Saturday, November 15, 2008


Comic Art

Heroes and Artists - The Flash

Daniel Acuna

Freddie Williams II

Greg LaRocque

Jackson Guice

Sheldon Moldoff

Carmine Infantino

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Friday, November 14, 2008


In Praise of Chemistry!?

MSNBC reports on a new Museum in Philly dedicated to giving you a "new reason to take another look at a subject you may have vowed never to revisit after final exams."
As chemical and molecular innovations — from nylon to plastic to cosmetics — transformed modern life, genomics and nanotechnology discoveries could dramatically transform the future. The Chemical Heritage Foundation's ambitious renovation and expansion of its historic headquarters is working to show the dynamic — and exciting — ways that chemistry came to be, where it's been and what might be in store.
Science in general and chemistry especially, have long enjoyed lousy reputations. At the risk of sounding elitist, most people find it too difficult to bother with. Now I disagree with that analysis, it is not any more or less "difficult" than any other field of study. But, unlike most other fields of study, science demands objectivity. It is, at least in the basics, all about facts. To be sure, people paste their worldviews and prejudices on top of it, and argue for them in the "name of science," but science itself, particularly high school and undergrad science, is all about the facts - perhaps the last great bastion of fact in academia.

As such, I believe its study should be encouraged. But alas.... And so we are reduced to building museums and trying to "popularize" science, to "increase its accessibility." In other words, we lower the bar when one of the great roles science can play in our educational system and our society is to raise it.

What's really sad is these efforts rarely work. This will, as one of the founders says, become, "a gathering place for people in the sciences to see where they came from, what their own specialties evolved from." And the occasional young person, already vastly interested in science will have that interest fortified and focused by a facility like this. But in my experience, such things rarely, if ever, manage to capture the imagination of the general public.

I wonder if we would not be better off by focusing our resources on what I would call "pre-science" education. We need to return to teaching facts and objectivity - logic and reasoning. Now we teach expression and discovery - which are good things, but only when built on a foundation that can restrain it inside useful boundaries.

When I was a child I dreamed of doing chemistry to invent Dr. Jekyll's formula for real, though I always knew I would be a super-hero with my power, not a bad-guy like Hyde. When I grew up and actually studied chemistry, I discovered such was impossible, but there were many wonderful things I could do inside the reality.

We need to begin to show people the boundaries of reality.

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Friday Humor

Remember when Steve Martin was really funny?

That is also pitch perfect satire on the Gong Show!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Is That A Connection?

Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum recently ran two posts on social networking technology. He says a lot in those two posts, but this I think strikes at the heart of it:
Internet-based social networking takes this to another level. Since there must be winners and losers in the push to be noticed, people have to stay current and hot. It’s now not enough that an actor must keep his or her face out there, even if it means slumming in C-Movie Land, your average Jane is compelled to keep her MySpace page up-to-the-minute or else face obscurity, buried under a hundred million other pages that are hipper and more relevant. To this generation, nothing could be more damning than to find no one cares that you think Timbaland is teh hot because they’ve moved on to someone else’s minty-fresh page.
Dennis Prager is fond of saying, "Fame is no substitute for significance."

We are indeed a media obsessed age, and I do believe that social networking technology is more about the media than the message, more about the fame than the relationship.

Let me get personal for a moment. The last 4 years have seen the end, through death, of the two most significant male relationships in my life. My friend since junior high school, Ken Stanley, and my father. These are men with whom I have spent ENORMOUS amounts of time over the decades. During this period, though not on this blog, but on another, I have enjoyed quite a bit on Internet based success. Trust me on this - it is no substitute. That success has in some ways felt quite hollow because those men were not around to share it with. Through that blog I have met and interacted with many smart, wonderful people. I have formed friendships that I hope might someday take on the significance of those, but it is unlikely - insufficient decades remain in my life span for that kind of depth to once again form.

