Saturday, May 20, 2006


Linkin Park Zoo

It's in Chicago, you know.

A worthy reference tip.

Democrats, Christians, Liberals (almost oxymoronic squashed together like that, isn't it?) The Corner -- WaPo The WaPo piece is scary - definitely has the cart before the horse.

Signs of the apocalypse?

Ah, maturity.

Now that's an eruption!

Beware Bambi.

Utter and complete nerd humor that made me laugh pretty hard. What does that say?

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Comic Art

Forged in the same gamma radiation fires that birthed the Hulk, Samual Stern was transformed not into the over-muscular mass of strength that is the Hulk, but into the intellectually superior Leader. The Leader is our stop this week on this tour through the villains.

The symmetry between Banner's high intellect transformed into mindless muscle and Stern's making a living with his muscles transformed into the world's smartest man cannot be missed. Unfortunately, from a story standpoint it has never quite worked, although from an art point, I think the Leader incredible.

This image of the high-foreheaded Leader is actually from about the early '70's and does not do the character the complete justice that his earliest renderings in the '60's did. As I child I took one look at a Hulk cover with the tall-headed guy on it and just had to have it, even though I wasn't a big Hulk fan.

The character disappoints, I think, because while the Hulk is "strongest one there is," the Leader never seemed to quite match up - Reed Richards, Tony Stark, even Peter Parker all seemed smarter somehow - in some cases a lot smarter. Maybe it was because all that mental energy kept being pointed towards world domination, who knows.

But the stories kept coming because that image on the cover of a comic sold that comic, a lot.

In recent years, the Leader has gone through a lot of changes, just as the Hulk has. First he morphed into the bubble-headed Leader you see here. Probably a good move for today's audience who would find high-foreheaded Leader somehow quaint, but I miss the old guy. Eventually his body shrivelled leaving a huge bubble-head which eventually transcended physicality. Who knows if he will be back?

Maybe it was the fact that the Hulk kept winning that prevented the character from ever really reaching his true potential - I mean every one knows that in the end, brains is supposed to beat brawn. Maybe it was the fact that the image sold the comic so the writers didn't work very hard - who knows? But when it comes to looks, you have to hand it to the Leader.

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Friday, May 19, 2006


OK, Now I Really Am Confused

Challies reponds to the critics of his criticism of Joe Carter by discussing church discipline. He says
Were I to criticize my article, I would probably point out that very few churches really do practice proper church discipline...


While not all confessions included church discipline as one of the marks, where absent this was assumed as being integral to the proper administration of the sacraments, for they are to withheld from those who are engaged in gross sins. Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin and Cramner, for example, all agreed on these marks.

Church discipline is an area that is largely overlooked in the contemporary church, yet is one that is necessary for a church to be a true church and to be a healthy church.
So, in essence, what Tim appears to be saying is that only those who are subject to a true church can be assumed to be my Christian brethren and there bascially are almost no true churches left (after all, "very few churches really do practice proper church discipline"). Therefore, I am forced to conclude that I really can't assume anyone is my Christian brother, myself most especially, because my denomination is downright awful at church discipline.

I really like what Andy Jackson had to say on this issue
The life application of my comments are not always easy. Why? Because as humans we are limited and can't read the hearts of men and women. This ability is left totally to God. Remember, Jesus does exhort us in the parable of the net to ultimately leave the "who is in and who is out" of the kingdom of God to the eschatological judgement of the all-knowing and perfect One.
Since we can't know, why should I assume anything? Absent knowledge from any other source, do I really have an option other than to accept a person at their profession? I am sure we all know the old cliche about what we assume.

As far as I am concerned here there are two really important salient points. One, absent surety about who is in and who is out, how I designate someone is primarily a matter of how I can best appeal to them. If Andrew Sullivan wishes to self-designate as a Christian, particularly given the alienation from most Christians he is already experiencing, then to declare him outside the fold will serve only to further alienate him and likely prevent me, or any other Christian soul from any sort of useful dialogue with him, thus removing one tool from God's possible arsenal to reach this man. Of course, the man should not be allowed in positions of authority or leadership, but he is making his arguments in a secular, not a church setting.

The Belgic Confession is not among the confessional documents of my particular faith, so I cannot claim much knowledge of it, thus I will not attempt to argue its merits, or the merits of arguments made based upon it. I will; however, try to describe briefly what I think the role of the institutional church is.

