Saturday, August 12, 2006


Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Link We Go...

Blogotional must-read of the weekend. Who knew we were that hard to understand when guys like Dadmanly understand so thoroughly and explain so well.

Blogotional must SEE of the weekend.

NEW BLOG ALERT from my friend Laer.

More Beans!

Does this involve a redundancy somewhere?

Everybody knows you don't pee on the electric fence, but I guess that rule applies other places too.

My blogging partner here points from his blog to a rather fascinating judicial ruling. Lowell is a lwwyer so union rules prevent him from asking the obvious question - you think there is any billing inflation going on here?

Pravda speaks, people refuse to listen.

Yeah but they're cute, so BITE ME!

Should the completely transparent and obvious ever be a headline?

This is called a fish kill - I've done fish kill investigation. This is how it is done

Well, except for the eating... there are more precise analytical methods than taste.

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Comic Art

Continuing our look this week at the characters that have comprised the no-team The Defenders, we look this week at Valkyrie. Here's another bio and a third.

She is pretty much Thor, but with a costume not nearly so good looking, and not as memorable, or as likeable. Which pretty well makes her perfect for The Defenders, given they were a band of misfits that never could get along with anybody else.

As with many of the Defenders, I had to look up her back story because I could not remember a thing about it - What's that tell you? Doubtlessly there are fans out there that have spent countless hours collecting information and memorablia for this character since memorabilia would be necessary to remember anything at all about her.

You want to know what I most remember about her? - That when I was at that age that I could find female comic characters tittilating, she failed to meet that standard.

Now, she was strong, very strong. I think Strange kept her around in case his mystical hold on the Hulk ever failed, she could fight him to a standstill, and did.

She also was the perfect team player in the sense that she could not carry a story herself and therefore had no problem playing second fiddle to, well just about anybody.

She did have a winged horse, which was way cool, but the horse was underutilized. If I had been writing, I think I would have made the horse the star and her there just for looks.

As we update the image, you note anything? I think she is vaguely reminescient of Madonna, and well, that's enough to move her from not memorable to...nauseating.

Now that I write that, I think I have put my finger on exactly why I never cared for this character - all of the curves and none of the femininity - which describes Madonna to me too.

But she was great in a fight, and she was an asset to the Defenders, so I'll cut her some slack. I'll just never invite her over for dinner.

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Friday, August 11, 2006


Good Questions

Glenn Lucke is asking some question about and of PC(USA). Some of his question concern Presbyterian accountability:
3. What steps has the PC(USA) taken in the past 10 years to start new congregations, re-vitalize old ones, and add more ethnic churches? How have those steps gone? Have they succeeded, failed, or produced a mixed report?


5. What reasons do PC(USA) leaders and lay members have for being confident that Stanley Anderson's $150M gift will be used to accomplish his goals? Is it for lack of financial resources that the the PC(USA) has lost members (and maybe churches)?
6. How big is the Presbyterian Foundation? I've heard it is over $1 Billion. If so, what will Anderson's $150M do that the $1B has not done? If the PC(USA) is already the wealthiest US denomination and they have lost enormous numbers of members, why will still more money change that?
7. What sort of church planting operation does the PC(USA) have? What sort of results have they had? If Anderson gives his $150M, how exactly will that money be spent?
8. Is there accountability in the PC(USA) church planting operation?
There is good and bad in all aspects of accoutability in the PC(USA). The good is that the accountability lies in the hands of the congregants. Presbyteriansism is as close to democracy as you can get in a Christian church, and in my opinion, that's a good thing.

The bad is that the congregants rarely exercise their authority, leaving the church, in practice, in the hands of the "professionals." When you combine that with the fact that the professionals in the higher ajudicatories of the church are largely those that have failed at congregational ministry, often by virtue of being exceedingly liberal, one ends up with a bifurcated church wherein on the congregational level things can be quite robust and healthy, but on a higher organizational level, sick almost beyond repair. The church, rightly in theory, believes that those that have devoted themselves to obtaining ordination should be provided for, and this is how we do it. Problem is, it rewards failure. This is largely where we find ourselves today, and it leads me to the second set of questions Glenn poses, the "why" questions:
1. Why has the PC(USA) declined so much since 1960? What are the various factors in their decline?


4. Why has the PC(USA) shrunk considerably since 1960 when the Southern Baptist Convention and Assemblies of God have grown during the same period?


10. Is there wisdom in giving money to churches that are in decline? Would it be wiser to give the money to the churches who already ACTUALLY grow? The auditor worries that Anderson's money might be wasted by giving it to churches that seem not to know how to grow. Why not give it to those who already use their talents (Matthew 25:14-30)?
Firstly, I want to challenge the assumption that "growth" as measured by naked numbers is necessarily an adequate measure of church health. I do not in any fashion represent the current state of PC(USA) as healthy, but I do think we need to be very careful about how we define and measure health.