Breadth is no substitute for depth when it comes to relationships. There is a communication that happens in silence that can only happen after you have come to know someone very well. By definition, media based relationships can NEVER be silent.

Now, think about that in terms of a prayer life and see where it gets you.

Which brings me to my second point. Why, if media matters so much, did God choose a point in history for His incarnation that had virtually no media? There was then only the written word and its access was highly limited, most were illiterate.

Jesus Christ is undeniably the most significant figure in history. He achieved that without so much as a single radio interview and without leaving one written message. His significance was achieved not in His message, but in the relationships He built with 12 men. These were men He lived with for 3 years - men HE came to know in the way that only presence can provide. Men He was SILENT with.

Electronic communication is a wonderful accessory to the management of a real relationship - but it does not constitute a relationship of itself.

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Illuminated Scripture

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Whither The Church?

Justin Taylor posted some back-and-forth over a post by Tony Payne. Payne's thesis:
...Even if we acknowledge that there will be ‘gospel’ things happening all over the place in church, it is also important to say that evangelism is not the purpose of Christian assemblies. It is certainly not their focus. In the New Testament, churches are characteristically the fruit of evangelism, not its agent. Evangelism usually takes place outside the assembly—in the marketplace, the synagogue, the prison, and in daily gospel conversation.
Offered in the contra:
Since the era when ‘throne and altar’ became intertwined, evangelism in church has been ‘a propos’. Here's why:

1. For those ministering in broad, comprehensive churches in which the spiritual status and allegiance of attenders is doubtful, you will have to preach the gospel for conversion Sunday by Sunday or miss your best opportunity


2. For those determined to follow the counsel set out, please indicate where, and in what other venues you are preaching the gospel with a view to the conversion of your hearers if by your own admission, you will not belabor this in your Sunday services.


3. Perfectly orthodox churches need to hear the gospel preached and to witness its power in transforming the curious and unbelieving.
Now, anyone that follows this blog routinely knows that I am going to agree with Payne here completely, and maybe even take things a step farther. I just want to offer a few specific response to the contra arguments presented.

First of all, I think it extremely doubtful that we any longer live in an age where "throne and altar" intertwine. Statistically, church attendance is a vast minority of our populace. But even under such circumstances, I would challenge the idea that a church service is the best opportunity to present the gospel. The truly transformative gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely taught - it is mentored, even apprenticed. That requires more than simple proclamation. Apprenticeships are noted by the doing, not the teaching.

Which brings me to the third criticism. In a church that is doing this, it is the members of the church doing the apprenticing - not the clergy. Thus they are witnessing the the gospel in action every day becasue they are God's agent of it. A point which answers the second criticism as well. It is happening all the time around you.

The church's job is not to make new Christians - the church's job is to make good, devoted Christians. It is their job to make new Christians and bring them to church so it can do it's job. If we are not making Christians that go out and do that job then we need to reexamine what we are doing, not try and do it for them.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It Is A Good Day...

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Outside Sources

Milt Stanley links to the Biblical Preaching blog on speaking advice from Winston Churchill. I was attracted to this becasue I was taught, and agree, that there were only two GREAT orators in the 20th century - Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill. King has been imitated over and over and all imitators pale in comparison. Far as I can tell, no one comes close to Churchill, or has even tried.

Milt professes some ambivalence about the post. He thinks the advice, but I cannot tell if his ambivalence about using advice from a decidedly secular speaker, or about the idea of using a "power line" (I think we'd probably call it a "sound bite" more frequently) in the context of a sermon.

I have no problem borrowing ideas from anywhere, secular, holy, whatever. They are ideas - they are neutral. We are holy, we are saved. Of course, there are bad ideas and we should reject them, but there can be a lot learned about aspects of our activity from those that pursue similar activity for secular purpose. The similarities between religious and political speech-making are just too real not for both streams to borrow liberally from each other.