The institutions of faith are tools, that is all they are. A tool useful for managing the true church, which is the collection of believers, but those institutions are not in and of themselves, the true church.

I've been quoting The Screwtape Letters a lot lately (happens when you are teaching a class on a book) and I think this quote from letter 18 is an appropriate way to end this post
Leave them to discuss whether 'Love', or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are 'good' or 'bad'. Can't you see there's no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us.
This I know for sure - denying Andrew Sullivan's claim of faith moves him and a large contingent of his followers closer to our enemy. You see there is nothing less at stake here that Andrew Sullivan's eternal destination, I for one would like the opportunity to help him reach the better alternative. Or, are we really the don't-care-about-evangelism-Calvinists we are always accused of being?

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I Dont Want To Work - I Just Want To Link All Day

for all you Todd Rungren fans out there.

Good global warming news.

The key issue when it comes to homosexuality and the church.

Och, mon.

The Senate gets one thing right.

You go, Antonin!

No doubt your insurance rates will go down.

Who better to deal with the Da Vinci Code that C.S. Lewis?

Linked for a week, Because it's good.

Oddly amuzing or simply odd? Either way, I'm betting it makes you smile a bit.

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Friday Humor

It's War! - Enjoy

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Thursday, May 18, 2006


Who Then Is My Brother?

Yesterday, Challies responded to a post by Joe Carter on Andrew Sullivan and concluded with these words
As I understand it, then, because of Sullivan's unrepentant behavior, and because he has deliberately avoided placing himself within a true church, the proper context for all believers, I feel that we have no obligation to assume that he is a true believer. Of course this does not necessarily mean that he is unsaved. By God's grace he may be. Neither you nor I can know for certain. But neither do we bear the obligation of assuming that he is a brother in Christ.
Then as I undertsand it, I have no Christian brethren whatsoever.

Consider the two criteria that Challies has established. First, unrepentant behavior - who amongst us does not at this moment practice some sin in a completely unrepentant fashion? Truly that sin may not be as spectacular as Sullivan's blatant homosexuality, but is the measure to be merely spectacle? If there is an issue with Sullivan as a Christian brother, it is not his unrepentance, but rather his defiance - his attempts to change the biblical standard. But is even that enough to discharge him from the "brother in Christ" designation?

Think about your particular unrepentant sin. How many rationalizations have you used as you repeat that pattern of behavior day-after-day? How many times have you told yourself, "Oh that's not really what that scripture means"?

If you ask me, unrepentant sin, even defiance, is part-and-parcel of Christian brotherhood, and not an excluding factor. Two scriptures come to mind
John 8:7 - But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him {be the} first to throw a stone at her."

Matt 23:13 - But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
As to Challies second criteria for disqualification from brotherhood, participation in a true church, I hardly know where to begin.

Challies agruement is based on the fact that Sullivan is Catholic and Catholics do not hold to the solas. I am getting pretty sick-and-tired of people that do not think Catholics are Christians. I don't agree with Catholics on a lot of things, I don't agree with their theology, and they have historically made some enormous boo-boos, but so what? I haven't found a church yet that wasn't somehow flawed theologically and historically. Obviously I am not Tim's Christian brother because while founded on Calvinism, such is pretty hard to find in the PC(USA) these days, and you want to talk about historical mistakes! - we've made some doozies - Heck we're making them RIGHT NOW!
Rom 14:9-13 - For to this end Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
Andrew Sullivan could not be more wrong, but then neither can the rest of us at some point or another. When I have been so wrong, it has been being part of the brotherhood that gave me correction and restored my faith. Excommunication would have only left me to wallow in my wrongness.

I remain amazed every time I read the gospels. Christ reserved His harshest criticisms not for publicans and sinners, but for scribes and Pharisees. I think there is a lesson in that - don't you?

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Illuminated Scripture

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Ironic justice.

Because we should all read this several times.

L.A. is wierd - and I live here. Although we have great burgers, you will get very thirsty when you eat one.

Integrity matters.

I guess it's all about perspective.

Is rhetoric outweighing reason?

One should not be held to faith at the edge of a sword, but this sounds a bit too wimpy to me. Do we want to make conversion too easy?

Finally, some common sense on a vitally impoprtant issue.

Sometimes it doesn't need fixing.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Are We Gluttons?

