Saturday, April 07, 2007


Easter Weekend Away Links

This is where I had dinner last night - the wife and I are in Texas for a little R&R. Best part so far? Nearby Air Force base having basic training graduation this weekend. Lots of what appear to be children to my middle aged eyes, standing tall in uniform with their families about. Made me proud.

Very cool, and not unlike my upbringing.

Well, it's the weekend, we all need a game to play.

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

"...when he felt the earth move..." thing got very interesting.

IT WASN'T ME! - as far as you know.

Naturally. Only it's the other way around.

I've been to China - this is a tad bit oxymormonic.

Should have been worth much more.

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Comic Art

We will begin our detailed look at the characters I have called "Omnipotents" with what has to be the most visually boring character of massive power ever invented -- The Beyonder. Technically, he's dead now which strikes me as funny for a character of nearly infinite power, but then its comics and no one really dies anyway.

And as for the look of the Beyonder, well, it was the eighties, do I really need to say anything else?

Like most characters this powerful, the Beyonder is not really a character, he is a plot device, and in this case perhaps the most naked of character/plot devices ever devised.

Pretty much the entire raison d'etre for the Beyonder was to get all Marvel characters in one place hacking at each other. Look at the panels on these two pages I show here, I mean all the big names are present in nearly ever panel - it's pretty much a superhero convention. Which was the whole idea.

The Beyonder and the "Secret Wars" miniseries that he is the plot device for were the very early days of publishers discovering the entire line-wide story line method of driving sales. Miniseries always sell well because they typically involve the creative teams best effort. The lack of necessity for publishing on a schdule and doing the whole series at once makes for very good work. So miniseries sales were great.

It didn't take long for publishers to figure out that if the miniseries stories leaked over into the regular books, they sold better too!

And thus, Secret Wars and its now inumerable progeny were born. The Beyonder was curious about our universe and so, using his omnipotence, made pretty much everybody into two teasm and had them go at it. Of course, this made allies of enemies and enemies of allies and had all sorts of characters on one page. As things happened in the 12-issue Secret Wars mini-series they bled into the character's regular titles - thus Spider-man gained his black costume that later turned into a bad guy and will be featured in this summer's Spidey movie.

This was a very controversial idea because it took a lot of creative control out of the hands of the people producing the regular series. This trend is, in part, responsible for the rise in independent publishers and radically changed contracts between creative and publishers. The Beyonder's omnipotence was more than just on the comic page.

More on omnipotent characters in a couple of weeks.

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Friday, April 06, 2007


Illuminated Scripture - Good Friday Edition

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True Mission

Not entirely sure what to make of this post at "The Reformed Evangelist." In it Tony Milano examines the average "mission trip" from the average congregation and finds them wanting in terms of being actual "mission." That is to say while being long on service, such trips are generally short on evangelism.

To my mind, there is no debating that fact. Mr. Milano is also quick to point out tht there is nothing inherently wrong with those activities, that they are, in fact, biblically mandated. He just seems to want to make the point they are not "mission."

OK, right off the bat I just have to say that Mr. Milano's otherwise decent exegesis breaks down pretty severly when he attempts to equate "missionary" with "evangelist." On what scriptural basis does he draw this parallel? It has been my understanding that the term derives from the days when the church was viewed with the powers of a nation/state and they would send a "mission" to a foreign land as a representative. Such a representative mission was sent with a specific task, often "aid" which is precisely what many mission trips do to this day, by Mr. Milano's own admission.

But I don't want to pick on words too much, rather I want to focus on the idea. That modern mission trips out of churce's are not sufficiently evangelistic. As the former chairman of the missions committe of my church making me responsible for distribution of our mission dollars I have spent a lot of time on this question.

We need to ask ourselves, was Christ's best evangelism His sermons, or His death on the cross? I'll put my money on the latter. Just becasue we don't preach the gospel does not mean it is not declared. But I do have a rub with the average church mission trip - they are just too much fun. Rarely on the later "testimony day" in church do I hear about the service performed; normally I hear about how much fun everybody had and what it meant to them personally.

I don't think the post-resurrection Christ spent a lot of time talking about what a wonderful experience the whole death thing was for Him. Evangelism is great, but I think service is the key, and we need to do more of it.

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Friday Humor

I wish I could tell you who I got this joke from, it makes it that much funnier, but I shall repect his wishes.

One sunny day in 2008, an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench.

He spoke to the Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Hillary Clinton."

