Saturday, May 16, 2015


Comic Art

Artist Lee Garbett

Friday, May 15, 2015


The Tyranny of You

Lynne Baab writes some thoughts about using the Lord's Prayer in your devotional life. I am fascinated by how her examination of the text evolves. One example:
I’m struck, right off, by the simplicity of this prayer. In a consumer age, when we are assaulted by ceaseless advertisements designed to create desire, this prayer is lean and spare, focused on essential needs. These intercessions, recommended by Jesus, make me want to be sure my prayers are focused on what really matters – what I need – and not on what the consumer culture tells me I want.

Two spiritual practices that have helped me detach from the consumer culture the most are Sabbath keeping and fasting.* Keeping a Sabbath gives me a day off every week from striving, from pushing hard, from believing I am essential and necessary
It's not that Sabbath Keeping and fasting are bad, but how do you get there from the text? She seems to impose her agenda onto something barely related. Then there is this:
What are the spiritual practices in your life that help you acknowledge and express your need for God? Which spiritual practices help you take steps to forgive others? In what setting do you pray most readily for forgiveness?
Wait?! Isn't prayer itself a spiritual practice? Why does prayer lead to a discussion of spiritual practices, why not focus on prayer itself?

Look, I don't want to ride to hard on this post for it also has one of the most necessary and greatest statements about prayer I have read in a while:
The Lord’s Prayer also indicates the high priority Jesus puts on forgiveness. In an age when many church worship services no longer include a confession of sin, we need to make time in our personal prayer life to acknowledge our sin to God.
Amen and Amen.

But let me get back to the point I was trying to make. So many tech devices these days are considered bad because people have a hard time figuring out how to use them. The functionality is not the problem, either the interface is hard to understand or the material explaining how to use the interface is not well written, or in many cases people are just unwilling to try becasue they feel intimidated. There is a hubris to that that amazes me. An engineer put in countless hours trying to figure out how to make something that does something useful and labor saving. So why are we unwilling to put in a little effort to learn how to use it and avoid years of effort not using it?

So often we approach our life with God this way. Jesus said, "This is how to prayer." That's pretty doggone important. Why can we not focus on learning to pray rather than crowding up the topic with our own agendas? The Lord of all is teaching us how to talk to Him, is that not important enough in its own right? My perspective on the matter just should not be important in light of such a thing; His perspective is all that matters.

Maybe we should JUST pray.


Friday Humor

Who knew Popeye was in Hindi?

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Wired For God?

Science 2.0:
Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

While this idea may seem outlandish—after all, it seems easy to decide not to believe in God—evidence from several disciplines indicates that what you actually believe is not a decision you make for yourself. Your fundamental beliefs are decided by much deeper levels of consciousness, and some may well be more or less set in stone.

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”
I find this story interesting and annoying. Annoying becasue of an utter lack of links, footnotes and virtually no attribution. At best I have to dig through "New Scientist" to get to the data as opposed t the conclusion.

It is also annoying becasue mind science is barely science. It is mostly an application of statistical tools to self-reported data - while the studier may be "objective" the data being studied simply cannot be. The most basic tenant of science is the data you collect should be the same regardless of who is measuring it. In this case how can we even be sure two people self-reporting the same thing are actually experiencing the same thing?

It is interesting to note that this study seems to support the basic thesis of Paul apologetic argument in Romans 1, which is simply we are born knowing of God on some level.

But I cannot help but wonder that if we are asking people to provide data on what goes on in their head to conclude there is a metaphysical of some sort, isn't that metaphysical data? OK, I've decided it's just annoying.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


"All By Myself-el-elf"

OK, sometimes reading something just starts a song in your head. Such was the case with this post from Justin Taylor:
The Washington Post recently summarized a recent study published in Science showing a sad but not surprising result: men would rather experience an electrical shock than to be along with his own thoughts.
He then goes on to quote Peter Kreeft and Douglas Groothuis on Pascal and the work he did on diversions. Both discuss the value of time alone and undistracted to, as Groothuis puts it, "pursue higher realities."

