Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quoth the blogger, 'Evermore'

Readers responded to Mulshine's recent lament over newspapers' sufferings. A common theme among the letters is frustration about papers being annoyingly similar to the MSM in showing easily discernible bias toward or against certain parties. Blogs are biased too - it's what makes for blog wars, after all! - but there are many on either side of a given divide.

People with pockets are becoming poets. There's plenty to go around.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Strangeness and struggles

Today's Health Journal describes several odd medical syndromes, disorders, dysphonias, delusions, etc. While the first few comments do nothing but remind me of the...er...diversity of the Journal's readership, the descriptions are entertaining, helpful, and sometimes both. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome gives a name to something I experienced as a child. Now I know.

As for the struggle for existence so recently mentioned, here is a letter challenging the article.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today's readings: Jeremiah 31:15-17, Revelation 14:1-5, and Matthew 2:13-18 (sermon text).

Joseph protected his family in this reading. He is a prototype for all fathers, something spoken about infrequently in Scripture. How should one be a good father or husband? The Bible - unsurprisingly - is NOT about how to be a good person/father/mother/etc. So it doesn't talk much about it. It's about Christ.

We can glean five points from Scripture about parenting:
  1. God is our true Father. Therefore, He is the model for all fathers.
  2. God created an order for things. The first ranks of this order: Father > Son > husband > wife > children. Rejoice about this. Don't gripe.
  3. This husbandly leadership should be done with love, respect, and honor (Colossians 3:19), not harshness.
  4. Household leadership should be through teaching (one of the chief commands of Moses) - husbands teaching their wives and children what is right.
  5. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:23).
We're all aliens in this world. Each human has a God complex, leading to a solitary, lonely, unfulfilled world. It's out of God's order. So go back to point 2. Adhere to it; accept that God is your Father. He loves you, is infinitely patient, and is the best Father. Therefore He enables human fathers to imitate Him too.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A friendly reminder

In "All I Wanted for Christmas was a Newspaper," Paul Mulshine of one of America's 15 top newspapers notes that blogging, particularly political, has not so far been the boon for democracy it was touted to be in its inception. Much, I agree, is boring and perhaps even useless. However, should bloggers take offense at this article? Or should we look at it as a clarion call to quality?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lessons and Carols

From yesterday's order of service:

"Before the Marvel of This Night" as the Advent wreath and Christ candle were lit...

"In Dulci Jubilo" before the first (Genesis 3:8-15), second (Genesis 22:15-18), third (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7), fourth (Micah 5:2-4), and fifth (Luke 1:26-28) lessons...

"O Magnum Mysterium" before the sixth (Luke 2:1-7) lesson...

"The Virgin's Slumber Song" before the seventh (Luke 2:8-20) lesson...

"Il est ne" before the eighth (Matthew 2:1-11) and ninth (John 1:1-14) lessons...

"All is Well" to conclude the service. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video with any arrangement of this. Pity.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting religion

Go read this terrific book review about why the MSM tends not to get things right when covering religious topics. At the risk of putting too much in nutshells, the media would still do well to remember these two points:
  1. Islam, despite meaning "peace" and having many peaceful adherents, has a decided propensity for violence. Against non-Muslims.
  2. Christianity, despite being vilified and having the occasional militant adherent, has a decided propensity for loving fellow humans.
Cross-posted at Exploring the Quran.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent 4

Today's readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; and Luke 1:26-38 (sermon text).

Medieval paintings of this scene depict God's power: His word goes from Gabriel's mouth to Mary's ear, conceiving Jesus Christ. But let's look at Elizabeth first. Her pregnancy was no accident either; six months previously God had likewise spoken to Zechariah. Elizabeth, barren, had then conceived John. Now with Mary, God chose to act in an out-of-the-way manner in an out-of-the-way place, Nazareth.

The Bible has few personality details for Mary and Joseph. Why? Answer: It's NOT about them! It's all about and pointing to Jesus Christ! He is the only reason for our home - blotting out our sin (the cause of hopelessness). But Christmas is NOT about hope either! Why do we think that the Word's byproducts are more important than the Word Himself? Let Christmas be about Christ for once!

The story is profound, not sentimental. Here are the details, given, that we need to know about the characters:
  • Joseph is descended patrilineally from David, a fulfillment of God's promise (see the OT reading) to build His house from David's seed.
  • Mary is favored because God chose to favor her. It's the same way for us saved ones - we are made BY GOD into the favored ones of God! She also happens to be descended from David.
  • "You shall call His name JESUS." Note well: it's not "Hope" or "Peace," but rather "Yeshua" (Savior). Therefore turn to Him, the Everlasting King of the Everlasting Kingdom.
God has forgiven you your sins and reversed the work of the first Adam. And that's what Christmas is all about.

Have a blessed last week of Advent and prepare for a Christmas Eve post! Feast your ears also on "In Dulce Jubilo" and "O Magnum Mysterium."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In memoriam iterum

There's a strange struggle of the fittest going on right about now: Darwinians vs. chargers of plagiarism. This made GHF quip: Why did an angry-at-God Darwin die before his Christian wife did? Was that survival of the fittest as well?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anger management

First, the anger-inducers:
  • Who wouldn't have anticipated the petty non-arguments taking place in the comments section to an article about large dinosaur bones? I agree with Ed on this one in that we should be doing research, not merely rehashing claims. Those claims may definitely be true, but the creationist and ID camps (yes, they ARE separate) need to publish more research papers.
  • The comments section on the Daily Mail's take on the shoe-throwing incident is similarly petty. There are gems in there, but the populace could use some civility. And the question posed by the article still stands: Where was the Secret Service?
Last, the humorous/heartening antidotes:
  • The passengers and the commenters took the honorable admission of a pilot in stride very well. The pilot did the right thing.
  • In a brilliant burst of satire, here is a letter regarding top-secret government plans.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent 3

Today's readings were Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (sermon text); 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; and John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Christmas letters may sometimes describe a bad year - but think about many consecutive bad ones! Captivity, oppression, punishment for sin - this is what Israel had been experiencing. There was heartache everywhere; people were downtrodden. At this point, the prophecy in our text was made, fulfilled and quoted by Christ. The Spirit of the Lord rested on Christ Jesus ("Anointed Savior") at His baptism. Of course, the Jews thought that the fulfillment would be physical only: freedom from Rome's rule. However, the Gospel brings spiritual deliverance.

He also binds up the "shattered of heart" (literal rendering). God desires that all of our hearts be "broken and contrite" (Psalm 51:17) that He may restore them to us. We have sinned against Him; therefore our hearts are against him, and therefore they must be broken.

Then comes the year of the Lord's favor. This isn't necessarily a 365-day year, but rather an era in our lives. Present suffering won't compare. The expression comes from the Year of Jubilee (every 50th), where land was restored and families were brought together. The Year of the Lord's Favor is far greater, since it lasts an eternity!

The Day of Vengeance, on the other hand, is a sobering contrast. God will judge all. Many who sing Christmas carols do not understand the Cross and are therefore lost. But remember that God's grace (YEAR) is greater than His judgment (DAY). The saved, the believers, we have the former. Our eternity is with Him because of Christ.

God's blessings on you all the rest of this Advent and beyond!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why this? Why now?

Daniel Levitin tells us today why music affects our buying habits and so forth. The article made me grumpy for a number of reasons...
  • Ack! Evolutionary biology MUST be used to explain everything at all costs! "Early Homo sapiens coupled music with ritual to infuse special days with majesty and meaning. Before there was commerce, before there was anything to buy, our hunter-gatherer ancestors sat around campfire circles crafting pottery, jewelry and baskets, and they sang." Yes, this is perfectly allowable. Yet it still raises hackles on my neck.
  • It's all about shopping. I hate shopping.
  • "Consumer research has shown that music, when it isn't torture, indeed has a significant effect on buying behavior." If that's true, why don't more stores play quality music instead of amateurish versions? Perhaps even a Gregorian chant or two?
My remedy for the invasion (not even mentioned! How could he have not mentioned it?) of Advent by Christmas and holiday music? WGUC! (opens up Windows Media Player) Have a blessed rest of Advent, everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Biblical incorrectness gets one nowhere, as we can see

If only we built more Biblically correct creches (i.e. no Magi, a stone stable, tired parents, some cow manure, fearsome angels, and a red and wrinkly freshly-born Jesus), perhaps this would happen less often.

