Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sheep: It is not a compliment


The imagery of sheep and shepherd is perhaps one of the most common images in the Bible. Christ is the Good Shepherd, He is the Lamb of God, He tells Peter to "feed my sheep". It is common because it would speak clearly to an agrarian society where sheep and shepherds were plentiful. It would also speak to them because they were fully aware of the nature of sheep.

People today think of sheep and think of cute, cuddly white lambs that are sweet and nice. Sheep are sweet, they look great in paintings and greeting cards. But people who think that about sheep don't know anything about sheep.

The Sido family knows the truth about sheep because we had a short lived, pre-goat, experiment with four Shetland sheep when we lived up north and never again.

Sheep are smell bad, they are really dumb, they are messy eaters and they are horribly unappreciative.

  1. Sheep smell bad. They have a pretty pungent odor about them from the lanolin in their wool. Get really close to a sheep or recently sheered wool and you will get hands that feel like you have been playing in crisco. You really don't want to snuggle with a sheep, and when we see images of the Good Shepherd seeking His sheep and putting them on His shoulders, remember that the sinner draped over Christ's shoulders is kind of oily and stinky.
  2. Sheep are dumb. You haven't seen a blank look until you have looked in the eyes of a sheep. Even cows look smarter, or at least more content. The shepherd is so important because without him the sheep will get lost and eaten in a matter of minutes. One time our sheep got out of their pen and started wandering. Not in malice, but in ignorance. They ate a little grass here, and then over there, and pretty soon they had wandered over a mile away to a neighboring farm and still had no clue. Sheep wander (all we like sheep have gone astray)
  3. Sheep are messy eaters. I just threw this in there. They scatter their hay all over, spill grain and get crud in the water. Not really relevant, but it is just gross.
  4. No animal is more unappreciative. Even cats will purr if you feed them. Dogs love you no matter what you do. Goldfish get excited when they see the lid of the tank go up. But sheep, no matter how you feed and care for them, act like you are going to stick a knife in them at any second. I was sick of feeding them and having them run away whenever I got near the pen.

So when you think of yourself as one of God's sheep, don't think of it as a compliment. God didn't choose you because you were pure, white, fuzzy and cute. He chose you even though like sheep you are kind of stinky, prone to wander and unappreciative. Being called one of His sheep is not a compliment to you, it is a testament to how gracious He is.


Is Democracy dangerous to the soul?

That is the question posed on the latest The White Horse Inn, Vote for Jesus!

American pragmatism and wealth is certainly a barrier to Calvinism, and is inherently a problem for people seeking to Biblically witness, teach and evangelize. When a people are constantly told that America is a Christian nation, which it is not, filled with good people, which it is not, it is pretty hard to get them to believe that they are sinner in need of a savior. Democracy makes people self-reliant, which is the antithesis of what the Gospel says.

There was one great comment that hit the nail on the head. The discussion was around the American notion that the Bible says that God helps those who help themselves, and Ken Jones piped up that when people find out that God helps those who help themselves is not in the Bible, they declare that it should be!

A democratic republic is the best form of government in a world full of sinners, but we should never assume that democracy=Christianity.

In America, perhaps more than anywhere else, it is obvious that God is sovereign in salvation because only a sovereign God could make an American humble themselves as a sinner in need of a savior.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When choice is more than an abstract

One criticism leveled at pro-life folks is that they want to dictate what women should do without having to suffer the consequences. Sure they say, it is easy to be anti-abortion when you aren't the one facing the tough choices. That criticism is laid to rest in Governor, hopefully soon to be Vice-President, Sarah Palin. She faced a very real crisis in her own life and took the harder road, but the right one, when she was told that her fifth child was likely to have Downs Syndrome. She chose to have and to love that child like any of her other four kids. Her story, politics aside, is a wonderful one.

Upwards of 90% of all pregnancies diagnosed as likely to be Downs babies are terminated. The child is going to require special care and sacrifice all of his or her life, and will never go to Harvard or be captain of the football team or anything else associated with the dreams of parents. Faced with that reality, a huge percentage of couples and women elect abortion. What their motivations are I won't presume to know. I do know that we never elected to have the testing that would indicate Downs Syndrome because it was irrelevant. There were never "options" for us, the only option was carrying the child to term and caring for him or her as best we could.

Her story is captured in several stories but it is summarized very well by Dr. Mohler this Mothers Day before she became the GOP VP nominee. You can read his post here and listen to the show earlier in the year here. The radio show is especially wonderful because of the calls of many parents of Downs children who attest to what a blessing they are.

Look at the picture at the top of the post and think that 90% of children just like Trig Palin are murdered in the womb and never get to be held even once by their mother. If that picture isn't enough to make someone question abortion, then that person has a stony heart indeed. It is time to say enough. Enough profit subsidized by the tax payers at Planned Parenthood. Enough testing of innocent children to see if they are up to snuff and meet their parents requirements to live. Enough hiding behind empty slogans to justify the murder of the innocent. Enough perverting the Constitution to mandate the legalization of genocide.

Too much blood has been spilled on the altar of choice. Enough is more than enough.

Insightful analysis from the mainstream media

Little-Known Palin May Be Benefit or Bust for McCain's Campaign

Wow, now that is informative. Sarah Palin may be a benefit or she may be detrimental, she might help or she might not. That is the news equivalent of "partly cloudy".

In tomorrow's news, a coin flip may come up heads or it may come up tails.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How cool is this!

Check out this video, halfway through we see VP nominee and Alaska governor Sarah Palin shooting an M-16. Would be commander-in-chief Obama probably wouldn't even know which end of the rifle to point at an enemy...

History in the making

One way or the other, history is going to be made this fall

We will either have a black man as President or a woman as Vice-President. Palin is a great pick. She may not really be the very best person for the job, but she steals a ton of Obama's thunder, both because of the timing of the pick and who she is. The buzz tonight is all on Palin, and not on Obama's speech last night. Professional women will like Palin, mothers will like Palin and given her NRA membership, men who otherwise may not have voted for a woman on a ticket will like Palin. McCain may have gone a long way toward winning the Presidency today.

Now what will really be great is when a candidate is viewed on their stance and qualification instead of their gender or race...

More on the Palin Pick later...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Unequally yoked

Another Biblical case for homeschooling

We looked at the following Scripture in church last night: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV)

This is normally used as a reference to not marrying unbelievers, but as Pastor Michael Jones pointed out it also pertains to entering business agreements with unbelievers. Any time you partner with unbelievers, even if it is an unbelieving institution, you invariably have to compromise. I don’t run my bank like a Christian banker, but as a banker who is also Christian because this is not my business and not my money. When someone has a hard luck story, I would love to help them out but I can’t. So it is inevitable that whatever partnerships we make with the unbelieving world will require some sort of compromise, and schooling is no exception.

One of the most important duties for any parents, and especially a Christian parent, is the proper rearing of our children. For the Christians this means a good education through a Christian worldview where Scripture knowledge is an integral part of that education. In spite of this, we still see millions of children from Christian homes sent off to public schools where they are taught from a decidedly secular worldview that is in many ways in open opposition to Biblical truth.

Why do we allow ourselves to be yoked in this way? The reasons typically given are myriad and none of them are good ones:

I am not qualified to homeschool my kid. Like the average public school teacher is? Who is more qualified to educate your child, someone with an education degree that is five years removed from their senior prom or someone who has loved and cared for your child their entire life. Education is more than being able to do a lesson plan and assign worksheets.