One of the major factors that has contributed to the declines and rises that Glenn notes is that Presbyterianism demands a great deal of its members. They are expected to participate actively in church governance, which means learning all sorts of arcane polity. They are, on paper at least, expected to reach certain levels of spiritual maturity to participate in that governance. Being a Presbyterian is work.

We have seen a rise in "church as entertainment" in the decades since the '60's. Church as something one consumes as opposed to something one makes and participates in. I think those churches Glenn notes as having grown in these decades are those that are on the leading edge of that trend. In fact, Presbyterian congregations that are robustly growing in numbers, are congregations that have geared themselves to such operation.

Having said that, one of the reasons I remain Presbyterian is that I can generally find, on an individual level, more people that appear to be mature and seeking more depth with Jesus than in most Baptist or Pentecostal churches where they seem to be satisfied with the same surface level stuff decade after decade. And all of this in the midst of a failing church. Frankly, I'll take a stable Presbyterian church over a growing Pentecostal or Baptist church any day for that reason, the national church is not at all healthy but an individual congregation can be so, and the individuals in it can be spectacular.

There is also something of a "Wal-Mart" effect in this phenomena. As Wal-Mart pushes the boutique business out, so I think the mega-church pushes out the traditional smaller congregation approach.

All that being said, there is a huge problem with the theological and poltiical liberalism rampant in the PC(USA). Despite the presence of many, if not most, healthy stable congregations, the image of the church is quite distinct from that based on the bifurcation previously mentioned. This tends to keep people away before they even find out if a specific congregation is healthy or not.

Finally, turning to Glenn's question about how and where to spend "the money." I, for one, as an elder, work to carefully to direct specifically where money our congregation puts into the higher adjudicatories of the church goes, preciesly because of the misuse that he wonders about. There is good work amongst the debris, I work to make sure it goes there.

Mr. Anderson is free to send his money where he likes. I would not make such a gift, but part of being a Presbyterian is being tolerant of other disagreeing viewpoints.

The recent adoption of the PUP report by GA, that which emerged from the homosexual ordination dialogue, is in fact a huge step in the direction of governance like a Baptist or Pentecostal church. If it stands church court scrutiny, which is VERY likely, it will rob many of us of the opportunity to try to exercise accountability regarding that money, should it ever arrive, which is unlikely.

Bottom line is this. PC(USA) is broken right now, but on paper it has, well maybe had, the right tools and right organization to be the best. I, personally, am a part of a healthy stable congregation, which I enjoy for the most part. Under such circumstances, I feel it much better to stay and work towards reform than to leave. To some extent, that reform takes money - but mostly it takes the people of the church rising up and exercising their authority. My church does not happen to me, I make my church happen, I like that.

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The Day After "Almost" Links

I am consistently amazed at how God's commandments are just common sense.

Instead of church on TV, church becomes TV. (HT: SmartChristian) How'd that Springsteen song go? 57 channels and nothing on...

I'm betting more people would show up if all Bible studies were this interesting.

If they pass up one suffering person to get to one suffering dog, I'll.... Animals are important, but priorities....

He is just not to to his ususal standards lately - Robin can go it alone.

THIS IS JUST IRRESPONSIBLE. (I took the link out, it was an NYTimes piece interviewing chemists on how yesterday's plot might have worked, complete with what to buy)When I got my education as a chemist, one of the things I learned was a responsibility not to tell people how to do really stupid, or dangerous, OR EVIL, things with chemicals.

Looking to decorate your office?

Now the world will end, or at least the media will think it's going to.

Stories like this scare me. Whilst I have no doubt being a person of genuine faith aids ones health, this is not voodoo.

Which is useful if you find yourself with a mob assignment to kill a witness on a plane.

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Friday Humor

An old man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his tomato garden, but it was very hard work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament.
Dear Vincent,

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.
Soon came the response:
Dear Dad,

Not for nothing, but don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the BODIES.

Love, Vinnie
At 4 a.m the next morning FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area however, they did not find any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Dear Dad,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Vinnie
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Thursday, August 10, 2006


Upside Thoughts On The News Of The Day

Of course, I am talking about this news as expanded here.



2) It originated in the UK. I love, very much, the other side of the "special relationship," but what we're doing seems to be working better.

3) They weren't trying to commandeer the aircraft - indicating we have that one figured out.

4) It did not involve snakes - though I think the movie lost some of its appeal today.

5) Maybe people will remember why we are doing all this stuff they think we don't need to do.



UPDATE: I guess I'm not alone thinking about these things.

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When A Term Loses Its Usefulness...

So, for me it started when I saw this post from iMonk. Michael begins be trying to define "evangelicalism":
By evangelical, I do not mean, as some on the Internet have labored to prove, a line of Christianity extending from the Reformation through Calvinism to a handful of modern day independent Baptist fundamentalists. Nor do I mean, as Lutherans have the perfect right to historically assert, that Lutheranism has the right to the term evangelicalism.
He then goes on to describe why he thinks of himself as a "post-evangelical" - we'll get back to that in a minute.