In the seventeenth letter of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters there are some fascinating pull quotes
The real value of the quet, unobtrusive owrk which Glubose has been doing for years on this old woman can be guaged by the way in which her belly now dominates her whole life. The woman is in what may be called the 'All I want' state of mind. All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted. But she never finds any servant or any friend who can do these simple things 'properly' - because her 'properly' conceals an insatiable demand for the exact, and almost impossible, palatal pleasures which she imagines she remembers from the past; a past described by her as 'the days when you could get good servants' but known to us as the days when her sense were more easily pleased and she had pleasures of other kinds which made her less dependent on those of the table.


Now your patient is his mother's sone. While working your hardest, quite rightly, on other fronts, you must not neglect a little quiet infiltration in respect of gluttony. Beig a male, he is not so likely to be caught by the '
All I want' camouflage. Males are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity. They ought to be made to think themselves very knowing about food, to pique themselves on having found the only restaurant in the town where the steaks are 'properly' cooked.
The first thought that ran through my mind as I read that was our virtual national obsession with all things dietary, to the point where churches and other organization are offering Christian dietary plans. As I have tried to explain to the 100's of people that have asked me about my weight loss over these last two years - it's about NOT thinking about food as opposed to becoming obsessed with whatever diet is the current fad.

But then I looked at those words and thought about church and how they cut both ways when is comes to how we relate to church and church relates to us. Aren't we gluttons in how we consume church, looking constantly to get it "just right" and crowing like roosters at sunrise when we find what we think is the 'perfect' church?

And churches and church consultants have become obsessed with doing it 'just right.' We have become gluttons for information and directions, instructions and statistics on church growth and other indicators of 'health.'

Have we as individuals become gluttons for church and conversely but relatedly, have churches become gluttons for parishoners? Boy, sometimes it looks like it to me. So what does that say? Well, first it says we 'consume' church instead of participate in it. Secondly, the object of any glutoony is, in some sense, an idol, meaning we hold the church more important than He who the church exists to glorify and to serve.

As with my weight loss, maybe the idea here is to think less about church and more about God? If I as an individual concentrate on Him, then I will serve Him in whatever setting. Similarly, if the church seeks His face, instead of its own 'health' - that 'health' will be a natural result, as my weight loss has been.

Cross-posted at How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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You Only Go Around Once In Life, So Link With Gusto

Faith and Politics - perspective

It's official - this state is downright nuts.

That's what you get for keeping a tiger as a pet.

Philosophy in service to Christ.

Actual rationality on immigration and the President's proposals.

Make your own map here. Thanks Mike.

How do I know these people aren't idiots? Wait, what am I saying? I do know they are.

It's not working.

The whole culture tells them one is more "believable" as the other. Therein lies the rub.

On Christian leadership.

So good, I'm linking again.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006


So What Am I Supposed To Do?

Reformation Theology links to this article - an article with which I agree with every word, but don't like the way it is presented. Consider the concluding paragraphs
We began this article discussing engineered revivals based on stirring up some innate ability in sinners by man-made means. Boice comments on this tendency in his chapter on Glory to God alone: "Spiritual work must be accomplished through God?s Spirit. So it is not you or I who stir up a revival, build a church, or convert even a single soul. Rather, it is as we are blessed in the work by God that God by the power of his Holy Spirit converts and sanctifies those he chooses to call to faith." No one who believed what Boice wrote would accept the designation, "inventor of perpetual revival." This gives glory to man, not God.

There likely are complex reasons that the contemporary evangelical movement has for the most part left behind Reformation theology. The one that seems most apparent is the success of certain people in building huge churches and movements through man-centered theology and man-made techniques. We can build institutions and movements through human effort, but the true church of Jesus Christ is built by God's work through Christ. It is built as sinners are saved. Whether Christians believe Reformation doctrine or not, if they are truly regenerate, they are so because God alone saved them and He did so monergistically. How much better it would be for the church and the preaching of the gospel if we would return to the solas of the Reformation and give God all of the glory.
What I don't like is, I hope, painfully obvious. This make it sounds like Calvinists don't do anything but sit around and wait for God to act - that we are bad evangelists.

I have to say this - I have seen a lot of "engineered revivals" in churches, I have seen them work and I have seen them fail and the difference has absolutely nothing to do with the what the planners and executers do - what could it be but the Holy Spirit? But consider this, if those planners and executers had not put in the effort, even the successful ones would not have happened. The Holy Spirit makes it work, and we may not know when He is going to show, but we have to assume He will.

