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4/29/2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:29-34 

Mark 1:29-34 ESV
(29) And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
(30) Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.
(31) And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
(32) That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
(33) And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
(34) And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark starts detailing Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the account of Christ healing Peter's mother-in-law. Partially because Mark is telling Peter's story of Christ, partly because it shows Christ's ministry starting close to home, the story is fascinating to me. As soon as Jesus heals her, she starts ministering to the disciples. She sees the work that God has for her, and does it gladly.

Our position is a lot like Peter's mother-in-law's position. We need healing -- healing that can only be provided by Christ. He comes to us, and heals us. What do we do then? Are we like the ten lepers, nine of whom never bothered giving thanks to the one who healed them? Or are we like Peter's mother-in-law, knowing what we are called to do, and doing it gladly? Or do we sit somewhere in between -- knowing what God wants us to do, and yet not quite ready to do it. Wanting to do something else. Like the ear saying "I want to be an eye. If I can't see, I'm not doing anything". God has something for each of us to do for His kingdom -- but we are responsible for doing it.

Christ has more trouble with demons in this passage. He casts them out, commanding them to be silent. He doesn't want people to hear about Him from demons -- that is the job He has for His followers. He also doesn't want there to be any question about the source of His power -- if demons are testifying to His true identity, there may be some confusion about who He realy is. And, as we will see later, there was.

As Christians, we need to make sure that we are the ones who are telling the world about Christ. Otherwise, we end up with the John Dominick Crossans and John Shelby Spongs telling people about a Christ that they aren't sure even existed, based on a Bible that is completely flawed and unreliable. We have Peter Jennings assembling a group of scholars who don't believe in the topic of their search. We have The Last Temptation of Christ and other Hollywood blasphemies. The Church needs to speak out, and not worry that we will be mocked (as we have been for the reaction to The DaVinci Code).


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4/28/2004

The Fundamentals and the Fundamentalists 

OK, I'm going to dive into this one head first. There are a LOT of people who have no idea what it means to be an historic fundamentalist -- including a lot of fundamentalists. What passes for fundamentalism these days often has more in common with Pharisaical legalism than it does with orthodox Christianity. And the things that many conservative evangelicals believe are, in fact, the fundamentals of the faith.

So what ARE the fundamentals, anyway? Glad you asked. According to the people who wrote the book The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, which was written to combat the rise of liberal theology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the fundamentals are:

1. The inerrancy of the Scriptures
2. The Deity of Christ
3. The second coming of Jesus Christ
4. The virgin birth
5. The physical resurrection of the body
6. The substitutionary atonement
7. The total depravity of man - original sin

Belief in all of these is all it takes to consider yourself an historic fundamentalist. There are other beliefs, to be sure -- the list doesn't touch on the Calvinism/Arminian controversy, the pre/mid/post trib/mil controversy, and many others. In fact, the authors of The Fundamentals held differing opinions on these issues. They recognized something that modern fundamentalists often do not -- that there is room for disagreement on some issues. That we don't have all the answers.

I believe all seven of these fundamentals. But because of other things I believe or don't believe, many people don't consider me a fundamentalist. I am Southern Baptist -- for many people, that disqualifies me right there. I read versions of the Bible other than the King James -- again, that would disqualify me in many circles. I am, however, an historic fundamentalist, by the very definition that the people who coined the term used.

Fundamentalist has become a term that describes a person who is so set in their opinions that they don't want to be confused by the facts. Anti-intellectualism is the stereotype of the typical fundamentalist. The stereotypical sermon is long on ranting and short on exegesis or exposition. This is the stereotype, not the reality.

The reallity is that there are historic fundamentalists all across the country who are intelligent and articulate. They are making a difference in our nation and our culture. But many of them don't call themselves fundamentalists, because of the perception. In fact, over on the Fundamentalist Forums, we've come up with a new term that describes the more legalistic variety of fundamentalist -- IFBx. Independent Fundamental Baptist Extreme. It seems to fit rather well. Head over there if you'd like to learn a little more.



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TOOOOO Funny 

I'll post something serious later on tonight, after church, but I just read this and HAD to share. I needed a good laugh today, and Bill over at Walloworld certainly delivered.


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4/27/2004

Today in Church History  

April 27, 1667 -- Milton sells Paradise Lost. The book sold for next to nothing (5 pounds up front, 5 more at publication, and 5 more for each new printing), and it took a four months to be published. When it was published, the press run was 1300 books.

I think about things like this when I dispair of ever getting published myself. Sheer determination often does well for an author. For a Christian writer, you can also keep in mind that God has a purpose for your work, and the important thing is to get the message out. Milton could have held out for more money -- he was a well-known writer. The message was important enough that he sold the work, and it has touched hearts for centuries since.



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The Official Band of View from the Pew 

Casting Crowns. If you have never heard this band, you HAVE to go to their website and listen. This isn't just another CCM band playing watered-down lyrics to get noticed. This is a band who sings in-your-face, get off that pew and DO something lyrics. If you can listen to them and not be touched, maybe you're just "touched". . . in the head.

My new favorite song:

What If His People Prayed

What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more

What if the church, for heaven's sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took a stand upon God's promise
And stormed hell's rusty gates

Chorus:
What if His people prayed
And all who bare His name
Would humbly seek His face
And Turn from their own way

And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day

What if the life that we pursue
Came from a hunger for the truth
What if the family turned to Jesus
Stopped asking Oprah what to do

He said that they would hear
His promise has been made
He'll answer loud and clear
If only we would pray

If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray
If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray


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4/26/2004

Jesus Christ, Superstar? 

The topic of merchandising Jesus has been making the rounds lately. The latest entry into the fray is this article. The Evangelical Outpost has discussed it (read the comments on this one especially, for some links to other discussions). I just saw my first "Jesus is my Homeboy" T-shirt today.

I think the most telling quote comes from the Journal News article:

Jesus Christ has become too big for church. He's stepping out as a pop culture superstar, a leading man on page and screen.

But he's being portrayed as a character actor, a parable-telling chameleon who has radically different messages in each starring role.

America seems to love them all, contradictions be darned.

In the film "The Passion of the Christ," which has grossed more than $360 million, he is the Jesus of traditionalist Roman Catholic Passion plays, beaten and bloodied as he endures the Stations of the Cross.

In "Glorious Appearing," the final book of the "Left Behind" series, which made its debut last month as the nation's best-selling novel, he is the Jesus of the fundamentalist rapture, riding from heaven on a white horse to vanquish the armies of the Antichrist.

In "The Da Vinci Code," a literary phenomenon that has sold some 7 million copies, Jesus doesn't appear at all. But readers learn that he was mortal, married, a dad and a feminist, and that the Catholic Church concocted his divinity.

Add to this the mixed messages from Peter Jennings' latest ABC special, the findings of the Jesus Seminar, and the proliferation of "Historic Jesus" books on the market, and we really do each have our own personal Jesus. And some of them bear little resemblance to the Christ of Christianity.

When we mass-market Jesus, we need to be careful that the real Jesus Christ is what is being sold, not a watered-down pop idol who wants everyone to get along. As Jesus Himself said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34 ESV). There was no misunderstanding in His mind -- He knew that the things He came to do were going to cause problems. People don't want to know that they are responsible to a powerful God for their actions. They don't want to know that God holds them accountable for what they do. And in denying that, they miss the fact that God has given us an out -- grace. He knows we can't do it by ourselves. That's why He gave us His Son -- so that His righteousness could be imputed to us, so that He could make the sacrifice for us. Christ isn't a great example of how to live -- we can't live up to his example.