What about the idea of the "power line?" Says Biblical Preaching:
James C. Humes, in his book, Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers, gives Churchill’s formula for planning a true power line. In the speech of a politician this is the sound-bite designed to galvanize the nation, or reach millions in the media. It’s the cream that rises to the top of a speech. Perhaps we can consider these elements as we craft the message idea – our power line.
Is there a place for a "power line" in preaching?

I think this is a very legitimate question - while simple and effective and decidedly impactful, power lines tend to be removed from context and warped over the years into something entirely different from what they were when they were originally uttered.

There is also the important question of whether a sermon should have a single "take away" thought. If the purpose of preaching is to transform, and we are transformed "by the renewing of our minds," can something as simplistic as a "power line" truly aid in that goal. The the effectiveness of the power line for inspiration and motivation cannot be questioned - Churchill won World War Two with them - but do they change us? People could not wait to "get back to the way things were" after the War.

More counter examples. MLK certainly changed the nation, but becasue his ideas were reduced to single snips those changes have been morphed into things like reparations and racial quotas. John Kennedy was another master of the power line ("Ask not...") and yet his legacy is now claimed by people so far removed from his low-tax, pro-business, nuclear brinkmanship policies as to be virtually unrecognizable.

There is a place for the power line in preaching, but it should be used sparingly and with definite purpose. It is, as best as I can tell, a tool for inspiration and motivation, BUT NOT FOR TRANSFORMATION.

When I look at the church today I see no lack of inspiration and motivation. We move people to come to church and to give money and maybe to alter one small aspect of their behavior. But we fail to engage them in their totality - we fail to offer them the truly transformative grace and power of the Holy Spirit.

This is good advice with very limited application for the church.

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, November 10, 2008


The Real Jesus

Classical Presbyterian has written quite eloquently about discovering the "real" Jesus.
Instead, I found myself longing, with an unquenchable, unending longing for the Jesus that I met in the Bible. And so, here I was a baptized professing believer, a pastor, husband and father, finally meeting the Jesus of the Bible!

The Jesus that I learned of in seminary and the mainline churches was a Jesus quite unlike the Jesus that I was seeing now. The Jesus of seminary was a Jesus that had to wait, he was a Jesus who longed and who hoped for more from us. This version of Jesus stood at the door knocking, calling, but who was forced to wait and see what we would do with His message. Being committed to nonintervention, this Jesus waited to see how we would vote and organize for societal transformation through confrontation with worldly powers.

This seminary, mainline Jesus was never quite satisfied, never fully reigning but always ready for it, if the conditions were right and we organized ourselves well enough in our churches, political enterprises and ecumenical associations.

But after my conversion to Biblical orthodoxy, I found that the Jesus I now knew and could see in the Bible was a gracious Savior of souls, who came to earth and bled and died to save His people from their fully-earned condemnation. The eternal life that He accomplished in his cross and resurrection was a completed thing, a perfect accomplishment that was not only for now, but it was forever.

The Jesus I now knew was confrontational, unwilling to sit idly by and let His children be condemned to eternal subjection to the Enemy of his Father. So, Jesus lived a sinless life, gave us His commandments and died and rose again to perfectly save all of His children, not losing a single one. He dodged political questions, confounded worldly authorities and religious leaders. He redeemed people from poverty and wealth, Jew and Gentile, slave and free.
Just a few comments...

The same danger Toby escapes here in the phrase, "the Jesus I now knew..." remains in it. Christ, member of the Trinity - Holy God - CREATOR - is beyond the full knowledge and comprehension of we the created. We never know Jesus, we are always knowing. We do not ever discover Christ, but we are always discovering. Toby describes wonderfully the process many of us that grow up in the denominational traditions go through, but the process is not complete, nor can it ever be. Which brings me to my second comment.

There is a tendency with each of us, when we discover some new facet of our Lord to latch onto that facet as somehow definitive. Such can never be, remember Christ is, truly and ultimately, beyond our comprehension. There are two ramifications to this fact. The first is that the only possible response we can have to this is humility. The second is that our ideological opponent almost always has a point in there somewhere.