Then I read Bonnie's post at Intellectuelle in which she tries to define the term "evangelical":
Regarding interdenominational relations (or even intra-denominational relations), I?m not sure that an evangelical ought to "win the world" yet lose those within his or her own ranks - ranks meaning fellow evangelicals, and beyond that, fellow Christians (Catholics, Orthodox). What good is it to win over a non-believer but alienate other believers?

But it was a little personal poll post entitled Will Evangelical Christians Split from the PCUSA? that sealed the deal for me. I think the term evangelical has lost its usefulness, at least in any religious sense.

iMonk seems to agree with me in his post above. See, I've been hearing the term for decades now and I always thought of it as a term designed to unite us as Christians. By being defined by some bottom-line "Mere Christianity" evangelicals rose above their denominational affiliations in common cause to bring Christ to the world. But of late, and I think particularly in the blogosphere, evangelicals have begun to argue about who really is and is not a genuine one. Rather than being inclusive, the term has become exclusive. As iMonk says
I mean that I reject the idea that the primary role of a minister is to define other Christians as wrong. I reject the idea that ministers, no matter how large their profile in their own subcultures, are immune from the death of evangelicalism.

I mean that the death of evangelicalism opens the door for a return to the sources and a fresh examination of the meaning of Jesus.
I do not blame the current crisis surrounding the term solely on internicene theological squabbling; however. I equally blame the mainstream media that has sought a label for Christians that did not sound "too" religious and I blame politicians that have tried to co-opt faith into political action, and make of us a voting block. As these outsiders assigned secular power to the term, a scramble for that power was inevitable.

While I like iMonk's sentiment a great deal, I do not think the term "post-evangelical" is useful either, it still divides, it is negative in connotation. We need something that unites us, not divides us - we need a term for what we share, not what we don't.

My opinion, we should leave the term "evangelical" to be a purely political one - one that means simply "politcally active, conservative Christian." Let it be defined by the politics, not the theology. The term is spent as a theological and ecclesiastical force.

Let's find a new term to define that of Christ which we all share in common.

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Illuminated Scripture

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So, Which One Is "The Weakest Link"?

In case you forgot why we are doing all this fighting and so forth. They want to kill large numbers of people in grotesque and spectacular ways.

Too close for comfort?

Take that! What do I think? I think ther is more truth in that quote than cynicism.

Got to get me one 'o these.

No comment - my mother is still alive and might read this - actually, I hope she does.

Making it all the easier for Batman to catch him. - Speaking of the Dark Knight Detective, any relation?

There are some places you should not venture with your pet.

"You are Number 6 - I am Number 2" (Yes, that's an obscure cultural reerence)

Well, they shouldn't have been driving to begin with. Fortunately, it appears the passengers survived.

That is until some jerk moves in and changes it.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Why I Did Not Go To Church Sunday

Saturday morning I drive past church and there on the sign board, as usual, is the pending sermon title. We are having a guest preacher. The title "Climate Change: A Christian Call To Action". For those not in the know, not likley for readers of this blog, that is a slight variation on the official statement of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the latest issue front for politically left-leaning evangelicals.

That a church might need to discuss this issue, I can fully understand - but could anyone explain to me how this is an appropriate topic for a sermon? I think it wholly inappropriate and here are my reasons.

One, the Book of Order, the consitutional document of the PC(USA) says the following about "Preaching the Word" (W-2.2007)
The preached Word or sermon is to be based upon the written Word. It is a proclamation of Scripture in the conviction that through the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ is present to the gathered people, offering grace and calling for obedience. Preaching requires diligence and discernment in the study of Scripture, the discipline of daily prayer, cultivated sensitivity to events and issues affecting the lives of the people, and a consistent and personal obedience to Jesus Christ. The sermon should present the gospel with simplicity and clarity, in language which can be understood by the people.
I have read "the written Word" completely on more than one occassion and have yet to encounter any material whatsoever that sheds any light on whether climate change is man-made or part of the natural processes of creation. I find no enlightment on whether the suffering that may or may not result from climate change is best ministered to by offering direct aid or combating potential man-made contribution to climate change. While scripture may make it plan we are to be good stewards to both creation and the impoverished, precisely what comprises such stewardship is a matter scripture leaves unsettled - forcing the preacher to base his/her sermon on largely extrabiblical materials

Now, such may often be the case, but when it comes to an issue in which the extra-biblical sources are highly divided and inconclusive, on what basis may a preacher decide on how to approach the subject given that sermonizing is reserved solely for the proclamation of God's revealed Word? Clearly it must be from that preacher's personal political perspective., and the preacher has overstepped the dictates of the occassion.

Secondly, that Same Book of Order describes the church's calling this way (G-3.0300)
G-3.0300 The Church's Calling
G-3.0300a. The Church is called to tell the good news of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord, proclaiming in Word and Sacrament that

G-3.0300a.(1) the new age has dawned.

