Saturday, September 15, 2007


Comic Art

Every family has a black sheep. Why should be speed driven Allen family be any different? Therfore, I give you the inevitability - Inertia.

Now. like must always be the case in comics, the black sheep must exist, but the blood lines cannot be tainted, so, Inertia is not born of Allen, but is genetically engineered of Allen DNA. Which to my mind raises one of the more fantastic questions in the speedster legacy. If their speed is a result of tapping into the "speed force" ("Use the force Luke" he said with a snicker) why is its use genetically transmitted. Particularly when we find that some like Johnny Quick manage to tap it by other means.

And come to think of it, the Star Wars analogy is not so far off. How long before we find the Allens have a high "mitichlorian" count? And is Inertia therefore he who will bring balance to the speed force as Darth Speedy? (yes, it's true, I have spun off into utter inanity.)

Anyway, Inertia exists primarily to be the current Flash's arch enemy. Sort of a Reverse Flash with out the whole "reverse" thing. I am about to date myself tremendously. I realize the whole reverse thing is considered trite and cliche and old school, but dog-gone-it, can't an old fart enjoy stuff like that without it having to be reinvented?

You know what I really miss, the innocence. The first cover I ever saw with Reverse Flash on it just blew my doors off. Yes, it looks hokey by today's standards, but that means today's standards need so much more to make a bad guy a bad guy. The Reverse Flash was the comic version of the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys black ones - and the good guys always found a way to win.

As comic characters become more complex, more gray, less black-and-white. I enjoy them less and less. Comics should be about escapism. For me, they were an place where as I child the world was safe and predictable and protected, my heroes larger than I - that I could rely on. I realize comics are largely read by adults now and they need more complex story telling.

But I wonder if we are not robbing kids of something in the process.

Friday, September 14, 2007


The Autism Link

Don't you hate it when you accidentally step in a pile of horse mess? I bet that is how Joe Carter felt when he speculated, and I emphasize, speculated, about a link between atheism and autism. So deep was the pile that Joe felt compelled to come back a week later and dig out. Judging from some of the comments, I'm wondering if Joe remembers the first rule of holes?

But all of the issues got lost in the arguement. There is deep and sincere wisdom buried in the original post:
If the belief in other minds is analogous to belief in God, then individuals who have a propensity to "mind-blindness" would likely be "God-blind" as well. With effort, high functioning autistics may be able to overcome their inability to attribute mental states to other physical beings. But while they may be able to learn to accept the rationality of other minds, they may find it more difficult to develop a belief in a Being who is both non-physical.

If this is true and there is a correlation between autism and atheism, what would be the implications? Would it change the apologetic approach that Christians take in dealing with such unbelievers? Should it affect how we respond, knowing that the anti-social behavior is connected with their atheism?
In these posts Joe has made a very extensive, if somewhat problematic argument, for something that strikes me as extremely obvious, but then in saying that, I violate the very lesson that is being taught.

People come to ideas, and they especially come to a confrontation with the Lord, along very different paths and with very different motivations. They come with life stories and mental frameworks and languages and prejudices that will radically affect how they hear and respond to the gospel message. The problem that Joe here confronts is not all that different than a missionary in a completely foreign culture.

It has been my priviledge to work in the People's Republic of China. China is a traditionally xeonphobic culture and I worked there in the late 1980's as they were opening their doors for the first time to western economic influence. There was a tendency at the time to blame the enormous thinking and communication gaps that I experienced on communism, which did have an affect. But working the Soviet Union just a year later, I soon discovered that the language and cultural difference were far more the issue than the economic systems.

In light of this discovery, I spent a lot of time thinking about what would have to happen for the gospel to deeply penetrate Chinese culture. I never came up with any good answers (could that be why I am not a foreign missionary?), but I am certain that the gospel in China will end up as something that many in the American church will consider heretical. We have a hard time sorting our culture from our faith, you know.

Then there is the PhD thesis that a Korean missionary friend of mine just completed on what the gospel must look like to penetrate Bangledesh where he has just returned, academic credentials now firmly in hand. I am quite certain there is a large segment of the American Evanglical community that would be less than pleased with his conclusions.

What are we to do? How are we to reach those in our own society whose mental frameworks are so different, whether because of will, or disorder, or simple upbringing - let alone those in nations and cultures so foreign?

May I suggest the same thing we do to get through today - rely on the Holy Spirit. Let me lay out some simple facts that we so readily forget:

God can reach the autistic and the Chinese, if we but get out of His way.


