Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wedding Day

I'm getting married today at 2pm
Everyone is invited
Sorry for the late invites :)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Power Rankings 7

The Super Bowl Caliber Teams
1. NY Giants- Champs may be the best again
2. Tennessee Titans- Big win over Pitt earns #2

3. Pittsburgh Steelers- Should make it to final 4

4. Carolina Panthers- 8-0 at home. See above
5. Indianapolis Colts- Red hot. Hard to keep at 5


The Hard to Beat Teams
6. Baltimore Ravens- Only losses are to top 5
7. Philadelphia Eagles- Snuck into playoffs

8. Atlanta Falcons- Great turnaround

9. NE Patriots- Opponents glad they missed
10.Miami Dolphins- Did what they needed to do
11. San Diego Chargers- Great turnaround


The Average Teams
12. Minnesota Vikings- May be able to win @home
13. Arizona Cardinals- See above, but less likely

14. Dallas Cowboys- Terribly overrated
15. Tampa Bay Bucs- Choked. Big time.
16. NY Jets- See above
17. Chicago Bears- Couldn't win weak division
18. New Orleans Saints- No defense
19. Houston Texans- Bad start cost them

The Bad Teams
20. Washington Redskins- Bad 2nd half
21. SF 49ers- Glimpses of potential late
22. Buffalo Bills- 5-1 to 7-9? Disaster
23. Denver Broncos- See N.O. comment
24. Green Bay Packers- Losses are losses
25. Jacksonville Jaguars- Very poor season
26. Oakland Raiders- Showed some late promise

The REALLY bad teams
27. Cincinnati Bengals- Tiny turnaround at end
28. Seattle Seahawks- Just not much talent
29. Cleveland Browns- See Dallas comment
30. Kansas City Chiefs- Really bad
31. St. Louis Rams- Really really bad
32. Detroit Lions- Really really really really bad

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Toys

2 Questions

What was your favorite gift this year?
What was your favorite gift as a kid?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Teaching Stats

My quest to teach through the entire Bible in 12 years is well ahead of schedule. I have completed 5.5 years of teaching and am just over 65% completed. I'm currently teaching through Judges and Matthew

65.1% of the Bible


64.5% of the Old Testament
75.4% of the Pentateuch
43.4% of the Historical Books
92.2% of the Poetical Books
50.4% of the Prophets

67.3% of the New Testament
62.0% of the Gospels/Acts
59.8% of the Pauline Epistles
91.1% of the Non-Pauline Epistles

What's Left:
Deuteronomy, parts of Joshua, parts of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles, some Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, John, 1 & 2 Corinithians, Ephesians, 1-3 John

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pagan Christmas

Lots of message board chatter, this Christmas season, about the pagan origins of Christmas. This is not surprising given some recent books and the contemporary hatred for all things institutional. Truth be told, a 12/25 celebration does have pagan origins. In the 3rd and 4th century world, that date was, pretty much, a universally celebrated pagan holiday (they believed it was the winter solstice, for one thing, among others). There are basically three positions to take when confronted with this information:

1) What!?! Jesus wasn't born on 12/25? Christmas has pagan origins? We should stop practicing it right now! God must be really mad at us! I can't believe I've been practicing paganism all these years! I'm so sorry! I am now going to become a crusader against Christmas. I must let other Christians know how sinful they are being!

2) Good idea! I think the early Christians were smart to replace pagan festivals with Christian holy days. After all, I was once a pagan and God redeemed me. I happen to think God is in the redeeming business. We're not told when, or even to, celebrate Jesus' birth. So we're free to be creative!

3) So what? Contemporary Christians don't know the pagan origins of Christmas anyways. The day is as 'Christian' or as 'Pagan' as each individual makes it. We can use it to celebrate the incarnation or we can not use it at all. The main question should always be "What is it now?" Is it a Christian celebration of incarnation or a pagan celebration of consumerism? Hmm.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Is God Male?

A poll today. Please leave your position as a comment. This poll is worded just like a poll I saw on a Christian message board the other day. I thought those results were interesting and wanted to see the results from my readers. Please participate.

Is God male?
Yes! The Bible uses the pronoun "He" and Jesus was a man! God is male! 19 46.34%
No! God is everything. God transcends gender! Do not try to limit God. 18 43.90%
I don't know, but Jesus was a man. That has to be mean something, right? 4 9.76%

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Day

I am staying home all day today. It's very snowy and windy. I haven't stayed home all day in a long time. I have done almost absolutely nothing. I'm even too lazy to think up of something to blog about!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grading the Texts

Previously I graded the 7 text books for my class on Wesleyan Theology. Presently, I will grade the 7 texts for my class on Theology, Faith & Culture.

B+ Everyday Theology by Vanhoozer
I thought this was a good book about how to interpret cultural texts with some of the same basic skills we use to interpret the Scriptures. It showed the importance of interpreting these texts which, unfortunately, are often much more influential than the Scriptures in the lives of those who try to minister to. Vanhoozer is solid, but much of the book is made up of examples of this interpretation by his students. Some of them are not well done, preventing this book from getting an 'A'

B Church After Christendom by Murray
I thought this book was a helpful, if choppy, manual for thinking through the issues of how to build a community of faith in a post-christian culture. This book was quite different from the other 6 texts in style

B Brands of Faith by Einstein
It was sometimes difficult to follow what her opinion was, but she gave a thorough discussion of the problems and potentials of faith in a consumer based culture.

B- Consuming Religion by Miller
Basically the same topic as above, but less optimistic (maybe more realistic?). Sometimes a difficult read.

B- A Theology of the Built Environment by Gorringe
Much more interesting than the title indicates. It's mostly about what architecture says about us and what it says to us. It discusses differences between town and country. Stuff like that.

C Convergence Culture by Jenkins
I didn't like this book as much as I expected. I felt like it was just a long list of gadgets and websites. His point was either common sense or not as interesting as is sometimes indicated.

C- A Matrix of Meanings by Detweiler/Taylor
I thought this book was surprisingly liberal. The authors seemed to think that pretty much every cultural text is a good sermon. Big stretches were made throughout.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cookies in Public

When in public, at a function with cookie refreshments, you pretty much have to take whatever cookie you touch. This is unfortunate because I much prefer soft cookies to hard cookies (they are not just better, but they are also easier to eat in public without looking like an idiot). It is not always possible to visually discern whether a cookie is soft or hard. If I'm by myself, I can touch all the cookies to find the soft one's and those who eat the hard cookies later don't know the difference. This is why I prefer to eat cookies in secret.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Power Rankings 6

Super Bowl Favorites
1. NY Giants
2. Tennessee Titans

Playoff Caliber Teams
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Carolina Panthers
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. Tampa Bay Bucs
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10.Miami Dolphins
11. NY Jets
12. Arizona Cardinals

Need some work to make playoffs
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. NE Patriots
15. Minnesota Vikings
16. Chicago Bears
17. Denver Broncos
18. New OrleansSaints
19. Washington Redskins

Out of playoff picture
20. San Diego Chargers
21. Houston Texans
22. SF 49ers
23. Buffalo Bills
24. Green Bay Packers
25. Cleveland Browns
26. Jacksonville Jaguars

In the race for 1st overall pick
27. Seattle Seahawks
28. Oakland Raiders
29. Kansas City Chiefs
30. Cincinnati Bengals
31. St. Louis Rams
32. Detroit Lions

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Trinity Illustration

I have been working on a new illustration of the Trinity. I am not a believer that the Trinity can be perfectly illustrated by triangles, eggs, H2O, or anything else on earth. That being said, I find the pendulum helpful in this regard (though I know there are some major problems with this illustration).