The Marine replied, "Sir, Mrs. Clinton is not President and doesn't reside here." The old man said, "Okay," and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Hillary Clinton."

The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mrs. Clinton is not President and doesn't reside here." The man thanked him and again walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same Marine, saying, "I would like to go in and meet with President Hillary Clinton."

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mrs. Clinton. I've told you already several times that Mrs.Clinton is not the President and doesn't reside here. Don't you understand?"

The old man answered, "Oh, I understand you fine; I just love hearing your answer!"

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow, Sir."

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Thursday, April 05, 2007


From Whence Clergy

Michael Kruse at Kruse Kronicle takes a quick and terse; therefore, extremely informative, look at the emergence of clergy in church history. He starts with three strong influences:
  1. Imitation of the secular structures of the Greek-Roman world not unlike the professional-lay distinctions in the modern world.
  2. The transference of the Old Testament priesthood model to the leadership of the church
  3. Popular piety which elevated the Lord’s Supper to a mystery which required priestly administration.

He then goes on the examine this in more detail and briefly how the idea transferrred through the Reformation.

It should be no secret to regular readers that I am gravely concerned about the presence of clergy in the church. I think it makes it easy for people to stop at a certain point in their spiritual development because it is either too easy to let the clergy do it for them, or because it appears that becoming clergy is the next logical step in that development. I also think there is a problem because clergy has no experience or insight to use to guide lay people in deep and transformative spiritual development as laity.

I was discussing this in a small group the other day and a friend, perhaps the ultimate pragmatist, got a little peeved with me as I questioned whether clergy was a good idea. "Who cares?!" he cried, "We're here, we have to make do." Sometimes I think he is really wise in that, and sometimes I don't. And yet, professionalization of faith seems inevitable. Churches that start out without it, seem to end up there anyway. Even if seminaries and ordination are not involved it just seems like someone has to get paid to take care of a bunch of stuff and the same issues arise. What to do?

Well, there are a few things I think are obvious:

The first priority of clergy must be to develop strong lay leadership. From a congregational perspective, lay leadership should be solidly in charge, on all levels, fiscally, organizationally, and spiritually. Lay leadership should not be viewed as "stand-ins" but rather as it. Clergy's role is to train and hold accountable that lay leadership.

Strong lay leadership must hold clergy tightly accountable. It's a two-way street. It is too easy to leave it up to the pros. Lay leadership must work hard, work visibly, and work to keep the clergy focused on its real objectives.

Strong lay leadership must hold out for the best clergy. This means the church needs to be able to rely on its lay leadership until the right clergy person willing to do the job described here comes along. Lay leadership is a calling and committment all its own. Lay leaders must behave and act as such.

Humility must reign supreme. 'Nuff said.

We are where we are, but we need to be there better.

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Illuminated Scripture - New Series

Those of you that are familiar with this feature on Blogotional know that for the last few months I have done series in which collections of pictures were created with unifying themes. This next series isn’t quite so obvious. I’d like to invite you to take a look and see if you can identify the theme. Anyone who can correctly do so as the next six Illuminated Scriptures are posted simply leave a comment with your idea of what the theme for this series might be. We will let you know if you’re correct. If you’re the first to find the correct theme and would like to receive a set of Illuminated Scripture blank note cards, you can contact John with your address and we will be happy to mail those to you. Good luck and unless you’re very lucky, first guesses won’t do you much good until next week.
Mrs. Blogotional.

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And The Link Says...


Adrian Warnock is defending the heart of the gospel again. You may note I link from the UK on church issues a lot - I think it is the front lines and bravo Adrian for standing in the gap.

Love this stuff

Dealing with carbon.

Talk about your bare-knuckle politics!

You know all those forensic TV shows?: "Jones said nobody knows where the bullet came from." - reality TV it ain't.

Finally, a medical malpractice lawsuit about which I have no doubt whatsoever. The guy should be made wealthy beyond his dreams of avarice.

Well, most of the nation's lettuce is grown around there. Let's eat. BTW, worrying about contaminating the Salton Sea is the very definition of oxymoronic.

When cops are ticked, they are also creative.

It's a good thing the press isn't gullible - I believe I hinted that this was a joke yesterday.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Failure Is A Great Teacher

Sad fact of reality, isn't it? That headline is what I am talking about. Generally, failure is the only thing that gives us a good look at who we really are so we can begin to deal with it and be who we are supposed to be.