You want to see people trying? Check out the legalists. Look at what many fundamentalist churches have become (more on fundamentalism later on -- maybe tomorrow). People all over the world are living with a list of rules to try and make themselves good enough. We can't do it. The Pharisees in Christ's time tried to do it. They had 365 extra rules to live by, to make sure that they didn't break the Law. Jesus called them "whitened sepulchres" -- beautiful on the outside, great to look at externally, but full of death and corruption inside. What can make the difference? "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit," (Titus 3:4-5 ESV).

The grace of God is the answer. Christians need to proclaim it. The world needs to hear it. And it cannot be merchandised. It doesn't work very well on T-shirts or bumper-stickers. Wearing a WWJD bracelet doesn't get us grace. Going to the right church, or attending the right conferences, or reading the right books -- none of those will get us grace. Grace is a gift, given by God, to all who put their faith in Christ as Saviour.

Jesus isn't the newest pop idol. He's not my homie. He's my Saviour. Yes, he's my friend, but He's also my Lord. He went through one of the most brutal deaths imaginable, and yet He lives. Let's stop selling Him like he's a new fabric softener.



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4/25/2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:21-28 

Mark 1:21-28 ESV
(21) And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
(22) And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
(23) And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,
(24) "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God."
(25) But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
(26) And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.
(27) And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
(28) And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Mark starts right in on the teaching and preaching ministry of Christ. Note that Mark does not follow any chronological order -- he records events more in a thematic order. The ministry in Galilee is recorded first.

The first thing I noticed is that the people were all astounded by his authority. They were used to being taught by the scribes, whose teachings were largely based on the teachings of others. Their authority resided in their education. Jesus' authority was different. He relied on nobody (see verse 27 -- 'A new teaching with authority!').

The people weren't the only ones who noticed. Verses 23 and 24 tell us of a man who had an unclean spirit -- a demon. The demon knows exactly who Christ is. It knows why Christ is there, and it knows it's in trouble. Hoping to buy a pardon, it bears public witness to Christ's identity. Jesus doesn't want that kind of witness.

The demons of Hell know Jesus is the Christ. They oppose Him for that reason. This attempt by a demon to escape judgement shows that Christ knows the motivations behind everything that we do -- he knew the demon was being self-serving, hoping to avoid punishment. He rebuked the demon, and cast it out of the man.

This brought about more amazement and speculation about Christ's authority. The people in the synagogue knew of only two entities who had that kind of power over demons -- God and Satan. Christ had to be one of the two. Unfortunately, as we will see later, many people chose the wrong option, and attributed Chrits's miracles to the power of Satan, rather than God. People are always trying to find other sources for God's blessings on us, rather than giving praise to God. We need to be careful that we are not giving Satan credit for more than he is capable of accomplishing, and that we give God proper honor and glory.


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4/24/2004

Intolerant Tolerance 

OK, the title to this entry has been used over and over again. But it fits. This article in the NY Times is one of the first I've read to express the sentement from the other side of the aisle, so to speak. Someone admits that if liberals expect Christians to be more tolerant, then they need to be more tolerant of us.

Tolerance has been notoriously one-sided. Every day is open season on conservative Christians, but we cannot open our mouths to protest anyone else. Understand, I don't believe that Christians are undergoing undue persecution, at least not in the US. We have far more rights than believers in, say, China, for example. However, we are often singled out and ridiculed for our beliefs -- and that isn't what my dictionary calls tolerance.

I don't even care if everyone likes what we're saying -- in fact, if they start liking it, I may have to change my opinions on some things. All I want is the same thing everyone wants -- I want to be able to state my opinions without being marginalized because of my religious background. I want to be able to vote for the candidate of my choice without hearing "You shouldn't take your religion into account when you vote -- that's imposing your morality on us all." I want everyone to stop imposing their morality (or lack thereof)on me. If you want me to acknowledge that not everyone agrees with me, then you had better show me how to do it.

Because as things stand now, if this thing I'm being shown is tolerance, we're doing it just as well as you are, sometimes better.


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Christendom vs. Christianity  

WARNING: This is REALLY long. I'm trying to figure out how to shorten my posts, with a link to click that gives you the full text, but I'm not that good yet. If I figure it out, I'm hoping that it will make the page look neater.

I wanted to address this issue because of some things that are usually said about Christianity. People bring up things like the Crusades, the Inquisitions, etc. as evidence that Christianity is a bad thing, or corrupt, and should be abandoned. It has always been my contention that Christianity is not responsible for these things -- Christendom, or the attempt to establish Christendom, is the cause. Christians are capable of doing bad things -- NOT because they are Christian, but because they are human.

What is Christendom? If we are going to contrast Christianity and Christendom, that is the first thing we need to clear up. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it this way:

In its wider sense this term is used to describe the part of the world which is inhabited by Christians, as Germany in the Middle Ages was the country inhabited by Germans. The word will be taken in this quantitative sense in the article RELIGIONS in comparing the extent of Christendom with that of Paganism or of Islam. But there is a narrower sense in which Christendom stands for a polity as well as a religion, for a nation as well as for a people. Christendom in this sense was an ideal which inspired and dignified many centuries of history and which has not yet altogether lost its power over the minds of men.

I think that, historically, the narrower definition is more correct. Christendom was an idea; the idea that government and religion should be the same thing, and that those to whom God has entrusted spiritual power should also be the final authority on matters of state. In other words, the very idea of Christendom is contrary to everything that Americans have been taught. And it hasn’t lost its power over the minds of men. Clearly, if you talk to many members of the Religious Right, they are striving for Christendom to take root right here in the United States.

To me, Christendom is characterized by forced conversions, inter-denominational fighting, political power-plays by church leaders, and heads of state trying to usurp the authority of the Church to cement their own positions. All you have to do is study the history of the Middle Ages to see this drama play out. If Rome didn’t like what your King was doing, they had the power of interdiction – they could deny you sacraments, effectively denying you access to the grace of God. The Pope supported insurgents in countries whose ruler opposed Rome and the Church, starting war in the process. The conflict between England and Spain was fueled in this way – Catholic Spain trying to put a Catholic ruler back on the throne in England, while Protestant England fought for its spiritual life. Of course, had Henry VIII not wanted a divorce, the Reformation might have taken a LOT longer to get to England. A big reason that Wycliffe’s attempt at reform in England didn’t work was that the political situation wasn’t right. The Spanish Inquisition was caused by this concept of Christendom. So were the Crusades (ALL of them, not just the ones against the Muslims). International disputes, fought in the name of Christianity, were the result of rulers striving for this ideal government. They failed to realize that man cannot bring the kingdom of God into existence – only God can do that.

A lot of people think that we in America can usher in the Kingdom of God by voting in good politicians (what an oxymoron THAT is). We forget that when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the first attempt at creating Christendom, one of the first things he did was force all his troops to convert. This isn’t an option now. The world is vastly different now than it was in the fourth century, or the seventeenth. And the United States, for all our posturing, was not created to be a Christian nation. It was founded on basic Christian ideas, but it was founded to give comfort, refuge, and representation to all. Our government is not designed to create a Church-State. We should not want it to.

Now that we have established a definition of Christendom, we can compare that to Christianity. Christianity is a faith system. It is the system of belief of those people who follow the commandments of Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament, and who read and believe the things written by Christ’s apostles.