HT: The Stiletto; last night's dinner conversation.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good breakfast?

Yahoo News notes a giant Lebanese potato. Seeing as it's finals week for me and many other students, perhaps this tuber could be put to good use as a nutritive breakfast.

While we're all eating that piece of starch-filled goodness, we might read yet another article on the Great Books and the young's general rejection of the idea of a canon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent 2 (Pearl Harbor)

Today's readings were Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, and Mark 1:1-8 (sermon text).

John the Baptist announced the next level of the war between God and His enemies. The Savior born into this world was to be Satan's doom; John signaled the beginning of His ministry. This involved His death, as is common in war. Mark, the "action" Gospel, leaps in at this point. In the baptism of each Christian, a new member of God's army is enlisted.

But why does Isaiah tell the messenger, John, to tell Jerusalem (a city used to perpetual, literal war) that "her warfare is over"? Answer: the warfare was taken up by God incarnate. War's cost is ultimately life laid down. But don't let this event of utmost importance slip into distant memory (as Pearl Harbor has for many), then out!

John's mission was to elevate Christ and lower himself; our role is similar. Call attention to the Savior within us, the Bringer of true peace on earth, something more than Rudolph. Peace is possible only after war. Christ did what was needed; now we have life. The world doesn't get it, so show them! The battle with sin for life and death is over.

Have a blessed Advent! Sermons will be from my home church until February.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I don't want a corporate job

Courtesy younger brother, from here.

Memo from Director General to Manager:
Today at 11 o'clock there will be a total eclipse of the sun. This is when the sun disappears behind the moon for two minutes. As this is something that cannot be seen every day, time will be allowed for employees to view the eclipse in the car park. Staff should meet in the car park at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse, and giving some background information. Safety goggles will be made available at a small cost.

Memo from Manager to Department Head:
Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the car park. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will disappear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The Director General will deliver a short speech beforehand to give us all some background information. This is not something that can be seen every day.

Memo from Department Head to Floor Manager:
The Director General will today deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in the eclipse. This is something that can not be seen every day, so staff will meet in the car park at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.

Memo From Floor Manager to Supervisor:
Ten or eleven staff are to go to the car park, where the Director General will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn't happen every day. It will be safe, but it will cost you.

Memo from Supervisor to staff:
Some staff will go to the car park today to see the Director General disappear. It is a pity this doesn't happen every day.

It's like 'Telephone' on steroids.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 1 (St. Andrew)

Today's readings were Ezekiel 3:16-21, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, and John 1:35-42a (sermon text).

The best thing that ever happened to St. Peter was the event of Andrew, his brother, telling him about Christ. Andrew was a disciple of John (in fulfillment of Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 and 4); John's purpose was to open the way for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

John's Gospel parallels Creation Week (in John, this ends at 2:1) to emphasize the fact of the new creation. John's disciples left him for Jesus because John had named Him the Lamb of God. This is our mission too: tell others about this Lamb, not just keep Him in your heart. All Jews were, since Abraham, anticipating the Messiah, especially at each Passover. Even though we don't pass on anticipations like this, we should still share the Messiah.

They had a different idea of what the Messiah should be, but at least Peter and Andrew had set their sights on the correct one. Christ enters our hearts likewise in the Sacraments and Word; then we pass Him on to others. Share the message of reconciliation that takes the place of judgment. The Gospel is a positive message, not just avoidance of hell (negation of negative). Therefore we look forward to being with our Abba - Daddy - forever. No matter how long it takes, Christ will come, fulfilling His Word. And we'll see Him face to face.

Spread the Gospel, telling of the Center of our lives, by word of mouth. We use our mouths to tell about other things - why not our most precious treasure, our Lord Jesus Christ? We have a sure eternity; spread it!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Three reasons not to abort

Reasons One and Two: These lovely twins in Britain, gestated and born under unhopeful circumstances.

Reason Three: Psychiatry, naturally.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008: Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's words, the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, are fitting here.

It is the duty of nations as well as of people to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sin and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord!

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.

Amen.

Thanksgiving 2008: sermon notes

Today's readings were Deuteronomy 8:1-10, Philippians 4:4-13, and Luke 17:11-19 (sermon text).

What is it like to be near - but never with - your family? What's it like to be slowly dying? Is this prison? No; it's leprosy in first-century Israel. It's existence, not life. Therefore Christ, upon seeing the ten lepers, effectively says "Get a life!" He likewise gives life to all, including those afflicted by various hurts of body and spirit.

The world tells Christians to "get a life" in a different, hostile sense. But is this religion of ours really a crutch? Not if it relies on Jesus, the only Way, only Truth, only Life. We have life because He is life. The nine Jewish former lepers who didn't return to give thanks didn't realize this.

The blood of Christ crucified is the cure for the terminal disease, sin, of all people. Hence, by it we are cleansed to stand before God, as the lepers did, and to give thanks with our own Blood brothers and sisters in the whole Church! Rejoice and give thanks for all God's gifts today, including this most precious one. Be like the one Samaritan who came back: understand your terminal disease (in fact, it has already killed you if you haven't repented), come to Christ, and thank Him for the forgiveness He gives.

This service was at my home church, as will be Sunday's.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tagged: 7 random facts about me

I've been tagged by Cheryl. Here goes...

1. I dream about organic chemistry in strange, mixed-up ways. For instance, a recent dream involved a milk cap that sprouted carbonyl groups as if it were cyclooctane.

2. I chew grain kernels as a snack, courtesy our 50-lb bags we purchase annually.

3. A good friend of mine is studying Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and theology; he also is in the process of putting the entire works of Mozart on his iPod. Talk about matching tastes!

4. In one of my classes this semester, I have a wonderful, grandfatherly professor. Said professor believes in teaching homeschool-style. As a result, we've been doing a lot of hands-on things, many food-related. Currently we have a mushroom farm going, as well as a batch of wine that's supposed to turn out dry and white...maybe a bit too much so at last inspection.

5. People still confuse me with my younger brother when we answer the phone. I like to think that he's my twin, only born three years after.

6. I get an endorphin surge before, during, and after exams. This comes in handy quite often.

7. Finally...I'm going home in about five hours!

Whom to tag? Or shall I have mercy? If you read this post, consider yourself tagged if you want.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Food for thought

Today's WSJ article about Proposition 8 and the implications, circumstances, and conundrums surrounding it is mind-boggling. Hypocrisy by some is involved. Go read it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christ the King Sunday

...a.k.a. the last Sunday of the Church year! I'll be worshiping at my home church next Sunday to kick off Advent. Today's readings were Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; and Matthew 25:31-46 (sermon text).

Business - we sometimes use it as an excuse for self-time. Today's text puts time as a whole in perspective: when will Christ return? We see a picture of our glorious God, Judge, and King. He gathers all peoples of the world - all nations - who will then be separated like sheep and goats. Those who are His, on His right, are called "blessed of My Father." Wow! He has a place for each of those who are His.

Next, He commends the sheep (right) for their good deeds toward Him - rather, toward even the least of His brothers and sisters. They're dumbfounded. Likewise, He condemns the goats (left) for their lack of similar good deeds. The sheep and goats finally go in opposite directions.

Works-righteousness? No! Rather, what are we doing in anticipation of the end? Sure, He's coming soon. But He also comes often, unexpectedly, even daily or hourly. We don't "see" Him in this light too much. But the thing to remember is that Jesus, the Christ, entered time that He might empathize with us, for us, to forgive our misuses of time and ignorances of Him in the form of one of His brothers or sisters. Give of your time; don't use business as a club for self. Why? Because you are His sheep too.

Later this afternoon will be a concert. I'll try to find some links to well-performed versions of the pieces so you can enjoy it too.