That's what I thought when I read this Out of Ur post selling the next issue of Leadership and featuring the creator of "Veggie Tales". In case you are out-of-the-loop, that great evangelical enterprise lies in ruins. The last Q&A of the post is instructive:
What advice do you have for church leaders? How can we keep our souls healthy?

I think we all have to start with a good self-assessment. That is what I did when I was sitting in the wreckage of my world-changing ministry reading the fruit of the Spirit and not finding it in my life. We should have peace. We should have joy. And that doesn’t mean we should force ourselves to have it, because we can’t. It will come from us when we’ve let go of our life, when we’ve let go of our ministry, when we’ve let go of any aspiration for having an impact. When it’s just us and God we’ll find the joy and the peace. Then, we can get back to work and help other people follow that path.
"Self-assessment" strikes me as a kind way of saying "confession." But; however you put it, it seems to take failure, often dramatic, heart-wrenching, life-destroying failure before we are willing to take a truly honest look and make a truly honest confession. I know it did in my life.

This poses a great dilemma, I think, for Christian leadership and specifically for the church. Are we to encourage failure? In some senses it seems we ought, and yet the resentment such can produce can be extremely counterproductive. Encouraging failure in others could very well, and often does, channel that failure in the wrong directions.

And yet churches are filled with people that have never experienced the kind of failure I am talking about and therefore seem never to get beyond the cusp of deep, genuine, and abiding faith. Do we simply rely on God's providence and mourn for the many that never get there?

I love the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4. Christ doesn't encourage her failure, but He sure as heck helps her to see it. You see, as sinners, we are all failures, we don't need to encourage failure, we just need to see it. So no, we don't need to encourage failure, instead we need to help people see the failure they already have.

"But that just turns people off!" comes the rejoinder. Does it? Did the woman at the well walk away from Jesus ticked off and unhappy? Was she turned off? How'd Jesus get away with that? Simple, the realities of who He was made the confrontation with failure a turn on instead of a turn off. So, what we need is to become more Christ-like.

Which takes us back to the pull quote above, doesn't it? I can't help but think that if we get busy learning to be the church instead of simply how to add to it, we will experience success beyond our wildest imaginings.

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A Link In Time...

Alright, if that's the way you want it. This means war.

Ah, bureacracy. Because there are lawyers.

I'll take that bet. Does it strike anyone else as odd that such a story is coming from Denver?

Self-parody. I cannot possibly write a joke about something that naturally comical.

Gain some weight dude.

Now here is a tour I need to take. Check the other pictures! I need to visit them all.

Oh come on - it's a whole lot better than 'Motorhead.'

Where my father was born and raised. I find this story entirely unremarkable.

This story raises some questions. That could quite possibly be answered by this one.

No doubt he got in using an Acme Skeleton Key.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Church Attendance and Evangelism

Justin Taylor reprints an '05 post looking through and behind church attendance statistics. It is not a pretty picture. The essential contention is that taken as a whole, church attendance is down dramatically, and continuing in that direction.

Taking the statistical picture as a whole what this says is that any church claiming "success" is doing so at the expense of some other church and NOT through true evangelical outreach.

In the 1950's Jim Rayburn found a parallel picture. Churches simply were not reaching young people and he found it impossible to get them to do what they needed to do to actually reach young people. And so Young Life was born. The para-church stepped in to do what the church was not.

The parallel should be obvious, the church is not doing real evangelism, it appears to be up to the para-church. Actually I think it has been that way for a long time. The churches that are "growing" are doing so in many respects because of their resemblance to para-church ministry.

But Christianity is so much more than just outreach. I cannot help but think it is time to quit doing outreach and start doing development. Maybe we need to grow disciples and not attendance. Not just hire staff and say we are doing it, but really doing it.

Maybe, just maybe we need to risk. Instead of keeping the pews packed and the plates full, by whatever means necessary, we need to do what we are clearly called to do, and let the chips fall where they may -- which is just another way of saying, "rely on God for our next meal."

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Links Happen

Big new survey on churchgoing in the United Kingdom. Here is another take on the same data with some very interesting paragraphs.
In today's "post-modern society" people want everything on their own terms - that includes Christianity, says Dr Elaine Storkey, a Christian academic, broadcaster and president of Christian charity Tearfund, which commissioned the study.

"People are used to instant gratification, they are used to having what they want, when they want and without putting in too much effort. Some view religion in the same way."

Having a connection with Christianity is not a problem for most people, it's when something is asked of them that they start to struggle, she says.
Doesn't sound like much of a faith to me, certainly does not sound like a faith that makes "new creations." Yet another take on the data.