In the first chapter of Acts, we read a description of what Christ’s disciples asked Him, almost immediately after His resurrection. They wanted to know if NOW was the time to overthrow the Romans. After everything they had seen, and all He had taught them, they still had no clue. They didn’t grasp the fact that political power is secondary to spiritual victory. They only saw the immediate need. They wanted to establish Christendom.

Christ told them that that was in His Father’s hands. Then He told them what their job was – what our job is. “You will be my witnesses, to Jerusalem, and to Judea, and to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.” In the Gospels, the commission is more detailed. They were commanded to go, preach, teach, disciple, baptize – nowhere does it say govern. The power that was given at Pentecost is the power to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour. That is the power that we have to change the world. If we do our job, God will take care of the Kingdom.

The problem is, we’re trying to do God’s job, and expect Him to do our job. That’s not the way it works.







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4/23/2004

Happy Birthday, Bill Shakespeare!! 

Born this day (we think) in 1564. One of the seminal playwrites in English history. Go read a play this weekend -- think I'll read Julius Caesar again.


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Study of Mark: Mark 1:12-20 

Mark 1:12-20 ESV
(12) The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
(13) And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
(14) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
(15) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
(16) Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
(17) And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
(18) And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
(19) And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
(20) And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Verses 12 and 13 contain all that Mark has to say about Christ's temptation in the wilderness. I'm not sure why Mark doesn't go into the detail Matthew does in Matt. 4 -- I'd speculate that it was because he had read Matthew and didn't want to repeat information, but that theory really doesn't hold water -- there are other things that Matthew and Mark treat almost identically. Mark mentions this early stage of Christ's ministry simply to set the stage -- he spends a lot more time talking about Jesus' actual ministry.

Verse 14 kicks off the opening stage of Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the calling of the disciples. Simon, Andrew, James, and John are the first four. Andrew (according to John 1:35-40) was a follower of John the Baptist, and was prepared for the coming of the Messiah.

Andrew is one of the more underrated disciples. We don't read much about him in the Bible, he wasn't one of the "big three" (Peter, James, and John). But we read in John 1 that after he met Christ, he ran to tell Simon (Peter) about Him. The very first evangelist -- and his convert became one of the leaders of the early Church.

James and John are interesting case. They are aparantly wealthy, because their father has servants to help on the boat. Not just fishermen -- these two owned their own business, and so were probably highly educated. That will come back to haunt them later on, when they start competing for the position of Christ's "right-hand man" when His kingdom is established.

The thing to notice is that all four of these men had important jobs that they were doing. They were responsible for feeding not only their families, but the families living around them. They provided food each day for the community. And when Christ called them, they dropped what they were doing to follow Him. How often do we put off doing what Christ wants us to do because we can't afford it, or we're too busy, or something like that. I've used those excuses before -- God has a way of making us unbusy when He needs us.



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A Lite Post for now ... 

I've been taking care of my daughter the past two days while my wife has been offf at a teaching conference. That's why the Mark study wasn't done last night, and may not be tonight (depends on when she gets home, it may be close to midnight Eastern time).

But just so you don't wonder where I went, I decided to hop on the bandwagon and have my blog gender analyzed.

I've done this before, and I came out decidedly male (which my wife was happy about). This time:

Words: 532

Female Score: 410
Male Score: 1293

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

I used the last Mark study that I did, and left out the Bible passages and the Albert Barnes quote.

In other news -- I'm working on a discussion of the differences between Christianity and Christendom. I'm finding out that people don't share my idea of what Christendom exactly is (or, rather, was). Might have that one up on Saturday, depending on the weather (sunny=lawnmower).




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4/22/2004

This is what happens .... 

.... when Christians put political power ahead of the commandments of God. Christian political parties may look like a great idea, but we forget one important thing -- not all Christians have the same political philosophies.

This is kind of a pet issue for me, and I've posted about this in the past. I like what I read here -- I am a conservative, but first I am a Christian. When these views diverge -- which they will, and sooner than we would all like to admit -- I will still be a Christian. My Christianity defines my world view -- it is part of what makes me conservative.

Notice that I said part. There is a lot more that is involved in my political philosophy -- including the fact that I was raised in a conservative home, I went to Liberty University during the end of the Reagan administration, my Dad worked for the Department of Defense, etc. What I see from the GOP anymore is a grudging acceptance of the Religious Right -- not a commitment. Christian conservatives are the biggest block the Republicans have, and they'll pander to us to get elected, but are quite willing to toss us by the side of the road until the next election.

What are our options? Vote conscience, not party. Don't expect the government to do the job that God has given the Church. Get out of the pew and put some action to those words. Live your faith. Read the book of James, and study it. Be salt. Make a difference, darnit!!!


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4/21/2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:6-11 

Mark 1:6-11 ESV
(6) Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(7) And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
(8) I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
(9) In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
(10) And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
(11) And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Today, we're reading about the baptism of Christ. We first see a continuation of John's description -- more emphasis on how poorly he was clothed, and how poorly he ate. The emphasis is on how God sustained John -- and how He will sustain us all, as well.

John is very popular at this time -- he is attracting crowds that the megachurches in the US can only dream of -- and NONE of these people are following John because its a status symbol. They follow him because he is authentic. Sometimes, we try too hard to get people to listen to us. We want them to hear the Gospel so badly that we'll do just about anything to get them there -- gimmick Sundays (how often did I sit through 'Wild West Sunday,' 'Pack a Pew Sunday,' etc. when I was growing up?), "seeker-friendly" services, contemporary worship, you name it. I am not saying these things are bad things. I am saying that if we really want people to pay attention to us, we need to show that we are real. Our faith needs to be a faith that is authentic. As I read
this response to my post (and others' posts as well) about truth claims and Christianity, one of the things I noticed was the characterization of Christians. Our faith says that we should be a people of love, compassion. Our practice often contradicts this.

I don't believe for even a half-second that Christians should be tolerant toward sin. All you have to do is read the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple to realize that He wasn't all that tolerant. He did, however, love people. He went to Zaccheus in the tree. He went to the Samaritan woman at the well at a time when Jews wouldn't have anything to do with Samaritans. He went to people, and showed He cared, without sacrificing His message. He never watered down His message, and doesn't expect us to, either. When we live our faith, and show that it's real, people are attracted. That is what John the Baptist did.

Even at the height of his popularity, John was pointing people to Jesus. Later on, many people thought that Jesus was competition for John -- that they were preaching a different message. John makes it clear that this isn't true. John makes it clear that Jesus' ministry is far superior to his and, as I mentioned yesterday, that Christ would increase, while John would have to decrease.

Why did Jesus go to John to be baptized?

Matthew 3:13-15 ESV
(13) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
(14) John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
(15) But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.

Albert Barnes has this to say about the phrase "fulfill all righteousness":

"There was no particular precept in the Old Testament requiring this, but he chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance. The phrase “all righteousness,” here, is the same as a righteous institution or appointment. Jesus had no sin. But he was about to enter on his great work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connection with him, and give his approbation to what John had done. He submitted to the ordinance of baptism, also, in order that occasion might be taken, at the commencement of his work, for God publicly to declare his approbation of him, and his solemn appointment to the office of the Messiah."

This is NOT Jesus becoming God's Son, or becoming the Messiah. He was born both of those. This is God declaring to the world who Jesus was, and what role He came to fill.

