, David died; whom you knew and used to play with, and who used to live at our house. His soul is gone into the eternal world. Whether he was prepared for death, we don't know. This is a loud call of God to you to prepare for death. You see that they that are young die, as well as those that are old; David was not very much older than you. Remember what Christ said, that you must be born again, or you never can see the Kingdom of God. Never give yourself any rest unless you have good evidence that you are converted and become a new creature.
I read that and thought that many people these days would consider those words "insensitive."

Well, I lost just such a friend this last year, a friend of a lot more years than even possible for a 9-year-old, and I find those hopeful words. What better way to honor my friend, and give myself comfort? I cannot help but reflect there are two paths to dealing with sorrow - one is to wallow in it and hope it will go away.

The other is to work to overcome it, and to make that work something useful. What could be more useful than the work Edwards suggests?

 

Tell Me Again...

...about the lack of connection between Iraq and terrorism.
THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.
A left-wing, Democratic talking point bites the dust.

 

Imposing Your Agenda On Scripture

Al Mohler has a look at what, unfortunately, is not the worst example of this bad phenomena, even if it may be the most obvious.
Nevertheless, those arguing for cannabis in the Bible, much less in the healing ministry of Jesus, are working with nothing more than wishful speculation based in playing with linguistics.
You know what I think? I think Jesus was an overweight middle-aged guy that loved nothing more than spending the weekend in an overstuffed chair watching college basketball, reading comic books. After all, He said
Matt 11:28 - "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
What could be more restful than a weekend like that?

 

Is There True Objectivity?

Thanks to Instapundit for linking to this piece in Reason on the role of politics in science.
What these efforts to legislate scientific objectivity really point up is that science, as the chief arbiter of truth in our society, will remain unavoidably enmeshed in politics. The government official who ordered the ban on DDT despite the scientific evidence for its safety, William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the EPA, brought admirable clarity to the issue. In 1979, Ruckelshaus wrote to Allan Grant, president of American Farm Bureau Federation president, stating, "Decisions by the government involving the use of toxic substances are political with a small 'p.' The ultimate judgment remains political." What was true for the EPA in 1972, is even more true for federal agencies today. The science wars are here to stay.
Which leads me to a short post a the Constructive Curmudgeon quoting a WaPo prinintg of an AP story.
A panel of linguists has decided the word that best reflects 2005 is "truthiness," defined as the quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.
A little bit like "Fake, but accurate."

Is there hope in such circumstances? Yes, hope lies in democracy. Hope lies in a well-educated public able to discern the truth from the data and the politics. Maybe it is time to stop viewing our blogs as advocacy and start viewing them as education?

 

Alphabet Soup

When it comes to this Alphabet Soup thing, some letters are easier than others. "Q" is a tough one. Quincey, Illinois is just boring. Queens, New York is, well New York. Never been to Queensland, so what to do, what to do?

Well, right here in Southern California is an amazing attraction. The old style Cunard liner - Queen Mary is tied up and available for tour and it operates as a hotel. More on that in a minute.

Here she is -- she's huge. She pretty well dominates the skyline in the Long Beach area. That dome you see used to house Howard Hughes' "Spruce Goose" aircraft, but that has moved on.

Long Beach is a really busy port and I am always amazed at how the Queen Mary compares to modern vessels -- she remains impressive. She may not go the tonnage of some of the biggest ships these days but her lines make her overpower pretty much anything on the water, save perhaps an aircraft carrier.

The don't make 'em like they used to. This is the wheelhouse -- Look at all that brass! And note the lack of electronics. If you think about what this ship did, plied the oceans with a compass, a transit, the stars, a clock, and a map - compared to how they do it now, it is an impressive achievement.

The tour also takes you through the engineering spaces which are truly amazing. They engines are immense, even by today's standards. Actually especially by today's standards.

As a hotel she retains the height of luxury that she exhibited in her heyday, though she seems to have fallen on hard times of late. Just not the draw she once was. But the services they offer are grand. They have maintained her quite well and there are few places you can dine in such art deco splendor, particularly not the original art deco splendor.

If you are ever in Southern California - the Queen Mary is a great place to spend a day remembering how things really used to be.