I can’t afford Christian private school. This one is true. Churches aren’t, for the most part, doing much to help Christian parents. Again, we spend tons of money on missionaries in foreign nations and on VBS but we refuse to sponsor Christian schools. Most churches have way more room than they ever use, and the really big churches especially should sponsor a Christian school or an academy for homeschoolers and look at that as an opportunity to evangelize children and perhaps even subsidize those who can't afford full tuition. Again, where better to spend your resources, on kids that come to your church every week or on kids whose parents are looking for a free babysitter for a week?

I went to public school and I turned out OK. People who come out of public schools unscathed are the exception rather than the rule. This would be analogous to “I got bitten by a Rottweiler once and I turned out OK, so I am going to drop my kid into a junkyard” The lifestyle in a public school is not one that lends itself to a Christian worldview very often.

My kids need socialization. Very true, but doesn’t it make sense to dictate how that socialization happens? Not to exaggerate the issue, but the overwhelming majority of kids in public school today are from non-Christian, non-church going families. I just don't see how sending kids into a peer driven environment when the peer group is either ungrounded in or hostile to the worldview we are developing in our children makes sense. The play ground at a public school, the school bus, etc are virtual free for alls, with Lord of the Flies rules. Is that really the socialization we want?

My kids are missionaries, salt and light in the public school. Just as we shouldn’t send brand new Christians out in the mission field nor should we send our children off to be indoctrinated in a system that seeks, as a whole, to develop a different worldview in direct conflict with the one taught at home and church (not every teacher, and not every school is part of this, but the system as a whole and the philosophy behind the system is equally hostile to the Christian worldview)

Those are not valid reasons for a Christian parent to send their child off, in their most formative and vulnerable years, to an institution that is beset with problems of behavior, morality, worldview and a general apathy from parents, students, teachers and administrators. Despite the protests to the contrary, it is just easier to send kids to public school. It is free and it is easy, just bundle them up and get them on the bus each morning. But as I have said before, it is not the easy things we are called to, the comfortable things. Being a Christian and living the Christian life is a difficult endeavour in this world and normally requires us to not seek the path of least resistance.

When a child becomes an adult, they better be equipped to handle the outside world, to contend earnestly for the faith, to stand up to the world, the flesh and the Enemy. We should do all we can to equip them for that reality, but throwing them to the secular wolves as children is not the way to accomplish that goal. Who do you want forming your child's worldview and moral compass, you or the institutional, secular school. Who cares more for your child's soul, you or the NEA? Who is commanded to raise up your children, you or the local middle school?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The built-in excuse

And it is starting already. The conventional wisdom from the Left is that the only way that the Anointed Barack Obama can possibly lose is if the people of America show themselves to be the racists rednecks that liberals have always assumed.

Jacob Weisberg, writing for Slate Magazine, boldly proclaims this liberal article of faith in the subtly titled article: Racism is the only reason Obama might lose. Way to ease into your point there Jacob. His most pointed comments come near the end of his screed (keeping in mind that this guy is editor-in-chief of Slate, and that should give you pause about taking it seriously)

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

Apparently the only reason someone might not vote for Obama is that they are a racist neanderthal. The fact that he is the most liberal member of the Senate? The fact that he has virtually no relevant experience? The fact that even his VP running mate knows that he is unqualified and that the Presidency is not the place for on-the-job training? Nope. If you don't pull the lever for Obama, you must be a racist. Foe Weisberg and other breathless acolytes of Obama, an Obama defeat is the end of the American dream.

Funny but so far it is the conservatives who are focusing on the issues and it is the Dems who focus on hope and change and race. If Obama loses it will be because his policy initiatives are too far to the left and his resume has too many gaps to hold the highest office in the land, an office that Obama has already shown is above his pay grade.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What's in a name?

The meaning behind the names for the Lord's Supper

Very good stuff Fide-O. Jason Robertson looks at the meaning behind the several different terms for the Lord's Supper: the Supper, ordinance, sacrament, communion. I will admit that it has been my experience that in many, if not most, Baptist churches the Lord's Supper/communion is given inadequate attention. It is celebrated rarely and in a perfunctory manner at the end of the service (note, our current church does not treat it in a perfunctory manner, but I still wish and have expressed the desire that we celebrate it more often!). The Supper is not a passive act. When we partake we are publicly doing something, making a declaration. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Cor 11:26) It is not a snack, it is a renewed public profession of our belief in and faith in Christ Jesus, crucified, buried and risen again.

It is something that weighs pretty heavily on my mind that we give inadequate importance to the Supper. I think few things are more needed in the church than a renewed appreciation of the Supper. A right understanding and frequent, proper administration of the Lord’s Supper would be of immense benefit to the spiritual life of the church, coupled with deeper Scriptural study and understanding and a fervent, God-centered prayer life.

I want it all and I want it now!

I was watching Joe Scarborough on MSNBC this morning at my parent's place, and he threw a couple of interesting numbers out.

India is graduating 20 times as many engineers as the US, the Chinese are graduating 10 times as many as us. These are apparently pretty good engineers and they have a few great engineering schools. They have many of the advantages in engineering and technology we have.

What the Indians and Chinese don’t have that we do is an overpriced labor force. As Indian and Chinese and other foreign countries continue to produce great engineers and business leaders, many trained here and then returning home, they have a huge pool of a billion people that are eager to learn and appreciative of the jobs that they have. I would assume kids in India grow up eager to work and partake of the advantages that are out there for them. Even if our workers are more productive, and I am not sure they are, they cost so much to employ that it makes no sense to hire them. Why build a plant in Michigan and walk into a union hornets nest? Build in Alabama where it is cheaper and just as good. Or better yet, build it in India.

American kids are affluent and lazy, they aren’t hungry. My kids are that way in a lot of ways. They have never known hunger. They have never known not having heat. They have X-Box, internet, iPods, Nintendo DS, gameboys. Life is painfully easy for them.

I was watching a commercial at my parents house, and the gist was that the whole family in the commercial was fighting over the computer and the internet. The solution? Buy everyone their own laptops! No more of the whole family gathering around one TV, now everyone gets their own TV in their room.

We also have a strange notion that every kid MUST go to college. Really? Even the ones who have no business and no need for a four year degree? They all go to college and none of them want to work their way up. I was meeting with a very successful business owner the other day, built a business up on sweat over less than a decade and now has a very good business. He employs 60 people and is growing every year. That is unusual in the Detroit area. His big complaint? Keeping young men employed. None of them want to work their way up and believe me this is a great place to work and a ton of opportunity. Fifty years ago young men would have lined up for jobs at a place like this. Now? The entry level work is beneath them, they want to move up and do the coolest jobs right away. When it becomes apparent that isn’t going to happen, they go somewhere else.

Heck, I am this way. Someone should pay me more and ask less of me. I am pretty lazy and discontent about a lot of things.

Our kids will not be able to compete in the coming decades. It is no longer true that American quality is far and away superior to that of anyone else. These are no longer backwards nations, but thriving economies full of people educated in our finest universities. 15 years ago when I was an undergrad, especially at Ohio State as a freshman, the engineering schools, math, computer science, economics were all foreign students. Half the American kids there couldn't write a coherent sentence if their life depended on it. Econ was an important one we overlook, because we already see the impact of an econ illiterate nation. No one understands and no one cares about the economic impact of political decisions. If we do X, then Y will result. Who cares, what do I get out of it! Heaven help the guidance counselor who tells a kid that they are probably not college material and should learn a trade. Momma will be in that office in minutes, and no doubt getting the school psychologist involved because of the damage done to poor Johnny’s psyche. Sure Johnny can’t spell “cat” if you spot him the “c” and the “a”, but he needs to go to college and get educated and the tax payers need to subsidize it. The Wall Street Journal had a great article on this last week: For Most People, College is a Waste of Time.