Then the Heavens opened up -- literally. As Hyppolytus would later say, creation was reconciled with its Creator through the Redeemer. Christ made it possible for us to get into Heaven. The entire Trinity were there at this baptism -- the Father bearing witness, the Son receiving witness, and the Holy Spirit giving confirmation. This is the mark of the beginning of Christ's work on Earth, which ties directly to verse 1 -- the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


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4/20/2004

Truth Claims and Christianity -- Are We Too Exclusive? 

The opening salvo was fired on April 16, on Al Mohler's blog. I try to read this one every so often, since I'm hoping to go to Southern for Seminary this year. The actual fuss started because of a book -- When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs by Charles Kimball. Dr. Mohler took exception to a few of the things that Kimball asserted in his book, which indicated that Christianity was far too dogmatic in it's claims to absolute Truth, especially our claim that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, the only way to get to God and have any hope of Heaven.

Jollyblogger was the first place I read about this, since I had missed Mohler's blog that day. He's got a good number of quotes from that blog, so I won't quote them again here. He also makes the point that the claim that Christ is the Messiah, the olny way to Heaven, is the very foundation of Christianity. Without that, what point is there? There are certainly other faiths that require less devotion, whose rules are less stringent, whose pathway is broader and smoother. If pluralism is true, if there are a multitude of pathways to God, then Christianity is the toughest road to get there.

Today, Walloworld took up the discussion. I love the candy bar analogy that he uses, and he brings up a great point -- the people who are saying "Be more inclusive, don't be so dogmatic" are in reality saying "Hey, you're wrong, we're right. Be more like us! Be more tolerant, and less inclusive -- just like us!". They are ignoring their own claims to absolute truth -- what they believe is the Truth, and we should all follow them!

Everyone has blinders to their own beliefs. None of us recognize our shortcomings automatically; that is why debate is a good thing. Christianity's truth claims, our exclusive "ownership" of the one Way to Heaven, isn't a shortcoming -- it's our strength. As Paul says, without the ressurection of Christ, our preaching and our hope is in vain. Without the Truth that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light (not just A way, A truth, or A light), we are nothing more than a bunch of clanging cymbals. When we give up our Truth, when we back down, we lose. And when we stop proclaiming that Truth, unashamedly, everyone loses. Without the Truth of the Gospel, we are just another philosophy that is full of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" (one of my favorite Shakespearian quotes).


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NOT sure I should be happy about this ...... 

Vizzini

Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti



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Study of Mark -- Mark 1:1-5 

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,' " John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(Mark 1:1-6 ESV)

The first two verses point directly to the Old Testament. Mark illustrates the relationship between the Old and New Testament, which the church fathers were VERY interested in. Irenaeus especially used these verses to show that the OT God and the NT God were the same -- the prophets, after all, didn't foretell the coming of a new and improved deity. This conflicted with Marcion's teaching that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, angry God, but the God of the New Testament was a loving and merciful God of grace.

It is interesting that Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, when it's actually two prophecies in two books.
Malachi 3:1 is the prophecy of the messenger, while Isaiah 40:3 mentions the voice crying in the wilderness. I've heard a lot of different things about this -- that Malachi and Isaiah were on the same scroll, but the scrolls were referred to by the name of the major prophet, that many writers conflate (merge together) prophecies and only credit the major prophet. Of course, some manuscripts attribut the prophecy to "the Prophets", rather than to any specific one. There's a great treatment of this issue here.

The thing I got the most out of this passage comes from the description of John. I wondered why he had to look this way, why he had to be a "voice crying in the wilderness". When the Jews saw someone looking like him, who ate very little, had poor clothing, and no "hometown" (he had lived in the wilderness for most of his life). He had no reputation, nobody knew who had taught him. Yet he spoke with the authority of someone who had been with God. They knew there was only one way that John could have survived living the way he did -- God was with him, supplying him with everything he needed. THAT is what gave John his credibility with the people.

I was fascinated at the way the church fathers dealt with John. They saw him as a type of the Law -- clad in filthy rags, just as our righteousness is as filthy rags, sustained by God, meant to point us all toward the Saviour. They pointed especially to John's statement that "He must increase, and I must decrease" to show not only Johns feeling about his ministry after Christ's appearing, but that the Law must diminish while Grace abounded. I think this view, more than any other, shows the true relationship between Grace and Law. The Law shows us how good we really need to be to merit heaven, and shows us that we cannot do it ourselves. That's when Grace comes in, and gives us a Way.


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Study of Mark -- Introduction 

The best way to introduce Mark is to take a look at an outline. This shows the dating, the authorship, etc. I've found bible.org to be a great reference source, btw, so it would make a great bookmark.

I'm doing this study following closely the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures. I especially like the way the text is broken into pericopes, so I'm going to blog each day based on the pericope, or section of Scripture, that is next. The first section is Mark 1:1-5, so that will be in the next entry.


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4/18/2004

Just a quickie ..... 

Go here. Read this.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Probably the reason I'm not as political as other "Godbloggers" I read -- there's a higher call, and a more efficient way of changing society. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and again, and again ... :) ).


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Buy My Record 

First of all, a bonus point to anyone who can identify the band who recorded the song Buy My Record.

I'm not sure what to think about this. For those who don't want to register with the Dallas News, here's a synopsis: Christian kids are downloading Christian music illegally -- and some claim it's for witnessing purposes.

Let's not even mention the whole "Thou shalt not steal" issue, which should be obvious to all. If we want to encourage quality Christian music, these people have got to be paid. The system is flawed, I agree. Until we have a better system, though, we need to make sure that Christian artists are encouraged to keep on doing Christian music. The temptation is too big for the better artists to head over to a mainstream label, get bigger distribution and better sales, and make more money. Justify it by "reaching a new audience with our message". Then, the message gets lost.

We support local churches with our offerings. We support Christian (and non-sectarian) charities with our donations. Why can't we support Christian artists with our money? Or better -- why don't we?

I hear criticism of the CCM/Christian rock industry all the time -- "they aren't as good, as professional, as secular artists". Know why? Because the artists can't afford to stay in the Christian industry. Even Carman, who has done his thing for years on love offerings and prayer, is having a hard time right now. We have to give these folks whatever support we can.

Of course, Christian labels need to stop following their mainstream counterparts and actually pay their artists a decent royalty on album sales. When I buy a $16 CD, I expect the artist to get more than $1-2 from it -- especially since we all know how much (little) CDs cost!

I have a suggestion for right now: IF you burn a Christian song (and this can work for mainstream music, too), find out the mailing address for the band. Send them a fan letter, and tell them you burned the song. Then put a dollar in the envelope for each song you burned. Still cheaper than a whole CD. And the artist is getting some support from the fans. Maybe they can even afford to stay in the "ministry".

Christian arts as a ministry? That's a whole different rant. Maybe next week.


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4/17/2004

Today in Church History 

Ok, actually tomorrow in church history, but I think that this is a VERY significant event, so maybe I'll even give it two days worth. I'll start tonight just in case I don't get a chance to blog tomorrow.

"Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen."

Yup, on this date in 1521, the Shot Heard Round Christendom. Martin Luther placed himself in grave danger of death because of his beliefs. A shot fired across the bow of a Catholic Church that had strayed. The opening salvo of the Protestant Reformation.

They had repercussions, to say the least. Frederick the Wise, who supported Luther for reasons as political as they were religious, became very nervous, worried that Scripture wouldn't support Luther after all. Others worried about civil war breaking out in Germany, since the Church and the State were so closely tied together. They waited for the Pope to send troops to bring Germany back into the fold. They brought their concerns to Luther, but he stood firm.