 

She's Got Him All Shook Up

Man Chooses Girlfriend Over Elvis

When reached for comment, Elvis said simply, "Hand me another peanut butter and banana sandwich please...Thank you very much."

 

Crime Against Humanity!

A FAMILY from hell who blasted out Britney Spears music round the clock will become the first in Britain to be evicted under ASBO laws.
For those not in the know, "ASBO" is a new "anti-social behavior ordinance" in the UK. Somehow that seems wholly inadequate under the circumstances.

 

Yeah, But It's Still Coming Back That's The Problem!

One-way trip into black hole takes 200,000 years

 

Better Than The Alternative...

Invasion of the giant crabs

...alternative crabs that is.

 

Got To...

...get me on of these.



I would likely kill myself and several others around me, but what fun I'd have doing it.

 

If Only...

...my calculus classes had been like this. I would have learned nothing, but had a great time doing it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

 

Blessings

WorldNetDaily is usually too inflammatory for my taste, and often too spin heavy, but this piece there seemed sufficiently substantiated to read more than he first few sentences.
Controversial scientist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins, dubbed "Darwin's Rottweiler," calls religion a "virus" and faith-based education "child abuse" in a two-part series he wrote and appears in that begins airing on the UK's Channel 4, beginning tomorrow evening.
Such descriptions casued a rise in temperature and, cartoon-like, a bit of steam started to flow out of my ears, but then this flashed through my mind.
Rom 12:14-21 - Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NAS)
I thought of how much pain, how much hurt, there must be in Dawkins for him to be so vitriolic concerning faith and religion. How can such as Dawkins come to know the gospel?

One thing is certain, it will not be through arguement. There is no apologetic, there is no sermon that can reach him for he is too bigoted. All that is spoken by proponents of Christianity will be automatically discarded. In fact, it is unlikely a person known to be Christian can ever get very close to such as Dawkins.

But he is not above the gospel, it can reach him. It will reach him in humility - perhaps in the form of a servant, someone he knows not - that demonstrates without speaking the glory that results from following Christ. In that moment his heart will be softened just enough for the Holy Spirit to gain a foothold and begin to do what He does so well. I pray for such moments, do you?

 

A Devestating Point

Mark Steyn made a point in the Sunday Chicago Sun-Times that I am not sure enough people think about
It's very hard to fight a terrorist war without intelligence. By definition, you can only win battles against terrorists pre-emptively -- that's to say, you find out what they're planning to do next Thursday and you stop it cold on Wednesday. Capturing them on Friday while you're still pulling your dead from the rubble is poor consolation.
If we oppose doing what is necessary, including communications interecepts, to catch terrorists, then we say that certain losses of life are acceptable, that those lives are less valuable than our right to uninterecepted communication. Now, our rights in this nation are vitally important, and worth dying for, but interecepted communication is only an issue for those that are engaged in illegal, piratical, or warring activity.

The fear of interception comes from two sources, one understandable, the other not. The understandable source is the activities of repressive nations like the former Soviet Union. Having visited that place it was a bit disconcerting to know that every conversation one had was listened to -- in some hotels they did not even bother to hide the bugs. But even then, it was only a problem because of what consituted a crime there. Uttering "Gorby's a jerk" could have gotten me kicked out of the country in a matter of hours, and if a citizen, well, "Hello gulag." That was the real problem, the oppressive nature of the government.

But in the US, the standard for offense is quite a bit higher. No, in the US the fear of interception is born of the huge number of people that actually are engaged in illicit activity. I don't think anyone objects to wiretaps of terrorists, save those with a political point to make, but they fear wiretaps in general because of how many people cheat on their taxes, buy marijuana , call escort services, or other illegal, but often overlooked criminal activity. Overlooked because of how diificult enforcement of these laws are in this nation.

Now, I am not proposing wiretaps as a law enforcement tool for such relatively petty crime, but what I am suggestng is that when people waste so much time and energy fighting communication interception in a very limited and justifiable set of circumstances, we ought to ask them what they are really afraid of.

Most of them would respond with civil liberties goobelty-gook, and if pressed you might find some long past indiscretion that creates a fear in them -- you could with me.