Update:YouTube is notoriously deficient in this area. However, I did find this lovely recording (video) of SLANE (tune for "Be Thou My Vision"), which had a custom text written for my school's 2008-09 school year. Perhaps text later. My other favorite item of the evening was a setting of "Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain" that I've sung several times at my home church.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fame and lies

The media and a certain President-elect repeatedly tell us that America is loathed worldwide and needs to rebuild its image. But we're still popular where it counts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Leaks

Names of members of the British National Party (BNP), along with children and relatives, have been leaked. Said members don't think that's fair. Neither do I. MK has a good synopsis of and reaction to the stated views of the BNP.

Update: KG is angry. Very angry.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pentecost 27

Today's readings were Zephaniah 1:7-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30, and Psalm 90 (sermon text).

Do we number our days aright? Do we strive for a heart of wisdom? Realize that everything around us is impermanent - jobs, money, stability, a sense of community. Decay and death surround us. But, Moses says, keeping the end in view is essential. You and I were created for an eternal home (Psalm 90:1).

Consider the life and "homes" of Moses. First he was brought up by Pharaoh, then became nomadic for years. At the end, he couldn't even enter Canaan. But this reminded him to walk by faith in God, for God was his true destination. Likewise it is with us - God, our home, goes with us. We will not be homeless, but will rather be welcome. We've been created for that home.

Life is filled with transitions. Remember, though, that Life is more. Return to God, your true home. There is no permanent dwelling place apart from Him. Sin separates us from Him; abundant dispensed and imputed grace reunites us to Him. Admit your sinfulness, therefore, and flee to God.

This brings back memories of Pentecost 22.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wow.

This article was the most interesting thing I have read about Islam in a very long time. Go read it.

Cross posted at Exploring the Quran.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ducks, Bibles, and sugar

This week has been moderately hectic, so I apologize for the longer-than-usual blogging break. Cheryl does it the opposite way. But patience reaps its rewards...

David Gibson comments on the Roman Catholic Church's recent efforts to get people to read the Bible for themselves. Whether this will start another Reformation is still an open question.

Scientists still love using rubber ducks to do research. Now if only everything could be as lighthearted...

Doctors not only use placebos in clinical trials, but also prescribe them in some cases. Shocking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Difficulties

Today's WSJ has a story about Clostridium difficile, affectionately known as C. diff and literally translated as "difficult hidden thing." It's now reached the point where this intestinal superbug of sorts has infected more than 1% of hospital patients in the US. Spores can be destroyed by bleach but not by weaker cleaning solutions.

Hopefully unrelated is a piece telling us that forgetting can be good. So long as we remember the important things - sola gratia, sola fide, sola Scriptura, how to avoid superbugs, celebrating Veterans' day, etc. - we should be fine.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reasons to read more

Have you owned or read any of the "Five-Foot Shelf of Books"? Or any of the great books? Robert Landers reviews a book that exhorts us to read them. Since I was considering St. John's College years ago in my college search, the last paragraph tickled my academic funny bone:

Molly Rothenberg, a student at St. John's in Annapolis, Md., told Mr. Beam of comparing notes when she was a sophomore with a fellow graduate of the public high school in Cambridge, Mass. St. John's sophomores study works by such authors as Aristotle, Tacitus and Shakespeare. Her friend was attending Bates College in Maine. "She told me they were studying Rhetoric," Ms. Rothenberg said, "and they would be watching episodes of 'Desperate Housewives' and listening to Eminem. They were going to analyze it. I just laughed. What could I say?"

WSJ readers exhort us to read the Constitution as well. A citizen-passed amendment or two would not be out of order.

Update: No Compromises has alerted me to a piece written by Jefferson Paine concerning RINOs and freedom. Read it here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pentecost 26

Today's readings were Amos 5:18-24, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (sermon text), and Matthew 25:1-13.

"We don't want you to be ignorant" about the dead in Christ. The first part of that sentence is for all teachers, the second for preachers in particular. The message: You are going to die. So is everyone you know, love, and everyone else. But what really happens when we die? Our perspective on death is decidedly limited.

Paul, though, does tell us what will happen on the Last Day. Some may doubt him - how do we know he's telling the truth and not a fantasy? What proof is there? Are we now misinformed instead of uninformed? Paul, in answer, gives two points: (1) Jesus Christ's resurrection guarantees ours. (2) He revealed this to Paul directly. Therefore we don't grieve hopelessly or need pity from unbelievers.

Pagans long ago viewed death, as many do today, with pure horror. We grieve as well - but we have a sure hope of resurrection and eternal life at the side of our Lord and Savior. Be encouraged by these words.

The Gospel reading adds: Stay awake. We don't know when He's coming back, only that He is. Be alert, ready, joyful in hope. Share your joy and hope with others so that they may be with us in heaven. Keep your attention fixed on the Bridegroom; rest in Him.

This sermon was particularly appropriate for me today, as I got the news this morning that my aunt, S, passed away late last night.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Blocking

How to block AIDS: transplant bone marrow from an immune individual (i.e. someone who lacks the protein CCR5) or genetically engineer the patient's own cells to stop producing that protein. The medical disadvantage is that the person becomes more vulnerable to West Nile Virus.

What are the moral and ethical implications of this? Fire away.

How to block a liberal agenda: Let's use the Democrat strategy and filibuster!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reactions

Yesterday I deliberately insulated myself from the election coverage: I, and many others, have stressed out enough about the race. Many predictions came true; others fell dreadfully. Here's a collection of wise reactions from around the blogosphere and elsewhere.

Aurora already has a great compilation of snippets and a historical perspective.

GM Roper (who, I trust, is celebrating three years free of cancer!) posted a video the day before Election Day that more people should have watched.

Phil, blogging over at Orion Hood, reminds us that the military serves the POTUS, regardless of that POTUS's identity.

My friend, P., wrote a note which I here quote in part:

“So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause!” This line from Star Wars echoed through my mind as I watched Obama’s acceptance speech. The people seemed in awe of this man who speaks of change but has proven nothing, done nothing except vote present. They praise him as the difference, the hope for the future. They say his charisma is overpowering and his speeches force people to stare in wonder. Sound familiar? This is also what was said about Adolf Hitler in Germany when he was elected chancellor. The Obama rally had a sea of red, white, and blue but all I could see was swastikas. Have we learned nothing from history? . . .

. . . Tonight was the first step; he was elected and hailed with praise. How long until he changes are democratic system? How about in the next four years. How could we let this happen? We sat back and allowed this “Change” and all of us should be ashamed. We allowed a man with such liberal views and agendas to become the next President of this great country and in the process have sealed our fate.

Thomas Frank tells us that conservatism isn't finished. Who knows? This upcoming administration may give the US a taste of liberalism at its worst - but, I hope, only a taste.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election stuffs

Item one: As I type, two people at computers near me are talking about large numbers of homeless voters using a park bench as their stated place of residence. It reeks of ACORN.

Item two: Not to be malicious, but Weird Al's song "Weasel Stomping Day" (video) popped into my head this morning. Figuratively, at least, it could come true.

Item three: Cheryl is confident of an outcome. Australian bloggers Aurora and MK are supporting this outcome by prayer. Which leads to...

Item four: Today's Days of Praise (ICR, authored by Henry M. Morris III) is a helpful reminder of what really matters today.

The Powers That Be
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." (Romans 13:1)
This day in our country we will vote for themen and women who will lead us for several years. Their beliefs and philosophies will impact our lives far beyond their specific terms in office. The choice we make is both a rare privilege and an awesome responsibility.
There are three perspectives that would be good for us to review as we prepare to exercise this duty.
First to consider is what this will require of us as subjects of those who are appointed over us. We will be required to:
  • Submit to the laws they enact (1 Peter 2:13).
  • Pay the taxes they require (Romans 13:6).
  • Honor their authority (1 Peter 2:17).
  • Pray for them by name (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
  • Fear them if we do evil (Romans 13:4).

Then, there is the anticipated behavior of what we should expect them to do. They should:

  • Be a terror to evil works (Romans 13:3).
  • Exercise the "sword" of judgment against those who do evil (Romans 13:4).
  • Promote a "quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Timothy 2:2).
  • Punish evil and praise good (1 Peter 2:14).

Finally, all who ultimately are placed in authority over men are there by God's appointment (our text). Sometimes the most unassuming are raised up (1 Samuel 2:8) or the evil leader is used to demonstrate God's power (Romans 9:17). We must seek God's will in our choices, but we can be assured that He is in charge (Psalm 11:4).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pentecost 25

Today's readings were Micah 3:5-12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, and Matthew 23:1-12 (sermon text).

