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.