Barack Obama panders to this moral illness. It is all someone else’s fault, we need to tax the successful people more. No one encourages young people to work their way up and become rich. Bill Gates didn’t wake up one morning with billions of dollars. He built a business. But that takes too long. Better to heavily tax the “rich” and give it to me. Don’t encourage people to work hard and become rich themselves, instead drag the rich down. That is a dangerous attitude and these days it plays in Peoria. We are headed the way of the Roman Empire if we don't adjust our course soon.

Vote for Barack, he’s clean!

In rapid order, Barack Obama made a huge deal out of announcing his VP choice by sending out a text mail, and then made people wait until the next day and then his huge announcement? Uber-annoying Senator Joe Biden.

No sooner did Obama announce his choice than we started seeing the quotes from Joe Biden. One, the more damaging one, is Biden saying that Obama is unqualified for the job and that the presidency is not the place for on-the-job training. Expect to hear that over and over again over the next few months.

The other quote is so incredibly condescending that it is almost breathtaking. Biden describes Obama as:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."

A black guy and he's clean and articulate! That is either faint praise or it is a thinly veiled insult. Imagine if John McCain said that, the press would be apoplectic.

The choice of Biden is clearly a safe one, designed to put someone on the ticket who has a ton of foreign policy background. But the problem is that we aren’t voting for a co-President. The Biden choice really highlights just how unprepared Obama is and how flawed his candidacy really is. He picked someone who his team knew had tons of quotes that make Obama sound unready because he IS so unready and had to get someone with substance and experience to balance out his charming lack of gravitas.

Please, please, please Senator McCain pick someone decent. Obama’s lead had evaporated completely, he peaked too soon and the more people look at him, the less certain they get. If McCain picks someone solidly conservative for his VP, he should be able to take Obama and win solidly, but if he does something dumb and picks someone unpalatable to conservatives (especially someone pro-abortion) he will hand the keys to the White House to one of the most unprepared and ill-equipped men to ever hold the office of President.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What is this stuff on my hands?

Tori at Black Lake, MI and not happy with her hands getting all sandy...

I love the slo-mo scan of her hands!

Also, here is her ceremonial first dip in Black Lake, a Sido kid tradition...

Is speech still free?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the arrest and subsequent release of a street preacher on grounds he was too loud and disorderly.

Charges dropped against Warehouse District preacher

CLEVELAND -- Cleveland prosecutors dropped charges this week against a street preacher and aspiring politician who was accused of disorderly conduct by preaching loudly in the Warehouse District.

Police arrested Jason Werner, 28, in June after the manager of the Blue Point Grille said his customers inside the building complained they could hear Werner and his friend preaching outside.

Werner criticized abortion and told passers-by that they would go to hell unless they accepted Jesus in their lives.

Werner, who has failed twice to unseat U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, said in June that he was put in handcuffs for preaching on a street corner.

Police cited Werner for disorderly conduct. He was blocking the path of bystanders and telling people that they were baby killers and were going to hell, the ticket states.

Werner and his wife and friends have been preaching in the Warehouse District since 2006 and downtown since 2000.

Werner said he plans to resume his preaching on the street corner. A citizen's free-speech rights were taken away, but a higher power intervened, Werner said.

"I see it as a blessing," he said today. "God can do a lot of good."

Plenty of people are loud, annoying (driving around with the bass turned up), in the way, etc and are not arrested. This guy may have been too loud (which he probably was), and may have been confrontational (again I am sure he was). But even though I don't agree with the way he presents his message and the way he preaches the Gospel, I find it odd that he was arrested. It certainly is plausible that what people found offensive was not so much his tone or his volume, but the message. I don't think getting in people's faces and telling them they are going to hell and baby-killers is the right way to go, but incidents like this, while small, point to a bigger problem for the church. The world is increasingly intolerant and hostile to the Gospel message and we may soon find that preaching the Word may get us arrested or even killed. That is scary, but it also may be good for the church. God has always used adversity to spread His Word, and we might have a time of great adversity and even greater Gospel growth in store. God give us the strength to be faithful in those times.

6 For it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,a cornerstone chosen and precious,and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, 8 and A stone of stumbling,and a rock of offense.They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2: 6-10 ESV)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Bear is Back?

Ok, this is starting to get pretty scary.

For half of my life, we lived in fear of the Soviet Union and the MAD doctrine (Mutually Assured Destruction). The threat of Soviet nuclear attack was a very real worry for all Americans except the few hippies who were lingering around. With the collapse of the Soviet Union brought on by the failure of communism and the leadership of President Reagan, a new era seemed to have dawned on the world. We had plenty of security issues, but the danger that the Soviets would invade Western Europe and spark a war ending in a nuclear exchange seemed a thing of the past.

But now the Russian bear, emboldened by it's abundant natural resources and restless to reestablish it's imperial designs, is back. What started as sabre rattling has escalated into a military incursion into the sovereign state, and U.S. ally, Georgia. Despite pressure from the European Union and strong condemnation from the U.S. and the rest of the world, Russia's troops remain in South Ossetia and show no signs of leaving as promised. Of course no one shows any inclination to do anything about it. Kicking Iraq out of Kuwait is one thing. Tangling with Russia and her ICBMs is another issue. No doubt in a slugging match, the U.S. would prevail but the cost would be horrific.

Now, in a further escalation, the Russians are making what amounts to overt threats of military action directed at the U.S. in response to the agreement to house missile defense bases in Poland.

Russia Threatens Military Response if U.S., Poland Follow Through With Missile Defense Deal

MOSCOW — The United States and Poland signed a deal Wednesday to place a U.S. missile defense base just 115 miles from Russia — a move followed swiftly by a new warning from Moscow of a possible military response.

For many Poles — whose country has been a staunch U.S. ally in Iraq and Afghanistan — the accord represented what they believed would be a guarantee of safety for themselves in the face of a newly assertive Russia.

Negotiators sealed the deal last week against a backdrop of Russian military action in Georgia, a former Soviet republic turned U.S. ally, that has worried former Soviet satellites across eastern Europe. It prompted Moscow's sharpest rhetoric yet over the system, which it contends is aimed at Russia despite Washington's insistence the site is purely defensive.

After Wednesday's signing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed any suggestion the 10 missile defense interceptors — which Washington says are intended to defend Europe and the U.S. from the possible threat of long-distance missiles from Iran — represent a threat to Russia.

She denounced an earlier threat from a Russian general to target NATO member Poland, possibly even with nuclear weapons, for accepting the facility.

Such comments "border on the bizarre, frankly," Rice told reporters in Warsaw. "The Russians are losing their credibility," she said, adding that Moscow would pay a price for its actions in Georgia, though she did not specify how.

"It's also the case that when you threaten Poland, you perhaps forget that it is not 1988," Rice said. "It's 2008 and the United States has a ... firm treaty guarantee to defend Poland's territory as if it was the territory of the United States. So it's probably not wise to throw these threats around."

Hours after the signing, Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that Moscow's response would go beyond diplomacy. The system to be based in Poland lacks "any target other than Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles," it said in a statement, contending the U.S. system "will be broadened and modernized."

"In this case Russia will be forced to react, and not only through diplomatic" channels, it said without elaborating.