"Posers." There are three main categories, all of which the Pharisees fit into quite well: pretending to be someone or something outwardly (e.g. a nurse) while not being thus at all inwardly; trying to resurrect a good past to pose in place of one's bad present; and trying to make rosy future promises pose in place of a poor present record. The Pharisees loved adulation and being seen by others, so of course they posed, especially in the areas of praying, fasting, and giving offerings. Posing tempts us sorely as well.

Stop posing, Christ tells us. He fills the needs that posing's vacancy leaves with something better and more satisfying: pointing. By pointing, our outward selves will come to match the Truth living inside of us. Baptism is like this - since through the Sacrament we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, we therefore walk in newness of life. Be fixed on this truth. The same is true with the Lord's Supper - the outward marks of bread and wine embody the inner truth of forgiveness and strengthening of faith, to which we should point.

Our past is Christ, who fought and won the fight that matters. We now live by faith, Christ in us, based on His past death and resurrection. That love was, is, and will always be true. Christ's promises for our future ought to be pointed to and lived as well. Children of God will see and be like Him; our future reality will be obvious: loved by God!

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Technology

It is increasingly, disturbingly used for snooping on things that ought not to be snooped upon, at least in Britain. (MK et al., you've been complaining vehemently about this for some time.) However, there's always the upside - check out this story about a brain-damaged girl given the power to communicate verbally. MK, again, caught the connection too.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy 491st Reformation Day!

This evening was a special service, a German-style Mass (Deutsche Messe). About two hundred people gathered to sing Divine Service V in the LSB, complete with incense. How much better can you get? The sermon text was Romans 3:19-28; the other readings were Revelation 14:6-7 and John 8:31-36.

The Lutheran Church celebrates the three Solas - sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Some would say we insist on them to a fault. But is this really hair-splitting? Can't we compromise and let a little of our own works into the equation for salvation?

No. Sola gratia compromised ceases to be grace at all (Romans 11:6). It's fatal to compromise in matters of faith - doing so in life (e.g. which show to watch) works, but in doctrine it doesn't. Keeping the "alone" leads to freedom and absolute certainty of salvation, something no other religion has. If salvation is by works, then works can never be enough. We can't even say the Lord's Prayer once without being distracted!

God wants us to have no worry; therefore He took care of our salvation Himself. It's there for you, free to accept. Don't compromise it.
Yes, this is exclusivism. I stand by it.

Trying to avoid politics II

Even if I look to today's Science Journal, politics is still there. I yearn for the times before mandatory biomedical ethics and genetic-ethics courses. But at least someone finally deals with that pesky accusation of non-Obama voters being racist.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trying to avoid politics...

...never works. Today's WSJ may be divided, content-wise, into two categories: money and politics. At least the DJIA went up! Here are three political articles I found interesting, if depressing.

An important someone running for President wrote a letter that didn't accomplish much of anything.

An important associate of that important someone gaffed. Again. On taxes.

That certain someone thinks the Constitution can be ignored? Maybe that someone should run for President somewhere else.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Important voices

Paul Rubin reminds us today that, when we vote, we are voting "for the party, not the person." Words of warning below, emphasis mine:

We have a myth of a nonpolitical civil service, but it is a myth. When a new president enters office, the entire management structure of the bureaucracy and the entire philosophy of government changes. A choice of Obama is a choice for the "big government" side; a choice of McCain is a choice for the "smaller government" team.

This is why Mr. Obama's association with William Ayers is important. It is not that Mr. Ayers was a terrorist. It is because he still believes in a radical restructuring of America. Mr. Obama's long association with Mr. Ayers tells us something about the sort of people he will pick for his team, and something about the sorts of policies they will adopt.

Since Democrats control both branches of Congress, if Obama wins:
Everyone will be pushing for the same goals. These goals include the growth of government in all aspects, higher taxes and spending, expansion of government-run programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and other health programs, more regulatory control, more power and money for political allies such as the trial lawyers and unions, and less free trade. All the players will want the same things, and so we will get them.

If McCain wins:
For the McCain team goals are less relevant, since a President McCain would be
working with a hostile Congress and will have much more trouble getting anything done. If the period from 2000-2006 has taught us anything, it is that divided
government is good for the system.

Now go read the letters of two small business owners and one Cuban; here (video) is a letter of another Cuban.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reformation (observed)

Readings for today: Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, and John 8:31-36 (sermon text).

Freedom is loved here in America. But do we know exactly what true freedom
is? Does it match John 8:36? Not usually! Some of us use "freedom" sinfully - an
excuse to perform our own wills - really hedonism. Or we think about "freedom
from _____ [usually 'responsibility']." However, the sense in which Jesus uses
"free" is different: Christians have freedom from sin (as Adam and Eve
originally did) and from the fear of death (as all believers after the
Crucifixion).

All who sin are slaves to sin. This comes from using "freedom" as a license
to sin. But God became flesh freely to atone for you and me.
Now, free, we can stand before God and fellow man as His servants. We're free to
serve God.

How are we to use this freedom? Rejoice in it! We Lutherans can celebrate
it today in the feast of the Reformation. What do we celebrate? The Gospel of
Jesus Christ, keeping Him as the center of all things. This is easier with our
Scripture-soaked liturgy and the Scripture-summarizing Catechism. This is our
heritage, reminding us of our true freedom in Christ.

I'll try to put together a post for Reformation Day too; there's a special service that evening.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's...a duck!

I found a story in today's Daily Mail about a duck-shaped tomato. Even with the stickers for eyes, though, it's not as realistic as it could be. But it did make me think of this Monty Python video. Enjoy!

Nov. 2: In Britain, Latin has gone from being a dead language to merely an injured one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

For the biologically technical

Hopeful news first, depressing second.

Could there be a cure for the common cold (I'd welcome it right now! Fie on my immune system!) in the near future? Scientists investigating the immune response to it are hopeful.

In case you're not in the mood for viruses and proteins, how about bacilli and enzymes? Eleven babies in a British NICU have come down with a drug-resistant E. coli strain, two with fatal results. The particular strain is ESBL (extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing), meaning that the bacteria produce an enzyme that breaks down the beta-lactam ring in certain antimicrobial drugs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

America under you-know-who

...a.k.a. The One [Who Will Not Be Named]. Michael Medved (HT Cheryl) explains in more detail than usually seen how an Obama presidency would affect the economy. Need I elaborate?

Tomorrow I'll be driving home for a long weekend. Be patient if your comments don't show up.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Words: two contexts

Having recent applied for a blogging scholarship to a previously-mentioned unspecified institution of higher learning, I thought a post on blogging might be appropriate. (Take that as an opener, EC!) Today's WSJ describes a sociological experiment about the influence of nonverbal communication (i.e. everything but blogging itself - might that be why one sees blog spats starting up so much?) on the messages we perceive. Granted, the article is mainly about nonverbal communication in a business context, but I think it can be applied here as well.

Four "unconscious, verbal ways that humans communicate with one another" analyzed in the article are "activity, interest, mimicry, and consistency." According to the researcher, MIT Dr. Alex Pentland, the degree of each of these is directly proportional to autonomic nervous system ("fight-or-flight" level) activity. These are, quite often, very accurate because they are hard to fake consistently. Unfortunately, blogging is one medium in which bloggers, readers, and commenters cannot read each others' nonverbal signals. However [emphasis added]:

This research tells you a couple of things. One is: When you listen to a business plan pitch, you ought to take it offline and read it also, and not just go from the presenter's "elevator pitch." But there's a good side to it, too. In venture capital, one of the things investors pay attention to is the buzz in the start-up group and the way it feels. And what the venture capitalists are actually doing, I think, is reading the honest signaling.
So how can we relate this concept to or integrate it with blogging? No one knows definitively, but while you're thinking, read this book review of Unholy Business concerning bad scholarship. The now-infamous James ossuary research was presented convincingly (press conferences) but has major flaws (found by "taking it offline").

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pentecost 23

Today's readings were Isaiah 45:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, and Matthew 22:15-22 (sermon text).

