Saturday, December 08, 2007


Comic Art


John Buscema

Rom Lim


Obergon Kaine

Jack Kirby

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Friday, December 07, 2007


How Blogging Matters

The Washington Times carried a fascinating article a while back:
Gossip may do more to shape a person's opinion than facts they know to be true, even when the chit-chat contradicts the evidence, according to a new study.
For any blogger in the tail, that is the best news you have ever read. It is not the learned, scholarly, and widely read that have the most impact. It is the opinion that echoes in small clatches over the fencepost, be it real or virtual.

But with that influence comes responsibility. (Wasn't it Spider-man that said, "With great power comes great responsibility!"?) Let's consider a small sampling of scripture:
Prov 20:19 - He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.

2 Cor 12:20 - For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps {there may be} strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;

Prov 10:20 - The tongue of the righteous is {as} choice silver, the heart of the wicked is {worth} little.

Prov 21:23 - He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.

James 1:26 - If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his {own} heart, this man's religion is worthless.
Between the story and these scriptures we arrive at two essential facts
  1. Blogging, which really is a form of published gossip in most cases, is highly influential, even if only small numbers are involved.
  2. A Christian has a duty, and command, and hopefully desire, to say only reasonable, wise, good things.

And so form these facts we can conclude but one thing - the best way to have a blogging ministry is to be the best possible Christian you can be, while blogging.

It's not about what you write; it's not about how much you know; it's not about who you know (well save for God Almighty) - it is about who you are - that is to say, who you have allowed God to transform you into.

Your primary duty as a blogger is to allow God to work on you. Such is not easy, but it is imperative.

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Friday Humor

Two gas company servicemen, a senior training supervisor and a young trainee, were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood. They parked their truck at the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end.

At the last house a woman looking out her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter.

Finishing the meter check, the senior supervisor challenged his younger coworker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one.

As they came running up to the truck, they realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped and asked her what was wrong.

Gasping for breath, she replied, "When I see two gas men running as hard as you two were, I figured I'd better run too!"

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Thursday, December 06, 2007



Matt Kleburg writing at CGO pens one of the most powerful pieces on ministry I have ever read.
Last summer a certain friend of mine weighed heavy on my heart. I made a point to pray for him and love him whenever and however I could. That same friend later shared with someone else that he simply could not relate to me. In his eyes, I had put on a glossy façade, feigning invincibility and faultlessness. I never revealed my weakness and humanness and thus was not a real person. He saw me as a fake, like a mannequin in Christianity’s window display. My friend’s assessment was right on- my pride and fear kept me from really loving him at all.

I internalize and cover up my sin and weakness because I fear that any failure on my part implies a failure of Christianity. I must be perfect; otherwise Christianity is just a big flop, exposed as an elaborate hoax. The pressure is on and I must perform so that Christianity looks like a good buy.

This assumption is the exact opposite of the gospel. It is anti-gospel. To say that my failures somehow discredit Christianity completely disregards the cross! What pride and hypocrisy! Out of death we are made alive in Christ and our new identities are not bound up in our own righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ. It is by His perfection that we are presented as spotless before the Father. And while the Spirit does begin its healing work on our hearts, it is forever the work of Jesus that makes us children of God. I no longer have to disguise my sin for fear of nullifying the gospel. The gospel, rather, nullifies my sin, and frees me up to live as though transparent. The world can see through me- can see that I am needy and that there is a savior who triumphs over my brokenness.
Reminds me of scripture:
Rom 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [emphasis added]
The power of the gospel, the real gospel, the genuine gospel, lies not in our perfection, but our imperfection and the journey towards perfection.

We cannot offer the destination, we can only offer the journey. It is a difficult journey, fraught with effort, peril, and even pain. But it is also a journey that we do not take alone, we walk with others, and with Him. It is a journey made in the midst of love, support, and hope.

It is those last three things that we have to truly offer to people. The journey is hard, no matter what. All we can really do is make sure we are headed in the right direction, and we are in the right company.