I cannot disagree with the need for such pursuit, but I will also say it takes a maturity most do not have. It has taken me a long, long time to learn how to be OK with my own company. As a young man solitude did not bring such thoughts, rather it brought thoughts of a most depressive and unproductive nature. Even today, too much solitude can produce the same very bad thinking. Solitude is a necessary condition for such a pursuit, but it is not a sufficient one and until such time as the other conditions are in place, it may be counterproductive.

Rather than pursue higher things, solitude, absent such maturity can result in a pursuit of much lower things. Busyness can be a useful tool in the desire to avoid temptation of all sorts. In my own experience it is only when I have conquered (well, the Holy Spirit actually) my baser nature to some reasonable extent that solitude allows for such higher pursuit.

I find the study encouraging. I think it shows that we do not wish to sink into the swamp of our own sinfulness and despair. We seek to conquer our baseness to the point where the solitude these gentlemen call for is productive. The key is to make sure we do not overcome the temptations of solitude with temptations of a different sort.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Our Witness To The World

Thomas Kidd:
Steven P. Miller. The Age of Evangelicalism: The Born-Again Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 240 pp. $24.95.Steven P. Miller. The Age of Evangelicalism: The Born-Again Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 240 pp. $24.95.

They know us by our politics. That is the sobering conclusion that evangelical readers will take away from Steven P. Miller’s seminal book, The Age of Evangelicalism: The Born-Again Years (Oxford). I do not know of another book that more effectively tells the story of American evangelicalism’s ascendancy and (perhaps) its political collapse, from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. Although some evangelical readers may not appreciate Miller’s critical tone, this is medicine worth taking for any conservative Christian who cares about politics and public policy.
I agree with that statement and I find it horrible. Yes, we believe abortion is murder and same-sex marriage is abomination - but that is not what defines Christianity - Jesus is what defines Christianity. And so if they know us by our stances on issues, but not by the love of Christ we have failed. WE HAVE FAILED.

We are, quite literally, no different than the Jewish authority of Christ's time. Not known for their holiness, they were known for their opposition to Rome and by their "odd" religious practices. They were known by their politics, not by the grace that God had bestowed upon Israel. They were not set apart for politics, they were set apart to be holy. They failed - Christ came. We have failed, what now comes for us?

This does not, by the way, mean a Christian should not do politics. It means that the difference is not in our political stances but in how we DO the politics. That is a matter of both character and expectation. It means we act with exemplary character and we expect the same from those we debate with. It means we love our foe, but do not accept their wrongness.

Mostly it means we do not fight for what we want, we fight for what is best.

But we have failed. Now what?

Monday, May 11, 2015


Bless The Good

Todd Rhoades:
Dan Rockwell (aka The Leadership Freak) contrasts how leaders handle the failures and the successes; and gives your twelve pretty simple ways that you can actively act on the great things that are happening all around you:
  • Call “what went right” meetings.
  • Send emails to higher ups bragging about the team.
  • Instill urgency.
  • Identify behaviors that produce achievement and create success.
  • Make decisions quickly. Action follows decisions. When leaders don’t decide, everyone waits.
  • Identify expediters, multipliers, and progress makers.
  • Assign responsibility for useful behaviors. Keep doing…
  • Devise plans to keep success happening.
  • Elevate accountability. “Let’s review our success plan next week.”
  • Reward if it’s happened before.
  • Have tough conversations. What needs to continue? How could we be better?
  • Take action quickly and persistently until the next milestone is reached. Don’t ease up.
I don't know, but something strikes me as very wrong fundamentally in a church when you have to tell people how to give positive reinforcement and particularly a list of very bureaucratic things to do.

Christianity, it seems to me, should be a lot about positive reinforcement and about relationship, not bureaucracy. Christ chose not to rise in the vast bureaucracy that was the Judaism of His day, Jesus rarely rebuked His close followers (the bureaucracy is a a different story) and trusted them to go out and do ministry, often when they were very much "rookies." For Jesus it was not about the organization running smoothly, it was about people touching peoples lives.

It seems to me that if that was what Jesus was about, then that is what the church ought to be about. And what the church is about starts with the staff, not what goes on with the congregation. That this has to be written tells me something is amiss.

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