G-3.0300a.(2) God who creates life, frees those in bondage, forgives sin, reconcile brokenness, makes all things new, is still at work in the world.
Present Claims of Christ
G-3.0300b. The Church is called to present the claims of Jesus Christ, leading persons to repentance, acceptance of him as Savior and Lord, and new life as his disciples.
Christ's Faithful Evangelist
G-3.0300c. The Church is called to be Christ's faithful evangelist
G-3.0300c.(1) going into the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all he has commanded;

G-3.0300c.(2) demonstrating by the love of its members for one another and by the quality of its common life the new reality in Christ; sharing in worship, fellowship, and nurture, practicing a deepened life of prayer and service under the guidance of the Holy Spirit;

G-3.0300c.(3) participating in God's activity in the world through its life for others by
G-3.0300c.(3)(a) healing and reconciling and binding up wounds,

G-3.0300c.(3)(b) ministering to the needs of the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the powerless,

G-3.0300c.(3)(c) engaging in the struggle to free people from sin, fear, oppression, hunger, and injustice,

G-3.0300c.(3)(d) giving itself and its substance to the service of those who suffer,

G-3.0300c.(3)(e) sharing with Christ in the establishing of his just, peaceable, and loving rule in the world.
It is in c.(3)(b) & (c) that any case can be made for the church concerning itself with the issue at all. However, as said above, how best to conduct those ministries is a matter of great dispute. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance makes a strong case that
...the destructive impact on the poor of enormous mandatory reductions in fossil fuel use far exceeds the impact on them?negative or positive?of the moderate global warming that is most likely to occur. Indeed, the policy promoted by the ECI would be both economically devastating to the world?s poor and ineffective at reducing global warming.

Because energy is an essential component in almost all economic production, reducing its use and driving up its costs will slow economic development, reduce overall productivity, and increase costs of all goods, including the food, clothing, shelter, and other goods most essential to the poor.
The fact of the matter is that at a minimum there is a huge debate as to what constitutes the best way for the church to carry out its mission in this circumstance. Thus for a preacher to preach on this topic - to proclaim a viewpoint, any viewpoint as God's Word, which is what happens in a sermon, is something of an abuse of priviledge. In light of the immense amount of divided scholarship that has been and is being devoted to the subject, the preacher is granting to their personal viewpoint an authority that is not yet appropriate.

While not thoroughly convicted, I wonder even about the appropriate validity of this discussion in other church venues apart from the worship service and sermon. Should we be carrying on endless debate about hockey stick curves and prevailing economic theory when there is so much solid and important mission work currently undone that can be done without such discussion? Should we not worry more about the immediate and apparent suffering in need of relief than the potential and future? The devisiveness of examing this issue in this fashion brings me to my third point.

Thirdly, the Book of Order under a section entitled "Unity in Mission" (G-4.0201) reads:
The unity of the Church is a gift of its Lord and finds expression in its faithfulness to the mission to which Christ calls it. The Church is a fellowship of believers which seeks the enlargement of the circle of faith to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone.
Can their be unity in faithfulness to mission when there cannot possibly be agreement on how to execute that mission? No, as see it, in the face of the contentions surrounding this issue, such a sermon can serve only to increase divisiveness, to in fact work against unity in mission. Such a sermon serves to undo the gift of unity that the Lord has granted. In a time when the church is already deeply divided on other issues, facing possible schism, what benefit can be hoped to be gained by raising yet another controversial topic?

Summarily, I have argued consistently on this blog that the church has a very specific, very well-defined mission - to make disciples. It is then incumbent upon those disciples to work out the will of the Lord in the many diverse, specific, and technical avenues the world is faced with today. To use the resources of the church for other purposes is to is to divert it from that mission. With resources as scarce as they are, does not stewardship demand silence on an issue until those good and well-trained disciples can assuredly identify a proper course of action? Does not anything else build division where unity is demanded? How is God uplifted by carrying on such debate in a worship service?

Why did I stay away from church on Sunday? Simple - I did not wish to participate in, nor grant credence to through attendance, a discussion not suited for worship. I decided the only effective means of being true to my conviction about where and where not such discussion should take place was to not participate. To place this much emphasis and energy into an issue not directly related to worship, in the context of a worship service, is to say I place my trust more in man that in my God - and that dear friends is the last message I ever want to send.

UPDATE: (Set your sarcasm monitor to stun) Maybe I'll sue.

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Long Night Links

The dirty little secret of so much environmental activism. It's not about saving the earth, it's about wealth transfer, or worse, out-and-out socialism.

Someone I need to meet.

Wisdom quoted.

Comic books, sadly, take a serious turn for the worse. Granted, they are mostly read by adults now, but still, it's the childish nature of them that I find appealing.

I wear my sunglasses at night.

Rightly so. Problem is, I thiink most Russians left is Russia like it that way...


I would say this qualifies as an abuse of God's Word.

Why nature does not need our help to fight back.

Common sense prevails - it has to go somewhere, and I don't know anywhere better.

Not sure "Firefly" was the best, but Voyager was for sure the worst.

The blogosphere rises again.

Is it just me, or does this seem vaguely voyeuristic?

Obligatory Lieberman link

SEE! - all the rest of you that claim we math types are wierd nerds, you have denied your created nature. We win, We win.