That is a gospel that will change the world.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Revisiting Schiavo

My blogging partner at Article VI has a blogging partner at his other blog called The Kosher Hedgehog who writes about new data and Terri Schiavo
Therefore, I was quite pleasantly surprised to read in the October 15, 2007 issue an article by Jerome Groopman, entitled "Silent Minds--What Scanning Techniques Are Revealing About Vegetative Patients." The article describes the research conducted over the past decade by Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientist. Conducting brain scans of vegetative patients, he discovered that many showed normal patterns of brain activity in response to external stimuli, such as speech, photographs and music. His subsequent research suggested that some vegetative patients not only reacted to speech, but comprehended it, and could even perform a complex mental task on command. Conventional medical science had assumed for decades that these types of patients lacked any capacity for conscious thought.

Inspired by the finds of Owen and other researchers, neurosurgeons are now experimenting, with some cases of stunning success, with therapies involving deep brain stimulation of vegetative patients. One of those patients, Terry Wallis, had spontaneously recovered speech to a limited degree after almost 20 years in a vegetative state, has recovered speech. With further medical therapy, he has shown marked improvement. Nicholas Schiff, a Weill Cornell Medical College neurosurgeon, and one of the physicians who is treating Wallis, says "After 19 years, Terry spoke a few words, but within seventy-two hours he recovered fluent, expressive, and receptive language."


Yet, one's conscience ought to be haunted by the words of Kate Bainbridge, the first vegetative patient that Adrian Owen studied in Cambridge. She has recovered the use of her arms and much of her mental function. She is still unable to walk, and has difficulty speaking, using a letter board to communicate with people not used to her speech. But she writes eloquently. In an e-mail to Jerome Goopman, she wrote:

"Most scans show what is wrong with your brain, which the doctors need to know, but Adrian Owen's scans show what is working. I say they found parts of my brain were working. It really scares me to think what might have happened to me if I had not had the scans. They show people it was worth carrying on even though my body was unresponsive."
When I read Ms. Bainbridge's words, I felt rather good about being a religious conservative troglodyte who opposed starving Terri Schiavo to death.
This fact strikes right at the heart of where religion makes a difference AND the affect that most religions commonly create, I would answer in one word:


Now think about it for just a minute. The first thing that religion brings to the table, and this is true for most religions, is a belief in something more than what we can sense and experience directly. Usually it is supernatural and deistic, but not all religions are that way, but they all provide for "more" somehow.

The irreligious, as personified most visibly in those that hold science has all answers, hold a view that all can be seen and experienced, and is pretty much mechanistic.

It is fascinating to me that so many that reject religion because they do not want to be directed by some other, are willing to assume they are directed by mere molecular forces - they prefer direction by the mindless over direction by something that can be presumed to be GOOD. - Sigh.

Anyway, the point is, if we do not believe in something other, something more, there is no hope. That is the key difference between those that thought Schiavo should be starved to death and those that did not - hope. In the article cited, we see that hope had some validity. We will never know if it did in this particular case, but in general this hope has validity.

This commonality of religion as a source of hope also speaks to religious diversity in a society. A society functions best when it is pulling together towards something. Hope helps to define that something. We hope for better things, we hope to improve ourselves, we hope to help others - that's what society is all about. Without hope, this common goal setting breaks down, and eventually so does the society.

The problem is, of course, if we make everyone find their hope in precisely the way we do - through precisely our religious formulations - we create conditions of actual hopelessness. Freedom is a large part of creating hope.

My faith, which I hold to be the true faith and the only faith that brings salvation, does not bring hope if coerced, only if adopted in freedom. Thus I hold dearly and encourage the religious plurality that defines our nation, but I do so while working energetically to invite others to my source of hope.

It just works better that way.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Why Ministry

Jollyblogger writes about his motivation for ministry.
A few things stand out there - he speaks of the atoner who in effect seeks to save the world to save himself, or the one who wishes to transform themselves while claiming they want to transform Africa. In my case, and I wonder if its not the case of others, we seek to transform ourselves by claiming we want to change the world for Christ.
The attitude that David here bemoans is so close, oh so close to the way things ought to be, and so right on as to the way things actually are.

Speaking from my own experience, I got into ministry for validation. I was trying to save the world, well a few high school kids anyway, to save myself. Worst of all, was what I expected my "salvation" to look like - me as superstar religious hero of some sort, with supplicants sitting at my feet because of my wisdom, spiritual depth, and charisma.

Talk about "looking for love in all the wrong places"!