If there was ever a reason to reject the nuanced, inexperienced foreign policy of a novice like Barack Obama and turn to a commander in chief who has served in the Armed Forces and understands geopolitical issues, it is now. Russia has enormous natural resources, a strong military base and a history of military aggression. We need a President who understands the cost of war but is not afraid to use forceful means. The Soviet Union would never have collapsed under a Carter or Mondale presidency. Aggressor nations like Russia and Iran only respect the mailed fist, not the limp wrist.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Corporate Worship: What it is and why we do it

FIDE-O: What Does Corporate Worship Look Like

A very important post from the gents at Fide-O on corporate worship. Corporate worship is not merely "doing church", it is an assembly of believers to worship God, be discipled, support and prayer for one another and declaring the Gospel publicly. Church is for Christians, but unbelievers come also and they need to be confronted with the Gospel. From there it is up to the Holy Spirit. They should hear the same message that believers hear, I don't buy into one message for the regenerate and another entirely for the unregenerate because we have no way of knowing for sure who falls into each camp.

From Scott Hill:

Our corporate gatherings are about much more than what we can give to God or the hope that at some point we get a tingly feeling in our spine’s. Our gatherings are also about God administering grace to us and what we can do for each other.
At the top of our diagram we have God who is the center of all things. All things come from Him and should point back to Him. In part of our corporate gathering is God pouring out grace upon us through the preaching of the word and the sacraments of Lord’s Supper and Baptism. The ministry of the Word is primary because it equips us to do the bottom of the chart and that is use our spiritual gifts to build up the church to encourage one another in the word. That is why it is so important that actual scripture is preached and taught not just some philosophical, bible based, pep talks. It is the Word of God that teaches us to love one another as Christ loved us. It is then we use our spiritual gifts to build up the church, for encouragement and edification. This is what makes New Testament worship unique from the Old Testament.

As we grow together in love and knowledge of Christ it will lead us to praise and prayer. Then we can praise God from an overflow of grace that has been administered through Him.

It is with this thought in mind we reversed the order of our worship service. We now have the bulk of the praise and prayer at the end so that the congregation can praise from hearts that have been administered to by God Himself through the means he has established.

It is a multi-way street. I can give God praise at home, but there are some things that God has ordained for the gathering of the saints. I really like the picture/diagram they provided. Worship is so much more than music, it is more than good preachin'. It is a great, thought provoking post on an absolutely vital subject.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You think the economy is bad now...

Just wait and see what happens if Obama gets elected. The Wall Street Journal posted a very thorough article detailing the myriad tax increases and income redistribution that he is proposing and even a rudimentary knowledge of economics should be sufficient to see that. Here is an excerpt...

Barack Obama's tax plan is the opposite of supply-side economics. He proposes to raise marginal rates for just about every federal tax. He also proposes a raft of tax credits that taxpayers can receive if they engage in various government-specified activities.

Moreover, the tax credits would mostly go to those who pay little or nothing in federal income taxes. His trick is to make the tax credits "refundable." Thus, if the tax credit is for $1,000, but the taxpayer would otherwise only pay $200 in taxes, the government would write a check to the taxpayer for $800. If the taxpayer pays nothing in federal income taxes, the government would pay him the whole $1,000.

Such credits are not tax cuts. Indeed, they should be called The New Tax Welfare. In effect, Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand a slew of government spending programs that are disguised as tax credits. The spending on these programs is then subtracted from the total tax burden, in order to make the claim that his tax plan is a net tax cut overall.

Obama claims to be the candidate for change, but what he proposes is the same old, tired watered down socialism we have heard before: tax increases, bigger government, income redistribution, class warfare. There is nothing new here.

I have said it before, the only change we can expect from Obama is the change we have left in our pockets (if we are lucky)

Monday, August 18, 2008

This just in: God is still good!

I get caught up often with feeling that everything is going wrong, that the ills of the world and the struggles of the church are overwhelming. It can be seductive to get caught up in fault finding and get down on the whole thing. There are days when I wish Christ would just come back and rescue me from all the garbage we have to deal with every day.


God is still good

He is still faithful

His people are still redeemed

His Word is still true

His Son is still victorious

Satan is still defeated

Christ is going to come and like a cleansing fire set all things aright in the world. Until that day we still struggle but compared to the glory to come our struggles, our frustrations, our pain in this world are as nothing. We must keep our eye on the cross and keep perspective and let the sovereign Lord be sovereign.

The bad fruit of a false prophet

One of the most damaging events to every strike mormonism was the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which allowed scholars to translate ancient Egyptian and the resurfacing of the papryus that Joseph Smith claimed to translate in what is now know as the Book of Abraham and is given status as holy Scripture on par with (or even above) the Bible. The facsimiles that Smith used are reproduced in their Scriptures, complete with explanations given by Smith. A picture of one of the papryi appears at the right, you can look at the "translations" and the other facsimiles on the mormon webpage here.

The problem of course is that when any Egyptologist examines these documents, he or she will tell a much different story than Smith. Check out the video below from the Mormonism Research Ministry regarding the "Book of Abraham" It is impossible to explain away for mormon apologists, but they have to desperately defend it to prevent Smith from being shown to be the complete shyster he is.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The real difference in the forum

My wife and I were talking more about this and we came to a pretty succinct summary of the Saddleback Forum...

When Senator McCain was asked a question, he answered it based on what he has experienced and what he believes.

When Obama answered, he was searching for the appropriate sound byte he had memorized to fit the question. That is why his answers seemed so choppy, he was trying to figure out what his handlers told him people wanted to hear about a subject.

One thing is for certain, Barack Obama should be able to tell time more clearly on Sunday, because John McCain cleaned his clock.

Irony Alert!

Pope Benedict tells China: open up to Christianity

I might say the same thing to Joseph Ratzinger about Vatican City...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The new strategy for McCain

Get Obama on TV with him as often as he can, answering as many questions as possible. Here are some comments from National Review tonight...

I Have No Idea How Many People Were Watching tonight ... [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
.... but for the first time, watching tonight, I feel like McCain can win this thing. There's just a huge gravitas gap between these candidates ....
08/16 10:08 PM

Low Blow [Mark R. Levin]
Without a doubt, the lowest moment of the night was Obama's smear of Clarence Thomas. He, like Harry Reid, can't simply disagree with Thomas, he has to try to degrade him. On Obama's best day he can't hold a candle to Thomas's intelligence. Obama can barely make it through a press conference and ducks town hall debates with McCain because of his inability to speak in complete sentences when pressed to show his much noted but usually absent brilliance.

McCain Tonight [Mark R. Levin]
Like K-Lo, I certainly do disagree with John McCain on some big issues, but tonight he was outstanding in ways Barack Obama is not and cannot be. McCain was substantive, clear, concise, and relaxed. Obama seemed a bit nervous, some of his answers seemed contrived, and most of all it was clear that he is simply out of McCain's league when it comes to substance and experience. Score it a big McCain night. He should hope many, many voters were watching - more than the usual CNN Saturday night crowd.
08/16 09:49 PM

I'm Not John McCain's Biggest Fan... [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
...but put him up against Barack Obama and there really is no contest .... He just has a seriousness and confidence Obama doesn't. In large part, because Obama simply doesn't have the experience ....
08/16 09:26 PM

Rick Warren holding court

I am watching the candidate forum with Rick Warren, Barack Obama and John McCain on the internet, and I want to post some thoughts as we go...