But the bottom line is that is just the facade. This is a political fight - This is one party attempting to paint the other as evil. And what is awful about it is they are doing so by playing on the fears of those in our society that enagage in borderline illegal and genuinely illicit activity. They are promoting, in a most incidious way, a lowering of the standard of normal civil conduct - all for the sake of getting elected.

Government is intended to raise the level of prosperity and civility for all, but it seems our leadership is willing to abandon that goal for the sake of having the power of government for itself. Isn't that the definition of dictatorial oppression?

 

The Call To Hospitality

On Sunday I borrowed from Out Of Ur and "amen"ed their call to transition from seeker-sensitivity to hospitality in ministry. Then I thought about Matt Self's post last Thursday based on a post from Created For His Glory. Lauren is talking about changing her expectations for blogging and making friends instead of just spouting ideas. Matt says this
Blogging was created not as a means for everyone to become their own op-ed columnist. Blogging is not supposed to be a monologue. It was created for the purpose of freely sharing ideas. The understated, underemphasized point is blogging is supposed to engender fellowship. As Christian bloggers, we should be reveling in this concept.
When you add that to all the commentary that has been going on in lots of places since the beginiing of the year about how to disagree as Christian bloggers, and I come to the conclusion that hospitality should be the watchword for Christian blogging this year.

Blogging cannot be the church, we lack the ability to fulfil sacramental functions, and I believe the church calls for fleshly human contact - but perhaps we can model this aspect for the the church and it can learn from us.

Hospitality is, I think the missing ingredient in most churches today, and by hospitality, I do not mean "friendly." The Out of Ur piece (follow the link above) explains it to some extent, but I want to tackle it from a different angle.

It's no secret that the mega-church movement borrows from Wal-Mart and its ilk in its "business model." Some even admit to it. In a place long ago (2002) and far away, I wrote about this and quoted a USA Today article
"The reasons why churches are getting bigger are the same reasons why your Costco, your Wal-Mart, your Home Depot and Lowes are expanding and are successful," says Charlie Bradshaw, executive pastor of North Coast Church, which has 5,500 members in Vista, Calif., a suburb of San Diego. "They're providing what you're looking for in options and prices, and that's why people are driving by the mom 'n' pop stores."
That quote makes me shudder, but consider this - Wal-Mart makes a big deal out of it's greeters. That is indeed friendly, but does it make the store genuinely hospitable? No, it's still a monstrosity with large inventory and minimal service. Those greeters don't really change the Wal-Mart shopping experience, they just change the first few seconds of it.

Hospitality means that when you enter, you feel has if you are a warm, comfortable, homey place - that's very different than a friendly greeting.

In blogging genuine hospitality means several things. First blogs should be personal - that's something Matt mentioned as linked above. Self-revelation helps make that atmosphere, provided it is not the "save-me-I'm-drowning" kind of self-revelation. Secondly, it means our fights should be less like formal debates and more like dinner table discussions. Finally, it means generosity. It means giving more links than you get, praising other bloggers whenever possible and worrying more about what you write than how many people read it.

If we do these things, maybe the church can learn from us, and maybe then the church can genuinly change the world, like it is supposed to.

 

Read My Lips...

Schwarzenegger aims to spend his way back to popularity

...he won't be getting my vote in the next primary. Carol Platt Liebau writing at NRO has the analysis. You know, I would have thought the guy had at least a little of the backbone his characters had.

 

Nails It!

Al Mohler posted last Friday on a UCC church that has decided to leave the denomination based on its endorsement of homosexual ordination and same-sex union blessing. He concludes his post this way:
In reality, the issue of homosexuality is forcing these denominations -- and churches -- to make crucial decisions on the basic issues of biblical authority and interpretation, along with a host of related theological concerns. The endorsement of homosexual behavior and relationships requires a rejection of clear and unambiguous teachings of the Bible. Furthermore, the endorsement of what the Bible clearly identifies as sin corrupts the Gospel itself.
You are liable to hear from me a lot on this topic in the coming months as the issue once again comes before the ruling body of my denomination this summer.

Nothing ticks me off more than the attempts to disguise the genuine issue, which Mohler has rightly described, in the guise of discrimination, or most incidious in church circles, "widening hermenuetical principles."