"Show me the money!" Jesus uses this phrase to expose the Pharisees' hypocrisy. They had tried, along with a few detested Herodians, to set Him up. Their plan was perfect...or so it seemed. Jesus replied to their two-way question, "Show Me a coin" and "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

We can learn much about our lives as Christians from the text. We have a duty to both our secular leaders (left-hand kingdom, in Luther's terminology) and to our heavenly King (right-hand kingdom), even if those secular leaders disobey God. The Kingdom is not about overthrowing earthly kingdoms.

The left-hand kingdom is meant to be a blessing and respected. Paul tells us to pray for our leaders. Don't expect a military or political messiah as the Jews of Christ's time did! Rather, don't pit left-hand against right-hand. Be a good citizen of both, not of neither, as Jesus demonstrated. Don't look to your pastor to tell you "how would Jesus vote." The pulpit (right-hand) is not a soapbox (left-hand) for a particular political candidate. Sermons about the person and work of Jesus Christ - not about left-hand matters - lend true comfort and wisdom. Appreciate your membership in both kingdoms.
This is so hard to apply, especially with the upcoming election! Pray for wisdom for yourself.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Check this out!

Nashida just put up a great, thought-provoking post over at Exploring the Quran. Go over there and comment on it - it's on an interesting topic and certainly deserves input.

Not really related: No Compromise was recently booted off Blog Talk Radio by some very suspicious circumstances. Show some support for her.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great lengths

In today's Daily Mail is an article describing a stick insect almost four feet long. Thankfully, it doesn't prey on humans.

Last week, a few of my colleagues on a monarch-butterfly hunt captured a giant praying mantis instead. Even bigger than this one, and much more fearsome.

More later...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thank you #1

One year ago I began blogging here. Thank you, readers and commenters, who motivated me so that I'm still here, one year, 443 posts, and over 4,830 page views later. I've had visitors from all over the world - including Sweden, Singapore, and Bahrain - and a wonderful network of readers and friends.

No Compromise, thank you for our recent conversation about why we blog.

MK &co, ever since I stumbled across all of your blogs, you've been fountainheads of information.

The Stiletto was the first blog I read regularly. We share many interests, and I am very thankful she has taken to blogging more frequently!

Angel, you've always been supportive of me, even though we've never met. Keep it up!

Cheryl, from the SiteMeter statistics, it looks like you've checked up on me even while on vacation! Here's to many more years of your quality blogging as well.

To everyone else who's read, commented, or met me in person, thank you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pentecost 22

Readings: Psalm 23 (sermon text), Isaiah 25:6-9, Philippians 4:4-13, and Matthew 22:1-14.

God is chasing you, wanting something you don't want to give Him. He wants your full devotion and heart, not just the major part of it. We flee, unwilling to give our lives and souls and freedom to Him. But look at the Psalm - goodness and mercy will literally "pursue" you. He wants as well to remove our sin through this chase. Agents include Christian parents, longsuffering friends, praying strangers.

We are His people, and not our own. Even as His children, though, we forget the abundant gifts He gives. The world can cause us to doubt the existence and presence of the love of Jesus. Has He moved on? No, says faith. Our hope lasts forever and is absolutely certain that He is with us as individuals! That changes us from a worldly, hopeless viewpoint. We see the chase differently.

God's hounding, perfect love drives all fear out of us. No enemy cannot be banished by Christ's rod and staff. "Do not fear; I have overcome." He is with us forever, walking with and carrying us. Such a good Shepherd would never abandon His beloved sheep. In addition, He is the active agent in the Psalm - He leads, walks alongside, and pursues me! He came to give us abundant, strong, overflowing life, the fruits of faith. Therefore nourish yourself on the life-giving, forgiving Word of God, Christ Jesus. Then, as you walk on the "paths [lit. wagon-tracks, very visible and straight] of righteousness," you will be surely guided toward heaven.
All my American readers in particular, thank God for guiding Columbus this day as well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pictures and text

Pepper and Salt today caught my eye. Of course, I use a different meaning of "service."

This is why I'm deliberately not following the [ups and] downs of Wall Street &co.

Check out these lovely pictures of microscopic objects and organisms. The first one was, I'm guessing, taken through a dissecting microscope; I've looked at tadpoles and Hydra the same way. It's illuminating.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Buried diamonds

Yes, I'm sure you've heard about McCain's tax promises and intended health-care solutions already. However, a short portion of each caught my eye.

From the former:

On page one of the New York Times, the paper described the fate of the middle-class tax cut this way: "Families earning as little as $20,000 a year -- members of the 'forgotten middle class' whose taxes he promised during his campaign to cut -- will also be asked to send more dollars to Washington under [Bill Clinton's] plan."
Shocking! Shocking, especially considering how the MSM in general are treating Mr. O these days...

From the latter, discussing the advantage of "labor mobility" in McCain's health-care plan:

By freeing workers of the need to stay in a job to keep their health insurance, Mr. McCain's plan would help create a more flexible workforce. A study by University of Wisconsin economist Scott Adams found that 20% to 30% of nonelderly men worry enough about losing their health benefits that they stay in jobs they would otherwise leave.
Curious how that's ignored quite often in MSM coverage.

Update: Heh. Perhaps I spoke too soon? HT Crusader-Rabbit.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Responsibility

Exhibit A: Another reason to cut down on Starbucks - they're definitely doing their part to help the environment. NOT. But Daily Mail does show both sides of the story.

Exhibit B: Andrew Lloyd Webber aims to teach his children fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, he could improve in the 6th-Commandment responsibility area.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pentecost 21

Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 3:4b-14 (primary sermon text), and Matthew 21:33-46.

Sour grapes are what we end up acting like when we don't measure up to the Epistle's runner metaphor. The vineyard's owner is responsible for righting these things. God, the Owner of our souls, expected good fruit from His superbly-tended vineyard. What a sad "song of the vineyard" the OT reading turned out to be. It's even sadder when we realize that WE, too, are lazy, indifferent vines to blame for sour fruit. Therefore we should take to heart the awful law of God proclaimed in the text.

Yet we should also listen to the Gospel reading - a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Isaiah had been one of the servants sent to the vineyard. Finally, the Son - God's last appeal - was sent. Even though He is worthy of all respect and praise, He was shunned, crucified, and buried. But listen further - how was this turn of events "marvelous in our eyes"? Why did Jesus come to a willfully deaf world? Answer: He loves you and wanted to redeem you from sins that kill. The holy Son of God means forgiveness for us.

Therefore Paul says to "forget what lies behind" - sour grapes - and receive forgiveness from a God who remembers your sin no more.
Amen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A truly Renaissance moment

In biology today, the Science Journal describes (with the unfortunately obligatory nod to Darwin) the pros and cons of having Helicobacter pylori inhabit one's stomach. It has been linked to ulcers, but it also decreases occurrence of allergies.

In religion, a group of pastors is risking the tax-exempt status of churches in general in order to have more free speech.

In politics, an assessment of how Palin did last night. (I found the debate repetitious after the first 20 minutes or so, but those first 20 minutes made up for it more than completely.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wise words

A letter in today's WSJ, from a Sandy M. in WI:

I am writing to respond to Taylor Stockdale's "Debates Don't Always Reveal Character" (op-ed, Sept. 30). I completely agree that this country desperately needs leaders with the kind of moral character Adm. James B. Stockdale possessed.

How sad it is that so many people don't understand this. The political process is a staged, biased event designed by the mainstream media to cause controversy, rather than help the masses make a wise, informed decision as to who to vote for. Thanks for publishing the article.

A good point, especially in light of the debate tonight and those to come. One of No Compromise's recent radio shows highlights the increasing use of multimedia over reason.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not for the squeamish

First, some science stories. These are just plain weird.

  • What's the upper size limit for what a heron will eat? A young rabbit?
  • This one is more interesting and less odd: how you can read palms (and fingernails) without being involved in occult at all!
  • A distressing platelet disorder reminiscent of Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
  • Knife to the head? No problem!
  • This woman's eyes would betray her during finals week.
Why so much from Daily Mail? The WSJ has disproportionately too much space devoted to the bailout. Granted, it's about Wall Street. But for you readers who desire a politics/economics-themed post anyway, visit Rebellious Pastor's Wife.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Islam ISN'T dangerous?