Something is wrong with America. I had to alter my course yesterday to avoid a traffic jam associated with this.

Apparently, they need work in Belgium.

Beyond the Darwin awards - the dumbest man in human history.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Finding The Way

Last week I ran across a piece from the London Telegraph in which the author laments that even Stephen Hawking, after all "the most briliant man in the world," can't seem to figure things out.
About a month ago, Professor Hawking posted a rather gloomy message to the internet newsgroup Yahoo Answers. "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally," he wondered, "how can the human race sustain another 100 years?"


This seems to me interesting not because it indicates that we don't really have a clue - which, of course, it does - but because many of the respondents seem to expect Prof Hawking to have the answer. This fellah, their line of argument seems to run, can do really hard sums. If he doesn't know how to save the world, we're all sunk.
Any Christian soul immediately responds to such with "Of course we don't know - we need God to know." I know that was my initial reaction. But then it occurred to me that such was a fruitless response, tantamount to calling Hawking and his readers "fools" for not recognizing what was in thier face. No the question really is, how do we get such people to look beyond humanity for the answers they seek?

Which leads me to this suberb Douglas Groothuis post.
As Andrew Murray said in his classic book Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, "Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all." Christian spirituality is founded upon humility of spirit and cannot live without it.
In the situation I described from the Telegraph article, humility is missing in two ways. Firstly, humility is missing on the part of the faithful. Our insistence on the obviousness of the answer and the futility of the secular/scientific search is born of a pride and lack of humility. We consider the grace granted us as "ours" - we fail to understand that we are truly no different or no better than those not yet holding such grace. And when we do, we serve as impediment to their veiwing that grace. Shame!

And yet, Hawking and his disciples also lack humility. They seek answers of themselves, born of a pride that refuses to admit there is something more or greater. Their pride prevents them from seeing beyond themselves, and thus their futile search for answers continues.

From my perspective the greatest obstacle to spreading the gospel is that pride, that refusal to look beyond oneself. Some would argue that pre-evangelism, apologetics, is the answer to this dilemma. In part, perhaps, but pride is a matter of the heart, not of reason. Such deeply inculcated pride dictates the path that our reason follows, and no amount of contrary reason will change that course, until the dictates themselves can be at least silenced.

Are we thus confronted with our own futility? Is there nothing we can do save wait upon the Holy Spirit to change their hearts? Well, yes and no. Truly, only the Holy Spirit can silence the dictates of anothers heart, but there is something we can do.

Which takes me back to our shame. What we can do is learn the genuine humility we lack in the our intial responses to Hawking's inquiries. What we can do is not point the way, but blaze the trail. What we can do is not direct, but invite.

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Linkin' My Fingers To The Bone

When fighting to preserve worthy and good tradition, is disguise helpful?

I find this refreshing, very refreshing. Somehow, 500 years from now, I do not think people will be travelling the world to see what passes for modern church architecture, so you tell me, does that architecture serve as a witness?

Never have I been so grateful NOT to be from somewhere in my life. That's gonna leave a mark.


Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and may be my most favorite to visit ever, but once a year, they do go way off the deep end. I mean really lose their minds.

Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes -- Attack of the stupid people.

This tickles me - immensely. Next time someone wants military money for something "useful"...

Truth IS stranger than fiction.

The path from 6-11 carbon count organic molecules to proteins and from proteins to actual sentient life is so long and so complicated that to discuss the possibilities of extraterrestial life based on such a discovery transcends fantasy and enters the realm of wishful thinking.

Bad idea. If anything we need to take the church out of religion, but really I think we need to just do both right.

Best global wamring post I've seen in a long time.

Open mouth, lose money - you gotta love it!

I gotta go here.

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Kitty Kartoons

Have I ever shared with you that my wife and I have no life? Sometimes it seems that way, we try to disguise it, but we often fail. One of the ways I have tried to erect that screen of camouflage is to refuse to catblog. But my wife made no such pledge and has recently been drawing cartoons based on the life of our cats, one of whom is a very recent addition to the household.

For the record, if you lived here with these two, these would be very funny, they are remarkably true to character and often based on actual incidents. Only a few weeks publication in this space will tell us if anyone else cares.

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Monday, August 07, 2006


Advice For Those Seeking Vocational Ministry

Last week, Milt Stanley looked at a Mere Comments piece about preparing for ministry by being educating in something else. I am going to use the same pull quote Milt did:
If a young man were to ask me how he should prepare for pastoral ministry, close to the top of my list of advice would be, "Get and maintain--especially if you plan to marry and have children, and are not of independent means--a skill for which there is a ready market, for which you could leave the pastorate and quickly begin to support your family." I am deadly serious about this.