The truth is there is a huge interplay between personal salvation and worldly salvation, but it is the other way around - I save myself, by letting God save me, so that God is one step closer to saving the world, perhaps using me in His actions.

Moreover, we are of the most use to God's actions to save the world when we concentrate on our own sanctification. That may mean no audience, that may mean no worldly glory, but it will mean ultimate glory, the glory that only God can grant, brightly and eternally.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, December 03, 2007


To The Heart Of The Matter

Glenn Lucke lets go with one of the best posts I have ever read in the Christian blogosphere.
Imagine having a fold-out chart plotting the precise coordinates of the spiritual maturity of all the students in your campus ministry.

That chart resides in a box of artifacts from my days of method-driven ministry. I remember my boss expressing skepticism about plotting human souls on such a chart. He was into grace and I was into programs, performance and…charts.

The Lord ‘let’ me fail at this method of McDiscipleship, hopefully before I caused too much harm. Failure has a great way of opening one up to new ideas and, even better, old ideas. Reflecting on God’s Word and on my students, I realized that two old ideas, listening and studying, might be a good place to start.

Listening meant being a student of my students, being attentive to their hearts and minds. Studying, for me, meant an apprenticeship under seminary professors who had dedicated their lives to serving Christ and His Bride in biblical and theological studies. The vast treasury that I learned of Scripture, theology, history and culture remains one of the great gifts the Lord has given me for life and ministry.

In ministry, listening without a growing knowledge of Jesus and the Christian story would have made me an empathetic but impotent spiritual leader. Knowledge of Scripture and theology without listening to those in my care would have rendered me a puffed-up pontificator. Blending listening with Christian truth allows one to follow Jesus in ministry. In Luke 7 Jesus listens to the faith of the centurion, the doubt of John’s disciples, the self-righteous judgment of the Pharisee and the desperate weeping of the ‘sinful woman’. After listening, Jesus tells them truth they need to hear. By His grace, we could be doing the same with the flocks entrusted to us if we will listen and study.


The tyranny of 5 steps, 7 secrets and 10 principles…and accompanying chart…is a new law, with people as widgets. By listening to their stories and teaching the Christian story, we help our people learn a robust, durable way of grace that they can live together. And that’s off the charts.
Glenn calls his post "Relational Discipleship." Great title.

The bottom line is this - doing Christianity well, as disciple or discipler, is a dirty business. Glenn talks all about stories, people's stories and The story. Interesting stories, save in my beloved comics, are dirty things. People have foibles, even flaws. They hurt each other, they say bad things. When we get close to them, we risk a great deal of pain - they are likely, yes I said LIKELY, to hurt us.

That is what we are called to. Consider Jesus, really think about it. God got close to us, and look at what we did to Him!

We cannot go into this thing trying to protect ourselves, we won't get anywhere if we do. We also cannot hide from people what they are getting into, we can only let them know through our example that it is worth the effort and pain.

We also have to be patient. Doing things this way takes time, and it does not produce instant gratification.

We need to learn the lessons we proport to teach. We need to seek the good, not the immediate.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007


Sermons and Lessons


Thomas Cuming Hall, Professor of Theology, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1898-1929; born in Armagh, Ireland, September 25, 1858; graduated from Princeton, 1879; received degree of D.D. from Hamilton and Union Theological Seminary; was pastor in Omaha in 1883-86; in charge of the Forty-first Street Presbyterian, and later of the Fourth Presbyterian church, Chicago; author of “The Power of an Endless Life,” “The Social Significance of the Evangelical Revival in England,” “The Synoptic Gospels,” etc.


“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of rightouness.“ - Gal. 5:5.

This letter marks Paul’s struggle with the older conservative forces from Jerusalem. These teachers from Jerusalem represented, it is quite true, an older stratum of thought than that of Paul. In the beginning all Christians had been Jews. The door¬way into the Christian Church had, in the beginning, been solely through Judaism. Jesus had been a faithful Jew, going to the synagogue, submitting to the ordinances of Judaism, taking his part in the regular services. He never broke with Judaism, only Judaism cast him out. These teachers from Jerusalem, therefore, felt that Paul was an innovator, and they had history on their side. But this was not their only difficulty; they also saw in Paul a great danger to the moral life of the community. This danger comes out strongly in the passage we have chosen. Paul was preaching as the central doctrine of Christianity faith energizing through love.