You tell me.

  • The house of the author of a book about Aisha (Muhammad's youngest, favorite wife) is firebombed by guess who.
  • Another rocket attack in Afghanistan.
  • "Minerals" and "industrial products" causing suspicious symptoms and the occasional death? Yep, we all know that Iran isn't dangerous at all...HT BCPRS.
More later...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pentecost 20

Readings: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-18; and Matthew 21:23-32 (sermon text).
We're very competitive - but in talk only, or also in deed? Talk is cheap; the deed is what's tough. Look at today's parable: the vineyard work (metaphor for faith) to teach us to become faith-walkers and not only faith-talkers. It's Pharisees (talk only) versus tax collectors and prostitutes (walkers). Jesus call us to walk. But, like the first son, we vehemently say "No! Don't make me do it!" Yet later some of us do end up doing our Father's bidding, sacrificing our own selfish agendas. Many of us will also stay merely talkers - if even that.

There was a Son who both said and did "Yes." He did it in love, for He came to serve and to save. But why did He leave heaven for a time? He didn't have any obligation to spend 33 years with us ingrates. Remember, though: He was NOT primarily a role model! That cheapens Him. Rather, He did it to forgive sins (the Word that works) so that we may always walk with Jesus. We may not know where this walk leads, yet we have Him beside us, carrying us gently.

Walk thus: away from severed sins, on the path God has set you in, in the joy of God's forgiveness. You have the privilege of saying "Yes" to the Father's bidding. It's not just for trained church workers. Evidence of having said "Yes" is found in the expanding Kingdom, those with whom we have shared the Gospel of Christ.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Varied reading

Courtesy GHF, a political/educational/scientific menu diverse enough to satisfy nearly all my readers...

  • Is this an example of low school standards? Or simply refusal to acknowledge the bottom 50%? Or something else?
  • This reminds me of the Obama T-shirt case. Give me examples of nonpartisan political messages and I may agree with U of I - otherwise not.
  • Someone needs a statistics course. And quickly.
  • Science and politics united: the abstract for a paper titled "The Obama-Tribe 'Curvature of Constitutional Space' Paper is Crackpot Physics."
In light of the Presidential debate last night, Cheryl's and Cao's posts are illuminating. Pun intended if it humors you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The curious case of the 'Vader beetle'

If you have an aversion to pictures and discussion of beetles, slugs, and ravenous song sparrows, go on to the next post. Otherwise, here's some research I did on a beetle found on a routine plant-hunting expedition I was on recently. (Its nickname came from looking at it from the belly side. It uncannily resembles Darth Vader from that vantage point.)

First, a picture of the specimen (source):

Exhausting Googling gave me a tentative name: Pterostichus melanarius (Illiger). Given the name, I found out its habitat (native to Europe but spreading into the Midwest from the coasts - check, because my specimen was found in the heart of the Midwest), food (aphids, slugs), and what eats it (any insectivore in the area, basically). Its length is listed as Coincidentally, a colleague caught a song sparrow - listed in the field guide as a connoisseur of this carabid - a few days later in a live-animal trap that was only supposed to catch mammals.

Now share your beetle stories! Or correct my species identification.

Update: While walking on a wooded bluff the morning of 9/27/08, I spotted a juvenile individual of this species; it was about 12mm long and had yellowish legs. Leia, perhaps?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 11, part 2

Below are some specific Biblical prophecies fulfilled hundreds of years later, on average.

  • Tyre. Predictions are in Ezekiel 26:3-4, 7-8, 12, 14, 21. Fulfillment: Nebuchadnezzar broke its gates; Alexander the Great destroyed the city; Antigonus besieged it for 15 months; Muslims captured it; today, fishermen indeed "spread their nets there."
  • Sidon. Predictions are in Ezekiel 28:22-23. Fulfillment: not destroyed; frequent wars ("blood in the streets" and a "sword on every side").
  • Samaria. Predictions are in Hosea 13:16 and Micah 1:6. Fulfillment: it fell violently, was destroyed, and had vineyards planted in it.
  • Gaza-Ashkelon. Predictions are in Amos 1:8, Jeremiah 47:5, and Zephaniah 2:4-7. Fulfillment: the twin cities were destroyed; the Philistines were driven out; shepherds came in, as did Judah's remnant.
  • Moab-Ammon. Predictions are in Ezekiel 25:3-4 and Jeremiah 48:47, 49:6. Fulfillment: the cities were taken by eastern peoples for palaces; exiles returned.
  • Petra and Edom. Predictions are in Isaiah 34:6-15, Jeremiah 49:17-18, Ezekiel 25:13-14, and Ezekiel 35:5-7. Fulfillment: the cities were emptied of people, conquered by Israel and heathen, and had a bloody history.
  • Thebes and Memphis. Predictions are in Ezekiel 30:13-15. Their former names were No and Noph. Fulfillment: idols were destroyed, Thebes was burned, and there were no more native Egyptian rulers in either city.
  • Nineveh. Predictions are in Nahum 1:8, 1:10, 2:6, 3:10, 3:13, and 3:19. Fulfillment: the city was drunken, flooded, burned, and became desolate.
  • Babylon. Predictions are in Isaiah 13:19-22, 14:23, and Jeremiah 51:26, 43. Fulfillment: covered by swamps and desert creatures, desolate, like Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Predictions are in Matthew 11:20-24. Fulfillment: destroyed throughout the course of history (Jesus didn't specify the means).
  • Jerusalem enlarged. Predictions are in Jeremiah 31:38-40. Fulfillment: precise rebuilding through even today!
  • Palestine. Predictions are in Leviticus 26:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:33-35. Fulfillment: Jews were dispersed, allowed to return, persecuted - and yet they thrived.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pentecost 19

Today's readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30; and Matthew 20:1-16 (sermon text).
Comparing wages - keeping up with the Joneses - is unfortunately a way of life for many of us. It can breed discontent, and often does. But when we know only our wages, we don't complain at all. Our human nature likes fairness. But are we satisfied when someone is truly fair?

The point of today's parable is God's fairness and generosity versus ours. Granted, the first workers did verbally agree for one denarius. Today's courts usually don't like the wage inequality, however. So we ask God, "How can You be so unfair?" Those who do less are given proportionately more. Where do you stand before God in respect to this? Do you work all day, every day? Or do you only work a little and infrequently?

Seen through the Law-lens, the point of this parable disappears, for God does not define Himself by the Law. Look at it by the Gospel instead. "Why did God give me this set of circumstances?" All we can know of the answer is that He has situated us in a place to do His will and be molded. All should get a chance to be His servants - even those who do less, who come in late.

Each of us "justly deserves temporal and eternal punishment." BUT! Remember that God's justice forgives you: He came down to earth as a human, lived out the Law, went through God's entire punishment for us. We did not earn this! But see the glorious mercy of God - what we really want, what we need, and what we get when we ask it of God. He is the God-Who-Forgives.
A hearty thank you to Exploring the Quran reader Dan, who sent Nashida the link to the HTML to put links to the ESV text by each Scripture reference.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

That can wait a few more years!

Courtesy of GHF, a Sunday Daily Mail story. The headline says it all:
Church makes 'ludicrous' apology to Charles Darwin - 126 years after his death.
The comments there are, for the most part, pretty good. Paired with this story, it's even better. Very thought-provoking.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ha!

A saying floats around: inside each person is a God-shaped hole or vacuum. This satisfying opinion piece provides scientific evidence. Apparently Christian = rational. (Didn't we know that?)

Update: Oct. 1 WSJ publishes a letter of response. Short, sharp, appropriate.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 11, part 1

Chapter 11 is the first in Part 3 (God at work in history and in human lives).