However, when it really comes to this issue, I think it is one of attitude, more than action. In the fourteenth letter in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters I think Lewis has Screwtape hit precisely the right tone
By this virture, as by all others, our Enemy wants to turn the man's attention away from self to Him and to the man's neighbors.


Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are reprented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased."
The most impotant conclusion to draw from Calvinism is not "wait" but instead "look outward," particularly at God Himself.

You see, if we are indeed focused outward, focused on God, we can rely on the fact that He will guide us to do that which He will support and that which He would have us do. No more, when properly focused on God we will become His tools - it won't really be a matter of us doing the right thing, it will be a matter of God using us.

Come to think of it, maybe Jesus hit a somewhat better tone than Lewis had Screwtape hit:
Luke 22:42b - yet not My will, but Thine be done."
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Linkin' Up!

Joe Carter gives Andrew Sullivan the old one-two.

Learning humility - hard lesson, but worth it.

Help me... - movie reference for the pop culturally impaired. (HT: The Corner)

Finally. There is a lot more environmental law that needs high court review...

Fisking Wright.

So much said in so few words.

Becasue I said I was going to link to it every day this week, and I meant it. Important stuff.

Go ahead you happy little environmentalist you, romanticise nature - see what it gets you.

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The Terrorbuster Saga


Read this story from the beginning at The Terrorbuster Saga Blog

Carter spent the evening in his hotel bar turning down the hookers and pretending to get very drunk. About 10:30 the primarily business crowd thinned significantly. Carter started going on and on about a "real party," eventually stumbling up to the pimp holding forth at the door.

"Where can a guy go to get a drink with a little party?"

"Right here," responded the pimp.

"Nah, I want a party with my party."

The pimp pulled out a business card, wrote a few words on the back, handed it to Carter and said, "Tell them Ivan sent you."

Carter stumbled out the door. There he notices the van that belongs to the permanent Greenpeace contingent that stays at the hotel, protesting Sophiaskia, as if they were the only people in the world who can possibly understand how bad things really are. He decided to have a little fun and add fuel to the fire of his cover by pissing all over the Greenpeace van. When a cop walked by and told him to knock it off, he did.

"It?s mine now," was all Carter said as he made his way down the street in the direction the pimp had pointed him.

Once he was around the corner, all pretense of drunkenness disappeared. Carter stripped off his business suit to reveal an all black body suit. From the pockets of his suit he started pulling gadgets right and left. Shortly, he was all but invisible, except under a street light, something he avoided at all costs.

Carter made his way towards the headquarters of that charity. As he approached he noticed guards. They were; however, lazy and rarely left the front of the building where he had no intention of going. He quickly finds the roof access ladder in the rear of the building and makes his way to the roof. When he gets there he is stunned.

He knew that the shielded room contained the only Internet connection in the building and he figured it was a satellite connection since that was most secure. That's why he headed for the roof. But what he wasn't prepared for was the fact that the servers that ran the rest of the network were in an air conditioned, but unsecured shed on that roof. This was too easy, a few simple connections and he could snoop the whole network from the comfort of his hotel.

"I guess they trust their encryption a little too much," was the thought Carter had as he went about his business. A wireless connection between the Internet server and the network server would be least visible, but detectable by anybody with an RF sniffer, so he opted for a hardwire connection. This meant he had to hide the wires, but on a tar and gravel roof that was no trick at all.

After he had the connection made and confirmed, Carter plugged into the Internet server something that looked like a Palm Pilot, but did a whole lot more. A list of IP addresses started to appear on his screen. After he had downloaded them he, disconnected and left the way he came.

"Too easy," he muttered to himself as he crept away in the shadows.

When he was just a step or two off the property a dog came around from the front of the building and started barking. "Shut up Misha," yelled an obviously drunk guard at the dog. The dog took a couple of steps but staggered and fell, obviously as drunk as the guard. The toughest thing about the entire evening was not laughing out loud at that dog.

Carter made a quick trip to the brothel the pimp had pointed him too. He got just far enough to complain about the prices and left sounding like the drunk he was not. Now his tracks were covered with the pimp.