I say this because I am convinced that doing the right thing in a great many churches will place one in a struggle where one's livelihood is in immediate jeopardy, and that the normal result of the confrontation is the pastor's capitulation to some wickedness or foolishness to save his job and feed his family. The conscience is thereby defiled, and the compromised pastor becomes a dressing for some ecclesial disease-clean white gauze on its outside, the inside absorbing the suppurations of a festering sore which will not heal because it refuses to receive the treatment it needs. Such dressings are frequently, of necessity, torn off and thrown away.
My father gave me the very same advice, albeit for different reasons, as I entered college. Maybe that is being kind - he enforced that advice as a consequence of his payment for my undergraduate education, and with the benefit of some 30 years hindsight, he has been proven a truly wise man in this regard.

That the conflict of conscience the author mentions arises is undoubted, but there are deeper, and also more practical issues at play in this discussion. Needless to say, I have spent coutless hours reflecting on this, so I thought I'd share some of that.

Let's start with the practical stuff. Simply far fewer people are equipped with the genuine tools for vocational ministry than think they are so equipped. My father knew me better than I knew myself, which when one is 18-22 is not surprising, despite the extreme confidence to the contrary born of that youthfulness on my part. Another friend of mine, years in ministry, put it somewhat more succinctly as I joined Young Life staff. "John," he said, "nobody than can get straght f*^$in' A's in chemistry is cut out for this work." After I left Young Life, it took me a while to work up the guts to talk to that friend.

I blame the church for this phenomena. We do not present people seeking genuine maturity in their walk with the Lord a vision for that maturity other than seminary and vocational ministry. The iMonk hints at this problem in a post ont he culture wars when he says
This situation doesn't happen because evangelicals know how to spiritually form disciples. It happens because we are largely unable to decide what it means to be spiritually formed or even how to get there. (HT: Sheep's Crib)
In my own case I wanted genuine spirtual formation, which includes ministry of some form, and vocational ministry was the only path I could see. It is also fair to say that the path I have taken since has been one that I have had to blaze through a nearly uncharted wilderness.

Let's move a little deeper. Vocational ministry appeals to the insecure soul. It appears to grant one a sense of self-worth by virtue of position and granted authority. Even if your self-worth is good, it often contains the appearance of being one of the "in-crowd," of joining the club. When one finally reaches "the inside" one often discovers that such is not the case - that sense of security is not really present, for that is something we must cultivate for ourselves, apart from our vocation or location. Upon that discovery, one's perceived "calling" often fades. What a shame to have prepared yourself for a life that does not offer you what it is you actually sought. As my father said, "Save the ministry prep for graduate school."

I think the self discovery discussed in the preceding paragraph is often the source of the dillusionment described in the initiating post. You see, the church is a human institution - composed of sinners like myself - flawed, scarred, poorly motivated, SINFUL. She can be nothing else.

I think it important to remember that ministry, vocational or otherwise, is not a call to what I want, it is a call to what Christ wants. That means we will be at war with our own natures - fighting our own need for security, acceptance, authority, and at the same time fighting the great battle against sin in the world, carrying forth the power of Christ. Think about it, Christ put the call to ministry this way
Matt 16:24 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Sounds like a pretty unpleasant experience to me, one that will leave us bloody, scarred, even dead.

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No One Wants To Work On A Monday In August Links

Pesbyterian questions, some Presbyterians need to answer.

Rick puts is mildly
Arnold is not a conservative Republican
Although he is preferable to any Democratic alternative - unfortunately.

Ahh, the good life.

Well, this is putting it bluntly. But then that is the norm for Victor Davis Hanson.

Perhaps the most important video you'll ever encounter. It can prevent dying of thirst.

Chemistry in action.

If English is taking over the world, how come we work so hard to make sure people here, you know, WHERE IT LIVES, don't have to speak it?

The problem with the article and follow-up questions is not that chemists have not long known and acknowledged their roots in alchemy, it's the attempt to add legitimacy to the occult roots of same, ignoring the obvious fact that it was Christian thought that moved it from mystical to practical.

Then someone needs to go on a diet.

Science in the dock? - or bad politics.

Food police should SHUT UP!

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Sunday, August 06, 2006


Brickyard Sunday Links

Don't get excited Rick! - The only reason I care is the venue.

How we got here.

Just gross.

Because there is one born every minute.

Kewl pics, but please do not look at the links - this is how young kids find porno.

Only if I remember to put it there.

Who said running with the bulls was tough?

Your Travel Profile:

You Are Extremely Well Traveled in the Southern United States (85%)
You Are Extremely Well Traveled in the Western United States (84%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (75%)
You Are Well Traveled in Eastern Europe (60%)
You Are Well Traveled in Scandinavia (60%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the United Kingdom (38%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Canada (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Western Europe (14%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the Northeastern United States (14%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Asia (8%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Southern Europe (7%)
You Are Untraveled in Africa (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Australia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Latin America (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)
How Well Traveled Are You?

(HT: Central Park Bench)Ed. note: My wife has noted that this quiz, in determining the extent of one's Middle Eastern travels does not query about any typical Israeli destination. Are we detecting anti-Semiticism?

Good question. Great answer.

Asking for rationality in an irrational world.

At last, technological salvation for a world gone, well.... Query: When it comes to human trials, how does one measure "stupid"?