Barack Obama is going first, and while I missed the first question (we were late getting back from BW-3!), I did hear Warren ask Obama about his and the countries greatest moral failings. Senator Obama cited his youthful indiscretions, and owned up to using/experimenting with drugs and with use of alcohol, and that even today he sometimes is more concerned about protecting himself than others. Common human self-interest. His thoughts on America's greatest failing has to do with a lack of concern for the less fortunate, which gave him an opportunity to bring up the "whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me"

Now we move to worldview. What does faith in Christ mean to Obama?

Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through Him, a source of strength, I don't walk alone. Those sins on a regular basis will be hopefully washed away (hopefully?) Expression of that not just in words but deeds. He swings back to the least of these quote, clearly his handlers prepped him to use that again and again to spin the Gospel as a liberal social agenda.

Now Rick is going to give him "the tough ones"

Abortion. 40 million since Roe v Wade. At what point does a baby get human rights?

Obama ducks the question, it is "above my pay grade".

- There is a moral and ethical dimension to this issue. Ya think?! He supports Roe v Wade, no because he is pro-abortion but women struggle with this issue.

- Have you ever voted to reduce or limit abortions?

Obama claims he has on late term if there is an exception for a woman's health. Turns his focus to the reduction of unwanted pregnancies. How do we provide the resources to allow a woman to keep a child? In other words, more money for women after

- Define marriage.

"The union between a man and a woman". It is a sacred union, "God is in the mix" He would not support a constitutional amendment, because we have not traditionally defined marriage (of course we also haven't had states marrying gays) He does support civil union, and brings up the tired gays visiting each other in the hospital argument.

Warren totally lets him off the hook, and moves to stem cells. Complete cop-out.
Mostly dodges around the question of why not just use adult stem cells.

Does evil exist? Do we ignore, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?

Yes evil exists. It has to be confronted, confronted squarely. Obama is stumbling over this question. We need humility in confronting evil? Lots of evil done in the name of fighting evil.
Moving on to domestic issues, don't give me your stump speech.

- Which existing supreme court justice would you NOT have nominated. That is a tough one.

His answer? Clarence Thomas. He was unqualified according to Obama (which is ironic from a man who is running for President and is completely unqualified.) Also names Scalia and takes a veiled shot against Chief Justice Roberts, claiming he is too willing to give too much power.

- The role of faith based organization. should faith based organizations be forced to hire people who disagree with their beliefs or not get federal funds?

Obama responds by talking about supporting faith based groups. But...when it comes to programs that are federally funded, we cannot allow discrimination against people. Faith based groups should not be advantaged or disadvantaged when it comes to federal funding, but they cannot discriminate.

- Moves on to education, what about merit pay for teachers?

Performance pay negotiated with teachers (i.e. the union). We need to pay them all more.

- Taxes. Simple question. Define rich.

If you have booksales of $25 million, you qualify. That was funny. $150,000 as a family or less, you are middle class. If you are making more than $250,000 you are "doing well". What about those between $150 and $250,000. If we believe in good schools and good roads, we have to pay for these things. Didn't really answer the question, but you will see a "modest increase" if you make more than $250,000.

Obama is mostly ducking the questions, but he is a politician after all.

(Quick note, this clearly is Warren on stage. The politicians are just a prop for him to look important)
America's responsibility to the world, we are the most blessed nation in the world.

- What is worth dying for?

Obviously American freedom (American freedom is more important than other people apparently). In defense of NATO nations.

- What criteria would we use to stop genocide?

There isn't a hard and fast rule. If we have it in our power and we work with the international community, we should act (In other words, why would we NOT stop Darfur that he listed as a sign of evil.)

- There are 148 million orphans. Without mommies and dads. What about a President emergency plan for orphans.

We should look at it, it is a great idea. How do we prevent orphans worldwide.

- What should the U.S. do to prevent religious persecution in Iraq, China, our allies?

We have to bear witness and speak out (more religious talk) Our relation with China is a complicated one, they are partners and lenders. Takes a shot at Guantanamo.

- Tell me in one minute why you want to be President.

Brings up his mother and the idea of empathy. I want to be President to be empathetic? I am not sure what he is saying here?

- What do you say to people who oppose me asking you these questions?

We need to have these conversations.

(Obama is really vague and not nearly as comfortable answering off the cuff) Solving big problems is not going to be easy.

I didn't get to take notes during McCain's session, but he cleaned Obama's clock. He was decisive where Obama vacillated. he was firm where Obama was squishy. He clearly has strongly held positions, Obama clearly has sound bytes. His best line was about education. Obama wants to pay all teachers more and then give even more money to the best teachers. McCain wants to help bad teachers find new lines of work. Anyone who can't see how shallow Obama is just isn't paying attention. Obama talks about experiences, McCain has lived it.

I figured this would be good for Obama and bad for McCain but the opposite was true. McCain came across confident and competent, Obama seemed to be searching for the right thing to say instead of saying what he believed.

Tori on the run

Tori is walking pretty well, and she hasn't even turned 10 months old yet. She can make it probably 5-8 feet at a time.

How to raise an alcoholic

Are you kidding me?

My wife pointed out this little gem to me in Babytalk magazine. What first birthday party would be complete without fake alcoholic beverages! Here is the recipe for a "mocktini".

Dazzle your guests -- kids and adults alike -- with a signature cocktail that you make and chill before they arrive. Grown-ups can add vodka to make this "mocktail" a true cocktail!

92 ounces pineapple juice
30 ounces white-grape juice
20 ounces grape juice
12 ounces thawed fruit-punch concentrate
11 2 cups orange-flavored vodka -- or a 1-ounce shot per individual serving (optional)
In a large punch bowl or pitcher, combine all ingredients. Refrigerate. Before serving, garnish with thin slices of orange. Serves 15–20.

Recipe courtesy of Alyssa Gusenoff, author of Margarita Mama: Mocktails for Moms-to-Be.

That is great! Start them early with drinks that look like alcohol, so they can look forward to adulthood and being able to get liquored up at every opportunity! That is what every child should aspire to, growing up so they can drink booze just like mommy and daddy!
These people are the experts in child rearing? That is not cute, it is just sick. Why not give them some fake cigarettes to smoke?

Answering the call

McCain and Obama have been arguing, as candidates always do, about when, where and what format to have their debates. It is all about posturing and positioning, who gets the advantage and who looks best in the public eye, who is ducking who and who is all about speaking to the people. But when the Pope of liberal Protestantism calls, they both come running...

John McCain and Barack Obama bickered for weeks over the kind of debates they wanted — but when California pastor Rick Warren asked them to put that aside and join him for a candidates’ forum, the answer, of course, was yes.

The two political rivals will join Warren Saturday evening at his 23,000-member Saddleback Church, taking the same stage to answer the same questions for the first time.

The event is not technically a debate, or the kind of free-form joint town hall meeting McCain had advocated. Warren will ask each candidate the same set of questions separately.

But the mega-church leader’s ability to bring the candidates together is a testament to his clout and reputation as a centrist leader of a new evangelical agenda.

I can't see how this helps McCain. He doesn't speak about his faith, because it probably isn't that important to him. I doubt it is all that important to Obama either, but he makes a good show of it. I can see how he will look coming out of this, appealing to marginal Christians and sounding all kind of religious. I would guess that neither man will be asked to repent of their sins, but will be asked about global warming and illiteracy.