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Monday, May 15, 2006


Radical Leadership

Milt Stanley linked to it. Mark Daniels loved it. Blogger Jim Martin with a blog called A Place For The God-Hungry wrote an incredible post about church leadership.
Many people ultimately change because they see in us something of Christ incarnate. They are experiencing "Christ-in-you." This happens as the Spirit of God pours out the very life of Jesus through you and me. People experience this as they are in relationship with us over a period of time and they witness who we really are.

So often, Christian leaders just wear people out. We talk. We announce. We talk more. Sure, there is a time to talk. There is a time to announce. But--what is most important as a Christian leader or a Christ follower is to be a guy (or woman) who is living an authentic life before God. That is powerful. More importantly, that is real.

I want to be there--but I'm not yet. I want to follow Jesus--but some days I don't do this very well. Yet, I think to say this is not a liability. Imperfection does not mean that ones walk with Jesus is not authentic. In fact, it may communicate authenticity.
Discipleship is not learning and does not result purely from study. An example: There are chemists in this world, and then there are chemists. Years ago, I hired a young man in the upper divisions of his undergraduate studies to work for me as a lab technician. His grades were outstanding, he was smart and sharp as a tack. On paper, he was a chemist. Then I turned him loose in the lab. He was most successful at breaking glassware. The university he attended simply did not stress upper division lab work and the poor kid was hopeless in one. He could draw-up the correct apparatus for a Soxhlet extractor faster than I could, but for the life of him, he could not put one together. In reality, he was no chemist - at least not yet.

See, lab work cannot be learned from a book, or taught in a classroom. Someone that knows what they are doing has to take you by the hand and show you physically how to do it. Then you, in that person's presence have to practice, usually getting it wrong and suffering correction many times. A little later I hired a tech from a trade school that had a program specifically to develop lab techs. In the lab, they guy was awesome. Did not have a clue what what the data meant, or why I was asking him to do certain tests, but by golly, he could get the tests done when I asked. He wasn't a chemist either. It takes both - book-learning and the practicum.

The same thing is true with our faith. Someone needs to take us by the hand and show us, not just tell us, how to do it.

There is one thing that Martin's great post does not mention, at least not explicitly. Showing someone how to do Christianity involves intimacy, and intimacy involves risk, and not just the risk of embarassment that Martin does mention. No, I am talking about the risk that God will really work in our lives. I wrote extensively about this long ago and far away.

Genuine Christian faith is an intimate thing. We are to be intimate with God and intimate with each other; the later primarily as an aid to the former. Today we seem to be building churches that are the opposite of intimate; we build churches that encourage anonimity, not intimacy. Can a mega-church be intimate in any sense?

This is a truly terrifying model of leadership. We don't get to hide behind our pulpits, lecturns or class notes. Writing a blog post is not enough. But this I know, 12 such leaders changed the world, and they did so in a way that the thousands we have today could never dream of.

Lord, make me such a leader.

Cross-posted on How To Be A Christian And Still Go To Church

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Where the Holy and Secular Collide

Justin Taylor has been wondering what it means to be a Christian Environmentalist. He has pointed to two interesting articles in his search - A brief one from Gene Vieth and an extensive exegete from Trinity Journal. Both articles end up in the same place.

As Christians we clearly have a duty to be good stewards of God's creation.

Great - NOW WHAT?

Some argue that man's efforts are somehow outside of creation as Vieth appears to
Christians may well oppose commercial developments that replace God-created beauty with man-made ugliness.
But wait! - is not man an integral, and the most important, part of God's created beauty? That which is man-made can be ugly, but is that ugliness not a result of our fallen state, as opposed to the fact that we are man? Would not using the resource of God's created systems to create beauty be an expression of our stewardship of those resources?

You see the dilemma here? Precisely what being good stewards of the environment entails is an incredibly complex question. A question for which there is no scriptural guidance and which involves disiplines of the arts (creating beauty), philosophy (what is beauty?), and the sciences (developing the resources of man-creation.)

And then there is the fact that these disciplines can collide after the same goal. For example, the arts may mandate that creating a beautiful building means building St. Paul's Cathedral - and yet, that structure is enormously wasteful of resources in comparison to today's engineering technology. So what is being a better steward, the beauty or the preservation?