Now there is something to be said for these teachers from Jerusalem. Not only had they history on their side, but they had a very definite and concrete principle; and over against this principle Paul’s teaching seemed obscure and lazy. Paul spoke of faith energizing through love. He preached of liberty in Christ Jesus, of freedom in the Spirit. But who was to decide the limits of freedom, who could really separate between liberty and license? They felt that Paul himself was nebulous and hazy; he kept the Sabbath, but he taught his Galatian church they were not to keep the Sabbath. The council at Jerusalem had strictly prohibited eating meat offered to idols, but Paul said that when they went to the house of the heathen they could eat it, asking no questions. Paul kept vows and went up with shaven head to Jerusalem, but to the heathen church he taught freedom from vows and reliance solely upon an inner life. Over against this ambiguous teaching of Paul they could put definite, concrete law. They had the Old Testament, which Paul pretended also to honor; they had the council at Jerusalem, which Paul had also promised to obey; they knew exactly the limits of liberty and freedom, for it lay only within the definite closed system of the written law. Moses and the prophets and Jesus Christ, these were the ultimate authority, and all liberty that strayed beyond these was license and sin.

Moreover, these teachers of Jerusalem could actually point to the ill effects of Paul’s teaching. They had only to go to the church at Corinth and see in its confusions the evil effects of Paul’s principle of liberty. What was the good of singing a magnificent hymn to love to a people that could not even keep sober at the communion table? What was the good of painting in the most glowing colors the fruits of the spirit to a people practicing a form of incest abhorrent even to the heathen world? These teachers of Jerusalem felt that a great moral issue was involved; that Paul was breaking down the barriers that divided between the righteousness of the past and the licentiousness of the pagan community.

And in truth the law had functioned with extraordinary efficiency as a barrier between the Jewish world and the pagan corruptions. As one may see in East-Side streets in New York today, so in the Jewish community in the old Roman world, the legal arrangements isolated the Jewish community and gave to religious orthodoxy its one chance to stamp itself upon the youthful mind. They did not always succeed; they do not now always succeed; a large percentage broke away from law and were lost in the pagan tide, but a small minority always remained faithful and bore aloft the banner of righteousness according to Moses and the worship of Jehovah according to the ancient prophets. Why should not Christianity enter into this splendid Jewish heritage, preserve intact this wonderful isolation, and thus screen the Christian Church from the pagan world with equal effectiveness?

It is the old tragic struggle between law and authority, between the principle of life and progress and the timidity and natural fear that would seek to anchor itself in the past, to remain the same even if the whole world changed. And Paul saw more deeply into the real spirit of the struggle than did these teachers from Jerusalem. The letter to the Galatians and the letter to the Romans may be almost summed up in the words of our text: “We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness.”

It is a tragic struggle because so much may be said on both sides. The past has had its triumphs, authority has yet its function; we are the children of the past; we have all been under authority. So largely has authority functioned in life that it must loom large on the horizon of us all; as children we obeyed our parents, as students we were under the authority of teachers; as citizens we feel that large sections of our life are under the authority of the community. We need the pressures of authority; who of us does not turn eagerly to the authority of the expert, feeling his own incompetence and glad in the last resort to trust to one more fully fitted? And authority is so definite brings with it a sense of peace; relieves us from the strain and struggle of our own decision, so that it is indeed a tragic moment when the boy or girl discovers that father and mother are not infallible, that the religious teacher makes mistakes even in morals, that the professor has already become antiquated, who once seemed so far in the van. Paul’s principle of liberty seems desperately dangerous in the presence of immaturity and the raw inexperience of the average human life. And yet, the question can never be actually put down—was Paul not right? Is his principle not the fundamental religious one.

True it is, that the teachers of Jerusalem, in a large way, won their battle. Paul’s principle was obscured, and unstable men wrested it to their own destruction. Much of the out¬ward form of Judaism disappeared; but the Church became another synagogue, the New Testament writings a simple addition to the law and the prophets, the fathers of the Church a new school of scribes, the creedal utterances a new mischna and a new interpretation of law. The irony of the situation is most plainly seen when we realize that poor Paul’s own writings became an addition to the law he dreaded.