The debate is on at 8:00 tonight, and I am probably going to watch. I am sure Warren will be beaming, thinking about his increased influence with the White House. He clearly loves being thought of as the "next Billy Graham". While I disagree with much of what Reverend Graham believes theologically, at least he knew where the focus should be, i.e. on Christ. Warren seems most interested in the opinions of men and getting the right press coverage. His heart may be in the right place, but he uses the visibility he has to be a man pleaser. Contrast what he says with men like John MacArthur, who proclaims Christ whenever he gets on TV and seems a lot less interested in being liked by the other guests than he does about pleasing his Lord.
(Jason Robertson at Fide-O has similar comments about this upcoming event)

Cool video from WorshipGod08

I liked this viedo, very understated and simple. It is a nice antidote to the flashy stuff we often see in "worship", just quiet reflection and the spoke Word. Bob Kauflin, who did the music at Together for the Gospel, is helping lead a movement back to God focused worship music.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I just like this picture

Quite a pair these two make!

Go figure, Obama's people are a little leery of Kwame coming to the Democratic convention. I am guessing they will not be posing for pictures together...

Interesting new blog

I came across a new blog that I have been enjoying "Es Pura Mentira". It is written by someone under the nickname of "Soy Yo". I am not sure what any of that means but he has recently realized the lies of mormonism and is seeking a new path for his life (if I am understanding correctly) It is an interesting look inside that process, which can be a very difficult one. Once you realize the lies of a cult and that what you held as your most cherished beliefs turn out to be a lie, it is pretty hard to adapt to reordering your belief system. His articles make for an interesting read, and the comment sections are pretty intriguing as well. Definitely worth a visit!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Caution: Danger Zone Ahead

The greatest danger zone for Christian children?

The world is full of dangers to children, we get warnings about this and that is a choking hazard. We have become hyper-sensitive to every danger and threat, perceived and otherwise. Every time a kid gets a speck of dust we douse them in hand sanitizer.

But what is the biggest threat to our children?

Drugs? The Internet? Immorality on TV and in movies? Humanism in schools?

The church?

The American church, in my mind, can be one of the most dangerous places for a child growing up in a Christian family. We know the obvious stuff, stuff that we hear from James Dobson and company to be on the lookout for. Strangers, drug dealers, R-rated movies, internet pornography, HARRY POTTER BOOKS! There are tons of things that are obvious dangers. But sometimes the greatest danger is the most subtle, the danger that strikes when and where you least expect it and when you are most vulnerable because you feel the safest.

There are three big dangers for kids growing up in church:

1. The sense of false conversion, brought on by being in church your entire life and putting your reliance in that experience. Adults raised in the church as children often attribute salvation to being in church or an emotion driven experience of “making a decision for Christ” as a child in VBS. That is not to say that children don’t come to Christ in VBS, but it seems to me that far too few adults who profess Christ have ever really been confronted by their sin.

2. A laissez faire attitude towards church and Christian service, making it rote. Talk to a lifelong Christian and then talk to someone who came to Christ much later in life and see the difference in fervor. Fervor needs to be tempered sometimes, but I would rather try to rein in a new convert who is on fire for the Lord than try to encourage a lifelong Christian who is utterly lacking any passion.

3. A shallow knowledge of the Gospel and decades perhaps of never getting beyond the superficial. It is amazing to talk to people who have been in church for their entire lives who lack even a rudimentary knowledge of Gospel basics. I am not talking people discussing the difference between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism, I am talking about justification by faith alone, why we hold to the inerrancy of the Scripture, where the Bible came from.

So what to do? Well the answer is not to stop going to church! The answer is to make our children’s ministry and our youth programs line up with what we should be seeing in adult ministry, in other words ministry that is focused on Word and prayer to glorify God and lift up Jesus Christ. Children and youth ministry should not be viewed as a safe daycare while adults do church stuff, but as an active and vibrant and absolutely vital ministry opportunity. It gets back to the issue of sending money to missionaries in far away lands, and ignoring the ministry opportunities right under our nose in our church, our neighborhood and our families. We should evangelize our children with the Word of God, teaching them the fear and admonition of the Lord. Catechizing children so they have a foundation in the Word. Providing them with classes that are fun and at the appropriate learning level, but that are also challenging and Scripture saturated, with Scripture that is applied and not just memorized in a vacuum. It does no good at all in my opinion to memorize a Scripture verse and have no idea what it means in context (which may be why so many adults throw a verse out to make a point having given no thought at all to what the context and the big picture really is). Show them that Christ and Him crucified is the theme of the Bible, that the Bible is NOT a collection of stories designed to foster morality but rather a record and revelation of the living God.

The church needs to be an integral component in that education, but not a replacement or a substitute. Parents cannot subcontract out the responsibility for the rearing of their children to the church and certainly not to a school. The process starts and ultimately stops at home, but the church needs to be a partner in that instead of an impediment. I have not met a person in youth or children’s ministry (although I am sure there are some) who are not well meaning and sincere, but the leadership of the church needs to take a far more active hand in those ministries.

Christian modesty

Great post from the northwoods on modesty. It is short and to the point, and it is advice that we should all heed. More on this later, this is an issue that is causing all manner of turmoil in the church.

For those who love Christian bookstores

Steve Camp has a funny parody of the sort of trite swill found in many a "Christian" bookstore these days. Read and laugh, and then read it again and weep.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tom Ascol - Back in the Pulpit

Dr. Ascol has been recovering from the lightning strike and is preparing to preach again this Sunday. It is well worth your time to read the words of a man who is humble but resolute, confident in His God and with no confidence at all in his flesh.

Welcome back Dr. Ascol, you have been missed!

Read all about it here:

Founders Ministries Blog: Thanks for your prayers

Christian marriage and birth control

Dr. Albert Mohler asked the question: what should Christian couples think about birth control? The impetus for his question was driven by the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the Roman Catholic encyclical that reiterated Rome's prohibition against any sort of artificial birth control. It was long a strictly Roman issue, but now spearheaded by groups like the QuiverFull movement evangelical Christians are starting to ask this question. Especially for young Christian couples, the question of when or even if to have children is at the forefront of many couples minds. Should Christian married couples put off unduly or even refuse entirely to have children. And that is what it is, a refusal. It is not a choice, all things being equal, to have children. It is the default. A man and a woman get married and in the natural course of things have children. The only choice for most couple is to NOT have children by artificial means. So is that permissible Scripturally?

The Scripture is pretty clear. Children are intended as an end result of the marital relationship and are consistently referred to as a blessing, one that is specifically granted by God. Tell someone God is going to bless them with money or cars, and man they are all for it! Tell them God is going to bless them abundantly with children, and you may get a less enthusiastic reaction. The very first things God tells His crowning achievement is found in Genesis 1: 28:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:27-28)

Where is that explicit command abrogated? It is part of marriage and marriage is ordained by God to propagate the human race, to have dominion over the earth and rule it. I think Dr. Mohler sums it up properly, not every marital act is required to be open to procreation, but every Christan marriage should be. Timing and circumstance may impact when Christians start a family, and believe me I know how expensive a big family can be! It is a conversation we need to have in the church and in families, with a view of children that recognizes them as blessings, and not inconveniences to our lifestyle or entries on our financial statements. Dr. Mohler's broadcast is a great place to start thinking about it the issue.

Just because we can prevent child birth does not mean we should prevent it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The smell of death

I was reading an article by Phillip Jensen that my friend James gave me (I am way behind on the stuff he sends me!) and I came across an interesting quote:

But if the aim is to glorify God by preaching his gospel, I know that it will be a sweet smell of salvation for some, but a stench of death in the nostrils of others.