Friday Humor

For all of you with any money left, be aware of the next expected mergers so that you can get in on the ground floor and make some BIG bucks.

Watch for these consolidations in 2007.

  1. Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
  2. PolygramRecords, Warner Bros., and ZestaCrackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
  3. 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.
  4. ZippoManufacturing, AudiMotors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa.
  5. FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
  6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
  7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.
  8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Marriage and Happiness

Ben Young, writing at CGO, has penned a real winner on marriage:
Now, as I survey the relationship scene in our society today, I find that so many are saying, “I want to be on that road—the road to happily ever after. I want to find my soul mate,” or, “I want to find happiness in marriage.” But so many singles and so many couples, unbeknownst to them, are on the wrong road, so instead of relational happiness and fulfillment we see one wreck after another.

We all know the stats: half of all first marriages in our country end in divorce. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. Eighty-two percent of blended marriages end in divorce. And I’m sure all those millions of couples desired to be on that road to happily ever after, but for some reason, obviously, they were on the wrong road.


I like what Gary Thomas said: “What if God’s real purpose in marriage is not to make you happy, but to make you holy?” Now, I don’t believe that happiness and holiness are mutually exclusive, but I do know that if you seek happiness directly you will never find it. Having a holy relationship with God, embracing your particular relational station in life, and seeing it as a means by which God is making you more holy—that will produce a more fruitful and happy life.
Ther marriage/singleness thing Ben talks about here is but one sympton of a greater issue. God does not come to improve our circumstances and thus make us happy, healthy, wise.... God comes to change us into people that are happy, healthy, wise...REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCE.

The magic phrase "if only...," "If only I could find the right person," "If only I could make just a couple thousand more a year," "If only my teeth were straight," "If only...," "If only...," "If only...."

I think God wishes we were not sinners, but I also think God is happy. Clearly, part of learning to be God's person is learning that happiness comes not from the fulfillment of our desires, but from being in His very presence.

If we can but learn to lay down our desires and hold only to Him, we will find happiness and contentment in ways an to levels that we never dreamed possible.


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Wednesday, September 12, 2007



John Brown "preached" a goody a while back.
Living with urgency doesn't mean living irresponsibly.

It means living with a holy abandon to honour God, and with a holy passion to make each moment count for righteousness.

That means we must be deliberate about our choices, taking care that we use our opportunities wisely as we live a life of character different from the world around us, because we are committed to Jesus.
It is so easy in these times to hide in urgency. We fill our lives with activity to avoid ourselves, our Lord, and most often our pain. Dan Edelen is fond of talking about how we need to change the world to get a handle on the busyness to make room for God. I agree with Dan that busyness is a problem, I just don't think we have to change the world to deal with it.

We are all busy, we all have what appears to be far too many obligations pressing on us. But as I look around me I see people that are controlled by their busyness and people that master it. The people that I know intimately that are controlled by their busyness are in such a state generally because if they seized control they would be forced to confront some unpleasantness about themselves or their circumstance. It usually boils down to straightforward confession - they are hiding from their sin.

You see, the Holy Spirit gives us immense power - far, far beyond our understanding. Among the things He can accomplish with that power is to master the busyness of our lives - all we have to do is let Him. But that does mean confronting ourselves and getting out of the way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


"Rediscovering" Lewis?

A gentleman by the name of Ron Lowe, recently wrote on Common Grounds Online in two parts - Part I and Part II about his recent adventure through C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. He opens this way:
With the help of some fellow early-rising, weekly readers of dead theologians, Mere Christianity is rocking my world. I am realizing anew that this memorable work of a mid-20th century English literary scholar has profound implications for the way we evangelize and teach in 21st century America. I’m learning that this masterful defense of the faith also strengthens us for the task of intellectual discipleship, our ongoing need for repentance and faith as we seek to love God with all our hearts and minds.
I smiled when I read that - to me the "discovery" of Lewis seems at once almost fundamental to calling onself a Christian in this age. However, I am deeply saddened that such discovery is more "eureka!" than a natural part of growth in the faith. And so I feel with so many of the great thinkers and writers of our faith through the centuries. What kind of fatih do we live in when we walk into a "Christian" bookstore and find the writings of Lewis (with the exception of Narnia), or Pascal, or Augustine difficult to find. When anything written above the 6th grade level is consigned to a corner behind Jesus in a Spider-Man costume statue?