And now onto the third comment. Note that vision of Christ presented here is not idle but active, and yet active in a fashion that we have yet to get our heads truly around. "He dodged political questions, confounded worldly authorities and religious leaders." Christ came to change the world, but He is doing so in a way that, like Himself, is beyond our understanding.

As I grow in my faith, I come increasingly to understand that I am on a journey the end of which I do not know, nor will I be allowed to know until I arrive. I will always be discovering, learning, stretching, growing. I will never be in control becasue I do not know where I am going.

I think that last sentence is the hardest thing about being a Christian. Most of us, even "in process," like to have enough understanding of the that process and its end result that we have a sense of control. But it is precisely that sense of control that Christ seeks to remove from us. With it gone, there is only Christ, and even then there is only faith in Him, for we do not fully know Him either. Seems like very unsure footing to me.

But is it really?

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Sunday, November 09, 2008


Sermons and Lessons


Joseph Parker was born at Hexham-on-Tyne, England, in 1830. He was a prodigious worker, writer, and preacher. His “The People’s Bible,” in twenty-eight large volumes, a popular commentary on the Scriptures, is his greatest work. To a naturally energetic personality he added great originality and resourcefulness. He gave much time to the preparation of sermons, reading them aloud as he wrote in order to test their effect upon the ear. A strong personal quality pervaded all his preaching. “If I have not seen Him myself,” he said, “I cannot preach Him.” In lectures to students he gave much valuable advice gathered from the storehouse of his own varied experience.’ He gave particular attention to the use of the voice. “It is not enough,” he said, “that you be heard; you must be effective as well as audible; you must lighten and thunder with the voice; it must rise and fall like a storm at times; now a whisper, now a trumpet, now the sound of many waters. There is an orator’s voice, and there is a bellman’s. The auctioneer talks; the orator speaks.” Dr. Parker’s sermons are published in numerous volumes. He died in 1902.


The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary - Isaiah 50:4.

The power of speaking to the weary is nothing less than a divine gift. As we see the divinity in our gifts shall we be careful of them, thankful for them: every gift seems to enshrine the giver, God. But how extraordinary that this power of speaking to the weary should not be taught in the schools. it is not within the ability of man to teach other men how to speak to the weary-hearted, the wounded in spirit, the sore in the innermost feelings of the being. But can we lay down directions about this and offer suggestions? Probably so, but we do not touch the core of the matter. There is an infinite difference between the scholar and the genius. The scholar is made, the genius is inspired. Information can be imparted, but the true sense, the sense that feels and sees God, is a gift direct from heaven.

It is a common notion that anybody can sing. Why can you sing? Why, because I have been taught. That is your mistake. You can sing mechanically, exactly, properly, with right time, right tune, but really and truly you can not sing. Here is a man with his music and with the words; he sings every note, pronounces every word, goes through his lesson, finishes his task, and nobody wants to hear him any more. Another man takes up the same music, the same words, and the same hearers exclaim, “Oh, that he would go on for ever!” How is that? - the words exactly the same, the notes identical - how? Soul, fire, ever-burning, never consuming, making a bush like a planet. The great difficulty in all such cases is the difficulty of transferring to paper a proper or adequate conception of the power of the men who thus sway the human heart. There are some men whose biographies simply belie them, and yet every sentence in the biography is true in the letter; but the biography is little else than a travesty and a caricature, because the power was personal, it was in the face, in the voice, in the presence, in the gait, in the touch - an incommunicable power; the hem of the garment trembled under it, but no biographer could catch it in his scholarly ink.

Very few ministers can enter a sick chamber with any probability of doing real and lasting good. They can read the Bible, and they can pray, and yet, when they have gone, the room seems as if they had never been there. There is no sense of emptiness or desolation. Other men, probably not so much gifted in some other directions, will enter the sick room, and there will be a light upon the wall, summer will gleam upon the windowpane, and angels will rustle in the air, and it will be a scene of gladness and a vision of triumph. how is that’? The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned that I might know how - how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. The Lord God hath not only given me a word to say, but hath given me learning to teach me how to speak it. Place the emphasis upon the how, and then you develop all the mystery, all the tender music, all the infinite capacity of manner.