The official transcripts of Luther's trail do not contain these famous words, leading some scholars to doubt that they were ever said. They are certainly consistant with Luther's temperment, as anyone who has read his works can attest. They are also consistant with the attitude of the Reformers, and that of the Early Church. They should be ours.

I've noticed that there has been a recurring theme in some of the Today in Church History entries. That isn't entirely unintentional -- I think that the modern church has, in many ways, grown complacent. One of the things we need to learn from history is that God honors those who stand firm in their convictions, and who follow the leading of the Holy Spirit over the preferences of man. I get the events, along with a basic synopsis, at the Christian History Institute, so I'm not just picking and choosing events that go along with what I want to say. Maybe I just see a theme in history, and I'm going with that theme for a bit. My prayer is that, through the study of those who have gone on before, we can change the Church for the better, and make an impact on the world in the process.


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Godly Blogging 

Reading here, which I do frequently, I realized I had missed this one. I probably skipped it thinking I wasn't going to start blogging. What a difference a few weeks can make, huh?

It's easy to just sit and type, freeform, sort of stream-of-consciousness. Venting by writing is one of the best ways to let off steam, and I've done it many times before. The nice thing about paper, of course, is that once you've vented, you can erase/shred/tear/flush/whatever everything you've just written. Once you send something into the ether of the Internet, though, it can be much more difficult.

Even five minutes after you post something, someone else can have already read it. Seven minutes after you post, then, is too late to realize that you messed up. I haven't run into anything while reading through my Blogroll that I thought was something that shouldn't have been said, but in reading random blogs, I certainly have.

Everyone should think about what they write and post to their blogs. This is no less true of Christians -- in fact, it may be more true. People love it when we mess up, when we say something that we should have only thought, or not even thought. Quotes can fly around the world faster than we can hit the delete key. Damage control is tough to do, because you often don't know everywhere that you've been quoted. And don't even get me started on being taken out of context.

I've decided that I'm going to treat this blog as I would anything I was doing in public for God. That means a lot of prayer will go into everything I say -- even the funny/stupid things. Maybe especially the funny/stupid things. Because you never know who's reading.

It could even be my sister (shudder).


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A Big Thank You to ... 

First, the folks who have let me know (in various ways) what they thought of the new format. I'm putting the changes in place as we speak.

Also, you might have noticed the new graphic! Thanks to the folks atCRSN, who let me use the graphic off their church page. And NO, I'm not leaching bandwidth -- I put a copy of the picture over at my own site, which hasn't been updated in a pathetically long time.

More here later on, promise!!


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The Light Side 

I've posted a lot of serious stuff on here. Time for some levity, but you have to go here to get it. I'm still laughing, and I have a feeling this will show up in my wife's 10th grade English classes sometime in the near future.


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Something to Chew On for a bit ..... 

I read this, and I almost literally saw red. We've gone out of our way to try and make this a secular conflict in Iraq, and now this.

Maybe we just need to bring back the Marines and send a band of militant Fundies of our own over there. I know a few on The Fighting Fundamentalist Forums that would solve a few problems in no time.

(BTW, if you head over there, say something nice to phoenix [me]).


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4/16/2004

New Design!!! 

Ok, this took a LOT longer than it should have, but I have an excuse. I haven't done anything with HTML in a LONG time, and I've never done CSS. Of course, if you look at the source, I STILL haven't done much with CSS, but I'm learning!

At least this isn't the same old Blogspot template that half of the Internet is using. I'm a little more distinctive now.

Let me know what you think!! Hopefully, more people will stick around and become regulars (I KNOW there are some regulars out there!!).


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4/15/2004

A Book Meme ......... 

"The first task of self-education is not the reading of Plato, but the finding of twenty minutes in which you can devote yourself to thought, rather than to activity"
The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Follow the herd:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.


via Thinklings


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What's coming up 

I'm starting a study of the book of Mark either this weekend or the first of next week. I've attempted to do this a couple of times before, but I'm hoping that by blogging about what I learn each day, I'll have a bit more accountability.
I'll keep posting the Church history, simply because people seem to like that, and I'll probably have a rant or two as well, as the Spirit moves me.


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Today in Church History 

I wrote about Protestants who were martyred at the hands of Catholics in England on Monday/Tuesday. Just to show that history is full of martyrs of ALL faiths, I bring you the story of John Gerard.

Gerard's only crime was to be a Jesuit in Reformation England. He was implicated in various plots and crimes -- none true accusations. This day in 1597 was simply another day of torture for him -- hoisted aloft by his arms, tortured so that he would implicate other Catholic priests in whatever the plot of the day was.

He was taunted by his captors. He was told that he'd be a cripple the rest of his life. On this day, it took Gerard much longer to faint than normal. He was taken down, seated, and offered a chance to confess. He refused. "No, I won't. And I won't as long as there is breath in my body."

He was hung up again. Rather than cry out, confess, and end his punishment, Gerard rejoiced that he had been chosen worthy to suffer for God. Finally, the tower governor tired of the game. He returned Gerard to his cell, and the torture ceased. Six months later, Gerard escaped. His only regret -- that he had not been found worthy to die in the service of his Lord.

Where is this kind of devotion in modern (and post-modern) Christianity? In America, we lobby and campaign. We protest and march. We try to make the system work for us, rather than realizing that we are never going to have a system made by men that is favorable to all. We should, as Jesus was, be about our Father's business, no matter who would stand in our way.


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4/13/2004

A Music Rant 

I confess, I used Napster back when it was free. I used Kazaa (then Kazaa Lite, to get rid of the spyware). When I was in middle school and high school, I used blank cassettes to tape music off the radio. I'm not new to the whole music piracy/copyright thing. I got rid of Kazaa about a year and a half ago, and started using iTunes. I've also got the new Napster. 99 cents isn't too much for a single.

NOW, they're gettting greedy. Let's do the math here, just for a second. I can get, on average, 16 songs on a regular CD. That's $16, PLUS I'm buying the CD (call it a dime there). A new release music CD costs about $14 at Walmart. I'm more likely to buy one or two songs from an artist I've never heard of than I am to buy the whole album. And I know that I've spent more this year on iTunes than I would have in the stores -- and I've STILL bought CDs in stores. WHY does the record industry seem determined to committ suicide and blame it on consumers?



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Religion in the Media part 2 

This is the article that I just finished reading (would have been done LONG ago, but I've had some wierd stomach virus thing). As I said, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the news media doesn't always represent religion in a favorable, or even accurate, light. The surprise should be that, apparently, the majority of Americans know better, and are willing to watch the misrepresentations anyway. We're willing to let liberal Bible scholars question the reliability of Scriptural accounts. We're willing to let them say that the Gnostic Gospels are more accurate. Why?

I think the biggest part of that answer is the anti-intellectualism that people perceive as part of religion. Matters of faith, we believe, aren't on the same level as history, or science. Faith is individual, it's personal, and what we believe, while good for us, may not be good for everybody. It doesn't even have to be logical; it's faith, after all. And this is an area where evangelicals are trying to make up lost ground.

We say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. If Jesus is the Truth, shouldn't that Truth be, well, true? If we accept that the Bible is God's Word to us, shouldn't that Word be accurate? If it tells us something as basic as the fact of Jesus' burial in a borrowed tomb, shouldn't we accept that as a fact? If it's lying about something like that, how do we determine what it isn't lying about? Can we?