Despite everything you may read or will hear on this issue, in church circles this is not about individual homosexual persons and their rights -- this is about the authority of scripture because there is simply no way to allow this without the rejection of it. There is no interpretation, no understanding based on scripture that can allow the ordination of homosexuals, or the blessing of unions between them.

Please do not be distracted by anything else, at least not when having this discussion in church.

 

When Science And Political Correctness Meet...

...you get gobbelty-gook. The lead:
Down syndrome in the United States is more common than previously thought,
Paragrpah 7:
But because the new statistics were not collected in the same way as the old, it is not clear whether Down syndrome has really increased, Armstrong and others said.
Did some editor somewhere not pick up on the fact that these statements are completely contradictory, or did the reporter decide the statistics were definitive and could lead that way even though quoting the expert to the contrary? (I hope not - I could not stand the thought of a reporter trumping an expert.)

The likely explanation lies in the paragrpah immediately preceding the caveat that the statistics may not be accurate:
The risk of Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother, from an estimated 1 in 2,000 among 20-year-old women to 1 in 100 for women age 40. Many women are having babies later in life, which might explain the higher rate in the new study.
God forbid we'd want all those older women having babies to actually face up to the facts of what they are doing. Note the "might" in the paragraph itself - would that the far less reliable statistics used to prove global warming were so carefully conditioned.

It's a good thing science is completly objective, isn't it?

 

Pollution...

This week, we are going to break from tradition and I am going to look at a single issue. It is an issue I honestly thought was dead, but it reared its ugly head in a BBC peice this past week:
Solving the Earth's environmental problems means addressing the size of its human population, says the head of the UK's Antarctic research agency.

Professor Chris Rapley argues that the current global population of six billion is unsustainably high.
This mantra started back in the '60's with Paul Erlich who had predicted complete world catasprophe by the mid-1980's based on something called the "Population Bomb." Needless to say, because that man has been proven so abysmally wrong (we'll still here, eating and consuming more than ever), the idea has been buried very deep - where it belongs. Explaining this line from the Beeb piece
Even so, the issue of population is hardly ever discussed at environmental summits or raised by green lobby groups.
When you have been this badly embarassed on an issue, it is generally a good idea to keep your mouth shut.

But what makes the appearance of this piece so truly extraordinary Was that two days prior Mark Steyn's amazing OpinionJounal piece appeared. In my commentary on Steyn's piece, I looked at his discussion of priorities in an age of plenty, but the data lying at the center of his discussion concerns precisely this issue. Turns out that Europe is shrinking from a population sense, at least a native population sense.
When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it's hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is. "Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?
Maybe this is why the issue is not discussed much?

But there is something even more incidious about population as an environmental issue. What,precisely, is more fundamental to our existence than reproduction? Can ther be a more basic human right? And yet, to address this important issue, we must someehow stifle that right. You want a glimpse into that awful possibility you need look no farhter than China. Here is the "offical" take and despite their best efforts to put a nice face on it, it sounds hideous to me, and hereis a look at some of the awful realities.

This issue, population, more than any other, reveals "environmentalists" for what they really are - control freaks. In thier minds, they, and only they, know what is best and they are willing to go to incredible legths to enforce their conception of best on the rest of us. It is a religious zealotry worthy of the Islamofascists.

What's tuly amazing is that given the embarassment that was Erlich, this issue has come around again. I doubt, and I fervently hope, no one will pay much attention to this Beeb article, only trouble lies down its path.

 

Just Wrong!

Mo. Researchers Find Largest Prime Number

There is no "largest" prime number -- they are infinite in number. This is simply the largest yet computed.

The number found is; however, remarkably large
The number that the team found is 9.1 million digits long. It is a Mersenne prime known as M30402457 - that's 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1.
Blogotional hereby challenges anyone without a life to start a blog the entire contents of which is the number written out with all 9.1 million digits. If you do it, you'll never find a life, but I will laugh really hard.

 

No Doubt - He Must Have Called Air America

Radio talkshow caller dies on air

Oh - wait, it's the hosts that die on that network.

 

From Behind Mickey's Dog...