A pendulum has four working features: A pivot, a rod, the Law of Gravity, and a bob. The pivot is the source. The rod connects the source to the bob. The bob swings back and forth in a constant struggle with gravity to exist at the center. As more weight is added to the bob, gravity dictates that there will be less of a swing. Eventually time (the most common function of a pendulum) will be no more.

Christian theology has four working features: The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. The Father is the source. The Son connects the Father to the Church. The Church swings back and forth in a constant struggle with the Spirit to exist at the center of God's will. As more people are added to the Church throughout history, the Spirit dictates that there will be less of a swing. When the quality and quantity of the church is maximized, time will be no more.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Memorial Spaceflights

Today's video is a few minutes longer, but still worth watching. The 2nd quote is especially hilarious and/or ridiculous:



"From the stars we are born... and so to the stars we return"
"The flight modules are placed in earth's orbit until they re-enter the earth's atmosphere and harmlessly vaporized"
"Celestis is the pioneer and unquestioned leader in memorial spaceflights"
"IF the launch succeeds... It'll be great to feel... my husband will be there"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

LifeGem

Today and tomorrow I want to post 2 videos of 'fantasy funerals' which I saw in my class last week at Houghton. I will provide some of the most interesting quotes below. Warning, this video may make you laugh and/or cry:




"It's the carbon of someone you love... turned into a diamond"
"Now they're available in other colors... even clear"
"He had blue eyes... I can make it into a pendant!"
"I can walk up to people and say... Meet my husband"
"Expect to pay $3000-$20,000 per life gem"
"Some clients are now (buying) for their pets!"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Movie Lessons

I am interested in using some movies to start theological conversations. Have any of you been impacted by a movies' message and/or symbolism? Here are some examples of movies and questions aimed at starting conversations:

The Truman Show- Ed Harris' character can be interpreted as God (if you're anti-God) or as the Adversary (if You're a Christian). What was keeping Truman Burbank from true freedom? How important is authenticity? Where should we draw the line on what we use for entertainment?

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind- If given the opportunity to forget our past pains, would we take it? How does suffering positively affect us? What is the connection between forgiving and forgetting?

Seven- Were the victims in this movie innocent? Was the killer like an Old Testament prophet? Was Ernest Hemingway right on both counts when he said that the world is a beautiful place and worth fighting for? Did you have conflicting feelings about what Brad Pitt should do at the end of the film?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My KJV-Only Story

I realized today that I have never posted my KJV-Only story on my blog. Around the time I graduated from High School, our church was without a pastor. We routinely had a guest speaker at our church who was in the KJV-Only camp. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people who simply PREFER the KJV. But this guy went way overboard. He actually took other Bibles during a sermon and made fun of them before dropping them from the platform unto a table below. He used scholarly argumentation like saying 'the message' was the 'mess' of the 'age.' And the NIV must be satanic because there is nothing 'new' under the sun, 'international' means it's part of the coming 1 world satanic government,' and it was really a per-version, not a 'version.' I remember talking to him one Sunday night about this subject and he took the opportunity to inform me that in heaven we will encounter, I kid you not, God the Father, God the Son, and God the King James Version.

James White, in his book "The King James Only Controversy" points out that there are 5 different types of people sometimes labeled KJV-Only. The first group just prefers the KJV (nothing wrong with that, it's a great translation!). The second group feels it is based on better (though not perfect) manuscripts. That's a fair position to take too. The third group goes a bit further by saying that the manuscripts on which the KJV is based have been supernaturally preferred or even inspired. This seems, to me, to be getting too far down the road. The fourth group believes the KJV itself was inspired in English. A fifth group actually believes the KJV is new revelation. In other words, if the KJV goes against the manuscripts, the KJV is correct.

The motivation of KJV-Onlyists is usually quite natural. Humans like certainty. They want to be certain that we have God's perfect Word. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary to assume that the only (or even that the preferable) way for God to preserve the Scripture is to preserve it through 1 particular English translation.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Knew News

~ 30 days until Katie & I are married!
~ Just finished a 23 week 'miracles' series
~ The Buffalo Bills are really annoying
~ Only about 30 more pages to write this semester
~ Great discussion of sanctification in SS today
~ Just started series in Matthew @ Lockport
~ My 2008 financial goal will go down to the wire

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

For the first time ever (at least that I'm aware of), I participated in 'Black Friday.' It's crazy, in my opinion, that so many people are willing to get up at and be at the stores before they open at 5am. I was not in 'the market' for anything urgent (I am a grinch and only buy Christmas gifts for a half dozen people or less). But I was keeping my eye open for a good deal on a TV. I am going to sell my 32 inch widescreen TV for about $300 and buy a 37 inch widescreen flat pannel TV for about $600. Since my current TV is very bulky, this will save a lot of space and be easier to reposition slightly for different settings (Wii, movies, out of the way for company, etc.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday has arrived!
Now to ruin your appetite.........
(So there will be more for me!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Power Rankings 5

Super Bowl Favorites
1. NY Giants
2. Tennessee Titans

Playoff Caliber Teams
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Tampa Bay Bucs
5. NY Jets
6. NE Patriots
7. Carolina Panthers
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Washington Redskins
10.Indianapolis Colts
11. Baltimore Ravens
12. Arizona Cardinals

Need some work to make playoffs
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Chicago Bears
16. Miami Dolphins
17. Buffalo Bills
18. Minnesota Vikings
19. Denver Broncos
20. Philadelphia Eagles
21. Green Bay Packers

Out of playoff picture
22. San Diego Chargers
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
24. Cleveland Browns
25. Houston Texans
26. Oakland Raiders
27. SF 49ers

In the race for 1st overall pick
28. Seattle Seahawks
29. Cincinnati Bengals
30. St. Louis Rams
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Detroit Lions

Monday, November 24, 2008

Grading the Texts

One of the two courses I've been taking this semester is on Wesleyan theology. Since I get graded on my responses to these texts, I think it only fair that I grade the texts themselves.

A Responsible Grace by Randy Maddox
Our Prof. said this was the hottest Wesleyan book out there and I can see why. It was a well-written and well-argued book placing God's grace and human response-ability at the center of Wesleyan theology.

A- Good News to the Poor by Theo Jennings
This is a liberation theology. Jennings passionately makes an argument for a preference for the poor. He heavily quotes Wesley. I think some of his quotes and scriptural references are taken too far, but it's a good book to stir us up.

B God and the World by John Cobb
I very much disagree with Cobb, but he was passionate and argued his position as best as it could be argued. He's a process theologian.

B Doxology by Geoffrey Wainwright
This book looks at theology from the perspective of worship/liturgy. An interesting book, but way longer than it needed to be.

C+ The New Creation by Theo Runyon
Not much to disagree with, but Runyon's book just isn't as strong as Maddox'. I thought it was sort of bland.

C Scriptural Christianity by Thomas Oden
This book aims to put Wesley thoughts and quotes into systematic categories. It may be a good quick reference, but I found the format of the book annoying.

C Practical Divinity by Thomas Langford
These 2 volumes highlight some key people in Wesleyan theological history with brief biographies and portions of their writings. Good idea, but he seemed to pick a good number of boring entries.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Atonement Theories

I'm trying to teach a basic overview of the various atonement theories. I'm trying to find a good mix of depth and simplicity. Line 1 (of each theory) gives a general idea of which groups tend to believe this view. Line 2 says what the theory views as the main problem provoking atonement. Line 3 describes the theory very briefly. Line 4 gives Scriptural support. Line 5 shares a movie that helps to illustrate the theory. Line 6 raises critical questions surrounding the theory. Any recommendations to what I've got?