Christians have become afraid of investigating their faith, partially due to the influence of liberal scholarship. If these "learned people" can poke such holes in Christian traditions, why would a Christian want to investigate further -- especially if it runs the risk of destroying our faith? Fortunately, these naysayers and skeptics are not the only authorities. There are conservative Bible scholars of all denominations who take orthodox Christian beliefs seriously, and are showing that they are logical, historic, and valid. We won't find them in the popular media, unless it is on a program outnumbered 4:1 by the Jesus Seminar. We have to find them ourselves -- we have to look. We have to read. We have to do for ourselves the things that the Reformation gave us the ability and the right to do -- study the Bible, and question teachers that contradict it. Until we do that, Peter Jennings will continue to throw softballs at John Shelby Spong and John Dominic Crossan on programs about why Christianity isn't what it was supposed to be, and we'll sit and watch, and wonder about what we were taught in Sunday School. And until we are willing to learn, Christianity will continue to stagnate in the United States, while the Church moves forward throughout China, Africa, and many parts in the East, where they haven't lost the zeal for God's Word.



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Today in Church History 

(Actually, looking at the clock, it's now Tuesday, so maybe this should be Yesterday in Church History...)

April 12, 1557: A thousand or more spectators in London watched as Thomas Loseby, Henry Ramsey, Thomas Thirtel, Margaret Hide and Agnes Stanley were burned as heretics. The charge -- converting to Protestantism. All five were given the chance to recant, were all granted audiences with Bishop Bonner in London, England. All five refused to attend churches that they could not in good conscience attend any longer -- the parrish churches were still Catholic.

Pragmatism would say "Stick it out -- God knows your heart. Don't make waves". Thomas Thirtel said, "My lord, if you make me a heretic, you make Christ and all the twelve apostles heretics." Agnes Stanley said, "My lord, as for these that ye say be burnt for heresy, I believe they are true martyrs before God: therefore I will not go from my opinion and faith as long as I live." Pragmatism lost that day.

Should we all stop going to church because we don't like what the preacher said last Sunday? No. One of the things that marked the Reformation was the willingness of common people to study the Scriptures, to attempt to understand what was contained in those sacred books. These five people did exactly that -- they studied the Scripture in English, and realized that they had been misinformed. They had the courage to stand behind their convictions.

We shouldn't leave church because we don't like something that is said. We must leave if we believe that we are being taught something that is incorrect. To do that, we must become students of the Word. This ties in with a previous rant, and connects to the second part of my report on the MRC item I spoke about a couple of days ago. We must study the things of God. We must know what we believe, and why. We need to be able to recognize when we are being told something that isn't true. And we must be willing to act on our convictions, no matter what.


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4/12/2004

Hello, My Name is Warren ... 

... and I'm a readaholic. Seriously, a 22 out of the initial 29, plus just about all the extra ones that people have added.

Thanks to Rebecca Writes for the link to this site (and thanks to Rebecca for actually leaving me a comment!). I know that I am a severe, chronic readaholic, married to a severe chronic readaholic. Our child will probably inherit this addiction.

At least she will if I have anything to do with it.


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My political rant 

I usually don't get into politics much at all. I joined the CRs in college, but only because the $5 "dues" paid for a pizza party I went to once. I joined Students for America, but only because of the cool poster they were giving out -- that and the Kennedy for Lifeguard buttons. But when I saw a few of these quotes, I got just a little steamed.


  • "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." - President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

  • "[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." - Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry( D - MA), and others Oct. 9,1998

  • "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass
    destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

  • "There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons
    programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." - Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D,
    FL,) and others, December 5, 2001

  • "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical
    weapons throughout his country." - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

  • "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

  • "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9,2002

  • "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep
    trying to develop nuclear weapons." - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

  • "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002


If Bush lied about WMD in Iraq, what about all these fine, upstanding Democrats?




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4/10/2004

Religion in the Media 

I'm in the middle of reading this report right now. When i'm done, I'll have a little more in-depth commentary on it. But for right now:

Does it really surprise anyone that there has been an increase in religion-related broadcasting, especially in the news? With all the reporting about the Catholic priest scandals, Mel Gibson's movie, and the Left Behind books, of course religion has gotten a lot of press! The problem is, they are asking the questions to the wrong people. John Dominic Crossan is the most visible "Bible scholar" around, if you believe what you see on TV. If ABC, Discovery, History Channel, and the rest are any indication, there are no conservative scholars in the world at all -- at least no scholars who hold to an orthodox position on Christianity. And the average American isn't willing to do their homework -- if they were, these specials would never get the ratings that they do, because people would know better! There was very little on the ABC special that I'd never heard before. Even less on some of the other attempts to cash in on Easter.

Maybe that's just because I'm one of those goofy people who prefers books to TV, but I refuse to believe that the average American is illiterate. NONliterate, maybe. We can read, we just don't want to be bothered. We'd rather listen to the talking heads on TV tell us what Christianity is really all about, so we can laugh at the goofy religious guy at work on Monday. And Christians are as bad, if not worse, than everyone else.

More about this tomorrow, I promise. It's time to dye Easter eggs.


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4/08/2004

Today in Church History 

April 8, 1929 -- The Soviet government passed legislation aimed at destroying evangelical Christianity.

"Religious associations may not (a) create mutual credit societies, cooperative or commercial undertakings, or in general, use property at their disposal for other than religious purposes; (b) give material help to their members; (c) organize for children, young people and women special prayer or other meetings, circles, groups, departments for biblical or literary study, sewing, working or the teaching of religion, etc., excursions, children's playgrounds, libraries, reading rooms, sanatoria, or medical care. Only books necessary for the cult may be kept in the prayer buildings and premises."

In other words, keep your religion to yourselves. Don't hold Bible school for the kids or teach them your faith. Don't encourage people to study the Bible. Don't give your members study materials. Do your thing on Sunday, and leave the rest of us alone. Make sure you're back to normal on Monday morning when you get to work.

Totalitarians fear and hate Christianity. The Romans did -- they tried to destroy the early Church. Hitler did -- he managed to co-opt many Christians by twisting Scripture and distorting historic teachings. Communist governments around the world do. We hear about the trials and tribulations of Christians in China all the time. Cuba is no better. One of the first things that happened in Russia after the wall came down was the re-emergence of the churches that had been driven underground by the government.

Many peope in the United States have this same feeling about religion. It's a great thing for Sundays, they say, but it has no place in everyday life. Don't inflict your opinions on the rest of us. Don't support political candidates who agree with you. Don't DARE share your faith with other people. What do you MEAN, you want to have a Bible study before school during the week?

We can do one of four things. Hide our heads in the sand, hoping that somehow things will get better. Pitch in with them, and stop living our faith outside the church walls. Try to get the government to change things (like that's working!). Or do what God has commanded us to do, and let happen to us what may.

Many Christians have chosen option one. They don't want to know what's going on. They've locked themselves away, and won't come out until the Lord comes back to get them. Far too many have chosen option two. They've sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, and they're parrotting the things the world says we should do. They let unbelievers define what being Christ-like actually is. The religious right has, for the most part, chosen option three. The nature of politics suggests to me that it won't work, and I've seen nothing from any administration to suggest it would be any different. Option four is the option that the early church chose. It's the option of the Reformation. It's the option of the growing Church in China. It's the option we need to choose in America.