As I read this it got me thinking. When people hear the Gospel, as a Calvinist I know some will reject it (perhaps most). They will not reject it because it is presented in a boring, culturally irrelevant fashion. They reject it because the foolishness of preaching is just that to the unregenerate, foolish but to God's elect when they hear His Word in His time, it is the voice of the Good Shepherd that they follow. But plenty of stuff is foolish, and people just snicker and walk away. When an unsaved person hears the pure Gospel, it often causes a visceral, angry reaction. It is not just a foolish message to the unregenerate, it is the "smell of death". The unregenerate hears the message and hears their own condemnation proclaimed in it. Despite the clear warning and the smell of death, they still will not turn. Not because of any reason other than their own inability to do so, an inability that is caused by their stony heart. The unregenerate stands on the train tracks, shaking his fist in defiance at the oncoming freight train of God's judgment and won't move. It isn't that they are tied helplessly to the tracks, but it is their stubborn, unrepentant, rebellious heart that keeps them on the tracks. No amount of pleading or persuading or altar calls will change that fact. If the stench of death won't make them repent, why do you think your clever preaching illustrations will? Stick to preaching the Word and let God use your weak effort to enact a great change. Then, and only then, will God alone have the glory.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grand Fruit in the Grand Caymans

Thaniti Anyabwile posted some thoughts about his two years of ministry in the Grand Cayman's in a blog post titled: Pure Church: Two Years Invested in Eternity... What Next?

What really jumped out at me were a couple of his thoughts....

First this one....

1. I think it was Mark Dever that I heard say, "Young pastors often think they're being patient when they enter a new church. But in time, they come to see the church has been patient with them." Boy! How true that is in my own life and ministry! The saints have been tremendously patient with me in my two years here.

That is a great comment!

Next these two....

4. Stephen Ryan joined the church staff almost a year ago now. He was a promising young accountant with a bright future in that field should he desire it. But he opted to invest his life in the ministry of the church, directing some of our missions and youth efforts. His addition to the staff is a gift from the Lord.

5. On August 18th, Lord willing, a young man whom the church supported through Bible college, Bentley Robinson, will join the pastoral staff of the church. Bentley loves the people here. He is eager to serve, encourage, and disciple. And he is a gifted and passionate preacher of the word. In God's kindness, we'll be moving from strength to strength with Bentley joining staff.

That is the way it should be done, godly men raised up and mentored in a Bible teaching church, called out by that church, sent out to be trained and financially supported by that church and then coming home and ministering in that church. We send young men out and maybe they go to seminary and then they interview to be a minister in a church they likely have never been in and ministering to people they have never met. It is a local church, and how great would it be for a young man who went to Sunday school in a church, VBS at a church, was baptized after professing Christ in a church, who graduated from high school in a church and then after school comes home and ministers in that church for people he knows, in a church of people who know him. That won't happen overnight but it should be a goal of the church.

What a great testimony of a godly man serving His God by serving His sheep!

Why are celebrities so weird?

What makes "famous" people feel the need to be so odd?

This news report came out and no one even blinked...

NEW YORK — Matthew McConaughey says the birth of his son will help bring a little joy to others in the world someday. The actor kept the placenta from the July birth of his son and plans to plant it in an orchard, he said in a cable news interview.

McConaughey says he hopes it will fertilize the land, a ritual long followed in several cultures.

"It's going to be in the orchards and it's going to bear some wonderful fruit," he says, according to an interview transcript. "When I was in Australia, they had a placenta tree that was on the river ... and all the placentas of all that tribe, all that clan, whatever aboriginal tribe that was, all the placentas went under that one tree and it was this huge behemoth of just health and strength.

"This tree was just growing taller and stronger above the rest of Mother Nature around it. It was gorgeous."

OK, see that is just kind of odd. I have looked upon my fair share of placentas and never, I mean never, had the urge to take one home and bury it under a tree. No one asked why in the world you would do that instead of paying a landscaper to fertilize the tree, especially since he is filthy rich. Nope, people just nod and say "Hmm, that is really deep. Celebrities are SOOOO wise and worldly!"

The answer of course is that these people flat out need Christ. Because they are guilty about their wealth and that they are surrounded by sycophants who never question them and whisper sweet platitudes in their ears, they begin to think of themselves as being wiser than the average American because they are more famous than the average America. But Joe Six Pack doesn't feel the need to bury a placenta under a "placenta tree", or wear a bottle of their mate's blood in a vial around their neck or have people spray their favorite mist into a room before they enter. Celebs don't worship God because they are worshipped by others as gods among us.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:19-25)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Faithful in a little, faithful in a lot

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10)

Very interesting article on WorldMag, comparing what is known as the broken window syndrome to the state of the church. The author, Tony Woodlief, is referring to another article by a man named Anthony Esolen. His observations are as follows (Esolen's quote is in orange, Woodlief in red):

“For several decades the hierarchs of our churches — men who have assumed the responsibility for governing their people — have failed to discipline those who in some way deny the faith of their church’s confessions, or ignore the disciplines, or modify the worship to please the secular, or encourage their people to discard those parts of the Christian moral teaching, usually having to do with zippers, they may find ‘unrealistic’ or ‘outdated.’”

By failing to fix our own broken windows, Esolen is suggesting, we are allowing the future disintegration of the Church. It’s an interesting idea. I think of Church dissolution as the consequence of errant decisions by misguided (or wicked) people in authority. This church ordains homosexuals, that church tolerates gossipy cliques, and virtually every church in Protestant circles tacitly encourages “church shopping.” The broken-window theory, however, suggests that by being slack in small things, we make it more likely that we’ll err in big things.

I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure does trigger some thought. Does it matter if our teenagers come flippy-flapping into the sanctuary Sunday morning wearing their sandals and shorts? Or if meaningful hymns are edged out in favor of whatever happens to be popular on the radio? In those examples I reveal some of my biases, and I’m hesitant to call them broken windows because maybe it’s just the case that I don’t like them due to the fact that I am a stuffy curmudgeon. It’s a routine sin of mine, and perhaps for some of you as well, to search for how my likes are Biblically justified, and my dislikes Biblically condemned.

Still, I’ve got the nagging feeling there’s something to this broken church-window idea. When the preacher tells everyone to call him “Pastor Joe,” when we care less and less about what we wear to church, when the hymns (and sermons) get tailored to our tastes and other time commitments, I wonder if we ought to be hearing the sound of shattering glass in the background. On the other hand, sometimes a broken window lets in more air. If only we knew whether the changes we make (or allow) led to good or ill.

This is insightful, mainly because overt heresy doesn’t spring forth whole cloth typically. The truth suffers a slow death, a death of a thousand cuts.

Look at mormonism, Joseph Smith starts off by a declaration of this new scripture but really the Book of Mormon has very little in it that is all that awful. Certainly it is heresy to claim it is scripture but most of the teachings are just crude rehashing of what already appears in the Bible. It is not until later, as his followers get more and more sucked into his cult of personality that he started introducing the weirder doctrines: men becoming gods, polygamy, temple worship. If he had shown up in upstate New York preaching polygamy and men becoming gods, his following would have died a quick death.

I liked this comment on the article from “Klasko”

“If you see a broken window and want to comment on it, you should also bring with you a pane of glass and offer a solution. ”

It is easy to poke at the problems, it is harder to get back to the Word and be part of the solution. The whole house church movement is dedicated to tossing rocks at the church and smugly feeling pious because they are not "steeplehouse people". You can’t reform the church from the outside, throwing rocks at the church building and breaking more windows. If it is true that the vast majority of those attending and in membership in local churches are unregenerate, then preach the Gospel to them! Confront them with their sin and point them to the cross. Why will some preach the Gospel everywhere BUT the church?! Does the Holy Spirit stop at the church door? Do the unregenerate in the church frighten and cow the fearless evangelist?