Pluto moon 'has no atmosphere'

That's amazing! What do they feed that dog so that is never farts?

 

True Devotion To Your Craft

Two people suspected of counterfeiting money spent at least a week relieving themselves in plastic shopping bags, because the plumbing stopped working in their apartment when they flushed wads of suspected fake cash down the toilet, authorities said.
The moral? Next time you are going to set up a counterfieting operation - do it somewhere there is a fireplace.

 

From The Obscure Movie Reference Department

He was a Dapper Dan man...

Irish bog man liked to slick back with hair gel

 

For The Seriously Lifeless

The Hobbit Feast
35 MM EXTENDED EDITIONS OF THE FIRST TWO FILMS AND THEATRICAL RELEASE VERSION OF RETURN OF THE KING WITH FOOD PAIRING AT ALL SEVEN HOBBIT EATING TIMES!
When fandom turns to obsession, it's usually best to cut a wide path around them.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

 

Leadership Is Hard

Thanks to Transforming Sermons for the link to this post at Through A Glass Darkly on Paul's letter to Titus and it's call to purity in leadership. The post focuses on sexual purity, but the Titus quote addresses so much more:
not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable,
That's a tall order - in fact some of that stuff makes maintaining sexual purity look pretty simple.

This truly makes me wonder -- there is so much to be done to operate a church, facilities, personnel, policies, budgets, and so forth. It is hard to find people to do all of that. So often we end up compromising such standards of purity because we need people to get the job done.

I know that in my particular flavor of Christianity (PCUSA) there would be a great value in separating doing the work from the leadership, but it seems we can't get the "workers" we need if we don't give them the "reward" and the motivation of a leadership position.

My personal bent is to put a stake in the ground and simply draw a line at such purity -- if we can't find enough people that meet the mark, then we need to find a way to do without. But I meet resistance on that stance all the time.

This much I do know. We need to begin to emphasize these standards on those who are in leadership. Bible study preceding leadership meetings. Division of the leadership pool into mutual prayer groups. These are the kinds of things that I find necessary, not optional.

What do you do at your church?

 

True Sensitivity To Seekers

Out Of Ur had a wonderful post on why we should abandon the "seeker-sensitive" model of doing church.
These principles of Christian hospitality have been practiced since the time of Abraham, but in the modern age the church abandoned the traditional language of loving strangers in favor of a new dialect. We called it ?seeker sensitivity.? The seeker church movement has taken the Bedouin and monastic idea of hospitality (host first, ask questions later) and reversed it. Now, thanks to the influence of business practices and marketing, the church tries to discover everything possible about its target guests, and then hosts according to their predetermined expectations. The result has been a radical shift in the way Christians worship and express their devotion to Christ, and a dehumanizing of Christian hospitality.

Where market research replaces the simple call to love strangers, the responsibility to be hospitable is no longer felt by individual members of the church?the music, sermon, and worship service have all been test-engineered to do the job instead. Market analysis has also shown that many people prefer to visit a church anonymously, so seeker-driven churches will often avoid identifying newcomers. Jesus may be among us in the form of a stranger, but we would never know it unless he filled out a response card.
[emphais added]
Seeker-sensitivity as it has been practiced these recent years is incidious in its lack of a call to maturity. Several things happen as a result

I am reminded that the church is a means to an end, it is not an end unto itself. What do I mean when I say that?

We are not called to build up the church, save by building up those that are in it. The seeker-sensitive/mega-church movement has done, obviously, an excellent job at building the institution, but they have done so in a manner that does not concern itself with the growth of the individuals in the church, that may have been accomplished, but it was a by-product at best.

I am very happy to see something this pointed and good from such a high profile outlet. I think the emphasis it places on hospitality is a good one. This is how I have always thought church should be done.


 

Sermons and Lessons

INTRODUCTION TO THE AUTHOR

Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. At the age of twenty she entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation. While there she battled many serious illnesses, especially between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty. She lived a very devout life at the convent and was known to have occasional supernatural experiences.

In 1555 Teresa experienced what she called a "second conversion," which changed her spiritual life decisively. She began experiencing visions more often, most notably, visions of Christ piercing her heart with a spear. Under the direction of her spiritual counselor, she began working on a project to establish new Carmelite houses that were devoted to the contemplative life. Later John of the Cross worked alongside her in this effort.