Ransom Theory
1. Early Church, Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostals
2. Deals with the problem of Satan’s power
3. God trades Jesus for mankind, but gets both
4. Mark 10:45, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Timothy 2:6
5. Illustrated by The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
6. Satan wins? God deceives? Other Scriptures?

Moral Influence Theory
1. Mainline Protestant, Theological liberals
2. Deals with the problem man’s inability
3. Man is selfish, Jesus shows the way of self-sacrifice
4. Romans 5:8, Philippians 2:5-8
5. Illustrated by Pay it Forward
6. Depravity? Grace and works? Other Scriptures?

Satisfaction Theories
1. Roman Catholics, Conservative Protestants
----a) Commercial (Roman Catholics)
----b) Political (Protestant- Arminian)
----c) Legal (Protestant- Calvinist)
2. Deals with the problem of God’s justice
3. Man is in debt to God, Jesus volunteers to pay
4. Leviticus 16:10, 21-22, John 10:18, 1 Peter 3:18
5. Illustrated by The Last Sin Eater
6. Violence? Justice? Other Scriptures?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Hip'ocrisy?

I have been a leading hater of cell phones (for example, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). Yesterday, I bought one. But it doesn't count. Being a pastor, people need to be able to reach me at home. Rather than paying for a landline, we decided it made more sense to have a cell phone as our home phone for when I move in. It doesn't count as me having a cell phone b/c it will really only leave the house when I am traveling to and back from Houghton in snowy conditions. Also, we got a plan withOUT texting (my most hated element of cell phone usage).

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Case for WNY

No, this is not the latest book by Lee Strobel. This is my own argument for Western NY weather. When most of the country thinks of Buffalo, they think of a whole lot of snow. True enough, snow is definitely a reality here. But I believe WNY (and, in particular, Niagara County) is an fairly ideal place to live when it comes to weather. Unlike some more well-liked locations, we aren't threatened by the random hurricane, tornado, earthquake, fire, flood, etc. The only extreme weather we get is an occassionally powerful thunder storm and an ice storm every once in a while. The snow factor can be overstated. A few years back Buffalo got national attention for having like 7 feet of snow. But where I live, only 50 minutes away from Buffalo, we only got 1 foot! Sure, the roads are sometimes bad, but Niagara County is incredibly flat, which makes driving on them quite a bit easier.

What is your town known for? Is it true?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

< 20%

For the first time on record, the US smoking rate in under 20% for adults. I think this is very good news! In my opinion, smoking is stupid medically, financially, socially, and spiritually. I hope the rate continues to fall.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Atheism

I define the term 'atheist' differently that some people. To me, an 'atheist' is someone who says 'there is no god.' Such a person is, by definition, an arrogant and unreasonable person because such a bold claim cannot be made unless every avenue of investigation has been pursued and the case for theism found bankrupt. That is why the Bible says that only a fool denies the possibility of God or a god. Because of this definition, I think atheists are idiots and few and far between.

Now, there are agnostics that lean toward atheism. But I don't think such people are idiots. I just think they've been misinformed and/or taught a wrong way to evaluate truth. Then there are agnostics who lean toward theism, but remain agnostic b/c of cultural skepticism.

Of course, there are theists who are practical atheists. And there are theists who are worse idiots than atheists. That's another story.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Power Rankings 5

1. Tennessee Titans
2. NY Giants

3. Carolina Panthers
4. Pittsburgh Steelers

5. NE Patriots
6. Washington Redskins
7. Tampa Bay Bucs
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Philadelphia Eagles
11. Chicago Bears
12. Arizona Cardinals
13. Atlanta Falcons
14. NY Jets
15. Baltimore Ravens

16. Miami Dolphins
17. Buffalo Bills
18. Minnesota Vikings
19. Denver Broncos
20. San Diego Chargers

21. Green Bay Packers
22. New Orleans Saints
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
24. Cleveland Browns
25. Houston Texans

26. Seattle Seahawks
27. SF 49ers
28. St. Louis Rams

29. Oakland Raiders
30. Kansas City Chiefs
31. Cincinnati Bengals
32. Detroit Lions

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Who's Your Mouse?

At the end of this video, there's a mouse with an idea. Who, in politics, is playing the part of that mouse in your view and your country?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Thoughts

1. I had predicted an electoral landslide and I was right. Despite winning by only 6%, Obama more than doubled McCain's electoral count. As an aside, I think if it were put up to a popular vote, the electoral college would certainly be voted down.

2. Against my hopes, hardly anyone voted 3rd party. This is my biggest problem with the American people. We dislike both the Republican and Democratic parties, but we keep voting for them over and over and over. Only 1 state gave more than 2% of the vote to a 3rd candidate (Ron Paul in Montanta, and he wasn't even running!).

3. It's amazing to me that even though George W. Bush is, perhaps, the most hated President of all-time, and even though John McCain ran a poor campaign, and even though the war hasn't gone well, and even though the economy stinks... A couple percentage points in handful of states would have placed Republicans back in the Presidency. This was a must win for the Democrats, but they barely won it.

4. As of now, Al Franken is being kept out of the US Senate by less than 600 votes. This is very depressing as he must be one of the lousiest human beings on the planet. I can't believe such a man can get that many votes.

5. It was a bad day for life. Pro-life ballot measures failed miserably in Colorado and even lost in South Dakota. Doctor assisted suicide won in Washington. Obama won and will probably have opportunity to elect liberal Supreme Court Justices.

6. It was a bad day for homosexual marriage. Arizona and Florida banned it. Arkansas banned gay couples from adopting. Even California seems to have banned gay marriage, reversing earlier decisions in that state (Though this vote was very close). While black voters may have helped get liberals the Presidency, they were no friend to liberals in this area. In California, 'white' voters were AGAINST banning gay marriage 53-47%. But 70% of 'black' voters were FOR the ban on gay marriage.

7. In the end, I doubt any of this will impact my personal life very much.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We will Cry with Hope

Three children died last night. I knew them. I'd held them and played with them. They'd been to our church many times. I'd seen them laugh and seen them cry.

I've been studying and teaching a lot about prevenient grace. I've been thinking a lot about the age of accountability. On mornings like this, the information becomes flesh. The arguments against the doctrine becomes cruel sounding. The Scriptures pointing to it become sources of peace and hope.

It's not a doctrine we take from any one passage. We believe dying children go to be with the Lord because of our beliefs about the very nature of our Lord. We believe He is loving and just and we have a hard time understanding how any other scenario fits with those qualities. But the doctrine is not without Scriptural support either. The Bible typically treats sin as the willful violation of a known law of God. The Bible is quite clear that children don't generally know right from wrong. The Bible speaks of God as one who takes ignorance into account. The Bible implies that the kingdom belongs to little children. The grace of God lovingly reaches out to such as these. They are absent from the body, but present with the Lord.

And so we do not grieve like the rest of men. We do grieve, but not without hope. We know that the God of the universe has, and will do, what's right. We are comforted knowing that they are comforted. We are hopeful knowing that we will see them again. That, one day, we'll be able to play together again.