1. Definition of prophecy
  • Extra-Biblical: a spoken or written word proclaiming God's will for the primary audience; a "sign."
  • Scriptural: same as above plus divine inspiration, sometimes telling of future events (predictive prophecy).
2. Tests of a prophet
  • False prophets often or always have "prophetic ecstasy" (e.g. Baal worshipers) induced by a certain type of music, for example.
  • False prophets often occur in paid groups (e.g. under a king).
  • Deuteronomy 18 (twisted by Muslims), Jeremiah 23, and Ezekiel 12:21-14:11 are extended sections on marks of false prophets.
3. Objection to predictive prophecy: post-dating. But here are some facts...
  • The Septuagint was translated in 280-250 B.C. Therefore, the entire OT as we know it must have been complete before then.
  • Ezekiel: the unusual dating system matches archeology perfectly.
  • Even giving the critics generous benefit of the doubt, there is no way the prophecies could have all been written after the radically-claimed dates.
  • Presuppositions of critics: history is a closed system; there is no God; there is no possibility for miracles (and therefore no predictive prophecy).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 10, part 4

Don't worry, it's the end of this chapter. There's a whole other third part still to go! Bear with me.

The Hallucination Theory: all post-Resurrection appearances were hallucinations. But...
  • Being an eyewitness was extremely important.
  • Visions? Meaning: seems objective, but no actual, physical object is observed.
  • The overwhelmingly typical type of person who hallucinates is "high-strung." However, the people who saw the risen Christ were psychologically diverse; very few were "high-strung."
  • Hallucinations are very subjective and individualistic, brought on by familiar settings and wanting to see something. How could more than 500 people, for example, hallucinate the same thing at the same time?
  • There are many textual examples (vide: Thomas) of physically seeing/touching/hearing the risen Christ.
  • Familiar surroundings and certain time periods lead to hallucinations. But the actual circumstances were diverse and unlikely to induce visions.
  • People who hallucinate generally want to. But the disciples saw Christ without wanting to - against their will.
  • Hallucinations fade gradually, over months. But Christ's risen appearances stopped cold at the Ascension.
The Wrong Tomb theory: everybody forgot where Christ really lay. But...
  • The women had seen the grave firsthand three days before (Matthew 27:61, Mark 15:47, and Luke 23:55).
  • Upon hearing the women's report, the disciples ran to check (John 20:2-8).
  • The angel attested that it was the right tomb (Matthew 28:6).
  • Christ's enemies would definitely have gone to the right tomb for the body!
  • AND Joseph of Arimathea - it was his tomb, after all.
  • The women were purposeful and clear-headed, unlikely to mistake the tomb for another.
The conclusion: CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pentecost 18: Holy Cross Day

Readings: Genesis 50:15-21, Romans 14:1-12, and Matthew 18:1-35 (sermon text).
We often wish for "easy" or "fast-forward" buttons for life. But there are non. None for the painful process of giving forgiveness, either? See the Gospel text: Peter, the bold disciple, with many foibles, figures that seven acts of forgiveness is quite enough, a heroic act worthy of a divine pat on the back. Jesus' answer, 77 (or 7x70, depending on the manuscript) signifies an infinite number of acts of forgiveness. That sounds very slow and painful! Christ drives the point home with the parable following His dialog.

The king forgave (fast-forward!) the unpayable debt of the servant. God is even more magnanimous; He showers abundant absolution on us daily! Christ's extension (the actions of the first to the second servant) shows our reluctance to forgive (fast-forward) others who have sinned against us much less than He has forgiven us. We, slow to forgive, like Peter, expect a divine back-pat. How presumptuous!

It certainly isn't easy to forgive. Granted. Thus, to forgive, we must focus on Jesus' love for us, His merciful acts, instead of focusing on others' slights to us. Don't hit pause, stop, or rewind. Remember the free forgiveness you have received from God! You are now free to forgive others - share the gift.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Zoology news of the day

From Cool Pilot Brother, henceforth CPB: the Daily Express account of a gerbil traversing some, shall we say, unusual territory.

From Daily Mail: a bicapitate pokilotherm in pictures.

While we're on the subject of multiples, read about 'Yoda.'

Comic relief...maybe

Two pages of Palin comics sent to me by GHF (some may repeat):

From "Burning Hot" with a great many U's and R's added, the first.

Actually, this was part one. The above was part 2.

***

Satirical? A bit too ironic? Campus Crusade changes its name...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin & co.

Some easy reading, so you can recover from McDowell (for a few days, anyway!):

I have intentionally not been blogging about the whole Palin/Biden/Obama/McCain war of sorts. But plenty of others have. And so, for your reading pleasure, here are posts from both sides.

Michelle Malkin tallies up Obama's gaffes, while Ed picks out one each of Huckabee, Ridge, and Palin.

A UK perspective on the treatment of Palin here.

Via Road Sassy: excerpts and a link to the full text of Palin's RNC speech, of which I caught the last half live.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 10, part 3

Today we begin to wade through some of the "inadequate, concocted, explain-away hypotheses" that attempt to undermine the historicity of the Resurrection.

The Swoooooon [sic] theory: revived by spices and cool air. But...
  • Soldiers, Joseph, and Nicodemus judged by their knowledge that He did die.
  • A spear thrust + hours of horrible physical suffering = only a swoon?
  • In the closed room and afterwards, He looked hale - not haggard - to His disciples.
  • How could He have wriggled out of the grave cloths without disturbing the shape?
  • AND rolled away the huge stone AND overpowered the guard?
  • AND walked 7 miles to Emmaus AND claimed to have been resurrected?
  • This hypothesis would also falsify the Ascension account, going at odds with Luke's character.
The Theft theory: the disciples (or someone else) stole the body. But...
  • Enemies had no motive to steal the body; the disciples had no power to.
  • The guards' testimony was trusted.
  • Could the disciples have gotten past the guards AND broke the seal AND rolled away the stone?
  • The disciples, at the time, were depressed and cowardly.
  • If the soldiers had been asleep (as they claimed), how could they know that the disciples stole the body?
  • Soldiers wouldn't have fallen asleep, under penalty of death - much less the entire guard of four, all at the same time.
  • A stone of the size indicated would have taken too much effort and made too much noise to move.
  • Robbers wouldn't re-wind grave cloths, even if they had had the time.
  • Because of the honorable burial Christ had received, the disciples had no motive to move the body; there was nothing more they could do for it.
  • Since the disciples didn't suspect or even understand the Resurrection at first, they wouldn't have tried to help it along.
  • The disciples, as demonstrated in earlier chapters, had honorable character.
  • Did the Jews move it? Then why didn't they produce the body?
  • Did the Romans move it? That would have been directly counter Pilate's wish to keep peace.
  • Did Joseph of Arimathea move it? He would have consulted or told the other disciples.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pentecost 17: "Carefronting"

Today's readings were Ezekiel 33:7-16 (sermon text), Romans 13:1-10, and Matthew 18:1-20.
What is a watchman? One who sees problems, speaks to the offender, and addresses them. How to respond? Matthew expounds on offenses to us - but what about sins that don't affect us directly? Ezekiel tells us to point out the sins of our brothers and sisters in Christ, God's people. Why? The wicked person's blood - if we don't warn him - is on our hands.

Therefore we should warn our fellow Christian about his specific sin and its consequences. The ultimate consequence of sin is a slow death, both physical and (more important) spiritual.

We should also beware of our own self-righteousness. We too go from stealthy sin to full-blown rebellion, claiming cheap grace and possibly losing our salvation. We should not grow prideful in our warning of others - we should warn ourselves too.

Finally, since sins recur, we also need to point to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. Show Jesus your sin, and your sin, Jesus. It needs no self-justification, but rather His forgiveness.

These tasks - "carefronting" - may entail risking the loss of a friendship. Many of us are afraid to "judge." But speaking a word of God, in caring confrontation, with an aim toward restoring the brother or sister to the faith, is not judging. It's reporting the liberating Word to them. Confront the person in love, therefore, because Christ's love for you and them compels you to.

Be Ezekiel, whose name means "God-strengthened." Let Christ's Word and sacraments give strength via forgiveness and faith to your humbled heart. Let Him go with you this week, and the next, and the next. Carefronting is very difficult. But the forgiveness it brings is a great reward.
Amen.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 10, part 2

This section deals with circumstances at the tomb of Christ.