Why do we seem to "rediscover" faith with each new generation, and with each rediscovery does it seem to morph and shift? The writer of Hebrews said:
Heb 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.
In the vision that begins Revelations, Christ idenitifies Himself to the apostle John
Rev 1:8 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
This does not sound to me like a faith that requires "rediscovery."

We are the limited trying to understand the unlimited, the finite subject to the infinite. We will never know all that there is to know about our Lord. But it seems to me that under such circumstances, it is dreadfully short-sighted to discard the lessons of the past. With so much to discover, should we not build on that which exisits rather than start from scratch. I'm not sure we will get very far if we just keep starting over.

A while back, writing about diversity in OpinionJournal, Daniel Henninger said:
Here, too, Robert Putnam has a possible assimilation model. Hold onto your hat. It's Christian evangelical megachurches. "In many large evangelical congregations," he writes, "the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed." This, too, is an inconvenient truth. They do it with low entry barriers to the church and by offering lots of little groups to join inside the larger "shared identity" of the church. A Harvard prof finds good in evangelical megachurches. Send this man a suit of body armor!
"Low entry barriers" does indeed build a coporate identity, but does it allow us to understand the depth of our God?



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Monday, September 10, 2007


Work, Work, Work

Mark Daniels recently preached not one, but two sermons on Christians and work.

In the first Mark concludes:
Why do we work?
  • Because God wants us to work; it’s part of being human.
  • Because when we work, the presence of God’s image in us is visible.
  • Because when we work, we experience the joy of serving others.
  • And because when we work, we glorify God.
In the second he looks at three things that make people happy in thier work: I like everything Mark says here, and I think it can be integrated into a single point: God calls us to our work.

In the sermons, Mark discusses being a second career pastor. That is to say he came to ministry after exploring other career options. I moved in the opposite direction, from professional ministry to a "secular" career. It was a difficult transition. It was not one of doscoviering a calling, but of rediscovering, or perhaps even undiscovering.

Essentially, I had to come to understand that what I do now, both for a living and otherwise, was what God wanted and intended for me - it was my call. God calls us not just to ministry, but to environmental consulting, or clerical work, of carpentry, or bus driving.

In order to come to this realization, I had to change my fundamental understanding of the gospel. The gospel is not a set of propositions, it is not merely a confession, or a membership. No, the gospel is the Holy Spirit indwelling individuals, made possible through the ministry and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, I am the gospel, not, of course, in a blasphemous sense, but in the sense of the Apostle Paul when he said,
Phil 3:17(a) - Brethren, join in following my example...
The greatest testimony to the grace and saving power of Jesus is not words, but in saved and transformed people. When I am working, I am spreading the gospel if I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me and transform me. By being Christ's man in my work, I am doing the ministry I was called to, to spread the gospel.

It is not just a job, because you are not just a person. You are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. That transformation IS ministry.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Sermons and Lessons


John Watson, widely known under his pen name of “Ian Maclaren,” was born at Manningtree, Essex, England, in 1850. For many years he was pastor of Free St. Matthew’s Church, Glasgow. He died in America in 1907. He enjoyed unusual popularity, both as a preacher and as a lecturer. In 1896 he gave a course of lectures to the students of Yale. “The Bonnie Brier Bush “is his best-known book. Another volume of his, “The Cure of Souls,” is full of splendid practical suggestions for the minister and divinity student. Here is a sample of his satire directed toward certain speakers: “It is said that there are ingenious books which contain extracts - very familiar as a rule - on every religious subject, so that the minister, having finished his sermon on faith or hope, has only to take down this pepper-caster and flavor his somewhat bare sentences with literature. If this ignominious tale be founded on fact, and be not a scandal of the enemy, then the Protestant Church ought also to have an ‘Index Expurgatorius,’ and its central authorities insert therein books which it is inexpedient for ministers to possess. In this class should be included ‘The Garland of Quotations’ and ‘The Reservoir of Illustrations.”


Go ye therefore and teach all nations. - Matthew 28:19.