Steven Curtis Chapman recently lost a young daughter. He had previously written these words, which I now echo:

This is not at all
How we thought it was suppose to be
We had so many plans for you
We has so many dreams
But now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can Take away the pain
The pain of losing you

And we will cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
'Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we will grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say ' well done.'
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now your home
And now your free

And we will cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
'Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we will grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promises us is true

And we will cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
'Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we will grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why 12/31

I'm not sure if I put the date of my wedding on my previous 'engaged' post. Katie and I are going to be married on December 31st. Some have wondered why we picked this date. Here are some reasons (some are mildly romantic, others are otherwise).

1. I don't like long engagements. If I know I'm ready to ask someone to marry me, I know I'm ready to actually marry them. We've been together for over a year and we're ready.

2. For the past 3 or 4 years, Katie and I have participated in a New Year's Eve party at the church. This means that we've spent the transition from one year to the next together (even holding hands in a prayer circle) even when we were not yet a couple. So the 31st is meaningful to us in that way.

3. I like the idea of starting off 2009 in a truly fresh way. I didn't want to start another year not married to Katie.

4. Tax purposes (I told you they weren't all romantic)

5. It'll be easier for me to remember our anniversary and gives us the option to combine Christmas and Anniversary gifts into 1 more expensive gift, if necessary.

6. I was sort of thinking that a shorter engagement would prevent the wedding from becoming overly complicated and elaborate. Our wedding will still be fairly simple, but I'm partially amazed by all the details that can be added.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Evangelical Options

I've talked to or heard from a lot of Evangelicals regarding how they are voting in the upcoming election and why. Here is a list of the 15 most common positions. Which numbers resonate with you?

I'm an Evangelical and I will...

1. Vote Obama: He's the best candidate
I think his policies match Xianity well

2. Vote Obama: We need a change
We need to shake things up. He's different

3. Vote Obama: To punish the Republicans
That party needs to realize they've lost us

4. Vote Obama: To punish America
If the US gets worse, we'll get on our knees

5. Vote McCain: He's the best candidate
I think his policies match Xianity well

6. Vote McCain: Necessary to stop Obama
They're both bad, but Obama is far worse!

7. Vote McCain: I really like Sarah Palin
Palin is the lone 'Evangelical' of the 4

8. Vote 3rd Party: He/she is the best candidate
I think the CP, LP, GP, PP, other is ideal

9. Vote 3rd Party: To protest 2-party system
We need to break the 2 party system

10. Write-in: A ideal person who isn't running
There's no one good on the list, I'll still vote

11. Write-in: To mock the system
Our government is so corrupt, I'll vote snoopy

12. Not Vote: I'm lazy and/or don't care
It's not high on my priority list

13. Not Vote: There's no one good to vote for
Is this really the best we have to offer?

14. Not Vote: My vote won't make a difference
My state is already decided, the system stinks

15. Not Vote: I'm a pilgrim
Why would I vote in THEIR election?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ByeBye MySpace

After a few more of my solely 'myspace' using friends joined 'facebook,' I finally felt comfortable deleting my Myspace. I never liked myspace and I am glad to be rid of it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Power Rankings 4

1. Tennessee Titans
2. NY Giants

3. Carolina Panthers
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Washington Redskins
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Tampa Bay Bucs
9. NE Patriots
10. Philadelphia Eagles
11. Green Bay Packers
12. Chicago Bears

13. Arizona Cardinals
14. Denver Broncos
15. New Orleans Saints
16. Atlanta Falcons
17. NY Jets
18. Jacksonville Jaguars
19. Indianapolis Colts
20. San Diego Chargers
21. Minnesota Vikings
22. Cleveland Browns
23. Baltimore Ravens
24. Houston Texans
25. Miami Dolphins

26. St. Louis Rams
27. Seattle Seahawks
28. Oakland Raiders
29. SF 49ers

30. Kansas City Chiefs
31. Detroit Lions
32. Cincinnati Bengals

Saturday, October 25, 2008

PAM

Pastor Appreciation Month was pretty cool this year. For starters, we had an awesome potluck dinner. It was one of my favorite church dinners of all-time. We had beef on weck (a WNY specialty) and everyone brought a salad of some sort (bean, pasta, or something creative). After the meal a bunch of people took the mic and shared their appreciation for Pastor Joe and I. I felt very appreciated and humbled. Next, there was a skit in which the roles of Pastor Joe and I were played by 2 of the teens. They did a very good job of noting some of our idiosyncrasies. Then the night ended with a special number from the 'Cast-Off Crowns' (The LBA pretended to play guitars, sing, and whatnot while "If we are the body" played in the background). I guess all I can say about that is... if THAT is the body, we're in big trouble. In any case, it was fun. I dislike being the center of attention, but they did a great job of keeping things light and yet meaningful.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Solid, Leaning, Toss-up

I really enjoy the Real Clear Politics site when it comes to the latest polls. The site is frequently updated and very easy to navigate for solid information. At the bottom of the linked page, it shows which states are SOLIDLY in place for either Obama or McCain. Then there are states that are only LEANING one direction or the other. Finally, some states are still a TOSS UP at this point.

As I was reading that I was thinking of how this relates to doctrines. There are some doctrines that are SOLIDLY believed in my mind. Other doctrines I LEAN towards. Still other doctrinal disputes I'm still very UNDECIDED. It'd be interested to create a massive list of doctrinal controversies and then place one of these terms beside it. For examples:

QUESTION:
In terms of Soteriology, are you a calvinist or an arminian?

Answer:
Arminian: (Solid)

QUESTION:
In terms of Eschatology, are you a futurist, a historicist, a preterist, or an idealist?

ANSWER:
Preterist (Leaning)

QUESTION:
In terms of an intermediate state, do you believe the wicked suffer prior to judgment day or are unconscious?

Answer:
(Toss Up)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Engaged!

I know I have been tricky in the past about such things, but The Matthew Never Knew is now announcing the engagement of Matthew and Katie. Cash gifts accepted.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sticks and Stones

"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never hurt me"

Is this common saying mostly true or mostly false?
I made a new one that I think is more accurate

"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words forever haunt me"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ghost Hunters

Tonight, the Sci-fi show Ghost Hunters will be featuring a local winery (just a few miles from our church). Interestingly enough, I had never been to the winery in 26 years of living here, but this year I've been there maybe 5 times for weddings and whatnot. Anyways, here is a link to an advertisement for tonight's episode (9pm eastern). Even though it makes it sound like it's in Connecticut, it's really in Western NY.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Power Rankings3

1. Tennessee Titans
2. NY Giants
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Buffalo Bills

5. Tampa Bay Bucs
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Washington Redskins

8. Carolina Panthers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Arizona Cardinals
11. San Diego Chargers
12. Indianapolis Colts

13. Chicago Bears
14. New Orleans Saints
15. NE Patriots
16. Atlanta Falcons
17. Jacksonville Jaguars
18. Philadelphia Eagles

19. NY Jets
20. Green Bay Packers
21. Minnesota Vikings
22. Cleveland Browns

23. Baltimore Ravens
24. Miami Dolphins
25. Houston Texans
26. SF 49ers

27. Seattle Seahawks
28. Oakland Raiders
29. Kansas City Chiefs
30. St. Louis Rams
31. Cincinnati Bengals
32. Detroit Lions

Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Failure

I absolutely forgot to do BBC Blogging Day this year (9-4-08). This, and the fact that I didn't even realize until this week, is a reflection of my general failure at being the kind of blogger that I have been in the past. But alas, I still love blogging and have a special announcement about my blog coming in a few days.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My Plan

I have a plan that will never happen, but would work (in my opinion). ALL the political conservatives in certain blue (democrat controlled) states should vote 3rd party (Baldwin or Barr). What's more, all the liberals in the certain red (republican controlled) states should vote 3rd party (Barr or Nader). In this way, both corrupt parties will realize the extent of the dissatisfaction of the citizens. Battleground states are, in my plan, encouraged to vote as per usual. Let's look at a map:

The gray states (NV, CO, MO, IN, OH, VA, NC, FL) are toss-ups at this point. They can fight it out. The light blue (WA, NM, MN, WI, MI, NJ) are leaning toward Obama, but it's still close enough to fight it out. Likewise, the light red states (WV, GA) are leaning McCain and are free to fight it out, under my plan, as well. But this leaves 34 states that aren't up for grabs. McCain is going to win the bulk of the mid-west. Obama is going to win the north-east and west-coast.