His principle was never wholly lost sight of, in spite of the substantially authoritative character of Augustine’s system. Augustine at his best was profoundly Pauline, and there were voices of heretics all through the ages who raised again the cry of freedom. Yes, even within the Church men like Jovianus and Claudius stood strongly for the same freedom wherewith Christ had made us free. And at each religious revival men like Luther stood up to assert once more that we dare not identify our faith with even the fairest triumphs of the past; that if we were to be found faithful we, too, through the Spirit, must wait for the hope of righteousness, and that this faith, energizing by love, was more than law and larger and more effective than any tradition.

What is, then, the inwardness of this struggle? The essence of it is that which Paul clearly saw to be a contradiction between attitudes toward life where compromise is im¬possible; that this Galatian church had to choose between the teachers of Jerusalem and the teachings of Jesus Christ—and Paul was right. He had better understood Jesus than these teachers from Jerusalem, for Jesus had stood against all authority and defied it in the name and in the power of an inward assurance. “Ye have heard, Jesus said, bow they of old time said unto you, but I say unto you.” This Jesus taught as one having authority within; this Jesus broke the Sabbath day in the name of God and said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath; this Jesus broke the Levitical law in the name of humanity and healed the sick, and let the hungry feed themselves on the Sabbath day in the assurance that he was Lord of the Sabbath. It was this defiance Of the outward law, it was this break with external authority, that cost the great innovator his life, and Paul felt, and felt rightly, that the cross of Christ was made vain and that the death of Jesus was bereft of significance if the faith of Jesus was buried again under the burdens of external enactment.

And history has been with Paul. All that he foresaw in writing to the Galatians took place, and all too speedily. Formalism, legalism, priestcraft and imperial ambition swallowed up the beautiful gospel of the Nazarene and left the church of the Middle Ages the merest caricature of Paul’s community of propaganda.

And when, after Luther, authority in the Puritan State again asserted itself to a lesser degree, all the evils against which the Reformation contended reasserted themselves — formalism, hypocrisy, sectarianism, dogged the steps of the Reformation Church. Protestantism took no part in the evangelization of the world into which Jesuitism threw itself. Protestantism failed to organize her forces on any principle larger than the broken fragments of scholastic creeds. Protestantism had to wait for the great evangelical revival before she again began to realize that her strength is the life of faith. and that we who are really Protestants through the Spirit must wait for the hope of righteousness; and that our principle is not law and external authority, but faith, and faith only, working by love.

It is this venture of faith that marks the movement of the modern religious world. The triumphs of the past are but the stepping-stones to the victories of the future. We must realize that the function of the past was principally as a training-ground for the freedom to make new and more glorious pasts. A really modern Protestantism stands firmly upon the same inward assurance that gave Paul his power of prophecy and which spoke the life-giving word in Jesus Christ.

But it may be said we are not Paul’s, and least of all are we to put ourselves on a level with Jesus Christ. This is fundamentally wrong. The faith of Paul is to be our faith; and tho we are not on a level with Jesus Christ, if we follow His leadership it is that we may, as He promised, become sons of God. Authority and law have only temporary place in the household of God, and Paul is right in interpreting Jesus as calling to us to become the sons of God and to enter into the freedom of sonship. It is a tremendous venture of faith; it involves, indeed, immense moral, intellectual, and spiritual risks, but it is the risk of the religious life; it is the inevitable outcome of the life of faith; it is because we believe in God that we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness. Our faces are to the future. The past has its messages for us, but they are not final. The past had its triumphs, but they are only the foretaste of still larger victory. The past had its life, but to seek to go back to it is but to find it death. We wait for a hope of righteousness, the larger vision of new heavens and new earth, organized in the beauty of God’s holiness on the basis of loving faith, energizing effectively along all lines of life and in the tragic conflict between external authority and living faith, the great heroes of the past - Paul, Augustine, Origen - yes, even some of those who, like Gregory the Great and Leo the First, and the great Hildebrand, summon us to take part with the best in Luther and Calvin and Wesley in. building into the new world the triumphant faith that God is a living God and that we, through the Spirit, work and wait with Him for the coming, completer vision of righteousness, holiness and peace.

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