Among the characteristics of Jesus’ teach. ing which have passed into the higher consciousness of Christianity is an in. extinguishable optimism. When He was only a village prophet, Jesus declared that the social Utopia of Isaiah was already being fulfilled; when He gave the Sermon on the Mount He spoke as a greater Moses, legislating not for a nation but for a race. If He called apostles, they were to disciple every creature, and if He died it was for a world. His generation might condemn Him, but they would see Him again on the clouds of heaven. His death would be celebrated in a sacrament unto every generation, and being lifted on a cross He would draw all men to Him. The apostles who failed in His lifetime would afterward do greater works than Himself, and He who de. parted from their sight would return in the Holy Ghost and be with them forever. He looks beyond His own land, and embraces a race in His plans. He ignores the defeats of His own ministry, and discounts the victory of His disciples. He teaches, commands, arranges, prophesies with a universal and eternal accent. This was not because he made light of His task or of His enemies; no one ever had such a sense of the hideous tyranny of sin or passed through such a Gehenna, but Jesus believed with all His heart and mind in the kingdom of God, that it was coming and must come. He held that the age of gold was not behind, but before humanity.

The high spirit has passed into the souls of Christ’s chief servants. The directors and pioneers, the martyrs and exemplars of our faith have had no misgivings; the light of hope has ever been shining on their faces. St. Paul boasted that he was a free-born Roman, but he was prouder to be a member of Christ’s commonwealth, whose capital was in heaven and in which all nations were one. He was loyal subject of Caesar, but be owned a more magnificent emperor at God’s right hand. Above the forces of this present world he saw the principalities and powers in the heavenly places fighting for his faith. Scourged and imprisoned he burst into psalms, and he looked beyond his martyrdom to the crown of righteousness. Shackled to a soldier he wrote letters brimming over with joy, and confined to a barrack room he caught through a narrow window the gleam of the eternal city. Never did he flinch before a hostile world, never was he browbeaten by numbers, never was he discouraged by failure or reverse. He knew that he was on the winning side, and that he was laying the foundation of an everlasting state. You catch the same grand note in St. Augustine with all his horror of prevailing iniquity; in the medieval hymn writers celebrating Jerusalem the Golden, when clouds of judgment hung over their heads; and in the missionaries of the faith who toiled their life through without a convert, and yet died in faith. They might be losing, but their commander was winning. The cross might be surrounded with the smoke of battle, it was being carried forward to victory.

They were right in this conviction, but do not let us make any mistake about the nature of this triumph, else we shall be caught by delusions, and in the end be discouraged. It will not be ecclesiastical, and by that one means that no single church, either the Church of Rome, or the Church of England, or the Church of Scotland will ever embrace the whole human race, or even its English-speaking province. One can not study church history since the Reformation, or examine the condition of the various religious denominations today without being convinced that there will always be diversity of organization, and any person who imagines the Church of the East making her humble submission to Rome, or the various Protestant bodies of the Anglo-Saxon race trooping in their multitude to surrender their orders to the Anglican Church has really lost touch with the possibilities of life. Nor will the triumph be theological in the sense that all men will come to hold the same dogma whether it be that of Rome or Geneva. There will always be many schools of thought within the kingdom of God just as there will be many nations. Neither one Church nor one creed will swallow up the others and dominate the world. He who cherishes that idea is the victim of an optimism which is unreasonable and undesirable. The kingdom of God will come not through organization but through inspiration. Its sign will not be the domination of a Church, but the regeneration of humanity. When man shall be brother to man the world over, and war shall no longer drench cornfields with blood: when women are everywhere honored, and children are protected: when cities are full of health and holiness, and when the burden of misery has been lifted from the poor, then the world shall know Christ has not died in vain, and His vision shall be fulfilled.

A fond imagination which only tantalizes and disheartens! It is natural to say so, but magnificent dreams have come true. Suppose you had been on the sorrowful way when Jesus was being led to His doom, and women were pitying this innocent prophet whose hopes had been so rudely dashed, and whose life had been so piteously wasted. “Ah!” they cry, “His illusions have been scattered, and His brief day is going down in darkness.” It appeared so, but was it so?

Suppose while the kind-hearted people were talking, some one, had prophesied the career of Jesus. They would have laughed and called him a visionary, yet which would have been right, the people who judged by Jesus’ figure beneath the cross, or the man who judged Jesus’ power through that cross? The people who looked at the mob of Jerusalem, or the man who saw the coming generations? There are two ideas of Christ’s crucifixion in art, and each has its own place. There is the realistic scene with the cross raised only a few feet from the ground, a Jewish peasant hanging on it, a Roman guard keeping order, and a rabble of fanatical priests as spectators. That is a fact, if you please, down to the color of the people’s garments and the shape of the Roman spears. Very likely that is how it looked and happened. There is also the idealistic scene with a cross high and majestic on which Christ is hanging with His face hidden. Behind there is an Italian landscape with a river running through a valley, trees against the sky, and the campanile of a village church. At the foot of the cross kneels St. Mary Magdalene, on the right at a little distance are the Blest Virgin and St. Francis, on the left St. John and St. Jerome. The Roman soldiers and the Jewish crowd and that poor cross of Roman making have disappeared as a shadow. The great cross of the divine Passion is planted in the heart of the Church and of the race forever. Facts? Certainly, but which is the fact, that or this? Which is nearer to the truth, the Christ of the sorrowful way or the Christ at God’s right hand?