What is the solution? Well that is a deeper question than a simple blurb can answer. Window dressing or slappin’ lipstick on a pig is not going to change the core problem. We can go on doing church for decades like Europe until churches become nothing more than social clubs and places for marryin’ and buryin’ folks. But that is not what we are called to do. So what is this core problem?

We have lost our first love, we have abandoned Christ by casting aside His Word.

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Rev 2:4 KJV)

Even in some very conservative churches, Christ has been replaced by an idol, an idol that bears the name “Jesus” but is a figment of our imagination. Our worship is trite, our music exalts man and not Christ, our prayers are often frivolous. There are a number of steps that need to be taken before more windows are broken.

The saints must be discipled and edified. The primary place this has happened in the past was in Sunday school and the sermon. The sermon today is often void of doctrine, because it is void of Scripture. Sunday school is even worse. A cursory look at the normal Sunday school fare demonstrates why the laity are clueless about doctrine. I was looking for Sunday school material on the life and ministry of Christ that would be Scripture saturated. That should be easy to find because it is so basic. Good luck, most stuff is so inane as to be shameful. One of the biggest issues is that the average lay person knows nothing of doctrine, so they have no idea if what they are hearing and seeing in church is proper. So they just go along with it because the pastor must know what he is talking about.

Restorative church discipline obviously must be a part of a renewed church. Church discipline is a tricky subject because it can easily stray into a club to beat people into submission to legalistic standards. The goal of church discipline should always be to see people recognize their sin, repent and restore themselves to fellowship. In more than a few churches, it turns into a witch hunt, a modern day Inquisition. But that is the exception rather than the rule. The rule in most churches is to exercise virtually no discipline. People are holding to heretical views and no one challenges them. People, especially women, come to church dressed like they are going to a nightclub or worse and no one says anything. “Members” are not held to any standards and are free to attend or not as they choose.

The solution ultimately is unapologetic Bible preaching. Not preaching about the Bible, not using the Bible to support what “The Lord has laid on your heart”, not preaching Bible stories to make a point but opening the Word and preaching, expositing and applying the text. The Word needs to be declared and we really can't have too much Bible in our preaching, in the worship before the preaching, in Sunday school.

The solution is NOT to abandon the church. We need to insist on godly men to lead the church and then hold those godly men to account by the Word. Even in the Reformation, Luther sought to reform the church and when it became apparent that Rome was beyond reform, he worked to raise up Biblical churches. If we are all under the authority of the Word of God, from the pastor and the elders to the lay person in the pew, we may not see explosive numerical growth. In fact we may see the numbers shrink as sinners are called to repent and Christians are expected to act like Christians. But when we are more faithful, we will be blessed in ways that are not evidenced in the attendance numbers or the offering plate.

(HT: James Lee)

Friday, August 08, 2008

More on Hizzoner Kwame Kilpatrick

The whole thing is not very funny, in fact it is pretty sad, but this line from the Detroit Free Press coverage is just priceless!

Kilpatrick entered the courtroom about 9:15 a.m., his presence answering one, relatively minor, question that has hung over the proceedings: He is wearing a tan suit with a blue shirt, not the jail scrubs he was issued Thursday.

When he was processed at the jail, the mayor was wearing a shiny gray suit with matching vest and a French-cuffed shirt with "Mayor" embroidered on the sleeves.

I love that he was wearing French cuffs with Mayor embroidered on them! I should get some shirts with "banker" embroidered on them so I don't forget what I do for a living. What a narcissist!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fixin' the format

When I switched my blog template a while back, I was really digging the tulip design (for obvious reasons) but I didn't like the way the blog formatted my posts. Everything seemed squished together. My buddy James Lee is helping me to tweak the format, and with a distinct title it should help with that. So hopefully the format will be easier to read, even if my rambling posts are not.

(UPDATE: I also made the font bigger. I have some older readers, so for the benefit of my older readers I wanted to make the text larger. Now it may be too large)

There is a huge difference between job creation and income redistribution.

Too many Americans don’t get that or don’t care as long as I am getting mine. Stick it to that guy, who has more money than me, make them “pay their fair share” and while you are at it give it to me. Try to tell them that they don’t ultimately get any real benefit and they cover their ears, because it is all about getting something for nothing to satisfy a twisted sense of justice and equity. That basic truth is exposed in the Presidential campaigns.

Compare the economic plans of the candidates…

McCain is calling for building 45 new nuclear power plants that will generate hundred or thousands of jobs both in construction and in long term employment plus providing efficient energy that creates no greenhouse gas emissions. McCain is also calling for increased oil exploration offshore and in Alaska, and the building of new offshore drilling rigs. That also creates jobs, and not service industry jobs but real, long term jobs that make a product. Wal-mart is great, but those jobs are not creating wealth. We need more jobs that will fuel the middle and working class, jobs that don’t require a college education but still pay a decent wage. The solution is NOT to make what should be low paid, menial wage jobs artificially pay more but rather to replace those living wage jobs that have been lost in the last thirty years or so.

On the other (the left) hand, Obama is calling for the punishment of companies that are successful through a “windfall” tax (whatever that means). He wants to build wind farms even though that technology is horribly inefficient and causes all manner of carnage with birds. Inflate your tires! That is a good idea, but most people including me don’t really know how to use a tire gauge. Release oil from the strategic reserve! That is a short time fix, it is a reserve for a reason and tapping into it doesn’t solve any of our problems. The only solution is to either procure more oil or use less gas. The right solution is to pursue both of these goals simultaneously, but both of them are long-term and need to get started right away. Every day we dither away waiting is a day that we are not getting any closer to realizing a sense of real energy independence, or since true independence is probably not feasible, a real energy interdependence where we provide much of our own fuel and in return we still feed the world. Obama thinks, or at least his advisors tell him to think, that people are really longing for some watered down socialism when what we need is some economic common sense.

Lots of companies are seeing huge profits. Monsanto’s stock has tripled over the last few years driven in large part by demand for RoundUp resistant corn, demand driven by ethanol and the looming food shortage. Perhaps we should go after farmers who are getting big returns on corn and soybeans. They are making too much money! But farmers benefit from a sense of nostalgia. Not many people are nostalgic for large multinational oil companies. They make convenient targets and Obama and company cynically are seeking to exploit class envy and general discontent to get votes by essentially buying them. Vote for me and get $1000! And it won't cost you a dime, because it is coming from those evil oil corporations!

McCain’s energy plan calls for a combination of seeking new technology while at the same time maximizing available technology. Obama’s energy plan is wait for wind power to save us, frequent use of a tire gauge and punish successful companies. Doesn’t anybody else see a problem with this?

It is not enough to keep shuffling the same resources around and thinking we are getting ahead. We need to produce. That has been made awfully difficult by decades of unions pushing for ever higher wages for unskilled labor, and complacent executive management going along with it. Now our labor market has priced itself out of competitiveness leaving more and more blue collar workers unemployed and unemployable, while the union chiefs and negotiators sit in their cushy offices and collect their paychecks from confiscatory union dues. More and more manufacturing is leaving the upper Midwest and it is not all going to Mexico and Asia. A lot of it is going to Alabama and Tennessee as employers seek states where the environment is friendly to business instead of states hostile to business and beholden to labor unions. Obama is calling for a complete transformation of our economy. What we need is not to blow the whole thing up and hope for something better, but instead to take away obstacles to this economy, which has long been the envy of the world, and let it do it's thing. Comrade Obama, communism is dead. It is high time the Left moves on.