We may say the right word in the wrong tone; we may preach the gospel as if it were a curse. The common notion is that anybody can go into the Sunday-school and teach the young. We sometimes think that it would be well if a great many persons left the Sunday-school all over the world. Teach the young - would God I had that great gift, to break the bread for the children, and to be able to lure and captivate opening minds, and to enter into the spirit of the words -

“Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
To teach the young idea how to shoot.”

It requires to be father and mother and sister and nurse and genius to speak to the young. They may hear you and not care for you: they may understand your words, and be repelled by your spirit. You require the tongue of the learned to know how to speak, and that tongue of the learned is not to be had at school, college, university - it is not included in any curriculum of learning - it is a gift divine, breathing an afflatus, an inspiration - the direct and distinct creation of God, as is the star, the sun. The speaker, then, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the representative of the Father, the incarnate Deity - He it is who is charged with the subtle learning; He it is whose lips tremble with the pathos of this ineffable music.

Though the gift itself is divine, we must remember that it is to be exercised seasonably. The text is, “that I should know how to speak a word in season.” There is a time for everything. It is not enough to speak the right word, it must be spoken at the right moment. Who can know when that is! We can not be taught. We must feel it, see it hours beyond: nay, must know when to be silent for the whole twenty-four hours and to say, “Tomorrow, at such and such a time, we will drop that sentence upon the listening ear.” “The day after tomorrow, he will probably be in circumstances to admit of this communication being delivered with sympathy and effect.” How few persons know the right time - the right time in conversation. Some people are never heard in conversation though they are talking all the time. They talk so unseasonably, they talk when other people are talking; they can not wait; they do not know how to come in along the fine line of silence: they do not understand the German expression “Now an angel has passed,” and they do not quickly enough follow in his wake. Consequently, though chattering much they are saying nothing - though their words be multitudinous, the impression they make is a blank.

I have a ripe seed in my hand. As an agriculturist I am going to sow it. Any laborer in the field can tell me that I should be acting foolishly in sowing it just now. Why? “It is out of season,” the man says. “There is a time for the doing of that action: I will tell you when the time returns - do it then, and you may expect a profitable result of your labor.”

Then I will change the character and be a nurse, and I will attend to my patient (perhaps I will over attend to him - some patients are killed by over nursing), and I will give the patient this medicine - it is the right medicine. So it is, but you are going to give it at the wrong time, and if you give the medicine at the wrong time, though itself be right, the hour being wrong you will bring suffering upon the patient, and you yourself will be involved in pains and penalties. Thus we touch that very subtle and sensitive line in human life, the line of refined discrimination. You may say “I am sure I told him.” You are right - you did tell him and he did not hear you. You may reply, “I am perfectly confident I delivered the message, - I preached the exact words of the gospel.” So you did, but you never got the hearing heart, your manner was so unsympathetic, so ungentle, so cruel (not meant to be - unconsciously so, that the man never understood it to be a gospel. You spoilt the music in the delivery, in the giving of the message. The Lord God giveth the tongue of the learned, that he to whom it is given may know how to speak - how to speak the right word - how to speak the right word at the right point of time. You want divine teaching in all things, in speech not least.

This is a curious word to find in the Bible. Does the Bible care about weary people’? We have next to no sympathy with them. If a man be weary, we give him notice to quit: if he ask us to what place he can retire, we tell him that it is his business not ours. Now the tenderness of this Book is one of the most telling, convincing arguments on behalf of its inspiration, and its divine authority. This Book means to help us, wants to help us, it says, “I will try to help you, never hinder you: I will wait for you, I will soften the wind into a whisper, I will order the thunder to be
silent, I will quiet the raging sea; I will wait upon you at home, in solitude, at midnight, anywhere - fix the place, the time, yourself, and when your heart most needs me I will be most to your heart.” Any book found in den, in gutter, that wants to do this, should be received with respect. The purpose is good: if it fail, it fails in a noble object.