One thing Americans agree about is that our leaders are doing a poor job all around. So why would people in these 34 states support candidates that they know won't win their states? All this does is encourage the two party system that we all agree stinks! Americans in these 34 states should unite in our rejection of the 2 party system. While this would, by definition, not impact the electoral process 1 iota, it would significantly impact the popular vote. And even though the popular vote doesn't count, it does get noticed.

In 2004, only just over 1 million people voted for candidates OTHER THAN Bush & Kerry! With my plan, at least 31 MILLION votes would be cast for 3rd party candidates. If you took 15 million votes away from each party in 2004, the results would have looked like this:

47 Million for Bush
44 Million for Kerry
31 Million for Other

Will the Republicans and Democrats take note of America's dislike for the 2 party system if 3rd party's only get just over 1 million votes? I certainly don't think so! But with numbers like those shown above, they will take notice. And, even more importantly, a good third party candidate would actually be in the media mix.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Life of Wesley

I am going to attempt to teach about John Wesley's life in a 45 minute Sunday School block. I created 23 bullet point which I hope will give me room to cover the key material. Anything vital missing in your opinion?

The Life of John Wesley

  •  Born June 17th, 1703
  •  Number 15 of 19 children (10 survived)
  •  Rescued from house-fire (1709)
  •  School in London (1714), Oxford (1720)
  •  Leader of the ‘Holy Club’ (1729)
  •  Missionary to Georgia (1735-1738)
  •  Charles converts, writes 1st hymn (1738)
  •  John’s heart ‘strangely warmed’ (1738)
  •  England’s pulpits close to Wesley brothers
  •  Begins preaching outdoors (1739)
  •  3 point circuit (London, Bristol, New Castle)
  •  Societies, Classes, and Bands created
  •  Fell on London Bridge, married nurse (1751)
  •  Spouse separated in 1771, died in 1781
  •  Ordained 28 ministers, separating Methodism
  •  Traveled about 250,000 miles for preaching
  •  Preached 40,000 sermons (3,000 unique)
  •  Wrote/Edited b/w 200 and 300 books
  •  Gave away more than 30,000 pounds to needy
  •  Movement reached 50,000 English members
  •  Movement reached 15,000 Americans
  •  Wrote final letter (to William Wilberforce)
  •  Died on March 2nd, 1791

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Power Rankings2

1. NY Giants
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Washington Redskins
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Tampa Bay Bucs
7. Carolina Panthers
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Philadelphia Eagles
11. San Diego Chargers
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
13. Baltimore Ravens
14. Chicago Bears
15. Green Bay Packers
16. New Orleans Saints
17. Indianapolis Colts
18. NE Patriots
19. NY Jets
20. Arizona Cardinals
21. Minnesota Vikings
22. Cleveland Browns
23. SF 49ers
24. Atlanta Falcons
25. Seattle Seahawks
26. Houston Texans
27. Miami Dolphins
28. Oakland Raiders
29. Kansas City Chiefs
30. Detroit Lions
31. Cincinnati Bengals
32. St. Louis Rams

Monday, September 29, 2008

Office Plan

My favorite show is, by far, The Office. But on Thursday nights I have men's group and then play basketball till about 9:30. I have decided to DVR all of the episodes and watch them around Christmas time. With the Houghton program in full swing, I'm down to Friday and Saturday nights as my only free evenings. This partially explains my lack of recent weekend posting. Speaking of Houghton, I must now go there. Bye :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yearbook Yourself

Via facebook I found the website Yearbook Yourself and found the results funny enough to share. Here are my 5 favorite grad pics!

1976
1978
1980
1988
1990

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Community at a Distance

I, for one, am glad about the changes the Wesleyan Church made in regards to community membership. I am glad they can now vote. But I still think the denomination did a poor job of reflecting the intent of the majority in the wording of the community membership agreement. The following lines in '5575' are unfortunate:

"The church of Jesus Christ is not only for those who are spiritually strong and mature" ... "There are those who are not yet ready for Covenant membership in the Wesleyan Church" ... "They may participate in church life until they may become Covenant members" ... "It is your purpose to prepare to be received at the proper time in Covenant Membership"

I really think Community Membership should no longer be necessarily viewed as a stepping stone to Covenant membership. Do we really have to call Christians who won't sign up for our particular legalisms immature and unready? They already can't serve in elected office. Can't we just let them be without speaking down to them? Just my thoughts. I'm hoping there is still time to change this wording.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Under the Sea

I had a strange thing occur just now while half-asleep. I was dreaming a music video. The song was about walking on the ocean floor. In the dream, I was able to live underwater and the song was about my life there. The lyrics were descriptive and accurate of what I was doing. But it turns out I was only half-asleep because Jackson Brown was performing a new song on Colbert Report, which was looping on my DVR. His song was about going to Cuba 'where the river ends.'

I find this fascinating. Obviously my 'dream' was partially based on the waking world. The 'sound' of the song was exactly Jackson Brown's tune. The lyrics were even slightly overlapping in content. But the story of the song was completely different. And 'my' lyrics were full, complete, and sensible. In the dream world, it seems, I am a prolific song-writer. I often wonder if we're much more creative in our dream states than we are in the waking world, and if so, what stifles creativity while awake?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Critique my Chart

I made a chart, a while back, that I think works very well for discussing the Calvinist vs. Arminian theology. In our anti-institutional age, it seems to work well to describe dismiss the extremes of both labels and focus on a biblical yet balanced view. But I'd be glad to receive constructive criticism of either my message or my method in making it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ghost Town

He sees dead people. Sounds like it's been done before, but 'Ghost Town' is a surprisingly fresh comedy starring Ricky Gervais (the boss on the BBC version of 'The Office') as a dentist named Bertram Pincus. Dr. Pincus doesn't like people, so it's quite unfortunate when, after 'dying' for 7 minutes at the hospital, he's able to see a lot more of them. These ghosts have unfinished business on earth, and once they realize Pincus can see them, they won't leave him alone.

This is probably one of the funniest movies I've seen in a few years. Gervais deserves a wider American audience and he'll probably have a good string of American movies in the next 5 years. The supporting cast is also good, especially Greg Kinear, Tea Leoni, and Kristetn Wiig. The movie is more funny as a comedy (first 75% of film) than it is powerful as a point-making film (final quarter), but overall, a very enjoyable movie going experience.