Teresa began her writing career with a spiritual autobiography, and it was quickly noticed that she had a gift for writing about the spiritual life in elegant yet simple terms. Her most famous work on prayer is Interior Castle, which she wrote following a vision. In it she describes the soul's journey from the outside of a castle and through many rooms as it strives toward the center room where the soul can unite with God completely. In the spirit of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Teresa uses allegory to describe the spiritual journey we all face, with its attendant obstacles and joys.

EXCERPTS FROM INTERIOR CASTLE

1. Strive to Escape the Poisonous Sins


This chapter has to do with those who have already begun to practice prayer and who long to leave the first stage, or room. However, they may not have the strength or resolve to leave that first room. They may have difficulty avoiding occasions of sin, which is a very grave condition. It is a great mercy that they should strive to escape the poisonous sins of the first stage of prayer, even if it is short-lived.

In some ways, these people will face more difficulty than those who are content at the beginning level. However, they are further along, and therefore in less danger of falling away, and have a greater hope of going farther in the "castle." God is so anxious that we should grow close to him that he calls us unceasingly to approach him. Many souls at this stage find his voice so sweet that they are grieved at being unable to respond to him immediately. This is why they suffer more than beginners.

2. God Looks into Our Souls

God appeals to us through other good people, through sermons, or through the reading of good books. Sometimes he calls through our sicknesses and our trials as he bids us to pray. However feeble such prayers may be, God values them highly

God looks into our souls and perceives our desires. If our desires are good, we cannot fail. Nevertheless, the assaults of the devils that are made upon the soul are terrible. Again, this is why the soul suffers more at this stage than does the beginner. Whereas before the soul was somewhat deaf and blind and had no will to resist, now it has begun to hear and see and resist as one who is about to gain victory.

It is at this stage that the devils will attack the soul with the earthly pleasures of this world, like snakes who bite with deadly poison. They trick the soul into thinking that such pleasures will last an eternity; they remind the soul of the high esteem in which it is held in the world; they place before it the many friends and relatives who will disagree with the manĀ¬ner of life you have now begun.

3. Wonderful Capacities

Oh, Jesus! What confusion the devils bring about in the poor soul, and how distressed it becomes, not knowing if it ought to proceed or return to the first room, i.e., the beginning stages of prayer.

But on the other hand, you have blessed us with wonderful capacities to help us along the way! Reason tells the soul how mistaken it is in thinking that these earthly pleasures are of the slightest value in comparison with what it is seeking. Faith instructs the soul in what it must do to find true satisfaction. Memory reminds it how all of those pleasures come to an end, and how all those who once engaged in those pleasures - who seemed to find such enjoyment in them! - are now dead and buried. People who were once prosperous are now beneath the ground, and we trample on their graves.

The will inclines the soul to love God, the One in whom it has seen so many acts and signs of love. In particular, the will shows the soul how this True Lover never leaves it, but goes with it everywhere and gives it life and being. Then the understanding comes forward and makes the soul realize that, for however many years it may live, it can never hope to have a better friend. For the world is full of falsehood and these pleasures which the devil pictures to it are accompanied by trials and cares and annoyances. It reminds the soul that if it were to go back from this stage, it would never again find security or peace. It is reflections of this kind which vanquish devils.

4. The Vain Habits We Fall Into

But, oh, my God and Lord, how everything is ruined by the vain habits we fall into and the way everyone else follows them! Our faith is so dead that we desire what we see more than what faith tells us about?even though what we see is that people who pursue these things end up with nothing but misfortune!

All this is the work of the venomous snakes of sin that bite us early in our journey. Like one who is bitten by a snake, our whole body swells up with the poison. Only the great mercy of God will preserve us. The soul will certainly suffer great trials at this time, especially if the devil sees that its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress: all the powers of hell will combine to drive it back again.

5. We Must Be Resolute

That is why it is very important for us to associate with others who are walking in the right way?not only those who are where we are in the journey, but also those who have gone farther. Those who have drawn close to God have the ability to bring us closer to him, for in a sense they take us with them.