Yeah I do think Lewis might have written this if he were around today. And yet another analogy that works.

Heartbreak at an old acquaintance's success. Great for Todd, but sad for Butler. Unlike the last two times, the assistant staff is too young to step up. Can I hope Barry Collier will pick up the coaching mantle along with the AD job? After all, it was Barry, with Thad and Todd's help that put the Bulldogs back on the map.

That's gotta be embarassing!

Excellence in every field, that's what I say. (HT: Joe Carter)

So that explains him.

What could possibly go wrong? I have worked in high tech in the PRC - you DO NOT want to know.

Now that is what I call aging!

Yes, it's true, people and their pets do grow a resemblance.

So, son, you think you kow how to throw a tantrum. I'll show you how to throw a tantrum.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, April 02, 2007


Youth, Narcissim, and Leadership

MSNBC published an article a while back on the increasing narcissim in young people. It was a bit frightening. Not long afterword, Martha Anderson writing at The Point had some interesting comments.
An article on the narcissism of today's college students and its causes and consequences, combined with the "Look at me! Look at me!" obsession we are bombarded with every time you open the paper, turn on the TV, or just hang out at the mall, got me to thinking about the extraordinariness of ordinariness.
She tells the moving story of an old friend that is dying and concludes
You won't "Google" him and find thousands of entries, he won't grace the cover of next week's People, and the news channels aren't reporting 24/7 on his final hours, and yet this ordinary guy profoundly influenced the lives of all those who knew and loved him throughout his short time with us. That's the kind of extraordinary we all should aspire to be.
I am reminded that Dennis Prager often says we confuse "famous" with "significant."

That post was somewhat startingly juxtaposed with this post at MMI complaining about the church not using it's "young leaders." From my middle-aged perspective, "young leader" seems a bit oxymoronic. "Developing leader" seems far more appropriate. Real, genuine Christian leadership can only be developed with the perspective of The Point post, I have yet to find anything that teaches that perspective other than good, old-fashioned time and experience.

When we build churches on what I call for lack of a better term, the "media model" - a model where attention matters more than content, we not only lead the church astray, we intensify this narcissism.

Anyone who has spent any time around children has heard this, "Look at me, look at me!" That is natural in a child. Now it seems we build churches that spend a whole lot of time screaming "look at me." It is not surprizing that the young would then decry a lack of partcipation in leadership under such circumstances.

But we are supposed to grow out of that.
Heb 6:1 - Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, [emphasis added]
We need to return to signifcance and away from fame. We need to inculcate significance as a value over fame. If we don't we are going to end up in a place the MSNBC describes that is pretty ugly:
“Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others,” he said.

The study asserts that narcissists “are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors.”
I don't know about you, but I don't want to go there.

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In the Link Of Luxury

Sometimes, you simply must cry for the church.

Keep 'em coming. Why the American audience for Doctor Who is cultishly small, I'll never understand.

Now that is a small bathroom.

I bet the food court is none-too-happy.

Connected to what precisely?

The truth about rainbows.

April's Fools jokes involving chemistry are MUCH funnier.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007


Great Day At The Airshow Links

Yesterday it was my privilege to attend the Pt. Magu Air Show at Naval Base Ventura. It is rare that the undercard outscores the main event at one of these things, in this case the USAF Thunderbirds, but that's what happened yesterday. It was my privilege to see the aircraft you see here put through its paces - the F22-Raptor. I'm not talking fly-by here - seen those before, I talking "Let me show you what this baby can do."

For the uninitiated, The F-22 is the new king of the air, replacing the F-15 as THE US air supremacy fighter. As the announcer said, the demonstration could not show the real advances in the F-22, like supercruise, stealth, and avionics, but it did feature a maneuver for maneuver challenge with an F-15, each one taking turns coming down the flight line showing their best. What an I say, made the F-15 look like a Model T.

All I could think of were those classic Dirty Harry lines - "Go ahead, make my day." Terrorism is the wave of the future, because with planes like these no one is going to beat us in a classic military fight - NO ONE!


Looking for that truly unusual vacation?

Obviously, someone was really bored this weekend.

This may be the worst and most obvious pun in history, but it has to be done. This story sucks.

Local Japanese hospital sets record for butts having fallen asleep.

Must visit of the year. Fortunately, my parents live there.

Because, well, meta is kinda cool.

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Sermons and Lessons

This week I just thought I'd link you to a good one from Mark Daniels.

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