Rating: 7.9
Status: Must See

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Power Rankings

Every 2 weeks, I intend to give my NFL power rankings

1. Dallas Cowboys
2. NY Giants
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Green Bay Packers
5. NE Patriots
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Denver Broncos
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Tennessee Titans
10. Arizona Cardinals
11. Indianapolis Colts
12. San Diego Chargers
13. Philadelphia Eagles
14. Chicago Bears
15. New Orleans Saints
16. Minnesota Vikings
17. Jacksonville Jaguars
18. Cleveland Browns
19. Tampa Bay Bucs
20. Washington Redskins
21. Baltimore Ravens
22. Seattle Seahawks
23. NY Jets
24. Houston Texans
25. Oakland Raiders
26. SF 49ers
27. Atlanta Falcons
28. Detroit Lions
29. Cincinnati Bengals
30. Kansas City Chiefs
31. St. Louis Rams
32. Miami Dolphins

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What to do?

Over the past several weeks, I've noticed an intense discomfort among some Christians about the following passages. What do YOU do with these verses?

Judges 9:23
God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech.

1 Samuel 19:9
But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp

2 Chronicles 18:22
"So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lemonade

For over 650 noteguides, similar to the one below, click on the Knew Kingdom link on the left sidebar :)

What good can come from bad circumstances?
An analysis of Philippians 1:12-30

1. They can allow us to be a light in a dark place
“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (13)

2. They can provoke others to step up
“Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (14)

3. They can get God’s people praying
“I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers… what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (19)

4. They can help us to sense God’s presence
“Through… the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (19)

5. They can remind us of our purpose
“Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death… I will continue with all of your for your progress (20, 25)

6. They can be a sign to unbelievers
“This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God.” (28)

7. They can prepare others for similar struggles
“It has been granted to you… to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had.” (29-30)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Media Trends

I don't think I ever posted this video which shows how much mainstream media coverage impacts the thinking of mainstream citizens. It's a very interesting video, about 7 minutes long.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The 'Liberal' Label

Tuesday night at our small group my view on a particular issue was labeled 'very liberal' by one of the great members of our fun lil gatherings. I believe this is the first time a position of mine has been labeled 'liberal' (of course, the discussion wasn't hostile at all, but an edifying discussion of some pretty deep theology). But this got me to thinking about the 'liberal' label.

Years ago, I would have been very offended to have any of my views placed in that camp. Republican politics branded the word as a synonym for evil. In reality, though, the label should be dealt with on a case by case basis. A political 'liberal' likes to tax and spend. I'm not a fan of that kind of liberal. But it's good to be 'liberal' with your money when dealing with the less fortunate.

Even in theology, the label 'liberal' can be good or bad in different cases. It's considered 'liberal' to reject the historicity of Jesus and His resurrection. That kind of liberal is bad. But in our group, my position that 'those who have never heard of Jesus' may still be saved by Jesus was rightly labeled liberal. Now that's a label I can be proud of in that it recognizes the liberal amount of grace and love that extend from Jesus. If the source of your liberality is love and faith, that's my kind of liberality. If, however, the source of your liberality is self and unbelief, I reject your liberalism.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Negative Evangelism

Let's say you're a star high school football player. 2 college coaches have come to your house to recruit you for their teams. The 1st coach promises you a full scholarship. He highlights their phenomenal fitness center and guarantees you'll be amazed by the roar of their crowds. He even whispers to you, when your parents step out of the room, that the party life on campus is awesome. As he walks out, you wonder how anyone could make a more appealing offer than what you've just heard!

The 2nd coach, on the other hand, focused on how big of a commitment it will be to join his team. You'll have to pay a price. Classes won't be watered down just b/c you're a star athlete. You won't have as much time for your family and friends. As he walks out the door, you wonder if he was trying to talk you into enrolling or out of it!

Which coach's recruiting method is more like Christ's? Which is more like the church's?

Friday, September 05, 2008

NFL Predictions

American Football Conference

East
13-3 New England
10-6 Buffalo
8-8 NY Jets
4-12 Miami

North
10-6 Cleveland
10-6 Pittsburgh
4-12 Baltimore
4-12 Cincinnati

South
12-4 Indianapolis
9-7 Jacksonville
8-8 Houston
8-8 Tennessee

West
13-3 San Diego
6-10 Oakland
6-10 Denver
4-12 Kansas City

National Football Conference

East
13-3 Dallas
10-6 NY Giants
9-7 Philadelphia
4-12 Washington

North
10-6 Minnesota
7-9 Green Bay
7-9 Detroit
6-10 Chicago

South
11-5 New Orleans
9-7 Carolina
8-8 Tampa Bay
4-12 Atlanta

West
9-7 Arizona
8-8 Seattle
6-10 St. Louis
6-10 San Francisco

Super Bowl
San Diego over Dallas

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Dotted Line

Today one of my tasks is to sign an agreement with a local ministry. As part of the agreement, I'm to agree with this ministry's 'statement of faith' of which there are 10 items. While I'd like to re-word a couple of them, there is one that I'm not sure I can sign-off on.

8. We believe healing is provided for in the atonement and that it is a privilege for all believers (Isaiah 53:4, Matt. 8:16, John 5:14, 1 Peter 2:24)

I'd have to have clarification on this. Are they saying all believers can be healed of PHYSICAL diseases upon request b/c the work of physical healing is already accomplished in the cross? Or are they talking about SPIRITUAL healing? Or are they saying that physical healing will ULTIMATELY be accomplished in the resurrection? My guess is they mean PHYSICAL and they mean NOW, but if that's the case I can't sign the agreement.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Prayers that Work

I've been noticing something lately about prayer. When we pray for little things that will teach big lessons, God seems to be very interested in answering with a yes. I'll give you an example. Person X has a pet missing for 3 days as of Saturday night. Person X knows I'm a pastor and asks me to pray that this pet will return. I, of course, agree to do so and ask 2 different churches to pray the next morning. Pet comes home by noon on Sunday.

Now, I've prayed for such things many times and had the hoped-for results not come about. But this time, instead of just praying for the pet to come home, I prayed that God's seemingly little action would teach a big lesson. My prayer was as follows: "God, you care about everything that we care about. Person X cares very much about this pet. If it be your will, bring this pet home. Let this person learn that you care about her concerns and, more importantly, that you're in the business of bringing the lost home. Amen."

So a new tactic in my prayer life is to try to identify how answered prayers would fit with what God wants people to know about Him. Instead of just praying for this or that, I'm praying for 'this' b/c it will prove 'that' in recognition of the fact that all things allowed into our lives can serve as part of God's plan to relate to His children.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Surprised by Hope

Some books are enjoyable in that they challenge me to a new way of thinking. Other books I enjoy because they affirm that a new way I've already been thinking is on the right tract. NT Wright's 'Surprised by Hope' fits in the latter category. Though the book faded for me (I enjoy Wright more as a historian and case-maker than as a pastor and application-maker), the first 200 pages were great.

The book is really about resurrection and how the word took on new meaning with Jesus and His people. It's about avoiding the departures from this core doctrine that go both directions (the anti-materialists and the only-materialists). Wright's message is that the Bible's message is not about 'going to heaven when you die' but living the kingdom today and hoping for heaven to be realized here on earth.

Wright is easier to pin down, here than usual, he talks specifically about doctrines he agrees with and doesn't agree with. He shares great insights on resurrection, ascension and mission. He gets specific on paradise, purgatory and the 3 main views of hell. He describes the first 2 views (eternal torment and universal reconciliation) and then seems to agree with the third view (conditional immortality) before, in typical Wright style, proposing a 4th view that is really a blend of 1 and 3 by speculating that the wicked lose their humanity (thus ceasing to exist) while still existing in some other state eternally (Frankly, I think he'd have been better off just to stick with conditional immortality, but I appreciate the fresh approach!).