Everywhere in this Book of God we find a supreme wish to help man. When we most need help the words are sweeter than the honeycomb. When other books are dumb, this Book speaks most sweetly. It is like a star, it shines in the darkness, it waits the going down of the superficial sun of our transient prosperity, and then it breaks upon us as the shadows thicken. This is the real greatness of God: he will not break the bruised reed. Because the reed is bruised, therefore the rude man says he may break it. His argument Sin brief is this: “If the reed were strong, I should not touch it, but seeing that it is bruised what harm can there be in completing the wound under which it is already suffering? I will even snap it and throw the sundered parts away.” That is the reasoning of the rude man - that is the vulgar view of the case. The idea of the healing is the idea of a creator. He who creates also heals. Herein we see God’s estimate of human nature: if He cared only for the great, the splendid, the magnificent, the robust, and the everlasting, then He would indeed be too like ourselves. The greatness of God and the estimate which He places upon human nature are most seen in all these ministrations in reference to the weak and the weary and the young and the feeble and the sad. Made originally in the image of God, man is dear to his Maker, though ever so broken. Oh, poor prodigal soul with the divinity nearly broken out of thee, smashed, bleeding, crushed, all but in hell - while there is a shadow of thee outside perdi¬tion, He would heal thee and save thee. Thou art a ruin, but a grand one, the majestic ruin of a majestic edifice, for knowest thou not that thou wast the temple of God?

When we are weary, even in weariness, God sees the possibility of greatness that may yet take place and be developed and supervene in immortality. How do we talk? Thus: “The survival of the fittest.” It is amazing with what patience and magnanimity and majestic disregard of circumstances we allow people to die off. When we hear that thousands have perished, we write this epitaph on their white slate tombstones: “The survival of the fittest required the decay of the weakest and the poorest.” We pick off the fruit which we think will not come to perfection. The gardener lays his finger and thumb upon the tree, and he says, “This will not come to much” - he wrenches the poor unpromising piece of fruit off the twig and throws it down as useless. In our march we leave the sick and wounded behind. That is the great little, the majestic insignificant, the human contradiction. We go in for things that are fittest, strongest, most promising, healthy, self-complete, and therein we think we are wise. God says, “Not a lamb must be left out - bring it up: not a sick man must be omitted: not a poor publican sobbing his ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ must be omitted from the great host. Bring them all in, sick, weary, wounded, feeble, young, illiterate, poor, insignificant, without name, fame, station, force - all in: gather up the fragments that nothing be lost.” Let us go to that Shepherd - He will spare us and love us. When our poor strength gives out, He will not set His cruel heel upon us and kill us, He will gather us in His arms and make the whole flock stand still till He has saved the weakest one.

Did we but know the name for our pain we should call it Sin. What do we need, then, but Christ the Son of God, the Heart of God, the Love of God? He will in very deed give us rest. He will not add to the great weight which bows down our poor strength. He will give us grace, and in His power all our faintness shall be thought of no more. Some of us know how dark it is when the full shadow of our sin falls upon our life, and how all the help of earth and time and man does but mock the pain it can not reach. Let no man say that Christ will not go so low down as to find one so base and vile as he. Christ is calling for thee; I heard His sweet voice lift itself up in the wild wind and ask whither thou hadst fled, that He might save thee from death and bring thee home. There is no wrath in His face 0r voice, no sword is swung by His hand as if in cruel joy, saying, “Now at last I have My chance with you.” His eyes gleam with love: His voice melts in pity: His words are gospels, every one. Let Him but see thee sad for sin, full of grief because of the wrong thou hast done, and He will raise thee out of the deep pit and set thy feet upon the rock.

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