Once we establish that as Christians we are to be good stewards, how do we answer these myriad questions that arise? Which brings me to a point the exegete paper makes
At this point it may be necessary to address a fundamental question. Why is it important to preach and teach this? Shouldn't we concentrate our limited time on the more pressing concerns of the gospel and Christian life? While the "environmental issue" is one of particularly poignant current concern about which Christians should be able to think and speak from within a Christian perspective, if for no other reason to engage in potentially productive discussion, if it is considered separately, as some interesting topic, it does pale in comparison to the importance of other Christian categories.
The author goes on to argue that it is necessary as an apologetic defense against those that would accuse the Christian of environmental destruction. Perhaps, but to do so drags us down into the endless debates I have just begun to touch on above, and I must ask, are such detailed debates really a place where the church is supposed to expend its time and energy?

I would argue it is not. You see, when the holy guidlines need the guidance of secular study to be achieved, as is the case here, the best thing to do is to make sancitifed people to conduct those secular studies - and that is precisely the mission of the church.

To address the environmental issue, the best thing the church can do is to make Christians of the people that work in the field, be they scientists and engineers, lobbyists and activists, architects and builders. Indeed, because the issue touches literally all of us (Would a Christian buy a hybrid or a V-8?)- the best thing a Christian concerned about environmental stewardship can do is evangelism and discipleship.

When we all fall in line with God's will, as can only happen when The Great Commission has been accomplished. I think the question of the environment will become moot - our sanctification will handle it on it's own.

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Linkin Round The Clock

There is a difference between illegitimate prejudice and legitimate discernment. Some life choices come with sacrifices.

God speaks - Given Kennedy's proclivities with women, I wonder what she was wearing - Holy Coast comments with a smile.

Mohler shoots and misses - twice! Christians that truly give themselves over to God will be happy - if they're unhappy it's because of sin, not God's created order. Being intellectual is not the problem, being intellectual, apart from Christ either conservative or liberal, is.

So's a volcano, tornado, hurricane.... What am I supposed to do about it?

Can't be - I'm sure it was Bush's fault.

It's not about truth, it's about control. Whay else would they change their minds so radically?

A Spud to love.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006


Happy Mother's Day

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Links For Moms, Well, At Least If They Are Interested In The Same Stuff I Am

Because mom's need to know what is happening in Afghanistan. It's a relly pretty country.

Because moms can exercise reason and know a supernatural God. Do you think this blog agrees?

Because there is one thing more important than Mom's today.

Because evry mother deserves to squirm a little on her day. (Hey, give me a break, at age 15, I took my mothere here for mother's day. I had a great time, her not so much.)

Why air travel on Mother's Day can be a problem.

Because moms should know what to expect at the PC(USA) General Assembly. The PC(USA) GA needs to read this.

A genuine problem for many moms. Thankfully none I know.

Because a lot of people, including some moms, are getting this topic wrong lately.

So, which is it? This or this? I know, ask you mom, I bet she can figure it out.

Beause I said I would link to it every day.

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Sermons and Lessons


Dallas Willard was born in Buffalo, Missouri, on September 4, 1935, and grew up in comparatively poor surroundings. He was married to L. Jane Lakes in 1955, and they have reared two children, John Samuel and Rebecca.

Early on, a life of teaching and scholarship drew Dallas into his chosen field of philosophy. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Southern California (his present position) and over the years has distinguished himself as a foremost interpreter of the philosophy of Husserl and, in particular, that philosophic system know as "phenomenology."

The following selection is taken from an appendix to his book The Spirit of the Disciplines. The book seeks to lay a foundation for understanding how God changes the inward personality, bringing us into deeper conformity to the way of Christ, and the part we play in that process. This passage deals with the problem in the contemporary church of "undiscipled disciples."


1. Discipleship: For Super-Christians Only?

The word "disciple" occurs 269 times in the New Testament. "Christian" is found only three times and was first introduced to refer precisely to the disciples. . . . The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ.

But the point is not merely verbal. What is more important is that the kind of life we see in the earliest church is that of a special type of person. All of the assurances and the benefits offered to humankind in the gospel evidently presuppose such a life and do not make realistic sense apart from it. The disciple of Jesus is not the deluxe or heavy-duty model of the Christian?especially padded, textured, streamlined, and empowered for the fast lane on the straight and narrow way He stands on the pages of the New Testament as the first level of basic transportation in the Kingdom of God.