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4/07/2004

Christian Carnival Plug 

Hey folks! Just a heads up that the latest Christian Carnival is up right now. I entered my Today in Church History article from a few days ago (another one is on it's way this evening!). I'm even first on the list! There is some great writing over there, so head over and check it all out! I particularly liked this article about evolution from Patriot Paradox. Haven't finished reading them all yet, but there is some GREAT stuff out there.


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4/06/2004

Insert your own commentary here ... 

I don't think I even have to say anything about this story. Don't talk to me about how abortionists want to give women information.


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Jesus, Paul, and Peter Jennings 

I watched all but about the last fifteen minutes or so of this special last night. I went into it looking for things that I didn't like about it, to be perfectly honest. I have to admit, it was much more even-handed than I thought it would be.

One of the main things that I think they got pretty close was the misconception among the Jews of the time about what the Kingdom of God actually was. The Bible talks about even the disciples expecting political reform from Jesus -- even after the resurrection.

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
(Act 1:6-8 ESV)


They were STILL waiting for the political reform. This was a common misconception of the day, and the program dealt with it rather well, I thought. They DID, of course, venture into the typical 'How reliable are the Gospels', 'Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah?', 'When were the Gospels written?' terrain, and the answers they gave reflected the more liberal scholarship that the show still focused on -- even though there were more moderate and conservative scholars on the program this time.

I was nervous as they started talking about the Resurrection of Christ. This is the one thing that programs like this usually head straight toward the liberal end of the spectrum. John Dominic Crossan didn't let me down here, with his insistance that Christ wasn't even burried, much less raised from the dead. His opinion was in the minority, though, with most of the interviewees firmly sitting on the fence -- "something had to have happened, but I don't know what".

Something DID happen. Something that transformed eleven firghtened men, who were hiding for their lives, waiting for someone to come and haul them off the jail or worse, into an international missionary team that helped transform the world. Within 100 years of Christ's death, the news had spread throughout the known world. Within 300 years, the Empire that had tried so long to silence the Christian voices had made Christianity it's official religion. These men saw Christ, alive.

The biggest problem I had was with the whole Paul vs. the apostles debate. YES, Paul argued with Peter and James. Both men ended up taking Paul's side in the arguement, though (Acts 15). Were there occasional disagreements? Absolutely. These are human beings we are talking about. They had different ideas about what direction the church should go in. And THEY couldn't just sit down with a Bible and look up verses -- they were WRITING the Bible. Ultimately, both sides agreed, though -- we have a common tradition of orthodoxy back very early in church history.

And of course, the old 'Gnostic Gospels' arguement was trotted out again. WHEN are people going to realize that we are rehashing debates that took place almost 100 years ago? The fad died out in about 1910 or so, and it will again, when people realize the poor historiography that is involved. Late date anything that you don't like, early date whatever you do, hope nobody notices. The Gospel of Thomas is authoritative, even though nobody ever mentions its use, but the four canonical Gospels are suspect, even though we have evidence of their use as Scripture from before 170AD. The Gnostic writings represent 'true Christianity', because that is what WE want Christianity to be.

I think this is the biggest problem I have with the 'historical Jesus' searches. Everyone ends up finding, to quote the old song, "their own, personal, Jesus". We have a little box, and that is what our idea of Jesus fits into -- no matter what other 'facts' we find. We can, as the Jesus Seminar does and Thomas Jefferson did, pick and choose what statements we want to believe Jesus made -- let's get rid of everything except the social activism stuff, especially anything that says Jesus about being the son of God. When we start on that road, it's very easy to make Christianity to be anything we want it to be.

I think Paul's teaching about women was a little misrepresented. As usual, they focused on what Paul wouldn't let women do, and not on the specific things women were supposed to do. We tend to do this a lot, even with our gifts and skills. Someone who can sing beautifully will sit and wish they could teach. Teachers want to be able to play instruments. Instrumentalists want to be able to preach. And on and on. We're never satisfied with what God has given us to do -- we always want the other guy's ministry. Paul NEVER said, as was stated in the program, that women were supposed to sit down and shut up. They were given specific roles in the church -- roles that men couldn't do. Lydia and Priscilla are two perfect examples of women who were instrumental in founding the church, who Paul relied on to a great degree. They NEVER are mentioned in discussions about Paul's supposed chauvanism.

They ignored Paul's theology because they don't think the Bible has any relevance to today's world, or even much beyond his own time. They water down his message and Christ's teachings so there is no call for repentance and no fear of judgement. Simply love everyone -- that's what Jesus said. They forget that Jesus was quick to let people know what they were doing wrong. Even the adulterous woman was commanded "Go, and sin no more". Jesus called her a sinner!

All in all, though, it was an interesting program. I learned a bit, and got angry a bit -- but not as much as I thought I would.

Just a few observations:
I was mysitifed about the people they talked to in the Vatican. "What do you know about St. Paul?" I was waiting for someone to say "Well, it's a nice city, but I like Minneapolis better". Where did they GET these people???

I'd heard the soundtrack was upsetting people, but I kinda liked it. Hey, they played dcTalk!

Is it just me, or does John Shelby Spong look a LOT like the Emperor in the Star Wars movies. I think I'd be concerned if my spiritual advisor looked like a Dark Lord of the Sith, but that's just me.

Wow. That was a lot of writing. If you're still reading this, thank you for sticking with me.


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I LIKE this quote!!! 

This was written in this article by Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The article is a great read in and of itself, but this quote seemed really relevant in light of some of the scholars on the ABC show last night.

'Looking back on the whole project of liberal theology, Lόdemann offered an amazing reflection: "I don't think Christians know what they mean when they proclaim Jesus as Lord of the world. That is a massive claim. If you took that seriously, you would probably have to be a fundamentalist. If you can't be a fundamentalist, then you should give up Christianity for the sake of honesty." ' (thanks to Ryan at pccboard).


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4/05/2004

First things first 

Ok, I mentioned yesterday that I was playing in a golf league. Tonight was the first night, and we had a team scramble, Texas rules. For the many of you who don't understand what I just said: each person hits a drive, then we take the best one. Everyone hits the next, take the best one, and so on until the little ball ends up in the hole. Texas rules means that every person on the team has to contribute a drive -- so the best person on the team doesn't end up playing the whole round for the team.

I haven't touched a club since October, right before I had hernia surgery -- and it showed. I DID sink a 30 ft. putt for eagle on the second par 5 though. I'm going to be doing some major practicing before next Monday, when the league competition starts up.

[edit] Ok, I thought about going ahead and posting my reaction to the ABC special, but I'd rather take the time and post something well-thought-out than just throw something up to get ahead of everyone, so that will STILL be, as I said, tomorrow. I'll probably have a new Today in Church History entry up as well, just so you all know.


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4/03/2004

Found a better link 

Ok, I found a better link than I gave below -- check this one out. It's a bit more even handed, I think.


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Obligatory Left Behind Blog 

Everybody and their TV network is talking about Glorious Appearing, the last in the Left Behind series. So why not me?

I've read the series, up to Desecration. My in-laws are buying the series for me in paperback, so I'm going to be a bit behind as far as plot line goes. Although, if you think about it, we know how the story ends.

That is, we do IF you have studied your pre-trib, pre-mil eschatology. If you haven't, those two links are a starting point.