I don't want my earlier statements to imply that after page 200 the book is not worth reading. There are some good thoughts toward the end, but I prefer to let the reader make the applications from the fresh theology. Great book.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

ALEFYT

Well, today I started the Master's Program with a 10-4 'retreat' on Houghton's campus. We discussed Helmut Thielicke's "A Little Exercise for Young Theologians" which was a good way to start an academic theological semester. The author warns theological students against pride and non impacting information. Here are some good quotes:

"Anyone who deals with truth - as we theologians certainly do - succumbs all too easily to the psychology of the possessor. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. it is self-giving."

"The man who studies theology, and especially he who studies dogmatics, might watch carefully whether he increasingly does not think in the third rather than in the second person (about God)."

"(Theology) can be sacred or diabolical. That depends upon the hands and hearts which further it. But which of the two it is cannot necessarily be seen by the fact that in one case it is orthodox and in the other heretical. I don't believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas... Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to the sources of life."

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain/Palin

* Update: Just listened to Sarah Palin's speech. Very impressive!

It is being reported that John McCain has made a surprising choice in his search for a running mate. While names like Mitt Romney & Joe Lieberman were being thrown around, I had guessed that McCain would pick a woman. But I had never heard of the woman he seems to have selected: Sarah Palin. And so I read all about her just now on Wikipedia. I'd have to say I am very impressed by her and McCain's wisdom in picking her. She sounds really cool. She was a high school basketball star. She finished 2nd in a 'Miss Alaska' competition. She eloped with a native eskimo and the couple used old-age home residents as their witnesses. She's got a very clean political record and has called out her own party on numerous occassions. Very impressive wikipedia article. So it's pretty obvious why I consider this choice wise, but here are the top 3 reasons.

Her Youth
One of McCain's major problems is his age. He was the oldest major candidate throughout this process. Sarah Palin is a couple years younger than Obama. She looks fresh and active. While the democrats will probably attempt to point out her inexperience, they won't have much to stand on since she's been Governor of Alaska which is on par with being a Senator from Illinois. Both have short experiences in perspectives.

Her Gender
The reason I predicted McCain would pick a woman is b/c I think he truly believes he can get a good portion of the 'Hillary' crowd. I don't know if that's true, but I do think this selection will appeal, very much, to soccer mom's around the country. Palin has 5 kids. I think this pick gets McCain a lot of votes.

Her Record
Palin has just the kind of record people want these days. Not only is she void of scandel, but she's actually the kind of politician that uncovers scandel (even when it's happening in her own party). She has a very high approval rating. She's visibly against wasteful spending (McCain probably got to know her b/c of the 'bridge to nowhere' project).

Ways it could hurt McCain...
1) If America views her as TOO young
2) If Hillary voters are more liberal than guessed
3) She doesn't carry any name recognition

Thursday, August 28, 2008

3 Alternatives

Suppose you came to agree with me that the traditional view of Satan's origin (as a good angel gone bad before The Fall) carries some heavy philosophical and theological baggage. Are there alternatives? Are we forced to swallow a pill that just doesn't go down smoothly? I don't think so. Here are 3 alternative views of Satan's origin that are, at least, worth considering.

1) One route to take is a less literal view of the adversary. Though it goes against many of the fundamentalist and evangelical senses, we should at least consider that what the Bible describes in passages mentioning the satan is just that; a description of human experience. I'm sure there are many variations on this theme. Personally, I am not inclined to go this direction. At least not at this point. And probably never.

2) Another option is a view that seems to be picking up some momentum. Might the satan have been created as a testing-angel. Angels are given specific roles from God. What would have stopped Him from creating an angel with the specific role of testing His people? After all, tests are actually a good thing. Perhaps the satan has performed his role faithfully, but Christ has passed the test with flying colors so that, one day, the tester will no longer be necessary and will be cast away.

3) As a variation of option 2, I have been brainstorming another theory. It may be new. I have never seen anyone, besides myself, argue for it. But my theory (thrown out there for others to dismantle) is that, as view 2 states, the satan was created with a worthwhile role (as a testing agent) and performed this role faithfully. But, in the course of time, mankind's consistent failure to pass his tests, their willingness to offer worship to objects used as tests, and, perhaps, his growing awareness that, in light of Jesus' ministry, his time as tester was running short, the satan became a corrupted agent.

I am testing this 3rd theory out on various message boards. So far, I feel it is quite workable and stands up to the various relevant Scriptures.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Satan's Sin Rewind

Well, I've been getting lots of feedback on my question about Satan's sin (some comments on this blog, but mostly on a couple of message boards). Here are the main responses I have been given to how the Satan (of the traditional view) sinned despite lacking a fallen nature, a fallen world, and a tempter.

1. It's a mystery
Some said we shouldn't ask questions like this b/c it's not for us to know the answers. Others said it's good to ask such questions, but we can't expect to find the answers. It's among the mysteries.

2. Free will is enough
Some rejected the idea that we need a provoking element (fallen nature/world or tempter) to bring us to sin. They said free will, by itself, can produce sin. There need be no pull toward wickedness. Even if man needs a provoking element, angels may not.

3. Traditional view of Satan is wrong
Some agreed that the question was largely unanswerable and that this opened the door for a non-traditional view of Satan's origin. This usually included the idea of the Satan being created as a testing agent.

I respect all 3 of the above positions. Position 1 requires no further speculation (in fact, further speculation would be ignoring the position). Position 2 took many forms. The most annoying answer was that the reason the Satan became wicked was pride. But, to me, that is like answering the question with the question. Better forms of position 2 are respectable, but no satisfy my mind. Position 3 is, of course, worthy of consideration.

Tomorrow, I will consider 3 alternative views of Satan

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

C.O.R.E.

I know some of you probably think acrostics are dumb, but the following acrostic worked really well as a sermon on 'resurrection.' I'm doing a series through the 6 foundations of the Christian faith as mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3. We arrived at resurrection and so I launched from Hebrews to 1 Corinthians 15 and made this acrostic (built while reading 'surprised by hope' by NT Wright):

Resurrection is the CORE of our Faith

Central doctrine of Christianity
(1 Corinthians 15:3, 14, 17)
Offers us a certain future
(1 Corinthians 15:19, 20, 22)
Redeems our fallen bodies
(1 Corinthians 15:42, 43, 44)
Empowers us for service today
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

Thus, the C works as the introduction to the message. To put the last 3 letters in NT Wright's language, the resurrection offers us 'life after death,' 'life AFTER life after death,' and 'life before death.'

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why did Satan Sin?

The traditional view of Satan says that he is a good angel gone bad. But what provoked him to take that turn for the worse? To be honest, this question (and the attempts to answer it) has bothered me since I was 13 or 14 years old.

We generally think there are 3 provocative elements that can lead us to sin. One is Satan himself (along with possibly demons) as a tempter. A second source is our sinful nature. And the third source is our fallen world (peer pressure). The biblical account of Eve's sin has always made decent sense. She didn't have a 'fallen nature' or temptation from the world. But she did have a tempter (the serpent).

But what about Satan? If the traditional view of the devil is correct, he rebelled against God without a fallen nature, without a fallen world AND without a tempter. How and why? This question causes me to re-think the traditional view of Satan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama/Biden

It seems Obama has selected Joe Biden as his running mate for the November elections. I think this was a pretty wise choice. You want your VP to aid you in areas that you're loosing the votes of moderates. Obama is losing votes b/c of a lack of experience, substance & aggression.