Pre-Resurrection scenario
  • Jesus was dead. Crucifixion was the worst means of death. See, again, the JAMA article (PDF).
  • Tomb: plenty of textual evidence locating and describing it. Consider the events - why would each (e.g. Joseph of Arimathea asking for the body) have happened if there had been no tomb?
  • Burial. Prof. Edersheim tells of burial customs.
  • Stone: needed several men to move.
  • Seal: a cord secured at both ends by sealing wax.
  • Guard: faithful soldiers to Rome; neglecting their job meant death; probably 4 men total; no other dead prisoner was guarded like this!
  • Disciples: scattered because they didn't expect a resurrection at all.
Post-Resurrection scenario
  • The tomb was irrefutably empty.
  • Grave clothes were neatly folded in two piles.
  • The seal was broken.
  • A Roman guard wouldn't have intentionally deserted or slept at its post.
  • Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus alive backed up apostolic witness. Over 500 people (see 1 Corinthians 15) saw Him.
  • Silence of enemies - they couldn't produce the body, no matter how much they wanted to.
Established historical fact
  • No one could refute the Resurrection by producing the body - because it wasn't there!
  • Yet many still refused to believe.
Established psychological facts
  • Disciples' lives were transformed; their accounts stand under cross-inspection.
  • 1900 years of history; see chapter 12 in particular.
  • Verdict: these facts count as subjective evidence for the truth of the Resurrection.
Established sociological facts
  • Christian Church: founded on the Resurrection (see many passages in Acts).
  • Worship: Sunday, not Saturday (a huge change from Judaism).
  • Sacraments: Communion (celebrating His death - yet joyful because of the Resurrection) and Baptism (vs. circumcision - see Romans 6:1-6).
  • Persistence of the Church through many centuries.
Next up (the final section of this chapter!): hypotheses cooked up to explain away the Resurrection as presented in the Scriptures, and why and how each fails to consider all of the evidence.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 10, part 1

Unfortunately, in the interests of summarizing, I had to omit virtually all of the quotes by various scholars and historians; there were an average of 10 for each major point. This chapter's title? "The Resurrection: hoax or history?" Biblical accounts are found in Matthew 28:1-11, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21.

1. The importance of the Resurrection
  • Christianity is the only world religion based on a RESURRECTED personality. The Resurrection is thus the core of Christianity; without it, the religion would fall apart.
  • Christ rose by His own power; the Resurrection is proof of His claim to be "the Son of God."
  • According to Peter: the Resurrection (a) explained Jesus' death; (b) was prophesied; (c) was witnessed by the Apostles; (d) caused Pentecost; and (e) proved that Jesus Christ is indeed the King of kings.
  • Restatement of the above: Christianity is a historical religion.
2. Christ's claims that He would rise from the dead
  • Importance of claims: resurrection would be a wholly foolish claim if the person claiming thus couldn't do it or didn't know what would happen. The Jews (but, oddly, not the disciples, at least initially) took the claims seriously.
  • Claims by Jesus: Matthew 12:38-40, 16:21, 17:9, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, 26:32, and 27:63. Mark 8:31-9:1, 9:10, 9:31, 10:32-34, 14:28, 14:58. Luke 9:22-27. John 2:18-22, 12:34, chs. 14-16.
3. Historical approach
  • Resurrection as a time-space dimension historical event: The tomb is precisely defined; Jesus is demonstrably historical; guards and Sanhedrin were, too. Wilbur Smith: we know more about Christ's death than about the death of any other ancient person. "Many infallible proofs" (Acts 1) = strictest legal evidence.
  • Legal/historical testimony: (here were gobs of quotes) Eyewitnesses were Paul and the Apostles. Luke's account consists of interviews with eyewitnesses. A quote by Ambrose Fleming (emph. added):
    We must take this evidence of experts as to the age and authenticity of this writing, just as we take the facts of astronomy on the evidence of astronomers who do not contradict each other. This being so, we can ask ourselves whether it is probable that such book, describing events that occurred about thirty or forty years previously, could have been accepted and cherished if the stories of abnormal events in it were false or mythical. It is impossible, because the memory of all elderly persons regarding events of thirty or forty years before is perfectly clear.
Later we get into even more quotes. Read the book for yourself if you'd like to see them all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Atrocities: a judicious selection

The Midnight Sun keeps up with things quite admirably. If you don't mind getting at least a little angry at the world and certain personalities, read these:
  • Around the Blogosphere: five choice cases of political correctness at it meanest and ugliest.
  • Global warming? Really? (Yes, I know that its proponents say that it can cause unusually cold spells - but, as Ed Darrell periodically reminds us, be suspicious of anything that can explain all the facts.
  • Women pastors (of a sort)? Where?
Elsewhere:

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pentecost 16

Today's readings: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; and Matthew 16:21-28 (sermon concentrated on verse 24).
What's the usual reward for a right answer? Recognition? Glory? We know the answer to last week's question, "Who do you say that I am?" But look at today's text: the reward, apparently, is to bear our cross! The answer is not the end but the beginning. But we don't take up His cross - thank God! His cross is rooted, already having been carried, already having borne the infinite weight of all the world's sins. Let your sins stay there, and not take them up again.

This week, those in school have borne crosses of a sort - syllabi, new classes, etc. Instead of standardized syllabi, however, God tailors our crosses to what we need and includes some of what we love. "But that's not fair!" True, it's not identical. But what if "fair" meant "the same principle of individual appropriateness"? Christ says to each of us, "Take up your cross and follow Me."

This is difficult to accept. Lose your life to follow Christ - sacrifice your demand for the perfect, standardized set of talents, relatives, challenges, etc. Your cross, shaped like yourself, takes trust. Accept God's individualized plan for you, not desiring someone else's plan. Take what He's given you. After all, He is personal, near to you, knowing you, loving you, caring for you. He will provide a way under each test and temptation; He knows what you can bear. Having faced the Question, accept His answer.
The pastor this morning teaches, among other things, a class on the New Testament. If only he did have individualized syllabi...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Chapter 9, part 4

Finally, here are OT prophecies literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

First Advent: fact (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 89:20; Ezekiel 34:24), time (Genesis 49:10; Daniel 9:24), divinity (Psalm 2:7, 11; Isaiah 9:6; Malachi 3:1), human generation (Genesis 12:3, 22:18; Isaiah 11:1).
Forerunner: Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1, 4:5.
Nativity/early years: fact (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14), place (Numbers 24:17, 19), adoration by Magi (Psalm 72:10, 15; Isaiah 60:3, 6), descent into Egypt (Hosea 11:1); massacre of innocents (Jeremiah 31:15).
Mission/office: like Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:!5), conversion of Gentiles (Isaiah 11:10, 42:1; Joel 2:32), in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2), miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6, 42:7, 53:4), spiritual graces (Psalm 45:7), preaching (Psalm 2:7, 78:2), purification of the Temple (Psalm 69:9).
Passion: rejected by Jews and Gentiles (Psalm 2:1, 41:5, 69:8; Isaiah 53:1, 65:2), persecuted (Psalm 22:6, 109:2), triumphal entry (Psalm 8:2; Zechariah 9:9), betrayed by friend (Psalm 55:13; Zechariah 13:6), for 30 silver pieces (Zechariah 11:12), betrayer's death (Psalm 109:17), potter's field (Zechariah 11:13), deserted by disciples (Zechariah 13:7), false accusation (Psalm 109:2), silence when accused (Isaiah 53:7), mocking (Psalm 22:7-8, 16), abuse by soldiers (Isaiah 50:6), patient in suffering (Isaiah 53:7-9), crucified (Psalm 22:14, 17), gall/vinegar offered (Psalm 69:21), prayed for enemies (Psalm 109:4), cries on the Cross (Psalm 22:1, 31:5), died in the prime of life (Psalm 102:24), died with evildoers (Isaiah 53:9, 12), nature reacted (Amos 5:20; Zechariah 14:4, 6), cast lots (Psalm 22:18), bones not broken (Psalm 34:20), pierced (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10, 13:6), voluntary death (Psalm 40:6-8), suffered vicariously (Daniel 9:26), buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9).
Resurrection: Psalm 16:8-10, 41:10; Hosea 6:2.
Ascension: Psalm 16:11, 68:18, 118:19.
Second coming: Isaiah 9:6-7; Zechariah 14:4-8; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; Daniel 7:14.

The next several posts will be about the very long chapter 10, discussing the Resurrection.