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Sermons and Lessons


ALEXANDER WHYTE, senior minister of St. George's Free Church, Edinburgh, was born at Kirriemuir (Thrums), Scotland, in 1837. He was educated at Aberdeen University (M. A., 1862), and at New College, Edinburgh (1862-66), and after being assistant minister of Free St. John?s, Glasgow, from 1866 to 1870, became at first assistant minister, and later (1873) minister, of Free St. George's, Edinburgh. He is the author of a number of biographies, his most recent work being "An Appreciation of Newman."


And patience, experience; and experience, hope -- Romans 5:4.

The deeper we search into the Holy Scriptures the more experimental matter do we discover in that divine Book. Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament the spiritual experiences of godly men form a large part of the sacred record. And it gives a very fresh and a very impressive interest to many parts of the heavenly Book when we see how much of its contents are made up of God's ways with His people as well as of their ways with Him. In other words, when we see how much of purely ex¬perimental matter is gathered up into the Word of God. In a brilliant treatise published the other year, entitled, "The Gospel in the Gospels," the author applies this experimental test even to our Lord's teaching and preaching. Writing of the beatitudes in our Lord's Sermon on the Mount that fresh and penetrating writer says: "When our Savior speaks to us concerning what constitutes our true blessedness He is simply describing His own experience. The beatitudes are not the immediate revelation of His Godhead, they are much more the impressive testimony of His manhood. He knew the truth of what He was saying because He had verified it all in Himself for thirty experimental years." Now if that is so demonstrably true of so many of our Lord's contributions to Holy Scripture, in the nature of things, how much more must it be true of the experimental contributions that David and Paul have made to the same sacred record. And we ourselves are but imitating them in their great experimental methods when we give our very closest attention to personal and spiritual religion, both in ourselves and in all our predecessors and in all our own contemporaries in the life of grace in all lands and in all languages.

Now by far the deepest and by far the most personal experience of every spiritually minded man is his experience of his own in-ward sinfulness. The sinfulness of his sin; the malignity of his sin; the ungodliness and the inhumanity of his sin; the dominion that his sin still has over him; the simply indescribable evil of his sin in every way: all that is a matter, not of any man?s doctrine and authority; all that is the personal experience and the scientific certainty, as we say, of every spiritually minded man; every man, that is, who takes any true observation of what goes on in his own heart. The simply unspeakable sinfulness of our own hearts is not the doctrine of David, and of Christ, and of Paul, and of Luther, and of Calvin, and of Bunyan, and of Edwards, and of Shepard only. It is their universal doctrine, indeed, it could not be otherwise; but it is also the everyday experience and the everyday agony of every man among ourselves whose eyes are open upon his own heart.

And then, if you are that spiritually enlightened man, from the day when you begin to have that heart-sore experience of yourself you will begin to search for and to discover those great passages of Holy Scripture that contain the recorded experiences of men like yourself. "I am but dust and ashes," said the first father of all penitent and believing and praying men. "I am vile," sobs Job. "Behold, I am vile, and I will lay my hand upon my mouth. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." And David has scarcely heart or a pen for anything else. "There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. My loins are filled with a loathsome disease. For, behold, I was shapen in iniquity." And Daniel, the most blameless of men and a man greatly beloved in heaven and on earth: "I was left alone and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned to corruption, and I retained no strength." And every truly spiritually minded man has Paul 's great experimental passage by heart; that great experimental and autobiographic passage which has kept so many of God's most experienced saints from absolute despair, as so many of them have testified. Yes! There were experimental minds long before Bacon and there was a great experimental literature long before the Essays and the "Advancement" and the "Instauratio Magna."

And then among many other alterations of intellectual insight and spiritual taste that will come to you with your open eyes, there will be your new taste, not only for your Bible, but also for spiritual and experimental preaching. The spiritual preachers of our day are constantly being blamed for not tuning their pulpits to the new themes of our so progressive day. Scientific themes are prest upon them and critical themes and social themes and such like. But your new experience of your own sinfulness and of God's salvation: your new need and your new taste for spiritual and experimental truth will not lead you to join in that stupid demand. As intelligent men you will know where to find all the new themes of your new day and you will be diligent students of them all, so far as your duty lies that way, and so far as your ability and your opportunity go; but not on the Lord's Day and not in His house of prayer and praise. The more inward, and the more spiritual, and the more experimental, your own religion becomes, the more will you value inward, and spiritual, and experimental preaching. And the more will you resent the intrusion into the evangelical pulpit of those secular matters that so much absorb unspiritual men. There is another equally impertinent advice that our preachers are continually having thrust upon them from the same secular quarter. And that is that they ought entirely to drop the old language of the Scriptures, and the creeds, and the classical preachers, and ought to substitute for it the scientific and the journalistic jargon of the passing day. But with your ever-deepening knowledge of yourselves and with the disciplined and refined taste that will accom¬pany such knowledge you will rather demand of your preachers more and more depth of spiritual preaching and more and more purity of spiritual style. And then more and more your estimates of preaching and your appre¬ciations of preachers will have real insight and real value and real weight with us. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." But he that is spiritual discerneth spiritual things and spiritual persons and he has the true authority to speak and to write about them.