Have there been no grounds for optimism? Has the splendid hope of Christ been falsi¬fied? One may complain that the centuries have gone slowly, and that the chariot of righteousness has dragged upon the road. But Christ has been coming and conquering. There is some difference between the statistics of the Upper Room, and the Christian Church today; between slavery in the Roman Empire and today; between the experience of women in the pro-Christian period and today; between the reward of labor in Elizabeth’s England and today; between the use of riches in the eighteenth century, and the beginning of the twentieth; between pity for animals in the Georgian period and today. If we are not uplifted by this beneficent progress, it is because we have grown accustomed to the reign of Christianity, and are impatient for greater things. We are apt to be pessimists, not because the kingdom of’ God is halting, but because it has not raced; not because the gospel has failed to build up native churches in the ends of the earth with their own forms, literature, martyrs, but because all men have not yet believed the joyful sound.

There are two grounds for the unbounded optimism of our faith, and the first is God. How did such ideas come into the human mind? Where did the imagination of the prophets and apostles catch fire? Where is the spring of the prayers and aspirations of the saints? Whence do all light and all love come? Surely from God. Can we imagine better than God can do? Can we demand a fairer world than God will make? Were not the Greek philosophers right in thinking that our ideals are eternal, and are kept with God? It is not a question of our imagining too much, but too little, of being too soon satisfied.

So soon made happy? Hadst thou learned
What God accounteth happiness
Thou wouldst not find it hard to guess
What hell may be his punishment
For those who doubt if God invent
Better than they.

The other ground for optimism is Jesus Christ. Does it seem that the perfect life for the individual, and for the race, is too sublime, that it is a distant and unattainable ideal? It is well enough to give the Sermon on the Mount, and true enough that if it were lived the world would be like heaven, but then has it ever been lived? Yes, once at least, and beyond all question. Christ lived as He taught. He bade men lose their lives and He lost His; He bade men trample the world underfoot and He trampled it; He com¬manded men to love, and He loved even unto death. This He did as the forerunner of the race. Why not again with Christ as Captain? Why not always, why not everywhere? Is not He the standard of humanity now, and is not He its Redeemer? Has He not been working in the saints who have reminded the world of God? Will He not continue to work till all men come to the stature of perfection?

Only one institution in human society carries the dew of its youth, and through the conflict of the centuries still chants its morning song. It is the religion of Jesus. I do not mean the Christianity which exhausts its energy in the criticism of documents or the discussion of ritual - the Christianity of scholasticism or ecclesiasticism, for there is no life in that pedantry. I do not mean the Christianity which busies itself with questions of labor and capital, meat and drink, votes and politics, for there is no lift in that machinery. I mean the Christianity which centers in the person of the Son of God, with His revelation of the Father, and His gospel of salvation, with His hope of immortality and His victory of soul. This Christianity endures while civilizations exhaust themselves and pass away, and the face of the world changes. Its hymns, its prayers, its heroism, its virtues, are ever fresh and radiant. If a man desires to be young in his soul let him receive the spirit of Jesus, and bathe his soul in the Christian hope. Ah, pessimism is a heartless, helpless spirit. If one despairs of the future for himself and for his fellows, then he had better die at once. It is despair which cuts the sinews of a man’s strength and leaves him at the mercy of temptation. Do you say, What can I do, because the light round me is like unto darkness? Climb the mast till you are above the fog which lies on the surface of the water, and you will see the sun shining on the spiritual world, and near at hand the harbor of sweet content. True, we must descend again to the travail of life, but we return assured that the sun is above the mist. Do you say, What is the use of fighting, for where I stand we have barely held our own? Courage! It was all you were expected to do, and while you stood fast the center has been won, and the issue of the battle has been decided. It was a poet who had his own experience of adversity, and was cut down in the midst of his days, who bade his comrades be of good cheer

Say not, the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars.
It may be in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e‘en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward look, the land is bright.

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