2. Undiscipled Disciples

For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership? either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or a local church. Any exception to this claim only serves to highlight its general validity and make the general rule more glaring. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is optional. . . . Churches are filled with "undiscipled disciples," as Jess Moody has called them. Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.

Little good results from insisting that Christ is also supposed to be Lord: to present his lordship as an option leaves it squarely in the category of the white-wall tires and stereo equipment for the new car. You can do without it. And it is - alas - far from clear what you would do with it. Obedience and training in obedience form no intelligible doctrinal or practical unity with the salvation presented in recent versions of the gospel.

3. Great Omissions from the Great Commission

A different model was instituted in the Great Commission Jesus left the church. The first goal he set forth for the early church was to use his all-encompassing power and authority to make disciples.. . . Having made disciples, these alone were to be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. With this twofold preparation they were to be taught to treasure and keep "all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The Christian church of the first century resulted from following this plan for church growth?a result hard to improve upon.

But in place of Christ's plan, historical drift has substituted: "Make converts (to a particular faith and practice) and baptize them into church membership." This causes two great omissions from the Great Commission to -stand out. Most important, we start by omitting the making of disciples or enrolling people as Christ's students, when we should let all else wait for that. We also omit the step of taking our converts through training that will bring them ever increasingly to do what Jesus directed.

The two great omissions are connected. Not having made converts disciples, it is impossible for us to teach them how to live as Christ lived and taught. That was not part of the package, not what they converted to. When confronted with the example and teachings of Christ, the response today is less one of rebel¬lion or rejection than one of puzzlement: How do we relate to these? What have they to do with us?

4. Discipleship Then

When Jesus walked among humankind there was a certain simplicity to being a disciple. Primarily it meant to go with him, in an attitude of study, obedience, and imitation. There were no correspondence courses. One knew what to do and what it would cost. Simon Peter exclaimed: "Look, we've left everything and followed you!" (Mark 10:28). Family and occupations were deserted for long periods to go with Jesus as he walked from place to place announcing, showing, and explaining the governance of God. Disciples had to be with him to learn how to do what he did.

Imagine doing that today. How would family members, employers, and coworkers react to such abandonment? Probably they would conclude that we did not much care for them, or even for ourselves. Did not Zebedee think this as he watched his two sons desert the family business to keep company with Jesus (Mark 1:20)? Ask any father in a similar situation. So when Jesus observed that one must forsake the dearest things?family, "all that he hath," and "his own life also" (Luke 14)?insofar as that was necessary to accom¬pany him, he stated a simple fact: it was the only possible doorway to discipleship.

5. Discipleship Now

Though costly, discipleship once had a very clear, straightforward meaning. The mechanics are not the same today We cannot literally be with him in the same way as his first disciples could. But the priorities and intentions 'the heart or inner attitudes' of disciples are for-ever the same. In the heart of a disciple there is a desire, and there is decision or settled intent. The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him....

Given this desire, usually produced by the lives and words of those already in The Way, there is yet a decision to be made: the decision to devote oneself to becoming like Christ. The disciple is one who, intent upon becoming Christlike and so dwelling in his "faith and practice," systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end. By these actions, even today, one who enrolls in Christ's training, becomes his pupil or disciple.

And if we intend to become like Christ, that will be obvious to every thoughtful person around us, as well as to ourselves. Of course, attitudes that define the disciple cannot be realized today by leaving family and business to accompany Jesus on his travels about the countryside. But discipleship can be made concrete by loving our enemies, blessing - those who curse us, walking the second mile with an oppressor - in general, living out the gracious inward transformations of faith, hope, and love. Such acts - carried out by the disciplined person with manifest grace, peace, and joy - make discipleship no less tangible and shocking today than were those desertions of long ago. Anyone who will enter into The Way can verify this, and he or she will prove that discipleship is far from dreadful.

6. The Cost of Nondiscipleship

In 1937 Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave the world his book The Cost of Discipleship. It was a masterful attack on "easy Christianity" or "cheap grace," but it did not set aside - perhaps it even enforced - the view of discipleship as a costly spiritual excess, and only for those especially driven or called to it. It was right to point out that one cannot be a disciple of Christ without forfeiting things normally sought in human life, and that one who pays little in the world's coinage to bear his name has reason to wonder where he or she stands with God. But the cost of nondiscipleship is far greater?even when this life alone is considered - than the price paid to walk with Jesus.

Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul... . The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane.

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