And then, for all doubting and skeptically disposed persons among you, your own experience of your evil heart, if you will receive that experience and will seriously attend to it, that will prove to you the true apologetic for the theism of the Holy Scriptures and for the soul-saving faith of Jesus Christ. What is it about which you are in such debate and doubt? Is it about the most fundamental of all facts - the existence, and the nature, and the grace, and the government of Almighty God? Well, if you are really in earnest to know the truth, take this way of it: this way that has brought light and peace of mind to so many men, Turn away at once and forever from all your unbecoming debates about your Maker and Preserver and turn to what is beyond all debate, your own experience of yourselves. There is nothing else of which you can be so sure and certain as of the sin and the misery of your own evil hearts, your own evil hearts so full of self-seeking, and envy, and malice, and pride, and hatred, and revenge, and lust. And on the other hand, there is nothing of which you can be so convinced as that love, and humility, and meekness, and purity, and benevolence, and brotherly kindness, are your true happiness, or would be, if you could only attain to all these beatitudes. Well, Jesus Christ has attained to them all. And Jesus Christ came into this world at first, and He still comes into it by His Word and by His Spirit in order that you may attain to all His goodness and all His truth and may thus escape forever from all your own ignorance and evil. As William Law, the prince of apologists, has it: "Atheism is not the denial of a first omnipotent cause. Real atheism is not that at all. Real atheism is purely and solely nothing else but the disowning, and the forsaking, and the renouncing of the goodness, and the virtue, and the benevolence and the meekness, of the divine nature: that divine nature which has made itself so experimental and so self-evident in us all. And as this experimental and self-evident knowledge is the only sure knowledge you can have of God; even so, it is such a knowledge that cannot be doubted or debated away. For it is as sure and as self-evident as is your own experience." And so is it through all the succeeding doctrines of grace and truth: The incarnation of the divine Son: His life, His death, His resurrection, and His intercession: and then your own life of faith, and prayer, and holy obedience: and then your death, "dear in God's sight." Beginning with this continually experienced need of God, all these things will follow, with an intellectual, and a moral, and a spiritual demonstration, that will soon place them beyond all debate or doubt to you. Only know thyself and admit the knowledge: and all else will follow as sure as the morning sun follows the dark midnight.

And then in all these ways, you will attain to a religious experience of your own, that will be wholly and exclusively your own. It will not be David's experience, nor Paul's, nor Luther's, nor Bunyan's; much as you will study their experiences, comparing them all with your own. As you go deeper and ever deeper, into your own spiritual experience, you will gradually gather a select and an invaluable library of such experiences, and you will less and less read anything else with very much interest or delight. But your own unwritten experience will, all the time, be your own, and in your own spiritual experience you will have no exact fellow. For your tribulations, which work in you your experience, - as the text has it, - your tribulations are such that in all your experimental reading in the Bible, in spiritual biography, in spiritual autobiography, you have never met the like of them. Either the writers have been afraid to speak out the whole truth about their tribulations; or, what is far more likely, they had no tribulations for a moment to match with yours. There has not been another so weak and so evil heart as yours since weak and evil hearts began to be; nor an evil life quite like yours; nor surrounding circumstances so cross-bearing as yours; nor a sinner, beset yours; nor surrounding circumstances So cross-bearing as yours; nor a sinner, beset with all manner of temptations and trials, behind and before, like you. So much are you alone that, if your fifty-first Psalm, or your seventh of the Romans, or your "Confessions," or your "Private Devotions," or your "Grace Abounding," could ever venture to be all honestly and wholly written and published, your name would, far and away, eclipse them all. You do not know what a singular and what an original and what an unheard-of experience your experience is destined to be; if only you do not break down under it; as you must not and will not do.

Begin, then, to make some new experiments upon a new life of faith, and of the obedience of faith. And begin today. If in anything you have been following a false and an unphilosophical and an unscriptural way of life, leave that wrong and evil way at once. Be true Baconians, at once, as all the true men of science will tell you to be. "If we were religious men like you," they will all say to you, "we would do, and at once, what you are now being told to do. We would not debate, or doubt, but we would make experiment, and would follow out the experience": so all the scientifically minded men will say to you. Come away then, and make some new experiments from this morning. For one thing, make a new experiment on secret prayer. And then come forth from your place of secret prayer and make immediate experiment on more love, and more patience, and more consideration for other men, and, especially, for the men of your own household. Be more generous-minded, and more open-handed, as God has been so generous-minded, and so open-handed toward you: if that has indeed been so. Make experiment upon the poor and the needy and help them according to your ability and opportunity and watch the result of the experiment upon yourself; and so on, as your awakened conscience, and as the regenerate part of your own heart, will prompt you and will encourage you to do.

Make such experiments as these and see if a new peace of conscience and a new happiness of heart does not begin to come to you, according to that great experimental psalm, -- "Oh, that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee."

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