Experience
Biden was the most experienced of the democratic candidates, which answers Obama's extreme inexperience. On the other hand, Biden's quote ABOUT Obama's inexperience could come back to haunt the campaign. ""I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

Substance
Obama is viewed, by many, as a speaker with style but little to no substance. Biden is viewed as very articulate and intellectual. Biden is considered an expert on the issues.

Aggression
Obama promises to fight a clean fight. He hardly ever speaks boldly, instead using generalities and non-specific nuance to answer questions. After the Saddleback forum, Obama went down in the polls b/c people liked McCain's absolute answers. Biden is much more likely to tell you what he thinks. But he's experienced enough to not say anything way too stupid which would ultimately hurt Obama.

Ways it could hurt Obama...
1) If Hillary supporters get bitter
2) If Biden appears to arrogant
3) If it confirms Obama's inexperience

As an interesting aside, Biden was a potential VP pick in 2004, but instead suggested that John Kerry pick... You did NOT guess it... John McCain!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Winning Voter

And the winning reader
of the OT Idol competition is...

Jessica B

By my records, Jessica voted FOR Ruth 4 times and never voted against her. There was a 3-way tie for 2nd place b/w Dena (3 for and 1 against), Regan (2 for), and Gloria (2 for). There was also a 3-way tie for 5th place b/w Tammy (1 for), The Archives (1 for), and Steph (1 for). 8th place goes to everyone in the entire world who never voted for or against Ruth. That means that in 6,837,023,859th place we have a 2-way tie b/w Katie (1 against) and Elizabeth (1 against). And, finally, in 6,837,023,861st place is a 2-way tie b/w AJ (2 against) and Myself (2 against).

Congrats to Jessica and thanks all for playing.
Perhaps in a year or so we'll do an NT Idol.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Interview with Ruth

Well, we have an OT Idol. Ruth! I never would have guessed it. Tomorrow I'll be announcing which of my readers won, but for today I wanted to interview our champion (the following interview uses every single line Ruth speaks in the Bible):

ME: Green
RUTH: Blue

Ruth, Congratulations on your Old Testament Idol Victory! Do you have anything to say to your adoring fans?
"Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?"
I think your humility is one of the characteristics that brought about your success. My readers love underdogs. And you being a female and a foreigner certainly didn’t hurt.
"You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls."
Ruth… I asked you nicely not to mention my servant girls. Katie might be reading this interview. Let’s go on to the next question. Did you have someone coaching you toward victory during this final day of participation in OT Idol?
"The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,"
How did he help? Was there physical training involved?
"He even said to me, 'Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.' "
That sounds like a lot of work. Did he make sure you had a good meal before the big vote?
"He gave me these six measures of barley"
Well, barley does a body good. You are looking great! And your stamina throughout the competition was very impressive.
"Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer."
I think you mis-interpreted. I have a girlfriend.
"I will do whatever you say,”
Like Jeanie from ‘I dream of Jeanie’? That sounds great! I used to have a crush on her. But I’m sorry, I really do like my girlfriend and she does 50% of ‘whatever I say,’ which isn’t too bad.
"I am your servant Ruth,"
Not only is this interview going to get me in trouble, but it is actually starting to freak me out. I think you should go.
"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me."
Wow. You’re really clingy. I’m getting scared. This interview is over. I’m going home.
"We will go back with you to your people."
‘We’? Who are you even talking about? You’re alone. Hmmm. Maybe that is your problem. You’re just acting crazy because you are lonely. I’ll tell ya what. I’m going to find you a man. I have a friend who owns a field and employs some nice single young men who are working right at this moment. What kind of guy are you looking for? Is there a physical attribute that is very important to you?
"Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor. "'Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.'
OH! I get it, you want to get a good look at them from ‘behind’. Well that is fairly superficial of you. But I’ll tell ya what. If you’ll leave me alone I’ll let you have your pick of the litter.
"May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,"
Hey, no problem. Congrats again on winning OT Idol.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

OT IDOL FINALS

We're down to 3. Within 48 hours, we'll have 2 winners (1 OT character and 1 of us). Your job is to vote FOR 1 character and AGAINST 1 character. I will declare the winner after the voting is closed. The remaining characters are DAVID, JOSEPH & RUTH. Vote now.

David
~ Killed animals as a young man
~ Killed an arrogant giant guy
~ 2nd King of Israel
~ Committed adultery & murder
~ A man after God's own heart
~ Author of many Psalms

Joseph
~ Favored child
~ Fancy dresser
~ Dreamer & interpreter of dreams
~ Lived a roller-coaster life
~ Able to hide identity from family
~ Controversial political dealings

Ruth
~ She's the minority candidate (gentile)
~ She's the minority candidate (female)
~ Actually liked her mother-in-law
~ Willing to work in the fields
~ Willing to take risk in romance
~ Made it into Jesus' genealogy

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saddleback Forum

I just watched the 'Saddleback Civil Forum' which I had taped from a couple days ago. Pastor Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame interviewed presidential candidates Barack Obama & John McCain on the issues of leadership, worldview, domestic policy & foreign relations. I thought Warren did a great (and compact) job of bringing lots of great questions to the table.

So what did I think? Well, there are a couple of different ways to answer that question. Who's style do I prefer? Probably Obama's. His answers were conversational and nuanced. But I was with McCain when it came to substance more often than not. Here's how I evaluated the various categories of answers:

On Leadership
Obama had the 1st hour with Pastor Rick and gained points, in my evaluation, for his transparency about his former selfishness and emphasis on 'work' in reforming welfare. But he lost points by mentioning Ted Kennedy as one of the wisest people in his life. McCain mentioned the failure of his previous marriage as his greatest moral failure. He had a lot more to say than Obama on various issues, which showed his advantage in the area of experience. Obama has the ability to speak well without saying very much while McCain says quite a bit in a way that isn't as pleasing to the ear. McCain seemed to pick up some passion as his hour got going. Hands down, McCain won this section for me.

On Worldview
Both gave answers to the 'Christian' question that seemed genuine. Obama had misinformation regarding abortion (stating that they haven't declined when, in fact, they have). McCain was clear and, in my opinion, correct in stating that life begins at conception. Surprisingly, I actually preferred Obama's answer to the question 'does evil exist' seeing as how they both agreed that it does, but McCain comes across as if he can defeat it by himself in the flesh (tongue and cheek). But, overall, I still have to give the slight edge to McCain here on the strength of the abortion answer.

On Domestic Policy
Obama lost big points here in my book. He said he wouldn't have nominated the 3 best SC judges. His reasoning against C. Thomas was lack of experience, which hardly seems fair considering Obama may be the least experienced presidential candidate in US history. McCain was very strong on education and was on the verge of an excellent example on the 'how do you define rich?' question before answering too quickly to flesh it out. He was also very good on faith-based organizations. Size-able victory for McCain here.

On US Responsibility to World
On the issue of war, both candidates tried to come back to the middle a bit since they have extreme views on the issue. McCain, as expected, sounded much more informed on world situations. But most of the answers in this category were fairly bland. Perhaps a slight edge to Obama here for his insistence that we examine our own eye first.

Closing Statements
Obama had time for 1 more question than McCain, but overall their concluding thoughts were not surprising. Pretty even here. McCain was the overall winner in my opinion. Obama had nuanced answers, just the way I like them. But there's something to be said for just coming out and saying what you believe AND, of course, believing the right things. Even still, my respect level for both went up. But I'm still not voting for either of them!