Let us firmly resolve not to lose the battle we fight. For if the devil sees that we are willing to lose our life and our peace, and that nothing can entice us back to the first room, he will soon cease from troubling us. But we must be resolute, for we fight with devils, and thus, there is no better weapon than the Cross.

6. Content with the Consolations

I feel I must repeat this important point: at the beginning we must not become content with the consolations we may receive at the early stages. That would be like building our house on sand. At this stage you are beginning to build a beautiful castle, and you must build it on strong virtues, not temporary consolations.

Neither should we complain about a lack of consolations at this stage. Rather, embrace the Cross which Jesus bore upon his shoulders and realize that this Cross is yours to carry too. We are free in the same measure we are able to suffer.

You may also make the mistake of thinking that you will be better able to bear your trials if God will only grant you inward consolations. Remember that God knows what is best for us, and that we are not capable of asking for what is best for us. All that beginners in prayer must do is this: labor and be resolute, preparing themselves with diligence to bring their will into conformity with the will of God. This ability is the greatest thing that can be accomplished on the spiritual journey.

7. Do Not Lose Heart

If we go astray at the beginning and want the Lord to do our will and lead us as our desires dictate, how can we be building on a firm foundation? I must remind you that it is the Lord?s will that we should be tested and that even allows evil vipers to bite us. When we are afflicted with evil thoughts that we cannot cast out, or when we enter a spiritual desert that we cannot find our way out of, God is teaching us how to be on our guard in the future and to see if we are really grieved at having offended him.

If, then, you sometimes fall, do not lose heart. Even more, do not cease striving to make progress from it, for even out of your fall God will bring some good. I know of a man who willingly took poison in order to prove that his antidote was powerful enough to save him. Sometimes God allows us to fall in order to reveal to us our sinfulness and to show us what harm comes as a result of sin. Our sins can have the effect of leading us back to God and striving all the more.

8. Gently Begin a Time of Prayer

Let us, therefore, place our trust in God and not in ourselves, relying heavily on his mercy and not fighting the battle alone. When you feel the beginnings of temptation, do not fight back with strenuous efforts, but rather, gently begin
a time of prayer and recollection. At first it will be difficult, but after a while you will be able to do it easily, and for long periods of time.

Do not think that you must stop doing your work in order to pray The Lord will turn all of our work time into profit as long as we continue in a spirit of prayer. There is no remedy for the temptations that we face except to start at the beginning, and the beginning is prayer. The only way to lose is to turn back.

9. The Door to This Castle Is Prayer

Some of you may think that since turning back is such a terrible thing, then it would have been better not to have begun at all. Remember, it is even more dangerous to have never begun. The door by which we enter this castle is prayer. It is absurd to think that we can enter heaven without first entering into this castle and finding out our own sinfulness and how much we owe to God for our redemption.

For our works have no value unless they are united with faith, and our faith has no value unless it is united with works. May God grant us the ability to see how much we cost him, to see that the servant is not greater than the Master, to see that we must work if we would enjoy his glory. For this reason we must pray, lest we continually enter into temptation.

10. Communion with the Trinity

In this seventh dwelling place the union comes about in a different way: our good God now desires to remove the scales from the soul's eyes and let it see and understand, although in a strange way, something of the favor he grants
it. When the soul is brought into that dwelling place, the Most Blessed Trinity, all three Persons, through an intellectual vision, is revealed to it through a certain representation of the truth. First there comes an enkindling in the spirit in the manner of a cloud of magnificent splendor; and these Persons are distinct, and through an admirable knowledge the soul unĀ¬derstands as a most profound truth that all three Persons are one substance and one power and one knowledge and one God alone.

Here all three Persons communicate themselves to it, speak to it, and explain those words of the Lord in the Gospel: that he and the Father and the Holy Spirit will come to dwell with the soul that loves him and keeps his commandments.

11. Use No Force

You will not be able to enter all the dwelling places through your own efforts, even though these efforts may seem to you great, unless the Lord of the castle himself brings you there. Hence I advise you to use no force if you meet with any resistance.

Once you get used to enjoying this castle, you will find rest in all things, even those involving much labor, for you will have the hope of returning to the castle, which no one can take from you.

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