The problem with eschatology is that there is no one position that we can call, with 100% accuracy, orthodox. The dominant view in the United States right now is pre-tribulation, pre-millenial -- that is, Christ will rapture His Bride (the Church) before the Great Tribulation (the trib in pre-trib) starts, which is before the Millenial regin of Christ (the mil in pre-mil). That is the view that the books support. The Rapture signals the start of seven years of misery on Earth (the Trib). At the end of seven years, Christ and the Church come back and whoop up on the forces of Evil, and rule the Earth for 1,000 years (the Millenium).

So from the start, people familiar with this eschatological scenario have known what was coming next. That's why the series has been a REALLY easy read for me. I could sit and say "OK, that's judgement #1, so next we have THIS happening", all through the books. No suspense. The characterization was a bit dull -- I have a real problem with Rayford as the leader of these people. I don't think he's qualified. Every time he starts barking instructions, I wonder "Who died and left this schmuck in charge?"

I also have a hard time getting theology from a work of fiction. This book is pure speculation, and should be treated as such. It's a fun read, it's an easy read, but I can think of a LOT of other resources to go to if you want to study end-time prophecies.

I can understand the big part of Evangelicaldom that feels left out by Left Behind. These are the mid-tribbers, the post-tribbers, the post-mils, the amils, and all the pan-mils. If you're confused by these terms, this is a pretty good reference to start out with. They're not usually sympathetic to Christians over there, notwithstanding their name, but they offer some good basic info on this subject. Pan-millenialism is the belief that it'll all pan out in the end, that whenever it happens, it'll happen, and that we have more important things to do than sit on our mountain and wait for Christ to come back. I tend toward that position, though I usually say I'm mid-trib if someone asks me.

I snuck a look at Glorious Appearing in the bookstore tonight. It ends rather ominously, with a quotation reminding us that Satan comes back at the end of the 1,000 years. I smell another book or two (HOPEFULLY they don't plan on writing about the whole Millenial Reign!).


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Something to chew on 

John W. Whitehead at Razormouth has written something that should be required reading for Christians during an election year. It reflects some of what I've written before.

We spend too much time thinking that a political party is going to save the country. The Democrats won't do it, the Republicans have been a disappointment for the most part, and the horde of 3rd party candidates that have been courting Christians have no clout at all. We need to be concerned with how our nation is run; we need to make sure that the best candidate is elected. But we aso need to wake up to the fact that the only answer to society's problems is Jesus Christ.

Too many abortions? Christ can change peoples hearts, and lifestyles, so that abortion isn't needed anymore. That is the America I look forward to -- a nation where abortion doesn't happen, NOT because it's illegal, but because people don't need it anymore. Gay marriage got you upset? Christ can change lives -- I've seen it happen. Too much crime? More police aren't the answer; the Son of God is the answer.

If Christians would get off the sofa, and start putting some shoeleather to their prayers -- actually trying to make things happen, rather than wringing their hands and moaning about how "someone should do something", this nation would be in a LOT better shape. We say we believe that Christ has the power to change lives -- maybe we should start living like we believe that.

Until we do, nothing is going to change.


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4/02/2004

Today in Church History 

Think I'm gonna do this every so often. I love church history -- I'm studying to be an ecclesiastical historian, so I guess that's a good thing. And there's a LOT we can learn by studying the history of the Church.

Today is Mordecai Ham's birthday.

Who?

He's only one of the most important evangelists in history!! Not just because he won thousands to Christ (which he did). NOT because of the great revivals he lead. Primarilly, because of one man that he influenced. One life he was able to change. One soul he saw the Holy Spirit bring to Christ.

One day in 1934. A meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ham probably noticed nothing special about that meeting. But Billy Graham, who was sitting in the crowd at that meeting, made a declaration of faith that would literally change the world. Mordecai Ham is unknown to many people, although he was a great evangelist -- one who would stay in an area for months after a revival, meeting needs and discipling converts. But through his faithfulness to the calling of the Holy Spirit, he was able to impact a life that would go on to impact millions.

Ham probably never knew the impact he had. Just like many of us -- we do the things God has called us to do, and often never know if we've made a difference in anyone's life. We'll never know, in many cases, until we arrive in heaven. That's why we shouldn't do things for our own glory, but do all for the glory of God.




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Links of the Day! 

Today, I'm sharing a couple of my favorite Webcomics. For the uninitiated, these are comic strips which are primarilly published on the Internet. (I say primarilly because many of them are now offering anthology books of surprisingly good quality.) I started reading a couple of these things a year or so ago -- now I'm up to reading 15 different strips, some updated daily!

Sluggy Freelance -- an amazing strip, which has been going strong since August of 1997!!! That's close to SEVEN YEARS, folks! The storylines are incredible, and the characters are memorable -- highly recommend. You better have some time to sit and read the archives, but it's worth it!
Kevin and Kell -- I just started reading this one; it didn't take me long to get hooked! This has been running since September of 1995! Almost NINE YEARS! I haven't made it through the whole archive yet, but it's going to happen soon. Also well worth the read!

I've got more, but that should whet your appetite for now.


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Jesus and Paul on ABC 

Monday night, Peter Jennings and ABC are going to be hosting Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness. It starts at 8pm eastern, and it will run for 3 hours.

I'll be honest -- I didn't watch the Search for Jesus thing that ABC and Jennings did four years ago. I'm not optimistic about what the popular media says about Jesus, or the founding of Christianity. I've seen too many specials that rehash old arguements about historical reliability of the Gospels, the supposed suppression of the Gnostic writings, etc. With the popularity of The DaVinci Code, this has ony gotten worse. (I'm working on a fuller treatment of this subject for my web site. I may put some excerpts here, when I get something I'm happy with.)

A lot of things have changed, though, in the last four years. I've gone from a marketing major to a seminarian (some people won't see a difference there ...). I've had a radical change of direction in my life, and I really think I need to see this special. So, assuming that my golf league is over by then, I'll be watching Jennings on Monday night. And Tuesday, you all get to read my rant right here. Aren't you lucky?!


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4/01/2004

Humor 

Until I modify the template I'm using, I'm going to post a few "Links of the Day" each day. Once I get the modifications done, I'll probably just put them at the top of the right-habd column of the page each day.

If you enjoy The Onion, check out these two sites:
Lark News
The Holy Observer

Be careful, though. If you don't have a sense of humor, you may not appreciate either site. You also might not like it if you happen to find yourself in one of the articles. I don't always agree with what the sites are trying to say, but they CAN show things that we do in a different light. And they're both pretty funny!


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THIS is Tolerance 

Ok, I just finished reading this, and I can't resist commenting. Now Christians must allow people who do not share their basic beliefs to join their organizations? I know this is in England, so they don't have any legal protection under a constitution like we have in the States, but this seems REALLY foolish. (Besides, the folks in England have no problem commenting on stupid things they see here, so I'm just returning the favor.)

Next thing you know, the campus Jewish student organization will be required to include neo-Nazis in their group. The local Nazi group will have to have a rabbi at their meetings. These sounds ridiculous, and they should! This isn't a social club -- this is a group of Christians who meet together. They have a statement of faith that many Christians in the US wish they could live up to, and now they are being required to choose between violating their beliefs and disbanding their organization.

There is a global culture of tolerance, that says everyone should allow everyone else to do whatever they want to. This idea flies in the face of any form of Biblical Christianity (remember, Jesus told the woman 'Go, and sin no more', NOT 'Go on your way, you're doing fine!'). It amazes me that any nation that claims to be enlightened can force people to violate deeply help beliefs in this way.

For those of us in the States, we need to pay attention to what is happening at Hull. Because it has happened here before, and it will happen again.


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